Chapter 15: What the Future Holds
Another chapter for you guys here :)
For those interested, chapter 23 has been posted on my website.
Simply click on the link to my site (this can be found on my profile and will be the first link you see) and then the link to the discord server around halfway down the homepage.
I had to stop posting discord links on FF as they were causing too many problems for people to join.
At no point during the last several years did Harry envision that he would see the inside of the castle again, let alone be teaching in the very same classroom that his own journey in Defence Against the Dark Arts had begun.
They had been much simpler days, days where his concerns mounted to little more than completing homework, playing chess with Ron and maybe finding himself caught up in a misadventure of sorts.
How life had changed. And as he pondered such, he could not fathom how he had survived up this point. He should have been killed many times over.
He ignored the wave of cold magic that swept over him as it had been doing over the past few days, a stark reminder that his dreams were more than just that.
Whatever the cloaked figure had done to him was very real. Where there had once been a lingering warmth to his magic, there was no longer so. Only the cold remained but it felt oddly right. Whatever the figure had done, the magic now felt that it belonged to him. Just him.
Where before he could often feel conflict within himself from the merging souls, there was none any longer. Ever since he had first passed through the veil, he felt whole; his mind, soul and magic now one.
It was a feeling one would be hard-pressed to explain, but Harry understood it. Before he had come here, he would often question his impulsive decisions after the event and knew he had at times been rash and foolish. Had that been Riddle's soul urging him in directions he would not take under normal circumstances? Or had it been him?
Harry knew not and he did not wish to dwell on such thoughts. Those days were very much behind him and he would not try to comprehend magic that even the keenest minds would struggle to understand.
No, his focus needed to be on the here and now, the things that were much more important to him than his past actions and where his own journey had begun.
Somehow, he had been charged with educating the students seated in front of him and blessed with a beautiful and patient woman that knew less about him than she deserved.
Narcissa was worried about him, and why wouldn't she be?
His episode had been unexpected and remained unexplained. He would often catch her eying him with concern, and he had no words to reassure her. How could he explain that he often convenes with a cloaked figure claiming to be Death? How could he tell her that this place had not always been his home? How could he explain to her everything that he had experienced and endured throughout his life?
He couldn't, not everything at least. She did, however, deserve something and he had spent his waking moments since that night pondering just what he could tell her.
He did not wish his married life to begin being built on a lie, yet, he could not give her the whole truth.
He shook his head of those thoughts as his wand vibrated in his hand, signalling that time was up for the third-year students he had administered a quiz to. He needed to understand what knowledge on the curriculum they had and devise lessons to fill any gaps.
Fortunately for them, they had two years before they would sit their OWLs, considerable time to catch up on anything missed. The fifth and seventh years did not have such an advantage, and their lessons would need to be more structured.
"That is time up," he announced, summoning the pieces of parchment in front of them into his hand. "I will look over these and decide what will need to be covered or revisited with you. "Off you go."
They left the room, some grumbling under their breaths from the unexpected assessment and others discussing how well they believed they had done. When the room was empty, Harry readied himself for his next lesson, and as much as he had tried to prepare himself mentally for it, nothing could have readied him for the moment he laid his eyes on his mother for the first time.
She was the first to enter the room with two other girls he paid little mind to, the red hair he had heard so much of and the very same green eyes she had given him hard to miss.
He reluctantly dragged his focus away from her as the rest of the class filed in; a mixture of all four houses within the school. It was a large group he would be teaching, and they took their seats, some eyeing him warily and others expectantly.
Very briefly, he caught Wormtail paying rapt attention to him and he had to fight the urge to reach for his wand. It would not do to murder a student seemingly without cause, but he would be watching the rat closely.
"What are the Dark Arts?" Harry questioned simply. "You, Snape," he prompted when the boy raised his hand.
It was odd to see his former potions master as a teen. Harry had always imagined he had been born a middle-aged, bitter man. This Snape was smiling, something that did not suit the boy.
"The Dark Arts are a collection of branches of magic that focus on topics considered taboo by governing bodies. It is a ridiculous way to classify them as the 'Dark Arts', as they are termed, are subjective. There are many practices that are considered dark in Britain that are common practice in other countries."
Harry nodded. The Snape he knew had been an expert on the topic, perhaps the most knowledgeable person he had ever met.
"Take ten points for Slytherin," Harry offered, impressed by the answer given. "Despite what your own opinions are on the Dark Arts, Mr Snape is correct. Magics that are viewed as immediately life-threatening or not widely understood are thrown into that category. It is a basic and poor way of categorising such things. You beg to differ, Miss?"
"Evans, Professor," the redhead answered, and Harry felt his heart warm at hearing her voice.
It was familiar, though the tone was much different. The only other time he had heard it was in his nightmares when she had pleaded for his life.
"Go ahead, Miss Evans," he prompted.
"Shouldn't some magic be categorised as dark? There are spells that are designed only to cause pain and suffering."
Harry nodded thoughtfully.
"You raise a very interesting point. However, I believe you are mistaking magic with the intent of the user. Perhaps a demonstration would help?"
The redhead frowned but nodded, and Harry summoned one of the dummies left behind by the previous professor and placed it in the middle of the room for the class to see. It was rather lifelike with the bones and organs on full display.
"Okay," he began, flicking his wand into his hand. "If I was to do this," he continued, flicking his wand towards the dummy.
A bright orange spell left the tip and the heart exploded. An unsightly dark fluid leaked out and ran into the stomach cavity, the effects causing the students to gasp and some to pale from what they had seen.
"A rather horrible spell," Harry mused aloud, "but a quick death, almost instant, yes?"
The class nodded their agreement and Harry repaired the dummy with a wave of his wand.
"Now, watch this," he instructed.
