Chapter 2 - Christmas Celebrations
Edited for spelling corrections on Sept 6, 2021. Thanks to ssbn655b.
Arcturus Black was bored. Bored, bored, bored. He'd much rather be at home, in front of a fire, sipping something so extremely expensive that muggles would have to sell their homes to buy one bottle, listening to soft music.
And the worst part of the nightmare is that he had spent years. Years. Years spent building the relationship for just this sort of event.
He had only himself to blame.
The newest addition to the Harry Potter dolls were what had really put a kicker in the whole evening. There he was, an invited guest into an elegant home where the cream of Light society were holding a, a, bleh, Christmas Eve celebration.
Albus Dumbledore had much to atone for, and getting everyone to go along with abandoning ancient rites was only one crime to be laid at his feet.
The scar-wearing, more clothes than any proper pureblood would admit to, sable-haired toy was another. And the girls had been playing with well-loved dolls with their overflowing toy trunks that contained all sorts of add-ons.
And how many of these galleons earned were going to Dumbledore's vault? No, thinking about Dumbledore would make him angry, Arcturus breathed in heavily and sighed quietly. No need to show the others how agitated he was. And Dumbledore wasn't responsible for this particular agitation.
Arcturus had no spies here, and he couldn't risk any monitoring charms. Not with the paranoid Master Auror Moody in, out and about.. He didn't like not knowing what was going on! That wasn't the worst of it though.
And he was among children! Small children! Who should be seen and not heard in his opinion.
Amelia still hadn't said what the floo call was a bit over two hours before. She had been upset, but came back and socialized as gracefully as she could. Dinner was now delayed waiting for -something. Then, about fifteen minutes ago, she apologized and left. Left a formal affair.
Most of the guests had excused themselves at this point, and left for home. Amelia Bones had an important position. It was understandable that emergencies would happen at the worst time.
But this left Arcturus and the Abbotts alone with the children. The girls had been allowed to open a few gifts, and had been guided to the toys that had been planned for the evening. A doll made up to look like each girl to go along with their already growing collection of accessories for their Harry Potter dolls.
The girls were now arguing over which one of them was to be married to the hero first, with little Hannah Abbot winning the coin toss. Dragons, of course it was dragons. The flipped coin was from the 1950's. Higher ridges then, heavier, of course it would land down...but his thoughts were running away again. Susie Bones was now crying, and declaring if Harry married Hannah first (well, the doll Hannah that was a look-a-like just like Susie's looked like her) then Susie would never speak to her friend again. Ever.
Rebecca Abbot swept over and picked up the crying girl. She declared that it was time for the girls to be packing their things up, as formal dinner would be served soon, and they needed to retire to the nursery. A human nanny in uniform stood nearby to assist.
The girls were tired, overstimulated, and needed to get some rest. Arcturus was actually jealous of their early escape. He still had to suffer through dinner.
Mrs. Abbot then turned to the elderly man, and asked if he could perhaps tell the girls a Christmas story?
Arcturus Black kept both wands, the public and private one, securely in their holsters, didn't Crucio anyone, and replied with a very gracious affirmative.
Now, finally, he was ensconced closer to the fire, was given a tumbler of something awful, cheap, and not nearly alcoholic enough, and was given a story book to read to the children.
'How Harry Potter Saved Christmas?!'
The glass in his hand suddenly shattered to pieces.
Amelia Bones was a very unhappy lady. Her first formal dinner as head of the DMLE, and of course, she gets an floo call. Too important to ignore. Fortunately, she had a reusable portkey to this particular site, and could slip away easily.
Hopefully she could delegate, delegate, delegate, and be home before her house elf was in tears over dry goose or whatever.
The boat from the island pulled up, and there was the warden himself. He was expected. A small child and a dog?!
Not so much.
"Warden McKinnon, report!" she commanded.
The verbal report was concise. The witch heard the words, and clearly, there was a small child there as proof.
