Moments in Time: A Series of One-Shots in 'The Road Not Taken' 'Verse - BlueMaple - Harry Potter (2024)

Chapter 1: The Moment of the Rose

Chapter Text

Uagadou School of Magic

The Mountains of the Moon

Uganda, Africa

September, 1970

Uagadou School of Magic was far more beautiful than Narcissa Black had expected. It soared up and out of the rugged, scarred palm of the mountain that cradled it, all moonbeam and mist-twined spire and polished white marble. The interior was just as exquisite; every tiny detail as far as the eye could see was utterly perfect in both aesthetic appeal and impact.

Her mother, Narcissa thought as she seated herself at her assigned place in the gleaming ivory and mother-of-pearl grotto that comprised the dining hall the first night of her arrival, would have adored it. Narcissa herself, after three portkeys, a good hearty sicking up at each stop, and a hot shower at the end of it all, was far more entranced with the wide variety of food placed before her. She had just dished herself up a bowl of fragrant lentil and sweet potato soup when a deep, rumbling snarl reverberated through her very bones, and ten inches of twisted, sickly yellow wood nearly impaled itself in her throat.

She ducked just in time. The wand - it was definitely a wand - embedded itself in the wall behind her head. Narcissa straightened and turned, regarding it. It frothed and quivered at her in rage, an acidic black substance oozing from the buried tip. The students around her gawped at it, and her, and at its owner, now striding toward them. Narcissa leaned sideways as the gigantic woman reached over her head, yanked the wand out of the marble wall, and crammed it, shrieking and hissing and snarling, into a hip holster. Shining magical chains wrapped themselves around her waist, binding the thing down.

"Sorry about that, little miss," the woman addressed Narcissa. Her voice was as resonant and rolling and operatic as one might have expected of someone her size - fully six foot eight inches to Narcissa's five foot six, and at least twenty one stone to the girl's bare eight-and-a-half. "Alright, then?"

"Well that would depend, wouldn't it." Narcissa was far too well-bred - and proud - to allow her voice to shake, but polite and icy sarcasm, her mother had taught her, was always an acceptable social alternative. "On what the bloody hell !?"

"Yew," the woman explained. "Bit moody right there, and there's the core of nundu spine to be going on with besides. First night back, formal occasion - the fripperies really offend it, for some reason - lots of new people about, no body with which to wreak havoc and disease... It's feeling repressed. You're just the most offensive, closest, frippery target." She held out her hand. Her fingers were easily twice as long as Narcissa's own: three times as thick, and paradoxically beautiful.

"Narcissa Black," the girl introduced herself as she took the fingers properly. Her lip curled ever so slightly at the thing within the rattling chains. "I shall try not to take it personally." The wand growled again.

"Now, now," the woman said. "Be nice, ladies. Namirembe Obonyo. Welcome to Uagadou, Miss Black."

"Thank you." This time, the growl was not so much a growl as a snarl, so low and deadly that the floor shook. More than one of the ISEP students shrieked in alarm. The incumbents looked profoundly unconcerned. "Shut it, bitch."

She made no attempt to be quiet with it, and the acoustics this high up the mountainside were truly excellent. Abject shock resounded amongst the ISEP students and the incumbents. The massive woman before her looked her up and down as she withdrew her hand and tucked her thumbs in her chain belt.

"Rude," she observed disapprovingly.

"I'm sorry," Narcissa said politely. "Were you talking to me, or to your wand?"

The snarl evolved yet again, to a feral, affronted shriek. Even the teachers look a bit alarmed now. Narcissa just re-seated herself and poured herself a glass of mango juice. It was really quite remarkable, she thought as she sipped, how the pitch there echoed Aunt Walburga on a tear.

"I gotta ask," Namirembe Obonyo said after a moment. "Do you have a particular grudge against nundus? Because I gotta say, if you do, you might want to work on. You know. Moderating it a bit, empathically speaking, or however you're accustomed to expressing yourself there."

"I've never met one before, and, poor practice as it is to judge any group by the actions of any given individual, any grudges that I bear are strictly personal. In light of that... May I suggest that you recommend that your friend work on moderating its own methods of self-expression before criticizing my purely reactive, and if I may say so, situationally appropriate, response? Monstrous, murderous, man-eating, disease-ridden and purely ill-mannered filth will never rate an invitation at any soiree that I host."

The wand howled, leaping at her once more, or trying to. Obonyo yanked it back, hard, stuffing it deeper in the holster.

"Eat your dinner, little miss." She turned back to the head table, then turned back. "Excellent reflexes. Do you duel?"

"No. I do not."

"You might want to look into it. It's a big bad world out there, and it'll bite your perky little behind if you don't learn to cover it proper..." She bit her tongue. Hard. "Ly."

Narcissa just reached for her napkin and shook it out. Her new advisor seated herself, discreetly adjusting her wedged knickers as she did so. The girl smiled at her sweetly and cast a wandless, silent switching spell on the contents of the vial in her pocket and the other woman's glass. She placed the napkin properly over her lap, sipped her juice again, set it down, reached for her spoon...

Three... two... one...

And the wand in the holster almost ripped its owner in two, trying to get at her as Obonyo sprouted gigantic pink fairy wings. Chaos, unsurprisingly, ensued... Narcissa just nibbled delicately at a chunk of sweet potato. Eventually, the wings receded. Obonyo said nothing, just continued to eye her narrowly all throughout the feast and the closing speeches.

The next evening, Narcissa found herself seated in a quite comfortable chair as the enormous woman stared down at her from that full six foot eight inches. The girl looked up inquiringly as she stirred her offered tea. Her new advisor's wand holster, she noted, was empty. A low, disgruntled whine sounded from behind a portrait on the wall behind the desk. Obonyo pulled up a second chair and sat, or rather, sprawled.

"Appropriate responsive reactions aside, you really do need to work on your attitude, little miss," she observed.

"How's that?"

"You're a Black. My wand should be sidling up to you and batting its eyelashes at you and begging for the privilege of warming your bed at night. Instead, it wants to rip your guts out through your cute little asshole."

"They're not necessarily mutually exclusive ambitions. Quite the opposite, really, I've found." Narcissa reached out and dropped another lump of sugar in her tea. "Go on."

"It doesn't like you," Obonyo enunciated. "It's a nundu. It doesn't like nice people. It would follow then, wouldn't it, that you must be a nice person. A fundamentally decent person. Your mother would be appalled if she knew, don't you think?"

"I didn't actually know that were that particular. Nundus, I mean. And that's a rather simplistic perspective, don't you think?"

"They're not; this one is, and how's that?"

"I could either be a nice person, or from its perspective, a dangerous one. A threat. Even the nastiest of individuals may concede that there are vermin about that do no man, or woman, good, no matter their moral orientation." Narcissa sipped the sweet, milky spiced tea. "It's not about good or evil, Professor Obonyo. It's about power and ego. Your wand would like me perfectly well if I were of a temperament that is inclined to validate it in its current form. As things lie, I have no use for it, and it's obviously affronted by the fact."


"There's a tradition in my particular branch of the Black family," her new student said. "If you embarrass the family in any manner once past school age, your wand is taken from you, and you're fair game till you manage to earn it back." She sat back, crossing her legs neatly and slid her own wand out of her sleeve, setting it on the table between them. "Oddly enough... It's never occurred to anyone in the family that there's a way around that."

"Uh huh. How good are you?"

"Good enough to get through school. Not good enough to get through what's coming after. I intend to improve considerably while I'm here. It is, in fact, why I am here."

"Ah. Well, I can't help you on that front, I'm afraid. I'm balls at wandless magic."

"I don't need you to help me learn wandless magic," Narcissa Black said patiently. "They have other people here to do that. I need you to provide me with opportunities to practice it. In context. Discreetly."

"So you want to learn to duel after all?"

"Not exactly, no. And... Yes. Precisely."

Namirembe Obonyo's eyes narrowed at her. The wand in the safe snarled yet again. "Shut up, bitch," the two women said simultaneously.

"Don't you like your wand?" Narcissa asked curiously.

"It killed my goat, and everyone I loved along with it, so... No. I do not. Not one little bit."

"But it still works for you?"

"It has no choice. I defeated it. It's a bitch, but it's my bitch now."

"And you don't worry that it has its own agenda?"

"It's not actually intelligent, little miss. It just retains a bit too much echo of its former attitude for its own good."

"It tried to stab me in the throat yesterday, and nearly cut you in two trying to get at me when I switched up your drink," Narcissa pointed out. "I'm not saying that intelligence is actually a prerequisite there, but that would seem an indication of conscious, never mind targeted, awareness."

"We've discussed the matter," Obonyo said coolly. "It won't happen again." She too crossed one leg over the other. "Tell me about your boyfriend."

"Why would I want to do that?"

"Because I want to know."

"I'm not here to talk about him. And he's not your concern anyway, or your business."

"No? That's why you're doing all this, isn't it? For his sake?" She reached into a drawer and slapped a file on the desk, flipping it. "Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, son of Abraxas Publius Malfoy and Callida Burgess-Waites Malfoy, sixteen this past July and currently on location at Castelobruxo School in Brazil." She removed a photo and examined it. "Mm. He is a pretty bit, isn't he? Pretty, magically gifted, amiable, rich, well-connected, and oh yes, there's that lovely career in politics waiting once he graduates. I've heard he's not a bad duelist at all either. All that and he's genuinely in love with you? I've said it before and I'll say it again, some girls have all the luck." She tucked the photo away, turned a page, and turned it back before closing the folder. "So?"

"You seem to have everything covered there. Anything I could add would just take time away from matters concerning. Never mind, as I said, that he's a matter that doesn't concern you."

Namirembe Obonyo set the folder aside and leaned forward.

"If you want me to help you, Miss Black," she said. "Everything that you are concerned with concerns me."

Narcissa said nothing. The enormous woman sighed, leaned back again, and scratched her chin.

"I get it. You're trying to protect him, and you don't know who you can trust and who you can't. Who you can count on as an ally, and as it's a delicate situation and will continue to be so, and as I, more than obviously, am not the delicate sort, you think that I'm a short-term proposition at best. Nothing worthwhile: nothing that it's safe to cultivate long term because I'm about as subtle as this mountain we're sitting on, and some wars are best fought with subtlety and some wars aren't, and this one... Well. It shouldn't be my area of expertise, should it?"

Still, Narcissa said nothing.

"Here's the thing about mountains, little miss," Obonyo said. "They make really big messes when you drop them on things. Sometimes, the mess is the entire point. Sometimes, the point is just to make the point that you're powerful enough to manage it. If you don't want to make the point of the fact that you've got that kind of power, though, there's something there that you need to internalize straight up. Or rather... That you have internalized, and you think I haven't."

"What's that?"

"That it doesn't take power in the first place. At all."

"Explain," Narcissa ordered.

"Every avalanche that starts on every mountain and brings it down," Namirembe Obonyo explained. "Begins with a single, small, properly placed stone. Easy enough job, you place the stone, and sit back and wait while nature, time, tide, and human nature does the rest, right? And you're thinking on your boy as your stone. No, no. Don't deny it. That's why you're trying to distract me on the subject; you don't want me looking at him. But while you're drawing attention away from him... You're missing the point entirely."

"What would that be."

"That as Riddle's chosen to approach his goal in a very certain way - to split his resources in order to reinforce what he thinks of as his potential power base - he is - you are - working with two mountains, not one. The one that relies on his ability to display power, and the other that relies on social respectability to reinforce it once he's got it. To slip it by people on the political level, just in case brute force fails him. He thinks he's covering all of his bases. In a way he is... But that leaves you with two stones to place, not one, doesn't it?"

Narcissa blinked at her.

"You're talking about my sister," she said. "Bellatrix."

"Try again."

"The baby," she said slowly. "The baby that they'll have together. Once it's born, there'll be no going back."

"No," her advisor agreed. "And dropping mountains on innocent children never ends well. So... Alternative solutions?"

"I have to make sure there are no babies," Narcissa Black said. "In the first place. Without a baby... He's got nothing. Not on the social mountain. And if Luke is placed to take down the second, while he's distracted by the first..."

"O for you. Is she f*cking him yet?"

"Erhm. What?"

"Your sister. Is she f*cking Riddle."

"No. The baby has to be conceived after the wedding date, so that no one can claim that it's not a legally biological Lestrange."

"When's the big day?"

"Midsummer next."

"Excellent." She reached into her drawer and pulled out a small bag. "Welcome to Africa, Miss Black."

Narcissa took the bag and opened it. Inside was an abundance of small, dried red pellets.

"A berry a day keeps the babies away," Obonyo informed her. "Non-magical, non magically traceable. There's a seed packet in the bottom; you're a bit of a gardener, I understand?"

"Why?" she said bluntly.

"I don't believe in sitting around and waiting on certain types of issues. You're hardly the only ISEP student ever to come to Uagadou out of Hogwarts, and there've been quite a few traveling the road in the opposed direction as well. Quite a few, going back quite a number of years, and observations have been made. Observations made, trends tracked, projections projected.. It doesn't exactly take a genius to realize that Riddle doesn't plan to stop at Europe, and I can tell you right now, no details, but it's going to be almost impossible to bring him down personally. It will take, in fact, an act of God. All it's going to take to bring certain of his key plans down, on the other hand, is a bushful of berries, a girl who loves a boy, a boy who loves a girl, and a whole sh*tload of good planning to carry you both through till God gets off His ass and decides it's time to get the job done."

Narcissa's eyes narrowed at her.

"I don't suppose," she said. "That you have any personal acquaintances at Castelobruxo? Acquaintances who happen to share your personal perspectives on prevention and resolution?"

"I know a lot of people, little miss, and those people know a lot of people, and that lot knows another lot, and so on down the line. I also know that looking past the end of your own nose isn't an encouraged habit where you've grown up, that the world is both a lot smaller and a lot bigger than you've ever imagined, and that cultivating acquaintances and resources beyond those in immediate eye-shot is a surprisingly useful hobby.”

Narcissa said nothing. Obonyo watched as she stirred a third lump of sugar silently into her tea, and sighed internally.

“It’s not an insult,” she said, surprisingly gently. “Or at least… I’m not insulting you. I know how you were brought up, and the kind of expectations you’ve got laid on you as the third daughter of House Black - that is to say, not a single one. You’re a luxury. Unnecessary. Decorative, even. What does it say that your sisters were named after constellations, after all, and you a flower? You can make it work for you though. You’re going to have to make it work for you, because you're not going to have the luxury of sitting around and flowering prettily once Riddle’s in proper position, even once your sister is taken care of. Winning the war is one thing, but if you really love that boy of yours, and you want to be sure that he doesn't go down with the mountain while you sit back with your fingers crossed and hope for the best, you're going to have to be the rest. Nature, time, tide... All of it."

"Am I your stone, then?"

"No," her advisor said. "And yes. I won't say it's not personal, but I'm in no position to take care of things myself, see? So it's all going to be on you. It's all you. Nature, time, tide... Wherever your enemy looks, there you'll be. And he'll never see you coming. By the time I'm done with you, he'll never see you at all. No one will."

"Aren't you supposed to be a proponent of the straightforward approach?" Narcissa asked, off-balance.

"I am, but this isn't the kind of war that will - can - be won by the straightforward approach, as I said, and as I'm also a proponent of winning, we're just going to have to mix things up a bit."

"You said it's personal. Do you know Riddle, then?"

"I've never met him, if that's what you mean, but I can recognize him for what he is. He's not a nundu," her advisor said. "But he's got a nundu's soul, if you want to call it that, and lives to spread death, disease and destruction as effectively as any nundu could, wherever he goes. It's just his nature, just as it is your oldest sister’s. And did you know... The one thing a nundu won't attack is another nundu? They just team up and…” She gestured.

Narcissa's eyes widened.

"Mm," Namirembe confirmed. "Might want to have a word with your boy at some point, and let him know that it'd be best to downplay my reputation should his boss-to-be ever ask him how much help he thinks I could be to the cause. We straightforward types, we tend to be vulnerable to spells such as the Imperius curse; we just don't have the mental subtlety to duck and dodge in the moment, and with not one, but potentially two International Dueling Masters on his team, never mind my Animagus form, and Sweet-Tooth here -" she nodded to her wand. "Yeah, we'll want to avoid that."

"Why don't you just break it? That'd get rid of the one problem, at least."

"It's a bit more complicated than that. Also, far too late.That page has turned, and now... Now we're stuck with the road we're all on, for better or worse. It's got to play out."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"No. I know. It's better that way."

"And I'm just supposed to trust you on that?"

"It's not about trusting me, Miss Black. It's about trusting yourself, and your instincts." The huge woman perched on the edge of her massive desk. "Riddle me this, before you go. Why do you think - really think - my wand hates you so much? Hates you enough to rip me literally in half to get at you?"

Narcissa frowned at her... Her eyes widened till they took up half her face. She looked at the safe on the wall, then at the woman before her.

"It killed every single person in my tribe." Namirembe Obonyo confirmed. "Every single one but me. I was fifteen. I didn't know sh*t on what I was doing when I ripped its spine out and took it back to the tree where I'd buried them all, and dug out a root - not a branch, but a root; it does make a rather significant difference, as it turns out - and imprisoned it inside. Well, I did know what I was doing, but I didn't care. Not in the given moment, anyway. Grief does funny things to the mind, you know?"

"It’s Dark? I mean… You bound it to you with Dark magic ?"

"There were no rituals involved, but the effects were - are - the same, yes. Yew: the power of life and death, the originating tree fed on the blood of my family, and the murderer imprisoned within the root... It's enslaved to my blood now. My blood and my magic. It serves me, but that doesn't mean it's resigned to the fact. It's always on the lookout for its true match."

"It thinks I'm its true match?"

"Who knows. It senses your potential, anyway - a match in power, if a complementary one, for mine, and yes, maybe even that latent streak of insanity in your core. Probably that; it’s drawn like a magnet to that sort of thing. But you're rejecting it straight up because you have no use for wands, do you? It's pulled to you, but you're pushing it away, automatically, and it's a little bit upset for the fact."

"So its response is to try to kill me?"

"It might not be intelligent, but it's not quite sane either. It'd frankly rather see you dead than deal with the agony of chronic hope and inevitable rejection. If it could kill me in the process... Well. That'd just be a bonus, wouldn't it?"

"I'd never allow myself to bond with something like that,” Narcissa said firmly. "Never. That being said… Am I going to be warding off assassination attempts all year?"

"No. It'll snarl and bitch and whine and inflate itself threateningly at you - nundus do that - but past Christmas again, once you've completely lost the ability to focus your magic through an external source, it'll likely lose interest and go back to trying to puncture my eyeballs in my sleep again."

"Lost... Erhm. What?"

“You've never taken wandless magic formally, so you wouldn't know. Past the point of efficiency, a certain number of people can't use a wand any more. You literally become your own wand, with your magical core as your core. I'd say, given your demonstrated technique at dinner, and your lack of formal training again, you're likely close to passing that point already. By Christmas... I'd say by Christmas, that little jewel you carry isn't going to be good for anything more than stirring potions.”

"Are you absolutely certain on that?"

"No," Namirembe Obonyo said. "But at least you won't have to worry about Sweet-Tooth there climbing into bed with you and snuggling up to your core against your will."

"I will break it," the girl said grimly. "If it even thinks about it." She eyed the safe disdainfully. "It's not wand enough for me anyway. It's what, ten inches at most? I am afraid it just doesn't meet my standards, never mind that nasty bit of a drainage problem it displayed at dinner last night. There are potions for that sort of thing, did you know?" She paused. "What would happen if it did break?"

"I don't know," Obonyo said. "It's not about..." She rubbed her ear. "Everything happens for a reason," she said. “If certain things happen before their time... If you try to force them, for the sake of the good and without the proper measures in place... No good can come of it. Everything is connected, little miss. Everything and everyone.”

“And that’s all you’re giving me to be going on with?”

“That’s everything. The rest is just spotting the patterns.” Namirembe Obonyo rose to her feet and went to the safe. "I'm going to open the door now," she said to the wand within. "And you will control yourself, or I will break your spine in two, the consequences bedamned. As it's the only part of you left, consider this... Would it really be worth it?'

"Don't take this the wrong way," Narcissa said, watching as she began to slide the bolts back. "But even if you don't break it, why don't you just get a back-up?"

"I can't. The women in my family can only bond with one wand at a time, we have to hunt down the core sources ourselves, and the wood always come from the single tree that grows over our family cemetery."

"You said you're not really bonded, though."

"Oh, we are. The ties that bind us just aren't particularly traditional." She opened the safe and grabbed. The wand screamed in rage as she rammed it into the wrist holster and activated the magical chains that held it within. "You given any thought to trying for the Animagus transformation?"

"No." It was perfectly true. She hadn't given it any thought. Trying for the Animagus transformation had been a given in her book since she'd first read about it when she was eight years old. She'd been actively working on it for a year now, since the day of her first fifth year Potions class, when, as a newly assigned prefect, she'd gained after-hours access to the senior labs at Hogwarts, and, coincidentally, the contents of the restricted ingredients cupboard. That last, of course, wasn't exactly licit, but Professor Slughorn had given Lucius, as one of the top three Potions students in any year, access privileges since Christmas of the year before, and as he'd chosen his password on her suggestion, she now had access to everything she needed to prepare the noxious concoctions needed to convince her core of the necessary particulars.

"Why not?" her new advisor asked, returning to her desk.

"I prefer Charms over Transfiguration. And you never know what you're going to get, do you? All that effort, and who knows what's waiting on the other side?"

"This is very true," Obonyo conceded, and blurred, rearing up and hurtling forward, stopping not two inches from the girl's nose. Narcissa reached up, placed a single finger on the precise center of the enormous tigress' forehead and pushed back firmly. Obonyo blurred back.

"You've got one hell of a poker face," she observed. "Most people wet themselves when they see me do that for the first time, especially close up."

"Do they? How very unpleasant."

Obonyo snorted with laughter. "You're alright, little miss. Alright. Toddle off now; Professor Nami's got loads of paperwork to do, and an absolute lack of inclination to be going on with her deadlines there."

"Professor Nami should hire a student secretarial assistant," Narcissa observed as she rose. "If she truly dislikes that aspect of her position that much. It would give Professor Nami the opportunity to tutor the student secretarial assistant in a socially approved context."

"Aren't you clever!" Professor Nami said mock-admiringly. "Though as it happens, Professor Nami already has context lined up for you. It's called 'your first assignment is to make your roommate hate your pretty little ass so much that she requests a transfer out by the end of the week.'"

"What? Why?"

"A girl needs privacy to practice her wandless magic, never mind that her boy's how many oceans away?"

"Lovely, Professor. Really."

"Aaaand there goes the poker face. Aren't you adorable when you blush!" She pinched her cheek. "Almost as adorable as your boy. The two of you just have the market cornered on adorability, don't you? Your babies are going to be just precious. I might even agree to be godmother if you were to ask nicely enough."

“I might even consider it,” Narcissa responded sweetly. “If you were to ask nicely enough.”

“Save it for your roommate,” her advisor advised. “Though you might want to up the curled lip a notch or two with it. And sniff. Sniffing’s always good.” She slapped her wand, hard, as it demonstrated the suggested action in a revoltingly liquid manner, and proceeded to leak semi-congealed utterly foul smelling yellowish-brown liquid all over its mistress’s black leather trousers.

“Right then,” Obonyo said. “Back the safe with you. Dealing with your crap is one thing, but… Mm. On the other hand, do you know, it really, really isn’t?” The safe slammed and sealed, cutting of the ear-wincing shrill squeal of outrage. Narcissa cast a discreet and prudent wandless cleaning charm.

“Does it do that often?” she inquired.

“No, if only because when it does, I lock it up and make it sit in it. It’s trying to impress you.”

“It thinks that would impress me?”

Nun. Du,” the other woman enunciated. “Bat. sh*t. In. Sane. Study hard, little miss. The faster you learn, the faster it’ll lose interest.”

Narcissa said nothing more, just exited the room, closing the door gently behind her. She glanced around, and as no one was in sight, slumped against the wall, pressing her fingers to her nose.

“And to think I came here in the hopes of leaving all the sh*t behind me,” she muttered as she pushed herself up. “Never mind the insanity, and all the great leaking wankers constantly up my arse. Lucius, you had best, I repeat best, be having a good enough time for both of us…”

Chapter 2: The Bonding (1/3)


This particular one-shot (a stand-alone, but one of a sequential trio) takes place immediately following Chapter Twelve in 'Solace'. In the days following Ramone's attack at Castelobruxo, Silva makes the decision to return his nephew to his parents in Rio de Janeiro for two weeks while he, in turn, takes Lucius to the jungle so that a) he might grieve for his mother in private, and b) they might complete the magical bonding process as phoenix and heart. Parts One and Two take place in Rio, and are pretty much an exercise in self-indulgent world-building, as well as an opportunity to introduce you to Ramone's home-town and family from Lucius' perspective. :)

NOTE: re. the events that take place at Gringotts: International - remember, as mentioned in Solace, that Lucius' mother's family, the Burgesses of the Burgess-Waites, are the foremost magical engineers in Europe since the 14th century, and that the goblins, as their partners in many projects, would be very familiar with the name.

Chapter Text

Castelobruxo School,Brazil

September 23, 1970

9 A.M.

If ever there was a moment in Lucius Malfoy’s life where the complete unknown utterly failed to surprise him, it was the moment that Ramone Carriera told him that his family lived above a bookshop.

“We do not own it,” Ramone explained as he packed his bag in preparation for his trip home to Rio de Janeiro. “Papa works at a tourist hostel near our apartment. But it is very nice, heh, especially with all of the little improvements we have made with the help of magic over the years, and it is high off the street. It is not so convenient to the American Embassy where Mama cleans, mind you. She does have to travel through some very bad streets before she may catch the bus there, and often during hours that there is very little light, so we have made arrangements, or rather Tio has arranged things, so that the floo network is connected to an unused closet in the Embassy cellar.”

“Nomaji keep fireplaces in their closets?” Lucius said dubiously.

“No. They do not. We are Magicals, Malfoy-from-England,” his friend informed him kindly. “Notice-me-Nots and expansion spells are wonderful things.”

“Right. Right.” The young Englishman felt rather the idiot. “Does the government know?”

“Sim. The arrangements are made for the families of all Nomaji-born and families that have adopted Magicals, once they have been made aware of the extent of the infestation. We are all soldiers-in-waiting after all, and it is one of the benefits that are offered to those we love. However cruel and flawed our government may be, no one there actually enjoys the thought of delivering a student a letter that informs him or her that one they care for has been lost.”

Lucius refrained from comment at that, only tucked all of his photos of Niss and his mother, and the bundle of letters he’d received since arriving at Castelobruxo, into his own pack.

“Are you sure that I will pass?” he asked, looking down at himself. Ramone, clad in a pair of hacked off, knee-length faded denims, a sleeveless white undershirt and a pair of nondescript, somewhat disreputable trainers, had briskly transfigured the clothes Lucius typically wore to the jungle for the occasion: he was now wearing a pair of eye-wateringly orange calf-length cotton trousers, a bright green t-shirt emblazoned with a multi-coloured Nomaj peace sign, and plain tan sandals. His hair was neatly trimmed. Without robes, and knowing that he was about to step out in public, he felt exquisitely naked.

“As a Nomaj? Most certainly. Otherwise? You are the colour of snow, Malfoy-from-England. Not that anyone I know has ever seen snow, but that is not the point.” Ramone stuffed his rosary into his trouser pocket, and the statue, the card with the image of St. Michael on it, and the three books on his nightstand - the Bible, the Kipling, and the third, much thicker volume that Lucius had not yet examined - on top of his shoveled clothes and textbooks.

“Will they not be safe here?” Lucius asked.

“Sim. That is not the point either. The Bible was my mama and papa’s. It was a wedding gift, given to them from Tio when they were married. The Kipling was my gift from Pablo, when I first came to Castelobruxo. And the statue and the card were my gifts from my adopted parents on the occasion of my First Communion.”

“And the third book?’

“It would be very lonely I were to take everything else with me, heh, and leave it behind on the empty table?’ He retrieved his DisIllusioned broom, strapping it to his back, and shouldered his pack. “Bueno. Are you ready?”

“I have everything that I think that I will need, if that is what you mean.” Lucius hefted his own kit, shouldered his own broom, and flexed his fingers. Silva had removed the training lock for the two week period forthcoming.

“You will be fatigued and distracted enough, my heart,” he'd told him at the morning meal two hours before, not in the dining room, but in his office. “And your reflexes off. I will put it back on you a few hours a day for specific lessons, but as long as I do not see you neglecting your left hand, we will give you a little holiday.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Silva just offered him the last sip of pineapple juice, and set the glass aside, regarding him inscrutably. On his knees, Lucius shifted a bit uneasily. He’d come to recognize the particular expression very well indeed, very quickly, since arriving at Castelobruxo (though it was not, thankfully and for the most part, aimed at him), and it was, as Ramone had told him, a quite reasonable indication that Jesus was up in the priest’s office, setting the kettle to boil in anticipation of His guests. As Lucius was already in that office himself, and on his knees yet, he felt rather at the unfairly pre-established disadvantage.

“Luis,” Silva began, and stopped, rubbing his temples. His lips set. “Has Ramonzinho ever spoken to you on the subject of Estevan?"

“His father?” Lucius drew back a bit, offering him a puzzled look. “No, sir. Not a great deal at all. Why do you ask?”

“He is a very traditional man,” the priest said bluntly. “Very traditional. Kind and goodhearted, but not especially tactful, and he is extremely protective of his family. When I discussed what had happened with Ramonzinho with the family in his first year, I did not inform his parents of the finer details - only that he had been brutally beaten, to the point of near-death, by a group of students who, having no ability to Change themselves and the enormous fear of graduating that June, resented his even-then-obvious prodigious magical potential. If his mama knew the truth, it would destroy her. If Pablo knew, there would have been - not might have been, but would have been - murder. If Estevan knew…”

He paused.

“He has his suspicions,” he said. “I am sure, on Ramonzinho’s preferences. We do not discuss the subject. The subject is not discussed.”

Lucius stared at him, taken aback.

“He would not actually blame him for what happened, would he?”

“I do not know,” Silva confessed. “And I do not wish to find out, Luis. The men here in South America - the Nomaji men in particular - near-universally revile those inclined to their own gender. If Estevan was forced to openly acknowledge that which I am sure that he knows, he would feel greatly, greatly conflicted. The instinct - the expectation - would be that he send Ramonzinho away from the family forever. The actuality is that sending him away could very well kill the rest of his family, once the government processed that he had been disowned and that there was no more reason to allow them the memory of the Magical world, and the lethifolds. He knows this, certainly, and that is almost certainly why he says nothing. As for what happened to Ramonzinho as a child… I will be very honest. It is different when it is your child, sim, always. But here, in this country, in our culture, if there is proof of an incident that affects a girl or a woman, the men will kill the attackers, and the police, or the Aurors, are often among the avengers. If it happens to a boy or a man, the perpetrators of the crime may often say ‘he is, or at least we thought he was, of a disordered inclination: an offense and an abomination, and perhaps even influenced by demons, and we were reprimanding him for it for the good of his soul.” And often… Not always, but often… The courts hear that, and they are forgiven their crimes.”

Lucius sat back on his heels as he absorbed that.

“Did they?” he said. “Forgive them, I mean? The ones who…”

And he stopped, realizing even as he spoke that if Ramone had been erased in the Magical world, the crimes against him had literally, on that level beyond the strictly personal and the older boys’ expulsion from school for damage to the property, never occurred.

“The situation was resolved,” was all the priest said. Lucius eyed him. The dark eyes met his: no longer soft, but fathomless, remote and impassive. The younger man suddenly and entirely, did not want to know.

“I will not say anything,” he was all he said.

“Muito bueno.” Silva shook himself, Vanished the dishes with a wave, and offering him a hand, helped him rise, pulling him into a hug. “Go. Pack your things. You will not need a great deal besides the essentials; the jungle is very generous when faced with even a moderately skilled Magical, always given, of course, that one has the ability to survive it.”

“Yes, sir.”

He retrieved his broom from the hook beside the door and ducked out, offering a quick, uncertain smile over his shoulder. His phoenix smiled back reassuringly, and placed his hand over his heart in response... Lucius hopped on his broom and sped down the halls. It occurred to him that, for the first time, and despite life-long instinct and custom, Silva had not offered or requested his remembrances on parting.

He does not feel he needs to any longer, he realized, and recalled the words the priest had uttered in the safe room, after the governmental contingent had departed.

"e.e. cummings. February. 'i carry your heart with me(I carry it in my heart).' Such is human nature, when one loves. With phoenixes, the quote is more accurately 'i carry my heart with me(i carry him in my heart).''

Warmed by the implications there, suddenly, of the priest’s last small gesture, all grief and stress momentarily forgotten, Lucius grinned widely and idiotically to himself. He picked up his speed, swerving around a corner and rocketing as fast as he could - faster than he ever had since he’d first started riding standing - down the long, empty passages toward his destination.

Rio de Janeiro

Two Hours Later

Rio de Janeiro was alarming, to say the least. Silva ported them all in several blocks over from Ramone’s home, inside a tiny, walled and surprisingly lush and peaceful garden back of a ramshackle little church on the edge of a vast, teeming marketplace.

“One of my colleagues was formerly the priest in residence here,” he told Lucius. “The church is open to the public, always, but the garden itself is unplottable.”

Ramone groaned at the pun, loudly, but only on distracted and obligatory principle. “Brace yourself,” he advised Lucius. “It can be quite overwhelming, even when one is accustomed. You will not be directly accosted or harassed by vendors because we are with Tio, but people will stare. If it becomes too much, we will put a Notice- Me-Not on you.”

Stare they did and Lucius, therefore, felt perfectly justified in staring unabashedly right back. Never in his life, he thought as he gawped, ducked and dodged, hand firmly linked to Silva’s elbow and pummeled and pelted on all sides by the exuberant, coarse symphony of sound, odor and colour, could he ever have imagined such ungracious and cheerfully unapologetic waves of manifested human vulgarity... His mother would have adored every bit of it. Abraxas, on the other hand, would have been so utterly appalled, horrified, repulsed and revolted that he would have Obliviated himself of every detail out of self-preservation. Comforted as their son was by both observations, it made his own responsive reactions that much simpler.

“What do you think?” Ramone yelled. His grin stretched from ear to ear as he slipped like an eel back and through the crowds, scouting out the territory ahead and steering them past and around the market’s less socially prudent corners. “You see why I am a bit much now, heh? It is in self-defense, growing up in such a place as this!”