A series of snapping sounds reverberated off the walls as he set to work, beginning with the fingers of the dummy, then the toes before pulling the shoulders out of the sockets. The hip bone followed next and then the separate vertebrae, and finally, the neck. It was all but pulled in two and the head hung limply, and morbidly to one side.
The class stared at him in disbelief.
"What is the difference between what I did?"
"The first was a spell that is considered dark," Snape muttered.
"It is," Harry agreed, "and what about the second? Can anyone tell me what spell I used?"
When no answer was forthcoming, Harry nodded. It was not one that a sixteen-year-old would recognise.
"Would you believe me if I told you that it is a spell commonly used by healers?"
"Healers?" a Slytherin student snorted.
"Yes," Harry confirmed. "It is the very same spell they use to replace bones that have been dislocated, just repurposed. Now, what you saw would kill you. If given the choice, would you take the death from the already known and immediate, dark spell, or the one used by healers?"
"I'd take the first," Remus murmured. "I don't fancy having my bones pulled apart like that."
"So, does that mean the second should be considered dark? Even though it is used regularly to help Quidditch players and any other witch or wizard that needs it?" he questioned Lily.
The girl shook her head.
"No, but the first one is not so useful."
"It is if the need to defend yourself arises," Harry countered. "It is a quite easy spell to cast, requires no wand movements and is difficult to block. Compared to many others, it is a rather quick death."
When the girl said nothing, he turned his attention back to the rest of the class.
"What is the point I am trying to make? Mr Black?" he questioned Sirius.
"That magic is not bad, but people who use it can be?" he replied uncertainly.
"Take five points for Gryffindor," Harry returned. "That is exactly my point. This topic is not a singular one. It is a cross-curricular study that incorporates many other branches of magic, some that would be considered dark and others that are used every day. Magic itself is not dark nor is it good. What determines that is the intent in which it is wielded with."
"Like when you killed Avery?" a Slytherin student spat.
Harry did not recognise him, but he nodded unashamedly.
"It was either me or him. I would do the same with anyone that dared threaten me in such a way."
"DEATH!" Olin screeched from where he had perched on the edge of Harry's desk, startling the students and his eyes boring into the boy that questioned Harry.
"For your homework this week, I would like a list of three commonly used spells and how they can be repurposed to be used in a defensive way. I will have that back from you on Friday. Mr Snape? Stay behind for a moment."
The rest of the class packed their books, quills and parchment away and exited the room, leaving Harry alone with Snape.
"You have excellent knowledge of the Dark Arts," Harry remarked. "I would be very careful with how far you delve into them. The Mind Arts will only protect you so much from their allure."
Snape gaped at him, but did not deny the accusation, evidently taken aback by Harry's observation. Three times when he had met the gaze of the boy, he had felt attempts to read his surface thoughts and he had to fight the urge to act against him.
"And a friendly warning to you, young man. If I feel even another slight legilimency probe aimed my way, I will allow you into the darkest recesses of my mind and tear through yours like it was wet parchment. Do you understand?"
The boy nodded dumbly.
"I will be watching you, Snape. Do not give me any cause to report you for your use of a frowned upon branch of magic."
"Yes, Professor," Snape replied grumpily.
"Who is teaching you?"
"I'm teaching myself. My mother introduced me to it, and I've been working on it since."
Harry nodded appreciatively. Snape had never divulged that information to him.
"Then you are doing very well," he praised, much to the boys' surprise. "Keep up the good work and you will one day be an excellent practitioner. Now, off you go."
Snape said nothing as he gathered his things and took his leave from the room, and Harry shook his head.
What an odd experience that had been, and one he would experience many times more.
With the class gone, however, his mind was pulled back towards the other problems he faced and any enjoyment he had felt all but evaporated.
"What do you think of him?" James asked Remus and Peter as they made their way towards the Great Hall for lunch.
"He's bloody terrifying," Peter mumbled. "Did you see what he did? He broke all of those bones without blinking."
Remus nodded his agreement.
"He doesn't seem like the right kind of person to get on the wrong side of. I'm surprised Selwyn didn't piss himself from the look he got for asking about Avery."
"Nah, Peverell's alright," Sirius declared, "well, unless you piss him off. I won't forget what he did to Bellatrix."
By the time he had finished speaking, Sirius was grinning almost wistfully.
"What did happen between him and your cousin?" Lily asked.
"Peverell went to dinner with my family, and I think Bellatrix threatened him. It didn't end well for her. I still think he should have killed the bitch personally."
"Sirius, she's your family!" Lily chided.
"She bloody isn't. I'd sooner be related to Crabbe than her."
"Aren't you already related to Crabbe?" James teased.
"Probably," Sirius grumbled irritably. "Anyway, he didn't kill her because Cissy asked him not to."
"And now he's marrying her," Remus reminded him.
Sirius shook his head.
"He must have a death wish getting involved with one of our lot. He's bloody mad."
"He's marrying your cousin?" Lily questioned.
"Watch out, Prongs, Evans is jealous," Peter snorted.
"I am not!" Lily denied hotly. "It's just strange that he almost killed her sister and now he's marrying Narcissa."
"Not really," James denied. "Things like that happen all the time. My mum married my dad. Even though we haven't had problems with the Blacks, no Potter has married one before."
"Your mum is a Black?" Lily pressed, evidently not knowing that. "Just how big is that family?"
"Not that big anymore," Sirius sighed. "Bella is married to Lestrange, Cissy will marry Peverell, and Andi ran away with the muggleborn. There's only me and Reg left."
"And Sirius here will one day have to deal with all of that crap when he becomes Lord Black," James chuckled. "Imagine having to try and threaten Peverell if he upsets your cousin."
"No chance. I'm not going to be Lord of anything. My grandfather can piss off if he thinks otherwise."
"Come off it, Pads. There's no one else who should oversee that lot. If you don't do it, your mother has won," James pointed out.
