For Your Own Good
What's in a Name
"So, what are we going to name him?" Harry asked, leaning against the now clean but still slightly damp dog, who had appropriated a large portion of Tonks's living room floor. Tonks herself was doing something in the kitchen, from which interestingly chocolaty smells were starting to emerge. "It ought to be something you can live with, if you're the one taking him home."
"I don't know." Propped against the dog's other flank and running his fingers idly through soft red fur, Draco shrugged. "Maybe butter up the parents by going with one of the family themes."
"I'd meant to ask you." Harry sat up straighter. "The day we met at Diagon Alley, you mentioned your mother finding a name that combined both traditions. What was that about?"
"Oh, that." Draco grimaced. "Purebloods are big on tradition, if you haven't noticed, and a lot of families have a certain type of name they like to give their kids. Malfoys go for figures out of history, the older the better. Ancient Greece, Rome, that sort of thing. Blacks, on the other hand, prefer either mythology or celestial objects. Both, if they can get it. Like Sirius, or Andromeda."
"Or Draco." Harry smiled innocently at his friend, who made a face back at him. "The Dragon constellation, and one of the monsters the ancient heroes used to fight. But was he somebody in history too?"
"Famous lawmaker," said Tonks, coming in with a tray containing three steaming mugs. "Though his laws went a bit beyond what we'd think of today as fair. Your relations might like them for you, Harry." She handed him a mug. "If somebody says a punishment's 'draconian', that's not a compliment."
"I knew the word, but not where it came from." Harry moved the mug out of the way of the dog's interested nose. "No, you can't have this. Chocolate's bad for you."
The dog sighed and laid his head back on his paws.
"Now I knew Sirius was a star, but not a myth." Tonks handed Draco the second mug and sat down in a battered maroon wing chair with the third. "Who was he?"
"One of the dogs who hunted with Orion." Draco struck a muscle-flexing pose, careful not to spill his chocolate in the process. "The finest hunter of all time."
"A hunter sounds like a good person to name him after." Harry stroked along one of the dog's ears, which was becoming fluffy as it dried. "How about it, boy?" He whistled once, getting the dog's attention. "Orion," he said, distinctly and clearly. "You like that?"
The dog seemed to consider the matter for a moment. Then he barked twice, rattling the glass in the tiny window.
"Good thing I soundproofed this place when I moved in," said Tonks over Harry and Draco's cheering. "Orion it is." She grinned. "Mighty hunter of Muggle trousers." A double swirl of her wand conjured a dog toy shaped like these items, which she tossed towards Orion. He snagged it out of the air and chomped enthusiastically on the spot where the legs converged, making Draco almost snort his hot chocolate up his nose.
Uncle Vernon did say his only regret was that he wouldn't see me get what I deserved. Harry handed Draco a serviette, then sipped from his own mug. Wonder what he'd think of this?
It might be funny to find out, but only if I were absolutely certain I'd never see him again afterwards, and that's not going to happen. Not in this world, anyway.
Though I do wish it were.
Orion tilted his head to one side, as though listening to something Harry couldn't hear.
Ryan Blake leaned against the side of the living room window seat at 2319 Tudor Lane, gazing towards the east to watch the sun come up. For the first time in more years than he cared to think about, his heart was entirely at peace.
A small noise behind him made him turn his head. "Morning, kid," he said to Henry, who was yawning and rubbing at his eyes. "Care to join me?"
"Thanks." Henry smiled, the uncannily sweet expression which was entirely his own, and padded across the floor to climb onto the window seat next to Ryan. "Met a dog in my dreams last night," he murmured, laying his head against Ryan's shoulder.
"Did you, now." Ryan smiled to himself. "He look anything like me?"
"A little bit. Not much. Colors were all wrong, and he's too skinny." Henry cracked one eye open to peer up at his dad. "Named him after you anyway, or sort of."
"I sort of appreciate that, then." Ryan slid his arm around his son. "Did he do anything fun for you?"
"Almost bit Dudley in the butt." Henry snorted sleepily. "You should have heard him scream."
"Maybe I did, kiddo." Ryan chuckled under his breath as Henry's eyes drifted shut once more. "Maybe I did at that."
"I just feel bad because I couldn't think of a reason why they ought to let you out of your room more often than to use the toilet or grab a shower," said Tonks the next morning, after she and Harry had seen Draco and Orion off through the Floo fire in her bedroom (Dobby the house-elf was waiting on the other end to artistically re-dirty Orion's fur, after which the two of them would play out the little comedy of 'he followed me home, can I keep him' for Draco's mother). "You're going to get awfully tired of those four walls before September comes."
