“What on earth happened?” Grandfather Callum asked the moment he saw me. He had been loitering in the chamber of portraits, and was nearly translucent. “Quickly, before you say anything, prick your finger again.” I obeyed, and pressed my finger into the sharp point sticking out of his portrait. Immediately, he began to regain form and shape until he was quite solid, like he had never looked ghostly at all.
“I broke my arm when I port keyed back,” I explained. “Lily and James have been fussing over me ever since. I haven’t been able to get away until today.” I had, however, managed to sneak the ghost book into my room, and had begun reading the charter, well, the parts of it I could read. Mostly, though I had looked up books on how to read Welsh. When I said this, Grandfather Callum waved at me.
“Nonsense my gel, we will teach you those things. Now come along. How much time do you suspect you can have before your parents know you are missing?”
“A few hours. I could always say I was out on the moors.” Grandfather Callum dragged be back to the library where the others were, still a little transparent. Charlotte, assisted by the others, had composed a list in my absence of things for me to learn (on the top of the list, to something of my chagrin was Welsh), and the rest of the time I was there, most of them spent arguing on who would get to teach me first, while I wandered off into the stacks for a better book on how to learn Welsh.
“You shan’t be able to take it from here,” Ignotus told me, when I pulled a book from the shelf. I had not seen him, and so when he spoke I whirled around frightened. “Who did you think would great you that you were so afraid?”
“I don’t know,” I confessed.
“You must always be aware of your surroundings. It will keep you alive.” His grey eyes bore into me, and it made me fidget in place, nearly dropping the book in my hands.
“What did you mean that I would not be able to take this from here?” I asked.
“It is an enchantment on all of the books, and many of the items here as well,” he said. “Started by one of my grandchildren, so that we may keep them safe. Should you ever need a fire, nothing in here but the wood by the pit will burn either, so you know. But the books will not leave with you all the same. That is why Charlotte,” he spat her name, “invented the ghost book.”
“Why are you so angry with her?” I asked. Another thing I had looked up in the charter, which I found to be something of a history book for our family, was what, exactly, Charlotte had done to make the family fall from greatness. As my grandfather had said, many people from our family were being killed subtly to make it look like accidents. At first it was only third or fourth cousins, people who no longer bore the Potter name, but were still fairly powerful. But then one of Charlotte’s first cousins died, and when he was examined, they found it to be an unnatural death, though no one would help the family.
They knew not what to do, but when Charlotte’s father died and she became the high lady, she suggested it and put it up to the house for a vote. Everyone was almost unanimous and almost overnight the house disappeared. They may have lead boring lives, and the House did slowly begin to die off, but at least many of them were happy and alive, as were their children and the rest of the family. The Potters did good things after that, and did well for themselves, but they were quiet normal things that most wizards did. They did not report any great discoveries any of them made, any great slayings or cures. But the line had been saved.
Ignotus’ face was drawn into a thin line.
“I do not hate her. I dislike, greatly, though her inaction to protect our clan. She took a coward’s way out when she could have fought to defend our rights to walk the earth and do great things.”
“Things were different then, and now,” I explained. “In your day, maybe people could go around killing for revenge and the like and get away with it. But people were already afraid of us. It’s why they started going after us in the first place. It seemed like, to me at least, the more great things we did, the more people wanted us gone. If we had gone out and taken revenge on whoever did this to us, we probably would have been branded as dark, and then where would we be?”
“You will make this House rise again,” Ignotus told me. “Leave the book. Keep your ancestors list and return home, and this time, land on your feet. Return here in three days, I will explain to the others.”
I decided not to debate his orders, and cast the port key’s activation words to go home. This time, I did land on my feet, but only just barely.
The next few months were odd, to say the least. I spent most of my time in the company of the dead, but many days James or John or my godfather, or even Lily, sometimes, insisted on doing things with me. Up until I broke my arm, my family had been content to let me forge my own way, but now they seemed to want to get to know me, and play with me more. If it had not been for John’s magic lessons, I might have never gotten away at all. And when I did it was torture. I was almost glad for the excuse because most of the ancestors were terrible teachers.
