~ Chapter Thirty-Eight ~
Sirius slumped back in his armchair, legs splayed and one arm hanging loosely over the back of the chair as he listened to Bill give Harry a ridiculously brief and simplified version of the Origins story of the modern magical world. They had decided that Bill, having only been taught the very basics of pureblood culture as heir to a High Council vote, would be able to give a more 'beginner's' explanation.
"Do you know what separates muggles and wizards, Harry?" Bill asked, fingers steepled together and his eyes unfocused as though deep in thought.
"Uh… magic? Wizards have it, muggles don't." He shifted uncomfortably, feeling as clueless as he usually did in Snape's classes, when it felt like everyone in the room knew the answer while he was constantly assuming incorrectly. He only settled slightly when he noticed that Charlie was giving his brother a rather confused look as well.
"Actually, that's not exactly true. Magic comes from nature; the Earth, the air, the oceans, the fire of the sun… muggles are a part of nature, and therefore magic is a part of them. What separates them is that they do not have a magical core of their own and therefore cannot use a wand."
"Um. There's a difference?" Harry asked, looking at the other three men in the room with a puzzled expression that clearly said he did not understand the point of what Bill was telling him.
"Very much so, yes. After so many centuries of the two worlds being split, witches and wizards have somehow grown to view muggles as magic-less creatures. Haven't you ever heard of a muggle doing extraordinarily unbelievable things under pressure, though? A single mother dieing of disease who suddenly makes a full recovery to stay with her child—a man lifting an entire automobile to free someone trapped beneath—a baby falling several stories and surviving? Accidental magic, all of it, the same as wizards and witches perform as children while their core is solidifying. At one time, all that separated muggles from magical folk was the frequency of these bursts of magic and no one ever saw it as a particularly important distinction… and then there were wands."
Harry eyes were riveted on Bill, his entire body as still as stone while he sat on the edge of his seat and allowed his mind to race behind his carefully blank expression. If he was understanding the story correctly, than all of the pureblood, half-blood, mudblood nonsense was even more ridiculous than he had always suspected.
"We don't have records of exactly who created the first wands, or even if wands originated from just one person, but the first crude versions showed up early in the rise of Athens, roughly around… well, raised with muggles you would think of it as about 550 BCE. Many magical historians believe the two—suddenly powerful wizarding families and the birth of democracy—were connected."
"So what does all of this have to do with pureblood etiquette?" Charlie abruptly cut in, clearly less enthralled by the story than Harry was. Bill might have noticed the suddenly guarded look in the youngest wizard's eyes, because he shot a disapproving frown at his brother before giving the boy a small, reassuring grin and continuing.
"I'm getting there, be patient." Charlie pouted a little at the look, but sat back in his chair and didn't argue when Bill continued. "So wands exist now, and those few, magically powerful families who had gotten ahold of them suddenly had the capability to utterly destroy or dominate all kinds of people around them. The evolution was rapid, far more so than any other major shift in human development had been, and the world was unprepared. The Old Families, those who our world originates from, felt duty-bound to keep check on one another and protect their own homes and their own people from the other magical families popping up all over Eurasia."
Sirius snorted disdainfully at this point, and this time Bill's glare was far less gentle than it had been when directed towards Charlie.
"Oh really Sirius, you know as well as I do that at the time, the Old Families truly stood as protectors. And Harry and Charlie need to understand this, because family lines have been the basis of wizarding culture since the beginning."
"Fine, fine, but speed up the history lesson. They have the basics now, and what they really need to know are all the dippy titles and bowing and other useless rituals that they will be expected to use when they show up at the High Council meeting so they don't accidentally offend half the wizarding world." Harry paled at the thought, and Bill, though still seeming reluctant, sighed and nodded his agreement.
