XX. The Gift of Magic
Für das größere Wohl.
Harry could see the words carved above the doors and see the large symbol emblazoned upon said doors easily from where he was standing. The wind was whipping through his hair, blowing several strands into his face, but his emerald eyes stayed locked on the Tower as he thought about what he needed to do.
Now that he was here, he wondered if what he planned would actually work. Sure, the process had been all but perfected during the four years they had spent here, and Grindelwald's technique was near flawless. Harry could perform the process, he had learned it, just like Barty and Regulus had, but he didn't trust his skill in this as much as he did Gellert's. But would Gellert agree to come to England and perform the operation? He had not left this island, had not even left the Tower, for decades. Would he be willing to do that now, for him?
He inhaled, his nostrils flaring, and started toward the doors. As he neared the doors, there was a quiet groan as the doors opened for him, the House Elves recognizing him easily and granting him entrance to the Tower without preamble.
He stepped across the threshold and immediately batted a curse away, his wand dropping from his sleeve and into his palm, fingers closing around the smooth Elder wood quick as lightning and raising a shield to defend him from the barrage that followed swift on the tail of the first curse.
He let his shield take the brunt of the assault, deftly dodging or deflecting the few that managed to slip through its protective barrier. Once the barrage came to an end, a tense silence fell over the entrance chamber of the Tower and Harry gazed up toward where the attack had come from, seeing the silhouette of his latest mentor standing there in the darkness, barely discernable with Harry's enhanced vision – a side-effect of a run-in with Remus Lupin on a full moon, which had luckily not ended with anyone being bitten, though Harry had been clawed and been struck by a fever, which had left him with slightly heightened senses of taste, smell, hearing and sight, particularly in the dark.
"You have returned," Grindelwald's voice spoke into the silence, filling the room with its soft tone, reverberating gently off the stone walls. "I must admit, I did not expect you to; not so soon, at least."
Harry dropped his shield and lowered his wand to his side. "I had not planned it so soon either, but circumstances have called for it, nonetheless."
He could see movement as Grindelwald nodded. "Come on up to the dining room," he said. "We shall discuss what these circumstances are over lunch." The form of the old wizard moved out of sight, much as he had done on the first night they had all arrived here four years ago.
Harry kept his wand out as he took to the stairs and made his way up to the first landing, of course, Grindelwald was not waiting for him this time, so Harry continued up to the dining area, where a meal had been laid out with two plates and two mugs of dark German beer set up for himself and Gellert. Gellert was standing beside his chair at the table and smiled genially at Harry as the younger wizard made his way over. The old wizard spied Harry's wand still drawn and smirked.
"Unless you have come here to kill me, you can put away your wand," he said, his eyes glinting mirthfully at Harry's obvious caution and readiness. He may have found it slightly amusing, but he had to admit that the boy had been taught well, even before coming to him. Trust no one.
Harry snorted and holstered his wand back against the inside of his right forearm, pulling out his chair from the table as Grindelwald took a seat and began to serve himself from the food on the table. Harry lowered himself into his chair and did the same. The Elves had prepared Rouladen, thinly sliced veal wrapped around pork belly, chopped onions, pickles and mustard, that had been browned and simmered in a thin broth; they had also provided gravy, dumplings, potatoes and blaukraut – cooked red cabbage – to accompany the dish; there was also fresh-baked bread. Harry took a helping of each of this and tucked in, savouring the perfectly cooked meal.
"So," Grindelwald said, taking a sip of his beer. "What brings you back so soon, my friend?"
Harry swallowed a bite of potato and washed it down with a swig from his own brew. "My son," he answered. Grindelwald raised a brow, silently prompting Harry to go on. "He is a squib." Harry sighed. "I do not think less of him for it, but he wished to have magic like his friends, and his parents. I spoke to him of it, and he told that he wants to be a wizard. So, I decided to make that happen."
Grindelwald set down his knife and fork and wiped his mouth from a small cloth. "You want me to go to England and perform the operation." It was not a question, merely the stating of a fact.
Harry nodded his head solemnly. "I know it is a lot to ask, but I would feel better if you, who created this technique, were the one to do it. I have no doubts that I could do it, but..."
"You are afraid of the consequences should you fail," Gellert said understandingly.
Harry opened his mouth to protest but shut it when he could find no denial that did not sound like an excuse. He was afraid. He had only just gotten his family back, and he feared making a mistake which would take that away from him. He was younger than Grindelwald and physically more powerful, but the old wizard had much better control over his magic than Harry did, due to over a century of practice.