“It’s absolutely brilliant!” Lucius yelled enthusiastically back over the furious cacophony. All around him swarmed brightly bedecked and filth-ridden hordes of humans and animals alike, as if the biggest circus and the biggest traveling zoo in all of creation had decided to pause for their rest stop in the world’s biggest open marketplace. “All of it! I should bring your parents a gift; what would be appropriate, do you think?”

“Do you have any money on you?” Ramone yelled again.


The crowds around them immediately thinned by a good third, disappointed. Ramone laughed.

“The magic word,” he teased. “Gringotts, Tio?”

Silva just seized both of them by the hand and led them both through a jostling maze of small alleys, past stalls piled high with ripe, hanging and fly-ridden animal carcasses, man-high stacks of enormous, man-sized fish, and huge, eye-achingly colourful barrels of wildly unlikely tropical fruits and vegetables. Several dozen twists and turns later, they arrived at a crossroads in the maze, one where the store-fronts and stalls were hawking all manner of art, pottery, handmade toys, woven fabrics, clothes and handmade jewelry. The proprietor of the biggest, a large, boisterous man of surprisingly tidy and groomed appearance and correlatively eye-watering body odor, recognized Silva immediately.

“Padre!” he hailed.

“Benedito!” Padre hailed back as he barrelled out. The two embraced heartily, slamming, rather than patting each other's backs, and kissing each other’s cheeks warmly. It could have been Lucius’ imagination, but the man’s body odor seemed to drop several discreet notches as Silva pulled back. “Senhor Benedito Sales, I would like you to meet my nephew, Ramonzinho. He lives here in Rio de Janeiro, not far from here, and shops here regularly for his mama when he is not away at school. Perhaps you have seen him about, now and again?”

“Of course,” the proprietor said. “It is a little early for Christmas holidays, Senhor Carriera; do not tell me that they have expelled you at last, for embarrassing all of the academic records at Castelobruxo yet again this early in the school year?”

Ramone and Silva laughed. Lucius looked at him more closely. There was absolutely nothing about the man that distinguished him as a Magical among the crowds of Nomaji all around, but there was a biro in the breast pocket of the colourful shirt, that now that he was looking, that seemed to flicker under his concentrated gaze.

“And this is Senhor Luis Malfoy,” Silva introduced him. “He is one of our exchange students this year, one of my particular students. Luis, this is Senhor Benedito Sales. He has had three sons and three daughters that have attended Castelobruxo. His granddaughter, Bonita, is a second year, and one of Professora Hernandez’ students.”

“Mm. You are not giving our Padre too much trouble, are you, Senhor Malfoy?”

“I am attempting not to be a bother, sir.” Lucius bowed lightly.

“As for why we are here,” Silva continued. “Ramonzinho recently suffered an unfortunate accident, and though he is recovering nicely, we have brought him home so that his parents may be reassured of his health. Senhor Malfoy has come along for the day trip. Has Bonita written your family in the last few days, my friend?”

“Sim. She told us that the Headmistress has been excused for vital administrative mismanagement, and that Professora Hernandez has taken her place for the remainder of the year. Is it true?”

“Sim. It is. She will be remembered.”

“If not for that which she would wish to be, eh?” The man caught his reproving look. It was not very convincing. “I know, I know. I will be sure to report my ill manners with Jesus, the next time we two have tea. Still, it is better this way, and the rest of the parents and families who have also received notification are all quite pleased.”

“We students are all quite pleased as well,” Ramone offered. “Are we not, my Luz?”

“I am sure that I could not say,” Lucius said. “We had barely made acquaintance, and certainly not well enough to be reassured of, as you say, each others’ remembrances.”

“Nao?” Silva teased. “She made no impression at all?”

“She overbalances on her right foot,” Lucius obliged. “Habitually, and co*cks her elbow at a inappropriately wide angle. One good tickling jinx there and a boomerang hex to the back of the knee would bring her down like an ox.”

All three men roared.

“We will talk soon,” Silva promised the man. “For now though…”

“Sim, of course.” Sales gestured them through and to a wooden door at the back of his shop, gaily painted in not particularly well-done frescoes, and leading, presumably, to a storage room beyond. “Through here, Senhor Malfoy. I think we may have something that you may appreciate in our special inventory.” He retrieved his not-biro and a small pad of paper from the pocket of his loose trousers, scribing swiftly. “I will join you in a moment; I have another customer here. In the meantime… How is this for a starting price range?”

Lucius reached out to accept the offered page curiously. Even as he took it, Ramone and Silva took firm hold of his elbows and shoved him through the painted door. The images on the frescoes seemed to blur and rise, whirling around them and carrying them away. When they, and the images, settled again…

“What the…” The young Englishman looked around, astonished. They were standing at the top of a slope of a shallow bowl of a valley, surrounded on all sides by thick jungle. Behind them was the standing empty door frame: before them, another similar one. Beyond it, stretching out and quite filling the valley below, were blocks upon blocks upon blocks of very obviously Magical structures, all comprising a gigantic marketplace otherwise quite similar in atmosphere, though quite dwarfing, the one they’d just left behind.

“Welcome to Rio Mágico, Senhor Malfoy,” Antonio Silva said. “The major centralized marketplace of all of the Magical Lower Americas. Now that your magical signature has been registered within the ward-walls, you have been governmentally cleared to Apparate in and out at will without the mandated first-time local escort.’

“Registered,” Lucius repeated.

“Ostensibly registered,” his phoenix temporized. “To be honest, I have always suspected that Jesus would consider the tradition a little dubious. It is meant to provide, again ostensibly, a record of those who pass in and out so disappearances and losses and crimes may be tracked more efficiently, and alibis for those last ascertained, but it is most certainly not all that may be accomplished with the information. Jesus most definitely does not approve of those variations , and thus… I cannot, as a priest, support the protocols.”

“Ah. So we did not Apparate in via the door after all? I am not feeling sick at all.”

“Nao, we did not, no more than we Apparated from the school, but foreign visitors who do not take registered and governmentally approved portkeys via the public hubs the first time they visit the district must all yet pass through one of perhaps a dozen versions of Benedito’s door. We would not have set off any alarms even had we circumvented the standard routes; traveling by phoenix is not a method of travel recognized by the authorities, but this way, if anyone asks, you may describe the traditional measures taken.”

“So I am not - none of us are - registered as present here now? Even though we did take the traditional measures?"

“Nao. We are not. As long as you travel with me as one of my particular students, as I told Benedito, you are off the grid. The form that he filled out with your name on it will not be filed.”

“It will not be filed, or he will not file it?”

As the specific procedure that records you as you pass over the threshold - not that permits you to cross, but that records your initial visit and your magical signature in the ward-walls again - does require your providing the gatekeeper with a drop of your blood, it is simply paper. Senhor Sales is a very devout man,” Ramone informed him. “Jesus is very fond of him, I am sure. And did you know, my Luz, that Professora Hernandez only takes on twenty students a year? It is very difficult to get on her lists if you are lower than fifth year and have not demonstrated probable vital difficulty achieving the Change. His granddaughter is only second year, but the Sales family traditionally has great, great difficulty there. Bonita has been receiving specialized tutorials from her advisor from the day she arrived at Castelobruxo, as did all of Senhor Sales’ six children. There is not one of them who did not succeed before graduation, and not one of them has been lost. The entire family is very grateful to her, and remembers her through those she considers her own family in turn.”

“Ah.” Lucius looked around. “So this is an extension of the Nomaj marketplace, rendered unplottable again?”

“Sim.” Silva grimaced. “Unless you are a lethifold. They have no trouble passing, with or without the proper registration. Still, it is safe from everything else, and that is no small comfort in this part of the world. Come.” He jerked his head toward the second empty door frame. “Through here. It will take us directly down into the market itself. There we shall visit the bank, mm? You have made arrangements for your finances here?”

“Yes, though I do not actually need to visit the bank. I have a card” - Lucius dug in his pocket - “that I was told that I need only take to one of the smaller exchange offices here. It contains a pre-transferred amount of money from our vaults in London, and as the transaction was recorded before I left, it is if I am carrying money in my pocket. All the teller will need to do is tap it to remove the number of galleons that I request, and exchange it for the equivalent in Nomaj money.”

"Muito bueno." Silva nodded. “As that is the case, we will go anyway. It is an astonishing edifice, and well worth the visit. The biggest branch in the world, as it is the headquarters of Gringotts: International as well as of Rio itself. The Head of Gringotts’ home tribe is from this continent, and he prefers to conduct his primary business onsite.”

“I am aware, yes, but now that I am here… Is he not worried about the lethifolds?”

“Sim, but more the human variety. Lethifolds do eat goblins, but if given the option and availability they will always go for humans first, and in a place such as this, there are always many, many humans to choose from. If he were to build his seat in New York though, for example, he would be under much closer scrutiny from the ICW. Here, he has the certain autonomy that fear of the physical environment induces in high-ranking visitors who might otherwise demand regular audits.”

“The ICW audits Gringotts: International? Really?”

“No,” his roommate said as they passed through the second frame. Braced, Lucius managed to maintain both balance and overt composure as they appeared on the edge of another crowd, in a circular stone courtyard. “And that is the point. The king runs his business meticulously and with integrity, if no great affection for his clients, and causes no trouble, and in return, there is no demand for reports because no one wants to attend the meetings that he would insist must be held onsite. The few times that they have agreed to meetings in the past, they have found not a single undotted ‘i’ or uncrossed ‘t’ anywhere, so the final recommendations have always fallen along the lines of ‘no problems, as ever is the case, so why are we risking our lives again?”

Lucius snigg*red. “Does no one wear robes even here?” he asked as they made their way through the courtyard and to the web of streets beyond. Every witch and wizard they could see was clad in what in Europe, would only be described as ‘Muggle Standard’.

“We are in the tropics, Malfoy-from-England,” Ramone said yet again, patiently. “Would you wear robes such as the ones you wear in England here if you were not physically obliged to?”

“Auto-cooling charms?” Malfoy-from-England suggested.

“The hotter the natural climate,” Silva explained “The more difficult they are to maintain. We do not disdain them, of course, but on the whole, and without the biases and prejudices inherent against those with whom the styles originated in your part of the world, they are not a priority, and we reserve them for our dwellings.”

“You wear your robes all the time, wherever you are.”

“Mm? Oh. This is not a robe, Senhor Malfoy. It is a cassock - the uniform worn by priests of my Order, though there are those who take advantage of the permitted alternative and wear the white version instead, to mitigate the heat again. As I must take cooling potions regularly, regardless of what I wear, it makes no difference.”

“You must? I mean… You do? Why? Do you have a condition? Are you ill?”

His phoenix glanced at him, amused.

“Nao,” he said. “Simply naturally hot-blooded, with, some say, an uncomfortably fiery temperament and an affinity for over-heated melodrama.” They turned a corner. Lucius stopped in his tracks.

“Holy bloody buggering f*ck,” he said incredulously. “That is not a bank! That is a palace!”

“He is the king, my Luz.”

“But… I have seen photos!” he protested. “The photos do not look like that!”

“Of course they do not. Published photos of the actuality would draw tourists. Would not your father wish to come visit here, just to have his own photo taken there?”

“There is that. This is completely unbelievable.” Lucius shook his head. “Niss would love it.”

“She enjoys excess?” Silva teased him gently.

“No. She enjoys beauty. And shopping. And herbology. She would likely spend her entire day here quizzing the shopkeepers on the fruits and vegetables, never mind admiring the architecture. Oh, and taste-testing every pastry available. She adores good pastry, especially with chocolate.”

“Mmm. Chocolate. We must take him to Dona Alina’s, Tio!” Ramone enthused as they approached the massive complex.

“What is Dona Alina?”

“Who, not what. She is the best magical chocolatier in all of South America. Her shop is just a block or so from here; may we go after we are finished here, Tio : pleeeeeease?”

“Sim, of course,” Silva said indulgently. “If you wish, my heart?”

“Do your parents like chocolate?” Lucius asked his roommate.

“Sim, though I have never bought them any,” Ramone admitted. “Not from the particular store. It is an experience in the sublime, but the same cannot be said for the prices.”

“How do you know how good they are, then?”

“I have been here several times when they were offering samples of new products.”

“Ah. Well, then… Yes. Certainly. I would love to go. You are in recovery from that rather unpleasant experience, and you yet could use a bit of pampering for it. Also. I do not know about the chronic stress induced by the omnipresent threat of lethifolds, but good chocolate is the standard treatment for exposure to Dementors. As the two species are related, I believe that a bit of research there may be in order.”

“As you say,” Silva said, smiling at him, and gestured him toward the massive ivy-and-flora-entwined crystal and steel gates of the bank. The gargantuan white marble, silver and gold-veined edifice beyond swept up with all of the grace and elegance of the most beautiful of cathedrals. Lucius looked down at himself.

“Are you certain we are not underdressed?” he couldn’t help but ask.

“The goblins enjoy seeing us underdressed,” Ramone said wryly. “It makes them feel superior.” The three made their way up the magnificent steps. As they approached the top, Lucius paused, on whatever instinct he could not have said, then reached in his pocket, extracting a small blank card and tapping it with his wand.

“What is that?” Ramone asked curiously, peering over his shoulder.

“My calling card,” he said. They passed into the lobby. There were numerous security goblins about, all standing next to one of the huge marble pillars that lined the edges of the lobby. Each was easily four times the height and proportionate circumference of their counterparts in the lobby of Gringotts: London, on Diagon Alley. “One moment, please.” He approached the closest. The goblin looked Lucius over, lip curling slightly as he advanced on him, bowing lightly.

“Well met,” the young man said, and in extremely quiet, slow (and quite probably mangled, but then again, as his Great-Grandfather Burgess had told him more than once, sneering at humans was the national sport of the Goblin Nation, and deliberately offering them the opportunity was as good as the gift of a fine bottle of wine) Gobbledegook - “May your heirs be numbered as jewels in a crown, and through them, your tribe honoured and glorified.”

The lip didn’t uncurl, but the beetled eyebrows shot up. Lucius slipped him his now gilt-inlaid card. The goblin glanced at it, and did a distinct double-take.

“Lucius Abraxas Burgess-Waites, Heir of Malfoy,” he read. “Wiltshire, England.”

“My regards to His Majesty,” Lucius said. “As my mother’s sole-born and Heir. I wish him long life, prosperity, and steel in the spines of his children.”


“Courtesy call. As I am attending Castelobruxo this year, and was offered the unexpected last moment opportunity to visit your city, I simply wished, and wish, to pay my respects. As he has those regardless of appointment, and as he is very busy, I am certain, there is no need to disturb him.”

“Mm.” The goblin tucked the card away. Lucius bowed again; then made his way over to where Silva and Ramone were waiting. He glanced over toward the pillar again once as they waited in line. The goblin was gone. By the time they had completed their necessary transactions, he was back at his post again.

“May I ask?” Ramone inquired curiously as they emerged back into the tropical afternoon.

“Do you know, I am not sure?” Lucius mused. “I simply followed an impulse.” They made their way down the steps. As they passed through the gates again, Ramone veritably hopping and leaping with anticipation as Silva laughed at him, another goblin approached from behind them, brushing by Lucius and slipping something into his hand. Lucius, glancing over to make certain that the other two were yet not paying attention, turned it over. It was his own card, returned to him. On the back was a gold-stamped axe. Below it, scribbled lightly in pencil...

Condolences, Burgess. R8

He blinked back tears, pretending to wipe sweat out of his eyes with the hem of his t-shirt, and, tucking the card away, picked up his pace, his long legs eating the distance between him and his companions. By the time they reached the chocolate shop, he had quite recovered his composure. Once more, he stopped in his tracks, gobsmacked… He had expected a reasonably sized shop along the lines, perhaps, of Honeydukes' in Hogsmeade. Instead…

“I must ask, sir,” he said. “As a connoisseur of Nomaj literature, are you quite, quite sure that Roald Dahl is not a Magical? Or that Dona Alina’s family name is not, in fact, Wonka?”

Silva chuckled. “I am personally convinced, at the very least, that he knows of the Magical world,” he said. “You are not to spend your entire month’s allowance here, Ramonzinho, do you understand?” he called as his nephew bounded ahead, sniffing rhapsodically.

"May I spend mine, at least?” his heart asked. “I do not suppose that they have an international delivery serv….” He cut himself off again, eyes widening and widening as they too pushed through the great main doors. As large as the store was on the outside, spanning a full half block…

“Salazar’s spotted suspenders,” the young man said prayerfully. “This is not just a candy shop, it is a site worthy of a full-scale pilgrimage!”

“It is interesting fact, my heart,” the priest told him. “That when you have a population where upwards of seventy percent are Animagi, a great many of them will have very peculiar tastes in food. The universal truth remains, however… Everything, everything, tastes better when coated in chocolate.”

Lucius laughed, and handed him a basket from the stacks. “If you say so, sir. Now. You must, along with Ramone, get whatever you like, and if you would choose something for Professora Hernandez too, I would appreciate it.”

“Of course.” He examined the rows. “I must ask, my heart… Are you serious on the 'whatever I would like?'”

“Of course, sir. Why do you ask?’

“October is traditionally a very difficult month in terms of the numbers of losses. Jesus is a great comfort to all of the students, of course, but unfortunately, His own monthly allowance is not all that, so He is traditionally limited to offering even the most sorrowful of His little guests tea.”

“Ah.” Lucius reached immediately into his pocket, extracting the card he had offered the teller at the bank, tapping it first with his own wand, then holding it out. “I have arranged at the bank to divide the total available on the card in ten equal parts, one part available to me for each of the ten months I am here. I have spent nothing of September’s allotment so far, save for the amount I withdrew at the Nomaj Exchange Counter, so the full amount is yet mostly available. Tap there, and it will give you access to the current balance, for reference. I think that you will find more than enough there for your purposes, so do not feel you must be diffident.”

Silva smiled at him in thanks, tapped - and barely managed to retain his dignity at the scrolling numbers. Lucius did not notice his look of utter shock; he had already grabbed a basket and bounded off, following Ramone.

Nossa Senhora,” the priest muttered. “I know that you never promised an equitable division of resources in this world, beautiful Jesus, and I do appreciate You arranging this opportunity to level the playing field a little, but still.” He turned the card over in his fingers, shaking his head before tucking it in his cassock pocket and heading off, firmly quelling an uneasy pang of worry. It was often difficult to tell, in an environment where everyone wore the same uniform and carried the same texts and varieties of supplies just how wealthy any one student at Castelobruxo was in comparison to the others, unless (and Jesus was rather crushing on the subject with the offending individuals as necessary) they made the active point of it. He had been so distracted by the events of the last week that it had not truly occurred to him till that moment that Ramone had, very likely, considering how diffident Lucius was on the subject, absolutely no idea of just how wealthy the young Englishman’s family really was.

Conversely… He was altogether certain that Lucius had no idea just how wealthy Ramone’s adopted family wasn’t. The prices at Dona Alina’s were, despite his nephew’s cautionary words, quite reasonable, it was just that he tended to spend what little money he earned during the summer teaching English at a small local school on books. His only real indulgence was his racing broom, and that had been a gift from Inez when he returned to Castelobruxo after his year away… Her own parents had not left her particularly well-off, but with no siblings and no children, she had very few expenses, and she loved his nephew like her own son.

No, his heart could have no idea of what was awaiting them. Even as he worried, Antonia-Maria Silva couldn’t help be but curious on what Lucius Malfoy’s instinctive reaction would be to the concrete pragmatic, as opposed to any faint theoretical realization he might have had till now, that his monthly allowance was considerably more than Estevan Santos and Rosa Rocha could hope to earn together in ten years.

As it turned out, Antonio Silva need not have worried at all. As soon as the three emerged from RioMágico and began to work their way through the maze of the Nomaj market district again, the priest watched out of the corners of his dark eyes as the light blue ones, seeming to look in every direction at once, began, immediately and deliberately now, to seek out, identify, assess and analyze all of the larger and finer particulars of his surroundings, and in particular Ramone’s reactions to, and interactions with, the people around them as they made their way towards his specific street. Silva wasn’t quite sure what the young Englishman was making of it all on the strictly personal level, but his expression of curious, lively interest never wavered once.

There was admittedly, a great deal to waver over. Rio de Janeiro was, at best, an exercise in contrasts and contradictions: staggering beauty and hellish filth, decadent, glassy-eyed wealth and starving, empty-eyed poverty, dangerous political unrest and fixed and smiling, picture-postcard social perfection…. Ramone’s immediate neighbourhood, mind, was considerably better off than most. He and his family lived on the edge of one of the worst of the city’s constantly mutating and socially devolving favelas, and Silva’s considerable efforts in warding the area while his nephew was growing up had made that neighbourhood a relative paradise. No Nomaj could ever quite understand or explain why it was that the six block radius surrounding the bookshop where the Rocha dos Santos family made their home was completely free of gang activity, drug runners, and the generalized bloody chaos that characterized the surrounding environment, but there it was.

Silva watched Ramone’s face, too, as they walked: his nephew seeming to truly process for the first time, as he noted Lucius' intent scrutiny of their surroundings, the inherent social dichotomy between him and his new roommate. A small, anxious furrow engraved itself between his brows, his constant chatter ceased, and he darted looks over and away from the other, now similarly quiet young man, as if afraid of what he might see blossoming there. His steps, too, slowed… Silva reached out and took his hand, squeezing reassuringly.

“It is not much like England, I expect, heh, my Luz?” Ramone ventured.

“No,” Lucius said. “It is not.”

And that was all. The anxious furrow deepened. Silva squeezed his nephew’s hand again, encouragingly.

‘What are you thinking,” the young Brazilian ventured again. Lucius stopped in his tracks and pointed. Ramone followed his gaze. In the distance, high on the hillside over the city, was the world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, embracing all.

“I am thinking,” he said precisely. “On the number of people who have come to this city specifically to see Him… And of the ones who have gotten their wish here. One way or the other.”

Ramone said nothing.

“It is a very beautiful statue,” Lucius observed. “There is nothing like it in England. The beauty there is all reserved for that which is on ground level. And when you look up, in every direction, from where I stand when I am this close to my own home, there is nothing there but empty sky. Empty sky, and the stars are not the same there at all, as they are here. It is very strange. Nothing is the same here. But it is not a different world. It is simply half of the whole, that together with my half… Comprises that whole.” He considered his own words as they began to walk again. “They should really put a Notice-Me-Not on it during the hours from sunset to sunrise.”

“On… What? The statue?”

“Mm. The eye is drawn, in the darkness, to seek that which it cannot no longer see, particularly when it remembers beauty there. I am sure that the lethifolds take blatant advantage.’

Silva smiled at him at that. “You think like a Warder, my heart,” he said approvingly. “There is one in place already. My Order placed it there, many decades ago. Well… More than one,” he qualified. “There are many. It is a very large statue, and very beautiful indeed. The eye is not easily convinced to look away at all.”

“Excellent.” Lucius adjusted his pack over his shoulder and looked about him again, his customary briskness returning as his attention returned to his immediate surroundings. “This is truly marvelous. You are a fortunate man, Carriera-from-Brazil.”

“You think so, do you,” Ramone said, amused and reviving in spite of himself. “And which, exactly, of our fine local features is it that brings you to that conclusion, Malfoy-from-England? The shoulder-high heaps of rubbish at every turn, the hungry, free-running children with the constant smiles on their faces and their constant hands in your pockets, the roaming packs of feral rats and cats that spread disease and sh*t everywhere, the daring and fresh-aired design of the local architecture...”

“There are improvements that could be made, certainly,” Lucius conceded. “On that purely pragmatic level.” Silva and Ramone both howled at the drolly tactful understatement. “And perhaps I am insensitive after all, and as that is the case, I do apologize, but I enjoy seeing new and unfamiliar things. They offer me fresh perspective and new context to work with. It will all give me a real advantage when I return home; if there is one thing that I am absolutely, absolutely certain of, it is that there are things I learn here that no one I am returning to will ever understand, and thus, be able to use against me. I, on the other hand, will be able to use absolutely everything here against them. I do not know about you, but I find the thought quite reassuring. Bracing, really.”

“I find the smells quite bracing, myself,” his phoenix said, wrinkling his nose. ”Nossa Senhora. I will freely admit it, my heart. I was wrong earlier. Certain things do not go at all well with chocolate. Here. Stand still. I will renew the soil-repelling charms on your sandals.”

“We are almost there,” Ramone reassured his roommate. “Just down this street a little, past the corner and we will be home.” His step perked a little. “I will run ahead and let them know we are coming, shall I, Tio?"

“Go, go.” Silva waved him off, and put his arm lightly around Lucius. “Truly, are you well, Luizinho?”

“Much better now that I know there are ocular aversion spells on that statue," Lucius said. “It truly does draw the eye.” He pushed his trimmed hair off of his forehead in a suddenly weary gesture. Silva’s arm tightened a bit.

“I feel it too, my heart,” he said quietly. “It will not be long now.”

“Long till… What?”

“The bond is not yet complete,” his phoenix said. “It must be completed, but it cannot happen here. How are you feeling?”

“Tired,” he confessed. “Restless. But there is much here to distract, at least, and to think on, if we must wait.” He looked around again. Silva said nothing more, just watched, or rather sensed, on a level far deeper than the physical expressive, as he closed off a bit. It was not directed at him, he knew.

“What are you thinking,’ he said, as Ramone had.

“That perhaps I understand Riddle a little better now,” Lucius Malfoy said. “In ways that he would never expect, or anticipate, or wish me to. I knew that he grew up in a war zone, in this kind of … Well," he temporized. "Perhaps not quite in this 'kind of'. Perhaps it was not quite so overt. But still. He carries it with him.”

“He does not carry it with him, Luis,” Silva said gently. “He has become it. You must not fall into the trap, my heart, of thinking that he is but an unfortunate resident among the shadows and filth that infected him. He is the infection, now.”

“You truly think that there is no chance for redemption there?”

The priest looked up at the figure on the hill again, at the world-famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, arms spread and embracing all.

“It will take a miracle,” he said soberly. “And miracles are God’s domain, Luis, not ours. We are not God. If He chooses to work His miracles through any one or more of us, that is His prerogative, but in this context, we are all His runes. And runes are not magical in and of themselves. They are simply conduits for power sourced from Elsewhere. Bow to His will, work for the Acceptable, as you call it, in all things… He will reshape you as He requires, and all will be well.”

“We decrease so that He may increase,” Lucius quoted. He looked up at figure on the hillside one last time as they approached the bookshop. “Only… It explains a great deal, doesn’t it?”


“On why you brought Ramone here, to live here, when his parents died. Has his family always lived in this neighborhood?”

“Sim. They have. I arranged it when they agreed to adopt him. Mind you, it was not quite so... Mm. Colourful then.”

“It explains a great deal,” his student said again. “Books below him, your Christ before him, Hell and Heaven all in the one city... “ He grinned suddenly. “And all of it with the immediate availability and occasional access to that chocolate shop. All that, and it is no wonder, truly, that his essential runic shape is as it is, and a bit much besides.”

Silva chuckled. “Ah. As for that last… That last is all purely down to the Silva male template, I am afraid. I must say, I was truly, truly surprised when he turned out as a frog, and not a howler monkey like his father.”

“Are the men in your family inclined that way? “

"To be bandar-log? Nao, not really, but let us say that it is - was - never a surprise when it happened. Bueno. Here we are. Here. I will clean your sandals again before we go up. Rosa is quite particular about these things."

“Tio! ” a familiar voice hailed from above, as a shout of joy through a suddenly opened window in Heaven. “Mama! Papa, they are here! Tio, you did not tell me that you had brought Pablo in from his university! Why did you not tell me you were bringing him, you… AHHHHHhhhhhhh...”

The shout trailed off to a gurgle.

“You do not need to shout half across the city, Ramonzinho!" a woman’s tart voice said. “If they are right downstairs, they can hear you perfectly well. Now close that window, and make sure it is tight. Pablo, you will put your feet down right now; that is a table, not a… Oh for... RAMONE HENRIQUE!"

“And now it is a footstool, heh?” a deep voice said. “You are a wonderful brother, ‘Monzinho. So kind, truly. Mmmm. What is this? Mmm. Chocolate!”

“Get your hands off my things, you great baboon. Oi! Nao! That is not yours! ” There was a crash, and a squawk, and a third male voice joined the chorus, roaring and bellowing.

“Brace yourself,” Silva advised him, and squared his own shoulders, crossing himself rapidly. “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”

Chapter 3: The Bonding (2/3)


Spanish Vocab:

Madre de Dios - Mother of God!
Mijo - my son

Chapter Text

The Rocha dos Santos Family Home

Rio de Janeiro

“Madre de Dios,” Pablo Neruda Federico Lorca Estevão Rocha dos Santos said prayerfully as he examined the photos handed to him. Dinner over and the (many, many) dishes set to self-clean, the three young men and the three adults were settled in the small, crowded sitting room with coffee and dessert - a magnificent sample tray from Dona Alina’s. Doilies, religious items and photos in frames abounded, along with a phonograph, and stacks of records and books in random corners. “This is the woman that you plan to marry?”

“It is.” Lucius, settled on a stupidly comfortable sofa of indeterminate colour, age and bloodline (tactfully saved from embarrassment by several colourful knitted afghans), nibbled at a chocolate-covered nut. His long legs were stretched before him, and his cleaned and slippered feet, like those of the rest of the males about, were now jostling for space on the coffee table. It had been transfigured for the occasion from an old chipped mug, the original prudently shrunken and tucked into his hostess’ apron pocket for safekeeping.

“Madre de Dios!” Pablo said again. Rosa Rocha dos Santos was a native Brazilian, but her husband, Estevan, had been born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. The members of the household, therefore, spoke a mixed jumble of Spanish and Portuguese that both translated equally colourfully to English (and back again) via the translation spells woven into the house’s wards. When activated, all individuals within the walls heard only their own language, save, of course, for in the more emphatic moments of self-expression. “I do not suppose that she has a sister?”

“She does. Two of them. One already has a perfectly good boyfriend though, as I told Ramone, and the other just needs Jesus.”

Ramone sprayed coffee everywhere, laughing riotously. Estevan smacked his head (lightly, his mindfulness of the recent injury there considered) as Silva waved a hand and tidied him up. Pablo grinned. He was an animated, quick-moving, rather waifish young man, a good ten inches shorter than Lucius and Ramone: dark-haired, with mournful, quite beautiful dewy dark eyes, a large nose and a splendid, carefully groomed and waxed handlebar mustache.

“I do not understand it,” Ramone had said plaintively to Lucius as they’d seated themselves. “It is as if he has a taxidermied flobberworm with a grooming problem pasted to his lip, and still the women adore him! Explain this to me, Malfoy-from-England. There is something there that I am missing, I know, but I am not seeing it. Possibly because his face is so inherently repulsive that I dare not look, but… OWWW! Mama!”

“Manners!” Rosa scolded. “There is no need to be so rude, especially in front of Padre! What will he tell Nossa Senhora of how I have raised the child, his own brother’s son, that he has entrusted to me so lovingly?”

“She already knows, Mama. She sees all and hears all and has a son of her own besides, never mind all of the ones she eventually adopted at His request. Well, Luz?” His roommate had not once used his standard affectionate preface ‘my’ since entering his childhood home.

“Do I look as if I have the native context to pass comment on the aesthetic efficacy of facial hair to you, Carriera-from-Brazil?”

“Nao, but I had thought you might have some objective wisdom to share on the subject.”

“You would truly be much better off asking Narcissa in your next exchange,” Malfoy-from-England said. “Honestly, I have no idea.”

“It is proof of my masculinity, heh?” Pablo smirked complacently at his yet beardless sibling. “Only a truly strong and healthy and macho individual has the wherewithal to grow such a tremendous specimen.”

“Or perhaps it is overcompensation?” his younger brother smirked back. “For the fact that you are so short?”

“Narcissa has always appreciated my height,” Lucius conceded, and ducked too, laughing, as the priest beside him prodded him reprovingly.

“Has she made comment on your hair yet?” Silva asked him. He was jammed on the small sofa beside his student, shoulder to shoulder. It was both reassuring and absolutely distracting. The emotional tension between the two of them was growing by the hour, not directed at each other in any way, but at their mutual magic’s joint frustration that whatever must happen between them was not being granted the opportunity to manifest. As bad as it was though, it was ten times worse when they were not touching. The priest’s casual arm about his shoulders was by this point, all that was keeping Lucius from slipping to his knees right there, throwing his arms around his phoenix, and abandoning himself to whatever it was that Bloody Bollocking Beautiful Jesus obviously had in mind for them both.

“I have not yet informed her, sir,” he said instead. ”She will most likely be a bit put off, but as long as I grow it before I return to England, will accept it as a concession to the heat here.“

“Do all men in England have such long hair?” Rosa asked curiously.

“No, Senhora. The trending fashion right now for males cites the ideal as just above shoulder-length. The longer style has been a tradition in my family for generations: expected now to the point of the axiomatic - Malfoy men are all fair, with light eyes, and while trimmed hair is acceptable when we are children, once we start school we do not cut it again till it reaches mid-back. After that, again as I told Ramone, it is maintenance.”

“Do you plan to inflict this sad state of affairs on my godsons?” Ramone inquired, helping himself to a huge wedge of chocolate-covered mango from the plate making the rounds.

“Quite likely, yes. One may choose certain battles in this life, and that is not one that I care to bother myself with. Though as I have already informed their future mother, they will not be invited to call me by my given name. That particular exercise in applied paternal disrespect ends with me, for all future generations.”

Estevan grunted in approval. A strong-bodied, not unhandsome, if rough-looking man, he was polite enough; welcoming even, but as per Silva’s warning, Lucius had not failed to notice his host's rather pained, closed-eyed expression when he had turned away to put the beer that the priest had brought in the icebox. Never mind his suspicions on his son, Lucius’ own long, graceful body and refined elegant features were apparently leading him to the one conclusion… The young man’s suspicions were immediately confirmed with the man’s next words.

“Take his things and Padre’s to your room, Ramone,” he’d instructed. “There is the second bed there, and you will sleep in with Pablo.”

“I truly do not mind sleeping on the sofa, Papi,” Pablo offered. “So that Padre may have my room.”

“And for arguing, you may take the floor,” his father said tersely.