"So Sirius Black is dead? Not escaped? Are you sure?" Amelia demanded. "That would be a disaster!"
"Yes ma'am, I'm quite sure. The crystals showed no breach. I had the boys go physically look at the wards, and check the walls. There's no way he escaped."
Amelia blew out a breath she hadn't realized that she held. "That's very good news. As for who kidnapped Mr. Potter, I will definitely be investigating that."
The adults had moved away from, and put up a privacy ward to talk. But they both watched the boy holding onto the dog for dear life, quietly talking to him. He was throwing stones into the water with one hand, holding the rough wool blanket around him and the dog like a cloak.
"Has he said where he was before he was sent to you?" Amelia asked.
"No ma'am, but I've no experience questioning dramatized children. I kept him warm, gave him food, and let him be with his pet. It takes a special criminal to be mean to an animal. Young Harry there acts as though they've been separated for a time. Don't know what happened to send them to Azkaban, but dark magic, mark my words. Dark magic."
The woman nodded. "I'll take him home with me tonight. There's no one at the Ministry. We're about to sit down to dinner. You'd be welcome to join us. I don't want to deprive the lad of your company. He has looked to you several times now. No doubt sees you properly as his rescuer. I have a request though."
"Aye, ma'am. What is it?"
"That you wait for Dumbledore to contact us, and not contact him."
"Unlike the rest of the wizarding world, I do not bow before that man. It has nothin' to do with who he takes to his bed, or anythin' else. I just don't like him. Never have, ma'am, and ne'er will."
"Why is that?"
"My great-granddaughter, Marlene. I let her think she was a muggleborn, easier to be that than a child of squibs back then. She joined his Order. My son, grandson, his wife, their children, all slaughtered like pigs. She was the only one with magic, but she couldn't fight them off a Death Eater attack alone. She was brutally tortured and murdered! Oh, what they did to her, to them before killing them! Come to find out that Albus too-many-names and titles Dumbledore had been warned. Warned! He could have saved them, my family. He nay lifted a finger to help.
"'It was for the Greater Good' he says to me. I'll nay let one Death Eater escape, not let them one comfort, and just warning you, Bellatrix is very, very sick. Likely to die very soon."
"Oh? What of?" Amelia asked. Prisoners sentenced to life were not allowed access to healers.
"Threatening to kill Harry Potter and wear his guts as a necklace. Quite terminal."
Amelia looked at him for a long moment. "Shame that, and here I am hosting her grandfather at my house."
His look of question was quickly replaced by the pureblood mask, but she answered his unasked question.
"Arcturus Black has declared for the Light, been a staunch supporter in the Wizengamot, and has been acting as a sort of grandfather for my niece and her friend. We all have lost family. We are trying to build something."
"I would be honored to eat with ye. And no doubt young Harry here is ready to sleep more. I know it's Christmas tomorrow, but perhaps we can get him into St. Mungos or get a healer quietly over. I nay want the press to catch wind o' this."
"We are in accord on that count. Let's gather up our charge."
Together, they went over and told Harry that they were about to portkey away. He nodded, not understanding anything, but held tightly to Prince as the world spun away.
Giving the warden a few minutes to see Harry Potter to bed, and making sure that the nanny on duty knew to check on the child, she refreshed her hair and makeup charms and Amelia swept back into the formal living room.
Her niece Susan ran to the woman and put sticky hands over her freshly laundered formal robes.
"Auntie! You're back! Grandpa Black read us a story and everything! And then we had pudding, and put out the treats for Santa."
She looked to the elderly man at the fire and nodded thank you. She could swear he was clenching his jaw. The old ways, trying not to show his joy at such a scene.
"It's wonderful to see you so happy Susan. Now, it's time for a bath and bed. Emily, thank you for letting the girls stay up late for me to see them. Now, if you would, please take them up. Good night, Hannah, sleep sweet both of you."
