Kisses, Kicking Around, & King's Cross
I changed the acknowledgement phrase from "I will" to "I do" for the Unbreakable Vow because trying to rephrase the stipulations into versions that "I will" sounded like a correct response to was breaking my brain. The battle between Narcissa and Harry has been greatly expanded, with a hell of a surprise at the end. And… I dunno, just read the bloody thing. It made me literally double the size of the chapter and split Chapter Four into Chapters Four and Five, so I hope the work was worth it.
"Actually, to be fair, you interrupted us before we could actually get to the shagging part."
"That makes it so much better."
"What? It's true."
"He doesn't need to hear that sort of thing!"
As his mother and her… friend… argued, Harry tried to figure out when he'd left the Twilight Zone behind for the Twilighter Zone. He'd known his mother was having an affair from that exchange with Sirius earlier this summer but… Narcissa Malfoy? She was right down there with Umbridge and Lockhart on the list of people Harry had suspected. Wow. Huh. Had his mother and Narcissa been a couple at Hogwarts at some point in his original universe? Or was their affair unique to this new world? And how long had this been going on for? After a moment, Harry decided that it really wasn't something he wanted to think about altogether too much. As close as he'd become to this Lily, these versions of James and Lily Potter weren't even his real parents, just reasonable facsimiles thereof, and so their love lives - both together and separate - were really none of his damn business. "Right. Well. I'm just going to go slip right on past you two and go out for my run. And do my best to pretend this never happened and I saw absolutely nothing and my mother is still being faithful to my father and babies are delivered by owls and so no sex is ever had by parents. So… yeah. And if you two crazy kids feel the need to have more fun, can you do it somewhere I'm not going to be preparing our food in an hour or two?"
Still working to smooth her hair back down into something presentable, Lily nodded absently as she stared at him, moving to the side so Narcissa could slide off the island and back onto her feet. "Well, enjoy your run, Harry." The dark-haired woman smiled at him, reaching behind herself and stretching in a way that made her chest strain against the front of her exceedingly low cut dress - and oh Merlin, he wasn't supposed to notice things like that about his mother's mistress - but the moment of distraction was evidently what she'd been looking for. "Oh, and… stupefy
Wand slipping into his hand, Harry instantly evaluated his surroundings before picking the best defense: compact, targeted shields he could easily control. After all, the last thing he needed was Narcissa spraying spells all over the house as he dove out of the way or spells ricocheting every which way off of a wide area shield. Instead, he opted to nonverbally generate a small shield over the tip of his wand, using it to deflect one stunner down and to his left, and the next into the floor a foot to his right. As the third bolt of red light raced towards him, Harry shifted his wand into an axe for the second time and used the fat metal head to bat the spell down into the hardwood at his feet. While he was leery of throwing around any real offensive magic in close proximity to his mother, one tactic he'd developed while wielding Thor's wand - using a burst of what Hermione called 'high voltage, low amperage' electricity to disrupt a person's nervous system - was safe enough if she ended up in harm's way. Sure, it would hurt a bit but there'd be no real damage done. Evidently Lily had chosen to rat him out to her paramour, though, and Narcissa was prepared for his wand's unique abilities. Even as the first tendril of electricity raced her way, she was driving a conjured length of iron into the floor in front of her, the electricity wrapping around it and skittering down to slam into the floor, blackening the hardwood. Flicking her wand, Narcissa yanked the rod upward and then sent the pointed end racing towards him.
Evaluating his options in a split second, Harry opted to hit the ground and roll under the projectile, wincing as he heard it slam into the wall with a thud. So much for being nice and gentle, he decided. Coming out of his roll in a crouch, Harry lunged towards Narcissa as he lashed out with the flat side of his axe. Just as the metal impacted her left knee with a sickening crack - and the very first note of what promised to be a horrifically loud scream erupted from her throat - Harry wrapped his magic around the woman and dragged her with him in a side-along apparition.
Landing atop Narcissa on the grass of the quidditch pitch, Harry had only a second or two in which to savor the success of his plan before a burst of what couldn't really be called 'accidental magic' at her age slammed into his side. It felt like being kicked by a hippogriff but, even though it sent him flying halfway across the pitch before slamming into the ground, Harry thankfully didn't hear anything snap nor did he feel the telltale burning pain with each breath that would indicate cracked ribs. Hopping back to his feet, he returned Rensaren to its wand state and returned fire with a few stunners of his own, all of which Narcissa easily blocked from where she knelt on the grass. "Some of the changes - like your newfound talent silent casting - could be explained away by you absorbing some sort of imprint left behind by Thrúd on her wand, but you know things you shouldn't. Not to mention that your vocabulary's too advanced for your age and you're far too mature. Which one of my husband's associates are you, what do you want, and where is the real Harry Potter?"
