White Heather: Protection, wishes will come true
He thought for a moment, taking a few precious seconds to organize his thoughts. "Calcifer," Harry's tone was serious. He knelt by the hearth and began writing runes on the stone, his finger moving faster than any pen. The runes blazed with magic with every stroke.
"Yeah," the fire demon replied, too tired to argue.
"I need you to keep Sophie and everyone else safe. I… I can't stay here with you," Harry said quietly as he made his way around to the other side of the fire pit, runes following his every step. "Howl is very, very close to losing his mind. I fear if I don't follow him, he will lose what's left of himself. I can't leave Sophie and you lot here defenseless either. "
"Look at me! Do I look like I can do anything in this state? You're just as crazy at that old lady if you think I can do anything right now! You know better than that!" the fire bit out.
"I'm not asking you to do it without help," Harry said with calmness he did not feel. He moved swiftly to the windows, the stairs, and the door, writing runes as he went. Marco watched with hitched breath and marveled at the strength written in every line. The air was thrumming with power as Harry let his magic loose.
"Marco, get me something of Sophie's," Harry said softly. "Clothes, hats, anything recent will do."
Marco tripped over himself to do as he was told.
"Calcifer, I don't know what Sophie will do," Harry admitted quietly. "I can't predict her; her presence alone changed the future, and her magic is still uncontrolled."
"That's great," Calcifer said sarcastically. "You'll have to tell me what that has to do with anything one of these days."
Harry ignored Calcifer's attitude and took a deep breath. He reached deep inside him, his magic coming out in visible waves.
"If I give you something of mine, will you swear to keep them alive?" Harry said quietly, his eyes glowing an eerie green.
"Demons don't swear," Calcifer scoffed. "You know that."
"What if I give you your greatest wish?" Harry temped. He knew without a doubt that for all of Calcifer's (questionable) friendliness, he was a demon to the core. "I can give you what you've always craved- what your kind will gladly die for- I'll give you immortality. How's that?"
Calcifer's breath hitched. Even the Witch of the Waste was quiet, not daring to interrupt.
"You can't do that," Calcifer accused. "Quit bluffing."
"I can," Harry replied calmly. "You hold part of Howl- I can't say which part," he glanced at the elderly witch who once chased Howl across the continent. "He is powerful, but I am even more powerful than that. You were dying when you took- when you took that part of Howl- weren't you? It's why you accepted him. You were falling then, and you'll fall now if I do nothing."
"Even if I wanted to, I can't…hold more than one of them at once," Calcifer scoffed.
"I'm not asking you to," Harry said. "I'm the Master of Death. I can't die. I hold mastery over death. While mortals seem to have forgotten the lore, I am to assume that you know them, demon?"
"I didn't think you were real," Calcifer muttered. Even among demon lore, the tale of the three brothers was known far and wide. Countless scores of demon have given their lives to find the Hallows. Their efforts were in vain.
"Well, I am," Harry said and pulled out his pendant- one of the deathly hollows symbol. Calcifer's fire grew white with greed as his demonic side emerged.
"I'll give you my soul," Harry offered before Calcifer could say anything.
Calcifer- in his demon form- gawked for a moment before reaching out at Harry. Harry held up a finger stopped him with the next words he spoke "Only a very small sliver though- enough to for your "immortality" to last a half a decade or so. If my predictions are correct, that should be more than enough time for the war to come to an end."
"You must think extremely poorly of me if you honestly believe I'll give all of my soul to a demon," Harry scoffed. "The most I can safely part with is a sliver. Even at that it will take my core at least double that time to regenerate it," he grimaced, a hand pressed tightly to his chest.
"But," he said seriously, "My soul has enough power for you to do anything you want. You will not die no matter what happens- as long as that sliver lasts. In return, I ask that you stay with Sophie, Marco, and the rest. Protect them with all the power you hold at your disposal and await my return. I expect them alive and in one piece; do we have a deal, Demon?"
Calcifer thought for a split second, weighing his opinions, before agreeing. "Deal, Master of Death." There was a sinister hiss at the end of his words.
Harry nodded and reached deep inside his core- as deep as he could manage. He sunk into his very being and pulled. He had time for a deep breath before the pain hit. It was indescribable agony, ripping apart his soul- even a small sliver took his breath away, and he dropped to his knees. He bent over in half, his form quivering from the effort not to burst out screaming. The small sliver moved away from him slowly and floated to an eager Calcifer. Immediately, Harry restrained the instinctual urge to seize the soul piece.
Calcifer's mouth gaped wide, and Harry gritted his teeth as his soul disappeared down that ball of fire.
"It is done," Calcifer's voice boomed as his fire rose to greater heights than ever. His form pulsed with power as the castle instantly fixed itself.
Harry gasped, feeling a sharp searing pain in his soul. His mind blanked from the pain, and pain was all he could feel. Tears leaked out of his eyes as he bore the unspeakable agony of tearing his own soul.
"Ha-Harry?" Marco's voice, Harry thought dimly.
"Yeah," He breathed, slowly propping himself back up on the elbows. "You have the clothes? Good. Bring them over here."
"What… What did you do?" Marco asked timidly, fear and awe coloring his voice in equal parts. He obeyed, walking over to dump a mountain of clothes on the center of the living room.
Harry took a deep breath. "Something I really shouldn't have done. It was necessary though; with your master going off on his own like that and Sulliman's army after Sophie, Calcifer needed to recover his full strength and protect her." he tacked on quickly. He could hardly believe that he went to such lengths to protect these people (who were strangers to him not a year ago). But, they were precious to Sophie – and to some extent, Howl. That in itself was enough. Maybe he was just a romantic at heart, but something tugged at him. Feelings of nostalgia maybe, at seeing this young couple try to survive in a war torn world. Still, he was much more adept at taking away lives than saving them. Human lives are so fragile; they are merely candles, their flame flickering and fading with every gust of wind.
"Harry?" Calcifer asked quietly, having reverted back to his normal form. Was there worry in his tone? Harry couldn't tell.
With shaking hands, he reached into his moleskin pouch and withdrew several potions. He downed them in succession, feeling the pepper up and revival potions restore him to health. The wound in his soul would take much, much longer to heal, but for now, potions will tide him over until time can mend his torn psyche.
He tossed the empty vials back inside his bag and traced runes around the pile of clothing. His hand still trembled from the after effects, but the runes were legible enough. When he finished making a complete circle, he pulled out the Elder wand and said firmly,
"Fidelius," he intoned after focusing his intent on the incantation and the runes around the house. He locked onto Sophie's magical signature. Dimly, he could feel Marco's, the Witch's, Calcifer's (and Howl's, from within Calcifer), and even the dog's (no dog should have a magical signature, he thought in the back of his mind). He included them all into his spell, saving his own signature for last. He would be the secret keeper; no one would be able to wrest the secret away from him.
