Chapter 15. Brothers & Others
Landing hard, Harry stumbles and skids on a polished floor, scraping his knees. A firm grip on his upper arm hauls him, once again, to his feet.
In the low torchlight, a moment passes before his somewhat dazed vision processes the venue — a garden of some sort; stone arches suggesting the peristylium of a Roman villa. Shaking off the confusion, Harry whips around to face the man who is either his captor, his rescuer, or perhaps both. “Antioch?!”
“We meet again, half brother Ignotus.” The elder Peuerellius smiles wryly, then his eyebrow arches. “Ah? But you are more than just my father's illegitimate son, are you not?”
“More than…?” Harry stiffens. “What do you mean?”
Antioch stares deeply into his eyes for a moment. Harry instinctively raises his Occlumency defences, but Antioch breaks the contact. He walks over to the doorway of the nearby tablinum, pulls a cloak from the wall, and hands it to Harry. “Take this. Your captors left you ill clothed.”
Puzzled, Harry accepts the cloak. Given the warm summer night, he drapes it over his arm and persists with his question. “What did you mean about me being more than Ignotus?”
Antioch ignores him; instead busying himself in summoning an amphora and two goblets. “So…” He pours slowly, as if his mind is elsewhere. “I presume it was Cadmus who imprisoned you in the Letum House?”
“Yes.” Sifting through volumes of his host's memories, Harry nods. “Our brother greeted me in friendship, collaborated in circumspection, and turned on me without apparent cause or explanation.” He pauses for a moment to dig deeper into Ignotus's memory. “About a month ago, after returning from a fairly long absence whose purpose was never explained, Cadmus slipped me a powerful sleeping potion and stowed me down where you found me.”
“A sleeping potion?” Antioch stops pouring and casts an ironic eyebrow at the filled goblets. “Then perhaps you may not appreciate my offering of fine Viterbo red?” He places one goblet on the table close to Harry, and takes a drink from the other. “During your of incarceration, were you able to assemble any notion of your brother’s motive?”
Harry’s eyes dismiss the goblet warily, then survey the open skyline to the south. From what he assumes to be fair elevation, he looks down over an endless sweep of low rooftops, dark but for the glimmer of distant flickering torches. By the sprawling magnitude of the city, this is obviously Rome; Antioch must have Apparated him to the villa on Palatine Hill.
Finally, Harry shakes his head. “No, in all the time I spent locked in the cellar, I saw nobody; not even Cadmus himself. A whole moon passed without a single conversation, not even whispered through the door or window. Each day, I would awaken once in hunger and thirst. Always would there be food and water awaiting me, but ever would it be spiked with a fresh dose of sleeping draught.” He coughs. “Yet for some reason, nobody returned today to replenish my misery, so I am finally now recovering full consciousness.”
“Then, without doubt, you are very thirsty.” Antioch notes the untouched wine then gestures at the fountain, beside which is a bronze chalice. “Yonder is water. It is certainly not from the mossy springs of your green Britannia, but as fresh as you’re likely to find in this city.”
Harry nods. He can tell that Ignotus’s throat is parched, so there seems little choice now but to pour himself a cup and hope for the best. After carefully touching his tongue to the liquid (a bit metallic, but seemingly harmless), he dashes it back, and reflexively braces for foggy disorientation to set in.
This time, however, his knees do not buckle; eyes do not fill with nauseating haze. If his mind swirls, it is only with confusion as to why Antioch should be considerate of his comfort. After all, wasn't this the same dark wizard who had sought to murder the Publican to prevent Ignotus’s birth?
Equally difficult to reconcile is the memory that the one person who sought to resist Antioch’s worst impulses of that earlier time was none other than Cadmus — the brother who now seems to be Ignotus’s worst enemy? Harry shakes his head.
Crazy role reversals! What do either Antioch or Cadmus have to gain by any of this??
Baffled, Harry sees nothing to lose by prying. “You have queried me, Antioch, but you've answered nothing. What are your own thoughts on Cadmus’s intent?”
“I do not pretend to know Mus’s mind.” Antioch frowns. “The years have drawn us apart. When I do see him, he says little. Nonetheless, I admit that I have had a wider circle here from which to make inquiries.”
Harry nods. “Oh? So, what have you heard?”
Antioch shrugs. “I doubt it would surprise you much to learn now that he never had any intention of helping you find your mother. From all that I can tell, your mother was never brought to Latium and I must assume Cadmus knew that. Indeed, nobody else from the Order of Letum has ever even heard of her. My guess, Ignotus, is that if she perished, her body fell in Britannia and lies there still.”
