CHÌ MI NA SGORAN FO CHEÒ:
ONLY WINDS AND RIVERS, LIFE AND DEATH
Pairings and Main Characters: Harry/Draco; Teddy/Victoire; Ron/Hermione and canon pairings; Ernie Macmillan; Morag MacDougal; Narcissa Malfoy; Andromeda Tonks; Justin Finch-Fletchley (/Blaise Zabini); Albus Severus Potter/Scorpius Malfoy; past Harry/Ginny and Draco/Asteria; Minerva; Kingsley; Arthur/Molly; Dudley(/Elspeth née Bulstrode, Millicent’s Squib cousin); Colonel Fubster
Summary: Teddy Lupin, who has a job of academic research in hand, blags his godfather and his cousin – Uncle Harry and Uncle Draco – into taking with him, an Autumn voyage from Orkney to Inverness, and through the Caledonian Canal to Fort William and the Road to the Isles, in hopes that they’ll get sorted and realise they’re as destined a couple as their sons are. He’d not thought that it should want trows, hogboons, revenant Vikings, the great each-uisge of Loch Ness, assassins, international incidents, and the People of Peace to effect that end.
Word Count: 60,200
Warnings: Past (offstage) Character Death, Violence
Genre: Action/Adventure, Humor, Mystery / Thriller, Romance
Canon: Epilogue Compliant
Notes: Och, it’s awfy Scottish, chust. An’ Hielan’ a’ that, forbye.
I. 'Fare yet forward,' cried Magnus Jarl: 'not I, but God, is helmsman here': The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry / The Deerness Reel / The Stronsay Waltz / The Hattie Man o' Ree / The Muckle Supper / The Maid o' Cowdean Knowes
But lifetimes are shaped by what will be, not by where you are.
-- The Saga of the Earls of Orkney
Tak' the floor....
-- Robbie Shepherd MBE; the late David Findlay afore him
Colonel JJS Fubster to Major FER Tait-Sticklar
MY DEAR REGGIE,
... I'm very glad to hear that you're not too greatly troubled by your old injuries: any man who can yet, under the circs, cast a fly and land his fish is doing well enough.
My own news is much less hearty, although -- and I confess it seems callous -- rather for the best.
That ghastly woman with whom, for my sins, I've been saddled as a neighbour for far too many years -- Marjorie Dursley -- has gone at last to her reward, if any is due her. De mortuis nil nisi bonum, certainly, but were we Kirk rather than Piscies, I'd have no small doubt of her election: she was the sort of woman John Knox warned of. One must keep in with one's neighbours, in the South of England quite as much as during a Deerness winter, but she was a trying person, all vulgar-refained, aping the manners of her betters and doing it rather poorly. One can sweat the callowness out of such a subaltern; there is nothing whatever one can do for, or with, such a woman in civilian life. Poor form is not a sin as such; but there was a cruel streak in her that drove her. You will recall that she it was who set me to drown the dog which I instead quietly sent to you, and who was your faithful companion for so many years: I am glad to know, I may add, that Old Buggins' grandson is still occupying a place at your feet before the hearth.
I think the parish gave a quiet sigh of relief, as one, when the old girl finally eat and drank herself into her grave....
Colonel JJS Fubster to the Revd MOR Fubster MA
MY DEAR COUSIN MAGNUS,
Reggie Tait-Sticklar will have told you that that awful Dursley woman who was my most vexing neighbour is gone at last. I was forced, naturally, to be polite to her people, that great fat man who was her brother and his desiccated wife, when they turned up for the funeral (in rather nakedly evident hopes of a legacy, I may say).
Well, a damned curious thing, really, but that horrid son of theirs, the one she coddled and slobbered over like the worst sort of comic aunt, ended by shaping quite well: I'd not have recognised him. He's married now, to a young woman who appears at all points quite out of the top drawer (a cut above the Dursleys, certainly: several cuts), and seems to have become a much more gentlemanly person himself, and keeps hale and in training to boot, which is something of a minor miracle and speaks well of his having achieved discipline despite it all. I really think his reformation will survive even his having been left everything by his aunt, which news did not please his parents in the least, I rather gathered.
They -- Dudley and Elspeth -- have a daughter now, named Harriet: and thereby hangs a tale. I make quite certain I wrote, over the years, of Marge Dursley's lunatic ravings about her sister-in-law's nephew, Harry Potter; apparently -- and I cannot imagine that it comes as any surprise to anyone -- that young man, with whom Dudley to his credit is quite reconciled (his appalling parents are very much not), is Harriet's godfather and namesake, and for cause: he is by all accounts the opposite of the late Marge Dursley's character of him, a gallant young officer of very creditable antecedents (evidently, Petunia Dursley's sister married up or Petunia married very much down). This young Potter, Dudley tells me, lives in the West Country with his wife (a Wellesley, if I heard aright, which certainly says a good deal); Dudley's Elspeth's people are distant connexions of young Harry and his lady the both, and live, oddly enough, at Hartley Wintney, at the other end of my own county. I was disappointed not to have met him -- he apparently did turn up at the funeral, which was, if you ask me, damned dutiful of him -- but young Dudley, who, with Elspeth and Harriet, I have asked to stop when they are nearby, intends to effect an introduction. I always like to see what we have as young officers in these thin and piping times.
I regret that I was not able to visit this year, but my rheumatism is rather boringly persistent these days. If it were the least bit less tiresome, I should have come, like a shot: Hants is all very well, but there are days when I positively pine for the Bay and Swart Howe, Horsick and Canniemyre and Midbigging, and old Foubister itself. We Orcadians do, I suppose, never quite lose that attachment.
Mind you, with the latest upheavals in the village and the parish, anyone might wish himself well away. The fête planning this year has become an absolute balls-up on a scale I thought beyond the powers of mere civilians: commonly one wants a recent Staff College product to bugger things up quite this comprehensively. You'd think, wouldn't you, that I might have been at the least consulted, as a churchwarden, over the arrangements, but some damned young fool neglected to do so, and now they've set the damned thing on the same day as the village First XI match against Boorley Green -- which I might also have told them in my capacity as chairman of the bloody CC, had they had sense enough to ask....
Some years after....
Colonel JJS Fubster to the Revd MOR Fubster MA
MY DEAR COUSIN MAGNUS,
It was very good of you to come and see me last week in this bloody anteroom to eternity. I don't so much mind being crocked up -- not at my age: I've had a good long innings -- as I resent the way in which sisters and medicos and that lot treat one, when one is old and only physically frail. I should have done a great deal better to have got myself shot in Korea as a one-pipper or in some scrape in the long retreat from Empire, at least one shouldn't then suffer the indignity of being spoken to as if one were a rather backward five-year-old by some bloody infant newly qualified in ignoring patients and shuffling bumph in place of doing actual MO's work. Reggie, God rest him, used to swear terribly about the RAMC's competence, and one could forgive his attitudes granting that he did lose a hand for all their efforts, but there's not a Medical Officer in the Army I'd not prefer to this lot.
Do you remember Marge Dursley and her people -- I wrote to you about her funeral quite twenty years ago or more, I think. Of course you must: I've written from time to time about her nephew Dudley Dursley, his wife Elspeth, and their Harriet, and about his cousin Harry Potter. The elder Dursleys have also gone by now, and in the old man's case, no doubt, exchanged this life for all the sad variety of hell.
Curiously enough, Dudley brought Harry 'round to see me two days after you left to return to Mainland (the younger Dursleys have been very kind to me over the years, I suspect they feel we've a common thread of having suffered that awful woman). Young Harry is a widower now -- lost his wife, the Wellesley girl as was, in one of those damned terror attacks in London -- and quite a senior man (a youthful brigadier, I believe). It's bloody unfortunate you missed him by a week: he plans, as I understand it, to do some sailing this summer -- I imagine he's let a good deal of leave pile up -- from Kirkwall to Scotland and then down to Inverness and through the Caledonian Canal to Fort William and Corpach.
The fact is, I like the lad. And you're half a generation younger than I. I should be greatly obliged if you'd step in in my stead when he comes to Orkney to start the journey, actually, because, not to put too fine a point on it, I really don't anticipate that I'll last that long myself, and if I did, I couldn't very well make it back to Mainland to see him off. I'll be making only one journey home to Orkney, and that will be the last -- and for Heaven's sake don't let anyone in Hants talk you out of my firm instructions that I'm to be buried from St Olaf's, Kirkwall, by you personally.
Orkney notwithstanding, I've spent the greater part of my life in England and taken on the colouring; I suppose even you, devoted single-mindedly to the Kirkwall Ba Game as you are, will have heard the latest news of England in the Ashes. The Australians must be beside themselves....
Teddy was not, truly to blame, any more than were Ernie, or Morag; or indeed the Founders, for choosing to put the blasted school in the wilds of Alba.
And yet, perhaps, the Founders were to blame, they and Hengist of Woodcroft: for with the long centuries, Hogsmeade, for all its Saxon refugee foundation, and Hogwarts, sited in what had once been lands debatable between the Scots Crown and the Norse, rí and mormaer, captains and chieftains and the Lords of the Isles, and the earls of Orkney with a foot in both of the two most contending camps, had become entangled in the subtle magic of Scotland, and generations of young Wizards and Witches had been drawn into the toils, the unfelt and unseen filaments, of the delicate, hidden enchantment that Caledonia casts upon all who come to her.
And the Blacks, for all their Midlands origin, were inevitably captured and captivated over the years of association, and found themselves (when in Scotland) a sept of the Macleans; and the Marchbanks and Marjoribanks families were Scots of the Scots, and the Macmillans bide Macmillans aye, and the Blacks and the Potters were all of these several times over, and MacDougals and MacDonalds as well, Clann Somhairle, the Sons of Somerled the Summer-Viking, in the passage of the generations.
And still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland, and they in dreams behold the Hebrides.
And in Orkney, upon the strand, the sea cast runes of divination upon the shore, scrivening in the sands prophecies unscryed.
As he aged, father and widower, a man tempered, fined, and annealed by loss and struggle and victory against long odds, Draco but rarely thought back in waking hours to the insidious ensorcellment of Scotland that he had breathed in with the airs of his schooldays. He had too many other regrets to recall. And daily he grew more and more his mother's son, a Black and one of the best of them, own and true cousin to Sirius.
And upon the waters of the Great Glen's Canal, Seòlaid a' Ghlinne Mhòir, the trippers moved, and the exploring clever; and the fishing fleet -- stark and kibble and stuir the Scots, durf as the sea, the Gaelic men fulangach, tapaidh, brogach as their boats and ships -- passed safely between the implacable seas.
As he aged, father and widower, officer of Aurors, a man tempered, fined, and annealed by loss and struggle and victory against long odds, Harry but rarely thought back in waking hours to the insidious ensorcellment of Scotland that he had breathed in with the airs of his schooldays; or heard with his waking ear that more plangent call upon his heart that Scotia made to those even of her distant, part-English sons who had been appointed General Auror Commanding, Scottish Command. There were so many ancestral voices that whispered in his blood; yet always present, always there, springing in every pulse, whispered and beckoned the ancient incantings.
It had been a blue and gilt morning, a Ravenclaw morning, as blue and gold as that field of Azure powdered with lilies Or -- the golden lilies on the blue field -- that, suitable cadenced, formed a quarter of the Delacour arms, when Teddy Lupin, Old Ravenclaw, Victoire's betrothed and Fleur's son-in-law to be, his hair as blue and bronzen as the morning sky, stopped to see his godfather with an idle suggestion, a morning's inspiration.
'Teddy. There's tea. Unbugger your hair. Thank you.' The years of command, the years as the father of three children with his wife slain, had made Harry a man of lonely eminence, aridly military, a complete Senior Officer of Aurors at all points, who carried even into home life the virtues and limitations of that character.
Uncle Harry at his most repressive held no terrors for Teddy. His godfather was, he knew, as indulgent and as easily managed by a godson as by the children of his own getting; and Teddy Lupin was as capable of wheedling Uncle Harry as he was of wheedling Grandmother Andromeda. Not that he did so from mercenary motives: it pleased him, as it had pleased his father and his mother, to see the lines deep-bitten in Harry's face smooth into content, and the weariness dissolve into peace.
He dropped a kiss on his godfather's yet-unruly hair (pencilled now with early silver), changed his own to match, and sat down, smiling, and fetching an answering smile from Uncle Harry.
'You're up to something,' said Uncle Harry, mildly. 'What is it this time?'
'Other than cadging brekker?'
'Yes, although you'd not stop at that when you chose. Have you a plot in which to ensnare an indulgent godfather, or is Andy up to her tricks again?'
'I'm wounded,' said Teddy, laughing. 'Actually, I could do wounded -- care to see?'
'No, thank you. I dealt with your dear mother quite enough to know what a Metamorphmagus can find amusing. And I happen to have seen quite enough actual wounds in my time.'
'So you have,' said Teddy. He waited a moment in dumb insolence, of malice aforethought, until Uncle Harry had started to lap up the Oolong. 'What do you know about Lesbianism, Uncle Harry?'
After a swift self-Anapneo and a few cleaning charms for the tea, which had gone everywhere, Harry fixed his godson with a sternly godfatherly look. 'Teddy....'
'Is it just something blokes like to fantasise about -- the male gaze and all that -- or --'
'Teddy Lupin. If you and your fiancée -- my niece, I remind you, damn it all -- wish to experiment with, ah, potentialities that are possible only because you are a Metamorphmagus --'
'You'd rather not know?'
'Got it in one. Hope for you yet. For an Old Ravenclaw, my lad, you can be thick as two short planks, young Lupin.'
'It's all right, Uncle Harry. Victoire hasn't any wish to play about with it --'
'-- Nor do I.' (Teddy forbore to mention to his godfather his and Victoire's past indulgences, at school. He was fondly if naïvely satisfied in his mind that he had been the only Metamorphmagus to have discovered that the sliding stairways in the sex-segregated dormitories could be fooled in that fashion.) 'I merely wished to --'
'Plague your godfather?'
'Gauge to what extent my godfather has become the driest stick in the Royal Corps of Aurors.' Teddy could be disingenuous at need, and indeed when there was no need at all save his own amusement and self-satisfaction.
'Did you indeed? Damned impertinent of you. Have I ever indicated in any way that, for example, I've a problem with Su and Millie, let alone whatever the precise relationship is or isn't between Al and Scorpius?'
Teddy chuckled. 'They do like to keep us all guessing, don't they. Harking back to Dad and Sirius, do you think?'
'Ah.' Harry was suddenly and massively kindly. 'Is that what all this is in aid of, then? Remus and Sirius? You've always been rather ... well, you didn't have the chance to know your father, and --'
'Yes, well, it's one of the things I know I can talk to my godfather about, you didn't have the chance to know your parents either.'
'No,' said Harry, rather dryly. 'I expect, had either of us had the benefit of having parents, we'd both have been taught not to interrupt one another in every sentence.'
Teddy grinned, rather wolfishly. 'My Mum? Your father? By all accounts, they'd've taught us the bad habit by example.'
Harry could not forbear to smile. 'Actually, that's quite likely true. Look here, Teddy, you know what school can be like. I don't, actually, know the actual relationship, if there was one, between Sirius and Remus. However --'
'Uncle Harry -- damn it, I'm interrupting again, amn't I: sorry -- that's not really what I wanted to talk about either. I simply threw that bit out to jolly you a bit.'
'Did you, though?' Harry was politely disbelieving: which was wisdom. 'Fortunately, you succeeded: I've no idea why you amuse me when you're at your most annoying -- which, frankly, is when you're awake, you were a terrible pest from your cradle, and I strongly suspect that I'd break a subaltern or an OR who was half as infuriating as you are -- yet you do commonly manage to amuse. Right: job done, mission carried out, have a muffin and bugger off.'
Teddy secured a muffin first, and then replied. 'Oh, I did have another purpose, Uncle.' He paused, as if hesitant, and assumed a look of such seriousness that even Harry thought it might, possibly, be sincere. 'You've a good deal of leave coming, haven't you? Had you made any plans for it?'
'None that cannot be changed, if I act swiftly.'
'Well.... I mean. I do have the wedding coming up. Things change, I know that. And.... Well, I was wondering. I'd like to spend some of that time with you before I really do take that last step into adulthood, and marriage, and nappies no doubt, and all that bloody maturity.'
Harry was touched, although still wary: this was Teddy, after all, who had been so Slytherin even at eleven years that he'd blagged the Hat into putting him into Ravenclaw instead, so as to better devise his plans and be subject to less suspicion than attended a Slytherin by house. 'Teddy, you will always be my godson, you know. Of course I'll make time for you. What had you in mind to do?'
When Teddy replied, it was in a rush that appeared candid and sincere. 'Gran and Aunt Cissy have told me, you know, that when I was quite small, we went on a canal holiday. And, damn it, I keep hearing how much fun it was, and I don't remember any of it. Do -- d'you think we could take a sailing holiday? Orkney to Inverness and then the lochs and canals through the Great Glen to Fort William and Loch Linnhe?'
Harry knew he was lost. When Remus' and Tonks' son looked at him with that expression, he had, he knew, no more chance of holding out against it than when Jamie or Al or Lily did the same. Even as he knew in his bones he'd regret this, he assented.
The whole thing was Teddy's fault, Draco considered. Insinuating little bugger. Of all of Draco's regrets, which were approximately as numberless as leaves in Vallombrosa (Malfoys, of course, never dramatised), one of the most persistent was that he had not known his cousin Nymphadora -- if only to have known just what hexes she resorted to when called by her Christian name. (The Hat must have been dotty, not to have put her in Slytherin, if half what Aunt Andy said of her was to be credited.) And of all Draco's carefully maintained secrets, of which there were as many as lads to Ludlow come in for the fair (far be it from a Malfoy to exaggerate), one of the most ruthlessly repressed was the memory of his carefully dissimulated schoolboy pash, his adolescent mooning over, that tweedy incarnation of barely-restrained animality, Professor RJ Lupin MMA. No, he was never able, in the end, to deny his scapegrace, presuming, wheedling cousin anything.
The dimpsey was a darkling enamel of Prussian blue, amber, and citrine: evening was closing upon the land like the claw of a stooping raven.
'Ah. Teddy. Aunt Andromeda on the gad again, or have you turned up to cadge dinner -- also again?'
'Draco! You wound me.'
'I'm not that versed in wandless spells. Alas. I had rather thought, once I'd got safely past the hour of tea without your stopping by to eat up all my Gentlewizard's Relish, scythe through the cress sandwiches, and guzzle two pots of Ceylon, that I mightn't see you, but you've shown your usual low cunning in arriving in time for dinner -- if you like. You needn't dress.'
Teddy refrained from the obvious rejoinder about feasting in the nude.
Draco sighed. 'Does Aunt Andy feed you at all? I feel as if I -- and your gallant godfather, damn the man -- are providing all your provender and feeding, at our charges. Oh, very well, stay if you like, you may as well, it's ... lamb.'
Teddy grinned, wolfishly. 'Actually, Cousin-and-courtesy-Uncle Draco --'
'Oh, God, that never bodes well --'
'I was wondering. I mean ... well, you know I'm marrying soon.'
'I am the last person to give you advice on that topic.'
'Yes, well, you got Scorp by it, so there's no use your whinging. But, no, what I mean, actually --'
Draco was much more patient than he had been in his youth. That, however, was damnably faint praise. 'Out with it, damn it.'
'Aunt Cissy and Grandm'ma used to tell me tales that, when I was quite small, we all of us went on a canal tour, and I don't remember it, and, actually, before I settle down and All That, I was wondering, could we -- you and Uncle Harry and I -- perhaps take a tour of that sort?'
Draco, who remembered that disastrous canal tour All Too Well, Thank You, knew this to be a disastrous idea. He also knew it to be inevitable -- even if his mother were somehow not to hear of the idea and insist, as she certainly should do if she heard. It was bound to be ghastly, and it meant Potter, and his skin crawled at the thought, and he knew damned well that, even so, he'd not be able to refuse Teddy Lupin anything, and had best say --
'Yes. I mean, damn it, yes, I don't suppose there's any point trying to say no.'
Teddy beamed. 'Super. Thank you. I suppose,' said he, with the air of one who wants only to be persuaded, 'I should bugger off now and leave you to your dinner....'
Draco sighed, much more audibly this time. 'Oh-no-I-insist-really-you-must-stay,' said he, as flatly and mechanically as he could contrive.
'Brill!' Teddy's eyes were full of mischief managed, and his hair was now like a nimbus of molten gold, the ironic halo of a subversively postmodern angel. 'And lamb, as well: super.'
Draco decided it was by no means too early for a pre-prandial snifter. Bloody Ravenclaws.
What with one thing and another, and Scorpius and Al preparing for their last year at school and Lils to be got ready for her next-to-last, and with fending off the determined efforts of Fleur, Cissy, and Andromeda to 'assist' -- for which read, 'plan, meddle, arrange, and quite likely take over' (Bill, wisely, found himself called urgently away whenever the topic came up, and Victoire simply fell about laughing whenever the subject was broached) -- what with one thing and another, then, and the bureaucratic bumph, and Arrangements Generally, it ended by being a late Summertide voyage, indeed upon the cusp of Autumn. A wondrous time of year for scenery, but not precisely the best sailing weather: which fact dictated that they sail from Orkney, Arcaibh, Orkneyjar, to the North-eastern terminus of the Great Canal and proceed South and Westwards, rather than the reverse; but, there, as Harry said, at least it wasn't an Ashes Summer, so they needn't account for that in their planning. (No power on earth would induce Harry or Draco to confess to one of the few projects upon which, under the very noses of the Ministry, they had conspired. It was not generally known that the Whomping Willow was a bat-willow by species, and if the resurgence of England batting since the century's beginning seemed positively magical, that was no one's business but theirs, and it's not as if the Muggles knew, after all.)
The late light was long, slanting upon sea and silvered strand. In the harbour before them, in the Bay of Weyland, shipping rode to anchor, and behind them as they stood upon the quay rose the town and the Cathedral of the Royal Burgh of Kirkwall, Kirkjuvagr, the Kirk Voe, Kirkwaa, Baile na h-Eaglais: the town of many names, Scots, Gaelic, Norse, Orcadian Norn, striated with history and tongues.
And away beneath the light on the skin of the sea, deep and dark down and downwards, far away beneath the swan-way, lower far and darker than the road the whale takes, were elder things and eldritch, coeval of magic and of time. The Finfolk have never ceased to mourn the loss of Hildaland to the Goodman o' Thorodale in Evie, and bide ever vengeful, hating mortal folk for their losing Eynhallow of the night-horse and the bleeding corn of harvest; and in the dark depths of Finfolkaheem, they darkly plotted schemes deep-laid. The Sea Mither was yet in her days of reigning, and her power had not yet crumbled; but they knew, they knew, the Finfolk, that the Gore Vellye, the Autumn Tumult, was near, when, weakened, the Mither o' the Sea should be conquered once more, and auld, cauld Teran should come and set up anew his despotic rule, Winter gripping the islands and lashing the seas. They sensed a power and presence, a presence of power, inimical to them and alien, tasting of the tang of free things that go upon the lands and upon the hallowed lands and the upper sunlit waters, and in the free airs: a presence of power, challenging and unbearable to them, hateful, upon the seas and isles of Orkney; and if they might not yet in their malice do harm upon the great waters in the days of the Sea-mother, there were those upon land on whom they might call....
Magnus Fubster of Foubister, cousin of the late colonel, aptly fubsy -- Harry privately considered, with amusement, that had Muggles Animagus forms, the padre should be an Orkney Vole -- and rector but late retired of the Piscie church of St Olaf, stood with them, the light breeze ruffling his fine, white hair. He had for three days given them the warmest of Orkney welcomes and hospitality, and had become quite fond of them, two widowers with their young kinsman set upon a voyage that could be perilous. Even Teddy's determined foolery -- constructing a facile antiquarian argument that Orphir, by Houton Head upon Scapa Flow, was the Biblical land of Ophir:
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine:
and his immoderate laughter at his own notion that Tongue of Gangsta, on the Bay of Deepdale opposite, ought by rights to be the centre of Orkney rap -- had not reduced his fondness for them.
'She's rather peedie-small, isn't she, for three,' said the Rector, and hastened, politely, to add, 'though her lines are very sweet, mind you, and no doubt it's well to have three hands aboard, making light work of the sailing. Are you quite certain you'll not go short? You've little enough dunnage.'
This was true enough, and Draco was uneasy, for all Harry's assurances that the House-Elves had seen to everything and that all that they could possibly want was shipped aboard.
'We'll be fine, Padre.' Harry was crisply military. This should have reassured the Rector rather the more had Harry been an ornament of the Senior Service rather than so self-evidently a soldier. 'And thank you for your great kindnesses to us, we're inexpressibly obliged.'
They'd be fine and well?
Well and good, that bold assertion; yet the Finfolk had their plans laid, Huldrefolk on land their kinsmen. Rumour passed from trow to hogboon: that was of the Finfolk's doing, knowing Wizards were in Orkney, though they took not those men's measure. Only had they felt a presence, sensed three Wizards here amongst them, one a shifter of his seeming, two the elder, of great power. Little did they know who walked there, one the Master of the Hallows; only did they seek a vengeance, foment mischief, never knowing that the Master had they marked here. Foes beyond the Finfolk's power, as the dwellers on the dry lands whispered howe to howe at midnight, marking down as foes three Wizards, each of whom could strike them reeling. Fatal was the Finfolk's malice -- fatal only to the Finfolk, and the beings they had called on.
The old man nodded, resigned. 'You'll let me know you've arrived safely at Inverness?'
'We shall, sir. And I know we shall be in your prayers. Forgive me, but we must catch this tide.'
'Of course. Godspeed, then, and do keep in touch.'
Harry shook hands with the douce old cleric, and turned again towards the small yacht that awaited them. 'She is a beauty. Come along, Teddy. M- -- Draco.'
They walked through the unseen portal of the charms Harry had cast days before, and Teddy and Draco both gasped.
'She is a beauty,' said Harry, in a new tone.
'Good God, Potter.'
'The Draken Lange,' said Harry.
'I'm flattered.' Draco was struggling not to express awe.
'We're all of us Wessex,' said Harry, slyly. He'd not admit under Cruciatus that he'd thought of Draco in naming her.
Teddy was rapt in scholarly wonder. 'Not only a longship,' breathed he, 'but a leidangsskip, a warship. How in buggery are the three of us to sail her? And what in buggery are we to do with her in the canal?'
Harry grinned, in that moment younger even than Teddy. 'She can be a longship, a lymphad, a birlinn, a narrowboat: what we like. And the Caledonian Canal was intended for oceangoing vessels from the start, not narrowboats. Not that it matters: she's infinitely malleable, a Metamorphmagus of a ship. You need only know the spells.'
Draco was striving manfully to suppress his respect for that sort of spellwork -- and raw power. Doing so whilst confronted, unseen by Muggle eyes, with a modern iteration of a clinker-built, Viking-age longship, the greyhound of the whale-road, over one hundred feet in length and displacing some seventy tons, was not the easiest task he'd ever set himself.
'Right, you two, over the wall and so aboard.' Dumbstruck, they followed, and stood upon the deck betwixt wind and water, as the seabirds wheeled overhead, crying out their admiration.
Below, the longship -- Wizarding space being what it is -- was spacious and luxurious, furnished full, with all that House-Elf could think to cosset with. Harry and Draco alike were too old, now, to despise their comforts in the name of authenticity. Draco gave in, at last.
'Potter. This is brilliant. Well done.'
Harry smiled, and looked modest. 'It was an interesting challenge -- even if it did delay us a trifle.' He paused, and quoted the Orkneyinga Saga. '"A good effort is never wasted", as Kol said to Rognvald his son. Now let's to sea. I think we can fetch Halcro Head or Old Head quite easily before the light lengthens too greatly.'
Teddy adopted an appropriately calculating look. 'That's, what, about twenty-seven nautical miles? So we can make seven knots?'
'Teddykins.... We can do that without a stitch of canvas aloft or an oar in the water. Magic, you know.'
Draco set his lips in a thin line. Evidently Potter was going to be tiresome again.
Tiresome, perhaps, he corrected himself shortly thereafter, but damned efficient. He stood, steadying himself against the dragon prow, his fair hair streaming (and looking, had he known it, a very Viking), as the Long Dragon set her course a-Northing. To the idle gaze of Muggles, a small yacht was standing out to sea, tide and current and roost. For those with eyes to see, a great longship of war was leaping forward, a bone in her teeth and no sail set, as magical and warlike as the Raven Banner of Odin. (A Squib Naval officer who had come over from BUTEC Range on shore-leave saw, and wisely resolved to say nothing whatever to anyone. Visions are not to be admitted to in what little is left of the Royal Navy.)
Low upon the seas of Summertide stood the land of Orkney, windswept, wind-razed of all but all its trees, the land of the Scots primrose; and in the boundless skies wheeled and turned admiring birds, arctic skua, hen harrier, the sea swallow -- arctic tern -- feeling the first stirrings of the migratory urge as Summer waned, petrels and shearwaters, gulls, the fleet of air above land and sea; and the sea-spume laved Draco's face as Long Dragon clove the sea.
Teddy was now standing beside him.
'Does your godfather know how to do bloody everything, then? Because it's damned annoying.'
Teddy's voice, answering, held a current of remote amusement. 'Well, you know what Rognvald the Jarl said to the men at the nets after he'd helped them, in disguise: "Not many men know an earl when he's dressed as a fisherman" -- sorry, I expect you're tired of Orkney proverbs by this juncture. No. He was here some years ago, on duty. Scapa Flow.'
He paused, and when he spoke again, there was no amusement in his tone at all. 'You may know that, when Jerry scuttled the fleet in 1919, there were at least nine sailors who were killed. And then in '39, when the Nazis got a U-boat in, Royal Oak was sunk. Eight hundred ... hmm ... thirty-three, I think, souls were lost. Those aren't a tenth of the wrecks of Skalpaflòi -- but the most recent major ones. That is ... deathly haunted water.'
'Ah.' Draco could well imagine Harry's being called in, and finding a refuge from what was, surely, frightful service, in learning more of the sea than one might expect of an officer of Aurors. He shivered. If there were those alive and walking beneath the long Orkney sun of Summertide who had power to see and mark the truth of this vessel, then also other eyes saw and marked the magic ship as well. Spaewives upon the low land; in the ancient haunted seas Finmen and Finwives; Selkies; and upon the howes and amongst the standing stones the Drows of Orkney: these also should be aware, with revenants and ghosts and the Boky Dog, the varden of the haunted Balfour castle of Noltland, that Wizards were abroad upon the deep, in a warship of magic all compound.
And this was Orkney, after all, Inse Orc, the timeless Isles of the Orc, Orkney set to ward between Scotland and the Isle of Drear, Orkney set guardian between Azkaban and the realm of Alba; Orkney, older far than Pict or Viking or late Scot, ancient when the world was new, steeped in magics long forgotten and older than human time, and the Orcadian skies the skull of Ymir....
Teddy broke him of his sombre thoughts as Harry came forrards.
Light thickened. Leaping to her seas, Draken Lange had sped fleetly, sweetly, past Car Ness and Helliar Holm, her head to the East in the Sound of Shapinsay, past Head of Holland and Inganess Bay, Rerwick Head and Deer Sound between Lea Taing and Scarva Taing, and heeled over with ease as she rounded Mull Head and set her course S'uth'ards. She had shown her heels to Newark Bay, passing between Point of Ayre and Corn Holm, leaving Copinsay of the Seabirds upon her port side, and soon sighted Rose Ness, Holm Sound, and Burray. South Ronaldsay to starboard, she had danced past Grim Ness and down to Halcro Head and Old Head, to swing into the sun's eye at Brough Ness and make her turn for harbour at Bur Wick. In Burwick Harbour thronged by seabirds --and, aye, by shipping also, ferries amidst and unseeing of the fairies, Muggles blithely oblivious to the magic that permeated the air -- in Burwick Harbour now she lay, to Muggle eyes a small yacht; and her sailors settling in for the half-light sun-haunted night in a trim and tidy farmhouse: an abandoned croft to Muggle sight, a Ministry safe-house from the old days, and yet scheduled as such (the Aurors had kept it on the books, Just In Case), in the lee of the old, ruinous, pre-mediæval cliff-fort and settlement that stands just Northwards of Castle Skerry and The Wing, inwith the charmed circle of the Ladykirk Stone.
And Harry at least, Hallows-Master, Death-master and Death-dealer, was ever one to ken the calls of auld, the calls of eld and eldritch, canny and uncanny alike, seelie and unseelie, and the Raven Banner had he broken from the masthead of the Draken Lange, as her all but commissioning pennant, a challenge and a warning. Wise was the Hallows-Master, learnèd in battle, who had in many a fight won the victory, and the blood was in him, as in Draco and in Teddy, here where so much of that blood had spilt and so much mingled. Long had the men of their blood fed and made glad the war-ravens, and long had their blood fed those same, and the Raven Banner, Hrafnsmerki, Hravenlandeye, was theirs of right, Potters and Blacks and the Sons of Sweyn and of Somerled, the Sons of Ivar, sons of Godric and of Godred Crovan of the White Hand, Guðrøðr, Gofraid Méranech, Gofraid mac meic Arailt.
'O great, great and lengthy is the tale of their ancestors, lofty and high of birth, men of war and cunning, and fit to be named aright in the sloinneadh, the Naming of Forebears, by the seannachie before all the chiefs and in the hearing of the clans. Bride the foster-mother of Christ, bless the work; Mary Mother, bless the work; Christ, bless the work...'
For here had Norse and Gael and Pict matched in war and in peace mated, from Zetland to Orkney, through the Great Glen to the Isles and the lands of the Ulaid, and to Dublin herself, the Black Pool of ancientry. The Uí Ímhair of the longships were their very longfathers, born of Ivar Ragnarsson, and Gilli Jarl was also their forebear, and from Ivar through Somerled, Great Sorley of Clan Donald, descended Clann Somhairle, and they its sons; and also were they the sons in many generations of Conn Cétchathach, Conn of the Hundred Battles, the Ard-Rí, High King and Wizard, of whom came Njàl, Niall of the Nine Hostages, Niall Noígíallach, and all his getting, the Uí Néill; they were the Seed of Conn, Siol Chuinn. And also were these men alike the sons in long time of Echmarcach mac Ragnaill and of Sweyn Asliefsson's grandson Gunni, he of whom the Clan Gunn descend, and of Eanruig Mor mac Righ Nechtan; and they were Clann Cholla, the Sons of Colla Uais, Colla da Chrioch; and they were of the Uí Briain, and Brian Bòruma mac Cennétig had fathered the fathers of their fathers.
Aye: for these were the seas and lands, and they now abroad in them and passing through them to the West, where the heroes of the Sagas of the North, of the old sögur, and the heroes of the Ulster Cycle, an Rúraíocht, the Red Branch Cycle, had collided and thrown off the sparks that blazed upon their blazons and fevered in their shared blood. Here, here, were lands of old magic, from time-depths incalculable, as old and as salt as the sea: the empire of the North, upon sea and land, from Ásgarðr and Thule to Ellan Vannin that is Mann, the Kingdom of Manannán mac Lir. What were the doings and peoples of England and Normandy to these? And what the Normans themselves but the offscourings of Orkney under Hrolf the Ganger, at that? What, all those jars and clashes, save the merest footnote, the dimmest report from the southernmost fringes of the realms of Gael and Norseman?
'Hvat! Hush hall: now skald is singing, blazoning boast of blood and breeding; noble the names of lofty lineage; listen whilst the wise unwind it, high the history they are heir to!'
The Raven Banner stood out stiff in the seawind, the longship's banner of their longfather Ivar son of Ragnar, and of Ormr, called the Dragon, who founded Ormskirk and whose blood they shared with Neville and his fathers; and the warning, if unheeded, was plain, for Ivar Ragnarsson and all the Uí Ímhair were Scyldings of the line of Scyld Scefing.
They had dined well, and Draco made no secret of his eagerness for his bed. Even Teddy had been tired, from sun and salt-spray and sea-spume; only Harry, who regarded Long Dragon as the lioness regards her cub, had been yet exhilarated, and had gone down to Burwick pier once more to moon over his ship in the mystic half-night, the Simmer Dim, of the Northern Summer.
Draco had slept heavily, until he was awakened.
Teddy's whisper was visible in the cool night air.
'What? Teddy, it's the middle of the -- what in buggery is that noise?' It was more than the steady noise of Orkney wind.
'That is what I was about to ask you.' Teddy, at least, was trying very hard not to remember what Harald Jarl had said to Svein Asleifarson, Sweyn Asliefsson, when Svein had proposed a last raid a-Viking: Hard to tell which comes first, old man, death or glory. (And it had been Svein, the Ultimate Viking, raiding Caithness and Sutherland, Ireland and the Isles and Mann, who had founded, through his grandson, Clan Gunn, Teddy uncomfortably recalled, and all the death and glory of the Nor'most lands of Alba....)
It sounded for all the world as if a large man, or perhaps a troll, were sitting atop the roof, drumming and dinning horn-hard heels on the slates.
With wild surmise, Teddy and Draco exchanged a Meaningful Look in the weak night light.
'Isn't your godfather down at the quay?'
'Er. Yes. Something about the ship, Finmen, and Selkies....'
