AN: This is going to focus a bit more on the whirlwind surrounding everyone and things being altered by the sudden family inclusion. I won't get into a lot of the others because we know their story. Harry is too young to think of much yet and so by the end of this chapter we'll get more from him. There will be plenty more interactions with Celtic lore, but when he's of age mostly. Can't have him going to deal with too many things when he can't even comprehend his own abilities yet. I'm not entirely happy with this chapter but I need it to move on so I can get into the changes Harry will be going through more.
The following days of Lily's break passed calmly if a bit surreal. Harry seemed to be almost inseparable from his new 'pet' and Lily finally had just enlarged the bed so Rose could sleep on one side of Harry while she was on the other. It should have scared her, to know that she was sleeping with what was essentially a dead creature, ancient relative or not. Then again Lily figured she should have been terrified by her Banshee ancestor, or the lord of the Wild Hunt. It was amazing what one would do when their family was at risk. She'd found that Rose was even more easily confused then any of the wizard's she'd ever met when confronted with advances in the world of the muggles. She was aware, in a distant cursory fashion of advances in time and creations both muggle and magical. This was in a dog's sort of awareness though, and it took time for Rose to explain that while a hound in a very long cycle of time, she had narrowed her world to the hunts. She did still give Lily a look when the witch called her Rose, and Lily was fully aware that she wasn't exactly happy with her name. Still, if she used the proper Gaelic then she just knew the Maurader's would cause mayhem. Those boys of hers needed as little encouragement as they could possibly be given.
What did fashion, or advances in technology matter to her a dog? She was a simple warrior when alive though she had held her own magics she had never been very powerful. Rhoswen had learned to use every bit of her magic and fighting skills in harmony, that had made her formidable not some great powers. Just the few little things that she'd witnessed Lily do already were already far more impressive then most the spells she could recall from her days. Not that it upset the hound at all, it gave her a sense of pride to see her blood have turned out so very strong years later. It was what the heroes dreamed of, passing on the best of their blood to continue the family line. Lily was definitely an Evans-daughter, her strong will had been proven but sometimes even just the tiny cleaning charms she used as easily as Rose would scratch at her ears would make the hound perk her ears up in shock. The air around Lily would humm with power and it was no wonder that her lord had seen fit to grant the human woman a boon to save her child. If the witch had a mate as powerful as she was, then her little Bairn that Rhoswen was now pledged to would be powerful indeed.
Lily had learned when she was given a certain look with a tilt of the gray hound's head to drop a subject, regardless of if it was evening and she could be told such. There had been a lot of those taboo topics. Anything regarding Gwyn Ap Nudd or the Wild Hunt was off limits. So were questions about powers of the day or much of the history. When it came to trying to shove all the knowledge Lily felt was so important at her in return, Rose had gently but firmly taken Lily's hand in her teeth.
~I will learn as your son learns.~
It had been a sobering reminder that Lily would die. She knew the one prophecy, but had made inquiries to the Ministry and found out there was indeed another one concerning her, James, and Harry. Because she was in hiding the ministry pulled a few strings and she managed to get it sent to her in a secure box. Not that it would help anyone who wasn't involved in the prophecy without going mad of course. Lily had opened it and been alarmed.
"Blood of the mother, Gift of the father. Dead before three years of age or given to the dead. A Wraithling born to balance the world, or at a loss the world plunged into darkness. The hound will hunt until the wraith dies, then the building of the world will begin anew. If not given to the dead, then the dead shall consume the world."
It was not a pleasant prophecy.
Nor was it one that Lily could seem to wrap her head around, it had a strange scratchy tone to it that suggested it had been translated and most likely poorly.
Rose had needed to nip at her again. ~Actually more cheerful then when I was alive. All doom and death and blood back then. Don't think on it. Prophecy's work by making you move towards them even if you fight. We all end up dead, and it's not so bad you know? The dying is the not so fun part.~
"But what is a Wraithling?"
~A young wraith is my guess or one similar to one in powers or thoughts. A wraith is a spirit, a shadow..a ghost perhaps. Not entirely unlike my mother the banshee, and she did give her aid to you for all of this. Because of my bond now to Harry he is in a way dead. Not physically, but he is bound to me and I am dead. It'll be an advantage~
"How?!" Lily was panicking at the thought of her son dead, for some reason picturing dementors, and she knew better. That did not prevent her from going into a panic, her mind racing in a non logical fashion. She'd learned if there was one thing the hound had no tolerance for it was stupidity. This time the nip was sharp and Lily squeaked.
