The morning dawns and it is a sunny crisp day. The sky is a brilliant blue, sun beaming down unimpeded by clouds. There's a hard frost on the ground, silver and white glistening up from the grass, gravel and concrete pathways.
Harry and Hermione breakfast with the family before returning to their suite to get ready for the Wizengamot.
Hermione is already dressed in a warm Paisley dress of beautiful grey, green, silver and blue tones when Harry exits the bathroom. The smart grey trousers he pulls on match the darker grey in Hermione's dress. He teams them with a green cotton shirt and a Paisley tie. The dark grey robes are open in style – something Sirius has assured Harry is in trend but acceptable still for the more formal Wizengamot.
It helps when they head down to meet up with the rest of the family that Sirius and James are wearing something similar. Sirius in black on black which gives him a dangerous air, and James in a smart blue outfit with a ruby shirt.
There's a lot of chatter as the elder Potters, the Longbottoms and Arcturus take one carriage leaving Harry and Hermione to take a second with Regina, Lily, Sirius and James.
Their arrival at the Ministry building is a new experience for Harry and Hermione. There's an old-fashioned entrance with a wrought-iron gate leading into a small quad, which reminds Harry of the Tower of London. He wonders if the private entrance for the Wizengamot members exists in his world; he's only ever used the phone box.
There are Aurors guarding the door and Harry sees James nod at someone who looks like a younger Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"This way," James says and leads them through the warren of corridors, ignoring all the gaping onlookers who are clearly bemused by the sight of the Potter heir with the Black heir and his sister, accompanied by three strangers. He takes them to his father's office.
"Are you alright there, Harry?" Charlus asks as Harry sits next to Hermione on a comfortable two-seater leather sofa. The Longbottoms are absent having gone to wait in Frank's own office.
"I'm fine." He feels sick. More than nerves before a match. More like he's genuinely going to throw up.
Hermione slides her arm around his in a loose hold.
"Deep breath." Lily advises, her gaze sharp on his.
Harry nods and breathes in shakily.
Sirius taps his shoulder and hands him a mug filled with hot chocolate.
Harry gives him a tentative smile of thanks and sips the drink. It's sweet and smooth. He drinks another sip.
"Don't worry," Charlus soothes him. "You'll have both myself and Arcturus beside you."
"And Sirius and I will be right behind you," James says with bright cheer. "So most of the old fogies will probably be so taken aback by that they'll not focus on you at all."
"Really, James," Dorea mutters, "I did bring you up better than that."
Harry's lips twitch and he can't help but be grateful for James' attempt to lighten the moment.
Hermione squeezes his hand gently.
There's a chime which sounds through the room.
"That's the signal," Arcturus says.
They gather themselves and troop out into the corridor.
Charlus and Arcturus lead the way with Dorea between them. Harry and Hermione are next, and true to his word, James, Sirius, Lily and Regina are bringing up the rear.
Harry tries to take in all the twists and turns as they head down a hallway lined with pictures of previous Ministers on one side and Chief Warlocks and Witches on the other. There's another Auror guard in front of the tall wooden doors which are standing open.
Harry recognises Pettigrew and Albert Croaker – James' friends and Auror partners. They both simply nod though as the group draws level.
Their arrival in the chamber causes a stir as they enter, chatter breaking out and noise filling the room almost to a deafening degree.
Hermione breathes in sharply beside him and he checks on her to find her staring out in wonder. She'd had that look a lot in their first few years at Hogwarts; the wonder of magic, the awe it inspires, breath-taking and unbelievable…
Harry hasn't seen her look that way for a while. She's beautiful when she's awe-struck, he thinks. He looks out to see what has enraptured her and his breath leaves him.
The Wizengamot chamber isn't anything like the courtroom he had attended. It's a circular space with a large round wooden object lodged in the central floor. The Round Table, Harry thinks half-hysterically and looks up to avoid seeing it.
The ceiling is a wonder of mosaic glass telling the story of Merlin; his birth, the fight between the dragons which had earned him his Sorcerer status, Arthur's birth and claiming of the throne with the sword, and the unification of the clans and tribes of Brittanica. There are floating mage lights lighting up the glass and the figures ripple and move just as in a wizarding photo.