"I have not left this Tower in near sixty years," Gellert said quietly, eyes turned toward a window, through which one could see the sea, glittering blue in the sunlight.
Harry took another bite of his food, using a bit of bread to soak up some of the gravy from his plate. "I know. Perhaps it is time to come back to the world. Not in any official capacity, not if you don't wish it, but at least for this, admittedly, large favour."
Grindelwald sighed and turned his mismatched eyes back to Harry. "Einverstanden," he breathed. "I will do this for you. This fight is yours, and I will not take that from you by showing myself to the world. Not yet. I had my turn, it is yours now. But, your son, I can do this for him. The gift of magic is his by blood. It is his birthright. No child born to magical parents should have to live their life without it." He picked up his knife and fork. "But first, let us finish this fine meal the Elves have provided for us."
Harry nodded thankfully and returned to his own meal.
"Tell me," Gellert spoke after a time. "Is Aberforth still alive?"
Harry shrugged. "Last time I checked he was. Still tending his pub in Hogsmead."
Gellert nodded. "It is not common knowledge that Albus had siblings. A pity that the Dumbledore name shall die with Aberforth."
"Siblings?" Harry raised a brow. "Plural?" This was new to him. He knew that Aberforth was Albus' brother, but there had been others?
Gellert nodded. "He had a sister too. Her name was Ariana. When she was six years old, she was attacked by three muggle boys who had seen her perform accidental magic. When she couldn't reproduce the magic, they assaulted her. She was never the same after that, from what Albus told me, and what I saw of her supported those words. Her father was sent to Azkaban, where he died, for attacking the boys who had harmed his little girl. After the attack, Ariana could not control her magic at all, and their mother moved them to Godric's Hollow, where she hoped they would go unnoticed. Most thought Ariana to be a squib, and that was why she didn't attend Hogwarts. They were mistaken, of course."
He paused to take a swallow of beer.
"When she was fourteen, Ariana had an...episode, which resulted in an explosion of magic. That explosion killed their mother. Albus, the eldest, took over caring for her after that, putting off his plans to travel abroad. Aberforth would have done it, but he was still attending Hogwarts and Albus insisted that he finish his schooling. A few years later, when I was staying in Godric's Hollow with my aunt, a fight broke out. I admit, the starting of that conflict was at least partly my fault, though I was not the first to draw my wand. I did fire the first spell though. Aberforth was angry about Albus planning to leave to travel abroad with me to further our plans for the betterment of Wizarding society. He confronted me and Albus and argued that Albus' time would be better spent there with them, because Ariana needed her guardian and was in no shape to travel with us. I agree with his assessment of Ariana, but at the time I was young and arrogant. I too became angry and told him he was a stupid little boy, and that what I was planning would benefit Ariana, because she wouldn't have to hide and my experiments would be able to make her right again. He drew his wand on me and I retaliated, casting the Cruciatus Curse on him. Albus joined the fight then. He didn't like the Unforgivables, and Aberforth was his flesh and blood, and as they say, blood is thicker than water. So, we duelled. At the time, Ariana was not present, but she was drawn by the loud bangs and the flashing lights. She wanted to stop us from fighting, I think, but something went wrong. Albus and Aberforth never knew which of us cast the spell that killed her, but I knew. I saw it happen, as if in slow motion. It has haunted me ever since. It was my spell that killed her. She tried to stop the spell from hitting Albus, but her magic pulled it toward her, and it killed her instantly." He pushed his plate away and stood up. "I tried to tell Albus this, but he did not want to know. I think he was afraid that it was him. I could not help that girl then, but I can help your boy now. Come. Let us depart this place."
Harry stood and fell in step beside the old wizard as they made their way to the doors of the Tower. Harry stepped outside, but Grindelwald paused at the door, hesitating for a moment. He seemed to wage some internal conflict, before steeling himself and stepping outside the doors, which closed behind him.
He turned and looked at the Sign of the Deathly Hallows and the words above the doors, as if to remind him why he was doing this. "Für das größere Wohl." He nodded to himself and turned to Harry, offering his arm so that he could side-along with the younger man.
Harry took hold of his upper arm and thought about the space just outside the wards of Tiberius' country house. With a small crack they were gone.
Barty trotted down the stairs of the house, humming a jaunty tune to himself.