Harry can sense Ignotus’s overwhelming desire to scowl. So he does.
Antioch takes another drink of wine and continues. “More to point, half-brother, is that Cadmus apparently took an interest in a certain cape you showed him. An odd, unhealthy interest.”
Harry senses panic race through Ignotus. He clutches at his frayed and worn tunic, scrabbling for the special, hidden fold, where… now there is nothing. Breath leaks from him in disappointment. “The cape is gone.”
Antioch nods blankly.
“But why would he take something like that?” Harry runs a hand through his hair, scouring Ignotus’s memories of a series of unenlightening past discussions with Cadmus. “He is a master of Disillusionment, and would not need it for invisibility. Although nor do I, to be honest.”
“Ah?” Antioch eyes him. “And why then do you value it so?”
Harry again lets Ignotus’s irritation show on his face. “An old Druid gave it to me, saying that it would help me to complete my quest. Was Cadmus so desperate that I not locate my mother??”
“That assumes your quest was truly to locate your mother… But regardless, I do not believe Cadmus had any interest in either your success or failure. I further conclude that the cape itself was of only secondary value to him.” Antioch holds his goblet in front of his face, staring into the depths of the dark liquid for a long moment. “My belief is that the interest he has developed lies primarily in the Maker of your cape.”
“The maker? The old Druid?” As Harry parrots Ignotus’s question, his own mind suddenly races to the startling realisation that the old Coritani wand maker was the source of two of the Deathly Hallows — the Elder Wand and the Cape of Invisibility!
Or, why not three? Could he have made the Resurrection Stone too? Hence Cadmus’s fascination??
“Yes, the old Coritani Druid.” Even as Antioch is speaking, the elder Peuerellius is studying him with sharp eyes. “I must admit some latency, dear brother, in making some rather plain connections. It was only from an unexpected conversation with an unexpected visitor that I came to suspect that the maker of your cape is also the maker of my wand. I believe that Cadmus reached this discovery earlier than me, and I suspect this knowledge is what fostered his questionable friendship with you, likely leading him to imprison you and steal the cape.”
“But why the cape?” Harry’s brow knits. This makes no sense. What am I missing??
“What would Cadmus have to gain from such things?” Antioch is watching him closer than ever. “I believe it has no real value to him, or to the Order of Letum.”
Harry blinks. “Well, what would make him-?”
“The motive, younger brother…” Antioch stares at him for a long moment. “… must come from the others.”
“The others?” Harry frowns. “What others?”
“Do you believe you are so special?” Antioch’s thin lips adopt the hint of a smile. “Why should you and your sister come to my world to interfere with matters that ought not concern mere children of Britannia? This is a question to which I have no full answer, yet it is a matter in which I suspect you are less wise than even me.”
“What do you know of my sister?” Harry’s mind whirs, distracted, as he lets the flood of Ignotus’s anxiety pour forth. “What do you know of my quest? I have told you I came in search of my mother. You seem to believe there is more??”
“Yes, I believe there is more.”
“What is the ‘more’?” Harry finally begins to grasp the heart of Ignotus’s angst. The youngest Peuerellius has grown convinced that his older half-brother must know something very useful. Ignotus believes (or hopes) that Antioch can resolve a mystery that has truly bedeviled him. “Tell me then. Why am I here?!”
“Because of the others.” In rhetorical slowness, the elder Peuerellius extends a long finger and touches his companion’s forehead. “You are more than Ignotus. Cadmus is more than Cadmus. Perhaps even I am more than Antioch.”
Antioch drains his wine and turns to stare at the night sky. He folds his hands contemplatively around the goblet's metal stem. “I know not, truly, why you are here. Nor do I know why Cadmus acts as he does. I know only that there is a place and a time populated by other people of magic who, in the conduct of their own affairs, have seemingly taken a tremendous interest in ours.”
Harry’s hand rakes slowly through his hair. “Cadmus is Riddle.”
“Ah? You can already name names?” Antioch’s lips surrender the rare smile that had aspired earlier. “Well, names are not important to me. What matters is allegiance.”
“Allegiance?” Harry frowns. “Riddle is not my friend, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Good.” Antioch pours more wine for himself, glancing again at Harry’s untouched goblet. “You may use the name ‘Riddle’, yet I prefer ‘filth’. He is a no better than a fatal disease to poor Mus, and a pox on our entire family.”