"I am Harry Potter, you daft bint. Although right now I'm starting to wonder if you and your dear sister Trixie have swapped places because you've clearly gone insane." Free of the confines of the house, Narcissa stepped things up a notch, loosing two Bone-Breakers before reminding Harry that 'ability to walk' and 'ability to relocate' weren't synonymous in the wizarding world, disapparating and reappearing behind him and to his left, firing off something the color of mustard before popping away again. But likewise free of the shackles that came with fighting inside - and near someone he wanted to protect - Harry found himself instinctually slipping into a form of defense that had confounded most of his pureblood opponents, turning to face Narcissa each time she changed position and slowly circling her as he dodged each spell. "No, Trixie has no imagination. All raving, threats, and Unforgivables. You have variety. Strategy, too. Probably makes you better than her."
Narcissa paused at the unexpected praise, shooting him an odd look before shaking her head and firing off a pale blue spell that made the skin of his arm tingle strangely as it raced past. "You didn't think Lucius married me just for my pretty face, did you?"
Chuckling, Harry let his gaze dip south for a moment before returning to her face. "Actually, yes. Well, that and the chest. If I'd known what you were hiding under those robes of yours at the time, I might have actually let you seduce me when you tried." Narcissa just stood there, staring at him in stunned disbelief, and Harry shrugged self-consciously. "What? I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a tit man. And yours are bloody huge." Scowling, the dark-haired woman hurled yet another spell at him and Harry parried it before returning fire with a few of the hexes they'd learned in sixth year DADA; low level fare that was mostly meant to irritate her and keep her on her toes. "Ah, so you're one of those women who has problems accepting compliments. Got it. I'll just stick to silent appreciation, then."
"Much obliged." The next two spells sent her way forced Narcissa to both conjure a shield and step back under the force of the impacts. "No offense, but having my lover's eleven-year-old son saying that sort of stuff to me is more than a little disgusting. The only thing worse would be if Tara was doing it." Rolling his eyes, Harry decided to take a page from her own book and fired a Bone-Breaking Curse at her legs; surprisingly enough, Narcissa opted to flop over to one side to avoid it rather than shifting to the different shield required to block it. Interesting. Had she been working out with his mum, then? "I don't suppose you'd be willing to change back into your real form anytime soon?"
Harry shook his head. "Sorry, but I'm a little attached to this body. Seeing as how it's mine and all. Hope you don't mind. And I'll have you know that I may be eleven on the outside, but I'm very mature for my age." Letting out a chuckle as she forced herself upright again, Narcissa fired a gaudy, bright pink spell that Harry easily dodged before abruptly stopping and looking back at where it'd hit. "Okay, I have to know, what the bloody fuck was that?"
Raising her wand, Narcissa blew over the tip, a thin curl of bright pink luminescent smoke swirling upward as she shot him a very self-satisfied smile. "That, my dear, is what you can do when you get an O on your Ancient Runes NEWT. It's an Organ Liquefying Curse. It does what the name suggests. I never made a counter for it and considering it kills in seconds, I doubt that even having one would be worth much."
"If that was a project for class, your teacher was certainly a lot more interesting than Hermione's. If you live through this, remind me to have you teach it to me. Sounds useful. Although as long as we're sharing… let's see what you think of this." Harry's wand became an axe again and her unleashed another blast of electricity, apparating away as Narcissa repeated the defense that had worked for her inside the house, landing behind the woman and firing off a second jolt. The blue tendrils of electricity slammed into Narcissa's back, making her scream and collapse to the grass. Harry watched with savage glee as the electricity continued to crawl over her body, making her body jerk wildly as she flopped around on the pitch like a fish out of water. After holding her under for a few more seconds, Harry broke the spell and moved in to stand over the prone woman, using one foot to roll her onto her back before grinning down at her. "You see, Cissy, the trick isn't having the deadliest spells. It's hitting with the spells you do cast."
