Harry learns of his family history.
Chapter 17: Baron of the Peak
Harry groaned and his hand instinctually went to his head. That movement, however, reminded him why he had a headache, as his arm and shoulder muscles flared with a dull ache that lingered throughout his body. Last night had not gone at all like he had wanted or expected that it would.
"Mum says you have to get up."
"Ten more minutes," Harry murmured in a half-asleep slur and turned his face into his pillow in search of the dark, unawareness of his body's aches and of the world around him that he had been enjoying. He felt like he could sleep for another ten hours, perhaps another ten years. Not that he had that sort of time to waste, of course.
"You've practically slept the morning away already, Harry. If you don't get up, Mum says she's going to assume there's something wrong and floo Mayra to come over to have a look at you."
Damn, Harry thought, already mourning the comfort of his bed, despite not having moved an inch to get out of it yet. He blamed his teenage self for such soft sentiments, as his adult self had usually hit the ground running no matter what time he had been awoken or how little sleep he had gotten or what injuries he had been suffering from. Or perhaps it was his out of shape, teenage body that was to blame. He really needed to train this body up to endure all the crap that he was going to put it through - last night was evidence of as much. While his mind could make up for some of its weakness, he'd prefer not to run himself into the ground on every mission or waste energy and concentration on things that he need not waste energy and concentration on.
"So...I'll tell Mum you're not feeling well then."
"I'm up," Harry said, his head snapping up from his pillow with a reluctant jerk. He squinted his eyes against the bright sunlight pouring through his bedroom window and focused on his sister. Bethany was standing afew feet away from his bed with her arms crossed over her chest, looking annoyed. "What time is it exactly?"
"A quarter past ten," she said plainly, telling Harry without using actual words to say so that it wasn't him that she was annoyed with, as she wasn't snapping at him, like she would have if she were angry with him. He was merely an inconvenience for her, while someone else was the true focus of her ire.
Ah, Harry thought, after taking a moment to consider the time and his sister's presence in his room. She probably wanted to stay longer at Demelza's house, but Mum or Dad forced her home.
"Dad wants to see you in his study, once you've ate something," Bethany informed and turned to leave Harry's room, her long hair sweeping through the air after her.
Harry let her go. He had more pressing matters to deal with than his sister's latest row with their parents. First and most immediate was the physical toll on his body from his late night/early morning activities. Second and somewhat less immediate was the fact that his father was home, as in home with enough time for them to talk. The man wouldn't have told Bethany to tell him to come to his study, if that wasn't the case. Third and of high priority, yet a long term problem in its full execution, was the matter of engineering a war without appearing to be engineering a war, but still drawing enough attention to himself to keep attention away from other parties that would do well to drop from Voldemort's notice all together. Not to mention, somewhere in all his plotting, he had to figure out how to fuck over the goblins without causing an inter-species incident. Well, he didn't really have to per say - call him vindictive, he wouldn't deny it - but the way he saw things: it was better to screw them, before they screwed him (and possibly the rest of Europe).
"Self-serving, pretentious bastards," Harry cursed the goblin race, as he willed his aches away and got out of bed.
A half hour later saw Harry entering his father's study. It wasn't a large room, simply the den off of the sitting room, but it suited his father and had suited many Potter patriarchs before his father just fine. Cluttered bookshelves and old, sturdy and overflowing cabinets lined the walls with ashutter window looking out at the shaded back garden positioned squarely behind his father's desk. His father, who was dressed in casual, navy robes and whose black hair was as messy as ever, was sitting in his antique, dark leather armchair behind the vast, colonial desk. As was accustom, the man's work was spread cross the work surface. Books had been pull from their oak shelves, scrolls of notes and recordings of history written by Potters of the past had been removed from still open and somewhat disorganized cabinets and lay open for perusal, a partially filled glass of Firewhiskey rested just within reach of his father's right hand, which was clasped around a quill and jotting down notes on a fresh, yet already ink riddled scroll of parchment - the sight was familiar, yet foreign. The way his father looked up at him, when he entered made it so.
The warmth that Harry usually associated with his father was nowhere to be found. This meeting was business. He could see it in his father's resolved eyes, just as he could see it in the rigidity of the man's posture and the way the man's hand stilled over the parchment, instead of finishing out the sentence that it had been painting.