There is an upper public gallery which is teeming with people; ordinary wizarding citizens and a cordoned off area for members of the press.
Harry yanks his gaze back to the main space in front of him.
Seven tiers rise-up from the ground. The ground tier is Ministerial and there are twenty-one seats occupied by the Minister, Director of the DMLE, Director of the DOM and Heads of Department. The second, third and fourth tiers are occupied by elected representatives of the wizarding enclaves; twenty-one in each tier. There are no chairs, just a simple padded bench in each of these tiers.
The sixth tier are the Minor Noble seats; another twenty-one. They each have two chairs; one for the current head of the family, and one for the Heir. The chairs are primarily wood but with comfortable padding and cushions.
Harry's eyes register Dumbledore in one seat before they catch on someone who looks like Malfoy and he has to take another steadying breath.
The final tier is where Harry will sit. There are family boxes; a bench behind for family, and two chairs in front again. The chairs are beautifully carved, the cushions comfortable and decked in expensive material.
According to Charlus, the upper tier originally had twenty-one seats, but time has seen some family die away or be subsumed into another line. There are currently only twelve families occupying the tier along with a box for the Chief Witch. A scribe sits to her left and a secretary to her right.
Harry follows Charlus and takes a seat in the Potter box alongside Hermione, Lily and Dorea. Only when Harry claims the Peverell seat will a chair and box appear to accommodate him.
James winks at him as he takes his seat in front.
"Seal the doors!" Chief Witch Marchbanks orders.
The cry is echoed by the guards at the door.
The noise dies away and the chamber falls silent as the doors shut with an audible bang.
Harry takes a breath.
It's time for the Wizengamot to begin.
"The first item on the docket is a Special Circumstance," the secretary announces.
Harry tries not to squirm as the Chief Witch looks up to the family box.
"Earl Gryffindor, if you could please explain," Chief Witch Marchbanks asks briskly.
Charlus sends Harry a supportive glance before he stands and faces the Wizengamot. "Over Christmas, the Earl of Grimmauld and I felt a new addition to our family through our magic. We both separately believed at the time that it was the birth of a new child into a dormant line and we would discover the child in a matter of days which is the usual case."
Harry tries not to fidget as Charlus pauses for a breath.
"We were both invited to Hogwarts for dinner and discovered that our belief was incorrect," Charlus takes his time, looking around the Wizengamot. "Professor Dumbledore explained that during the holidays they had received two young visitors in need of help. The couple had been pulled through a magical tunnel from one world and into ours, and they were the new kin the Earl of Grimmauld and I had felt: Lord Harry Potter-Black and his wife Hermione."
There's an immediate outbreak of chatter.
"ORDER! There will be order!"
The Wizengamot falls silent again at the Chief Witch's shout.
"I call upon Director Bell of the Department of Mysteries to give testimony in this matter," the Chief Witch states firmly.
Harry is pleased to see the tall blonde witch who led the DOM rise from her chair and view the Wizengamot with a no-nonsense air.
"We have investigated the claims and found that the evidence supports Lord Potter-Black and his wife," Bell says firmly. "The Lady Potter-Black was gifted with a crystal ball on her birthday by a family friend as she is a first-generation witch; the family friend had placed a geas on the ball tied to the Lady Potter-Black to show her a specific image at midnight. The ball had been spelled years before to create the dimensional travel. We believe when the geas was activated by the Lady, it accidentally triggered the travel spell. Frankly, it's a wonder both of them survived the journey."
Harry felt Hermione's hand tighten on his.
"Upon arrival, the pair were able to make their way to Hogwarts which is familiar to them in their own world. They realised something was awry when faced with Professor Dumbledore who had died in their world some years ago," Bell continues. "The pair were treated by Hogwarts' staff and Professor Dumbledore notified their immediate family in this world. The families have, of course, welcomed them and given them protection and sanctuary. Once they were introduced to the rest of the family, their marriage was registered magically here at the Ministry."
There's another ripple of sound.
Harry and Hermione exchange a look; it's another sign that they are actually married. Hermione squeezes his hand reassuringly and he manages to smile back at her.
