Harry's discussion with Connor Toal lasted into the evening. The secretive Irishman gave him more details on the history of Trevor's ancestry and the significance it had. Many of those who had been called to be watchers over the ages knew little about what the ultimate destiny of the line was, only that it needed to be protected at all costs. An act of faith. Harry asked what Trevor's real name was.
"His Christian name is Trevor Osborne and that's how it's recorded. His true name would likely sprain your tongue, Professor. And since it can be a powerful magic, the knowin' of the true name, it has never and will never be said by the likes of you or me. If he's lucky, he'll live a long life and never know it either."
They also developed a cover story because Harry explained that too many people were aware of the boy and his problems, so something had to be thought up to explain his situation. Since this was a magical community and one that had witnessed many amazing phenomena in Harry's time, it didn't need to be very logical or reasonable, just plausible. So it turned out that Trevor's family was of an ancient royal line and now part of a secret society, protecting it from long ago enemies. Similar to Harry's, prophecies and legends were associated with the family as to great power and riches and those that had seized him were trying to find a way to unlock the keys to those treasures. Harry would be unable to attest to the truth of these legends but the fact that an innocent boy and member of the magical family was in danger was enough to warrant putting him under the joint protection of the Hogwarts community.
Toal left Harry that evening indicating it might be some time before they would meet again, but he assured Harry he would be back. He also said that for an Englishman, he considered Harry a fine fellow and wondered if there wasn't a bit of the Irish in his background. At that moment, Toal reminded Harry a great deal of his friend, Aidan Lynch. When he returned home that evening, he sat down with Ginny, the one person he trusted above all others and told her the full story. She would be the only one with whom he shared the knowledge.
"Unbelievable, Harry. I mean I know I made that suggestion, but I didn't expect it to be the real answer."
"I always tell you, you're smarter than you give yourself credit for. Anyway, the others get the cover story, but I needed at least one other person to know, just in case."
"So what do you plan to do?"
"Just as we already have. He stays with Hagrid. I get the Centaurs to help keep an eye on him and until I get information from this Toal fellow, we assume the boy has powerful enemies that are looking for him. I'll have a talk with the big fellow later and see how he might help."
"No need, Wizard. I hear. The school and the boy will be guarded."
His next conversation on the subject of the boy was the following morning with Professor Sprout and Trevor's teachers. He kept it as simple as he could, emphasizing the danger the boy was in and as far as the students were to be concerned, he came from a troubled family background and would need Hogwarts as a haven, not unlike Estelle Mickelthwaite. His discussion with the Centaurs was more detailed. Since they would be expected to provide some of the protection for the boy, they needed to know more about what they might encounter.
"A strange tale, indeed, Friend Harry Potter," the Elder said. "A watch will be set. Of this you can be sure. One so abused is deserving of such, and this one in particular seems to merit extra consideration."
"To put it mildly, Honored Elder," Harry said with a wry grin.
When it was time for the Express to take the students home for the summer, Trevor was getting plenty of extra consideration. He received hugs from Domi and Vee, wishes for a quiet, happy summer from the rest of the Clan and their friends and while Hagrid was overseeing the loading and departure of the train, the boy was already playing in the field by Hagrid's hut with Wullie under the watchful eye of a pair of Centaur hunters. He was also being observed by a number of pairs of eyes from the underbrush along the edge of the forests, but none contained a hint of malice.
Within half an hour of the express pulling out of the Hogsmeade station the Clan found themselves in a compartment, along with Kai, who was pushed up against James' side, with Cecil leaning against the carriage wall on the other. Kai looked over at Fred and asked,
"Didn't you want to invite Cressida to join us, Fred? We could squeeze in one more."
Fred snorted and scowled at his cousin's girlfriend for a moment before replying,
"Actually, with the two of you occupying one space, we could fit her in without squeezing, but we plan on meeting up later when we get bored with who we started the trip with."
"Hey," Vee complained. "There's nothing boring about us, cuz. What exciting things do you have planned for the summer, by the way?"
"I'll split my time between the summer league and time at the shop in Diagon Alley helping Dad."
"No time at the ice cream parlor?"
"Nope, Mom says she can't afford to have me there for more than a few minutes. I don't need a wand to make a bunch of her inventory disappear. What about you guys?"
"The Quidditch youth league and some time with Ronin in the forest, I hope," James said.
"Same here," Kai began, "the Quidditch, I mean."
"Really?" Vee asked. "Your parents are okay with that?"
"Yeah, they started to come around after some of their customers mentioned seeing me play and how good I was. I'll still have to put in time at the shop, but they're willing to share me with the world," she said with a grin.
"As for us, I don't really know right now," Vee said. "There isn't a whole lot to do where we are. I suppose we'll take a few trips back up to school to see how Trevor is getting on. Maybe some time at St. Mungo's."
"What about you, mate?" James said, looking over at his friend and partner in crime.
"Some of this and that, I suppose," Cecil said, trying hard to appear relaxed and nonchalant. "The ol' neighborhood always seems a little strange when I get back but I should be able to find somethin' to do, I'm sure."