Harry had gone to Grindelwald again, or so Regulus had told him. He had been gone for about half an hour already but Barty wasn't too worried about it. He knew how those two could on for hours once they got going. And it wasn't like they had much to do at the moment anyway, not until everyone had gotten together to figure out what their next move would be, so he was actually a bit envious that Harry had found something to do and managed to actually get away from the house to do it.
He turned into the kitchen, thinking he'd grab himself a snack from whatever he could find that he didn't have to cook.
He grinned and grabbed an apple out of a bowl of fruit on the counter top, sinking his teeth into the deep red skin, tasting the sweet juices and meat within. He chewed jovially as he leaned back against the counter.
He took another bite as the door opened and Hermione strode through the door. She paused a moment, looking slightly startled at seeing him there but got her reaction under control fairly quickly. Barty raised a brow at her. Hermione gave him a wary look and walked around him to the pantry.
Barty frowned. "You still aren't sore about the whole almost-killing-Harry-and-then-capturing-you-while-everyone-else-was-locked-in-a-dungeon thing are you? It all worked out in the end."
Hermione closed the pantry and looked over at Barty. "I simply don't know you well enough to trust you," she said.
Barty frowned. "Harry trusts me." He took another bite of his apple, chewed and swallowed.
Hermione nodded. "That's Harry's prerogative."
"You don't seem to like me very much," Barty noted, tilting his head slightly. "Rather odd, seeing as I never actually did you any harm. If you recall, I actually protected you. Twice. No, three times."
"Protected me?" Hermione asked, her voice taking on a hard edge, a hint indignant.
"Yeah," Barty said, his tone still rather friendly and upbeat. "Remember when Carrow hit you in the Department of Mysteries, and I gave the bugger a good smack for it? I was protecting you." Hermione crossed her arms, giving him a sceptical look. Barty huffed. "Fine. In the graveyard, I kept my father from arresting you and Harry. He'd have done it too, and who knows where we'd all be now had that happened." Hermione didn't look convinced. "All right. What about when I took you up to the bedroom rather than let you get thrown in the dungeon? Eh? Does that ring a bell?"
"Don't try to act like you did any of that out of genuine care. You did it so that Harry would do what you needed him to. You needed him to have a reason to go seeking out Voldemort, so you used me to trick him into thinking that you'd taken me to Voldemort so that he'd come looking for me. You used me as bait to force a confrontation that Harry was not ready for."
Barty nodded. "True. I did that. And it all worked out. I may not be a good man, but you are no saint either, Ms. Granger. You've done terrible things as well. You've killed too."
Hermione stiffened. "I did what I had to do."
"So did I," Barty responded softly but firmly. Barty shrugged and pushed off from the counter. "You don't have to like me, I don't expect you to. Hell, you don't even have to trust me. But, for Harry's sake, we should had least try to work together, yeah?" He tossed the core of his eaten apple into the rubbish bin.
"Believe me," Hermione said, "Harry's trust and love for you is the only reason you are still here. If it weren't so, I'd not allow you here, or anywhere near my family. You nearly killed him more than once. You cast the Killing Curse at him more than once." She laughed humourlessly. "For someone who grew up with you as a role model, Harry has a surprising capacity for forgiveness, even if it is only for those he cares about. You should count yourself lucky for that."
Barty sneered. "You think I don't? Believe me, I know what I've done and I know that Harry didn't have to forgive me or Regulus, but he did, and I do count myself lucky, every day. That young man is as much a brother to me as he is a lover to you. Hell, he's practically my son! I bloody raised him to be the man he is. Sure, he was always a bit colder before you came along but I like to think I did a sodding decent job of it, all things considered!"
Hermione shook her head and turned to leave. This conversation was going nowhere.
"Before you go, I want to ask a question," Barty said as she put her hand on the door handle. She turned and looked at him expectantly. "Answer me this, after you found out what he was, why did you stay?" Hermione looked surprised by the question, her eyes widening for a second. "I mean, think about it. You were on the side of the light, a good girl by all accounts. What made you take him back after finding out who and what he was?"
Hermione looked down at the floor as her mind raced back to that time, years ago. She sighed and blinked. "I realized that the monster was a man."
Barty raised a silent brow as she glanced up, prompting her to explain.