"She already did when she kicked me out of my home," Sirius bit back, shaking his head before storming away unhappily.
"His mum kicked him out?" Lily asked sadly.
James could only nod. He wasn't going to go into what happened to his friend, but needless, to say, Sirius was determined to wash his hands of the Blacks.
James's own father was trying to talk him round but had thus far only been met with the expected stubbornness and resistance.
Sirius would never admit it, but he was hurt by what happened, by how he had been treated by much of his family. But James didn't care about nor fear the Blacks. Sirius was his friend and there was nothing that would change that.
At the very least, he would always be welcome with the Potters.
Although he had left the muggles be for the most part, the Dark Lord had not been idle in his efforts. For weeks, he had been making ground with building alliances, adding to his already vast numbers, but it was not the loyalty of wizards he had sought, it was the various creatures that could prove to be of use he had been courting.
After some rather easy negotiations, he had managed to add an entire werewolf pack to his cause, led by none other than Fenrir Greyback, one of the most feared alphas in the last century.
Already, he was making his way towards Britain with several dozen, feral beasts in tow. The acquisition of the werewolves, however, was not why he was currently feeling rather pleased.
No, they were nothing compared to the alliance he had forged with the Dementors. With their assistance, the war was all but an assured victory. He merely needed to give the word and the creatures would leave their posts at Azkaban to wreak havoc on the muggle and magical population.
"My Lord," a voice pulled him from his thoughts. "Corvus has just informed me of something I believe you will wish to know."
Voldemort frowned but gestured for the man to continue.
"Lord Peverell has been appointed as the new defence Professor at Hogwarts."
The Dark Lord nodded thoughtfully.
"That is rather interesting," he mused aloud. "Do you have any idea how this occurred?"
The man shook his head.
"Very suddenly, my lord. The former Professor left and was replaced the same day by Peverell. That's all we know."
"Shall we do nothing?"
"Indeed, and have instructions sent to the school that Peverell is to be watched but not antagonised. It could well be the old fool has brought him in to take advantage of his reputation. The man is to be left to carry out his duties, but I want weekly reports of who he is associating with and if the relationship between Peverell and Dumbledore is more than a professional one."
"Of course, my lord. I will ensure it is done right away."
With his instructions relieved, his follower left the room, and the Dark Lord was left to ponder this development. Had Peverell perhaps joined Dumbledore's irritating group of do-gooders? Or had he merely taken a job at the school amongst the other professors?
It was too soon to tell, but the situation would be monitored. He still wished to bring the man to his cause, but his loss would be much less significant now.
In the coming months, he would be ready to unleash his forces on wizarding Britain and none, Dumbledore, nor any other fool who sided with him could hope to stop what was coming.
The thought filled him with a sense of unparalleled glee, and he chuckled lightly. For decades, he had been working towards this, and finally, he felt as though his efforts were finally bearing fruit.
It had been many months since Albus had been summoned to see the Minister, the last time being when she had first taken office a little over a year ago. That had been before the less savoury elements of society had begun cultivating their own relationships with her, and in her naivety, she had fallen for their charismatic charms.
Avery, Malfoy and Rosier to name but a few had wormed their way into the woman's good graces and Albus had not been called upon for anything other than for his duties as Chief Warlock. Were it not for the current climate of the outside world, he would perhaps feel relieved that he had not been needed. With how things were unfolding, however, he did not.
He himself had sought out Millicent to be granted permission to place and monitor the additional magical sensors. Not a peep had been heard from her since, not until this morning at least.
The letter had been delivered by an owl, the parchment sealed with the Minister's own mark, and here he was. He knew not what she wanted from him, but the message received had been short and curt.
My office, 4pm today.
Minister of Magic
He was allowed to pass by the Minister's assistant and the auror guard stationed at the door knocked before entering. The man in red robes returned only a moment later, and nodded at the headmaster, granting him entry.
"You asked to see me," Albus stated after closing the door behind him.
The Minister nodded and gestured for him to take a seat on the opposite side of the desk to herself.
She looked tired, more so than other Minister that had been in office for such a short while. The circles under her eyes were dark, and she had aged considerably. The stressful life of one in such a position was not for many, and Millicent was evidently feeling the strain of her responsibilities.
"I wished to speak with you about the project you have been working on," she explained. "I had my doubts, Albus, but your assistance has been valuable to say the least. I do, however, find myself confused as to why it has been so quiet recently? Barty has reported little activity for weeks. Am I being hopeful to believe that whatever was happening is over?"
"I'm afraid that this is merely the calm before the storm," Albus replied severely. "This man is not a foe to take lightly, and I can only imagine that he is once more biding his time."
"That is what I was afraid of," Millicent sighed. "The auror force will need to be boosted. Can I count on your support to see the bill through?"
"I would suggest doing so as quickly as possible. I will discuss it quietly with a few trustworthy people."
"Please do, Albus, and thank you."
Dumbledore offered her a slight bow as he stood.
"I did hear that yourself and this man had an altercation."
"We did, and he is a wizard that very few would wish to cross. I cannot stress how dangerous he is, Millicent."
"Then my preparations will begin immediately," the Minister responded. "Can you be ready in a week?"
"I can," Dumbledore confirmed. "I will raise as much support as possible between now and then."
"As will I, though I am reluctant to discuss it with many. With so much uncertainty with who is involved, I dare not reveal too much of my intentions."
"Then say nothing and allow me to handle it. You will have the required support, I can assure you of that."
Bagnold said nothing, but nodded, and Albus took his leave of the office.
He could not help but think her intervention was coming too little, too late, but he was pleased she was finally recognising the threat for what it was. Tom had always been a problem child and he had grown into something beyond what the headmaster believed he could, but with Millicent finally taking a stand, perhaps all would not be lost.