Shivering -- from cold alone, of course: late-Summer-cum-Autumn nights in the Orcades can bite as the wind bites, and certainly neither was at all frightened -- they moved slowly and silently to the window. Faintly, they could see Harry returning up the path, his walk confident, a rather recognisable wand in his hand and a quite recognisable cloak whipping about his shoulders in the whipping wind. The moon and lingering half-day caught and glistered upon a highly recognisable ring on his wand-hand.
'Teddy. Is there a reason why the Chief of the Magical General Staff, of all unlikely and military figures, should be whistling "99 Luftballons" just now?'
Teddy never had the chance of answering, which was just as well, as God He knoweth what he might have said.
'Oi!' Harry's tones were rather jaunty than otherwise. Bombadil son of Ecgtheow, thought Draco, disdainfully. 'You, old Draugr! Get off my bloody roof, damn you. It's the small hours and you're keeping decent folk awake.'
With a roar that shook the cottage and that was drowned, even as it sounded, by the reverberation of its landing, the dense, corpse-livid, heavy bulk of the great drow leapt from the rooftree and faced Harry.
They could just see Harry's sorrowing shake of his head as he raised the Elder Wand -- at which Teddy sensibly ducked away from the window, dragging a motionless Draco with him. Even at that, Draco had just time to see the hot jet of steel, molten magic, rifling from the tip of Harry's wand.
A moment or so after, Teddy shepherded an unresisting but unresponsive Draco out of doors, in response to Harry's summons, to assist in cleaning up the stinking mess.
Draco was awa' in a dwalm, lost in a memory: not his, precisely, but one he had had of Blaise, many years prior, in a Pensieve, of one of the very first of the post-War hearings, even before the Malfoys' own.
Kingsley had been delayed in reaching the courtroom, or it never had happened. A holdover from the old regime, Jorkins had taken on the role of prosecuting counsel. A minor Snatcher -- Draco could no longer remember which -- was to be tried. A Dementor had entered with him.
Harry, newly gazetted an Auror, a mere one-pipper, had been present as well, having just been a witness in the prior prosecution. He had turned, seen the Dementor, and raised his wand. Until then, it had been commonly believed that Dementors could not be destroyed.
When the tumult and the shouting had died, and the last wisps of decay that had once been a Dementor had wafted to the floor like oily smuts, Jorkins had been shouting at Harry, who stood straight-backed and disdainful.
' -- Ministry service!'
'Mister Jorkins. Dementors are a scheduled Dark Creature which it is in my orders to contain, defeat, or destroy on sight. There is no provision in Standing Orders creating any exception.'
'YOU, BOY, HAVE AN EXAGGERATED OPINION OF YOUR --'
'Orders?' Shacklebolt had entered like a god of wrath in fury. 'I am glad to see a subaltern of Aurors with an "exaggerated opinion of his orders" -- and, Jorkins, you're sacked. Get OUT.'
'Draco? If you'd be so good as to come back to us from whatever memory has you enrapt? Thank you. You know the old saw, don't skulk like a cat in a cave.'
Draco was becoming heartily tired of the Saga of the Earls of Orkney.
Harry, Scylfing and Yngling both, Death-master, eagle-feeder, was brisk, if not unkind. 'Some cleaning charms should not come amiss: I'd not quite realised that a Draugr'd spatter everywhere quite so freely, or noisomely.'
The next day they spent ashore, for which Draco at least was unfeignedly thankful. It unsettled him, these reminders of Harry's casually-wielded power; and always there was in the very back of his mind, immured there by his will, the memory of another voyage upon water, long ago, when it had seemed possible that Harry should choose him over Ginny Weasley, what time Draco had not heard the name of Daphne's little sister since he'd left school.
Harry, for his part, troll-basher, the ravens' feeder, was never wholly off duty, even now, specially now, and just up the road to the East, by Isbister, were a chambered cairn, the Tomb of the Eagles, and Burnt Mound, Fulacht Fia, which wanted an Auror's eye cast upon them, and a hogboon wanting to spoken to rather severely, mischievous in his howe of Duni Geo and getting above himself. And he'd plunged, had Harry (teller of corpses, chooser of the slain), Gillyweed duly choked down, into the waves, the daughters of Ægir embracing him in joy, off Backaquoy, to have speech of the Merfolk and the Finmen and the Selkies: hard rede and warlike, words of war from his word-hoard, cowing the sullen Finfolk. Draco had had to turn his gaze away as Harry had emerged from the sea, Selkie-sleek, wet and glistering in liquid light. The years had been annoyingly kind to Potter, Draco admitted: and resented the admission.
Full morning aye comes gey early to Orkney in the lang days o' the Simmer. The three voyagers of the Draken Lange were ware and waking betimes, and her master was in no fear of Finfolk's storms or the stormwitches of the land. The great longship stood out from Bur Wick and rejoiced to meet the waters of the Pentland Firth, swan's way, whale-home, exulting in her strength, Strona to starboard and Muckle Skerry to port, and the sun, jewelled sky-candle, rising like thunder and trumpets awa' and awa' beyond the Pentland Skerries.
And before them was the great rampart and palisade of Caithness and all Alba, reared stern as Calvin's Institutes between the fluid grace of sea and sky, bluid-red rock-rectitude, and the Head and Stacks of Duncansby whence Eastering there was no land this side of Stavanger of the Vikings, to Noroway ower the faem, and all the great grey sea between: the land of Gunni and Clan Gunn and the sons of Henry, and all the riotous warlike Norse-Gaels, of Somerled who founded Clan Donald, the Lords of the Isles, and Svein and all the chiefs, arm-braceleted, gold-givers, masters of mead-halls: aye, and all the great grey sea that had been their holt and holding, and Long Dragon free of it and exultant in her element, sister to the sporting dolphin and the long-finned pilot whale that ringed her joyously in company.
She gathered herself and flew, regardless of wind and tide, borne upon a current of sorcery; and as they sailed South towards Duncansby Head, Draco heard the bass-baritone chant, the song of the sea, swelling from Harry's lips as he stood at the stem of the ship, exulting with his ship.
O chì, chì mi na mòr-bheanna
O chì, chì mi na còrr-bheanna
O chì, chì mi na coireachan
Chì mi na sgoran fo cheò....
Draco did not know the Gaelic -- he supposed that having been GAC Scottish Command had had its effect upon Harry -- but he knew the English of the auld song well enough.
Oh, I see, I see the great mountains
Oh, I see, I see the lofty mountains
Oh, I see, I see the corries
I see the peaks beneath the mist.
And as the sea surged beneath them and Long Dragon met her element and toyed with it, his tenor joined Harry's song, with young Teddy harmonising a baritone ground, and a bass figure roaring from the great dragon of the prow.
Chì mi gun dàil an t-àite san d'rugadh mi
I see, straight away, the place of my birth
Cuirear orm fàilte sa chànain a thuigeas mi
I will be welcomed in a language I know
Gheibh mi ann aoidh agus gràdh nuair a ruigeam
I will receive hospitality and love when I reach there
Nach reicinn air tunnachan òir
That I would not trade for a ton of gold
Oh, I see, I see the great mountains
O chì, chì mi na mòr-bheanna
Oh, I see, I see the lofty mountains
O chì, chì mi na còrr-bheanna
Oh, I see, I see the corries
O chì, chì mi na coireachan
I see the peaks beneath the mist
Chì mi na sgoran fo cheò
Chì mi na coilltean, chì mi na doireachan
I see woods there, I see thickets there
Chì mi ann màghan bàna is toraiche
I see fair, fertile fields there
Chì mi na fé idh air làr nan coireachan
I see the deer on the ground of the corries
Falaicht' an trusgan de cheò
Shrouded in a garment of mist
High mountains with lovely slopes,
Folk there who are always kind:
Light is my step when I go bounding to see them
And I will willingly remain there for a long while;
Beanntaichean àrda is àillidh leacainnean
Sluagh ann an còmhnuidh is còire cleachdainnean
'S aotrom mo cheum a' leum g'am faicinn
Is fanaidh mi tacan le deòin.
And so they came singing to Alba, to the Kinrick of Scots, to Caithness, Gallaibh, and the birds of the sea flew with them, calling.
It is half a day's sail or less from Duncansby Head to Craigton Point and the harbour of Inverness upon the Firth of Moray. Long Dragon made short work of it, her port side to An Cuan Moireach, Moray Firth, Linne Mhoireibh, and the great grey North Sea, past Noss Head, and Stack of Ulbster, and Bruan of the coasts, where inland men had built their mournful chambered cairns and at Mid Clyth made their calendar for harvest and husbandry in ages now forgotten, the Hill o' Many Stanes. Sped then the swift ship past Tarbat Ness, and Chanonry Point, where the dolphins sported about them, welcoming Wizards to a place that had not always welcomed them, where once had Lady Seaforth had Coinneach Odhar, the Brahan Seer, put to death.
And yet even that memory did not daunt them, for, after all, had it not been that the Countess had believed all too well that Dun Kenneth, Kenneth Mackenzie, was a true Seer, and she displeased with his true Seeing that the Earl, far frae hame, was tumbling the lassies of Paris? And did he not See the doom of Seaforth and Kintail, and has it not come to pass as he Saw? Aye, and was it not that the Seer was certain of his salvation, and the Countess not of hers? Sure it was that he had not been slain for any deceit, but for the truth of his Seeing, and not by Muggles; and Scotland bides yet a land of canny sorcery, and they in it....
And whiles there was sun and whiles again there was cloud-shadow upon the waves, and ever and anon the clouds would be blown by the great airs into a saltire argent upon the azure of the Simmer skies, and beneath that cross conquerant they made their way, safe-voyaging, upon the surging seas.
They were come safe to harbour, in the great vessel seeming but a yacht such as the men of wealth sail, at Clachnaharry, the Village of the Stone of Repenting, at Ness Mouth, Inbhir Nis, and the Great Glen beyond Inverness, where Beauly Firth comes frae Muir of Ord to the Kessocks, North Kessock of the Black Isle awa' aneath the auld hill-fort of Ord Hill, and South Kessock, Ceasag a Deas, hard by Merkinch and the Muirtown Basin within its sea-locks, where the Caledonian Canal gaes tae tak' her stairt.
That night, as Draco and Teddy slept the nicht awa' in Inverness, Harry, having first conscientiously sent word to the padre in Kirkwall that all was gathered safely in, set about transforming Draken Lange -- yet biding a wee bittock yachtie to Muggle sight -- into a vessel apt to the locks and lochs of Sligh'-Uisge na h-Alba, the Canal of Caledon.
II. Westering Hame: The skeely skipper (Sir Patrick Spens) / Loch Tay Boat Song / The Fause Knicht Upon the Road
The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly even than the final surrender; because this kiss has already within it that surrender.
-- Emil Ludwig
Is tu sonas gach ni eibhinn,
Is tu solus gath na greine,
Thou art the joy of all joyous things,
Thou art the light of the beam of the sun,
Is tu dorus flath na feile,
Is tu corra reul an iuil,
Thou art the door of the chief of hospitality,
Thou art the surpassing star of guidance,
Is tu ceum feidh nan ardu,
Is tu ceum steud nam blaru,
Thou art the step of the deer of the hill,
Thou art the step of the steed of the plain,
Is tu seimh eal an t-snamhu,
Is tu ailleagan gach run.
Thou art the grace of the swan swimming,
Thou art the loveliness of all lovely desires.
Cruth aluinn an Domhnuich
Ann do ghnuis ghlain,
The lovely likeness of the Lord
Is in thy pure face,
An cruth is ailinde
Bha air talamh.
The loveliest likeness that
Was upon earth.
An trath is fearr 's an latha duit,
The best hour of the day be thine,
An la is fearr 's an t-seachdain duit,
The best day of the week be thine,
An t-seachdain is fearr 's a bhliadhna duit,
The best week of the year be thine,
A bhliadhn is fearr an domhan Mhic De duit.
The best year in the Son of God's domain be thine.
Thainig Peadail 's thainig Pol,
Thainig Seumas 's thainig Eoin,
Thainig Muiril is Muir Oigh,
Peter has come and Paul has come,
James has come and John has come,
Muriel and Mary Virgin have come,
Thainig Uiril uile chorr,
Thainig Airil aill nan og,
Thainig Gabriel fadh na h-Oigh,
Thainig Raphail flath nan seod,
Uriel the all-beneficent has come,
Ariel the beauteousness of the young has come,
Gabriel the seer of the Virgin has come,
Raphael the prince of the valiant has come,
'S thainig Micheal mil air sloigh,
And Michael the Chief of the Hosts has come,
Thainig 's Iosa Criosda ciuin,
Thainig 's Spiorad fior an iuil,
Thainig 's Righ nan righ air stiuir,
A bhaireadh duit-se graidh is ruin,
A bhaireadh duit-se graidh is ruin.
And Jesus Christ the mild has come,
And the Spirit of true guidance has come,
And the King of kings has come on the helm,
To bestow on thee their affection and their love,
To bestow on thee their affection and their love.
-- The Invocation of the Graces (Ora nam Buadh)
Draco and Teddy woke the morn to find themselves fêted -- which, Draco reflected, seemed to be a fated outcome when Harry was involved. Forbye, a mon maun dree his ain weird for a' that, as Draco chose not to reflect in the claik of the country. When they sauntered, after a truly heroic Scots breakfast -- parritch, aye, and Lorne sausage, white pudding and black, mushrooms and tomato slices grilled to fineness, tattie scones and droppit scones, gammon, bacon, rumbled eggs, oatcakes an' a', and a' the tay in China -- to the marina, the saw the crowds outwith that place, and Draco looked about for Harry at once. That man was keeping his counsel, quiet in the midst of gawkers, and those were gawking at the vessel that no longer looked to Muggles a modern yacht. Long Dragon was transformed: she was a bìrlinn, long-fhada, the Scots galley lymphad, and her name was now Faol, the Wolf, madadh allaidh, the very wolf of the Isles, her rigging, heather, and her sail, wool. She now boasted that Scots innovation upon the old Norse pattern, a rudder, and she rode to her moorings with an air.
Teddy smiled. 'First the Dragon, now the Wolf. Rather kind of the old boy.'
'What the devil is he playing at, I'd like to know.'
'Well,' said Teddy. 'I expect the harbour fees are being waived just now, and we'll be cheered all along. The Hat really did have its reasons for trying to argue him into your old House.'
Draco had heard that rumour before. It pleased him now no more than it had pleased him then, and that was none at all, at all.
Harry had been proud enough to show off Faol, late the Draken Lange. He did not purpose to set out in her the day. Instead, Draco found himself trailing Harry and Teddy through the Nature Reserve at Merkinch, and he was not best pleased. It reminded him all too well of a previous canal trip, some decades before.
Beyond the seawall were the sands, and behind the seawall, landward, was the marsh and heath of the Reserve, and the otter and the dolphin and the seal were in the waters and the vole on the margin of water and land; rabbit and roe deer, wood mouse and stoat (not nearly yet in ermine) lived and moved and had their being in gorse and bramble, raspberry and wild rose, meadow and wood: rowan, sovereign against witchcraft, and elder of divided loyalty, hazel and hawthorn, oak and ash, blackthorn, alder, silver birch. Witches' Coffin Pool and the Reserve, orchids and meadowsweet and cow parsley, and ever and whiles above the birds tireless of wing, shorebirds and swallows, pheasant and finch, and raptors stooping from the height. All this between the salt sea and an industrial estate. It was all too like Harry aye to find and cherish beauty in the midst of the ugly and the drab -- and, Draco recalled, with old hurt that the years had not assuaged, all too like that man also to disprize it having found it.
Of the engineers of that Age of Engineers, when Victoria, Queen-Empress, had reigned in a world largely at peace, Bazalgette alone had been a Wizard. Draco, looking at Telford's great Canal, felt anew, as times he had felt when in the presence of the mighty works of de Lesseps or Roebling also, an awe of what Muggles had made, magic-less, with muscle and machine.
Long on the land the late-Simmer sunlight, in the morn that was but new in the East.
If Draco felt a sense of awe before the work of Muggle hands, the gathered crowd, Muggle in the main, were in no less awe of Faol. More of the folk of A' Gàidhealtachd than might have been thought, were seeming present to well-wish her and them as sailed in her, honouring her lines and ancientry, the bìrlinn of ancient Scotia. She was but a third of the limits of proportion for passage in the canal, a wee bittock ship it may be when riding to the side of the greatest vessels that might pass the locks, yet she was in lineage great, freighted with history, and the sign and symbol of the Auld Days.
As Draco and Teddy went aboard, and Harry, in kilts and tweed, stood to her rudder, a great cheer went up, and a piper -- provided by Providence, predestined, just on the point of leaving and the Northern Meeting of pipers done and o'er the day before, his presence no doing of Harry's, for all Draco's acid suspicions -- played 'We're No' Awa' Tae Bide Awa'', and they cast off, for the Great Glen and the uttermost West.
Faol, the Wolf, lymphad of Hielan heraldry, faced herself to the lochs and the bens, the Caledonian Forest, the auld clan-lands of them as bore her image in their arms, Clan Chattan and the Sons of the Chief, Clann Mhic an Tòisich, and their progenitors of Rothiemurchus and Tordarroch, Na Si'ach, the Shaws; unicorns and hippogriffs, wolves and wildcats -- touch not the cat but a glove -- and the great forest of Rothiemurchus side-alang the Glen, with its wildcats; and to the lands at last of Clan Donald, the Sons of Somerled, to the last of the journey in the Lordship of the Isles, that holt of dragons. There was no bridge upon the Canal that was so low that her mast might not clear it, and it was in the fullness of her, braw and staundin' hie, her mast fu'-steppit, that she took the water, out of Muirtown Basin and beneath the Swing Brig o' Muirtown, to Muirtown Locks, and began to rise awa' abuin the toun and the strand. Already Teddy at least could sense that they were leaving the shorelands behind, the lang lands o' arable wi' trim mains, lands of mooncalf, nogtail, and gnome; leaving behind also the sea and the city, Highland cathedral and, ayont Inverness, the fatal field of Culloden, thronged of ghosts. All this was dropping away, as mortal lands and the fields we know drop away when a man enters a hill of the People of the Hills, into the realm of Faery; behind them was commerce and the merkat and the quays, and the burgh of regality and the business of men, and mains in the kindly fields: before them, adumbrated with the rise of the lock, the wilder land of croft and bothy, forest and loch and ben-side, and the misty mountains and the heather, of the Great Loch Ness and the dark queen of all water-beasties.
Draco, for his part, was remembering another canal voyage, long ago, when he and Harry had been young, and Teddy but a bairn. He well remembered it, and the locking, the labour and the reward of labour. The locks of the Caledonian Canal were mechanised, and there was all too little to do in or outwith Faol, tending the lines only but locking the craft through: it gave a man time for thought, and that was not a prospect Draco relished. There were too many memories in it.
Harry, busy with the Muirtown Flicht, didnae ken it at a', what was inwith Draco's wits.
Broken light upon the all but still waters, Kinmylies to starboard and the hill fort of Craig Phadrig o'er it, and to port Dalneigh and the kirkyaird o' Tomnahurich, the Fairy Hill of the Yew, where slept the guid, the leal, the Elect; and ayont the kirkyaird, castle and cathedral and cricket club, war memorial and infirmary, High Kirk and HMP Inverness, the auld prison of Porterfield. Before them, meeting them, the Swing Brig o' Tomnahurich, the lock an' the weir and the meetin' o' bricht watters, the River Ness and the Canal joining but a wee scrappie of land between, and the Floral Hall, nae flouers o' the forest but aye of far-aff lands, under glass, beneath the Hielan skies....
And Tomnahurich kirkyaird was a fairy mound o' auld, and if it hadnae known True Tammas, Tammas the Rhymer, it had yet seen its ain sichts: 'If,' said Harry, 'you see two loons of fiddlers in clothes of a century long sped, clutching wages of siller and gold, don't for Heaven's sake catechise the poor buggers' (and Teddy had laughed, knowing the tale, and Draco, not knowing, and knowing he did not ken it, had frowned).
Steady the cry and meet her in the weirs of Torvean, between the Ness-side bank to port, with the Stane Circle o' Torbreck outwith the Wood o' Cullaird, and the long rise of land to the Hill of Dunain opposite upon the North and West, and the rising sun of morn cast their shadows to starboard on deck and water and bank beside them. To portside and inland away, the chambered cairn of Ballindarroch cast its last lost curse upon the Hanoverians' military road; the auld stane circle of the Clava cairn of Kinchyle of Dores, of Scaniport of Strath Dores, weathered and faded and fell or stood crazily, passing aye into memory and ruin, sinking into the earth whence it had come in lang years lost and forgat syne.
Amang the trees whaur humming bees at buds and flouers were hinging, the land tumbled and mounted, and the Lock of Dochgarroch was before them. Earth and water warmed to the sun of morn, and a bittock breeze was born; the wooded slopes of The Aird, clambering above Dochgarroch and Dochnalurig to the forest of Craig Leach and the auld broch o' Castle Spynie ayont, returned the breeze, redoubled, and a bittock flaw of wind tugged at the sail, that canny Harry had taken tent of and was ware, and tugged also at Harry's kilts, flaring, baring the supple thews and long, strong legs of him, and Draco felt his heart turn over in him, and looked away, face flaming like the morn.
Harry, wholly absorbed in the captaincy of his vessel, saw nothing of this. Only Teddy, of the raven-keen eye, noted it, and pondered these things joyfully in his heart. He was a kindly wolf to his flock of kith.
The Sassenach sojers and their German king had driven, south of the River, their grim military road, when General Wade, that Auld Slytherin, had at last done for the hopes of the Auld Cause. North of the Canal, the wild woods were, and the rising ground, Dochfour Hill, Cnoc na Gaoithe, Doire Mhòr. North and West of the Great Glen Fault, the Gaelic Highlands bided free, and the cloud and the mist they wore was the wearing of the white cockade.
Aldourie Castle and Loch Dochfour, and the Great Glen opened before them and closed about them, steep upon either side, Caledon wild and free, and they were come to Loch Ness in the forenoon.
Here was the Great Glen, An Gleann Mòr, the outward and visible sign and symbol of the long geologic collision of the landmasses that were in time to become Scandinavia and Britain, which the long conflict and coalescence of Norseman and Gael dimly mirrored and recapitulated, history and blood and battle recalling and recreating orogeny. Always had it been a way of war and trade and transit, a narrow rift valley infilled with wide lochs and with rivers in but narrow plains, with the tumbling of mountains shouldering in upon it to either side: the Great Glen, the Glen of Alba, of Scotland, Gleann Albainn; and they in it for transit and not for war, yet war always walking with them with the Master of the Hallows, the great commander, making one of them, and the land responsive to deep magics and ancient destinies.
Inverness and the Firths seemed far away now. The English claik had come with the English soldier, and after with the English tripper; the strand and the port at Inverness had taken in, in part, the Scots claik, the Doric, superimposed upon the Gaelic. Here, though, here, they were entered upon the ancient heart of the realm of Alba, and for all that the folk spoke English to the tourist, here was the threshold of A' Gàidhealtachd, where the English was softer and more precise, just, a careful and a liquid speech, a second tongue; and the beldam witchery of Scotia seized them, carried upon the resinous air, and the minstrelsy of Caledonia whispered to them, singing the ancient spells and chants, and they knew themselves fully inwith Auld Scotland at last, upon the dark waters of the greatest of lochs, in the Great Glen, untamed and sorcerous.
Harry's eyes shone and he lifted his head high, and gestured 'round him. 'Noo, lads,' said he, in mimicry of a hundred thrawn, Doric Scots he had commanded in his day, 'will ye no' come in tae the body o' the kirk?'
They had drawn near to the shore in the lee of Tor Point, An Torr, and, under the cover of Notice-Me-Not charms, Apparated to the brae; and at Harry's command and a queer twist of his wand, Faol had shrunk to pocket-size, and come to him to be pocketed, and they walked inland towards a small farmstead between the Black Wood, Dubhras, Dores, and tree-clad Balnafoich of the Dirr Wood. There the guidwife, a motherly body, took them in at once and gave them rooms, and just time enough to wash before she called them pleasantly to a heroic luncheon in the lightsome airy kitchen, redolent of good cookery and echoes of family laughter that hung from generations upon the air.
Harry, whom she clearly knew of old, she called upon to say the grace before meat, and he obliged gravely, the words of the auld Selkirk Grace familiar on his tongue. And then the guidwife served forth a meal fit for heroes, a great braw tureen of barley broth, a noble ashet scarce large enough even so for the gigot, neeps and tatties, curly kail and Caboc, cranachan for pudding, and 90/ ale that might have put paid to anyone else's afternoon plans.
The Canal can be traversed, if you like, in little more than a day or two even at a leisurely pace, but that was not the point of it, at all. A brief kip after the meal and the three were ready for a tramp, set to wauking by Teddy's overmastering passion of antiquarianism -- a perilous hobby in the heart of Alba.
The guidwife mithered them oot the door. 'Now, lads, do fill your water bottles: gang canny. But. Be sure you do not leave the well uncovered, just: we'd not want another loch, you see.'
Harry laughed. 'We shall, Mrs Fraser -- and we'll be back by tea.' What time they were past the kailyaird, Draco asked: 'What in buggery was that about?'
Harry smiled, and tipped his head towards Teddy.
'Ah,' said Teddy, the picture of good academic Fellowship. 'The fowk tell that in the auld days --'
'Christ,' said Draco, 'not you as well.'
'-- In the days of yore, if you prefer, all the Great Glen was a lush vale, and there was no Loch of the River Ness. There was a well in the valley, and all knew it maun -- all right, must -- be kept covered lest the waters of the well rise and flood all around. A guidwife --'
Draco sighed, and gave up.
'-- Was at the well one day and drawing water, when she heard her bairn cry out, and forgetting all else in her haste, ran to see what was it that had frichted the wean. And she had not the well covered, and the waters sprang forth, and all the folk took to the hills and looked down on the ruin of their valley and their homes, and cried, "Tha loch nis an, There is a loch here now", and ever after --'
'Was there an ark, by any chance?' Draco's tone was waspish.
Teddy smiled indulgently. 'Not in any of the lore I've heard.'
'It's a start,' grumbled Draco, and stalked off to put himself a few paces ahead, which did him no good whatever, as Teddy and Harry knew where they were bound and Draco did not.
'Bloody Scotchmen,' Draco muttered. 'Produced Hutton and Lyell and still won't believe in simple geologic fact.'
Harry sniggered, and mouthed one word at a stewing Draco: 'Magic'.
The changing forget-me-not had gone already to seed, and the bluebell of Scotland, the harebell trembling from its birth through all its days, was beginning to fade. Gorse and heather and whinn hugged the ground, and the day was oddly bleak: they stood upon Ashie Moor. To their left were Loch na Curr and Lochan an Eoin Ruadha, the lochan of the red birds, and beyond them Loch Ashie; before them, Loch Duntelchaig, like a dull opal. All about were field systems and hut circles, cairns and burnt mounds, and every tor had been fortified and held in long, forgotten wars of which no name nor memory nor any word of who fought and fell has come down from the deeps of time.
Draco's hackles rose. Teddy's languid airs concealed, he knew, a thrusting scholarship, an insatiate thirst of knowledge, yet surely the lad was not so daft as to think that that alone preserved him here. There was nothing canny about this place, as the wind crept and pounced catlike through the heather.
Harry gestured towards a ruinous hill fort atop sheer cliffs, a small tor yet dominant in its rising from the sodden moor, revetted with its own scree. 'Caisteal an Dunriachaidh. The Fortress of the Sea-King. It is claimed that here Fingal slew Ashi the king's son of Norway in a great battle, and that the King of the Sea for whom the hill fort is named was the Viking leader.'
'And do you believe that?' Draco rather evidently was agnostic at best.
Harry's answer was that of a Very Senior Officer of Aurors, not at all mystical, crisp and military. 'Fingal? Ashi? Perhaps not, though -- we shall see. A battle here on this tongue of land between the lochs? Quite likely. The Vikings had established themselves at Nairn, but twelve miles ayont, and raided to the shores of Loch Ness.'
He conjured a spectral map in the air before them, and small units moved upon it as he spoke.
'Now, here's the picture. I'm a Viking chieftain. My eye is on Inverness: it's a strategic prize, and much fought over, from the Picts' days to Culloden. Bridei king of the Picts in the days of Columba had his fortress upon Craig Phadrig, after all. Donnchad and Mac Bethad mac Findláich fought over it, and Máel Coluim, the third Malcolm, avenged his father Donnchad there. Blar nam Feinne -- here, just follow my wand upon the map -- just outwith Inverness -- was quite likely the site, even as tradition holds, where Thorfinn Sigurdsson fought against Máel Coluim Forranach, Malcolm the Destroyer, Malcolm 2d; the concept is tactically sound.
'Now, I'm a raiding Viking based at Nairn, and I want Inverness. They know I'll come at the burgh by sea -- I'm a Viking, after all, damn it all. And they've seaward defences. Like Singapore in '42, they've neglected their landward defences. But I'm a gey canny Viking, and I ken well I can get my men aboard vessels well up the River Nairn also, and then marching through Strathnairn, through Assich Forest and by Drummossie Moor, to Tordarroch, the Mound of the Oak-wood, and the Creag a' Chlachain.
'It will want to be in force: the Clan Chattan: the Shaws, Na Siach, Mhic Sheaghd, and the Sons of the Chief, Clan Mackintosh: are not yet come here, there is no Clan Chattan to bar my way, yet there are Highlandmen and the grandsons of the Picts of Moray and Fortriu who'll fight. Even so, if I win through -- and I come in force -- I can come down Ness-side and descend upon Inverness by land even whilst my longships attack by sea.
'Perhaps I meant to wheel to my right at Mains of Faillie, the fair place of the sunlight, or Balnafoich, the green-field steading. Perhaps I meant all along to go as far up the Nairn, the River Swimming, as my draught allows, and portage across between the lochs here, and come down the Ness that way, some marching and some aboard ships. Perhaps I was shadowed past Dùn Davie and driven further inland than I hoped. Whatever the cause, this should have been the spot where I turned towards Ness-side to come down and take Inverness in the rear; and here it was that there should be battle given.'
The map dissolved like smoke. It was ominously quiet upon the Moor of Ashie.
'It makes sense,' said Harry, calmly, quietly. 'And for that reason am I inclined to believe what we shall see.'
For centuries, even Muggles have chanced upon the sight, all unexpecting of it, commonly upon Beltane day. Wizards may well expect to be shown it at any time, and specially upon its anniversary: shown it, for they shall not hear it.
Harry waited, expectant, for the space of three deep breaths; and then, just as that man had foretold, it began. It was the time of year for it, the last of the Summertide raiding season, before Teran winter-tyrant troubled the seas and took seisin of his realm, seizing in his season the sea-roads from Swansea to Stavanger, Deerness to Dublin. And Draco watched, stock-still, as the ghosts of Vikings met and matched in utter, uncanny silence with wild, ragged men from the woods and the steadings, some short-sworded, others with clubs, and but a few upon either side mounted upon grey or mouse-coloured garrons, the ancestors of the Highland pony, and did battle.
It lasted perhaps five minutes of mortal time before fading, still unresolved. Teddy exchanged a long, enquiring look and the answering nod with his godfather. Silently, they turned to go.
Draco burst out, furious with reaction. 'Damn you, Potter. Damn you. Is there nothing you fear?'
That man gave him a long look and a level one. 'Ask me again in few nights, with a dram or two in me.' And saying no more, he turned and led them back towards Mrs Fraser's hospitable croft, Draco too full of things to say to say any of them in due order.
They dined that night nobly and slept ashore in the Frasers' kindly house, in the odour of linen and lavender and beeswax. The morn, they were rousing betimes, and after a hearty breakfast (Hielan Harry, damn the man, eat his porridge standing, from alternate bowls, with a spoon of horn, a right 'professional Highlandman' trick), they set out again, seeming ramblers, into Erchite Wood. Beside the linn, the eas, the wee waterfall upon one of the nameless allts that flows through Wood of Erchite into Loch Ness, tumbling down from Carn na Leitreach or Meall na h-Uaighe, from Erchite Hill, they cast their charms and Apparated to the shore of the loch, set Faol once more upon the dark waters, enlarged her and Apparated aboard.
Draco, still shaken, the battle of old upon his mind, overheard his cousin and that cousin's godfather.
'-- your theory.'
'Yes,' replied Teddy. 'I'm ... unspeakably ... obliged.'
'Teddy, if you so much as consider leaving your Fellowship to hold in with that lot --'
'Not likely, Uncle Harry. I know when I'm well off -- and well out of it. But if your professional expertise accords with my conclusions ... oh, there will be consternation when I publish.'
'Or perish? Well, publish then -- although you'll be roundly damned, I don't doubt, not least by those same damned Unspeakables, who consider all knowledge their sole province, and any else an interloper, trespassing. For what it's worth, you've my backing. Clearly, that is how the battle happened, as we suspected.' Harry raised his voice, effortlessly. 'Wouldn't you say so, Draco? You may as well come in, you know, and speak as well as listen.'
Draco's response was to stomp off and lean over the loch-ward side, staring balefully at the loch, Meall na h-Eilrig and Glenurquhart Forest before him, and away to his left the minatory presence upon the horizon of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh staring as balefully back.
Faol made her way swiftly, at a wolf's lope, across the dark loch, to Druim na Drochaid, where the last of the melancholy thistle gave away its last rags of noble purple as the Autumn drew near, and birch and hazel yet forest the slopes of Glen Urquhart, looking down upon the River Enrick as it goes headlong to the loch's embrace as a lover long-parted from her beloved. Burn and allt tumbled into Enrick as well, with many a linn and fall, from the heights of Creag Nay, Meall na h-Eilrig, Meall nan Caorach, Meall Gorm, and Carn Mòr. Once again they went secretly ashore, and gang canny and warily, Faol in Harry's pockets once more (better a ship, however well-dried, in good tweeds than sopping in a sporran). Trippers and tourists marked them not at all.
'What new peril are we to confront this time,' asked Draco, sour as bearberry.
'Oh, don't be an ass,' said Teddy. 'Only, I've a theory, you see....'
Draco resigned himself to his fate.
To the ford upon the Drumbuie Burn they went, now walking, now Apparating, above Wester Achtuie, to see the cup-marked stone, and thence to Ford of Allt Tarbh, above Upper Drumbuie, and the outer ring of hut circles that circumscribe the great complex of cairns beneath Creag Ard and Cnoc Snàtaig. Hardy sheep and hardier cattle moved slowly through the land of the rough grazings, heedless of them; and over all, in the blue illimitable skies, a great hunting eagle soared. Then to Culnakirk, between that burn and the burn of Gartally, where cup-marked stones again mark the land, and orient towards the chambered cairn of Cairn Daley, at Easter Balnagrantach above Lower Gartally, between the Gartally Burn and the allt, renewed by springs, that flows, from Loch Maolachan through Lochan an Torra Bhuidhe and Loch an Sgor Gaoithe, down to Enrick at Laggantrottan, up-water from the Miltons and Kilmichael.
What any of this meant, Draco had no idea, nor cared to; yet it seemed to please Teddy immensely, and Potter well enough, and there had been no danger in it, for a marvel, and so was Draco well enough content.
Draco's contentment was short-lived. Evidently the intellectual passion of his young cousin -- too readily indulged by Teddy's godfather -- now required that they take once more to water in Faol, and actually voyage back Nor'-nor'east'ards, to the point at which the Allt Killianan, leaping from its linn-fall, debouches into Loch Ness: a point almost directly opposite Tor Point, where they had put in in the forenoon of the day previous.
Teddy's godfather, damn the man, had been kindly and commiserating into the bargain, the superior bugger. 'It's always the hardest part, isn't it, the simply slowing oneself.'
Draco had snubbed him with all the power at a Malfoy's command.
Braeside, at a garden nursery (purely Muggle) a few yards inland from the loch (and a good, swift fifty feet in elevation in those few yards, and a stiff pull it had been if Draco were to believe his thigh muscles), they stood about Teddy's object of fascination.
'A. Blasted. Unfinished. Rough-hewn. Millstone.' Draco's tone was cold with contempt. 'We've buggered back up here for a half-finished mediæval millstone. Teddy, were it not that I go in a healthy fear of Aunt Andromeda, I'd tie the wretched thing about your neck and toss you in the loch for the kelpie to eat. What in buggery --'
Potter, damn his eyes, was coolly amused. 'Draco. That is not a millstone -- as the water-beast of the loch could tell you. I know you know the spells: cast them.'
Warily, one eye on Potter (if he were going mad, he could well turn dangerous, and with Potter surely that should mean he'd turn nasty as well), Draco did so, wandlessly (given the nearness of Muggles). Then did so again. And then once more.
'Late Sixth.' He cast again, still disbelieving. 'In fact, 597 or '98. Mica-schist.' He looked at the stone and the ground, and to the rowans and hazels that shaded them all. 'Dew?'
'At this hour? And it never runs dry and is always refilled.'
'There can't be a source of water here.'
'Not in nature, no.'
'Damn it, it makes no geologic sense.'
Harry smiled, and Teddy at least almost expected Harry to hug Draco, then and there.