Harry felt caution stir within him, as he stepped into the room fully and shut his father's study door behind him. The moment that he did, he felt the privacy wards that surround his father's study activate.
"A bit early for that, isn't it?" Harry asked from his place by the door, nodding his head at the Firewhiskey. Its potent smell was perceptible in his every breath, along with the scent of slowly decaying parchment and old books and the fumes of the oil lamps burning dully within the room. One lamp made of brass rested on the cabinet nearest to the door and another of brass and silver sat at the left corner of his father's desk. Between the oil lamps and the daylight stream through the lone window, the room was well lit with only the slightest of shadows stretching across the floor boards and plain white walls.
James returned his quill to the inkwell that rested open near the top of the parchment that he was working on and swept his hand over to pick up the glass of Firewhiskey. He brought the glass to his lips, taking aswallow of the beverage in answer to Harry's question. "I assume you drink," he said, after setting the glass back on his desk. His eyes regarded Harry, as if he didn't know him at all, as if Harry were a stranger, an unknown entity that he was attempting to get the measure of.
"Porteur drank on occasion," Harry conceded, as he regard his father in return and attempted get his own measure of the situation and his father's line of thinking. Whatever they were to each at the current moment, they weren't exactly father and son - not in the way that the accustom relation between them had always been. That much was clear. His father wasn't looking at him as if he were his underage son, but rather as if he were his equal.
Harry resisted the urge to raise an eyebrow in askance of his father's actions, as the man nodded and then conjured a second glass tumbler and poured a measure of Firewhiskey into it from the decanter of the amber liquid that Harry hadn't noticed hiding behind a sizable stack of books. The man set the glass across from him at the edge of his desk and made awelcoming motion for Harry to sit and have a drink with him.
"Am I to take it that this one of those conversations that requires alcohol?" Harry asked, as he crossed the wood floorboards with his bare feet and in a lazy stride and picked up the tumbler. He sniffed its contents, taking in its distinct, nostril burning scent that was unmistaken as Firewhiskey and searching for subtle hints of anything that shouldn't be in the whiskey. He found none, but he hadn't actually expected to find any. "Ogden's finest."
"1965," James said and leaned back in his chair, feign calm with a touch of indifference that he couldn't quite pull off.
Harry did raise an eyebrow at that. "I've been told that was a good year."
"One of the best," James confirmed, his eyes watching Harry carefully.
Harry met the man's gaze. What are you playing at, Dad?Is this a preemptive peace offering? A test? Whatever his father's motivations, he wasn't about to turn down Ogden's, though he would use the presented opportunity to make a point very clear between them that he wanted absolutely no mistake about, not ever. "I don't accept food or drink from an adversary," he said, stating it as the matter of fact that it was.
"I'd hope not." James graced Harry with an easy grin that told of his understanding.
With very deliberate movements, Harry brought the glass tumbler to his lips. The amber liquid burned across his tongue and all the way down his throat to the pit of his stomach. Warmth burst through him, as the substance lit his insides alight with its fire. Though his body wasn't familiar with the strange sensation, his mind was. He drew the tumbler smoothly away from his lips without a cough, his eyes never leaving his father's penetrating stare.
"Better than the batch of 1907," Harry said, his voice slightly horse from the burn of the alcohol wreaking havoc on his virgin throat.
"I've never had any 1907," James said, still watching Harry carefully. "I'll take your word for it."
Harry hummed, took another sip of the whiskey, and sat down on the puffy, maroon armchair set before his father's desk. Not a test, but something else. "So, are we celebrating or are we getting pissed so that this conversation is just a little bit more bearable?"
"The latter, though I wouldn't say pissed." James took up his own Firewhiskey and brought the glass to his lips for a quick drink. "If things go as I expect, we'll be meeting with Mr. Earnshaw this afternoon."
Harry tensed, his grip tightening around the tumbler in his hand. "Our solicitor?"
James nodded stiffly, his lips pursed and eyes serious."We've much to discuss, Harry," he said gravely. "I'm not sure of the extent of your knowledge on the matter of our heritage, but you looked genuinely shocked in Ollivander's shop, so I must assume that you never learned the truth of our ancestry in your other world."