Harry shrugged. "I've had worse."
"Not the answer I was looking for." Tonks sighed and held out her arm. "Right, get a good breath this time, Apparating quietly always takes longer, and Side-Alonging quietly takes longer than that…"
In Harry's estimation, 'longer' had taken enough time for him to have gone away to Hogwarts and been nearly halfway to the Christmas holidays by the time they finally emerged in his bedroom at Privet Drive. The silence of the house around them, though, meant Tonks had achieved what she'd wanted to do, and they exchanged swift grins and a brief, tight hug before Harry scooped his Potions text off his desk and held it at head level. Tonks stifled a laugh with her hand, her hair rippling rainbow amusement, and turned in place again as Harry released the book.
The slam of hardcover against wood floor effectively covered the noise of Tonks's Disapparition, as well as drawing a shriek from the kitchen. Harry snickered once, then got his face under control and opened his bedroom door as his aunt appeared breathlessly on the stairs. "What was that?" she demanded.
"I dropped a book." Harry tried to strike a balance between looking sullen and contrite. "I'm sorry if it scared you. May I come downstairs for breakfast, please?"
"You stay put." Aunt Petunia pointed her finger at him. "I'll bring you something. You're not to leave that room, do you understand me?"
"Not even…" Harry glanced at the toilet visible across the hall, and Aunt Petunia sighed.
"Oh, all right," she said irritably, waving him onwards. "But make it quick."
Back in his room, with a plate of cold toast pushed aside in favor of Pumpkin Pasties from his newly resupplied stash, Harry pulled out his diagram again and added the name of Tonks's ex-boyfriend, along with a cluster of others around it. He had gleaned these both from the previous evening's conversation, which had rambled across topics wizarding and Muggle, and from the results of one of Henry's adventures with his cousins three winters back, while the Blakes and Reynolds had been spending two weeks in a little village in Devon.
Mom said we must have brought our own weather with us, because it snowed for a day and a half after we got there, and of course as soon as it stopped and we were allowed out, we went straight to the one place we'd been told not to go, the little orchard out on the hill near where the village kids had told us the weird people lived…
He circled the last masculine name on the list he'd just written and drew a heavy line to himself, then lighter ones to Draco and Jeanie. If his parents' predictions and his own suspicions were correct, he would have something in common with this young wizard (already a good friend of Henry's, which Harry hoped would hold true between the worlds) that neither of his dream-cousins would.
Which means we're going to need a meeting place. Somewhere neutral, easy to get to, but off the beaten path, so nobody trips over us and wants to know what we're all doing there. Wish I had the Map that Dad and Uncle John are always telling us about, that would really help a lot, but we'll manage without it…
He cracked a smile. And here Tonks was worried I might get bored these next few weeks!
"Correct me if I am mistaken," said Lucius Malfoy, regarding with disfavor his son's kneeling posture beside the copper-coated mongrel which was making short work of a basin of scraps Dobby had provided, "but I had thought the entire point of Draco's being Sorted into Hufflepuff was to render him forgettable. This—" He swept a hand towards the dog, which could almost have doubled as a riding animal for Draco. "—is hardly conducive towards that end!"
"Could any child of yours and mine, Lucius, ever be entirely forgettable?" Narcissa countered. "If he is too self-effacing, we run the risk of people suspecting our plan. Besides, were you not the one worrying about Draco's safety in a House filled with the…sanguinarily disadvantaged, shall we say?" She smiled thinly. "I hardly think anyone will offer him harm with his new companion by his side."
"True enough." Lucius watched as Draco stroked his hand along the dog's sleek back. "But still it galls me, Narcissa, it galls me to the bone to have to resort to strategies and trickery and foolish playacting, simply to ensure the proper order of things will eventually prevail. When we were so close." The fingers of his left hand clenched shut, then popped open as he hissed in frustrated pain. "If I had only moved faster on the day the Dark Lord fell, if I had not been so blind to Dumbledore's plans—"
"Who could possibly have guessed that the infant hero of wizards and witches everywhere would be placed with a family of Muggles?" Narcissa broke in soothingly. "Certainly not I. My own thought would have been my cousin Sirius. He was the child's godfather, after all. But it seems he was also one of us, though the Dark Lord kept it well-hidden." She sighed. "Such a pity he could not have controlled himself better after it all fell apart. If he could have talked Peter Pettigrew around, or even cast a spell which targeted only him and not one of wholesale destruction, Sirius might have been able to maintain his cover, claim his godson, and raise him properly." A smirk touched her lips. "He and Draco might even have become friends."