It took her a few slow, deep, wheezing breaths to recover and then Narcissa spat up at him. "Fuck… you…"
Harry wiped at his cheek to remove the spittle before waggling a finger at her. "I thought you said I was too young for that, Cissy?" She let out a low growl and tried to roll away, only to end up on her back again when Harry's trainer came down hard on her chest. "Another thing you should know? I don't mind stunners. I don't mind bone breakers. I'll even tolerate some of the more amusing dark arts spells. But when we start getting into instant death? I start getting angry. And you know what Voldemort and his Death Eaters found out really fast? You won't like me when I'm angry."
As he stood over his opponent, Harry tried to figure out what to do next. He'd been willing to settle for some humiliation and a clear magical victory over the older woman, and then she'd tried to liquefy his organs. How did one respond to that? Then his eyes dropped to where her hand still grasped at her wand, waiting for him to slip up so she could restart the fight. If he disarmed her, there was no saying things wouldn't restart as soon as she regained her wand or found a new one. But if he literally disarmed her… was it too extreme? Was there such a thing as too extreme when someone was trying to liquify your organs?
Hit at point blank range, Harry found himself cursing his lapse in situational awareness as he was blown off his feet, Rensaren slipping from his grasp and reverting to its wand form as he went flying away from Narcissa. Hopping back to his feet, Harry prepared to go back on the offensive only to freeze as he found his mother standing there with his wand in one hand and hers in the other, the tip of the latter glowing an angry blood red. Et tu, Brute? He'd thought that Narcissa had snapped for some bizarre reason and that he was protecting his mother from her… but evidently not. The two of them were conspiring against him. But why? To what end? "Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you now."
Harry raised his hands in surrender and took a few steps backwards so Lily could approach Narcissa while still keeping the same distance between them. "Well, there's the fact that the Ministry tends to frown on filicide and I doubt visiting Azkaban is on your bucket list?" Making a pulling motion, Harry cast a wandless Disarming Charm on his mother, aiming specifically for her right hand so that if he didn't get both wands, at least he'd get his back. The last thing he needed was to end up having to duel his own mother at a later date just to earn the full loyalty of his own wand back. Thankfully, while Lily managed to keep a firm grip on her own wand, she lost control of his and the slim oak rod flew through the air towards him. His fingers closed around it and he let out a sigh of relief as he sent a tendril of magic through it, feeling no resistance as a small pulse of white light erupted from the tip. He debated holstering it for a moment before deciding to keep it out and ready. He didn't want to leave himself defenseless if Narcissa and Lily decided they wanted round two, although he was really hoping to solve this with words. While Narcissa had been nice enough to him here, his previous dealings with her in his original world had made it easy enough to summon the proper mindset for fighting. He doubted he'd be so lucky with his mother, meaning that despite his superior skill and power, things would likely end badly for him. "You know, Mum, considering she attacked me? I'm pretty sure you're defending the wrong person here. You know, one of us being your son and the other not?"
"Right. My son knows wordless and wandless magic and can apparate. I'm pretty sure I'm defending exactly the person I should be here." Moving to stand in front of Narcissa, Lily turned sideways to present a slimmer target and trained her glowing wand tip on his chest. Going for center mass, a tactic he didn't often see among magicals outside of those he trained himself. Smart woman. "Now who are you, what do you want, and where's my real son? And if you've harmed a single hair on his head, the spells Narcissa was flinging your way are going to seem like Tickling Charms compared to what I use on you."
Harry merely raised an eyebrow at that threat. "Just so you know, you're going to feel really bad when the truth comes out about this whole mess and you realize that you've been plotting with Cissy there to kill your own son." Idly, Harry wondered what precisely he'd done to give himself away. Was it any one action? Or had he tried to change too many things too quickly? Obviously his apparition and duel with Narcissa had proven their suspicions right, at least in their own minds, but what had inspired them to come up with this plan in the first place? As Lily continued to stare at him intently, wand raised and ready, Harry let out a deep sigh. "Right then. Can we go back to the house and discuss this like adults or should I knock you around and then drag you both back there? Because while I can do it, I'd really rather not duel my own mother. There aren't many lines I won't cross, but hurting family members is one of them." Lily opened her mouth and Harry waved his hand. "Just because you're sleeping with her doesn't make her family. Get a divorce or annulment or whatnot, marry her, and then maybe I'll feel bad about knocking her around. Although when she's trying to kill me, I tend to lose sympathy fast."
