Author's Note: Here it is, the end. Thank you so much to all my readers. If you are cross-registered at SIYE, please go and vote after February 15 as there is a People's Choice award. My deep thanks to my betaing team; Arnel, Stephanie and Ben. I am a better storyteller because of you. Thanks to all of you who are reading and reviewing. It means so very much to me, and know that I keep every review filed away. This story has been a wonderful distraction for me while weathering this most recent relapse. For this, the story will always have a special place in my heart. There will be a sequel, it's working title is "Lord Potter's Own Will" and will start posting on June 1. Please put me on Author alert if you're interested in reading it. Again, thanks so much for all your support. MNF
Yule Light Worship
With the ceremony over, Harry and Sirius were greeted by other members of the Binding Circle with embraces and warm words. He was welcomed by people he knew as well as those he didn't. Many of the people he'd only just met had the kindest and most positive things to say about his grandfather, which pleased Harry. He was very much looking forward to the conversations he would have with the last Lord Potter's portrait.
Professor Dumbledore stood quietly awaiting his turn with the young Lord. Sirius noticed him standing there, and made sure he wasn't pulled away from Harry's side. He wanted to be part of any conversation concerning Harry's future, if only to ensure undue pressure was not put upon his godson. Harry wasn't even aware of all the choices the world had to offer now, but Sirius would ensure he was advised of them.
As for Sirius, he was excited to consider what living in the open would be like. He'd begged Dumbledore to let him take Veritaserum or make a magical vow to clear his name, but the old man refused. Until he'd contacted Maggie, Sirius had forgotten his Irish heritage, and the options which it would have provided. Granted, it was only recently that the Irish Ministry had severed diplomatic ties with the British, but he still would have been in a much less dire situation than he found himself in while in England. Of course, Sirius wouldn't have ever left Harry unprotected, so perhaps his mental musings were for naught anyway.
"Congratulations on your elevation, Lord Potter," the Hogwarts headmaster said with a slight dip of his head. "You as well, Lord Black."
"Thank you, sir," Harry replied. "This has been a most wonderful and yet humbling experience."
"I am sure it has, your Lordship," Dumbledore replied.
"Are you always going to refer to me as Lord Potter? Do I have to refer to others by their titles, too?" Harry asked, worried about how it would sound at Hogwarts. He didn't want to have any further reason to be singled out among his peers.
Dumbledore smiled before answering. "No, you do not. However, in this situation and to mark the importance of the day I chose to. What you chose to do is your decision."
"Yes," Sirius entered the conversation. "Let's not forget that Lord Potter does get to make his own choices in many matters now."
"Of course he does," the old man replied. "Shall we join the others who are partaking of the feast?"
"I thought we had another ceremony?" Harry queried. "Isn't there the Yule service?"
"There is," Sirius assured him. "But it doesn't begin until sunset. We've got about an hour before sundown. I don't know about you, but I simply pushed my food around my plate at noontime, my nerves were getting the best of me."
"You were nervous?" Harry asked with surprised eyebrows pushed up under his fringe and wide eyes. "You're never nervous about anything."
Sirius patted his godson on the back and laughed at the younger man's insinuation. "Harry, I knew I was going to see my parents. I wasn't sure what they'd say. Of course I was nervous. Come on, let's eat." With that, Sirius pulled Harry toward the buffet. They sat and dined with Kingsley, Amelia, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, Jessica Abbott and Jonah Greengrass, Daphne's father. While they were eating, an odd-looking man with shockingly yellow hair came to greet them.
"Lord Potter," the man said as he thrust his hand out. "I have heard nothing but good things about you. My publication stands squarely behind your statements regarding You-know-Who."
"Oh, well, thank you," Harry replied, attempting to mask his confusion. "Where have you heard about me?" He asked. The only things the Ministry or The Daily Prophet had to say about him were abysmal.
"My dear daughter speaks of you with respect and devotion," the man replied.
