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The Darkening of Your Soul

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Chapter 43

 

Everyone in the room looked at Harry with wide eyes and it dawned on Harry that he’d just voiced his objections out loud when he hadn’t really meant to do so.

“Er…” Harry’s brain was working overtime to come up with an explanation for his response because Sirius was staring at him with an absolutely crestfallen expression. Harry blinked a few times and then said in his best child-like voice, “That’s allowed? Two men together?”

Andromeda sat up a little straighter and gave Harry a questioning look. “Why would you ask that, Harry?”

Ducking his head, as though deeply ashamed, Harry shrugged. “Uncle Vernon always said that two men together was dirty and wrong and they should be given electroshocks like they used to do.”

“Well,” Ted said after everyone had sat in stunned silent for almost a full minute. “Harry, you must understand that muggles sometimes have very strange ideas about what people should and shouldn’t do.” Ted offered Harry a kind, reassuring smile. “In the wizarding world it is completely normal for two men, or two women, to be in a relationship together. They can even get married if they want to.”

Harry’s whole face lit up as he gave Ted a bright smile. “Really? I’m so glad to hear that.” Then he looked at Sirius, who narrowed his eyes at Harry in a way that said he would drag the real explanation out of his godson later, and said, “I’m very happy for you and Remus. Is this a new relationship or were you already together in the past?” Harry was genuinely curious about that.

Sirius sipped his sherry and glanced from Remus to Harry. “We were on and off during Hogwarts, and later, during the war. Times were dangerous and we were busy, so we barely had time for each other. But that’s different now, right, Moony?”

Remus nodded with a little sigh. “Yes, but it is still early on in the relationship, so I would prefer you not announce it to the entire world just yet.”

Sirius waved Remus’ objections off with his glass of sherry. “Pah, Moony, this here is family. They can know. I’ll keep it to myself around everyone else for now, promise.”

“That’s all I ask.” Remus sipped his own glass of sherry, and Harry wondered what exactly the objections Remus seemed to have were. Harry vaguely remembered some drama between Remus and Tonks, about Remus not deeming himself good enough for her or something like that because he was a werewolf. Honestly, Harry had been far too busy with his own crappy life to pay much attention to the love lives of the adult acquaintances around him, so he wasn’t entirely sure what had been going on between Remus and Tonks before they ended up getting married.

Seeing how Sirius and Remus apparently had a history of dating on and off, any objections Remus had might be of an entirely different nature, Harry reasoned. Whatever it was, Sirius and Remus were grown men so they could solve their own relationship problems.

Harry quietly mourned his godson Teddy, though, until he realized they were wizards and if two men could get married perhaps two men might have a baby, too. Who knew?

“Harry,” Sirius whispered as he pulled Harry aside after the Tonks’ had left in the early evening. “What the hell was that all about?”

Harry gave Sirius a sheepish smile. “You just caught me off guard. You never got together with Remus in my previous life, or if you did, you certainly never told me about it. And later, Remus actually married someone else.”

That seemed to take Sirius aback and he looked at Harry with a worried frown. “He did?”

“Not until after you were dead,” Harry quickly assured his godfather and then realized how horrible that sounded. “Sorry.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” Sirius waved him off though his face did look a shade paler all of a sudden.

Harry thought about how he could make all of this sound better than it had so far, because even Harry, who was usually quite oblivious about these things, realized it must all be rather depressing to hear for Sirius. “In my previous life you spent longer in Azkaban, didn’t get medical attention to recover from that and you were never officially declared innocent. You weren’t nearly as put together mentally as you are now.”

Sirius nodded and swallowed, staring down at the floor. “I suppose I might not have been in my right mind enough to get back together with Moony. He’s the only one I’ve ever had any real feelings for.”

“I’m glad you two found each other again,” Harry said and he meant it. Yeah, it sucked that Remus would miss out on his chance to make little Teddy with Tonks, but perhaps Sirius and Remus could make a baby with magic or something. Harry had no clue, but he knew exactly who to consult on such matters.

“Soulmate!” Harry said to Tom the moment he answered his mirror later that evening when Harry was tucked comfortably in bed. “Can two men have a baby using magic?”

Tom’s face did a great number of very interesting and hilarious things as he stared at Harry. “Are we already at the stage of our non-relationship where we should discuss whether we desire to have children or not? Because to tell you the truth, Harry, I do not want children.”

