Kudos to Bodrugan for identifying the slight link with Bernard Cornwell's books. There isn't much of importance taken from it as everything is the same in history as well. Uhtred in my story is probably the grandson or great grandson of the Uhtred in his; but then all lords of Bebbanburg apparently were given the title Uhtred (if I'm not mistaken), so it is a moot point. So take my word, there are no spoilers in my story whatsoever.
Thanks for reviews. Sorry for not replying to you guys personally. I had been occupied with writing the story instead. But once the chapters start drying out for the time, I'll get back to responding to all reviews that require a response.
This is a short chapter, and the Founders time is nearly over. It's a pity, I would have loved to kept them here and have loads of wonderful adventures, but that would be too much of a deviation.
"I do not know what to think," said the young king in confusion. He was sitting by the lake with Harry and Ginny, who were holding hands.
"What do you mean?" Harry asked. Since the disastrous failed attack on Hogwarts, Aethelred had been a close companion of theirs.
"All my life, I have been brought up in the belief that witchcraft is evil, that witches ought to be hunted down," he said. "Then I see you… and Ginny… and the others. How can I believe that any longer?"
Harry sighed. He smiled weakly at the troubled older boy. With all the responsibilities and burdens thrown on his own shoulder as he had gleaned from the mirror, he could feel something of the young king's troubles.
"I come from a thousand years in the future, Ed," Harry said, ignoring the young king's momentary chagrin at being called 'Ed' that he didn't even get an opportunity to express his disbelief at time travel. "Hard to believe, but there it is." Sighing, he continued, "An evil wizard tried to kill my parents because they didn't believe in his ideologies. The evil wizard claimed that we, magicians, are superior to the rest of you. He raised an army to destroy and enslave everyone without magic. But there were many wizards and witches who fought him, and will always fight others like him, for the sake of those who call us 'freaks' and abominations of nature and God. The truth, Ed, is that there is no good or evil in magic. There is only power."
"How can you say that?" said the king in chagrin. "How can something be completely devoid of evil and good at the same time?"
"There is a right and a wrong in the decisions and choices made by each of us," Harry continued. "Will you allow the threat of a greater power, that is magic, to lead you in the direction of a wrong choice? Will you become like that Dark Lord, but from the other side? I know what will happen in the days to come… I do not recall when exactly… but in the coming future, witches and wizards, completely innocent human beings, will be dragged from their homes by the followers of the Church, and burnt at the stake! Defenseless women and innocent children! People like me and Ginny!" Looking at the young king's horrified face, he mellowed slightly, but continued speaking, "Those being burnt were neither good nor evil, only less powerful than those who condemned them. Power is the decisive factor, and there is a choice that awaits you, King Aethelred. What will you choose?"
When the king remained silent, Harry continued. "And then I have seen yet another future. One where that same Dark Lord is resurrected and becomes powerful. He brings back on the non magical world a havoc many times worse. I saw Hogwarts burning, and in front of it died the last flames of humanity. It was the witch hunt yet again, but with the roles reversed. Power, again, Ed, was the decisive factor, not the goodness or evil of magic. There is as much good and evil in magic as there is in the Church, if at all, but it is power that matters most. What will you choose?"
The king remained silent and the lines on his forehead indicated the depth of his thinking.
The hazardous foiled attack on Hogwarts was followed by days of nearly complete inactivity, after which the Founders began setting up the foundations for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in earnest.
Harry and Ginny, and sometimes Aethelred, who had become a welcome guest in the castle, often sat in during such discussions, until Godric got annoyed with the two time travelers' constant sniggers and comments to each other and Lilith, and threw his Hat on the table and said, "There! Let that be the solution to the Sorting of the students!"
At that, Harry and Ginny became unable to control their laughter and spent an entertaining hour as Lilith attempted to sublty channel the Founders in the direction she knew the school to be in.
"Your entourage is at the gates of the castle, Your Highness," said Godric suddenly. "The wards have alerted me to their arrival and they do not seem eager to venture in."
"They won't." Aethelred looked reluctantly out of the window and turned to Harry. "You've been a good friend to me and I owe you a debt that I cannot repay." To Ginny, he said with a smile, "If not for the debt I owed you and Harry, I would have desired to take you with me. Such beauty that I see blossoming in you ought to grace the finest of palaces."
"I do not know," said Aethelred suddenly in a troubled manner. "You asked me a question a few days ago, Harry, and I do not have an answer even yet. I am not ready to make a decision regarding Witchcraft and Christianity. Archbishop Dunstan was not as hostile to magicians as are some others in my court. I cannot ignore their concerns, for if I do, I will be overthrown like my half brother before me. Then another will come to power who will follow them blindly and do much more harm."
He sighed, and said, "I will do what I can to assuage the unpleasantness that is approaching. But I am powerless to prevent it. My greatest contribution can only be in smaller things, that over time will become fundamental to the future that you have shown me. Forget magic, tell me how do I fight the Danes any longer, now that you tell me that in the future they become one with us Saxons? How can I kill my own people? How can I watch them kill each other?" Thinking for a few seconds, he said firmly, "It is not I who is unready to rule but the country which is not prepared for a ruler who knows the future. But this I will do." His face shone with resolve and he said firmly, "From what I understand of Lady Helga and Lady Rowena's talk, you and Ginny might return to your time someday?"
"Perhaps," said Harry in bemusement. "I do not know."