“He is a frog!” Pablo protested. “He has no need of the bed!” Ramone had said nothing, simply hefted the packs and disappeared. Lucius had said nothing either, but he did note how Silva’s fingers flicked, and how a small packet had fallen from Lucius’ own bag before his roommate rounded the corner. Pablo bent to retrieve it.

“‘Monzinho, you have dropped…”

“Ah,” Lucius said hastily. “It is quite alright. I will take those; they are photos of my girlfriend, and I do not trust him not to hide them under his pillow and sneak them back later before he thinks I have noticed.”

“I would never,” Ramone had protested, reappearing. “I have no need of your photos anyway, Malfoy-from-England. Your angel is so kind, she has sent me my own, heh, to enjoy at my leis… OWWWWW!” That had earned him his first smack of the evening from his mother.

“So. You have an angel, Senhor Malfoy?” Rosa inquired as they'd all seated themselves for dinner. “Tell us about her, and oh yes, how it is, Ramonzinho, that you are acquainted with her.”

“She is not just his angel, she is his betrothed,” her son informed her. “She is attending Uagadou on her own ISEP year, and as I have always had an interest in the curriculum there, Luz was kind enough to inquire whether she minded if I initiated a correspondence on the subject.”

“Betrothed,” Estevan repeated. The emotional temperature in the room warmed immediately. Ramone continued to chatter on blithely, but again, Lucius couldn’t help but note (now that he was looking, discreetly of course) how Pablo’s eyes rolled slightly, and at how Silva’s hand slipped under the table to squeeze their hostess’ fingers reassuringly.

“Yes, sir,” Lucius responded when Ramone had finally stopped for breath. “Narcissa and I are very fortunate. Marriages in our circles are most often arranged, and ours would have likely been in any instance, but we truly love each other, and have since we were children. I am a lucky man, in all ways.”

“I still do not understand why she did not come to Castelobruxo,” Ramone complained. “We are so very, very welcoming there, heh, and there is the Herbology department besides. Herbology is her favourite subject, is it not?”

“After Charms, yes. She considered it, but her mother was quite firm there. She was of the opinion that our separation would be prudent at this point.” He heaved a deep sigh: sadly, deliberately and most expressively. Pablo snigg*red. Ramone laughed. “It is just as well, truly. This way, she may be your friend without the risk of being hexed for it by all of the hordes of girls who follow you about everywhere.”

“You have girls who follow you about, ‘Monzinho?” Pablo blinked in mock-astonishment. “When did this miracle happen?’

“As they have always been there, I truly could not say.” Ramone lifted a casual shoulder, even as his foot nudged Lucius’ gratefully under the table. “One does not notice that which one has never missed.”

“The administration has obviously noticed,” Lucius observed. “Since they made certain that you have a roommate this year. It is the same here as it is in my instance,” he told his hostess. “Sixth year, the traditional year of rest between fifth and seventh, is always a time of relative relaxation for the students, and an equal time of trial for the professors. It is no coincidence, I am convinced that the ISEP year is traditionally taken then, as parents of attached students attempt to accommodate by suggesting that one or both take the mutually independent holiday.”

“Are there any girls in particular that you have noted among these hordes, mijo? ” Rosa asked.

“I notice them all in particular at one point or another, Mama, since my eyes, sadly, may only look in the single direction at one time. As you mean it… Why do you not ask Pablo such questions? He is twenty four, and of an age far more suited to select the single option!”

“Because I am afraid, as are we all, of the single option he would select,” his mother said sourly. “The best, in his instance, would be the best in terms of skills that a mother-in-law does not personally attend to for her son, heh? At least with you, we know that you have that Notice-Me-Not available to you, and would be gentlemanly enough to remember it in situations that might embarrass your poor mama before the neighbours.’

“ROSA!” Estevan glared as the rest of the table, Silva included, cracked up. Much later that night, when they were readying themselves for bed, Silva took his heart firmly by the shoulders and kissed both of his cheeks before offering him a hard, quick hug.

“Thank you, Luis,” he said. Lucius blinked down at him. “You are a good boy. A kind one. Rosa has asked me to thank you personally.”

“I had thought you had said it was never talked on?”

“That does not mean it is not a chronic subject and source of strain,” his phoenix said. “One way or the other.” He sat on the edge of his bed and removed his slippers. “I will not lie. It was pleasant, for the one evening at least, not to have to deal with the pain it brings.”

Lucius hesitated, then sat beside him, and tentatively put his arm around him and squeezed. Silva sighed, and actually leaned against him, just for a moment, before patting his hand and pulling back.

“I am not withdrawing, my heart,” he said apologetically at Lucius’s slightly hurt look. “But…”

“Prudence is necessary. I understand.”

“It is not about prudence,” he said. “I do not know what will happen when the bond…” He rubbed his forehead. ‘It is difficult. My instincts are that it will be quite profound, and not something that others should witness.”

Lucius said nothing. A soft knock sounded.

“Tio?” Ramone’s voice said. “I am sorry, but a message has come through the floo from Senhor Sales.”

“Sim? Let me see.” He held out his hand. Ramone brought him the folded paper, and seated himself beside him. Silva read the note, and grimaced, reaching again for his sandals, and transfiguring them to knee high boots, and his cassock to light trousers and shirt.

"Sir, what…”

“There has been a breach,” he said, as he strapped on his wands. “Of the seals on the walls of the Carioca Aqueduct closest to the river mouth. All extra hands are needed to scout out the region and drive them back before we repair the damage. Go dress, Ramonzinho.”

Ramone disappeared immediately.

“A breach? Sir, what… How may I help?”

“You may not.” He shook his head. “You are not trained, my Luizinho. You are capable, sim; most capable, but the specific methods we use require lessons. I have been teaching Ramonzinho there since he was twelve.”

Lucius sat miserably and anxiously, watching as he prepared his satchel, and trailed after him as he strode to the sitting room. Ramone was there, clad now as was his uncle, his bloodthorn wand strapped to his right hip.

“I am so sorry, Luz,” he said.

“Do not apologize,” Lucius said. “Never for this.” He hugged him convulsively. ‘Be careful, Carriera-from-Brazil. There are none before you and none after you who can replace you.”

“We will be back at sunrise,” his friend reassured him, hugging him back. “I swear it before our beautiful Jesus, heh?” He kissed his parents and Pablo. His brother squeezed him so hard he squawked. His face was wet.

“God be with you, ‘Monzinho,” he said. “And St. Michael. I love you.”

“I love you too, Pablo.” Ramone squeezed him back. “Remember me, all of you, and do not eat all of my chocolate. Worrying is no excuse, and praying is far more effective a distraction. Vamos, Tio.” He blurred, and sprang to Silva’s shoulder. They disappeared through the floo, the priest glancing over his shoulder at Lucius and putting his hand over his heart lightly as they flashed out… Rosa sank down on the sofa, face in her hands. Estevan looked suddenly very old and tired. Pablo went to the kitchen to put the kettle on to boil.

“This,” he informed Lucius as he returned, “is a complete sh*t-hole of a world we live in, Senhor Malfoy.”

“I am not arguing.” Lucius sank down opposite Rosa. He jumped as Estevan sat beside him on the arm of the chair and put an arm about him, pulling him in.

“We shall none of us sleep,” he told him roughly. “And as we must all sit here and feel useless, we will sit and feel useless together.”

“Have you ever played Exploding Snap, sir,” Lucius said after a moment.


“It is a game we play at Hogwarts, to pass the time. It is quite emotionally satisfying, when one is under strain or waiting for the results of one’s exams. One moment.” He disappeared and came back with his pack, removing several decks of cards and magically expanding the coffee table. Sofas and chairs flew magically close. “Sit, all of you.” He began to deal briskly. The Rocha dos Santos family looked at each other. He looked up. “Sit,” he urged again. “Please.”

They sat. Pablo watched as he demonstrated, and leaned forward, intrigued.

“Will they function for Nomaji,” he said, touching a card. “If a Magical is not present?”

“Yes,” Lucius said. “I will leave them here when I go.” He set the last down, and reached into the pack again. Estevan reached out and took the bottle he offered curiously.

“What is this?” he asked.

“Ogden’s Best Old Firewhiskey. They had several imported bottles in the shop we stopped at in Rio Magico. In my country, once one is past seventeen, it is illegal to play the game without the accompanying.”

“You do not say.” Pablo took the bottle from his father and examined it, twisting the cap off and sniffing. His eyes watered visibly, and he coughed just at the fumes. “And are you seventeen yet?”

“No,” Lucius said. “But as I am officially here in Brazil on holiday, no one will be looking. They would not want to have to contradict their own records, after all.”

Estevan snorted with sour amusem*nt at that, and went to fetch the glasses. Pablo picked up a small box that had fallen beside his hip.

“Honeydukes’ Fudge Flies?” he read. “What are these?”

“Ah. Those are for Ramone. I ordered them from an acquaintance of mine at Hogwarts through the ISEP floo, and have not had a chance to give them to him yet. He is so easily distracted, I bought them so that I may send them flying about the room when he is on one of his late night tangents. The half hour it takes him to catch them as a frog will allow me the extra thirty minutes of sleep.” The kettle sang. Rosa began to get to her feet. He shook his head at her, motioning her down, and flicked his wand. The whistle ceased abruptly, and there was the brisk clinking of china.

“You brew tea?” Estevan’s eyebrows raised.

“It is, I was told, the hallmark of a proper Englishman.” Lucius set his first two cards carefully. “And allows you, as the man, while preparing it, to slip the shot of firewhiskey in your own cup when your betrothed’s more tedious and tiresome relatives are visiting besides.”

The collective snort at that was decidedly appreciative, on all parts.

Chapter 4: The Bonding (3/3)


Spanish Vocab

Por Dios - For God's sake
Un momento - One moment

Chapter Text

Just Past Sunrise

The early rays of the sun prodded a sprawled, open-mouthed Lucius Malfoy ungently, following up with a loud pained grunt and a sharp, sleepy shove that sent the young Englishman tumbling squarely onto the shabby carpeted floor between the sofa and the coffee table.

“Por Dios, ‘Monzinho, get your elbow out of my ribs, you… Oop.” The voice was suddenly more awake. “Madre de Dios; I am so sorry, Luis! I was sleeping and took you for ‘Monzinho. Are you well? Here, let me…”

“I am fine,” Lucius said groggily. “I think. Ow.”

“Mm,” Pablo agreed, staggering up. “My poor, poor head. MAMA! COFFEE!”

“Ahhhhh!”Lucius clutched hisown head in agony. “Shut it, shut it, shut it, ow, ow, ow, ow !!!!”

“My poor Luizinho.” The familiar voice was heavily accented and even more heavily amused. Lucius’ eyes popped open; he tried to sit up, failed spectacularly, and promptly fell flat on his back again. After a moment, he opened one eye gingerly.

“Hello, sir,” he addressed the crossed-armed, black-cassocked and freshly bathed vision looking down over him. “My head hurts.”

“I cannot imagine why that might be.” The priest uncrossed his arms and retrieved the second empty firewhiskey bottle from the table, lined precisely beside the neatly stacked Exploding Snap cards. “As an exercise in cross-cultural solidarity, Senhor Malfoy, I give you an O+ for your good instincts. As for the pragmatic results… You may be very grateful that Professora Hernandez is not here to grade you or to offer commentary, mm?”

“Nrgh.” Lucius just eased himself up. The room spun wildly around him. “Urgh.”

“Coffee?” Pablo offered, staggering back, two cups in hand. His mustache was sagging ungracefully, and his dark hair stuck up at confused, distressed random. Lucius grabbed and slurped. Silva chuckled. His student woke up abruptly at that, all the way… Setting the cup aside, he scrambled to his feet. The priest oofed as he flung his arms about him.

“You are back! You are back! Where is Ramone, is he safe? Is everyone safe, was the breach contain… Owwwwwwww….” He slumped down and moaned. Silva laughed outright. “Kill me now, sir. Please?”

“I am so glad to see that you are getting on,” Ramone said to his brother and roommate as he appeared himself, clad in fresh jeans, socks and t-shirt and drying his hair with a towel. He looked inordinately bright-eyed and alert. “MAMA! CAFE, POR FAVOR?"

“Un momento,” Rosa called from the kitchen, and bustled in, tch' ing as she saw the haggard Lucius and the slumped Pablo, the latter now draped bodily over the armchair. “Estevan will be back shortly, he has gone to the market to fetch the morning milk. He said to tell you both that you deserve your headaches, and that there will be no more songs in our home, Senhor Malfoy, such as the one you taught Pablo last night.” She kissed his cheek. “He does not need the encouragement.”

“Yes, Senhora,” Lucius said obediently. “I am so sorry. What song was that again? For reference’s sake?”

“I do not remember it either, Mama,” Pablo reassured her. “So we are all safe.” He, too, slurped. Ramone sat beside him. “So?”

“The breach is sealed,” Silva told him. “All who were summoned to fight are accounted for. We know that we drove several dozen back, but it is, of course, impossible to tell how many we may have missed. We will know soon enough, I am certain.”

“As there is no knowing now, we shall thank God for the immediate, recognizable blessings, and pray on the rest,” Rosa said firmly. Her eyes were rather red though, and the lines on her face deep. “Si, mijo. The cheese buns will be ready soon.” She bent and kissed her younger son. “Were you terribly frightened?”

“He did very well.” Silva smiled at his nephew. “The reviews were quite favourable.”

“Quite…” Lucius frowned, looking back and forth. “The reviews? Uh?”

“It was my first time out, heh?” Ramone said matter-of-factly. “I have known the theory, of course, but we students are not registered for active duty till we have passed our fifth year exams.”

“Your first…” Lucius stared at him. “Registered for active duty?”Ramone patted his shoulder.

“All is well,” he reassured him. “And I am fine, see? Even Senhor Sales was impressed, and he is the strictest taskmaster in the city. He is the captain of the Rio Magico guard, sim, and he said that in my instance, the bit much that is me may come to work in his platoon anytime.”

“Why did you not tell me?”

“Because you would have worried,” his roommate said logically. “And it looks like you were worrying quite enough, heh?” He Summoned the firewhiskey bottle and examined the label, pouring the last few drops in his coffee. Silva took it from him firmly and set it aside. Footsteps on the stairs sounded, and the front door banged open… Rosa disappeared immediately, scolding and fussing. Silva sat down beside Lucius, slipping an arm around him. His heart’s headache immediately dropped to the negligible and he nearly collapsed in relief. The priest frowned at him, and said something to Pablo and Ramone in untranslated Portuguese. The two heaved himself themselves up and staggered off toward the back of the apartment, jostling each other quite unnecessarily.

“Thank you, sir,” Lucius said, and at at his worried look…”What is it?”

“The headache was not from the firewhiskey,” Silva said. “Your magic is increasingly strained, my heart. We will not linger here much longer. We will have breakfast, and I will bring Pablo back to school, and then we will…” He made a gesture.

“We have only been here one night. Will they not be upset?’

“Nao. I have told them that you are not well, and why. Estevan and Rosa were quite concerned; they could see quite clearly that something was not well with you after we left, even more so than your worry for us could account for.”

“They could? And… You told them why?”His nose wrinkled.

“Not of the magic, nao. I had not told them of your mama,” he said. “They were quite, quite upset with me. Estevan was very remorseful over his rude manners when we first arrived; he is a good man at heart, as I told you, and actually smacked my head for leaving them with you without telling them first.”

“Oh. I am sorry.”

“There is no need. It is I who am sorry.” He looked exhausted suddenly. “I had thought to bring up the subject after you were sleeping last night, since I could not trust it to a message, but…”

Lucius put his arm around him. This time, he did not, as he had the night before, pull away.

“Has everyone truly been accounted for?’ he said quietly.

“Of the Magicals? Sim. It is very…”

He paused.

“There is no actual water that runs through the Carioca Aqueduct,” the priest said. “It was deactivated quite some time ago, just before the turn of the century. The Carioca River itself runs mostly underground now, but that is no surety or comfort, since it only means that the lethifolds may enter the city via connecting waterways outside the borders itself, and emerge through the sewers and such en-masse. The entire area around the Aqueduct in particular is warded as best we are able to manage it, but there was a very bad car accident, and the collision caused a perverse amount of damage to the one of the major nexus points of the ward walls that run underneath the arches closest to the river route as it flows beneath the streets - directly and deeply enough so that there was an effective tunnel entrance to the surface. We will know soon, as I said, how many escaped us. As there is a cable car track that runs along the length of the Aqueduct now, between the city center and another, extremely heavily populated district… It would have been, and will be, extremely easy for them to distribute themselves beyond the immediate environment.”

“Lethifolds take cable cars?” He was bemused, and abashed at the tired, tiny amused look… “I am sorry. I did not mean to be flippant, sir, truly.”

“They attach themselves to the undersides,” was all the priest said. “And the roofs. There are many bars and restaurants and public establishments there, and public lights, as it is a public district, and it was raining too. The shadows enjoy the combination of the rain and the lights. There is much flickering, and with the additional rush of cars and taxis… The things attach themselves there too, and are carried away in all directions, never mind the roaming population of tourists, the homeless and the addicted that act as immediate targets. It is very difficult to distinguish the threat at the best of times, but when it is raining after nightfall, it is impossible.”

Lucius said nothing more. Silva straightened a bit, and patted his shoulder.

“Go shower, Senhor Malfoy,” he advised him. “And clean your teeth, or you will soon be receiving notice from your angel that she is able to smell the results of your sins all the way from Uagadou.”

“So nice,” Ramone said to him, appearing again.

“I am his advisor. I am bound to advise him, Ramonzinho. Here is my advice to you; get me more coffee.”

“Sim, Tio.” His nephew bent and hugged him round the shoulders. “I love you. You are an inspiration, truly, and do not think I did not see you at the scene of that accident too, with the victims of the crash.”

“You saw me?”

“Nao . But I know you were there. It was a very bad accident, with many cars, and Senhor Sales said right before we came back that Jesus was very good and most merciful, and that not one person died or was even badly injured. The Nomaji will be calling it a miracle, heh?”

His phoenix of an uncle waved him off. He made his way back to the kitchen, whistling softly.

“You are certain that Pablo will not be upset at returning so quickly to school?” Lucius asked him

“Nao. This was a one-night visit for him in any case. He not only studies at his university, he is an assistant teacher, and his students will miss him if he is away.”

“Truly? What is he taking?”

“Accounting. He wishes to work with Gringotts when he is finished, as a cross-cultural economist and investment agent. It will not be difficult for him; he is very intelligent and shrewd, and has quite cut-throat instincts there. The goblins admire those things.”

“Ah.” Lucius heaved himself up, and made his way down the hall, and to the shower and his toothbrush. Silva sighed. Estevan emerged from the kitchen.

“Is he alright?” he said anxiously. “He truly did not drink that much, Padre. Rosa and I were watching, but he fell asleep so quickly and heavily, and when he wept so in his sleep…”

“It is a very difficult situation, Estevan,” the priest said. “Especially, since as I told you, he is not to be allowed to go home for the funeral. With the attitudes of those at the school on those from Away, he quite simply has no one but Ramonzinho to grieve with him, or Inezinha and I to care for him. ”

The man grimaced. “I cannot understand how his papa can bear to be away from him now,” he said. “His only child?”

“He is a weak and fearful man,” Silva said shortly. “And cares more for the opinions of others and the embarrassment his son’s grief will cause him than that grief itself. “

“I do not understand.” It was blunt.

“Nao?” It was not gracious, Antonio-Maria Silva knew - not remotely, remotely gracious, and he would answer to Jesus for it, he was sure, but he was tired, and it came out rather more tersely - and snidely - that he intended. “Those who inhabit his particular social circle do not approve of those Magicals who bear non-Magical blood. They consider them filthy and unclean - abominations before whatever gods are theirs, who, truthfully for the most part, consist solely of their own images in the mirror. His mother had Nomaj blood, and instead of leaving the matter it to Jesus as they should have, and loving each other as He has commanded, his father’s associates decided that it was not something that should be made a point of to the neighbours. They let his father know their opinions, and the issue was resolved.”

It took well over a minute for that to digest… And for the unsubtle subtext to sink in. Silva watched, not without a certain sour amusem*nt, as the man before him struggled to reconcile his horror and indignation both. Finally...

“You are saying that his mother was…”

“Muito bueno. You understand now, that there are more lethifolds out there than the ones that inhabit our lands, and that there are those that not only inhabit the jungle around us, but devour us from within? Jesus approves of neither variety, Estevan, but especially not of the second. Those, after all, cannot enter uninvited, but once they are inside the host’s home… So goes the host, and the home, and the city and world around them. Actions have consequences, and you can predict none of them, save that they will occur, and you will not be able to control them if you do not mind the wards that it takes no Magical to cast and maintain, but only the willingness to abandon hate and prejudice, and to embrace humility and love and a willingness to render unto God the details that, truly, are only God’s to mind.” He turned. “Desculpe-me. I must go pack my bag. PABLO! Have you collected your things?”

“Sim, Tio Antonio,” Pablo called back. “I am just waiting for Luis to finish in the bathroom. He is as bad as ‘Monzinho; I do not understand it, truly. Can you not all just cast cleaning spells on yourselves and be done with?”

There was an emphatic rattle and hiss as the hot water pipes rumbled in pointed response... Ramone’s raucous laugh sounded.

“He has told you,” he jeered. “We do not take so long, truly. It is just that you - and by that, I am referring to you in particular, not to Nomaji - have so much less area to wash, heh?”

Pablo said something very vulgar in Portuguese.

“Your moustache is drooping,” Ramone said unsympathetically. “Do you not have enough wax to firm things up there, because it is a sad state of affairs indee… OWWW! MAMA! Can you not at least refrain from using my racing broom for that?”

“Come set the table,” Rosa’s voice ordered. “Now. And no, you may not use magic. Pablo, do not eat that now; it will ruin your breakfast.”


“If you do not wish me to steal your chocolate,” Pablo’s voice was thick, but distinct. “You should ward it. As you have not, it is fair game. Mmmm. So good. I will not ruin my breakfast, Mama. It is very healthy; it has both fruit and nuts in it, you see?”

“You will behave, both of you,” Antonio called as he disappeared down the hall. “Or I shall have to call in Jesus, and after the night He has had, He is very tired and not likely to react with His typical grace and mercy. Nao, here, Rosinha. You may use my broom, it is much narrower than the standard racing variety, stings much more sharply, and has been blessed by our beautiful Jesus again besides for the cause...”

Ninety Minutes Later

Rosa hugged Lucius tightly. He hugged her back, a bit awkwardly, but with genuine feeling.

"You are welcome always," she told him.

"Muito obrigado, Senhora." He could almost feel the hum as the translation wards winced at his accent. Rosa said nothing on the subject though, just patted his cheek.

"You listen to Padre," she fussed. "In the jungle, always!”"

"I will," he promised, and to Silva, as a sweet chime sounded and he appeared out of nowhere from delivering Pablo - “No, sir. You stay here. I will collect our things.” He ducked down the hall... The bathroom door was closed again, tap water running behind, and there was a distinctly familiar hum. He crossed the threshold to the bedroom. There was a blur, and Ramone emerged from under the edge of the pillow, casting a quick privacy ward.


"Projected auditory glamour. Prudence is, as they say, a virtue. God keep you, my Luz," he said in his ear, hauling him into a tight embrace. "In all things. Remember me, as I remember you."

"That is, always."

Ramone just kissed his cheek, blurred, and disappeared abruptly: Apparated back inside the washroom… He emerged only after Lucius was back in the sitting room. Silva took his nephew in his arms and hugged him again as his heart toed his sandals on.

"Do not wait to do your homework to the last minute," he ordered. "You will get excellent grades regardless, I am sure, but your handwriting is illegible when rushed. Pray do not forget me?"

"Sim, Tio. I will remember you always."

"There are none who can replace you, my Ramonzinho. Be a good…” He laughed as Rosa emerged from the kitchen carrying a huge, firmly packed basket.

“There is food in the jungle, Rosinha,” he said. “I am even accustomed to preparing it now and again, in something other the original form.”

"Sim, sim, I know. There is no tree in the jungle that grows my spice cake." She kissed Lucius' cheek yet again and tch'ed. "So thin! You are far too thin," she told him. From the sofa now, Ramone rolled his eyes at her. Passing by, Estevan cuffed his ear, but gently.

"Respect your mama," he ordered. "There is no magic needed there."

"Sim, Papi." His eyes danced unrepentantly. Estevan just shook his head at him - then sighed heavily and dropped beside him, throwing a rough arm about him and hauling him in, practically into his lap. Ramone, obviously both extremely surprised and pleased, cuddled up readily, squawking as his father pulled his head down so that he might examine his skull carefully with his fingers.

"I am fine, Papi," he reassured him as his father released him, though he did not let him go. "Tio was there."

"And if he had not been?"

"He was," Ramone said firmly. "He has always been, and always will be."

"I will be so glad when you are finished with that damned school," Estevan muttered. “'Safest place in South America', my…” He uttered a very vulgar word that the translation wards refused to accommodate.

"I will not be sad myself," Ramone confessed, sitting up a bit. "I am a little afraid to go back, Papi. I do not know what is waiting, now."

"A great deal less trouble with Inezinha in charge, one may hope," his mother said waspishly. "For both you and Padre here."

"Will they give her any trouble, sir?" Lucius asked as he hefted his pack. "Over the temporary appointment?"

"Nao. They have wanted her to take the job for ten years now. The old Headmistress, she was waiting for her to be convinced before she retired. Things did not work out that way, and this appointment, it is only for the one year. After that... We will see."

"You do not think she will stay on?"

“As God wills it.” He adjusted his own pack, shrinking the basket and tucking it into his pocket. Estevan heaved himself up as Ramone came to offer his roommate a manly, decorous one-armed hug and a thump on the back that nearly knocked him over.

“Keep those feet up, heh?” he told him. “And do not let him eat too many raw plantains. You will regret i… OWWWW! PAPI!

“He may be your uncle, but he is yet a priest. Show respect. Mind yourself, Padre,” the older man addressed Silva, and to Lucius, a bit gruffly… “You are a good boy. You are welcome, always.”

“Thank you, sir.” Lucius bowed. “I thank you for your gracious hospitality. I will remember you and your family always.”

“As God wills it,” was all Estevan Rocha dos Santos said. “We will offer a Mass for your mama, heh, and light a candle for her, to light her way to heaven.”

“Thank you,” his guest said again. He pulled back and looked around, at the close quarters, the shabby, neat, brightly covered furniture, the phonograph and stacks of books and records, and the chocolates and the third, half-empty bottle of firewhiskey on the coffee table, placed neatly beside the stacked Exploding Snap cards.

“I will remember you,” he said again, firmly. “I will remember this. All of it. I will carry it in my heart.”

“Bueno. Or perhaps... Not. You are still teaching them cummings?” Estevan said to the priest disparagingly. “The man is a complete sentimentalist, and no good example through which to teach the children proper English besides.”

Silva threw back his head and roared at Lucius’ startled look.

“Some of these books, they were here before I brought them Ramonzinho, mm? Have I not told you that just because you do not see something does not mean it is not there?” he teased his student. “Conversely… That which you see is never all that there is.” He slapped Estevan heartily on the back, kissed his cheeks and took Lucius’ arm. His fingers were not tight on his bicep, but Lucius felt the increasing heat radiating all the way through to the bone, to the quite near-painful point. He glanced down, startled again. The dark eyes regarding his now were almost fully gold, and bright with magic. His own magic responded instantly, lashing out through his every cell, setting it on electric edge, vibrating, resonating…

The chimes reverberated. When they reformed, they were on a large platform, high in the canopy. A warding dome rose all about them even as they landed, cooling air rushing around them. There was a soft blur, and he fell to his knees, wrapping his arms around the phoenix as it wrapped its wings around him -

And deep, deep within him, Lucius Abraxas Malfoy felt something shift smoothly, easily: as naturally as an unlocked, hitherto-unnoticed door opening in welcome. He eased to a sitting position, not letting go a moment. The phoenix rubbed its narrow beak and feathered cheek against his own. The intensity of its song was such that he was nearly dizzy with it, the echo of its crooning reverberating and thrumming through his every cell. He buried his face in the feathers. The phoenix sidled even closer, till it was practically sitting in his lap... The crooning rose to a full-fledged joyous song - and somewhere at the back of his mind, Lucius realized that the wings about him - engulfing him, really - were suddenly alive with flame.

Deep within his embracing black cocoon of feather and fire, he opened his eyes. Golden pupils dancing with all the colours of shifting flame filled his vision, warming him literally from the inside out; warming and warming him till again, every cell again burned, till he was surrounded by and projecting fire and song, within and without, drowning in it: burning, burning...

He fell on his side with an inelegant thump, shaking violently in reaction. There was a blur, and Silva was there, entwined in his arms, holding him close and humming to him. The flames receded and the song quieted and quieted till there was only the sound of the jungle and their breathing.

“What…” he managed. “What…. What was that?

Cool lips brushed his forehead, his eyes.

“The Song of Songs,” the other man’s voice murmured. “‘My beloved is mine, and I am his.’ Shh now, my heart. All is well. All is well. I love you, my beautiful Luizinho. Shh. All is well. Rest now.”

“Yes, sir,” Lucius heard himself say from a great distance, and he fell hard and immediately towards sleep, the memory of his phoenix’s - his phoenix’s - song and those dancing golden eyes guiding and following and surrounding him all the way.

He woke again, after how long it was impossible to tell. The priest was lying beside him, on his side, sleeping peacefully. Lucius propped himself on his elbow, rubbing his eyes and shaking his head to refocus. As if on cue, Silva stirred, yawned and sat up, smiling warmly at him. Lucius smiled back hugely. He looked rather the idiot, he suspected, and flushed a bit with it. Internally, he thought, at least, but then a soft laugh sounded… He sat up himself, abruptly, astonished as he processed that the other man had made no physical sound at all. The laugh sounded again, delighted, and in delight and wonder.

“Sir?” he said uncertainly, aloud. “What…”

“We are bonded,” Silva said. His voice was as quiet and heavily accented as ever, but the intonation, now, to Lucius’ ear, no longer stopped short of that song in that definitive minor key, but resonated and reverberated in its dizzying musical complexity as a full-fledged symphony. “The link is fully formed. We are no longer ‘we’. There is no ‘we,’ no ‘you’ or ‘I.’ There is simply One. Now and always… One is.”

“One is,” Lucius repeated experimentally. It sounded a bit awkward and strange, but only to his external ears. “One is. Yes. I…” He paused. “This is going to become very difficult, if One forgoes the standard pronouns entirely from now on, as is One’s new instinct.”

The sound of the warm, delighted laugh - amused this time though fondly so - filled him again, and a rush of overwhelming tender affection.

"One will adapt as is necessary, within the moments of given context. Case in point…” Silva turned to face him, their legs yet entangled, smoothing the pale hair back with both hands and cupping Lucius’ face as he leaned in to kiss his forehead.

"Boa tarde, my heart," he said. "Did you sleep well?" His eyes were soft and dark and warm. Lucius flushed, feeling his wonder and pleasure as if it were his own. He was honestly not sure past the (very short) point that it was not his own. There was nothing at all sexual there, but the purely intimate tone in his voice was… He should be embarrassed, he thought: discomfited and uncomfortable, but… He felt the laugh turn to an outright inner guffaw as, puzzled, he prodded experimentally at his own feelings there. The priest patted his cheek affectionately and pulled back a bit, stretching vigorously. He looked, Lucius thought...



“Forgive me, but you look very…” He paused, not sure how to politely phrase it.

“Young?” his phoenix suggested helpfully.

“Erhm. Yes?"

“It is always so when I burn. A standard phoenix returns to infancy when it does so. I am not a standard phoenix, so I return to my equivalent: twenty-two - the age I was when I burned for the first time, the day my core interlocked, however it happened, with the other. It will not last long,” he reassured his heart at the look of dumb astonishment. “Two days, perhaps, or three, while the years gradually return to me. But it is always quite pleasant to experience, particularly after the excruciating agony that typically leads to the occasion. A little holiday, that one may not truly appreciate till one is actually off the train, and standing at the destination.” He reflected. ‘As our American ISEP students would say… One always feels a little stoned with it.”

“When you burn? You… We… burned? Physically burned? Together?”

“Sim. It is not as it usually is at all. It was with joy, this time, rather than pain, so the emotional experience was quite different.”

“We... I… But I am not a phoenix! Why am I not dead?”

“Because we are One,” Silva said simply. He caught the look. “It is what it is, my heart,” he said indulgently. “My magics obviously protected you in the moment the link was formed. You are not immune to fire now; you may still yet be injured, you may yet die… Your biology is the same as it ever was. We are now simply…” He gestured vaguely.


Silva grinned, openly. He looked, Lucius thought, as young as Ramone, and cleared his throat, feeling more than slightly discombobulated. Then, after only another moment… He did not. It seemed, he thought, rather a waste of time. It was, as the man had said, what it was, and he set his confusion aside decisively and completely.

"I slept well, sir. And you?"

"Obrigado; I did as well." Silva stretched again. His movements were so smooth and supple and easy he seemed almost fluid. "One moment, please. I must…” He gestured vaguely and flexed, bounding to his feet and lowering the warding dome as he made his way to the far edge of the platform and turned his back, adjusting his cassock discreetly. Suddenly made aware of his own all-too-human biology, Lucius followed suit. Again, it was hard to muster any convincing embarrassment, when he could literally feel the other man’s utter and matter-of-fact lack thereof.

"Bueno," the priest said again as they readjusted their clothing and spelled their hands fresh. “Much better.” He caught the small smile. “Sim?”

"Your accent comes through when you emote,” he said. “Somehow. As does your song. What time is it, sir; do you know?"

"It is just before noon." Silva hefted his satchel, and held out his hand. "We have been here for four hours or so. Now. Vamos. This is a lovely spot, but there is not much to be seen but leaves, and I would like a bath besides. I do not know about you, but, showers or no, spending time in the city always puts me in need of a proper scrub."

"A.." He had no sooner spoken than they were there. He struggled to refocus - and caught his breath in wonder. They were standing on the edge of a small, natural clearing, how far within the jungle he could not have said. All around were massive trees and around and above a wild tangled thicket, and, not far off, the sound of rumbling rushing water. He turned to the left, the only way out, following Silva’s example as he set his belongings down and picked his way through.

“They will be safe here,” the priest said of their things. “The area above and below is warded. I will return afterwards, and retrieve them.”

