One thing Harry would never stop appreciating was how quickly and comfortably life fell into a routine every time he returned to Hogwarts for the Fall term.
Before he knew it October and November were over, Credence had officially turned twelve at a little party they had in Harry’s rooms, and they were cruising into December with break rapidly approaching.
He thought that this time: different name, no friends, different era, having a little brother and a son to look after, different subjects, all on top of everything going on outside of Hogwarts that he wouldn’t be able to find that this time. That the warm comforting embrace of Hogwarts wouldn’t be able to soothe him this time. That the ease and familiarity of the classtime-study-homework-meals routine wouldn’t kick in and direct him seamlessly through his days.
Harry was ecstatic to be wrong.
Yes, there were new challenges and new stresses.
But for the first time in his life he was able to learn and make the most of his education without any extraneous pressures or worries. He could make friends – if he had the time or inclination – without being worried they were only interested in the Boy Who Lived. He could watch over his brother and not worry, as he’d done at times with younger students, how it would look or what people might think of it.
All Harry had to worry about from September through the beginning of the Winter Break in December was school, Credence, Teddy, and his apprenticeship.
That was it.
Only four things, two of which were people in their own right and in the case of Credence at least able to semi able to care for himself (and Serenity to heckle him if he forgot things like bathing and eating) and in the case of Teddy, Harry had Rosie around and watching to ensure that Harry didn’t completely bollix up raising him.
However, he could say no matter how oblivious his darling ball of protective instincts and preteen rage that was masquerading as his little brother at the moment thought he was, he did miss the buffer that his fame and his few good friends had created around him previously.
Yes, he wasn’t the Boy Who Lived anymore and he was free to befriend and learn and behave as he wished without the mantle of expectations from everyone and their mothers looming over him.
Expecting him to be the Gryffindor Golden Boy and save them all – again and again and again.
The flipside of that was the reality that he didn’t have the protection that buffer of fame and expectation had offered him without him realizing it.
As he sat in the Great Hall two days before Winter break was set to begin, having sent off another alpha (this one a fifth year Gryffindor of all people) who’d tried stumbling his way through asking to court him as an available omega, Harry deeply missed Ginny’s quick wand with a bat-bogey hex or the ability to act completely oblivious to the rules and manners of pureblood society that he used to use quite effectively as a preventative against romance.
It hadn’t always been successful.
Both Romilda Vane with her love potions and Ginny Weasley with her persistence had proven that acting oblivious wasn’t always a shield against others’ romantic interest in him – or as he’d often suspected his name, status, and money.
Now all Harry had going for him was manners, his family, and a pair of protective familiars who he was pretty certain were colluding with Credence to keep the many many would-be swains away from him.
If Eris hissed and bared her fangs at one more knot-headed alpha who couldn’t take a hint, Harry was afraid that someone was going to complain to Professor Fawley, or worse the Headmaster, over her behavior and Harry’s seeming inability to keep her under control.
Having a younger brother who inherited Parseltongue via blood adoption wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Not when he was able to convince Harry’s own familiar to aid and abet him in Credence’s campaign that Harry was relatively certain had been spawned in part from his natural possessive and protective alpha instincts. Instincts that he hadn’t learned how to deal with and properly channel yet – yay, puberty and presentation, always a fun time. With the rest coming from his hero worship of Harry both as his brother and as his rescuer resulting in the younger wizard putting Harry a bit on a pedestal and believing that none of Harry’s would-be swains were worthy of his time and attention.
And definitely not more worthy of his time and attention than his family.
Which, granted, Harry couldn’t really argue with the latter.
There was a reason he wore gloves after all, and it was only partially to do with the coming darkness of war hovering on the not-distant-enough horizon.
His rooms with Teddy became a refuge and – as they required speaking Parseltongue to access – an invitation there became somewhat coveted as he hid from amorous students with galleons in their eyes or ideas of becoming Consort or Lady Peverell dancing in their daydreams.