~The dead cannot harm the dead.~ Rose left it at that and went to nuzzle her bond mate. She liked talking to Harry. As a Cyn Annwn, a hell hound was the more recent term, Rhoswen could sense when some were getting close to death. It was a scent to her, but mostly a sight. She was a sight hound after all..though far more beautiful then any mortal canine. Harry giggled, grasping at handfuls of her fur which the gray dog allowed without even a wince. Truly she had been without her human thoughts dominate so long she was struggling to regain them. It was like waking up after a very long sleep and finding the world had changed on it's head and everyone spoke a new language. In a sense she was related to Lily and Harry, but it was so faint, so long ago she could barely taste the tie to Lily's blood. Then again, her magics had always been in the battle field. Let the others heal and comfort, Dealanach had been named for her blazing into a fight, the scent of burning ozone and chaos she left behind. That vicious determination and ruthless attention to her goal, the single minded obsession had been part of why Gwyn Ap Nudd had sought her out and jokingly called her one of his hounds as she defended her families allies on the blood soaked earth of their home.
The joke had been the proudest moment of her life. Those who carried the magic in their blood could learn to switch their form for that of an animal in her day, though it was risky as there was never a guarantee the return would work. Apprentices for those who carried magic were few and far between and reserved only for the greatly promising ones, usually males at that. Most women would be bogged down with wee ones far too soon even if it was not the life they wished. Dealanach had faced that fear of being trapped or simply unable to exchange her skin, and found she could change into her beast form without a problem but it was getting out of it that was hard and exhausting. It took three days of being in a form before she could take the other at best. There were limits to everyone's abilities, and that was hers. Of course a large part of that was probably because her beast had been one of the fair folk's creatures. She'd never tried before Gwyn Ap Nudd's remark and she surmised it had a lot to do with the form she had taken. A challenge of sorts. He did love his games.
He'd spoken a bit of a contradictory riddle to Lily upon their meeting after all, not that the witch had picked up on it.
Dealanach had been more then proud of her sleek white form with the blood red ears. She hadn't been a true Cyn Annwn of course, just one in color and build but it had been enough. Yet, upon her near death it had been a great honor for one of the fae to have placed her within a sacred tree..undying and waiting for one of her many cousins to come aid her in heal craft Dealanach though had known her duty sworn upon her heart, and that is why her soul had torn free, taking the form of her inner beast and it had been Gwyn Ap Nudd's long proud laughter that day roiling over the land that had caused the hound her moment of glory. She'd raced along his side, with the true Cyn Annwn, or as they called themselves the cold hounds, for centuries now and had been transformed into one over the years though she retained her human thoughts. Her mind had beheld wonders in the underworld that would make mortals weep.
All of that was pushed aside, as it should have been, at the sight of the beautiful little green eyes that sparkled at her as tiny fingers pulled and grasped at fur and muzzle. Rose had never desired to be a mother, it was not in her. However, this was her wraithling now..indeed the term fit him from the prophecy. He was her paw in the living as she was his teeth in the world of the dead. To serve him was her goal now, bound to him as she was until his death. Curling about the little pudgy baby she started to growl very softly, it was a soothing sound to Harry and he snuggled into her fur and fell asleep almost right away.
Eventually Lily calmed down for after all she'd begged for this. She'd stepped out for a bit, feeling odd just leaving her three month old with a giant dog who was centuries old and her ancient relative. It was an insult to the canine that was not a canine if she didn't trust them alone at points, especially when all Harry was doing was sleeping. So to keep herself distracted while waiting for the word to return to Godric's Hollow Lily decided to find out what she could about their new family member. It was not easy to ferret out the information she desired, considering that Ireland was greatly rich in it's folk tales and lore even though they varied from location to location. However, she found books on the species, and stories from locals. Much to her pleasure there were even a few visitors from Scotland and even the Scandinavian countries who held similar enough legends that Lily soon began to realize that the ancient people her blood had come from had intermingled and traveled. She should have realized it from the similarity of much of the art styles but it had always escaped her. Perhaps because the Muggle world was separated far more in ways then the magical cultures had been. They'd had their own terms across cultures for legends and powers, events and deeds, and even the deities but enough in common that some threads could be followed from one place to the next.
