Conspicuously Long Author's Notes: Special thanks to Irene Finlay for listening to me yowl and complain when this silly thing just didn't want to work and looking over bits to calm my worries, and Celtic Ember, for writing a good share of the ritual here and not scolding me for injuring the participants. Parts of the ritual were taken from a hand fasting ceremony, the full version of which can be found here: To FPW for all the wailing chats he's put up with. Liz-chan, who convinced me that Ger's new look should staying. And to the scores of other people who have been so wonderful during the course of this behemoth. You guys are saints.
Sequel. There is one sort of planned. I'm not sure if I will write it; I haven't decided as yet. I have a few other projects I want to work on, but there are things in the sequel that I think would be a lot of fun to play with. The big question is: after getting Book V, will anyone care about my little AU? If I do write it, it will be called "Demons Blood".
Sirius leapt to his feet, dropping Rowan to stand on her own, as the door slammed open and they saw Ger stumble into the room, face flushed and breathing heavily. "Blast it, you two, snog later!" he panted. "Something's wrong. Harry fell asleep and Grandfather says he can't wake him up."
Sirius tensed. "I thought we had more time than this."
"That's what Grandfather said," Ger told him humorlessly. "Rowan! Get your mediwitch self in gear!"
"I'm working on it! I don't operate without sleep as well as I used to!" she snarled, pushing her younger brother out of the way and stalking through the room. "Accio!" A long and deep box of polished wood that winged its way to her and she caught it into her arms.
"Where are they?" she demanded.
"How the . . ." Ger stared at her in wide-eyed shock. "Rowan, where the hell is your wand? And why . . ." he swallowed nervously. "Why are your eyes so dark?"
"Ger," Rowan growled, her patience visibly thin as she turned and regarded them both with dark sapphire eyes. "Now is not a good time. We will discuss it later. Where. Is. Harry?" Sirius silently urged the boy to answer her without his usual quips. He didn't think Rowan was angry or scared enough to become a demon, but he didn't want to strain her control any more than necessary.
"The Tree," Ger answered promptly
"Good boy. Now, get the others and tell them what's going on. Harry will want to see them when he wakes up."
"You mean if, right?" Ger grumbled. Rowan shot him a withering glare and a dismissive wave before Disapparating with a faint pop. Sirius shook his head and gave Ger's shoulder a reassuring cuff before summoning Disapparating as well.
Sirius reappeared an instant later in the center of the sprawling castle and saw Rowan and her Grandfather kneeling down beside a prone figure he assumed was Harry before the biting cold penetrated his robes. Gasping, he looked down to find himself knee deep in winter-chilled water. He had Apparated into the center of one of the larger pools surrounding the Tree.
Rowan looked up at his gasp and frowned. "Sirius, stop playing in the water. I need your help."
"I wasn't playing; I just have bad aim," Sirius muttered while clambering back to dry land. He watched quietly as Rowan throughly checked Harry's unmoving form. Sirius's heart clenched at the sight his godson made. He wasn't moving, even as Rowan's hands and magic probed him, and his skin was nearly translucent. "He's too still, isn't he?"
Rowan had pried Harry's eyelids apart and was watching his pupils intently. They'd drained of their normal vivid green color and were glowing faintly in the pre-dawn twilight. "Well, things are definitely not tickety-boo. He's unconscious because his soul is fading. I'll need to wake him up before we finish the ritual."
"Harry can sleep for the first of it." Merlin reached over and lifted the carved lid of the box Rowan had brought with her. He removed a tall urn of polished metal and extended it toward Sirius. "Fill this with water from the pools," he instructed.
Once Sirius filled the urn with chill water, he set it carefully beside Harry and knelt across from Rowan. She'd set a shallow cup of polished stone over Harry's heart and now held an unsheathed dagger in her left hand.
Rowan looked at Harry and visibly steeled herself. Then she began to chant, ritualistic and slow and in a language Sirius didn't recognize. This was demon magic, magic at its most impenetrable and ancient and a power even Voldemort would hesitate attempting to bridle. Especially here, at the very heart of Merlin's stronghold.
