“Did you have any idea my father could speak Welsh?” It was a question I was dying to ask my Grandfather considering how much he had not told my father. It also made me wonder what would have happened had Grandfather Callum lived to see James grow up a little bit. The most I had gotten out of him on the subject was how arrogant James had been when he’d graduated from Hogwarts. He had been improving, of course, he had been on his best behavior all of seventh year; he had made head boy, done fantastic NEWTs and had started growing up into an all around good man. Grandfather Callum said this was because he loved Lilly so much that he wanted to change for her. He said that doing something like that for another person did not make it very genuine, and that he needed to wait and see if James could become a better person or not. But he died before he got the chance.
I knew I couldn’t ask James about it—I knew even more so that I would need to think of a really good reason to talk to anyone about it at all. After all, even in the wizarding world, saying that you’ve been communicating to your non-ghost ancestors through blood magic is sure to get you carted off somewhere. But I needed to know—some part of me, on some level needed to know what had caused my father’s revelation and redemption. After all, he worked for us, though Lily staid home and worked on charms, but James had a full time job as an Unspeakable and he was still the more attentive of my parents, at least to me. So I needed to know how an arrogant berk like the old James Potter became the new James Potter, the one I was starting to think of as my dad.
“Why didn’t mum like dad in school?” I asked Remus one afternoon when he came to visit and gave me a book on Japanese. He had found me in the library after Uncle Sirius reveal he bought John and I brooms. He thought to give me the book before I got dragged into any kind of argument. “Did he do something wrong?” Remus made me ask again in Latin, French, German and Welsh (the two former of which I knew he did not speak) to see if I had been practicing.
“What brother this on?” Remus asked, taking a seat at my study table.
“Mum showed John some pictures the other day of back when they were at Hogwarts,” I explained, which had been the truth. “She said that until seventh year she would have rather gone out with the giant squid. I was wondering why she didn’t like him very much.”
Remus frowned, opened his mouth, closed it and then frowned some more.
“All right then, you two!” Uncle Sirius shouted, bounding into the library. “No studying today! Oi, Remy, what’s got you all like that?”
“I asked why Mum didn’t like Dad in Hogwarts, and Uncle Remus is trying to figure out how to tell me,” I explained. Uncle Sirius bit his lip, thought for a moment and then replied,
“Well, he was a bit of a berk.”
“Well, Remy, he was. We were all berks, really, Riot,” Riot being Sirius’ nickname for me, partially due to my name, “Harriet,” and partially because of Sirius’ love of pandemonium, “your uncle Remus was probably the least berkiest, but your dad and I had it bad.”
“Sirius would you please stop saying the word berk, or any variant there of in front of your goddaughter?” Remus requested. “You don’t need to be teacher her any new naughty words.”
“Oh, I already knew that one,” I said.
“From where?” Remus inquired his mouth agape.
“Primary school and Mum said it the other day when she burnt her hand.” Sirius grinned, already thinking of ways to use it against Lily. “But why was he like that? And if he was why did Mum got out with him eventually?” Sirius and Remus looked at one another, their faces becoming Grim.
“If we tell you this story, you aren’t allowed to tell your dad, and you didn’t hear it from us,” Sirius told me. I nodded and leaned forward. “Well, your dad and I were both a bit spoiled, and well, being kinds, we thought we knew everything. And we were not the best influence on Remus. So, well, I guess you could say we were bullies all throughout school.”
“Has your Mum mentioned Severus Snape?” Remus asked. I nodded. He usually came up in conversations about John or me learning potions. “Well, I’m sorry to say he was our most frequent target. He and your mum were also friends into their fifth year. Your dad, he always had it bad for your mum and couldn’t stand Snape. They got into plenty of fights.” He paused. “By now I’m sure you’ve figured out I’m a werewolf?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Well, we figured it out too, pretty early on,” Sirius said. “Started studying to become animagi to help Remy, but that’s another story. The point is Snape figured it out too. And one night he confronted me about it.” Sirius shook his head. “I got very angry with Snape. I told him to lay off, but he wouldn’t and finally I said, ‘he’s in the shrieking shack if you really want to see.’ I still don’t know what possessed Snape to take off down there. Maybe he thought that they had Remus chained up or something but he immobilized me and went. I ran to get your dad when I could and he and I both went to get Snape. He had just about climbed up to the shrieking shack and gotten inside when your dad pulled him out.”
“I nearly bit him,” Remus said. “And Sirius stayed with me until the moon set. Your dad hauled Snape back up to the castle and explained the whole thing to Dumbledore though Snape kept on insisting that we had set him up.” Remus shrugged. “I’m sure it must have seemed that way considering the circumstances. But after that, James was never really the same,” Remus said.