"The only facts that I know about the Potter ancestry are the ones you taught me," Harry interrupted, before his father could even ask the question of his knowledge. "In the other world, I didn't even know my first name was Harold. I always thought that my full given name was Harry, as did everyone else."
"Please tell me that you were at least aware of the repercussions of exposing yourself as a parselmouth," James said with aslightly pleading note, while looking like had just been force fed one of Dumbledore's famous Sherbet Lemons.
"Not..." Harry began, only for realization to hit. He'd never told his father that he was a parselmouth, nor had he given any indication that he was one over the last few weeks. He narrowed his eyes at his father, suspicion increasing the uneasy that he felt since entering his father's study. "How'd you know I'm a parselmouth?"
"Because every Peverell born of William Peverell the Elder and Adeline, daughter of Salazar Slytherin and Deirdre, last daughter of le Fay, has been a parselmouth," James said calmly and took another sip of his whiskey. "If you've truly broken through Ignotus's Seal, like Ollivander claims, you'd be no different. And you aren't, as it seems."
Harry sat ridge in his chair, openly staring at his father, his mind incapable of coherent thought, as it attempted to process the shit his father had just dumped on him with two sentences in the space of forty-three seconds. His father's pointed look at the tumbler of whiskey in his hand drew his attention to the amber liquid. Yes, this conversation most definitely requires alcohol, he thought in agreement, as he brought it to his lips. He took a longer drink, relishing in the burn, than he had prior, before returning his attention to his father.
"When you say William Peverell the Elder, I assume that means there was a William Peverell the Younger, and if that's the case, Iassume you're talking about the bastard son of William the Conqueror and Ingelrica, who married Ranulph Perf, a Welshman who took on the Norman name Peverell and gave the name to the son, in order to make the child legitimate," Harry said, finding it to difficult to suspend his disbelief. "And when you say Deirdre, last daughter of le Fay, I assume you're talking about the le Fay bloodline, as in Morgan le Fay."
"You assume right on both accounts," James confirmed."Though, I'm surprised that you jumped straight to William the Conqueror without mentioning the Brothers or Eustace or Henry Peverell, if you know of the Peverells and their story."
"I don't of them, not really," Harry said uncaringly. The alcohol pumping through him was truly beginning to take effect, soothing him and making the entire matter of his heritage a little less important than it actually was."I only really know of William the Conqueror, William Peverell the Elder, and William Peverell the Younger, because I've been compared to William the Conqueror more than a few time in the other world, and his bastard son and traitorous grandson were always brought up, as part of his legend."
James raised an eyebrow. "He wasn't well known for his mercy."
"Neither was I," Harry said truthfully, as he pointedly averted his gaze away from his father's ever persistent and judgmental stare to study the ancient looking globe resting atop a particularly fat and overflowing cabinet to his left. The globe's adorned gold stand was pristine, yet the parchment wrapping the quaffle sized sphere was noticeably discolored, as were the inks faded. He knew, without needing to move closer and examining the globe in detail, that the boundaries defining the many countries and even some of the names of the countries wouldn't match up to the maps used by Muggles of the 19thcentury, let alone the maps of today. The portrait that hung behind the globe, which usually contained Edmund Potter, his great-great-great-grandfather, who originally owned the globe, was suspiciously empty, just as the other five portraits in the room were as well. A truly private conversation.
"From what I understand, after William the Younger's condemnation as a traitor, the Honour of Peverell was claimed by the Crown,"Harry said, looking back to his father. Even if they were descendants of the Peverells in some way, the family's nobility and prestige had been long gone. It shouldn't affect him now, yet somehow it did, if his encounter with Ollivander was anything to go by.
"All but a portion, which went to William the Younger's daughter and accepted heir, Margaret," James said, sounding displeased by the fact.
"You say accepted as if there was another heir who should have been more eligible," Harry noted with interest.
James gave a weary sigh and slumped in his chair. "There was. Henry Peverell was William the Younger's first born from his first marriage and his heir by all rights, but Henry II refused to recognize Henry Peverell's claim to any portion of the Honour of Peverell and attempted to hunt down Henry the same way that he had taken to hunting down William the Younger."
"The father's crime becomes the son's crime as well," Harry said scathingly. He'd had some experience with that particular sentiment.