"Night, night, Aunt Amelia!" The girls chorused.
Waiting to make sure of no pending sudden returns, the warden was welcomed into the room. And with that, the mistress of the house closed and sealed the doors.
"What I am about to say has to stay here, and not leave this house for the next 24 hours. As you are all staying here, I hope that you will abide by my wishes."
Murmurs of agreement followed.
"Jason, in a minute, I'm going to ask you for your professional appraisal of a kidnap victim." The healer jumped to his feet, but was quickly settled back down with a look and hand movement from his boss. "No, the lad is not bleeding, or anything like that, so a few minutes won't make a difference. Basic first aid was administered upon rescue. I leave it to Master Auror and Warden McKinnon to tell the rest of the story."
The warden shared an odd look with Arcturus Black, and then eyed each person in the room. They all knew each other, if not well. Jason Abbott, healer; Rebecca Abbott, his wife and tutor for the children. Arcturus Black, at least a hundred years old if not older, and head of a fading family that he was trying to bring to the light. Hah!
He spoke about what he knew - facts, adding no supposion. That is, until the end.
"I'm sorry to be blunt, Lord Black, but it appears that your grandson Sirius Black would have been killed today by this evil ritual. I canna' say that that was the intent. Until we find the kidnappers, and question them, we won't know. I just know that I'm sorry for all of the grief you have borne."
Lord Black stood, and went to the fire. He was twirling his house ring, over and over. He finally returned to the table.
"Many of you don't know this, but Sirius Black was Harry Potter's godfather. Aye, I know, he couldn't have been oath-sworn, and kept his magic, but a godfather of sorts all the same. My grandson asked my permission to make Harry Potter his heir until such time as he had a child of his own. I agreed. Partly, because young Potter is the grandson of my sister Dorea, and therefore a Black by blood. Partly because of the love between James and Sirius - those two were close as brothers at one point. So I hope that this does not shock anyone."
The man swirled to the head of the table, and pulled his wand. Magic gathered, heady and deep. Waiting.
"I, Arcturus, Lord Black, swear by my magic that I recognize Harry James Potter as my blood, my heir, and my family. His hurts are my hurts. His successes are my successes. Blood of my blood as if descended from my loins. I will provide for him, watch over him, teach him, and protect him. From now until the end of days. So say I!"
"So we witness." Intoned the adults in awe of the magic felt in the room.
Arcturus went back over to the fireplace, and a weathered hand was placed over his eyes. The company assumed he was grieving for his lost grandchild.
"What about the pet? This familiar of Potter's? Has it been fed, taken care of?" Lord Black asked. "That young Potter bonded so young with such a powerful totem - well, I've not heard of the like before. I offer my own services to take care of the animal."
Amelia nodded. Likely family magic was making Arcturus aware of the child and the familiar's needs.
"I've put the boy in the guest room next to the nanny's room. The dog is there. I'll have my house elf show you the way. Please try not to disturb the boy too much - he's had a rough day."
"Of course, Amelia. I'll just check in on him, and be right back."
Dinner was delayed over an hour, and no one was feeling particularly hungry when it was served.
Amelia had wanted her first formal dinner to be memorable. And it was, it really was.
Arcturus Black was feeling younger than he had in years. Struggling to control his cackling, he had escaped to find his wayward children.
There, in the room indicated, was a small boy. His now-clean hair was all over the place. It appeared that the curse Charlus had run into in Egypt was indeed still in effect. Well, seven generations is a long time, especially in wizarding generations.
His eyes swept the room. Silvery grey eyes from the form on the bed looked up and met, and Arcturus pointed to the room next door. The large muzzle looked towards the boy on the bed, then turned back.
Lord Black's own bed had been beckoning for hours, but the news had reinvigorated the man.
Now, they just had to sneak into Gringotts, a quick ritual, and they would be safe.
The minute that both dog and man had cleared the door, it was shut and locked. Sealed and warded.