One person quickly came to gain a standing invitation, so much so that Harry instructed Serenissima, the Lamia portrait guarding his rooms’ entrance, to simply allow him in whenever he liked rather than having to wait for Harry or Credence to show up and let him in.
And that person was Newt.
Between his gentle patience with Teddy whenever he was around the baby or his genuine interest and appreciation for Eris and Serenity. His quiet instructions to Credence when the younger alpha asked for help on an assignment or his quiet confidence when he traded Harry herbology or potions help for a bit of tutoring in transfiguration or access to Harry’s muggle books. Giving Newt access to books on anatomy for their healing class or his set of Encyclopedia Britannica volumes for Newt’s muggle studies class (which even Harry hadn’t finished reading for all that Isla had bought them to bring him up to date on the muggle world.) Whatever the reason, Newt was always a welcome addition to Harry’s rooms.
The inclination at first was very strong to compare Newt to Neville, the future magizoologist sharing many character traits and quirks with Harry’s godbrother, but the more Harry got to know Newt the more he was able to separate the caring, gentle alpha from the quiet but bold Gryffindor that Neville had developed into over the years.
Newt was his own person and deserving of Harry’s friendship and care in his own right and not out of lingering affection Harry carried for his lost friend – or friends, what with the copper red hair he boasted and freckles that gave him more than one pang for the Weasleys – and definitely deserved better than being a mere replacement.
Though it was easy to equate Newt with friends he’d known and lost, it took almost no time at all for the Hufflepuff to carve out his own spot among that slim number made all the better for Newt seeming not even trying to do so but just being himself.
Honestly, Harry didn’t think Newt knew any other way to be, no matter how often he got teased, bullied, or scolded to conform to “expected” behaviors of young alphas and/or pureblood wizards.
Harry genuinely appreciated that stubborn tenacity to be authentically himself no matter what it cost Newt or how others treated him for it, which was one of the early reasons he’d started inviting Newt to his rooms where he wouldn’t have to worry about such things.
Between the baby with the ever-changing hair and eyes, the twelve-year-old with a phoenix for a best-friend, and, well, Harry, Newt was probably the least strange person around when he decided to join them in their little refuge in the castle.
Which was why Harry wasn’t surprised in the least to watch as Newt detached himself from Leta’s side after their shared potions lesson on the last Friday before they left for break, the Slytherin girl – who Harry never could quite bring himself to like, a feeling very much returned when he failed to fall for any of her little, well-trained tricks to gain favor or force an underestimation of her – heading to her block of NEWT Charms with a third of the sixth years taking the subject. Had Harry been continuing the subject at Hogwarts rather than taking his NEWT and entering an apprenticeship (on time despite having to be two years back on several subjects hence returning to school) he likely would have been placed in the third block without either Newt or Leta given his course load. The two Slytherins nodded cordially which Newt pouted over but acceded to being the best he could hope for from them after months of watching them play the chilliest of polite pureblooded dances though he never could quite figure out why two people he liked very much, a rarity, couldn’t deign to like each other.
He also wasn’t surprised to hear Newt hiss out a greeting to Serenissima – and then again to Eris – even though the Hufflepuff wasn’t a Parselmouth.
Newt had an ear for languages and animal sounds that was uncanny, Harry had heard him trilling up a storm with Serenity on more than one occasion or yipping, chittering, or what have you with whatever creatures the Care of Creatures professor introduced him to.
Though the most interesting to hear from a human throat, in Harry’s opinion, were the rumbling growls, purrs, and hisses that would be exchanged between Newt’s ancient kneazle familiar Pomp – who was a shabby thing of orange and black striping, perhaps the least haughty and auspicious feline Harry had ever seen in his life – and the sweet alpha.
Eris and Serenity both adored Newt, almost more than they did their companions (or Teddy, but everyone loved Teddy best so that was to be expected), and were endlessly patient with the lover of all things living but non-human (including a few plants, the Venomous Tentacula and the true Snapdragons both adored him when they would snap and bite at anyone else, favoritism was what it was, and Newt echoed it right back to the glorified shrubberies) whenever he sat down to do sketches of their plumage or the construction of their wings, the connection joint for Eris’s wings to her serpentine body, or the make of Serenity’s tail, or whatever-it-was that popped into his head to add to his notes.