Narcissa watched Harry as he pored over the stack of parchment he had brought home with him from the castle, a light frown marring his features accompanied by the occasional shake of his head as he scratched away with his quill. She was proud of what he was doing and that he was dedicating himself to his new role.
Her pride still played second fiddle to the worry.
They had not discussed the night he had taken his odd turn, had not spoken of how she thought that he was dying before her eyes. It was something that he had seemingly taken in his stride, but she could not do the same. Every night he slept, she feared that it would happen again, and he would remain as cold as he had been minus the waking up.
"I don't think I was this naïve when I was their age," Harry muttered unhappily. "What the hell kind of teaching have they had?"
"Defence has always been a problem at Hogwarts," Narcissa explained. "We'd have at least one new professor a year."
Harry huffed as he leaned back in his chair.
"It shows," he sighed.
Narcissa nodded as she stared at him, wondering just what went through his mind.
He was the sweetest man she had met, kind and caring, but undoubtedly jaded in many ways. She wanted to know him, all of him, but he seemed reluctant, or he just didn't understand how much such a thing meant to her.
Did he not wish to know her in the same way? Did he not want to know her more intimately and in ways no other ever would?
"You're worrying again," his voice interrupted her thoughts.
She had no reason to deny it.
"How would you feel if you woke up and thought that I was dying?" she asked.
He stared at her speculatively for a moment before deflating and conceding the point with a nod.
"You're right," he replied as he drew his wand and tapped the pile of parchment sat atop the table.
It packed itself away into a trunk Harry had purchased to use for his job and he patted the spot on the sofa next to him.
Narcissa joined him, nervous about what he was going to say.
"I've been thinking about it since," he admitted. "It's hard for me to explain a lot of what has happened. Most of it is in a place I'd rather leave it, but you're going to be my wife and you more than anyone deserve an explanation."
"I don't need to know everything about you, Harry," Narcissa replied, taking one of his hands in her own. "I just want to know you."
"What would you like to know?"
Narcissa was stumped by the question. Where should she even begin?
"What about your childhood?"
Harry's expression darkened and Narcissa did not expect a happy tale. In truth, she didn't expect much happiness from hearing about Harry's past, not with how he had lived his life.
"You already know my parents were murdered. When that happened, I was sent to live with some muggle relatives on my mother's side," he revealed. "My life with them was unpleasant to say the least. They despised me for what I was, and yet, didn't see fit to tell me. They made my life miserable for what I believed to be was no reason. I didn't discover I was a wizard until I was eleven."
Narcissa offered him a sad smile.
"Ever since then, the man who murdered my parents has haunted me. He wants me dead just as much as I want to kill him. It wasn't even them he came for that night. It was me."
"But you were a baby," Narcissa whispered, shocked by the revelation. "Why would he want you dead?"
"Because of a prophecy," Harry answered with a shrug. "He believes that I am a threat to him, that I will be his equal and that I have the power to defeat him."
"A prophecy?" Narcissa snorted. "What a load of shit."
Harry raised an eyebrow at the woman. He had never heard her curse. She claimed it was an unseemly thing to do, a lesson she had learnt from her mother during her pureblood raising.
"Well, it is," she defended, seeing his expression.
"He believes it, and that's all that matters."
"And your parents saved you?"
Harry shook his head.
"No, he killed them both and tried to do the same to me," he explained. "His killing curse rebounded off me and hit him, but neither of us died."
Narcissa scoffed in disbelief but balked when she realised Harry was being serious.
"You survived it?"
"I did," Harry confirmed. "I don't know how, but this scar is from that," he explained, pointing to the faded lightning bolt.
Narcissa shook her head in disbelief, not knowing what to say. Learning about Harry only left her with more questions and made him just that more mysterious.
"And you've spent your life hiding from him," she deduced.
"For many years I've hidden from him and his followers, waiting for them to catch up with me and fulfil his wish to see me dead. I'm tired of running, of hiding like a scared rabbit in a hole. If I've learnt anything in life, it's that fate will always find a way to get what she wants in the end. It is inevitable."
Narcissa frowned. She didn't take Harry for a superstitious person or one who believed in such trivial things.
"Fate?" she questioned.
"It has brought me here," Harry answered ominously. "I don't expect you to understand, but everything I have seen and done is leading towards our meeting. One of us will perish and it will not be me. I will take him personally to Death and hand him over."
The final words spoken reminded Narcissa of something her grandfather had said during the meal with the Lestranges and Malfoys.
"You know, people think you can really do that," she laughed, stopping quickly as Harry's eyes flashed white and Olin began bouncing on his perch excitedly.
"DEATH, DEATH, DEATH!" he shrieked.
"There is much more truth in that rumour than you would believe," Harry sighed. "My family has a remarkably close relationship with Death. My…episode…that you witnessed is not the first and it won't be the last. You may think me insane if you knew the whole truth."
Narcissa stared at him wide-eyed.
"You're not joking, are you?" she whispered.
"No, but these are things that I would appreciate weren't discussed with others."
"I would never…"
"I know, but I had to say it. I do not want anymore attention drawn to me as there already is. Not unless it is necessary."
Narcissa nodded, overwhelmed by what she'd heard.
"Is that what you meant when you said it was his magic?" she enquired.
Harry frowned questioningly, evidently uncertain by what she meant.
"When you woke up, you told me you were okay, that it was just his magic. Did you mean Death?"
"The magic I use is not like any other," he explained. "My family was gifted it many centuries ago. My ancestors were his chosen, as am I."
Narcissa released a deep breath. What she was being told was fantastical to say the least and were it not Harry saying it, or she had not witnessed for herself what he could do, she would be hard-pressed to believe it.
