"Hello, Pansy. Michael. Mr. Parkinson. Mrs. Parkinson."
The Parkinsons all perked on hearing that greeting, and then they turned around and smiled as a certain traveller came up to join them. "Chikage!" Pansy squealed out in delight as she ran over to nearly bowl Chikage over with a hug.
"Hey!" Chikage yelped before she slowly, reluctantly returned her classmate's embrace. "No need to be THAT excited to see me," she then softly scolded.
She then allowed Malcolm to take her hand so he could deliver a courtly kiss. "Delighted to see you again, Miss Hirosaki," the lord of the Parkinsons of Keerford said as Chikage then shook Grouch's hand before accepting Michael's embrace. "I'd think you like to know that some of the potions masters and charms masters working for us have been making some considerable progress with your father's notes for the Elf Evolution," he then added. "We might be able to start marketing a conversion kit - at a reasonable price which would make it affordable to those who would be interested in it - by this summer. We're already taking in requests from potential clients."
"And you DID pass on those notes to Daphne's and Tracey's families?"
"As you requested," Grouch stated with a nod. "It'll still be something of a monopoly as our families are known to be in something of a business alliance with each other, but it won't be so restrictive that others who might be interested in delving into this line of research won't be deterred from taking a chance on their own."
"Especially foreign groups," Malcolm added.
Chikage nodded. "I'm sure your accountants in Gringotts will be salivating at the chance to start raking in the gold when it does come in," she noted before perked. "Hello, girls," she said as Daphne and Tracey came up, both accompanied by their sisters: Daphne's sister Astoria and Tracey's sisters Kimberly, Calliope and Darlene. After introductions were made, Chikage asked, "I trust this is a much better gathering than what you'll be asked to attend over at Cirencester later today?"
"I've never seen so many different magical creatures before!" Darlene Davis said before she looked over, and then she pointed. "What is that, anyway?"
"Darlene! Don't point!" Tracey scolded.
The youngest of the Davis sisters pouted as she glared at Tracey. "That is Elaine Buckshire, who's currently residing in Beckery-under-the-Hill, which is where Harry and Rose live, Darlene," Chikage explained. "She's a Cornu from the Magical Academic City-State of Ariadne on Nerio, the Mundus Magicus. Currently here studying your society for her work in race relations before she would be formally declared a schoolmaster in her own right and allowed to establish her own institution back home."
"Is that like being declared a master in things like Potions?" Astoria wondered.
"Indeed it is, Astoria," a powerful voice then called back as people turned to watch Severus Snape come up, his arm now wrapped around one of Tara Fronsac's. "Happy Christmas to you all, everyone. I trust this levée meets all your expectations."
"And excels them, too, Severus!" Malcolm said with a laugh as he shook the potions master's hand, then stepped back to allow his wife to embrace him. They then fixed their eyes on the lovely blonde now accompanying their former classmate. "You must be Tara Fronsac," he said as she offered her hand to him, which he took. "Charmed to meet you, my dear," he declared before bestowing a courtly kiss.
"As I'm charmed to meet you as well, Lord Parkinson. Lady Parkinson," Tara said with a nod, fighting down the urge to flinch at the thought of a man touching her in that manner. While she was finding it easy in some ways to adjust to being in the body of a woman - and a quite beautiful one at that - the fifth of Tom Riddle's would-be horcruxi still saw herself deep down as a man; her willingness to spend much time with Severus Snape was more out of professional respect as the man who would later come to be called Lord Voldemort had become an accredited potions master himself. Fortunately, Chikage's tales of a warrior from her own universe named Ranma Saotome - who had been cursed in a valley full of magical springs in China called "Zhòuquán-xiāng" - had been of great help to Tara in making her realise she wasn't alone. "You should be proud of both your son and your daughter. They're doing extremely well in all their classes. Surprises me Pansy was sorted into Slytherin in lieu of Ravenclaw."
"Her ambition is much greater than Michael's," Grouch explained, feeling a sense of odd familiarity about the woman now with her old classmate. Who is she? she mused to herself, and then she sighed. "Hopefully, Harry will be able to catch up to her."
"Are you trying to get Harry interested in her?" Severus asked with a smirk.
"Do you blame me?"
A shake of the head. "No, I do not," Severus said. "It was a wonderful thing that James and Lily did for both of you. I'm sorry that we never clued you in on what had happened to Harry - much less learning about Rose - when he moved to Somerset to live with her five years ago. Albus felt it was the right thing to do."
"In that point, I would agree," Malcolm said with a nod. "I overheard what Rose told Cornelius about the pile of mail that had accumulated by the time Harry actually got to Hogwarts. How many arrests for hexed mail was it at the end?"
"Twenty-four dunderheads, with possibly more to come," Severus reported. "All spending a nice five year vacation in Gonebren as a result."
"Do you think people who fought for Riddle would STILL try to go after Harry, Uncle Severus?" Daphne then asked, a shocked look on her face.
"I wouldn't put it past the more passionate ones, Daphne," the potions master replied. "Many of them - even myself at the beginning - were loyal to Tom and what he envisioned for the future of wizard-kind in Britain. Harry's - and by extension, Rose's - surviving Tom's attempt at killing them is, in the eyes of such people, an insult to the Dark Lord's honour and has to be addressed. Preferably before Harry comes of age and can claim his family seat in the Wizengamot."