When Lily came back her eyes were dancing in wonder as she beheld the sleeping form of her only child and the quiet hound around him. It had been the first time in ages that the hound had a flesh and blood form that was not of stardust and moonlight, that she had a warm heartbeat instead of the ice that flooded her veins. Oh Lily knew that the hound..she'd called herself a cold hound at one point..was accurate. She'd watched them, realized the fog and mists was from the bodies of the Cyn Annwn themselves. The stories she had though, many of them reiterated a few different things. They escorted the souls to the afterlife..and they were merciless at hunting down evil. It was something the hounds were said to take pleasure in, running the evil doers ragged and into desperation and despair just as they had done to their victims. Some were bound to the fae, others to the gods and yet others it was unknown.
The tales she had been told, with heavy accents all around, were ones that were Celtic. A few were even older, when people called them Picts. The Irish had their pride, but they understood that even before they named the land they had been other people and the stories from those times were just as full of their strength and character. There were numerous stories of hounds, not just the Cyn Annwn to be told. From it all Lily was meant to understand that they were held in high esteem and their loyalty was unlike any other when they chose to serve.
It was kind of odd..for right there, curled around her son, the son that would probably bring the downfall of Voldemort..was a creature that would make any Auror become like Mad Eye Moody in body for the chance to own. Lily decided then and there to make her own life easier. She didn't know how long she would live, but it had become clear now that she knew what an entirely different existence Rose had held before. Lily would stop trying to treat her as other then a dog. Oh she was going to respect her, but it was clear that family or not, all of Rose's loyalty belonged to the boy who carried a part of the tree holding her body in his own heart.
By the time Lily returned to James and they were taken to Godric's Hollow after seeing the silvery patronus come through the floo -how had Albus managed that?-, she had a content gray dog-shorter thankfully then when she was first seen that night- walking at Lily's hip. She was just tall enough for her head to reach Lily's hand as it dangled at her side, with a coat coarse and oiled to keep the water or rain off her flesh. Lily had expected resistance perhaps, but Dumbledore himself seemed to like the idea of a guard dog. He wrongfully identified her as a magic breed of wolf hound which Lily let slide as apparently they were well known as gentle but marvelous guardians. Friendly and perfectly trustworthy with kids, James and even the other three Marauders may have complained still if not for the sound of Harry wailing..and stopping just as soon. When they looked over it was to the sight of a carefully standing Rose, her paws braced on the crib as she leaned over it enough for the tiny baby to grab and pull at her ears. When her only response to Harry tugging too sharp was to lick at his tiny hands and make him giggle..even James sighed.
"How did I get another dog? At least this one won't go humping the pillows..."
Sirius swatted him in the back of the head for that, much to Remus's amusement. Usually real dogs were wary around Lupin, scenting the wild about him. However the one that seemed to have taken to Harry watched him, sniffed his hand, then utterly dismissed him to go back to watching the tiny Potter. Lily told them an edited version, of how there had been a swirl of what seemed like stardust about the two when she found Rose and Harry was there. Since then Rose had followed them and seemed devoted to Harry.
Dumbledore figured if she was a magic breed that perhaps it had been a need for her owner that Harry had filled. They left the questions alone, not because they were not curious but because really any additional help was welcome. They were unable to see the traitor in their midst, it wasn't that surprising they didn't question an animal's loyalty.
James had taken to the dog rather quickly, enjoying the company on his morning runs around the property. Sirius had of course, also joined in and the first time he changed to his animagus form in front of Rose, James had fallen over laughing so hard he nearly wet himself. The surprised yelp and leap backwards from the hound staring at the equally formidable looking black dog was priceless. What was even more amusing was that despite the ability all animagi had to communicate in an admittedly clumsy fashion, Rose seemed less then interested in talking to Sirius.
Transformed back Sirius was sipping at his fire whiskey and bemoaning the fact. "She said I smelled bad! I mean, I'm a dog, everything smells and most bad smells aren't! I don't like that!"
Lily had right in front of them at that remark, given Rose a bit of bacon.
Sirius's spluttering had been worth every second.
Once they took Rose out into the area outside Godric's Hollow with them on a long walk and before Lily or James could fire a stunner at the boar that had appeared and rushed them, Rose had darted ahead with her lithe form, jaws breaking a rear leg and when the boar tried to gore her as it squealed, had latched onto it's jugular and ripped it open. The utter ferocity was terrifying and Lily had been shaking, even James was wide eyed but once the boar was clearly dead save for the twitches of dying flesh, the hound walked over licking it's muzzle and took her spot by Lily's side as if nothing had happened.