Harry blinked a few times and then he fell over laughing. “Not for us!” he managed to breathe in between his cackling. “I don’t want kids, either, I don’t think.”

“Ah,” Tom said in a way that made it obvious he was trying very hard not to sound too relieved. “Then what on earth brought this line of questioning on?”

“Sirius and Remus are in a relationship,” Harry said, still breathing heavily as he sat up on the bed, long hair in disarray. He swiped it away from his face with a quick gesture. “But in our past life, Remus was married to Nymphadora Tonks and they had a son named Teddy and they named me godfather.”

Harry waited expectantly for Tom to respond, but Tom seemed utterly puzzled by Harry’s story so far.

“Well,” Tom finally said with a polite tilt of his head. “Circumstances change for lots of people, my dear, not just for us. It stands to reason that the people around you also might make different decisions than what they did before.”

“Yeah, okay, I get that,” Harry said just a little impatiently. He did get it, that things were different for Sirius especially this time around. “But I want my godson back, so I need to know if Sirius can knock Remus up or vice versa.”

Tom was doing funny things with his face again before he briefly looked down to hide a grin. When he lifted his head up again he seemed a bit more composed and Harry was sad that there had been no dimples this time. “Magic is capable of great achievements, but human reproduction is a complicated thing with many possibilities for potentially fatal errors.” Tom shifted in his seat and reached for a cup of tea before he continued his story. “Quite a few have tried to improve upon reproduction, including creating a child from two sperm cells instead of a sperm cell and an egg cell. One wizard managed to transfigure one sperm cell into an egg cell sometime in the late 1800s, which he then fertilized with an unrelated sperm cell and implanted it inside a surrogate mother, who happened to be his own sister. However, the child that developed was so misshapen in both physique and magic that it ended up killing the mother during birth before perishing minutes after being born. The reports about that tragic birth described the child as grotesque, barely human and having no discernible facial features, only a hole without lips, no nostrils and empty sockets where the eyes should have been.”

Harry stared at Tom with his mouth hanging open while a shudder ran up and down his spine.

“As I’m sure you can imagine,” Tom continued with a knowing little smile, “This did not go over well within our community and at once laws were created to make the use of transfiguration in human reproduction illegal.”

“Yeah,” Harry said as he swallowed against his suddenly dry throat. “That makes sense.” When he’d asked Tom about the possibility of two men making a baby he hadn’t actually considered what would need to happen to accomplish that on a microscopic level, and now, after hearing that story, Harry knew he never wanted to think about it again.

“Quite a few people have experimented with potions, but nothing has come out of that, either.” Tom shrugged and sipped his tea. “Nowadays, when two men want a child together, they simply hire a surrogate and one of them donates some sperm. Or if they are less concerned about the child having the same DNA as they do, they can always adopt a child. Blood adoption is then an option, which transfers some of the family magics onto the child. Naturally, since it’s a ritual using blood the ministry has made it illegal, but that doesn’t keep it from being used in certain circles.” Tom gave Harry an amused look. “And then there is of course also the option for a wizard to simply marry a witch regardless of his sexual orientation and have children with her while having a male lover on the side. That was the norm in pureblood circles for many centuries for men who preferred their own gender and for some families that still is the only acceptable option to this day.”

“Wow,” Harry said while his head felt like it was spinning while he processed all this new information. “So to make a very long story short, I shouldn’t expect Sirius and Remus to give me a godson they made together anytime soon.”

“Indeed,” Tom said with a chuckle. He finished his tea and leaned forwards to place his cup on the table before adjusting the mirror in his hand. “Why are you suddenly so concerned with this child?”

“Dunno,” Harry said with an awkward shrug.

“Were you burdened with his care after the war?”

“No,” Harry said with a deep sigh while looking deep within himself to figure out why he wanted Teddy back so badly. “I only saw him once after the war was over. Andromeda looked after him, since both Remus and Tonks were dead. I got to meet him for a few hours before Andromeda left the country to stay with some distant family in Europe for a while. I just remember holding Teddy, seeing him happy and smiling, and that gave me hope after all the death and misery we’d been through.” By the time he was done talking Harry had almost forgotten that Tom was listening.

“So it is more about what the child made you feel rather than the child himself,” Tom mused with a curious tilt of his head.