“Above and below what, sir?” He nearly fell as they abruptly reached what seemed to be an out-cropping on the edge of the world. Silva caught him neatly as he staggered a bit… His balance regained, Lucius peered over carefully. They were standing at the top of a sheer, plunging side of a small, verdant cliff. Several dozen feet down the earth jutted out again, rushing, shining water pouring over the edge, disappearing occasionally as if merging with the glorious untamed riot of foliage, then reappearing again as a painted cascade, the water half-transformed in essence, if not in property, into fiercely shimmering liquid light. Directly below them and even further down, at the bottom of the cliff, was another small clearing with a deep pool, branched off of a small river that disappeared into the infinite, sloping jungle.

“It is beautiful,” he said, his breath quite lost. “So beautiful!”

“It is,” Silva agreed. Lucius offered him a double-take as he stripped rapidly, dropping his clothes where he stood and launching himself, blurred midair as he plunged and soared then plunged again, down down down, as a black feathery cannonball right into the deep, rushing pool at the base of the waterfall. There was an almighty splash that sent what looked like half the water back up the way it had come, and rained down in a shower of jewels again… When the phoenix emerged, it was Silva again, laughing and treading water.

"Come, my heart!" he called. “Join me! If you cannot swim, I will give you a lesson!'

"I can swim." Lucius peered down. "It is the flying I am concerned on."

"You do not trust me to catch you?" he teased. Lucius couldn't help but laugh, and stripped down, though he did retain his drawers. Before he could allow himself to think, he dove. A black blur caught him halfway down, soaring up as it had before, then down again, dropping him neatly into the water and splashing him playfully about the head. Lucius sputtered, and not only from the shock of the icy water.

"Great bloody overcompensating chicken," he said, teeth chattering "I should pluck your feathers for that."

The phoenix sang mirthfully, and rose, dove and splashed again. The temperature of the pool warmed immediately and considerably. It emerged, shaking mightily. Sun and water flew everywhere. Lucius ducked and dove and swam and tumbled, his laugh ringing out as a bell of its own to match the joyous song as they wrestled and splashed and played. Finally, he dragged himself over to a huge flat and moss-covered rock, and hauled himself out. The phoenix blurred, and Silva swam over, eyes dancing as he boosted himself beside him.

"You are quite adept. Perhaps you will be a fish!" he suggested. "Or a dolphin?"

"That would not be very useful," Lucius said. "Even less useful than my Patronus.” He lay back on the rock in the streaming, shifting sunlight and closed his eyes contentedly. "This is just perfect, sir."

A cool, damp hand brushed his hair back. Dark, soft eyes smiled down at him, and blurred to gold. The phoenix sidled up next to him. He reached up and scratched the white collar, still prone. It trilled in violent approval, and shoved into his fingers.

"Brilliant," the young Englishman said. "My phoenix has fleas. Or is it lice?" His phoenix nipped at his fingers, affronted. Lucius laughed and rolled on his side, tucking one arm under his head and scratching even more firmly with the other. The trill modified to a deep, crooning purr. All grief, all fatigue simply seeped away, leaving him calm and peaceful and almost drugged with content. When he woke again, a fire was crackling, and there was the delectable scent of pan-seared fish. His stomach knotted itself ferociously.

"Come eat, my heart!” Silva, clad now in his retrieved light trousers, waved him over. Lucius leaped to the shore proper with alacrity. There was not only the fish, but fruit and berries, and a loaf of the fresh bread that Rosa had provided, and sweet butter too. He hesitated as Silva loaded a plate for him, not certain of the protocols now that they were alone and apart from the school... After a moment, he shrugged mentally and dropped to his knees beside him, half to a sitting position. Silva crossed himself in blessing, tweaked his nose, and offered him a bite of fish. They ate from the same plate - three platefuls - with good appetite, alternating mouthfuls. Finally, Lucius waved him off (politely) and leaned back against the convenient log.

"That was delicious," he said. "Thank you, sir."

"De nada. ' He set the plate aside and stretched out his legs, patting his knees. Lucius maneuvered till he was lying flat, head in his lap. "How are you feeling?"

"Glad to be out of the city," he said honestly. "Ramone's family is very nice, but..."


"I just wanted to be alone with you," he admitted. "As we are now. This is so strange. I should feel embarrassed saying that, I think, but I am not."

"It is part of the initial bonding process." Silva stroked his hair, in his lap. "I studied as much as is available, after Gabriel was lost. The few reports all say the same; proximity is near-compulsive in the first weeks. It is why we are here; it would be impossible at the school."

"So you feel it too?”

"Sim. I do. It will moderate, as will the specific clarity of the empathic link.”

“You cannot actually tell what I am thinking, can you?”

“Nao, nao. Your emotions and state of mind only, as you do mine, I believe?”

Lucius nodded. “Is that typical, then? Of bonded pairs?”

“I do not know. I imagine that it is not the quite the same as it would be had I not the body of a man as well as the phoenix. As it is, we have mutual shared context in how we see and interpret what we are sensing from each other, and that undoubtedly encourages an improved connection. It is nothing to be worried on, or ashamed of, my Luizinho, and as I said, it will mute somewhat over the next few weeks. Right now, all there is simply part of my magic and yours adjusting to its recognition of me.”

"What will happen when..."

A cool finger touched his lips, silencing him.

"Nao." It was very firm. "Not now, my heart. We will not trouble ourselves with tomorrow's worries today, or at least not for the next two weeks. There will be lessons and discussions, but no worries. We will simply thank God for this time, and for each other, sim ?"

Lucius nodded, eyes closing again, but not with fatigue this time. For the first time, he projected deliberately… He literally felt the other man smile at the awkward, tentative but genuine rush of his yet diffident affection and appreciation.

"I love you too, my heart,” he said, tracing a cheekbone and his lips. There was, again, nothing, absolutely nothing, remotely sexual about it.

That being said...

The young Englishman frowned, slightly and vaguely confused - priest or no, the man was still human - then mentally shrugged, and dismissed the thought.

Or tried to. It was, of course, not quite that simple now.

“You have a question for me?”


“We are a bit beyond that now, I think. Ask.”

“Are you not inclined or interested in the physical at all?” he asked bluntly. “Even as a man?”

“Ah. That is…” Silva paused. “Not terribly complicated after all. Nao. I am not. I was, of course before I transformed for the first time, but every time I have burned, it is as if a bit more of my inclination to the physical, as you put it, burned away with it, in reflection of my nature as a phoenix. I may ever appreciate a beautiful woman, but only in the aesthetic sense now.”

“That’s not going to happen to me, is it?” So alarmed was he at the thought that he actually contracted. Silva howled.

“Nao,” he said. “Nao. You are safe there, my fine young Englishman, I promise you.” He roared again, at the expression of pure relief. When he recovered… “Pray do not tell Inezinha? She does gain a certain amount of satisfaction from the thought that, at least as Jesus has claimed me there, and as I did agree to give her over for Him, that I must suffer for it as I pine wistfully for her, at least a little. I do not blame her at all.”

“I will not,” Lucius promised, and curiously - “Is it a relief? I mean… Was it? When you realized what was happening?”

“As I am sworn to perpetual and complete celibacy for the rest of my mortal life? I did not even bother indulging in the private melodramatic moment. From the first, I considered it nothing but a gift.”

“I suppose I would too,” his heart conceded. “Under those circ*mstances. I honestly do not know if I could manage such a vow otherwise.”

“And, as a phoenix or not, I am quite enamoured by the thought of eventual grandchildren, we may both be happy for each other.” He laughed again. Lucius smiled at him.

“What is it?”

“You are so sober-faced," he said. “Always. It is good to know that you are enjoying yourself behind it all.”

“I know that you have only the experience with the one other phoenix, my heart, but here is a lesson for you. We are all, if not melodramatic, chronically whimsical, and find humans-and-related as a whole infinitely endearing. We enjoy seeing you happy and happily productive quite as much as we despise your pain, and are always quite delighted to see you indulging there. And life here is hard yes, very hard, near impossible… But there is always joy too, as there are moments to delight in.” He twined his cropped hair around his fingers. “Maintaining one’s sense of humour is not so much an option as a vital necessity, no matter the context. You must never forget, my heart, that horror and pain and fear are the interlopers, rather than joy and beauty and love exceptions to the norm. We do not seek to destroy evil and rebuild a new world, but destroy evil and reveal that which was there and has been all along. Remember that. You must live as joyously and deliberately as you are able, even when engulfed in shadows, for those moments of deliberate joy that are are the ones that will carry you through the Valley of Shadows safely.” He traced his cheekbone again. “I truly enjoyed watching Ramonzinho in the chocolate shop. The moments we spent there will carry me through any number of painful hours, I am quite certain.”

“You do not think that he was discomfited by the amounts of money I spent there?”

“In my Ramonzinho’s mind, the money was a gift of our beautiful Jesus to you so that you might spend it on the chocolate. He was simply grateful to be there when you indulged so thoroughly.” He threaded his hair through his fingers. “Never mind bringing the majority there to his Nomaji family. He is a good boy, my Ramonzinho, but he is human enough, more than human enough, to enjoy the thought of you getting one over on your shadows even here, and to embrace the opportunity to facilitate it. As were his parents and Pablo. Their fear, as Nomaji, of being repeatedly Altered and eventually erased is profound, and they would never know, you see? We Magicals are slaves, but they… In the eyes of the government, however beneficent they like to think themselves… We are ordered to alter and erase Nomaji for our own convenience, not for their benefit. What does that say, truly, on our opinion of their essential humanity and worth?”

Lucius was silent.

“You understand,” his phoenix said gently. “You understood all this from the first moment, Luis, that Ramonzinho told you what we do here. Your horror, your revulsion, your agitation, your pain… I could sense it, my heart, from the other side of the castle, and I had not even met you. You are a good boy. A good man. You are not, no matter how you were raised… One of them. Estevan and Rosa sensed this as well. They would not have said that you were welcome again if they did not, mm?”

“Mother would have just loved them,” he said wistfully. “She would have seen right through Estevan’s reticence to his worry, and she and Rosa would have been wonderful friends from the moment they laid eyes on each other. I can just imagine, you know, the two of them and Professora Hernandez together.”

“Mm. And do you think she would have enjoyed Rosa’s fine cooking?”

He laughed at that.

“She and Pablo would have been fighting each other for the last servings of everything,” he said. “Particularly the fish dishes. There were several times…’

He paused.


“We would go out,” Lucius said. “Now and again, just the two of us. She would glamour us, and take us to London Muggleside, to a particular shop at the top of the stairs to the Charing Cross Underground. She was, as Ramone would say, a complete puta for their paper-wrapped fish and chips, and would order a double portion for each of us, and eat all of hers and half of mine. The physical trips, of course, stopped when I started at Hogwarts, but now and again she would have one of the house-elves bring in an order for Niss and me. We would meet in one of the empty classrooms and sit on the teacher’s desk and have a picnic. Her sister Andromeda caught us once, and asked us what we were eating - the food had been particularly vile that week - and Niss said ‘Muggle food.’ By the next week, she had a Muggleborn boyfriend, and regular access to her own deliveries through his family. Andie told us that he told them he was dating the second daughter of House Black, i.e.the biggest Anti-Muggles in all of Europe, and they felt it nothing short of their duty to the Nomaj world to send her corrupting care-packages.”

Silva laughed out loud.

“That was not the best part,” he said. “One evening, she dared me to have the house-elf bring the packets to the Slytherin common room, just to see what would happen. He did, and Bellatrix came in, just as Niss and I were unwrapping it all. She asked Niss what was going on, and she said that we’d ordered in, and offered her half of hers. She wouldn’t touch mine, of course, but she took Niss’s. Niss told me later that she’d asked her where she got it, and she said “I don’t know, Bella; Luke just sends a message to the Malfoy elves and they bring us our Friday basket."

He snorted. Lucius shifted a bit, fishing a rock out from under his hip.

"I am quite appalled now at the thought of going back to English cuisine," he said. "I have been misled my entire life. They do not have food there, it is a means of repressing our spirits."

"It is possible," Silva agreed. He prodded him up gently. "This is a safe place, my Luizinho, but not that safe. We must prepare for nightfall."

He flexed, standing, and reached for his folded clothes, tugging them on. "What may I do?"

"Put out the fire, if you would, and tidy the area while I prepare the necessary."

"Yes, sir." He set to it, first cleaning, then transfiguring the dishes back to the pebbles and leaves that had been their original forms, and watched as with a few concentrated gestures on the part of his phoenix, a nearby tree stripped itself of branches and bark, and divided itself into neat, straight planks and slim round logs. The planks and logs, in turn, together with lengths of a slim purple vine Summoned swiftly from the jungle, slammed and bound themselves together neatly in the shape of a squared railed platform that hovered, even during construction, just over the pool. It took less than ten minutes, including the time it took the priest to transfigure his wands to two fine brushes, to sort through several vials in his pack, and to set the brushes painting, with the contents of the vial, flowing runic patterns at various points around the perimeter of his creation... When he was finished, the platform shimmered, then settled as one smooth, polished and solid piece of wood, the spacing between the platform railings yet glimmering quietly.

“Muito bueno.”The priest nodded in satisfaction. “That will hold nicely.” Their packs and brooms flew over, stowing themselves in a corner inside the railing. Silva vaulted over the railing lightly, waving. “Come.”

Lucius came obligingly, after glancing around to make certain that everything was just as it had been before they arrived. His feet, as he sprang over, landed lightly on a soft, invisibly padded surface. The platform shot up smoothly, the trees and tangle and canopy parting above them. Lucius leaned on the rail beside the smaller man and gazed in wonder at the full length of the Amazon River below: a thick, smooth snake wending and winding through the unending rolling green. Silva slipped his arm around his waist and squeezed.

“This is much better, mm?” he smiled.

Lucius just shifted, moving closer till they were snugged side by side, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder, Silva’s arm yet firmly locked about him. To the west, the horizon glimmered with the first rays of sunset. Silva murmured a prayer in Portuguese. The syllables, if not the words, were increasingly familiar.

“It is the prayer to St. Michael,” Silva said at his inquiring look. “We all say it, we Magicals, all across the Lower Americas and the Pacific Islands, just as the sun sets.” He pushed his sleeve up. His wrist glimmered, and a slim bracelet appeared. “And we all wear these, or a variation thereon, under our clothing and against our skin. They warm magically fifteen minutes before the hour, so that we have time, along with our loved ones if we are any of us caught unawares, to make our way to safety. They warm again at the top of the hour, as the sun sets properly, and that is when we all say the prayer.”

“So as you say it, every Magical on the extended continent is saying it together with you simultaneously? Or at least, as the sun sets in their region?”

“Sim.‘St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.’ It is not just a prayer, but a rallying cry, that, as we all do pray it together, all of us, the living and the lost - for we do believe that they yet live on and continue the tradition no matter that they are in Heaven or not - must surely resound through all of Heaven. Thus do we hold back the night together.”

“How long has it been a tradition?”

Silva shrugged. “As long as there have been Magical Jesuits in South America, at least,” he said. “Before then, and again, there were variations. I am quite certain that even if the original bearers did not know Jesus, that He took whatever was offered up in the spirit it was intended.”

“Would you teach it to me so that when I go back to England I might add my voice to all of yours?”

“And here I imagined that you were not convinced of His existence,” Silva teased gently.

“It does not matter. If He exists, He exists, never mind my belief or doubt. In this instance, at least… I am completely willing to make the strategic commitment for the cause. It affects all of us, after all, and will continue to do so, no matter where we are from.”

“Sim, of course.” Again, the empathic wave of soft affection warmed him throughout. “I would be most pleased.”

Something occurred to Lucius then. “Ramone’s cross!” he said, enlightened. “The one he wears about his neck, and never removes. That is his equivalent?”

“It is. It belonged to my own father, and to his father and grandfather before him. It is a family heirloom, passed down to the eldest son of each generation. If the bearer is lost, the lethifolds do not absorb it. It is charmed to make its way back to the family, as do all of our wands to Castelobruxo.”

They took in the view awhile longer… Eventually, Lucius shifted a bit. Silva looked up at him. The young face was twisted with sudden fatigue once more. He tch ’d,and took him by the hand, leading him to the center of the platform and pulling him down, and into his arms, rocking him gently and humming as he wept. He traced his cheeks, not wiping them dry, but absorbing the tears with the heat of his fingertips.

“Pobrecito,” he whispered. “I am here, querido. One is here. One is.”

Lucius just cried. There was a slight shimmer. His clothes transfigured to soft cotton sleep trousers and a soft white undershirt, his sandals disappearing off of his feet and reappearing in the corner beside his pack. Soft light blankets and pillows appeared. Silva’s cassock blurred into black sleep trousers and t-shirt. He eased him down, pulling him into his arms… Eventually, the sobs slowed, and, heavy-lidded and exhausted, despite the early hour and all the sleep he had had that day, the younger man drifted off. The last thing he processed before he fell asleep was a soft blur and a huge black wing coming about him, snugging warmly and securely, and a narrow, feathered cheek rubbing against his as a kiss.

He woke abruptly several hours later, as he had on the platform in the canopy, jerked awake. The figure beside him, one arm thrown heavily over him, didn’t move. He disentangled carefully. Silva, amusingly, snored. Lucius eased himself over to the edge of the platform to relieve himself, spelled his hands clean and resettled under the blankets. The jungle night was surprisingly cool... He gazed up at the floods of stars, tucking an arm behind his head. Beside him, Silva turned, and rolled over, pulling the pillow under his head. The starlight washed over him as water. Lucius turned his head to watch him… His eyes widened hugely in utter horror, his eyes filling half his face. The priest’s shirt had hiked a bit. Under it, his back was not smooth or dark, but gnarled and twisted: a thick, pale mass of old, healed scar tissue: torn and healed and torn and healed over again in precise, patterned layers. Lucius propped himself up and reached out, pulling his hand back. As he watched, the glamour resettled, leaving again, that smooth, dark skin. He lay back, eyes fixed on the bare slip of flesh, all thoughts of his own pain and loss banished in favour of the one immediate and overwhelming mystery.

What could leave scars - scars like that - on a phoenix?

The Next Morning

He sat silently, knee up and stripping the vines that Silva had Summoned from the forest. Silva cast him a quizzical look. In his breeches, his lean, unmarked torso glistened with sweat.

"What is it, my heart?” he said finally, and not without gentle humour - “Was it something I felt?”

“Your glamours slipped last night," Lucius said, without looking up. "I saw the scars."

There was a deep silence. Silva lowered his knife.

"Ah," he said. "I grow careless in my comfort with you."

"Or perhaps you wished me to know, and to ask."

"Perhaps." He came to sit beside him. He took the scraper from him. "I will show you them if you wish, my heart. I will deny you nothing. But you must... You cannot be prepared. They are not just unpleasant, they are frightening."

Lucius said nothing. After a moment, he looked up. Silva sat naked before him, one knee pulled up to cover his modesty, and looked at him steadily. Every visible inch of his body from the neck down - chest, belly, back, hips, and both arms as well as the full length of his legs, all around, was covered in those thin, vicious, criss-crossed scars and gouges. They even covered the tops and soles of his feet, and the backs and palms of his hands. Some - many - were so deep that they had literally flicked away his flesh, leaving pits and raised rifts and runnels among the brutalized tissue.

"What..." Lucius’ face was beyond translucent. Even sitting as he was, he reeled, supporting himself with both hands on the earth.

"I was held, when I was a seminarian, for several months by a certain political faction in Argentina," Silva said. "Deep in the jungle, in a complex. They did not like priests. They found it amusing to assist me in my desire to live my life as a reflection of Jesus's."

"They did this to you... In the name of God?”It was a bare whisper, cracked and horrified.

"Not in God's name," his phoenix said. "No. In mockery of my love for Him. They intended to finish me, they told me, as Jesus was ended, but before that could happen... The lethifolds came."

"How... Why did you not escape?"

"I am not an Animagus, but suppressants work on me as they do on others. By the time the suppressants wore off... I healed myself, but the scars did not fade. They should have, but they did not."

"Why not?"

"It was not God's will. I have burned since, and normally, the scars I gain in the interim fade when I am reborn, but these did not. In the end, the marks of their mockery became their assurety of remembrance."

Lucius reached out compulsively. Silva did not pull away.

"How did the lethifolds not take you?"

"The wounds were putrefying," he said matter-of-factly. "Infected. They did not like my smell. Even lethifolds have standards, it seems."

Lucius had to work hard not to gag.

"Does Ramone know?"

"Nao. They are, as are the details of all else that happened to me in that camp, between me and God again."

'What..." He cut himself off.

"Obrigado. I will tell you if you ask, but I would be very grateful - I would consider it a great kindness - if you did not."

Lucius pulled his own knees up, resting his forearms across them and resting his forehead on them in turn as he struggled for composure. When he finally looked up, the glamours were firmly back in place and the priest was back in his breeches again, scaling the vines again, carefully. He caught the boy's red and bloodshot eyes, and smiled a little.

"It was many years ago, my heart," he said.

"You do not have to hide them from me," he said. "Unless you wish to. I will see many as terrible, I am sure, in the years ahead."

The priest's hands lowered.

"What do I do," his heart said. "If I am required to..."

He could not finish. Silva put the knife down and began to wrap the denuded vine in a neat spool, around a long, stripped branch.

"Torture," he said deliberately. "Is a sport for the unrefined, childish and undeveloped mind. Those who practice it are typically stunted and emotionally erratic. Your mama's death was necessary, but it was a demonstration in the end, of dispassionate efficiency. You may, as her son, appreciate this." He spun neatly. "It is not about mercy. One does not linger over the necessary extermination of vermin. One performs the unpleasant task, clears out the detritus, and moves on."

"I will be called squeamish and weak."

"You will be his General, Senhor Malfoy, not one of the unwashed army. As for his woman, she is a woman, and thus and always in his mind, naturally inferior. Weak-minded and excitable. Emotional. Erratic again, and when all is said and done, and no matter how magically powerful she is, you will notice that he is choosing to recruit you, amd in spite of the fact that she cannot abide you? Simply put… She does not have those qualities which he believes will win him his war. All he requires of her - desires of her - is that she bear the appropriate name, that her antics instill fear, and that she is possessed of a womb."

"How the hell did he ever have the good sense to fall for Professora Hernandez?'

"Her intellect was not a selling point. He spent an inordinate amount of time informing her that would excuse her for it, and her low birth, if she would only agree to concede his natural superiority."

"Mm." He hesitated, unsure of how to politely phrase his next question.

"Speak," he encouraged.

"Did he not have an issue with her race?" Lucius said bluntly.

"Oddly? Nao. Many did, she told me, but he truly did not seem to care, and that much, at least, was not a pretense. His prejudice was deeply entrenched, but against those with low, or no, magic, and against plain women. She was many things, Inez, but she was not plain. To the English boys... She was the epitome of exotic, and with the accent besides? All of the males there wanted her, students and professors alike, save for the ones who were strictly uninclined."

"Did that not bother you?" he asked curiously. Antonio Silva chuckled.

"Nao," he said fondly. "I took a great deal of pleasure in writing her letters and sending recorded messages that she would share - loudly - with her classmates at meals. And of course, there were photos. Women enjoy exotic men as much as men enjoy exotic women."

"What kind of letters are we talking about?"

"Ones including a great deal of poetry, and dramatic endearments, and avowals of perpetual love and devotion, and of course, many long and speculative passages projecting on the details of our joyous reunion."

His student nearly choked.

"All clothed properly in metaphor, of course," he added.

"Are you quite sure you do not have a photo of her when she was younger?"

Silva rolled his eyes, and retrieved his wand, drawing a series of small, intricate movements in the air. The air swirled and thickened and gained colour and form. Lucius' jaw dropped slowly.

"Good God,"he said, dumbfounded.

"Sim," Silva agreed sadly. "Jesus and I had words when I understood that He was serious about my following Him in the particular manner He chose for me."

"It is not that, sir. Well, it is, but..." He dug in his pack for the envelope containing Narcissa's last letter, and the photo of her she'd sent when trying on wedding robes with the fitter. He'd been tempted to magic out the second figure in the photo on principle, but the look of patent horror on Niss's face when it had emerged from the fitting room had sent both him and Ramone into fits of weeping laughter. He handed it over. Silva took it curiously, his own mouth dropping slowly again and his dark eyes widening. The image of the young Inez Hernandez was within half an inch of height of Bellatrix Black, the shape of the face, the petite, yet ridiculously lush figure, and above all, the riotous, tumbling waterfall of ebony curls. Bar the colour of their skin, and of course, the look of deranged evil lurking in Bellatrix's eyes... They were not close to identical, but they could very well have been sisters.

"That is disturbing," Silva said finally. "She does not look like your woman at all."

"No. She does not. Bellatrix and Andromeda favour their father's family, the Blacks. Their cousins Sirius and Regulus are the same. Narcissa favours her mother's family, the Rosiers. More than her mother does, actually."

Silva handed the photo back with a repressed shudder and got to his feet.

"I am going to bathe now," he informed his student. "Her visceral insanity fairly radiates off the paper."

"That is actually a genuine smile, believe it or not." Lucius began to pack up his tools. "She looks positively innocent and happy there, if one is polite enough to disregard the irony of the white lace and frills."

Silva just shuddered again and headed for the pool. Lucius followed him, stripping down and diving in after him. He tread water a bit, watching as the priest waded to the shallows and Summoned the soap. He was, as he always was in the water, naked, and the glamours remained firmly affixed.

After a few moments, Lucius swam over and took the soap from him. Silva looked up at him, startled. Lucius just turned him firmly about and began to wash his back. He felt the quizzical eyes on him as he moved about and knelt to wash his legs (carefully minding propriety and averting his eyes from the obvious), then soaped up his shoulders and chest, working his hands and hair. When he was finished, he handed him back the soap silently. Silva waded into the deeper water and rinsed, and finished washing underwater as Lucius returned to the deeper end of the pool and floated, eyes closed. The dappled sunlight flickered over his body. After awhile, he flipped up and swam back, retrieving the soap from the rock, and beginning to scrub himself. From the campsite, he smelled roasting plantains, and more of the sweet-fleshed fish.

He finished up hastily, rinsed the soap, and waded out, drying himself with a Summoned towel and wrapping it firmly about his waist as he made his way back. The priest was seated on the log, redressed in his cleaned breeches as he watched the flames. Again, Lucius felt his eyes turn to him as he squatted, digging in his pack and removed a long, finely engraved case and flipping it open. From it, he extracted a small shining cauldron (enlarged swiftly to appropriate size) and several packets. He set the cauldron directly over the flames and working so quickly that his hands were a blur, mixed and matched this and that, setting it to simmer before removing to the pile of fruit and choosing a large, slightly overripe papaya. He peeled it neatly with his wand, and diced it mid air over the cauldron before stirring precisely six times in either direction.

"May I ask?" his phoenix inquired as he prepared a plate with plantains and fish. Lucius just tapped his wand clean, transfigured his towel to breeches, and tucked it in his pocket before coming over and taking the plate firmly from him. The eyebrows flew, but he did not protest as the young man knelt in front of him, took the fork and offered him a bite of plantain. He looked both amused and tender, but allowed him to feed him precisely half before he took it back and returned the favour.

"You lack subtlety, Senhor Malfoy," he observed. "We must work on that." Behind him, the cauldron flew off the fire and set itself on a rock. "What is this? Wandless magic?"

"Self-timing cauldron." He popped in the last mouthful of fish, ducking the swat with a laugh before returning to the case. Silva put the plate aside and came to sit beside him, examining the contents... And the stunned shock he’d felt when he’d scanned the young man’s Gringotts’ card returned a hundredfold when he realized what he was seeing. The runic wards scribed around the interior of the box were powerful enough to indicate an expanded capacity worthy of an entire (extremely, extremely large) apothecary-slash-research laboratory’s worth of equipment and top-quality, magically preserved potions ingredients of every variety imaginable. He took out a small, thick booklet tucked into a neat pocket on the underside of the lid. It was a comprehensive alphabetized inventory list of the contents, in sum total and in ingredients alone worth more than the young man’s, not monthly, but yearly allowance. He turned pages quickly. Sure enough, there it was - phoenix tears: two vials' worth.

"Luis, this is a Master Potioneer’s kit! Nao, an International Master Potioneer’s kit!”

"Yes.” Lucius did not look up. “It is. Mother bought it for me as a gift when I received my OWL results. Eleven Os, an O+ in both Potions and Transfiguration, and an O in Herbology... She said that with what I would learn on Herbology here, I would get O+ on all three on the NEWTs easily, and I might as well get my reward now." He thrust his arm in up to the shoulder, retrieved a dozen fired glass vials and a small silver scoop, and began to fill them with the fragrant, silky mixture. It smelled fruity and pleasant, with undertones of bellflower, aloe, sage and papaya.

“Your reward?” the priest repeated disbelievingly.

“Yes. She knew, I think - was well aware - that I will never be able to practice my true passion to the extent that I might wish, and was giving me what she could - the reassurance that even if I am never able to fulfil the particular ambition in practical terms, that she had, personally, no doubt but that I could have achieved it. Looking back now… I think perhaps she suspected that this course of events might be coming when my father granted me permission to come here.”

This time, it was Silva’s turn to feel embarrassed. He could have hidden it, he knew if he had truly wished to… But he did not, no more than he was inclined to hide his genuine remorse for his now-realized profound insensitivity.

“I am so sorry,” he said quietly. Lucius smiled at him a little, sideways.

“It is alright,” he said. “I was shocked too, when I first saw it. Even Abraxas thought it a bit excessive, and I did not even know that was a word in his vocabulary.”

“Did he reprimand her for it?”

“No. Then again, he was planning to murder her. I imagine he may have recognized that she was making the point to him that she was well aware of what was coming, and was daring him to acknowledge it as a man.” He scraped up the last of the liquid with the silver scoop. “She had an extremely strange sense of humour at times. I personally have no doubt whatsoever that his discomfort would have amused her no end, and not in any bitter way either. In her own way… It might even have been a gesture to him, of pre-emptive forgiveness.”

“Do you think so?”

“Yes. She put his name on the card beside hers. In her own way again, I think she may have been telling me with it, and telling him with it, that she did truly believe that they both wished that things could have been different.” He corked the last vial. “She was very kind, always. And she did love him. He simply... Never deserved it.”

That last was delivered with great finality indeed. The message there, even without the newly formed link, was crystal clear - that that, as Ramone would have said, was all there was to be said about that.

"What is it?" Silva asked again of the contents of the cauldron.

"Massage oil. I invented the recipe, and when I showed it to Ramone, he suggested the papaya, for its skin-softening properties."

"Massage oil? I do not want to know, do I."

Lucius laughed.

"It was a commission," he explained. "From one of the students in my class. His girlfriend plays on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, and she is so very quick and agile a Chaser that the Beaters always target her. They do not slow her significantly, but she is always quite sore after a match. It helps considerably, I am told, and doubles as a soap oil."

"How entrepreneurial of you. Have you patented it?"

"No. I have to wait till I am seventeen, or the proceeds would go through Abraxas' accountants. I have several recipes that I have put on hold till then, and anticipate making a fair amount of money in my own right from them."

"Interesting." Silva scooped up a bit of residue and rubbed in between his fingertips. "And why were you showing it to Ramonzinho?"

"He told me that his mother cleans at the Nomaj American embassy, and has very rough hands, and when he was reading through my notebook and asked me about it. I offered him the recipe; he plans to make her a batch while he is home."

"You are very kind, my heart."

"Mm." He slid the last of the vials back into the portable case and offered him the lot.

"For me?" He looked surprised.

"It will help with the itching," he said matter-of-factly, or as much as he could manage it. "And soften the scars."

"Luizinho..." He caught the look. "Desculpe-me. I am so ungrateful. Obrigado, my heart." He leaned in and kissed his cheek softly. Lucius looked down at his feet.

"Let me know when you need more," he said.

"I will." He tucked the case in his pack as Lucius packed up his things. He tapped the cauldron, it cleaned itself tidily. Later, when they were on the platform, settling in, the priest reached into the bag and extracted one of the vials. He sat cross-legged, bracing himself as he pulled his shirt off. Lucius sat up and took it from him, then the vial. Silva said nothing, just sat cross-legged, head bent and eyes closed as he smoothed a bit on his hands. He looked very small and vulnerable.

The young man moved behind him, and ran his hands lightly over his bare back. He could not see the scars now; the glamours were still up, but beneath his palms and fingertips, he mapped each slowly, rubbing in the oil. The muscles were tense. His natural English reserve tried to take authoritative hold; he shoved it aside firmly. He dug his thumbs in lightly in a smooth, gentle motion, working out the knots under the skin. Silva said nothing as he moved down his spine, adding more oil. Lucius hesitated, then transfigured the other man's pajama pants into a closed seamless towel around his modesty, and pushed him lightly to lie on his front.


"Please, sir. Let me help you."

Silva said nothing, but lay down. Lucius arranged himself and worked more oil over him meticulously: his thighs and calves, his ankles and feet. That last earned him an actual soft sound of pleasure.

"All that riding standing," he said. "Hard on the arches." He spent quite some time there, on each toe, the heels, the soles, working his way up slowly again to his biceps and shoulders. He rolled him on his back and went back to his feet again. His elegant features were soft and absorbed.

"You are very good at this," Silva observed as he watched his face. "It is no wonder your woman is so fond of you."

Lucius just grinned at him, looking up briefly as he began to work the oil into the scars on the flat, hard belly. Silva's eyes drifted shut. By the time the young man had reached his hands, working the knots out of fingers and palms, he was half asleep. He didn't so much as move when Lucius set his jaw and adjusted the towel a bit to rub the oil into the scars on the lean hips, and (quashing his embarrassment so grimly it squeaked in protest as he rolled him over), his buttocks. He made swift, thorough work of it and nearly collapsed in relief when it was done. A snigg*r sounded.

"Europeans," the priest said fondly. “You are all so prudish.” He stretched deeply and luxuriously, twisting till his back popped from neck to the base of his spine, before flexing and sitting up and cracking his knuckles and toes in a rather nauseating manner. “You are a marvel, my Luizinho. I do not think that I have been this relaxed in years."

"Good," Lucius said, still slightly red with embarrassment. "That was the point." He tucked the half-empty vial away and spelled his hands clean. Silva transfigured his towel back to his trousers and sat cross-legged again, eyes soft and dark as he examined him.

"Are you well?"

"I am not..." He sighed. "I suppose I am dreadfully and overly proper by your standards, sir, but there it is. I am not used to platonic intimacy. It was not how I was raised, and you are my teacher besides, and a priest. I cannot help but feel anxious when I think on how others would view this scene."