"I know it is a lot to take in," Harry sighed. "I understand if you need some time to think about it, but I didn't keep it from you in a bid to trick you in any way. It's difficult for me to understand so I can only imagine how it is for you."
Narcissa shook her head.
"I don't suppose it is something I will ever understand, Harry, but I like to think I know the person you are. Regardless of death or anything else, I feel the way I do about you and that won't change."
He gave her a relieved smile and it said more than his words ever could. He feared how she would react, how she may just decide she could not face what it was he did at his side. It mattered not, and though she was still confused, she did not wish to dwell on it. This was still Harry, the sweet man who had saved Lady Bones and chosen her when he shouldn't have, who was willing to take a chance on her the same way she was with him.
"I don't suppose that is everything?" she asked.
Harry shook his head, and she pressed her lips to his cheek.
"We have the rest of our lives to get to know each other," she comforted. "I don't want you to spill everything here and now. I will learn everything about you one day. I already know enough that there's no one else I would be happy marrying."
He met her gaze for a minute and nodded, though she couldn't help but think he'd done so reluctantly. Not for his own benefit, of course. If she asked him to, she had no doubt he will tell her everything his life had entailed until the moment they found themselves seated where they were now.
A part of what she was looking forward to being married to him was unravelling the mystery that was Harry Peverell and she didn't wish to ruin that before it had begun.
There was just one thing that she needed to be assured of, the one thing that would hang over them until the meeting between Harry and his parent's murderer took place.
"Is very dangerous," Harry broke in. "He is the leader of this pureblood movement. You've met him, albeit briefly."
She certainly would have remembered meeting a wizard with red eyes.
"The man who congratulated us at the wedding when we were heading back in."
"That was him?" Narcissa gasped in realisation.
"It was," Harry confirmed. "For now, he does not know I am the same baby he tried to murder."
"Merlin," Narcissa whispered. "Why did you not…?"
Harry cut her off with a shake of his head.
"I would not put you in that kind of peril," he said firmly. "Believe me, I would have cut him down where he stood if you were not there, but I would not risk you for him. We will have our reckoning when the time is right, and not before."
"Can you beat him?" she asked worriedly.
The smirk he wore was all the confirmation she needed. Harry may be a kind person for the most part, but the side to him she had seen was very real and was something that any person should be wary of. This red-eyed wizard may be dangerous, but Harry was chosen by death. That had to mean something.
"Like I said, I will personally hand him over to his maker and he will spend an eternity suffering for his deeds."
"DEATH!" Olin shrieked excitedly, flapping his wings.
Such words and the conviction with which they were spoken with should be concerning, but Narcissa found comfort in them, though another, more personal thought entered her mind, and she worried her bottom lip.
"Harry, Bella is…"
"I know," he sighed. "She's one of his followers as are the Lestranges and even Malfoy. I make it a point to know who my enemies are," he said with a shrug. "If your sister doesn't give me a reason to kill her, I won't. If she tries anything like she did before or attacks me, I can't make any promises."
"I know," Narcissa mumbled. "Bella should never have involved herself with them."
"No, she shouldn't," Harry agreed, "but I will try to avoid her. I don't want her to come between us in any way."
"Thank you," Narcissa whispered gratefully, even more saddened by her sister's choices now that she had spoken of them.
"Let's not think about that," Harry declared. "What will happen will come one day, but that's not now. Have you thought anymore about the wedding and what you would like?"
She smiled at the thought of their upcoming ceremony and smiled.
"I've not thought much of anything else. Can we go shopping on Sunday and look at a few things?"
He grinned in response and nodded.
"You don't even have to ask. Maybe we can even go Saturday if the match finishes early enough," he suggested.
"Or we could go both days, and maybe have dinner. We've never even been on a real date," she pointed out.
Harry frowned and shook his head.
"Well, we can't have that, but I won't promise you a good time. The only real date I went on, the girl ended up crying."
"Oh, I need to hear this."
"I was fifteen," Harry defended.
Narcissa, however, looked at him expectantly and he could only sigh before giving her an abridged version of his date with Cho Chang.
He woke, fighting for breath and in a cold sweat. It had been the same since he had fled from the flock of ravens; Lucius had not had a moments respite from the presence of the white-eyed bird that haunted his dreams and appeared to be everywhere when he left his home.
It mocked him so with its incessant cawing and shrieking about death. What was worse was when it did nothing but stare, silently judging him.
Lucius shuddered within his sheets.
"JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!" he pleaded.
He had tried all he could to rid himself of the creature. He had fired spells at it, to no avail. The bird continued to mock him, almost goading him to try again. He had shouted, screamed and had even resorted to taking dreamless sleep, and yet, the raven remained, the potion having no effect.
It was beginning to take its toll on the man, and he was at his wits end with what he could do. Why was he being targeted? Why did Peverell's bird insist on making his life a misery?
Did it mean something more? Was Peverell out to get him?
Lucius shook his head.
He had never done anything to Peverell other than try to intervene when his engagement to Narcissa had been announced. Surely the man would not hold a grudge for such a small transgression.
Perhaps if Lucius wrote to him and apologised the raven would finally leave him be. He could not be certain, but at this point, he was willing to try anything if only to sleep peacefully once more.
"I asked you all to create a list of three spells that are not necessarily designed for defence but could be used in a situation where you need to defend yourself," Harry reminded his sixth-year class. "Mr Selwyn, what did you come up with?"
The boy shot him a look of undisguised loathing but eventually muttered his reply.
"You can use a summoning charm to block spells with objects instead of shielding."
"Why would that be useful?" he pressed.
"Because shielding is more tiring, and a physical object will block any spell."
"Very good, take five points for Slytherin," Harry replied. "Now, let us put that to the test. Stand up, Selwyn."
The boy eyed him warily but did so, drawing his wand.
"When you're ready, fire a spell at me," Harry instructed.