“I guess. I only met Teddy for a few hours, so I didn’t really know him. Besides, he was just a baby. But he was something good that followed a very long collection of bad things.” Harry stared at his hands while he plucked at the sheets that covered his legs.

“I am sorry you lost him, my dear,” Tom said softly before giving Harry an amused smile. “But unless some enormous magical breakthroughs occur within the next few years, your godson will only ever exist in your past life.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Harry blinked and looked up at Tom, coming to a few much needed realizations. “Losing Teddy sucks, but at the same time I’m getting so many positive things in return during our second life that I can’t really be too heartbroken about it, to be honest.”

“That is a very mature way of looking at it,” Tom agreed, and they talked about a few other, much lighter subjects for a while longer before calling it a night.

Harry spent the next day with Sirius and Remus. In the morning, as had become habit by then, they flew around the Manor’s grounds, and in the afternoon they visited Diagon Alley where both Harry and Sirius got a few curious looks but other than that people left them alone. They window shopped for a while before Harry insisted on visiting a few bookstores and Sirius wanted to browse in the Quidditch shop.

Near the end of the afternoon Sirius finally remembered why he’d wanted to go shopping and they ended up in the Owl Emporium. Sirius took his time to inspect the many available birds while Harry decided to use the opportunity to pick up a few bags of treats for Hedwig. Eventually Sirius chose a tawny owl, a dapper little fellow who he named Wilbur.

When Harry asked him curiously why he’d chosen that name, Sirius got a little misty eyed and mumbled about a series of children’s books starring an owl named Wilbur which he’d used to read to his brother Regulus when they were kids. Harry patted Sirius on the arm and didn’t say anything else about it.

Wilbur was a bright, handsome bird who took off to Black Manor when Sirius told him to. Since it was just about dinner time Sirius insisted they have a meal at The Silver Eel in Fantastic Alley, a restaurant Andromeda and Ted had waxed poetically about the previous day.

While they were seated in the fancy restaurant, Harry wondered why the name sounded so familiar until he finally remembered that this was the restaurant Tom had told him about when he and Barty had set the trap for Gilderoy Lockhart. Harry ordered the seabass, recalling that Tom had raved about it, and he was not disappointed.

The next morning, Harry packed his things while Sirius gave him a forlorn look. “You don’t have to go,” Sirius said for the umpteenth time. “You’re welcome to stay here. Forever, if you want.”

Harry sighed, shrunk his trunk with a tap of his wand, and smiled up at Sirius. “I had a great time. We’ll keep in touch through the mirror you gave me. And this summer I’ll come stay with you again, maybe even for a couple of weeks. All right?”

“Yeah, all right.” Sirius reached out and pulled Harry into a quick hug. Harry insisted that he would walk to the gate alone, remembering very well how Sirius had responded to seeing Dorus.

Harry didn’t have to wait very long for Dorus to pop in and after a brief greeting, Dorus apparated them both back to Nott Manor. “Tom asked me to tell you that he and Barty had some work to do today, but he should return sometime this afternoon,” Dorus said and Harry thanked him with a nod.

The first thing Harry did when he got back to his room was take an aging potion. Being an adult again was beyond satisfying and Harry admired himself in the bathroom mirror for a few minutes before getting dressed.

Theo soon came knocking on Harry’s door and didn’t blink an eye at finding his friend looking like an adult this time.

“How was your stay at your godfather’s house?” Theo asked with a curious look.

“It was pretty good,” Harry said and then he realized that Theo knew about his previous life and he could tell Theo things. “I never got to spend much time with him the first time around. Now we spent every morning flying.” Harry got an idea and offered Theo a huge grin before kicking open his trunk. After a quick rummage, Harry pulled out both of his Nimbus broomsticks. “Want to go flying?”

“Yeah!” Theo said, eyes huge as he stared from one broomstick to the next and back. Harry knew that Theo had a Cleansweep children’s broom, which he’d used every since he learned how to fly it. Most parents got their kids a children’s broom they were expected to use until they started Hogwarts. Since they weren’t allowed a broom in their first year anyway, the child wouldn’t get an adult broom until their second year, usually as a present for having finished their first year of school.

Well, of course that went for kids who had parents who could afford the more expensive brooms. Families like the Weasleys for example only gave their kids brooms when they actually made the Quidditch team and really needed one.