Rowan opened her hand and the dagger began to glow and rotate. The energy coming from the tree was almost visible, and the goblet of water on Harry's chest glowed to match the magic that was radiating off the half-demoness in waves.
Suddenly, the dagger stopped its lazy spin, and turned itself on its side. Rowan stretched her palm out, offering her right wrist to the blade and nodded to Sirius to do the same. Nervousness curled its stealthy way through his tense muscles, but he mirrored her actions and extended his right hand. The dagger stood up on its point between them, then moved and carved a rune into his wrist, exactly where the silvery mark appeared on Rowan's wrist. It then moved to Rowan and carved a similar mark into the mark itself.
Blood welled up from the wounds and dripped directly into the cup of water over Harry's heart, staining it a murky red. The dagger then flew swiftly from between them and settled into Merlin's hand and he stepped forward and knelt at Harry's head.
"Know now that since your lives have crossed, you have formed ties between each other," he intoned softly. "The promises you make today and the ties that are bound here will cross the years and will greatly strengthen your union. With full awareness, know that you declare your intent to be joined before all you love both living and dead. Do you still seek to complete this ceremony?"
"Yes," they both answered. Merlin nodded his acceptance of their answer before tracing a third rune into the water with the bloody tip of the dagger. The liquid thickened and a slight current rippled across its surface as it changed from murky red to a pale gold.
"You have accepted this guardianship freely. All three have experienced the anger and pain that can burden dreams and laughter. You have accepted the challenge to temper your lives with them rather than be broken by them. As Head of the Myfanwy Clan and I accept this binding. Harry Potter is now your combined ward and heir of the Myfanwy Clan. The knots of this binding are not formed by chords or the blood you have given, but rather by your acceptance and convictions. You hold in your own hands the success or failure of this union."
Merlin leaned forward, holding a single leaf plucked from the Tree between his fingers and added it to the gleaming potion. Instantly, the leaf disappeared in a cascade of gold sparks that washed over Harry's still form. When they subsided, the potion was left with a clear green hue.
After a long moment, Harry stirred, the first bit of movement he'd made since they'd arrived, and gradually opened his eyes.
Rowan picked up the shallow bowl and gestured for Sirius to prop Harry up. Harry certainly didn't seem capable of doing it himself. He looked confused and his normally clear green eyes were cloudy, not quite focusing on any of them. Sirius wrapped an arm around his godson's shoulder and shifted him into a more or less sitting position while Rowan tipped a bit of the green potion into his mouth.
"Drink," she commanded softly. Harry obediently swallowed twice before turning his head away. He hadn't completely drained the bowl, but Rowan seemed satisfied and managed a wan smile for Sirius as he resettled the sleeping boy. Harry, Sirius was relieved to note, was truly sleeping this time. His breathing was even and slow, and he'd lost the deathlike stillness from earlier.
Sirius sent Rowan a questioning look, not sure if he dared speak with the wild magic still crackling in the air. She smiled, tired but bright, and nodded. The binding was made. And he, Sirius noticed with a start, was married!
Rowan moved a bit away from Harry and used a bit of clean water from the urn to rinse away the blood on her wrist and hand. She conjured a bandage to cover her still-bleeding wrist before moving to tend to Sirius's wrist as well.
"It wasn't quite James and Lily's wedding," he chuckled, stealing a kiss from his studious wife's lips. "But it was definitely good."
Harry woke to the gentle light of dawn and distant birdsong in the Tree's upper boughs. Against his better judgment, he'd given into the soothing presence of the Tree and his own exhaustion and fallen asleep. If it was dawn, he hadn't slept more than a few hours and he didn't feel much better for it. His dreams had been odd. Not frightening, but odd. He could feel an odd tingled spreading through his muscles and skin. And, he noticed with a wince, there was a root in his back.
