Wherein Harry reveals himself to his company and makes a promise to Belle
The next morning Harry and Marietta soaked away the exertions of the previous night in a tub that was only slightly less opulent then the Prefect's bathtub at Hogwarts, as it would only hold four people if they were very friendly.
"I could get used to this" she sighed.
"Hmmm" he agreed nuzzling her hair with his nose. "Do you hear a cricket?"
"Yeah, sounds like its coming from the front room."
After a short time the volume and frequency of the chirping grew to truly annoying proportions.
"That's no cricket, it's a signaling mirror" he said as he slid out of the recessed tub onto the marble floor.
"Um, Commander, I think I'll stay here while you answer that."
"Yeah, probably a good idea" he agreed and padded out the door.
Harry picked up the handle of the chirping mirror and Moody's face swam into view.
"Commander, may I beg a personal favor, sir?"
"What is that Sergeant Major?"
"Could you please get dressed before you answer a mirror, sir?"
"Ah, I didn't think of that, just a tick here."
He put the mirror face-down on the table then threw on his dress cloak, complete with gold braid. Picking up the mirror he asked "better?"
"Yes sir, thank you sir. The reason I called, we need to use this time t' set up training for the company and plan for the drop-in on yer sprog."
Harry grinned, "Good idea, I'll let you be the one to break the news to the senior staff."
The old Sergeant Major laughed, "Such is the awesome burden o' command."
"Sergeant Major, I did a little research and I found that I can appoint an assistant. . ."
"That would be Lef' tenant Edgecombe, sir, I already submitted the paperwork on your behalf." Moody interrupted with a knowing smirk.
"Very good, Sergeant Major."
Friday afternoon Harry as Commander Evans called his staff together for the first time. He wore his dress cloak over a simple fatigue uniform; his lieutenant wore a similar uniform with a red braid indicating her rank and position. The four Platoon leaders were there, Prince from First Platoon, Smythe, the newly promoted Repple from Second Platoon, Usher and DiMaggio from Third and Fourth Platoons respectively. Sergeant Major Moody was in attendance as were Recruits Cruz and Morris. He gave each staff member a sobering draught and ordered them to drink it down. Then he handed each of them a flask of pepper-up potion. Lastly he poured a healthy shot of fifty year old Ogden's Finest Fire Whiskey in front of each of them and told them that they would know when they needed them.
He removed the blond glamour and wiped the concealer from his forehead and confessed to being in fact, Harry Potter. Two hands reached for the whiskey; he said "not yet."
He shared the prophecy with all of them, how he was the only one who could kill Voldemort, and that one of them had to die. And that he was training so hard so that he wouldn't be the one doing the dying. Three hands reached for the whiskey; he said "not yet."
He told them about the horcruxes, exactly how they were made and that he had to destroy them so that Voldemort would, in fact, die. In all four hands reached for the whiskey, he said "not yet."
He took a deep breath. "There is a prisoner in Blue John Caverns in Derbyshire, she is about two months pregnant and I have to get her out of there as soon as possible. Her name is Belle Black, she used to be Bellatrix Lestrange and the baby she is carrying is my unborn daughter."
No one had to be told "now," all six staffers downed the potent potable in a single swallow.
The next three days would find Harry and Marietta and the Recruit Platoon leaders from the 'Fighting Ninth' planning strategies for maneuvers and the assault on the Death Eater's stronghold.
That night Harry and Marie slept cuddled together as he visited Belle in her dungeon.
Harry and Belle had spent many an hour that week while sleeping or just relaxing feeling the bond grow and enjoying the feeling of 'connectiveness.' It wasn't yet to the point where they could communicate easily while fully awake, but a state of relaxation could put them in touch with each other to the point where they could 'talk.'
At Belle's request Harry 'uploaded' his own life experiences. He wasn't able to edit any of them so she experienced the abuse and neglect of his upbringing and the mercurial ups and downs of his life since entering the wizarding world.
When it was over Belle was speechless.
"Belle?" Harry asked aloud.
"Belle!" he nearly shouted in his sleep.
"I am here, Harry."
"I couldn't 'hear' you."
"My mind is in a very dark place right now, thinking of the things I will need to do to that wretched family that abused you and your fair-weather so-called 'friends.'"
"The Dursleys are in the past, I'm well shot of them, and I do have some good friends. Ron f'instance,"
"Ronald Weasley abandoned you from sheer jealousy when you were entered into the Tri-wizard tournament. And he was so content to be in that bint's knickers last year he wasn't any help to you at all, and you saved his life with that bezoar."
"He came around, and I have the brightest witch of her age. . ."
"Who couldn't see the obvious plottings of my deranged nephew last year, brightest witch indeed! And even you can see how horrible she was toward you over that damned potions book; she was jealous because you were using the book to your advantage. She hated that you didn't follow her interpretation of the rules, and worst of all you were out performing her. You do seem to have a talent for picking up jealous gits for friends."
He bristled a little at that and came back quickly with "I have my mates here in the 'Fighting Ninth."
"Yes" she agreed, "good friends, comrades."
"That goes without saying."
"No. I mean you are a good friend."
Harry could feel profound emotion coming through the bond.
"Oh Harry, I wish it could be so."
"I don't understand."
"Of course you don't. Let me put it to you like this; Harry, how did you feel about me at the beginning of the summer?"
"I knew Bellatrix Lestrange was a cold blooded killer who delighted in the pain of others and needed to be put down like a rabid bitch."
"You see?" she asked.
"I do see. I see that was Bellatrix Lestrange. Bellatrix Lestrange is dead. She died when Alexis Lily Potter Black drove all that was evil and accursed out of her. I recognize that you are Belle Black, and I am enjoying the chance to get to know the real you."
The emotional feedback was so powerful that Harry couldn't help but weep.
"Damn you Harry Potter, you of all people know how emotional pregnant women get, and then you have to be so, so unbelievably empathetic and look at the state of me!"
"I stand by what I said."
"Harry, when I get out of here you know that I'm just going back to Azkaban, don't you?"
He felt through her the despair that only one with memories of that dismal penitentiary could feel.
"No, you're not."
"I'm afraid they'll insist; imprisonment, and probably a dementor's kiss. Honestly Harry it's no less than I deserve. . ." then she thought of the child growing within her, the child that hadn't earned any place in that Hell on Earth, and felt icy panic in her chest. "Oh Harry, what about Alexis; what are we going to do? I can't have our baby in that place; I can't bring her anywhere near that soulless rock!"
"No Belle, neither of you will be going there, she is innocence itself and you are not to be punished for the crimes of someone else. It's only because of you that we even have a chance to put paid to to that Dork Tosser. You are the mother of my child and I will die before I let anyone harm either one of you. This. I. Vow!"
The bright blue flash that enveloped both of them made a brilliant testament to the depth and sincerity of the wizard's vow.
Belle slept contentedly for the first time in months that night.