Harry let out a beleaguered sigh.
"Five," Ginny said. She was laid on the couch beside him, her knees tucked up to serve as a book-rest. Along with the bowl of sweets on her pregnant stomach, she had just about everything she needed for the rest of the evening.
"That's five times you've sighed in the last hour," Ginny parted her knees to shoot a glare at her husband. "It's annoying."
"Right, sorry." Harry ran a hand through his hair. Parenthood hadn't made it any neater. "It's just… The name. I can't settle on a name. The kid's going to come out known as Albus TBD Potter. Brilliant."
"At least you get to name him," Ginny scowled. "I'm the one popping them out and I barely get a say."
"Well, I did win."
"It's a coin flip! You don't get good at coin flips. You're just too bloody lucky."
"… But I did win." Harry said again, and he got a little kick on his thigh for his sass. The room settled into a general state of calm as he stared at the wall. At least, until he sighed again, and got another, harder kick. "What was that for?"
"Off of my sofa!" Ginny huffed. "And you're not allowed back until you've got all of that sighing out of your system. Use the new pensieve if you have to."
"It's dodgy," Harry was already getting to his feet. He did need to do something to break his boredom, and the last thing he wanted to do was annoy Ginny during the third trimester. The wait for a little man by the name of James Sirius Potter had taught him that. "Even George wouldn't buy it."
"It's fine, Harry. Dad was here using it earlier and he's no worse than normal."
"What did Arthur want with our pensieve?"
"You know he's been playing Muggle games recently? Well, he's on a budget and Mum won't let him buy any more this month. Then he saw the pensieve and had the idea to store his memories of them here, so he could play the ones he has like it's for the first time," Ginny recalled with a smile. "He's clever, but he's really good at hiding it."
"That's not a bad idea," Harry rubbed his chin. He hadn't even thought of getting a games console in the house, something to look into for the future. "Alright, I'm off. Call me if you need anything."
"Do try to have fun, dear," Ginny blew a kiss at him and he caught it before slipping off to the pensieve. It was tucked in a corner of their storage room, a stone basin in among all the clutter. There were holes where gemstones ought to have been, a crack in the basin itself, and half a hundred marks of wear all over, but it seemed to be holding the swirling silver memories well enough.
Harry dunked his head inside. The rest of his body followed.
There was a sensation of being swept away, pulled down, then the rush of warm air as he hurtled towards the ground. He caught a brief glimpse of stone fortifications and metal men patrolling, but that view suddenly became much more hay-like. What was he doing in a wagon full of hay?
Harry groaned as he dug his fingers into the rough yellow substance. At least it was clean, he thought, as the scent of the foodstuff filled his nostrils. It was accompanied by a kind of leathery scent, some slight smoke on the air, and the pleasant, airy heat he rarely got to experience in Britain.
"I'm telling you, that wagon rattled." Harry tensed and looked about. There was plenty of wood and hay and him, but not much else. For a second, he was worried that something had gone terribly wrong with the pensieve. But what were the chances of that happening? No doubt this particular memory was from one of Arthur's games and he was just popping into a dramatic moment. He poked his head over the side to catch just what was happening.
"You worry too much, my friend." Another French accent, and that seemed to fit Harry's surroundings quite nicely. Although he'd never been to France, he knew what a castle looked like, and that was where he was. There were white stone towers with tapering blue caps as far as he could see, which wasn't particularly far, because there was a great deal of wall in the way. Besides that, there was a stretch of ground, straw dummies, and…
A lot of people walked around in armor. Some of it shining metal, some rich leather, all ornamented with blue and white materials. Many were yelling to one another, sparring, or being yelled at, which gave him unpleasant flashbacks to Professor Hooch. Some were unusually short, others similarly slender, and one particular pair was staring right at him.
"They're right there!" said the bearded fellow, as an accusatory finger sprouted from the baggy arm of his robe. It was pointed right at Harry.