Sirius had decided at that point when told the story that he almost hoped Voldemort tried anything with their puppy there. Lily tried very hard not to laugh at the annoyed grumbling she could hear from Rose. Ever since Sirius had taken his padfoot form, Rose had ignored the man. Though Lily understood, it made it even more amusing and the amount of ribbing the other Mauraders had given Sirius that a female dog had no interest in him, was often raunchy enough to make Lily's face match her hair.
"I swear! If our Harry ever says that word I'm going to hex the lot of you!"
"What Lily?" Sirius smirked at this point and wiggled his brows. "Bitch?"
"He has a point Lily, it is the appropriate term for a female of her species after all. Besides, now we know anytime Sirius uses that term on someone it implies his charms have failed." Remus remarked with a tiny grin.
James had snickered at he flabbergasted expression on Sirius face, and even more when Rose went over and stole the cookie out of Sirius's hands. Lily smirked at the sight, able to hear Rose's mental mutterings as it was evening. If the hound wasn't so devoted to taking care of Harry she was pretty sure that Sirius would have been in for a lot of trouble. As it was she groaned seeing Rose drop the cookie into her nearly two year old son's hands.
"Why did I ever think I could keep anything sanitary in a house with two dogs, a stag, a wolf, and a rat?..."
"Now there you go on those silly ideas..." Sirius started with a wink.
"Exactly. Everyone knows a little dog slobber just means you'll grow up handsome. Unless you're the dog!"
Life with a dog though, aside from that one incident was very much like life without. James continued to work, Lily helped by mapping out attacks and had taken the precaution of writing a long letter to Petunia...just in case. Sirius had thrown a fit and it had taken all three of the other Mauraders and Lily to convince Sirius it had nothing to do with how fit a parent he could be. Lily privately confided to Sirius that she would rather Harry never met her sister or family, but that if the worst happened or Sirius needed to hide Harry, it was an option for them.
As Lily adjusted, she spoke to Rose less and less, which seemed to suit the dog just fine. She'd given sharper looks to Peter, but everyone passed it off as Rose never did anything. All she ever did was be near Harry or go for long loping runs around the property. It had been just a few months after the torture of the LongBottom's that Lily began to worry. Harry rarely cried, his three pet people in Sirius, Lupin, and Peter were always trying to make him giggle. Rose was never minding her fur being tugged on and because Harry would cry, Lily had made the crib an exchange for a bed with sides on it large enough to hold his dog. Really at two years of age he was outgrowing the crib anyways. Lily didn't worry about Harry crawling out, he'd have to go over Rose for that and it seemed he'd always rather pull on her fur then do just about anything.
James had even joked with Sirius that Rose was a right prankster as the first time he tried to give her dog food she'd waited for his back to turn before his entire meal was gone. After several cases of Rose managing to get food, and not touching the dog food left for her, James made sure they didn't ever have any visible.
She started not only hunting rabbits for food but came in with fresh birds and rabbits, always holding them carefully in her mouth with a smug bearing. Sirius had hooted for a long time that maybe James needed to learn how to feed his family, if even the food Rose had stolen from his plate was less appetizing then raw meat. They'd started giving her some of the nightly dinner and gave in. It was just easier.
As tension wound higher James and Lily changed their secret keeper, that was the night Lily swore Rose's eyes were glowing again.
On Halloween two years from when she had taken infant Harry to meet the Banshee, James died.
Lily begged for her life even as she heard the growling, faint and low coming from Rose. She understood then that this was to be her end. Rose was not leaping to save them, she was growling to keep Harry calm. Lily changed and stood proud and tall, her eyes sharp as she met that fearsome red gaze.
No. Voldemort was a dark lord but she had seen the true power of one who held darkness but not evil. She would not cower before this human man as mortal as any of them. "Spare my son."
"Move aside girl."
Lily could hear the baying then, as she had that night over a year ago. "Spare my Harry."
"Last warning girl, get out of my way."
Lily let her green eyes show her rage, the baying was softer..the hounds were near, she could feel the chill along her flesh then and the faint fog along the floor. "Not my son!"
The killing curse spiraled for her and she stood there, making certain it would strike her and not Harry. Her body fell and Lily felt odd that she was still standing, though she understood again as she moved aside. There was a wailing then..piercing cry from the roof that she recognized as her families Banshee. Rose stood slowly, her coat silvery pale again with red along her ears and Lily knew she was not visible to Voldemort. It didn't stop him from firing the killing curse again though it passed through Rose's body and struck Harry, it rebounded. The scream then as Voldemort fled, suddenly able to see the snarling and livid hell hound was small comfort. Softly Rose licked Harry's face before she stepped down. Lily watched as Albus came, proclaimed Harry the boy who lived and took him away. It was then she realized she was not alone. Rose nudged at her with her muzzle. ~We need to fetch your husband. It's time to take you over.~
Lily went downstairs and was almost amused at the sight of James dumb struck as he stared at his body. "James..."