The two purebloods actually hugged, not something that was done regularly in their circles, but this was extraordinary circumstances.
"You're free lad! Do you understand? Free! All of the work I've done to try and get you out, and this happens. You go and get yourself out!" Arcturus patted him on the back. "You'll have to take a different name, different birthday. What about Marcus' child - the one that died in the dingo attack? He was born just a year before you. Does anyone know about that?"
Arcturus was the only one that had kept in touch with his nephew Marcus after the lad didn't get his Hogwarts letter. He moved to Australia, joined the naval marines there when he grew up, and served Queen and country. Marcus lost his oldest son at age three on a wildlife tour. His wife had left him after that, but the man remarried. There would be few around who would remember Ares Antares Black. But Sirius Black was about to be reborn as the nearly same age cousin who died long before.
It was amazing what a bit of gold and magical servants could do. Christmas Eve, poor little Harry Potter had been dressed in rags, and had been starved. Cold and alone.
Christmas morning saw a freshly bathed Harry Potter sporting the finest silk pyjamas and a velvet dressing gown, complete with House Black ensignia. Another outfit or two waited for the boy in his room. While he had been fed last night, he also got a nice breakfast - something he clearly wasn't expecting. And he was warm, and clearly with people who liked him.
The warden had sat down with Harry long enough to tell him that his Grandfather Black was going to be taking care of him from now on. The former auror asked if that was alright, and Harry had looked at the well-dressed, cultured elderly man carefully.
"Will you ever beat me, sir?"
"I have sworn on my magic to keep you safe, young one. I would never strike a child. I never did so to any of mine when they were growing up. I would never allow someone else to hurt them, either. And I will protect you as best as I can."
"And I'll get to eat, at least once a day?"
That question actually brought a tear to the crugmudden.
"No lad" he answered and the boy looked down in sorrow. "You'll eat at least four times a day, sometimes more when we have company. I'm not opposed to elevenses myself you know."
Harry looked up, eyes shining. He somehow always knew when people told him the truth, and this man was telling the truth.
"And you don't mind me keeping Prince?"
Arcturus actually laughed at this one. "Lad, one day, you will understand why calling your friend the black dog 'Prince' is funny. For now, let me tell you, reassure you, that I want you to have him with you. I insist. A better bodyguard you will never have!"
Prince leaned into Harry, as though he knew he was being talked about.
"I still want to visit Warden McKinnon once in awhile." Harry said, unusually pushy in comparison to his normal behavior. "Please."
"I completely agree. Warden, you have the thanks of House Black. I'm very appreciative of your service. If there is anything I can ever do..."
The man nodded in thought. "I would like to be able to visit the boy. But one thing concerns me. You have no witches in your home. At least none I have heard of."
Arcturus had lost her. His precious wife of almost 80 years. Melania would always be missed, and no her portrait wasn't enough to help raise a strong wizard.
Arcturus swept his hand to the family now gathering. "I have been informally adopted into House Bones as a surrogate grandfather. Harry will have Amelia Bones and Rebecca Abbott in his life. And no doubt some of the Black witches will come to help if asked." He paused for a moment. "Well, not Walburga."
The men joined in a brief guffaw that got the ladies' negative attention.
It was time to open gifts.
Harry Potter was in heaven!
He had been introduced to the girls as Hadrian James Black. Harry didn't really understand magic at all, but he was six, and very accepting about the power and lights that streamed from the wooden sticks he saw used around him. He understood that Grandfather Black had adopted him. Harry also understood that this meant he had a soft bed to sleep in, food to eat, and now it was time to open presents!
He might even get one of his own.
Watching the girls was interesting. Susie opened each gift shredding the paper, and shrieking with glee, even if it was something boring like socks.
Hannah opened each gift as though it might break any second. She folded the paper carefully, despite the fact that house-elves would likely banish it later. She would then oh and ah, even if she had no clue what it was.