"Just so long as you stay out of trouble," Fred offered. "Uncle Harry wouldn't be too happy to find out his son's best mate was brought up before a magistrate on a charge."
Cecil gave the older boy a look that suggested he was being ridiculous but then ruined it with a smirk and a wink. Domi must have missed the last part because she looked over at her cousin and said with some asperity,
"Fred, that's an unseemly thing to say."
Fred just shrugged as he stood up and said,
"Time to go and find Cressida. See you all later."
As Fred left the compartment, Domi looked across at Cecil and said,
"He was making a bad joke, wasn't he?"
"Well, let's just say that there was a time when it wouldn't have been one, but I've seen the error of my ways. James has been a big help there, right mate?"
The look the two shared spoke volumes, leaving the girls to roll their eyes and shake their heads. James continued by saying,
"The one I hope stays out of trouble is that Trevor kid. Da has enough to worry about without him mucking about."
"Hey," Vee countered, "the poor kid is dealing with an awful lot. That's not 'mucking'."
"Wandering off into the forest by himself is too 'mucking'. If he gets himself eaten by something, imagine how Da would react to that."
"Oh, please, James. A boy that can handle a hippogriff like an obedient dog has nothing to fear from anything in that forest. You of all people should know that," Vee said.
James fixed his cousin with a look that anyone who knew his father would have recognized in a moment. Vee knew it and was amazed to see it now.
"That witch I killed didn't grow up in the forest. If she and her mates could get in there, who knows what else might."
The sisters had nothing to say in response and James sat back against the cushion and didn't say anything else for many miles. As it turned out, his fears were well founded. While the clan kids were getting settled back into their homes for the summer, the object of their speculation on the train was trying to adjust to summer at Hogwarts. For one thing, it was quiet, in some cases eerily so. As Trevor trooped alongside Hagrid as they made the rounds about the grounds and into those areas of the forest where various magical creatures were kept, the boy couldn't help looking around at any sound or trying to peer into the shadows that hugged every tree and patch of undergrowth. It was midmorning on the third day of the summer break when Hagrid finally asked,
"What be the trouble, boy? Ye've been tetchy ever since the others went home."
"Sorry. It feels strange. Someone's watching."
"Well, o'course someone's watchin', son. I'm watchin yuz, so is Wullie. And there be plenty of Centaur hunters watchin', as well. Afraid ye'll just have to git used ta it. Harry, Professor Potter ta ye, arranged it all."
It was no surprise that Trevor said nothing, but he was thinking much. He knew Hagrid, Wullie and the Centaurs were watching. He could feel it and it felt friendly. But there was someone, or something else watching as well. And friendly, it most decidedly was not. The first trouble occurred that very evening. As was usual, Trevor was sleeping on a pallet on the floor of Hagrid's hut. Trevor had insisted because it allowed him to sleep with his back pressed up against Wullie. A low rumble from the big dog woke the boy from a series of jumbled, not quite dreams. He laid a hand on Wullie's head and with a few whispered words calmed the big hound and then got up and let himself out of the hut.
He stood on the stone steps and looked toward the forest, not to the opening of the trail but into the trees on a line of sight that, if anyone had been able to follow, would lead directly to the vast open pit that was once the cavern of the pillar. He had no idea how long he stood there but the Centaur hunter who was standing watch inside the tree line estimated it was nearly an hour as the humans reckoned time. He had dispatched his companion, who had been scouting the perimeter of the forest that bordered the meadow that extended beyond Hagrid's hut, after half an hour or so to alert the Elders. So when the boy stepped off the stone stairs and began walking barefoot into the forest, he was compelled to follow along, picking his way through the undergrowth.
Centaurs are, as all the world knows, a very stoic people. With only the occasional lapse they appear unemotional and unmoved by what occurs around them. But what the Centaur was seeing now was, even by his peoples' standards, somewhat unnerving. He may not have know what eldritch meant, but it was what he was feeling. Trevor walked on steady, if bare feet. He was also dressed in only his sleeping pants. While summer, it was still night time in the forest well to the north. The boy showed no discomfort in the chill air or the fact that the well worn path was still laced with stones and roots. When their relative paths allowed the hunter to get a bit ahead of the boy he could see that Trevor's gaze was wide eyed and unblinking.
All this was nothing when compared to what awaited the boy and by extension, the hunter, when they arrived at the edge of the clearing that was now mostly the large depression that had been the cavern. Hovering in midair above the still untouched pillar was an apparition unlike anything the hunter, or any of his people, had ever seen. He had no idea what it was specifically, but he could tell that it appeared as a human female, dressed in a long white dress that seemed to flow out behind it, despite the night air being still. Likewise, her hair was long and pale, which the hunter thought he recognized. A movement on the boy's part redirected the hunter's attention and he almost shouted as Trevor approached the very edge of the drop off, but stopped within inches.
While there was no sound, it was clear that the boy and the apparition were conversing. Trevor would nod or shake his head, while the apparition held out its hand on two occasions and pointed once off deeper into the forest on a third. The last got a violent head shake from the boy. At some point the hunter sensed the approach of another Centaur who came to stand at his side. A quick sidelong glance showed him it was Morgotta.