They rushed outside and before long they were flying around the Manor. Harry let Theo use both brooms, so he could feel for himself what the differences were between them. And while Theo had very little ambition to play Quidditch himself, he did enjoy flying and was pretty good on a broom, so they had fun trying out the brooms and chasing each other for a few hours.

Nestor the house-elf served them lunch in the conservatory, and it was just the two of them since Dorus had a lunch meeting in Fantastic Alley with some people who wanted to start a business and needed an investor.

Theo asked Harry a hundred questions about Quidditch and all the games Harry had played. Harry even teased that he’d been to the World Cup but he refused to tell a pleading Theo which teams had played the final and who had won.

“You must know lots of secrets about everyone,” Theo said after they’d finished their soup and sandwiches. Nestor served them both tea and a slice of apple pie for dessert. “You’ve known people for years and years already.”

“Not really,” Harry said while he used his fork to cut a piece off the slice of pie. “I wasn’t nearly as social as I am now, and I certainly didn’t understand the importance of networking. But I do know a few of Hogwarts’ secrets.”

“What secrets?” Theo barely managed to ask, his mouth full of pie.

Harry considered what to tell Theo while he ate a bite of the apple pie, which was delicious. He wasn’t going to mention the Room of Requirement yet, since he still wanted to go through it himself before having others invade it. He considered mentioning the acromantulas in the Forbidden Forest, but then he realized Theo might mention it to his father, who might get the ministry to do away with Aragog and his brood and then Hagrid would be heart-broken. Then Harry remembered something that he could share with Theo.

“I know where the Chamber of Secrets is,” Harry said casually and took another bite.

Theo stared at Harry, slice of pie briefly forgotten. “The Chamber of Secrets? The one that supposedly Salazar Slytherin himself built inside Hogwarts? That’s real?”

“Yep.” Harry enjoyed the look of both shock and intellectual hunger he saw on Theo’s face. “The entrance is in the loo.”

“That is a lie,” Theo said, though his mouth curved up in a grin.

“Nope.” Harry snickered, thoroughly pleased with Theo’s reaction. “A girl’s loo.”

“You are a liar,” Theo insisted, shaking his head. “Why would the entrance to Slytherin’s Chamber of Secrets be in a girl’s loo?”

“No clue,” Harry said with a shrug. “But it’s true. You need parseltongue to get in. And probably also to get out again safely because right now the basilisk still lives in it.”

Theo’s fork clattered onto his plate while Theo stared at Harry in obvious horror, face paling at an alarming rate. “Did you say basilisk?”

“Yeah,” Harry said with a sage nod. “A humongous, cranky, thousand-year-old basilisk. But don’t worry. It’s asleep right now.” Harry frowned while trying to remember what all had happened in his second year. He was quite sure it was the whole affair with the diary that had woken the beast up. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s asleep.”

Theo swallowed and very carefully folded his hands on the table, pie completely forgotten. “There is a 1000-year-old basilisk living somewhere in the castle, that’s probably sleeping, and you expect me to be fine with this?”

“Er…” Harry blinked and stared at Theo, unsure what to say exactly. When you put it like that, it did seem like a bit of an issue, that there was essentially a weapon of mass destruction hidden under their school that could, in theory, go off at any moment and kill a whole bunch of people by simply looking at them. “Yeah, now that I think on it, we might want to do something about it.”

“You think?” Theo’s eyes were wide and urgent as he all but stared Harry down.

Harry gave Theo a solemn nod while wearing his best contrite expression. “I’ll talk to Tom about it when he comes back.”

“Good.” Theo inhaled a few deep breaths and then went back to his pie. “Because I am going to have a really hard time sleeping in that castle from now on so long as a basilisk lives in it somewhere. Why on earth didn’t you mention this sooner? Preferably to the ministry before the start of the schoolyear.”

“I forgot,” Harry mumbled, cheeks flushing. He was feeling rather foolish at that moment, with how Theo was chewing him out over something Harry should have realized by himself. “In my defence, before, I killed it in my second year, so it was never an issue after that.”

“You killed a basilisk in your second year,” Theo repeated slowly, incredulously. Then he released a high-pitched, slightly hysterical sound.