When the woman beside the pointing man started matching towards the wagon, Harry wondered why everyone would be speaking English if he was in France. He didn't have much time to consider that thought because he was suddenly grabbed by the scruff of his shirt and yanked out of the wagon. He toppled to the ground in front of her and gazed up.
"Hello?" Harry greeted her as he pushed his glasses back up his nose. He got a better look at the woman then, slim and slender and with a pair of ears that pointed up at the sky.
"Bit runty." the man said, as he folded his arms over his chest. "Definitely Fereldan."
"Should we take him to the brig?" the woman had her hands on her hips. Her eyes were all out of proportion, too. She looked like a house-elf, if house-elves were bred with Veela. "I don't want to take him to the Captain today. It's you-know-who."
Harry had a suspicion that this particular you-know-who was different to the one he was familiar with.
"But he's Fereldan. They'll be like peas in a pod."
"Actually, I'm Briti-"
"If you wanted to talk to us, you oughtn't have trespassed," the woman grabbed a hold of Harry's shirt and the man seized one of his arms. "To the brig with you."
"The brig..." Harry's eyes went wide as he was marched through the castle's grounds. "You can't put me in prison!"
"Can and will," the woman said.
"But...you're an elf!" Harry blurted out.
"Oh, I see how it is," the woman clucked her tongue. "He's one of those."
"Sodding racists," the man shook his head.
"Wait, that's no-"
"I'll have you know I worked just as hard as anyone else to join the Grey Wardens." the woman said, as she yanked him in a completely different direction. "On second thought, let's take him to the Captain. Let's hope he's in a really foul mood today."
"He always is," the man muttered.
"I'm really not a racist," Harry said. The thought was absurd. He fought Lord Voldemort, the Death Eaters, Malfoy, and he was the last person anyone would think of as being a bigot. Besides, some of his best friends were house-elves.
"Shut it," the man said. Harry decided that it was probably best that he was taken to whomever was in charge, lest he bury himself any deeper. He could have tried to escape, if he had his wand, but he'd left it in the living room.
He was dragged through stone hall after stone hall, until finally, he came to an oak door set against the wall. After a quick rap on the door, a voice grumbled just loud enough to be heard.
Harry was pushed into the office beyond. He wished it would have reminded him of Hogwarts, being an all-too-common occurrence, but it was nearly bare. There was a desk in the middle of the room, a bookshelf, and a few simple wooden chairs. Behind the desk sat a man with lank black hair, pasty pale skin, with a nose that seemed to want to escape its face and eyes that could have pierced steel.
It put Harry in mind of a certain professor, if he'd taken up rugby rather than Potions.
"Fereldan trespasser, Ser," the woman greeted him with just enough reluctance in the honorific to make it worthless. "We thought we'd bring him right to you, figuring you weren't busy anyway."
"I'm sure you did, Warden." The man behind the desk managed to pack in twice as much loathing as she had. "Put him down and leave us." Despite the animosity, they did just as they were told and made their departure known with a slam of the door. Harry had another unpleasant flashback to Snape's lessons, as the man peered at him with eyes that gave nothing away. "Loghain Mac Tir."
"I'm sorry?" Harry asked.
"You looked like you recognized me," Loghain said. "So I thought I'd refresh your memory. Commoner, Lord, Commander, Traitor, Warden. Take your pick, although if you want the Orlesian style, I suppose 'bastard' will do."
"I'm sorry, Ser, but I don't think I know you well enough for that," Harry said. "Harry Potter."
"… Harry Potter," Harry said.
"Never heard of you."
"Oh." Harry blinked. Well, that was a nice change. "Why don't I call you Loghian and you can call me Harry and we'll call it even?"
"That will do." Loghain nodded as he leaned back in his chair. "Why are you here, Harry Potter? You don't look malnourished enough to be a thief, and there's no political power to be gained for a bard. So what is it?"
"I fell into a wagon." Harry shrugged. Those eyes were on him again.
"Fair enough," Loghain eventually said. "I can send you off with a slap on the wrist. I would advise against sticking around. Don't let the pretty things fool you; most Orlesians would sooner see a Fereldan at their feet than sharing a tavern."