Allowing Lily to help her to feet and leaning heavily on the slimmer woman, Narcissa slid one hand down her lover's arm and claimed the redhead's wand. Harry raised an eyebrow at the action, watching as Narcissa murmured softly to herself and jabbed Lily's wand in the direction of her own repeatedly, causing ghostly shapes to emerge from the tip. Priori incantato
, then, but to what end? The sequence ended with three identical spells in rapid succession and Narcissa looked up at Harry. "In my defense, I did try to stun you first."
Ah. Yes. Except for the fact that… "And then you tried to kill me."
"Well yes. You did try to electrocute me and then shattered my knee. Although… I suppose if you have a very good reason for abducting Harry Potter and taking his place, I suppose me trying to kill a kidnapper and potential assassin might seem unreasonable. Mister… who exactly are you? And how are you staying in Harry Potter's form?" Reaching up, Narcissa tapped her wand against the side of the slim silver wireframe glasses she was wearing. Huh. Those were new, at least as far as he was concerned. Not that he'd ever really paid a great deal of attention to this Narcissa when she visited the house, but he definitely hadn't seen the Narcissa of his world wearing them out in public… or when he'd visited Malfoy Manor that one time to cause a bit of mayhem. "It's not polyjuice or a glamour as best I can tell; I can see magic thanks to these and I would know if you were using either."
Harry's eyes narrowed as he contemplated the possibilities that such glasses would afford him. How come nobody had ever told him there were glasses that could see magic, see through glamours, and even see through or at least detect polyjuice? Had it never occurred to anyone that they might come in handy during his fight against Voldemort? Or were they an application of magic unique to this universe? If that was the case, he definitely need to find out who her optometrist was and figure out how to sneak in for a visit. At the moment, though, he had a bigger problem to deal with. Namely trying to calm the two angry women who thought he was a Death Eater or Death Eater sympathizer who had kidnapped Harry Potter. "If I take a magical oath will you two finally stop threatening me and listen to what I have to say?" Lily and Narcissa exchanged looks before turning back to him and nodding. "Right then. I, Harry James Potter, do hereby swear on my life and magic that I am in fact the son of James Potter and Lily Potter née Evans and that I do not serve, nor have I at any time served, Voldemort. So mote it be." There was a bright flash of light and Harry waited a few seconds before reaching up to scratch the back of his neck. "Well, I'm not dead yet. I think I'll go for a walk."
Gesturing with her empty hand, Lily paused and stared at it in confusion for a moment before retrieving her wand from Narcissa's possession, trying again and successfully pointing it in Harry's direction this time. "Not so fast. I want to see you cast a spell, too. Magic is a strange and fickle thing, you know. You could be telling a half-truth and so it only decided to punish you halfway."
"We did cover the part where I don't want to duel my own mother, right?"
"In which case you might want to point your wand somewhere other than at me when you cast the spell?"
"Touché." Turning, Harry began to pace back and forth in front of them, wand tapping gently against his hip as he thought. "I could do something simple like lumos
but that's just so… boring. I'm in the mood to show off a bit. A lot of my arsenal is lightning-based, though, and if I cast one of those I'll probably just end up arguing with you over whether or not it's a remnant of magic still clinging to Rensaren. Hmm… oh! I know!" Despite the last few months of the war and the events that had followed, Harry still had plenty of happy memories available to him and - contrary to Lily's beliefs - the necessary level of magical strength required to cast it properly. "Expecto patronum
He had the power, he had the memories, he had the will… the question running through his mind wasn't whether or not the corporeal patronus would form for him, but rather what it would form as. Harry had seen Tonks's change when she'd married Remus and knew it was affected by life events. The way the arrogant prat that was the James of this world had destroyed his mental image of his father probably counted as such. A few hours ago, he might have guessed that a doe would emerge after hearing from his old universe's Remus that it was the form his mother's patronus took… but he now found that equally as doubtful seeing as how she had planned and participated in this little attack on him. So if it wasn't going to be a stag… and it wasn't going to be a doe… what would it be?
When the patronus burst from the end of his wand, Harry actually had to shift to a two-handed grip as the slim oak rod bucked hard in his hand. Unlike when he'd cast the spell before, where a burst of silvery-white light emerged before resolving into his father's animagus form, the swirling energy just kept coming… and coming… and then finally - fifteen seconds into the casting of the spell - began resolving into a corporeal patronus. And it was neither a stag nor a doe, nor was it an owl or maybe a crumple-horned snorkack to match his deceased fiancé's. Oh no. He'd managed to create… "You have got to be bloody fucking kidding me. A basilisk?"