"There are no others here," Silva pointed out. "Are you anxious on how I view it, and you? And how I will think on this, and you, once we are back at the school?"

He flushed again, and looked down.

"I am not thinking on when we are back at school," Silva said. "I know what it is now. What this is now. How I see you now. You do not see yourself, but I do. Do you wish to know what I have seen today, my heart?"

Still, Lucius said nothing. Silva reached out and took his hands, holding them as he had the day Lucius first knelt to him in apology, gently together between his own.

“One week ago," his phoenix said. "One week ago, you wept in rage and hate at the idea of humbling yourself to obey me, Senhor Malfoy. One week ago, you were very nearly physically ill when kneeling before me. You had to hold yourself back from striking me when I touched you. Today... You wept in pain and love at the sight of my wounds, you bathed them, and me, you made me medicine with your own hands: a gift of your own talents... You served me food and drink in all humility and love, though you killed your own instincts and pride to do so. Just now, you put aside all instinct and reserve and pride to soothe my physical discomfort, regardless of how you know others would see it. You have humbled yourself to serve me all day, not for your own ends or toward the end of learning a lesson, but out of love."

"I do not know how this is supposed to help me learn to serve Riddle."

"You are not learning to serve Riddle, my fine young Englishman," the priest said. "That is fact, not truth. Mere motion, lip service. You are learning to serve God."

“I am not even certain that I believe in God!”

"Jesus said many beautiful things," Antonia-Maria Silva said. "He said 'He who serves the least of My children, serves Me.’ You may not know if you believe in God, Luis Malfoy, but you served Him today. You wept, I saw, when I told you that these scars were bestowed upon me in mockery and disdain for my love for Him. You wept, not because you love Him yourself, but because I love Him, and in the aftermath you gave everything of yourself today, freely and with love, in demonstration of your respect for what I respect. For respect for that which I suffered for something you are not even sure exists. I was not even in pain. The scars, they are vivid, but they do not pain me anymore. You did not serve the physical, the factual physical, but the truth." He reached out and touched his cheek. “I have wondered for many years, my heart, why God has insisted I keep these terrible reminders. Now, I understand. I see. I see that it was not for my sake, but for yours. As Jesus suffered the wounds in the first place, not for His own sake, but for others.”

"Will He take them away now, now that I have learned the related lesson?"

"I do not know. I hope not."

"What? Why not?"

"Because now when I see them, I will remember not those who mocked me, but my heart who loves me. I will look at them and remember not the whip and the lash, but the hands that eased me afterwards. I will see not the darkness, but the light you brought to me there. The light that you are, my Luizinho. And I will carry all of that in my heart, always, as I carry you."

"It is no wonder Riddle has such an inferiority complex," Lucius said after a moment. "If you wrote such letters as that to Professora Hernandez while at Hogwarts." He yelped as a pillow thwacked him. Hard, and lay back and laughed himself breathless. At last he settled, and he lay back again, Silva arranged himself neatly beside him.

"Luizinho," he said quietly.

"Yes, sir?"

"Your lessons are not over. And you are my heart, but that only means that I will be harder on you than ever, so that in the end, you will survive."

Lucius’ stomach twisted a bit in anxiety, but he just nodded in the starlight.

Castelobruxo School

Twelve Days Later

Lucius and Ramone’s Dorm Room

"What the..." Lucius stopped and looked around. Ramone peered over his shoulder. Lucius put his satchel down. His bed was gone. In its place, tucked into the corner, was a narrow, long mat - no more than an inch thick - with a small stack of folded linens: light sheets, a plain, rough blanket, and a single thin pillow. His night table was still there, transfigured to plain white wood. His textbooks were lined on a mounted shelf above, alongside a plain glass jar of biros and a stacks of spiral notebooks, report folders, and loose-leaf paper.

Lucius made his way over to the night table and opened it. There was a pair of white pajama trousers, neatly folded, and a single soft white undershirt. The second drawer held three pairs each of cotton socks and white pants. His side of the closet contained a pair of plain, unadorned cotton trousers and short sleeved shirt, likewise in white and identical to the ones he was wearing, a pair of light covered canvas shoes such as those worn in the Potions labs and the Magizoology and Herbology complexes, and a pair of white sandals. His dragon-hide gloves were placed neatly on the shelf above his clothes, along with a folded brown canvas apron and protective glasses. The only other items there were his dress robes and his crate of Quidditch gear.

Lucius went into to the loo. His toothbrush and paste were there on his shelf, along with a brush and comb, and two sets of towels and face-cloths. There was a bar of white soap and a Nomaji shaving kit. A simple desk was tucked against the wall at the foot of the bed, and a straight-backed wooden desk chair... He sank down and looked around again. Everything on Ramone’s side of the room remained completely untouched.

"This is different, heh?" the young Brazilian offered, quite unnecessarily. "Did Tio warn you?"

"Not specifically, no." Lucius rose, retrieved his satchel, and carried it over to the night table, removing his photos of Niss, the one of his mother, and the bundle of letters. He tucked the bundle in the drawer beside the pants and socks, and arranged the photos on top. His Potions kit, he took to the desk and tucked underneath. Finally, he hung his broomstick from its hook.

"I think that I will take a shower," he said, and removing his wand holsters and laying them on the desk, went back to the loo. Ramone eyed the black and silver engraved custom holsters as they shimmered, turning again that plain unadorned white. The water began to rush, and an almighty pained howl rose.


Ramone winced. Soon, the other boy emerged, slightly blue and with chattering teeth. He tossed his dirty things in the hamper. It took him a moment to realize what was off there, as he looked in... The clothes, normally charmed straight to the laundry, sat there blandly. Appeared suddenly beside the hamper was a small box of white powder, and a plastic basin.

"He is not serious!" the young Englishman said incredulously. "He expects me to clean all of my clothing by hand? I have only the one other outfit, and we are in are the tropics! I will have to wash everything every day, or I will smell like a baboon, never mind that I only have the one hand to be going on with!" He sank down, still in his towel, on the mat, lying back. "Seriously? This is not a mattress, this is a transfigured plank! Why did he even bother? I might as well be sleeping on the floor!"

A sheet of plain note-paper appeared on the table. He flexed, sat up, reached over and grabbed it, scanning the words.

Senhor Malfoy -

Your instructions for the next four weeks are as follows:

  • Beginning at the moment you read these words, you will not speak to anyone but me, SenhorCarriera included, save for asking or answering your professors’ questions on your class assignments or homework, working with your fellow students on mutual class projects, or to the healers on the ward if reporting to them for an ailment when I am unavailable. In cases of vital and dire emergency, personal or otherwise, you may utter the words ‘Sao Miguel’, and I will come.
  • You may not use your wands for anything but classwork unless I specifically inform you otherwise, save in a vital and dire emergency, personal or otherwise.
  • You will eat and drink nothing that I do not personally offer you from my hand at meals, and nothing save for water, including the contents of parcels and care-packages, between meals. Medications prescribed you by the healers are an exception to this rule.
  • Senhor Carriera will teach you how to shave in the Nomaji fashion. Your bed linens and towels may be placed in his hamper. You will clean all of your other clothing personally, every day. A neat, clean and fresh appearance is both appreciated and expected.
  • Chairs in my presence, in all instances, including my classroom, are now an earned privilege, not a right. As of this moment, you have not yet earned that privilege. I have spoken with your teachers on the subject of these things and your uniform; they are now all aware of the changes.
  • You will wait for me on the west steps at 4. A.M. tomorrow, as per usual. This is now a standing order, save on Sundays.
  • Any single attempt to circumvent your new arrangements, e.g. writing notes to your fellows on non-school work related matters instead of speaking (polite hand gestures and indicative expressions are acceptable, as long as they are not abused), will result in immediate and extremely unpleasant, offense-appropriate repercussions. Three infractions within the space of a given twenty-four hour period will result in your receiving six lashes - two per offense - on your bare back, from me, before the school. I would consider it a great kindness if you would make every effort to render that particular measure unnecessary, Senhor Malfoy, as we both know that I cannot and will not allow my own emotions and reservations to interfere with your vital training.
  • You will not discuss any of these measures with anyone, including in your correspondence with Senhorita Black. Senhor Carriera will be receiving the same instruction, implicitly offered when you allow him to read this note.

Silva, MSJ

Lucius handed the letter off to Ramone, and as he read it, still in his towel, flopped back on the mat. Ramone blurred, and hopped over anxiously - and was firmly shunted onto the floor beside the mat. He blurred back, exasperated.

"Now that is petty," he said. "Even as a frog?"

A chime sounded. He reached for the letter appeared on his own night table.

Senhor Carriera -

Castelobruxo School Code of Conduct: Chapter 4, subsection 12, para. 9.

Please note: any single attempt to circumvent Senhor Malfoy’s instructions on your part, with or without his knowledge, consent or cooperation, will result in an immediate assignation of three black marks against him, and a whipping before the school.

Silva, MSJ

Lucius just closed his eyes, listening silently as the other boy slammed around and muttered vilely.

Chapter 5: There And Back Again: A Warder's Helliday


A one-shot that takes place after Chapter 29 and before the end of Chapter 30 in 'The Boy With Kaleidoscope Eyes'. Harry/Ren must return to Privet Drive after his mother and Snape make the special trip on Hallowe'en to exact revenge on the Dursleys, so that he might prevent the cursed Petunia from inadvertently revealing to anyone that Lily is, in fact, still alive. Upon arriving, he is shocked with what he finds - and realizes after he leaves that his Saving People Complex means there is one more issue that has to be taken care of, and more than one surprise waiting as a result.

No, I haven't forgotten the main story, I promise. This one's just been sitting awhile... :)

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: violence/attempted suicide

Chapter Text

Harry Potter’s penultimate visit to Number Four Privet Drive, made just hours after his resurrected mother and former Potions Professor stopped by to pay their lack-of-respects on the morning of November 1st, 1991, should have been a reasonably simple matter: In, Stun, Stun, Identify Any Specific Issues, Tidy Here, Tidy There, Obliviate, Obliviate, Out.

‘Should have been’, of course…


It never had been where the Dursleys were concerned, and obviously never would be. Harry hadn’t quite known what was waiting when Sirius had told him of Lily and Snape’s plan to pop in on the tenth anniversary of his counterpart’s arrival at the local version of Privet Drive, but it certainly, certainly wasn’t what he got. No matter how long he lived - again - the memory of porting into the kitchen to the sight of a weeping, pantsless and bloodied Vernon Dursley struggling violently with his thinly screaming wife, his nappy half torn off as he tried to pry the kitchen knife out of her hands and away from her own bared wrists and long, horse-like throat, was one that God Himself would have to Obliviate if the job were ever to be done properly.

Harry, now officially regenerated and presenting as Ren Cartwright, could have walked in right off the street and done - whatever he was inclined, really, though his imagination was far too preoccupied in the moment with the staggeringly disturbing visuals before him to produce suggestions. They’d never have known he was there. They hadn’t known he was there anyway. He’d cast a quick, quiet pair of stunners from behind, and they’d both slumped, unconscious to the floor. That accomplished, Harry, or rather Ren, picked his way around the wreck of the kitchen, tidying up more than a bit compulsively as he went. When he’d regained his composure, he had tidied them. He’d repaired Petunia’s rat’s nest of straggling, curlered hair, cleaned her pink quilted robe, healed the wounds she’d managed to inflict on herself and her husband, and finally, removed the incontinence spell on Vernon.

That last, no matter that sanctimonious rubbish he’d spouted later on moral blank slates, had been more out of self-preservation than anything else. He’d had to repair the nappy first, again out of self-preservation, and Scarred For Life didn’t even begin to cover it.

Then he floated the man back up the thirteen steps of the staircase, deposited him in the sitting position on the edge of the bed, and amended his memories before going back downstairs to do the same with Petunia. Finally, he’d set her up at the table in the now immaculate kitchen, hot cuppa before her (God help him, he actually made her the tea by hand, compulsively again as he remembered how she’d preferred it) and made his way out.

He stopped in first, of course, to wave hello to the spiders under the stairs. Amiable salutations offered, he’d removed the light bulb under the seventh step, tucked it carefully in his pocket, and charmed the wiring so that the particular connection would never power another equivalent again.

Then he’d closed the door quietly and activated the runes on his feet from inside the Cupboard Under The Stairs for the last time.

Back at Hogwarts in his abandoned dorm room, Ren sat on the on the edge of his four poster, removing the light bulb from his pocket and turning it about in his fingers. After a moment, he fished in another pocket, removing the scorched Resurrection Stone that Neville had offered him the morning after the raid in Edinburgh, and with a bit of magical thissery-and-thattery, charmed the Stone inside. He shrank the works to the size of a large battery, charmed a gold chain onto it, cast a permanent Lumos inside the glass, and with every ounce of magical skill he possessed, warded the entire thing to the point of the completely, irrevocably, absolutely unbreakable before making his way back to the Room of Requirement’s requested Front Lobby.

“I’m going to leave this here,” he told the Room. “Send it somewhere… I don’t know. Somewhere where someone needs light. Light going forward, not back. To a place where they’ll have a real chance to start over, as somewhere and something other than a shade in their own - and of their own - past. Before you do, though, think about all of the precautionary caveats and exceptions Nev would put in there, because he’s a lot better at this sort of thing than I am, at least in the context of covering your weird little loopholes. Then apply them. His caveats and exceptions, not your loopholes. You’ve got a bloody weird sense of humour for a cross-dimensional nexus point, and I’m onto your tricks.”

Ren set the bulb containing the stone down on the floor, and stepped back. The Room hummed thoughtfully and consideringly around him. He could almost swear he heard the tapping of invisible fingers. The bulb disappeared abruptly in a bright flash. Ren rubbed his head, threading the single unfamiliar cowlick through his hair. He turned, rubbing his hand over the back of his neck, and stilled. He sighed, and pulled the chain out from under his shirt. The bulb glowed softly in his hand.

“Subtle as ever, I see,” he addressed the Room. “Fine. Be like that. That’s not an order,” he added hastily. “Or even a suggestion. Just a phrase. That’s it, that’s all. Nrgh.”

He stepped out into the hall. The door disappeared behind him, with the definite undertone of a wink. He flipped the blank wall two fingers, took a moment to reassure the scandalized and indignant trolls, and popped out. He reappeared back in the empty dorm, flopping back on the bed with a sigh.

Never again, he thought blissfully to the canopy above him. I’m done. Done, done, done. Shot of it, shot of them, shot of …

He sat up abruptly as a sudden inevitable and extremely unpleasant thought occurred to him.

“Bugger,” the Not-Quite-Not-Anymore Harry Potter said aloud, violently and vehemently. “Bugger, bugger, bugger. Buggery sodding bugging buggery bollocking bloody f*ckity sodding f*ck. ” He tore the chain off his neck and slammed the bulb to the floor, crashing his boot down. It glowed up at him peacefully, unscratched. He sank down on the edge of his bed, face buried in his newly wide, strong-fingered, light brown hands. “Just…”



November 4, 1991

9 A.M.

“Yes?” The woman before him looked neither welcome nor unwelcoming.

“I’m very sorry to interrupt your morning, ma’am,” Ren said with absolute, absolute sincerity. “I promise I’m not here to sell you anything, though once you hear who I am, or rather where I’m from, you might be tempted to slam the door in my face anyway. Please don’t. It’s a matter of your family’s gravest personal security.”

Petunia Dursley’s face hardened.

“He’s not here,” she said shortly. “He’s at that school, with those new guardians of his. If you can’t keep him safe there, it’s not my problem.”

“He’s fine,” Ren reassured her. “It’s your son Dudley I’m worried about now.”

She paused, just about to slam the door in his face, and stared suspiciously. He waited.

“Come in then,” she said, quite as ungraciously as he’d expected. As he entered, wiping his shoes meticulously... “What’s going on? And If it’s a matter of such grave security, where’s the old man?”

“The old man is in prison, ma’am. No one is beyond the law, and I’m afraid he rather shat all over it.”

“Language!” she snapped automatically. In spite of himself, his lips tilted at her at that... She actually flushed a bit.

“What did he do,” she said ungraciously.

“He framed a thirteen-year-old student for the murder of another,” he said. Petunia Dursley’s jaw dropped.

“That’s what we said,” Ren agreed. Her jaw stiffened.

“He’s not our responsibility anymore,” she said again.

Ren couldn’t help himself. He didn’t try. Given everything he was about to put himself through, never mind everything he’d gone through already, he was, he thought, entitled.

“Do you miss him at all?” he inquired.

She glared. Ren rolled his eyes. Internally. All self-indulgent snideness aside, and as satisfying as he would have found expressing himself further along those lines, he was on a schedule. A schedule, quite possibly and all things considered, titled ‘Get In, Get Out, Get Drunk.’ Quite possibly followed up by that always popular sequel: ‘Get Therapy’, if only to ward himself in the future against his own goddamn bloody buggering eternal Saving People Thing.

“I’m here,” he said. “Because recent developments – what should be happy developments – in the Magical world have had some unanticipated side effects. Do you remember your sister ever mentioning a boy named Remus Lupin?”

“Yes,” Petunia said unwillingly. “One of the ones that adopted Harry.” She hesitated. “The nice one.”

Ren kept his eyebrows down by sheer force of will.

“Well, he made a medical breakthrough,” he said. “He’s come up with a cure for lycanthropy. Werewolves,” he elaborated.

Petunia’s jaw sagged a little more, and snapped back. Her not-quite-nephew had to stifle the urge to offer to check her jaws for mice. Or perhaps, her crabby expression considered, lobsters.


“Not everyone is interested in a cure,” he said. “Or is grateful to the man who discovered it. Some of them are quite resentful that he’s made it immediately available to the public. The werewolves, you see... Well. Some of them have a rather brute, supremacist attitude. They consider themselves, not without cause, repressed and reviled, and embrace themselves, and the potential propagation of their kind, as a cause worth fighting for. When you take into account the fact that he proved the cure on every one the members of the largest and most feral pack in Britain, by a rather brilliant bit of trickery... He’s made a lot of enemies, ma’am, in a lot of very dangerous places. They’ve targeted not just him, but those he loves. His own pack, and pack by extension. In their eyes, that includes Harry, and Harry’s family.”

Petunia stared.

“But we’re not his family anymore,” she said. She sounded, for once, not irritated or haughty, but genuinely confused. “He’s been adopted.”

“They won’t care about that, ma’am. Guilt is as good as grief to them, and Remus Lupin is, as you said yourself, a nice man. A good man. He would care if something happened to you. He might not want to, but he wouldn’t be able to help himself.”

He watched as she digested that. It didn’t take long.

“And the wards are gone.”

“I can put them back up,” he said. “Better ones. If you allow it. The problem, ma’am, is that Dudley is at school. I can help him too, but I’ll need your help there. And your permission.”

“What would they do to him?” she asked. “These ferals?”

He looked at her silently. She crossed her arms at him and waited.

“He has no Magical blood,” he said finally. “He would not survive his first full moon. They wouldn’t expect him to. They would put him in a pit, ma’am, and watch him tear himself apart. They would make bets on how long he would last. How he would last. Which limb he would chew off first. If he would manage to castrate himself first. If he has not hit puberty yet... They would wait to turn him till he’s ready. They would send men in to rape him. He would welcome the rape, ma’am. He would be desperate for it. Do you want me to go on?”

“Freaks,” she whispered.

“Yes,” he said. “They are. If you don't let me help you... They will hunt him down, Mrs. Dursley. And you.”

Her eyes narrowed at him suspiciously.

“Who are you?” she said abruptly. “Exactly?’

Ren smiled a little.

“Their enemy,” he said. “If I can’t kill the sick sons-of-bitches, Mrs. Dursley – and I do intend to make my very best efforts there - I can at least ensure that they never find you.”

“Why?” she said, at a loss. “Why would you do this?”

“Is it important?”

“No,” she said. “I suppose not. What can you do for Dudley?’

“I’ll give him a small tattoo. It will change his scent. Permanently. To a wolf on the hunt, he’ll smell like a boy from a completely different family. I’ll also ask him to wear a medic alert bracelet. It will incorporate a few charms that will render him not-quite-there to Magicals. The combination will effectively render him invisible.”

“A tattoo? He’s eleven!”

“That’s not a bad thing in the eyes of the creatures we’re talking on, ma’am, remember?”

Her lips pursed. “He won’t want to wear the bracelet.”

“That’s not a problem. I can put a charm on it so that he doesn’t pay attention to it either. Once he puts it on, he’ll literally forget it’s there.”

“What about Vernon?”

“Do you think he’ll be amenable to my kind of assistance?’

“Probably not,” she admitted.

“Do you want me to take care of it without his knowledge? I can, but I won’t, not without your permission.”

“It would be best,” she said. “He can be difficult.”

He nodded. “I can do the house when you’re not about,” he said. ‘No one will know I’m here. It will take me a few hours to do it up properly. In the meantime...” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a slim gold bracelet. “Put this on.”

She examined it, and slipped it on. He pulled out his biro set.

“Your left wrist, please,” he directed. She held out her hand unwillingly, watching as he inscribed runes carefully, three in a row, three layers each. It took perhaps ten minutes. She watched him as he worked, face intent and soft.

“What’s your name,” she said abruptly again.

“Lawrence.” He didn’t look up. “Lawrence Cartwright.”

“Where are you from?”

“Alaska.” Ren put the biros down and slipped his wand out of his sleeve, tapping each of the runes three times. They faded to near invisible against her pale skin. “There. All done.”

“What?” She looked startled. “That’s all?”

“That’s all.” He smiled at her briefly. “I’ll put your husband’s on his back. He’ll never see it, or question it.”

“And the bracelet?”

He pulled out a Rolex. Her eyes bulged.

“I’ll leave it here,” he said. “You can give it to him as a gift. Tell him you won a little in the pools, and thought of him. It will trigger his pride, and invoke the disinclination to take it off. It won’t be harmed in water.”

“Do they know you’re here?” she asked. “The Ministry?’

“No. I’m a strict independent.”

Petunia seemed to approve of that. Ren had known she would; she was the type who appreciated self-made men.

“Can you go to Dudley now?”

“Yes, of course. When would be a good time to come back?”

She hesitated.

“Tomorrow morning?” she said tentatively.

He examined her.

“I’ll be here at nine again,” he said. “If that suits?”

She nodded.

“Thank you,” she said stiffly. “If there are any more problems, will they send you?”

“They won’t need to. I’ll know there are problems before they ever do. Never mind the fact that ‘they’ don’t know I’m here. No one does.”

“Why are you doing this,” she said again. Her nephew turned to face her fully.

“Because it’s the decent thing to do,” he said precisely. “And whether you want to believe it or not, Remus Lupin isn’t the only decent Magical in this world. There are quite a few of us – the majority even. The way I understand it, you just had the really unfortunate luck to meet a few of our best young arse-ups early on. I can tell you this though, they would have been arse-ups with or without magic. They just never got the chance to grow up and out of it, and prove to you and everyone else that they were just ordinary stupid kids after all, with a bit of the extra available to make everyone else’s life miserable.”

It was a bit too kind, he knew, but ...

“Doesn’t sound like the old man ever grew out of it,” she said bitterly.

“Some don’t,” Ren agreed. “But they’re not arse-ups. They’re just sick. Don’t need magic for that, ma’am. Those hunters I just mentioned... They’re not all werewolves. A good third of them aren’t even Magical.”


“Nutters,” he translated. “Functional, nice, well-off, bored, ordinary and ostensibly respectable nutters. They look at us as freaks. Not-human, on every level, no matter whether we sprout fur and ears at the full moon or not – and thus perfect fodder for their not-quite respectable fantasies. It’s an ideal arrangement all around, since they generally come with the taste for blood, sadism and/or young kids.”

She stared at him.

“Lots of disposable income,” he elaborated. “And well-developed instincts for keeping secrets. Freaks like that aren’t inclined to spreading word of the Wizarding community, they’d lose access to their best kicks.”

“Do you need me to go with you,” she said. “To Smeltings?’

“Nah. I’m good. “

She nodded, and crossed her arms tightly across her chest again. The gold bracelet glimmered. He felt her eyes on his back as he made his way down the walk and down the street toward the petrol station and convenience store on the corner of Wisteria Walk. From the washroom there, it would be a quick jump to Smeltings, and from Smeltings, back to Hogwarts.

November 5, 1991

9 A.M.

Ren knocked on the door. It opened promptly. Petunia stood there, prim and respectable and obviously grimly terrified. He smiled at her sunnily.

“Good morning, Mrs. Dursley,” he greeted her. She said nothing, just stood aside. He ducked in and wiped his feet on the mat. She eyed the tool kit he carried with skittish loathing.

“It’s alright,” he assured her. He was completely bemused with his own reaction. He actually felt sorry for her. “It’s just for show. For the neighbours. Nothing in it but my slippers and lunch, see?” He set it on the table and opened it. She craned suspiciously. It held a pair of green and blue plaid house slippers, a packet of beef sandwiches, a thermos, and an apple.

“How long will it take?” she asked.

“Most of the day,” he said. “To do it up properly. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want.”

She sniffed.

“I have my baking to do,” she said. “Stay out of my way.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, and reached into his coat pocket, holding out a small brown bag. She stared at it, and him, suspiciously.

“What’s that?”

“Chocolate,” he said. “For the inconvenience. Raspberry mousse creams. Godiva. I picked them up at Marks and Spencer’s, if you’d like proof of receipt?”

Petunia hesitated. Raspberry mousse creams were her greatest weakness.

“How did you know I like them?”

“I didn’t,” he lied. “They’re my own favourite. I figured I’d take a chance.”

“Why would you get me chocolate?”

Question of the ages. “My wife raised me right,” he said. “When visiting a lady’s home, always bring gifts.”

“Your wife? You’re married?” She darted a look at his bare hands.

“I was, yes. She died recently.”

Her eyes widened in spite of herself. “I’m so sorry,” she said automatically.

“Thank you. It wasn’t unexpected. Will you show me to your attic?’

She actually hesitated.

“Would you like a cup of coffee,” she said stiffly. “To bring with you?”

“Maybe in a bit. Would you like to watch?”

“Why would I want to do that? ” she snapped.

“I thought it might make you a little more comfortable,” Ren said mildly. “If you were aware of what was occurring under your own roof.” It was not unlike managing a five-year-old heading for a tantrum, he thought. “And it’s fun to watch. Probably not what you expect at all.”


He shrugged, and peeled off his jacket. It was a bit cold for the denim, so he’d worn the black leather bomber jacket instead, accompanied by a long dark red scarf and leather gloves. He stuffed the gloves in the pocket, and wadded the scarf into the sleeve, hanging it neatly over the back of one of the kitchen chairs. Petunia watched as he removed the pair of perfectly ordinary house slippers from the tool kit and slipped them over his feet. He could almost see herself through her eyes as she raked them over him; the tidy blue dress shirt, (appropriately belted and tucked) the well-cut navy trousers, and the boring, ordinary black socks. The only thing that edged out the rather smart appearance was the barbell piercing, and even that wasn’t necessarily a negative in her eyes. Petunia Evans Dursley had always put on a good show of respectability – no, an excellent one – but she had as much if a secret, furiously sequestered weakness for the ever-so-slightly rakish bad boy trope as any other bored suburban housewife with an blandly inadequate husband.

“You don’t look like one of them,” she said, almost involuntarily. Ren snorted.

“You mean because my clothes match? Magical culture’s a bit different American side, ma’am. Well, a lot different. We’re encouraged to blend in to the larger, dominant society, and I never liked wearing robes anyway. They get in the way of... Just about everything, and look really stupid besides. This is the twentieth century, and Wizarding fashion here in Great Britain, never mind attitudes, haven’t progressed since oh, about the sixteenth.”

Petunia actually looked reluctantly interested at that. Again, Ren had known she would. She was almost as much an Americanophile as she was a Godivaphile.

“What do they think about that up at the school?” she asked. “Or do you blend in there too?”

“Nope,” he said blithely. “Though that being said, they haven't actually met me yet. I'm relatively new in town, and I have a job to do there, yes, but it doesn't start till next week. They're going to absolutely hate me, or at least the way I dress again, never mind my accent. I'll get dirty looks all day long, never mind pointed comments. They’re getting the equivalent of a five hundred thousand pound contract out of me though for absolutely nothing but room and board, so they can just suck it up.”

“Five hundred...” She nearly choked.

“Mm. Magical security’s lucrative work. And it’s a big castle. A big castle with a much-touted reputation as the safest place in Great Britain. Highly undeserved, I might add; they’ve been riding that byline for over three hundred years now, and it shows.”

“Why are you doing it for free?”

“Because my grandfather’s the new Headmaster. Upgrading was first on his priority list; he made it a contingency of his hiring, and when the Board of Governors started whining about the cost, he gave me a call. It’s a win-win situation all around; I’m the best at what I do, anywhere, but I’m still considered really young for my job level, and am relatively unknown yet, so if I don’t tell prospective clients that Hogwarts isn’t paying me, they’ll do their research on what I should be bringing in there and are less likely to cut corners when offering me proposals for other projects.”

The look of approval was definitely marked there.

“The attic’s this way,” was all she said. He followed her down the hall. The door to the cupboard under the stairs was primly closed. He ignored it, following her up the steps, and up again to the third and final floor of the house.

Four Hours Later

He heard her gasp even through his concentration, and looked up. Her eyes were as wide and wondering as that five-year-old’s again. He cast a stasis charm over his work, and pushed himself to his feet, coming over to relieve her of the tray.

“It’s one o’ clock,” she said, not tearing her eyes away from the glowing, near-complete model of Number 4 Privet Drive. It rose a full eight feet from the floor, and filled the entire attic with a soft, shimmering blue light. “I brought you your lunch.”

“Thank you,” Ren said. The tray held not only his sandwiches (neatly trimmed) and apple (neatly sliced) but the soup from his thermos in a bowl, a tall glass of milk and, surprisingly, several warm chocolate chip biscuits. He was fairly sure that it wasn’t a gesture of kindness; she just liked to receive compliments on her baking. “You didn’t have to do that.”

She barely seemed to notice when he took the tray from her hands. “What is that?” she asked, not taking her eyes away. He settled back cross-legged on the floor, spelling his hands clean silently.

“It’s a proxy model,” he said. “A magical replication of your home.” He held up a tiny shell. “The finished product will be housed in this. When it’s finished, I’ll be able to work through it to install and modify the wards I’ll place on your home, no matter where I am.”

She approached cautiously, holding out her hand. He handed her the shell, biting into his sandwich, watching as she examined it. It looked perfectly normal.

“Why don’t you just work on the house itself?” she asked.

“Because you need a magical foundation to work with,” he explained. “To make it stick. And as there’s no magic in your house; this is the alternative.”

“We didn’t have a magical foundation when the boy was here.”

“That was a bit of a different situation. A special one. The wards weren’t attached to the house itself, but to the blood and souls of the people inhabiting it.”

“The... What ?”

“That’s the pretty typical reaction,” he agreed. “If you’re not Albus Dumbledore or a truly desperate parent with a loaded wand pointed at you and your kid, anyway. Not exactly immoral, but not exactly... Not. All in all, I’ve found this to be a much more stable method in both the short and the long run.”

“It it as strong?”

“Under ordinary circ*mstances, no, but I’m tinkering a bit here and there.” He bit into a biscuit. “Kind of my specialty, that. These are really good.” He wasn’t catering, he told himself firmly. They really were good. Warm, buttery, soft, and there was no half-arsed no-brand chocolate either. Godiva had given it up for the cause here too...His aunt missed a major opportunity with these biscuits as a child, the Ren-formerly-known-as-Harry thought. If she’d allowed him even one a week, he’d have been a lot more actively cooperative in her attempts to make him normal. Two a week, and she might have created an addiction strong enough to tempt him into Stonewall over Hogwarts.

“What’s fueling it? I mean... What creates the remote link between the shell and the house itself?”

He paused in his chewing. He hadn’t expected that.

“Nothing, yet,” he said. “It’s an abstract. I’ll have to anchor it before I can use it to connect anything.”

“What do you need?”

“Blood,” he said. “Just a drop, from the owner of the house. That’d be you.”

She didn’t freak out. He was a bit surprised.

“I’m not magical,” she said.

“You don’t need to be,” he said. “And actually... You are.”


“No matter what the line is,” he said. “Nothing comes from nothing. Witches such as your sister don’t just spontaneously appear; their talent is indicative of recessive genetics in the family line that can lie dormant for literally scores of generations. Magicals don’t talk about it because most of them don’t know anything about biology or DNA. “

She digested that.

“Your family – the women in your family, specifically –“ he said. “Are carriers of the potential magically active genes. In your sister’s case, it spontaneously activated, or reactivated. In yours, it didn’t. It wouldn’t, in your sons, but if you had had a daughter, she would almost certainly be a witch herself – and she would go on in turn, to pass down the reactivated live link to her own children, male or female.”

She sank down on a trunk.

“Why did it activate in her, and not me?”

“Chance,” he said. “It’s what it comes down to, really.”

“Could Dudley pass it on to his children?”

“It’s not likely. He seems to take after his father, strongly. If it did activate again, it would probably be at least three generations away.”

She thought on that.

“So I have the carrier gene for magic,” she said. “And that’s enough to activate your model?”

“Yes,” he said. "Well.... Sort of. What I’ll have to do is locate the carrier gene inherent in the drop of blood, and open it in the specific context and toward the specific end.”

“Is there any way to...” She cut herself off.

“Activate the genetic sequence?” he supplied. “And kickstart your potential?”

She said nothing.

“No,” he said. “It’s far, far too complex. And dangerous. So many things could go so wrong; we’re talking trillions of cells which would all have to be reoriented and retrained. Magic gone feral... Cancerous...” He face closed. “It’s not something I’d wish on my worst enemy.”

“Not even on the freaks you mentioned earlier?”

“Wouldn’t last long enough. They’d kill themselves within an hour, past the point of development. The pain is ...”

He cut himself off.

“So you’re creating a generator,” she said. “From the blood.”


“Does it have to be renewed?”

“Once a year or so. You can do that, though. I’ll leave the generator with you, connected to the proxy, and you just have to prick your finger and bleed on it. As long as you don’t leave it too late, the residual magics will do the rest.”

Petunia considered that, reaching into her apron pocket. He watched as she extracted the bar of chocolate, peeling back the folded wrapper, breaking off a square and nipping at it with her horse-like teeth.

“Vernon called,” she said. “He’ll be back by three thirty. Do you think you’ll be finished by then?”