Harry's curiosity was piqued. From what he could gather, he was where Orlesians were, Loghian was Fereldan, yet Loghain had been afforded a position of respect and power in the former. An apparently begrudging one, given his distaste both vocally and otherwise. And yet, Harry doubted that Orlesians were as bad as Loghain claimed – as Sirius had said, the world wasn't split into good people and Death Eaters. It was likely the same with Orlesians and Fereldans.
"If it's alright with you," Harry said. "I'd like to know why you hate Orlesians." His forthrightness hadn't… Okay, his forthrightness had gotten him into a lot of trouble. But Loghain's similarities to Snape were building with every word, and he'd never had the chance to converse with Snape without the bias. Without his father's genes. Perhaps he'd be able to get some insight into the man, beyond what he'd shared in his final moments…
"Are you really so young…?" Loghain's gaze lingered on Harry, then he sighed. "I will never trust an Orlesian, not as long as I draw breath. If you had seen the things I had seen, boy, or suffered the things I have, you might be able to understand. I've found no words that can convince another of my conviction, so they would be as wasted on you, I'm sure."
"It's because of something they did, then. Not something they're doing." Harry bit down on his gut reaction. This man wasn't Snape, and defensiveness about his father wasn't going to get him anywhere. It hadn't the last times he'd tried to reconcile his feelings on Snape's sacrifice and his demeanor.
"Is that not enough?" Loghain shook his head. "It was Orlesian hands that did the deed and Orlesian heads that thought of it. They attacked the thing I love most in the world – Ferelden, and there is not a thing I would not do to defend it. For Ferelden, I lost my mother, my father, my friend, the woman I loved, my daughter..." There was steel in his voice, though tempered. "Most were taken by force. Some things I gave up willingly, for the love of my home. But I feel it all. And now, I don't even have Ferelden. It is out of my reach, for as long as I remain a Warden, which seems to be the rest of my life."
"You don't have it any more? Why can't you go back?" Harry could feel a thread here, a trail he could follow.
"I let my hubris get the better of me," Loghain said. "I will not bore you with the details, though I remember them all, rest assured. Suffice to say, people suffered for my sake, and now..." He sighed. "Now I must suffer for theirs. I suppose that's fair."
Love, the threat of losing it, a trauma that he couldn't seem to shake, even if it led to prejudice. Then at his strongest, losing it and being faced with the choice to devote himself to a thankless cause for some form of atonement. And taking it, for the sake of all the love that remained.
"Have you thought of forgiving the Orlesians? The ones that didn't do anything to you, I mean," Harry said. "There's no reason to be angry at them, just because they share a few things."
"At times." Loghain said. "In my weakest moments. But it never works, and I don't know whether I want it to. I look at them and I see all of the times they made me and mine suffer. Their voices, their faces, their culture..." He wrinkled his prodigious nose. "It's too much. I will suffer their company for the sake of Ferelden and for my vows, but I cannot bring myself to be kind."
"Right." Harry gave himself a chance to consider Loghain's words. There was so much of it that struck a chord with him, from how he suffered to how he was resolved to spend the rest of his days aiding those he loathed. The loathing may not have been justified, but there was a reason for it. Something human. And there really wasn't anything but love that could have motivated him. But there was one thing that niggled in Harry's head. "Do you think you're a good man?"
Loghain actually laughed. A bitter, short thing, but still, it made Harry jump.
"No. And I don't think anyone else would, either."
"Alright." Harry nodded, with a little smile on his face. "Thanks. You've been a big help."
"Have I-" Loghain was interrupted by Harry being suddenly yanked out of his seat, out of the building, and out of the pensieve. He gasped as he was pulled upright, stood in his garage, with beautiful Ginny standing across from him, rather than a Snape-a-like.
"Where did you put my slippers?" Ginny asked.
"I didn't do anything with your slippers," Harry said, "But...I think I know what Albus' middle name should be."
"What's that, then?" Ginny arched her eyebrow.
"Severus." Harry's smile grew.
"… You're right, that pensieve is dodgy."