She sighed again. "I realized that while he did horrible things, the man I had fallen in love with was still in there, a part of a larger whole that I had not been aware of. The God of Death was a monster, a beast, a faceless figure in a mask. Until he wasn't. He was a man. A man who had thoughts, feelings, goals, dreams. A man who had loved me like no one else ever had. Perhaps a part of it was my fear of being alone again. I admit I was insecure and didn't want to give up something I so desperately wanted. It wasn't that I thought no one else would ever want me, no, I knew of several would-be suitors that I had. It was that I wanted him, and he wanted me. I loved him. And that was it. I still love him. I have for all these years, even though I tried to forget and move on. I had a few would-be flings but they just felt empty and...boring. And then, he came back from the dead." She chuckled. "You both did."
Barty nodded. "Harry never gave up on you, you know. He wanted to come back. Every day. For what it's worth, I am glad I was able to help him get back here. He deserves what good he can get in this life. Hell, we all do."
Hermione opened the door. "I have my love back, and whether I like it or not, you are part of that package. I may not like you much, but I'll tolerate you. But, if you try anything to cause harm to my family, any of them, I'll kill you." With that, she was gone, leaving Barty alone again.
He ran a hand through his hair with an exhale and leaned back against the counter. A moment later, the door opened again and Lily stepped inside. She spied him and gave a small smile.
"Have you come to tell me that you don't like me either?" Barty asked, trying to make it sound like a joke.
Lily frowned as she opened the pantry and took out the things needed to make sandwiches, which she started magically preparing after checking that the spells to keep everything fresh were still working strong. "Is that why Hermione was looking so dour?"
Barty shrugged. "We had a bit of a verbal tête-à-tête, yes. She basically said she doesn't like me and doesn't trust me and only tolerates me because Harry trusts me. Oh, and said she'd kill me if I did anything to harm her family. I think it was a rather productive conversation, personally."
Lily looked doubtful. "Really? Sounds more divisive than productive."
Barty shook his head. "Nah. We'll get on fine when we have to. It's just the type of people we are. We do what we need to do, even if we find it distasteful or uncomfortable. Most of the time."
Lily nodded as she started piling the sandwiches she had made onto a plate. Hermione had come to the kitchen to do this but following her small confrontation with Barty, had asked Lily to do it.
Barty frowned for a moment then spoke again. "Can I ask you something personal? You don't have to answer but, why didn't you remarry after you divorced James?"
Lily paused, not having expected the question. Barty noted he seemed to be having that effect today. Hermione had paused in much the same way when he asked her about Harry.
"Well," Lily said, her voice uncertain. "Why would you want to know something like that?"
Barty shrugged. "Curious mostly. That, and I'm trying to make casual conversation. I'm not sure how to do it any more, given that the only regular company I've had over the past few years have been Harry, Regulus and Grindelwald. I knew where I stood with all of them. Here, with all of you, I am unsure. I mean, we spoke earlier but that was little more than pleasantries."
Lily gave him a knowing look. "You're trying to get on my good side," she stated. "I remember you, you know, from Hogwarts. You were a couple of years behind me. Smartest in your year, if I recall correctly."
Barty nodded. "Twelve O.W.L.s," he said, a hint of pride in his voice. "All O's."
Lily smirked at the slightly bragging tone. "Slytherin, right?"
Barty nodded again. "Yeah. A bit of an outsider, really, even though I was respected well enough. Part of why I fell in with the Death Eaters after school. I had 'friends' there. So, you didn't answer my question."
Lily nodded in agreement. "You're right, I didn't." She picked up the plate and started toward the door.
She paused, and it was her turn to shrug. "Well, you didn't tell me why you really wanted to know, so I'll tell you when you tell me." With that, she departed.
Barty looked around the once-again empty kitchen. That had certainly gone differently than expected.
He left the kitchen too and was about to head up to the study and find a book to read or something when he heard a shout from outside.
He turned toward the front of the house and started outside. He stood on the porch as he saw the familiar form of Harry walking back toward the house, a second figure walking slightly behind him. Grindelwald.
"Oi!" Barty called out. "What's your House Elf's name?"
"Which one?" Harry and Gellert asked at the same time. Barty snorted and pointed at Grindelwald. "Which one was the first one we met?"
Gellert looked amused. "Hannes."
Barty nodded and looked at Harry. "Which of yours did you get first?"
"Kreacher," Harry said easily.
Barty nodded again. "Right. So, what brings you here? I thought you'd never leave your tower, Old Man."
Gellert scowled at Barty for calling him Old Man rather than by his name. "Harry asked me to come. So I came."
Barty snorted. "It was that easy? Hell, if I'd known that I'd have had Harry call your geriatric arse to help us with all the fighting."