“If I’m not, it won’t matter. I can do everything I need to do up here, and leave without him knowing.”

“And the wards will be activated before you leave?”

He nodded. She sighed. It was a fretful, irritated sound. He ate for a few more minutes, packing everything up neatly.

“How did you get the scar?” she asked, completely involuntarily. He looked up, eyeing her.

“I travel a lot,” he said. “In my work. And there are typically reasons places need to be secured.” He smiled briefly. “No worries. You should see the other guy.”

She said nothing more, but didn’t move. Ren removed the stasis shell, and retrieved his wands. The attic was suffused in blue light again. She watched as he began to work, moving swiftly around the proxy model, drawing out new, smaller lines from the roots of the established ones and linking them to the rest at the appropriate spots. His concentration was absolute, and when he was finished, he shook his hands out and wiped at his forehead with his sleeve.

“There,” he said. “That’s done. Now for the fun part.” He grinned at her. “You sure you don’t want to help?”

“What can someone like me do?” It was snappish and tart, and not a little sullen.

“Quite a lot, actually. And your contribution, again, once the model is linked to the house, will make the wards that much more stable.” He gestured her over.

“The thing about the ink in these,” he said of the biros. “Is that they have everything you need brewed in. It helps if you are Magical yourself, but in the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a witch or a wizard as long as you know what you’re doing. And you do have magic, it’s just recessive, like I said, so once the proxy is activated through your blood, and I’ve opened the blood, it’ll act as a double seal.”

“What do I do?”

“Each of the junctures of the lines here...” He pointed out. “Has to be initialed, with both your name as the home-owner, and mine, as the Warder. I can act as your proxy, since you’ve given me permission, or you can do it yourself. The thing is, it has to be consistent, so you can’t just do a few and leave off. “

“That doesn’t sound fun.”

“It’s more a matter of personal satisfaction,” he said. “You’re putting your hand in and bearing responsibility for your own safety. I mean, sure, I’m here, but this way, it’s on you. You’re not solely dependent on other people to help you – people that you don’t like. That’d get anybody’s back up, wouldn’t it? It’d get mine, for sure. And... Once I’m done again... Even if you can never again in your life use it for anything else, and it does take me to access it... You can tell yourself in all honesty and pride that it’s your magic that’s being used to do the most essential and basic and important thing that, again, I believe, that magic can be used for – to protect those you love from harm.”

He didn’t just strike a nerve at that one, he saw. He struck the whole bundle.

“Show me,” she said, or rather ordered. He held out the biros.

“Pick a colour,” he said. She examined her options, and chose a sensible dark blue one – the exact colour, he noted with wry amusem*nt, as the one she used to mark off the days on the calendar downstairs in the kitchen. He selected a green one himself, and stuffed his wands in his back pockets.

“Here,” he demonstrated. “See,right here. I’ll put mine first, L.D.C., and then you put yours over it. P.E.D. Petunia Evans Dursley. Not beside or under it, but on top of the letters I write. The inks have to mix.”

“What does the D stand for?” she asked as she obliged carefully.

“Domitian. Emperors run in my grandfather’s side of the family. Kind of embarrassing, really, for a good old American boy like me.”

“You could change it,” she suggested.

“Nah. I like it better than Lawrence, anyway.”

“It’s a perfectly respectable name,” she said. “Normal.”

Ren cast her an amused look. She glared back, and signed off on another ley-line.

“It is,” he relented. “I just don’t like it. My friends and family call me Ren. Short for Renaissance, because I’m good at a lot of different things.”

“Such as?”

“Your sister ever mention Combat Dueling?”

“Yes. A bit like fencing, isn’t it, but with spells and wands?”

“Not a bad description,” he said. “Well, I’m a professional there. A good one. I’ll be going for my Grandmastery in January, in Ireland.”


“A lot of countries produce Masters,” Ren explained. “Usually no more than three to five officials at a time, per. There are ranking tournaments and circuit competitions and all, for those. A certain small percentage of those are good enough to be called International Masters. Every ten years, the International Masters all meet at the Global Invitationals and hold another tourney. A huge one. Lasts two weeks, and let me tell you, it gets pretty damned vicious. The winner is declared Global Grandmaster – first among equals. It’s a lifelong award; you don’t have to defend your title again. Trick is, if you compete three times and don’t make it to the quarter finals, you lose your right to ever compete again.”

Petunia lowered her biro.

“And you’re registered in this?” she asked.

“I won one of the wildcard slots,” he confirmed. ‘Won’ was the wrong word, even if Augusta did prefer it over ‘completely rigged the lottery by extremely private request of Her Majesty the Queen’ “It’s a bit tricky; I never actually ran the circuit, and was accredited by an extremely private and circ*mspect government trainee program that taught me the tricks of that trade and Warding simultaneously, so even though no one can argue with my qualifications, I’m considered a total unknown.”

“And you think you can win?”

“I know I can win. I’m one of less than a handful there that fights with two wands, and I don’t just tinker with runes and wards as a hobby. I’ve got tricks up my sleeves - original spells - that none of them have ever dreamed on.”

“You’re allowed to use original spells?”

“The more the merrier. It’s how you win, and with ten million pounds and a world’s worth of prestige at stake, innovation is where it’s at.”

“Ten mill...” She swallowed.

“It’ll keep me in raspberry creams for a good long while, yeah.” He grinned at her. “You want to make a private bet on me, let me know and I’ll arrange it. I promise you, you won’t lose a penny for the fact.”

Petunia sniffed. “I have nothing but your word that you can do so much as twist your opponents’ ear, never mind that the event actually exists in the first place.”

“Your loss,” he said. “The odds against me are absolutely astronomical right now. You’re missing out on a chance at the retirement fund of a lifetime, all totally tax free.”

Her eyes narrowed at him. “Tax free? How would that work?”

“Ah well.” Ren wondered crazily just for a moment why he was telling her this. “It’s a Magical event. The currency you’re working with isn’t income you’d report, is it, and as you’re a Nomaj – Muggle – and not a registered citizen of Magical Britain, they can’t ding you there, either.”

“Is it a legal process?’

“Oh yeah.It’s how they fund the thing in the first place. There’s a bit off the top for registering a bet with one of the booking houses – it’s called a tax - and Bob’s your uncle, there they are. Gotta remember, ma’am, this is a world-wide event. The ten million pounds the winner gets isn’t even a fraction of what the sponsors pull in for a real underdog.”

“And how would a non-Magical sponsor rationalize a sudden influx of income?”

“A vault at Gringott’s – the Goblin bank – and regular deliveries of changed British currency via Owl to start. A good security expert could manage to make your accounts at any national bank functional, but unnoticed.”

She looked thoughtful.

“What would you put down on it?” she said. “If you were me? And what other things are there to bet on besides the ultimate winner?”

He considered that.

“Every entrant has four matches," he said. "The first round of pairs is pre-set, but after that, things get a bit more random. So… Likely survivors, predicted pairings, how long each individual match will last, moves used, specific moves that end the match, injuries, kinds of injuries, fatalities...”


"Not for the faint of heart. There are precautions put into place, and I’ll have all mine lined up, but the type of people attracted to high-level dueling are what you’d call ‘dangerous sports extremists'. Add in original spells, and we’re not talking tickling hexes... Nobody’s out to kill, and deathly spells are prohibited, but accidents do happen both on and off the dueling daises. I’d say that there are at least three contestants with ‘disable’ hits out on them.”

“And you’re not one of them?”

“Not yet, no, but that’s just because nobody knows anything about me. I’ll pick up one or two by the end of my first round, I’m sure. Too much money riding on certain participants to allow me to go on past that. They can’t get past my kind of wards though.” He eyed her. “What would you do if you won that kind of money, under the table?”

Her lips tightened. “That’s none of your business.”

It was absolutely unethical. Absolutely unethical. Ren couldn’t help himself. He didn’t even have to look. It was right there, right at the top of her mind, sitting and glowing in neon.

Leave him.

He blinked, and probed a bit further. Anger: bitter vitriolic resentful anger at dreams and hopes disappointed and lost, of indignity past indignity, social and otherwise... The memories of his loss of health via the incontinence spell, the weeping relief at the reprieve, the constant, terror-stricken realization that with his obesity and habits, it was only a matter of time before a stroke crippled him permanently...

Ren initialed in self defense, shaken to the core. The grief was overwhelming. The grief for her sister, long blockaded behind now-crumbling walls of jealousy and resentment and hate, and degrading years... All brought down in the two years that Vernon had suffered from the incontinence spell, when she’d been forced to see his, and her son’s, ugliness and weaknesses for what they truly were, and her interpretation of her own life for what it had always been, never mind the interrogations by Muggle and Magical child welfare...

She didn’t want Lily back, not to this life. Not to the mess she’d made of it. Her sister would never forgive her. But she’d sell the actuality of her own son into oblivion, yes she would, if she could go back to her twenty-year-old self for a do-over.

They worked in swift silence. Ren didn’t look into her mind again. He didn’t dare.

“There,” he said when they’d initialed the last juncture. “Just enough time to set the generator, and then I’ll be on my way. D’you want me to fix your roof after I’m done?”

“I’m sorry?”

“It’s a bit thin in spots. Going to cost you a pretty pound to fix come next winter if I don’t.”

Petunia nodded. He dug in his pocket for the prepared shell, and inscribed a neat sigil on it. Tapped it, and gestured her over, narrowing his wand to a razor point.

“Now,” he said. “Nick your thumb, and spill a drop or two inside.”

She didn’t flinch, just obeyed silently. Ren dug in his pocket and handed her a plaster. She wrapped the tiny wound neatly. He waited for the count of sixty, and tapped the shell again. It divided into two. He tucked one back into his pocket and took her hand again, setting the original against the gold band of the bracelet. It merged seamlessly, leaving a small, shimmering mother of pearl circle against the gold.

“Hallowe’en,” he said. “Every year. Bleed on the shell, just like you did now, and it’ll reset the works. I’ll check on the proxy three times a year from my end, and make adjustments as needed. For now, though...” He cast a hover charm on his shoes, and drifted up to the glowing lines that formed the roof. Petunia craned her long, horse-like neck and watched as his wands blurred. About her, the whole house seemed to shudder and settle.

“There,” Ren drifted back down. “All done. “

Petunia actually offered him a thin, small smile. It was a bit brittle and wintry, but it was real.

“You’re a considerate man, Mr. Cartwright. Your mother must be very proud.”

“So she tells me.”

Below them, a door slammed. He winced. Petunia sighed.

“I’m a civilized man,” he reassured her. “No worries. My aunt taught me all about how to behave in social public.”

“Not your mother again?”

“My mother is many things,” he said, a bit dryly. “I have it on good authority though– excellent authority – that she's never been that courteous of the delicate social sensibilities of others. To be honest, I think the thought rather offends her.”

Petunia sniffed. Ren couldn’t help but quirk at that. No, he thought... No one could ever accuse Petunia Evans of being nice. Somewhere under there though, he was beginning to realize, there was a vicious, sardonic and wickedly sly sense of humour. He had a sinking feeling that the Sorting Hat would have noted that it was, when it came right down to it, rather similar to his own at times.

He hadn’t forgotten the constant shrill abuse and frying pans. No, he hadn’t. He never would. But neither... Neither could he forget now the wild, keening grief he’d sensed in her mind. He’d been wrong, he thought. So had McGonagall. Lily had pegged her original punishment well after all. Pegged it perfectly , and in that moment...

“I’ll be in touch,” he said as they descended to the foyer. “Ah. You must be Mr. Dursley!”

Vernon eyed him, grunting suspiciously.

“Who’re you?” he asked. He looked exhausted and grey, and frankly unwell almost to death. That didn’t mean he’d be granting anyone the courtesy of dying anytime soon, Ren knew. His counterpart had borne that look for a good thirty years before his own funeral, in his world.

“Mr. Donald Cooper,” his wife said blandly. Ren cast her a peculiar look before that processed - she wasn’t about to let her volatile, emotionally indiscreet husband in on the real name of such a very useful Independent, just in case Official Government Employees were inclined to come poking about asking him questions. She didn’t even glance his way; he took the opportunity to slip into Vernon’s mind and plant the suggestion that the man before him was actually blond with blue eyes, with rather memorable jug ears. “Mr. Cooper, my husband, Vernon Dursley. The smoke alarm went off in the attic, and it wouldn’t stop, so I called his company from the ad in the book. He came right over and fixed it up.”

“Uh huh.” He made his way to the living room. “Bring me a beer, Pet.”

“Of course, dear. If you’ll come with me, Mr. Cooper, I’ll get you your payment.”

She led him back to the kitchen, but instead of retrieving the beer, took a tin from the cupboard and began to pack it neatly with the chocolate chip biscuits. Ren watched her, bemused, as he slung his jacket back on and wrapped his scarf around his neck.

“Bring the tin back,” she ordered.

“I will,” he said, and wiggled his fingers at her as he made his way to the front hall. “You want me to get you those odds closer to the date?”


Her narrow shoulders tightened. He watched the way her whitened fingers literally dented the cold can as she retrieved it from the refrigerator. “Yes,” she bit out. “I do.”

Ren tossed her a quick salute, and let himself out.

Chapter 6: Between Two Waves


This short takes place during the first two to three chapters of 'The Boy With Kaleidoscope Eyes', and features related scenes of Sirius, Remus and Immediately-Post-Dursley Harry all getting to know each other, starting when Sirius picks up Harry from Little Whinging, diverting to Wales and various shops on the Alley and in Hogsmeade, and ending just after he is Sorted. Features many canon characters (or rather, their counterparts), and their perspectives on young Mr. Potter as he ventures back to the Wizarding World.

BEST READ DURING HOME FROM FAR (unless you don't mind a few spoilers).



Severus Snape, as depicted at the end of the chapter, is CANON Snape, crossed over from Canon-World, and still acting, as far as he knows, alone here. He is well aware that Harry and Neville are not eleven, and has been teaching at Hogwarts, again, for two years now.

The term 'magical synchronization' refers to an extremely rare phenomenon that occasionally manifests between two magical cores that act as do matched wand cores - they complement each other in their strengths and weaknesses, and when working together, the two individuals will always produce results far beyond the sum of their parts. This affinity doesn't mark anything like a soul bond, but it does mean that the two are supremely compatible on all levels, and wizarding society expects that such matches (regardless of gender combinations, though some, as everywhere, do get a bit squiffy about same-sex versions) will end (as they inevitably do) in quite extraordinarily happy, successful and productive marriages. Famous examples include: Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel, and Fleamont and Euphemia Potter. Any number of starry-eyed couple make such claims of compatibility, but there actually are medical tests that prove or disprove such matches, so that's a bit hard to fake.

'Home From Far' is not finished yet, but as you now know (and without specifics), the crew from Canon-World does make it back. No spoilers, but any cultural contradictions/anomalies that Harry and Snape and the others seem to gloss over since they've arrived have been consciously accommodated for. More coming soon!

Chapter Text

London, England

August 1st, 1991

The bus ride from Little Whinging to Victoria Coach Station took just under two hours. By the time Sirius Black and Harry Potter made their way via the Underground to Charing Cross Road thirty minutes after that, the former had had ample time to take note of a few of the more disturbing details pertaining to the latter that he’d failed to absorb in the first overwhelming minutes of their reunion. He was not the only one who was taking note there either. The disapproving looks from the other passengers and the passersby, aimed, not the blithely oblivious boy’s way, but at his purported adult’s, were hot enough to blister Muggle paint. One or two of the most offended looked as if they were considering active intervention.

As soon as they’d reached the top of the stairs and entered the main lobby of their final destination, then, Sirius took hold of his godson’s bony little shoulder and propelled him firmly and hurriedly toward the Men’s. They ducked in, and while Harry was preoccupied, humming to himself, the wizard took a moment to magically encourage the lingerers to hurry it up and get on with things. When the last was finally gone, he DisIllusioned the door and turned around. Bright emerald eyes met his inquiringly as their owner, emerged from his stall, waved his hands a bit under the tap in a desultory and completely ineffective fashion.

“Don’t you have to go too?” he asked. “You seemed in an awful rush just now.”

“I’m good,” Sirius said. “Um. Look, I…. Erhm. Don't take this the wrong way, kiddo, but d’you mind if I fix your clothes up a bit for you while we're here?"

"Uh?" Harry looked down at himself, genuinely startled. It took him a moment to process what the issue was - that, while he was clean enough, nineteen months of admittedly natural disinclination and revisited psychological habit had made him a bit careless of his personal appearance. He covered his chagrin with what he hoped was appropriately boyish naivete."How d'you mean?"

"They're a bit big on you," his godfather said delicately. "I know that Muggle styles are Muggle styles, but..."

"Oh. No, no. It’s alright. I’m sorry; I know they’re not very nice, it’s just. I. Erhm.” Caught off guard, Harry scrambled a bit, mentally. “I just had a growth spurt and nothing of my own fits anymore, so Aunt Petunia gave me some old things of Dudley’s to be going on with till we can get to the shops. Can you change the colours too?”

"Sure." Relieved, and politely ignoring (for the moment) the very bad lie, Sirius flicked his wand. The knee-length baggy sweatshirt, heavily stained, completely inappropriate for the weather and ill-fitting to the point where its owner was constantly hauling the rolled sleeves up over his shoulders, shrank considerably. A quick mending charm resolved the frayed edges and the hole under the left arm, the colour turned from a grubby corpse- grey to a crisp navy blue, and the style morphed to a fashionable short-sleeved cotton button-down... The baggy, awkwardly belted rolled denims (though not the associated glamours or invisible pockets) shrank in turn, properly fitted and freshened in colour, and the filthy, decaying trainers whitened brilliantly as the flapping left heel reglued itself to the whole, and the broken, knotted laces unfrayed and re-tied themselves. Finally, his godfather tapped his head. HIs hair fought wildly, but eventually succumbed to the invisible brush.

“Here,” Sirius directed, transfiguring a pair of paper towels into a pair of dark socks. “Shoes off, and put these on. I know it’s summer, but the bare feet look a bit odd with the rest now.” Harry obeyed hastily.

“Coo, guv’!” he said admiringly in his best co*ckney imitation as he examined himself in the mirrors. He was still far too scrawny, of course, but… “‘Now ‘at’s posh, innit?”

“Tidier, anyway.” Sirius bared his teeth as, catching a glimpse of his own reflection, he grimaced at himself in turn. "Looks like we were both in a bit of a rush to leave this morning, yeah?” His straggly locks retreated into a neat dark braid and the mangy stubble disappeared. Another flick of his wand turned his black denims to perfectly creased tan slacks, his scuffed boots to respectable brown dress shoes, and his Whitesnake t-shirt to a starched white dress shirt, neatly tucked and bloused under the de-scuffed and shining leather jacket."There. Now Moony won't turn the magic hosepipe on either of us."

"Is he really that fussed about looking neat?”

"Yes," Sirius said forthrightly. "He is. Bit obsessed, really. Used to hold inspections on me and our dorm-mates before he'd let us go down for breakfast at Hogwarts." He slipped his wand into his sleeve and hefted the satchel. "Alright. That’s that, then. Are you hungry? We'll be having lunch in a bit, but that's a bit too long for me these days. I start gnawing on myself out of habit if I go more than two hours without refueling."

"I can wait."

"Don't be daft." He waved him through the doors and over to a free-standing chippy. "Two lots, please." Less than a minute later, Harry was cramming in a huge mouthful of fresh-fried-and-malted battered haddock. It was, he thought blissfully, quite possibly the most heavenly thing he'd ever tasted in his life. Paper-wrapped fish and chips had gone off the street market in Britain decades ago, but in his mind, they had never, not for one moment, gone out of style.

"Good?" Sirius inquired of him, popping in a thick golden chip as they walked.

Harry just stuffed. Sirius winced as he wiped his hands on his shirt, but said nothing, only patted his shoulder as the tip of his wand extended out of his sleeve once more. The stains disappeared, and his hair was suddenly fighting the brush again. He crossed his eyes as he pulled down a defiantly rumpled strand.

“Sorry,” he said. “It’s not your fault. It just … Does that. It doesn’t like being trimmed either. You’re better off just going with a hat, really.”

Sirius snorted with laughter, but conjured a dark blue fedora. Harry grinned at him and crammed it over his head, tilting it slightly and automatically, as per long habit when going out in public as an adult, so that it covered the scar.

"You're a Potter alright," his godfather said fondly as they approached the Leaky Cauldron. He seemed a bit nervous suddenly. Harry definitely got the impression there was something more he wanted to say, but he only opened the door and ushered him through. The reborn wizard looked around, standing on his toes as he craned his neck for the familiar figure, and felt Sirius’ thin hard fingers take his firmly.

'I've got you," he said. "This way." He led him to a side table at the far end of the pub where a broad-shouldered, impeccably turned-out man was sitting with his back to them. He turned his head suddenly, as if he'd caught their scent before they'd taken two steps, and rose. Harry blinked hard as he approached them, the emotion very nearly overwhelming him.

"Well, now." Remus Lupin smiled warmly down at him. "No mistaking you, is there?"

"Sirius says I look like my dad,” he managed. "Hi. I'm Harry. It's nice to meet you."

"And I'm Moony," he returned, taking the offered hand. "Did Siri coach you on my obsession with manners on the bus?"

"No. Well, maybe a little."

Remus laughed - and Harry nearly fell over as he put his arm around the jittering Sirius and offered him a full, warm and gentle kiss on the lips.

With tongue.

"Erhm?" The not-boy before them said, bewildered, looking from to the other. "What..."

"Problem?" the ex-were inquired pleasantly… Sirius didn’t quite seem able to meet his eyes.

"No," Harry said after a moment. "No, it's just... Only he said you were his flatmate, not... No. No, there’s no problem."

"Excellent. Did you feed him, Siri?"

"Yeah. We had fish and chips on the way over from the station.”

"That'll hold you for a bit, then. Come on, both of you."

Harry said nothing else, just threw up his mental hands and followed them out into the courtyard back of the pub. Sirius, clutching Remus’ hand now, and still jittering slightly, offered him a nervous, tentative smile as they approached the wall.

"It's fine," Harry reassured him. "I reckon I'm a bit slow on these things. Only, you know. Privet Drive. Not a lot of bent people. Not a lot of bent anything. Aunt Petunia even measures out the flower beds with a ruler."

He looked relieved. Remus smiled indulgently as he tapped the wall. Moments later...

"Whoa," Harry breathed obligingly, widening his eyes. "Wicked!" He turned about in circles, in completely unfeigned delight. He’d visited the Alley more than once since he’d returned, on his occasional glamoured wanderings away from Privet Drive - he’d had to get himself a wand or two to be going on with, of course, though he’d stuck to the second hand bin at the back of Ollivander’s rather than going for the suspicious direct fit - but on the whole, he’d followed his instincts, as he had always done, and stayed safely away from the Magical hotspots, and London itself for that matter, rarely straying beyond the suburbs and feeder towns.

Now though...

Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived…

Was back.

For good.

He looked up at Sirius with shining green eyes and, in spite of his trepidation, a grin that split his face from ear-to-ear. Just like that, SIrius’ anxiety disappeared. He grabbed Harry’s hand again, suddenly, clutching it as he clutched Remus’. Remus chuckled gently at both of them, his own (decorous) excitement and anticipation of the long-awaited moment now open and evident.

“Best to take it at a bit of a run the first time if you’re nervous,” he advised him. “And go with the flow of the crowd. Now. On three, cub, and hold onto your hat. We’re headed in!”

And with that, on three and together, the former werewolf, the ex-Prisoner of Azkaban, and the not-eleven-year-old reborn Hero of the Wizarding World plunged into the brilliant chaos of past and memory come round again on the spin of Lady Magic’s wheel.

Diagon Alley

"Got your list, pup?" Sirius inquired as they made their way down the teeming street. Harry jumped, distracted. Dragons he thought, as they passed the apothecary and the hanging ingredients of the storefront, really did have awfully big livers. He fished in his pocket, removing the tiny, many-times-folded square that he’d received in the post the week before. It shook itself out and unwrinkled itself as his godfather examined it. "Isn't this nice. First things first; we'll get you a nice big trunk to stuff everything we buy for you. Flourish and Blotts after that, d’you reckon, Remy, or Madam Malkin’s?”

"You said my parents left me some money?" Harry said tentatively, before Remus could respond. “'Shouldn't we go to the bank first?"

Both men looked at him peculiarly.

"In what world do godsons pay for their own school supplies?"

"We'll go anyway," Remus said peaceably. "Yes, we'll be paying for the essentials plus, Siri, but it's always nice to have a bit of extra on hand, and we'll need to register him for his ADC besides."

"My... What?"

"Auto-deduct card," Sirius explained. "They’re like Muggle credit cards, but without the credit, only the number of galleons you direct from your vault. The storekeepers tap it, and the money goes straight from your account to the shop's. Saves carrying around a ton of gold when you're in a rush, or if you've got a bunch of kiddies or something and don't want to bother with the underground cars."

"Huh.” For a moment, just a moment, Harry blinked - hold on; that’s not right, that can’t be right; those won’t be beta-tested for another eighteen years, not till 2009, the summer after Lily was born - but the alarm silenced itself and the thought slipped away, disinterested and uninteresting, just as soon as it had coalesced. For another moment, his Auror’s instincts considered going after it, but then it disappeared entirely, and the reborn wizard returned his attention to his escorts. “What if you lose it? Can't anybody just use it?"

"Nope. They have all that covered."

“Oh. Alright then. I won’t have to bleed on anything or anything will I?’

“I’m sorry?”

“They just look awfully sirius about their security.”

He waited expectantly. Remus cast him an amused little look, but Sirius seemed not to notice.

“Oh. No, no. Nothing like that.”

Vaguely disappointed, Harry tried again. “You know,” he said encouragingly. “Look at them, all mooning blackly about at the doors there.”

“Mm. They don’t have much of a sense of humour, goblins. Or if they do, they’ve got a tax on displaying it. Oh, and pup?”

“Yeah?” He yelped as Sirius reached out and tilted his hat, smushing it over his face.

“Fair warning,” he said. “You only get to use that pun once. Surely you’ve got more original content pottering about inside your hairy little head?”

Remus shook his head, grabbed both of them by the ears, and led them both firmly, snigg*ring, up the steps.

The Steps of Gringotts

Twenty Minutes Later

Harry examined the gold card in his hand curiously as the crabby-faced doorman ushered them out of the bank. The small scrolling number in the upper left corner showed that it now held a hundred galleons from his trust account.

"Plenty to get you through the year," his godfather reassured him. “A galleon’s worth just about five pounds, and fifty pounds a month is loads, really, when your school supplies and any clothes you need are covered in the godparental budget. Oh, and you’ll get a boost at Christmas, of course, to buy prezzies for your friends, and any kind of books at all are always covered by the family plan. You can just owl-order whatever you like through my account at Flourish and Blott’s here on the Alley, or if it’s a Muggle title, just ask us for it and Remy will get it for you from his contact at Waterstone’s. So really, this is just pocket money for treats and comics and things.”

"May I buy you an ice-cream, then?" Harry offered grandly. "To break it in?”

"You're a kind man, Mr. Potter." Remus tweaked his nose. "You may."

Ten minutes later, they were all standing before the counter of Florean’s. "Two scoops of black coffee," Sirius directed. "And Remus will have the triple fudge brownie chunk in a bowl, with fudge sauce. What about you, kiddo?”

“I’m still full up from the fish.” Harry patted his scrawny belly. “I can wait a bit longer. Also, I want to feel free to drip without mussing up the shops.” He handed over the card to Florean. The man tapped it with his wand, and handed it back as the magical ice cream scoops danced about behind the counter. The register chimed as he reached out and nabbed the cone and the bowl deftly.

"’Ere you go, gentlemen. Nice to meet you, Mr. Potter."

"You too, Mr. Fortescue." Harry examined the card again. In the upper right corner, the balance flashed.

"It still says a hundred galleons," he said, puzzled, as they left the shop. Sirius ruffled his hair once more. He seemed to do that a lot.

"He's a good bloke," he said. "Lots of people would make a fuss, and will, over seeing you. He believes in discretion."

"You mean..."


"That was awfully nice of him."

"Reckon he thinks saving the world was awfully nice of you," his godfather said dryly.

“You mean sitting there and weeing and crying while Mum did him in, don’t you?"

That earned him another peculiar look, but that was all.

“Big crowd outside Flourish and Blott’s,” Remus observed. “I’ll tell you what, we’ll do this the easy way to save time. We’ll take you to Madam Malkin’s, cub, to get your robes fitted while I queue up for your textbooks, and Sirius will get your cauldron and telescope and first year potions gear. The shops there are all right next to each other, with a special on so you can buy the collected kit of everything you need from all three in any one of them to save time.”

“I’ll drop him off, Remy,” Sirius told him. “Don’t worry, pup. You’ll be fine there, Madam Malkin will keep an eye out for us while we get ‘er all done, and you’ll be able to see Moony here in line from her front window anyway. When you’re done, just pop across the street, we can pick up your wand all together, and then it’s on to the fun bits.”

“You mean brooms, right?” Harry said eagerly. “And Quiddish things? What team do we support?”

“Quidditch,” Sirius corrected again. “I’m a Puddlemere United fan. Moony supports the Ballycastle Bats on nocturnal principle.”


“Bats... Werewolves… Moony…”

“It has more to do with that they’re the best team in the league,” Remus told him. “Puddlemere United, pfft. Might as well cheer on the Chudley Cannons.”

“What’s wrong with the Chudley Cannons?”

“Mm. Well, their official motto was changed in 1972 from ‘We shall conquer’ to ‘Let’s just cross our fingers and hope for the best’, if that’s indicative at all.”

“Hasn’t anyone ever told them that they’d be more likely to conquer if they uncrossed their fingers?” Harry asked. “I mean, I’m no expert, only it seems to me it’d be loads easier to catch and throw and stop things aimed at you if you did. Never mind hang onto your broom.”

“They’re a good lot,” Sirius said charitably as Remus snigg*red. “Enthusiastic. Sportsmanlike. And their fans are very loyal.”

“That’s all well and good, but hoping for the best is no way to win any kind of game. They should start with a good solid defense, and learn to ride standing.”


“Standing. Then they wouldn’t have to worry about the crossed fingers affecting their grip on their brooms again. Just their balance.”

“Nobody plays Quidditch standing, pup. Not outside the Lower Americas anyway.”

“Why not? Why do they ride standing over there?”

“It’s just the way they do it,” he said. “It’s how they all learn. Not surprising, really, the school’s in the middle of the jungle, and it’s probably safer than to leave your feet in reach of whatever you’re flying over.”

“Mm,” Remus agreed. “Though every now and then, someone brings the skills back with them. 1971-72,” he said to Harry. “Gryffindor versus Slytherin. First match, and the Slytherin Captain had just come back from his ISEP year in Castelobruxo. He was a hell of a Keeper already, but he’d been the only exchange student from Hogwarts there that year, so he thought he’d come back and surprise us all. First game of the season, he shot out on the pitch in nothing but his pants -”

“They were Brazilian pants,” Sirius interjected. “More like tight, knee-length shorts. Lots of poisonous bugs on the underdraft over there, he said later -”

“Got to the hoops, and bounced up on his feet. Played the whole game standing, barefoot and without a break, final score four hundred sixty to zilch, and at the end of it, he picked up his girlfriend out of the stands, did a victory lap around the school, both standing again, and ended up proposing to her right then and there when they landed in the middle of the pitch.”

"Wow,” Harry said sincerely. “That’s amazing. What team does he play for now?”

“Question of the ages,” Sirius said, not noticeably abashed as Remus elbowed him, hard. “He doesn’t. He brought the Cup home for Slytherin again that year - didn’t let in a bloody goal all season, never mind just that game - and never played again after.”

“What? Why not?”

"He’d made his point. He’d made a bet with his fiancee’s sister at the beginning of the school year - they absolutely hated each other, those two - that if he could pull it off, she’d personally pay for their wedding. The whole thing, everything but the rings; he wanted to do those himself. They ended up having the biggest splashiest ‘do in the history of Europe, and invited the whole school from all seven years they were there, from the Headmaster down to the caretaker’s cat, plus just about everybody else on the continent, and because his sister-in-law had made the bet with him in front of both their fathers and all of their fathers’ friends, and their mutual boss, she couldn’t back out. Rich as sin, both of them, so it’s not like she couldn’t afford it, but still. Story goes the final bill rang in at over ten million galleons, and I wouldn’t say that’s exaggerating one knut. The British and French National Teams both offered the groom a contract as a wedding present - his family was from France originally - and he said “No thank you, I reckon I’m done there now; it would involve so much traveling, you know, and I’m a bit of a homebody, really. Wife, kids, family business, that’s good enough for me. Ta now, and do feel free to order up more of the two-hundred-galleon-a-bottle of champagne for take-away.”

“How can you spend fifty million pounds on a wedding? Is that even possible?

“It is when you hire a team of crackerjack accountants from Gringotts: International - not Gringotts: London, but the king’s own staff - to work up a plan on how to maximize, rather than minimize, the costs.”


“Yep. He even sent his sister-in-law the bill for the consult, signed off on by that king himself. Let me tell you, the memories of that one meal - well, nine meals; it was a three day weekend party - kept me going through all nine years at Azkaban. Even the Dementors couldn’t take them all from me, it was just too much happy for them to deal with.”

“Mm,” Remus agreed dreamily. “The imported twenty-tier chili-spiced chocolate wedding cake from Dona Alina’s in Rio still fuels my Patronus, never mind the gift baskets of her other goodies that they ordered up for all of the guests.”

“Rio de Janeiro? In South America?”

“Yes. They brought her and her hand-picked team personally for the event, and they were guests too, in the end. Honeyduke’s tried to entice her into partnering up there in the hopes of getting some of her secrets, but she pfft’d.”

“Gave her enough of a start to start up an international delivery outlet, though,” Sirius noted. “Based out of New York, built in… ‘75, I think? Half her team moved there straight up, including all of her own kids and their families, and now everyone who works there comes in straight from the Lower Americas. Here we are. Madam Malkin’s. In we go now, and right this way...”

Remus and Sirius' Cottage In Wales

Late that evening

"Harry? You alright in there?"

"Yeah." Harry came in from the loo, wiping his mouth. Life as a revisited small boy, he reflected had its perks. He rather enjoyed the graceless niceties that made adults wince. "I was just brushing my teeth."

"D’jou get the corners?"