'Draco, I am quite remarkably proud of you. You've worked like a House-Elf to get past your prejudices, and you've done so by now so well that you prefer non-magical to magical explanations, by default. But this is magic, if you like; or, better, the sacred. It was just here -- and not, pace Adomnán, in the river -- that Columba sent one of the brethren into the water to bring back a boat moored on the far shore. She of the Loch rose up and had all but seized the faithful brother, when Calum Cille made the Sign of the Cross and commanded her to desist. And She of the Loch, but a length of a spear from her prey, fled from the saint and dived deep; and the folk seeing this, came down to the side of the loch to be baptised -- and this is the Font of St Columba, which has never run dry.'
Draco's voice was quiet, perplexed, as one who wills himself to understand the incomprehensible. Credo quia absurdum; prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;certum est, quia impossibile. 'You don't refer to -- her -- as "Nessie", I note, or as a kelpie.'
'No. Teddy, here, isn't the only one with his own opinions on matters of ... "settled fact". If ever again I hear the Nephomantic Office blether skite about how "the science is settled" ... but that's by the way; the point is, I distrust what Any Fule Kno. If you want to see a kelpie -- hold up a moment.' Harry cast a series of very complex wards and charms. 'There, that'll hold the Muggles.' He turned to the pool beneath the lowest of the waterfalls, the Linns of Allt Killianan, and whistled.
Draco dared not breathe. Proud and glossy, a stallion strode with majestic unhurriedness from the pool, streaming with water. With equally grave pace, the Master of the Hallows went to it, and grabbed its bridle. The great stallion, Cailpeach, expecting that it had once more found prey, turned to bolt, trusting to its powers to drag the mortal with it, fastened indissolubly to it where living hand touched magical flesh. But -- this was unprecedented. With a look of almost human disbelief, the kelpie turned widdershins and stared. Harry smiled, and twitched its bridle from its baffled, icy head. With a snort of alarm, the kelpie wheeled and fled, plunging into the pool without splash or ripple.
'Daft Pictish Beast,' murmured Harry, and whistled once more. The stallion returned, uneasy, ears back, the whites of his eyes showing, walking as if on coals: yet he did return, however unwilling, for Harry was in possession of his bridle, and was now his master.
'Now what am I to do with you, my lad?' Even as he asked, Harry was conjuring a lump of sugar the size of a small terrier. 'Victoire still ride, Teddy?'
Teddy started to make the obvious remark, and stopped. This was not the time to be cheeky with his godfather. 'Yes. Yes, she does.'
'Good. She now has the best horse in the Three Kingdoms. Stronger than any ten and faster than ten times that number.' He turned to the kelpie. 'You are now mine, to go where I bestow you. I name you Calum, for the saint your kindred long resisted, and as your bridle-master I claim you until my line ends. You shall be gifted to a daughter of the Fair, my niece, betrothed of my godson, but always you shall be in submission to me and mine, so no bloody tricks, old thing. Twig? Good.' Harry cast a swift and subtle charm of binding. The stallion gentled, and warmed to the touch, and ceased at last to stream with water.
'Go, now, Calum. You shall know and find your way and you shall know your mistress when you find her.' And the black stallion bowed his proud neck, and dissolved into mist.
'Do send Victoire a Patronus message, Teddy, so she knows her indulgent uncle has sent her another gift for the wedding, there's a good lad.'
Teddy did so, quietly. As quietly, Draco asked, 'You realise you yet have the tack, there?'
'Yes. Damned useful thing. So long as it bides in the family, that horse is in our possession and power, and no more a kelpie. And there's this: if you look through the bit ring -- and I must say I'm glad this was a snaffle bit, it's much easier that way -- you can see the unseen. At any rate, that, my dear fellow, is a kelpie. They live in live water, streams and rivers. The sea and the sea lochs and the great freshwater lochs such as Loch Ness, however, are not the abodes of the kelpie.'
'Then -- what is it, then, She of the Loch?'
'An Niseag? The most dangerous magical beast in all the length and breadth of Rìoghachd na h-Alba. Herself's an each uisge.'
'And we're sailing along in her waters.'
'Yes.' Harry grinned. 'This should be instructive.'
There are no Muggle, natural, or secular explanations for the Font of St Columba, spes Scotorum; naturally enough, as the Dove of the Church was neither Muggle nor secular. Teddy was more than happy to explain, however, to Draco -- who was doing his best not to whinge as they trudged now back up Glen Urquhart and into the southerly heights opposite Culnakirk and Carn Daley (and why Teddy, damn and blast him, couldn't do things in an orderly fashion rather than as he thought of them, Draco should quite like to know) -- Teddy was more than happy to explain, however, his euhemeristic theory of much of the legendry and minstrelsy of Scotland.
'Take,' he was saying, 'the story of the well and the valley that is now Loch Ness. It won't have happened here, of course, in An Gleann Mòr, Gleann Albainn, but there's no impossibility in it's being a relict race-memory of the Pleistocene, at the end of the Quaternary Glaciation, a time of faulting and rift valleys, braided strearms, artesian springs and sudden floods, when mankind was young. And --'
'Belt up, Teddy.' Harry didn't sound angry, but he clearly meant to be obeyed.
'Was I talking rot, Uncle Harry?'
'Hsst! Silence in ranks,' said Harry, softly. They walked slowly after him, two paces behind. They had reached the place where Delshangie Wood merges into the remnant Caledonian Forest of the Wood of Lochletter, beneath tall Carn Macsna, opposite the hill fort of Strathnacro north of the River Enrick, on its fortified spur of Creag Mhòr, hard by Balnain and the rough-set jewel of Loch Meiklie. Ard an t-Sidhein -- a name of power and of Faery -- was above them, and here the gloomy pines were punctuated, to the despair of Muggle forestry had the Muggles known, with a scrap of ancient mixed woodland, Scots pine and siller birch intruding into the dull plantation, and the sunlight fell through overarching mist upon a small glade. In the leaf-dapple stood statant a stag in his prime, unafraid in this small place outwith Muggle ken, a place they do not know, neither do they map. The three Wizards stood at gaze until the heavy-antlered hart moved slowly into the wood and was lost.
And in those moments, for those moments if no more, Draco's heart turned over in him, and he forgot his old fear of forests that had been instilled in him as a first year in the Forbidden Forest, on a night of evil omen, and forgot also that his young cousin could annoy, and forgot, most of all, the hurts he had dealt and been dealt by Potter, knowing him in that moment something as precious and as rare, instinct with power and grace.
And then the sun dimmed in the mist, and a Scottish crossbill 'jip-jip'-ed, and a black grouse answered far away, and a crested tit trilled, and Draco knew himself a stranger in a strange land, far from home, a wanderer; and Potter, maddeningly, caught his thought in perfect empathy, and murmured, as if he were a friend, as if he dared, 'I know. I miss the goldcrest and the warblers of home, m'self.'
Draco glared at his presumption and turned to Teddy. 'You were saying?'
But Teddy was looking at the resignation upon his godfather's face.
They had Apparated -- Draco's temperament being a consideration -- outwith the plantation of forestry, and stood upon the slopes between Allt Glac na Doimhne and Allt Molach, on the very shore of Lochan Marbh, and marvelled. Beneath them was the complex of field system and hut circle that lay just above the chambered cairn of the valley in which the River Enrick made her turn Eastering towards the great loch, and Corrimony awaited them; yet they had neither eye nor ear for anything save the call of the Falls of Corrimony, inwith the wood to their left hand. Perhaps as amends, perhaps at the call of his heart -- even he could not have said, then or after -- Draco set off towards the falls, without hesitation.
The woods were still. Management over the past decades had cleared and thinned them, rooted out the old folly of pine plantation monoculture, cleared away the last remains of the daft attempt to harness the singing falls to a hydroelectric plant; dragonflies and butterflies glinted in the sunlight as the mist breathed away, and birds sang descant to the music of the linn, here in this mossy reserve, with alder and hazel now amidst the native pines, and silver birch and rowan. Quiet and reverent, they seated themselves upon the turf, gazing peaceably at the everlasting fall of water; and Harry unpacked and enlarged the cunningly-packed and cunningly-charmed luncheon he had brought, and they shared it companionably, a family after all was said and done.
At last, when even Teddy had had enough to stay him, that young sprig of their shared kinship broke the silence. 'I'm looking forward to Mony's Stone and the Clava cairn, but I'm glad we stopped here.' He looked levelly at Draco, his older cousin whom he called an uncle by courtesy. 'Thank you, Uncle Draco. And -- Uncle Harry? Much as I look forward to seeing the Stone and the cairn, and much as I've enjoyed the tea, you're an old campaigner: do tell me there's a pub somewhere?'
Harry laughed, freely and easily, his cares and hurts forgotten in that moment, and Draco laughed with him.
'All right, young Lupin. There is, back down the River just at the head of Loch Meiklie, between Braefield and Kilmartin. But you'll wait for that, my lad, and the ale the sweeter for it, for it's at a grand and weel-foundit house we're spending the night -- yes, and dining. Pull up your broom-speed, lad, and wait for it, it's Corrimony for us the noo.'
And Draco chuckled and Teddy gurned hilariously, and they walked beside the River Enrick down to Corrimony, a family when all was said and done, and at ease with one another for a time.
Moony's son and Corrimony: Mony's Stone the menhir and the open Clava cairn, the hut circles and field systems of Druim Fada and Pairc Tòmais, the ford and the grange and Breckry Wood, under Torr a' Bhealaidh, all these they viewed as Teddy, rapt, took measurements and sightings, and glowed with the solemn satisfaction of a scholar whose theory is being proven before his eyes.
And then, Apparating, heedless of miles and delay, of which their magic made them free, they made their way to wild Glen Affric, to the wooded heights of Coille Mhor between the swift Allt na Bodachan and the braw shining Abhainn Deabhag, sire of the great River Glass whose dam is the sweet-singing River Affric, away and away in deepest Alba.
'We're rather off in our reckoning,' ventured Teddy, 'if it was the cairn at Balcladaich you wished me to see.'
'You'll wait in the queue, young Lupin,' smiled Harry. 'Your other courtesy-uncle took the high road not lang syne, and he'll be afore ye. Come awa' ben, into the far policies of the ruins of bold Guisachan House, and see what you shall see.'
The forest was ancient in part, Caledonian pinewoods, yet planted a century and more before by Lord Tweedmouth with Douglas fir and redwood also, and brilliant larch, and the firs of Guisachan had supplied the masts for the restored Discovery that Captain Scott had commanded long ago. The walk was peaceful, and there were, magically, no other ramblers. Red squirrels glinted like gledes in the canopy, and late butterflies danced upon the last seeding grasses. And then, with a shock as of pipes and claymores and the wild charge of the clans from the mist, they came to Plodda Falls, one hundred feet and one-and-thirty of pluming, creaming water, plunging into the gorge below.
Draco stood silent, exultant, surprised by joy. He smiled shyly at Harry. 'Thank you.'
Harry's answering smile was brilliant. 'I like a man who likes waterfalls.'
They looked long at the inexhaustible variety of changeful water and listened to its eternal song. At last, they turned to go, reluctantly, towards Wester Knockfin and the cairn of Balcladaich. 'We'll stop and bide a wee time at the ruins of the auld house,' said Harry, softly, and Draco and Teddy nodded, wondering what next splendour he meant to show them.
It was no long step to the ruins of Guisachan House, and even now, for all the fineness of the day and the many trippers who commonly came there, they were alone and undisturbed until they came there. The tall, spare figure they saw far off was instantly recognisable. They waited respectfully until she turned to face them, even now spry and sprightly.
'Tach,' said Minerva. 'I mind me when the great house was fu' o' licht and jiggin', and I young. There was a laird's son kissed me once, but the puir loon was a Muggle, and I wadnae accept his suit for that. Michty me, I was a fool when I was a maid. And the heir wedded the Marlborough lass, and young Winston stoppit here of a Simmer with his aunt, and weel afore that the Yorks cam' here, our later guid King George Fift' and Queen Mary. Ochone, ochone, the glory has departed.
'But now you are here, my bonnie lads, and a touch of the auld grace wi' ye, and I see on Mr Lupin's face the sign of a scholard whose studies prosper. And it's gey gladsome to see the twa o' ye, Harry and Draco together in amity. It's no' afore time, I'm thinking, but, ach, it's eagles fly alone and sheep herd th'gither.
'Now, then.' And with that, she gathered herself once more into the leddy-dominie, speaking Standard Scots, double-tongued as she might be with her intimates, and they proud to be so numbered. 'Young Teddy, I ha' here the books and papers you wanted -- they're copies, so you needn't fear the damage of fieldwork. And for you, Mr Malfoy and Mr Potter -- and you in mufti, lad, and no rank to your name with me, I mind me when you were young, and a dread chiel to have the schooling of -- for the both of ye, I have maps, and marked walks. Aye, Mr Malfoy, even Mr Potter has learnt to plan ahead at last. Or were you thinking I happened here by chance? Fiddlers, dogs, and flesh-flies, they say, come to the feast uncalled: not elderly headmistresses. Teddy, ye'll keep in with me on your researches? And all of ye -- Draco and Harry the mair, I ken ye baith o' auld -- ye'll let me know ye're well.'
'Yes, Headmistress,' they chorused, as they had so long done.
'I'm awa', then. And mind ye gang canny!' With which stern caution she Disapparated, leaving them shaking their heads, memories of years upon them.
'I don't suppose,' said Draco, quietly, 'Macmillan is to turn up next?'
'Unfortunately -- as I rather like him -- I but rarely see Ernie save it's being an emergency,' said Harry. 'He'll be welcome so long as it's a social call.' His tone was pleasant, but his smile was steely, and Draco took an odd pleasure in that.
The glen of sweet scents, gleann nan boltrachan tàladhan, the leaf-dappled glen, Gleann Afaraig, great Glen Affric, and they in it, with black grouse and capercailzie, the red deer upon the hill (o the red deer, the deer upon the hill, o the red deer, the deer of the mountains), badger and fox and otter of the pools, seeking the salmon of wisdom. And eagles in it, aye, and osprey, and the Scottish crossbill and the crested tit, and it the last great stronghold and refuge of the ancient Forest of Caledon, with red squirrel and pine marten, wild cat and stoat and cousinly weasel; and the pines and the holly amang the juniper and oak, rowan and alder, aspen a' a-tremble and willow grave and sad, and the auld comradely gleam of the siller birch in it. And the Argus and the fritillaries danced a ragged trousers in the heather, and the Green Hairstreak and the Speckled Wood strippit-the-willow or danced their reels upon the lichtsome airs, and the timid adder and the slowworm and the toad preached their own contentments as the longhorn beetle held his brief hour and the ptarmigan of the high places waited Winter's whitening.
The innate knowledge of Parseltongue had Harry lost; yet he had relearnt it, for cause, and it had stood him in gey guid stead in his time, and why should it not, and he learning it? Had not Albus Dumbledore, that canny man, learnt the speech of Merfolk, and had not Ron Weasley, even, a guid lad yet nae scholard, learnt to speak a phrase of the serpents' speech? Learning is never wasted.
And so that man spoke with adders and learnt of them what was afoot upon muir and water, wood and ben: and lang had done: and whiles it had been to his profit and warning, and whiles it had been a warning abroad, and times the noo it served him fair as times it had told him but little; and Draco and Teddy wondered at it, and him, not having quite conceived it, that there might be news amang the beasties and birds, that passed in the heather and the wood.
Yet there was aye news, amongst beasts magical and non-magical alike, and it did pass. Lang, lang syne, the Salmon, Auld Salar, had eat of the hazelnuts that drappit in the pool, and gained wisdom. And his tribe ever after was wise, and canny with it, and watched and warned; yet it is aye the fate of the prophet and the seer, and of the wise, that the licht-mindit tak' no tent of all their warnings and their wisdom. She of the Loch had grown great in pride with the slow years, and had all but forgot how it had been when she had faced and been outfaced by the Dove of the Church, the holy Calum Cille, spes Scotorum; had forgot the sudden fear and horror, and the sensation of being dragged down to the depths as if by ropes.... She was auld and her pride was o'erweening. The kelpies and shellycoats and lesser Horses of the Water she allowed to sport with the children of men upon the strands and shores of her water kingdom; she remained unseen, and men grew less wary, to her profit. She rarely devoured Muggles, for a' that: her taste was for Wizards and saints, and these for many a year had been few in the land, and she reduced to eating fish and water-creatures. (Well had it been for Hagrid that nowt had come of his suggestion that she -- believed by then by the very Ministry to be harmless and kindly -- be removed to the lake at Hogwarts.)
News, and scent-taste, and the feel of magic, flowed through land and water and air. She of the Loch was not one to heed warnings or wisdom; the words of the Sacred Salmon of Wisdom fell upon a deliberate deafness, the news and warnings of the Selkies and Merfolk, passed from the Finfolk, she disdained. She knew only that deliciously powerful Wizards were abroad in the land and upon her loch, and tasted them in every allt that ran in to the great dark water, luxuriating greedily in the long-forgotten scent and savour of Wizards of the line of Niall and of Brian, of Columba and Ivar, and one of them as well, Welshly, of the long getting of Sigtrygg II Silkbeard Olafsson, his son Amlaíb mac Sitriuc, Olaf of Dublin, and his son in turn, Gruffydd ap Cynan, of Gwynedd and all Wales, king.
For now, Harry knew rather that there was much afoot in the glen, of good omen; She of the Loch might bide another day.
'Follow,' said Harry, and led them slowly and quietly into the high wooded slopes.
Great is the Highland faith in luck, and it having come over the seas from Ulster, and as like instinct in the old Pictish blood and the old Pictish stones. The Children of Ulster, my lamb, my treasure, the Children of Ulster shall be at your wedding; the Children of Ulster, my lamb, my treasure, the Children of Ulster shall dance at your wedding. The King's children shall be at your wedding, and the pipes playing, and wine shall be drunk at your wedding; the Clan MacAulay, a merry crowd, the Sons of Olaf, at your wedding; aye, the Clan Mackenzie, bright in their clothing, shall dance at your wedding; surely the Clan Donald, and it's no wonder, shall dance and drink wine at your wedding....
Draco did not believe in luck: apparently all the world's luck belonged to Potter, and Potter had refused, with a wound too deep for healing, to share that luck of possession, many years before.
He tended also to disbelieve in omens and in Divination; yet he knew that there were magics in the world older than he.
They were come to a glade in the deep forests, the woods of Glen Affric. Harry motioned them to stillness. Then he lifted his wand.
The great hart all in siller, Harry's corporeal Patronus, stepped deliberately into the glade. Slowly and silently, the great stags, the red deer of the mountain -- o, o the red deer, the deer upon the hill, o the red deer, the deer of the mountains -- emerged from the wood, and gathered around him. They waited, and the watching Wizards waited with them. It was not the space of six breaths to them to wait, afore, tripping delicately from the trees, there came the great unicorn in the fullness of his growth. He was as silver of fell as the Patronal stag, and his beard as pure; his horn was gilt, as were his cloven hooves, and mane, and the tufts of his leonine tail: only between his withers and point of shoulder, about his neck, were there markings of gold that might have been a collaring coronet. This was the Unicorn Royal of the Highlands, that most magical of unicorn subspecies.
He bowed his proud head, and the ghostly stag-Patronus bowed his heavy crown of antlers. They did not charge one another, or seek to fight; rather did they pace towards one another, and nuzzle.
Harry's Patronus faded at last, and the Unicorn Royal stag turned and slipped into the wood, and the deer departed.
Wordlessly, the Wizards departed also.
Great things are succeeded by little; the triumphing conqueror by a clown whispering the intimations of mortality, as much as the deed of dreadful note by a drunken porter.
The long fall of even, then, found them at the hotel near to Loch Meiklie: rather a new hotel, as a hotel, but rather an old building as Muggle things went, a grand old pile converted into a very select hostelry. Harry did not much care for that sort of thing, being indifferent upon either side of the question: he had chosen it because it was famed for its kitchens and for its whisky and real ales, all of this locally sourced (the cask-conditioned ales included the by now well-established real ales from the brewers at Aviemore, and those of newer and yet more local enterprises). Keeping Teddy fed-and-watered was an exacting task (and not for the first time, Harry found himself wondering where in buggery the lad put it all. Teddy'd the metabolic processes of a wolf, at least).
For the rest, the place was typical of its time and terrain, built for the shooting-parties and the anglers of old, high and disposedly, Scots-baronial and Victorian, a kirkly building like a score of such in which Harry had been quartered in various Scottish and Isles commands, a trifle high and a trifle narrow in every room, tweedy and plaided in dun-coloured 'ancient' setts of tartan, with famous salmon and noble stags' heads upon the panelled walls, and indifferent paintings of wild Highland scenery, its outer integument a fantasy of crow-stepping and bartizan and gable and turret, as if Balmoral had had a bairn the wrang side o' the blanket wi' Aberdeen Grammar School. Yet it was deeply, sleepily comfortable, and its comforts not to be despised.
It remained, even so, a commercial enterprise, whatever lengths it went to in dissimulating the fact. And while its tariff was steep enough, that same tariff could not in itself serve altogether to ensure congenial company.
The private bar to which they had repaired -- with its 60/ ale for Draco and 80/ for the thirsty Teddy, and 'wee nips' for the notoriously hard-headed Harry -- had a noble fire roaring upon the hearth as the evening coolth and the mists of the Loch thickened. It also had the presence of three pleasant-seeming foreigners, who, as foreigners will do, insisted upon being conversable. Draco was suitably evasive, and Harry and Teddy well enough versed in presenting a bland politeness in the English fashion: so much more effective against foreigners than the equally unmeaning Highland courtesy. It was only afterward that Harry asked Draco if there was a particular reason he was so wary of the three men.
'I know them -- by reputation, and by sight well enough to steer clear. Bodo von Beust -- that's the aging schoolboy, or so he'd like to appear, the one who looks like that poor bastard Gottfried von Bismarck-Schönhausen, God rest him: mad, bad, and dangerous to know. A Squib, and with shocking habits. The tall, brooding dark one, is, I believe, his boon companion, Arminius von und zu Pappenheim-Tiedemann -- and there're two families who ought never have been allowed to intermarry. Bavarian papists and Prussian, Prot Junkers: dangerous enough without a Durmstrang education. Oh, yes, he'll have recognised you; all of us, I fear. And the lean young fellow whose leather collar one could just see under his shirt, well. Heinz Wotsit, their bit of peasant rough; one hears only rumours and those not terribly clear, but he's by all accounts the most depraved of the lot.'
Harry's face was inscrutable. 'So that polite invitation to stop by their rooms....'
'Potter ... Harry ... they're Germans,' said Draco. 'By "stop for a drink", they mean ... well, it involves prize-winning marrows, a crate of clementines, and whatever is the metric equivalent to two gallons -- Imperial -- of, ah, lube.'
'So long as they're not here in pursuit of scholarship,' said Teddy. 'I don't care to be pipped at the post by the Prussian Threat.'
Miss Victoire Weasley of Ottery to Professor ER Lupin D. Mag. &c, &c
Do please tell Uncle Harry -- I am writing to him also of course -- how delighted I am with his latest gift.
To you alone, I will say, Is he mad? A kelpie, tamed? And, also, I ask, Has he not given us far too many gifts already? And, also, Did it not occur to you to send an Owl and warn me?
And perhaps most importantly, Instead of capturing and taming kelpies, why is Uncle Harry not capturing and taming his Dragon? I realise, mon cher, that Uncle Harry and your cousin Draco are British, and therefore incapable of emotion, and yet, mon Dieu, it cannot be possible, truly, that they are unaware of their passions. C'est incroyable. The good Aunt Ginny, now with God and His saints, was the pattern of what notre oncle bien aimé -- mais, certainement, un peu désengagé -- wants in a mate: someone who will stand up to him and whom he can treat as an equal; and if Uncle Harry is inconscient of this, and that Draco is perhaps the only Wizard-or¬-Witch remaining who is capable of this, he is alone in this ignorance. Even Uncle Ron is aware of this, and resigned to it, not least because he has had time to become used to seeing Albus and Scorpius as an all but acknowledged couple. The only person we know who can possibly have remained as blind to this fact is Draco lui-même, despite, or perhaps by reason of, his having been obsessed with Uncle Harry for more than three decades now. Il parle la langue d'amour comme une vache espagnole, notre cousin. I fear that if you locked them in a warded room, both àpoil, they'd ignore what is obvious to tout le monde -- surely passing Muggles, even, must be aware of their mutual attraction -- and find something to quarrel about instead.
With you I shall not of course cherche des poux; but I implore you to recognise that it is in your interest, in future (if, as the English say, you know what I mean, and I think that you do), to warn me when -- and prior to the time -- Uncle Harry chooses once again to play at being Haroun al-Rashid and pour simply impossible gifts into our laps....
It really was a quite decent hotel, as its breakfast attested the next day; yet its tariff, standing alone, did not quite serve to altogether to ensure congenial company.
The hotel was not altogether innocent of ramblers; yet there are ramblers and ramblers, and it was the Boden-and-Barbour-clad upper middle and lower upper classes it most wished to attract.
In this it had not been wholly successful. Some American institutions of learning have far too much dosh set aside for far too many idiocies, with the result that members of their SCRs have an annoying habit of turning up in any number of places where one shouldn't otherwise see a don who hadn't independent means and the manners to match them. And so it was that Teddy's hackles were raised by the appearance upon the scene, when he stepped outside, of two all too hearty Yank academical persons of about his own age, just setting out for the morning.
She was a Petunia Dursley in the chrysalis stage, thin and thrusting, with a peahen quality in her tones that rivalled Aunt Hermione at Aunt Hermione's worst, and a perpetual air of one seeking out something by which to be offended. (What had been the name of that mad Muggle MP? Harriet Harperson, that was it....) He was stringy, with a scant, scruffy beard, thinning hair on his crown and a ponytail at the back, and intensely gogglesome specs, worn over the dotty eyes that seem always to lurk behind such pebble-lenses. Both were clearly veteran hill-walkers, and both were obviously American before they so much as spoke, for the gear that proclaimed their Serious Commitment to the Out of Doors was, if well-used, unfaded, being wholly composed of unnatural fabrics in equally unnatural colours, a clamant affront to the land and sky, the heather and the lochs and the mist-mantled bens.
And after all, whilst her shirt was one great political slogan, her pack, like his shirt, shouted the unrecognised but obviously academic names of their redbrick institutions.
Teddy, not unnaturally, immediately feared the worst: professorial interlopers.
Being Americans, the two were not likewise daunted, and as Harry, in Harris tweeds and a well-cut kilt, and Draco, in equally bespoke Hawick Lovat tweeds, came out, the American trippers gave tongue.
'Well, hi, there. Going for a stroll?' It is commonly impossible that Americans enamoured of nature-walks can conceive that these may be undertaken by those properly dressed, rather than only by strenuous seekers in ecologically-touted sandals made of old tyres, and absurd hiking trousers. (Evidently, Leon Bean had lived and died in vain.)
Teddy sketched what might charitably have been called a nod. 'How d'y'do.' This is not, in British English, a query, being functionally equivalent to an acknowledgement that another exists, and wants to sod off sharpish.
Unfortunately, like many Americans, the two young academics did not speak English.
'Oh, you're local. Great. This is our first trip to England.'
Harry was quite fond of Americans, as a rule: he'd seen them fight. Then again, the sort of Americans Harry knew and was fond of: Muggle Army chaps, and officers and ORs of their equivalent to the Aurory, Southerners and Texans mostly; and the boffins, Magical and Muggle alike, who tended to run to curtly courteous New England patricians and intensely intellectual New Yorkers: were not this sort of American, and in fact regarded this sort of American rather as did Harry.
'You're in Scotland just now, actually,' said he, repressively, in a voice that was by no means in mufti at the moment.
The American woman all but rolled her eyes. 'Yeah, yeah, it's like those nutcases in the South or Texas who always stress that sorta shit. I get it, okay.'
Her companion appeared to have fewer Issues with Being Corrected by an Older Male Authority Figure. 'Say, I guess we oughta introduce ourselves. I'm Randy.' He gestured to the woman as Harry, Draco, and Teddy schooled their features to impassivity, lest hilarity break through. 'And that's Fanny.'
Teddy, fortunately, was Metamorphmagus enough to keep his countenance even now; Harry of course was a trained Auror, and Draco had learnt of Lucius this much at least, that marmoreal impassivity is to be cultivated at all costs.
'I'm with the Earth Sciences Department at Adams State, and Fanny's the Sotomayor Interdisciplinary Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Gender Studies at Colorado College.'
'Teddy Lupin, Fellow of All Souls.' He was also of course a Fellow of Paracelsus, Student of Godric, and Baconian Professor of Magical History at the University of Domdaniel, but this was not the sort of thing one said to passing Muggles. 'My godfather, Brigadier --' the Muggle-Worthy Excuse was by now second nature -- 'Potter; my grandmother's nephew, Mr Malfoy.' Whatever 'earth sciences' might be (alchemy? geomancy?), it seemed to pose no threat, but a cultural anthropologist might be dangerous (and what in buggery were 'gender studies' when they were at home, he'd like to know, or, rather, he rather thought he shouldn't like to know, at all).
'Gee, that's kinda nice, isn't it, Fanny. That's what we all are, whether we recognise it or not: the fellows of all souls. We should make that a creed of the Green movement.'
Teddy was beyond speech. Good God. They cannot be real. This is all an elaborate exercise in practical humour, isn't it.
Fanny was staring at Draco and Harry. 'You're a couple?'
'Actually,' said Teddy, coldly -- he might be working towards that very end, but he'd no idea what possible business it was of this mad bint's, and the woman was incorrect factually as well as socially, damn her impudence and impertinence -- 'actually, Uncle Harry and Cousin Draco are both widowers, my Aunt Ginny and my cousin's wife Aster having both been killed in the terror attacks in London some years ago.'
'Hey, okay. You seem pretty defensive about it: closet, much? And your Uncle the Army dude's the one in the skirt.'
'I do hope you're not secretly gay, Teddy.' Harry was icily amused. 'I've already sent the wedding gifts, you know. He's marrying my niece next month, you see,' confided Harry to the Americans. 'And you might not wish to miscall kilts whilst you're in Scotland. The local smith and champion caber-tosser, say, might not be so forgiving as I am. But, there, as tossers in your own right, I expect you grasp that. Good morning to you.'
As Harry and Draco strolled back into the hotel, their faces turned carefully from the Yank trippers so as not to show their irresistible urge to break down laughing, Teddy followed. Good God. Thank God we quarantined that sort at Oxford -- put 'em all in Wadham and Balliol where they could bore one another; and not even Tomz or Bertie had 'em at Domdaniel. Teddy held the attitudes of a Godric man towards the Colleges of Thomas Aquinas and of Albertus Magnus in the University of Domdaniel, and so far as his Muggle MA and DPhil went, Teddy was an Oriel man at all points. 'Academical persons' -- I ask you: too closed-minded to accept instruction and too damn pig-ignorant to be allowed.
It did not improve Teddy's temper to find, upon gaining the interior, his godfather and his cousin vainly attempting to prop one another up, both of them weak with laughter.
Narcissa Malfoy OM (3d) to the Right Honourable Andromeda Tonks of Atrum, OM (1st), MPC, MW
DROMEDA, MY DEAR,
Teddy's Brilliant Idea -- not the scholarly one: the one that matters -- has not yet quite come off, I fear.
I blame Draco. The boy is impossible. Simply hopeless. Can you credit it, he actually believed that darling Harry's declarations, after dear Ginny's (and indeed dear Aster's) unfortunate death, were so much nobly-done rubbish, uttered for political purposes, and done partly to promote toleration within the Auror Corps and partly to support Albus (and my grandson, to be sure). And of course, Draco then must needs make a public announcement in emulation, or, it may have been, in rivalry, to the effect that he also was no great respecter of sex when it came to his possibly taking a second, and that he hoped that all his son's generation should never feel impelled to hide or deny their affections: all very noble and self-sacrificing, of course (although, really, after Harry had said as much, only an irreducible few still held their former opinions on the subject, and they didn't quite dare say so in public any longer), but really quite vexing as he's not acted upon it in the least. It's been simply years, as well you know, and for all the difference it's made to his own miserably solitary existence he might as well not have said anything.
I mean, really, my dear! I cannot imagine what more Harry might have done, short of taking out an advert in dear Luna's quaint little newspaper, to announce that he was, as a widower, now available to suitors of either sex, and it's not as if it weren't and is not universally acknowledged that he and Draco are quite simply destined....
Old right, old wrong, and old romance are common coin in the Highlands; and no small portion of that fee has been minted at Erchless Castle. Twelve teuchters and a piper mak' a rebellion. And the feuds and gestes of Chisholm and Fraser are not the least romantic of the tales of Scottish legendry; nor the long quarrels of Clan Donald and the Lords of the Isles with the Rosses anent Wester Ross, the least bluidy and sair o' a' that the tales o' Scotland tak' tent.
It was not, therefore, altogether unlikely that Teddy, Draco, and Harry should encounter the Americans -- the regrettably-named Randy and Fanny -- where, at the mouth of Strathglass and Strathfarrar, Glass and Farrar wed to engender the River Beauly. Nevertheless, the two Yanks -- who seemed suspicious of the Wizards' own presence there: how had these tweedy blokes, they seemed to wonder, bereft of high-tech gear, preceded them, and two of them decrepit, well past thirty? -- the two Yanks seemed to be taking what was to Teddy an alarming interest in the antiquities of Struy and of Leishmore, the Dùn Struthaidh Beag of Struy Wood, the Broch of Dùn Coille Struthaidh, the Dùn of Coille Mhòr and the great coign of Cnoc an Taigh Mhòir abune the Castle of Erchless.
Randy chose to take notice of them. 'Oh, hey.' This is a greeting, in American. 'Interesting country, huh? Pretty classic confluence. But, hey, you got some great geology all around here. Flooded rift valley -- classic. But don't mind me, I'm just here for the geological grunt-work. See, what this is about, is, Fanny --' it was clear that (there being no accounting for taste) Randy felt towards Fanny precisely as their unfortunate names should attest -- 'come here a minute, Fan -- see, Fanny is interested in what the remains say about Women's History.' The majuscules were quite audible.
'Ah,' said Teddy, warily.
Fanny, who appeared not unnaturally to resent being called upon to do her turn like a performing dog in a music hall act, was abrupt. 'Women's roles in EMA.' (What? Teddy suppressed a sigh.) 'All the kin-groups were led by matriarchs. Pretty much at war with each other all the time, yanno, before that, but as women took over leadership roles and the Goddess was given more cult, they cooperated and coalesced.'
'Obvious when you free your mind from all that patriarchy bullshit. And then Christianity -- don't get me started. Fucking oppressive.'
'How very interesting,' said Harry. 'I'm not familiar with the literature, I'm afraid.'
'Oh, there's not much of it. Yet. It's suppressed, still. I mean, can you believe there are still people -- well, men -- writing and publishing shit about vitrified forts? When it's obvious these were used for rituals.'
'I can quite easily believe it,' said Harry, with masterful equivocation.
Fanny (poor child, to be burdened with that name) was alert to his equivocation, however. 'Yeah, Mr Army Dude, I don't figure you to believe that there was ever anything but war and fucking manliness. But lookit the Picts. Matrilineal succession: what does that say, huh?'
'Commonly,' said Harry, rather crisply, 'what it says is that the habit was established for a people regularly raided or conquered, in which paternity was often doubtful due to the exceeding unfortunate habits of undisciplined enemy soldiery, who are not readily dissuaded from rape as well as rapine. It is however generally conceded nowadays, I believe, that in the case of the Picts, and to some extent that of the Gaels of Dál Riata, that eligibility to succeed to the kingship was predicated upon one's having had a great-grandsire who was king. Tanistry and the derbhfine certainly existed in contemporary Ireland; and that kings were succeeded by the next mature, strong leader of the blood royal -- an atheling, in fact -- suggests to my simple, military mind that war was an ever-present consideration. The result for the Picts and Gaels seems to have been a sort of early semi-Salic or agnatic succession. I am of course very willing to hear evidence to the contrary.'
Draco had forgotten until just then that it hadn't all been Hogwarts and the Auror Academy for Harry: he'd his Domdaniel MMA as well.
'Yeah, I'll get right on that. I guess you people are still reading the patriarchy's propaganda.'
This was too much for Teddy. 'But isn't it necessary in a scholar to read all witnesses and all interpretations? To keep an open mind?'
Randy shook his head, rather in sorrow than in Fanny's evident anger. 'Ted. Ted. Ted. And I thought you were one of the good guys, fellow to all other souls. You've gotten warped by the patriarchic narrative. When you read those guys, you're taking that shit on board, don't you see? And supporting them.' His eyes were fanatical behind his thick lenses. 'To be really radical, you hafta get down to the roots. If it means starting over from scratch. You've gotten all this put in your mind, see? Not just the intellectual façade, all of it, music and art and all the rest. You hafta reject it all and rebuild from the ground up, don't you see?'
'Do you seriously mean to suggest that one not read an author with whom one disagrees, not engage a contrary idea in debate? Indeed, avoid works of art and music and literature whose creators one disapproves politically?'
'Yes! You're getting it, dude.'
'So -- merely by way of example -- one mustn't, if one is to keep one's ... purity ... listen to music by, oh, let's say a fellow who was twice married, bred almost a score of children upon his exhausted wives, ran his household altogether his way, insisted his sons follow in the family business, and worked all his life for aristocrats and church organisations? Or, so far as that goes, listen to music by a capitalist, a music industry insider, what I think you call "a suit"; or look at pictures by a man who celebrated the middle classes and wealth and the benefits of a capitalist republic?'