"Will they be able to return to their own world?" asks the Chief Witch loudly, sending everyone back to silence.
Bell clears her throat and glances up towards them. "The spell is complex and will take some time to decipher. There are many of us willing to work on the spell given its uniqueness but even with willing wizards and witches, the DOM estimates that to understand the spell may take five years or more. Certainly, the ability to alter it to enable the couple to return may take another similar length of time beyond that."
Whispers break out across the crowd. Hermione leans against him. They'd both been torn at the estimates when they'd heard them. As much as they hate the way their own world has treated them, they miss their home, their friends. It's difficult to think they'll end up spending so long in this world before they can return.
"It is for this reason we have recommended that official paperwork be enacted to recognise Lord Potter-Black and his wife to give them citizenship and rights thereof," Bell concludes.
"Thank you, Director Bell," the Chief Witch says. "Minister, your thoughts?"
Millicent Bagnold gets to her feet. She's a stately woman with grey hair and a long nose. "We agree with Director Bell's recommendation. We have found the young Lord and Lady to be honest and forthright. Their arrival here may be the result of a confluence of spells and fate but we would welcome them."
The Chief Witch nods and looks back up to Charlus. "Earl Gryffindor, what say you?"
"We have already welcomed Harry and Hermione into our home and our family, alongside recognising Harry's maternal line as a cadet branch," Charlus says. "The House of Potter has also accepted the rapprochement of the House of Black to enable us to properly provide sanctuary and care to our new members."
That causes a huge rush of chatter which is quelled by a look from the Chief Witch almost immediately.
"Earl Grimmauld?" She asks briskly. "What say you?"
Arcturus stands. "The Earl of Gryffindor and I are agreed. We welcome Harry and Hermione to our world and to our family. We are united to protect them."
"Very well," the Chief Witch says. "Let it be known on this day, the second of January in the year two-thousand and two, Harry James Potter and Hermione Jane Potter nee Granger are hereby acknowledged as rightful citizens of this world and issued with official papers proclaiming them as such." Her face softens into a soft smile as her eyes find Harry's. "Welcome, Lord and Lady Potter-Black."
Harry and Hermione both bow their heads in unison as a mark of respect and acknowledgement.
"You have another request, Earl Gryffindor?" The Chief Witch moves on briskly, stalling another wave of chatter.
Charlus smiles. "Yes, both the Earl of Grimmauld and I…we believe the Lord Potter-Black should not lose his rights due to his unique position. In his world he has the right to sit on the Wizengamot for both the House of Potter and the House of Black." He nods at Arcturus.
"Our proposal is to award one of our lesser titles to Lord Potter-Black providing him with the same rights here," Arcturus says.
Harry isn't surprised when the moment of stillness after the announcement breaks out into pandemonium.
"ORDER!" The Chief Witch accompanies her shout by waving her wand and a small bang silences the Wizengamot. She looks out furiously. "We will discuss this sensibly and I will eject anyone who cannot do so. Is that understood?"
The crowd settles again and Harry takes a shaky breath.
"Earl Gryffindor, what title do you intend to bestow?" asks the Chief Witch.
"The Earldom of Peverell," Charlus replies.
There is an audible gasp.
The Chief Witch's eyes narrow. "And you, Earl Grimmauld?"
"The Barony of Ravenshold," Arcturus replies.
It doesn't get as much of a gasp but there is a scattered muttering.
The Chief Witch sniffs. "I can see there are people who wish to speak. Raise wands if you wish to speak for the motion."
Harry watches in surprise as both Sirius and James raise their wands.
The Chief Witch calls on James first.
James stands, legs apart, arms behind his back, almost at parade rest. "Our family honour demands we treat Harry, Lord Potter-Black, with the respect due his position. To not recognise that he has a title, that he has a right to a vote in this body, would be to deny him his familial and magical heritage. I stand with my father in our decision."
"Well spoken, Viscount Potter," the Chief Witch sighs. "Baron Blackthorn, you are recognised."
Sirius gets to his feet and Harry can see the immediate way he captivates the Wizengamot. "The arrival of someone from another world into ours is unprecedented. The acts we take now to protect and welcome Harry and his wife will say much about our own civility, magic and legacy. How can we not give him what he is justly entitled to? He is ours now and our magic is his."