"That's just it." James frowned, took a sip of his whiskey, and shook his head despairingly. "The father's crime was the son's crime. While Margaret and her sister, Helen, had been born of a separate mother from Henry and neither daughter had a trace of magic within them, Henry shared his father and grandparent's gift."
"Magic," Harry said flatly, understanding washing through him. "Henry II was after them because their magic?"
"By all accounts, William the Elder was a muggle-born. He attended Hogwarts, where it is written that he first met his future wife, Adeline. He left Hogwarts with a full education at the age of 14 and went on to Normandy to become a knight in service to his father. After the Battle of Hastings and establishing his place amongst his father's court, he and Adeline married. Their two children, William the Younger and Adelise, were just as magically gifted as their mother and father. While Adelise went on to marry a wizard, William the Younger married Oddona verch Hugh d'Avranches, and upon Oddona's death during the still born birth of their second son, Richard, he married Avicia of Lancaster. It is suspect, however, that William the Younger's two daughters with Avicia of Lancaster were not actually his and that he had only one true child, Henry," James said, recounting the history, as if he knew it as well as his own life story. "King Henry I had always been quite amiable with the Peverell line, though many of William the Conqueror's legitimate children were not pleased with the Peverells' status and, most especially, with the fact that William the Elder and his descendants were seen as legitimate and practically equal to them."
"Which is part of the reason why William Peverell the Younger championed King Stephen, instead of Empress Matilda and Henry II,"Harry said knowingly. He'd heard this bit before, as William the Younger's support of Stephen was supposedly the true reason that Henry II stripped William Peverell the Younger of the Honour of Peverell and proclaimed him atraitor of England. Harry could hardly blame his ancestor for backing Stephen, when a good majority of the man's aunts and uncles and his many cousins would have preferred to see him and his family killed than to allow his family to retain the Honour of Peverell and the man had supposedly found an ally in Stephen. He, Harry, would have done the same.
"Yes," James agreed. "Nonetheless, it wasn't long after Henry II assumed the thrown that the King discovered that William Peverell the Elder had had magic and that William Peverell the Younger and Henry Peverell both had magic as well. William the Younger's support of King Stephen and his supposed hand in the attempt on the Earl of Chester's life only served as further crimes against him, when his magic was enough of a crime for Henry II to proclaim him a traitor." He paused to take a swallow of his whiskey, which was nearly empty with only a thin coating reaming in the bottom of the glass.
Harry mirrored his father, finding that the old tales of witch burnings and muggle violence against magicals were a bit more close to home, when it was his own ancestors that he was hearing about suffering the cruelty and prejudice.
"William the Younger was killed - slaughtered actually - but Henry managed to get away and to gain sanctity among his fellow witches and wizards," James continued, his lips pulling down at their corners once more. "Though Henry II thought that he had seized the entirety of the Honour of Peverell, he had been wrong. Contingences had been in place for years. A castle constructed privately in the Forest of Derby and warded with the best wards that William the Elder could provide had remained secretly in Henry's possession, as did asmall fortune that had been hidden away within the castle's vaults. Henry lived quite comfortably and eventually married the witch Matilda, daughter of Drake de Burke, and had two children Eustace and Beatrice. Beatrice died of Dragon Pox as a little girl, but Eustace married and had three sons of his own, known as the Brothers. Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus Peverell were without a doubt the brightest and most dangerous wizards of their age."
"None of that explains why Ollivander referred to me as'Young Lord' last week," Harry said, taking another drink of his whiskey. His glass wasn't far from being empty. A few more swallows would easily polish the drink off. "The Peverell Coat of Arms and all that nobility shit with the Honour of Peverell; it no longer applies."
"There's the rub," James said, looking troubled. His earlier frown had become a pronounced scowl with his eyes narrowed with displeasure behind his glasses. "Even back then our kind had begun to consider ourselves separate from the Muggles. We had our Wizards' Council. We had our own sport, our own drinks and food, and our own songs and dances. Every day we were pulling further away from the society that persecuted us more and more and to agreat extreme. Henry II may have stripped William the Younger and Henry of their Muggle peerage, but among our kind, Henry's status as Baron of the Peak remained. The seat that his father had had on the Wizards' Council and the lands his father had been charge to govern, as a wizard overseeing his fellow wizards, had become his with his father's death. Very few on the Wizards'Council cared about William Peverell the Younger's supposed crimes, as most regard Henry II's declaration of William the Younger as a traitor of England, as an attack on William the Younger for being a wizard."