The elder wand felt strong in his hand, the wood pulsing with comforting power. It had more or less developed a mind of its own in the millennia since its creation by Death. By the looks of it, the wand approved of his actions this time and would lend its owner the power he needs.
With one last burst of magic, the castle lit up like a supernova, as its inhabitants squinted against the light.
In the center of the living room knelt Harry, who was breathing heavily. He knelt on all fours, wincing as he did.
"Harry?" Calcifer prodded cautiously with a small lick of flames. As a demon, he knew how exhausting it was to pull a soul. The control he has must be immense, the demon thought to himself. To pull a sliver of such small size was impressive. Most unpracticed magicians either sacrificed their soul whole or in half the first time they try to offer it for a demon. Yet Harry had pulled a sliver- barely enough to pick his teeth with- yet it was undeniably powerful.
"I'm fine," he panted, tiredly swatting away the flames. "This ward just takes a lot out of me."
"What is this?" Marco asked in wonder, touching a window frame gingerly.
"It's a ward called the Fidelius," Harry replied.
"The Fidelius," the Witch of the Wastes breathed, lucid for a short while.
"You have heard of it- I'm surprised," Harry made an admirable effort to pick himself up. "It's a very powerful ward- possibly one of the most powerful- from my world. The process of laying down the ward has been lost since then since the number of people who can cast it are few and far in between. With this ward, anyone I didn't include in the ward will not be able to find this castle. Unless they get the location from the Secret Keeper, no one can detect, touch, see, or feel this place. Anyone who knew of this location will forget."
"Wow," Marco breathed.
"I set myself as the secret keeper, of course" Harry ran a hand through his hair, willing his dizziness away. He had work to do, and he can't afford to be at less than perfect right now. "Sulliman won't be getting the location of this place out of me no matter what she pulls."
A soft ring woke Harry from his thoughts. He turned to see Sophie supporting a winged Howl, who hobbled along. Both looked rather dazed.
"Still alive, I see," Harry said drily. "I told you not to go outside."
"I… Those blob men," Sophie said, perplexed. "They were chasing me, and they just suddenly stopped. Did you do something, Harry?"
"I made sure you wouldn't get killed, that's what I did," Harry sighed. "I knew that your knight in armor would swoop in and save the damsel in distress."
Sophie flushed bright red- in anger or in embarrassment, Harry didn't know.
Howl laid a feathered hand on the walls, his expression tight with unvoiced confusion. He glanced at the doorway and then at the blob men who hovered out in the streets, wandering aimlessly.
"Harry?" He asked at last. He raised a single eyebrow, noting the other wizard's gaunt appearance and the brightness in Calcifer's fire.
Something is definitely off, he thought. His heart was tethered to Calcifer in every way possible, and he definitely felt something change.
"I raised the Fidelius," Harry said as an explanation. Howl's other eyebrow went up, and they both shot to his hairline.
"The Fidelius," he echoed in wonder. Well, that explains Harry's rather pale appearance. Or perhaps it was something else; the Fidelius should not affect Calcifer so.
"Who is the secret keeper?" Howl asked.
Rolling his eyes, Harry pointed at himself.
"I see… you have my thanks," Howl chuckled. With that, Sulliman would be hard pressed to find the castle. Impossible, really. Still, that doesn't explain everything. He will have a long talk with Harry later, assuming they survive that long.
"So… I see Sulliman made good use of the witch's magic," Harry said as he pulled open the curtains. "Those blob henchmen are your specialty after all," Harry snorted.
"They won't move against me," the old woman said dreamily.
"Don't be so sure about that," Harry snorted. "They're not yours anymore."
Another round of bombing struck the small town- this time, the bombs landed on either side of the castle. The roof once again shook, but the infrastructure held. Harry turned away from the windows and showed himself to a chair. He sat down heavily and began reorganizing his magical core. He needed to patch himself up and get himself battle ready. With a deep sigh, he sank deep into his own core and ignored the world.
"Sophie" Howl said gently. "I have to go- stay here, and Calcifer will keep you safe." Howl's feathers ruffled as he prepared himself for takeoff.
"No wait, Howl!" Sophie leapt forward and hugged him tight. "Don't go out there- it's too dangerous!"
"Another wave is coming, and Calcifer's can't stop them all," Howl said. I think, he thought to himself; he had no way of knowing- or figuring out- what Harry did in the short time that he had left.
"Let's run- don't fight them anymore, Howl," Sophie said tearfully against his back.
"Sorry, I've had enough of running away, Sophie. And now I've got something I want to protect- it's you," Howl confessed.
Sophie gasped, loosening her hold just enough for Howl to slip past her and into the warzone.
"Come back," she yelled. She ran towards the door, but Harry's eyes snapped open. He got up and grasped her hand tightly by the wrist. In truth, he had but a moment's reprieve, but a moment was all that was needed for an experienced wizard like him.
She looked back at Harry, tears threatening to fall from her eyes. In reply, he merely shook his head. "No, Sophie. You're safe as long as you stay within the castle. If you go out, I can't guarantee your safety."
"I don't care! Howl is out there!" She screamed back at him.
"And why is he out there?" Harry asked calmly and held her wrist tighter. "He's doing this for you, Sophie. Out of the years I've known the boy, he has never really stood his ground. He avoids confrontations- it's in his nature to do so. He's a dreamer, not a fighter. He's an idealist to the core, but even then, he will face reality for you. Don't throw that away, okay? Don't make his sacrifice worth nothing. And it will be worth nothing- if you end up hurt, or yet worse, dead. He loves you, Sophie."
At the word 'love', Sophie broke down completely. She allowed harry to tug her close, allowing his arms to hold her in safety and comfort. Her shoulders shook as exhaustion and fear overtook here.
As Harry held her, he closed his eyes, thinking of the times he held his children after their nightmares, or his wife after her flashbacks. He did as he ways did and hummed a lullaby to her. He didn't rush, and he didn't count the time until she calmed down. Harry merely stayed with her and allowed her a place to relieve her burdens. In the meantime, he gave his magical core another once over to make sure that he would hold for now.
"Better?" Harry asked quietly. He could feel her magic latching onto his- not draining, but merely helping his core recover. He welcomed the help with all the weariness he felt.
Sophie sniffed and nodded. She took a deep breath to pull herself together and stood up a bit straighter afterwards.
"Good," Harry said, turning his sight back to the windows. Bombs fell around them, shaking the castle once more. Yet, the castle held.
"Sophie," Harry had softly. "Listen to me- and I do mean Listen."
She nodded, glancing at the hand grasping her right shoulder.
"There is a war going on out there, and both Howl and I want to keep you safe. Now, I know this is scary, and this is nothing like what you're used to. You're scared, and that's okay. But whatever you do, stay here, okay? There's a reason why we don't want you out there- there are spells and bombs flying back and forth, and we can't always protect you. I laid down some spells all around the castle- they should keep you safe if you stay here. As much as I would love to, I cannot stay here and help you through this, Sophie. Howl- I have to go and keep him safe. He's… not in a good state right now, and I have to go make sure that he will come back from this alive."