"Which he actually claimed last summer when we went together to do our shopping in Diagon, Professor," Chikage noted. "He just elected to keep his seat in recess, just like the Ropers, the Runcorns, the Collinses and the Matthewses are doing at this time." A shake of the head. "It amazes me that so many people can't simply sit down and read through things to better understand what is happening around them."
"You're right about that, Chikage," Grouch said. "Take the Magical Sheriffs for example. It actually spells it out in Paragraph One of the Magical Royal Proclamation of 1692: the position of the Crown's Magical Magistrate for each of the counties in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland were seen as perpetuating the positions of the Magical Sheriffs of old. Anyone who has a basic understanding of English would then realise that 'perpetuating' means prolonging the existence of something."
The others all nodded. "Personally, I can understand why is it Master Riddle would want to take over this country," Tara then mused.
"Why do you say that, Tara?" Tracey asked.
"Because, in a way, having magic makes us all lazy, Tracey," Tara replied. "If we want something, we can conjurate it or transfigure something into it. Muggles like Hermione's parents . . . " - she then nodded to where the Grangers were standing as a group nearby, having met up with the Muns - " . . . don't have that advantage, so over the years - especially in the last two hundred years - they had to develop various types of technology and come to learn all forms of science to better understand and comprehend the world around them. Where are the magicals moving to progress the studies of magic even further? In one sense of the term, Tom Riddle was the last true innovator of magic." She then stared at Severus. "Would you agree to that?"
A nod. "Yes, but I would argue that there has been innovation in magic as well, Tara. However, most of the innovators in Britain have been either normal-borns or normal-raised, influenced in their own ways by the passion towards technology and science normals often adopt." Severus nodded to his right. "Look there." As people looked, he explained, "That's Rose's godfather, Healer Hamilton St. John. He was working on his own version of the Wolfsbane Potion when Damocles Belby came out with his version back in 1982. When he got hold of what Damocles came up with, Hamilton used the knowledge he had - gleaned when he studied in Ariadne after the Second World War - to make improvements to the potion that would render any lunar canine therianthrope such as Rose's and Harry's current guardian, Remus Lupin, quite harmless and playful whenever the full moon comes out." A shake of the head. "Shocked the devil right out of me when I was visiting them one full moon and I saw them BOTH go out to play with Remus, Nancy Snagge and the others of their pack when they transformed."
Horrified gasps from the Parkinsons, the Greengrass sisters and the Davis sisters. "Were they ever bitten?" Calliope Davis then demanded.
"No, Calliope, they've never been harmed when they've gone out to play with the wolves," Severus said with an amused smile. "Part of Hamilton's work on Wolfsbane imposes the genetic memories and behaviour traits of wolf cubs onto those who take the potion. Thus, people like Remus and Nancy come to see people like Rose and Harry very much like what normal puppies would view their own brothers and sisters."
"Someone else to play with," Grouch mused. "Why do I smell gold now?"
"It would be an incredible marketing opportunity," Malcolm said. "Let's go over to the good healer and talk to him for a bit. Excuse us, everyone."
With that, Pansy's parents headed over to where Hamilton was standing. Watching them go, Chikage felt her eyebrow arch into the bangs of her hair, and then she gazed on Pansy. "Tell me something: Is there goblin blood somewhere in your ancestry?"
Pansy gaped. "WHAT?" she shrieked out as the Greengrass sisters, the Davis sisters and Michael all laughed. "I ought to hex you for that, Hirosaki!"
Chikage raised a hand to ward off a potential spell coming her way as more laughter escaped the others, and then a voice called out, "Lady Hirosaki!"
The traveller perked, and then she turned before nodding. "Marchioness Black," she said as Adara Riel walked up to them, dressed like many of the other people at this levée in normal clothes, though she also had a cape over her embossed with the crest of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black of Grimmauld poised over her heart. "Merry Christmas to you, Adara. Where are your mother and grandparents?"
Adara nodded off towards the Reevetor Lindsey. "Talking shop with Dame Wilma and some of the older Sheriffs right now. Merry Christmas to you too, Chikage." A nod to Pansy, Daphne and Tracey. "Everyone." As they greeted her back, she turned to the traveller. "So when will you be able to come visit the house? Grandmother Walburga - her magical picture, that is - is very anxious to meet you at last."
"I'll be available on Boxing Day since we don't celebrate a holiday like that in Japan," Chikage replied. "Of course, I'll try to keep Rose from losing her temper should she learn of my coming to visit you to examine Master Kreacher." She perked. "I do believe there's something else I can bring to Grimmauld with me when I come to visit. Would you ladies not agree with me?" she asked Pansy, Daphne and Tracey.
The three Slytherin freshmen were nonplussed by that comment, and then their eyes went wide as they remembered what they had learned when they first met Tamsin Gaunt and the Ghost Riders. "Right! Forgot all about that!" Pansy trilled out.
"Good point," Daphne noted.
"What?" Adara demanded.
"Now, Adara, if I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?"
The Canadian-born liege lady of the Blacks of Grimmauld blinked before she turned to stare intently at Chikage for a moment, and then she perked as footfalls heralded the arrival of one of the hosts of this gathering. "Excuse me, girls, but you and your parents wanted to be reminded of the time you wanted to go down to Cirencester to be at the Minister's Levée," Matilda Godwine stated with a knowing look on her face.