Before Barty could even start laughing fully, he had been flipped upside down and dropped hard on the wood planks of the porch. A shout of laughter came from Hugo and Victoire, who were both giggling madly as Barty hauled himself back to his feet.
Gellert smiled genially at Barty as he walked up the front stairs. "I may be old, Barty, but I can still put you on your back, even without my wand."
Barty waved these words off with a grimace. "I let you have that one, old man." He grinned. "Good to see you again."
Gellert nodded and looked around at the house and the grounds. "It has been so long, I had almost forgotten what the world looked like beyond my little island." He looked toward the childen, who were watching him and the other adults and whispering to each other and munching on sandwiches. "Is that your boy, Harry?"
Harry nodded, turning as Hermione and Lily walked out onto the porch from inside. "Yes. That's Hugo, and his best friend, Victoire Weasley."
Grindelwald hummed and asked softly, "Would you call him over? I wish to speak to him."
Harry called out to his son and motioned him to come over to them while Hermione frowned. "Harry, who is this man? What does he want with our son?"
"This," Harry said, gesturing to the white-haired wizard, who turned toward them, "is Gellert Grindelwald."
Gellert nodded respectfully to Hermione. "A pleasure to meet you, fräulein," he said. "You must be Hermione. Harry has spoken of you often." He extended a hand to her.
Hermione shook his hand cautiously. "Pleasure," she returned. "I have yet to hear the story of Harry's time with you, but I'm sure I will soon enough. Now, what do you want with my son?"
Gellert smiled and turned as Hugo stopped at the base of the stairs. He walked down and knelt in front of the boy without answering Hermione's question.
"Hello, Hugo," he greeted the boy, offering his hand as he had done with Hermione. Hugo was unsure of what to make of this stranger that his father had brought to see them. "My name is Gellert Grindelwald. It is nice to meet you."
Hugo's eyes had widened at hearing the man's name. He was so surprised that he almost forgot his manners. He shook the proffered hand. "H-Hugo Potter," he introduced himself, stumbling slightly over his words. "Nice to meet you, sir."
Gellert smiled gently at the child. "Hugo. It is a good name. A good German name. It means 'bright in mind or spirit', it means 'intelligent'. Are you bright? Are you intelligent?"
Hugo nodded rapidly.
"That is good," Gellert said. "Knowledge is power, as they say, and one must be intelligent to gather useful information and use it to even more useful ends. Yes, I think your name suits you very well. Time will prove me right, I think." Hugo smiled at the old wizard, growing a bit embarrassed by the praise being heaped upon him by the Greatest Living Wizard. "Run along now, Hugo, we'll speak more later."
Hugo looked at his parents, then ran back over to the tree where he had been sitting with Victoire, the young blonde hot on his heels.
"To answer your question, Miss Granger," Gellert said as he climbed back to his feet and turned toward where said young witch was standing next to Harry with her arms crossed. "I am here because Harry asked me for a favour. I have, with assistance from young Harry, Barty and Regulus, developed an operation, through which I can activate the genes inside your sons body that produce magical energy. In short, I can make your son into a wizard. I can give him the gift of magic."
Hermione looked sceptical, narrowing her eyes. She turned her head up and slightly back to look at Harry, who gave her a serious nod. "We didn't just train in combat for those four years."
Hermione's frown deepened. "And this operation, it works?"
Gellert nodded. "Tested and confirmed, given that the subject is strong and young enough. With adults, it is quite hit and miss, as the body is too far developed to take on such an influx of power. But, Hugo, he is what, six years old?"
"Almost," Hermione answered, leaning back into Harry as he put an arm around her waist, his hand resting flat against her stomach, the action serving to ease her somewhat, her shoulder's relaxed from their tense state.
"Then the chances of success are quite high. Sure, some magical children display small bouts of accidental magic as infants, particularly when upset, but most, most often those from muggle backgrounds, show there first real signs of magic from the ages of four to eight years. Hugo falls right into the middle of that range. And, as a child's magic is not trained until he or she is ten or eleven, depending on where they are from, Hugo shall have no handicap when compared to those who where born with magic. Think of it, you, Miss Granger, are a muggleborn, correct? You would not have even known of magic until you received your letter from Hogwarts. Did you have any trouble with learning it?" Hermione shook her head. "Exactly. Hugo will be just like any other magical child by the time it comes time to attend school."
Hermione looked thoughtful. "What would happen should the operation fail?"