"The Old Families were human, above all else, and as their knowledge of wandlore grew, and with it their magical abilities, they were reluctant to risk giving up that power. The only way they seemed to be able to guarantee the power continued down their family lines, however, was to marry into other, similarly powerful families. Unfortunately, that meant all the other Old Families they had been warring against. The first 'wizarding laws' weren't laws at all, just basic rules that all the Old Families agreed to follow."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, finding himself oddly enthralled by the origins of pureblood customs, something he would never have expected.
"If you align yourself with other witches and wizards as family, you are honor-bound to fight loyally at their side and lay your life on the line to protect them… It is dishonorable to harm someone you have invited into your home… You lose respect instantly in the entire magical world for intentionally destroying another's wand…" Bill was ticking each edict off on his fingers as he went.
"So it was built on honor and respect?" Harry asked quietly, careful not to express the warm feeling he was getting from thinking of himself as a part of the world Bill was describing; it was clear from both his bondmate's and godfather's reactions that they did not share his sentiments.
"Built on protecting their own asses, more like," Sirius but in, finally sitting forward and taking an active role in the story, his eyes hard and his voice bitter. "Oh they all followed their little rules alright, claimed that their great power was a gift, one they would repay with great responsibility… Codswallop. If one family broke the rule, it just meant the other families would be after them. It was like those 'cold wars' they talk about in the muggle world. Ridiculous."
Harry lowered his eyes and nodded, knowing his godfather would be expecting some sort of agreement from him. Bill, always too observant for his own good, gently but firmly took control of the lesson once more.
"Whatever the case may be, the Old Families developed an etiquette amongst themselves, one that grew and solidified until it became the complex pureblood system we have today. Sirius and I will never be able to teach you everything in such a short time, but we are going to try and give you enough to get by on next weekend." His voice had turned brisk and practical by the end, and he now sat up straight and rubbed his palms together. "Shall we begin with proper titles?"
An hour later, Harry gnawed at an already bruised lip as he concentrated on repeating the lesson Sirius had given him.
"So the highest titles are Lord, Lady, and Heir, which mark the head of a magical family—er, or I guess which mark vote holders now, because not all magical families have votes anymore."
"That's right," Bill interjected, nodding his approval. "And you should always use this title unless requested to do otherwise. Dad, for example, will probably ask you to call him something other than 'Lord Weasley,' him being your father-in-law and all, but you should use it in public unless until he asks you not to." Harry blushed, still finding it strange to think of the Weasleys as in-laws.
"Er, right. So after High Titles come Titles of Achievement. Like calling Snape 'Professor,' or Fudge 'Minister.'"
"Or 'Healer,' or 'Auror,' yeah, you have the idea," Sirius confirmed. "Although personally, I don't see why the old dungeon-bat needs the title." Harry didn't argue, but inside he disagreed with his godfather. He had always assumed Sna—Professor Snape was just being fussy and fastidious on purpose, but now he understood that not using the title was essentially making a statement to the wizarding world that he doesn't deserve the title he's earned. And coming from the Boy-Who-Lived… Harry had been effectively stripping the man of his honor ever since he was eleven, and Harry doubted there was anyone in the world who held their honor more closely to heart than Severus Snape.
Realizing that he had been quiet for too long, Harry quickly searched his mind for the next category.
"After that is Title of Respect. This just means that you personally value them highly enough to feel they deserve special distinction, right? So, I might use 'Madame' or 'Monsieur' for someone, while other people do not?"
"Yes, but that doesn't make those titles any less important," Sirius warned. "Everyone will be paying very close attention to who Harry Potter has deemed worthy of his respect." The animagus smiled teasingly at the glum pout Harry responded with, and even Bill had to carefully control his grin in favor gently prodding the boy to continue.
"So if they don't have a High Title or a Title of Achievement, and you don't want to give them a Title of Respect, you…?"
"Use Titles of… Propriety? Yeah, that sounds right!" Harry grinned, proud of himself for not having forgotten anything yet. "That one's easy, it's just being polite, really. I would call someone Mr., Mrs., or Ms., instead of assuming familiarity."