There are a few people nodding and Harry can see Sirius's words are resonating around the room.
"Earl Longbottom, you are recognised."
Frank rises to his feet. "I have had the pleasure of spending some of the holidays with the Lord and Lady Potter-Black and their new family. The love and kinship between them is a delight. This is not our business but the business of family magic for these two families. If they wish to confer a title upon a member of their family that is their right. I say we have no right to stand in their way."
The Chief Witch thanks Neville's father and he sits back down. She calls upon another two members of the Wizengamot, Lady Bones and Lady Appleby, who both echo the arguments already made.
"Raise your wands if you wish to speak against the Earl's motion," the Chief Witch announces.
Harry blinks in surprise when she recognises Dumbledore.
"I have also had the pleasure of meeting young Harry and his wife," Dumbledore begins, "they are intelligent good people. I have no doubt if Harry were to be given a voice in our Wizengamot he would act with honour and integrity." He pauses. "I also believe that the wish for him to take his place as expressed by the Gryffindor and Grimmauld families are sincere and truthful; that the intent comes from love and family." He sighs. "But Harry is young. He is not even as old as the heirs to the Houses of Potter and Black. He has endured much in his world and has his titles because of the loss of his family there. I understand the motivations, but I believe it would be a kindness not to press this young man to take up a responsibility in this world and allow him a moment of peace."
Harry shivers as several people crane their heads to look at him. Hermione strokes her thumb over the back of his hand. Her silent support eases Harry's thoughts.
"Lord Malfoy," the Chief Witch.
Hermione tenses beside him and it's Harry's turn to comfort her.
"I also appreciate the sentiment expressed by the families, but I question the right of a visitor from another world gaining a voice in the body which governs ours."
Abraxas Malfoy has similar mannerisms to his son Lucius, but he lacks the air of menace which Harry had always associated with Malfoy until the end of the war when the wizard had been nothing more than a cowardly servant of Voldemort's.
There are another three who speak against the request and the Chief Witch finally calls a halt.
"Perhaps we should put it to a vote," she says briskly.
Sirius raises his wand. "Point of order, Chief Witch."
"Yes, Baron Blackthorn?" asks the Chief Witch, a hint of remonstration in her voice.
"Motions to confer titles cannot be placed to the Wizengamot for a vote. At the beginning of the Wizengamot each noble family was weighed by the Round Table before they were able to sit within this body. The head of a family has had the unassailable right since to confer a title on whomever they wish so long as there is a blood and magical connection," Sirius points out crisply.
The chamber breaks out into a furore of chatter again.
"ENOUGH! ORDER! ORDER, OR I WILL BAN ALL BUT THE SITTING MEMBERS FROM THE CHAMBER!" The Chief Witch glares around the Wizengamot as silence falls. She nods at her scribe, a stately looking wizard who reminds Harry vaguely of Daphne Greengrass.
"I do not disagree with the Baron's proclamation; he is right," the wizard says.
The Chief Witch recognises a witch on the opposite side of the chamber. "Baroness Selwyn."
"To put this matter to the vote would set a precedent I do not believe we wish to make; to allow the Wizengamot to interfere in the family right to confer inheritance," the elderly witch raises a hand. "But I do think the matter of giving a voice in the Wizengamot to a wizard from another world…that does not sit easily with me. No matter the character references we have heard, his magic does not originate in our world. To simply confer this honour…I do not agree even if I cannot deny Baron Blackthorn's point; the Round Table gave us these rights and we cannot deny them."
Sirius rises again. "Perhaps there is a way forward. The conference of the title of Peverell will recreate the family box, therefore we could request that Lord Potter-Black be weighed by the Round Table," he suggests crisply. "If he is accepted then he gains his seat; if he is not accepted then we confer the titles but without the responsibilities or votes which would normally accompany such an act."
Charlus and Arcturus exchange a long look. Harry clears his throat quietly, catching Charlus's attention.
Charlus glances back swiftly. "Harry? You wish to speak?"
"Lord Potter-Black, you are so recognised," the Chief Witch says.