Many of them expected you to understand at the first word of explanation, especially some of my male ancestors who taught me combat. “It’s something you feel,” they would say, “not something to be taught.” I tried to explain that I did not learn like that, but they refused to believe and struck at me more with practice swords. Charlotte and Grandfather Callum probably taught me the most. Grandfather was good with politics, business and strategy and forced me into a world of books, constantly quizzing me on scenarios, even when I was in combat training. Actually, he enjoyed doing it especially when I was in combat training.
Charlotte was different though. Though I was not yet allowed a wand, she told me to begin reading on the theory of magic, and how it was used. She would teach me the non-wand arts, such as herbology, runes, arithmacy and her favorite, potions. She let me take my own time in understanding, and would discuss things with me, such as what I thought of magical principles, and how I thought they applied to me, and how I would make use of them once I had a wand. Many of the ancestors contributed in one way or another though, in their own subjects. Many of them could not wait to begin teaching me battle magic.
Ignotus, though, stayed away from me, and when he did speak, he often did it in Welsh, forbidding the others from translating for me. “He wants you to learn the hard way,” Charlotte said. “Or the easy way, depending on how you look at that. Soon enough, the sounds and words will become familiar. And then you will begin to make your own.”
I hated him for it. But I still kept trying to learn Welsh, though I was already beginning to master German and thinking about learning Norwegian since I was a duchess there. For some reason, Welsh did not make sense to me, like the other languages did, though, it did not come easily, and it was not fun. I thought it odd and frustrating since it was such a large part of my heritage. One day, when I was studying, I slammed down my book against the table, ready to give up, at least for the day.
“Oi!” James called, as he walked into the library. “Those are not your books to slam, young miss.”
“Welsh is hard,” I retorted.
“Well, it’s about time you had a challenge. What, you managed to teach yourself three or four languages in two years? Besides what do you want to learn Welsh for?” he asked, sitting down beside me.
“We’re Welsh,” I reported.
“So we are, but why do you want to learn that old tongue, anyway? It drove me crazy as a boy, my Mam and Nanny always speaking it to me.” I blinked. It had not occurred to me that James actually spoke the language, even though he had lived here at Potter manor, in Wales almost his entire life. And, after all, my grandfather had gone to such lengths to keep the family legacy a secret from him that I assumed it meant the language as well. James interrupted my thoughts by tapping the page. “Say this word for me.”
“Ci,” I replied, though it is pronounced more like “key.” He pointed to another one and had me say it, then another and another, occasionally correcting my pronunciation. Then, when he had had me say a whole sentence full of words, he stopped and explained why they all went in the order they went in. He was finishing up his explanation of conjugation when Lily stalked into the room.
“James, I asked you to get Harriet for lunch a half hour ago!” she cried.
“Sorry, Lily, I was giving a lesson in speaking the fine language of Welsh,” James said. “Harriet has been having trouble with it.” I think Lily looked a little envious, because he got to teach me something, but I had known too much for her to teach me anything.
“Well, come on now,” she said at last, looking like she might burst. “It’s cold, but I’ll heat it up for you.” I collected my book and looked up to see James waiting for me, holding out his hand. It took me a moment, but I realized he wanted to hold my hand as we walked to the dining hall.
“Do you think I’ll get lost?” I asked. James laughed, and his voice was very rich and deep.
“Some time, when you’re older sweetness, you’ll understand that parents just want to hold their children sometimes.” He looked very sad when he said, “I didn’t get to hold you a lot when you were younger, and that was my fault. But, let me make up for it and hold you now?” I bit my lip and offered up my hand, letting him take it in his as we trotted along to the dining room. I think that was the time I began to think of him as father, not just as James, the man who was letting me live in his house. Now, he seemed more and more like the man who loved me unconditionally, like he was supposed to. He seemed more like a dad.