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Family Bonds

Mordred looked out of the window. The last three days there hadn't been any new snow. It was a welcome break for the ones tasked with clearing the courtyard of the snow. Harry and the others had been gone for over a week now. According to older students, they would return once all the babies were born and Lady Helga was sure enough that nothing like after birth complications would come up. And nobody could say for sure when a baby was born. It could happen at any day. And it was highly improbable that all three pregnant women would go into labour at the same time. He just missed Harry.

While he liked spending time with his friends, he wanted to talk to his brother. And to be honest, he wasn't happy about the prospect of returning to Aunt Morgause. Now that he had experienced how being welcomed by his family felt, how it was to have friends his age, he didn't want to go back to his old life. He knew that they would leave Hogwarts once it was safe to travel again. Then Harry would go back to being trained by Sir Edmund and someday Aunt Morgause would send somebody to collect him. If only he could stay with his mother. She was extremely busy normally, yes, but he didn't mind that. Even if they could only spend an hour in the evening together, that was much more than he got from Aunt Morgause.

And Sir Placidus was much more patient with him in his lessons than the tutor Aunt Morgause had chosen for him. That man was extremely strict and didn't explain as well as Sir Placidus did. And Camelot was much more exciting to live at. He would ask Harry if he saw a chance that he could stay there. He wouldn't mind helping with some easier jobs if that was what was needed to be allowed to stay. He would work as a stable boy if necessary. But after experiencing the difference between living in Camelot and Aunt Morgause's castle, he certainly preferred Camelot.

Harry got out of Thunder's saddle after a three days' ride back from the village. Thanks to the weather playing along, they made better time than on the way to the village. He was happy that nothing bad had happened during the births. They had stayed for three days after the births and then left again. While they were there, Helga healed the broken leg of Gunter, the village leader. He was aghast about the actions of the priest and promised he would take care that there wouldn't be a repeat of something like that.

Harry hoped that things would calm down around Hogwarts. It would be bad if the inhabitants in the surrounding villages were radicalised against their magical neighbours. He knew that the Statute of Secrecy had been enacted all over the world because the muggles had become unbearably intolerant of what they perceived as witchcraft. Most was superstition, as the magicals by that point in time already preferred living distanced from the muggles, but without proper education, the people mostly listened to those they grew up seeing as infallible authorities. And that came down to the clerics and the nobles in most cases.

He didn't know when the harsher hunts on magicals had taken place in Great Britain. He had concentrated on other parts of history. But this was clearly an early example for it. The question was why there were so many extreme members of the church that hated magic. From what he knew about Christianity, the faith itself was peaceful and there wasn't a single word about demonising witches and wizards in there. Like he had told that priest, who he still hadn't learned the name of, as he had kept out of sight from the villagers after he was defeated so soundly in his plans by Harry being much better at arguing points logically, if anybody had acted like he did with William towards Jesus Christ, he would have been accused of wizardry and witchcraft early in his life.

Multiplication of food or turning water into wine wasn't normal. Nor was walking over water. But nobody hated him for openly showing supernatural powers. And Jesus himself had preached kindness, acceptance and forgiveness. He had lived by that credo. The current day priests should follow that example instead of making up their own version of their faith. That way, many conflicts could be solved peacefully.

Looking up at the sky, Harry saw that they would get more snow very soon. Having spent three winters in Scotland in his own time by now, he was used to the weather and predicting how long it would take for something to start. He took Thunder's reigns and led his stallion towards the stables. He would take care of his horse before going into the castle to warm up. And he would see if he could find Mordred. Probably his little brother had missed him and was a bit bored without having the chance to talk to him in the evenings.

Morgause sat in front of a lit fireplace, thinking hard about how her plans had got out of control. She hadn't liked that Arthur basically tricked her into leaving Mordred at Camelot for three weeks. But she had made the best of that situation. She had even sent him a message to inform him that her business would take a bit longer than expected and asked him to host Mordred for a little while longer. The additional weeks shouldn't have meant a big difference to what had already happened to influence the child slightly. But then somebody she hadn't expected had made a bold move.