Harry stands, reluctantly letting go of Hermione's hand. He took a deep breath. "Firstly, on behalf of Hermione and myself I'd like to say thank you for recognising our citizenship in this world, and for the care and protection our families and Hogwarts here have given to us since they have known of our arrival."
He can see how pleased Charlus is by his words.
"I know Earl Gryffindor and Earl Grimmauld make their request from a place of magic, family and love. They wish to honour my status in my own world; to give me an equal place in theirs," Harry continues. "I am honoured by them."
Charlus gives a nod of acknowledgement.
"I also understand the arguments against giving me a vote here in this Wizengamot," Harry says, looking out into the listening faces in front of him. He turns to Sirius. "Is this Round Table test fatal if I am not accepted?"
"No," Sirius immediately answers, "there's not a lot known about it in truth. But it is said to have weighed the character of the wizard or witch and if they passed the spirit of Arthur appeared to them and offered them a seat within the Wizengamot. Any who did not pass simply did not achieve a seat."
"OK, so I think the suggestion has merit then," Harry says. "My family honours me with the titles, but I take this test to see if the magic here believes I have the right to have a vote in the Wizengamot."
The Chief Witch blinks at him as though surprised. "Well, I think we may have found a compromise." She waves at Charlus. "Is this acceptable to you, Earl Gryffindor?"
"I will accept the outcome of the Round Table." Charlus says and sits.
"And you, Earl Grimmauld?" She checks.
Arcturus gives Sirius a hard look but he nods. "I too will accept the outcome of the Round Table."
"Please make your way down, Lord Potter-Black," the Chief Witch invites him with a smile.
Harry breathes out slowly. He turns back to Hermione who ignores the whole Wizengamot to give him a brief hug. He can see how worried she is but he hugs her back hard and steps away. He makes his way down the tiers aware all eyes are on him. He stops just a step away from the Round Table in the centre of the floor.
"When you are ready, Lord Potter-Black," the Chief Witch says, "please take step onto the Round Table."
Harry nods and tries to remember to breathe. He looks up towards Hermione and his eyes find hers easily. She smiles tremulously back at him. He breathes in again and turns back to face the Round Table in front of him again. One more breath. He takes a step forward…
The air around him stills.
There's a deep chime.
Loud and long.
Harry feels it in his soul.
A call to arms.
Magic rushes around him, a mini tornado…
Harry is frozen, unable to move…
And the tornado drops leaving behind a figure who glows with magical light…
A man stands in front of him. He's tall and broad; blond hair tied back with a strip of leather and a full beard. He's wearing armour; a chest plate with chainmail; leather trousers and boots. He has a cloak falling behind him in a sweep of red. He rests his hands on the pommel of a large broadsword which is pointing down into the table.
"Your King has need of you," the man says solemnly.
Harry's heart stampedes in his chest as his eyes widen. He's standing in front of King Arthur.
Arthur reaches out and clasps Harry's shoulder.
The world shifts.
They're no longer standing in the centre of the Wizengamot but in a circular room of an ancient tower.
In front of Harry the Round Table is again a table and sat around it are the ghostly figures of Arthur's Knights and the slumped figure of the Queen, still in battle armour but her female form unmistakeable.
There are banners with the crest of Pendragon falling from the high ceiling. Candles float in wrought iron chandeliers, unlit and dark. The tall windows are thin but a pale light streams in to cut across the dark and highlight the floating motes of dust.
Harry feels a moment's anxiety, his magic surging, but before he can panic…
"No-one will notice we are gone," Arthur states, "to them this is a blink of an eye."
Harry takes a breath. Then another. "This is…"
"The place in-between," Arthur says. "Avalon asleep," He looks around a mix of wistfulness and nostalgia. "We're waiting."
"What for?" asks Harry, giving into his curiosity.
"Merlin," Arthur says. "He will return and find the path to awaken our spirits in this new world beyond." He smiles at Harry. "Come."
They make their way out of the room and down a dusty hallway. There's a door and a step later they're outside on a narrow strip of roof, parapets shielding them. Harry looks out. Beyond the castle walls there are fields of green and low rolling hills. The sun is shining but it's muted; there's no air, no breeze. There isn't a sound in the distance or the natural cries of birds and animals.