"That would have been very nearly ideal." Lucius nodded. "But some part of me still wishes I could have intercepted the boy on my own account. Hidden him in plain sight here at the Manor, as some distant cousin's child orphaned by the war." He laughed aloud. "Which is, I suspect, nothing more nor less than the truth, given the degree of interrelation among pureblood families! And then Draco would have had not only a friend but a boon companion, almost a brother…"
"But if you had failed in your attempt to take the boy, if you had made even the smallest mistake, you would have opened yourself, and us, to a very different fate." Narcissa's voice turned icy. "Or would you prefer to awaken tomorrow morning locked away in a cell in Azkaban, to know that our son was being raised by strangers, that I myself was dead, and that the home of the Malfoys for hundreds of years lay abandoned and crumbling into ruin?"
Lucius shuddered, shaking his head convulsively as though to throw off the very idea. "My worst nightmares, to the life," he said with an attempt at lightness. "Have you been spying on my dreams, Narcissa?"
"It was hardly difficult." Narcissa regarded her husband coolly. "The worst nightmares of any man are liable to be those of reversal. All that he has, taken away from him, and replaced with something as close to its polar opposite as is possible in this world."
Only my dreams of that sort are entirely different. The thought would not, could not, be stifled, although Narcissa was sure no trace of it had shown in her expression, as Lucius nodded carelessly and turned back to his regard of their son and his new pet. Reversal, yes, that without a doubt—a small set of rooms instead of a spacious manor house, a quiet round of domestic chores and entertainments in place of the social enjoyments of a pureblood lady, even my name turned back on itself for an entirely new identity. And while a husband and a child still are mine in that life, surely they could not possibly be more unlike the ones I own in my waking hours!
But if the opportunity to fall into her dreams and never again awaken had been offered to her, Narcissa knew she would have snatched at it with both hands.
Still, one small part of those dreams does exist in my waking world. She smiled, allowing a tenderness to creep into her eyes that very few people ever saw. And I may be able to steal a few hours from today to go and see that small part, if Lucius carries through with his proposed visit to the Ministry to see what they know about Walden Macnair's current whereabouts and Draco's time continues to be fully occupied by his new friend…
The doorbell rang at 2319 Tudor Lane, startling River off the back of one of the armchairs. "I'll get it!" Pearl shouted, already halfway to the door.
Stopping short a pace away, she took a single deep breath, then turned the knob with decorum. "Hi," she said through the screen door to the black-haired, bespectacled woman standing on the front stoop. "Can I help you?"
"Yes." The woman looked closely at her face. "Yes, I believe you can. If your parents are home?"
"My mom is, and my aunt Gigi and my cousin Jeanie. My dad went out with the boys and Uncle John to a baseball game. They should be back later. Mom!" Pearl turned to call into the house, pitching her voice to carry downstairs to her mother's music room. "There's somebody to see you!"
"How many times have I told you, young lady," said Thea, coming around the corner from the kitchen, "that you are not to shout in the house?" She saw the woman on the stoop and stopped short. "Well," she said after a moment. "Good afternoon, Professor. I suppose I should have been expecting this."
"Should you?" Minerva McGonagall (as the woman must be, Pearl realized, for her mother to use that form of address so readily) raised an eyebrow. "I was frankly rather astounded when Albus finally told me where you've been all these years. May I come in?"
"Of course, please do." Thea gestured her daughter back from the door. "Pearl, put the kettle on, love, and then go find your aunt."
"Aunt?" Professor McGonagall asked, turning the handle on the screen and stepping inside as Pearl hurried into the kitchen to fulfill the first part of these instructions. "I didn't think—"
"A courtesy title. Gigi was a dear friend of mine before Hogwarts, and the first person I thought of when I found out…" Thea shrugged. "But I think you know that story already, or you wouldn't be here. Her Jeanie is technically her younger sister, but they lost their parents before Jeanie was even a year old, so she's been raised almost entirely by Gigi, and later by Gigi and John together." The amusement in her mother's words had Pearl stifling a giggle of her own as she filled the kettle at the sink. "Along with their Mal, of course."
"Of course," agreed Professor McGonagall in a carefully expressionless tone. "I don't mind telling you that's one of the stories I was hoping to hear straight from the horse's mouth. If you'll pardon the expression."