Harry scrubbed a weary hand through his still sleep ruffled hair, as he digested the information being imparted to him. He'd really been hoping to escape all the 'my lord' crap and the fucking nervous, non-stop bowing in this world. His chances of doing so were looking less and less likely. Morrigan save him from idiots.
"Do you want to take a break?" James asked, watching his son's form sag in the armchair across from him.
Harry shook his head. "Just tell me how all of this is relevant to me. You said something earlier about Ignotus's Seal."
"As I know that you know /The Tale of the Three Brothers/, I won't bother rehashing it, but basically Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus were the brothers that inspired the tale," James said in a rushed breath. "If they ever worked together to conjure a bridge across a treacherous river, I don't know. I do know that the supposed gifts that they received from Death were actually items that they made themselves. Antioch crafted the Elder Wand, Cadmus crafted the Resurrection Stone, and Ignotus crafted the Cloak of Invisibility."
"Your cloak," Harry concluded knowingly. He had noticed in the other world that the invisibility cloak that he had inherited from his father wasn't like any other of its kind. It wasn't woven from demiguise hair, yet he had never had to apply a single charm to it silk like material to maintain its power. Not that it had been charmed invisible in the first place. The cloak was practically magic itself. He had no clue as to how Ignotus had done it, but his ancestor had somehow given a physical, movable form to an enchantment. Whether the cloak had been an actual cloak to start with or was simply the manifestation of his ancestor's spell work, he couldn't say one way or the other.
"As The Tale of the Three Brothers claims, it has been passed down from father to son," James confirmed with a nod. "Where the Elder Wand and Resurrection Stone have ended up, however, is a mystery. Antioch was killed - not in an inn and not by a knife to the throat - but he was most definitely killed for the Elder Wand. Cadmus did commit suicide, but it wasn't the echo of his betrothed lover that drove him to his grave. It was his wife, who died during child birth, that he recalled and eventually killed himself to join in death. Supposedly, their daughter took possession of the Resurrection Stone. The daughter's whereabouts, after Cadmus's death, are unrecorded and are as much a mystery as who killed Antioch for the Elder Wand and where both the Elder Wand and the Resurrection Stone have ended up."
"And the part about Death hunting Ignotus?" Harry said and took a swallow of his Firewhiskey. The burn of the alcohol down his throat and the hum of it within his veins was the only thing keeping him seated. If he had been sober, he'd have been up and pacing by now, as he attempted to analyze every new piece of information - starting with the fact that he wasn't aparselmouth do to him playing host to one of Voldemort's horcruxes for roughly nineteen years of his life in the other world, which had never quite set right with him to begin with.
"Death did hunt Ignotus, just not in the literal sense of the actual figure of Death searching for him across the land," James said, back to scowling. "The Peverell Brothers had been well known for their wealth and noble status and widely known for their heritage - regarded as they were as sons of the bastard bloodline of William the Conqueror and indisputably the last descendants to carry the blood of Slytherin and le Fay. In roughly two centuries, the Peverell bloodline had gone from nonexistence to being at the height of power and knowledge among wizarding kind, and needless to say, there had been certain families who had opposed the bloodline's quick rise and had felt threatened by the Peverells' pedigree and their ever growing knowledge and understanding of magic, particularly the direction their studies had taken into the even then forbidden depths of the Dark Arts, as rumors of Cadmus's fascination with necromancy and his obsession with bring his deceased wife back to life had spread.
"It is written that the Resurrection Stone had been crafted by Cadmus long before Antioch had ever crafted the Elder Wand, and the same has been recorded in accordance to Ignotus crafting the Cloak of Invisibility. By all accounts, Antioch had crafted the wand as a weapon to be used against those who had threatened the family in response to Cadmus's work. After Cadmus had been driven to suicide by his own creation and Antioch had been murdered for the Elder Wand, Ignotus had found himself and his young son to be all that remained of the Peverell bloodline, as Antioch had never had children and Cadmus's daughter had disappeared with her father's creation.