Harry on the other hand was overwhelmed. He had never seen so many gifts of his own. The first ones were socks that he was told would keep his feet warm, and new pants and other items he really didn't want to open around girls.
But when that was over, he opened up a toy train set. A train that moved on its own, puffed smoke, and blew a very realistic if diminished volume whistle.
He had no idea that it ran on magic. It didn't matter. It was the most remarkable thing he had ever seen! And he certainly wanted to stop opening gifts in order to play with this one!
The adults indulged him for a few minutes, but it was explained to him that he was going to hurt the ladies' feelings if he didn't at least peak at their gifts. With muttered apologies, Harry went to work on the stack of gifts. He still took time to say thank you to the giver of each one, but the boy was on a mission!
Conquer the stack and then get back to the GOOD present.
Arcturus laughed. He complimented his elf Nigel for the train set. Such different elves! Kreacher had been threatened with clothes. As the only elf that was even partially bonded with Sirius, he had been the one that could have thwarted the entire plan. Now, he was happy (well, sourly scowling and miserable, which was as good as) with Walburga, and Arcturus had a new relative, all thanks to Goblin magic, application of gold, and the goblin manager's appreciation of cunning plans that go against Albus Dumbledore.
For someone with so much clout, Albus had very few wizards who liked him as a person.
As Amelia wasn't up yet, the group put a stop to gift opening, and put up a ward to silence the children. Adults were trying to hear themselves, and were needing to shout to be heard.
The children began to play with toys, old and new. Harry was entranced by his new train, and wasn't paying attention to his surroundings when it happened.
Hannah had accidentally tripped on one of her gifts and knocked heads with Harry. He immediately apologized, though he was nowhere near being the cause of the collision, and began rubbing his head.
The small collision was not noticed by the adults who were all talking and drinking and snacking. The Abbott parents were near their daughter, and Susan, without having to listen to the shrieks.
None of the adults noticed the growing altercation either.
"Hey - you have a scar like Harry Potter!"
Harry rolled his eyes. No one had said his name was a secret.
"Brilliant Hannah! You guessed it! I have a scar like Harry Potter, wear glasses like Harry Potter and even have his same eye color. The only thing I don't have is my own war horse, or armor or sword or castle or any of the other ridiculous things that the Harry Potter doll has. And I never had those things - especially not a pink or purple unicorn!"
Alright, the pink and purple unicorns may have been pushing the boundary of what was acceptable to young wizards, but Miss Abbott was all witch, and she wasn't having it. She liked her small herd of horse-like creatures.
"The real Harry Potter LIKES his pink and purple unicorns! Take that make-up off! You're not Harry Potter!"
"I would love to lose the scar! I lost my parents when I got this! They died, and I nearly did! You have both parents! And don't tell me to take off my glasses. They aren't very good, but it's better than being blind!"
"Oh! You're horrible! I'm going to wash it off!"
Hannah was a proper lady, so she had a handkerchief. She then forwent all proper etiquette, and spat into said cloth. She then proceeded to rub Harry's forehead, hard. All she got for her pains was a bit of accidental magic knocking her down and backwards three feet.
Harry was still recovering from apparating a few hundred miles and through ancient wards. Hannah was lucky.
The magic use, and Hannah flying finally got the adults attention, and the silencing ward came down.
Hannah looked in horror to see that Harry's scar was now bleeding, and her handkerchief held the proof of that.
"That hurt!" Harry spit out. And then the worst insult he could think of at the moment. "You're a meany!"
But by then the stunned adults were up and acting. Mad-eye Moody took in everyone and everything all at once.
"Potter! Where's your bodyguards?" Alaster demanded as no one appeared to be on watch at all.
"Bodyguards? What bodyguards? Oh, Prince! Prince, here boy!" Harry called.
A Grim really upsets certain superstitious, old-fashioned types. The morning was an open house normally for Amelia, who was still abed after her very late night. She had forgotten to forbid entry to the aurors who normally came by. Fortunately, for Harry that is, none of the current aurors had ever worked for anyone other than the Ministry.