"Why shouldn't I?" Thea's voice hummed now with satisfaction. "It's certainly a favorite of mine, and better than anything Ryan could invent. Our enemy outwitting himself, not just once but over and over again. Losing what he already had by snatching at foolish dreams, like the dog in the fable who tried to take the meat away from his reflection in the stream. The guilty were punished, as many of the innocent saved as possible, and something very dangerous got into the right hands to neutralize it before it could do any more harm. Stories don't often turn out that neatly. Not in the real world, anyway."
No, the real world is supposed to be more like my dreams. Pearl stuck out her tongue at the reflection in the glass door onto the deck as she set the kettle on its base and flipped the switch to start it heating. Where I'm all alone and Mama's always sad and Daddy's a crazy criminal when he isn't dead. Which I don't believe, either part of it, because he always says don't believe things without proof and I've never seen any proof of it, so there!
Pushing her dreams aside for the time being, she trotted down the hall to the bedrooms, first poking her head into her aunt and uncle's room to tell Aunt Gigi that a visitor had arrived, then swinging around the corner into her own room, where Jeanie was lying on the bed reading, and excavating her bucket of Connect-o-Blocks from its place against the wall. One of the most important lessons her brother and cousins had taught her was that a quietly occupied child was all but invisible to most adults, and this was a conversation she didn't want to miss.
Since unless I'm really, really wrong, it might mean I get to see my friend Cassie a lot sooner than I thought I would…
"Explain this to me once more," Minerva requested, glancing up at the photograph on the wall which featured the woman sitting across from her and the child who had opened the door earlier, along with the other two members of their family. "The boy in this picture is named…"
"Henry Blake." The woman Minerva had to remind herself was now called Thea nodded briskly. "My son and Ryan's, Pearl's brother, Mal and Jeanie's cousin. I'd be astounded if he thinks of himself any other way more often than he must."
"We've never concealed from him that he was born with another name, and with different looks," said Gigi Reynolds from the kitchen, where she was pouring mugs of tea. Gigi had been a stranger to Minerva until today, but Minerva found herself strongly approving of the other woman's good sense and matter-of-fact attitude towards life. "He knows his own story, and that of his birth parents, but I honestly think he would consider any revelation of his original identity on the order of a personal disaster."
"Oh?" Minerva frowned. "Why is that?"
"Apart from its placing him, and all of us, in a certain level of danger?" Thea shot a brief, laughing look at Gigi, who only sighed and set down the teapot. "Henry's not shy, per se, but he strongly prefers to stay out of the spotlight unless he's earned it on his own merits. And the longer he's established in the wizarding world as Henry and nobody else but Henry, the longer that's going to be possible for him."
"Which gives us a very potent weapon if, as Albus fears, You-Know-Who—oh, thank you," Minerva said as Gigi offered her a mug. "If he should truly not be dead after all. In furtherance of which, my visit today." She took an appreciative sniff of the tea, then set it aside to cool. "Albus has agreed to house a very important item at Hogwarts for a time. As a favor to a friend." Feeling somewhat foolish, but recalling her directive to name as few names as possible in the context of the present day, she drew a copy of Dumbledore's Chocolate Frog card from her pocket and handed it across to Thea. "If you understand me."
"I do." Thea ran her finger along the lines of text, then exchanged the card for a mug of tea from Gigi. "I think I do. The pinnacle of alchemical research, isn't it, with only one of them known to exist in the world?"
"Precisely. So if our enemy is observing Hogwarts, he's likely to think that any additions to staff for the year are intended to safeguard that item." Minerva accepted the card back from Gigi and returned it to her pocket. "For instance, Albus is thinking of working around the constant turnover in the Defense Against the Dark Arts post by hiring an assistant professor in that subject." She looked directly at Gigi, who was just settling back into her own chair, mug in hand. "Quirinus Quirrell has not been noticeably improved by his year on sabbatical, and his touch with the younger students has always been less than ideal. Someone with children of his own would be a valuable addition to the department."
Gigi inclined her head, but made no other comment.
"Also, Poppy Pomfrey has been saying for some time now that the variety of ways in which Hogwarts students manage to injure themselves over the course of the school year means we ought to have a fully qualified Healer available to us on an emergency basis at least, if not resident full-time." Minerva turned her attention to Thea. "One who also understands Muggle medicine would be especially helpful, since so many of our students come from a mixed background and may need some explanation about how magical healing works."