Gellert met her gaze seriously. "He will die."
Hermione was immediately shaking her head. "No. No. No. I won't allow it."
"Hermione," Harry started, but she cut him off.
"No." She looked at him. "How could you agree to this?"
Harry sighed. "I know that it works, and Hugo wants this."
"Hugo is a child, he is in no position to make such a decision," Hermione countered, turning all the way around to face Harry.
"Yes, he is a child, but he's a smart lad, he-"
"No," Hermione snapped. "I refuse to put my son at risk."
"Hermione you can't-"
"I WILL NOT BURY OUR CHILD, HARRY!"
Harry fell silent, as did all present, Barty quietly slipping into the house with Regulus. Lily looked between the two before moving over to keep the children occupied, the two young ones having stopped their playing to look over at the sudden screaming. Gellert moved off into the yard, keeping his attention on the surrounding landscape and off of the two young lovers behind him, giving them their privacy.
Harry met Hermione's eyes, which were clouded with tears, some of which were running down her cheeks. "Hermione, do you really think I would even suggest this if I thought any harm would come to my son? Do you seriously believe that?"
Hermione took a deep breath and wiped her eyes, then sighed. "No," she admitted. "I don't. But, how can you be okay with this idea? He could die!"
Harry nodded his head solemnly. "You're right. He could die. That very reason is why I brought Gellert here. I can perform the operation myself, but I trust Gellert to perform it with far less risk. He invented it, and he's the one who got it to work. As he said, Hugo is at a perfect age for this to be successful. All of the failures were either because the technique hadn't been perfected yet or there was too much magic flooding the body at once, which happens when the subject was too old. But, we had several successful tests on adults after we got all of the kinks worked out of the technique. And those weren't even squibs, but regular muggles with no connection to the magical world. That already gives Hugo an advantage here. If I thought for even a moment that my son would be in danger, I would not have suggested this." Harry stepped up to Hermione and lifted her face upward with his fingers under her chin so that she was looking him in the eye. "You trusted me before. Trust me now. Our son will not die. I swear it."
Hermione sniffled. "I do trust you, Harry, but that doesn't mean I'm not afraid."
Harry pulled her into his embrace. "I know. It's understandable." She buried her face against his chest.
"Fine," he heard her mumble. "We'll ask Hugo what he wants to do. He's a smart kid, like you said. But, you have to b honest with him. He needs to understand the risks, the danger he'll be in."
Harry nodded. "Agreed." He knew that Hermione was secretly hoping that the thought of death would be enough to dissuade Hugo from this idea, but Harry had a feeling that if Hugo were anything like him, at all, even in the slightest, it would do nothing of the sort.
At that moment, Charlie, Bill and Fleur came out of the front door. Hermione pulled away from Harry and gave the three a smile.
"We're gonna head on back to shell cottage," Bill said to them. "Fleur wants to get started preparing dinner and all that. Plus," he looked over toward where Hugo and Victoire were sitting with Lily. Victoire looked like she was ready to drop off to sleep at any moment. "Victoire looks pretty knackered." Hermione nodded. Hugo didn't look much better in that regard; then again he had been a bit more active than usual that day.
"All right, well, do feel free to visit more often," Hermione said, giving Fleur a hug, which the French witch returned easily.
The Weasleys promised to do just that before Bill gathered a sleepy Victoire up in his arms and the four made their way to the edge of the wards and apparated away.
"We'll talk to Hugo after dinner," Hermione said, heading back into the house after motioning for Lily to bring Hugo inside for a nap.
Harry walked down the stairs and stopped next to Gellert. "All well?" the old wizard asked after a second or two of silence between them.
Harry hummed. "She does not like the idea in the least, but I think she's coming around. She's agreed to get Hugo's opinion on the matter. I can't blame her for being worried. I am too, that's why I want you to do it."
Gellert nodded. "I know. That is also part of why I agreed to do it. Not much scares you, my young friend, but I can see the fear of what will happen should you make even the smallest mistake. It terrifies you."
Harry didn't respond. He didn't need to.
Harry and Gellert turned toward the house, where Barty was standing on the porch, waving for them to over.
"What is it, Barty?" Harry asked, as he mounted the front steps.
"Malcolm is here with Tiberius," Barty said. "He says something's come up, and he wants to talk to us."
Harry and Gellert followed Barty into the parlour, where Malcolm and Tiberius were standing, looking rather concerned. Regulus was sitting in a chair, tapping his fingers in an agitated manner.