"Oh, I think he has enough shocks lined up for one morning," a familiar voice commented, waking Harry the rest of the way. He sat up, the heavy cloak that had been covering him falling to his waist. His glasses he found after a moment of searching. The rest of the room came into focus and Harry found himself sitting on the springy moss beneath the Tree with his cloak spread beneath him, and a heavier one made of soft velvet covering his legs.
Sirius noticed that he was awake and waved him over to where Rowan and Merlin also sat. Merlin, Harry noted enviously, didn't look the slightest bit tired even though he'd stayed awake the entire night. Sirius, undoubtedly more used to functioning on little sleep than Harry, also looked annoyingly chipper. Harry had to smile at Rowan, though. She looked tired and was leaning against Sirius with her eyes half-lidded. Harry sank to a spot on the other side of Sirius and fought his own urge to doze.
Then, for the first time, Harry noticed a long and deep box of polished wood sitting near them on the ground and the bandages wrapped around their wrists. He swallowed nervously and allowed himself a small bit of fear, wishing he had grown up with magic like Ron and Ginny had. Maybe then this wouldn't all feel so utterly new. The only things keeping him from asking for it to be called off were that he'd be able to leave the Dursleys, and that Merlin had assured him earlier that he probably wouldn't even notice the change much. He would gain a small mark, the same as Rowan's, on the inside of his right wrist. Harry noted with some amusement that the Dursleys probably wouldn't allow him back into their house with a magical tattoo on his wrist anyway.
"Harry," Sirius said, interrupting Harry's thoughts. "We were wondering if you and your friends wanted to spend Easter at Hogwarts or here. You've never had a real holiday from school, have you?"
Harry blinked. "Shouldn't we worry about the ritual first?"
"It's complete." Rowan opened her eyes the rest of the way and unwrapped her wrist to show him the rune carved into her skin. "You're fine. We're sorry you were unconscious for most of it."
Harry's mind reeled. "Unconscious?" he managed to choke out. For some reason, he was having a difficult time accepting that the ritual he'd just been worrying over was over. And that he'd slept through it! "I just fell asleep, why didn't one of you wake me up?"
"We couldn't," Merlin told him sombrely.
"You woke up for the last bit," Rowan commented. "So you didn't sleep through all of it, but you had us worried."
"My estimate that you had a full day before the curse would try to claim your soul was optimistic, apparently."
Harry looked down to see a delicate silver tree tracing the pale skin of his wrist. The mark. Which meant they were telling the truth and he was now part demon. And officially free of the Dursleys!
A burst of laughter and disgruntled growling startled Harry out of his examination of the tiny mark. He turned and saw Ger and Morgaine just entering the shade cast by the boughs of the Tree with Lupin and Ron, Ginny, and Hermione just behind them. Ger was glaring evilly at his sister and Harry reached up and scrubbed at his eyes, not quite believing and wondering how what he was seeing had happened. Ger's dark hair, which had been neatly trimmed a few hours earlier, now reached well below his waist in a solid sheet of glistening black and he didn't look like he quite knew what to do with it all.
"Yes, Morgaine, it's bloody hilarious," he sighed. "I know! Now leave it alone! Rowan!" Ger stormed up and glared down at her, one hand on his hip. "I've no idea how you managed it, but please tell me you've had your fun. I've ruined a pair of scissors, one of your knives and nearly destroyed my wand trying to undo the consequences of your little hissy fit! Take this charm off! And tell her," he pointed at their sister, "to stop acting like she's seven."
Rowan raised an eyebrow in mock-sympathy, Sirius didn't even bother to hide his laughter at the situation. "It's long and indestructible?"
He reached up to finger the tips of his ears. "At least I didn't get pointed ears in the bargain."
Morgaine reached up and cuffed him. "You still look like an elf, you prat." Ger growled impressively at her. She smiled back, but the amount of her pretty white teeth showing made it look more like saccharine bearing of fangs.
"You will learn more if Rowan doesn't undo the spell right away," Merlin commented mildly, interrupting the siblings' antics. Only the subdued twinkle in his eyes betraying his amusement. "In fact, I don't think she should. If you don't know that counter-spell, you may use the library to discover it."