The trio stared at the basilisk in silence, the great beast slithering back and forth a few times curiously before dissipating. Harry tucked his wand away and the awkward silence continued until Lily finally broke it with a low whistle. "Well, I suppose that proves your magic is still intact. And you're still alive. Oh sweet Merlin, I just helped someone attempt to kill my own son. But… but how?" Pulling away from Narcissa, who let out an indignant squawk before conjuring a slim wooden staff to lean on, it was Lily's turn to pace back and forth in front of Harry, absently twirling her wand with her fingers as she thought aloud. "You're only eleven. Even if you read it all and were some sort of genius, you shouldn't have the magical reserves to cast something like that, much less after a duel with Narcissa."
"Not to mention the comments he made about me during the duel."
"Yes, I'd prefer not to mention those, thank you very much. A possession, maybe?" Lily stopped and stared at Harry for a moment before shaking her head and resuming her pacing. "No, I don't think magic would let him survive the oath. Even if he was Harry on the outside, the person swearing the oath wouldn't be Harry James Potter and so they'd be punished. I think."
Sighing, Harry stepped past Narcissa and wrapped one arm around her waist before reaching out with his free hand to grab Lily by the wrist. Before either woman could protest, much less attempt to free herself, Harry gathered the energy required and pulled a tricky triple apparition, depositing them back in the house's breakfast nook. A louder than usual pop echoed in the room as his mother and Narcissa stumbled away from him, Lily immediately gravitating towards her injured lover's side. "The thing is, Mum, that you're stuck thinking inside this box that's keeping you from coming anywhere close to the truth. You see, you're under the impression that you gave birth to 'the' Harry Potter. That there is only 'the' Harry Potter. The truth is? There are many 'a' Harry Potters. You gave birth to 'a' Harry Potter."
Lily's eyes went wide as the truth finally hit her. "And you're another of them. An older one, I'm guessing. Either that, or your world is one twisted and disturbed place." Narcissa let out a soft groan as she shifted in the redhead's grasp, prompting Lily to give her lover a peck on the cheek before summoning one of the chairs from the breakfast nook, carefully lowering Narcissa into it. "So… what happens now? Where are we supposed to go from here?"
"Are we talking short-term problem solving or something longer term? Because if it's the former…" Harry gestured to Narcissa's leg with his wand. "I imagine Cissy would probably enjoy having two knees that work again." Letting out a soft 'oh', Lily straightened up and then disappeared with the faintest of pops, returning a minute or so later with a familiar bottle. Harry grimaced before flicking his wand and using a spell to pull Narcissa's long hair out of her face, twisting it into a thick braid that fell down her back. At the strange look he received, Harry nodded towards the bottle of Skele-Gro in Lily's hands. "The easiest way to fix you up is to vanish the remains of your knee and regrow it. I've been dosed with that stuff enough to know two things: the taste is bloody wretched, and you sweat like a pig for the first half an hour or so after taking it. I figured you wouldn't want your hair sticking to your face. If you want, though…"
Harry held his wand out, ready to cancel the spell, but Narcissa shook her head. "No. Thank you. I just… didn't expect that sort of courtesy from someone I attacked." Taking the cup of Skele-Gro from Lily, she tossed it back in two long pulls before accepting a shot of firewhiskey to help wash it down. "My word, that tastes even worse than I remember. Eugh."
"I'd offer you more to chase it with, but I remember the last time you got drunk here. You ended up flooing to that apothecary in Stornoway." After one final diagnostic spell, Lily nodded in satisfaction and then waved her wand over Narcissa's knee to immobilize it. With her girlfriend on the mend, she moved to perch on the arm of Narcissa's chair and eyed Harry. "Now what?"
Finally tucking his wand away, Harry eyed the fridge as he began taking a mental inventory of what he knew to be inside. He didn't know how Lily was going to explain Narcissa's presence to the others - or perhaps she had the night before and he'd missed something, considering Tara was asleep upstairs in the guest room next to his - but he did know it meant more people for breakfast and someone who would be eating exceptionally heavily at that. She'd need it to replenish what the Skele-Gro took from her system to affect its repairs. "Well, let's see. I need to make sure that you don't throw me out and keep my secrets. You both need to make sure I don't 'accidentally' let your affair slip to your respective husbands. Unbreakable Vows all around then?"