'Jesus, you mean like Norman Fucking Rockwell?'
'I suppose so. One mustn't listen to these or look at these, then?'
'You're getting it, Ted. You're getting it.' Randy was encouraging, a missionary upon the verge of converting a heathen.
'No,' said Teddy, sternly, 'I am not. If you think I am going to reject Bach and Handel and Vermeer to pass your partisan political purity test, you're so barking you share a borough with Dagenham. And before you say anything further, let me explain to you that, when I say I am a Fellow of All Souls, I mean that I hold a Fellowship at and of All Souls, Oxford, and am considered in right thereof to be one of the four score or so cleverest scholars in the kingdom ... you pig-ignorant, provincial, stupid twats.'
As Teddy turned and stalked off, Harry and Draco made their ironic bows and followed, listening with a certain malicious pleasure to Fanny's outraged, 'I heard what you did there! That's the language of sexual violence!'
Harry at least was trying very sternly not to murmur, '"Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I'm being repressed! Did you hear that, eh? That's what I'm on about! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, didn't you?"'
There is none who turns more rapidly into a fuming Colonel Blimp when challenged by the Lesser Breeds Without the Law than a rather bien-pensant don of Teddy's kidney.
Harry was soothing. 'Now, now, Teddykins. They rather evidently don't know any better, and no doubt they mean well; and you must, really, take people as they are: we're all of us Jock Tamson's bairns together, you know.'
Teddy was still boiling over. 'No one, no one, could be so stage-American as all that! And I cannot imagine they can be in fact academical persons -- even in America! Uncle Harry, they're up to something.'
'Teddy. I admit the wee hen isn't precisely Aud the Deep-minded, and her loon is no better. Nevertheless, I really don't think that the possibility -- a remote one -- that two Muggle dons from the other side of the Pond might anticipate some of your conclusions, renders them a threat to the security and defence of the realm. However, I do agree that they seem rather to be overacting their parts: I've already begun enquiries.'
Draco nodded. 'Wise, I think. Not even Americans can be quite that ludicrously American: it's pure caricature.'
Harry smiled, and said, with peculiar emphasis and an air of quotation. '"You'd be surprised".' It was enough to surprise Teddy into a laugh: he knew the story, one that Harry had had of a member of the Household long since. Charles, then Prince of Wales, at a time before his first marriage, had been abroad, in Texas in fact, and was being driven from the airport to town. A brash local politician had said, 'I guess you get a lot of pussy with this gig'; to which the prince had inscrutably and equivocally replied, 'Oh, you'd be surprised'....
'Now,' said Harry. 'Have we done for the day? Tomorrow's Sunday, you know.' Harry wore the military conventions and the military virtues like a second skin, and whatever he thought of the Kirk of Scotland, he should have them properly on church parade the morn, in deference to local custom and the prejudices of rural Scotland.
'Yes,' said Teddy, 'I've seen what I wished to see.'
'Good. Now I suggest that tonight, you take Draco into your confidence: he's much more learned than is a simple soldier, and can assess your theory far better than I. I think luncheon is next, and then an afternoon's birding. We'll set out, after morning service, upon the loch again.
'And, Teddy, you mustn't let these dubious Yanks upset you. You want to preserve your scholarly equilibrium, lad.'
Teddy, like Draco and Andromeda and Cissy and all the Blacks, put no faith in Divination. 'Oh, all right. But there's a reason that sort were immured together in Balliol and Wadham. The temptation with that lot isn't only to toss them into Mercury, it's to hold them down under water until they stop struggling.'
The Right Honourable Andromeda Tonks of Atrum, OM (1st), MPC, MW to Narcissa Malfoy OM (3d)
... You really must stop and reflect. Certainly Albie and Scorpius are well-suited, and always were, and have been since they were old enough to know what they wanted; but, really, they've not the rather vexed history between them that my nephew and my grandson's godfather have. I took the trouble to look out, in the Official Record, precisely what Harry said in the Moot, what time some pure-blooded idiot was banging on about moral purity in the Royal Corps of Aurors -- as if anyone who serves the Crown faithfully and guards us whilst we sleep isn't entitled to a private life! -- and I must, really, remind you of just what he said (and thank Heaven for copying-spells):
THE AUROR-IN-CHIEF (HOME FORCES) AND VICE-CHIEF OF THE MAGICAL GENERAL STAFF (AUROR-GENERAL HJ POTTER OF GRIFFIN PRIORS AND POTTERSFIELD) (QUANTOCK & MENDIP): Madam Speaker, I am charged with advising the Moot of the professional advice that I and my colleagues have given to the Aurorlty, and which the Aurorlty have accepted. We are seized of the concerns raised in this Moot by the hon. Member for Drumsawry. In response, Madam Speaker, it is the professional opinion of the Staff that there are only two legitimate concerns regarding the sexuality of members of the Forces. The first is that orders might conceivably be given or not given, followed or not followed, based upon personal entanglements rather than upon Auroral necessity. The second is that officers and Other Ranks entrapped or seduced into sexual relations outside -- or as I became accustomed to saying whilst holding appointment as General Auror Commanding Scottish Command, outwith -- a recognised marriage, may be compromised.
Madam Speaker, in a less disciplined Aurory, it might befall that personal relationships should overbear or conflict with military necessity. The good order and discipline of the Royal Corps of Aurors is, however, maintained by HM Regulations, which exist precisely to prevent such improper influences being brought to bear. I shall go so far as to submit that regulations and orders should fail of their object only if relationships other than those of blood kinship and marriage are not acknowledged openly, and accounted for. In the same way, it is only so long as such relationships are subjected to disdain and driven underground that the mere existence of them, as 'dirty little secrets' rather than open and known relationships, can be used to compromise a serving member of the Forces; I may add, Madam Speaker, that adulterous relations are equally compromising whether in the context of homosexual or heterosexual affaires, such that the concerns adverted to by the hon. Member do not address the point she ostensibly seeks to address. In --
MISS VANE (DRUMSAWRY): Madam Speaker! On a point of order --
MRS TONKS OF ATRUM (THE FIVE BOROUGHS): Madam Speaker, is the hon. gentlewitch asserting that the word 'ostensibly' is unparliamentary?
MADAM SPEAKER: It depends upon whether it is accurately applied.
(My dear Cissy, I assure you, a chill went through the Moot at Madam Speaker's tone just then. La Vane sat down with a squeak.)
MADAM SPEAKER: The right honourable and gallant Member for Quantock and Mendip.
THE AUROR-IN-CHIEF (HOME FORCES) AND VICE-CHIEF OF THE MAGICAL GENERAL STAFF: Madam Speaker. In the considered professional opinion of the Staff, as given to the Aurorlty and accepted by the Aurorlty, the only policy that should impair the discipline and efficiency of the Royal Corps of Aurors were not to allow members of the Forces to serve openly regardless of sexual preference or orientation.
To this I should like to add a few personal observations. I should think that no hon. Member of the Moot could forget that we were saved, in material part -- when the Moot and the Ministry were either indifferent to, or a part of, the threat of treason -- by a school headmaster who happened to have been gay. I am perfectly well aware that a number of gallant and loyal officers and Other Ranks whom I have had the honour of commanding, any one of whom I should have trusted and indeed did trust with my life, have been and are gay, Lesbian, or bisexual. Since the death of my late wife, I have not been romantically involved with any other person; but I can state with confidence that, were I to find a person with her qualities of mind and spirit, I should be interested in her or him, and I should not at all care if that person were a Witch, a Wizard, a Muggle woman, or a Muggle man.
MADAM SPEAKER: Order! Order!
THE AUROR-IN-CHIEF (HOME FORCES) AND VICE-CHIEF OF THE MAGICAL GENERAL STAFF: Madam Speaker; hon. Members. I have three children. It is entirely possible that any or all of them may, when they reach the age of maturity, turn out heterosexual, gay or Lesbian, or bisexual. I should consider condemnation of that child or those children on grounds of sexual preference ... to be equivalent to condemnation of him, her, or them on the grounds of what was formerly called blood status and blood purity.
(I assure you, sister mine, that got their attention. There was a positive Scene in the Moot. Of course, in the end, it seems Our Harry has one of each in his three children....)
MADAM SPEAKER: Order! The Moot will be orderly, or this sitting shall be suspended!
THE AUROR-IN-CHIEF (HOME FORCES) AND VICE-CHIEF OF THE MAGICAL GENERAL STAFF: In any event, Madam Speaker, it is the determination of the Aurorlty, based upon the professional advice given by me and by my colleagues upon Staff, that it should do far more harm than good, and should not be tenable or ethically acceptable, to institute any bar upon the service of members of the Forces based upon their sexual preferences ... any more than it should be were that criterion applied to hon. Members of this Moot.
You can only imagine how that went over.
My dear, Draco wasn't present -- in the gallery, naturally -- upon that day; I was present -- as a Member. If my nephew thinks that that was Harry's being political only, he's as great a fool as his father, or Aunt Walburga, or indeed Great-Granduncle Arcturus. Equally, Cis, for you to believe that that was Harry's undying declaration of passion for your son, you're as romantic as poor Sirius or Uncle Alphard or Great-Granduncle Phineas. Naturally I think Harry and Draco should make a perfect match: they've been one another's axis for simply years, and neither Aster nor even poor dear Ginny was ever quite so central to them as the lads were to one another. But, really, sister dear, consider the axes they've to grind, yet. When Draco and Harry the both of them can accept that each is an equal of the other and that the other knows it, something may be possible; but I rather fear that we are not within sight of any such resolution, not least because the only Wizard in any generation whom I know to be as pigheaded as Harry is Draco, and contrariwise. It's difficult enough to give either of the silly young fools a lead; it's impossible to drive them.
Possess yourself in patience, dear, I adjure you; if you will try to push things, it'll all go to buggery, and not in the sense you're hoping for....
That night, as Harry had suggested, Teddy furnished forth his budding theory to a Draco who was almost too pleased at being included -- and having been praised by Harry -- to forget to be critical.
'-- Harry tells me that the military picture is perfectly sound.'
'Yes,' said Draco, judiciously. 'What was the term? Ah. "Kin-group" against "kin-group", each on its hillock with its fort, in a war of all against all. Hobbesian, that. But --' and here he smiled ruefully: since encountering the American Randy, his dilettante's interest in Muggle geology had considerably diminished -- 'even the geography suggests that.'
'Right. So. Well. I think Harry may well be right also about the matrilineal aspect, or, more precisely, why it came to be. Yet it persisted. And look here, at this map --' Harry had long since taught Teddy how to conjure a holographic OS-cum-Auroral-Survey map -- 'notice the alignment as well as the placing of the duns and brochs, cairns and mounds and menhirs. Even after they were no longer fighting one another....'
'You submit, then, that they'd more than other Muggles, and indeed other humans, Muggle or Wizard, to fear, and to defend against. Go on.'
'One thing that follows is this, that the men remained warriors quite late. And what follows from that?'
'Go on.' Draco was reserving judgement.
'Let me take an indirect approach, just for a moment. Dad and Sirius. Wolf and dog.'
'Ah.' Draco suspected he knew where this was headed. 'In Greece, in Germany, and among the Celts, this was often a metaphor, a kenning, for homosexual bonds.'
'It still is,' said Harry. 'Witness the term "bitch" when used of a gay man.'
'As in, "Gaius is Clodius' bitch"?' Draco was at pains to be coolly judicious, if only so as not to let on that he was startled and intrigued that Harry knew the usage.
'Got it in one. Go on, Teddy.'
'Right. We know from Classical sources that the Celts at least were quite open to male homosexuality.'
'Diodorus Siculus,' said Draco, pert as ever. 'Quite. And you are going to tell me also that many of the war-bands had a Wolf as totem.'
'I cannot think that that will please the Shaws,' said Harry, mysteriously. 'A notably God-fearing clan, that. But of course, as I've told Teddy, a homosocial society, particularly in arms, tends to be -- absent religious strictures and not infrequently despite 'em -- a homosexual one. From the public schools to the Muggle Navy -- "rum, sodomy, and the lash" -- you do rather commonly find it.'
Draco looked at him with a markedly raised eyebrow. 'When did you decide you were wholly heterosexual?'
Harry laughed. 'We all know I'm not.' Draco's lips thinned. Harry went on. 'The problem -- the only problem -- with gays and lesbians serving in the Forces is that, save in a professional and disciplined force, such as we have now, there is the risk that orders will be given, or not given, obeyed, or not obeyed, based upon affection rather than military necessity. It's not commonly a problem -- any more than is having Witches in ranks, as I pointed out to those damned fools in the Moot -- in a disciplined arm of the modern model, regimental or the like, whether in a volunteer force or, in a democracy, when a conscript army is the nation-in-arms. Before Early Modern times, it had its flaws: posturing, patronage, all that. After all, the Sacred Band of Thebes didn't actually win at Chæronea, and as for Patroklos and Achilleus....'
Teddy coughed, meaningfully. 'To return to our muttons.... Oh, do leave off with the wolf humour. Where were we? Ah. Look at Cú Chulainn, and at both Láeg and at Ferdiad. And it was here in Alba that Ferdiad and Cú Chulainn were lovers when they were being trained to arms by the warrior-Witch Scáthach. And of course in Wales there are Gwydion and Gilfaethwy -- and they were brothers, mind you.'
'I always did wonder about various Weasleys,' said Draco. Harry's glare might have done duty for a Bludger.
'Do you mind? Both of you. And Celtic law was clear that a woman might divorce if her husband waxed fat, was impotent, grew too enamoured of other men to perform with her, or was adulterous with other women. Now just you look at that map again.'
'Teddy.' Draco's tone was warning now. 'The Greeks were ... clever buggers ... and yet thought to see people and objects in the random stars. If you want me to impose a pattern on those sites and make this a sexualised landscape, I'll want a dirtier mind than I possess.'
'And that's not likely,' said Harry. 'Oh, don't look at me in that fashion, Draco, everyone's always saying how like us Scorpius and Al are, and you know what they're like.'
Draco sighed. 'All too true. In which event, I may add, you're remarkably depraved beneath it all, if Albus Severus is indeed any guide.'
Harry smiled, with princely inscrutability. After all, they both knew, although they Did Not Speak of It, that it had been Scorpius who'd blagged Al into that ill-starred 'Make Your Own Porno Pensieve at Home' folly. When, inevitably, the memory phial had been half-inched, by a Knockturn stair-dancer hired by a Dirty Old Bugger intent on selling copies in France and America ('Petits Minets en Travestie! British Schoolboys Gone Wild! Bareback Princess Twinks! Order Now!'), it had required their joint efforts, Harry's and Draco's, although too embarrassed to work together save through agents, to recover the damned thing. Harry didn't know, of course, what Draco had had to say to his son, but Harry still wished to forget having had to speak to Albus about the wisdom of not leaving Pensieved scenes of one's shagging one's unacknowledged boyfriend -- let alone when said unacknowledged boyfriend is wearing nothing but pearls, shag-me women's high heel sandals, and a smile, and making breathy, alto noises -- unsecured.
Teddy was not letting them indulge this unseasonable flirtation, however much he applauded the end. 'If I may? Ta ever sodding so. The fact remains that even if this is by the way, it leads to an important set of conclusions. The several peoples of the Highlands remained threatened, quite late, by more than mortal or human enemies. The state of war thus engendered led to men's being absent a good deal and forming warrior-bonds that were often their primary affectional bonds. The women, guarding the hearth, became the governors. And -- to answer your question of an early Summertide breakfast, Uncle Harry -- would not what obtained amongst the warriors in male company likewise obtain amongst the women at home?'
'The politics of purdah.' Draco's eyes were keen now with interest: politics was in his blood, after all, for good as for ill. 'The harem, the seraglio, the hougong, the zenana. Well, it's not impossible, young Lupin. The gynaikeion persisted into the Byzantine gynaikonitis and influenced the household intrigues of the tsars of Russia. I take it your suggestion, then, is that the women also had same-sex lovers and used this network to influence government and policy and succession, whatever the men thought? Dux femina facti and All That. All right. Prove it.'
When Harry left them at midnight, Draco was still picking holes in Teddy's thesis, as he was meant to do.
As for Harry, his night was spent in dreams. Dreams to sell, fine dreams to sell, Angus is here with dreams to sell. ... Birdies are nestlin', nestlin' taegether, Dream Angus is hurtlin' through the heather. He experienced anew the quiet pleasures of the day; and in dreams knew augury. He had sensed in waking hours the coming changes: the Hielan Simmertide was drawing on, drawing down, the last sweet notes of an auld air played upon a rustic fiddle. The reel of the Simmer, the transcribed puirt àbeul, was ending, its last notes, the Scots snap, ringing into silence. Already the piper of Autumn, of the Hairst, the Harvest-tide, was striding forth to play the pìobaireachd, the Great Music of Autumn, the season's ceòl mòr.
Already, in waking and in dreams, the goosander was looking to more sheltered waters. The long days of the orchid faded as the orchid upon the open hill faded; the crested tit roved and foraged in anticipation of the fading year. The red grouse sensed the changes; and already the first pioneers and scouts of the whooper swan and the pink-footed goose were feeling in their Arctic fastnesses the drive that should bring them Southwards at the last. Upon the open orchid-hills now surrendered by the orchid, the great red deer were beginning to also to feel the season's tug, and the first stirrings of the rut were upon them. Osprey and capercailzie, red squirrel and otter, sensed their world as it shifted upon its ancient axis; the corncrakes were leaving the West, the Isles, as the Simmer left the land. Wagtail, dipper, and creeper, all knew the coming change. These had he seen in waking; and saw again, with a friendlier Draco beside him, in the land of dreams. Sweet the lavrock sings at morn, heraldin' in a bricht new dawn. Wee lambs, they coorie doon taegether alang wi' their yowies in the heather.
And in the Land of Dreams, there was morning, fair, braw and bricht, and Harry in it, and his plaid transformed -- o, ask not how in dreams -- into the augur's robe, his shepherd's crook -- the Scots Aurors yet bide with these as officers' accoutrements even as did the auld Hielan regiments, the century and mair syne, afore the Sassenach regimental cane replaced these in the Muggle Forces' Royal Regiment of Scotland -- his crook a lituus, and all the birds of the air, of the Simmer and of the Hairst, were omens. And whiles the fair morn thickened, and a mist of shadow darkened all in pearlescent grey and mystery, and the air grew the mair cauld; and then came a great wind rising, frae the airts o' the Wast where is the Land o' the Leal in the Isles o' the Blessit, and frae the keen North, and a great muckle eagle, iolaire suile nag rein, the Eagle with the Sunlit Eye, vast upon the wings o' the Sun, crying aloud. Aye, and then in dreams he beheld for a moment o' time outwith time the Hebrides, and then frae the Sooth and the Wast cam' up a great soft smirr o' rain, soft and liquid as the Gaelic, and it passed, and a' was clear nicht, and cauld, and the Winter upon the land, there in the Land o' Dreams: fu' nicht and piercing, still, maist still, and the starlicht pure and cauld and siller and remote beyond a' that's kennt. And he in it, and Draco with him, and they in a bull's hide stiff wi' rime and yet not cauld, as the druids had not been cauld in the hide in freezing watter and they prophesying and reciting the auld lays, in the divination of the taghairm....
Harry slept. Hush now, wee bairnie, and sleep wi'out fear, for Angus will bring you a dream, my dear.
Albus Severus Potter to Scorpius Malfoy
Leave it to Teddy, won't you? Even Aunt Hermione has sense enough to know that pushing those two'll simply cause the whole sodding thing to go tits-up. Even Uncle Ron knows that much. Our fathers are idiots, to be frank. If they'd just save each other's arses one last time, perhaps they'll finally twig.
We can't do anything about them, love, much as we'd like to see them sorted. And I'm not overly pleased that we're spending more time trying to get them into bed together than we are getting into bed ourselves. Can you slip away from revisions tonight at half eight? I don't think the Shack is wise, but Greenhouse Five has possibilities....
It was well that Harry had insisted they sit under the minister at the parish kirk of Urquhart and Glenmoriston, Blairbeg, Drumnadrochit. His choice had been influenced by his knowing Major Grant slightly, an old soldier (and Squib liaison) whose parish it was; it was the more fortunate in that it was a Sunday for a service in Scots, which had patriotically drawn there the Drumnadrochit PC, a senior Detective Inspector of Northern Constabulary's area command down from Inverness, and the nearest depute of the Highland Council Area's Procurator Fiscal.
For between the beginning of the service by the minister at 10.30 precisely and the point in the Common Order where they wrestled wi' the Beuk o' Amos ('Wull a burd faw ontae a girn on the grun gin the'r nae bait for't?') and proceeded metrically to sing Saum 104 ('Leviathan's sel ye hae shupen / til play himsel ben i the spate ... Ye but hap yer face, they'r dang davert; ye steek aff their breath, they can blaw nae mair, an hame they gang syne til their stour'), the American Randy was offtaken frae the land o' the living, upon the Loch, and the wifie seeing it and greeting sair o' murder an' all sorts.
At 11.32, Harry was just introducing to old Major Grant his godson and their cousin. 'I must say, Iain, I'm surprised to see all these folk on parade for a service in the Doric claik, here in the Gàidhealtachd. A service in the Gaelic, certainly -- but in Scots?'
Major Grant set his lips in a thin and Covenanting line. 'As my old factor might say, "It iss, chust": we speak the Gaelic or the English, here, or the both together, and Scots but to trippers buying tat. It's become in some sort a political device: blame Eck Salmond, if you like. And then --'
Harry was only half-attending. A silent ripple of perturbation was passing through the crowd.
Whatever had been the relations between Dr Randle Murray, late of a Coloradan poly of sorts, and Dr Frances Bisset of another such institute, she was now transformed into a woman bent upon vengeance, as might be any wifie for her slain lover. She drove through the crowd like an arrow of fate, dishevelled as a Mænad and as wild, and shrieking like a bean-shìdh. PC Cameron of the local plod, Drumnadrochit -- 'dinna ca' him "Dave"' -- moved forward to intercept her, radiating massive policemanly disapproval and the calm majesty of the law. One constable of the Poileas a' Chinn a Tuath, Northern Constabulary, suffices for most tasks.
Major Grant was outraged. 'What is this that the woman is crying? Is there murder done, then?'
'I fear so,' said Harry, calmly. 'And so far as I follow American -- and oaths on the Sabbath, in the kirkyaird -- she is of the mind that I or one of my party has the guilt of it.' And he settled his Glengarry squarely upon his dark poll and strode forward one pace (Teddy covertly amused at Draco's inability to forebear gazing avidly, if covertly, at the swing of Harry's kilts), and, every scant inch the senior officer on the Retired List, prepared to receive the enemy's attack.
'YOU! YOU FUCKERS!'
The minister's face as he heard the woman was a study in muscular and militant Calvinism.
'WHICH OF YOU KILLED MY RANDY? I'LL HAVE YOU FOR IT!'
DI Rose was before her, warrant card in hand, stout, sturdy, and reproving. 'Noo, then, mistress --'
'LET ME AT 'EM! THEY KILLED MY PARTNER!'
The Fiscal Depute, Mrs Chisholm, motherly and silver-haired, had already set PC Cameron to sending for support from VIA. 'Now, dear, has there been a death, then?'
'WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK, BITCH?'
Mrs Chisholm was motherly and silver-haired enough -- and an advocate not to be trifled with. 'You'll do well to moderate your tone, young leddy, although shock excuses much.' There was that in her tone that commanded immediate obedience. 'I am the District Fiscal Depute, Isobel Chisholm, and you must tell me and DI Ross what has happened. Now, who is it that is dead, first of all?'
If Fanny had sobered, it was only to pass from fire to envenomed ice. 'Randy. Randy Murray, my partner. We were at the loch.'
A quiet voice in the crowd was heard, an old man speaking with utter conviction. 'It wass the kelpie.' The minister, who, like all the Kirk, regarded these superstitions not only as pagan, which was grave enough, but as papist, which was worse far, glared.
'And what happened?' DI Ross was alert.
'I. I thought I saw a woman. Struggling to shore. Wet. There were weeds in her hair. And then she wasn't there, but Randy had plunged into the lake. Loch. Whatever. And he was gone.'
'When was this, please?'
'Half an hour. Forty-five minutes. There are people -- locals -- searching still. But he's gone. He is, was, a good swimmer, if he's not found yet.... He's been killed.'
'You said it was murder.' Mrs Chisholm was precise. 'Your account is not of a man set upon and done to death.'
Fanny turned bitter eyes upon the three Wizards. 'We hadn't done any drugs that would make me see a woman who wasn't there or drive Randy to drown. Somebody slipped us something, and those dudes were at breakfast with us, and don't like us. The Army dude has something against me, and the young fuckwad's maybe researching the same things we were about to publish.'
'When the body is recovered --' Mrs Chisholm carefully did not say, 'if' -- 'there shall be a post-mortem. Poisoning over academic jealousies or chance animosity is not common in my experience, yet we shall see. I must tell you that Brigadier Potter, Mr Malfoy, and Professor Lupin were at the service all this time, in full view of a'body. We --'
'I want them charged!'
'Young leddy, in Scots law, the decision to prosecute rests wholly with the Fiscal. And we must first begin a Fatal Accident Inquiry; DI Ross and I shall take your precognition. If you'll come with me, please.'
'I demand to contact the American Embassy! I want charges laid against those three!'
'Your precognition is required. We'll contact your consulate as we go, there is certain to be a CDO on call in Edinburgh for emergencies.'
Narcissa Malfoy OM (3d) to the Right Honourable Andromeda Tonks of Atrum, OM (1st), MPC, MW
DROMEDA, YOU APPALLING WITCH,
A little less downrightness and forthrightness w/r/t buggery, if you don't mind. Euphemisms are, I admit, shockingly middle-class, but when it is one's own son, well. Mind, I don't suppose it's anything I didn't say about Sirius and Remus.
I simply wish my son -- and dear Harry, of whom I cannot help but be fond -- to be happy.
'It is the Muggles,' said Harry, quite crisply, 'think I'm on the Retired List.' He quite liked Ernie, although he much misliked that when he did see Ernie, it commonly meant that the balloon had gone up; he had no quarrel with Morag MacDougal, either, yet resented her presence as Scottish Secretary for the same reason. 'I am CMGS and but late General Auror Commanding, Scottish Command, leave or no leave, and I shall deal with this matter.'
Ernie suppressed a sigh. He'd warned the Minister, who had scarce wanted warning, as they all of them knew Harry of old. Ernie'd a good idea of what the answer should be to his next question, bound though he was in duty to put it. 'What forces shall you want?'
Harry glared. 'Were I in want of forces, I should detail them. I've Teddy and Malfoy, that more than suffices.' Draco was careful not to show his heart-leaping pleasure in that simple statement. 'What you and your well-fed Sibylline Service want to be doing is, not plaguing me, but rather getting me all the available gen on these dubious Americans. Christ, man, I made the request yesterday!'
Ernie quite liked Harry, but he misliked that man's ineradicable belief that the rest of the world should drive itself as he drove his ain sel'. 'My people, Field-Auror Marshal, are not notably slack,' said Ernie, staunchly and coldly. 'As you damned well know. Routine enquiries made of the Americans on a Saturday are not altogether ours to command, however, so far as responsiveness on the Yank side goes.'
Harry, for all his faults, had grace enough to know when he was in the wrong. 'Oh, damn it all, Ernie, I apologise -- to you and to the Permanents. I'm sorry.'
'Well, you are shortly facing a considerable risk,' conceded Ernie. This may have been an olive branch to Harry; it was a red flag to Draco, yet one he must pretend not to see, lest his growing hopes of rekindling a relationship with Harry be revealed.
'You are resolved that the threat is the Niseag?' Morag was not of those who accepted fully that She of the Loch was a dangerous creature. 'And that you must -- do what it is you intend?'
'I'll not destroy Her of the Loch, Morag. The laws protect her also. Yet this is proof enough that she is dangerous, and no mere kelpie, let alone a merely mischievous creature on the order of a shellycoat. I can conclude only that Columba's geas upon the beastie has weakened at last, after all these years. Tom Riddle's Rebellion doubtless had a hand in that -- all that dark magic abroad in the land....'
'Ah. Well. If anyone has the power....'
'Ernie. No. I'm no saint. But it must be done, and I must be the man to do it.'
Ernie and Morag exchanged a meaningful glance.
'Then,' said Ernie, 'there is a thing we may do for you, after all, little though you seek our aid. The Reformit Kirk is no use to you here. Teddy, did you hold in with your father's people, or with the Blacks?'
'What? Oh. I really don't.... I mean, Gran's RC, but Harry's my godfather, and he's C of E so far as he's anything. I don't really pay much heed to any of it, I'm afraid.'
'It suffices,' said Morag, with grim humour. The MacDougals were also of the Clann Somhairle, and generally Roman Catholic; Ernie, like not a few of the Sons of the Tonsure, was a romantic-Jacobite Piscie. 'I'll summon Brother Thomas of Bungay, Tòmas, Auld Tam.' Ravenclaws do not have an actual geas forbidding them to refer to the Hufflepuff Ghost as 'the Fat Friar', but they Have Their Reasons Why It Is Much Better Not.
'And I shall ring up two discreet friends,' said Ernie; Harry knew he meant, Squibs, and was content, for he had planned something quite similar.
It was a misty Monday morn upon the shore of Loch Ness. 'It is a pity, to the Highland way of thinking,' observed Mgr Lachlan MacQuarrie, 'that this is not a day to Michael Archangel.'
'It is that,' said the Very Revd Ian McKinnon, the retired Dean in Argyll and the Isles in the Scottish Episcopal Church, Eaglais Easbaigeach na h-Alba. Squibs of the Sìol Ailpein, the Seed of Alpin, Islesmen both, sons of Guaire and of Fingon respectively, the Deand and the Monsignor were gathered to assist the Master of the Hallows in his quest, and who better.
Harry, for his part, was a follower of a simple, soldierly creed: Fear God and Honour the Crown: and was not particularly interested in theology or doctrine; for him, the conventions sufficed, and Sundays were for Church Parade as according to HM Regulations and Orders for the Royal Corps of Aurors, neither more nor less. Yet he knew well that a man, be he Wizard or no, whatever Hallows he might be Master of, did not go, unless he be Columba the Dove of the Church, into the dark waters of the great Loch to face Herself, without he have ward and charm and shield upon him.
The lustration had already been performed in the field, hidden by charms. The none-so-gallant Murray, the American, had met his fate in Urquhart Bay, off the Temple Pier, beneath St Ninians near to Tychat, and Ninian had been called upon to aid his avenger. Brother Thomas assisting, the two clerics, Mgr MacQuarrie in a cracked, elderly, once-tuneful tenor, and he a great bear of a man, and Dean McKinnon in the rumbling basso that was thrice the size of his old antiquary's slight frame, had invoked the prince of the valiant, Raphael, and Michael the Chief of the Hosts of Heaven.
'The protection of Bride, foster-mother of Christ, upon you. The shield of Michael Archangel, cover you. The blessing of Mary Mother, ever-Virgin, guard you.'
The antiphony rose and fell as the two priests paced sunwise about the hero.
'The watch and ward of Calum Cille, hope of Scotland, on you. The safekeeping of Ninian, over you. The strength of Blane, in you.'
'The faith of Adomnán, to you; the strong faith of Mungo, to you; the true faith of Finan, to you.'
'The courage of Brendan in your heart and the healing of Drostan in your soul and the craft of Ternan in your hand this day.'
'The steadfastness of Donnán be to you. The firmness of Curetán be to you. The perseverance of Cathan be to you.'
'If there be any that oppose, there are Three that bless. If there be any that afflict, there are Three that heal. If there be any that attack, there are Three that protect.'
'Duthac's blessing, be upon you; and the intercession of Cainnech, uphold you; and the fortune of Maol Rubha, attend you.'
And Harry answered, in the form prescribed by Orders in the Scots Aurors and the Isles Aurors, which go not into battle but they incant these ancient blessings:
Come, Thou King of Glory,
To protect me, down;
Thou King of life and mercy
With the aid of the Lamb.
Thou Son of Mary Virgin
To protect me with power,
Thou Son of the lovely Mary
Of purest, fairest beauty.
Thig, a Righ na glorach
Da m' chomhnadh a nuas,
A Righ na bith 's na trocair,
Le comhnadh an Uain,
A Mhic na Muire Oighe
Da m' chomhnadh le buadh,
A Mhic na Muire mine
Is finne-ghile snuadh.
Bless, O Chief of generous chiefs,
Myself and everything that is to me,
Bless me in all my actions,
Make Thou me safe for aye,
Make Thou me safe for aye.
Beannaich, a Thriath nam flath fial,
Mi fein 's gach sion a ta na m' choir,
Beannaich mi 'n am uile ghniomh,
Dean mi tearuinte ri m' bheo,
Dean mi tearuinte ri m' bheo.
From every troll among the hills,
From every siren hard pressing me,
From every dark creature inwith the glens,
Och! save me until the end of my day.
Och! save me until the end of my day.
Bho gach fuath bhiodh feadh nam beann
Bho gach greann bhiodh teann d' am thoir,
Bho gach uruisg measg nan gleann,
Teasruig mi gu ceann mo lo,
Teasruig mi gu ceann mo lo.
As Thou art the Shepherd over the flock
Tend Thou us to the cot and the fold,
Sain us beneath Thine own glorious mantle;
Thou Shield of protection, guard us for ever.
Bho is tu is Buachiaill thar an treuid
Iomain fein shin do chleidh 's do chaimir,
Seun sinn fo do bhrot riomhach reidh;
A Sgeith dhidinn, dion ri 'r mairionn.
Be my soul in the troth-keeping of the High King,
Be Michael the powerful meeting my soul.
M' anam an urrachd an Ard Righ,
Micheil murrach an comhdhail m' anama.
Cross of the saints and of the angels with me
From the crown of my face to the edge of my soles.
Crois nan naomh agus nan aingeal liom
Bho fhrois m' aodain gu faobhar mo bhonn.
The tongue of Columba in my head,
The eloquence of Columba in my speech;
The composure of the Victorious Son of Grace
Be mine in presence of the multitude.
Teanga Chalum-chille 'na mo cheann,
Agall Chalum-chille 'na mo chainn;
Foisneachd Mhic bhuadhaich nan gras
Dhol thugam-sa an lathair sluaigh.
Jesu, Thou Son of Mary, I call on Thy name,
And on the name of John the apostle beloved,
And on the names of all the saints in the red domain,
To shield me in the battle to come,
To shield me in the battle to come.
Iosa Mhic Mhoire eighim air th' ainm,
Is air ainm Eoin ostail ghradhaich,
Is air ainm gach naoimh 's an domhan dearg,
Mo thearmad 's a chath nach tainig,
Mo thearmad 's a chath nach tainig.
The Fat Friar beamed, and the two clerics nodded. Bare as the bairn born the morn, holding but the Elder Wand (and something else, hidden in his hand, that gleamed dully), Harry stepped into the dark waters. Draco's face was set and white; Teddy was projecting utter confidence.
'How long,' asked Draco, his voice sharp with concealed worry and affection, 'do you expect this shall take.'
And Harry, and he a Scylding of the Northlands as well as a man of the Siol Chuinn and Clann Somhairle of the Gaelic West, looked at him, clear and steady his gaze, and answered as a hero answers. 'Look for me,' said he, 'in the ninth hour.'
But three mortal minutes after Harry entered the loch, there was a roiling of the water. A form half took shape in the shallows, and as it faced Teddy, it resembled a fair woman of the Veela, yet sodden and dripping, and with waterweed tangled in its tresses, and when it turned towards Draco, it shifted its form and fell, and looked firstly a woman not unlike Aster had been in life, and then a sleek, dark, bonny lad with grass-green eyes; and then it caught sight of the priests and the ghostly Friar Minor, and transformed into a grey-green beast with a long, equine, demonically malign face and a serpentine neck, the colour of deep water, and by the moment ever more incalculably vast -- until, with a shriek and a bellow, it was pulled back into the loch as by ropes, struggling and bound, and screaming defiance and hatred and hunger of mortal flesh.
'That,' said Teddy, quite firmly, 'was unquestionably a Horse of the Water, an each uisge.'
Friar Bungay nodded. 'Indeed, yes. Even Brother Francis might have felt a moment of uncharity towards that fellow-creature -- although not for long. Pray remark the star-shine upon the strand.' And indeed there was, where the wee waves lapped, a thin line of jelly, which Muggles take for the remains of jellyfish, but which, when it appears upon a freshwater loch, is known to be the sign of a wounded each uisge or niseag.
Draco was stripping off his tweeds. 'I'm going to help.'
'No,' said Teddy, and his voice brooked no dissent. 'You'd be a great help, I don't doubt, and Harry grateful for it, but this is a magical operation that only one can essay. And, to be frank, let me remind you of something Harry said about discipline the other night. If the two of you are down there, you'll be too solicitous of one another's safety to attend to what's at hand -- which is damned dangerous, saving your reverence, my fathers, Brother Thomas.'
'Oh, not at all,' smiled the Dean. 'Herself is dangerous, and quite likely may be a beastie of the damned.'