Everything is suspended, waiting.
"War is coming," Arthur's piercing gaze holds Harry's. "I need your wand and your magic to guard Camelot."
It's a blow.
He doesn't want another war. He doesn't want to fight any more. He wants peace and a life and…he wants coffee and cake with Hermione arguing about essays and Ron complaining about anything muggle except fish and chips and…
"I was raised as a fosterling," Arthur says, cutting across his thoughts, "Ector was fierce and stern but he cared about the people under his rule. I had food and shelter. Kay was…too aware of his own status but he was friendly sometimes, brotherly rarely, and a bully when he didn't get his way. It taught me a lot my time in Ector's estate."
Harry thinks of his own experience with Petunia and Vernon; of Dudley's taunts and slaps before he'd finally clued into his own horribleness. It had taught him a lot too.
"I was twelve when we went to Londinium; when I drew the sword and became the King," Arthur shakes his head. "It was the way back then; boys went to battle long before they were properly men. But I wasn't ready and there were years of wars. Every day was another battle. If it hadn't been for Merlin and my knights…we barely won." He turns back to Harry. "I know you understand. I can see the scars of the battles you wear upon your soul."
"All I've done since I was eleven is fight," Harry says. "Even in the moments when there wasn't a battle, it was still…" he sighs. "I'm not…I don't think I can fight anymore even if my magic will be fixed soon."
"I think you underestimate your strength," Arthur says.
Harry doesn't reply.
Arthur turns away and looks out. "Albion was united, but it was stitched together with thin thread and nothing stronger than spit. We knew it wouldn't hold. Merlin and I…we knew it wouldn't hold, couldn't hold."
Harry frowns, wondering where Arthur is going with the tale.
"Merlin and I had already seen the truth; we'd lived it once before." Arthur says simply.
"We'd slipped between this world and another, where we had lived a life where Morgana and Mordred betrayed me, my wife fell in love with another, and where Camelot had fallen to ruin," Arthur says. "We knew when we returned where the cracks were, the petty jealousies and human failings which would break apart the fragile peace we'd built."
"Merlin created the family magic," Harry says.
"It worked for a while," Arthur smiles fondly. "But the fragility of our peace, we could do nothing to fix that. What we wanted to build was too soon for the world; it wasn't ready. We weren't ready. Merlin saw the end; the descent back to war, the final battle where I'd take a fatal blow. And so, we planned."
Harry waits for the king to continue.
"Merlin cast a spell, one that when the end was imminent sent our spirits to sleep and wait," Arthur says. "But Merlin could see beyond to each threat to our return. Some we could nothing but hope, some we planted seeds long before which helped to change the tide in our favour, and then there was this threat."
"Is it Voldemort?" Harry asks softly.
Arthur turns back to him. "Yes and no. Tom Marvolo Riddle is not yet the abomination he could become."
"But he's part of what's happening," Harry says.
Arthur nods and sighs. "There is more here than you know or we could see. Evil walks and we cannot know its face for certain. But what we knew back then was that we would need someone to help us fight it."
Harry suddenly knows. "The spell on the crystal ball. It was intended to bring someone here to fight this evil for you." He whirls away, furious and uncaring he's furious with a king. "How could you do that?" he thrusts a hand out toward Arthur. "Hermione almost died!" He stops. "It wasn't me you meant to bring. You meant to bring Hermione here and…"
"No, we meant to bring you and you would never have come willingly if not to save her," Arthur admits.
Harry is so angry, his magic rolls beneath his skin and he almost doesn't care if he controls it.
"The magical world does not survive here without your presence, Harry," Arthur says. "There is no other way. Merlin searched for a long time before we determined this."
It's blunt and honest. Harry can hear that. He just doesn't want to hear it. He's angry and tired…so tired of having to fight and…
Harry looks away from the king's piercing gaze. "If I don't fight…what happens?"
"The war will be brutal. Evil will triumph and the magical world will burn. There will be no world left for me to return to rule."
"But aren't you meant to return at the greatest hour of need?" asks Harry tersely.