Had it worked and had Harold been assassinated, she wouldn't have shed a single tear. She would have been ecstatic. The boy was a major thorn in her great plans. But the boy had against all odds managed to overwhelm the professional assassin and even kill the man. He had survived and it caused Sir Gawain to decide that they couldn't ensure the safety of both Harold and Mordred at Camelot while most of the knights were on the mission to destroy the bandits.

She supported that Arthur had acted decisively. The motivation behind the show of power was ridiculous in her mind, but a king needed to strongly bring down such disruptive elements in his kingdom. And the knights had been successful in their mission. That was good and made travelling for the nobles that could afford it much safer again. She had heard that after interrogations of all bandits that survived the strike against their group, they had been hanged. That was how low lives like them needed to be handled. No mercy. Otherwise others would think that they could get away with acting out against the nobles. Their rightful rulers.

The major problem was that right now Harold was together with Mordred at the castle of one of the Knights of the Round Table that hadn't participated in the mission. She hadn't been told which one for security reasons, as Sir Gawain feared spies that might eavesdrop on their conversation, but she was informed that it was over a week's travel on horseback away from Camelot. As the King's forces were still away from Camelot when she had returned to collect Mordred, she also didn't get a proper escort to return to her castle. She had her own guards of course, but as the King's aunt, it would have been expected for her to get additional protection for at least the next five days of travelling. But without manpower, Sir Gawain couldn't offer anything like that.

She had been sent a message by Arthur after he was back at Camelot that Mordred wouldn't be brought back yet, due to needing to weed out any possible spies at Camelot and fortifying the castle to make it more or less impossible for assassins to get inside the castle itself, for which Lord Black, who she had heard a lot of interesting things about during her stay at Camelot, was going to set up powerful wards based on runes. She knew that runes could be extremely powerful, but as she wasn't that interested in studying magic, and her sister Viviane hadn't been keen on raising her and Igraine as priestesses on Avalon, she didn't have the knowledge to assess any kind of array he might use.

Now, with winter having started and making long journeys far too dangerous, she got a second message that Arthur had decided to leave Mordred and Harold under the care of Sir Godric. After the bandits were dealt with, he felt safe enough to tell her where the boys had been taken to. Sir Godric's school for magic in Scotland that he had founded with his three friends. That was a huge problem. Not that Mordred was exposed to magic. It was a problem that he would be educated in ways she didn't approve, letting him experience that others might be interested in him as well. So far, she had made it appear that only she among his closer family members cared enough to raise him. But with Mordred spending time with his brother who humoured the boy's childish activities this would change.

Morgaine she had taken out of the picture by tricking her into that oath. She couldn't demand to raise her son. Not to mention that she would soon have to spend more time on Avalon again. She as High Priestess was needed to teach the younger priestesses in their powers and to perform important rites. She could get away with doing other things for some time, but not forever. She had responsibilities towards Avalon. It was what had made her plan so easy to realise.

Until Harold appeared in the picture unexpected. Harold, who now had months to influence Mordred negatively for her plans. Harold, who exuded strong magic that even she could sense. He was going to be as powerful as Morgaine when he was grown up, that much she knew for sure. People would see him as the perfect candidate to succeed Arthur on the throne. As Guinevere wouldn't give Arthur an heir, as she couldn't get pregnant, Harold would be the next King of England. And if she didn't do something soon, Mordred would think that perfectly alright, probably wanting to become a Knight of the Round Table for his brother, to have his back when needed.

She didn't invest all the time for Mordred to become a servant to his brother. A servant in a powerful position, should her fears come true, but still not the ruler of England. Mordred becoming a knight wouldn't let her be the shadow ruler of the country, which she considered her right. She needed to regain control and find an unsuspicious way to kill Harold. The sooner he died, the sooner she could bring her plans back on track.

Lord Preston knew that King Arthur had succeeded in taking down the group of bandits that he had set up to start a coup against the weak fool. But despite careful planning, it hadn't worked like he had thought it would. The one good part was that there was absolutely no proof that marked him as the mastermind in the background. He had never even seen the leader of the bandits. He had always used middlemen when he contacted any of his pawns. Because they were nothing but puppets he could move when it benefited him and his plans. While it had been a shame to lose his steward, the man had become careless over time and hadn't erased his trails properly a few times.