"Lily!" She was held close then, and the only thing that was odd was there was no heart beat. She didn't feel dead though..
James was starring then his eyes wide at their dog who simply watched.
"Is that?..I saw a tapestry with a dog like that once..in my parent's house.."
~Let us go. Lingering is a bad idea.~ James reeled and it was only Lily's gentle hand on her arm that kept him moving as they followed the hound. At the end of the hallway the fabric of reality tore and they passed into the afterlife.
Some time later, perhaps hours, perhaps seconds or even years James finally had the whole story. His screams of "WHAT?!" could be heard all through the underworld. No one paid it any mind.
Rhoswen whined as she passed under the fingers of Gwyn Ap Nudd before he chuckled. "Go my Dealanach..you have your duty to complete. Remember you do not interfere, counsel instead. You are my hound..but for now you are the boys. He will need to grow on his own to fulfill his prophecies." The bright eyes set in the blackened face glowed then as his hound bowed her head, stealing a lick of his un-gloved hands before she raced off. A few of her many fellow hounds ran with her as she traveled along the underworld, shoulders bumping and leaping over each other to reaffirm their pack status before she vanished from their realm.
"There is no loyalty like that of a hound..." Gwyn Ap Nudd remarked pleased. He was curious as to what the boy-who-lived, marked with Solwilo the rune of lightning and Victory would do with his guide a Cyn Annwn named by him after the same streak of fire across the sky.
The mortal realm was going to get rather thrown about.
Just how he, and the others who had lived long before the stories of their land, liked it.
When Rose finally walked back through the home she was tasting the air, her mortal form had been discarded again as it was pledged to when Lily died. Now it would take feats of strength and power from her little master before Rose was able to take it again. She could make herself visible but not often, and was resolved to save it.
First though the dog tilted her head as she passed Lily's desk. Why hadn't the old male taken the letter for Petunia? She knew innately where her tiny master was now and with the chill of the night needed to get to him soon. Oh he would be somewhat hardier thanks to their bond but no babe should be in the cold long. Grasping the letter in her jaws Rose wriggled her hind quarters in preparation for the leap, it was lucky really that she was not a mortal hound or she'd have had a very long journey. As it were she focused on that glittering thread that went from around her neck like a leash to the heart of her little master. Gathering her energies then the Cyn Annwn leapt through the air, vanishing into mist.
It was later, a cold sleeping babe in a basket on the door of Number Four Privet Drive that was opened by Petunia. She was livid..and heart broken when she read the letter. Still she looked down at the babe and saw not her sister's child, but a twist of nature that would bring the wizarding world to her door. She was not pleased and ready to scream for Vernon when there stood from around the basket a hound. Not just any hound, for the term dog seemed so demeaning..but one she'd seen pictures of, twisted back upon it's body in their father's stories. The glowing ethereal dog touched her hands with a letter then, a letter more cold then the night air because of it's contact before it settled down around the baby and vanished.
Pale face growing whiter by the moment Petunia read the greatly simplified account of what her sister said. The letter held not just the words of war, but of a little sister regretting she had not tried harder to repair things. She pleaded with Petunia to take in her nephew and listed an account that would be held in trust in a normal muggle bank for them to use to tend to Harry. She knew that Petunia had always been a miser financially. James would have never thought of anything other then Gringotts, Lily knew Petunia would sooner starve then set foot there again.
It was the final words though, ones that alluded to their book of Evan's that she knew Petunia had kept her copy of. She promised that in protecting Harry, if Petunia treated him well that his bonded animal though not visible most the time save to other animals, which soothed some of Petunia's worries, would help protect her family.
It was a hard moment for Petunia, yet as she looked down into the bright green eyes of one Harry Potter she sighed and picked up the bundle, going in to tell Vernon. No she would not mistreat the little freak of nature, he was still her blood after all. Like Lily he'd probably leave when eleven..she could handle ten years.
The years passed in a blur. Petunia was an Evans-daughter so every so often she would see the gleaming white coat of the dog that followed her nephew. Dudley had seen it too and only quick thinking by Petunia, and a really sappy movie that had been on the telly recently giving her the idea, had led her to tell him about her family having a guardian angel that took the form of a white dog with red ears. She'd told Dudley then that if he ever saw it to not be afraid, and been able to start sharing her favorite stories her father had sent her over the years. Since many she could find had powerful warrior men Vernon was content to let her read them.