Sophie sniffled, but the determination in her eyes is strong enough. "Will you? Will you keep Howl safe?"
"I'll do my very best, Sophie," Harry admitted. It isn't a promise, and Sophie knew that as well.
Her breath caught- and then a beat. "Alright, I'll stay here." She glanced at Marco, Heem, and the elderly Witch of the Wastes. They depended on her, and she wanted to leave them behind? She shook her head lightly to clear it.
"Good girl," Harry nodded and gave her one last hug. "Be strong, okay? Be strong for Howl and wait for him to come back- be here so he has something- someone- to come back to."
With that, Harry left for the door.
Liquid fire dyes the skies a bright orange as explosions send screams and cries of terror high into the air. Grey clouds of billowing smoke obscure the stars as magicians and soldiers frantically fled. A portion of them- monsters, puppets controlled by terrified and inexperienced puppeteers- flew towards the single feathered shadow laying waste to a nearby warship.
They sent spells and poison towards the creature, who only paused to swat them away, all reason gone from his bright eyes.
The Great Magician Howl has been reduced this. An incoherent creature of war- mindless and heartless- the monster that mothers always told their children about at bedtimes. The monster that women saw only briefly in their counter with him.
More bombs and monsters rained on him, and he cried out loud- a loud, bloody screech- as they hit their target. Gushes of ink black blood came from his numerous wounds. They matted his feathers like a sticky tar, making him even less mobile.
Then, a face flashed in his hazy mind. A braid of starlight, eyes full of wonder, and a shy smile. With a roar, he opened his wings and flew into the depths of hellfire.
An enraged roar tore through the skies and shook the earth- both sides of the battle paused hesitantly as time seemingly halted for a brief moment. Lightning arched through the air and casted a winged silhouette across the battlefield.
Grey clouds spun into a funnel as air drew into the mass growing in the sky. It drew everything around it into a spiral downwards. The monsters close by were unable to escape the force as they were tugged down and pressed into nothingness by the pressure from above. Then, a bright flash of emerald fire came, lancing through a battalion of warships. One by one, sirens sounded as they were plucked out of the air and sent spiraling down. Fire rained through the sky as soldiers and airships alike met their ends. Reinforcements hesitantly waited by the sideline, wisely keeping out of the span of the storm.
Another pulse of white light and a large black shadow emerged from the dark clouds. A head snapped out, its large maw closing around an unfortunate magician from within the command center of a ship. Large teeth shredded the poor soul into ribbons as the spiraling horns made quick work of the rest. Leathery wings covered with obsidian scales swatted smaller planes out of the sky, and a strong spiked tail knocked back any who dared approach the large wyvern.
To the horror of his enemies, they saw intelligence and coherence in the large slitted emerald eyes. Unlike Howl, who has lost his senses to the monster in him, this magician was fully conscious and very much capable of strategy. That alone, made him a far more dangerous enemy.
With a strong beat of his wings, Harry launched himself up into the air and hovered protectively over Howl. His great wings shielded the other magician from the bombs that aim for both of them. They splashed harmlessly off his wings, the acid and the gunpowder merely dust to be blown away.
Startled, Howl turned upwards and attempted to bite Harry. Instead of dodging, Harry held Howl down with one clawed feet and touched his snout to the base of his neck.
'Come back,' Harry called. 'Don't lose it- not now. Sophie's waiting for you.' He coaxed the magican out and locked him in place. Howl blinked as he came back into his senses. He peeked out of the mass of feathers that sprouted from his body. Gashes healed as Harry called upon his magic to repair the wounds.
And now, it was time to rain hell upon their enemies.
A sharp jolt shook Harry out of his reverie. He tossed aside the headless body of a soldier- barely a child at that- as he circled in the sky and dropped next to Howl.
He knew what that jolt meant- the Fidelius has been dropped. By what, he didn't know, but he did know that the castle has gone down.
It seems that Howl has come to the same conclusion- he dropped his guard, and both sides instantly jumped on him like vultures. Harry glided to him while losing his own pursuers. In the middle of a swarm of magicians was Howl, who was desperately clawing his way out.
Blood hot with adrenaline, Harry took a deep breath and breathed out jets of bright flames which burnt the enemies to a crisp.
'Go', Harry sent the telepathic message to Howl, who by this point was no longer coherent once more. However, it seems that his concern for Sophie managed to help him overpower his inner monster briefly, for Howl immediately took off through the opening Harry made in the battlefront.
Harry watched as Howl left the battlefield hurriedly. He nudged his own injured and torn wings. Out of the two of them, he was definitely the one in better shape, but even he was getting worn down. Nonetheless, he would have to continue no matter what.
He sighed- the sound coming out as a rasp through his bloody jaw. Then, he let his wyvern instincts take over- he was just so tired of this. For now, he would take a nap…
"Fiendfyre," Harry commanded before letting the wyvern in him command the fire. As a cousin of the dragons, wyverns are born with fire in their veins. Humans find it hard to control fire because they are creatures of the earth- from dust they were made, and to dust, they will return. However, to wyverns and dragons, controlling fire is as easy as breathing.
He was sure that the next time he woke up, it will be to the sight of silence and devastation- after all, that was what happened last time he let his wyvern take over on the battlefield and destroy the world. It will be worth it this time- if only for Sophie and Howl's sake.
Crack. Crack. Groan. The rusted joints of what's left of Howl's Moving Castle crumbled as Calcifer left for the skies, leaving the castle without a source of magic.
"The castle can't stand without Calcifer!" Marco yelled as the wooden floor board started sliding down to the chasm below. It gained in speed, and soon, they would plunge into the depths below.
Sophie closed her eyes and held Howl close to her. In his current state, there was nothing Howl could do- he still hasn't recovered from the battle, and he was in no shape to do any magic.
'Someone, please help,' she pleaded and squeezed her eyes shut. Her saving grace came in the form of Turniphead, who bounded to the front of the floor board. The weight and traction of the fall wore down on his pole, but still, his valiant efforts slowed down the free fall slightly. It was only a desperate measure to buy time, but it was enough.
A large black shadow swooped down from the skies and picked up the piece of wood (with the inhabitants attached) in one great claw.
Sophie gasped as the falling sensation suddenly ceased; she looked up to see large calloused claws blocking out the sun. Next to her, obsidian claws grasped the frail piece of wood. On closer inspection, pieces of an arm clung onto the sharp claws- she grimaced.
Beat by beat, great wings brought them over the mountains and to a plateau high off the ground. The ride was surprisingly smooth, and soon, they were set down gently.
The wyvern (Harry, Sophie mentally noted past her fear) curved his neck and nudged her slightly with his snout. He huffed in her face, sending warm smoke curling over her thin body. Sophie giggled despite her weariness and walked around him. She glanced at Howl- noting that he was safe and still sleeping- and ran a hand over Harry's scales.