"What occurs?" she asked in a tense whisper.
"I know not, Loremaster. The boy left the hut of Friend Hagrid and came directly here. He appears not to be aware of his surroundings."
The two Centaurs continued to watch the exchange until the apparition seemed to take notice of them. The eyes that appeared to be little more than shadows fixed on them for a moment. Then it returned its attention to Trevor and then winked out of sight, leaving no trace of its presence. The boy took several steps backward and then turned, catching sight of the Centaurs for the first time. His eyes fluttered and then went wide. When he went to take a step backward Morgotta called out,
"Hold, young human," in a tone of voice that brought the boy up short. "Come forward, Trevor Osborne."
With halting steps that showed he was now feeling the effects of the walk into the forest and the many shards of stone that still littered the ground, he came to them. Knowing how intimidated the frail boy could be by the size of a Centaur, Morgotta knelt down as he approached.
"Trevor Osborne, what possessed you to walk this deep into the forest in the middle of the night in such a state?" she asked, gesturing toward his bare chest and feet.
"D-d-don't know," he replied in a small, miserable voice.
"Who, or what, were you talking to?"
He only managed to shake his head and shrug a bit.
"Do you remember anything of what was said?" she asked softly.
The head shake, which was followed by the boy taking several unsteady steps forward and once more the Centaur Loremaster found herself embracing the small boy. She could feel he was now shivering in the chill night air and a casual glance told her his feet were something of a mess. She stood up, gently cradling Trevor and looked to the astonished hunter.
"Go and tell the Elders we have much to discuss. I will return Trevor Osborne to Friend Hagrid's hut and join the others as quickly as I can. There is much wrong here."
The hunter nodded once and then wheeled about and moved off at a quick trot. Morgotta moved more slowly along the path, her burden light of weight but heavy of consequence. It was also obvious that he had succumbed to exhaustion as he was limp and silent in her arms. As she exited the forest and approached the hut Wullie began a frenzied, booming bark that was soon joined by the bass rumble of Hagrid calling the dog to order. Morgotta wasn't surprised when the door opened before she had reached the steps, showing Hagrid with a lantern in hand.
"What in the name o' Merlin is goin' on out here? Morgotta?" Hagrid demanded and then focusing on the boy in her arms he looked back into the hut and the obviously empty pallet by the hearth.
"Answers in due time, Friend Hagrid, but first we must see to the young human. His feet have taken some injury."
Hagrid stepped back, allowing Morgotta to mount the steps and pass through the door, a bit of a squeeze. Wullie attempted to get his nose to the boy but Hagrid hauled him back and forced him to the other side of the hut. Morgotta set Trevor on his pallet and as she began to minister to the cut and bruised feet, she explained what had been observed from the time the boy emerged from the hut.
"I'll send an owl ta Harry first thing and get the boy up ta see Madame Pomfrey inni mornin'."
"That would be best for he will need more attention than I can give. I have much to discuss with the Elders, Friend Hagrid, for once again it seems that a way has been found into the forest."
The arrival of Hagrid's message at Meadow Crest resulted in a quiet frenzy. Two of the house elves were sent off with private messages, one to Ron with a request to bring Anthony Goldstein along and the other to Bill. All were requested to meet him at Hogwarts as quickly as they could. The Potter children were aware that something was afoot but they couldn't get close enough to dad and mum to overhear what it was. After Harry left via the Floo Network, Albus attempted the direct approach by walking into the kitchen and saying,
"What's going on, Mum? We thought that Dad was supposed to be around the house until we left for holiday."
Ginny fixed her gaze on her sometimes disturbingly precocious son and cocked an eyebrow before saying,
"And what? He's supposed to remain locked in the house the whole time? Your father has affairs that require his attention and errands to run. If he wants you or the others to know what he's about, he'd tell you himself."
The boy regarded his mother calmly and then gave a single brief nod.
"One of those things. Alright, Mum. It should get noisy enough for us to find out what's going on all too soon."
With that he turned on his heel and left the kitchen, leaving his bemused mother behind. He headed directly for his brother's room and found James and Lily along with Snuffles and Mr. Monty. The big dog was asleep on the floor while the 'cat' was lying on the bed being stroked by Lily.
"So, did honesty get you anywhere?" James asked.
"Yes and no. Something is going on that pulled Dad away but Mum won't tell us what it is," Albus said as he took a seat on the edge of the bed. "What ideas do you have?"
"First, we try and find the original message, but chances are Da took it with him. Next, we have Lily ask Dinkle or Nibs what messages Da had them carry. And if all else fails, we wait until Da gets home and we sneak down and eavesdrop while he tells Mum what happened."
"Gran Lily won't like that," Lily said.
"No, I won't," came the voice of the elder Lily from the doorway.
"Ah, come on, Gran. This is so unfair," James complained.
"I agree. It's terribly unfair for such a wonderful couple like your parents to have to rely on their children's dead grandmother to keep said children from spying on them."
"But, Gran, Da has too much going on all the time. He needs our help," James insisted.
