Harry Potter and the Children of the Clan,
Harry Potter, full professor of Transfiguration and Assistant Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, lay on a chaise lounge in the front garden of his home, Meadow Crest, looking up into the night sky. It was nearly midnight and his thirty third birthday was nearly over. Although numerically it wasn't particularly significant, Harry always put great store in his birthdays. Largely because there was a time when he didn't think he was going to have any more of them, but also because for a good portion of his life they had been met with such aggressive indifference by his so called guardians, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, that the well attended celebrations were a tangible symbol of his place as a loved member of a large family and a larger circle of friends.
As he stared up into the starry sky he did what he always did at times like this. He tried to discern some shred of information about what the future might hold but as always the only thing he could do was recognize the shapes of the constellations that he had memorized as a first year student of Astronomy. Despite her best efforts and a number of attempts, Lavender Brown, known professionally as Madame Levandre, couldn't teach Harry one iota about how to read the stars. He had finally given up and reconciled himself to the thought that there was at least one aspect of the magical arts that the famous Harry Potter couldn't come to grips with.
He thought back over the day and how much fun there had been. With the children getting older there had been a lot more activity around the grounds and in the air over the meadow. Poor Snuffles had succumbed early as his years were starting to weigh on him. The day also served as an early send off for Victoire, as she had gotten her letter late the past spring and would be leaving for her first year at Hogwarts in a month or so. He had to chuckle to himself when he thought back on how Fleur and Ginny had come to him a few weeks ago and asked if he would mind sharing his day with his favorite niece. His response was simple and telling.
You're joking, right?
He took some time during the day to speak to his niece, Miss Vee as he liked to call her. The exchange was fresh in his mind. They sat on a low stone wall that formed the edge of one of the flower displays in the front garden.
"So, another month and you're off to Hogwarts. Excited?"
"Yes, I am. I can't wait. I know I'll miss mummy and everyone else terribly but I'm very eager to start," she replied.
"Now, I know you've had this talk with your dad, but just remember, no 'uncle arry' while at school. Just like with Abagail and Ted."
"Oh, I know, sir," she said with a little smirk. "Daddy explained it all the other night. I don't think it should be a problem. Ted told me he got used to it after only a few days."
The she squinted up at him and said,
"But that doesn't mean that I'm going to stop keeping my eye on you, uncle 'arry. Mummy was very clear about that. You've been doing pretty well the last year or so but I'm to make sure there is no back sliding."
Harry had to laugh to himself as he sat on the lounge chair staring up into the night sky thinking on that particular comment. He had thought since becoming Assistant Head Master three years earlier that he had been doing fairly well in managing the workload and the stress it was causing him. He had managed to dodge most of the work involved in the joint projects partnership between Hogwarts and the Ministry. He was only asked to occasionally comment on a particular proposal or ongoing effort. The Tome Project had settled down into a fairly steady low key effort amongst the various interested faculty members with just a few formal meetings at the house during the course of the year to discuss progress. If anything significant was unearthed it was usually shared in hasty gatherings in a classroom at the school.
He was still heavily involved in the ongoing relationship between Hogwarts, Beauxbaton and the new Black Sea school. In fact, the very next day would see the kick off of this summer's TriSchool conference being hosted at Hogwarts with Harry as chairperson. He also had fallen into a pattern of visiting each school during the year, Black Sea in early November and Beauxbaton in March.
Of course there was the usual stresses and strains from being the father of three active children, ages nine through three as well as being a focal point of a large family and all the resultant dynamics. About the only things that hadn't added to his workload stresses was his evolving relationship with the Centaurs or the cavern that he and his student team at the time had discovered deep in the Dark Forest. Events on those fronts had been unfolding very nicely for him once he had gotten past the issues with some of the Centaurs and their fears about his taking over the heard.
He had finally been able to arrange for fairly regular visits with the herd and the ongoing 'lessons' conducted by himself for the Centaurs and Morgotta for the Hogwarts students were paying small but recognizable dividends. So all in all he thought he had things well in hand until he returned from France the previous summer after attending that year's conference.
He woke up the following morning in a terrible state. Headache, fever and nausea had him bedridden for several days and while he managed to avoid a repeat of the firestorm incident he was still one very sick individual and the recovery was slow as well. It was feared that he would miss the opening of school but fortunately Mrs. Dubonais-Henderson intervened with one of her bayou potions and had Harry back on his feet in time to oversee the induction of new students.