“What changed?” I asked.
“He realized, as we all did, how our actions can hurt people,” Sirius said. “With war on the horizon, we all realized that the time for childish things had ended and that we needed to grow up a little. Your dad probably realized that the most, and people saw the change in him, and I think that’s why your mum went out with him in the end.”
“So, he didn’t change just for her?” I asked.
“No, he changed for himself,” Remus said. “I now believe it’s time for lunch.” He and Sirius stood, and Sirius volunteered to race me to the dining hall. I followed after half-heartedly, my mind racing. Dad had grown up. Maybe I could tell him about the secret Potter compound and everything there.
“Absolutely not!” Grandfather Callum exclaimed, when I suggested it. “You may think your father is grown up, but do not forget, girl, he abandoned you in favor of your brother!”
“That was Dumbledore’s idea!” I protested. “I want to tell Dad!”
“And what good would it do you?” Callum asked. “You would be forbidden to come to this place, most likely and our knowledge ransacked by the likes of Albus Dumbledore to train a spoiled little boy for a destiny which does not exist!” I stomped my feet and raised a little magic around me. Callum gripped me by the shoulders and shook me. “Do not sass me, young lady! You are a Potter, you are better than such behavior. Your father is never meant to find out about this place, do you understand?”
“Let go of me!” I hissed. “I’ll tell him if I want to! I’m going home, and I’m going to make the family the way I want to!” I held the port key in my hand one second and then it was in Callum’s the next.
“You will do no kind of thing!” he retorted. “You need all of the things we can teach you!”
“You don’t teach me anything!” I shouted. “All anybody does besides Charlotte is yell! Give it back! I want to go home!” I did. I was becoming afraid because no one had ever treated me like this before, like I had no say in any of it, like I was a prisoner. Not Gnarls, or my parents, or even the goblins. I did not like the way my grandfather was acting.
“You will stay here until you swear to me that you will never speak of this place to James Charlemagne Potter. On your life, blood and magic swear it to me!” He was screaming and holding me up by the arm shaking me. I kept screaming no, and accidental magic radiated from me, but Callum kept shaking me until I chocked on a sob saying,
“I swear!” Callum dropped me to the floor. I crimpled like a little ball, and I heard Charlotte somewhere in the room ask,
“Callum, what have you done?” My Grandfather—no just Callum Potter to me now—panted above me sounding weak for having resisted so long.
“Child, come here.” The voice which commanded me sounded soft and more like James than anyone else. It was only after I ran to him, and collided into his chest that I realized he had spoken in Welsh, and that Ignotus now held me in front of the other stunned shades. He raised his hand and summoned the port key from Callum, before he commanded each of them, “Back into the portraits! All of you!” I looked up to see Charlotte wave sadly before she and the other ancestors disappeared in something like a wave of dust. “There now, childe, they are gone and you have nothing to fear. Hush now.”
Ignotus picked me up and held me close to his chest, rubbing my back, as I sobbed and shook. He sang to me softly in Welsh, a song that I did not know enough of to translate. I felt warmth blow across me and found Ignotus depositing me in front of a large, lit fireplace. “You used quite a bit of magic and you are still shaking. No doubt, you are cold.” He pantomimed taking a cloak off of a hook, which I did not realize was invisible until he placed it around my shoulders. “Take that back with you, childe,” he said. “It is the cloak of invisibility I won from Death herself.”
“Death is a woman?” I asked, as I began to stop shivering. He gave me a look like Uncle Remus did sometimes, so I repeated the question, but time in Welsh.
“I do not rightly know if Death is a he, she or thing,” Ignotus replied (in Welsh of course), “but when my brothers and I cheated her, she appeared as a woman. Callum wished to keep it out of the reach of your father when this Dumbledore man though to study it. He felt that though he said no, James would give it to the man still after Callum passed.” Ignotus stared at me, the fire burning in his eyes. “You asked me why I did not approve of Charlotte’s actions. My answer is this: what she did out of compassion and love to protect her family her descendants did because they were afraid. They did not have to wait so long to reclaim our house’s honor, but they chose to lock our family’s history away. Truthfully, I do not believe Callum wishes the family raised at all. And there is the fact, of course, that we all have a very strong sense of right and wrong. We believe we are always right and therefore everyone else must be wrong.”
That startled a laugh out of me. Ignotus smiled at me and said, “Do not let yourself fall into the same trap, childe. And now I want to you to promise me something, to protect yourself should you ever return here, raise me first and then I can teach you how to raise the others oen by one should you need them.”
“All right,” I agreed, sniffling a little. Ignotus nodded.
“Very well, then I will teach you one last thing before I allow you home. Then I suspect you shall not return here again for some time.”
I want to tell you more, Cloudy, but I must go!