Arthur frowns. "This magic is complex and ancient. Merlin and I…we agreed we would return when the world was ready for Camelot again."
Harry paces a step away, stops and looks out. He can barely believe what he's been told. He can't deny that he's standing looking out at a beautiful pastoral scene on top of a fairy-tale castle. He can't deny Hermione and he are in another world and a spell brought them there.
He hates this though. Hates being back at the beck and call of prophecy and fate.
"Know I do not ask this of you lightly. We may have chosen Hermione to bring you here, but we also knew you needed her beside you to support you; to ease the burden I can see you already carry. I know I have no right to ask you to carry more," Arthur says, "but this world needs a protector until I can return."
Harry can't argue with that. He just doesn't want it to be him. But he knows...he knows he won't sit by and let evil win. He won't. He can't. It's not in his nature. He can already hear Hermione scolding him about his saving people thing.
Merlin only knows what Hermione will think.
Although Harry thinks he can guess.
Harry rubs his forehead and turns back to the king. "I don't know if I can be what you want me to be."
Arthur's expression softens. "I trust in Merlin's magic and I trust in you, the boy with the mark of Taliesin on your brow. You are our choice," he keeps Harry's gaze. "Your King calls you to arms, Lord Peverell."
Harry nods slowly. "I accept."
The world shifts.
They're back in the Wizengamot; back on the Round Table in the centre of the chamber, all eyes upon them.
"You swear that your wand and magic will guard Camelot," Arthur says, his blue eyes blazing with inner light.
Harry acts on his instinct and goes down to one knee, his head bowed. "My wand and my magic will guard Camelot."
"Rise then, Harry James Potter, Earl of Peverell, Baron of Ravenshold," Arthur says.
Harry gets to his feet. He has no idea what he's supposed to say. He's barely aware that the Wizengamot is on its feet beyond the Round Table. He darts a look toward Hermione and finds her; hand over her mouth, eyes wide. Their eyes meet and he regains his calm. He takes a breath and turns back to the glowing figure of the King.
The Chief Witch finally finds her voice. "Our King has declared you, Harry, Earl of Peverell," she says shakily. "You may take your place among us."
Harry bows his head a touch and walks back up. He holds a hand out to Hermione and she takes it, her eyes brimming with questions. The Peverell box waits for them and Harry swallows hard at the sight of the grim on the coat of arms. He steps inside and Hermione follows him, her hand tightly holding his. They look back down to where Arthur's glowing figure still stands upon the Round Table.
Arthur looks out at the Wizengamot. "Know that the Earl of Peverell and his Lady are Knights of Avalon; they have our blessing." He declares and looks up at Harry. "Merlin's gift to you both…"
Beside Harry a large grim appears – it's not Padfoot but there's an immediate bond; the grim is his familiar. Next to Hermione, a kneazle, the image of Crookshanks, has appeared and she immediately sweeps it up and into her arms.
"Until we meet again." Arthur disintegrates into a million gold motes of magic which swirl and fly and disappear…
Chaos erupts, loud and noisy and deafening.
"ORDER! I WILL HAVE ORDER!"
Harry ignores the rest of the Wizengamot; the searing gaze of Dumbledore; the speculation and worry of his family and turns instead to look at Hermione. She looks back at him fiercely, protective and knowing.
He'll tell her everything soon enough. About Camelot, the King's orders, and Merlin's spell…but it's going to be alright. There may be another war to face but they have each other and that's all they've ever needed; friendship, bravery and love.
End of Part One
A/N: So, this ends the story where I ended when I was writing it as part of the Rough Trade challenge.
I've plotted out 4 more parts each around 60k of words which means this will be a mammoth project ending up somewhere around 300k of words by the time I've finished. I've started writing the next part but I won't start posting until I've got the majority of the next part written. If you haven't already please follow me so you can receive notifications when the next part is up. I'm not guaranteeing when that will be and hopefully the end of this part one provides an end-for-right-now conclusion.
Some of you may have also noticed the one-shots I'm posting, expect more of those between now and the next part of A Step to the Right.
Thank you to everyone who has left messages and/or reviews in support. Unfortunately I don't have time to answer each one individually but I appreciate every single one. Happy Reading!