Hearing that, everyone groaned. "Right. The meat parade," Tracey breathed out.
"Would you ladies care for escorts?"
Eyes then locked on Chikage . . .
Cirencester, the Doge mansion, a half-hour later . . .
Elphias Doge blinked on hearing that shouted greeting, and then he grinned as he leaned down to accept Harry's and Rose's embraces. "My God! I can't believe how much you've grown since I last saw you, Harry!" he said as he patted the shoulders of the Boy-Who-Lived, and then he turned before his dark brown eyes began to mist over. "Oh, my Heavens . . .!" he breathed out before grasping Rose's shoulders. "And I thought Harry took after both his parents! You're the spit and image of Lily herself when she first began going to Hogwarts! Except for the glasses, of course!" He then laughed.
Rose sighed. "Is everyone like that, big brother?"
"What do you mean?" Harry asked.
"Always comparing you to Dad and Mom?"
A nod. "Sometimes. But most often, they just say it once and forget about it."
A moan. "Thank the Spirits for that!" Rose breathed out.
Laughter filled the recreation room of the Doge mansion, where the Potter siblings and their companions had just flooed in from Reevetor Lindsey. Accompanying them were Remus Lupin, Hamilton St. John, Hermione Granger (who was escorting Harry), Chikage, Adara Riel and her family (with Kevin Entwhistle as Adara's escort), the Parkinsons (Sally-Anne Perks acting as Michael's escort for the day), the Greengrasses (with Justin Finch-Fletchley acting as Daphne's escort) and the Davises (with Dean Thomas acting as Tracey's escort for the day), not to mention Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Tara Fronsac. Immediately, the headmaster of Hogwarts handled all the introductions for his old classmate. Once that was done, Elphias then beckoned them to the main reception hall where the Minister's Levée was currently being held. "My Lady Baroness?" Harry then said as he offered his arm to Hermione, a smile on his face.
"Thank you, My Lord Marquess," she replied as she slipped her arm around his, and then they headed out of the room side-by-side.
Immediately, Michael, Kevin, Justin and Dean offered their arms for their "dates for the day," which were taken by Sally-Anne, Adara, Daphne and Tracey as they headed out of the room. Chikage then offered her arm to Pansy, who took it as they headed out of the room. Watching them go, the older people could only smile or nod in approval. "This should keep all the gold-diggers at bay for a bit," Malcolm noted.
"Until they find out about the others being muggleborn," Grouch then warned.
"Oh, I don't think that'll matter for long, Auntie Grouch."
Eyes locked on Rose. "What do you mean, Rose?" Severus asked.
Rose smiled. "Well, with Sally-Anne being a True Goblin Friend and having found the Meretrices of Wye and all the other rich families of Rhosan Green, Justin being descent of the Dorchesters of Kesteven, Hermione being descent of the Carters of Ifield, Dean coming from the Masons of Aelius Bridge and Kevin descent from the Battersbys of Accrington . . . " And with that, she headed off to join her brother and friends.
The others watched her go. "I do believe we need to start spreading some rumours around the room," Cyrus Greengrass then proposed.
"That sounds like a perfect idea, Cyrus!" Allan Davis said. "Let's go!"
And with that, they were off . . .
"Cousin Draco!" Adara said as she held out her hands. "How are you?"
"I'm well," Draco said as he grasped her hands, and then turned as his own sister and other maternal cousin came up to join them.
Adara smiled. "And you two must be Raven and Cassiopeia, right?"
"We are. Well met, cousin," Raven said as she grasped Adara's hand.
"Well met to the both of you," Adara said as she then exchanged hand greetings with Cassiopeia, and then she looked around the room, quickly noting the small groups of people standing off on their own. "My, this is quite a quiet gathering."
"Yeah, it normally is that way. Hey, Harry! Pans! Daph! Trace!"
"Hey, Draco!" Harry said as he offered his hand. "Where're Vince and Greg?"
"Where else? By the food; it was nice of Thérèse to let them come down to be with their parents today," Draco said as he shook Harry's hand, and then nodded to where Thérèse Peverell was now standing close to where the snack bar was located. And sure enough, there were both the younger Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, eating away.
Sally-Anne turned, and then grinned as Libera Meretrice came up to embrace her, delivering a warm kiss to the normal-born's lips. "Libera! What are you doing here?"
"Thérèse brought them down, too," Draco explained as the other Meretrice sisters and their fellow first years from Rhosan Green quickly broke off from whoever they were speaking to so they could join their classmates. "They needed to meet up with people so they could reconnect to all of their ancestors' old allies in the Wizengamot."
"And we seem to be making some headway," Vesta Meretrice stated as she leaned over to kiss Draco on the cheek - which instantly made him blush - before she turned to gaze on her housemate. "Friend Michael, seeing that my sister would prefer to be in the close company of her beloved Sarah, would you be offended if I took her place?"
"Not at all, my lady," Michael said as he offered his arm.
She took it, and then escorted him off to rejoin the small gathering of elder witches she had been conversing with close to the main doors. Watching them go, Hermione then sighed. "That's another great strength people like you have, Draco."
Surprised by that comment by the normal-born from West Sussex, Draco turned to stare wide-eyed at her. "What do you mean by that, Hermione?"
"It's how fast and how easy you adjust to the demands of adulthood."