"It seems to me that we've had this conversation before, you and I. Instead of all the sneaking about, why don't you simply ask him?"
"Because he won't tell us anything."
The elder Lily fixed her grandchildren with a look they had all come to dread. It was the one that said, 'I'm about to tell you something that will make you feel ashamed or silly or both'.
"Your father has told you many things. Unfortunately, you weren't always listening well enough to truly understand. You three most likely know more about the world of magic than many full grown witches and wizards. If he chooses not to tell you something, I dare say it is for a very good reason. So again, if you want to find out what has occurred that called him out of the house today, ask him yourself."
"Yes, Gran," was the general murmur of acceptance.
When their grandmother had faded away and left them alone once again, the two younger children looked at their brother, who said,
"Yes, yes, I know, I'll do it when he comes home."
It took a while for they had already finished eating dinner when Harry finally arrived back at the house, looking a little tired and more than a bit annoyed. James was wise enough to know that the worst thing he could do was rush downstairs and begin pestering his Da for information. So the three bided their time until Harry had eaten, spent some time taking to their mother at the small kitchen table and then finally retired to the library. James then cautiously approached the door to the library, which was as usual, open. He knocked on the door frame. Harry looked over and said,
"Yes, James, what is it?"
"Um, is everything alright, Da?"
Harry regarded his first born with tired eyes and then seemed to make a decision.
"No, son, not really."
With a gesture he invited James in and directed him to the chair nearest his. The boy hurried in and sat down expectantly.
"It seems Trevor took another walk in the forest last night. He walked barefoot all the way to the old cavern, minus a shirt and according to Morgotta and the Centaur hunter on watch duty, had some sort of silent conversation with an apparition that was floating above the pillar."
"Barefoot?" James asked with a wince, knowing what the trail and the area around the big pit was like.
"Yes, his feet are pretty cut up. He's in the hospital wing at the school with his feet wrapped up and dosed with a pain potion. I didn't get a chance to talk to him but Morgotta told me he seemed completely unaware of his surroundings until after the apparition disappeared and he realized the Centaurs were there. He had no idea why he was out there or what was said to him. Morgotta said he was very frightened and upset at finding himself out there."
"He's lucky something didn't eat him. A lot of predators out there at night," James said.
Harry merely nodded.
"What did this apparition thing look like?"
"Morgotta said it looked a lot like your cousin, Domi. Older and in a flowing gown, but the same long silvery white hair."
"Perhaps, or maybe it knew that would be a friendly image to show to him," Harry offered. "Anyway, we searched a great deal looking for any signs of anyone or anything that might have been casting the image, maybe with a spell. I even went down and used the pillar to look into the flows, but nothing looked out of place. It's been a long day."
"Maybe I shouldn't be bothering you, then," James suggested.
"It's no bother, James. You're of an age where you need to know about these things. Especially with the career you've set for yourself. It would seem our young Mr. Osborne is much more than he seems," Harry said, knowing full well the truth of this statement but not the extent of that truth.
"Is this more of that old magic stuff like those old ones you did for?"
"I suppose it could be, or something else entirely," Harry said with a grimace. "I'm beginning to think that I might have led a quieter, happier life if I hadn't gotten so wrapped up in all this," he added, as he gestured around the room to all the books of magic.
"Or you might be dead because you wouldn't have known what was coming and you might not have been able to stop it," James countered.
Harry nodded and said,
"You might have a point there, young fellow. Well, what do you say to a game of wizards chess? It might put me in a better mood so I can get some sleep tonight."
"Sure, Da. Of course, if I beat you it might not help all that much," James replied with a grin.
Across the hallway, Ginny was surprised and pleased to hear her husband laugh. Harry was indeed in a better mood when he went to bed that night but the same could not be said for James. First, he had to tell his brother and sister what he had been told and then fend off the inevitable questions for which he had no answers. When he was finally left alone he began to consider the issue of Trevor and the aggravation he was causing his father. His cousin might be all gushy about the kid, but he was coming to the conclusion he was a useless little ball of trouble.
It took word of Trevor's latest exploits a couple of days to work its way down to Domi but when she heard she badgered her mother relentlessly until she was given permission to use the Floo Network to get up to Hogwarts so she could visit the boy. The one provision was that Victoire had to go with her. So when Trevor woke up on the third morning after his night in the forest he saw two tall, slender young women standing at the end of the his bed, one with long flowing silver blonde hair, the other with similar if more reddish in color. His reaction was to try to back himself through the iron work of the head board, all the while babbling in terror.
The girls were obviously startled and a bit frightened by the boy's reaction but they each moved to a side of the bed and tried to get him to calm down.
"Trevor, calm down, sweetheart," Domi pleaded as she tried to talk hold of his hand, both of which were being held out in front of him as if to ward them off. "For goodness sake, it's us, Domi and Vee."
Vee decided on a more direct approach when she reached for the class of water on the nightstand and threw the contents into Trevor's face. The boy sputtered and coughed but the look of terror on his face was gone and his eyes, once he wiped them clear focused on Domi and he lunged for her, arms outstretched and she caught him up in a hug. She looked at her older sister with daggers but Vee simply gave her a bit of a shrug and a smug smile. Madame Pomfrey stepped from the shadow of the doorway of her small office and came to stand at the foot of the bed.