"Yes, Mum." He heaved an exaggerated tolerant sigh… Sirius just ruffled his hair for quite possibly the hundredth time that day. The gesture was, Harry had decided, the man’s version of a hug, offered up instead of the other in the name of appeasing both of their presumed public dignity. Either that, or he was projecting on the scritches he so enjoyed whenever he transformed to Padfoot.

"Hey, Moony will check. And it's in the manual. They'll take away my godfather card if I don't follow it exactly." The dark-haired man sat on the edge of the big double bed, made up with sweet-smelling sheets and a cozy patchwork quilt. The pillows were plentiful and plump... Harry sighed happily as he bounced and settled, tugging them about and settling back.

"Can you leave the door open?" he asked.

"'Course." Sirius tweaked his nose. "I'm not too fond of the dark myself."

"I just like to hear you and Moony talking."

"You won't be hearing us long. It's been a long day all around."

"What are we doing tomorrow?"

"Whatever strikes us in the moment. You want us to sleep in with you tonight?"


"I'm a cuddler. I can’t help myself. And it doesn't feel real yet. Bet it doesn't for you either."

"The bed's not very big," he said dubiously. Sirius barked a laugh.

"Moony!" he called.

"Mm?" It floated down the hall.


"Of course. I'll just bank the fire and close up shop, and I'll be right along."

"I'll go change." Sirius patted Harry's knee. Harry eyed them dubiously as they went, but lay back. The bed, he thought blissfully, was brilliant. There was only so much psychological room to work with in a cupboard, even a magically expanded one.... He sat up and went and pushed the window up. The night breeze was sweet and cool. He leaned out, arms on the sill and closed his eyes. His hair ruffled.

"Yet another thing we have in common," his godfather said as he returned. Harry turned his head. "Loo lights, open windows..."

"How did you find this place?”

"We built it," Sirius said. He was wearing long trousers and a Wyrd Sisters t-shirt. "Or rather, Remy did. We bought the land on my first furlough from St. Dymphna's, and spent a lot of hours cuddled in my hospital bed designing it."

"And the whole valley is off the grid?"

"Yep. Hold up." He cast a spell on the window frame. "No mosquitoes or midges allowed. What do you think of it, really?"

"I like the open spaces," Harry said. "And all the windows. And the porch. And the fireplace, and the log walls, and everything, really. Could we maybe get a swing for the big tree?"

"First thing tomorrow," Remus promised, coming in. He had two jars filled with soft pale blue light, and put one on each night table... They lit the room with a soft glow, even as the rest of the lights in the house dimmed. "How's that?"

"Perfect. Um... How...."

Both men blurred. Harry felt rather an idiot as they both bounced up, snuggling one on either side of him. It was, he had to admit, nice. He snuggled down into the soft bed, Padfoot at his back and his arm slung over McWolf.

"Don't panic if you wake up and I'm not here," he told them. "I wake up really early, and I like to go for a fly. Would that be alright?"

McWolf nuzzled him, tail thumping. Harry yawned and fell soundly asleep.

The Next Morning (August 2nd)

"Mnrgh." Sirius rolled over and blurred, throwing his arm over the sleeping McWolf. McWolf blurred back, and Sirius found himself being kissed thoroughly, thoroughly awake. He mmed happily, kissed back enthusiastically, and just as things were beginning to get properly interesting...

"Why do I smell bacon?" He half sat, propping himself on his elbow, puzzled.

"Mm?" Remus nipped at the tender spot behind his ear. Sirius batted him off and sat up all the way.

"Seriously, Moony. I smell bacon. You didn't buy a house-elf when we were out yesterday, did you?"

"No, I did not."

A soft knock sounded. "I made breakfast," a muffled voice said. "D'you want some, or should I put it aside for hotting up later?"

"Godric's garters." Sirius tumbled off the bed, picking himself up. "He cooks?" He opened the door. Harry blinked up at him, spatula in hand.

"Hullo," he said.

"You cook?"

"Course. It's only eggs and bacon; it isn't exactly hard, is it? There's coffee and tea too. I put it all on the table on the porch."

He leaned around Sirius, waved the spatula at Remus, and retreated, humming. Remus pulled himself up. The bed covers flicked neatly into place. The two men made their way, bemused, through the kitchen. A sinkful of bubbling hot water held a soaking pan. The counters were otherwise immaculate. Sirius opened the screen and regarded the scene before him. The table was set for three over a red and white checked cloth, the forks and knives straight, the napkins folded tidily, and the juice glasses full... There was a platter with perfectly cooked eggs, bacon, sausage and oven-toasted crumpets. A small jar of marmalade sat out with a spoon neatly beside it (not in it) and a chunk of butter had been divided between three tiny glass bowls, beside each plate. In the center of the table was a glass tumbler, filled with a clumsy lot of summer wildflowers, drooping a bit, but colourful and friendly. The morning sun streamed over the hill. It was all quite idyllic.

"Good God," Remus said blankly. "You did all this, Harry?"

"I get up early, like I said. I can make breakfasts from now on, if you like?"

"You're on." Sirius seated himself promptly, yet shirtless, and reached for his coffee mug. "Oh my God, this is good."

"I put a bit of allspice in the grounds," Harry explained, sliding into his own chair. "Sometimes the beans are a bit bitter, and it cuts it. I heard my maths teacher say it once, when the librarian was saying they got a bad batch delivered to the lounge. I don't know if these ones are bitter, but I saw the jar in the cupboard and it smells really nice, I thought, so I added it in."

Remus said nothing, just buttered a crumpet and bit. "I feel horribly guilty," he said to Sirius. "But I'm afraid, Harry, that we're going to have to take you up on your offer whenever you feel inclined. Though you needn't ever feel obliged. It just makes a nice change."

"Mm," Sirius agreed around a thick mouthful of sausage. "So good. Mm. These eggs are perfect. How d'you get 'em so they're not runny?"

"I cook them?"

Remus chuckled, and helped himself to bacon.

After Breakfast

"You know, somehow I thought taking on a kid would be more work?" Sirius craned his neck. On the lawn, under a tree, Harry lay on his front, reading one of his textbooks, his bare feet waving as he hummed to himself and practiced the occasional wand movement. Remus sat on the steps beside him and handed him over a cup of tea. "He's so quiet. Downright bloody weird, considering his parents."

'Nurture versus nature, more than likely,' Remus said. "Sounds like he got used to staying out off the way at the Dursleys so as not to attract trouble."

"No, it's not that. He's happy enough, and asks questions and all when he wants to know something, and he doesn't seem nervous around us or anything. He's just ... Not loud. Content with his own company, like."

"I'm not going to complain about that one. I have to admit I was more than a bit worried on what kind of demon Lils and Jamie would produce. They've been bracing themselves up at Hogwarts for weeks now."

"I can’t believe he's an Animagus." Sirius leaned against him. "What do you think it means?"

"Honestly? I think that scar of his is indicative. Riddle packed one hell of a lot of power, and you know he used AK on him. He got hit, and the power went in him, or through him, and it might have encouraged his core a bit. He was fifteen months, old enough to remember us Changing." He sipped his tea. "I don't know, Siri. Some things we're just going to have to go with.'

"Well, it's a brilliant form," his lover said. "Moony would have ended up playing tag with him all through the Forbidden Forest."

Remus guffawed. "Yes," he said. "And Jamie would have been dead jealous. Flying along the ceilings, that kind of speed available..."

"Snape never would have survived him," Sirius agreed. They both grimaced at that. Across the lawn, Harry put the book aside and rolled on his back, looking up through the leaves of the trees.

“Alright then, pup?" Sirius called.

"Yeah," Harry called back. "There's a squirrel up there. I think he remembers me from when I was flying about this morning, and is really confused."

"Can you talk to them too?"


"Want to have a go on your broom?" he offered. The boy perked and sat up, looking hopefully at Remus. Remus waved him off.

"Go on," he said affectionately. "At least we don't have to worry about you falling; you can just shift..."

Two Hours Later

Harry hung his broom carefully on the hook, wiped his feet and lined his shoes up neatly, standing on his toes and stretching mightily. Sirius watched him as he shook his shoulders out and came over to sit opposite, reaching for the book on the table and removing the marker.

"Got your routines down pat, don't you?" he observed.


"The shoes, the stretch, the shake, the book… You'd swear you were coming in off the night shift, and settling in for a bit of peace and detoxing before the wife and kids come down."

"I like things the same," Harry said after a moment. "Is that bad?"

"No, no. Not at all. You fit right in with us, is all; we're both fiends for routine. Me because of my therapy and Remy just loves his ordered environment."

He watched again as the boy tucked his feet up and returned to his book with no further comment. Remus came in and put a cup of tea beside him. He reached out and took it without looking or spilling a drop. Sirius frowned slightly. He rose and made his way to the kitchen, where Remus was supervising two baskets of apples as they peeled themselves neatly and dropped themselves into the huge pot.

"Bit of a little old man, isn't he?" he said in an undertone. "With the routines and all? D'you think he's compulsive?"

"No," Remus said. "There's no anxiety there, like you said. He's a creature of habit, is all. Habits and routines make for a predictable environment, yes, but I really do think it's in his nature too."

Sirius sat down. "It just shouldn't be this easy," he said again.

"He's on a bit of a honeymoon period, I think," his lover reassured him. "And we really do have that tendency to brace ourselves because of Jamie and Lils again. I think we just have to face facts, Siri; we both lucked out and hit the jackpot."

"I just..." He blew out his breath. "I worry."

"I do too.” They sat, drinking their tea quietly, feet tangled under the table. Eventually, the object of their concern wandered in, mug and book in hand and setting both on the counter as he sniffed in pleasure over the simmering apples. They watched, saying nothing as he removed a silver spoon and a long wooden one from the drawer, tasted the sauce with the silver spoon, examined the spices Remus had laid out, added a bit of cinnamon, stirred the pot with the wooden spoon, and rinsed both. He then returned the wooden spoon to the rack before refilling his tea mug, adding a precise two lumps of sugar, a skillful dollop of cream, and stirring exactly six times in either direction with the silver spoon again. Remus’ brow furrowed a bit as he watched him wash it and place it in the rack alongside the wooden utensil, tidying up the counter with a damp cloth before retrieving the mug and book again.

"What are you reading there, pup?" Sirius asked him. “'Quidditch through the Ages', right?”

"No. One of your old school books.” He came across the kitchen and boosted himself up on a chair. “Can I ask you a question there, Moony? Since it's your name in the one I'm looking at?’


"Did you like Runes?"

Remus looked surprised.

"I did," he said. "I preferred DADA though. Why do you ask?"

"It's all just really interesting is all. The stuff on ley-lines and ley paths and the Solstices and equinoxes, and how it all relates to Warding. Only I'd like to read more about it."

"It gets pretty technical past the point," his guardian said. "Of course we can get you some more books on it, but you'll have to grow into them, for the most part."

"Alright," Harry said agreeably. "I just want to know." He swung his feet and slurped his tea. "Did my mum and dad like them? Runes, I mean?"

"Mmno." Sirius chuckled. "Not really their cuppa. Runes are subtle magics, and there was nothing subtle about your parents. They were all over the bangs and bells and whistles kind of magics."

"Oh. Well, those are okay too. “

“Can I ask you a question now?’


“Do you know how to swim? Only we do have the pond out there, so..."

"A bit? Uncle Vernon took us all to the sea for a week once when I was six. I think they took me because they were hoping I'd drown or something. There was a big boy there, he was on his hols from school, and he surfed. I liked watching him. He went out early too, and said if I wanted to swim for a bit he'd watch me. I said I didn't know how, and he showed me some. He was really nice. He was with his dad, he said, and he had a little sister, but their parents had just got divorced, and she went to live with her mum. He missed her a lot. I think that's why, he said she was my age."

"Lovely," Remus said. "Do you ever wish you had brothers and sisters?"

"Sometimes," he said. "Why, is Sirius pregnant?"

They stared at him, thunderstruck. Sirius turned purple. Harry smirked and slid down, making his way back to the front room..

"Oh my God." Sirius buried his face in his hands. "Oh, my God,Moony!"

"Can we go to Hogsmeade?" Harry called. "Only that sweets shop sounds brilliant, and I heard someone in the robes shop talking about Zonko's joke shop?"

"And so it begins," Remus said, resigned. "Yes, Harry. We can go to Hogsmeade. We'll go next week, once we're in need again of the grocery shops..."

Zonko’s Joke Shop


August 7th, 1991

"Not 'zactly what could've been expected," Zonko observed, leaning against the counter as he watched Sirius and Harry examine the shelves of products. "Is he?"

"How's that?" Remus tucked his modest purchases in his satchel.

"Quieter, for one," he said. "On'y Lils and Jamie... Weren't. No more'n Fleamont was. He had the nice manners, but wasn't quiet."

"He may look like them," he said. "But he's definitely his own man." He looked after the boy fondly. "And he's not that quiet. He's just polite."

"Nice to see." Zonko straightened as Harry came back, his arms laden. "So. What've we got?"

"Silencing slippers." Harry put the pair on the counter and examined a small jar. "Does this really turn your hair blue?"

"As the sky."

"How long?"

"Oh, twelve hours, give or take?"

"Brilliant." He put the jar on the counter beside the slippers, and a small bright book, 'Prankworthy Potions'. "You've got loads of great stuff here."

"Whose shampoo are you planning on spiking?" Remus inquired.

"Nobody's," Harry said. "I saw a girl on the train once with spiky hair with blue tips. It was wicked. I thought I would try it."

"You're planning on pranking yourself?"

"I just want to see what it looks like." He handed the ADC to Zonko. He ran it through briskly through the register, and packed the slippers and the jar of blue dye in a small bag. "Padfoot?"


"Can we make my trousers look like this?" He dug a paper out of his pocket. Sirius examined it.

"That's a lot of pockets," he observed.

"I saw them on the telly once," his godson explained. "They seem like they'd be very handy to keep things in."

"Mm. Why not. Let's see here. Hold your arms out."

Harry obeyed, turning slowly. Remus watched as Sirius transfigured his jeans painstakingly to a light cotton canvas fabric, with two back pockets, two side pockets, and three down each leg. He nodded in satisfaction, and tucked the shrunken bag in.

"Thank you," he said. "Can I..." He gestured across the street.

"No more than two galleon's worth," Remus warned. "And there'll be a tax on anything and everything with chocolate."

"I'll keep that in mind." The door swung and chimed.

"No dungbombs? No frogspawn soap? No jiggly jellies? And he plans to prank his own shampoo?"

"His folks are pretty strait-laced," Sirius said. "He just needs to process the possibilities."

"Don't let him process too much," the proprietor advised. "Mischief and mayhem is all very well, but the manners are a nice treat. And he did get the 'Prankworthy Potions' book. You think he’ll have any of Fleamont’s talent there?’

“He brews an excellent cuppa,” Remus said. “If it’s any indication. Hard to tell, though, he seems interested in just about everything we’ve told him about in terms of his basic subjects.”

“‘Jou try him on a broom?’

“We did. Flies like a bird, like the best Potter of them all.”

The door chimed, and a rush of customers came in, laughing. The two men wiggled their fingers at Zonko, and slipped out and across the street.

"You have excellent taste, I must say." Remus nibbled at the chocolate raspberry mousse ball offered him. Sirius popped in an ice-mouse, the tail dangling gruesomely out of his mouth as he crossed his eyes at Harry. It made a sad squeaking noise at it expired. Remus winced.

“What else’ve you got there?” he asked as they made their way toward the Three Broomsticks.

“Bit of everything? They were just putting out samples. The best was the hot ginger silk drinking chocolate. I tasted it, and ended up with a whole huge tin, along with the travel mug. Try?” Harry offered it. Remus grabbed and sipped. His eyes rolled back in his head. He turned and headed wordlessly back toward the shop. Sirius nodded to a bench, settling and examining the contents of the bag Harry offered him..

“What the…Black chocolate truffle cigars with cinnamon whiskey?”

“Mr. Honeyduke gave me those to give to you both, and said congratulations.”

Sirius unwrapped the packet unceremoniously and flicked one alight, drawing deeply.

“Oh my God,” he said blissfully. “Oh my God. That’s just… “

“Can I try? He said they magic the bad stuff out, and it’s just the experience, really. And the taste.”

“No, you may not. You’re short and scrawny enough, and they’ll stunt your growth.”

“You’re scrawny too,” he pointed out. Sirius just blew a stream of chocolate-and-whiskey scented smoke out of the corner of his mouth, and closed his eyes in deep content. Harry eyed him, and grinned to himself in satisfaction as he took the opportunity to slip a small packet from the depths of one of his pockets into his sleeve.

The Three Broomsticks

He chewed the cottage pie gingerly. Remus watched him as he pushed it about a bit.

"Too much fudge?" he inquired.

"No. It just... Harry lowered his voice. "It tastes a bit... Off."

Sirius reached over and helped himself to a forkful.

"It's fine," he said. "Same recipe as always."

Harry braced himself, and tried for another mouthful.

"I'm really sorry," he said apologetically. "Maybe it's me, I don't know. But it's just... Not to my taste."

"Want to swap?" Sirius offered.

"I don't..." He looked torn. "Yeah, if you really don't mind?"

"No problem." He swapped out his lamb and peas. Harry dug in, relieved, watching out of the corner of his eye as he polished it off. Sirius plowed his way through happily. He wiped his mouth with his napkin - and let out with a resounding belch that echoed through the entire Three Broomsticks. Remus looked at him, astonished. Harry cackled madly, as another belch sounded and another and another.

"What the..." Remus put his fork down.

"I can't believe you fell for it!" Harry nearly fell off his chair. "I can't believe it worked! That's brilliant!"

"What... What worked?" Sirius was cut off mid-word by a resounding last effort, a full thirty seconds' worth. Remus sighed.

"Pockets, Mr. Potter," he ordered.

Harry picked himself up and pulled out the burping powder.

"I didn't nick it," he said. "I caught Mrs. Zonko in the back hall when I was visiting the loo, and gave her the money for it. She went and got a pack for me, and I put it in my pocket."

"How'd you get it into the pie?"

"I pinched a bit when I was dropped my napkin, between my fingers, and sprinkled it over the top," he said. "Along with the salt. But I only did the left half of the pie. The half I didn't touch." He sat up and recovered, grinning madly. Sirius roared, between burps. Madam Rosmerta came over and looked down severely, mouth twitching.

"Got what was coming to you, did you, boys?" she said to Remus and Sirius. "What goes around..." She placed a butterbeer before Harry. "Enjoy."


"You got one over on Sirius Black before you ever set foot on the Hogwarts Express," she said. "And you didn't break my pub with it. Don't think I don't appreciate that. Dungbombs and cherry blasters just make extra work for the waiting staff." She pinched his cheek. "Don't burn down the castle in your first week, now."

"No, ma'am," he said, still chortling. "I won't. That was hilarious. I can't believe it worked !"

"You've been waiting for this moment all week, haven't you," Remus said, resigned. "The manners, the consideration, the neat and tidy habits, the full breakfasts... You've been leading us by the..." He caught Sirius' wide-eyed look. "What?"

"Your hair! It's gone all..." He gestured.

"What?" He transfigured his fork to a mirror. Sure enough, his neat brown hair was streaked with vivid iridescent blue. "How the hell..."

"I bought a comb just like yours," Harry explained. "You keep it in your right pocket. When I was in Honeydukes', before you came in, I asked the shop-girl if she could do switching spells. She said yes, and I asked her if she'd switch the combs for me, for a galleon, and she did. She said she didn't know how it would work because it would be wet, after I put it on, and would get everywhere, and I asked her to dry it, and she did and it softened from the heat of your scalp, after you went to the loo and now you're Blue Moony!"

"AHHHHHHHHHH!" Sirius howled in disgust. Remus roared.

"Slytherin," Rosmerta opined, around her own riotous laughter. "That's brilliant. He got both of you? Mr. Potter, I am impressed." She held out her hand. Harry grinned and shook it.

"It wasn't taking the piss," he said to his guardians. "I am all those things. But I heard you worrying last night and I reckoned I'd show you I'm not a total loss after all."

"You're brilliant." Remus hugged him one-armed. "Blue Moony, indeed. Oh, and Potter?"


"The war," he said with a feral, rather alarming grin. "Is on."

"Rules?" Sirius inquired. "Limitations?"

"Nothing that affects anyone else," Harry said immediately. " That's not on. You can recruit help, like I did, but it's all personal. Between us. And nothing like boils or anything that makes the other person sick. That's mean. Also, Sirius has to take me shopping once, alone, or get someone to take me so I can get stuff. I'm eleven; I can't cut out and Apparate the way you can for supplies. Also, nothing that uses a wand. Because again. Eleven."

"That's fair," Sirius said. "I'll referee. We'll set up a points system, up to the day we go to Hogwarts. "

"No giving him ideas," Remus warned. "We want to see what we've got to work with in and of himself. As for your rules and limitations... I agree."

He held out his hand. Harry gave him a thumbs up.

"What, no manners?"

"I left Zonko's before you did," Harry pointed out. "I don't know what you have in your pockets."

"Your trust in me is overwhelming," his guardian said. "Truly."

The greatest Auror of his century just smirked.

"We have to go back to Zonko's" he said. "Mrs. Zonko made me promise to come back if I got it over on you without either of you noticing, and if I did, she said she'd refund me my money for the powder. Madam Rosmerta?"

"Yes, dear?"

"Will you write down that I did it, as witness?" He held out a clean napkin.

"I'll do better than that." She waved over a waitress. "I'll take you there to shop. You boys enjoy your dessert and tea, on me, and ponder the phrase 'the biters bit'."

Harry looked at Sirius hopefully. Sirius reached into his pocket and removed his card. "Give me yours," he directed. Harry handed it over. He tapped both in a distinct pattern.

"There," he said. "You've got an extra ten galleons to work with. Enjoy."

Harry grinned diabolically.

"Can we go to Diagon Alley?" he asked Rosmerta. "I'll buy you an ice cream!"

"Sure thing." She patted his cheek. "I want a full report, though, on the next three weeks. Two hours, then, and twenty five galleons, Black, that he shows up Lupin there."

"You're on."

They headed for the floo. As soon as they popped out in the Alley...

"So. Where to?"

"Potions shop." Harry pulled the book from his pocket. "There are three here I want to try, and I need some specialty ingredients."

"Potions can go really wrong, honey. You sure you want to go that route?"

"They're really easy," he assured her. "From the six ingredients and less section. And I'm a really good cook, so it shouldn't be too hard."

"How are you going to brew them?" she inquired. "With them around and about?"

"I'll figure it out."

"Well, when you do, tell me how you did it," she said. "Honey?"


"Thanks for not blowing up my pub."

He gave her a peculiar look. "Why would I do that? I was pranking them, not you. Collateral damage isn't on, like I said."

"Not a lot of kids understand that," she said. "Or care. We're Magicals, we can fix most things."

"I don't believe in having to fix things," Harry said flatly. "Not when you have the power to prevent them getting broken in the first place. And pranks are supposed to be funny, and breaking things or hurting people and their things isn't funny at all, is it?"

Rosmerta looked down at him.

"You may have your father's hair," she observed. "And your mother's eyes... But that's where it starts and stops, isn't it?"

"I don't know," Harry said. "I never got to meet them, did I? Because it all got broken, and people got hurt, and maybe it's fixed, but it wasn't really down to me one way or the other. This is. I'm never going to make the kind of mess that someone else has to fix. Or that makes someone else have to be fixed."

He made his way into the potions shop. Rosmerta followed him, watching him thoughtfully.

The Three Broomsticks Again

"It's been a pleasure, Mr. Potter." She kissed his head. He tolerated it politely. "Your creativity astounds. Completely outclassed," she said to the waiting parents. "Com-pletely."

"Go on," Remus said to the two. "I'll catch up."

They went out obligingly. He turned to her.

"I'll testify," she said quietly. "He's brilliant, Moony, but the way he thinks... It's like someone caught in a trap. Looking for ways out. He was thinking of what you would do to him, not what he would do to you. There's a difference, you know?"

Remus nodded worriedly. "What did Florean say?"

"That he wants to pin him down and force-feed him ice-cream till he gains a stone, at least," she said. "He says the week he's been with you has made a world of difference in the spring in his step and his colour, but he's just... He walks into a shop and starts scouting for exits. He doesn't even notice it."

"Anything else?"

"Kid's a born Warder if I've ever seen one," she said. "He doesn't believe in fixing problems. He believes in preventing them. ‘No one and nothing's getting broken on my watch: collateral damage is unacceptable’, quote unquote."

He nodded, and kissed her cheek. "How creative is creative?" he inquired. She snorted.

"He's going to annoy the sh*t out of Snape," she predicted. "Let's put it that way, if only because he's so damned scrupulous. He'll think it's a ploy, and will never forgive him for it because he won't be able to justify punishing him for anything he does."

"Ah well. I'll be there to run interference."

"Bit of a changeling," she said. "The hair and eyes really are only skin deep. I'll let the other teachers know as they come through this week, particularly Minerva. She's been grinding her teeth to powder all summer."

Remus nodded, and let himself out.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

September 1, 1991


The Great Hall buzzed in excitement, and silenced equally quickly as the small, scrawny boy came forward and boosted himself up on the stool. Minerva McGonagall smiled at him reassuringly as the Sorting Hat settled over his eyes. The Hat hummed to itself... Thirty seconds passed, then sixty, and a hundred twenty.

"Not so simple a case after all," Filius Flitwick murmured.

"Aaand it's officially a Stall," Professor Babbling said, watching the tempus before her. They all watched as Harry shifted a bit on the stool. The students glanced at each other.

"Seven minutes," Professor Vector murmured. "What on earth..."

At eight minutes and nineteen seconds precisely, the Hat heaved a great sigh.

"BETTER BE GRYFFINDOR,' it called. Harry took the hat off and slipped down from the stool, walking quietly over after its final speech to him. The students cheered and clapped. He just slipped into his seat.

"He doesn't exactly look thrilled," Flitwick observed. "What do you think he was hoping for?"

"He expressed no preference that Siri or I heard," Remus said. "And he grilled us quite thoroughly on the pros and cons of all the options, including the long-term House cultures."

Neville Longbottom sat down.

"Hufflepuff," everyone predicted in chorus.

"Augusta doesn't think so," Minerva said. They all turned, surprised, to where she was now standing a few feet away watching the proceedings. "He picked up on the symbolism of her hat when he was nine. She says he sees a lot more than she ever gave him credit for, since she's been watching. He just keeps it to himself. And he has exquisite manners, I must say. I take tea with them regularly, and he's got absolutely nothing of Frank in him there, or Allie either, on her worst days."


"He inherited the best of them both," she translated. "Frank's shrewd mind, and Allie's kindness. And he treats the house-elves like people. Please, thank you, looks them in the eye... They adore him."

"Any more signs of magic?"

"She's worried," she admitted. "I told her not to give him Frank's wand, and pointed out that she herself goes on on how they're nothing alike, but she's just..."

They all sighed.

The Hogwarts Professors’ First Week Post-Formal-Review Soiree (No Headmasters Allowed)

Minerva McGonagall’s Quarters

"On. Their. First. Try, " McGonagall enunciated. "Perfect transfigurations, both of them, and then I set them the fountain pen, and this..." She tossed it to Snape in exchange for the whiskey he’d poured her. "Was the result. Of them workingtogether.Would you mind stepping into my office there once you've had a look, Severus, and getting the second bottle in the third drawer of my desk? And no, before you ask, I can't Accio it; it has to be unlocked first."

The Potions Professor examined her offering. Elegant, spiraled, dark wood bound in silver, with a flattened end... On one side was the sigil of Potter, and the other, that of Longbottom. He rolled his eyes minimally and passed it on without comment before ducking out. Filius examined it closely.

"Well," he said, passing it on. "Far be it from me to pass judgment, but there are small blessings and not, and if there's anything good come from it, however crass it might be to say it... Thank the bloody Founders that Frank will never realize it."

"What do you think, Remus?” Minerva asked.

"They've been inseparable since they met on the train," he said. "And Harry bought two wands, not one, though he got middling results with the second - the second that matched Neville when Harry dropped it and he picked it up. I heard Hermione Granger saying that the first spell he cast with it was Vinea Incarcerus."


He told the story.

"That'll help your case," Babbling said. "Won't it? Synched cores are not exactly a sickle a dozen, and once Augusta does find out... She'll stop at nothing to keep her grandson’s match out of an even potentially abusive situation."

"We can't use it," Remus said. "Unless it's absolutely necessary. It's one thing if they were a boy and girl, but they're not."

"You should tell her anyway," Filius said. "It'll get her actively in the picture, and she's one of the few people who've got the kind of oomph and connections that could make the difference."

"How did they do in your class?" Professor Vector inquired of him.

"They had their feathers dancing the tango together by the second half of the hour. And the first half hour was spent arguing over who got to lead."

Everyone snorted with laughter.

"Any other possible pairings?" Sprout inquired.

"Granger and Weasley," Minerva said. “Though that could just be projection on my part, since he actually got her to lower her nose over the fountain pen."


"He distracted her," she said. "Asked her for help. It was quite impressive, really. He needed the help; he's a bit hopeless there, and that wand of his doesn't help - it was Charlie's - but he asked her for it. I listened in a bit, and he said that some people are just like that when they work together. More than the sum of their parts, and he reminded her that their wands are complementary, as they saw on the train, so it's not really surprising. She offered him hers, and it did nothing - she's got a dragon there, and you know the Weasleys and their unicorns - but he handled it very, very well. It reminded me more than a bit of Arthur managing Molly."

"They model what they see," Sprout said. "Either that, or the complete opposite. Longbottom sounds exactly like Augusta herself, and as for Potter… If the opposite’s indicative there, it doesn't exactly bode well for where he came from, does it?"

"Anyone else?"

No one said anything.

"Will Augusta have trouble do you think?" Filius asked Minerva directly. "Neville is the last Heir of Longbottom."

She waved that off. "That’s what Solace is for. That could even work to their better advantage, if managed prudently, and with Augusta, you know it would be. And Harry.... Frankly, Filius, he reminds me a great deal - a great deal - of Fleamont. What do you think, Severus? Do you think he's got any of his talent for brewing there?"

Snape sighed as, returning to the room, he refilled everyone's glasses.

"He knows his theory," he said, extremely begrudgingly. "And the boil antidote that he brewed with Longbottom was acceptable. His handwriting is abominable, and Longbottom's spelling worse, so I may have to leave them paired just so they can trade off talents there when handing in written assignments."

"We heard there was an incident with your wand and his?"

Snape's mouth pursed.

"He was tense," he said shortly. "Very tense. His wand seems very sensitive to his moods. Dragon heartstrings; both Horntails... His challenged mine as infringing on its territory. No one was injured, and nothing was damaged."

"Were you that brutal to him?" Minerva tsked.

"No. It is, I believe, indicative of his chronic condition. He represses a great deal. Longbottom...." He said it reluctantly. "Longbottom tempers him. They temper each other. Potter is calmer, and Longbottom more assertive. As soon as Longbottom put his hand on Potter's shoulder, when the wands flared... His calmed, and mine followed. I am sure he has heard of my history with his father, and was expecting the worse."

Eyebrows shot up.

"Do not look at me like that," he said shortly again. "We all know what the chronically abusive environment can do to a child. I have heard enough on the Alley and in Hogsmeade to understand that he is obviously affected, and I did meet his aunt and uncle once or twice. They should not be allowed to parent a child of their own, much less someone else's."

Sirius stared at him, dumbfounded.

"This is not about Potter," the Potions Master said impatiently. "It is about that criminal , and his negligence, on all levels. He knows. He alwaysknows. And I have had enough, and I will not allow it to happen again. I. Will. Not. Potter... Potter, however he genuinely needs aid... Will provide the context and public catalyst to bring Albus Dumbledore down once and for all. If we do let him get away with it - if we stand aside and allow our community to stand aside - there will be no stopping him. If he dares to do it to Harry Potter, if we allow him to do it to Harry Potter, we too will be indictable, not just in his case, but in all cases. Up to this point... We could not have won. He is the Supreme Mugwump, after all. There is no other child in Europe other than Potter that could, or would incite the Wizarding World to ignore that fact.”

They looked at each other.

"I understand, Severus," Remus said quietly. "And I do agree with you. But..."

"We don't have to put Harry out there, Remus," Sirius said to his lover. "His case provides a window of time to work with, but we don't actually have to use him as case exhibit A. We've got the eye of the community and the ear right now because of him, and he’ll act as the match that lights the fire, but beyond that… There are other examples that will do the job. A lot of other examples. Once started, that fire just isn’t going to go out, no matter how hard he tries."


"No." Sirius Black squared his thin shoulders. "Snape's right. He’s right. Harry aside, it's our moral responsibility to stop him. And he was right when he said it's now or never. If..." He set his lips. "If two professors - current professors, not retired ones - who have that history of hating each other were to cooperate, and present themselves together, and testify together that they were both injured by him, personally, as students themselves, with all of the other current professors as corroborative witnesses.. Only, people would have to take it seriously, won't they? Everyone knows our personal history. They know that would take something like this for us to work together, especially over Jamie's son. We can go back to loathing each other when it's done. But till then, and on this subject, at least..." He turned and looked Snape full in the eye, standing and holding out his shaking hand. "Truce?"

Remus' mouth dropped open. Snape examined him. The expression in his eyes was peculiar, almost curious. For a long moment, he said nothing. Then...

"You are sure? It will not be easy, and you do not deal well with stress now."

"I'm a lot less stressed at the idea of working with you toward the necessary than I am at the thought of sending my godson back to that hellhole," his youthful nemesis said grimly. "And getting him out will be as good as halfway to a cure, believe you me."

"Very well." Snape stood and took his hand, shaking firmly. It was chilled, and felt, he thought, appallingly fragile in his, and tremors aside, the grip not nearly what it should have been. He turned it over.

"I will make you a potion for this," he said. "This kind of palsy can be controlled, but it requires a more competent brewer than whomever you have on call."

"Thank you. And for the record? Situational - exclusively situational - truce or no, I still think you’re a great greasy git."

“Of course you do. Mutt.” He pointed to the vacated chair. “Sit. Stay. “

“Don’t make me piss on you, Snivellus. Going on nine years in Azkaban, and yeah, okay, my soul survived, but great broody swooping black arseholes still set off the reflex.”

Remus snigg*red as they returned to their seats.

Chapter 7: Because, Longbottoms!