A sigh. "Well, I don't know what it's like for muggles, but people like myself have to worry about being ready to take over the headships of our families when the time comes," Draco then confessed. "It doesn't mean we don't have fun. We do. But we have the futures of our families to worry about, too." He then considered that for a moment before smiling. "I guess you muggle-borns have an advantage as well. You don't have to worry about that sort of thing; the novelty of magic must be overwhelming."
"Well, it is - and I have to admit that there's a part of me that's STILL trying to equate what I've learned in magic over the last four months with what I've learned in science classes in previous years at public school - but I don't think it'll be that overwhelming in the long run," she noted, and then she shrugged. "I guess the instant Professor McGonagall or any of the other senior teachers show up with the invitations, our destinies are set in stone. The sooner we come to fully accept that - while still remembering our roots - the better we'll be in the long term."
"And that's a wise attitude to possess, young lady."
Everyone turned. "Oh, Mother!" Draco called out as Narcissa came up to join them, and then he moved to perform introductions for the new arrivals.
Immediately, the matriarch of the Malfoys of Cumbria was taken away by the impeccable manners people like Justin, Kevin and Dean were all quick to show her. "Well met to you all," she then declared after the last courtly kiss was delivered. "I've heard of the lessons you muggle-borns have been taking thanks to Miss Peverell and Miss Fronsac since they became Free Witch Apprentices at the school last month. I'm glad to see that you're readily following in the footsteps of Harry's and Rose's mother."
"Not all the way to the end, of course, Aunt Narcissa," Harry then noted.
Narcissa blinked, and then she blushed. "Indeed, I hope not, Harry. What happened to your parents was a tragedy. Still, I'm glad Sir Glaston was there for your sister and your mother when they needed him the most." She then gazed on Chikage. "Was that what your grandfather expected would happen with that spell, Chikage?"
"Indeed he did expect it, though clearly not to the level that Grand-uncle's spell actually reached out even beyond the borders of Somerset, Mrs. Malfoy," the traveller then stated as she gazed on Raven and Cassiopeia, thus openly acknowledging that they both had been saved by the Desidero Infantis that had been cast on the evening of Hallowe'en in 1981. "Then again, it does conform to certain elements of not only Japanese morality, but also the morality of many other cultures. After all, would you not gladly sacrifice your own life to protect your children?"
"Of course I would!"
"Then - regardless of the fact that a life was lost that evening . . . and that another life would be extinguished a little over four months later - the balance was truly on the side of right as I can now sense SIX people were touched by the magic of that spell. Rose, Raven and Cassiopeia being three of them." Chikage then sighed. "We pray such sacrifices are not necessary, but deep down, we realise that there is no higher imperative that would drive anyone into action than 'child in danger!'"
"Indeed, friend Chikage, you are correct about that," Fauna Meretrice said.
"And the magical worlds are not alone in feeling that way, Fauna," the traveller then added. "In the normal world, firefighters and police officers gladly sacrifice their lives to save babies trapped in a burning building or a wrecked vehicle. Look at what happened when the Titanic struck the iceberg on the evening of 14 April 1912. The call was automatic by Captain Smith: 'Women and children first.'" She decided not to bring up the class differences in play during that horrible evening that had cost the lives of many third-class women and children when the great liner succumbed to her mortal wound and slipped into the icy waters off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland the following morning.
The others all nodded. "I think that wizarding tradition classes should be mandatory for all normal-borns and normal-raised children who are coming to Hogwarts," Justin then stated, which made Narcissa and Draco both gape in surprise at him. "I have to admit, I felt pretty lost at times before Thérèse and Tara came along to tutor us on all these things. Remember when we celebrated your birthday, Hermione?"
A moan. "Don't remind me, Justin!"
"What happened?" Narcissa asked.
"We were all invited to share in the birthday cake and give presents to Hermione in the Great Hall that night," Sally-Anne answered. "All the ghosts were there."
Narcissa's breath caught in her throat. "It was pretty scary, Aunt Cissa, but Chikage here was quick to quell all our fears," Daphne then stated.
Surprise crossed the older woman's face. "Oh? How so?"
The traveller smiled. "Remember one thing when it comes to ghosts, Mrs. Malfoy. They may understand why they were not allowed to fully pass on into the next life, but for most of their time caught in such a state of transition in our world, they're bored!" As Draco's mother gaped, Chikage then sighed. "In the meantime, I do believe we need to head over to greet the Minister; he looks a little bit tired and needs to have his spirits brightened before the end of the levée. Everyone, shall we?"
Nods from the others as they headed over as a group to greet Cornelius Fudge. Watching them go, Narcissa found herself nodding in quiet appreciation at how much her son's classmates - especially the muggle-born amongst them - were working to forge ties together with each other regardless of their blood status or other factors that had so badly divided previous classes, especially during the years the Purification War had come to nearly rip British wizarding society apart. Noting that look, Draco then sighed. "They're not as bad as I once thought them to be," he then admitted.
She gazed at him, and then she nodded. "Indeed they aren't, Drake. Then again, I don't think any muggle-born is really that bad in the long term. And if people like Hermione - who indeed is getting close to Harry - are willing to give our society a chance if they're so desperate to learn about our morals and traditions, we should give them every chance they can get." A sigh. "Perhaps this time, others will see the virtues of such a thing and not automatically slide into Riddle's camp."