Because Harry was not being neglected, he was actually fed decently though not overly much like his cousin, and slept in the small bedroom he had learned to be quiet. It helped that he had his dog to confide in and she still slept at his feet every night. Though now that Rhoswen had her regular form back she no longer required sleep, she would just lay there listening to her little master breathe. Harry had learned from her and been really amused at the sight of his dog sitting beside him in per-school learning her alphabet. It -was- a foreign language after all and she had never learned to read anything but the runes and Ogham markings. Oh Harry still had a lot of chores unlike his cousin, and it was an unusual number of them with the occasional bizarre happenings..which would get a mutter of Freak from his aunt and uncle. His cousin though seemed to think Harry idolized him and though he teased him it wasn't unbearable. Rhoswen had taught him to say things he didn't mean to Dudley that were kind, because it was clearly how to get the Dursley's happy. While he wasn't loved and fawned over he was at least not neglected, and the chores he disliked so were tempered by his hound's reminders that she'd had much harsher ones at his age.
It was hard to get upset about gardening and cleaning the kitchen, or cooking..when you had someone reminding you that there was walking to the trees or latrine pits communally some distance away for a bathroom. That all food was tended for hours if not the whole day over flames or burned and half raw, that work much harder then a mere garden was necessary if you wanted to eat. It didn't mean Harry didn't complain, he just learned not to whine.
Harry excelled in school, but only in certain subjects so when he praised Dudley for his P.E. Abilities..it was fibbing a bit but Dudley was strong, and he could move fast when he wanted to. He was still a bundle of lard but at least he was an occasionally moving bundle rather then just sitting around stuffing his face. Dudley also had an interest in math when he realized it matched up with money and being as greedy as he was bribed his father to up his allowance if he kept that one grade high, Vernon had happily gotten him a tutor. Harry preferred literature and History, understandable when you had someone from a culture that was almost completely kept with oral rather then written traditions and had lived in the past guiding you. He'd begun learning the runes first, each having a poem that he was required to memorize before Rhoswen would teach him the next. Gardening and cooking and cleaning had helped build some muscle on his wiry frame since Harry did get food, it wasn't a lot but it was enough. It was also humorous when Rhoswen would make her disgusted face when he would eat some crisps and declare that it was clearly not food if it came neither from ground nor beast.
Harry loved going to the park and running too, it was some of the earliest moments of freedom he could recall. His hound would trot or walk at his side with gentle encouragement before her instincts would take over and she'd be racing about, leaving tendrils of fog behind and giving in to the joy of running. It made Harry practice daily, always trying to keep up with her. It took years of running before he was even able to keep up with her lazy stride for a few seconds but when he could he was delighted. She had him doing other things, like when he'd carry bags for the garden she'd have him take more then one at a time even though his muscles ached. When Rhoswen curled up around his aching form though the soft chill from her body would seep into his muscles and the pain would fade. In the winter he had to sleep in layers under his blankets rather then be without the comforting almost weight of his hound.
Overall he had a decent childhood even if his best moments were spent away from his family. He'd learned stories of his parents and their friends that Rhoswen could tell him from the two years she'd spent with them. Most of the stories centered around his mother, for it was through her that they were related. Harry learned of Lily's temper, of her brilliant mind and loving heart. Of her fascination with her heritage as she grew to understand it, and her absolute love of her son. He was told stories of his mother dancing around the house singing with her cleaning spells going on, of ambushing his father and friends with pranks. There were tales of Lily trying to learn musical instruments and failing badly, and spontaneous waltzes across the room with his father.
Perhaps Harry's favorites though were ones about the banshee and his mother on their first meeting, it had been told to Rhoswen, and she would often tell the tale of how they ended up bound to him. His green eyes would widen every time and his mouth open in the awe of his brave mother. He shivered every time she mentioned his mother going to place the splinter in his heart and would touch his chest self consciously. It felt sharp at those moments, as if he could feel the tiny sliver of wood deep within even though he knew logically it had become more of a magical substance. It would only dissolve upon his death.