Draco was staring at Teddy, uncaring of this clerical byplay. 'You mean to say --'
'Oh, you ruddy idiot, you're both mad for each other. Do let's leave off pretending. Now, do be still and sane, Uncle, and if you are going to stomp off and have a fit of the sulks, don't go far. In the first hour he left us, and in the ninth hour he shall return.'
Brother Thomas chortled. 'Beowulf comes to Alba. The Prophet should be here.'
Molly (Mrs Arthur) Weasley of Ottery, OM(1st), to the Right Honourable Andromeda Tonks of Atrum, OM (1st), MPC, MW
Do you really think so? Scorpius is such a dear boy, and he and my grandson (between us, quite my favourite grandchild, dear to me though they all of them be) are so devoted to one another, that we've all of us become quite accustomed to the idea that their fathers may make a go of it (poor dears -- Harry and Draco, I mean, but of course Albie and his young man also -- to be so very like one another, father and son, it must be a burden, really). And of course Scorpius' father isn't at all who we thought him to be when he was a schoolboy, I don't mean he didn't want improvement and maturity (then again, which of them did not) but so much of it was really a front, wasn't it, and if in some ways Draco reminds me perhaps a trifle of Percy (and should have done then had I know my own son, as well as Draco, better than I did), he reminds me not a little of Ginny also -- and, oh, dear, I know the grandchildren have coped (better than I) but I do so wish and hope, dear, that Harry finds that again, in Draco or elsewhere (although I cannot imagine who else could serve, Draco really is startlingly like Ginny in so many small ways, it's that fierce attitude of mind, really), because, dear, as you know, dear Harry was simply made for domesticity and I do so hate to see him becoming more and more the Gruff Military Widower and old before his time, and of course I want the best for Draco also -- after all, he is family as matters stand, and will be rather the more so when Albie and Scorpius, well, I do wish they could marry as such, although Arthur says the Moot may yet come 'round, and in any case it's the commitment that matters not the form of words, and, really, I can't think that it could be anything other than a good thing for Draco as well, the poor dear, and they do seem so suited, if only Draco were able to persuade himself -- it's not Harry who wants persuading -- that he is worthy and equal and as brave in his way as ever Harry was, and loyal with it, and poor Harry weren't so determined (love him as I do, I must admit he is a trifle stubborn, more so than Ron, at bottom, although that's hardly imaginable, is it) -- that poor Harry weren't so determined that Draco should come to him as an equal, with a sense of his own worth, and of his own free choice, which is a lovely thought but not altogether practical, is it....
As the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Sibylline Service, Ernie Macmillan cultivated the air of his Squib cousin several times removed, the late PM. Nevertheless, the post came with more than its share of 'little local difficulties', of which by far the most numerous were docketed in a bulging buff-jacketed file labelled 'Potter': that man was the pillar of State and the support of the Realm, but there were times when he was very nearly more trouble than he was worth, and nearly enough so as to ruffle even Ernie's calculated pose of languor and studied equanimity.
What the English call statements, and which are known to Scots law as precognitions (to the amusement of all Old Hogwartsians in Scotland, who are irresistibly minded by that of Divination), were being taken at the Fiscal's instance, and a Fatal Accident Inquiry was in prospect: a process similar to the coroner's actions in the case of a drowning in England and Wales. The Fiscal Depute for the region, Mrs Chisholm, had already cornered Ernie -- which had been the easier for her as she was the aunt of his fifth cousin once removed -- and asked him a few short, sharp questions.
'Isobel,' had he finally said, 'if Brigadier Potter were involved in some Ministry of Defence or Int Corps or JIC business that might have led to the death of this Yank bugger, do you seriously imagine he or I should not have already had a word with the Chief Constable, the Fiscal, and the Lord Lieutenant as liaison? Is it Lochiel again, by the way, or The Chisholm?'
'Oh, the Lord Lieutenant? They've decided to do something new and radical this time.'
'The Mackintosh? Lord Lovat? Seafield or another Grant?'
'Tach. It's The Macdonald.'
The minutes passed, awful in their slowness to Draco. Whiles, the waters of the loch were still, and whiles there would come a sudden roiled tumult before they stilled once more. The clerics and Teddy waited steadfast, patient, sure in expectation. But Draco could not: that man felt his heart turn over in his breast when the waters thrashed and whitened, and knew its dull ache when the waters fell silent and ominously calm.
The police divers were vexed that their attempts seemed to be unavailing. Whatever the cause, and they well knew there was no predicting Loch Ness, nor any explaining of her, even this calm day without wind or rain saw the waters ungovernable beneath the surface. The recovery of the body, if body there were -- and the witness was a queer sort of witness, surely -- must wait a better hour.
The hours dragged their wounded length along, like a dragon or some monstrous beast sore injur'd and crawling to its lair to die. The Americans' Consular Duty Officer, away and away in Edinburgh far, had taken their information as a matter of course. It was five minutes past the shock of noon when the Americans began ringing up in a rare tear, suddenly motivated to a fever of interest. Smooth, sleek, supercilious Ernie-of-the-Ministry, the Whitehall Wizard, was himself being regarded by DI Ross and divers policemen; by Mrs Chisholm the Fiscal Depute; by the Fiscal himself, that canny, dour, God-fearing man Iain Macpherson; and by the Chief Constable, he also with the Fiscal down hotfooted from Inverness, with stern suspicion. And the absence of Brigadier Potter -- for all that Major Grant could say to his character -- was becoming marked, and remarked.
By 2.15, precognitions had been taken of Fanny Bisset and of the folk of St Ninians, Tychat, and Kerrowdown who had been by when the man Murray had vanished and who had aided in the search, and of those across the bay at Strone and the trippers at Strone Point and Castle Urquhart who might have chanced to have seen anything of it. The American Consul herself from Edinburgh and a man from the Embassy in London, forbye, were coming to consult.
And in Ottery St Catchpole far away, the Weasleys were contemplating ruefully how great a portion of the Sunday joint was left, with Ron and Hermione both called up to town on Ministry business.
It was 2.57, and the waters were white and furious in the centre of the loch.
It was 2.58, and Ron Weasley, with the elegant, Edenic figure of Justin Finch-Fletchley in tow -- Justin having, in his diplomat's way, provided the suaviter in modo to Ron's Auroral fortiter in re -- left the Muggle Ministry of Defence, well-satisfied.
It was 2.59. The waters of the loch were still as death.
Hermione also was pleased. The Muggle Lord Advocate and the Joint Intelligence Committee had come 'round quite swiftly.
It was 3.0 under mostly grey skies; and in the ninth hour, Harry returned, gasping but triumphant and unwounded, to shore. Teddy handed him a phial of Pepper-Up.
'Ah,' said Harry, getting his breath. 'Shocking taste, but better than that d- -- blasted Gillyweed. Herself is dealt with: thank you all.'
'And thank God,' said the monsignor, humorously chiding. 'And -- is that She of the Loch, then?'
A very self-pitying beastie Herself looked, too, as she swam warily into the shallows, head hanging low.
'Yes, poor old thing -- I don't think. Hagrid no doubt should feel her so. If you gentlemen will oblige me by saining her, so the geas holds another thousand years and five hundred, I'd best dress and go in to Drumnadrochit. I rather expect the Old Bill are beginning to think dark thoughts of the three of us, eh, Teddy, Draco? And we've those yet to meet that are my bona fides.'
Draco was having none of it. He burst out, in the reaction to interminable worry and alarm and unvoiced care, 'Damn you, Potter! Damn you! Is there nothing you're afraid of?' And he threw himself upon Harry, beating at that man's chest with his fists even as he burst into relieved tears.
Harry held and gentled and hushed him, soothing him. 'I'm all right. I'm all right, lad. And ask me that this night, after I've a dram taken. Hush, now, Draco, hush. I want, I need you to be strong by my side just now -- as you are, strong beyond your own estimation, and by my side where you belong. There. Now let me, for Heaven's sake, get into my clothes, lest we scandalise folk, and let's to the toon. Brother Thomas, Fathers, thank you again. See you to this, and then join me in the town, please. There is much yet to be done.'
They were met before they reached the town by the Chief Constable, Mrs Chisholm, Mr Macpherson, DI Ross, and a perceptibly wooden-faced PC Cameron, who rather clearly knew more of the Wizarding world than he was letting on. (He at least had noticed that, without any botanical or chemical assistance, these three alone seemed never to be plagued by the scourge of Highland midges, which had in itself sufficed to tell Constable Cameron what manner of folk they were.)
'Ah. Brigadier.' The Chief Constable was dry and indeed caustic, even by the standards of the Chattanachs, but, then, he was a Shaw as well upon his father's mother's side. 'We were wondering where, precisely, you might have gone off to.'
Harry did not need to answer that. His answer -- the public and Muggle-Worthy Excuse -- was even now upon the horizon, descending upon them by air and by water, at Lewiston, Druimlon, and the Strone Point jetty. They were the flower of Scotland, the fighting men of Alba, companies by boat and helicopter of the Black Watch, 3 SCOTS, and the Highlanders, 4 SCOTS, the Red Hackles and the Blue: Shaws and Gordons and Grants, Grigora and Menzies men, Ogilvys and Duncans, a Leslie here and an Innes there, Munros and Macdonalds, Mathesons, Sinclairs, stray Campbells from Argyll and Lindsays from the Kinrick o' Fife, all alert and keen, and each 'a soldier, a Scottish soldier, who'd wandered far away and soldiered far away: there were none bolder...' .
'Aid to the civil power,' said Harry, pleasantly. 'Quite unofficial: all volunteers and on their several leaves. One does, you know, know chaps, and one rings up....'
'I do not recall asking aid.'
'No; and it's quite unofficial. You'll not refuse the voluntary assistance, I imagine.'
The Chief Constable glared. 'I cannot. You'll not be expecting gratitude, I trust. It puts me in a damned awkward position.'
'My dear man, when the Yanks get here, I anticipate you'll be glad of it. Ernie, do I take it that my enquiries have stirred something rather up?'
'Yes. Foresighted of you. I apologise, Chief Constable, but I've only now heard from our sources. The ... curiously insistent ... American descent upon us, with Very Senior Persons, is, I'm afraid, going to be rather, ah, shall we use your word? Awkward. For them. I rather think a rather strongly-worded rocket is wending its way Washington-wards from the relevant Minister of State even now.'
'Och. And is that the way of it, then.'
Ernie was bland as only Ernie could be. 'So much of our job is a sort of glorified game-keeping, isn't it. And I do so deplore poaching in the preserves of my policies.'
'Tach. The Funnies. That's never well. I suppose this is what they call the Special Relationship.'
'Only in the Suez sense,' said Harry, crisply. 'The current lot aren't as bad as that shower they had in '09, but they're bad enough. Sods. One other thing, lest I forget.'
The Chief Constable was not alone in wearing an expression that much misdoubted that Harry Potter was likely to forget anything unless he chose to do.
'I've also exceeded my remit in this, no doubt. What's done is done, however. Ah -- PC Cameron, just the man. I should be obliged if you'd tell the minister here that two old friends of mine, Mgr MacQuarrie and the Very Revd Mr McKinnon, have come and should like to join him in a joint service for the deceased on the lochside. From what we've heard, it may be some time before there's a body, you know.'
'My divers --'
'My dear Detective Inspector Ross, when I hear that divers are hampered recovering a body in a loch, in a rift valley, hard upon news of hallucinations on the loch's shore, my immediate assumption is that a limnic eruption is possible. I expect the Enviro boffins will be here this evening.'
'A purely natural phenomenon.' The Chief Constable was looking at Harry with an air of wild surmise, underlain by cool calculation.
'Damn it, man, I didn't kill the bugger, nor was I involved in anything that might have killed him inadvertently. For all I know, the woman and he were stuffing with hallucinogens off their own bat. In any event, if it was not mischance, he brought it on himself, with whatever they were meddling with -- God knows the Yanks'll never tell us the truth. The consul in Edinburgh did a tour in Rwanda some years ago, she'll believe the natural explanation, or, if she doesn't, she'll pretend to do. Or you and the Army can put it out there's a UXB from the Hitler War, I don't care. There'll be expressions of condolences, polite disbelief all 'round, no long disruption to the tourist economy of the Highlands, and no possible relationship to the news, Monday next, of the expulsion of several diplomats in London: none of them American, although one Yank may be reassigned elsewhere, but I strongly suspect a Chinese and two Russians will be leaving our shores, and good riddance.'
A major of the Royal Regiment of Scotland was waiting patiently.
'Good afternoon, sir. All present and accounted for.'
'Right. Major, this is the Chief Constable. I shall leave the two of you to it.'
The Muggle-Worthy Excuse for Harry's taking tea with PC Cameron was simple enough: Mrs Cameron was known throughout the district for her dab hand with pastry, and her universally acclaimed shortbread was commonly credited as being the main source of the constable's worthy solidity.
Draco and Teddy reserved judgement. And wisely. For after dainty Maisie Cameron had fed them full, she left them to the teapot and the inquisition.
'It's a great honour to meet three so famous Wizards,' said PC Cameron, politely. 'Yet I'm thinking that Mr Carmichael will not be pleased with me, at all, but I ask you, formally, about this death.'
'I always assist MLE when I may,' said Harry, mildly, hiding a smile at the reactions of a suddenly enlightened Draco and Teddy.
'Aye. Then, sir? If you would?'
'Eddie will be having the full story, I assure you. Quite likely in Ministry bumph with numerous copies. Simply told, some fool during the last days of the pre-Reformation Ministry neglected to renew the geas on Her of the Loch. Geasa want renewing after a millennium and a half, you know, even if cast by Calum Cille. Herself is back to herself now, a harmless, if gamesome, niseag.'
'Aye? Weel. And you did that yourself then, the day?'
'Well, d'you know, someone wanted to, and I was handy.'
'And were you so? And what was that like, then?'
'Don't ask,' said Harry, pleasantly; yet his smile did not reach his eyes.
'Aye, then. And the Americans?'
'That,' said Harry, 'is the question. Whatever they were playing it, it was unauthorised -- by their own lot as well. Others must determine what it was. Naturally, if it was Dark, I'll be available to dispose of it. Now. Do you think your good lady might have any more shortbread put back, Constable?'
The person with whom I most sympathise, Teddy was writing to Victoire, is Uncle Harry's successor as GAC Scottish Command. Poor Jimmy Peakes must be wishing the plum had gone to Graham Pritchard after all; following Harry is bad enough without his being let loose in one's command area, I should think, and, as he is CMGS, there's bugger-all poor Jimmy can say to it, really.
They were comfortable once more in their country-house hotel, blameless and weel-respectit again. The Bisset wifie was no more resident there; and, as Harry had noted -- and seen to it that the Ministry, and DMLE especially, noted -- the dubious Teutons were suddenly away, despite their prior proclaimed intention to remain for several days the more. Teddy was acting the model of the dutiful fiancé, writing a long letter to his love.
Harry was reading quietly by the fire, the kelpie's bridle beside his dram on the table beside. There was a new, bright scratch upon the metal bit, and Draco, thinking back, realised with a sudden horror of insight that the man had taken it with him beneath the waters when he had fronted Her of the Loch.
He strode over and put another tumbler of singlemalt firmly on the table, with a resounding thump.
Harry looked up, bland and mild.
'It's the night,' said Draco, implacably, 'and you have a dram in you. You shall speak with me.'
Harry's gaze was steady in return. 'I said I should answer a question. Ask it.'
Draco sat, facing him. 'No.'
'I've another, first. What happened out there?'
Harry's gaze was steady; yet his eyes, to Draco's close gaze, seemed to reflect a wreck of deep waters, and dark blood in the water, and a great unseelie beast.
'Nothing worth discussing. I renewed the charms. She's effectively harmless again.'
'Draco, were I to tell anyone of what befell, I should tell you. And Teddy. But I shan't.'
The high room was silent now, save for the small sounds of the fire upon the hearth. The scratch of Teddy's pen had ceased. Little bugger, thought Harry, fondly. Hanging on every word. He sent a wandless, godfatherly, minatory spell Teddy-wards, a pinch upon the ear. Teddy's quill flew across the parchment once more.
He followed it with a Muffliato that enclosed him and Draco in silence. In the periphery of sight, he saw Teddy bridle, indignantly, before shrugging in defeat. A pest from his cradle, that one, thought Harry, affectionate despite himself.
'That -- or, in the language of the country, yon -- passage with PC Cameron was positively Slytherin, earlier.'
Harry smiled. 'I've learnt from the best.'
Draco's eyes narrowed, but he returned to an earlier topic. 'Why didn't you simply despatch the beast?'
'She's a beast. Not a being. She acted according to her nature. It's not as if she is a moral agent, capable of choice, and to be punished for ill choices. Or were you thinking that brute force is my sole metier?'
'Damn it, you'd put down a mad dog! You might have been killed, damn it all!'
'An each uisge isn't a mad dog; and her nature is her nature, not something infectious.'
Draco rose from his chair again, quivering with fury. 'And does it mean nothing to you that you might have been killed? That I -- that your godson might have lost -- damn it, Potter, is there nothing you fear?'
'And now you've asked the question I said I'd answer.' Harry paused, and savoured a sip of his singlemalt. 'Allow me, if you please, to ask one first of you. I know that you've engrossed yourself in scholarship, since the War and still more since you lost Aster, and I, Ginny. Much of it Muggle. You're more than an amateur of geology, for one. And I can tell you, as a military man, that terrane and terrain matter; and that, as Our Teddy is in his fashion proving, geology, and thus geography, is destiny. Can you tell me you're not drawn to these studies as being, in some sort, a Muggle mirror of the pride of ancientry, of deep time and deep roots, that you once directed towards your lineage and old magic?'
Draco sat, put his whisky to his lips, and thought.
It was night now, the long half-light of Summer night in the Great Glen of Scotland, between the North-western Highlands and the Grampians. The lands were rucked and folded, and them that indwelt them a pastoral people even now, their dwellings apart, their settlements few and small. The deserted Muggle villages left derelict by the Clearances had been taken over, invisibly, by Wizarding folk, yet even these were scattered and unsociable. Here was a witching land, and its spells ensnaring, strong; yet it was not his land.... He felt with sudden keenness the call of his country and his people, the chalk and the White Horses, and the chalk stream valleys: corn exchange and butter cross, church and public house, hedgerow and arable field, and the chalk streams cool and clear, all cress and trout; the water meadows and the long barrows and the round barrows, the villages at the spring line above the chalk streams' floodplains. Orchid and valerian, warbler and otter, and the pollarded willows....
He sensed that Harry also was thinking of his own country, adjacent to Draco's heart's home, in the scrumping, jovial West Country: Harry's neighbouring Somerset, moor and level, between the Mendips and the Quantocks, all narrow, sunken lanes and hidden coombes, placid and long-settled, mild even in its wilderness.
Sterner far was Scotia of old. Their West Country, flowering with burnt orchid and Cheddar pink, was Arcady; and even much of Alba, Dorian, where the Doric claik was spoken; not so here, in the great, wild Gaeldom of the twinflower: for all its witchery, and for all that the blood be strong, and the heart, Highland, they were, Draco realised, men of their own country, deep-rooted, and here where Dame Nature was Mænad untamed, they were outwith their Arcadia, beyond the edge of the Wild. Yet also, he saw, as the whisky lingered upon his palate, they were neither altogether alien here, nor were they ever not men deep-rooted in their own lands, and carried with them always and ever the solid sureness of it.
'It is,' admitted he. 'I'd not quite realised....'
'Yes,' said Harry, and smiled, gently. 'You're a rooted man, now. And between us we've four children. No, no: Albie and your Scorpius are well on their way to making those numbers even, you do realise.'
'A half-Weasley son-in-law,' said Draco, but he smiled.
'Imagine how I feel.'
'Berk.' Draco could not forbear to smile as he said it, even so.
'Well,' said Harry, far too cheekily for his years, 'I am fond of Scorp's grandmother, at least.'
Draco mimed a hex. Then his laughter faded. 'And you've not answered my question.'
'I am answering, you know.' Harry leant forward in his chair, his eye intent and glittering. 'We've established what I'm not afraid of.'
'Ginny ... is dead. My prop and stay, as Aster was yours -- oh, I know -- I'm not blind -- not in quite the same way, but that is not at all to the point. She lives on, your Aster, your Stella, of course, in your heart and in your son, as Ginny lives on -- not least in my children. Al included, I'm afraid: I hope you can bear it.'
Draco shook his head, with a sad half-smile.
'Yet Ginny is gone. I've my friends, certainly. My godchildren, nieces, nephews; my three appalling, wondrous children. I'm the Master of the Hallows, Draco: the Master, in some sense, of Death.'
Draco thought back to what he had learnt of the House of Black, his mother's people, and the three of them here all its heirs in their generations. They were a cadet branch of the Potters, these Blacks, when all was said and done, and of the Peverells, who had had the Hallows and of whom the Gaunts had boasted even in their last squalor; they were Slytherins by house as by blood, surely, yet they had ever named daughters so as to recall their connexion also with Godric Gryffindor. It was no wonder they'd conceived themselves as all but royal.
'And I learnt long ago, Draco, that to be Master of the Hallows is to be owned by them in their fashion, and that the mastery of Death is in acceptance, not in defiance. Think you that, could I but bring back the dead, I should not have my parents again, and Ginny, and Sirius and Remus and Tonks and Albus Dumbledore? But one cannot. And it does not do to live -- or love -- in dreams.'
'If you might do. I mean. Were you to bring back ... the Headmaster ... there's so much I wish I could say to him. And Severus. Telling their portraits isn't the same, is it.'
'No. I miss them also: the both of them. Although, had I Albus Dumbledore here, I don't know whether I'd hug him, or throttle him.'
Startled, Draco barked out a laugh that reminded Harry terribly of Sirius. 'I know exactly what you mean. I feel the same way about Severus.'
'I was ... fortunate. At the last, I was able -- privileged -- to make my peace with both of them. And, I suppose, with my parents, and Sirius, and Remus, in a fashion.' His glance slid over to Teddy, who was re-reading his letter to Victoire, with a smile that had been very much his father's. 'Most of those I have cared for don't die abed.'
Draco looked at Harry closely. That man seemed accepting of so soldierly a fact.
Harry smiled, just discernibly wistfully.
'Right. Here's the form. I don't fear death or dying, or injury, though it would be tiresome in the extreme. I don't, I think, truly, fear even senescence, and a long, soft death, illness and slow decay. Nor do I fear the next challenge -- or challenger -- to the Hallows: and there always are challengers, poor fools. They don't realise that the Elder Wand's history cannot be a guide to them now: now that the Hallows are reunited and in the possession of the last heir of all three Peverells. When I'm gone, I make certain, that shan't change: Jamie is to have the Wand, Albus, the Cloak, and Lily, the Stone. So long as these remain in the family, no harm shall befall.'
'And you continue to tell me what you don't fear.'
'And you a clever Old Slytherin, trained in reading between the lines. I've been alone now, most of my life. Yes, I've my friends, my godchildren, nieces, nephews; my children. Yet: you've heard, I think, the truth of my childhood? And my parents dead; my wife dead; all of them too soon, too damned unfairly soon. I've faced what's come, and commonly alone. I'll face what comes, to the last. Yet -- you ask what I fear? I fear that I'll be facing what comes, for another drear century, alone.'
The sympathy that had mounted steadily in Draco suddenly ebbed wholly away. He stood, stiff with anger.
'Do you? Do you, really, Potter? Because if I remember -- and I do -- you might have had that which you seek, some decades ago, on a sodding plate, God damn you to Hell.'
And he slammed out.
Postcriptum, wrote watchful Teddy, whose hair had gone suddenly mouse-coloured and lank. Uncle Draco has just buggered off in a strop. I begin to lose hope that he and Uncle Harry will ever get sorted.
The night was cool and the skies bell-clear. Draco knew this, for he had outwatched the night, unable to sleep. Unable to forget or forgive Potter's past slights. Unable to forgive Potter's cruel, egoistic, and callous self-obsession (and surely it was that, to moan and complain -- Draco would not admit that he'd badgered the admission out of the speccy berk -- to moan and complain of loneliness and the death of love when he might, the purblind sod, have had it for the asking years ago). Unable to forgive Potter's casual refusal of what even so blinking a bespectacled idiot must surely have realised had been offered. Who did Potter think himself to be? And what did he dare, presume, to take Draco for? Every Witch and Wizard in the Three Kingdoms should be honoured by Draco's notice, damn it all; and Potter ... Potter'd not as much as hold out his hand to take what others sought in vain. Arrogant sod. And most unforgivable was this, that Draco could not cease to wish that Potter should accept him. Well, he'd spent years of misery as the main object of Potter's focus and Potter's attention, and years of worse misery as being beneath anything more than Potter's cool, civil notice. If he could not have Potter's attention in the one way, he remembered perfectly well how to attract and demand and captivate that attention in another....
The night was cool; the skies, bell-clear, until mist and rains moved in shortly before the dawn. Harry knew this, for he had slept but lightly. Draco was bloody impossible. Harry didn't, could not, regret his life with Ginny: they had loved, hard and fast and a little too much; and he could never regret his children. He made quite certain that Draco also could not repine: his marriage had been something of a different order, Harry suspected, yet one had only to look at Draco when Scorpius was so much as mentioned, to realise how necessary the fulfilments of fatherhood had been to Draco. And with cause: Scorpius was very dear to Harry now also, and Al couldn't have made a better choice.
Yet all this was past, was prologue; and Harry was willing, eager, avid -- although with due discretion: they were both too old for idiocies -- to set about a fulfilling future. And he could hardly make a better choice -- and yet.... That was the issue. Choice. Far too many Wizards and Witches had thrown themselves at Harry; he was damned if he'd do, with someone as important and as central to his life all along and as, frankly, prickly as Draco, what he'd refused to do with people who'd meant far less to him, and exert his wills and charm and influence to seduce. Draco wanted to make choices, his own choices, something he'd never done or been allowed to do when young. It didn't matter if they were particularly good choices: what mattered was that Draco should make them, freely. Anything less should be an impossible foundation for any relationship between them, for that wanted to be a relationship of equals. And for that to be so, Draco must recognise at last that he was Harry's equal. Queer that the one Wizard who'd never accepted Harry as myth or idol should account himself of such little worth as not to realise that they were simply two Wizards, both alike in dignity....
He dozed, remembering for the thousandth time Albus Dumbledore's wise words: It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
It was morning, a misty morning, cool and grey and wet. Water pearled on every surface. The last flowerings of the bell-heather were dulled now beneath grey skies. Summertide, like all things, was coming to its end.
Quietly, Harry had paid the scot, the tariff that had not quite sufficed to keep the raffish sort of visitor, German or American, from the hotel. Now they were putting off from the jetty of Strone Point: delicacy forbade setting out from any nearer the place of Murray's death. The loch was calm -- calmer now than in many years, had the Muggles but known it -- and the divers were at work.
And Draco, all dumb insolence, his neck stiff and his motions sharp, made a great show of obsequiousness in carrying out Harry's every order aboard -- and not speaking to him at all in any other cause.
Harry calmly accepted this, which, if anything, angered Draco further. Yet Harry was too old for this sort of bootless quarrel, and would not deign to beg any more than he should presume in love to command. If they were not to meet as equal hearts, he should settle for nothing less.
Or so Teddy guessed. In principle, he applauded his godfather's resolution. In actual fact, he was wondering if he could arrange a not terribly painful Potions explosion or Quidditch collision -- nothing life-threatening -- that should require Uncle Harry and Uncle Draco to rush to Hogwarts and cosset Al and Scorpius. Or perhaps Uncle Draco could go overboard and Uncle Harry rescue the bugger?
Mind, there was one such card already to play -- or should have been. Draco had, however, already overheard Teddy's quarrel with a Harry grown suddenly stern.
'You'll do nothing of the sort, young Lupin,' had said Harry. 'Those are my orders, given personally, and you contravene them at your peril.'
'I'm not one of your Aurors.'
'You did your National Service.' Harry's voice had been cool. 'You hold a reserve commission ... as a subaltern. Do not err by thinking I shan't, if I consider it necessary, have you recalled to duty.'
And that, naturally, had been that. Teddy was willing to brave much for the success of his cherished project: but not, unless in far graver extremity than this, that.
The mist ghosted upon the waters, and Faol ghosted along through the mist. There was no sense in speeding along, even with magical means to avoid danger; and no purpose in it, as one should only miss the scenery. It were wiser to all but drift, with just sufficient speed for steerage way. None of them was under any exigency of time or schedule, after all.
Teddy's plans were, as it happened, unnecessary. They were close to shore, just between Boglashin and the Lenies, opposite unseen Carn an Dubh-ghlaic away across the loch, when they were hailed.
Harry put them smartly in at the Lurgronish jetty, just to the s'uth'ards of Lower Lenie, past the mouth of the little allt.
'Ah. Ernie. Come aboard.' Harry did not sound best pleased.
'Harry. Teddy. Malfoy.' The distinction was not lost on Draco.
'Macmillan.' That was not Draco, but an impatient Harry. Teddy pricked up his ears, wolfishly. 'Fond as I am of you personally, you are not commonly a good omen in your presence. Get on with it, please.'
'Ah.' Ernie had his own ideas of just why Potter as well as Malfoy were showing temperament, although, admittedly, even Ron Weasley had long since sussed out the elder Potter and Malfoy quite as much as their sons, teaspoon by teaspoon. 'I had thought to clear some at least of the metaphorical mist, actually. If, however, Field-Auror Marshal, you wish to act the ass, and sulk, don't let me stop you being stroppy.'
'Damn it.' Harry squared himself to a distasteful duty. 'I apologise.'
This was an uncomfortable echo, for Harry and for Draco the both.
'I am sorry, Ernie.'
'Balls.' This was unprecedentedly plain speaking for the Sir Humphrey of Wizardom. 'If you were, you'd cease doing it. I don't give a two-Sickle damn, frankly, that you're CMGS, a power in the State, the shield and buckler of the realm, and justly honoured as a hero. I remember quite well when we were all spotty schoolboys together. I once -- no, twice -- misjudged and offended you, I apologised, I made up for it with my support in the DA, and I proved I meant it by not doing it again. You, on the other hand, after years of being indispensable, heroic, and quite properly lauded for it, have lost what little manners you ever possessed. Well, my good sir --' Harry winced: to be this apostrophised by an old friend was a very marked measure of how blotted was his copybook -- 'I'll not have it. I'm not speaking as Cabinet Secretary to CMGS just now. I'm speaking to you, Potter, and you'll damned well listen. You owe me that: I supported you, I fought for you, and the least you can do is hear me.'
Harry nodded, his shoulders slumped.
'Now, do leave off being a shit, and listen, won't you? Very well. Sufficient of the, ah, remains, ah, have been recovered -- including, separately, the liver --' Draco felt for a moment as if he were going to be sick. The habits of the each uisge are unlovely ones -- 'to admit of identification. The Muggles no doubt must take rather longer, but the Ministry have determined -- and I may say, it's a damned convenient thing that the liver always is recovered, when it's a matter of an each uisge -- we have, not to put too fine a point on it, determined not only that this was in fact a fatal encounter with a magical beast, but that -- I did mention the liver? -- there are, ah, no toxicological grounds of suspicion. As the three of you were piously in a conspicuous pew at the time, and accounted for before that, there's no issue of Imperius or anything of that sort, either.
'The adolescent fashion in which you've conducted yourself, Potter, deserves more of a wigging than I can give you; I'm tempted to call in Minerva. However, the three of you are, as it happens, no longer under the least suspicion by anyone, Ministry or Muggle, and after your rather impressive, I may say howlingly impressive series of Owls to the Ministry, I thought you'd be pleased to hear that, particularly as regards the early suspicions directed upon Malfoy and his knack for Potions.'
Draco turned impossibly pale: Teddy, for one, thought for a moment his courtesy uncle was going to be sick, all over the decks. Just as well, he reflected, that Uncle Harry had ordered him not to mention the matter.
'Damn it all, Ernie....'
'Oh. Oh. I -- I really do quite -- I'm terribly sorry. I should have thought you'd have already -- I mean, damn it all, Harry, given the tone you took with the Minister himself.... Oh, bugger.'
'I had not realised,' said Draco, through his teeth, 'that I was even now inevitably suspect whenever a crime occurs, or is thought to have occurred. I might have -- I really ought to have -- known.'
'Not to most of us,' said Ernie, stoutly. 'Weasley -- and his lady wife -- was damned difficult about it when he heard that there were those who leapt to the conclusion: damned nearly throttled one of Madley's chaps in Public Denunciations. In the Cabinet Room, I may add. Kingsley was not best pleased, although he was of Ron's opinion as to the merits. In fact, he himself pried Ron's hands off the fellow's throat, and seemed to be of two minds about it. And Bill Weasley, of all people, bent a silver tray over the head of an MLE wallah in the Ministry canteen when the bugger was banging on about your being naturally guilty.'
Draco had turned his back upon them: every line of his body reflected utter outrage.
'And of course Harry was fighting for you.'
'Oh, was he.'
'He's a right to know,' said Ernie. 'Yes, Malfoy, he was. He commonly does.'
Draco whirled 'round, his face white and working. 'Not when it matters,' spat he, and turned upon his heel and went below.
Ernie looked over to Harry. 'Tell him.'
'I have done -- or tried to do.' Harry's face was set. 'I ought to withdraw my apologies to you and toss you overboard.'
'Pointless,' said Ernie, undaunted. 'You already tamed the Niseag.'
Harry laughed, brokenly, then clasped Ernie's hand. 'You're a good man, Ernest.'
'And an earnest one. And I tell you earnestly, as your friend: get this sorted. It's what makes you intolerable, and your friends -- all of us -- wish you to be happy, and, we hope, consequently, less of an utter bastard of a dried-up martinet.'
A crash resounded from below, and a sound of something splintering.
'Mind,' said Ernie to Harry's departing back, 'putting a bit of senior Auror stick about just now mightn't be amiss.'
The Cabinet Secretary (the Right Hon. Sir Ernest Macmillan, OM (3d), KCB, CVO, MPC, PC) to the Minister of Magic (the Right Hon. the Earl Shacklebolt of Frenchay, KG, OM (1st), MPC, PC)
MY DEAR MINISTER,
It gives me no pleasure to intervene in the personal affairs of Magical Privy Counsellors and members of Cabinet, and I am acutely aware of Code provisions that require that I, as indeed I much prefer to do, eschew any intervention in political matters; it is nevertheless my duty to advert Your Lordship to the necessity of continuing the leave taken by CMGS and of wishing him well in his wooing without intervening, as a friend, and however devoutly the consummation may be wished. Your Lordship will be quite as aware as am I that the governance of the Realm depends in no small part upon the public confidence in CMGS as CMGS; and that there is currently no possible replacement for him as such who should command Departmental, Ministry, Moot, and public approbation -- or indeed loyalty. Much as you and I, in our private capacities and as their friends, may wish that Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy at last enter into a relationship, and much as we may expect the service of the Crown to benefit from such a result, I must urge Your Lordship to reflect upon the utter impossibility of our being seen to intervene or to advocate such an outcome -- not least because the two of them would perversely resist so happy a result were they to feel it expected of them. To indulge in the demotic, they are both of them bloody-minded, pigheaded, and famously uncooperative buggers....
Draco was doing his best to destroy his cabin and its fittings, and quite possibly to hole them beneath the waterline. That best was not nearly good enough, given the sheer number and complexity -- and, withal, stoutness -- of the charms that formed Faol: her fabric was proof against very nearly anything.
Nonetheless, Harry, as in duty bound, was obliged to intervene -- for Draco's safety. He'd not hurt the vessel; she might hurt him.
'Don't,' snarled Draco. 'It's my nature, you know.'
'Trying to destroy an effectively indestructible ship, or being accused of murder?' Harry's shield charm was as swiftly cast as ever, and a good thing, too.
'Oh, both, by all accounts! And being stroppy with it!'
'I've thrown strops compared to which this is a minor pout.'
'Oughtn't we to have this conversation in a punt, on Cherwell?'
'Are you casting yourself as Harriet -- not Romilda -- Vane?'
What Draco threw and cast in response to that response was massy, heavy, and metallic. Harry gravely sent it back to him, slowly levitated, from where it had struck his shield. 'Personally, I thought the dragon bookends for your cabin were a very nice touch on the Elves' part.'
'Perhaps ingratitude is also in my nature!'
'You -- unlike Herself -- are a being, not a beast, and a moral agent answerable for your actions.'
'Am I? Perhaps the Ministry wants to be told that!'
'They have been -- and not only by me.'
'Oh, do let me show my overwhelming sense of obligation, then! Shall I fall at your feet?'
'I'd as soon you didn't. You'd only mock my knobbly knees -- you've no idea the courage it wants, wearing kilts.'
'Oh, get stuffed, Potter.' Draco was suddenly very weary. 'Christ. I simply cannot take any more; I'm fed to the teeth with it all.'
'"Ah"?' That's all you've to say?'
'You want to decide what you wish of me, Draco.'
'I have -- long since, you insufferable berk. And I cannot have it. Ever.'
'You seem very certain.'
Draco's laugh was as harsh as it was bitter. 'You've made it bloody clear. I'm meant to be a moral agent, responsible for my choices, and I find you've been fighting all my battles -- God knows for how long. And the only time I asked that you fight for me, the one occasion on which you had promised to fight for me ... you bloody well didn't.'