Harry blinks. “Not that I disagree, but your statement seems a bit…forthright. ”
“It is very nearly literal.” Antioch takes a drink and stares southward across the dark roofs with a burning intensity. “This 'Riddle' affliction may prove damaging to our brother's standing within the Order. Letum has many virtues which you might not appreciate, but in the pursuit of purity and strength, the Order has adopted some tenets which I consider inflexible.”
“Such as a sentence of death to any member who is found to have succumbed to possession.”
“Oh? Is that why you rescued me then?” Harry turns part way back to Antioch. “You think, somehow, that I can save Cadmus from Riddle?”
“I have learned many things of late.” Antioch’s face is occluded by the goblet. “I have seen visions of futures; details far more precise and unsettling than any Greek oracle would ever render.” He drains the last of his wine and lowers the cup. “There are numerous possible reasons for my conduct toward you, young Ignotus. Perchance in daft old age, I have grown to favour you. Or, more likely, it is just that brothers save brothers. A pragmatist could further surmise that, in rescuing you, I lay to rest my old Wizarding debt. And, should I help you further, one could claim that it is merely my promise your naive sister.”
“Sister… Annisgwyl…” Harry bites his lip. “Ginny! I have to find her!”
“Yes.” Antioch stands tall and extends his arm. “I believe I know where she is. I shall bring you to her so you may settle your complicated fates. And then I shall be left to settle my own.”
“Terrific, thank you! Thank-” Still clutching the borrowed cloak, Harry has almost reached for Antioch’s arm, but stops. A curious look crosses his face. “Antioch, who is your ‘other’?”
Antioch gestures at the remaining goblet on the table. “Drink your wine, and we shall go.”
“Antioch?” Harry eyes him. “Did you recently acquire a taste for sweets? Or woolen stockings?”
There is no response.
"Listen..." Harry reaches for Antioch's arm, but not yet in the manner of someone ready to Apparate. He takes in a ragged breath. “I had a friend, a mentor, who was very different than you in many ways, Antioch, yet he reminds me of you from an infuriatingly penchant for moving pieces about, just like your Latrunculi." Harry gestures at a nearby Roman board game engraved on a flat stone near the fountain. "Perhaps you've met him."
Antioch says nothing.
"If the old fellow is still conscious in some universe; if you somehow communicate with him… could you tell him I miss him?” Harry gazes upwards to where several of the brightest stars manage to outshine the filtered city torchlight. “I never had a chance to say goodbye.”
Antioch’s arm is still extended, still waiting for his companion to brace himself for Apparition. He still says nothing, yet his eyes do also, for a moment, glance to the stars.
Hettie can, most assuredly, do more than scream.
Before her vocalisation has dropped below 100 dB, she is peering about with an expression of surprise. Not only has her captor lowered his wand; not only has that smarmy look been comletely wiped from his face but she sees, in fact, that her stage scream has actually driven Cadmus to a shuddering, ear-clamped paralysis that looks… disabling.
Hettie purses her lips for a moment, then shrugs and points her wand at him. Without really knowing exactly what to expect, she concentrates on how much she dislikes him, then watches (amazed) as a prolific blast of some odd pearly substance pelts the cowering wizard, smacking straight across his appalled grimace before he has time to even consider erecting a shield. Two seconds later, his goo-saturated torso has slumped to the rocky ground, out of sight, on the far side of the boulder.
Instinctively, Hettie tries to race around to the left to get a clear shot at finishing what she started, but is immediately reminded that she is… stuck. “Grabby geckos, Rob! Something's caught me.” She kicks in futile irritation.
Rob points a wand at her thwarted feet. “Finite incantatem.”
“It’s not working.” She shakes her head, tries (and fails) to hop vertically, then her eyes widen. “Forget me. Go grab my bag while he's down!” She gestures forcefully toward the far end of the chamber. “I’ll cover you!”
“Right!” Rob jolts into action. Dashing around the huge stone, he pivots, and-
Staggering back from an invisible barrier, he recovers his balance, then aims his wand toward the rightmost stone face, hoping to blast his way around the ward. The grey pulse of a Reductor surges out, but-
Hettie's shocked eyes trace back from Rob (stunned; collapsed to the ground) and find the source of the hex — Mulciber, just now Disillusioning near the entranceway.
Seemingly failing to notice Hettie, the Death Eater eyes the fallen bodies of Cadmus and Rob. Wandering around toward the far side of the boulder, he scratches his neck. “Now, whut the hell is—?”