Draco blinked, quickly noting that Lucius wasn't close by. "Do you really think the Dark Lord will come back, Mother?" he then asked in a low whisper.
"Severus is very much convinced of it, my son. We all must be prepared."
Draco nodded, his hand reaching over to grasp Raven's . . .
Beckery Hill, the Reevetor Somerset, late that evening . . .
"That . . . "
Eyes locked on Rose. "What, kitten?" Remus asked, smirking.
"That had to be the most BORING thing I've ever done!" Rose then spat out. The levée at Lindum Colonia had ended some minutes before. After the Dursleys had been transported by floo back to their home in Little Whinging - much to Harry's and Rose's private delight, their cousins just LOVED travelling that way! - so they could sleep in their own beds in preparation for the arrival of Vernon's sister Marge the next day for Christmas celebrations, the Potter siblings and Chikage had come straight back to Beckery Hill. They had been joined by Thérèse Peverell and Tara Fronsac; much to Remus' surprise and Lilian's amusement, Harry once again found himself once more in the lap of the woman who had been born from the last soul-replica that Tom Riddle accidentally lodged into his head over ten years before. "Even if I don't like helping run the Sheriffs' Levée, I at least can enjoy decent conversations with people, Uncle Moony!" the young Magical Sheriff of Somerset then complained before sipping her apple juice. Everyone was now seated around the dining room table enjoying a late snack before going to bed. "All the people at Grand-uncle Elphias' place were doing was either commenting on how much I look like Mom or trying to convince me to meet up with some boy I might be going to school with!"
"You can say that again, Rose," Harry mused. "Even if I had 'Mione with me the whole time we were there, people were going crazy trying to convince me to meet some other girl, even older girls!" A disgusted look crossed his face. "'Oh, she doesn't seem proper to me! A dentist? What in Merlin's name is that, anyway? Some sort of muggle soothsayer?'" A moan. "Mudbrains, the whole damned lot of them!"
"You are pretty powerful politically, Harry. And the whole 'boy-who-lived' fame is something that just can't be denied no matter how much either you or Rose scream out the truth of what happened that night," Remus said before sipping his tea. "You just don't understand how bad it really became for us in 'mainstream' society, especially in the latter part of the 1970s right up to ten years ago when Riddle finally attacked your parents. People were dying and disappearing almost every week." He sighed. "I know now that in some cases, those who disappeared were saved by the Magical Sheriffs since they were muggleborns shielded by the Loyal Oath to the Crown and had requested that protection. But we didn't know any of those things back then. All we knew is that friends and people who would never wish anyone harm were gone, never to be seen again."
"So why didn't Albus do anything to really press the fight against Tom, Remus?" Thérèse asked. "You had pretty powerful duellists in the Order. Alastor Moody, for example."
"They were too afraid to allow themselves to slip into the dark."
Eyes locked on Lilian. "It was a war. And one side didn't wish to fight it AS one," Chikage then stated. "I would assume it was Professor Dumbledore's experience with his former lover back in the 1940s that prompted such an attitude."
A nod. "I think so. Much that I can understand the desire for people to think the best of another person, there were times that Albus took it a little too far," Lilian noted. "Yes, there were the honest ones. Severus, for example. But what of people like Lucius Malfoy and all those who used the 'Imperius Defence' after they were caught red-handed in Death Eater uniforms and with a book's worth of unforgivable curses having been unleashed from their wands?" A shake of the head.
"And now there is a further complication."
Eyes locked on the traveller. "The ebony meson thing, right?" Harry asked.
"Yes," Chikage breathed out. "In my universe, ebony meson radiation poisoning - though not commonly known to medical experts worldwide - IS seen as a mitigating circumstance excuse when it comes to people who are caught doing criminal acts, even the extreme ones like premeditated murder or various acts of terrorism." A sigh. "Unfortunately, I do not possess any sort of true scientific knowledge when it comes to how ebony meson ends up affecting a person's thought processes. My half-sister Rinrin is far more scientifically inclined to that end; SHE would understand it more than I can. Another co-survivor of the Second Kantō quake, Satomi Hakase - she's a classmate of Kaede Nagase's and Setsuna Sakurazaki's from Mahora - is a technomage, knowledgeable in how magic, science and technology can interact in a positive way."
"Technomancy is considered 'dark' in the eyes of 'mainstream' society," Remus warned, and then he chuckled as he added, "Even if there are accredited technomages living in Britain."
An eyebrow arched. "Really?"
A nod. "Yes. They all travelled overseas - usually to America, Canada or Japan - to study the concepts after they graduated from Hogwarts. Some of them tried to introduce benign inventions to mainstream society, but it was shot down by the Wizengamot and outlawed." Remus then smirked as he recalled something. "Pity that such a law was judged as going against the spirit of the 'fair commerce' clauses of the Separation Act and the whole thing was declared Sine Gravitas Magicae Legis - without the weight of magical law - by the Magical Privy Council in 1974 when it came to all those who have sworn the Loyal Oath. THAT would make the mudbrains in the Wizengamot go crazy if that ever got out." He then laughed as he gazed on Lilian. "Remember when we visited Glasgow and saw Master Franklin's shop?" he asked.
Lilian giggled. "Well, I wanted one!" Rose then whined.
"One what?" Chikage, Tara and Thérèse asked in sync.
Before anyone could answer, a voice then called out from below, "Hello!"
"Up here, Albus!" Tara called back.