Harry sat, then, poised and alert. 'You may as well take a seat also, if we're to discuss this. As adults, with luck.'
'Sod OFF, Potter.' Yet Draco, exhausted by his nerve storm, sat.
'Draco. You are an adult. A moral agent. A good man. A father and a powerful Wizard.'
Draco made a sharp, dismissive gesture.
'And so,' said Harry, implacably if kindly, 'when I say I shall fight for you, I mean I shall fight alongside you. Not over you.'
'You didn't! You didn't fight for me!'
Now Harry's banked fires blazed at last. 'YOU DIDN'T FIGHT FOR YOURSELF! DAMN IT ALL, MAN! I should have thought you'd've had enough and to spare of being treated as a pawn, a counter, and a prize, unable to make your own damned choices and choose your own damned destiny! I was giving you what you'd not had, a buggering CHOICE! And you didn't -- bloody -- TAKE it. I wasn't going to fight -- I shan't fight -- over you, with anyone, as if you'd no choice in the matter, damn your eyes! Say the word -- if you can -- and I'll fight at your side against anyone, any time, but, by God, I'll be damned first and see you in Hell with me before I ever deprive you of your own damned choice, however sodding stupid your choices are if you'd sodding well MAKE one!' And it was now Harry's turn to storm out.
It was, Teddy considered, typical that they were travelling the Canal Northeastwards to Southwestwards, from the higher and drier ground to the lower, fron the blocky, straight coasts to the frayed and fretted, and all in the teeth of the prevailing winds. Harry and Draco could never take the easy road, to any goal or destination.
In Philadelphia, Richmond, and Austin, the American Wizards were contemplating the unimaginable.
In Stuttgart, Munich, Karlsruhe, Darmstadt, and Berlin, and in all the small capitals of the petty statelets of the Germanies, the Wizarding governments were in a state of panic.
And Ernie and Kinglsey and all the Sibylline Service and the Cabinet were straining every sinew and badgering their subordinates mercilessly to find the third American -- or person passing as such -- who, as Harry had quite brusquely reminded them, must surely have been present, if unacknowledged, in Randy's and Fanny's travels.
It had been their purpose to call next at Inverfarigaig, where the wood meets the water, and the Pass of Inverfarigaig and the River Farigaig meet: where are Dùn Garbh and Torr Dhonnachaidh and Spideal an Torra Mhòir, and upon Dùn Deardail the forts of old, where, for a time until they were betrayed, did dwell Deirdre of the Sorrows and the Three Sons of Uisnech. And that did they, and found them at the fort that was of Deirdre, with wild cat and pine marten, and the red kite and the osprey above in the keen airs, and the wood secure about them.
And there were badgers also in the wood; yet it was a Badger's ghostly boar, Ernie's Patronus, that found them there, and his message, brief. 'Harry. We have found the Third Man, and are tracking the Hun also. Act accordingly.'
It might have been the Boar Without Bristles, and Harry, Diarmuid, for he acted swiftly and cannily, and almost, if that were possible, with fear, upon that warning. His voice was not fearful, yet it was urgent in command.
'Teddy, Draco. Follow me -- quick march.' After him, wondering, they plunged into a thicker copse of woodland, and Harry's wand -- the Elder Wand again, they saw, and knew that danger was near -- was in his hand. He was the living embodiment of constant vigilance, now, and his eye was swft in searching their surrounding.
It was then that they saw, just after Harry, relaxing slightly, had done, the red, swift fox, abroad for all the daylight, and looking at them with patience and intelligence.
'The day fair and good to you, Servant of Martin,' said Harry, in the Gaelic, and Teddy and Draco, hearing, realised he had cast translation charms upon them.
Then did Gillemartin the Fox grin, and nod once, sharply. And he spoke, to Draco's astonishment (was it just the faintest memory that once Seamus had said, in his hearing, that his tenants in Killderg on the Fairy Water were certain sure that, if a man spoke to a fox in the Gaelic, sure the fox would live that man's hens alone?); and Gillemartin the Fox said, 'You'll do as I tell you, or there will be trouble and sorrow, Master of the Hallows.' And he trotted away, and they scrambled, following.
Harry had in his years seen many suns and much light, and many a moon in stilly skies. He had held a roving commission in his youth. Nor had Draco been innocent of the urge to go and see, to travel and explore and get, if he could, wisdom; and Teddy had spent many days in the wild places of the earth, the scholar-gypsy.
Teddy had seen the sun sink in spume and fury of troubled seas off Ushant, and the moon rise upon the steppes of Central Asia, above the kurgans of old. Draco could recall the mellowness of old moons low over the ancient villages of Japan, sweet and sound as a nut; and also the sun rising like thunder, kettle-drums, and trumpets, over Uluru. And Harry, much travelled, had known the orange-and-tiger dawns of Nagpur, and the mists of Simla, now Shimla; and had gazed upon the moons of China that pencilled in silver the rivers and lakes and touched the little houses with secret melancholy and remoteness beyond mortal ken.
None had known a light like this, a slightly green and growing light, tinted with new leaf and young grasses and sunlight through woods; this greener light of elder days that welled from every colour super-saturate: they were in the wood in which they had stood before, but all was changed, changed utterly, and borne upon the dancing light of day was a terrible beauty. And Gillemartin the Fox cast upon the bole of the beech behind him the shadow not of a fox but of a tall and seemly man.
'Why,' asked Draco, his voice admirably steady, 'do you, Servant of Martin, not show yourself in your true form?'
Gillemartin the Fox looked at him long and levelly. 'You have your own geas, Draco Malfoy, a draoidheachd to you alone; do you leave me to mine. It is not to you to know all of the doings of the People of Peace. Och, man! You're not happy because you'll not take advice, and you will not do as you're warned. And ever has it been to you.'
Harry kept his counsel.
Gillemartin the Fox turned to Harry all the same. 'Nor you, Master of the Hallows. You're kittle cattle, the both of you -- aye, and the Cub of the Wolf with you. Now do you be said by me, and all shall be well; but if you'll not do as you're told, you'll be unhappy.
'Aye, it's not the best day to you, to be here, and I've little enough to give you -- bar advice and wisdom you'll not take, if I know your breed.'
'No swords, falcons, fillies, or brides?' Harry's voice was amused, if his eyes were not.
Gillemartin the Fox barked a laugh, sharply and foxily. 'Pert you are, Hallows-Master, that I will allow to you. Shelter and sanctuary I can give you for a time.'
'Well, and we'd not wish you wandering off lost in a mist, and clifted, would we, now?'
Draco made a mental note to choke an answer to this nonsense out of Teddy, if necessary.
'No,' said Gillemartin the Fox, 'you'll not be starving, either, nor lost. Sanctuary I offer and shelter shall you have.'
'Where we take favour and aid,' said Harry, 'there we give service and assistance. We are not beggars, and if we may aid the People of Peace, we shall.'
'And that's a proper pride to you,' said Gillemartin the Fox. 'You've done us service enough already, with Her of the Loch -- tach, Herself was getting beyond all bearing! But if Master Draco wishes to be of aid....'
'I'm no tinker,' said Draco, with his bitter pride, 'nor any supplicant. What payment for your hospitality, Fox?'
Gillemartin the Fox shook his head, and sighed. 'You'll not be told, will you. Ach, well, and there's a cat to me -- a Cat Sìth -- that wants catching, and if you'll do it, I'll be in your debt. And --'
'I'll do it,' said Draco, rather curtly. 'Will tomorrow serve?'
Gillemartin the Fox looked as if he'd more to say, then clearly though better of it. 'Aye. And is it that you wish my advice, or do you purpose to take the task to yourself utterly, and you with your slachdan, your wand, and your learning only?'
'I may,' said Draco, stiffly, 'be only a minor Wizard by the standards of the Master of the Hallows, but I think I can manage to catch a Fai-, ah -- a Cat Sìth without tuition.'
'Well,' said Gillemartin the Fox, 'you'll have it your own way, and we shall see what comes of it. Now I'll show you to your quarters -- it's best you not be about for the rind and heel of the day just now -- and you shall find food there, and sleep sound, and the Master of Death may tell you what is and isn't about this.'
And in a moment, they found themselves inwith a hill, the Hill, the Sìthean, roofed with green turves and lit by a sourceless light, and a feast before them, and heather beds under linen bedclothes by, and steaming water and cool water waiting them for washing, and mead and heather-wine and thistle-beer and whisky.
Away and away at Domdaniel, Minerva smiled, and put aside the most curious of the curious devices that Albus had left to her. As Albus had aye held in with the Merfolk, she had always held in with the People of Peace, the daoine sìth. And it were well that Mr Malfoy got wisdom, if in a hard school, after all these years.
'All right, Potter. Begin explaining at once.'
Harry was coolly amused. 'My dear Malfoy. Even Teddy knows, I think, what's afoot.'
'Part of it,' said Teddy, with becoming gravity. 'We're being granted sanctuary by the People of Peace, the Fair Folk. But why, Uncle Harry, are we in want of it? A Wizard who has just now defeated and bound She of the Loch oughtn't to be wanting shelter, I'd think.'
'Ah,' said Harry. 'You will both, I think, have heard me -- overheard me: shocking habit you two have of eavesdropping -- urging Ernie to begin looking out the third American, or one passing as such? And that he's found, yes.
'Did it really not occur to you, either of you, that it was not mere chance that von Beust, von Pappenheim-Tiedemann, and Heinz Bauer -- yes, Draco, naturally I recognised the bugger, and he's aptly named, the little peasant bastard -- had certain similarities and indeed a resemblant look to our happy little walking party? Or that they constituted a classic hunter-killer group, a Mission Ops Group, although no telling in whose service?'
'Oh, bugger,' said Draco, with feeling.
'I don't of course know whether we were their target or were meant to be suspected when they targeted the Yanks, if they were Yanks, which is very much an open question, but it was certainly obvious quite quickly that the Yanks-or-what-they-may-be were equally involved in dirty work. They'd hardly have been targeted, else. Sorry, Teddy: people don't, actually, get killed over scholarly sprints to be the first to publish. And in that case, there was quite likely a -- hackneyed, I know -- Third Man.'
Draco was cold and white with anger. 'It's unlike you, Potter, to take cover. Always the hero. And you've been one to let Teddy take his chances, as if he were still a Gallant Young Officer. So: was I, then, the baggage? Did you think I'd show the white feather? Am I a damsel in distress, then, damn you?'
'I'm quite ready to take cover when it's tactically sound,' said Harry, coolly. 'It's commonly a prerequisite to an ambush of the enemy, you know. And that is a tactic I undertake only when I am confident of those who are to fight beside me; as here, and now.'
The Magical Ambassador to the Court of St Aldhelm's and High Commissioner of the American republics (for some of these were inwith the Commonwealth as others were not) was not accustomed to seeing her Sundays at home, at Walker House removed from the embassy bustle of Square Nore Grove, sacrificed on the altar of duty in peacetime. She wasn't particularly accustomed to being spoken to with the frankness resorted to by HM Secretary of State for Foreign and Colonial Magical Affairs, the Right Honourable Justin Finch-Fletchley, either. Nor, indeed, was Justin commonly so deliberately undiplomatic and plain-spoken: but just now, he was rather more Palmerston than he was Eden. And it was nothing to what he was going to be saying to the emissaries accredited on behalf of the German statelets, who were not to have even the minor courtesy of his coming to them, and who should attend upon him at his summons, at Furness House, King Harold Street.
When they had eaten, in a strained silence, their rather Lenten meal -- for the Good Neighbours are no great eaters of flesh, and in any case keep the ancient Highland prohibition against pork -- Harry, Draco, and Teddy sat themselves by the fire, if hardly in overmuch amity, and Harry was just on the point of taking out his pipe when an elderly and reverend gentleman knocked upon the door and came within.
'As it is the Lord's Day the day,' said he, 'there shall be Evening Prayer in the quarter of the hour, should you be minded to present yourselves.'
Harry had stood immediately, upon the old gentleman's entrance. 'You'll be Mr Kirk, the minister of Aberfoyle.'
'Then, sir,' said Harry, ignoring Draco's mutinous glare, 'we shall be happy to attend.'
The three Americans sent to clean up this mess knew that they were well and truly for it when they were met at their point of entry by the Minister, the Right Honourable the Earl Shacklebolt of Frenchay, KG, OM (1st), PC, all cool correctness; by the Lord Thomas of Pluckley Chart, who was Visibly, If Not Disgruntled, Certainly Far Gone From Perfect Gruntlement; by his immediate predecessor as Chief Unspeakable, a tight-lipped and grim Sir Seamus Finnegan; by an openly contemptuous Chief Witch, Leader of the Moot, and Lady President of the Council, Hermione, Lady Weasley; by the Chancellor, the defiantly un-begonged Tony Goldstein, surveying them with fastidious disdain; by the Gnome Office in the person of its hard-eyed Secretary, Bill Weasley of Ottery; by a Most-Disappointed-in-Them Lord Privy Spell, Arthur Weasley of Ottery; by the Secretary at War, the implacable and fearless little Den Creevey of Coven; and by the Secretary for War, a wholly unsmiling Auror Chief Marshal the Right Honourable Sir Ronald Weasley, Royal Corps of Aurors, GGC and bar, KB, OM (1st), PC, MW.
'What bollocks is this? An elderly Piscie clergyman in F- -- here in the, ah, Secret Commonwealth ... oh, good God. You cannot be serious.'
'Yes, that Robert Kirk.'
'Oh, sod it, you are serious.'
'I often am.'
'Too often,' said Teddy, chirpily: he couldn't credit that Uncle Harry had missed a perfect chance at a Sirius joke. His courtesy uncles united in glaring at him. Glaring was a primary means of communication in his extended family, and Teddy was commonly the recipient of those glares. Neither Uncle Harry nor Uncle Draco was a patch, separately or collectively, upon Andromeda when it came to glaring, and the irrepressible Teddy was not repressed by it.
'I suppose after three centuries and a half,' said Draco, 'the man's entitled to muddle his dates. It is not Sunday.'
'It wasn't Sunday, you mean.' Harry was perfectly sober. 'You really cannot expect time to run here in the Hills as it does in the fields we know.'
Draco was too full of things to say to say any of them. He opened his mouth, closed it with a snap, and then exhaled. 'Right. I suppose I want to dress and find my prayer-book, if we're going to Evensong.'
'As do we all,' said Harry, irenically. 'Teddy: unbugger your hair. Natural colour, if you please.'
The Americans had sent of their best. Captain Brand 'Lone Wolf' Navarro, the lanky and laconic Pride of the Texas Magi, could not be outfaced by an entire Wizarding Cabinet, and stood in easy contrapposto, with a faint smile, the peso-carved Magus' Star on his jacket and his Stetson on his head -- and a Colt wand on his hip. The warmly-clad Irish-American from the Great Lakes, who had a habit of turning up in the nick of time, was the best man the Federal Bureau of Ensorcellation could have sent: DSX Macanaugh. And their spokeswitch was the not-at-all flighty African-American Southern Belle, the no-nonsense LaDonna E. Mobberley, who was sizing up Hermione Granger-now-Weasley as one who had found a foe worthy of her wand.
'Now, darlin',' said Special Agent Mobberley to Kingsley, sweetly, in a julep voice, 'are we all going to stand here glaring at each other, or are we going to get this clusterfuck sorted out?'
It surprised a snort of bitter laughter from Ron, which was, she thought, a start, at least.
The World Beneath was a busy one, and its light unlike our light, its eve falling soft upon twilit fields that were and are far from the fields we know. As the three Wizards made their way across the merkat square to the wee kirk o' Kilmartin -- Kilmartin of the Hills and of the People of the Hills, not the mortal parish of Kilmartin inwith Skye -- as they walked to the wee kirk of Martin the Saint that served, indifferently, the Romans, the Calvinists of a' the fissiparous Scottish kirks, and the Piscies, they passed the closed shops and shuttered houses of a remarkably and markedly Sabbath-keeping Folk.
Draco was reflecting upon nothing in particular and everything at once. He was in fact 'awa' wi' the Fairies' in the common sense. Teddy realised this, and reflected in his turn upon just how it was that Uncle Draco and Uncle Harry could fight, flirt, flee, and fall in together once more, yet never be indifferent to one another, hot or cold, in amity or in fury: in which Teddy found the persistence of hope.
Harry, marching his staff to the kirk on Church Parade, was meditating upon a subject more apt. He leant over to Draco, and said quietly, 'I've no idea what Mr Kirk shall take as his text the night, but I think that as to us, the proper Lessons are the Epistle to the Hebrews, the eleventh chapter, beginning at the first verse, and the Epistle to the Romans, the eighth chapter, beginning at the twenty-eighth verse.'
Draco, startled from his dwalm, looked at Harry stonily; yet his mind was working already at the references, for he had been conventionally brought up, at bottom.
'No,' said Justin, quite firmly, to certain diplomats from the Germanies who stood, ashen-faced, before him in his office (he had pointedly not offered them seats). 'I accept neither your avowals -- nor your disavowals. Nor do I accept your offer. We shall not be receiving any such envoys or proffer of assistance. To the contrary. You several ... gentlewizards ... and your staffs shall be outwith the Realm by noon tomorrow. The keys, seals, and wardstones of your delegations' buildings shall be entrusted to, God help us, the Savoyard ambassador as a neutral party. On Friday, our people -- I shall forward the names in good time -- shall arrive in Vienna, where you will present the heads of your services to answer, fully and without reservation, every question they may be asked. Should those whom I shall designate on HM Service be in any way prevented or obstructed, please understand, the Minister has already resolved that a state of war shall thereupon be deemed to exist between HM Magical Government and your various governments. That is all. Good day; you know your own way out, I think.'
The German diplomats began to shuffle towards the door. Justin's parting words stopped them.
'Oh, and, ah, gentlemen?' Justin's tone invested that word with the heaviest scorn. He wasn't languid, kindly Jolly Old Justin today, but rather HM Wizarding Foreign Secretary, the Lord Finch-Fletchley of Burwell, OM (2d), GCMG, CVO, MPC, PC, MW, and not the least of those who had brought Voldemort and his rabble low. 'Do advise your masters and the other sovereigns of the Germanies, that a pretended neutrality by any of the states simply shan't be regarded. I advert you all, and your allies with whom you may speak, to Copenhagen, 1801 and 1807, and Mers-el-Kébir 1940.'
The envoys incontinently fled.
When Harry, Draco, and Teddy returned, in a peace that passed all understanding, to their guest quarters, they found Gillemartin the Fox waiting, with two of the People of Peace, a large, stone-faced, dark-polled man who could toss a caber half a mile with one hand, and a trim lad with a shock of red hair and a gap between his front teeth, which were bared in an easy smile.
'And there you are, then,' said Gillemartin Sionnach. 'You'll be wanting speech of Neil Gow here the morn.'
Harry did not require further introduction to know that the grim man all over muscles was Neil Gow, for that is the surname of the Smith, gobha, whom he so clearly was. 'Mr Gow. You'll be the Smith, then.'
'Aye.' Mr Gow the Smith was a man of few words, and those grudged.
'Our Neil,' said Gillemartin the Fox, 'is the seventh son of a seventh son, and the thirteenth of his line to be Smith to the Folk. You will be well found for battle.'
Draco said nothing, but his obstinate face spoke for him. His mind was elsewhere, had the Fox but known it.
Gillemartin the Fox sighed once more. 'Two of you at least will be told, I trust. And to you, Master of the Hallows, is it proper that you be attended by a piper. Iain Garbh MacLeod here is that.'
'Rugged are you, then, young Iain?' Harry smiled, kindlily.
'That am I, sir, but my piping. Like the Smith, I am not of the Folk by birth --'
'A changeling?' Draco had been startled into speech.
'Och, I'm a volunteer,' laughed Rugged John. 'What is there for me, though I pipe like a MacCrimmon, and me red-haired and left-handed, clì, both?'
'Be you told,' said Gillemartin the Fox, almost beseechingly.
'Oh, I'll not cast aside your advice, Servant of Martin,' said Harry. Draco rolled his eyes. 'Mr Gow, we shall be with you after we have all fast broken. Iain Garbh, attend me then, if you will. Good night, gentlemen.'
Lone Wolf Navarro was a man of few words, but when he spoke, he meant to be heard.
'Hell,' said he. 'I don't reckon y'all have any reason to take it from us, but that ain't the point. All we can tell you is that they ain't ours, and we'll bust a gut trying to help y'all bring 'em in. And -- don't like to brag, but: I mostly do get my man.'
'No doubt,' said Ron, still glacially, 'between the three of you, you'll be absobloodylutely invaluable. Whatever would we do without the Colonials.' Ron mayn't have run to much emotional range, but he was rather good at sarcasm.
The Texas Magus gave him a flat look that almost smoked. 'Up to me, I'd ha' come on my own. One menace, one Magus.'
'Oh, really, Uncle Harry --'
'No, Teddy. You seem to have less faith in your Uncle Draco than have I. Then again, I've known him considerably longer and rather better than have you. I do not think he'll make the wrong choices or bugger things up. He's made some poor choices in his life; so've I. His and mine alike have worked out in the end -- I only wish he'd not been made shy of choosing, in the process. But whether he chooses well or ill, these are his choices to make; there have been too many people who've taken that agency from him, or tried to do, since he was in his cot as an infant. I make certain some of them meant well, as you do; that doesn't excuse it. In any case, this is his quest, and you meddle in it at your peril.'
Grumbling -- a bit ostentatiously -- Teddy sulked off. Harry smiled. Hermione had done him many a favour over the years; her determined and convincing -- because she was herself convinced -- dissemination of the belief that he was a gallant idiot, had stood him in particularly good stead. Even Teddy, with am Old Ravenclaw's firm conviction of his own intellectual superiority, could be relied upon to believe that; and no Old Slytherin, let alone one Draco Malfoy, could resist the temptation of seeing stealth as a first resort.
As if he'd have lived to this age and attained his rank by not knowing when he was being baited -- and magically 'bugged' and eavesdropped, earwigged, upon. As if he'd be Field-Auror Marshal had he not known the value of the well-placed indiscretion, and how to encourage a fellow officer without appearing to do.
The Cross Wands, in Hook-a-Gate, Salop, near Shrewsbury, is commonly considered the best real-ale public house in Wizarding Britain. Its landlord is a retired RSM of the Royal Corps of Aurors, whose proudest service was with Field-Auror Marshal Potter. Mr Patel was absent that night from his well-run pub; the retired RSM was entertaining a few old friends at home.
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
The Central Divination Agency as a body corporate is not much used to the intrusion, indeed, irruption, of elderly leddy-dominies-turned-dons into meetings on matters of national security. Its DDO, LaDonna E. Mobberley, Who Was Not At All Flighty, was not in the least surprised. Minerva was the subject of any number of file entries, after all.
'Ye'll be gang about the Highlands, then? Tach, that is a disaster looming. But, there, ye'll no' be said otherwise by me, nae question. And yet you'll be said, this much: gin ye meet the lads, dinna ye acknowledge them nor yet speak tae or o' them. At a'.'
'They've gone to ground? Under cover?'
'Underground,' said Minerva, meaningly. 'Beneath the Hills.'
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
Teddy, Draco reflected, wasn't half so clever as he thought himself. And Potter was too clever by half. He'd eat his wand if Potter hadn't tuned his strains to catch a suspected listening ear just then. But, then again, if Potter suspected that, and spoke as he'd spoken even so ... there was, although one hated to admit it, a certain Slytherin touch leavening Potter's blandness, after all, and if Potter could, impossibly, actually mean what he seemed to be trying subtly to convey.... Draco's mind was staggered by the possibilities. If all Potter wanted was proof that Draco ... but ... in that case ... yet that meant ... and then they could, actually -- well, well....
The Americans had been dismissed, having been put in no doubt of what was expected of them -- damned little, to be quite plain about it -- and of the extreme limitations upon their freedom of action. This was a British show, on British soil, damn it all, what?
Minerva had stayed on with the ADDER -- All-Department Defence Emergency Response Committee -- meeting.
'What I don't understand,' said Hermione, with all the strangled frustration that always attended her discovery that she did not, in fact, quite know everything as yet, 'is, Why were we not taught, well, really, anything at school, and indeed at University, of the People of the Hills?'
'Ach,' said Minerva, with acid amusement, 'here's the way of it --'
'-- the way of it,' said Harry. 'You couldn't very well expect Binns, poor old bugger, to deal with anything outwith his cherished Goblin Wars, really.' He smiled, and dropped into mimicry of their dear Minerva when she turned her doubled tongue to the braid Doric. 'And -- but that time that daftie Lockhart was speirin' about -- did ye ever see, have speech of, or learn a thing about dwarves? Gin we were in the Borders, now, the Mairches, Na Crìochan, what for would we not be cursing our old preceptors for not telling us more of the Red Caps. It's but since the Restoration that the Guid Fowk have restored any sort of relations with us.'
Draco was not sufficiently amused by this bit of mimicked code-switching to let go his worry. He was always viperish when he discovered that he did not, in fact, quite know everything as yet.
'Most amusing, Potter. The fact remains, we are suddenly pitched into a world and amongst a people of whom we know all but nothing. I realise you are the trusting sort --'
Teddy stared at him, reflecting on just how untrusting an Auror must be to live to attain Harry's seniority and rank, and laughed in Draco's very face.
Minerva was too polite to laugh openly at Hermione. 'Aye, the lass may be their Director-Depute for Operations, but it's no coincidence, for a' her being o' mair bliud than that o' Cheshire, that she bears the surname "Mobberley": or d'ye no' ken the Sassenach tale o' the Iron Gates by Alderley Edge?
'Aweel, aweel, an' there's mair nor the buiks, my lassie, and what for would not we see the Guid Neighbours mair, noo there's peace upon the land? Tach, their ways are no' our ways, yet ye maun trust them when they offer aid -- an' ye'll no' want tae offend them by refusing it when offered, sic folly's gey perilous. Mair perilous by far than holdin' in wi' them, when they're in a guid neighbourly mind.'
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
'For Heaven's sake,' said Harry, 'if you see anyone who could conceivably be anything save wholly Muggle -- no, sod that, if we encounter anyone at all, not least ourselves -- do not have speech of them or interact with them. It's no accident that this was a Sunday here. Oh, really, Malfoy, of whom did you think we took the concept of time-turners, even if we do want to use crude devices for what the Good People do by sovereignty of nature?'
'I,' said Hermione, rather curtly and with a hard look at Kingsley, 'am appalled that the Ministry does not inform the populace of such matters.'
'As the Muggle PM doesn't mention us?' Kingsley was amused, in a detached, remote, and Olympian sort of way. 'The --'
'Havers,' said Minerva, crisp as ever. 'It's a' o' having the Ministry in London. What we want is devolution. Bluidy Sassenachs canna ken a tenth of a' that gaes aff in Scotland in ane, single day.'
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
It was morn in the Realm of the Folk of the Hills. Gillemartin the Fox watched Harry and Teddy with approval, and Draco with resignation, as they had speech of the Smith, Neil Gow, who was to array them for war and danger. Rugged Iain the Piper attended upon Harry and his caterans, his fighting tail, for all that the forces the Master of the Hallows had mustered were, as yet, two other Wizards alone.
'Size of a hound,' said the Smith, warningly. Draco stared.
The Fox explained. 'Liùsaidh, the Cat. A Cat Sìth is the size of a hound. The Smith here has a fine snare for you, of metal and magic and the Three Braided Threads. If I were you, I'd take it and be thankful.'
Draco took it, with little enough thanks -- he'd matured greatly over the years, but Potter alone was sufficient to make him regress to his adolescent worst, and he was wretchedly uncomfortable in the Hills and amidst the Folk of the Hills, and ill-tempered in consequence -- with little enough thanks, then, and that at once grudging, formal, and of the wrong sort: he made the cardinal and elementary error of offering payment in coin. The Smith looked hard at him, and refused, without words.
Harry was silent, and gave nothing away. These were Draco's choices to make.
Gillemartin the Fox sighed. 'You'll not take advice, Draco Malfoy, and it will go ill with you that do not. Be told at the least this, that Liùsaidh the Cat must you snare at a place beyond a meeting of live waters over which the dead and the living pass alike. And you must bring her back the same way over the same path, and if she's wetted at all the day will not be good to you.
'Cub of the Wolf and Master of the Hallows, you will not and you shall not and you may not aid the Malfoy in this, or it will go ill with you all three. Now: by my art I know that the Cat sleeps by day, warily and with one eye open if not the both of them, in the wood, at a place I will tell you of, and you'll go a long way about to get to it by the path you must take. And see you go sunwise to her, deiseil, for all that you must retrace your steps to return by going tuathail.'
'I,' said Harry, firmly, 'have every confidence in Draco, Gillemartin; he's the last Wizard to be in want of my aid.'
The Fox grinned.
Hermione, yet discernibly displeased, was one of the last to leave the Ministry: not the last.
'Ronald.' Her voice was sharply commanding.
'Not at the moment, I'm not: just now, love, I'm Auror Chief Marshal Weasley, Secretary for War and acting CMGS, vice Harry. Look for me at home when you see me, love.'
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
A long way had they had of it, well into the hills of the Hills, sunwise and around, to cross the confluence of two allts over which the Folk of the Hills had both their pathway and their lych-way, and so back into the wood a stone's throw from the fields just outwith the town from which they'd set out weary hours before. They'd found, also, that the magic that was in them, that kept away the Highland midges, did not shield them from the midges of the Sìth.
Draco's temperament was well into its highest and most ear-torturing register.
And then there she was, so large, for a cat -- the size, indeed, of a deerhound -- that almost had they not seen her, their eyes, for all Gillemartin's warnings, looking for a smaller beast: Liùsaidh the Cat Sìth, napping on the edge of consciousness in the heat of the day, well-camouflaged in the boughs. She was larger even than the lynx that had begun at last to return to the re-established Forest of Caledon in the fields we know, and larger far than any wildcat of the World Above the Hills. Her markings were faint upon her, she being black as the Devil's boots but a white patch upon her breast, yet for all that she was clearly a Wildcat of the Hills, a melanistic phase of the auld 'Scots tiger' and as fiercely untameable: touch not the cat but a glove; nemo me impune lacessit. She minded watchful Harry of his lost, lamented Ginny -- and of Malfoy. The Fox, he reflected, had chosen well (for Harry knew, always, more than he let on: he'd not have lived to attain his present age, rank, and seniority had he remained the ranting loon of his youth long syne).
Draco was capable of infinite patience at his own bidding, in the pursuit of his own ends. He had never possessed a scrap of patience -- was indeed perversely impatient -- when patience was enjoined upon him by another's bidding: he had been made the more reckless by such advice, always, whether it had been his father's or that of his Head of House, his mother's or his late wife's bidding, Dumbledore's or Tom Riddle's. He was wholly without patience now.
The snare was not set, but thrown like an American cowboy's lasso, a lariat, and featly it caught Liùsaidh the Cat of the Hills and of the People of the Hills, and its magic and its metal and the Three Braided Threads of the Smith held, and after a moment of fury, the Cat Sìth stilled and was impotent to struggle, claw, or bite. With grim satisfaction and all too little courtesy (Harry and Teddy, mindful of the Fox' warning, dared not intervene), Draco bound her fast with Incarcerous and put her in his cloak for carriage.
'Right,' said he, 'that's that. Naturally, although we're hardly the length of two Quidditch pitches from that miserable hamlet, we must retrace our steps. Idiocy. Well, don't simply stand about, come along, and let's get shed of this. Ridiculous task....'
Harry and Teddy exchanged a wary look. They'd seen the shadow Liùsaidh had cast upon the bole of the tree.
Ron, like most senior officers, had seen, he reflected, very nearly everything. Like most senior officers of Aurors, his conception of 'everything' was necessarily broader than that of his Muggle counterparts.
The descent upon the Ministry of a retired RSM of Aurors turned publican, with a few friends along, was something new even in his varied experience.
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
The sun was westering to his setting when they came once more to the meeting of waters over which the dead and the living both passed. The sun was in Draco's eyes as he forded the water; and it was an ill fate that Rugged Iain the Piper began to pipe them home in triumph just as he was crossing. Draco stumbled; he did not fall; but there was splash enough that Liùsaidh the Cat was wetted by it. In that instant she leapt free onto the bank, and transformed into a queenly and surpassing fair woman of the People of Peace, and one as angry as she was fair.
With a look of furious disdain she fronted Draco. 'You, Wizard. I am putting on you this draoidheachd, that my aid you shall not have but the Cub of the Wolf bring me the Cù Sìth, Aodhagán mac Tìre, who runs free upon the Hills Beneath the Hills. And it will go ill with you if you do not.'
And with that, she transformed again into the Cat of the Fair Folk, and streaked away into the wood.
Gillemartin the Fox poked his head out from behind the scree on the bank opposite. (Wise, thought Harry. He'd seen his share of domestic disputes.) 'Phew,' said the Fox, 'and that's the least of it. Well, you come to me ill-found, and I've little enough help to grant, but come you on to our People, and you, guests, and we'll see what's to be done. You'll take help and advice, Cub of the Wolf, or it'll be the worse for you.'
Teddy had not even bothered to raise the subject with his godfather. He could foresee the answer.
And, what's more, his godfather was too rapt in contemplation of his cousin -- and contrariwise -- when either thought the other to be looking in another direction. There was one thing to be said, and that was that neither had said anything condemnatory of Draco's efforts: which was more important than one might think.
'Well,' said Ron. 'Mr Patel, this is a pleasant surprise. And these gentlemen?'
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know. It was morning once more Beneath the Hills, and Harry and Draco and Teddy were at the smithy with the Smith, the Fox, and Rugged Iain the Piper.
'Size of a stirk,' warned the Smith.
Teddy nodded. 'And -- green, I believe?'
Draco, who was still furious from the events of -- well, the past fortnight, if not longer -- was surprised from his caustic and clamant silence. 'Green?'
Gillemartin the Fox laughed. 'Aye. You're thinking that the dogs of the Other Realm are black, or white with red ears, and so they are, but the Cù Sìth. Red's the colour of magic, your magic, Wizardry; it's green that is the proper colour to us, to my Folk, and in the very light that shines upon us Beneath and Inwith the Hills. Och, now, you of the Malfoys, do not pretend surprise, and you of the lineage of Lot and Morgan, whence came your name: green's your proper colour also. And Aodhagán the Son of Earth is a Slytherin of a hound, and green is the colour to him on that score also. You, Cub of the Wolf, will have much to do in collaring him.'
'Tell me,' said Teddy, simply. Neil Gow the Smith was silently tempering metal. Draco was once more silent, and as hot as the Smith's forge, reflecting on the imputation to him of the blood and lineage of the Good Folk and the implication that Harry's Gryffindor red was the colour of Wizard's magic.
The Fox addressed himself to Teddy. 'The Hound of the Hills runs free upon the Hills Beneath the Hills, and wants his collar. He's not unfriendly: you may offer him food and he will come to you. And the Smith is making a collar that will hold him, but the last step. You will catch yourself and unaided the flesh you will offer the Hound --' Harry, who knew his Scots after long years of command, could not but recall the Cameron war-cry -- 'and you will yourself and unaided collar the Hound and bring him to the Cat. And it will go ill with you if you don't do as you're told.'
'Smith,' said Teddy, all politeness and with becoming gravity, 'ask of me what you will in exchange for the collar of the Hound, mac Tìre, the Son of Earth.'
The Smith did not smile, but he made it clear that this pleased him better than had Draco's fatal discourtesy.
'I'll want three hairs of your head for the collar forging, then, and three more for forging craft and cauld iron after.'
Teddy's hand went immediately to his head, only to be stopped at once by his godfather's iron grip.
'Teddy. The Smith will not do you ill. Yet you have made a promise to your Grandmother.'
He had done, long ago: for if Wizards are careful of their exuviæ, those with certain hereditary strains are very much more so, or are taught to be by those who have the care of them.
'Tach,' snapped the Fox Gillemartin, and his brush swept angrily through the cinders of the Smithy. 'One of you with no heart or grace of courtesy to him, and another with no discipline! A grandmother's word and a grandson's promise are as law to you, or it is ill with you: it's a draoidheachd upon you and a geas. Do you not break it; the Smith will make your collar well enough with it or no.' Gillemartin was, if not truly angry, certainly not wholly pleased with Teddy. 'It was generous, man, but foolish. And it means that you must travel farther than I feared to collar the Hound Aodhagán, and more than a day, and -- if you'll take my advice -- you'll not travel by night: for the collar as it must now be made will not hold if you are travelling and the moonlight falls upon it, though it will bind the Hound fast, night or day, so long as you are not attempting to move by night. Well, you'll do as you like, for all my advice. Such luck to you as you can manage.'
'Oh, I believe you,' said Ron. 'I believe you, because I know your quality. Mr Patel, though; and you, Colour. I'll come to your informant in a moment, Havildar. And so I ask: why in buggery would that lot be playing at this?'
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
They'd had a long and not unarduous journey upon the Hills Beneath the Hills, through the Great Forest of Caledon That Was, which even the restoration work of the Lands Above had not yet succeeded in remaking wholly: a wood of lynx and bear and wolf, wildcat and wild boar, above the streams where beaver had never ceased to build and shape. Now they were in the dwarf forests of the montane scrub, and above them yet were the highest places of heath.
And yet had Harry not uttered a single criticism of Draco's choices and actions. And Draco knew it, and was considering these things in his heart.