"Quick thinking on your part, Miss Weasley. As a reward you can help me change out the wet bedclothes as well as his pyjama top."
Vee rolled her eyes as she stood up while Domi helped Trevor out of his bed and over to the next. While they watched the bed being changed over, Domi tried to get Trevor to explain what had just happened.
"Why were you going on like that, Trevor? Why were you so scared?"
"Please try and think, Trevor. You saw Vee and I at the end of the bed and you went a bit barmy. Can you recall what you were thinking?" she prodded.
"Just the water."
Domi let out a sigh. She draped a long arm around the boy's soggy shoulder and watched her sister work. Trevor would spend two more days in the hospital wing while his feet healed thanks to Madame Pomfrey's care and healing salves. During his convalescence the forest was thoroughly searched by the Centaur hunters, Harry, Bill and Charlie. The three brothers used both feet and brooms to try and find any hint of who or what was hovering over the pillar in the pit. They found nothing. James chatted with his father in the evenings, usually over the chess board and all the fuss about Trevor and his adventures had him doing a slow burn. Most people would imagine it was a form of jealousy but for those who knew the boy well, they'd know he was fiercely protective of his father and he knew the summer was supposed to be a time of recuperation after the strains of the ten months of school. What was happening now was just adding to the strain.
Fortunately for him, James was able to forget about these things for a while each day because the summer Quidditch program had begun. Even better was that Kai had been allowed to participate this year. Apparently, more than a few customers of her parents' shop had been talking about her performance at Hogwarts and the likelihood of her being offered the chance to go pro. When he felt a pair of hands cover his eyes from behind and a familiar and welcome voice say 'good morning' it was a happy start to the day.
He didn't get a chance to say anything or turn around as a pair of lips was pressed against his cheek and then he was face to face with Kai. She was smiling brightly and her eyes were alight with mischief.
"Hey, what's all this then?" James asked.
"Well, I like that. No 'it's great to see you' or 'what a nice surprise'. Just 'what are you doing'," she groused, the last in a poor imitation of the boy.
"Oh, come on. You did surprise me and it is great to see you, I just didn't expect you to sneak up on me from behind. You caught me unprepared."
"That, my dear, is the whole idea behind a surprise," she said, her smile returning.
James smiled and said, "This is bloody fantastic. Wait, what group are you in?"
She told him and he showed genuine relief.
"Well, that's good, I'm in the group lower. We won't be flying on the same pitch."
"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded, obviously annoyed.
"Well, I'm here to learn how to be a better keeper. How can I do that if all my attention is on the prettiest girl at Hogwarts?" he replied with a serious expression.
Kai's eyes got a bit bigger and then they tightened in a scowl when she saw just the hint of a smile and she realized she had just been paid back for her 'surprise'. She whacked him on the arm and then broke into a big smile and pulled him back into a hug. Then, arm in arm and brooms in hand they walked towards the pitches set aside for the league's morning practices. Fred Weasley and Cressida were also taking part in the summer league but in an older age bracket. They tended to play in the early afternoon but they would arrive early and the four got in the habit of meeting for lunch each day.
Other members of the WCK found distractions as well. Victoire was able to arrange spending time at St. Mungo's as a volunteer, helping where she was needed, learning what she could. Albus had received his letter to Hogwarts to his great relief and much as his Aunt Hermione had, he got hold of his first year books and was in the process of committing the contents to memory. Unlike his Aunt he also had access to one of the best collections of magic reference material and he spent a good part of each day combing through the contents of his fathers library for information to explain or expand on what was presented in the school books. Depending on their individual preferences where academically gifted students were concerned, the professors at Hogwarts were either in for a treat, or the devil's own time.
Rose Weasley was likewise preparing herself for her first year, but her book work was supplemented more with questioning of those who had gone before than by more books. Her owl was kept busy with notes being sent around the family. On weekends it was not uncommon for her to pop up at Meadow Crest to engage Harry in an hour or two of intense discussion. Just as all those years ago, when Harry had first held the infant girl and his mind's eye showed him a vision of his niece as Headmistress at Hogwarts, he was positive she had a great future ahead of her.
Domi paid regular visits to Hagrid's hut, looking for signs that Trevor was getting ready for another one of his excursions, but in the weeks leading up to her Uncle's birthday party, the boy gave no indication. In fact, once the bandages came off his feet, it was as if nothing had happened at all. He spent his days trailing after Hagrid on his rounds, or playing with Wullie in the fields, or standing at the edge of the forest, engaging whatever hunter was on watch in conversation. Morgotta was a frequent visitor as well. It was not uncommon for Hagrid to look outside and see the Loremaster reclining in the grass at the edge of the field, the boy lying on his back, his head resting on a foreleg. From the gestures Trevor would make, it seemed he was describing something in the sky, perhaps the shapes to be seen in the clouds.
A week before his birthday, Harry was standing in the small clearing, facing Morgotta and the others, having a discussion about the boy.