In Which We Are Offered A Brief Excerpt From One Of Neville 'Ace F.' Longbottom (of-Longbottom's ) Future Personal Projects

Inspired by the Ineffable Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Masterpiece: 'Good Omens' and featuring a gender-unassigned, neutral-pronouned Deity. Because God is actually, according to official Roman Catholic Doctrine (the predominant religious thematic in this particular series again) Neither Male Nor Female. Also, Trinitarian, which just makes the plural nod sensible.


I wrote this for fun. Because, Longbottoms!

If you haven't read 'Sailing to Byzantium', I would suggest you boot on over and take a look. The Lancashire dialectic translations are all there at the top of each chapter, from Ch. 4 onwards.

Chapter Text


By A. F(ine) Gardiner


The Noble andMost Ancient House of Longbottom

On the eighth day, God woke up early. Considerably invigorated by Their very first Sunday lie-in and afternoon off, They looked around at all They had wrought the week previous, nodded in satisfaction, and went off to make Themself an early morning breakfast of coffee, buttered toast, marmalade, beans, fried tomatoes, mushrooms, and, of course, garden-fresh fruit salad.

The fruit salad was especially nice, if a bit short on apple. That was, God thought, a bit odd, considering that They did have that lovely tree right across the green to be going on with, and it had, when They’d last checked, been happily producing. One quick floo-call later, and the Angel of the Eastern Gate was off to take up the matter with the Caretakers, flaming sword in hand. God might or might not have thought that threatening the local vegetation with fiery death and destruction was a bit much, but They certainly couldn’t fault the Angel’s admittedly overabundant enthusiasm for his job, particularly given the fact that They'd instilled it in him Themself.

The washing-up disposed of, God decided to go for a bit of walk before tackling Their brand-new and surprisingly backed-up suggestion box. Their initial attempts to follow the straight and narrow unfortunately thwarted by the fact that borders in general were yet a bit of a work-in-progress, and that roads weren’t scheduled for installation till Thursday next, They turned, instead, West at the Moon and East at the Sun, took the second star to the right straight through till mid-morning, and found Themself on the edge of a cliff overlooking a lush bit of land that quite made Them blink at its beauty.

They’d known They were good, God thought, with all due humility, and really, Eden was a lovely bit of real estate, but this particular corner of Their brand new creation…

They sat on the edge of what future incumbents would later name Longridge Fell, sipping the tea that They’d just at that undefined moment willed into existence, and contemplated what lay below and beyond. That was a really nice bit of forest there, They mused, and a lovely bit of a pond there, and loads of rivers and mushrooms and edible ferns and things, and the animals seemed plentiful and especially healthy and happy. The sun shone especially brightly overhead, the moon radiantly, and as for the stars…God had of course, invented numbers, though They didn’t actually have a use for them yet, and wouldn’t, not till Their Caretakers over the Garden got around to making Them a grandparent. There were a lot of them though, God thought: stars that is, and really, They were quite especially pleased there. If certain of (Three In) One’s efforts had to revolve around and rely on the production of those literally astronomical amounts of gas, it was nice to be able to produce something with it that would impress people on more than the intrinsically revolted level.

God knew, of course, exactly what was up in Eden these days. They’d promised Themself when They got started, though that even if They did know how it all would turn out, moment by moment and from beginning to end, that They wouldn’t interfere. They’d just work with what They would be given toward the Inevitable Joyful (if not always strictly happy) ending and beginning again. They had, of course, added that sly little codicil there allowing for Occasional Miracles (At The Discretion Of), but that being said…

God lowered Their tea and sighed. They knew exactly what was up in Eden these days alright, and They knew exactly what was happening there Right Now.

“Bloody hell,” God said aloud. “This does not set a good precedent for Mondays,” and They made an abrupt executive decision. They were God, They rationalized. They could do that, and They weren't finished Their tea besides. They pointed Their little finger around Their mug and said:

“Let There Be Lancashire. Officially.”

And Lancashire was. Officially.

Then God said: “Let there be a nice Manor, right there.”

And there was a nice Manor, right there. One with walls and a roof even, because unlike Eden, Lancashire was in England, and England tended to be a bit more rainy than not, and walls and roofs were just practical. And God was (is) many things, but They were (are) above all (when They're feeling inclined that way), Practical.

That being done, God thought again, and said ‘Well, I can’t just have the Angel of the Eastern Gate point the Caretakers in this direction; I mean, I could, obviously, but they’d miss the point of the entire exercise, wouldn’t they, and throw off My Ineffable Plan right from the get-go. That would be rubbish, wouldn’t it, or at least, would make things a bit more complicated than I planned for, so… What to do, what to do…”

They knew what to do, of course. All questions can only be a bit rhetorical, when you’re God. But They liked the sound of it, so They said it anyway.

What to do, what to do…

And the answer came to Them, though of course it had always been there, waiting for its proper revelatory moment. And God actually set Their tea mug aside with it, and pointed Their finger, and said:


And there were Longbottoms, and once they’d all picked themselves up and brushed themselves off and straightened their robes neatly (they may or may not have snuck a bit of a wash and an anti-wrinkle charm in there, because, Longbottoms), they turned as one to God, rank upon rank upon rank stretching as a glad and mighty army of Precision and Exactitude (mostly; there is unfortunately, at least One In Every Family, and Longbottom was destined never to be an exception, though that being said, the rest did eventually make it a rule to keep a strict eye out in order to accommodate for their Behaviourally Perplexed) across the eons and the multiverse, and said briskly, in absolute unison:

“Ayup, Lord! What’ve Tha gotus down-for, then?”

“Oh, you know,” God said. “This and that. First though… What do you think of My multiverse?’

And the Longbottoms (all of them that ever had been, were and would be, from the Monday after the beginning of Time right to the end, which was really only the beginning again, they all knew, because Death? Pfft), looked about and said “Very nice! Well Done Thee!”

And God said “Why, thank you. See that nice little Manor over there? There’s one in every universe I’ve made. And there’s one of you - well, two of you - for every version of every Manor I’ve made, and a world for each pair of you to call home, and I’ve got a plan for all of them, and all of you, individually and collectively, because My Caretakers. Well. You know.”

And They sighed sadly, and all the Longbottoms lined up to pat Their shoulder and say “There there, what canst Tha do.”

And God said "Quite a lot, actually; quite everything, really, but… I did make that Promise to Myself not to interfere at whim, except when I feel the impulse to apply that codicil: Occasional Miracles (At The Discretion Of)." And the Longbottoms all looked at each other, and said… “So… What? Tha wants us t' take care o’ everything that Tha’splaced beyond Thy Personal Jurisdiction on Principle atween This Point an' Everything That’s T' Come, is that it?” And God said “Pretty much, yep.” And the Longbottoms thought on that, but not for very long (because, Longbottoms), and said “Ahreet then, give us a few moments t’ sort out which o’ us is going where,’ and God said “Oh, no worries, I’ve already done that; bang-goes-YOU!” and pointed Their finger again, and the vast and shining and inevitable army of Longbottoms promptly disappeared and landed, each pair of them, in their assigned world’s version of Lancashire. At which point they all picked themselves up, brushed themselves and each other off, looked around and said (in absolute, briskcross-cosmic unison)…

“'Reet then. Th’all heard Them. Let’s Get This Thing Done!”

And God grinned to Themself, and refilled Their tea mug, and when They were finished, They lay back contentedly and looked up at Their stars, and said to Themself, “Who said that Mondays can’t be productive; go Me!’ and settled in for a bit of a kip because They knew They could do that safely now, Worlds-Without-End-Amen.

Because, Longbottoms.

Chapter 8: In Memoriam


I've been sitting on the framework for this one for awhile. Given the Winter Solstice, it seemed an appropriate time...

A moment between Neil and Minerva, in bit of a flashback to the morning after Ren's duel at Hogwarts, after he left the school in the wake of Lucius' kiss and his self-realization. (After Chapter 13 of 'The Strange Familiar').

Neil's proposed new school song is sung to the tune (and based off of) 'Scotland the Brave.'

Chapter Text

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Sunday, November 23, 1991

The Morning After Ren's Duel

In the darkness of the final hour of the night that followed the day after the world had not, after all, ended, a lean, elegant tabby cat sat on the encircling parapet of the Astronomy Tower, watching as across the snow-dusted lawns, a huge stadium shimmered, section by section, into slow non-existence. Far below her and on the southern-facing steps of the school, a man sat, apparently indifferent to both the hour and the chill, in denims, nailed herbologist’s boots, and a heavy parka. Even as the cat watched, a shaft of light bounced off the item he held in his hand… He raised it to his lips and drank. From the angle of his head the cat estimated he was a good third of the way through the contents. Every now and again he’d glance toward the gates. From the angle of his head again, the cat knew he was not looking for the advent of two-footed visitors, but for early owls.

Minerva McGonagall sighed, leaping down from the parapet and landing neatly before blurring and making her way to the stairs. Ren Cartwright had removed himself from the premises fifteen hours ago now, and after the sh*t-show - there was simply no other word for it - that had followed, Neil Cartwright had unceremoniously evicted everyone concerned from his office (some more politely than others, but then, some had been more gracious about it than others), and closed the door firmly behind them. Minerva, as Deputy, had been happy to take over the job of seeing all of the incoming visitors off of the grounds, but the last image of his office, as she'd slipped out, had stayed with her - Neil again, opening the drawer to his desk, removing a bottle quite similar to the one he was holding now, and closing his eyes as he slouched down on his sofa. He’d looked unspeakably old and tired... The former Neville Longbottom might be only a semi-regular Anglican, but from their first conversation, (and she’d be processing that one for the rest of her life), Minerva McGonagall had yet recognized him as what her near-fanatical Presbyterian minister of a father had called ‘a praying man’.He was quiet about it, mind, which suited her just fine, and she’d thought she’d been happy to leave praying behind herself when she joined the Magical world for good after her brief, agonizing affair with her first Muggle suitor had forced her to admit to herself what she was and what she would never be, but there were, it seemed, yet things which brought the old habits out in her. She'd said a prayer for him then, as deep and fervent a one as she'd ever had, and had repeated it again whenever she'd had a moment to spare in the hours since.

She said another once more as made her way through the castle to the southern doors, and slipped out. The man before her didn’t turn as she approached him from behind.

“Headmaster," she said. Then, a bit tentatively… “Neil. Are ye well?”

“Hey, Minerva. Nope,” the Headmaster - Neil - said without turning around. “Not a bit of it. You?”

“I’ve been better,” she admitted, and came to sit beside him. He held up a finger, and, setting the bottle aside, stood and shed his coat, folding it so she could sit on it. It took her a moment to recover; his jumper was gone, leaving him only in that pair of denims that quite made his legs go on forever, and a tight blue t-shirt that hugged his massive chest, shoulders and biceps like wet fur on a cat. Still a bit soft about the middle, but the man was seventy three, nominally at least, and she couldn’t help but think that if he were lying prone, it would make an excellent pillow, for either of her forms.

She diverted her thoughts firmly.

“Not that I don’t appreciate the gesture,” she said. “But even I’m willing to concede that it’s a bit cold for chivalry.”

“I’m fine,” Neil said, and turned his wrist in demonstration as he reseated himself. The silver runes gleamed softly. “What are you doing up again?’

“I could ask ye the same question,” she said. “And it would be just as rhetorical coming from me as it would from you.”

He conceded the point in his retrieval of his bottle, his eyes returning to the disassembling stadium. It was down to the struts and bleachers now, each section of each fading out individually… Not into nothingness though. Hogwarts’ Transfiguration Mistress knew the feel of magical Vanishment on that level, and wherever the bits were going, it wasn’t, after all, into nothingness.

“Where’s it a’ going?” she asked.

“Storage. Room of Requirement.”

“The whole stadium?”

“Mm. Waste not, want not. We’ll need it again one day, I’m sure, and this way, we won’t have to work from scratch.’

There was a great deal more to it than that, Minerva knew. The tens of thousands of lethifolds that had been presented on the stage earlier might be stowed in Ren’s police box, but, had it been up to her… She wouldn’t have had it in her to neutralize the altar wherefrom which the world had been forced to witness and admit the sacrifices it had forced for over a millennia either.

“Ye did her proud today, Headmaster,” she said instead, quietly. “It’s been a long time since the old girl’s had a man she could na’ just boast of, but love.”

He didn’t have to ask her what she meant, of course.

“Odd way of looking at it."

“Is it?” She accepted the bottle he offered her. “That’s what the Headmaster’s Oath is about, isn’t it? To wed the school’s core to yours… That’s what it has to be about. Love and trust, and essentially compatibility and respect, on far more than the magical or contractual level. The unshakable fundamental understanding and belief that here is one who’ll sooner die than do her harm. Who’ll lay down his life to keep her, and your mutual children, happy and safe. How long was it that you were here before she accepted the offer of your hand again?’

“Not long at all,” Neil admitted. “She had me at first sight, really. I crossed the threshold of the wards, she said ‘Hello, sweetie’, I said ‘Hullo to you too, sexy, where have you been all my life,’ she said 'Settling, thank you for asking, now get that great lovely core of yours over here, Cartwright, and show me what you’ve got, because my current? Not. Getting. The. Thing. Done.' Gentleman that I am, I obliged, and she said ‘Bloody hell, I’m in,' and I said 'That’s my line, I think; wait, what about your current,' and she said ‘There was never any real commitment there, not on the level you’re thinking, and the divorce papers will be here first thing tomorrow in any case.' I said ‘Good enough,’ and bang went me. And her. And the castle moved, and when I woke up, there she was, draped all over me and around me and purring like the proverbial Scottish wildcat, and all with the 'Mm, lovely,' and I said 'It was rather’, and she said ‘I meant the wedding,’ and I said ‘Erhm, what,’ and she said ‘What do you mean, what, Cartwright, I was there and so were you, and so was God for that matter; I distinctly remember you inviting him in for the occasion, dis- tinctly.' And I said 'I could have sworn that was you, but yes, dear, whatever you say, dear,’ and she said 'Well done, you; now your coffee should be just about ready, run on down while it’s still hot, and introduce yourself to the children. Oh and tell them that they have the day off because Papa Bear wore Mummy right out last night, and she needs a proper lie-in.'"

Minerva McGonagall laughed out loud.

“What was it like?” she asked curiously, when she’d recovered.

“Falling in love is a good analogy actually,” he said, and considering his own words… “The clocks might have stopped a bit with it."


“W.H. Auden. 'Funeral Blues', if he’d turned it about a bit, so that the end was a beginning."

My North, my South, my East and West,

My working week and Sunday rest,

My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;

They say love can’t last forever, but they’re wrong.

She smiled at him. He leaned back on his elbows and stretched his legs out.

“God, I’m glad it’s over,” he said feelingly. “I feel like poor Bilbo Baggins’ raped and raided larder the morning after."

She snorted, just as feelingly. He just looked over toward the sky above the gates again.

“Have ye sent him an owl?” she asked.

“No. Wherever he is, he’s sleeping it off now. The portkeys, the power he poured into the fence… It’s why he pulled the trick with the police box. If he’d gotten sleep the night before he’d have carried it through, but he needed to sit down and sugar up for the last burst. I heard the rep from Moody’s team saying he closed the door and pulled out the candy, and barely stopped for breath for the solid sixty minutes.”

“What would he have done if they’d picked up the telephone?"

“Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. Somewhere in that runic network was a notice-me-not keyed to anyone stepping on the dais."

“He cheated?"

“No. He warded against the contingency. Probably added it as soon as he got home, and before he sacked out.”

“He doesn’t miss a trick, does he.”

“He’s not in the habit of it, no. Not when he has context, anyway.”

It was rather more than a little bit sour. She sighed. Neil passed her the bottle again.

“He’ll be back,” he said. “He agreed to their appointment for tea, and he’s far too polite to stand them up even if he’s only processing now what he’s agreed to.’

“He could send them an letter of explanation.”

“I raised him better than that. He’s never been a coward. More than a bit naive, charmingly socially inept and as firmly self-deluding as his psyche deems necessary, yes. A coward, no. He’ll also, at some point, I’m sure, if he’s in reach of owls at all, receive a message from Augusta informing him that he’ll need something decent to wear, and informing him when and where to meet her for his fittings. As she’s under Fidelius at the moment, he’ll feel obliged to accommodate her orders for her own protection.”

“Does he not realize that it’s possible to be attracted to both men and women?”

“On the purely theoretical level? Of course. It’s just not... He met his wife at eleven. And there was no self-deception there. He did love her. Does love her. Always will. Passionately and completely, world-without-end amen.

“Aye. I suspect we both know how that song goes.’

“I suspect we do.”

“Why did you skive off there?” she asked him after another brief, mutually boozy interval.

“Skive… Uh? On what?”

“The school song. You deliberately skived there at the ceremonies.”

“Ah. Well, first off, it wasn’t a school event. Secondly, it’s embarrassing. An embarrassment. Hoggy Warty Hogwarts? Dead flies and fluff? ” His distaste reeked, deep and genuine. “Never mind that as there isn’t even an established melody, I’m not inclined to grant it official status.’

“It’s tradition.”

“Blow tradition. We’re putting in for a new one there.’

“It’ll be a hard sell, Neil. Do you have an alternative? It’s likely to go over better if you present an alternative.’”

“I know, and as it’s been bugging me since I first crossed the wards again, I’ve worked something up. I was working on it just the other day, actually, and... Hold up. Where did I put… ” He dug about in his denims pocket. Ren Cartwright, Minerva observed, as she watched the man before her retrieve item after item, shoving each back as it failed to accommodate, was obviously not the only member of his putative family who’d cottoned on to the attraction of the bottomless pockets. “There we go.” He smoothed out a crumpled sheet of paper. “It needs the accent though. The American won’t do.’

She took the sheet and perused it. Her eyes softened as she looked at him.

“Give it a go,” he urged. “Here. I’ll provide the orchestra."

“Here? Now?”

“Yes.” He swigged, popping his wand and jabbing several times. Music soared, skidding a bit drunkenly before settling. “There we go. Oh, come on.” He caught her simultaneously austere and amused look. “Humour me. I don’t actually hear her voice, it doesn’t quite work like that, but in the projected analogical, Hogwarts is definitely and for all time, the McGonagall.”

And there really wasn’t, after all, Minerva reflected, anything that she could say to that. Well, she amended to herself. Yes. There was. All things considered though, she rather thought she’d prefer to save it for when she was certain that he was entirely sober.

“Ye’ll sing it wi’ me?”

“I think I can manage back up.” He jabbed his wand again, and cleared his throat. “On three. One… Two…”

Hark when the night is falling

Hear! hear the pipes are calling,

Loudly and proudly calling,

Down thro' the glen.

There where the hills are sleeping,

Now feel the blood a-leaping,

High as the spirits

Of the Red Lion’s men.

Towers of ancient fame,

Hogwarts, our mountain hame,

High may your proud

Standard gloriously wave,

Green on a silver river

Slyth’rin’s proudest endeavour,

The Blue Eagle flies forever

O’er Hogwarts the brave!

High in the misty Highlands,

Out by the purple islands,

Bold Godric’s heart beats yet

Beneath Scottish skies.

Wild are the winds that meet you,

Staunch are the friends that greet you,

Kind as the love that shines

From fair Helga’s eyes.

Far off in sunlit places,

Sad are our loved ones’ faces,

Yearning to feel the kiss

Of sweet Scottish rain.

Where e’er their travels take them,

Love sets their hearts a-dreaming,

Longing and yearning for Hogwarts again.

Towers of ancient fame,

Hogwarts, our mountain hame,

Steadfast, four stand as one

Her standard all we wave,

Godric’s song resounding ever

O’er Slyth’rin’s proud endeavor

May Rowena fly fore'er

O’er Helga’s enclave!

“Now that,” Minerva McGonagall said appreciatively. “Is more like.” She leaned in and kissed Neil’s cheek. “I’ll vote for it.” He slung an arm around her, and offered her the bottle one last time before taking it back, heaving himself up, and standing, turning to the east and the rising sun.

“To the warriors of fair Castelobruxo,” Hogwarts' Headmaster said clearly. “Come to our home this day, graced us from, and by Heaven. May the world - and we - ever stand as witness and in remembrance to, and of, the fact - no, the truth - that they, before God, and by God, Got the bloody buggering bollocking f*cking, f*cking, f*cking Thing Done."

He drank deeply, and dropped the bottle. It smashed at his feet. He buried his face in his hands, weeping wrackingly. Minerva stood, put her arms about him, and kissed his wet cheeks and his lips gently.

“What was that for?” he asked, when he’d recovered a bit.

“From Herself,” she said. “Go to bed, Headmaster.”

“It’s morning,” he pointed out.

“That just means it’s safe.”

“You’ll bring me the message right away if he sends an owl?”

“Of course. Go on now. I’m here,” she said. “I’ll always be here.” She blurred, settling comfortably on the step, atop his folded parka. He looked down at her and smiled: sweetly, whimsically.

“I do believe you will be,” he said. “Professor McGonagall.”

She flicked her tail at him, austerely, and turned her feline face deliberately and pointedly toward the sky over the gates. He looked over his shoulder as he pushed the doors open. She curled her tail around herself. He opened his mouth to say something more, then closed it, and shook his head, smiling.

The door closed quietly behind him.

Chapter 9: An Out-take: In Honour of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II


This little clip (Ch. 9) takes place between 'Hufflepuff Takes New York' and 'The Battle of the World', after Little Nev (Longbottom of Longbottom) returns to England and is summoned to Buckingham Palace to Discuss His Cross-Universe Adventures, Officially, with his Unofficial Godmother (on the Nomajic side) HRM, Elizabeth II. He returns home, and tells Augusta all about it...

No spoilers, so it's safe for the (still continuing if long postponed) series.

Chapter Text

Longbottom Manor

The Christmas Hols

Post-New York, 1991

Augusta's Parlour

“Would you like to talk about it?" Augusta said gently. Longbottom wiped his eyes with his sleeve, holding the velvet case loosely in his hand.

“She said she was proud of me,” he said. “I didn’t… I didn’t expect it."

“Whyever not?"

“She’s the Queen. She’s known for not saying things like that."

Augusta couldn't help but smile a little.

“She is,” she agreed. “What else?"

“She gave me the medals. And said that she was truly sorry that no one could know but me and her and God. I said that was alright. That it was better that way. And she asked me why. And I said that it actually meant more that way. And she …"

Augusta waited.

“She said ‘How very, very English of you, Longbottom. May I offer you a cup of tea?"

Augusta laughed outright.

“She invited me up to Balmoral this summer,” Longbottom said. “I said I’d like that. But that I was afraid I’d disappoint Prince Philip, because I didn’t think I’d be one for hunting. Not like Granddad. And she said ‘don’t you worry about that. If he says anything, I’ll kick his arse.'"

“She did?"

“Yes. And I said ‘It’s good to be Queen, then,” and she said ‘It’s a thankless, extremely irritating job at times, but it was put in front of me, and I could do it, so what was I to do, say no? Given the most spectacularly ill-mannered example I had been provided, I determined that that much, at least, would never be my legacy.’ And I said ‘Mm, it’s the problem with being a hero, isn’t it, they have you by the braid, never mind that compulsion to Get The Thing Done,” and she said it’s actually why she cut her own hair when she did; it showed Certain People who insisted that Queens weren’t Kings that she wouldn’t be led about by it. I didn’t really feel qualified to comment there, so I just asked her how the princes were doing, and she said she’d prefer not to talk about William at least, because he’s nine now, and every time she sees him, she’s reminded that I was his age when I decided to go universe-hopping to save the world, and she wants to smack me by proxy."

Augusta didn’t quite snerf her tea, but it was a close thing.

“I said she could smack me if she wanted to,” he offered.


“She twisted my ear. Hard. Then she knighted me with the cake sword."


“She hadn’t actually cut the cake with it yet.”

“You’re eleven years old!”

“That’s what I said. She just said “Did we not just determine that it’s good to be Queen; I should very much like that cup of tea now, Longbottom,” so I poured the tea, and she told me that you told her that I remember everything, and that if I ever wanted to talk about it, we could go for a walk."

His grandmother lowered her cup. “Oh?” she said cautiously.

“I told her that I appreciated it, but it really wasn’t the type of thing a gentleman inflicts on a lady, and I did have people to talk to besides. She said she understood that, but it was part of being Queen, and I said that I did respect that, but that in this instance, she was also your best friend, and she didn’t need to hear it about her best friend’s children. It wasn’t fair. To her, or you. It would be too hard, because I wouldn’t tell you either, and you couldn’t even talk to each other about it. So we’d just be glad I did have someone to discuss things with, and a way to take away the worst of it, and leave it at that. Please."

“Please.. What?"

“I said please, leave it at that. So she said to tell her about Flea, and all of his animals. She said she’s looking forward to meeting the dogs. They’re invited to Balmoral too. I have to admit, I’m a bit worried there, Gran.”

“What about?’

“Flea. He won’t care if Prince Philip is married to the Queen. Flea, I mean. If he’s rude, he’ll be rude right back. And he won’t be polite with it, either.”

“He’ll probably enjoy that,” she said. “Her Majesty definitely will."

Longbottom just turned the medals in his fingers. She smiled at him.

“What did she say,” he said. “When you told her everything I did?"

“Before or after she recovered from the induced cardiac incident? That she should have known better than to worry while there were yet Longbottoms about.” She touched his cheek. He leaned against her. She put her arm around him.

“I missed you so much,” he said. “I missed you so much, Gran. It’s why my magic grew my hair, I think. I had you with me. At my back."

“I truly wish that you might have always felt that way."

“I did.” He tucked his feet up. “I didn’t see it for awhile, but… It wasn’t just Mum and Dad. It was you and Granddad. When I was showing everyone my memories. I saw it then. That you… That you put them in St. Mungo’s, so you could focus on me. As me.”

Her fingers moved through his hair.

“Was I a disappointment?" he ventured.

“Oh, Neville,” his grandmother said. “No. You were, and are, a triumph. To be able to come back from that… Every step forward was an act of sheer will on your part. Of grace on God’s part. I was frustrated, but it was never at you. At what they did to you. At the effects they had."

“Were you worried about my magic?"

“I was worried that you would be an Obscurus,” she said bluntly. “Your grandfather made it his mission in life to prevent that. He said if we loved you, if you grew up knowing you were loved… Love had saved Inez. We remembered that everywhere we turned. And Dolly said now and again that she didn’t believe we had anything to worry on. That there was more happening there than anyone saw. You were a strategist, like your father, she said. We’d see it in good time. We told her to enable you, then, if you ever trusted her. She said you might, as it was bound to be a control issue and she was bound to you. Fortunately, you were inclined to be benevolent with it."

He snorted.

“She really is brilliant,” he said. “Her Majesty, I mean. I feel better now, knowing you’ve had her. That you’ve had each other. Though I may have done something I shouldn’t have."


“There’s supposed to be a huge horrid fire next November. At Windsor Castle. I. Erhm. May have told her about it."

“I beg your pardon?"

“Nobody died,” he reassured her. “It just took a load of damage. I just… Told her about it. And how it started, exactly. And where. And when. So she can make sure that it doesn’t."

“Really, Neville?’

“Yes, really. It will save the taxpayers a load of money. And some really nice art. And loads of things are different here, from Crossworld. It might not even have happened here. But it’s her home. And she’s going to have a horrid enough year without that too.”

“Ah. What should I know," she said, resigned.

“That when she invites you over to throw up her hands in despair over her children, just pour the tea without asking,” he said. “And say "There there, now. This too shall pass, and let us remember too, that we yet have the grandchildren. Things can only improve there.

“And here I thought you were fond of Prince Charles.”

“I am. I can be. He’s not my husband, or son.”

Augusta sighed deeply. “What else did she say."

“Nothing, then. Prince Philip came in. And saw the braces and crutches, and asked me what the bloody hell I’d done to my knees. I said I was growing, probably over a foot in the next two years the healers said, and he said ‘you poor little sod. I remember those days. What happened to the stumbletongue,” and I said ‘it was just a diversionary tactic, sir; it made everyone who didn’t truly know me think me stupid and useless, and I felt that as the friends of the people who harmed my parents might turn their eyes on me and realize that they needed to finish the job if they knew the truth, that it was in my, and Longbottom’s, and her Majesty’s, and Gran’s, of course, best interests.”

“Neville Frank Longbottom!”

“He gawped a bit,” he admitted. “Her Majesty just smirked, and said ‘I told you so.’'


“She was onto me from the start there. She said there was no way that I, with my parents, and as your and Granddad’s grandson, never mind as Tychon Longbottom’s great grandson, would ever get caught out twice, and the only reason I got caught out the first time was because I was only sixteen months old when it happened. And she knew her stutterers besides, because of her own father. King George. She picked up right away that I was faking it when I first started, but didn’t say anything because she reckoned the payoff would be, those other things considered, worth the wait.”

“She could have told me!”

“She said that that was going to be part of the payoff,” he admitted. “When I asked. And that she told you in the meantime not to worry about me so much, and that insofar as the appropriate bon mot in action there was concerned, never mind Owd Lanky, the Thing Hadn’t Got Done yet, never mind that she’d always told the doubters it would take more than the likes of Bellatrix bloody Lestrange to break a true Longbottom, and then she held out her hand to him, Prince Philip, I mean, and he said “I don’t carry that kind of cash on me, cabbage, do I look like a bank to you; I’ll write you a check later. “

She guffawed.

“Then,” he continued. “He said ‘what’s with the great bloody bell rope’, about my hair,” and she said ‘oh, do shut up, Philip," and I said "Quite alright, Ma’am; I’m happy to answer his Royal Highness’ question; to wit, sir, it’s there to balance the great bloody bell rope in the front.'”


“Mm. He just stared at me for a bit, and and he said 'Damme, that’s just weird. Lawrie’s foul mouth with Gussie’s intonation and phrasing, can you say it in that godawful northern accent, then,’ and I said ‘Aye, sor, f’it please thee, i’ balances t’great bloody bell-rope i’front,’ and he said 'Right. I need a Boddington’s, I think, not just tea; I’ll just nip down to the kitchens, then and leave you two to bond. God save England,’ and he scarpered, and honestly, I thought she was going to be sick she laughed that hard.”

Augusta lay back, gasping with mirth.

“I wasn’t trying to be rude," he said plaintively. “It’s just what I said when anyone ragged me about it in South America. So we sat down and had tea, and I gave her some books I’d brought for her Christmas present; you’d said she liked mysteries, so I memorized a couple of Agatha Christies and a book on Christianity by Dorothy L. Sayers that weren’t written here, and printed them off for her. She really appreciated it; she said it was one of the most thoughtful presents anyone had ever got her. “

His grandmother’s face softened as she recovered, sitting up a bit. “It was good of you to think of her,” she said. “In the middle of all of that."

“You two go together,” her grandson said. “And I thought of you every moment of every day."

“Oh you,” she said. He leaned against her. “Do your knees hurt terribly?"

“The potions help. It’s more being hungry and tired all the time. I eat and eat and there’s always a hole. And I just want to go to sleep and not wake up till spring."

“Mm. Dolly!”

The house-elf popped in. “Madam called?’

“Yes. Would you prepare Master Neville a full hot tray please, and a pain potion, and bring it all in here on the trolley?” She eased him up and adjusted his pillows, before stretching the sofa magically. “Lie down. That’s it. “

“I’m fine, Gran. Really.”

“You will be.” She eased his braces off and adjusted blankets, transfiguring his clothes to loose trousers and a warm jumper. The trolley popped in; she settled him. He attacked the shepherd’s pie and the pile of chips and gravy ravenously, if neatly… She poured him milk, warming it and adding honey and cinnamon before settling herself opposite with a cup of tea and a biscuit. Her lips flicked at him as she watched.

“Mm?" he inquired between bites.

“I was just reminded of your father. That was his favorite meal. Only he could never manage it with his mouth closed."


“Mm,” Augusta agreed. “It absolutely disgusted your grandfather. He was a situational gentleman at best, but he had impeccable table manners. It was one of the things that attracted me to him. Most boys your age are completely repulsive there, no matter their upbringing. There were less than a handful at Hogwarts that I could bear to look at during mealtime.”

“It’s not just Hogwarts,” Longbottom said. “The boys - and men - in Esconderijo are disgusting. They don’t even bother trying, because they expect their sisters and mamis and tias and abuelas will be right there to wash them up.”

“Your friends too?"

“Hectorito isn’t so bad,” he conceded. “He’s naturally neat. Not Longbottom-neat, but just tidy. And he was missing a few baby teeth when I met him, so he chewed to keep the food in. Dito needed a bit of work, mostly not to talk with his mouth full, or laugh with his mouth full. I didn’t say anything though. I didn't have to. Flea did. He told him it was completely disgusting, and he couldn’t come back if he didn’t learn proper manners. So he fixed it, because it was Frankie’s food.’

“So he chews with his mouth closed himself? Flea, that is?"

“Yes. He said that if he ever chewed with it open, his Aunt Petunia would see the food and he wouldn’t get any more for twenty-four hours.”

Augusta's own lips tightened at that, but...

“Also,” Longbottom added. “To spite her. Dudley apparently is a complete troll with it, enough to make you sick up, and she never commented on him, but she did wince now and again. Flea likes his pocket snacks and isn’t fussed there, but I was really surprised when we met. He had perfect table manners our first dinner, at least after we sat down, and knew what all the forks were for, and napkin and utensil placement etiquette and everything, and he said he got a book and learned it all just to show them up. Not that he ever got a chance to do it in front of them, but he said it was the principle of the thing. Which I can totally understand.’

“Mm,” Augusta said. “We really shall have to arrange that photo-op. What do you thi…" She blinked at his empty plates. “Good God. Did you Vanish it all, or just transfer it all directly to your stomach?’

Longbottom looked guilty. The dishes disappeared and a huge bowl of hot gingerbread pud with lemon custard shimmered in, along with a plate of mince pies and shortbread and a large pot of cocoa. He dove in neatly. Augusta just shook her head as she sipped her tea and filched a tart.

Moments in Time: A Series of One-Shots in 'The Road Not Taken' 'Verse - BlueMaple - Harry Potter (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Annamae Dooley

Last Updated:

Views: 5355

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (65 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Annamae Dooley

Birthday: 2001-07-26

Address: 9687 Tambra Meadow, Bradleyhaven, TN 53219

Phone: +9316045904039

Job: Future Coordinator

Hobby: Archery, Couponing, Poi, Kite flying, Knitting, Rappelling, Baseball

Introduction: My name is Annamae Dooley, I am a witty, quaint, lovely, clever, rich, sparkling, powerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.