Honestly, if Newt didn’t do his year-end term paper for Care on either phoenixes or quetzals, it would be a waste of all the time he’s devoted to the spoiled pair thus far that year.
Of course, Newt himself would never see it that way, which only made him ever more adorable as far as Harry was concerned.
“Oh, come now.” Newt complained, albeit lightly, the Hufflepuff growing more comfortable with treating Harry casually after the first time he’d seen him covered in Teddy’s spit-up and Harry’s bland, unbothered reaction. It was hard to keep a wizard, no matter how powerful, up on a pedestal after you’ve seen them having to wash-up thanks to baby-vomit. Rather took the ethereal glow right off of his friend for him, thank goodness, which helped with his mooning about over him but made his affections run ever so much deeper at the proof of what a good wizard and omega, what a good person, Harry was, much like how the older boy never blinked so much as an eye at Newt’s babbling over creatures or when Eris would plop herself presumptively onto his head. “You can’t have more reading to do for classes, we’re finished for the term!”
Save for some expected reading over the break, but that was hardly the sort of requirement that would have anyone, even someone with a class load like Harry’s, hitting the books when break has only just properly begun.
Newt hadn’t expected Harry to entertain him, he never did, but still seeing the wizard go straight for his little study desk where he could see and watch over all of the main room of his suite was a shock.
Teddy must be having his afternoon nap, as nothing else Newt thought would keep Harry from smothering the baby in smooches after a day’s studies from what he’d seen.
“We are,” Harry agreed with a sigh and a stretch after he hissed a greeting to Eris – who was curled up in front of the fire, the cold weather not quite sending her into brumation thanks to climate controls on the castle but certainly not helping her stay as active as she was in the warmer months. “But I have my Mastery thesis project to work on and with the baby and the demands on my time over break I try and steal whatever snatches of moments I can to continue it now that I’ve decided on a direction.”
Masteries required a combination – depending on the magical subject or vocation – of practical demonstrations and theory work, which for Charms consisted of, as Isla had explained after taking him as her apprentice, both a series of three tests on increasingly difficult knowledge and a thesis essay that amounted to a book’s worth of writing and research that would then be vetted and defended before at least three Charms Masters, of which Isla could not be one though she was expected to arrange his panel when the time came.
“Oh?” Newt perked up. After care; herbology, potions, and charms were his best subjects. Harry might have managed to nag him into attending a few magical law lectures and dueling practices, but unless it had to do with topics that interacted with his chosen vocation in some form he’d quickly scuttled subjects from his schedule to allow him time to maximize his focus on creatures before having to enter the work force. He preferred to spend his time on things like Healing or Spell Weaving, as they knew so little about magical creatures and spells for say a crup won’t necessarily do for a niffler, rather than learning more about how to blast about with hexes in Defense or dusty old ancients in History of Magic.
He trusted that whatever subject his friend had found interesting enough to write pages and pages of parchment about would be actually interesting and not the dully dry nonsense only appealing to academics.
Harry nodded. “I’ve identified a dozen useful charms that have fallen out of either common use or usage altogether,” that he knew some of them from his former access to the Black Library or the Marauders and their ability to research and repurpose charms for pranking was neither here nor there. According to Remus, his father and Sirius had been especially fond of the oldest charms and potions they could find that were still at least borderline legal as few if any people were able to counter them. “That still have modern applications. I’m doing a section on each, their history, their creator or rumored creator, original purpose, later purposes, reason for their decline and usage, and their modern applications, including if they were replaced by similar and easier charms and why the original ones might be superior in general or in certain settings.”
Newt’s eyebrows had lifted higher and higher as his friend described his ambitious project.
But then: Harry for all his spurts of other House traits was a Slytherin.