In a minute, Albus came into the room after he had flooed into the bottom floor of the Reevetor, two wrapped Christmas packages in hand. "Ah, there you all are!" he called out. "I trust we're all recovering from the fun we had today?"
"WHAT fun, Grandpapa?" Rose moaned.
Laughter filled the room. "Yes, I too find levées to be quite boring for the most part, Rose. Though there are the wonderful times when you meet someone new and unique, especially when I first met Raven Malfoy and Cassiopeia Lestrange at the Minister's Levée the winter before we found out about you." He then turned to Harry. "In the meantime - much to my surprise - I seem to be forced to play one of Santa Claus' elves today. The Weasleys passed this on to you, Harry."
Harry took the first package that the headmaster possessed, and then placed it onto the table. Drawing out one of his wands, he then whispered a complex detection spell that Remus had taught him. He then stopped as a puff of red smoke then emerged from the wrapping. "Um, Grandpapa . . . " he trilled out. "What is she trying to prove?"
"No doubt - if indeed, this is Mrs. Weasley behind that compulsion spell you just found on the package - she is attempting to circumvent what Rose forced on her back in September," Chikage then noted before sipping her tea. "Rose, what did Doctor St. John find out about what was going on with Ronald's sister Ginevra?"
"Pretty much the same sort of botched-up child's cap her brother had. Uncle wouldn't tell me anything more about that; doctor-patient confidentiality," Rose said, her body shivering slightly at the fact that Molly Weasley was STILL trying to force her will over her big brother Harry.
"Why would she still try to do such a thing?" Lilian demanded. "Doesn't she understand what the penalties concerning line theft ultimately are?"
"No doubt, she believes Harry is still quite ignorant of such things, Lilian," Albus said with a sad shake of the head. "Or possibly, she believes - as her own family, the Prewetts, were once of quite high social standing, though not possessing a seat in the Wizengamot - she won't be affected by any attempted backlash on Harry. After all, Harry's magical guardian is a werewolf." He gave Remus an apologetic look on saying that word. "In the eyes of 'mainstream' society, Remus has no rights over Harry whatsoever. Lilian would possess even lesser standing over Harry than Remus does. And as Arthur and Molly were close friends to James and Lily . . . "
"They - especially Molly - would feel it within their rights to press forth any attempts at taking magical custody over Harry," Lilian finished.
"Indeed." A sigh. "I am sorry about that, Harry. I didn't suspect . . . "
He turned to Tara. "Take a good look at your glasses," she advised.
The headmaster blinked, and then he slipped off his lenses as he focused his mage-sight on it. He then blinked several times before breathing out, "Oh, my . . . "
"She hexed your GLASSES?" Rose shrilled as she bolted up to her feet. "Why, I'm going down there and I'm going to personally drag that mudbrain to . . .!"
She spun on her family's houseguest. "WHAT?"
Chikage had a smirk on her face. "There are other ways of dealing with an obstinate and overbearing mother, Rose," she advised. "Professor, why don't you take that package and hold onto it. As I recall, Ronald's elder brothers elected to remain at Hogwarts for the holidays to get in extra study time. Tell Percy about this."
Albus blinked, and then hummed. "Much that I would prefer to keep quiet about this - especially if Tom does return, thus forcing me to bring together the Order of the Phoenix once again - I can see the virtue of doing that."
"Percy is pretty much a stickler for the rules, Grandpapa," Harry advised.
A nod. "A good point, Harry. I can see him becoming Head Boy in a couple of years if he keeps up such a strong scholastic performance as well as adheres to his school duties as a prefect. Very well, Chikage. I will do as you suggest." He then smiled as he handed the other package over. "In the meantime, Harry, I do believe you would like to have that back. It's your father's invisibility cloak."
Harry blinked, and then he grinned. "Thanks!"
"Oh, my! If only James was here!" Remus noted.
Laughter filled the room . . .
Some minutes later . . .
"You gave away one of the Hallows, Albus."
Albus stopped, and then he turned back to gaze on Thérèse. "I do not wish to succumb to the temptation bringing the Hallows together would give me," he admitted before walking into the reception room of the Reevetor Somerset, where Rose's and Harry's groundskeeper Clare Phillips was waiting, stoking the fire of the floo portal so that the headmaster could return directly to his office at Hogwarts. "Much that I have long understood the power behind the wand I seized from Gellert back in 1945, I have done my best to fight off the darker influences the Elder Wand forces on me."
"It'll be a losing battle."
He stopped to gaze on her. "Can you be sure?"
"You remember The Tale of the Three Brothers, Albus," Thérèse stated. "As soon as Antioch got the Deathstick from whoever created it - if he didn't create the damned thing himself, by the way! - people were killing each other left and right to get control of it." She pointed to the holstered wand in the headmaster's sleeve. "It IS a weapon meant for battle, Albus. It won't be denied no matter how much you might wish or hope otherwise. If I were you - and if you really are serious about not wanting to give into the temptation of bringing together all the Hallows - I'd bury that thing somewhere safe and obliviate myself of the knowledge of where you hid the thing!"
Surprised by the passion in her voice over the matter of his wand, Albus then asked, "Why are you so concerned about what happens to me, Thérèse?"
She blinked, and then she sighed. "I think I know what else the 'horcrux' Tom made of my mother's family ring might also be."
Albus paled. "Oh, my word . . .!"