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
Teddy had, what time he'd come to man's estate, at last forgiven his father and begun to comprehend his parents. He exulted now in the lupine grace that he had of Remus, as much as in the talent he had of his mother and the swift intelligence he'd been granted of them both. He might have caught a parr of a recent year or one of the first returning salmon, in his wolfish grace; yet he had not, and not because -- as he had jested -- this was not Zetland nor he a Wulver, but rather because he meant to follow the advice he'd taken of Gillemartin the Fox, and offer flesh and not fish.
They were high upon the Hills Beneath the Hills now, where ran free the Cù Sìth Aodhagán mac Tìre, and Teddy had caught a hummel, a stag without antlers -- o, the red deer upon the Hills Beneath the Hills, o, the red deer of the Mountains -- and they were encamped now around a fire, and collops of venison, sitheann, cooking. That should draw the Hound -- and things else as well, it might be.
Ron nodded. 'Thank you, gentlemen. You've been of material aid.'
'Is that a dismissal, then?'
Mr Patel shot the irrepressible Canadian, Colour Serjeant McMahon, a Very RSM Look. If Colour were that bloody determined to put himself back on the active list, he'd best remember that it came with discipline.
Time in the Hills passes differently to time in the fields we know.
With the rising of the moon, the Hound of the Hills, green as grass and large as a stirk (and as shaggy, had the bullock been Highland by breed), came at first cautiously and then boldly to the fire and submitted to meat and caresses and, at the last, a collar on his muscled neck. With that collaring, the Cù Sìth Aodhagán gentled and settled upon his haunches by the fire, content to eat and be praised. Three Wizards -- even if one is Teddy Lupin -- cannot account for an entire stag by themselves, but the Dog of the People of the Hills is a mighty eater.
Only Harry, by firelight, and not wanting even the aid of the magic snaffle bit he'd had of the kelpie, saw that, through the flames, the great Hound whom Teddy, always specially fond of dogs, was petting and soothing, sometimes assumed in silhouette the shape of a strong and beauteous youth of Teddy's age. It was, Harry reflected, not something he intended to mention to his godson -- or that godson's fiancée, his niece.
They roused betimes the morn and set out again, heading back to Kilmartin of the Hills Beneath the Hills. Draco was quite and quite surprisingly biddable. Harry was well aware that they would take more than that day's light to meet their destination. He could not, by the terms of the mission, so much as remind Teddy of Teddy's orders; and he had a feeling that the night would have its test and trial.
In this he was quite right.
Hermione was waiting up for Ron when he at last came home. She had the air of a wife with much to say and rather more to ask. Ron, not for the first time, felt a great sense of gratitude, that his wife was at once interested in and capable of understanding his work; and a still greater sense of gratitude that he could, as so many husbands cannot, take refuge in the Magical Secrets Act and plead the Defence of the Realm.
Time in the Hills, the Hills of the People of the Hills, the Hills Beneath the Hills, passes differently to time in the fields we know.
It was night once more, and the Hound of the Hills slept, collared, by the low, small fire. The moon rode high over the Great Wood of Caledon. Harry was ware and wake and watchful; Malfoy, who was beginning at last to emerge from his strop that had been no means assuaged by Teddy's better performance of his task, and Teddy, with more justice, slept the sleep of the just.
It was then that the scream tore the night's peace in tatters. It was a woman's scream, in -- by the sound of it -- dire extremity. It might or it might not have sufficed to wreck his quest, that Teddy leapt up and leapt forward into the night, wand out, all of the lion and none of the fox. It might, or again it mightn't, have been fatal to the quest had Malfoy not forgotten to observe the restraints placed upon him and Harry of non-intervention, and cried out to Teddy, as Harry was forcing himself not to do, a word of warning. But if neither error alone had sufficed to ruin all, the two together had done, and the moon-touched collar dropped from the throat of the mighty Hound Aodhagán, and he surged to his two feet, laughing and naked in the moonlight, his sable hair streaming and his eyes dancing. He sprang past a startled Teddy (and a Draco who, quite understandably, had been riveted by the sudden sight of so much youthful male pulchritude), and with a shriek of laughter, left the circle of the firelight. They just heard him call, over his shoulder, 'That was ill-done, Cub of the Wolf, and you not taking advice when you'd advice taken! If you wish me to come to you again, the Master must bring me first the Grey Man to be my servant!'
And they just saw his green coat flash as the Hound, a hound once more, raced into the forest, in pursuit of a very large and quite familiar Cat.
Harry sat down by the fire. There was really nothing to say. Gillemartin the Fox slipped into the light from the wood and said it anyway, whatever.
'Well, well,' said the Fox, 'she's aye been a gamesome lass, has Liùsaidh, and it did your courage and your charity, if not your judgement, credit, that gallantry, Cub of the Wolf -- as she counted upon.'
Harry had resolved to remain silent: it was never wise to intervene in family disputes. Yet he could not forbear to say this much: 'Courage and charity and gallantry were not my godson's alone, Servant of Martin. Draco was equally minded to aid Teddy and -- the lady -- both, at whatever cost to himself. It was the right choice, ethically, despite all, and courageous.'
'Still and all,' said Gillemartin, as Draco stared intently at Harry, 'you did not do as I advised you, and you can see for yourself what good that did you. Aweell, and you may as well sleep and I to keep watch, and it's a long way tomorrow to Kilmartin with nothing to show for it.'
Teddy was too dispirited to argue, and Harry was grateful to note that Draco was meditatively silent.
'Sit you by the fire, Servant of Martin,' said Harry, in a tone that brooked no denial, 'for it is my watch to keep and you are wanting rest also. And if you wish for any cold venison or any drink --'
'Och,' said the Fox, with a vulpine chortle, 'I can my own provender find if I want it, but it's well thought of in you to offer.'
Harry waited until Gillemartin turned about, and ghosted a wink towards Teddy. That's how you do it, laddie, watch and learn.
And then, too, Harry didn't mind watching through the night. The Hound had looked enough like a young Sirius Black that not even Teddy could have failed to remark it, and Harry had a strong suspicion that he'd be well advised to begin preparing the reassurances Teddy would quite likely want, when the shock wore off and that scapegrace godson of his had another sexuality crisis. No, Teddy, rubbing the belly of what's more or less a dog animagus who turns out to be a dead-sexy young man doesn't mean you're actually attracted to him ... no, Teddy, that fact that your father and my godfather were Very Special Friends before your father married your mother does not in fact mean you're slated to be bi ... no, Teddy, it would not be a brilliant idea to make quite certain before the wedding, nor indeed after.... Silly fellow, his godson, thought Harry: the lad actually seemed to believe that Harry didn't know just what a young Metamorphmagus might get up to, and, as far as a little gender-bending and quasi-Lesbianism with Victoire, had got up to. Too clever by half, young Lupin, upon occasion, and daft with it if he thought his aging godfather had become deaf and blind and unobservant.
Gillemartin the Fox watched with amusement as the Master of the Hallows kept watch beneath the moon.
Ron and Justin alike spent an amusing and profitable morning setting their respective Departments, and the Ministry as a whole, completely by the ears. Ron had been joined for a few hours, early on, by several old Wizards who had clearly been Aurors in their day.
Ron had relented sufficiently to brief Hermione that RSM Patel and some of his old friends and comrades from 'round the Empire and Commonwealth would be calling upon her for their elevenses, and would she please ask Dean to stop by her office at the same time?
By noon, the Americans -- DDO Mobberley, Special Auspex in Charge Macanaugh, and Magus Captain Navarro -- had been introduced to the (newly-recalled, though the Americans weren't to know that) Men from the Ministry who were to escort them about upon their occasions, for which read, keep an eye on them and tell them what they might and mightn't do: RSM (Retired) Patel and those other Old Aurors, Havildar Thapa BC GGC, Colour Serjeant McMahon, and Risaldar-Major Singh.
Time in the Hills of the Fair Folk passes differently to time in the fields we know.
It was morning once more, glad and confident, and they at the Smithy with Gillemartin the Fox and Rugged Iain with his pipes.
'The day be kind to you, Smith, Neil Gow the Crafter,' said Harry.
'Yon's a bad, mad lad,' said the Smith, reprovingly. Teddy bridled a bit, taking the reference to himself, and Gillemartin hastened to explain.
'He means the Grey Man --'
'Yes, Servant of Martin, I know of old Am Fear Liath Mòr, the Greyman Woodwose and all his clan. In the World Above, it is in the Cairngorms that he is to be encountered, upon Beinn Mac Duibh, and in Monadh Liath; and his tribe are of Skye also.
'Now, Smith of Legend, what may I offer you in some thanks, however lacking, for your good work?'
The Smith, startled, closed one eye and opened the other very wide. 'Aye, that's the way of it, and well said. Your head, then, mon.'
Draco drew his breath in, sharply, and Teddy stood stock still. Harry peaceably strode to the anvil and leaned back, his head upon it, looking up to the ceiling of the Smithy. The Smith grasped a great hammer in both hands, and raised it high. A sharp glance from the Fox alone had not restrained Teddy, and Draco rather the less: it was only Harry's raised hand, palm towards them, that caused them to stand and bide: Teddy on his obedience as a godson, and Draco of mere faith in Harry's right to make his choices, which was the greatest magic to be worked in the Smithy at all.
The grand heavy two-handed hammer flashed in the forge-light as it descended in its great arc downwards.
'You're Canadian by the sound of you,' said SAIC Macanaugh to Colour.
'And an old Auror of the Queen,' agreed Mike McMahon, that wee man. 'I stayed on here after the War and retirement.'
'Which war was that?' Magus Captain Navarro was dry. There'd been enough and to spare.
'The Kaiser's, first,' said Colour. 'My father'd been a Squib -- and a Fenian; got to Canada while the going was good. Married the daughter of a French-Scots-Ojibwa voyageur who'd been with Wolseley up the Nile -- that side of the family's all magical, and the First Nations side's the most Wizarding of the lot. I was just old enough to lie my way into the CEF by 1916, and had the peculiar honour and special privilege of being damned near killed at Passchendaele, by Muggle Huns. Well, Old Guts and Gaiters was a damn fine commander, and he needed all the Wizards, officers and Other Ranks, he could find and hide in his command.
'The Aurory over here was pretty poor, but I knew things'd right themselves soon or late; and then, too, I did get to join in the scrap, with the Water Rats, from Juno to the Breskens Pocket, during the Hitler War. It's never a bad idea to have a few Wizards in the mix when the Empire's at war. Or the Commonwealth: I had to lie to the Muggles about my age and name in the other direction that time, but I did manage to get to Kapyong.'
The Texas Magus shrugged. 'Why stay here after, though? All I hear, the Brits were pretty thoroughly fucked up all that time, Secrecy Regimes and I don't know what all....'
DDO Mobberley elbowed him. 'What Wolf-Brand heah is trying to say -- boy has no manners -- is that Canada's a charmin' place, and he'd've thought you'd be feeling the call of home.'
RSM Patel winced. Colour was all too likely to bang on about that.
'Eh, I don't say the Brits weren't hosers after the Second War, Muggle and Ministry alike, but, I'm old Canada. Leliefontein in the Second Boer War, Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Caen. That bunch back home ... especially after your bastards, that Kennedy prick an' them, helped knife Dief the Chief in the back? Not for me, thanks.'
Risaldar-Major Singh smiled: it was like a sabre drawn from a scabbard. 'It is only when Colour opens his mouth -- which he does rather too often, I think -- that he cannot pass for seventy years in age amongst the Muggles.'
'No, no, Colour, I beseech you -- we are all old men, retired upon our pensions, ha! -- I do not order you, but I beg you, follow your grandmother's old ways and be strong and silent, in the Ojibwa manner, I think? RSM Patel and Havildar Thapa are good, quiet men, and the Havildar with his Boudicca Cross and GGC, also.'
Risaldar-Major Singh paused, and said, slyly, 'Our guests will forget we are warriors, as Aurors are meant to be, and take us for chattering policemen.'
Time in the Hills Beneath the Hills passes differently to that in the fields we know. It seemed to take forever, and also to be upon them with horrible swiftness, that sudden, endless descent of the smashing hammer upon Harry's anvil-pillowed head. With hardly a hair's breadth between Harry's nose and the face of the heavy iron, the Smith arrested the blow.
Harry grinned. 'Well done, Smith -- and I suppose I'll never fall prey now to a faint or the epilepsy, will I, having had the prescribed cure already. I am a widower and no man's or woman's to command save the Monarch's: how many hairs of my head seek you?'
The Smith was visibly impressed. Draco, shaking with what was only in part anger, should have slammed out had he dared, and Teddy was white and trembling.
'Three for the making.'
'Nine shall you have, Smith, and those to you for after makings and the great sians, the Charms of Smithcraft. And what more may I do in some thanks to your labours?'
The Smith actually very nearly smiled. 'Och, you're over generous. Your calm sough is on the face of my hammer already, and that's all that's wanting for a great craft and making. But you must have the sgian to you first, and that's all but made.'
Harry smiled, and plucked out three hairs for the Smith, and six again after. Neil Gow hastened to his last forging of the dagger he would grant to Harry, and the Fox coughed, politely.
'One moment, Servant of Martin. Draco?'
Draco's face was white and working; and his wand in his hand: had he been quite certan which of them there he most wished to hex, he had cast already. 'You -- you -- you utter Potter. You -- I -- you --'
'Yes. You; I. Oh, come here, you ruddy beauty. Here....'
Even Teddy was surprised at the embrace that followed. And the deep, needy, passionate kiss. Equal in courage and restraint and autonomy, and knowing themselves so, they had given way to one another at last.
'We're no' Gretna,' said the Smith, openly smiling at last even as his hammer rang upon the craft of his making. 'We might marry you over the anvil, but there is a minister to the toun and a kirk waiting.'
Harry, for once, ignored even so august figure as the Smith. He addressed himself to Draco, who was saying, over and again, brokenly, such things as, 'I'd never have let you -- you idiot -- you might have been, well, you weren't going to be, but it looked as if --'
'And that,' said Harry, 'is why this waited. Forgive me if I've embarrassed you -- I ought to have asked, first, before I made so public a surrender, yet I'm too proud of our having won through to each other to be capable of hiding it. And this wants declaring.' He turned back to the others, holding Draco loosely in the circle of his arms. 'Smith and Piper and Fox, seek no more magics of me, for I am no longer answerable to none save our Sovereign: there's one now has the right to say what I do with myself.'
Time passes in the Hills of the Fair differently to its passage in the fields we know, now the more swiftly, and whiles the slower.
It had taken little time enough for Gillemartin the Fox to give the words of his wisdom to the Master of the Hallows. 'It will go well with you, that you take my advice. Not today and not tonight shall you go into the mountains after the Grey Man -- oh, you'll know him by his hat. And you'll cast over his head the sgian the Smith has made, with your three hairs in it and your breath on his hammer that forged it, if you'll have the Grey Man come with you peaceably and mild.'
'I'll more likely know him,' said Harry, who was familiar with the breed, 'by his eldritch laughter -- he's a wee bittock mad, you ken -- and the panic he moves in and inspires, if only by his not being able to carry a tune for all his incessant singing.' Harry had told Draco truly what his one fear had been or become, some nights before as time passes in the fields we know. He'd a new fear now in exchange for the old, that he might somehow lose what he had won. But that, nothing feared him; he was wary only, firstly that the task seemed too easy, secondly that there must be a catch somewhere, and lastly that of all the creatures and beings it fell to him to deal with, he most misliked dealing with those who looked -- but were not -- human.
'I know what you're thinking,' said the Fox, amused, 'and you're wrong, and I'll tell you why you're wrong, if you'll be told. And I know you'd be happier if it were a brute beast or a four-leggit beastie you were facing, or even an ùruisg of the high places, the satyr screaming for its mate, or a Fachin or a Glaistig. Be told, then, it's to you also that you must leave behind the Hallows, Master though you be, and --'
'Harry?' Draco's voice was warning, yet not combative: they both knew, instinctively, that they must allow one another their own freedoms.
Teddy was less careful of his uncles' feelings, and spoke sharply. 'Uncle Harry! You cannot leave the Hallows behind -- and in fact I doubt they'll let themselves be left.'
Harry smiled at Draco, and looked then at Teddy with one eyebrow raised. '"Cannot"?'
Teddy flushed red -- and when a Metamorphmagus blushes, it rivals sunsets.
Harry allowed a full moment of realisation, and then took pity on his godson. His hand was in Draco's, their fingers twining.
'I'd not be here, love, and Teddy, with you both, had I not learnt at last, and with sweat and blood, discipline and the literal meaning of obedience. Nor had I thus attained my present eminence with my years. Yet, Servant of Martin, I am loth to leave the Hallows aside: not that I fear for myself absent their presence, but that another might seek to possess them and do himself a mischief -- none can use them now save me and mine, for I am the last heir to all three Peverels (Teddy, Draco, that's not to be spoken of elsewhere, to any), and, the more, because they've a mind of their own. If they come to me unbidden, I'd not like to be found false to my promises.'
'Don't fash yourself, Master,' said the Fox. 'They'll bide here: we'll put them in the kirk.'
'On the altar,' explained Rugged Iain, who was Roman Catholic.
'On the communion table,' growled the Smith, who was very much not, being an elder and a pillar of the Kirk Session.
'And also I lay it on you and your companions as a draoidheachd that they none of them assist you by wand or by word.' And the Fox looked meaningfully at Harry, who, squeezing Draco's hand, looked back with cool amusement, having understood Gillemartin perfectly.
For all that, Harry spent much of the day standing with one foot on the hearth and the other on the pot-chain in the lum, reviewing the notes of the conversation that Teddy had made after reviewing it in a Pensieve. Draco, who was still rather exalted by Harry's actions and reactions of earlier, although they were both far too old for grand declarations, had had other plans for the evening, and was ever so slightly displeased. It surprised even Draco that he was too chuffed in general to be overly demanding in particular. He even managed, after, not to cut up rough when Harry, after a very pleasant interlude, called a halt to the proceedings and sent him to his own bed alone. Harry was worth wooing and waiting for after all, Draco mused, now that the silly bugger had realised what he'd been in want of all these years....
'Wolf-Brand,' said DDO Mobberley, 'I do believe, da'lin', you've been played.'
Risaldar-Major Singh chortled.
The Texas Magus nodded. 'Maybe I have. But I know their measure now, these harmless ol' vet'rans, so maybe I done just what I was a-meanin' t' do.'
Havildar Thapa, who had found a kindred spirit in the laconic Texan, roared with somewhat insubordinate laughter.
Time had passed in the realm of the Good Folk even as in the fields we know. It was the morn of the morrow, and they set out for the mountains Beneath the Hills, and Rugged John, Iain Garbh, piped them out -- which might have given the whole show away to Draco, who was commonly acute, had he not been too distracted, torn between annoyance and a blush at the fact that the whole toun seemed to have heard of his wooing and that the mad Piper was playing them off with 'Mairi's Wedding', 'Màiri Bhàn', and a' the Good People o' the toun singing it at them.
Then again, he knew as well as did Harry -- his Harry, now, at last -- that their whole acquaintance, from Andromeda to Al, and the hail clanjamfry o' the Kinrick o' Scots and aye the Three Kinrciks, seemed to have been seeking to manipulate them into this bliss. Which was well-meant of them, yet would want to be paid for: none trifled with a Malfoy or his Harry, however well-meaning or however desired the end.
It was, as Gillemartin the Fox had said, not a long journey nor yet a short one. What time befell late afternoon, they had reached the scree that screened the way to the summit of the Ben of the Daoine Sìth. Light was failing and the airs were cold, and a grey mist rolled down upon them. This pleased Harry, to Draco's resigned incomprehension. At least they'd cloaks to their backs, and proof against cold and wet at that, and hats to their heads....
They climbed upwards, carefully, and they soon realised that there were great footmarks in the scree around and about them sounding, one to their three, as of Something or Someone far too large and long of stride to be borne.
Then came the giggle. It wasn't a pleasant giggle.
Justin was going over the final selection, with Kingsley, of who should go to dictate terms to the Germans: always a pleasant task for any British minister.
Time in its passage in the Secret Commonwealth of the People of Peace passes not as it passes in the fields we know. Whiles it dilates and whiles it contracts, and its flow is not as we know it.
It seemed to Draco to be suspended when the large form that had circled them, now venting that high, mad, giggle, and now singing eerily and excruciatingly, appeared at last from the mist: impossibly tall and erect, human and not human, naked and covered in a mist-grey pelt, with a topper upon its head, and it green with age and falling apart with more than a century's wear in all weathers (and was that the blood of a former owner that yet faintly stained it?), its limbs long and grasping and a fell light in its eldritch eyes.
I lay it on you and your companions as a draoidheachd that they none of them assist you by wand or by word....
Harry nodded towards Iain Garbh. With a grin, the Piper by Appointment to the Master of the Hallows inflated his bag and began to pipe. He piped a great magic, the sound of the pipes that makes the hairs sit up upon the nape of a man's neck and his heart stir in him, the wild music, the Great Music, the sound of war and glory and valour.
Aye, Iain Garbh piped.
He piped the mist away and the setting sun through the clouds, and the wind followed his piping -- no aid by wand or word -- and Harry doffed his tweed hat to the Greyman, who could hardly fail to respond in mocking kind. Swift as saying 'knife', Harry's sgian that he had of the Smith, all metal and magic and the Three Braided Threads of his hair transfigured to silver and steel in it, flashed and flew over the Greyman's head between his hair and his hat. And when the knife buried its blade quivering in the thin soil of the summit, the Grey Man of the Ben dwindled at once, and a wee brownie, the wild stock of which came the House-Elves, stood there with an impudent grin, his battered top-hat towering over him.
'Brùnaidh,' said Harry, with mingled reproof and amusement, 'you're too long away from your duties with the Hound.'
And from the scree upon the summit, Gillemartin the Fox came forth, smiling. 'And well for you, Master, that you take advice. Now, wee man ùraisg, you'll take us swiftly to the Hound Aodhagán.'
'I will,' said the brùnaidh, and it was so. Before Draco could realise that Harry had not followed, there was a pop of Apparating, which really ought not to have been possible in the Realm Beneath and Inwith the Hills, even for the Master of the Hallows, and Harry appeared, a trifle embarrassed. Draco was appalled to realise just how endearing that was to him, now.
'Damned nearly forgot the knife,' he mumbled. 'Distracting thing, being in love.' Gillemartin the Fox laughed, even as the brùnaidh whistled; and then with a rush and a bay, the great green Hound of the Hills was upon them, transforming, even as he sprang, into that same naked youth with his hair unbound and halfway down his perfect back.
'Tach,' said Gillemartin the Fox, 'you'll catch your death. Do put some clothes on you, lad.'
Aodhagán grinned, unrepentantly, and winked at Teddy, who looked away horrified. 'You ken I'm no use but I have my servant. The ùraisg will get me my clothes.'
'There's a Cat to catch -- and bell, aye -- before that,' said the brùnaidh, impertinently. He snapped his fingers and they were in the wood, and Aodhagán was a Hound again and baying at the great Cat in her rowan tree. She dropped lightly down and did on once more her form as a great and beautiful lady.
She looked at Aodhagán and sniffed. 'Do not change back, but you have a sark to your back and a clout to your arse, or a plaid at least to wrap yourself in. I've seen enough and to spare over the years, and you a bairn.'
The brùnaidh snapped his fingers, and as Aodhagán transformed once more he assisted his master to clad him in kilts and a shirt of linen.
Aodhagán dutifully kissed Liùsaidh's hand. 'I'm a wild lad, my mother, but not a wicked one -- so long as you leave to me my servant, for I'll not do a maiden's work in the house when I might be upon the Hills.'
Liùsaidh gave him that look that all mothers have perfected upon all sons. 'You'll do as you're told, son of my heart, or it will be the worse for you; next time, whatever the cost to me and your father, the penalty will be one that mislikes you worse by far than being free to run the Hills as a Hound.'
She stooped and kissed the grinning Gillemartin upon his mask, and he stood with her, a great laird in his prime with fox-red hair and beard, still faintly amused but obviously to be heeded. 'When the Cub of the Wolf would have set aside his grandmother's word, it was to aid you and your mother and your own father who's before you now; and I told him then, son of my getting, that a grandmother's word was as law to him and a geas upon him. What for would not my command and your mother's be the same or more to you?'
Aodhagán went to one knee before his father, who was not really stern even now. 'Be it so, my father.'
'It is so, my son, and full time you accepted it. Now, let us to the toun, for the Smith has work in hand for our guests, and we are wanted to speed the work of craft.'
And the Laird of Kilmartin, Gillemartin Sionnach of Kilmartin, Rìgh of the Fair Folk, called the Fox, and his lady wife the Bainrìgh Liùsaidh, and the Prince of the People of Peace Aodhagán, escorted the Master of the Hallows, and Teddy Lupin Wolf's-Cub, and Draco of the lineage of Lot and Morgan Le Fay, to Kilmartin town, with Rugged Iain piping them upon their processional way and the brùnaidh going afore them to clear the way for them.
Harry, having long perfected the trick both upon parade and under fire, asked his Piper, quietly, hardly moving his lips, 'And was it your grandmother or her mother, was the leannan sìth?' Iain Garbh made a complicated gesture with his eyebrows as he piped away.
'Great-gran, then,' said Harry. 'I thought as much.'
'Alamut,' said Ron. He wasn't dealing in metaphor (then again, Ron being Ron, he'd not do, would he. Hermione was of two minds as to his knowing what a metaphor was).
'Ah. Well,' said Justin, judiciously, languidly, Edenically, 'one does, rather, wonder what else this lot might be playing at, when one's colleague's Services -- really quite well done, that: do tell them, won't you, that one said so -- when one's colleague's Services discover ritual preparations involving enchanted daggers, a shroud, a silver axe with silver-gilt knives stuck into the, ah, haft -- is that the word? -- and that sort of thing, don't y' know.' Make way for him who bears the lives of kings in his hands. 'Granting that, however, one was rather of the understanding that those gentry were opposed utterly to our sort of magic, and certainly to all of the shabby little pieties embraced by the, ah, Randys and Fannys of this world....'
Justin really was the perfect diplomat. He'd mentioned those two dubious Americans by name with a perfectly straight face.
Dean shook his head. 'That gormless bugger the Yanks ran to earth at last at Abbottabad ages ago -- bin Liner or whatever it was -- was issuing fatwas at the end that sounded like Green Party PPBs.'
'And,' said Hermione, 'Hitler had Grindelwald, Stalin had Rtischev, and yet they managed an alliance of convenience for some years between the four of them.'
'I suppose,' said Justin, thoughtfully, 'it is just possible -- to a certain sort of mind -- not only to collaborate with a sworn enemy on an ad hoc basis -- would explain some of the smaller parties in the Moot, really -- and to think that one is using the other more than the other is using one --'
'-- Would explain some of the smaller parties in the Moot,' murmured Arthur, with an air of impossible innocence.
Justin smiled. 'Just possible, also, one conceives, that, to a certain type of mind, there is a temptation to seek to make use of and control powers one doesn't understand and in which one really doesn't altogether believe.'
'Yes,' said Hermione, tartly. 'The Muggles have that, they call it a Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, in case you've forgotten.'
Ron sighed. Had Harry been present, he should have known what to say to Hermione; but then, had Harry been present, they'd not be having this conversation.... He was quite fond of his Muggle mother-in-law, but he did quite often wish she wasn't quite so thoroughly an Old Girl of Greenham Common.
Time flows differently Beneath the Hills to its flow in the fields we know. Sometimes, it flows backwards in its course, like a tidal stretch of river. Sometimes, it flows uphill.
The Cat had demanded that they fetch the Dog who had bellowed for his Servant the brùnaidh, who had tamed the Hound who had caught the Cat who had broken the spell upon the Fox Gillemartin, and now the Fox and Smith were free to work a craft and a magic that had not been possible else. The Smith's hammer had been sained by the Hero's Breath, and the Three Braided Threads were to hand, and the Cat and the Dog had sacrificed a hair each and the Fox a whisker to be Three Braided Threads more, and the Smith was now hammering out a great, grand craft whilst the Piper played in the Smithy and wove an enchantment of pipe-music, and the Servant the ùraisg, the brùnaidh, attended the Smith and worked the Smith's Bellows.
And the guidwives of the Good Neighbours were at their looms in a great work, a 'deilbh buidseachd, the framing-spells, singing the waulking songs puirt àbeul; and an auld body had crafted also a corp creadha: they would go forth found and furnished for war, Harry, Draco, and Teddy, all three.
Yet it was the Smith's doing that was the grand craft of all; and if Harry had a dirk of him already, Draco and Teddy had not had until all was done, and Harry a new great sword of him; and one thing more, as well, which Harry for the moment kept and kept hidden.
The Americans had not been briefed upon developments; but they had themselves said, in discussing general principles, something to the moment, the DDO speaking of uneasy wartime alliances and Captain Navarro reducing the matter to a homely metaphor: 'Hell, you ought to see a local option election: Baptists and bootleggers hand in hand to vote a county dry': which concept, when explained to them, had horrified their British liaisons, and RSM Patel not the least.
Time in the realms Beneath the Hills runs on at last, fore or back, and runs, at the last, as its masters, the Folk of the Hills, shall bid.
Liùsaidh, dark and queenly, the bainrìgh of the People of Peace, and the guidwives of the Folk, clad them in the weft enchantments, and went with them, Harry, Draco, and Teddy all three, Harry and Draco hand in hand; and the Host marched with them, Gillemartin the Fox, the Rìgh, and handsome Aodhagán Prionnsa the Flath, the Prince, the Hound of the Hills, leading the Host, and Rugged Iain piping, and them all found and armed for war by the untiring Smith. The Servant of Martin's closest retinue were armed with cold iron, mastered at last and of the Smith's doing; the fighting tail furnished with great weapons of bronze; and the archers and foot soldiers, the kerns, with their flint arrows and stone wristguards, and their long ash spears tipped with the cunningly worked flint of the Eldest Days: and all these weapons subtle and elegant, having in them the shapes of leaf and flower, chased and graven with the flowing lines and the Pictish beasts.
The Host marched to the sound of the pipes.
'There is little I can do for you else, Master of the Hallows,' said kingly Gillemartin, tall and handsome and fox-red of hair and beard. 'But it were well for you that you take my advice. You won through, and this compassed, by discipline; and it is in my mind that you will be tempted even now to leave go your discipline at last. Be you warned, then, that you cannot save Randle the American, nor undo what you did, lest you undo all that came of it. We have brought you back before time for reasons other than that, advised and warned before the fact; and what aid we may give, you shall have, and we unseen shall see and do as we may, all the Host. Yet do not allow your wish to save one man bring all to ruin by doing what was undone and undoing all that was done. Be told, man!'
'Servant of Martin, you need not tell me that I may not do what I did not do and undo all. Your counsel is good and your faith pledged, and yours is a seelie Folk. Nor shall I fail of my discipline now.'
And with that, they emerged into the duller light of common day, in the fields we know. It was the Saturday now before the American's death, and they stood within the hut circles of Caiplich, earthwork and fields and houses of men forgotten lang syne, Westwards of Allt Raon Leth-allt, North of Loch Laide, hard by Druim and Lochlait, looking down South-and-Eastwards upon Tor Point and Loch Ness and Herself yet at large and dangerous in the waters, unkennt and unkenning, unseelie and unsuspecting of her doom.
The Great Glen was made by the collision of Norse lands and the lands of the Gael, and the mortal folk, magical and Muggle the both, from Zetland and Orkney through the Great Glen to the Out Isles of the Hebrides, were made by the collision of Gael and Norse also, and their sons of long getting were abroad now once more upon the lands of the Glen of Alba, found and furnished for battle and for war, and time itself had turned and doubled that they might be afore their foes.
For time is and is not, Beneath the Hills in the keeping of the People of Peace, the time we know in the fields wherein we dwell.
The Seelie Host of the Daoine Sìth had vanished, but Iain Garbh: vanished, but not gone.
'They're yet all about us, aren't they.' Draco was not asking a question.
'Yes, love. They are.'
'Mphm.' Even Draco could manage the Scots vocable of dubiety. 'Then it's as well you're a man of iron discipline and a Wizard of your word. In the past, it's always been you on whom you have placed the burden when it's been expedient that one man should die for the people, that the whole nation perish not. No, I don't disagree, I'm merely a trifle surprised that you should accept sense and counsel so meekly, and not insist upon saving that ghastly Yank.'
'I listened,' said Harry, 'very carefully to what the Fox said.'
Teddy grinned. 'As did I. Did Uncle Draco, though? And he an Old Slytherin at that.'
'That will be quite enough from you, Master Lupin. No more, here or now. Let's to luncheon, shall we?'
They went to luncheon at the old Clansman Hotel, and then birding, avoiding their other selves, there where they had acquired the kelpie for Victoire. It was yet the long, long light of the Northern day when they -- with Iain Garbh: Harry already realised that there should be an impossible amount of bumph to deal with, to regularise his having a personal piper, and of the People of Peace at that, on strength, but what is the point of being CMGS if one cannot add a likely loon to Establishment? -- aye, the long light was late upon the land when they put Faol in the water and stood off into the Loch.
Harry turned to Draco. 'I told you, or will be telling you, that I'll not fight over you; I shall fight always at your side. If you wish me to fight at your side now, you've only to say so; yet I do think, and I think our vulpine friend should agree, that you might best fight this battle alone. It is your choice. Your. Choice. Always.'
Draco looked at him with dawning comprehension as Harry held out to him a bit: not the snaffle-bit of their first iteration of these days, that he had tamed the kelpie with and with which he had renewed the geas on Her of the Loch; rather was it a new crafting, wrought by the Smith, and the Three Braided Threads in it.
'The Dean ... the Monsignor....'
'They were to my task, as I was tasked to fulfil it. You are furnished forth differently for yours, by the People of the Hills, down to the very plaid upon you -- which I advise you wear when you front Herself, its make will protect and not impede you.'
'You pledged to Gillemartin and the Host that you would not save Randle.'
Teddy started to say something, and stopped, hurriedly, at Harry's stern look.
'Yes. I did. I listened, as I told you, gey carefully.' He smiled. 'Astounding, really. We've met the Fair Folk, you've seen whence time-turners and House Elves originally came, and it is this that has you fuddled. Come, come, love. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey.'
Draco laughed, suddenly, and took the bit and a pottle of Gillyweed from Harry's steady hands. 'Only you, Harry. Only you. All right. Look for me when you see me.'
'I shall. You find, after all, that you can and will to undertake this alone?'
'Am I alone now? Harry.... So that you've faith in me, I can do anything; and so long as you've that faith I am never alone. We belong to each other now. Smile at me like that, and I can ruddy fly without a broom.'
And with a blinding grin, Draco stripped to his skin, kissed Harry soundly, wrapped himself in the Fair Folk's spell-woven fèileadh mòr, and dropped into the dark water without a ripple, as Iain Garbh began to pipe a great enchantment.
Rugged John piped long, even as folk gathered both sides the loch to harken, they not having had such music ever. He piped gatherings, did Iain Garbh, and salutes, and marches, all the Great Music but never a lament, and the waters were still and the night silent but the piping. Teddy was increasingly besieged by nerves, yet Harry bided serene.
The gloaming was upon them, the mirkenin, dayligaun, the derklins and the ciaradh; and the Piper piped a mighty music, the Great Music of war and triumph, and Teddy stood it at five paces, aboard Faol, alone. For Harry, his implicit trust in Draco made explicit in action, had himself whistled up the Dean and the Monsignor, presuming upon his acquaintance and Ernie's name, and the three of them had departed to the far shore, back towards Inverfarigaig where they had Broken the Hills, and to Foyers, there to sain and lustrate Boleskine House, where evil had been done, if haltingly and inadequately by one who wished greater evil, and loosed, it may be, in some wise the chains of ward and warning that the Hope of Scotland had lang syne placed upon Her of the Loch.
Night had fallen, and Iain Garbh piped on, and Harry, returned from the purification of Boleskine House, sat at his ease aboard Faol, smoking his pipe like a guidman at close of day, and all the stars in the sky; and then, with a surge and a splash, Draco broke the moon-silvered surface of the waters, dripping and selkie-sleek, with star-shine upon his shoulder, and She of the Loch surfaced meekly behind him, tamed once more.
And the word went abroad that night to the lesser eich in their uisgeachan, the water-horses, each-uisge, of Linnhe and Lochy, Morar and Arkaig, that their dam, the Great Mother of them, the màthair, was bound once more, and a geas upon Herself and her getting, they amongst these; and there was peace in the lochs.
As that word went out, more swiftly than thought, Harry hauled Draco aboard, stripped him of his plaids, and led him below. And that night, anchored upon peaceful waters, Faol rocked to her anchors, and Rugged Iain piped the tunes of glory and of tears.
III. The Road to the Isles (Speed, bonny boat): O my boatman / The Reconciliation Reel / Nec tamen consumebatur / We're no' awa' tae bide awa' / Balaich an Iasgaich (The lads from the fishing) / The Mermaid Reel (The Maiden of the Seas)
Fhir a' bhàta, na hòro eile
Mo shoraidh slàn leat 's gach àit' an déid thu....
O my boatman
My farewell to you wherever you go.