He has gotten larger, if that was even possible, Sophie thought in wonder. However, his skin was broken in many places, and his scales were jagged from the many cuts on his skin and wings. His tail was fractured- Sophie noted the odd angle in which it was bent. A hesitant flapping hinted to Sophie that his left wing was probably in the same state. Over his spine, many of the brilliantly gleaming spikes were broken and chipped. Overall, the magnificent beast was in rough shape. Even now, he dripped dark red blood over the green grass of the plateau. It smoked as it burnt the grass in places where it dropped.
"Harry," Sophie said. "You're back."
For one frightful moment, Sophie saw no recognition in those slitted green eyes. The great scaled head nudged closer to her, and Sophie fought to stand tall against the blistering smoke that leaked from the wyvern's nostril.
Did Harry not recognize her? Sophie thought, dread climbing slowly up her spine. It was foolish of her to think that just because the wyvern saved them, that it was Harry… and not the beast sleeping inside him.
Please, please, please let Harry still be in there somewhere, Sophie hoped fervently as she stared defiantly into the eyes that could easily be as large as her torso. Unbeknown to her, the magic slumbering inside her responded and pulled at the wyvern's mind.
The beast blinked, nodded, and unfurled its wings. Sophie was momentarily stunned by the majesty of the beast and forgot the brutality it was capable of.
For one long moment, the beast was motionless… then, warily, Harry blinked and transformed back. He bit back a scream as his fractured bones rubbed together and shrank down to their human form.
"Harry," Sophie breathed, tears in her eyes threatening to spill over. "You're back."
"Urgh," Harry panted and immediately fell over to his right side. He laid there, not bothering to get up. His chest heaved with the effort of breathing, and his wounds bled sluggishly. "I said I would, wouldn't I? I kept your man safe for you," he joked weakly and spat up a glob of blood.
She laughed weakly, the past two days having taken an enormous toll on her.
"Sophie- are you alright?," he breathed and nearly screamed from the pain that shot from his ribs and shoulders
"Oh Harry," she knelt down beside him and immediately tore apart her apron to bandage her wounds.
"What happened to you guys?" He winced as he sat up and held out his left arm for Sophie to bandage. "I couldn't find you guys- I had to track Howl to even get an idea where you guys were. I felt the wards and spells that we put up around the castle disappear. And what happened to Calcifer?"
Sophie looked a bit uneasy. "It's a long story- I- Calcifer… Something happened, and I ended up getting water on Calcifer. The castle fell apart afterwards, and I'm not quite sure what happened."
Harry sighed- something always happens when he's gone. "Alright, alright- we'll figure this out later. Calcifer doesn't die that easily- he's no normal back chatting lump of fire. Actually, where is he right now? I'm surprised he hasn't started snarking at us by now."
Sophie shook her head. "I gave Howl his heart back."
A beat of stillness. "Pardon?" Harry asked, baffled. Normal rituals involving restoring a demon's influence on a human heart takes years to execute, and the process itself was tricky, needing more than one magician to handle the delicate process. It was one of the reasons why Sulliman used that as a bargaining chip.
"Howl- he took me to the castle and then collapsed. I just knew that he needed his heart back." Sophie said. She had no idea how to explain the feeling that she had; it was almost instinct. Strangely, Harry accepted her explanation without blinking an eye.
"So Calcifer's gone now?" Harry raised an eyebrow. He was surprised that things have come to this- that Sophie had to sacrifice something to Calcifer as well.
"That… that demon," Harry snarled, positively angry that the demon had made off with the sliver of his soul and left Sophie to survive on her own.
"Calcifer's not at fault," Sophie insisted. "He's free now."
"Of course he is," Harry insisted. He didn't tell Sophie of the deal he made with the devil, but it was only a matter of time until he did. As for now, he had more urgent matters to attend to, like the unconscious wizard in front of him.
Harry slung his (relatively) uninjured arm over Sophie's shoulder and limped his way over to Howl and the rest.
"Thank you, Sophie- I've got it now. You should probably make sure the others are alright." Harry dropped to the ground and half crawled to Howl. He began healing him immediately and searched for his moleskin bag he hid inside the Resurrection Stone. Thankfully, it was still in one piece. He was half expecting that it would have been torn to shreds by now. Immediately, he felt the stone pulse in a manner that was almost indignant. Of course the Hallows would be overly prideful, he thought tiredly. He winced in pain as the motion jostled his broken arm.
From his bag, he quickly withdrew several potions: a blood replenisher, a blood clotter, a magical core stabilizer, a healing salve, skelegrow, splints, and bandages. Harry took one considering look at the items before him… and proceeded to chug the consumable potions one by one. He was sure that somewhere in afterlife, Snape would be pulling at his hair, but he can't die anyways, so whether the potions were poisonous or not doesn't matter to him.
However, the taste was a different issue altogether. With a shudder, the magician aligned his broken arm the best he could and splinted. Then, he went over to Howl, who was still unconscious.
He waved the Elder wand back and forth to scan Howl's vitals; Harry read the glowing letters in front of him before pulling out even more items from his bag (all the while thanking whoever invented space extension charms).
"At least he's alive and in one piece," he muttered to himself. Even more importantly, he was himself. Though he would not admit it, for one deadly moment on the battlefield, he was afraid Howl would lose his mind completely.
Carefully, he fed Howl the necessary potions (this time taking care not to mix the wrong potions together). The wars in the past had more or less given him enough experience in first aid to qualify as a combat medic- if he could be bothered to work for anyone but himself. Nonetheless, he waved his wand around a couple more times to make sure that the potions would go into the stomach and not the lungs. Normally, he would run quick diagnostics on him first to get his vitals, but the root of the issue is really magical depletion.
For magicians of Howl's caliber, enduring grievous injuries isn't much of an issue- their body repairs the damage much quicker than non magicians; there's a reason why wizarding lifespan was so much longer than muggle ones. Still, that doesn't mean that there wasn't work to be done- he'll probably have at least a full month of recovery to look forward to, if not more, but at least he's alive and kicking for now.
Harry sighed as his hands glowed green with magic and worked on reexpanding Howl's lungs from where some lucky idiot managed to get a good hit in. Absently, he wondered about the other occupants of the castle: namely the turnip with the curse… Who turned into the missing prince upon being kissed by Sophie.
I guess he won't need that new stick after all, Harry mused. Though it was surprising that Prince Justin was Turniphead all along, some things are just meant to be. There are no such things as coincidences- only fate, Harry repeated to himself.
A prince, he thought to himself. Dealing with royalty is always a bit difficult, very touch-and-go. As a future king, he will have the power to do a great many things. If he truly wanted Sophie, his true love, he doubted very many would be able to stop him. It's not very likely he would take Sophie away from Howl if he truly loves her, but still, he'll be having words with the prince, just to make sure that he doesn't get any odd ideas.
A pained groan pulled Harry from his thoughts as the patient beneath his hand twitched. "… Sophie? What's going on? What am I doing here?"