Second only to Newt’s compassion for, really, all sentient beings (even if he did prefer the non-human ones because they were never intentionally cruel like humans) which had been lamented by everyone from his Prewett relations on down since he was a little boy barely more than a toddler, was his ever-rampant curiosity.
Yes, it mostly expressed itself when it came to creatures, there was simply so much that they didn’t know about them likely including rare species that hadn’t even been documented before hiding in the wild, but it wasn’t solely contained to his love of all things living so he had to ask, looking up from sketching the precise way Eris’s primary feathers extended and flexed:
Harry thought a moment, mentally flipping through the charms he’d decided to focus on, then went with probably the most innocuous one that he couldn’t figure out why it had fallen out of favor other than the rise of wizarding painters.
His friend could probably do without a lecture on Unplottable and Fidelius Charms that while still known were rarely used, much like the Patronus for all that it was more impressive to most people.
No, he thought Rowena Ravenclaw’s visual recording charm would be right up the alley of an already skilled sketch artist whose ability regarding anatomical graphs and charts were the envy of almost every student in their – admittedly small in number, comparatively, Harry thought only alchemy had a smaller pool of interested students – Healing class.
Rising, he went over to the tea table by the fireplace where Newt had settled to work on his sketches of Eris who even for her favorite non-Peverell wouldn’t move an inch. Reaching out, he snagged a blank piece of drawing parchment and pressed the tips of his fingers to it. Like some classes of charms, mostly to do with physical changes like color-changing charms, this one required the touch of either a wandtip or in the case of someone skilled with wandless magic their fingertips.
Isla was working with him on not echoing wand movements in his wandless casting, but in this case it wasn’t viable to direct the magic to do what he needed without some form of touch involved.
Focusing on the scene he’d just been watching from across the room of Newt sketching the coiled form of Eris on stones laid out before the fireplace, he – for Newt’s enlightenment rather than need – verbally cast the spell:
Under his fingertips the parchment came alive, transferring the scene in full color as he’d seen it in his head onto the parchment in seamless black lines and rich color, far more vibrant than modern cartography charms, which were the only thing similar to this that he’d found in his research.
The charms that artists used to animate drawings and paintings and sculpture were an entirely different class altogether, though there were similarities.
Picture-Newt’s hand moved lightly across the parchment in the page with a piece of drawing charcoal in hand, light glinting a bit on his copper curls as he lifted his head now and again to study Eris, the drawing picture-Newt was completing little more than lines of shadow from across the room where in an actual sketch or magical painting it would likely be filled out and detailed.
“Merlin,” Newt breathed out, eyes wide at what he saw. He’d never seen anyone, even in the extracurricular art classes he attended – as did young Aurelius – when he had time, do something like that before. “It’s almost like those muggle photographs but in color!”
After growing up surrounded by photography plus shutterbug Colin Creevey at school, that photography was still new and other things like full color and surround sound movies were still only dreams was wild.
“It also isn’t necessarily true to life, though this one is close because of how fresh the scene is in my mind and my minor skill in Occlumency.” Harry explained, quickly pointing out a few errors or places where edges were smudged or shadows were deeper than in real life as well as the missing form and detail of the Eris sketch Newt had been working on. “Not really suitable for anatomical drawings or I’d never stop using it for our Healing assignments, but excellent otherwise for reference drawings.”
Or to create a drawing filled album of everyone he’s lost for one reason or another, including one specifically filled with every last memory of Remus and/or Tonks that he could think of for when Teddy was old enough to start wondering about his biological parents.
If he’d turned right around and made another that he’s steadily filling with childhood “pictures” of Teddy and Credence, that was his own business until they started dating…if they started dating.
He still wasn’t sure which way they’d go with being soulmates but he was banking blackmail material just in case.
“Show me.” Newt demanded at once, no sign of awkwardness or wariness to be seen.
Harry smiled, showing a few more teeth than was polite.