-- The Boatman, Sìne Nic Fhionnlaigh of Tong, afterwards wife of the boatman Domhnall mac Rath
Siùbhlaidh i mar eun a 'snàmh
She will travel like a bird swimming
Is sìoban thonn 'ga sgiùrsadh
And the spindrift of the waves hitting her
A 'bhìrlinn rìoghail 's i a th'ann
'Tis the Royal Galley
Siubhal-sìth 'na gluasad
May she have a peaceful passage
Sròl is sìoda àrd ri crann
Satin and silk banners at mast-top
'S i bratach Olaibh Ruaidh i
It is the banner of Red Olave.
-- Birlinn Ghoraidh Chrobhain
... An' play them aff. See ye neist wikkeyn! An' a' the best t' ye.
-- Robbie Shepherd MBE
Harry did not care to miss Church Parade, but needs must when the Deil drives. The Sunday found Harry and Draco, with a grinning Teddy, Disillusioned upon the wooded slopes of Creag Nay, and the Guid Neighbours o' the Hills bringing them messages and reports all unseen.
All had yet to happen, and now should not: Professor Randle Murray's death was averted, the Americans had not yet been brought to bring their DDO and their FBE Agent and their lean, canny Texas Magus to assist the Ministry, She of the Loch was tamed and could not be set to mischief by any agency. They watched, and the Folk of the Hills with them.
Guid folk, and not alone the unco' guid, were at service in their several kirks; only the unseelie were speiring about on a Scottish Sabbath morn.
Professor Bisset and Professor Murray waited, nervously, upon the strand, at Urquhart Bay, hard by Temple Pier. And waited. Waited, Harry considered, rather longer than tradecraft prescribes that any in the field wait for a contact.
For whatever reason, the Third Man had not appeared. The Americans, visibly uneasy, moved off, pretending to potter, upon the Great Glen way towards Drumnadrochit, and, no doubt, the academic 'cover' of Craig Mony's Iron Age fort.
Harry and Draco, with Teddy (and the Piper) had betaken themselves to Faol upon the waters.
Harry was dictating instructions for Teddy and Draco to copy out and Owl to the Cabinet.
'"... Bisset; the other is passing as a Professor of Geology under the name of Randle Murray. Also present in the area is the team of von Beust, von Pappenheim-Tiedemann, and Bauer. I have reason to believe that these persons are not engaged upon service of the American states or the various Germanies. Further to this, there is a third person, whom you will likely find posing as an American also; when you shall have found him or her, find a charge and hold him." Hullo, hold a moment.'
Harry paused. Gillemartin had appeared before them without warning, his face grave, a sack in his hand.
'This, Master of the Hallows, was to your address. It had been sent to your hotel -- your previous hotel -- and not arrived timely.'
'Thank you, Servant of Martin. Let's have it out, shall we?'
The Fox upended the sack upon the low table in the cabin. What tumbled out were three Damascus blades, and a shroud.
Black rage was upon Harry. 'So the Old Man is playing up, is he? By God! I don't pretend to be a pious man or any theologian,' he blazed, 'and I've commanded good men and women of all faiths and none, but there are certain sects I'll not tolerate. By God! In this country, we don't let politics put on a uniform, and we'll not have it drape itself in vestments! And he doesn't even believe it himself, the old bugger. By God, never believe in a religion with its own Brezhnev Doctrine, nor any God who wants his creatures to defend his dignity and honour. Right. New paragraph, please.
'"Further to the foregoing, I enclose evidence that the Order of Assassins is engaged in this work. You shall detail Ghurkha elements of the Royal Corps of Aurors, with the Scots and Isles Aurors to give aid to the civil power in meeting this threat."'
He turned to Draco and Teddy with a taut smile. 'It's all very well for these gentry to come on in a rush, ululating, thirsting for their hopes of Paradise, but experience teaches, you know, that at the sound of the pipes and the flash of the kukri, you'll not see them for dust as they run out of their sandals. Levies without discipline ... poor show, always.
'"You'll oblige me by Owling Viktor Krum and setting him to get to the bottom of the treasons in the Germanies: Justin, I know you'd quite like to cut up rough with them, and with the Americans, but you're not to do so. The Americans are to be advised only of the bundimuns in their own house, and any offer they may make to assist here is to be politely rejected. Magical and Muggle ports of entry are to be monitored and if necessary closed, and let's not forget Fishguard this time, shall we?
'"I and my party shall continue to the Chalice Stone of Glen Roy."'
Teddy raised his head and looked at his godfather.
Harry smiled. 'Or the general area. No reason to be overly explicit in written comms, lad. And look at this way: your academic holiday has just now been underwritten by the Ministry.
'Now. Begin a new paragraph....'
They passed by the hill-fort of Dùn Scriben at Grotaig and the Forest of Creag-nan-Eun without incident, and showed themselves at the Falls of Invermoriston by St Columba's Well (the Dove of the Church had signed his name indelibly upon the landscape). The People of Peace were watchful, unseen, all about them. The Falls of Allt Luaidhe upon the Eastwards shore, beneath Loch nan Lann and Loch Knockie, they observed, and saw no sign nor hint of trouble. Neither did they see the Americans, who seemed to have vanished from the land.
They passed the crannog of Cherry Island, and came to Fort Augustus and the remains of the old abbey there, and turned Faol once more outwith the Loch and into the canal, through the flight of locks that are at Fort Augustus; and Harry and Draco worked as one, perfect in sympathy, bound and bonded at last. If danger pressed close upon them, it but pressed them the more nearly together, and Teddy's heart was made glad thereof.
It was at the dun of Torr Dhùin, past Kytra Lock where the Canal of Caledon runs beside the sweet River Oich, that they encountered a glimpse of their quarry -- and more than that.
The skies had darkened stormily, and the rain lashed down. This was not the smirr of rain that the Highlands know almost hourly. There were lightnings upon Torr Dhùin, and the great Wood of Auchteraw tossed like a field of corn. They Apparated ashore and, shrinking Faol to pocket-size, fought the winds to reach the dun.
There Gillemartin met them, streaming like a kelpie. 'It's not any Folk we know, seelie or unseelie, but a great thing of sand, grinning like an ape and winged like the eagle of the sun's eye. It was the sand that we're fighting with water, but the storm's over-violent and to no effect. See what can you do, Master of the Hallows.'
Harry calmly transfigured the kelpie's bit into a matching pair of his own spectacles: spectacles much more fashionable and elegant that the NHS specs of his school days.
'Let's not go in blind and without a plan,' said he.
Draco smiled, rather nostalgically; and Harry laughed.
'Away with you, love. I'd not be this age, let alone so senior in rank, were I yet the shouty schoolboy you remember.
'Right. Teddy, stop you here with the Servant of Martin. Draco, love, you and I will take the lead here.' Harry shrugged his shoulders, and the Cloak appeared upon them as in times of trial; the Elder Wand was in his hand once more, and the Ring and Stone upon his finger.
'Iain Garbh, I said it and I meant it: these gentry soil themselves when they hear the pipes.'
From Fort Augustus to Cullochy, folk in their houses gave over marvelling at the sudden storm and listened to the high sound of the pipes as they woke the glens with their echoes, louder and wilder than the howling winds and any else that howled upon the wind: 'The Black Bear' and 'Cock o' the North', 'The Standard on the Braes o' Mar' and -- at the quickening charge out of the storm and the mist, as Harry and Draco, wands in their right hands and blades in their left, took the dun where the storm was at its fiercest -- 'Johnnie Cope': and the storm ceased and the winds stilled and the clouds parted, and there inwith the circle of the old works of the hill-fort but a patch of sodden sand, turning already to mud.
As they watched, it began to dry, no more mud but old blood shed in murder, and Harry whistled for the kelpie he'd mastered as a gift upon his niece's wedding. And Calum stood before them, quiet and biddable, the tamed kelpie and the only dry thing in the landscape. Neil Gow the Smith appeared, with Gillemartin, and Calum submitted to have a nail taken from his shoe, and Harry drove it into the drying blood with the Smith's Hammer.
'That's that,' said Harry, who had learnt some years before how to deal with an Ifrit.
'Don't,' said Harry, 'think we're done, please,' as they locked through Cullochy Lock beneath a still and clear sky. Bridge of Oich was afore them, and Loch Oich dark and deep; and Harry was alert for further trouble.
Draco, for his part, was ready for what should come. Long ago, lang syne in the language of the country 'round, long ago and in another country (and now the wives that had come after were dead, ochone, and venged, aye, as well, and time had been, time had been) ... long ago and in another country had he first thought to hold in with Harry, and had not at the last. He had thought then that he had known his own mind and his worth, his will and his heart (and in all this time, Harry had known his own and not wavered, yet the time lost had not been truly lost nor wasted); and upon the threshold had he wavered, and been afraid for any astonishment, and not entered into and upon the land of bliss that was open before him, for that he had doubted him at the last who he was and what he brought with him as his portion.
Yet that was past, and time past was earth on a dead man's eye. And yet had none of it been wasted, not in the getting of his son and Harry's sons and daughter, and the journey if long and crooked had run straight at last to the end ordained. And perhaps he had wanted this time to know and to see and to understand what and who he was himself alone, and what life and destiny had laid upon him that he must aye bring with him to his goals, it having shaped him to its weight. He that in Hell was and gladness: perhaps it was that Hell maun be known for gladness to be entered upon and recognised at its worth, and cherished. Arts magical and astronomical, rhetoric, logic, and theology, the trivial and the quadrivial, all failed at the last: it was love endured. All else was but the raving of rooks, a Babel of confused tongues sounding from the tower of that hideous strength and falling into its six-mile shadow to fade and die. Love was a god of terrible aspect, and must be fought for and towards, cleaving one's way through a press of foes, liberty regained with every blow. He might cast it in runes or inscribe upon the air its testimony in sigils of fire from a glowing wand; yet it was the truth and soundness of it that it wanted no spelling out.
Time past was earth on a dead man's eye. And he had seen but darkly in the years past. It wanted now no kelpie's bit and bridle to see aright, how the hurts he had thought Harry had dealt him had been self-inflicted in those years, and all because he could not see: oen cannot see the world and others and their relation to one until one sees oneself true. As he had at last seen, and prized.
The flesh might be bruckle and the Fiend they sought, sly; it mattered not. No fear conturbed him any longer. Fortune might be fickle; love endured, and the frowns of Fortune could fear him no longer: for he and Harry had won through to that estate that the makaris had sung and sought, of love with honour, a love between equals and each at last knowing himself equal and loved equally. Whatever was afore them, the air was clear and pure, and not the dunnest smoke of Hell could taint it now.
Without the effort of years syne and in another country, the mechanised locks operated, only Teddy ashore to walk the cleated lines. The need for strenuous effort, as he and Harry had once known in their youth, was past; and sweetly, inexorably, the waters filled the loch, seeking the level ordained for them, in perfect poised balance; and Draco's heart filled in balance and reposed equipoise with them. Nothing that lay afore them on theor course could trouble him now; he was in safe harbour already, and at last.
They slept the night in peace at Invergarry -- Teddy at least slept, and his uncles by courtesy were at the least sated and refreshed, the morn, however little actual sleep he suspected they'd had (and Uncle Draco was, if smug, walking a bittock tenderly, Teddy noted with a swiftly suppressed smile, and Uncle Harry had a self-satisfied air about him that ill-accorded with the few visible bruises he had gained, and not in battle).
Faol met the morn upon the pine-rimmed waters of Loch Oich, at the highest point of her journey. Salmon, trout, and pike were in the waters, and red deer upon the hills, and in the cloud-scumbled skies osprey at the Summer's end and bold red kite, eagles of the sea come inland and golden eagles, soared.
It was a peaceable and majestic scene; and Harry was alert, scenting danger.
Draco knew there was danger all about them also. He did not, could not, fear it. He could not but glory in it; or, rather, he could not but glory in the knowledge that Harry trusted him, had long trusted him, to meet and front danger, with courage and craft and cunning, at his side, and they equals and equal to the task: a faith to build a lasting love upon. Although he did rather shy away from imagining just what they were going to say to Scorpius and Al....
Faol the Wolf made her way steadily past crannog and castle, towards the plantations of North Laggan and Ardrishaig beyond.
The Third Man was yet abroad upon the land; abroad, and not found. But Harry, armed with the corp creadha, the clay-body he'd had of the People of the Hills, had his own ways and his own means of bringing matters to a head, and subtly directing events and where the Third Man should be found: driving him there, will that man or nil he, herding the Third Man as a beast to the fold for slaughter. It was commonplace for those who did not understand the military man's view, and who therefore took the wrong measure of the song, for Harry's unfriends to observe that he'd not infrequently being played or piped off by a regimental band to the strains of 'The Parting Glass': these folk seeing in the lines,
But since it falls unto my lot,
That I should rise and you should not,
I gently rise and softly call,
Good night and joy be to you all,
a sly backhander, a suggestion of callousness to casualties in the great commander.
In this, Harry's detractors were mistaken; yet they had taken the measure of his ruthlessness, that character he shared with all great commanders, Muggle and magical alike, had they simply attended to the fact that he was as frequently saluted with the strains of a military-band arrangement of ... 'Live and Let Die':
What does it matter to you,
When you've got a job to do;
You've got to do it well:
You've got to give the other fellow Hell.
Opposite the mouth of Allt na Criche on the shore opposite, Harry put Faol hard to starboard and made for the strand.
On such a day, on any other day, the monument had been thronged already with tourists and trippers, Japanese wedding parties with their cameras, Americans asserting a Scots great-granny, lean walkers upon the Great Glen Way.
Not on this day. The day had grown silent, and no birds sang. About them, Teddy and Draco could feel and sense beyond feeling a great press of presences, clouds of witness, the unseen Seelie Host.
They were come at last to Tobar nan Ceann, the Well of Heads.
It had been no accident that the Smith had asked the hairs of the head to make the Three Braided Threads to forge into his craft, nor yet that his hammer had been sained with the sough of a man with his head on the anvil seeing Death unflinching. The Gael has always regarded the head as sacred, and has taken heads in battle. These, and the lore of springs and wells, had coalesced here, as late as 1665, at the last head-taking of clan warfare in the Highlands. Seven murderers had been caught and summary justice done by the Clan Donald, and their severed heads washed in the well to be made presentable for the giving of them to Glengarry by Bald John, Ian Lom of Keppoch.
This was the Well of Heads, Tobar nan Ceann, upon Loch Oich, and there is there a monument, an obelisk with seven carven heads at its apex.
Standing beneath it were six travellers from afar: Bisset and Murray, Bauer and his German masters, and a bald, stout man of strongly marked features.
Teddy noted with alarm how the Germans seemed now, by light of day, more than ever distorted echoes of himself and his courtesy uncles: there is little more disturbing than to see one's fetch, one's doppelganger. Draco was staring with hard eyes at the Americans who had pretended to be seekers and transmitters of true knowledge, and been, he thought with detestation, false in every particular.
Harry simply locked glances with the Third Man of the American party, and smiled. It was a smile that boded ill and no good for any enemy of the Crown.
He led his party, with his Piper, over the side and onto the shore.
The bullet-headed man with the fleshy features had fathomless dark eyes, and a smile of satisfied malice.
'Ah,' said he, as so many would-be villains and aspiring dark lords had said. 'Harry ... Potter.'
'Yes. And Draco Malfoy, here, and Professor Lupin. And you are?'
Draco had not heard that story a thousand times; Teddy had, and repressed a smile at the thought of Uncle Harry's mimicking the young Aunt Hermione.
'I think you know that. I pass at the moment under the name of Dr Tarif. Ah, America, that land of immigrants: so accepting, so diverse, so easily penetrated.'
'Your name. I'll not deal with a mere fida'i, nor indeed a mere rafiq.'
The man's eyes flashed, and he made a wandless gesture that seemed to dull the colours of the world. 'I am,' said he, in a terrible voice. 'I am. It is I, whom you call the Old Man of the Mountains: the shaykh al-jabal, Rashid ad-Din Sinan the Deathless. Tremble and obey, and know that I am Master. My work is destruction, my aim, chaos, of which a Great Work shall be born; and even these unbelievers are my tools who share the urge of destruction, and though they know it not, follow me.'
'Balls,' said Harry.
The Old Man seemed to tower over them, wrapped in dusty shadow and the night of all the deserts and waste places of the earth, his shadow as tall as the monument. 'I am Master, and it is my pleasure that this green place become one with the desert and the mountains, and be mine. I shall have your head, and the heads of your companions, and all the waters of this land shall become as dust when they are in the well, and all realms and magic fall: for I am he who has gone beyond the Book and above the Throne of God, and evil and good alike are beneath me! What barking fox and whining dog shall stay my almighty hand?'
There was a flash, and the man diminished, thrashing and struggling wildly against unseen bonds in an agony visibly causeless, as Aodhagán the Hound and Gillemartin the Fox seized him and bound him fast. The Host crowded about them, and the Germans did not even try to draw wands; no more did Murray, and Bisset was immediately disarmed.
'You really do want to read up on these things,' said Harry, conversationally, to the furious and Silencio-ed Chief of the Assassins. He squeezed lightly the corp creadha in his hand, and the Old Man choked back a voiceless cry of pain. 'Perilous thing, naming the Good Folk: they can seize you then. And have done. Teddy, send a Patronus to your Uncle Ronniekins -- tell him I called him that, I take my amusement where I can find it these days -- and have him send MLE and Aurors here. Make certain Captain Haq of the Midlands Aurors is of 'em: very serious and orthodox young Sunni, is Omair Mirza Haq, and I think he'll enjoy making one in the interrogation of the rash Rashad ad-Din.'
Harry turned to the Germans. 'I think you'll find your various governments shan't be claiming any immunity for you, had you any. But don't be downhearted. We'll be turning you over to the Continentals after you answer a few questions. Well, I say to the Continentals. General-Major Krum and the ICW's Intel lot.'
Even Bauer paled at that.
Harry then turned to the Americans. 'Well done, Murray. Oh -- yes, of course, do let Murray go. Really, you --'
'Ah. Tedders. You were quite right, you know: stage-academics, if not quite stage-Americans. I did tell you I'd begun enquiries. Remind me to have a quiet word with Dean about letting CMGS know when he allows Allied Funnies into my ruddy country, will you? I detest surprises. Oh, don't look at me like that, Draco, I'd no more have told Ginny about a security matter, you know. Right. Murray, report yourself to -- yes?'
'Er, guess I'd better tell Professor Lupin not to worry. About his paper, I mean. The Bisset woman isn't really a scholar, just an activist who picked the wrong crowd and the wrong cause -- oh, yeah, you bet we'll indict her back home -- and I majored in International Relations, not Geology.' Fanny Bisset looked at Agent Murray with loathing and betrayal. Whether she was more wounded by that deception or by a more intimate one, Harry chose not enquire -- or speculate.
'Good of you to set my godson's mind at rest. Report yourself to Dean Thomas, then, and do try to be out of my country within four-and-twenty hours, with your detainee, won't you? Super.
'Gillemartin; Hound of the Hills. We are obliged to you. Have we your leave to depart?'
The Fox smiled. 'You have that, Master of the Hallows, for I hear your people coming even now to take charge of these. And go with our good will upon you all three, as the Three Braided Threads of your Family and your Folk.'
And Rugged Iain piped them away -- with the Crusader's March, and the triumphant musics, 'The Haughs o' Cromdale' and 'Highland Laddie', 'Wi' a Hundred Pipers' and 'The White Cockade', and at the last 'Highland Cathedral' and 'Scotland the Brave' as they put out into and upon the loch in victory.
They spent the day quite frankly avoiding anyone military or ministerial -- Harry, as he'd curtly Owled back to Kingsley, was On Leave, Damn It All -- by the singing Falls of Kilfinnan and upon the high places of Meall nan Dearcag, and again across the water in the Forest of South Laggan and the Corrie of the Fair Folk, of which they were made free, in Coire an t-Sidhein. The watershed of the Great Glen is between Loch Oich and Loch Lochy, and they had passed their watershed indeed. Their faces were to the West and the end of journeys upon the Atlantic strand, and the wind in their faces and their slow descent before them.
Only did they go to Spean Bridge, and there Harry spent an hour in silent remembrance, at the Commando Memorial, warrior and warfighter honouring warriors and warfighters, with his laurels fresh-renewed upon his scar-starred brow.
They slept the night in a small steading, a but and ben, that catered to quiet folk, near to Altrua.
'Teddy,' said Harry, at ease in a comfortable chair, 'if antiquarianism has palled, we can spare you for the night. I'm sure you can find something to do.'
'There are few bright lights South of the Locks of Laggan, Uncle Harry, and little nightlife upon Loch Lochy. I rather doubt there's been much excitement hereabouts since the Camerons and Clan Donald fought against the Frasers and the Grants, at Blar na Léine.'
Draco smirked. 'I'm sure Aodhagán'd be happy to spend an evening in your company, Wolf to Hound.'
Teddy arranged his countenance in Uncle Percy's very lineaments, and said primly, 'I don't think my fiancée'd approve, really.' He returned the smirk. 'But why don't the two of you go jigging?'
Harry laughed. 'I don't think my intended is likely to approve.'
'Oh, really, Potter? When did I become the boring one, then?'
Harry pulled him down into his lap. 'You? Boring? Dull? Love, I make certain we can have far more excitement in that bedroom than any ten people elsewhere.'
Draco smiled, and set to ravaging and ravishing Harry then and there. 'Why wait for the bed?'
Teddy, wisely, fled.
The morn dawned cool and misty. Already there was a thrumming in the air, a secret thrill, and a scent in the duff of the wood, that spoke of Autumn upon the land, the Hairst of the Highlands, Foghar; and they were come into the West, where the rain is thrice that of Inverness, a country and an air as soft and liquid as the Gaelic tongue and as Norse-Gaelic as the seas to which they drew ever nearer.
Here was the ancient land of Lugh, who prefigured and echoed the true holy angel Michael of the Hosts, and here were, Poseidon-like, where had Telford builded Neptune's Staircase of locks, the seas and horses and mountains and the old scar of the shaken and broken world, the Great Glen Fault running to the seas: for Lugh was never the Celtic Hermes as some had thought, but rather their Poseidon, even as at the toun-heid o' Troy lang syne, whit time Helen's grand beauty set the world to warring.
Here were the corries and the mist, the bens and the heather, the waters streaming ever down and scribing runes upon the land, and every view almost beyond art: the Gaelic West, between the mountains and the sea, beneath the changeful skies of rain and fair weather alike measureless, and the eagle upon the wind and the windcuffer soaring, and the deer red upon the mountains and the squirrel in the wood and the salmon in the burns and rivers, all fresh as the morn and ancient as the great towering peaks and the forever insatiate sea.
All danger was past them, a Smith that had Forged them into Three Braided Threads. They had kept -- in all senses -- their heads, and could now give Teddy his head in antiquarianism. From Loch Arkaig and the Forest of Lochiel, where the feud of three and a half centuries between Clan Chattan and Clan Cameron had ended at last, to Clunes and Gairlochy and Glen Roy, they spent the last few, sweet days of their Caledonian journey accompanying Teddy, as he turned his keen mind upon the works of old, and what secret words they yet spoke to the after listener.
Draco and Harry, it must be admitted, were of little aid to him. They walked in the wood and upon the high hills, and sat by falls and gazed upon the waters of loch and lochan, as who were in a universe of two alone.
For they were now like the river that resists, with meander and avulsion, its final destiny of delta and discharge, its last loss of self in the sea.
And the days were long and loving, and the nights sweet, and they discovered at last one another after the way of lovers, in body, who had already consummated their marriage of true minds -- whaur's yer Wullie Shakespeare noo? -- and learnt each other fully and reverently and in mounting passion; and the Piper piped their hours, and all their time together was as birdsong, the ceilear, and they cèilean, mates espoused, and they smiling joyously at each new discovery (an dèidh sin, phòg iad a chèile, kissing one another after each, ae fond kiss and then the neist and anither), and the days and nights one grand cèilidh of celebrated fellowship and the Piper piping them in their hours. Aye, there was a cèilidh to them every nicht, and Harry had at last learnt to delegate once more and leave importunate requests for aid -- a wild ùraisg sighted here, a storm-raising by dark magic there, a spell-theft of milk another place -- to MLE and to his own subordinates when aid to the civil power was wanted, and Draco had at last learnt once more to assert himself, to ask and to urge and to choose and demand, who had so long been unwilling to think himself worth; and so they went to cèilidh when they chose, or spent the nights in passion spent and sated -- for a time -- by the morn. And they danced at Inbhir Garadh, and at Àrasaig, at Malaig and Baile a' Chaolais, at Gleann Ùige ('My king has landed at Moidart') and Àth Tharracail, the Ford of Torquil, Acharacle, where Somerled had the victory over the Vikings; and Harry took delight in teaching Draco the spells of the ship-building, and the sport that is of camanachd, the shinty, that his Jocks in his commands had played in cantonment, barracks, and camp. Their love was like the red rose in the white heather, and they the kings amang the heather, in a time out of time amidst the wild mountain thyme, and they walked upon muir and ben and in the great Forest of Caledon, the Land o' Licht, hand in hand.
And, also, time at last they had and time at last they took, to marvel at a newer work of hands than those which Teddy cherished: Telford's great canal itself, lock and channel, viaduct and aqueduct, the clever measures that controlled and maintained a weight of water upon the land, from swing bridge to stair of locks. There were cunning devises and devices that maintained the waters and carried away any too great fullness, or fed a drying reach, and Draco responded with unspoken recognition to the great principle of balance in all things, a knowledge hard-won and won late, but the more precious for it.
It was hardly necessary that they speak of these things with words. Touch and gaze sufficed, and words had been unequal to the task. They saw balance achieved through a tension and a tying together, in iron and stone and water, and the poise of swing bridges, and the balanced rise and fall of waters in the locks; saw, and emulated it.
And on the sixth day of that last week that Teddy might spare to them, they set Faol upon the waters of the Canal, her lines evocative of the past, and rejoined the world we know, beneath the high head of Beinn Nibheis.
The season of Autumn, the Hairst, the Harvest-tide, was near upon them, the season of fruition and ingathering and completion, and of the rut of the deer upon the hills, the red deer upon the hillside. Already, the red squirrel was contemplating his larder, and the birds were seized with a sweet restless longing. The wind upon the hillside, upon the face of the loch, upon the mists of the glen, danced reels and jigs and strathspeys, and the time of harvest in-gathering and the completion of labour was at hand.
Draco, dizzy with the satiation of his own longings, too much so even to care any longer for his appearance and the appearances, his lips perpetually swollen with kisses, asked Teddy, uncaring of Harry's nearness and hearing, 'Do you find it odd, Teddy? That your Uncle Harry and I have come so far, so quickly?'
Teddy looked at him, indulgently. He could see Harry smiling, with equal indulgence, behind Draco. 'Did you really say, "quickly", Draco? Look here.... Victoire and I have known one another all our lives. You and Harry met only when you were eleven, but that's a longer time past than Victoire and I have had to know our own minds. And, frankly, you've been the poles, all along, around which one another's world -- and indeed our world as a whole -- has revolved. In a way, more than Aunt Ginny was for Uncle Harry, and more, I think -- forgive me -- than Aster was to you. And you really ask, Am I surprised?
'Besides, it's rather like Divination with a dash of déjàvu.'
Harry laughed. 'He means, love, that Scorpius and Al --'
'Yes, yes, I do know that, although they're mere imperfect copies of such splendid originals,' said Draco, laughing. 'Inky schoolboys. All right. I was being a fool. I suppose there's never been much doubt that if ever we did give way to one another....'
'Hardly,' said Teddy. 'I'm reasonably certain Uncle George has been keeping the book of the wagers all these years on just when the two of you, er....'
'No doubt at all,' said Harry to his love, masterfully ignoring his godson. He and Draco the both of them had lists made of those who wanted payment in full for their meddling, however well-meaning. 'But if you're not quite certain, I can take you below and demonstrate.'
By the Celtic calendar it was Autumntide already, in the Northern lands where comes the Wintertide early. And they were come here in the time of the fruiting and satiation of the year, here where rough riots of mountains shouldered one another beneath tumultuous skies; here where the mountains meet the seas, old Ocean, the realm of Manannán, aye, but also of the god of storms and thunder, Taranis, that same Teran of the storms of an Orkney winter. They had avoided, Teddy reflected, the threefold death, stabbing and drowning and fire, for the first and second had failed of malice and the only fires offered them were fires of saining and blessing; and if they were in after times to come to piercing and submersion and the licking flames, it would be only in the piercing sweetness, the overtoppling and immersive wave, and the blaze of the little death, in passion threefold.
The land was fuller now, where, beneath the mighty peaks whose heads were silvered and who were crowned with mist and cloud, the homes of men were builded; and this a social and a comfortable land, of mutual aid and serviceability, wherein men lived together between the ocean and the fields. Its colours were those of tweed and hunting setts of tartan; and the great Canal of Alba, of Caledon, was liveried in stark white and black, in harl and prodigal cast iron, and its buildings, from lock to lockkeeper's house to gate and swing bridge, like Scots-baronial tollbooths and tower-houses, and the land might almost have been North Wales. Here were the fields of men, town and road and society; here, the fields we know; and the secret and solitary heart of Caledonia, its magic and its mystery, transformed itself where it ran into the sea and the fields between strand and mountain, in the stormy West, into something less remote, perhaps less august, less transcendent it might be yet the more immanent and the more intimate for that.
And it was not typical only, but deeply apt, that Harry and Draco should find here not the end of a voyage but its beginning, upon the margins of Ocean in storm, beyond which is the sunset and the Land Beyond, the Isles of the Blessed; and their end was balance hardwon, and challenge, and the seeking quest not ended and unending, the city built to music and never built at all and built for ever: here, in a liminal and numinous space where peaks and depths met and kissed. Apt to them at the end of voyaging were Loy Sluice and the great draining aqueduct of Shangan Burn by Torcastle, the Allt Sheangain ancient and firm in stone, balance and craft at last; and the very names of the land were proper to them: Banbhaidh, Banavie, the place of feasting upon the suckling pig; Muir Sìorralaich, Muirshearlich, the sea of broom; Fort William itself, the Garrison, An Gearasdan; Acadh a' Phùbaill which is Achaphubuail to the Sassenach, the pavilioned field, the camp; and Lochaber itself, Loch Abar, the loch of the confluences, the coming together of the waters.
They had set Faol upon the waters of the Canal, her lines evocative of the past, and had rejoined the world we know, beneath the high head of Beinn Nibheis; and the waters were not still, and time ran down towards autumnal completion, and did not stay even for them.
And they came at the last to the Town of the Garrison, An Gearasdan, Fort William, opposite ancient Corpach, A' Chorpaich, and the end of the Canal, tripping featly down Neptune's Staircase to the great sea-loch of Loch Linnhe (and the lock opened and the lock closed and they were free at least in the world's ocean-river, as wide and deep as their passion); here where the land and the hand of man had made a knowing small echo in the West of Hogsmeade and Hogwarts away and far upon the borders of Moray and Nairn with Inverness-shire: for Noll Cromwell and, after, General Wade, had been the both of them Old Slytherins. They were come now at the last once more to the sea-kingdom, the old roads and lordship of the Norse and the Gael, of which the land was but a home farm and the great grey oceans the demesne. Faol, now a longship of the Isles in form although yet a bittock yacht to Muggle eyes, took to the sea with an air -- Lochaber no more -- and she and they stood out through the Narrows, to Lynn of Morven and to Mull.
Aye, they were come once more to the great sea-empire of the North, an empiry of Gael and Norseman and Norse-Gael, where the great loch of Linnhe was salt, an arm of the World Ocean, the Realm of Mannanán. Barra, Eilean Bharraigh, was to their North and West, the Southernmost of the indwelt isles of the Out Isles of the Hebrides, the caput of the MacNeils, and they Blacks all of them also, Niger, Neils. The long Atlantic rollers reached as potent ghosts even unto the sea-locks of Corpach. And the Three Braided Threads of their blood and kinship wove them close, here where Coll, ancient Cola, of the Macleans -- the Clan Mac Ghille Eathain, the Servants of St John of whom the Blacks were a sept -- rose from the surging seas just beyond Mull, and Duart in Mull recalled the Macleans of old, and the Height of the Goats, Ard Ghobhar, Ardgour, stood lowering upon the port side in Ardnamurchan of Lochaber, where long had the Macleans held sway. They were free and clear upon the waters of Loch Linnhe, An Linne Dhubh above Corran, An Corran of the Gaels, and An Linne Sheileach seawards of An Corran's Narrows, and all the world before them upon the rolling, ceaseless ocean sea. Behind and before and all about them, the great mountains smoked with rain and cloud; in the corries, magic pooled and wild things sheltered, and off the further shores of Mull were Fladda and the skerries. The Black Rock Isles in Loch Linnhe opposite Inbhir Scaddail, Inverscaddle Bay, and Rubha Dearg, were the home of seals who watched them with mild, wise eyes, and unmarked by Muggles the Selkies watched them also with respect and recognition. Beyond Mull was the Winged Isle of Skye, of Cú Chulainn and his teacher of combat and arms, the war-Witch Scáthach: Skye, Eilean a' Cheò, An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, home of Pride of Portree, where the peaks of the Black Cuillin, An Cuiltheann, yet preserve the memory of Cú Chulainn even as Kyleakin remains after the slow centuries are sped the Kyle of Haakon of the Longships. They were come once more to the meeting and marriage of the sagas of the North and the Red Branch Cycle of Ulster, where the Fianna and the heroes of the Viking Age fought and died and all the myths were true.
And they were come, most solemnly joyous, to the seas that washed Iona, Westward and windward of Mull, where myth was made truth and the dreams of man were answered by the grace of God, and salvation streamed down like waters upon all who sought it.
After long voyaging were they come again to the sea's highway of the Northern world, and they in it heirs of the heroes and Wizards of Gaeldom and the Northmen; they had left behind the Orcadian seas where Norse and Gael clashed and traversed the Great Glen that had seen the clash of Norse and Gael, and they found themselves at their beginning once more, where the galleys of the Gael and the dragonships of the Northmen had met and fought anew. Here were the Hebrides seen as in dreams, the Lordship of the Isles; here each herd of cattle and flock of sheep and goats had the blood of the beasts of Faery, and in the island lochans were not horses but bulls of the water, fierce and free and sorcerous, the tarbh-uisge of the Isles. And the great eagle with the sun in his eye above them, aye, and the dragons of the Hebrides riding upon the storms, the porpoise and the sporting dolphin and the Minke whale ringing them 'round as they sailed, and the carline thistle and the tare, the tutsand and sedge, profuse upon the land; and the great grey ocean surging to the rim of the red-gold world in sunset in the Lands of the Uttermost West, with every skerry and rock and isle sacred to seabirds: they had come full circle and knew themselves for the first time, all changed, changed utterly, and a terrible beauty born.
Harry put in at Duart Bay. Time it was that Teddy leave them, and they themselves sail onwards to the end of the days, the Golden West of the day beyond the next day.
Harry's smile was kindly, but his voice was firm. 'Teddy. Best of luck with your monograph; and it's here that we leave you. No -- we're no' awa' to bide awa', we'll aye come back and see ye. But Draco and I are not yet ready for this voyage to end, as our voyage begins, and we're putting you, godson, ashore.'
'And where, precisely, do you plan to go, o my boatmen?' Teddy was manfully managing not to laugh.
'Don't ask me,' laughed Draco, who was past caring who saw his joy or knew its source. 'I'm the one who's planning to rechristen the vessel, for Harry this time: she'll be Ceannard now, "Commander", and he her master.'
'I think you've christened her several times since we left Urquhart Bay,' said Teddy.
Harry cut him off. 'We're off past Colonsay, and bound beyond Mingulay, and the Out Isles and the great Atlantic, and you must look for us when you see us.'
What care we, though white the Minch is?
What care we for wind and weather?
And Draco chanted the lines: '"It may be that the gulfs will wash us down; It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles, And see the great Achilles, whom we knew"....'
'Or, of course,' said Harry, with a fond smile, 'we may potter, as it were, about the Hebrides and over to Ulster, and in any event we'll be back before my accumulated leave is quite up.' Even now, Harry was the slave of duty.
Teddy smiled. 'Right. Do try not to topple any governments, and do please see to it that I'm present when you tell Al and Scorp your news.'
Harry cuffed him, and Iain Garbh piped Draco and Harry back aboard Ceannard, as she now was, and Teddy watched with a small, fond smile as his godfather and his cousin stood out to sea, the bonny boat soon to speed over the sea to Skye, her head brought 'round to wind and weather and the waiting isle of Mingulay; bound for the Uttermost West, the Isles of the Blessèd, the frontiers of the Land of the Leal, beyond the curved way of the round earth's imagined corners to Tir na h'Òige, nay, Tir Andomain, away into the West, whether in the body, Teddy could not tell; or whether out of the body, he could not tell: God knoweth, where tomorrow and all their tomorrows began.
O Blessed One, provide for us and help us, and let not thy grace fall on us like rain-drops on the back of a goose.
When a man is in danger on the point of a promontory at sea, do thou succour him; and be about and with us on dry land.
Preserve the aged and the young, our wives and our children, our sheep and our cattle, from the power and dominion of the Little Folk, and from the malicious effects of every evil eye. Let a straight path be afore us, and a happy end to our travels.
-- The prayer of Farquhar Beaton of Skye
IN MY END IS MY BEGINNING