"Ignotus took his wife and son into hiding, far away from everyone and everything that they had ever known, about two years after Antioch had been murdered. The family had been driven from muggle society, by threat of death, barely a century earlier, yet had no longer been able to live safely within wizarding society either. Many witches and wizards of the time had assumed that Ignotus had known his brothers' secrets and several had sought him out and had demanded that he craft them their own Resurrection Stone or a wand just apowerful as the fabled Elder Wand," James said, the tightening of his eyes and the pronounced pull of his lips in a thin downturn making him appear more grim than Harry ever remembered see him. "The sort that chase those kinds of artifacts are dangerous themselves by nature, and Ignotus had had his life and his wife and son's lives put in jeopardy more than once for having refused to emulate his brothers' work. There had been other attacks on him and his family, as well, by witches and wizards who had believed Ignotus to be just as dangerous and deranged as his brothers and had wished him dead on principle. Then there were those who had been waiting for an excuse to end the Peverell bloodline and had been more than eager to take advantage of the change in attitude towards the family."
"Fuck," Harry said in a low exhale. Why his father had looked ready to curse, if not kill Ollivander for even bring up their ancestry was becoming more and more clear to him by the minute. The Peverells may have lived centuries ago, but that didn't change the fact that they were their ancestors - close enough in blood for the Potters to have ended up with the Cloak of Invisibility. There was no telling how modern society would react to such arevelation.
James sighed and bowed his head with his son's whispered curse. For a long moment, silence penetrated the study, hanging tense in air between father and son.
"Ignotus crafted the cloak, once he and his family had gone into hiding. It was designed to be a safety measure, in case if their location was ever discovered," James said, breaking the silence, and when he looked back up at Harry, his gaze was morose, as well as resigned. "In theory, his wife and son would have escaped beneath the cloak, while he attempted to buy them enough time to get away. Ignotus knew, however, that neither the cloak nor hiding out in self-imposed exile would be an indefinite solution to his family's continued survival. His son would grow and would eventually desire to leave home and start a family of his own. Yet, like any other son of Peverell, his son possessed a distinguishable aptitude for the Mind Arts, was a parselmouth, and had already shown signs of being able to control magic in ways that the average wizard could not. These traits marked his son and would mark all his future descendants, just as they marked him and his ancestors. Though he referred to it as 'a most vile and unthinkable act', Ignotus knew that there was only one true solution that would have any sort of permanence. The traits that defined the Peverells for who they were had to be sealed away within the family's magic- some traits more fully than others. It took him many years, but when his son turned 17, he was able to send the boy out into the world, not as Walter Peverell, but as Richard Potter."
For a measured moment, Harry stared blankly at his father. He swallowed the last of his whiskey, as he resolved himself to the significance of what his father had just told him. "What happened to the Peverells' seat on the Wizards' Council? Their lands and gold?"
"Their seat on the Wizards' Council was absorbed by the Council with an elected member filling the seat," James said matter-of-factly, as if he was attempting to distance himself from this bit of history. "Much like the ill fate of the Honour of Peverell, those who tried to claim the seat as their own found themselves suffering all kinds of difficulties - some even grew ill, while others died by one obscure disease or another or in an inexplicable accident. An attempt at splitting up the land and the legislative responsibilities governed by the Peverells' seat was made, but only resulted in all parties involved suffering equal misfortune. With the transition of the Wizards' Council into the Wizengamot, there was hope that the curse would break, but it did not. As it stands, management of the Peverells' seat is attached to the responsibilities of the Chief Warlock."
Harry let out a soft chuckle. He couldn't help it. Sure, he didn't find Voldemort's curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts post very funny, but that was Voldemort being a petty bastard. The Peverells' curse on their own seat on the Wizards' Council (now Wizengamot) was revenge well earned and beautifully executed.
"Technically, Harry," James said sternly and pinned his son with a disapproving look, "the seat remains in the Peverells' possession, waiting for a true heir of Peverell blood and magic to emerge from the Potter bloodline and claim his birthright. I imagine that Ignotus didn't want to lose everything, like his grandfather Henry nearly had to Henry II and had always intended for the Peverell bloodline to continue publicly, once it was safe for his descendant to claim their heritage. Whether now is the time to make that claim or not, I don't know. But you've broken Ignotus's Seal, son, and according to all records: once it's broken, there is no fixing it or reapplying it. Not for you, at least."