Arranging a riding accident was easy. One of the assassins on his paylist had caused a small scare for the horse, which made it step into the hole that had been dug into the ground in that spot for exactly that reason. The stumbling of the horse let Barney fall from its back and in that area was a nest of poisonous snakes. Barney fell into the nest and was bitten, which led to his death, as nobody could treat him for the poisoning. It was written off as a tragic accident, nothing else. Just like planned. Barney's replacement wasn't as efficient as he had been, but the man would improve over time. Barney had needed a year or so on the job to reach the level of his predecessor as well.

The problem now was that he didn't have the means to dispose of both possible heirs of the throne anymore. Sir Gawain had been much more successful in sniffing out all of his plants at Camelot than he had thought possible. And with the king and his knights now back, the castle was much safer again. The one thing he could ensure was that he wasn't implicated in the coup. But he knew that as somebody that was known to not be happy with several political decisions of King Arthur, he would be put under observation. That hindered his options severely. He would have to lie low for a while until the dust had settled again.

It posed a problem though. Harold was growing rapidly in all of his abilities and many wanted him to succeed his uncle. Young Mordred was just a cute little boy right now, nothing to be worried about. He wouldn't be considered a serious successor for his uncle if something happened to his older brother until he was at least ten years older. Nobody would let a boy not even sixteen become king. And if he could take out Arthur and Harold, those ten years could be used profitably. The failed plan had cost him a lot of money as well. He had needed to pay the bandits to follow his plans and use the strategies he dictated. The men had been too headstrong to follow orders without payment. And now they had all been hanged. He wouldn't regain any of that money.

Well, he had all winter to think of a new strategy. He wouldn't give up his ambition to rule over England, but it seemed that he needed to build up a new strategy from the ground.

Morgaine sat in a chair inside Arthur's study with her brother and sister-in-law. She had continued the tests Harry had started and she had successfully figured out the three layers of the problems why Guinevere couldn't become pregnant.

"Whoever cast the curse on you, Guinevere, was thorough. It will take a complicated ritual to give you your ability to conceive a child back, but it can be done," she told the two.

"Really? Whatever it takes, sister. This is great news," declared Arthur happily.

"What exactly does the ritual entail?" asked Guinevere eagerly, "I am willing to do everything to have a child of my own."

"Both of you need to accompany me to Avalon. I need the additional magical power that Avalon can grant a ritual. The ritual itself will have to be performed on Beltane, simply because of its magic that strengthens fertility. I will brew a potion that will cleanse both of your bodies of possible potions and poisons that influence them, and you need to take it twice a day the week before Beltane to get your bodies into the best possible condition for the ritual. The ritual will basically reset your systems to the time before you first had sexual intercourse with any partner. Following that, you need to unite your bodies in the normal Beltane rites that the priestesses and druids on Avalon have performed for centuries," explained Morgaine.

Arthur nodded, having participated in the rites before already, even if Guinevere was a bit more hesitant. But she still nodded. This was her chance to finally overcome her inability to give birth to a child. To have a child of her own, which had so far been denied to her. Something many noble women had looked down on her for. If it meant agreeing to a ceremony that was connected to the faith of her sister-in-law, then so be it. She still believed in God and Jesus Christ, but Morgaine certainly wasn't evil or harmed the people on which she used her magic. But no priest had managed to help her, therefore, it was high time to do something outside of her comfort zone to not feel like a failure as a woman anymore.

"I better prepare some of my knights then to take care of things here at Camelot," pondered Arthur, "And we need to figure out a way to travel unsuspiciously. It wouldn't do to alert the one behind this plot to us having found a possible cure."

"I believe that we can disguise this by letting Guinevere travel with me while you travel there with Harry and Sir Edmund as one of the knights that accompany you. The closest county to Avalon is Somerset. You could let it appear that you want to talk to Lord Constantin and take Harry as your heir with you to let him experience that part of being crown prince. Having Sir Edmund accompany you will ensure that Harry continues his normal training as a squire. Nobody would think anything strange about it. After all, Harry missed some training time due to being sent to Hogwarts for his safety," explained Morgaine.

"That would work," agreed Arthur, "I haven't visited Lord Constantin for years and he was a friend of my father. I could let it appear that I didn't want to force him to make the journey from Somerset at his age. If we took a detour to Avalon after we visited him, nobody would need to find out. And Harry could open the path through the mist for us."