"And thanks to what Tom wished for when I was 'conceived,' I have no idea where the damned thing might be hidden," she lamented. "I don't have proof positive of the ring bearing the Stone, but there WAS a symbol etched inside the ring crystal."
"A triangle with a circle contained within it, both vertically cut by a line?"
A shake of the head. "I'm not truly sure."
The headmaster sighed. "If it is that, Thérèse, then the ring IS the Stone." He gazed at her. "Are you concerned about your sister's spirit within it?"
A wry smile. "Funny. Now that I have two sisters - and the potential to gain three more after that - I really like the idea of having a family at last."
He lowered his head. "I should have listened to you, Ryūji . . . "
She shook her head. "We can't always keep our heads buried in the past, Albus."
A nod. "True. Anyhow, thank you for telling me about that, Thérèse." He then perked. "Oh! I just remembered! Tamsin told me she had the chance to speak with Merope's spirit in London where the orphanage was. Have you had that chance?"
"It'll probably be tomorrow. Tammy and the girls are coming here with Regulus Black so that Chikage can take him over to Grimmauld to introduce him to Adara."
Albus nodded. "See if Merope's image has the ring on her."
Thérèse concentrated for a moment as she tried to recall what she did know of her mother's family ring. "What if she doesn't have it?" she asked.
"Then we must pray to luck that somehow, the ring will appear." He then smiled. "Anyhow, I won't keep you from Tara and the others. Happy Christmas, Thérèse."
"You, too, Albus."
Reevetor Somerset, Tuesday 25 December, early morning . . .
"Thérèse . . .?"
"Hmmm . . . what is it, Harry?"
"I really like sleeping with you."
Hearing that, the blonde, ponytailed soul-replica of the Dark Lord Voldemort could only smile before she leaned over to kiss his cheek. "And I really like you," she whispered before pulling him closer to her.
Fortunately for Harry - as he did NOT want to explain something as embarrassing as sleeping with a bare-naked woman to Rose of all people! - Thérèse always wore a beautiful sleepshirt that Tamsin Gaunt had got for her from a place on Bond Street in London, even when sleeping alone. And while Harry certainly didn't mind now that the woman whose soul had been lodged in the scar on his forehead for a decade wanted to share a bed - and would one day gladly give up her maidenhood to him - he still found himself blushing heavily at the idea of actually sharing a bed with a woman who, in one sense of the term, was old enough to be his very own grandmother!
Pop! "Good morning, Master Harry! Mistress Thérèse!"
He blinked, and then looked over, his blurred eyesight quickly locking in on the pretty human-shaped house elf standing by his bed. Before he could reach for his glasses, they soon appeared over his eyes, clearing up his eyesight so he could focus on the smiling face of one Elizabeth Bunter. "Oh, 'morning, Bessie! Breakfast?"
"All ready for both of you," she proudly declared with a snap of her fingers, which allowed a large tray full of hot food to appear. "Everyone else is up and Master Remus has gone to the West Gate to await the arrival of Mistress Tamsin and her friends. Clare is down by the floo to await the arrival of everyone from Hogwarts."
And with that, Bessie popped out of the room. "She is really powerful," Thérèse commented as both of them slowly sat up and stretched themselves. "Can't believe that Ryūji would dedicate his studies to finding some way to make elves human."
"Well, I'm glad Grand-Uncle did that," Harry noted.
She paused for a moment, and then she sighed. "Lilian. Yeah, I can see that."
"Do you miss your mom?"
She perked on hearing that question, and then she smiled as she gazed over his shoulder at him while he got out of bed and moved to slip a housecoat on. "Hard to miss something or someone you never really knew," she confessed. "She died when I was born, remember? Tammy had the chance to meet her ghost near the orphanage where we grew up; it's right next to Wimbledon Common in London. When she and the Ghost Riders come here, Tara and I'll go down to visit the site and maybe get the chance to meet Mother." A sigh. "I don't know what I'll do."
"What do you mean?"
"What do you say to a person you've never known yet had such an impact on your life?" Thérèse wondered. "After all, she fell in love with my father, used Amorentia to make him marry her and make my life possible, and then she was abandoned and left destitute when she stopped feeding him the potion. She didn't know enough to find her way back to where her family lived in Little Hangleton." A sigh. "Heck, I don't even remember where they lived. Probably because Tom hid a 'horcrux' there, no doubt."
"I would suggest you stop worrying about it for the day, Thérèse."
She gasped on hearing that voice, and then turned to glare at Chikage, who was now standing at the doorway to Harry's bedroom, a cup of tea in hand. "Damn! Don't do that to me, Chikage! Do you want to get hexed?" she snapped as Harry laughed.
The traveller didn't reply, though her eyes were sparkling . . .
Little Whinging, 4 Privet Drive, that moment . . .
"Oh, my heavens! You hired a governess?"
"Yes, we did, Marge! This is Natalie Dingain; she's from Derry," Petunia said as she waved to the smiling woman in the well-fitting clothes standing nearby, holding both Anne and Violet in her arms. "She just came to work for us when the holidays started; fortunately, Vernon got enough of a raise to afford someone like her."
A deep bow by the raven-haired, dusky-skinned woman with the beautiful green eyes. "I'm very pleased to make your acquaintance, Ms. Marjorie."