"It is most perplexing, Friend Harry Potter. If I did not already know his history, it would be as if Trevor Osborne had not been part of such strange occurrences. Regardless of how subtly I might question him, he makes no reference to the past deeper than a day or two gone by. He spends a great deal of our time together making observations of what is around us. He is especially fond of clouds and that which may be seen in their shapes."
"He talks that much?" Harry asked, mildly amazed.
"Each is but a word or two, but there can be many in the course of a visit. But what is unusual is what some of those descriptions are. There are times when he uses words that I have never heard, and as Loremaster, I know many. When I ask for an explanation, I get a shrug and he repeats the word as if that should be sufficient," she said.
Harry thought he might have an idea why that is, based on what Connor Toal had revealed to him, but he was not about to share that here.
"First let me say thank you for the attention you've all been giving the boy. I'm sure it's been a big help to him. As to the other, I can't imagine what might be contained in Trevor's mind, based on the life he's lived. Perhaps as he grows older he may be able to tell us more. The task for now is to make sure he survives long enough."
One thing that Trevor didn't mention again was whatever he had blurted out when he first saw the Weasley sisters standing at the foot of his bed. It was as if it had never happened as far as he was concerned and the girls had been so startled they were having trouble remembering what the words had sounded like. It was something they puzzled over numerous times. The latest was during the early hours of Harry's birthday party. The sisters were holding a little conference with the other members of the WCK that were already at Hogwarts or were preparing to go up for their first year.
"Alright, do you want to run that past us one more time," Albus said.
"It sounded like he was saying 'being seen'. But by who? It was just the two of us. Of course we were seeing him."
Albus was shaking his head. Something wasn't right here, a piece was missing and he knew it, but he couldn't find it. It was at that moment that a familiar voice was heard.
"Well, here's as fine a group of youngsters as one could hope to see."
Aidan Lynch, World Cup Champion seeker, perennial Quidditch camp coach, and friend of the Potter family, strolled up with a broad smile. With the number of Weasley Clan kids that had participated in the camp as well as his visits to Meadow Crest for Harry's birthday and often on other holidays, he was indeed a familiar and friendly face. At the moment, he was also a source of inspiration for Albus. At seeing the famous Irish wizard, the boy's eyes went very wide and a connection was made in that vast and complex mind. He bounced up out of his chair and said,
"Mr. Lynch, sir. How familiar are you with the Gaelic language, if I may ask?"
"The Irish?" the man asked with a bit of surprise. "Well, I'd like ta think I know it as well as the next man, although me dear mother would tell you that I didn't pay it enough mind as a lad. What is it you be wantin' to know?"
While the other kids looked at their cousin and sibling in some amazement, Albus asked,
"Are you familiar with a phrase that sounds like 'being seen'?"
"Bein' seen? Hmm, that's an odd one, to be sure. Do you reckon you have the right of it?" he asked.
This time Domi answered with,
"Yes, sir, that's as close as we can recall it."
Aidan focused his attention on the girl and her sister beside her and then his eyebrows lifted.
"Now, it wouldn't be that you heard 'ban shee' now did ya?"
The sisters looked at each other and to the side, Albus was nodding his head.
"It could be," Domi replied but then Victoire interjected, "Why would someone say ban shee over and over while looking at us? Aren't they some sort of hideous old women? Hags that predicted death in a house or something?"
Aidan smiled and pulled over an empty chair and sat down.
"Well, darlin', I can see where that might upset you a bit, but that's only a part of the tale. True it is that in some versions of the tale, the Banshee were see as old hags as you put it. But in older versions it's also true that they could appear as beautiful young women with long white hair and flowing gowns. Neither of you have white hair exactly, but it's close enough."
"But what about the rest of it?" Vee asked.
"Well, I guess it depends on your point of view, doesn't it? The idea that someone in the house was going to die could scare some, but to others it could be a timely warning to make preparations and get things in order. It's said that back in the times of the old kings one or more Banshees were part of the court and would let the king know if someone important was going to die and in that way arrangements could be made. Very useful that could be. But I wouldn't be too concerned, lass. No one's seen a real Banshee in many years. I'm sure it was just someone taken by surprise. Who was it, might I be askin'?"
"His name is Trevor. He came to Hogwarts last September and he has troubles," Vee replied.
"Oh, yes, Harry has mentioned the boy to me. Seems to think he has Irish roots. I mentioned a few people your uncle could talk to, to try and do some diggin'. Perhaps I'll do some of my own, after talkin' it over with the Professor. Excuse me."
"Well, that's one riddle solved. Well done you, Al," James said. "How'd you think of it?"
"I'm not sure, James. Something about the words was bothering me and when I saw Mr. Lynch walk up, it just sort of popped into my head."
Their discussion was interrupted by a mumbled stream coming for the elder sister. Looking over they saw Vee with her arms crossed and a stern expression on her face as she looked at the retreating back of Aidan Lynch.
"Old hags, indeed. Call me a Banshee, will he. Wait until I have a talk with that boy."
No one was foolish enough to interrupt her, or worse, laugh.