Harry assessed the man's appearance again, and immediately guessed who he was. "You're Luna's father, correct?"
"Oh, you are astute. Xenophilius Lovegood, sir. Editor and Publisher of The Quibbler."
"It's very nice to meet you, Lord Lovegood. Would you like to join us?"
"Oh, I would, but I see the tell-tale signs of Billygiget tracks over by those trees. I must go investigate," Lord Lovegood said before walking away, staring at the grass. He nearly collided with several people as he strode away.
"Luna makes so much more sense after meeting her father," Harry said, making Sirius and the Professors laugh. Conversation flowed comfortably, and it never dawned on Harry that they were sitting outdoors on a winter's day, on an island somewhere and he wasn't chilled as he should have been. He also hadn't noticed that it was a cloudless blue sky overhead, or that the flowers were in bloom and the trees had leaves. If he'd noticed these things, he might have thought the one, small black cloud far on the horizon might be odd or even troublesome.
As the sun lowered in the sky, others got up from their dining and magically the tables and chairs disappeared. Harry was looking forward to the ceremony tonight. He'd studied with Sirius and his Uncle Alphard about what to expect. What made it even more interesting was how the actions these descendants would take tonight reflected the same actions their ancestors took along the Salisbury Plain. He wished he could speak with his teacher from primary school and tell her that the historians' suspicions were nearly perfect. Her husband worked on the archaeological project there, and it was one of her favourite things to teach. Little did young Harry know he was connected to that place in more than a simple intellectual way.
Each member of the Binding Circle picked up a lantern, and gathered at the foot of the hill. The grass from earlier had been transformed, and now a white pathway cut into the hill, spiralling around until it reached the summit. Again, Patrick, the twenty-fourth Merlin, stood before the amassed group.
"Each candle we light is a star," he began the invocation and on cue all raised their wands and lit the lanterns.
"Let us light as many as we can," Patrick continued, "and spend time among the stars we've created on Earth. Let us know that their twinkling is them smiling, because they know a secret: the Sun will be coming back, and not only returning but strengthening. From this day through many, from this darkest of nights, on Yule. Let us laugh with the start at our fear of eternal darkness, laugh with these earthly stars we've lit."
He lifted his lantern and began a slow procession along the white path. As the newest members, Harry and Sirius were toward the front, following just behind a witch Harry suspected was Patrick's wife, as she seemed to assist him and keep close to him. Harry's sandals felt strange on the chalky rocks of the path, and it crunched and crumbled as they walked on it.
The witch who assisted Patrick began singing, and others soon joined in. Harry recognized the tune, although the words were unfamiliar. His ear was now accustomed to Welsh enough to recognize the song was in the ancient language, but what words were sung he had no clue. He did start humming along, figuring it was better to make some sound than making none.
As they reached the top, Harry was able to look back and marvel at the pathway, lit by Lords and Ladies lanterns as their carriers serpentined to the top. As they reached the plateau, each took their place just inside the capstone ring. So caught up in the sight of the lantern light reflecting of the stones, making them look blue and how incredible he felt standing there, Harry didn't notice the stars above were slowly disappearing behind a veil of clouds.
"Lords and Ladies, the god and goddess have blessed us in this season past. For their generous gifts, we now offer thanks and praise," Patrick said.
"So mote it be," everyone responded.
Harry took a moment to look around, marvelling at his surroundings. He was among others who were his peers, regardless of their age, he was one of them. He was truly celebrating a holiday which his father, and likely his mother, would have taken part in while they were alive. Unlike Christmas, this was a magical holiday, a wizarding holiday. He glanced at Sirius to his left, thinking his godfather looked younger and happier than he'd been since the night they'd freed him at Hogwarts. Even with the impending conflict Harry knew he couldn't avoid, for the moment he was happy; and that meant everything. He was so distracted by his happiness, he didn't notice something moving among the shadows.