“Only if you start taking the dueling tournament seriously and let me tutor you consistently in Defense.” He told him firmly, explaining when Newt’s eyes went all wide and wounded-bambi on him. “You’re determined to be a wizarding naturalist. I can see that no matter what anyone says about it being a phase.” Honestly, Harry had started getting a little offended on his friend’s behalf with how condescending most of the staff and almost all of the students were about his friend’s ambitions in that regard. At this point in time it apparently wasn’t considered a “real” profession, much like people treated the majority of artists, actors, and writers in the future. “It’s your vocation, it’s what you love…but what you love can lead you into danger. I don’t want to get an owl someday ten years from now with word from the Congo or the Far East saying that you ended up on the wrong side of a criminal’s wand or a nundu’s teeth because you didn’t take your safety seriously.”
“Nundus don’t live in the Congo.” Was all Newt really could think to say to that, blinking back startled tears of, well, relief more than anything. Harry was probably the first person in his life outside of his brother who’d taken him so seriously and that…that meant a lot. What it meant for him he wasn’t inclined to examine at the moment, thank you very much, lest his unfortunate infatuation with the stunning omega make an even more unfortunate comeback when he’d finally found himself able to enjoy Harry’s company without spending the entire time beet-red and bashful. “They’re primarily savannah dwellers.”
Harry chuckled, softly shaking his head.
“Never change, Newt.” Harry told him, a smile softening up the harsh edges of his fine bones picked out by the shadows cast by the fire in the grate. “Do we have a deal?”
Newt sighed as if put upon, complete with rolling eyes then nodded and set Harry’s Recordari drawing aside, along with his own hand-drawn sketches of Eris.
“Now, show me how you did that.” He reiterated. “You can badger me about protective enchantments and dueling technique later.”
“Dueling technique is overrated.” Harry immediately countered. “Real life is never so neat and tidy as the dueling league rules would have you believe. But,” he changed gears before Newt’s look could turn completely mulish. “This is almost more like a transfiguration than a charm, you have to focus on the end result of what you want to create as much as you do the process…”
Credence came in sometime later to the sight of Newt gleefully casting Recordari on every sheet of drawing parchment he’d brought with him, ending up with drawings of everything from Eris’s growing process from necklace-length to her full size – as she’d shown off for the would-be magizoologist more than once – to Serenity in the midst of flaming into a room to Harry cuddling with Teddy.
Somehow, he wasn’t surprised by the turn of events in the slightest.
Credence held tight to Harry as the older wizard apparated them way from Platform 9 ¾.
Due to Teddy, Harry hadn’t joined Credence and the other students on the train, nor would he ever, instead apparating to their accommodations over break, a place Credence had never seen called Peverell Castle in Wales.
He’d already been assured that if he wanted to and they had no prior engagements with the Potters or Madam Isla’s family, he could Floo or portkey to his friends’ homes or have them come over.
Friends was a new concept for Credence – at least personally.
Harry was his friend but also his brother and his savior – not quite the same thing.
Credence paused a moment to let the dizziness of side-along apparation wear off, Harry swore he’d get used to it in time but Credence was still skeptical.
Eventually, however, he lifted his head and gasped.
Laid out before him like something from a picture book of fairy tales was a towering castle, nearly as big as Hogwarts he thought, made of warm tan and cream stone. Lights shone in every window, some of them clearly stained glass, making for a welcoming sight as a light dusting of snow covered the grounds. Trees were a shadow in the background, and off down the hill when he managed to tear his eyes away from the castle and look behind them a cheery village was likewise lit up and snow dusted.
“Is this…?” He couldn’t believe it. This couldn’t be home. Not for someone like him.
“Yes, Credence.” Harry smiled softly down at his little brother’s yearning face, a sense of peace and rightness washing over him. Stuck in the past, forced to make decisions he wouldn’t wish on anyone, it was all to easy to let the stress of it all bury him under. All it took during those times was a glance at Credence – happy, healthy, thriving Credence – and all of that washed away leaving behind a sense of love and protection so strong it could power a hundred Patroni. “This is home.”
“Home.” Credence breathed, turning and looking back up at the lit-up castle where Rosie and Teddy and their familiars were waiting for him. “Home.”