Harry allowed himself to be gently shoved aside just this once as Sophie rushed to Howl's side. He wondered how offended he should be if Howl's out of it enough to think that he was Sophie of all people. Seriously, they look nothing alike.
"I feel terrible- like there's a weight on my chest."
"A heart's a heavy burden," she said, eyes alight with relief and joy.
"Wow, Sophie, your hair looks just like starlight. It's beautiful." Howl breathed and reached one hand to touch her air. To the side, Harry scooted over closer to the prince, the old witch, the boy, and the dog. It wasn't that he belonged with them by any stretch of imagination- he just wanted to get out of the warpath of the flirting couple. It was a different kind of war that Harry had absolutely no interest in.
"You think so? So do I!" she said as she bodily tackled him into the ground.
"Watch the lungs, you two." Harry grumbled and began to heal his own wounds. Watching those two youngsters definitely made him feel his age. "And there's a child here, so keep it down." He doubted they would care, but at least the old witch slapped a hand over Marco's innocent eyes.
"Looks like your true love is in love with someone else," the witch teased the prince, who stiffened.
"That's life for you," Harry shrugged.
"You should go anyways and tell your king to stop this dumb war," the witch said.
"Yes, that's exactly what I'll do. One thing you can always count on is that hearts change, so as soon as this war is over, I shall return," the prince vowed.
"That's what I'm afraid of," Harry muttered to himself as he began to make plans in the back of his mind. As soon as one war is over, he gets tossed into another- troublesome.
"I love it when you talk like that- I look forward to your return, big boy!" The eighty something year old witch said with a salacious wink.
Huh, Harry thought to himself while trying to ignore his screaming instincts to run far, far away from the man-eater in front of him. Now that might actually work.
Heem wheezed a laugh as he spun around and looked into the distance.
"So you are reporting to Sulliman, Dog." Harry mused. He supposed the odd pup didn't mean any harm if he only reported to his master after all the conflict was over. "Tell Sulliman I said hi and to not bother me never."
Heem laughed some more and nodded. It's time that this war ended for good.
"I'll give the prince a lift back," Harry sighed as he finished patching himself up. He gave himself a once over and mentally patted himself on the back for a patch job well done. He could still sleep for a good month or two, but at least he didn't feel like keeling over anytime soon.
"Are you sure, Harry?" Sophie asked, concern evident in her voice. Howl had his arm slipped comfortably around Sophie's waist, beaming like the sun. The two lovers were done with their loving, for now.
"Yeah, I'll fly the prince back- it'll be worse if he gets lost on his way back since he has to cross a warzone," Harry yawned and cracked his back and shoulders.
"So, Prince Justin- where do you live?" Harry turned his head to address the prince, who was looking a little more than heartbroken to see the happiness evident in Sophie's eyes.
The question startled Prince Justin, and he blinked in surprise. How often does the prince of a nation get asked where he lives? "Just across the channel not too far from here."
"And you wanted to get there on a stick?" Harry raised an eyebrow.
The prince shrugged- an action that was still elegant. "I'm sure I'd manage."
"Wait- across the channel as in the British Channel?" Harry's brain took a minute to boot up.
Now it was him getting the weird looks. "Yes, that's what it was called four hundred years ago before my many times great grandfather changed the official name of it," Prince Justin said incredulously.
Harry stood up and rocked back on his heels. "Huh- I really haven't been back in a long time. I lived in Surrey growing up and went to somewhere in Scotland," he said.
Prince Justin looked about as lost as the rest of them felt. He looked as if he wasn't quite sure if he wanted to trust Harry's four hundred year old geography.
"Anyways, don't worry about it- Buckingham Palace, yeah?" Harry asked and waved away their concerns.
"Yes, though it really isn't called that anymore," the prince replied politely, if a bit hesitantly.
Harry nodded. He couldn't care less what the place is called, as long as he gets the kid back to his worried parents, so they can stop going ballistic on the world in general. Of course this war would be the British and the French going at it- even six hundred years later when they aren't even called the French and the British anymore.
"Alright, I'll take you back in a bit," Harry said, rolling his sore shoulders. "Give me a second here."
As he was about to change into his wyvern form, he spotted a small ball of light drifting down from the sky.
"Calcifer!" Sophie gasped.
"Aww, you didn't have to come back, Calcifer," Howl said casually.
He kinda did, Harry thought petulantly. He is owed at least five years of service from the backchatting demon, after all.
"I kind of missed you guys- and it looked like he was going to rain," he whined.
"You do kind of owe me," Harry raised an eyebrow and said pointedly. The ball of fire pinked and said nothing. To the side, Howl looked on, a bit curious and suspicious all the same- what happened when he was gone? He was sure that something of a deal was made between Harry and Calcifer, but he supposed the issue could wait.
The demon pinked some more when Sophie kissed him full on the lips (as much as she could have anyways, given that the demon has no body to speak of). "Wow!" he gasped.
"Don't I get a kiss too?" Harry teased. An "Of course you do!" was the only warning he got; he really wasn't expecting an armful of Sophie and a big kiss on the cheek- being thanked isn't something that he's used to. Nonetheless, he agreed wholeheartedly with Calcifer- Sophie's magic was really overwhelming. He'll have to teach her to control it soon, given how it has grown and expanded by leaps and bounds in the past couple of weeks.
Harry laughed and gave Sophie a hug. It has really been a long couple of weeks' journey from being a civilian antique seller to returning as a wizard. It was doubly so for Sophie, whose journey spoke of her strength of heart, and the journey was only beginning.
"Off we go then," Harry said happily, still drunk off of Sophie's magic. With a flourish, he called his wyvern back out and transformed.
"Wow!" Marco gasped as he looked at the shiny obsidian scales and the large wings that could block out the sky almost entirely. Mischief shined in emerald eyes as Harry butted Marco gently with his snout.
"Hey, that tickles!" The child squealed. He snorted, and a stream of smoke drifted up.
Harry is really quite good with children, Sophie thought to herself.
With a small bow, Prince Justin clambered onto the back of the wyvern, and they were off.
"You love Sophie, don't you?" Harry asked. It was more of a statement than a question, at this point. If the prince was surprised that the wyvern spoke to him in his mind, he didn't show it.
Prince Justin stared up at the night sky from the back of a wyvern. He never thought that he would see this happen to him- all his life, he had grown up like a plant in the greenhouse, sheltered and hidden away from life. He had no idea what life was like outside the palace, let alone what people lived like in another country. To say that learning about life is the silver lining to his situation would not be giving his lesson in life enough credit. It was really a blessing in disguise, this curse, he thought to himself. From where he was lying above the clouds, he could see the skies open up and the milky way clear before him. He was warm, thanks to Harry's spells, and the ride was smooth and comfortable.