Narcissa simply nodded in agreement. "I suppose it's a good thing you and Tara are getting along better these days… or would it be that you get along better with Tara than the original Harry did? Either way, it'll make things so much easier for the two of you when you get sorted into Slytherin together." Him? Slytherin? Not bloody li… although there was the matter of his new patronus. Crap. Maybe he would be wearing green and silver come September. Well, at least Su wasn't prejudiced against the house yet and could probably be talked into following him there. Hermione, on the other hand… "I can't argue with your logic, though. I'm up for it if Lily is."
The two turned to look at the mistress of the house, who blushed and looked down at her hands. "I've heard of Unbreakable Vows but I've never had a reason to sit down and read up on exactly what one is."
Harry, unable to stop himself, tossed out a gem Ron had offered in his old universe. "Well, you can't break an Unbreakable Vow…"
Head snapping up, Lily glared at the chuckling Harry. "I'd worked that much out for myself, funnily enough." At that point, Narcissa joined him in laughter and she let out an indignant huff. "I hate you both."
His duties having evolved from mere market pickups to genuine grocery shopping around when his 'cooking lessons' began, Harry had taken advantage of his freedom to begin shifting the contents of the fridge and pantry under his mother's nose. Accordingly, the breakfast that hit the table that morning was similar to the traditional full English breakfast he'd served his family that first morning while showing hints of the local cuisine that his mother seemed content to ignore in her own cooking. While the fried mushrooms, hash browns, and baked beans remained a constant, the black pudding and fried tomatoes were absent and the eggs were fried instead of scrambled. The rashers of streaky bacon were likewise nowhere to be found, having been replaced in the fridge with back bacon from a Falmouth butcher almost as soon as Harry received permission to do the shopping. And the sausages… those were a particular favorite. Made from pork and Cornish blue cheese, they were usually in short supply at the market he visited and if his sisters wanted to turn up their noses at them again? It just meant more for him, Dora, and… well, Stasis Charms that would keep them until the two of them could make a second pass later in the day.
Jasmine and Rose did indeed turn their noses up at his choice of sausage for the day, which made Dora and him share a grin before the auror trainee left for work and the twins wandered off to do… something. James had never even come in for breakfast, which left Harry alone in the breakfast nook with Lily, Narcissa, and Tara. Harry ate with deliberate slowness, planning his words, and so he was caught off guard when Tara decided to open things. "So… I managed to make it through the entire night without you two waking me up. Is something wrong? Are you two breaking up?"
Choking on the mouthful of baked beans he'd just shoveled into his mouth, Harry felt something pound his back a few times and then he spit his breakfast all over the tablecloth. Given the locations of the rest of the room's occupants… the same spell his mother regularly used on Dora, he assumed. Quickly vanishing the mess with his wand, Harry took a long sip of water and then stared at Tara incredulously. "You knew?"
He got a reply in the form of a raised eyebrow and a superior smirk that reminded him far too much of her father and brother. "You didn't?"
"No. Well, at least not until I walked in on them this morning. On the kitchen counter." Harry chuckled as Tara's gaze dropped to the empty plate of food in front of her and a distinctly greenish tinge spread across her features. "Don't worry, I badgered my mum into having yours summon Dobby to come and clean the whole kitchen before I started cooking." It had been decidedly interesting to have Narcissa summon the rather eccentric elf and discover that he was just as strange in this world, where he was assigned to Narcissa and Tara and therefore insulated from the abuse he'd suffered in the other world. Harry had always assumed that Lucius or Draco had done something to the elf to turn him into the rather bizarre little creature he'd met in second year. Obviously not. "Anyways, what do you know about Unbreakable Vows, Tara?"
Tara didn't even miss a beat before replying, making him wonder if she'd been eavesdropping earlier. "Well, you can't break an Unbreakable Vow…"
Letting out a sigh, Lily tilted her head back and stared at the ceiling as she shook her head in disgust. "I should have James contact Lucius and begin negotiating a marriage contract; the two of you deserve each other." Tara let out a giggle at that and the redhead smiled before becoming more serious. "Jokes aside, Tara, do you know what they are?" The young witch nodded. "We need you to swear one to Harry. Then he can tell you - and the rest of us; he's making us wait so he only has to do it once - some very important things and if he wants to tell anyone at school, you can be his bonder." The delay was slightly longer this time, but Tara eventually nodded. "Okay. Harry, Narcissa, you're up."