Funny how former Death Eaters shied away from functions at Bones Manor.
The shouting as the large dog ran into the room raised enough chaos that Madame Bones was awoken, and rushed to the scene.
Harry Potter was behind Mad-Eye Moody, who was flanked by a now clean and groomed large black dog. Who was growling and snarling due to the shouting. Of course, people were shouting because of the large growling visage of Death, so it came around again.
Growl, scream, growl, cry, growl, shriek, repeat.
Arcturus was actually having trouble keeping the cackles in! That was twice within 24 hours. Had to be a record of some sort.
Amelia pulled her wand, and made a cannon blast sound. It was brilliant! Harry was starting to understand that he was seeing magic, real magic made. He wanted to do that too!
"Wow! That was awesome! Can I try it? Please?"
Mad-eye reached down, and pulled out a spare wand. No time was too early to learn spells, and a loud one like that could distract an enemy and allow the lad to run away. And didn't take too much magic, either. Harry was clearly magical, having just done accidental magic and having a Grim as a familiar and all.
"Now, you take it and..."
All of the windows on the main floor of the house were in tiny pieces. More than one person was completely deaf, and two people had blood running out their ears.
Harry handed the wand back with a very chagrined look. "Oops." He looked around. "I'm very sorry!"
Jason Abbott had the injuries fixed in no time. For the moment though, everyone was just stunned. Harry Potter, who had been missing for the last half-decade did a spell with an auror's wand and destroyed all of the windows nearby!
Alaster knew he wasn't buying his own drinks or meals for months on this story! On second thought.
"Alright people, I think that this qualifies as a need-to-know event. If you feel you can't keep it quiet, let me know. We will remove just the last few minutes from you..." Amelia declared, with all of the senior aurors nodding.
Arcturus just looked pleased as punch. He then looked around, and saw the right combination of people to send a message.
"I disagree with Amelia. Maybe not in the particulars. But I think it's healthy for the people of our world to know that Harry here is powerful. He escaped whoever kidnapped him. They obviously knew that within moments if they weren't the ones that sent him to Azkaban. And if the people who sent him there intended to kill him by dementors, well, they made a mistake, didn't they? In fact, didn't the warden say something about dementors dying because Harry showed up." Arcturus asked, straight-faced.
Everyone gasped at that. Harry Potter could kill dementors?
Harry wondered what a dementor was, and how he had killed it. Was this like the storybook?
And no one had ever noticed who Sirius had gotten his love of pranks from when he was a child?
Amelia twigged to the tale, and then carefully hid her emotions. "I really don't remember everything said last night. There was just so much. And Harry still hasn't been questioned properly. We wanted to give him a normal environment to rest and recuperate in."
Prince started to bark in an odd manner, sounding roughly like laughter to Hannah's ear. She started laughing, which got Susie going, and soon everyone was joining in.
This was definitely no one's definition of a normal day.
Harry stopped cringing, worried about being hit for his 'freakishness' again, after several people congratulated him on his powerful magic. Mrs. Abbott said that such a powerful display would have earned Hannah a cake at her house! Mad-eye Moody beamed at him, and spoke in low tones to Lord Black about future lessons.
Even Madame Bones wasn't mad! They were all safe and happy. The windows were soon fixed by some dedicated and overachieving young aurors, and Christmas morning had just gained a new super Harry story. One better than any book that had been yet published.
Everyone calmed down. Arcturus and Amelia agreed that Harry didn't need to open all of the gifts he had received just now, and let him play with the train.
Harry still needed to spend time with a healer and be questioned about his kidnapping. But at least the boy had a nice Christmas morning.
Arcturus looked at the large black dog leaning into the child.
They were together. Happy. Safe. Warm.
It was without doubt the best Christmas that Arcturus had ever celebrated.