Malcolm gave them a tight smile as they entered, raising a brow at Grindelwald's presence, but made no comment of it. "Harry, Grindelwald, please have a seat." Harry and Gellert lowered themselves into chairs, while Barty leaned against the wall, arms crossed as he waited for the meeting to kick off.
"What's this about, Malcolm?" Harry asked. "Where's Fergus?"
"Fergus will not be joining us today. He's been informed of the situation though," Tiberius spoke for the first time.
"Earlier today," Malcolm said, skipping the rest of the formalities and getting right down to business, "two men came in to the Wyvern looking for you and Barty. They were offering a substantial reward for anyone who could tell them where you are."
"Aurors?" Barty asked, jumping to the obvious conclusion.
Malcolm shook his head. "No, worse, Death Eaters. Or at least the children of Death Eaters. They were unmarked. No one with the Mark can enter the Wyvern any more. I've warded it quite extensively. Sorry, Barty."
Barty scowled and rolled his eyes.
"So, if they aren't Aurors, then who are they?" Harry asked.
"Ronan Mulciber and Theodore Nott, Jr.," Tiberius answered.
Harry's expression darkened. "I see. And let me guess, they want revenge against me and Barty for killing their fathers."
Malcolm nodded. "Got it in one. He said, and I quote, 'Tell Potter, that I am coming for him. My father's blood is on his hands, and I will have that debt repaid. Blood for blood. A life for a life. Tell him his time is up'."
Harry snorted. "Funny. I didn't actually kill his father. Charlie did. Nott? Yeah, I killed him."
"I think they care less about who actually fired the spell and more about who set it in motion," Malcolm said.
"Right," Harry said through clenched teeth. He stood up abruptly. "Well, just add them to the list of people I have to kill." He sighed. "How worried are we about these two?"
Tiberius stroked his beard. "At the moment, not very, however they do serve to complicate matters. They can move about freely. Neither of them were ever branded with the Dark Mark, therefore they aren't on any Ministry blacklists, unlike you three." He gestured to the three brothers.
"I think we should consider taking these two out quickly," Regulus said. "I doubt they are operating alone, and if they won't be for long. I know Ronan. We were at Hogwarts together. He is not stupid. He won't try to face us with just the young Nott for support. He'll gather allies."
Harry nodded. "Nott is no slouch in the intelligence department either," he said. "From what I know of him, he is quite cunning."
"Do we know where they are?" Harry asked.
Tiberius shook his head. "I could not get that information," he said. "I checked the record for the location of both Nott and Mulciber ancestral properties, but no such luck. As for allies, I'm afraid that that has already happened. They attacked Azkaban and freed six Death Eaters that were imprisoned there. Lucius and Draco Malfoy, Nils Parkinson, Kellen Travers, Thorfinn Rowle and Ludwig Jugson. They left no traces for us to follow."
"So, basically, we have nothing," Barty summarized. "Well, that's just brilliant. Not only do we have the best of the best of the Auror force, plus the pride of MACUSA on our backs, we now have the kids of men we've killed. Bloody brilliant, I tell you. We should start a club or something to keep track of everyone who wants to kill us. It's not easy being this popular."
"Popular is not the word I would use," Malcolm commented dryly.
Tiberius ran a hand through his short hair with a frustrated look on his face. "I'll keep trying to get the locations. It could take some time, though." He started walking toward the door. "Until then, try to keep your heads down. The last things we need are more complications." He gave a wave and walked out of the room. A moment later they all heard the sound of floo travel from down the hall.
"He's right," Malcolm said, lowering himself into a chair.
Barty rolled his eyes as he pushed off from the wall. "Yes, yes, we know, we know. Going to the Ministry to get Tonks was stupid, won't happen again. It was all Harry's fault anyway."
Harry shot a betrayed glance at Barty but said nothing, instead turning his attention back to Malcolm, he said, "We'll sit tight for now, but I'm not going to stay leashed for long. I have a lot of scores yet to settle here and mark me, they will be settled. Sooner rather than later."
Malcolm nodded. "I expected as much. Just try to hold off until we can get more information. One thing at a time, and all that."
"I take it you've still got your old list?" Barty asked.