"Then I name you, Duke Harry, adopted to the royal family of England, and overlord of Magical England," Aethelred said firmly. "This will be my condition for agreeing to the next document that the Church wishes me to ratify. I will talk with Lords Gryffindor and Slytherin and make the document magically enforceable as well. Regardless of the ruling house, your place will be kept constant, Duke Harry. The papers will be ready, and when you return, everything will be in place. No matter what happens, I will ensure that you will have the opportunity to set things right when I cannot."
"Your Highness!" Harry protested, but Ginny silenced him by touching his arm.
"Listen to him, Harry," she said quietly. "Right now, muggles are the ones who are discriminatory. In our time, it is the other way round. Perhaps Aethelred sees something that we don't."
"I do indeed, Lady Ginny," he said, ignoring Ginny's chuckle. "I see before me a boy, younger than I and yet more fit to be king, and a lady, who is in every way that matters, already a queen." Raising his hand to stop them from interrupting, he said, "I see my hands tied by the strings of the Church and my courtiers. But I see that very string as a means to tie them and everyone else… to a future of my design. I will make things so that Duke Harry and Lady Ginny have the means and the opportunity to set things right to my kingdom." He got up, and with a glint of determination, said, "They may call me Aethelred the Fool for a thousand years… but a day will come when my name will change to Aethelred the Farsighted."
Harry and Ginny stood and bowed before the king, as he departed.
"He's a good lad," said Salazar finally, looking at the place here Aethelred had been sitting.
There was a long and grating silence. The battle of Hogwarts had forged a deep bond between the residents of Hogwarts and the young king. Seeing him leave left a small hole in the castle.
Helga was the one who broke it by saying, "Quidditch Cup. To give the children something to cheer about."
Harry and Ginny were sitting in a grove in the forest. It was August 11th and Ginny had revealed her birthday to the Founders when Lilith had enquired after Harry's birthday, and so there was to be another day of celebrations. However, Ginny had been adamant about not having anything special. It wasn't until Lilith mentioned celebrating it in the old Celtic ways that Ginny's eyes perked up with interest.
That was why Ginny and Harry were sitting in a grove and muttering incantations to Brigantia, the Celtic queen of goddesses. Clad in a white dress that was wrapped around her and blue flowers adorning her face and hair, Harry could hardly keep from staring at her.
But as the rites were finished and Ginny emerged smiling from the small puddle of water where her feet was immersed, Harry grabbed her in a hug. "You look and smell so beautiful," he said. "I don't want to ever let go."
Ginny giggled and took Harry's face in her hands. Feeling his jaws and cheek, she slid closer into his arms and said, "We belong together, Harry. Here, under the sacred grove with Brigantia as witness, I swear myself to you, always and to eternity."
Harry kissed her lips lovingly and said, "And I swear the same. With Brigantia as witness, I swear myself to you, always and to eternity."
Later, they returned to the castle and gifts were given, despite Ginny's protests. But she couldn't tear her eyes from the beautiful garments given to her by Helga.
"I can't," Ginny said sadly. "These clothes are meant for a princess or a queen. It's much too fine for me."
"You misunderstand me," said Lady Helga with a smile. "These aren't from me. These are from Aethelred, along with much more for both of you. In his words, if he can't bring you to his finest palaces, then he'd send all that is fine in his palace to you. I think he has a crush on you, my dear."
Ginny blushed and looked at Harry, who was smiling fondly. "You look fine with or without these, Ginny. But I wish you'd keep them. Aethelred is correct, you deserve nothing but the best."
"There are some for you too, young man," said Helga. "Robes, armor, garments for special occasions - I have charmed them all to grow with your bodies." Then she turned to Ginny and said, "From me, you receive a simple thing - I give you my share of Hogwarts after my death. In the future, you will be part mistress of this castle, my child."
Ginny looked at Helga with wide eyes and nodded slowly, before Slytherin said, "I leave you my serpent staff, my dearest apprentice, and my share of Hogwarts."
Lilith smiled and together with Harry handed Ginny a big basket that was covered with a black cloth. "Last night I permitted Harry to use the mirror again to locate for you the perfect gift. Not too far from Hogwarts was a cave with two small cubs. Their mother had been killed by a cave-in and we decided to bring the young ones to your care."
Ginny smiled brightly and pulled out the cloth, and gasped. Inside were two lovely little lion cubs - one was a sparkling gold and the other a radiant bronze. But the thing that made Ginny gasp were the feathers that emerged from their back as tiny little wings. "Griffins," she breathed. With excited fingers she touched the golden griffin, which immediately licked her fingers. Ginny giggled and picked the cub gently and said, "You're lovely. I'll call you Brigid, after the goddess I prayed to today." Then she turned to the bronze cub, and picked it up as well and smiled. "You're beautiful too. I'll call you Brigan. Will you let Harry look after you, Brigan?" She asked softly, and gently showed the bronze griffin to Harry. The cub leapt from Ginny's arms and jumped over Harry, who started laughing when the lion's tongue started licking his face all over.
"Ahem," said Godric, with a mirthful look in his eyes. "So quick to be his equal, Ginny. But in this I will let you remain his superior, I give you my share of Hogwarts as well. The two of you, in your time, will be the sole Master and Mistress of this castle, and I lay upon you the charge of protecting Hogwarts from all invaders. Will you accept it?"
Harry looked at Ginny and both nodded as one. "This is my home," said Harry simply.
That night as Harry lay on his bed while holding Ginny securely in his arms, she asked curiously, "Do you think the others know we sleep together and not in different rooms?"
"Yes," said Harry quietly, rubbing his chin over her head. "I see mum check on us every night. She knows we are used to holding each other to sleep at night."
"Lilith is the best," muttered Ginny sleepily. "G'night Harry Bear."
"Good night, Gin Bear."