"Professor?" Selwyn asked nervously.
"You have my full permission to attack," Harry replied, sliding his own wand into his hand. "There will be no repercussions for yourself and I will only defend myself using your suggestion. Go ahead."
Selwyn looked uneasily towards his housemates who ignored him, seemingly not wanting to involve themselves.
He was uncertain with how to proceed but eventually mustered enough courage to fire a stunning spell at Harry who intercepted with the desk that Lily and two of her classmates were seated at.
"Good, and excellent use of non-verbal magic," Harry praised. "Take another five points for Slytherin. Potter? What did you come up with?"
"Something similar, Professor," James answered more confidently than Selwyn. "Instead of summoning something, you could conjure it," he suggested.
"It takes a very skilled transfiguration practitioner to have the focus to use conjuration in the heat of battle," Harry explained, "but it is as an excellent form of defence if you can master it. Let's put it to the test. Up you get, Potter."
This was a technique Dumbledore had insisted Harry learn. Summoning already existing items was preferable but not always an option. If someone became good enough at conjuration, they would always have a way to defend themselves against spells like the killing curse.
James did not hesitate with complying and fired a stunning spell towards Harry who conjured a simple wooden block to intercept it.
"Take ten points for Gryffindor."
James smiled and retook his seat.
"Two very good ways to defend yourselves," Harry praised. "I want you to pair up for the rest of the lesson and work on those using disarming charms," he instructed. "Find which one you are more comfortable with and practice. It could very well save your life one day."
As expected, the students split off into pairs with other members of their house and Harry gathered up the lists each student had produced before moving the desks to the side of the room to give them space to practice.
Neither was an easy task to accomplish, and the remainder of the lesson was spent avoiding flying wands and offering tips to students who were struggling with various things.
James proved to be excellent with conjuration and many of the students started getting to grips with the precise spell work as the class came to an end.
"We will pick this up again next lesson," Harry informed them, "and then move on to some of the other spells you have suggested," he added, gesturing to the pile of parchment he had placed on his desk. "When I think you're ready, I will show you an even more advanced way of being able to defend yourselves using these techniques. Now, off you go."
The students took their leave of the classroom, though James, Sirius and Remus remained behind.
"Professor, do you think you'd be able to help us with one of our Quidditch practices some time?" he asked hopefully.
Harry nodded thoughtfully.
"I don't see why that would be a problem," he mused aloud. "I can't be seen to be showing favouritism, however, so I can always see if I can do a workshop for anyone interested in attending."
"That would be cool," James declared happily. "We'll speak to McGonagall and see if we can arrange it. Also, would we be able to watch you play?"
"That would be up to your parents. The games take place on Saturdays, so it would be up to them to collect you from the castle to take you," he explained. "I don't see it being a problem for you. Your parents have been to almost all of my games."
"They have?" James questioned, taken aback.
"They come with Lord and Lady Black along with Narcissa and more recently, her parents."
"Oh," Sirius grumbled unhappily.
Harry shot the boy a look of sympathy. Sirius had told him of his unpleasant childhood and how he felt about his family.
"I won't pretend to know how things are between you and them, Sirius, but your grandfather is a good man. A miserable old git at times, but decent. If it wasn't for him, I'd probably be in Azkaban," he explained. "Maybe when you're older you'll understand why he is the way he is."
Sirius nodded uncertainly.
"Anyway, if you can get permission, you should come. Watching other people play is one of the best things you can do to improve your own game."
"We will write to our parents today and see if anyone else is up for it. It will be a day away from here at least."
With that, the trio took their leave, bringing an end to another surreal encounter that Harry would never have believed he would have the chance to experience.
It seemed to be that the crowd grew with each passing week, so much so that from the very first game Harry played, the number of people that came to spectate had gone from perhaps a dozen or so at most, to filling two stands in a small stadium. Narcissa now found herself stood in amongst a veritable sea of green and gold with her grandparents, parents, and Charlus and Dorea Potter.
"I've never seen a non-league team bring in such a big crowd," Cygnus commented loudly over the cheering.
"Peverell is probably the most exciting player to watch in the country," Arcturus replied. "The real fans of the sport pay attention and words is spreading. I give it less than a year before a bigger team wants him."
Narcissa didn't know how to feel about that. Not that she didn't want to see Harry succeed, but because she knew he loved playing for the Harriers. A part of the appeal for him was that little attention was paid to these games, though that was becoming a redundant point. If the numbers continued to increase as they were, there would be fans unable to find a seat or having to be turned away when capacity was reached. Already, it was close to happening.
"COME ON, PEVERELL, LAD!" the regular shirtless man encouraged.
Harry was in pursuit of the Snitch with the opposing seeker struggling to keep up with his aerial acrobatics and Narcissa gasped as a bludger clipped the front of Harry's broom, sending him into a spin.
Undeterred, Harry corrected himself, but the Snitch was lost to him, having vanished amongst the chaos of play.
The crowd applauded the move of the beater who had undoubtedly saved his team from an early defeat.
"This would be the future Lady Peverell," a man to her right spoke nervously.
Narcissa recognised him as Harry's coach but not the man stood with him, watching the game with a keen eye.
"Apologies, my lady," Jason Barnes said, offering her an unrefined bow.
Narcissa smiled and waved him off.
"You're Titus Jones, the Falcons coach," Cygnus broke in almost accusingly.
The man smiled and nodded, his eyes not leaving the action.
"That would be me," he confirmed. "It is not often one of us on the side-lines is recognised. You must be a fan of my team."
"I am," Cygnus replied.
"And yet, you are here instead of in Falmouth."
"Lord Peverell will be my son-in-law soon," Cygnus pointed out, "and besides, the Falcons haven't had the best season."
Jones laughed as he nodded.