As in years past, Harry insisted that he receive no presents and as in years past he always did. Usually it was kept to small, personal items, often given by groups, such as his brothers and their wives going in together, or all the DA members. However, as far as James was concerned he came up with the best present when his Uncle Rubeus arrived bearing a message from Ronin that he was expected at first light, two days from now, fully equipped for a day long trek in the forest. His teacher had decided the boy needed the experience and the two could conduct a focused search for any signs of things out of the ordinary, or at least unusual as far as the forest was concerned.
So, as ordered, James presented himself at the edge of the trail near Hagrid's hut, a pack on his back, a belt with pouches around his waist and his bow and quiver of arrows. In a matter of minutes a large figure emerged from the shadows of the trail.
"Hail, James Potter. Let us proceed," and with that he turned and James hurried forward to walk alongside.
As was the big Centuar's custom when taking James out on these excursions, he had arranged targets along the trail, some more obvious than others but all cleverly placed. It was James' task to spy them out and put an arrow into them, often at some distance in less than optimal lighting. It was something he had gotten very good at and Ronin was now pressed to find ways of challenging the boy. After the fourth such target was struck Ronin said,
"James Potter, you are approaching the skill level of a true Centaur hunter. Were I not so familiar with your lineage I would think you were born short of two legs."
James was doing his best to contain the upwelling of pride that these words had unleashed, but he still couldn't suppress the smile, but he was his father's son after all so his response was somewhat self deprecating.
"Thank you, sir. But I doubt I will ever reach the level of the true hunter. For one thing I don't believe I could keep a straight face for such a long time," he said, looking up at his teacher, flashing a large and for the moment, impudent grin.
Ronin looked down and merely shook his head, but James thought he saw just the touch of a turn at one side of the sternly set mouth. They had marched on for perhaps another hour, their path taking them back into the deeper reaches of the forest. James had been looking about for the last ten minutes or so, something tugging at his awareness. Then he looked up and said,
"Yes, I know."
What Ronin knew was that the familiar sounds of the forest had died away, to be replaced by that of a quiet, childlike voice, and a strange hissing. Both had arrows knocked and half drawn as they proceeded along the path, neither making a sound. Coming around a bend in the trail they could see directly into a small clearing. Directly ahead was the small and disturbingly familiar shape of Trevor, his back to them. Ahead of the boy was the oddest looking creature James had ever seen. It had the head and neck of a snake, the body of what looked like a large cat and hooves of some sort instead of feet. The body bulked larger than that of the largest hippogriff and the head was looking down at the boy from at least twice his height.
Trevor's head was tipped back as to make eye contact with the reptile head and his hands were held out as if to show he meant no harm. It did not appear as if the creature was taking kindly to this approach and its posture could best be described as menacing. In fact, despite his earlier demonstrations of mastery of animals, the boy now seemed to be backing off, perhaps in preparation to flee. If the head and neck were truly snakelike, to include striking speed, the boy would never make it. Ronin and James shared a quick look and without a word spoken or gesture made, James slipped silently off the path to his right, moving from tree to tree until he was at an angle where a shot wouldn't endanger the boy. Ronin could use his superior height to advantage to fire over Trevor's head.
As Trevor continued to move backward the snakelike head drew up and back and without a signal arrows raced out of the trees to find targets on the beast. Ronin hit first with one arrow piercing the skull right between the eyes. Only fractionally behind was James' first which took the creature in the side slipping between ribs just behind the foreleg. Ronin struck twice more in the throat below the head while James added two more in close proximity to his first.
In seeming surprise at the sounds of the arrows zipping overhead, Trevor had stumbled and fallen backwards to sit down hard on the ground. As the creature thrashed in pain, the boy continued backing away using his hands and feet. What happened next surprised them all. The creature did not so much crash to the ground dead as it simply shrunk and faded away. It appeared that the arrows didn't kill so much as broke a spell and it disappeared. Overcoming their surprise quickly, both hunters moved forward. Ronin moved to the far side of the clearing while James moved towards Trevor, anger clearly written on his face. Reaching the boy, James grabbed a handful of shirt and with surprising ease hauled the boy to his feet. At the moment it appeared the boy was more afraid of James than he had been of the creature.
"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing out here? Again," James demanded harshly.
The boy pointed a trembling finger toward the edge of the clearing, indicating the spot where the beast had been.
"No, you don't. You might have the others fooled with that tongue tied rubbish, but not me. Talk."
"Felt something out here. Heard it calling."
"Calling? The last time something called you, you almost wound up in that pit and you did wind up in the hospital wing for a week, you twit. Haven't you caused enough trouble already?"
"Be at ease, James Potter," Ronin said as he moved to join the two. "There is more here than can be seen with mere eyes. The boy may not be at fault."
"I'm sorry, sir," James replied, facing his mentor, "but this is getting out of hand. My Da spends more time worrying about this manky git than he does about the whole rest of the school." With a finger again pointed at the boy he railed on. "He makes the decision to walk into the forest by himself despite what he's told or the danger he's been in. And each time it's something worse than the last."