Morgaine nodded. She would teach Harry how to do that. As Guinevere knew that her nephew was from the future, it wasn't necessary to hide the fact that he hadn't been raised on Avalon. They only needed to have Arthur and Guinevere on Avalon for the ritual and the group that escorted Arthur there could be put on patrol duty in the area while they waited for the king and queen to return. Harry would return as soon as Arthur had reached Avalon, which would keep Sir Edmund out of the know. Nobody needed to know that Harry wasn't her son but many times great grandson outside of those already informed.

While it would be a small disappointment for Harry to not participate in the Beltane race this year, he would deal with it. He knew how important it was to give Arthur and Guinevere a child. And he wanted to get a cousin to spoil as well. Morgaine was quite sure that Harry would spoil Mordred rotten while they were at Hogwarts. Not that she was against it. Anything to give Aunt Morgause trouble in manipulating Mordred against her was good in her books.

After the snow had finally melted enough to make travelling safe again, Harry and Mordred had packed their things. They had said goodbye to their new friends at Hogwarts. Godric and Salazar both had promised Mordred that they would send him an invitation to the school once he turned eleven. Salazar had also already told him that he wanted him in his house, as parselmouths were far too rare to not train Mordred in his abilities. Mordred was happy to have that prospect for his future. Godric was also considering taking Mordred as a page and squire if he showed enough promise in his development. Most wizards didn't want to study both fields, which Godric considered a shame. He needed to be thirteen at least and at that time he would already be a student at Hogwarts, which would make Godric the perfect choice to be his teacher.

It was something Mordred held onto. He really didn't want to return to Aunt Morgause and her cold and lonely castle. He had talked about it with Harry and had sent a letter to his uncle if he had any way to not send Mordred back to his aunt. If anybody knew a way to make it happen it would be the King of England. Uncle Arthur had promised in his last letter to work on a way to let Mordred stay at Camelot. It wouldn't be that easy, as Aunt Morgause had custody over him, but there might be a way to find a compromise.

The day they were set to leave, Sirius and Morgaine appeared at Hogwarts to collect them. Harry and Mordred were happy to see both of them and greeted them happily. The goodbye from the founders was a bit sad, but Godric and Salazar repeated their offer for Mordred to attend Hogwarts as a full student when he was eleven. Morgaine was happy about that offer and accepted for her son. This was something she could do, as she had never sworn to leave Mordred's education in magic to the choice of Morgause. And here she could argue that Morgause, as she had never got a full education in her magic on Avalon simply lacked the necessary qualifications.

She was also in favour of letting Mordred be taught to become a knight under Godric Gryffindor. He was one of the rare magical knights and thus perfect to teach her younger son how to combine both sides of his heritage. It would do much to stir Mordred away from the slippery path Morgause planned to place him on. Having good role models in the founders of Hogwarts would do much to prevent that Mordred became the traitor he had become originally. She desperately wanted to prevent that development for her son. She loved him deeply and had many times cursed her own weakness when he was born. Next to the behaviour of her aunt, who had exploited said weakness instead of actually wanting to help her. Though Viviane also was target of many curses.

If only she hadn't wanted to manipulate things to her liking so much. Then Morgaine wouldn't have to deal with the results of that mess. She didn't regret becoming pregnant with Mordred, but it would have been a lot less problematic if his father hadn't been Arthur. Contrary to Viviane, Morgaine understood the political repercussions should the identity of Mordred's father be known. Not even Arthur knew about his son, as he would feel obliged to acknowledge Mordred as such and then the church, the nobles and too many other busybodies would try to use the child against him. Which had been the reason for the fall of Arthur's reign in the end. She wanted to prevent that. Hopefully, with Harry's interference in the matter, she would manage to eliminate a deciding factor in her visions of the future. If the ritual on Beltane worked like planned, then Guinevere would have a child next year and no matter if it was a boy or a girl, alone the fact that the king had a child would give many new hope for the future.

Harry listened to his mother's explanations what needed to be done to help Arthur and Guinevere to have a child of their own.

"I see. Well, while it is a shame to miss the Beltane race, I can still participate next year. This is more important, mother," nodded Harry in acceptance.

"Thank you, Harry. We really need to keep things secret until it is done," replied Morgaine.