What followed was an extended period of intense surveillance of practically every aspect of his life. Diet and exercise, workload and rest, and any sources of aggravation were monitored, manipulated and where it thought necessary, completely eliminated. Both trips to Europe to visit the schools were done non magically. His trip to Bulgaria to Black Seas was his first trip in a muggle airplane, accompanied by Hermione, who went along as an 'observer' from the International Office of the Ministry. All in all, he wasn't impressed and found dragon flight far superior to an Airbus.
It should be said however that he bore it all with surprising grace and good humor, which also surprised most of those around him at the time. What they didn't know about was the quiet talk he had with Fleur one afternoon during his convalescence. While the actual content of the discussion was never revealed it was obvious that a point had been made and that Harry had come to some understanding about everyone's concerns. So instead of getting annoyed and grumpy about it all, he instead brought his considerable sense of humour to bear on the situation.
He delighted in teasing his watchdogs with stealthy trips to the kitchen, sneaking some secret treat only to have it revealed as a healthy piece of fruit. Or sneaking off, ostensibly to engage in some form of work or other proscribed activity, only to be discovered in some quiet corner of the house or school, taking a nap. And he preyed on poor Vee relentlessly. On many occasions she would come to visit and go in search of her Uncle only to have him spring on her from hiding, first scaring her and then subjecting her to a savage tickling. It got a number of laughs at Christmas when he opened a special package from her and it turned out to be a cat collar and bell. All things considered he thought it was a fine way to get well.
So here he lay, once again healthy and happy, with another year of educating the youth of magicdom ahead of him and just like his favorite niece, he was eager to begin. As such, he hauled himself up off the lounge, took one last look into the heavens and then walked back into the house.
In the days that followed, another member of the Potter household wasn't so happy. In fact, he had been unusually quiet but it went largely unnoticed due to the activities surrounding the TriSchool conference and the reception being hosted at Meadow Crest for the attendees. So it was one morning, Abagail Westwood, eldest daughter of Harry and Ginny by an adoption of sorts found her little brother James laying disconsolately on his bed, staring up at the flying toy model of a wizard flying his broom spinning lazily from the ceiling.
Abagail had moved into the Diagon Alley apartment of her boyfriend, Angus McAskill, almost a year earlier, but since the place was fairly cramped for two people she had left her studio set up in the apartment that had been designed for her when the house at Meadow Crest was built. No one objected to the arrangement because it meant she was almost a daily visitor to the house and Ginny in particular was in no mood to have the girl absent from their lives for any particular length of time. As she stood in the doorway of the boys room she folded her arms and said,
"So, little man, what has you so down this morning?"
He rolled his head to the side so he could make eye contact and said,
"Hey, come on, Abs, watch the 'little man' stuff. I'm almost as tall as you are."
The diminutive witch smiled as she strolled into the room and said,
"You are absolutely correct, but that changes nothing. You could grow as tall as your Uncle Rubeus and you'd still be my little man. So out with it, whats troubling you so much?" she finished as she sat on the edge of his bed.
"Ah, I dunno. Nothing really," he said by way of evasion.
"Oh, no you don't," she retorted, poking him in the leg. "I know that look all too well. I'm staying right here until you talk to me."
The boy looked back up at the ceiling and let out a big sigh.
"What am I supposed to do, Abs?"
"Do about what?"
"About everything, I guess. Life, school. I dunno, I mean..." he tailed off, not finishing his thought.
"Come on, James, you're being unusually vague here. Give me something to work with," Abagail prompted.
James began to study his feet, purposely avoiding looking into his big sister's eyes, knowing what could happen if he did.
"How am I supposed to live up to being James Potter, son of the famous Harry Potter?" he finally said quietly.
Abagail was a little taken aback. This was pretty deep stuff for a nine year old. If it had been Albus it might not have surprised her but James was usually a pretty carefree, take life as it comes kind of kid, sometimes to his own detriment. While not the walking disaster area Ted Lupin was at that age, James still managed to push the limits at times, occasionally suffering physical distress as well as parental displeasure. She smiled a bit and said,
"What do you think you have to live up to?"
"Aw, come on, Abs, don't play me like that. I can walk down to Da's library and grab a book that was written about his life before he was even done with school. A whole book. And I know about all the newspaper articles about what he did after at the Ministry fighting evil wizards and all the stuff he's done at school. How can I possibly hope to top any of that?" he said, sounding miserable.