"What if you're speaking to someone who's more at your own level? A classmate, for example?" Harry's grin faded as quickly as it had appeared, and he gave Bill an accusing scowl for his question; he was fairly certain they hadn't talked about that, and Harry had had years of potions lessons to build a deep-seeded hatred for being asked for answers that he could not possibly have yet.
Luckily for him, those same potions lessons had fostered a strong desire to prove himself against even the worst odds, so instead of admitting defeat, he closed his eyes and started flashing through all the conversations he could remember having with Draco Malfoy over the years, sure there was an answer in there somewhere. Oddly enough, the one he landed on was his first trip on the Hogwarts Express.
"So you're him then, you're Harry Potter?" Harry had nodded reluctantly, not liking the greedy gleam in the other boy's eyes or the way he had sneered at Ron before sending him a look of dismissal, as though he weren't even worth the blonde boy's attention.
"This is Crabbe, and this is Goyle. And I'm Malfoy; Draco Malfoy." Harry remembered now the odd stance Malfoy had taken on as he introduced himself, and the strange pinch in his face when Harry hadn't moved to respond before Draco had stood normally again and given him a haughty look.
"You'll soon learn, Potter, that some wizarding families are better than others. I can help you there."
"I think I can tell the wrong sort for myself, thanks…"
The memory faded, and Harry tilted his head thoughtfully, contemplating his words carefully before he spoke.
"If you're on the 'same level' as someone, but not close, you just use their last names, yeah? There's something significant about using someone's first name?" Sirius and Charlie looked at him surprised, but Bill smiled smugly, as though he had expected Harry to get it right all along.
"That's right. First names are for family and allies; using someone's given name without their blessing is considered a snub—as is not using someone's given name when they have used yours. How did you figure it out?"
"Malfoy," Harry answered, then quickly clarified. "Draco Malfoy. He introduced himself to me on the train my first year; he only used Crabbe and Goyle's last names, but when he got to himself, he added his first name. He stood funny, and seemed annoyed when I didn't respond right away. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but looking back I think it was probably pretty significant."
"Little weasel," Sirius muttered, then flushed when both red-heads turned to him with incredulous looks. "…Sorry." Bill rolled his eyes and before standing and sliding his chair back out of the way with a flick of his wand.
"Monsiour Black, if you would be so kind?" Turning to Harry and Charlie he explained, "Just like with titles, there are different levels greeting rituals—I expect that was what young Malfoy was trying to do on the train. Whenever you are meeting someone new you need to be introduced by a third party, one who is familiar to you both. It used to be that this was the only safe way to meet other magical families, and now there is no other polite way to go about things. And when you do introduce people, you always start with the higher rank. For example, I might say 'Lord Potter, may I introduce Monsiour Black?' The only way around this is if you are both well-known enough to be aware of the other person's name, even if you've never met. Victor Krum last year, for example, could have introduced himself to you without a third party, because he would have been able to address you properly, and you in return. Now." He turned to Black, who had moved his own chair out of the way, and both men stepped two paces apart and stood up straight.
"Always present your wand hand," Sirius started, looking and sounding oddly official, as though formal greetings pulled him automatically into 'proper pureblood mode.' "If you don't, you are snubbing the other person. Essentially, an unwillingness to surrender your wand hand indicates that you are suspicious of an attack while your wand hand is unavailable."
"Your upper arms are held at your sides, and your wand hand bends at the elbow so that your lower arm is parallel to the ground and extended straight in front of you, palm face-up and flat as you approach the other person," Bill jumped in, demonstrating as he spoke. "Your opposite arm goes behind your back, forearm parallel with and just above your waist, and hand flat against your back, palm facing out."
"Then you verbally greet them by their proper title," Black continued, and looked to Bill expectantly.
"Monsieur Black," Bill responded cooperatively.
"Mr. Weasley," Black returned, eyes dancing mischievously at the little dig, even as he mirrored the other man's formal pose. Bill just rolled his eyes again.