"Mother, did Uncle Arthur say anything if I could stay at Camelot?" asked Mordred, who was really nervous about going back to Morgause.

"We found a way to work around Lady Morgause," nodded Sirius.

"Really?" asked Mordred excitedly.

"Yes. The main reason why Lady Morgause has custody over you is that your father was unknown to your mother when you were born. Only Lady Viviane knew for sure, but she has died a few years ago and we can't ask her anymore. As you know, the sons of the Priestesses of Avalon are normally raised by the fathers of the boys to follow in their path. Your brother Harry is one of the rare exceptions to that rule," answered Sirius, who had suggested the solution. It was a bit of subterfuge, but nobody could prove it in the end, as nobody had the means to brew inheritance potions in this time.

"After we managed to deal with the bandits, we had more time available to work on other issues again. Thanks to your mother going back to Avalon over the winter after she wasn't needed to heal the injured soldiers and knights at Camelot anymore, she had the opportunity to look through the lists of partners that were sent to the priestesses the year you were conceived," continued Sirius.

"So, she now knows who my father is?" asked Mordred, both hopeful and scared at the same time.

"It could be narrowed down to a few men. One we could exclude, as Aunt Viviane wouldn't have been stupid enough to pair me off with my own brother," stated Morgaine, making it appear that she was simply reasoning things by common sense. After all, she hadn't really known it was Arthur until she heard where he had participated in the Beltane rites that year and connected the dots.

"Uncle Arthur was a participant there too?" asked Mordred surprised.

"Yes. Taliesin organised it, as he saw the importance of having the future king versed in both leading religions of the country. That is a major reason why Arthur can balance the interests of the people belonging to both faiths as easily as he can. He understands both sides and can moderate between arguments," confirmed Morgaine.

"So, who was my father?" Mordred wanted to know.

"Most probably it was Jayden of Blackmoor," answered Morgaine.

"He was the fourth son of Lord Kyron, wasn't he mother?" asked Harry, trying to remember the current lords in England.

"Yes. Sadly, he died during a tournament two years ago. But we can still use this to allow you to live with somebody besides Aunt Morgause, Mordred," confirmed Morgaine.

"How?" asked Mordred hopefully.

"It's quite simple. By declaring that Morgaine figured out that you were Lord Jayden's son, any of his male relatives could claim custody over you. It is doubtful that Lord Kyron would want to do something like that, he already has too many sons and grandsons to care about one more, even if the nephew of the current king would give him more influence if it was known that he was part of his family, but my family is also descended from the Lords of Blackmoor. In no way close enough to have any claim to the lordship, but it suffices to allow me to claim custody over you, Mordred," explained Sirius.

This surprised both Harry and Mordred. Especially Harry, as he knew what would be entailed in letting Sirius basically adopt Mordred. Even if he also saw the benefits of that move. Sirius knew what was at stake. He knew that Harry was chosen as the guardian of magic for the future. And he knew that Harry loved Mordred as a little brother. Trying to give Mordred a better childhood to prevent that he would revolt against Arthur, considering the throne his birth right as Arthur's only nephew, as originally Harry hadn't been in the picture, would change history. But letting Arthur have a longer reign might mitigate some problems that had come up later. If Arthur could give England stability and peace for a longer time, it would be beneficial for the country. There had been wars over his succession, even if his legend lived on.

"You would really adopt me?" asked Mordred.

"Yes. While I am also busy like your mother, I have more time available to be there for you. And from what you told Harry and which he passed on to King Arthur and me, you don't benefit from living with Lady Morgause. We have just seen how the people target both you and your brother for your relation to the king. And several people have seen you at Camelot. Lady Morgause's castle doesn't offer the same level of protection as Camelot does now. I have finished the runic arrays to prevent that those with evil intentions towards the royal family in particular and any inhabitant of Camelot in general can enter the castle. I can't keep them out of the city, that simply is too large an area, but I have managed to make the castle itself a fortress like no other," declared Sirius.

"Thank you, Sirius, I promise I will be a good son," declared Mordred happily and relieved that he wouldn't have to leave his true family again.

"I'm happy to have you as my son," replied Sirius with a smile.

Harry also smiled happily. This was great for Mordred.

And, how do you like this turn? Until next time.