Looking at his father, Harry saw that they had finally arrived at the reason for their conversation thus far. His father was once more appraising him with indifferent eyes, as if the man didn't know him at all. Only this time, Harry understood his father's motivations. His father was taking him in, the man's probing eyes raking over his raw state, and trying to find the son of nobility and merciless warrior that supposedly ran in his blood and was reaffirmed within his magic, unbound by Ignotus's Seal as his magic was.
Harry didn't know about the son of nobility part, but he had the merciless warrior routine down pat. Now that he knew the truth, the comparison some of his men had made in the other world between him and William the Conqueror and the Conqueror's bastard son and traitorous grandson, he realized, had probably been intentional. They had always looked to him, waiting for him to confirm or deny the likeness - always respectful, yet cautious. Even Ron had approached him, inquiring in his not-so-subtle, subtle way as to what he thought about the comparison, while having waited for his answer with baited breath. He hadn't understood then, but he did now. They had wanted to know, if he was a Peverell descendant, without having to ask him outright.
Does the name really hold the same power today that it held all those centuries ago? Harry wondered, meeting his father's gaze with silent askance.
"I'm not going to tell you how to live your life, Harry,"James said, his entire visage serious, as well as sincere. "I've thought long and hard on this. No matter what I try to tell myself, this is your decision. I've done my best to impart upon you the severity of the choice you now face, but whatever you decide - whether you choose to embrace our true heritage or choose to maintain the status quo as a Potter, hiding the abilities that define you as a son of Peverell - know that I will support you no matter what."
Harry leaned forward and deposited his empty whiskey tumbler on his father's cluttered desk. Instead of resting back in the plush armchair, as he had been, he hunched forward with his elbows digging into his knees and his eyes fixed pensively on the wood floorboards beneath his feet, his gaze sliding past his clasped hands. The choice wasn't hard. If he took his personal feelings out of the matter and ignored the possible repercussions for him and his family, there was only one conceivable option. Like a starved man in adesert with nothing edible around for miles being offered a way to get around Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration, he couldn't snub what was being offered to him. To take on the Peverell heritage publicly would be the perfect and easiest way to draw attention to himself, gain political sway that he wouldn't have had otherwise, and give him more than an excuse for the magic that he used. As a Peverell, no one would expect him to behave as a Potter and it would be easier for him to shake the kid image, when circumstances demanded that he be seen as an adult or a genuine adversary. Sure, he could continue to trudge through the blazing desert aching with starvation, but why? To what end?For his family's sake? Maybe, but the shit he was dealing with was much bigger than just him and his family. He was trying to avert a war. He needed every advantage that he could get. It was as simple as that.
"Dad," Harry said, swallowing hard as he looked back up at his father. There was no surprise on his father's face, just expectation and acceptance.
"If you're ready to go in the next fifteen minutes, we'll have time to grab lunch at Fortescue's, before our appointment with Mr. Earnshaw," James said, forcing a reassuring smile on his face. "He's already drawn up all the necessary paperwork for your emancipation from the House of Potter and claim of Lordship as the Baron of the Peak, as well as the paperwork to change your surname to Peverell in the eyes of the Ministry and Wizengamot."
Harry nodded and pushed himself to stand. "Does Mum know?"
"Yes." James's gaze turned concerned, as he looked up at Harry. He hesitated a moment, pursing his lips, before adding, "She tells me you're not adjusting well."
"Normalcy doesn't suit me." Harry shrugged carelessly and turned away from his father's all too perceptive gaze to head for the door.
"Right, because nearly getting yourself kill by some form of death wards is more up your alley."
A whine of the floorboards sounded into the silence of the room, as Harry's steps faltered. "You've talked to Sirius."
"A conversation for another time." There was plain dismissal in James's voice.
Harry finished crossing the last few steps to the sturdy, oak door and exited his father's study, taking the verbal slap on the wrist for the warning that it was. He sincerely doubted that he and his father would talk about his escapades last night, but his father's message was clear. The man didn't like him sneaking around behind his back, and if it happened again and his father found out about it, they would have words.