"You both step forward a half pace," they did so, bringing their hands hovering next to each other. "And now you clasp hands, palms together. The hands show rank, too." Bill explained. The person with the hand on top is taking higher rank, and the hand below is taking lower rank. Equals' hands meet sideways, sort of like a muggle hand shake, except your arms stay still and your fingers sort of rest over the pulse-point in the other person's wrist, rather than holding their hand." Bill easily slid his hand under Black's, giving him a higher rank, but Sirius smoothly turned their hold so that their hands were sideways, making Bill grin happily at him.
"For a male greeting a male, you give a sharp nod while at the same time squeezing the each other's palms briefly." They did so quickly, then Black continued. "For a male greeting a female, you give a slight bow over your clasped hands, but no squeeze."
"Nah, that wouldn't be proper," Bill teased, beating Black to it and bowing over their hands, eyes dancing as Black scowled at being cast as the woman in their little role play. "The female then bows just her head and dips her knees slightly, almost like a muggle curtsy." He raised an eyebrow at Sirius, who glared, but then did as Bill had described. Both Harry and Charlie, smiled on in amusement at their subtle banter. "Two women greating each other clasp hands and bow their heads, but don't dip. They just hold it for a moment, and that's it." Obligingly, both Bill and Sirius demonstrated, clearly showing that they both knew each other's teasing was all in good fun.
Harry expected them to release their arms, assuming the lesson was over, and when they didn't he groaned.
"We told you there were levels, pup! Can't have aristocratic customs that are actually practical and easy to remember now can we?" He winked, then turned back to face Bill, who had subtly cut the tirade short by beginning to explain the next 'level.'
"If you have met someone before, titles are flexible to match your relationship. Dad probably wouldn't call you 'Lord Potter,' Professor Dumbledore wouldn't call Charlie 'Heir Weasley'… you get the idea. You would, however, be expected to formerly express pleasure in meeting again. Take your non-wand hand from behind your back and rest it against the back of the other person's wand hand. You will also need to rotate your hands if they are not held sideways so the person who had their hand on top before will still have a hand on top now." Bill and Sirius demonstrated both options, then Sirius took over once more.
"If neither of you do this when meeting again, it's not rude, but it is a clear and strong statement that you are not 'well met.' In other words, you are not happy to meet again. If one person grasps hands and the other does not, however, THAT is a snub."
"So Malfoy and I won't have to grasp hands?" Harry asked, nose wrinkling at the thought. Sirius let out a bark of laughter and Bill smiled exasperatedly at him.
"No Harry, you won't. Are you ready for the next level?" Harry nodded, deciding that for all the nitpicky rules and details, the process as a whole wasn't completely nonsensical.
"Alright. When you are greeting an acknowledged family member or ally, you go a step further and take your non-wand hand off of your clasped wand hands and rest it on their shoulder. If you are touching a woman, your hand should curl around the side of her shoulder gently; if you are touching a man, clap your hand smartly on the top of his shoulder with your fingers curled over onto his back. Still sexist, I know, but most traditions are."
"You have to hold that pose at least long enough for you each to make a 'well-met statement.' For example," he turned back to Black and they both clapped their hands onto the other's shoulder. "Well met, friend." He said somberly. Sirius returned with a solemn,
"Well met, comrade."
"You can use brother, teacher… even 'mate,' though that one's considered a tad more childish."
"There's one last level," Sirius cut in. "For close family in particular, you might curl your hand around the neck, maybe even press your foreheads together if you are extremely close or are making a statement to others of your alliance. If you are formerly greeting a bondmate, parent, child, or other whom you would mutually give your lives for AND you are both bold enough to express such a 'weakness' to the world, you would keep hands clasped but step the last half-pace forward and each wrap your arms around the other's waste, so that your non-wand hand is at their back but palm facing in just as it had been at your own for a formal greeting." As Sirius finished his explanation and he and Bill demonstrated, Harry grinned amusedly.
"So… you hug?"
"More or less, yeah," Bill answered with a grin of his own.