He was told the original claim his mother had been given concerning him, and that her actions had gained him an extra year with his parents. It had made Harry thankful. If he'd lost them at just a year of age, he may not remember his mother's smile, or that he had her eyes. He wouldn't be able to recall his father's loud laughter, or the fact that his godfather had wild black hair and turned into a shaggy dog he'd ride on the back of. There would be no memories of his mother's lullabies, or stories read to him in soft voices. He even remembered seeing his mother die, and the screams. While he was logically in a fuzzy childish way aware that he should have been terrified at those memories, it was impossible. He blamed that on his hound. She was after all, the one who had escorted his parents into the after life and it was a comfort to know he may be able to see them sometime.
It took him about seven years, so he was nine when the realization came, that he saw death differently then most. Others would shudder seeing a decomposing bit of road kill on the side of the road, Harry would tilt his head and just look at it, seeing the shell of what had once been a creature. He felt no fear, no disgust, no shiver in the back of his mind that came to most creatures when confronted with the truth that some day they too would be laying there as food for the scavengers and insects. It was just a carcass, just flesh and bones and bits of sinew to him. Rhoswen after all, had taught him early on with his own parents that the souls left and usually weren't even aware they were dead. The after life, he'd been assured, was marvelous. It varied according to personal views and beliefs but he knew his parents were not exactly suffering.
He'd looked up what he could find-which wasn't much- on Halloween. After all it was the night they had died, and it was a holy night to Rhoswen. One night of the year her form would twist and warp and instead of a ghostly dog, he'd have a ghostly woman there. Apparently it had happened in the time she'd spent with his mother as a mortal as well..and that was a story he loved dearly. If Voldemort had attacked even an hour later, Rhoswen would have been in human form. It was strange to think, that within an hour he'd been orphaned, found, brought to his aunt's and taken in. That during this time Rhoswen had taken his parents to the underworld and ran briefly with her fellows, then returned to his side only made it more surreal.
The tale that was his favorite though, was how his mother learned of Rhoswen's human form that first Halloween. Oh he knew she'd been called Rose, a clumsy translation of her name, but she never used it with him. As soon as Harry had been old enough to pronounce her name properly he had, understanding that it wasn't comfortable to be called something else. So to him Rose was the dog his parent's had owned, and Rhoswen was his guardian and hound. That night though, he was ten years old and waiting for his birthday to be ushered in. It was a silly tradition he had started because even though his aunt and uncle were not cruel to him they never celebrated his birthday. He supposed it could be worse, they could give him trash for a gift. He didn't mind the lack of celebration so much. Every year for his birthday he was allowed to ask one question of his hound and she'd answer as long as she was permitted.
He'd asked silly ones his first years, when mommy was coming back..that's when he'd learned the story of their deaths.
When would he be able to turn into an animal too? When he had mastered working with his magics, he'd have to at least be an adult.
Why was it no one else could see her? That's when he'd learned of their bond.
Why did strange things happen around him when he was upset? That had been a fascinating explanation to the six year old boy. It had delved into what magic was and that when he wanted something badly enough right now that his instincts decided was appropriate -apparently turning a teacher's hair blue in a sense of justice was- then his magic would line up with his desires and things would happen. Some day he would lose that ability but in exchange he would learn others. He'd learned of the powers his mother had held then, and to some extent his father and friends. It had enthralled Harry to no end to learn that his mother could do so much..and his father was able to become a stag.
Why did he need to learn the runes and Ogham? He'd loved that one too, as he'd learned the history behind them. How aside from the mundanes as Rhoswen called them, though she said his parent's and their peers called them muggles..that in her culture it was the runes and the Ogham that were used to channel power. That only those were used to transfer stories and meanings, that they were so old they had infused magic into them and so using them pulled on that long woven magic. Apparently in Rhoswen's day few carried wands or staves, instead they would ink the markings on their flesh sometimes with pigment or actually tattoo them on. Others would wear amulets or imbue a weapon with their power, making it almost sentient though it cost the owner greatly. Apparently only the most powerful needed a focus to help channel their immense strength. Rhoswen had not been one of those. She told Harry of her cousin though, from whom he was long descended. Her cousin had the patience and depth of understanding to seek out the secrets of magic, to travel amongst the mundanes to learn what they had grasped of the world with eyes unblinded by the hows and whys imposed on magic. He'd ventured to their fae allies and learned from them as well. In the end he'd been fashioned a staff of Willow, flexible and twined with rose vines and reeds to shore the braiding up. This curious device had been coated in cloth soaked in ocher and bound tightly. It was with that he had learned to call the winds, to direct storms. His was not a vicious sudden power but a slow building one. It took days or weeks for his workings to take hold but when they did it would affect the entire countryside. His powers brought needed rains, sent winds to chase away ships that were coming to land. It strengthened the herds of livestock and healed away plagues. It was likely that power, that worked with the surroundings that had mixed and melded over the years and manifested in Lily's technique with charms. She told him of her own raw power, the crackling of energy that would build and build and sought release on the battle. Of the burning of the air about her and the static that lifted hairs on arms and head alike and would then blast out in arcs of sky fire, lightning as it was called now. Of how she would call down the wrath of the clouds themselves and it would seek and arc along her blade of copper, drawn to the metal and she would pressure it away from herself and into her foes. She spoke of learning to push out with that same energy so she could walk upon water-though it was far far harder then to just swim- and to make her hands light up of their own accord. Rhoswen had not been a powerful witch, but she'd found her abilities to suit her and used them as desired. She took far more pride in her ability to change her skin for that of a hound, even if it was days in between before she could reverse the effect. Harry had asked her why she hadn't gained a wand and his answer had been a doggy shrug. She had not been one meant to change the world around her, she was one who found change in blade and teeth and the rush of battle. She left the real magic to those with the skill. Yet her ability to comprehend the runes had allowed her the control she did have, and those who had learned them better yet were those who had found true power. It was reason enough.