Harry slowly and deliberately finished off the last piece of sausage on his plate before wiping his hands and rising to his feet. Moving to stand in front of Tara, he held out his arm and waited for her to do likewise, moving to grab her wrist as she assumed a mirror position. Leaning across the table, Narcissa brought the tip of her wand down to rest atop their linked hands. After waiting a few seconds to give Tara one last chance to pull out, Harry cleared his throat. "Do you swear that you will protect any secret shared with you by Harry James Potter regarding his origin or abilities unless explicitly told otherwise?"
"Do you swear that you will protect any information regarding Harry James Potter's origin or abilities that you discover for yourself unless explicitly told otherwise?"
"Do you swear to eschew trousers, short trousers, and other garments based on trousers and wear only skirts or dresses from this day forth unless asked to do otherwise by Harry James Potter, Lily Potter née Evans, or Narcissa Malfoy née Black?"
"…I do." For the third time, a thick tongue of fire wound around their clasped arms before dissipating. As the two broke apart, Tara shook her head slowly. "Really, Harry? You bound me to wearing what I'd wear anyways?"
With a shrug, Harry wandered back down to take his seat, casting a weak Warming Charm over the remains of his breakfast. A childhood with the Dursleys had firmly ingrained a habit of 'waste not, want not' that he'd never managed to shake. "I was halfway through the second vow when I realized the third one from when I had our mothers take their Vows to me didn't really apply in your case. So I just made something up on the fly. And I'm doing you a favor. It'll protect you from Mum's speeches about rebelling against the 'oppressive patriarchy'. Or at least the clothing related ones." As Lily sputtered indignantly, Harry evaluated what remained on his plate before adding a Stasis Charm, deciding to save it for later in favor of leaving room to 'waste not' the sausages remaining on the platter. Which would come after story time was finished, he decided, adding a Stasis Charm to the sausages' platter as well. They'd been very patient with him, after all. Folding his hands in his lap, Harry adopted a more serious expression. "So… my story starts on October 31st 1991, in a small town named Godric's Hollow… when Peter Pettigrew betrayed my parents and led Voldemort to where they lived…"
The remainder of August was similar to the first two and a half months Harry had spent in his new universe, albeit with a few subtle differences. His father's periods of absence seemed to grow even longer and more frequent, Harry sometimes going two or three days at a time without seeing the man, and Narcissa had taken advantage of his absences to spend more time at Potter Manor. Tara likewise had taken to having more 'sleepovers with the twins'; in actuality, Tara and the twins barely interacted and she either spent her time studying and practicing first year spells or talking with Harry and picking his far more learned brain before retiring to the spare bedroom up on the second floor.
A bright spot most days came around lunchtime with the arrival of an owl: Silver Star, Su's spotted owlet Maau Tau Jing and the Owl-That-Would-Have-Been-Hedwig-If-He'd-Bought-Her-But-Was-Now-Albiona had been put on rotating postal duty ferrying letters between Perranarworthal and Harwich. They were always short missives with little information of significance to them, but his goal was to solidify his blossoming friendship with Su and they did their job there. He now knew about some of the basic cuisine and culture of Shanghai and she knew something about what life was like when you had siblings and lived in a house in what was close to the middle of nowhere. Nothing spectacularly fascinating, but that could wait until they were face-to-face at Hogwarts again.
While there had inevitably been some stiffness following that fateful night and the next morning's revelations, Lily had slowly but surely warmed back up to him after he'd convinced her that he hadn't come to inhabit her son intentionally - something that had required him to take another magical oath - and that he wasn't a threat to the rest of her family. Or Narcissa, as long as she kept her wand to herself. Her acceptance - or more likely repression of her true feelings on the subject, he was willing to admit - was helped along by a rather valid point of his: if not for Harry's displacement of the Harry she'd given birth to, she would still be stuck dealing with a miniature James instead of the 'son' that she'd come to enjoy spending time with as of late. Narcissa, shockingly enough, had come to serve almost as a therapist for him, letting Harry ramble on for hours about his world, his lost love, his frustrations with how certain events or facets of his life had unfolded, and anything else he needed to talk about. Sometime in mid-August, the term 'Mother' had escaped his lips in reference to her and by the end of the month, it had evolved into a genuinely affectionate appellation for his mother's paramour.
So life, while not perfect, was pretty darn good.