"But it's a tough, manly hug!" Sirius tried to insist, finally stepping away from Bill, and all four of them chuckled.
"One last thing," Bill explained, dragging his chair back the muggle way and sitting down across from Harry once again. "You only ever introduce yourself to one person at a time, even when meeting a group. And the order you make introductions in is very important. Start with the most highly titled. If multiple people share a title level, males trump females. If they share a title level and have the same sex, then go by your perceived power hierarchy. Does that make sense?" Harry took a moment to mull it over before replying.
"I… think so. Can you give me an example?" Bill nodded, looking thoughtful, but it was Sirius who came up with one first.
"The Weasleys. If someone was introducing themselves to the whole Weasley clan, they would start with Arthur, as Lord, then Charlie, as Heir; those with High Titles. Molly would be next, with at title of Respect or Propriety. Then Fred, as a male and the most likely to inherit Heir. George and Ron would be next, though you could put them in either order, but Ginny would have to be last, because she is a girl."
"You're right," Harry said, turning to Charlie. "This stuff is sexist."
"It's tradition," Bill said with a shrug, and while Harry didn't think this was a good enough explanation, he let it drop for now. He had a few other thoughts spinning around in his mind and fighting for attention.
"There are a few things I don't understand," he asked carefully, trying to form his questions the right way. "First, I don't understand exactly what you both mean when you say 'ally.' And second… if 'Lord' is a High Title and only used by vote-holders, then why do pureblood Death Eaters use 'The Dark Lord' and follow 'Lord Voldemort?' Bill looked puzzled by the question, and turned to Sirius. His godfather, Harry saw, was gazing darkly into the distance.
"There's one more tier in the Title hierarchy, even higher than High Titles, when it exists; it hasn't been relevant in centuries, though. When democracy was falling into the dark ages, before the wizarding ministry had been created to keep law and order, the idea of Lords and Heirs really became important as a way to designate a family leader who could step in to break up arguments and make decisions when a consensus wasn't being made. Before then, it was a status mark more than anything, showing who would inherit lands and monies, but not really giving the person magical power over any other family member. With incredibly powerful families now able to conquer and destroy essentially unchecked by a central government, magicke interfered and changed in the wizarding world. The Lord of a Family Line was able to disconnect someone from family magic—or disown them. Regarding someone as family became much more meaningful as an acknowledgment of your responsibility to step in if they got out of hand, trust that others would stop you from crossing a line, and a promise of loyalty to each other, standing together against attack or accusations..."
Charlie looked as though he were going to interrupt, impatient with the history lesson once again, but Harry quickly nudged him and shot him a look to keep him quiet. This was more than Sirius had been willing to share all day, and for some reason he felt like he needed to understand.
"…Allies become something similar to those familial orders, a uniting of magical lines even if bloodlines were still separate. They appear on our records from the First Great Wizarding War. Wizards and witches from different Old Families were pledging loyalty to each other. But they still needed a hierarchy. Before the ministry and the creation of the High Council (and later the wizengamot), as well as numerous times since when our government has fallen temporarily, no magical authority existed. Instead, our world ran in a more 'feudal' fashion, with powerful wizards gathering loyal followers in exchange for protection and leadership. 'My Lord' is acknowledgement of this pledge. Less powerful families would promise to abide by the leadership of a stronger family's Lord, fighting at his request if necessary, while the High Lord made his own promise to care for and defend those who looked up to him to the best of his ability. That's what pureblood 'tradition' gets you; a twisted megalomaniac like Voldemort!"
Harry jumped at the sharp, angry tone that seeped into his godfather's voice as he finished speaking. To Harry, it sounded like Voldemort had taken an honorable and sacred oath and warped it into magical servitude, with his followers receiving no benefit for their forced subservience. While Sirius clearly felt that the entire practice was despicable, Harry realized that he had thought the old tradition sounded admirable. In fact, a great deal of what he had learned today sat well with him, and he wondered if that made him like Malfoy and the other prejudicial purebloods he had met.