There had been the year he asked if she would ever leave him. He'd been told yes, when he died she would go back to being a hunting hound for the lord of the Wild Hunt. It hadn't bothered him, because he had realized he could see his parents then. It also meant he would always have her until that time.
At nine he'd asked to learn as she would have at his age. That meant he began to run with her daily, to spar with her in the park trying to keep away from him. He used a stick, because she said it was easier to carry a walking stick or cane then a real weapon and it would train him defensively..which he needed now. His first rule was always to dodge and run. He learned how to strike, to keep his balance, to focus on his senses so if his glasses were lost -he was forced to train without them- he could dodge.
It was much harder to dodge a creature you couldn't hear, so he learned to sense the energy currents around him.
At ten he decided he was ready to hear the full tale of how his mother took finding a human warrior instead of a hound in her place, and asked for the story for his birthday. He'd crawled into bed eagerly that year, waiting for the change that took place. Despite being a ghost, for that one night Rhoswen's form would twist and writhe before stretching. Then there would be a woman there, with a hide breast plate and breeches made of leather. She would be wearing knee high fur trimmed boots for she had died during the cold fall months, and bracers of woven strips of leather. Around her shoulders was a thick white fur cloak that matched her fur in her canine form. Her hair was long and bound in a thick plait with small feathers and bones woven through it. Tiny copper beads were also present, and spirals and twisted forms of blue and black ink covered the visible skin of her arms. Her hair was a copper color, wild and vibrant as her silvery green eyes far paler then Harry's own. Her face was pretty enough, though she was no beauty. While still dead on that night, her form was far more solid and Harry was able to crawl into her lap, comforted by the weight of her arms and lean into her chest as she would tell the story with a rumbling growl.
She told of Lily alone, for James had a case with Sirius that night that took them away for several days. Of how Lily had been alarmed to see Rose drop to the ground and twist and snarl, and then been stunned at the sight of the warrior there. How Rose had taken her and young barely a year of age Harry through the floo and back to their homelands. How a pooka had given them a ride, much to Lily's shock as the chained horse had raced across the fields and sky, showing them will-o-the wisp's and ghosts that wandered for that night. Lily had beheld fairie circles and dances, the Banshee's cavorting, the dead coming back to peek in on their living loved ones. They'd seen creatures of horror as well but the pooka had not taken them there. She'd shown Lily the hallowed hills that so many of their line had died to keep free, the fae folk hunting out that evening and the slew of fairie dogs that went baying alongside their lords.
It was the great lord of the Wild Hunt though that night, who went tearing across the countryside and Lily herself had to put her hand on Rose's arm as her eyes had sought out the forms of her companions running alongside her beloved lord. She spoke of how only Lily, and the soft noises from the babe Harry had been kept Rose from running after them, two legs or not. How the Cyn Annwn had been baying a greeting and a welcome, but it had torn at her heart.
How only the haunting sound of her Gwyn Ap Nudd's horn as he sounded the hunt had kept her upon the Pooka in the end. A reminder that she was serving him. Harry had been awed by the sound of devotion and longing, felt the trembling of her form as if the mere memory of the sound of her Hunt mates was enough to nearly send her racing. Harry realized then just how strong her devotion to protect him was, strong enough his Mother had traded her life.
It was the first time Harry tasted power, and found it bittersweet.
As he waited for midnight, and to turn eleven..Harry wasn't sure what to ask.