"Grandfather!" Ger wailed. "It's going to get in the way!"
"Puppy," Morgaine snorted. Rowan shot her a quelling look and decided to take some small measure of pity on her sulking brother as she sat him down in front of her, parted his hair into three strands and began braiding it.
"How're you doing?" Ron asked uncertainly, edging closer with Hermione and Ginny beside him.
"I slept through most of it," Harry grinned sheepishly. "And we'll probably be owling paperwork into the Ministry for the next week, but this feels good."
"Wonder what Fudge'll say about you living with Sirius Black," Ron grinned. "The Daily Prophet's going to have a field day."
"It will serve him right after everything they've written about Harry!" Hermione smirked. "Maybe he'll believe You-Know-Who's back now."
"That will probably take Death Eaters running starkers through his office," Ron sniggered. "The man's an idiot, honestly."
Harry's laughter at the image was cut off and his eyes widened as Ginny suddenly leapt into his arms - knocking his glasses wildly askew - and planted her lips firmly on his own. After a moment of stunned amazement, Harry realised that Ginny was kissing him and responded by wrapping his arms tentatively around her waist and gently kissing her back. Ginny sighed softly against his lips before pulling back and slapping him with all her might.
"What was that for?" Harry yelped, holding his reddening cheek. Ginny Weasley had quite an arm! Dimly, some part of his mind made a note to talk her into trying out for a Beater position the next year.
"You scared me!" Ginny half-screamed at him, bursting into tears. Harry very carefully stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her in a way he hoped was comforting, but prepared to spring away if she made any move to attack him again. Ron just shrugged and mouthed at him to say something.
"Um . . . I'll try not to again?"
She sighed heavily and pulled away. "You won't keep that promise, so don't make it."
Harry blinked at her. It wasn't like he'd intentionally got himself cursed!
Thankfully, Rowan chose to interrupt right then. "The rest of you can laze about or explore if you want," she yawned, listing slightly into Sirius to stay upright. "But we've been awake all night and I don't want to see anything but a pillow for a few hours." Sirius nodded his agreement of her plan and added his own yawn. They waved a tired goodbye before Apparating out of sight.
"So, what should we do for the day?" Ron asked.
Harry shrugged. "Anything we want? Try not to get too lost?"
"We could start revising for the O.W.Ls," Hermione answered promptly and glared huffily when Ron and Harry groaned.
"Hermione," Ron said a bit desperately. "We're in CaerMyrddin and you want to study for exams that are months away?!"
"It's Merlin's castle!" she argued back staunchly. "I'm sure they have an incredible library."
"We do," Ger nodded, strolling over to them, his hair now contained in a long braid that trailed behind him. "But I think you'd enjoy seeing more of the castle or trying out the Quidditch Pitch."
Ron's eyes widened in delight at this news.
"Besides," Ger continued, smiling to placate Hermione (who didn't look ecstatic at the idea of a Quidditch Pitch), "if you spend Easter here you'll probably see more of the library, laboratory and observatory than you want. You'll be revising for the O.W.Ls."
Harry winced. The Dursleys wouldn't have cared what score he earned, but he could bet that Sirius and Rowan would. "Ger, do you know how many O.W.Ls Sirius and Rowan earned?"
"Twelve each," Ger answered promptly, then reached out and ruffled his hair. "And you won't enjoy your summer holiday if you don't too, nephew of mine."
Harry sighed, but couldn't quite keep the grin from his face. They hadn't won. They hadn't really even gained ground, but they hadn't lost any either. More importantly - to him anyway - he, Harry Potter, finally had a family that actually wanted him. Harry's new home, the slightly mended family, even the odd tingle Harry could feel lurking just beneath his skin as the demon blood took a firmer hold; none of it affected Voldemort directly. However, Harry found he didn't mind. For the moment, even a measure of peace was enough for him to be content with his strange world.~Fin~