A blast of iridescent substance knocks Mulciber clear off his feet throwing him headlong into the stony wall, beneath which he twitches briefly, then lies still.
Still fixed in place, Hettie cringes at the mess, cursing under her breath for not keeping a closer eye on the entrance.
“Interesting spell selection, my young sorceress.” The hazy form of the levitating Druid, having completed a slow full rotation, settles his gaze on her. “May I inquire as to the nature of that viscous material?”
Staring in misty-eyed dismay at Rob’s slumped body, Hettie blinks, and replays the Druid’s question. “The viscous…? Ummm…” Her nose wrinkles for a moment as she detects a sweet, almond-like scent. “Hair conditioner? No, it smells more like moisturiser.” She strains upward on her tip-toes, trying to peer around the Druid, concerned that Cadmus might be regaining consciousness.
The Druid’s clouded eyes flick momentarily in that direction before he closes them again. “Fear not, milady. Your foe hit his head rather hard on landing. I believe he is still having… a rest.”
“Huh?” Hettie blinks. “Oh, well at least that’s a small consolation… ”
“It is, yes.” The Druid smiles serenely. “It is an opportunity, perhaps, for you and I to have a pleasant little discourse.”
Dolohov and Malfoy close in on their assailant.
Malfoy looks her up and down, and sneers. The person before him is not some girl from ancient times, but rather someone he’s unquestionably familiar with — Ginny Weasley; the same little hellcat who made such a shambolic mess of his ornate Drawing Room. “A weaselette?? What the hell brought you here?!” His voice is raspy with exertion and spent rage. “How did you get out of that sodding flame?”
“What did you say Mumble-mouth?” Ginny’s jaw projects a little further than usual. “Something about you being a sodding flamer?”
Dolohov sniggers, but Malfoy is less amused. Well aware that Unforgivable curses can pass through shields, he raises his shaking wand. “Cru-”
A swirling cloak materialises and, from out of the black silk, spins Harry Potter; his wand straight on target. “Eicio!”
Malfoy is knocked hard to the side; propelled away from Ginny and sidelong into Dolohov. At that precise instant, Ginny lowers her shield to strike. “Stupefy!” Her stunner hits right between the two staggering Death Eaters, somehow stunning them both, and they crumple, still tangled arm-in-arm.
Delighted eyes latching onto each other, Harry and Ginny are both just starting to grin, when-
The dark caped figure vanishes.
“Erm?” Ginny stares. “Who was that?”
“Antioch Peuerellius, settling his wizarding debt.” Harry glances at the vacated ground. “Leaving us to settle our fates with Cadmus.”
“Huh.” Ginny raises an eyebrow. “Mighty noble of him.”
Harry chuckles, and allows himself the intended grin.
In a flash, Ginny has her arms around him. She squeezes ferociously for a moment then pull back and looks at him, her mind still whirring. “Why would Antioch settle a debt with you? You’re not Ignotus.”
“What do you mean I'm not Ignotus? I merged with him down in the Letum Manse, and… What the…??” Glancing down at himself, Harry is bewildered to not see the weathered summer tunic. He has also, seemingly, lost the cloak that Antioch gave him. Instead, he finds himself garbed in a very familiar old Schöffel jacket and jeans scrounged from a second-hand shop in Guildford.
Shifting his gaze, Harry can also see that Ginny’s hoodie is hardly standard Roman fashion either. “Okay then.” He purses his lips. “I’m me; you’re you. We both seem to be real, and yet, we’re standing on Mount Vesuvius?”
“Apparently.” Ginny shrugs.
“But how??” Harry stares again at this clothes. “We both started this episode in our hosts’ bodies, right? Neither of us has woken up from a dream or a trance, right?”
“Well…” He frowns. “If we've truly gotten back into our own bodies, then we ought to be in the Forbidden Forest, because that's where our bodies are.”
“Ahem?!” Ginny's voice squeaks in a manner frighteningly redolent of Dolores Umbridge. “Have you forgotten that ‘the Forbidden Forest is strictly off limits to all students’? ”
Harry blinks, then can’t help but laugh. There are surely a few more serious things to be agonising over right now but, my, how he's missed his girlfriend! How he's missed her electric wit — frequent, fun, and irrepressible.
“Well, bloody brilliant.” The impersonation falling away, Ginny descends to a state that is three-quarters serious. “We’ve each gone and misplaced an ancestor? Pretty soon we’ll have no ancestors left! But seriously, I do wonder…” She trails off. “Oh, but of course.”