"We have not," he agreed, "and we are about to lose our seeker at the end of the season and maybe a chaser or two if they do not sign their new contracts."
"And you're interested in Harry?" Narcissa cut in.
Jones looked at her and nodded unashamedly.
"From what I have heard, and seen, I am very interested in him. Tell me, do you think he would like to play in the British and Irish League?"
"That is something you would have to take up with Harry," Narcissa answered.
"Indeed. I will be doing just that," he returned, clapping politely as Harry caught the Snitch and the crowd around her erupted in a cacophony of cheering and applause.
With the match over, the man gave the group a respectful nod and left with Jason in tow.
"Bloody hell," Cygnus snorted. "He's not even played a full season and he's got the Falcons after him."
"He won't sign with them," Narcissa said confidently. "Not yet anyway."
"Why wouldn't he?" her father asked incredulously.
"Because he promised Dumbledore he would teach until the end of the year."
Cygnus frowned at his daughter in disbelief, but Narcissa knew she was right. Harry was, if nothing else, a man of his word and he would not put his laurels aside, not even for an opportunity such as this.
"I don't understand what you're saying, Lord Peverell," Titus Jones sighed confusedly.
The man had accosted him in the changing rooms with a rather bemused Jason when the game had finished. His appearance had caught Harry off guard, even more so when he introduced himself.
"I'm not saying I'm not interested, Mr Jones," Harry replied politely. "I'm just saying I can't commit to anything yet."
"If you're worried about gold, I can assure you, you will be paid very well."
Harry shook his head.
"It's nothing to do with that," Harry assured him. "I want to finish my season here and I won't be available until July at the earliest. I have children relying on me to finish teaching them for the year and I am due to get married. I would like to enjoy some time with my wife before anything else."
Jones did not try to hide his disappointment, but he nodded and even offered Harry a smile.
"I can absolutely respect that," he replied sincerely, "truly, I can. If anything, it only makes me want to sign you more. However, I will respect your wishes in the hopes that you will accept a meeting with me in the coming months to revisit this conversation. I will happily find another seeker for the remainder of the season if you are open to discussing the possibility of coming on board between now and October when the next season begins."
Harry felt uncertain about such a move. It was something he would have to discuss with Narcissa, and he didn't want his teammates to feel as though he was abandoning them.
Jason, however, was nodding encouragingly for him to accept.
"Of course," Harry eventually replied.
"I am pleased and will be in touch," Jones returned happily. "I look forward to speaking you in the near future."
A handshake later, the man was gone, and Harry could only stare at the door to the changing rooms he had left through.
"You must be bloody mad, Peverell," Watson muttered amusedly, "giving up a chance like that."
"Probably," Harry agreed, "but I won't just drop my responsibilities. If he is interested, he'll wait."
Watson laughed and shook his head.
"We'll miss you here, Peverell. You're a damn sight better than this division, and anyway, some of us might get the chance at some glory," he added good-naturedly.
"I've not made any decisions," Harry reminded the man.
"No, but if you turn the opportunity down next time, I'll wrap my bat around your head," Jennings warned.
"Me too," Watson added.
"You want me to go?" Harry asked.
"No," Jennings denied, "but you should. You can make some real money. Most of us won't get the chance to play at that level. We play because we love it, not because we think we can make it. You can, Peverell, so go for it."
"As much as I would hate to see you go, it would be a disservice to you and the game," Jason sighed. "Besides, seeing the rest of these gits taken down a notch or two when you're gone will be a good thing. They think they're invincible."
Harry nodded and grinned.
"I will think about it," he conceded.
"Good," Jason declared. "Now bugger off, you've got an unbelievably beautiful woman waiting for you out there. How you managed that with a mug like yours, I'll never know."
"It must be my charms," Harry returned dryly.
"Nope, definitely not that," Alison denied. "You're easy on the eyes and can fly a broom. That's it."
"Coming from you, I'll take it," Harry chuckled as he shrunk his trunk and placed it in his pocket. "See you later."
The team bid him farewell, and he left the changing rooms where Narcissa was waiting with her parents, grandparents and the Potters.
"So, did you sign for them?" Cygnus asked excitedly.
"No," Harry answered.
"Why ever not?"
"It's not the right time," Harry replied easily. "Maybe another time. For now, I have a date with my future wife. Shall we?"
Narcissa offered him a smile and Harry took her hand, disapparating them both after saying their goodbyes to the Potters and Blacks.
"I told him you wouldn't," Narcissa said as they arrived in Diagon Alley. "He's a Falcons fan, so I suppose he's disappointed."
"I didn't say I wouldn't, just not until I've finished teaching and we're married."
"I told him that too."
"You know me too well already," Harry chuckled.
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
"No, it's just no one has really cared to try to get to know me before."
"Well, I'm not everyone else," Narcissa pointed out. "Now, I know a nice little shop where we can look at table fabrics and another one where we can choose a cake, if you behave."
"Can we have treacle on it?"
Narcissa frowned questioningly at him.
"I like treacle," Harry muttered.
"It's hardly appropriate for a wedding cake, Harry," Narcissa chided amusedly, "but I'm sure we can find you a treacle sponge or something," she added seeing his disappointment, giggling as his eyes lit up.
"I prefer treacle tart," he retorted.
"Fine," Narcissa sighed. "We will get you some treacle tart. Better?"
Harry nodded happily and Narcissa led them into a small boutique that seemingly only sold fabrics.
"I don't see any table covers," Harry pointed out.
"Because they only sell the materials here," Narcissa explained. "We will buy the fabrics and take them to a seamstress."
"Bloody hell," Harry huffed, "why don't they just make them here?"
"This is the wedding business, Harry. Everyone wants their cut," Narcissa laughed, ignoring the glare the saleswoman behind the counter was sending Harry's way.