Hearing that, the overweight woman in the plaid clothes with the hunter's jacket and the low-cut skirt jerked before she laughed. "Oh, enough of that! Call me 'Marge!' So where are the others, Petunia?" she said as she beckoned Ripper inside.
"Going through the presents right now up in Dudley's bedroom," Petunia said as she beckoned Marge upstairs, where the men of the house were. "It's a competition between Dudley and Alfred as to who gets to open their presents the fastest!"
Marge laughed. "Well, I got some things for all of them!" she said as she patted her bag. "C'mon, girls!" she then beckoned the Dursley twins. "Presents!"
Natalie smiled as she knelt down to allow Anne and Violet to get back to the floor, and then they scampered off after their mother and paternal aunt. Watching them go, the human-form house elf could only smile. Natalie Dingain once belonged to a reclusive wizarding family from County Derry - in that aspect, Petunia had told her sister-in-law the truth about where Natalie had come from - who had run afoul of the Great Mistress Dame Louise Coyle and learned the harsh penalties for disobeying the Magical Royal Proclamation of the Noble Tribes, especially given that her former master had made her punish herself for things that never warranted such punishment; he was now spending ten years in H.M. Prison Gonebren's "A" Block as a result while his wife had been totally obliviated of his existence, much less the existence of her family's old house elf.
And she had a new family to serve, one with three powerful young magical humans still in the early years of their development to bond to. Even better, she was more than guaranteed to have an almost free hand when it came to making sure her Master Alfred, Mistress Anne and Mistress Violet would grow up safe and sound now that the null-magical shield that had protected Little Whinging for over five years was finally down. Of course, such news had been relayed to the proper authorities in the Ministry of Magic and Gringotts, with the proper words spoken by the Great Master Sir Reginald Spelthorne to make sure those who would wish the Great Master Harry Potter and the Great Mistress Dame Rose Potter harm would not learn that their wonderful cousins were "in the open" and could be attacked. Of course, the foolish mudbrains who might try such an awful thing against her new masters and their family wouldn't even BEGIN to suspect there was a house elf in the Dursley home protecting the "mudbloods" living here. Not to mention another living with the "squib" at 12 Wisteria Walk.
Speaking of which . . .
Natalie smiled as she headed to the kitchen, where a raven-haired woman with Slavic features on her face was seated, enjoying some tea. "Happy Christmas, Julie."
Julie Bowmaker smiled as she gestured with her hand to close and seal the door, and then she placed a silencing spell over it to ensure that Vernon's visiting sister wouldn't know she was here. She ignored Ripper, who had followed Natalie into the kitchen and sat by the refrigerator, his nose twitching as his own senses picked up that these strange humans weren't exactly human at all, but he couldn't begin to understand what exactly they were. "Happy Christmas, Natalie. How are the kids?"
"Oh, they're alright. Happy to get presents and all. And Mistress Arabella?"
"Happy to have her floo back, not to mention someone else in the house to talk to when she gets lonely," Julie said. The former servant of an old pureblood family from the Midlands who had been almost as vicious towards their elves as some of the traditionally "dark" families were reputed to be, Julie - along with four other elves - had been rescued by the Magical Sheriff of Warwickshire, the Great Master Sir Orion Matthews, two years ago. The parents of that family had been both sentenced to Gonebren for ten years while their daughters, both of whom were the same age as Master Alfred Dursley, had been dispatched to relatives in Australia so they could be raised in a much more open and accepting environment. Of course, hearing what was planned for her old masters' "precious little ones" - and how her old masters had screamed their outrage at the thought of their little girls being sent to live with colonials! - had made Julie feel a private sense of satisfaction even if she had been forced to endure a long period of hollowness not being properly bonded to a family had left her during the time she had been in Oberon's Sanctuary. "As soon as Master Alfred, Mistress Anne and Mistress Violet are old enough, Mistress Arabella will give them their own kneazles to take care of before they go to Hogwarts."
Natalie hummed as she gazed at Ripper. "Someone might not be happy about that."
Julie smiled as she snapped her fingers. Instantly, a rather BIG bone with some beef still on it appeared before Ripper. The bulldog yipped in surprise on seeing such a thing appear before him like that, and then he sniffed at it. Quickly smelling good food awaiting him, he snared the bone with his jaws, and then moved to leave the kitchen. Julie waved her hand to unlock the door, and then opened it to allow Ripper out. "Easy way to make him happy," she noted before finishing her tea. "See you later."
With a pop!, she was gone. Natalie vanished the cup of tea, and then moved to monitor the food she was preparing for Christmas lunch; Petunia had insisted that, while she didn't mind the use of elf magic for both expediency and in times of emergency, food in the house was to be made the normal way to make sure her children would understand patience. A moment after Julie had popped out, the door then opened, revealing a wide-eyed Marge. "Where on Earth did you get such a huge bone for Ripper, Miss Dingain?" she demanded.
"A friend of mine who works for a cat breeder on Wisteria Walk brought it over when I told her you'd be bringing your pet, Ms. Marge," Natalie said with a smile.
"Oh," Marge said with a nod before heading back into the living room.
A moment later, the door opened to reveal Vernon Dursley. He had a look on his face. "Did Julie have to give the damned dog such a huge bone?" he hissed.
"He looked hungry and was getting a little too curious for his own good, Master Vernon," Natalie whispered back as she winked at him.
He chuckled before stepping out of the room . . .
To be continued . . .