“Of course, ‘what’?”
Ginny pulls back a bit, but keeps a firm grip on his arms. “Harry, a little while I chased Cadmus up this crazy hill back in the first century A.D., then the afternoon blinks into night, I find myself battling twentieth century duffers like Malfoy, and lose Annisgwyl’s body while I’m at it.”
Processing the bizarre inconsistencies, Harry nods, waiting for Ginny to continue the recapitulation.
“So, in the meantime, you’re Ignotus, gadding with Antioch, brother-to-brother. As soon as he drops you off up here, you also find yourself thrown straight into the modern mess that I’m experiencing, and you’re no longer Ignotus.”
“What would that mean?” Harry chews his lip. “That hanging about with Peverells distorts timelines?”
“Maybe.” Ginny laughs. “But I think it's more likely there’s something very very odd about this place.” She gives the cleft a meaningful look. “But shoot! I nearly forgot, but I heard some sort of horrific scream coming from inside there a while ago.”
“Oi.” Harry cringes. “We ought to check it out, then?”
“Er, I think so.” She nods. “We'd best take care, though. Cadmus went into the gap and may, or may not, still be lurking. And Dolohov…” She gestures at the stunned Death Eater on the ground. “… He came out of there a few minutes ago, so there’s no telling what kind of party we’ll stumble into.”
“Sounds bloody festive, yeah?” Harry quirks an eyebrow. “We’d best Disillusion then.”
Ginny signals her assent.
Moments later, the nearly undetectable shadows of Harry and Ginny begin to edge their way toward Hercules’ Forge.
“My children.” The faintest glow of a still-nascent dawn alights in satisfied eyes of the sorceress. “My children are both home again. They are nearly whole in body and spirit.”
Bewildered; rivulets still descending from his soaked head which is being held above the shimmery waters by his mother, Ignotus stares at Annisgwyl, then gradually turns to behold a majestic face that once belonged to his… “Mother!”
“I was, yes.” The sorceress smiles sadly.
“But… you are no longer?” His brow creases in confusion.
“I shall never again preside at the humble fireside of my family,” she replies. “I shall not hold in my arms those future grandchildren to which a good mother would wish for. Rather, I have been called here to my station. And in this place, I shall remain to guide my children’s children’s children, per falling leaves and snows, and Amaethon's gentle spring rains.”
Ignotus’s eyes widen. “I do not understand…”
“Every once upon a score of generations, the foundations of our isle shall quiver.” Annisgwyl steps forward to take her brother’s hand. “And when our people quail and shiver, thence shall rise above the waters of Bodmin’s Moor a sorceress whose hand may calm their fears.”
“Are you saying…?” Ignotus finds himself unable to complete his question.
“Yes, dear brother. Our mother has been called here. She is the Lady of the Lake.”
“I know the old stories, but…” Ignotus shakes his head. His face, stern but young, begins to crease. “But it is said that the ‘Lady’ shall never return from the ‘Lake’. Are you not then trapped here, mother? And why must it be you?!”
“We, all three, play parts in time's great drama.” The sorceress gently cradles his downcast head. “You have both taken great journeys, as fate has decreed. And I, too, undertake a great journey. It is a journey that none other could assume, and it is one that I know I must accept.”
Annisgwyl nods to Ignotus. “We are like the nightfall who must bring forth dawn. Your children’s children’s distant children seek to save their fathers. Yet someone must, in turn save them. For within the turning of the endless circle of children to fathers to children lies the fate of our isle.”
“The dangers are nigh.” The sorceress’s face rises once again to catch the glimmers of the east. “In the waters here, my children now are safe and ready. Here we shall remain a while longer.”
“But… but…” More perplexed as ever, Ignotus straightens. “But someone has possessed Cadmus; he is rampaging about with my cape and untold other objects of power! He is surely the danger of which you speak! If only I had grasped his plans sooner, perhaps I could have…” He stops, frowns, then shakes his head. “But no, even now I do not grasp his plans, nor grasp how they might affect my people; my children’s distant children?” His face descends into a clutched hand. “Whatever are we to do?!”
“In the waters here, my children shall remain a while longer.”
“Is that all?” Ignotus stares. “We just remain here… in this lake? How will that help anything?”
“My lake is your lake, and your lake is also their lake, even if they know it not.” The sorceress closes her eyes. “Rest your faith in the Others, Ffodion, and be prepared to guide them home.”