"James Potter, one might think that you are jealous of your father's concern for the boy," Ronin suggested.
James' eyes flew wide and his face went red.
"Jealous? Of this, this…" he couldn't complete the sentence. "The only thing I care about is my Da and what would happen to him if this rotter gets himself killed out here. Can you imagine how he would feel if that happened while he was supposed to be watching over this kid? Do you?" he challenged.
Ronin regarded James quietly and then said,
"My apologies, James Potter. There is truth in what you say and the effect would be devastating. Therefore, let us waste no more time and return the boy to Friend Hagrid's. It would seem there is much to be concerned with. For despite its means of departure, the signs on the ground confirm that the creature was indeed here. I would suggest you take the lead."
James regarded Ronin for a moment and said,
"Why, are you afraid I might accidently put an arrow in his back?"
"James Potter, if I thought you were capable of such an act, you and I would never have begun our association. I merely suggest it for it is a long walk out of the forest and were I to lead, neither of you would likely enjoy the view."
James pondered this for a moment and despite his anger he couldn't help but laugh. It was indeed a long walk out of the forest and fortunately this time, Trevor was wearing his shoes. As before, the revelation of Trevor's latest adventure caused quite an uproar. Beyond the footprints in the clearing there was no trace of how it got in. It was as if it simply materialized there in the clearing. This of course was not beyond the realm of magical ability, were it not for the protective spells. Harry and the others were getting more and more concerned. Again, there was no trace of anything untoward in the flows when Harry looked. They were at a loss.
Events finally came to head late in the evening shortly before Quidditch camp was to begin. Harry was sitting at home when a message arrived from Hagrid that Trevor was gone. A frantic discussion with the hunters on watch revealed they did not see the boy enter the forest. They were going to search the grounds and they need as much help as possible. Harry was preparing to send messages to his brothers when he was pulled up short.
"There is no need for a search. I have the boy."
"You have him? Whatever for?" Harry demanded.
"I have been observing from several vantage points, Wizard. I have flown many times over the forest and its grounds. I have listened as you have struggled to understand who and what he is. And I have tapped resources known only to me and those of my kind. Believe when I say that you are ill equipped to deal with what is represented in this child."
"Considering how events have unfolded, my friend, I can't really disagree with you. Could you explain further?" Harry prodded.
"Suffice to say that I will take the boy beyond the reach of those that would do him harm. The one called Toal must complete his task before the small one's return can be considered. And events may unfold, as you say, which could complicate matters. For now it is enough for you to know that he is safe, that he will return when it is safe for him to do so, or when he will be needed to fulfill his destiny. You are fit to accomplish many tasks, Wizard, many beyond the imaginings of your kind. Know that this boy is not one of those. Others will take up this task as you must remain steadfast in taking up yours. It will be some time before we speak again. It must be so."
And he was gone. Harry was staggered by the implications. Were the conflicts of the past that Connor Toal had mentioned about to begin again, or was this something different. Was this somehow tied to the ancient magic wars that were described in the essay in the Tome. He would have to get up to Hogwarts to call off the search and inform the Centaurs and the others about what had happened. For Merlin's sake he hoped Hagrid had the tea kettle on.
It was the night before the Express was due to leave for school and Harry sat in the library. Ginny was at her desk working on some updates to her journal. Harry was sitting across the wizards chess board from his son Albus. The father was studying the calm but serious expression as the boy contemplated the next move. After he commanded his queen's knight to a new position, Albus looked at his father.
"So, son, all set to go?"
"Yes, sir. I guess so. It's kind of funny. After all the worry about not getting my letter and finally getting it, I'm still nervous."
"Well, what house I'll get put in. James keeps telling me the hat will likely put me in Slytherin," Albus said.
"Al, you carry the name of a great man who was in Slytherin, you know that."
"I do, Dad, but wouldn't that be a slap in your face?"
"Of course not. No matter what house you are placed in I know you'll do great things. Your brother is just being a big brother by having a go at you. If he gets to be a problem just warn him if he doesn't stop you'll tell Kai all about the silly things he did when he was younger."
"Harry," Ginny chided him from her desk.
"Alright, love," Harry said but he did wink at his son, who smiled and seemed to relax a bit.
After the game was done and Albus retreated to his room, Harry moved to his favorite chair and Ginny came over to sit on the couch, her legs pulled up in that complicated knot. She looked at her husband who wasn't looking at much of anything at all.
"What's the matter, Harry? Is it Trevor?"
"Hmm," he said, looking over at her. "In a way I suppose it is."
"What? That there's something magical out there you couldn't get the best of? Or that you couldn't come to understand?"
He smiled a bit and looked up at all the books on the shelves around them and said,
"Some of both, I guess."
She smiled and stood up, offering her hand. He accepted and allowed her to pull him to his feet and walk him out of the library. From behind his chair, Mr. Monty struggled to all fours, arched his back in a prolonged stretch and then trotted out of the library to make his way up to Lily's room. It had been a long summer.
So concludes Harry Potter and The Children of the Clan. The journey from the closing chapter to epilogue is complete. Perhaps there will be more to come.