"I suppose I'll have to sift for the gold and mine the diamond for you ring too?" Harry questioned loudly, eliciting a laugh from the blonde.
"Shh, you'll get us kicked out," Narcissa whispered.
"Are you sure about that, or have they outsourced that service as well?"
Narcissa gave an unladylike snort and slapped him playfully on the shoulder.
"Can I help you?" the woman behind the counter asked irritably.
"I'm really not sure," Harry answered before Narcissa could respond. "We're looking for tablecloths and you seem to only sell napkins."
Narcissa fought to keep her composure as the woman raised her nose in the air haughtily.
"These are just samples of the finest materials available, sir," the woman huffed.
"Then you have my apologies," Harry returned with an elaborate bow. "Would you perhaps have anything in black? I find myself quite partial to it."
"Black for a wedding?" the woman asked in disbelief. "Such a colour is usually reserved for funerals, sir."
"I fear if I continue the way I am, it will be a funeral I need to plan for and not a wedding," he whispered conspiratorially.
"We would like to see what your wedding selection is," Narcissa broke in, shooting Harry a look of exasperation.
"Of course, my dear," the woman replied with a smile. "If you and your intended would follow me, I'd be happy to show you."
Almost two hours later, they left the shop and Narcissa nudged him with her shoulder and shook her head.
"I don't think we'll be welcome there again."
"Snooty old cow," Harry grumbled. "Oh, I wouldn't pair lilac with that colour," he mocked. "At least the cake will wash that unpleasant taste of perfumed fabrics from my mouth."
"You think you deserve cake?" Narcissa questioned with a raised eyebrow.
Harry nodded innocently.
Narcissa could only smile. It was not often they had the chance to do this, and because of Harry's rather theatrical performance, she was enjoying herself. Harry would get his treacle tart.
"Filthy mudblood lover," a gruff voice spoke loudly from somewhere ahead of them and Narcissa looked on in disgust as a man she recognised spat at a woman carrying her child, holding it close to her chest to shield her from the abuse.
Alexander Selwyn guffawed at his own antics and his friends, men she did not recognise followed suit.
Harry was gone before she could see his reaction but judging by the look of panic on Selwyn's face as Harry seized him by the throat, he was furious.
"You're a funny man, aren't you, picking on a woman and her child," Harry seethed, his grip tightening around Selwyn's throat.
The man could only wheeze as he fought to breathe.
"HARRY!" Narcissa shouted as one of Selwyn's friends drew his wand, only to scream in shock as his robes were raised over his head, exposing his greying, white underwear to all the patrons in the alley.
"If anyone else draws their wand, I will take your hand," Harry warned, his eyes completely white.
"DEATH!" Olin squawked as he took to the sky.
"Maybe I should kill you, you snivelling little bastard. Shits like you don't seem to have any manners. What's your name?"
"S-Selwyn," the man choked. "P-please, I'm s-sorry."
"Hmm, I don't think you are," Harry replied, "but you will be. You know, I put up with cowards like you when I was younger. You've got a pair on you when you know someone won't fight back and then you all but shit yourself when they do. You're a pathetic ass, Selwyn."
The man suddenly brayed like a donkey, his face elongated, and a pair of long ears sprouted from the top of his head.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Selwyn, the ass," Harry introduced the man to the gathered crowd who laughed. "You will apologise to this lady and her child. If you don't, I will take you to the head of your house and have an apology from him, one way or another. Your choice."
Selwyn brayed again and looked at Harry pleadingly who undid the transfiguration.
"I'm sorry," he said to the woman, "to both of you. I'm sorry."
"That's better. Now, piss off, and my friend will be watching you, Selwyn. He will be sure to keep me informed of what you're up to," Harry warned, pointing to Olin who had settled on the shop sign of the apothecary.
With the warning ringing in his ears, Selwyn all but ran towards the apparition point with his friends in tow, wanting to get away from Harry as quickly as possible.
Narcissa had not been able to take her eyes off what happened but turned to look at the woman the men had been bothering and her eyes widened.
"Andi?" she gasped.
Her sister could only stare back at her nervously, clinging to a little girl who's oddly pink eyes and matching hair were transfixed on Harry.
"Hello, Cissy," Andromeda replied, her eyes flitting across the alley, evidently looking for any sign of the rest of the Blacks.
"They're not here, Andi," Narcissa assured her. "How long has that been going on?"
"It happens sometimes. They don't do it when Ted is with me but, he's working today."
"They won't be doing it again," Harry said firmly, taking his place next to Narcissa. "You must be Andromeda."
"I am," the woman confirmed, "and thank you for what you did, Lord Peverell."
Harry waved her off dismissively.
"Think nothing of it. They're cowards. Who's this little one staring at me?" he asked.
Andromeda pulled the girl closer to her chest.
"This is my daughter, Nymphadora. We were just getting some things for her birthday next week."
"Nymphadora? That's a nice name," Harry commented. "How old are you going to be?"
"Three," the little girl answered confidently.
"That is a big number," Harry replied. "I bet you would like a big cake."
Nymphadora nodded enthusiastically.
"Well, I was on my way to get some treacle tart and would like to get you one, if it's okay with your mother?"
"Unbelievable, she doesn't like treacle tart," Harry despaired and Narcissa offered him a sympathetic pat on the back.
Andromeda looked worried and Narcissa sighed.
"No one is going to hurt you or her, Andi," she promised.
"It would be rude to decline when you stepped in the way you did, Lord Peverell," she conceded.
Harry offered her a bright smile and the four of them made their way towards the bakery only a short walk away, an awkward silence falling between the two sisters.
"So, Nymphadora, if you don't like treacle, what cake would you like?"
"Chocolate!" the girl said loudly.
"Of course, you do," Harry murmured, ruffling her pink hair and eliciting a look of annoyance from the little metamorph.