Seeing a war first handed- there was nothing that he could use to describe the experience. No words, no feelings can adequately express the war. The deep guilt that clawed at his gut was only matched by the frustration and sorrow that people were dying on his behalf, while he was stuck as a scarecrow for what he thought would be all eternity. The only light in his eyes then was this old lady who went and pulled him out of a bush; he was thankful at first, but he slowly came to love her spirit and kindness. He was even more shocked when he realized that she was not actually an old lady, but a beautiful young lady. He was in love, and love was what he needed to break his curse.
Rethinking back on the happiness in Sophie's eyes as she laughed in Howl's arms sent a pang through his heart. Alas, that love was never meant to be his.
"Do you love her?" Harry asked again.
"I do," he replied calmly. "With all my heart. She's a pure, beautiful woman with a heart of gold. She's one of a kind- the sort of person that you can't find in this world anymore."
The dragon hummed into the sky. "Then you should also know that her heart belongs to someone else."
"Yes," Justin sighed and stared up at the stars. The Great Magician Howl isn't someone he can compete with- that much he knows. He's a prince with an army on his hands, but could he bare to send them after the happy couple? He could not. Can't Sophie see? Howl isn't any good for a person like her- she's too good for him. Even he has heard of the infamous Howl, all the way across the channel in a different country. How can she just look past that? He could treat her so much better.
"Do you plan on doing something about that?" There was an odd edge to the wyvern's words.
Justin thought long and hard about the question. "… No," he said at long last. "I don't. There's nothing I can do."
Harry kept his eyes on the clouds and thought about his next words. "Sometimes love isn't about what's best for a person. What's 'best'? Your best might not be her best, may not be my best or someone else's best. "Best" is a vague concept with varying definition according to different people."
"Love can be a wonderful thing." Ginny's fire red hair flashed in Harry's mind. He saw the way she would turn her head and laugh when he tapped her on the shoulder. "It can also be the most painful thing in the world, and sometimes the most you can do for the person you love is to let them go. Love isn't about selfishness- not about wanting and taking and possessing a person- it's about giving. Giving the other person the most that you can give. Even if it's painful for you, their happiness is their happiness. A person isn't a possession. Love isn't about keeping someone tied down- it's about letting them go and going with them. It's the most beautiful thing- to feel the wind through your hair and feel the freedom that's so vibrant… and want to share that with another person. To love someone is to be free with them."
Justin's breathe hitched. He tried to swallow past the lump in his throat. He's young- he knows- but true love is something that comes and only once to people like him. He's lucky, if he can even share a couple of words with his love. "Love has never been a factor in my life," he admits quietly. Loveless marriages were more often than not, and his parents surely didn't love each other. He has to tell himself, that he loves his people and his responsibility and obligations… but even to him, the words sound dry.
Harry nodded, fully understanding the scope of the words. "It has always been that way, even hundreds of years ago. I'm sorry."
Justin nodded with all the grace he could muster.
"Give it some thought; even if Sophie doesn't love you romantically, she sees you as a friend. You don't have to be completely cut out from their lives, if you wish to keep in contact." Harry mused. "Give it some thought, okay? For now, enjoy the last hours of your freedom. Here, it doesn't matter what you are, who you know, or what you have to do. We are all people under the same sky, small and insignificant as the next. Here we're all equal, beneath the expanse of the stars that guide us. So sit back and enjoy for now, okay?"
If Harry minded the wet sobs he heard in the back, he paid them no mind.
The morning sun woke the slumbering prince gently; he peeked cautiously over the great flapping wings and saw that they were past the isles and getting quite close to his home.
"You might want to get ready to tell your parents to stand down when we land in front of the palace," Harry snorted. "It's not that I can't defend myself- I very well can- but it's bad manners to drop by unannounced."
It's times like this that Justin wonders about Harry's lineage. It seems that even six hundred years could not fully erase his upbringing.
"Yes, I'll definitely do that," the prince said with a small laugh. "Thank you for the consideration."
"No problem- it's easier that way," Harry barked a laugh as he flew lower and lower until they were beneath the clouds. Prince Justin could see how Harry's bulk casted a huge black shadow over the surrounding farmlands near the palace. When he saw the palace come into view, he hurriedly took off his bright yellow jacket and began waving it. It was as undignified as undignified comes, but hopefully it would be enough to tell the scouts that they mean no harm.
For one baited breath, he thought that the palace guards would send airships to greet them, but the worry was unfounded. They touched down peacefully in front of the palace to the sight of awed onlookers and palace guards alike.
Someone must have recognized the jacket, he thought. A quick glance at the nearest soldier's shaking shoulders told him that they likely recognized Harry as well. How could they not? With all that he had done in the war?
He quickly clambered off Harry's back when he heard his parents calling for him; even the king and the queen were brought out of their thrones for this.
"Mother, Father," he greeted breathlessly. He could feel tears welling up in the corners of his eyes again, and he blinked them back the best he could. He's a prince again and no longer Turniphead the Scarecrow, free to act as he pleased.
"Oh, Justin! You're alright!" His mother tackled him and started sobbing on his shoulder, decorum be damned. His father too, rushed over and joined her in hugging him. He could hear their unsaid words- they thought he was dead.
Harry sat on his haunches and folded his wings as he observed the touching reunion. He couldn't blame them for going to war over a missing child, as much as he detests wars. He too, has gone on a warpath in search of his child (in particular, that one time when one of the Death Eater remnants decided that kidnapping James Sirius was a good idea). More often than not though, it was Ginny who had a temper- not him. He was usually stuck trying to keep Ginny from destroying everything in sight.
He craned his neck towards the royal family and bowed his head in greetings. The king saw intelligence in the eyes of the black wyvern that had laid waste to his armies and thus called off the guards.
To his surprise, the wyvern nodded in thanks and shrunk down to a man with messy black hairs and a lightning bolt scar etched above his brow.
The man spoke regally: "The Prince has been found- the war is over." He spoke with the air of a noble, back straight and head held high.
A mage, the king thought as apprehension slid up his spine. And an extremely powerful one at that- how did anyone not pull him into the armies? The wyvern's actions had puzzled their generals; it destroyed airships from both sides of the war, and magic seemed to have no effect on him. What was its motive? It was clearly intelligent and capable of complex maneuvers.
"You brought back my child," the queen said, gratefulness deep in her voice. She curtsied deeply to him; "You have my thanks- our thanks."
The man grinned winsomely. "It was no problem, really, though it's a rather long story as to how we came across him. You might want to find out who laid that curse on him though."
"Curse?" The queen pulled Justin back and started inspecting him closely.
"I'm fine now, Mother. Harry and the people I met on my journey helped me break it," Justin said, not daring to mention Sophie's name.
Harry nodded. "He was a turnip on a stick when we found him. Someone- likely a magician of some power- laid a curse on him and sent him across the channel. What for, I don't know, but there's probably a mage somewhere with a vendetta against the royal family." Especially since Justin is an only child, Harry mused.
The king's visage darkened in rage. "Who dares to harm the royal family and start a war? Son, do you remember who laid the curse on you?"