"Why do you think you have to top it?"
He finally did turn and look at her.
"How else can a father be proud of his son if the son doesn't do better than he did?"
Abagail knew that there were a number of arguments she could make but she finally settled on a question.
"Have you asked your father what he thinks about this?"
"He has enough to worry about. So much it made him sick again," the boy said, looking away again.
"He does have a lot on his plate, that's for sure, James, but never so much that he wouldn't put it all aside to listen to you. It never stopped me from talking to him about my problems, not from the first day I met him. You know all about that."
James just nodded noncommittally. Abagail squinted back at him. She knew from experience that while James was Harry's son in many ways, he had inherited the Weasley stubborn streak in spades. So she brought out the big gun, or wand perhaps in this case, to bear.
"Alright, little man, here's how it's going to be. The farewell reception for the conference people is tonight. Your dad is free until camp starts in a couple more weeks. So you have two days from tomorrow morning to discuss this with him or I'm going to tell him all about our conversation the very next day. Got it?"
With all the righteous indignation a nine year old boy could muster, James sat bolt upright and exclaimed,
"Oh, wouldn't I. This family means everything in the world to me, little man and I will do anything to keep it as happy a one as I can," she said seriously.
He bristled and she just looked back with those big dark bottomless eyes that had lost none of their power to draw you in. After a minute or two James just sort of sunk in on himself and said,
"Alright, I'll do it."
She laughed and leaned forward and pulled him into a hug, one that he resisted at first but then joined in enthusiastically. After a moment he said from around the vicinity of her shoulder,
"You know, I still don't like the idea that you moved out."
"I know, sweetie, but that's what people do. They grow up and move out and live their lives. It's not like you don't see me almost every day though."
"It's not the same, Abs. You're not down the hall at night anymore. That bothers me," he said.
She wasn't sure what she could say in reply so she just squeezed him harder. After a few minutes more she left the room and walked down the hall toward her studio. Before she got there Lily, Harry's mother, appeared in front of her.
"You did a wonderful job back there, dear."
"Thank you. You've been a very good teacher."
Knowing that his sister wasn't going to forget what she said, the following evening James was standing at the doorway to his father's library. He could see Harry absorbed in a book so he knocked gently on the door frame.
"Excuse me, Da?"
Harry looked up and around, then smiled as he said,
"James. Yes, what is it, son?"
"I need to talk to you. Do you have a minute?"
"Of course, come on in. Have a seat right here," Harry said, gesturing to the chair nearest his own.
James walked in, navigated around the chess set and took a seat on the edge of the chair.
"What's on your mind, son? You look a little down. For a few days in fact, yes?"
James was a bit surprised that his dad made this observation, but he shouldn't have been. Harry actually missed very little.
"Well, I wasn't going to bother you with this, but I kinda mentioned it to Abby and she insisted I talk to you. She said if I didn't she would."
Harry smiled sympathetically. He knew that his adopted daughter had come to be every bit a fully fledged female member of the Weasley clan. Strong willed, mildly domineering, who had your best interest at heart but unwilling to brook even the slightest resistance.
"You know she does it out of love, James. That girl would fight a dragon bare handed for you."
"I know, Da, but she can be a bit of a bully, you know."
Harry just laughed a bit, but knew better than to agree.
"So, what is it that you need to discuss? Harry prompted."
"Well, I guess it's something I've been thinking about for a while, but with all the fuss that was made about Victoire going up to Hogwarts I started thinking about it more. It's just that I don't know what I'm supposed to do, Da. You know, how am I supposed to be your son."
"But you are my son, James. Nothing can change that. What is there to be?" Harry asked.
"I mean, how am I supposed to do stuff that will make you proud of me? How can I do better than what you've already done? Beating evil wizards, killing a dragon, being a dragon, for crying out loud. What am I supposed to do?" he said, as he looked down at the folded hands in his lap.
On the surface, Harry knew he could consider the issue ridiculous and tell his son he was being silly, but he also knew this ran much deeper than the shaky confidence of a child. He had often considered what would confront his offspring, especially his first born son, as they grew up in his shadow. He only had to look to his best friend Ron to see what that was like.
"I've worried about that for you, myself, James," he offered quietly.