The last days of summer, or rather his summer, slipped away far faster than Harry expected and suddenly it was August 31th and he was helping cook one last breakfast at home. After everyone was fed, watered, washed, and dressed, the four Potters - James was busy with work, of course - Narcissa, and Tara piled into the van Lily owned for when they had to venture into the muggle world and drove down to the Perranwell train station, whose sole operating track also ran along the northern boundary of the Potter family property. As they'd waited for the train to arrive, Lily had decided to launch into a lecture about modern British rail service worthy of one of Hermione's long-winded rambles. Just as he'd been getting desperate enough to do something stupid, like apparating all the way to London, their train had arrived. A few minutes later, they were all safely ensconced inside what Harry now knew was a British Rail Class 150 DMU - not that he cared - and heading eastbound along the Maritime Line towards Truro. Surprisingly enough, Harry found the ride interesting; he'd seen the Maritime Line south over the Perran, Ponsanooth, and Collegewood Viaducts to Falmouth when the family had opted to go to a Falcons game the muggle way in mid-August, but venturing northeast to Truro was completely new to him.
Arriving at Truro Station, the family disembarked and crossed from Platform One to Platform Two - an ever so long jaunt of two yards - to board a new train bound for London along the aptly named London to Penzance Line. This, he learned from a new lecture, involved a trip aboard what British Rail called an InterCity 125: a series of normal passenger cars between a pair of Class 43 diesel locomotives, whose top speed of a hundred and twenty-five miles per hour made them the fastest diesel locomotives in the world. That little tidbit had made Harry blink. While he was no magical supremacist and knew the value of muggles and their inventions, having grown up as one, the idea that this massive metal hulk could reach over eighty percent of the top speed of his Firebolt was amazing. Given the Ministry used converted modern automobiles and such, Harry mused, maybe someday it would be possible for someone to convince them to abandon the steam-based Hogwarts Express and switch to one of these trains. The trips to and from Hogwarts would literally be cut in half… leaving students more time with their families on outbound days and returning them sooner on inbound days. It would be good for families. Harry made a mental note to pass the thought on to Sirius for him to suggest at a future Wizengamot session.
Although he still found the idea that Sirius Black was a member of wizarding Britain's legislative body to be downright scary.
On the five hour ride to London, Harry alternated between reading the books he'd deemed safe for public viewing and watching the scenery go by. Thanks to his upbringing - and he used the term loosely - with the Dursleys, his knowledge of geography was limited to primary school textbooks and wall maps. Until the Flight from the Letters and his subsequent trip with Hagrid to London, he'd never left Little Whinging. And so while a number of the cities he saw when glancing up from his book looked rather similar, they were still all new to him and Harry found himself wishing he could stop time each time the train pulled into a station just so he could poke his head out and look around. Maybe he could sign up for too many electives in third year, he mused, get a Time Turner and then abuse it a bit…
When the train merged onto the four track wide main line heading in to London, Harry tucked his book away and watched out the window as they traveled through increasingly urbanized areas. Almost every station seemed to have extra lines that were the source of branches to other parts of England and Wales, and most had a train either arrive or leave as theirs sat waiting to let passengers on and off. Finally, the train pulled into London Paddington and the Potter-Black brigade trooped off onto the platform, thankful for a chance to finally stretch their legs for a bit.
It didn't last long, though; Lily quickly bundled them onto a Piccadilly-bound train on the Bakerloo Line of the Underground and they were off again. Thankfully that took only eleven minutes and they were back above ground… in a very familiar area. Harry almost took the lead, managing to stifle the urge at the last second. After all, he wasn't supposed to know where the muggle side of the Leaky Cauldron was, now was he? The group arrived and spread out over three rooms rented from Tom for the night - the twins and Tara in one, Harry in another, and the adults in the last - and then filled the remainder of the day with sightseeing and dinner before retiring to their rooms.
The next morning, Harry showered, dressed, and joined his family for breakfast downstairs before passing through the floo to Platform Nine and Three-Quarters in London. Since it was just him and Tara going off to school they ignored the muggle luggage carts and Harry took his trunk's handle in one hand and Albiona's cage in the other, moving towards the all too familiar train waiting to take him to Hogwarts. After final goodbyes and a few too many pictures, Harry said his final goodbyes to his family before boarding the train, looking up and down the corridor before setting off towards the back in search of an empty compartment. After picking one at random, he hoisted Albiona's cage into the overhead rack and then dug through his trunk, selecting two books to occupy him during the ride before using magic to float his trunk up next to his owl. Opening one book as a bit of cover, Harry settled in to do a bit of people watching.