From the corner of his eyes, Harry spied someone twitch. He twitched his fingers, and the elder wand shot into his hands from where he kept it in his wand hostler. Better safe than sorry.
"I do," Justin said confidently. He'll take great pleasure in extracting vengeance through the court of law.
From his position slightly away from the royal family, Harry saw a sickly orange flash of light heading to Justin. He stepped into the trajectory quickly and whipped out his wand.
"Protego! Incarcerous!" he shouted as a pearly shield absorbed the curse. Ropes sprang from thin air and stopped the magician from running away entirely.
"Well, there's your guy right there. It was stupid of you to think that you can get in a lucky shot unnoticed with another mage in the vicinity," Harry mused.
"The head magician of our commanding forces," the King looked apoplectic with rage.
"Who are you?!" The magician looked gaunt and crazed, with blood shot eyes and unkempt hair.
"I'm Harry James Potter," Harry smiled maliciously down at him and tightened the ropes for good measure. That's for giving him this much trouble.
The royal historian to the side, who was transcribing the whole event, made a noise that unlike that of a dying frog and fainted dead away.
"Oh good, someone still remembers me," Harry shrugged.
It was a good many days before Harry could bow out of the festivities and get back to Sophie and Howl. What a turn of events this was- to go from a monster on the battlefield to a celebrated hero.
"You must simply stay for the festivals!" The queen insisted quite vehemently.
Harry only looked at Justin, who shrugged helplessly. This is the queen after all, who doubles as his mother.
"Alright." His resolve caved in when he saw that treacle tarts were still a very popular treat.
Thus, it was with a belly full of countless tarts and maybe a pheasant or two that he flew back across the British Channel. Prince Justin vowed to visit, and Harry promised to pass on the promise to Sophie and Howl. Hopefully the prince would not make any untoward actions towards Sophie- Harry didn't think that the prince would be quite that idiotic. Hopefully having a future king who has seen the true face of war can help save the lives of others during his reign. A king who knows the value of peace is worth more than anything in his kingdom.
Harry flew on until he landed in the middle of a peaceful meadow of flowers next to the castle.
"Harry! You're back!" Sophie took a break from hanging up the laundry and hugged his snout tight.
He snorted warm smoke in her face and allowed Marco and Heem to climb around him for a bit before he shrunk down to his human form.
"Ooph, I could really use a nap," Harry yawned, patting his full belly. Sophie smiled in part exasperation and led him back indoors.
It seems like Howl has been quite busy lately; the castle has been now completely renovated to fly, and the layout of the entire house has changed once again.
"You know, when you flew off in such a rough shape, I thought you'd come back looking a little less like you just had the time of your life," Calcifer remarked from the hearth.
"They had good treacle tarts," Harry said in lieu of an explanation and promptly curled up on the couch and fell asleep.
They were all big children, the lot of them, Sophie thought to herself as she slipped a pillow under Harry's head.
In total, he slept for a good week or so before he recovered enough to remember that he should probably go back to pack up his store.
"I'm going out to run some errands," Harry called and grabbed his jacket.
"Safe errands, I hope?" Howl raised an eyebrow. Errands could mean a lot of things in Harry's book.
"We'll see- I'll send a message back or something if I'm gone for more than a couple of days," Harry replied, which was enough to satisfy Howl's worry.
He shrugged on his jacket and leapt out of the flying castle, transforming mid-leap into his wyvern form. He could use a good flight to stretch his wings.
It wasn't long until he got back to his humble antique shop. In the middle of a burnt and sodden battlefield stood his shop, pristine as the day he bought it.
"I'm home," Harry called jokingly into the empty shop. He expected no reply and got none- he stood in the entrance, breathing in the smell of his antiques. Each one was precious to him in one small way or another- each carried a small part of his history, which is why he had such strong wards to protect them.
Thankfully, Bill's ward stones made it out of the bombing okay, though some spells would have to be reapplied. Harry's gaze focused on the small, cream envelope on the counter.
The last time this store, his heart was pounding with adrenaline and fear. This time, he'll see what Sulliman wants. He waved the Elder wand several times over the envelope; it was clear of all enchantments. So it was just a letter then. But even a letter can be deadly in the right hands. With a bit of hesitance, he slipped a letter opener through the envelope and read the letter.
"Seriously? All this trouble for a goddamn invitation to tea? You have got to be kidding me."
Tea with Sulliman- he never thought he'd live to see the day after all the past that they shared.
"So, why did you call me out all the way here to have tea with you?" Harry asked, one eyebrow raised. He wasn't all that surprised to see that her greenhouse has been repaired.
"Is Heem doing well?" She asked serenely, a cup of tea in one hand.
Well, I guess she wants to play games, Harry thought with a sigh. "He's doing well enough- he likes living here, so I guess you're not getting your dog back."
"It is a shame," she concurred. "Is Howl and his love well?"
He really didn't know what Sulliman was playing at; she never struck him as the kind grandmother type. Sulliman- kind- what a riot. "They're doing well. They're a bit nauseating to look at sometimes, but they're well."
"And you, Master?" She asked, a bit of a smile on her lips.
"As well as can be, I guess. It's nice to travel around," Harry kept his answer curt.
"Do you not get lonely, watching them?" She asked out of the blue.
Man, Sulliman is really still as terrifying and unreadable as ever. "Well, no- I've had my time and my family. I'm old- loneliness really isn't something that bothers me anymore."
Sulliman hummed around her tea and asked the page boy to refill her tea. He did so obediently.
"Is there something you actually need, or am I free to go?" Harry asked.
"Is it such a crime to catch up with your only living master?" She asked in return.
"The only living one because you sort of absorbed your other last living master," Harry pointed out.
She only shrugged elegantly.
"I don't know what you could possibly want with me- I thought I made it abundantly clear that I wanted nothing to do with you. You can't possibly tell me that you're feeling nostalgic after dropping a war on our heads," Harry rebutted.
"Yes, you've done a commendable job on staying hidden from me," Sulliman concurred.
"Which is why I don't really even understand why I'm here," Harry mused for a moment. "I suppose I'm here for answers."
"And which ones would you like to hear?" Sulliman asked.
"The truth, if you will," he said immediately. "Why did you do what you did? In the past and now? You sent those magicians after us knowing that they don't stand a chance against both Howl and I. You let Howl leave with his vow unfulfilled; you could have called him back if you really wanted to, but you didn't. You sent Heem with us but didn't use him to track us down. You gave the Witch of the Wastes that cigar to weaken Howl's demon, but it wasn't even that potent. You called off the war and helped make a treaty possible for both sides… after serving as Chief Mage of the armies. Your actions contradict themselves, and I want to know why they do. You were never that way, and I want to know what changed."
"People change with time, Master. I suppose you'll know that better than most," Sulliman said.
"No, you were never that indecisive with what you wanted," Harry said. "You're bound by the oath."
"As is everyone who practices magic except for you," Sulliman agreed.