"I think that's enough for now," Bill said quietly into the thick silence that had descended the room. "Charlie, can I have a word?" He looked pointedly between godfather and godson, and the younger red-head quickly followed him from the room, only sending one curious glance behind him at the door before leaving.
Sirius resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the utter lack of subtlety with which Bill had dragged his brother from the room. He too had noticed that Harry was gnawing on his bruising lip once again and deeply lost in thought. He doubted the boy had even been aware of the others slipping into the hall.
"Harry?" He asked finally, once the silence had stretched on for nearly ten minutes. "What's on your mind, Pup?" Harry's eyes jumped to his in surprise, as though he had forgotten for a moment that he wasn't alone in the room. Quickly, he lowered his gaze once more, seeming reluctant to look his godfather in the face. "Pup, I know this pureblood rubbish isn't fun to learn, but just because you need to play the part this weekend doesn't make you a slime-ball! You don't actually mean it, not like Malfoy and his crowd." Apparently, however, this was the wrong thing to say, because when Harry looked up again, his eyes flashed accusingly and he was clearly hurt.
"And what if I do mean it? What if I… what if all this," he waved his hand vaguely around the center of the room where they had been holding their lesson, "doesn't sound too bad to me?"
"Well… I mean, it's still not like Malfoy though, is it? Not like you're a slimy s—"
"Slimy Slytherin?" Harry asked angrily, jumping to his feet and trying desperately to keep the feelings of panic and rejection rising beneath the anger in check. "What if I was? Then I'd be evil and greasy and dark, right? Nothing like James was, and you wouldn't want me then, would you?" His voice was rising with his panic, and Sirius, who had been watching him with increasing worry in his expression, completely lost all color in his face at Harry's last statement, jaw dropping open.
"Pup, Harry, that's not true! I—" He was stumbling over his words, shaking his head side to side in denial of what his godson was saying.
"It is true!" Harry shouted, beginning to shake with fear in anticipation of finally getting the confirmation to one of his darkest secrets; that Sirius wouldn't love him if he really knew him. "You're always trying to tell me how I'm just like my father—just like James—but I'm not! The two of you would be horrified listening to hours of pureblood practices, but I was excited, Sirius! What does that say about me? You two wouldn't have been caught dead with a pet snake… I talk to mine! If you had been there when the Death Eaters attacked Tonks and Moody, you never would have hidden under the cloak and done nothing… I know you asked Alastor about what happened, I know he told you; I'm not my dad! I'm… I'm nothing like him…" Harry relieved that his cheeks were still free of tears, though he felt the warning prickle behind his eyes and as his voice finally broke, Sirius cautiously reached for him.
"Harry, I've never thought you were your dad, Pup, I never… I was just trying to keep him a part of your life, I didn't want you to think I was trying to replace… I only ever meant…" Harry stumbled backwards and darted behind his chair, away from his godfather's reaching arms. He had come this far, and he stubbornly stamped down the flare of hope in the back of his mind that Sirius' words had caused, knowing it meant nothing until he had come clean entirely.
"You don't understand, you think I'm different, but I'm…" He took a deep, bolstering breath, and then let the rest out in a rush. "The sorting hat wanted to put me in Slytherin," he admitted, voice filled with self-loathing. "I'm just like Malfoy; I'm all the things my dad would have hated… all the things you hate…" With his head hanging in shame, he didn't see when Sirius whipped his wand out and sent the armchair between them flying across the room. By the time he heard the crash, Sirius' arms were around him, holding him tightly, and a desperate voice was in his ear.
"I do NOT hate you! Don't you ever think that! I don't care if the hat wanted to put you in Slytherin—I wouldn't have cared if it HAD put you in Slytherin! You are my Pup! My Harry, my s—You're right Harry, you're not your dad. Your dad and I never would have been smart enough or strong enough to trust someone else to carry the fight when there was too much at stake if we revealed ourselves. That is what you did with those Death Eaters the other day. And we never would have been clever or… or cunning enough to distract them like you did! If James or I had been there yesterday, our foolish blind bravery could have gotten someone killed. You're not like us Harry, you're better. Pup, look at me."