“Yep, stabbed it through the roof of its mouth with the Sword of Gryffindor.” Harry had to bite back a cackle at seeing Theo’s stunned look of utter disbelief. “The Sorting Hat helped.”

“That did not happen,” Theo insisted, shaking his head over and over again.

“Doesn’t your dad have a pensieve? I can show you the memory,” Harry offered.

Theo stared at Harry with large, unblinking eyes. “Yeah, all right, this I have to see, even though that basilisk, if it exists and you’re not pulling an enormous prank here, will probably give me nightmares for the rest of my life.”

“Nah, it’s not that bad,” Harry insisted.

It was that bad.

Harry was genuinely surprised how bad it actually was, now that he was a young adult looking back at something that he’d done when he was twelve.

Theo stood beside him inside the memory while they watched a twelve-year-old Harry stumble and bumble away from the enormous basilisk that was literally big enough to swallow Harry whole.

“Fuck,” Theo breathed, sounding like he could barely suck in enough air. “Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Harry was forced to concede as he saw his tiny self pull a sword out of a floppy old hat and hit the monster on the nose like the giant murder serpent was a disobedient dog that had just tinkled on the carpet.

“Fuck,” Theo said again, his entire body rigid as he stood frozen to the ground beside Harry, staring ahead with a grimace. When the basilisk bit Harry’s arm as Harry rammed the sword through its head, Theo shrieked and jumped back a foot. “Fuck, Harry, it’s killed you!”

“Yeah,” Harry agreed, because seeing his tiny self sit on the stone floor, slowly dying after being bitten by a basilisk until Fawkes got off his feathery behind and healed him did drive home a few truths for Harry.

He’d been an utterly ignorant, careless little fool his first life. He’d barely survived encountering the basilisk, and only because Dumbledore had probably whispered into Fawkes’ ear to help Harry whenever he needed it. Without that bird and the Sorting Hat, Harry would have died, eaten whole by that great big bloody snake. Ginny would have died, too, but Harry couldn’t care a whole lot about that anymore.

No, it was seeing the memory now, when Harry was eighteen and an adult, that he realized how utterly insane his first life had been and how utterly uncaring the adults around him had been about his adventures every year.

Why the hell hadn’t anyone questioned a twelve-year-old feeling the need to go take on a thousand-year-old basilisk by himself? That wasn’t normal. Why hadn’t anyone raised a stink when Harry returned beaten and broken and with a scar on his arm the size of a basilisk fang? Dumbledore had insisted Harry come to his office before even sending him to the hospital wing and no one had objected.

Harry knew the answer, of course. Because Dumbledore had wanted him to do these things. Dumbledore had wanted to groom Harry to sacrifice himself over and over again, so that when the time came and Harry truly needed to die, he’d do it without a second thought.

And Harry had.

Harry had walked to his own death when he was seventeen years old because all his life everyone around him had encouraged him to give his own life over and over again.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Theo muttered when they landed back in Dorus’ office. Harry quickly pulled a shivering Theo with him to the leather sofa beside the large windows and sat Theo down.

“Nestor,” Harry said, and when the house-elf appeared Harry asked quickly, “Could you get a calming draught for Theo? And maybe some tea for us both.” Merlin knew Harry could use a cuppa after seeing that shitshow.

As Harry held the vial to Theo’s lips and made sure he swallowed everything, he wanted to kick himself for being stupid enough to let Theo see that memory. In his, very meagre, defence, Harry honestly hadn’t realized how horrifying it would be to watch that memory, especially not for an eleven-year-old boy.

And while Theo was a clever and mature boy, he was still very much a child.

“I’m sorry,” Harry whispered, his arm around Theo’s shoulders as Theo slowly but surely stopped shivering. “I hadn’t realized how fucking terrifying that memory was to watch.”

Theo nodded, apparently unable to speak yet.

“I swear, we’re going to get rid of that snake as soon as possible,” Harry vowed and he eventually poured them both a cup of tea and they stayed seated in Dorus’ office until Theo no longer looked like he was about to keel over dead from acute stress as a little colour returned to his face.

Not long after that, Dorus, Barty and Tom returned to the Manor and were apparently very surprised to find Harry and Theo sitting in Dorus’ office, clinging to each other for dear life.

“Tom,” Harry said without his usual welcoming smile for his soulmate as the three men entered the office. “We have to kill the basilisk.”