"You're bound by a different oath…" Harry frowned. At this age, Sulliman should be quite frail already, magic or not. Was she even mobile anymore? He thought to himself while eying her wheelchair.
"I am, regretfully," she nodded.
"How did that happen? I always thought that you were too smart to get trapped by an oath like that," Harry insisted.
"Greed has its price, Master. That is a lesson that I learned keenly while you were away," she said.
Harry took a moment to mull over the answer- Sulliman's greed. In the end, it is greed that drives all great mages to their ends. "Your master knew you would absorb his magic, or at least try."
"Yes, it was foolish of me," Sulliman admitted.
How very odd of her to bend her pride now of all times. "And he bound you with an oath within his magic- when you absorbed his magic, you absorbed the oath with it," Harry realized.
"What were the conditions of the oath?" Harry asked immediately.
Sulliman merely shook her head, the smile never leaving her lips.
"That curse again, huh," Harry sighed. "Probably to this position and the crown. Knowing how old you are, you probably don't have much time left," he said, pointing to her legs.
"I'll take you word for it, Master," Sulliman said, taking the news of her limited mortality rather well. But of course, who could she trust on such things if not the Master of Death?
"I'd free you if I could," Harry said quietly. Because despite all the mistakes she has made, all the trouble and danger she has put him through, she was still his pupil. His soul burned with anger- how dare that master of hers bound her like that?
"It is by far too late for that," she said. "If I could, I would have done so."
She's probably right, Harry thought. Death was the ultimate sacrifice for spells. It was one reason why Lily Potter's sacrifice was enough to bring down even Voldemort. Undoing a spell like that would need a sacrifice of equal power- in this case, Sulliman's own death.
"I see… So in the end, it was your greed. That was why you weren't afraid of death," Harry said quietly, remembering the surety in her eyes when he was only one blow away from ending her life.
"It is, for a great many people," she said wisely. "Pride and greed alike. It is my biggest mistake, one that I will pay for, for what's left of my life."
Harry mulled over her words for a moment- would he give her this second chance? Perhaps it was age and regret tempering her ambition. For her to seek him out again now of all times- for her to seek forgiveness and redemption now- she must be close to her end. Would he forgive her, his once-bright student. He looked at her and saw Hermione once, but now he merely sees acceptance and regret. Would he begrudge her this request? No, he would not.
Harry sighed and put down his tea. "How have you been?"
Mandy: I figured this was a good place to end things- I'm sorry that it took me this long to update a fic that should have been done within three weeks. I suppose one year is already kind of quick for me? I blame my academics for that. Life has been completely topsy-turvy lately, and I'm pretty sure it'll just get worse from here on out. I'm enjoying a couple days off right now post exams, so I figured I should get this out. Unfortunately, the last five to six pages of this is unedited since I'm in a hurry to churn out the ending, so please excuse any typos and verb tense errors. I'll be working on updating both Midnight Rain and The Prince as time allows, but I've hit a rather large block with That Crazy Nut of a Teacher, so that one is sort of on hold for now. Anyways, word total: 33.57k- I can't believe I actually finished a non-oneshot story for once.
I almost wanted to write an epilogue, but I think ending it here with Sulliman is better. The story started off with Harry's regret, and it ends with his forgiveness. However, I'll go ahead and detail what's left of the ending (since there are so many loose ends and plot holes in the cannon ending):
Harry went home and began training Sophie in healing magic, much to her confusion. He teaches Marco and Howl too (or rather, he holds long discussions with Howl over spells and wards, and Sophie has to drag them both by the ear to even get them to stop talking for all of five minutes and go eat lunch). He tries to restore the Witch of the Waste's magic, but her frail body can't accept such potent magic anymore. Surprisingly, the old witch is okay with this- "It's better this way," she says in a moment of lucidity and refuses to elaborate.
Marco is nearly twelve when Sophie becomes pregnant (a failure of birth control, Harry guesses) with twins; they're born nine months later to a very anxious Howl and an exasperated Harry. She names them Lettie, after her sister, and Harrison, after Harry. He objected to the name of the second twin, but Sophie wouldn't hear of it- "You changed our lives, Harry. Naming our child after you is a blessing and not a curse." She names him the godfather to little Harrison and Prince Justin as godfather of Lettie.
The good prince did keep in contact, though Harry caught his wistful looks occasionally. He married a princess from France (or what is now France), and Harry pities him for having the most idiotic in-laws in all of history. The princess, contrary to Harry's expectations, was a meek and pretty girl, though she does seem to have a brain inside that head of hers. They have three children- Princess Sophie, Prince Arthur, and Prince Harry (again, named after the last person who would ever want a child named after him in honor). Together, the couple brings the longest stretch of peace the region has seen in a good three centuries. "The Pacifist King", is what they call Justin, though Harry thinks half of the credit should go to his queen: the idiot king on the other end of the channel has the softest weak spot ever for his daughter.
Sulliman lasts a good five years before she expires at last from old age. Harry is on hand when she passes quietly in her wheelchair, surrounded by the plants she loves. She gives her blessing (a very magical one) to Howl and Sophie's twins with what's left of her magic. He holds her hands until they go cold: "it's just like falling asleep," Harry tells her. "Say hi to the people on the other side for me, okay?" he remembers the last half decade the spent together, and the child that he first saw chasing fireflies. He remembers her good times, her faults, and what happened after, and he sheds tears for her.
Howl says nothing when he returns home late after a week of grief, solemn and taciturn; he tags along with him to visit Sulliman's grave and brings enough flowers for two. Sophie and the twins went with them the year after that, and the twins ask Howl who the grave belongs to. Harry is the one who answers: "Someone great, a brilliant and powerful person who could have done amazing things." Howl pats him on the shoulder.
The twins grow up well; Lettie is playful and takes after her father in personality. She too, burns off Harry's eyebrows when he begins teaching them magic, and Sophie was on hand to snap a picture for the family album. Harrison Jr, however, is a pacifist at heart: he learns his white magic and refuses to learn elemental spells. When asked why, he turns and Looks at his father and says with the innocence of a child: "I don't want to see anyone hurt ever. And if they are hurt, I want to be able to fix them." Harry gives him an extra serving of ice cream that night.
When the twins are sixteen, Prince Arthur plucks up the courage to ask Howl for permission to take Lettie to the annual Christmas dance. The poor child was as scared as any in front of the Great Magician Howl (let alone anyone daring to ask his permission to date his little girl), but Sophie approved of him wholeheartedly. Harry tags along (being the nosy godfather he is), and he is mobbed by the palace historians who crow over the reappearance of a "historical artifact of great value." He's equally offended and amused by their words, and he wonders if he'll find an excavation site at Hogwarts.
All in all, life went on, and even though Sophie and Howl aged and passed with time, Harry was content to look after their descendants. Occasionally, he would see a flash of Howl's mischief or a touch of Sophie's stubbornness in their children and great-grandchildren, and he knows that he would never know loneliness in his life again.