"Yes. I know it can't be easy, what with all the spectacular things I've been through, what people have said or written about me. It will be tough for you, I won't lie. On the other hand, it also has had and will have certain benefits. You live in a pretty nice house, get to go and do some cool things. You know interesting people. I mean, how many nine year olds have already met with Centaurs? Or have a half giant for a god father? But let me ask you this. Why do you think you have to do better than me?"
"Isn't that what sons are supposed to do so that they make their dads proud of them?"
"I suppose that is true for some dads. I suppose I could say that I was a great Quidditch seeker so you need to be a greater one. Or I scored high on my NEWTs so you have to score higher," Harry said then paused. "I could, but I won't, because those things aren't important."
"No, son, they aren't," Harry replied, fixing his son with his green eyes. "I've been through a lot in my life. You know that. Maybe not all the details, but you have some idea. I've accomplished some pretty amazing things, and suffered a great deal as well. But none of that matters as far as you're concerned. At least not to me. What does matter is simply this. I will be proud of you, as proud as any father could possibly be of his son, if you are proud of yourself."
James looked at his father, confused. And he said so.
"I don't know what you mean, Da."
"I mean that if you are satisfied that you are doing the things you want to do, the way you want to do them, and you are happy with that, that's all I want for you. To be happy and satisfied with your life. If you go out and try to be the greatest Quidditch flier in history, and you turn out to be a spectacular flop, but you tried your hardest and gave it your best, but you just didn't have the ability, that's fine by me. If you decided you want to work behind the counter in your uncle's shop in Diagon Alley and you do your very best at it, and enjoy it, that too is good enough for me."
Harry smiled as he saw the wide eyed stare he got from his son. He patted his lap and knew that the boy wasn't big on touchy feely most of the time but he had the feeling this was different. James slid off his chair and walked over to his father who pulled him up onto his lap and wrapped him in his arms.
"I know that this isn't what you expected. And I imagine it's not what other people might see for your future but I need you to understand this, son. I have spent a fair portion of my life miserably unhappy. And fortunately I've also spent a fair portion very happy indeed. And all the awards and accolades and honors that I've received aren't worth a brass knut without the happiness. So all I want for you, for any of you, is to be happy doing what it is that makes you so. Can you understand that?"
"I think so, Da. It's just not what I thought."
"I suppose I should have said something earlier, but I guess I never thought to. So let me ask the question. Is there anything that you think you would like to do, not something that you think I'd want you to do?" Harry asked.
"Well, I'm not sure, Da. I mean I do like to fly my broomstick. But you know what I really like, is listening to Uncle Charlie talk about his research trips. No so much the dragon stuff, which is kinda cool, but the actual exploring, trying to find the dragons. Uncle Nev and Aunt Luna have some really cool stories, too. Sometimes, I'll go out into the meadow when the grass is high or into the trees and pretend like I'm a great explorer. Did I ever tell you that I found a bunch of garden gnomes hiding in some bushes?"
"No, I don't believe you ever did."
"Yeah, it was cool, although I don't know who was more scared, them or me," James said with a laugh, the first Harry had heard out of him in days.
Father and son talked for another hour, James asking his dad about some of his own explorations in more detail than in the past. Even some of the darkest moments of the quest to find the horcruxes were discussed in a different light.
It should be noted that as the eldest son, as first Albus came along and then little Lily, James was allowed to get himself off to bed. So two days later when he walked into his bedroom he found a sizable package wrapped in brown paper.
When he tore it open he found three hard cover volumes of classic muggle literature, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and King Solomon's Mines. When his mother came in the next morning to wake him for breakfast, she found James asleep on the floor, using Snuffles as a big, snoring pillow, the half read copy of Treasure Island laying on his chest.
All three books, and a number more would be read and re-read many times until they began to fall apart and had to be replaced. The originals, bound together with layers of Spell-O-Tape, became permanent parts of Harry's library. For weeks after he had the talk with his father James could be found outside prowling the entire length and breadth of the property, Snuffles by his side. After the first week he became obsessed with mapping, apparently taking the idea of Jim Hawkin's treasure map to heart. James was having the time of his life.
As Harry watched all this he had concerns about turning James loose at Hogwarts but they had survived worse, like Fred and George, backed up by Lee Jordan. Time would tell. For now he would concern himself with a new year with the maturing Ted Lupin and the soon to arrive Victoire. That should be enough.