Harry nodded. "James Potter, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Molly and Arthur Weasley, Barty Crouch Senior, Rufus Scrimgeour, Cornelius Fudge, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Percy Weasley, Peter Pettigrew, Sasha Savage, Gawain Robards, Rohan Williamson, Damian and Raymond Lynch, Wilson Proudfoot, David Graves. And anyone else that gets in my way. So, Ronan Mulciber and Theodore Nott Jr. and all of those they freed are now on the list too."
Malcolm stood up. "Looks like you've a lot of work ahead, and my extension, so do we. Luckily, all of those targets will help us in the long run. Just remember, killing any of them is like striking the heads from a hydra, cut off one and two more will take its place. We just have to make sure the right 'heads' take power. I'll keep my ear to the ground in Knockturn Alley. Let you know if I hear anything. Good day." He departed the room and the sound of floo travel reached their ears a moment later.
A moment of silence passed between the remaining four men in the room. "You aren't actually going to just sit and do nothing, are you?" Regulus asked, breaking the silence.
Harry shrugged. "I haven't decided yet."
A sigh escaped the eldest brother's lips. "I guess that's the best I can hope for right now."
"Hugo and Hermione are my top priorities right now," Harry explained. "I've been away too long. My son doesn't know me at all, and Hermione...she's still trying to get used to the fact that I'm alive and well."
"Harry Potter, family man," Barty scoffed. "Never thought I'd see the day." He sent a teasing grin toward Harry, letting the latter know that there was no venom in his words. "Speaking of family, I may just need to pay dear old dad a visit, finish what we started back in the graveyard."
Harry stood up. "Not yet, Barty. Soon, but not yet." He turned to Gellert. "I will speak with Hugo tonight. Until then, there are plenty of rooms here, feel free to make yourself at home."
He left the room, heading up the stairs and to the room that he and Hermione had thoroughly claimed as their own.
He opened the door and stepped inside, closing it softly behind him.
Hermione was sitting on the edge of the bed, a book of some kind open in her lap. She looked up at the sound of Harry entering the room and smiled slightly at him, beckoning him over and patting the mattress next to her.
Harry wandered over and sat down at her side, his knee brushing hers and settling gently against it. Hermione moved the book in her lap over so that he could see it more clearly. It was a scrapbook of sorts, filled with pictures of Hugo and Hermione throughout years since the young boy's birth.
Harry flipped back to the beginning to find a moving photo of Hermione sitting in bed with a newborn Hugo sleeping in her arms. She was smiling beautifully at the camera, unshed tears in her eyes as she blinked rapidly to forestall them falling.
"Was it a difficult birth?" Harry asked softly.
Hermione shook her head. "Not really. Magic helps a lot in that regard. How do you think Molly had so many children?"
Harry shrugged. "I just figured she got better with practice."
Hermione laughed quietly. "No. It was still painful, but not as much as it would have been had I given birth in a muggle hospital. I had him at home, in my own bed. Lily delivered him."
Harry nodded. "I wish I had been there."
Hermione reached up and rubbed his back, leaning her head on his shoulder. "None of us blame you, Harry. I certainly don't. Not any more. For a long time after you were locked up, I resented you for it. I felt that you had abandoned us. But, you never knew I was with child and you went to Azkaban so that the others and I would not. You took all of the blame upon yourself. My record is clean, where yours is dripping red."
"I'd do it again, if it would keep the two of you safe," Harry said. "I've been fighting for so long, most of my life in fact, and there's no end in sight. Just when I think I'm nearing the end of it all, another foe makes themselves known."
Hermione frowned, taking her hand from Harry's back and closing the scrapbook, setting it aside. "What's happened, Harry?"
Harry almost laughed at how well she could still read him. Perhaps he wasn't as different now as he feared he was. "Just more shit that we have to deal with. Ronan Mulciber and Theodore Nott Jr.," he looked at her, noting her questioning expression. "Sons of Death Eaters. I killed Nott Sr. in Knockturn Alley the day I met you and Charlie in the Wyvern and Charlie killed Nelson Mulciber in that final fight at Malfoy Manor. However, seems they both blame me for their fathers' deaths and want me dead."
Hermione chuckled. "What else is new, Harry? People always want to kill you."
Harry smirked. "Evidently there's going to be a line."
Hermione chuckled for a moment longer before sobering up. "It's never going to end though, is it? The fighting?"
Harry ran a hand through his long hair. "I don't know. I really don't know."
A/N: Another chapter down. Let me know what you think. Review, please. Thank you.
Updates may slow down a bit as I've started work on an original story. Hopefully I'll be able to pull double duty but just a heads up in case some updates take a bit longer than usual.