He framed Harry's face in his hands, and when their eyes met, there was an expression of vulnerability in the older man that almost hurt to look at.
"You were my heir, Pup. With a few dozen or more witches and wizards closer to me in bloodline, my magical line passed to you. Haven't you wondered why?" Harry wasn't sure exactly how this was relevant, but he realized Sirius made a good point; with everything Ron had explained to him about bloodlines and magical inheritances when Bill was disowned, he was a little embarrassed that the thought hadn't even crossed his mind.
Shyly, he shook his head.
"When you were born, and Lily and James made me godfather, they made me more than just the person who was first in line to be legal guardian if something happened to them." He told Harry what Lily had said the night of his birth. "We're giving you the most treasured gift we could possibly give; we're sharing Harry with you." Eyes beginning to shimmer with his own unshed tears, Sirius continued.
"I don't see you as a son because I miss James, Harry; I see you as a son because you have always been my son. I practically lived with your parents after you were born; when I insisted on performing the ritual to officially name you my heir, we all thought it was just going to be ceremonial—you can't pass bloodline magic over to someone outside the family, it's unheard of! But I did. My magic touched yours, and it saw you as my heir. I was scared that Lily and James would be mad, would think I had crossed the line. After all, you were their kid. And they were shocked at first, yeah, but then your mum, amazing witch that she is, just nodded her head and said all business-like "Always said it couldn't hurt to have two fathers," and James smiled at her, and that was that."
He was grinning softly at Harry now, looking at his child with pride and joy, and Harry was having a difficult time keeping his rapidly beating heart from leaping out of his chest. Lily and James said Sirius was his father too… Sirius called him his pup… Harry may not share blood with Sirius, but it sounded like they shared magic… Something Ana had said the day they met floated to the front of his mind. "Your egg-makersssss' sssspirit linessss are wrapped around your own magic. Sssssurely you have felt them? And you have a third ssspirit line, this one sssstill anchored on Earth…"
"Ana saw it," he whispered, looking at the man in front of him in wonder, as though with this confirmation he could finally let himself believe: he wasn't alone, he was loved, for him, for being Harry; Sirius wanted him, wanted a… son.
"Ana, my snake… she told me that mum and dad's magic was wrapped around mine, and that a third person's was too, but they were still 'anchored on Earth.' It's true." He started to smile, then quickly curled back into himself again. Even so…
Sirius must have realized what was wrong, because tipped Harry's face up once more and looked straight into his eyes as he spoke.
"I heard you when Bill and I were talking this morning; you like the honor, the family loyalty, the respect… the ideals that the theory behind all pureblood traditions are based on. That does not make you bad, Harry. People like Malfoy—like Voldemort—have warped and twisted the traditions out of greed; look at the High Council—it was never designed for certain Lords to carry more than one vote." He sighed, and when he spoke again his words were heavy with guilt. "I owe you an apology for the things I said today… for the things I've said many times. I was taught pureblood customs and traditions side by side with discrimination, bigotry, and arrogance. I went to school, made friends with people who felt just as rebellious and bitter as I did, and I suppose in my own way became just as prejudiced as the people I was trying so desperately to separate myself from. Those habits aren't going to break in an instant, Harry, but I can try. I… Would you be willing to help me?"
Harry wrapped his arms around the older wizard's waist and pulled his face away from Sirius' gentle hands to burrow into the man's chest. Almost immediately, strong arms wrapped around his shoulders in return, and he felt a gentle kiss pressed into the top of his head.
"I love you, Pup." Sirius said, shoulders relaxing as he was finally able to speak the words he hadn't felt allowed to say since his escape from Azkaban.
Harry, hearing those three words spoken aloud to him for the first time in memory, closed his eyes and smiled. He was wanted, he was loved; and in that moment, nothing else mattered.