"I see." Thea was beginning to smile. "And what is the current policy at Hogwarts about professors or other staff members who may be married, or have dependents, or both?" She glanced towards a stretch of floor which was almost invisible under neatly arranged lines of blocks, pegs, and fasteners, radiating outward from a deeply occupied little girl and the sculpture she was constructing around a grey tabby cat, asleep in the patch of sunshine coming through the screen door.
"Our Potions professor, as it happens, shares his quarters at the school with his wife and child for the majority of the year." Minerva looked over the top of her spectacles at Thea. "Although I will want your personal guarantee that you will keep that from becoming a problem. The last thing we need is the rekindling of old grudges, especially when it would assuredly lead to your unmasking." She turned the look on Gigi. "Yours as well. Though I admit your husband's role was usually confined to that of the passive observer, or the extra pair of hands conscripted in spite of himself."
"Both of them have grown up a great deal more than you might think possible, if you only knew them in their salad days," Gigi assured her. "Especially with the children's welfare in question, they'll cooperate. And if they so much as think about starting trouble, I'll roll up the biggest newspaper I can find and beat them both about the head with it until they promise to behave."
"That I would pay good money to see." Minerva chuckled. "Then we can take it as settled, I assume?"
"Speaking for myself, I'd certainly be happy to accept." Thea drew her wand and Summoned a sugar cube for her tea. "I'm sure John will feel the same, and you've always said you'd like to have seen Hogwarts," she said to Gigi, who nodded eagerly. "As for Ryan, he claims he can write anywhere. I think I'll challenge him to prove it."
Minerva laughed. "Perhaps the greatest surprise, that," she said. "I've read his books, and enjoyed them, but I never guessed his true identity. Though perhaps I should have, when in one of them, he had his characters employ a similar trick to the one he played on us all those years ago. Hagrid has still not entirely recovered from the shock."
"The baby doll?" Thea took a long drink of her tea. "Yes, that was rather neat. I wish I could take some credit, but I didn't even know what was going on until afterwards. I had certain other considerations taking up my time." She nodded towards sculptor and sculpture, which now resembled a slightly abstract version of its still-sleeping feline occupant. "Like that one."
"I've always wanted to ask." Gigi swirled her own tea gently in its mug. "What did happen on Privet Drive that night, when you realized what he'd done?"
"Hagrid used a few phrases which I won't bother repeating in present company, but which I certainly felt like repeating at the time." Minerva nodded at both women's grins. "And Albus looked momentarily stunned, but then his eyes began to twinkle. You know what I mean," she added to Thea. "It seems he had been doubting his own wisdom in making this decision for most of the day, and only the knowledge that Harry's physical safety would be best ensured by the protection of the blood wards had kept him steadfast. But now, when the choice had been taken out of his hands, he wasn't above a bit of misdirection on the subject."
"Misdirection?" Gigi frowned. "How do you mean?"
"He laid a very complicated spell over number four, Privet Drive, a spell which looks as if it ought to completely conceal something, though in reality it's merely a tangle of magical lines which do nothing productive at all." Minerva smiled. "And then he, and I, and Hagrid, all went away and spread the news that Harry Potter had arrived safely at his Muggle relatives' home, and that for his greater protection, a combination of the Fidelius Charm and a reversed Muggle-repelling spell had been cast over him. Meaning that no matter how closely they watched the house, no one magical should ever expect to be able to catch so much as a glimpse of him."
A stifled squeak burst from Pearl. Gigi pressed a hand across her mouth. Thea lowered her teacup, her eyes shining with admiration. "So for the last ten years," she said, "the Death Eaters have been trying to see a person who isn't actually there?"
"I thought you would like that." Minerva chuckled, picking up her now sufficiently cooled tea. "Of course, how we plan to explain his non-arrival at Hogwarts is another matter altogether, though the rumor mill may take care of that for us. I've been hearing people state confidently for years that Harry Potter is being so carefully concealed to keep it hidden that he turned out to be a Squib, or that the elaborate precautions are to keep the wizarding world from learning that The Boy Who Lived in fact has died, while a small but very vigorous faction claims that he was secretly adopted by a pureblood family and will surely be Sorted, under his assumed name, into Slytherin…"
So yeah, lots of balls in the air right now, and several storylines running concurrently. But then, that's the experience the characters are having as well. Almost all of them do experience both worlds, though some of them remember more and some less.
The next chapter may be a bit delayed, as I'm going to need some recovery time from the Easter Triduum and all the singing I've been doing. Send encouragement in the form of favorites, reviews, or blog comments at Anne's Randomness, and the delay could be shorter than otherwise!