Harry's eyes felt sore and sticky by the time he managed to stop crying and lift his head from his father's shoulder. He felt worn and wrung out, he couldn't ever remember crying so hard for so long, his breath was still coming in slight hitches. Severus's hand was on his back, rubbing soothing circles all over it. The touch helped a little, allowing Harry to relax and try and regain some semblance of self-control.
"Sorry, Dad. I . . .didn't mean to fall apart like that," he apologized, feeling his face heat.
"It's all right, Harry. Sometimes we all need to fall apart, so we can pick up the pieces and begin anew." Severus said, shifting his son on his lap, for his knees were becoming a bit sore from supporting the bony twelve-year-old. "I expected you to react this way to the Pensieve, son. It's only natural. Is there anything you would like to ask me about what you saw?"
"Umm. . . .the silver bracelets, that's how come you always knew when I was sick or hurt, right?"
"Yes. The bracelets belonged to my grandmother, my mother was her daughter, and she passed them down to Mum, who in turn gave them to me. I spelled yours invisible so the Muggles wouldn't see it and take it away."
"Could I see it?"
"Certainly." He rolled up his left sleeve to show his bracelet. "This will always inform me if you are sick or hurt and sometimes it shows me images of you as well, such as where you are when you got injured and so forth, so that I may Fetch you from there or Apparate myself to where you are."
"Oh. Guess that explains a lot then." Harry said. "Can I see the bracelet? Mine, I mean?"
"Yes, hold out your left arm." Severus ordered. He spoke a short phrase and suddenly a silver cuff with the inscription To heal is to love engraved upon it appeared on Harry's wrist.
Harry turned the bracelet around examining it. "All this time, and I never knew I was wearing it. It doesn't feel like anything at all."
"It's not supposed to. The bracelets are meant as a way for a parent or caregiver to save the life of a young or elderly person who is prone to accidents and so forth. Or so my mother told me when she gave them to me. I figured it was the best way for me to keep track of you, Harry." He waved his hand and the bracelet around Harry's wrist disappeared. "Is there anything else you would like to discuss about the memories, son?"
"Uh, just that now I finally understand why you disliked my real father so much, sir. He was such a git to you." Harry said, flushing. "And my mum . . .you really loved her."
"Yes to both questions, Harry. As I've said before, James was a spoiled bully and he delighted in picking on me. And your mother was at once my best friend and the only woman that I have ever loved," Severus said simply, blinking back tears. "If you are done with the memories, son, I would like to replace them."
"Yeah. Thanks a lot for sharing them, Dad. It helped me get to know her a lot better," Harry admitted quietly. He knew perfectly well that his father's private memories were a great gift and he was grateful to have been allowed access to them, it was so much more meaningful to view the memories in the Pensieve than it would have been just listening to Severus speak about them.
"Good. For you deserve to know of her, she was very special to me . . .like her son." Severus said quietly, giving the boy a smile before moving over to the Pensive and beginning to extract the memories and place them back inside of his head. The process took perhaps ten minutes and then the Potions Master rubbed his temples, he always got a slight headache after retrieving Pensive memories, and declared, "My trip to Diagon Alley proved very fruitful, Harry. I picked up a racing program and several magazines about pegasus racing, and an entry form and a book that details the course of the Skybolt and the rules of the race as well. When you feel up to it, you may read them, they're in the den on the table."
Harry rose from where he'd been seated on the floor and took several calming breaths, finding his center and regaining his control. The tears had proved to be an unlooked for cathartic release, and now he felt better for it, and able to focus on the task at hand, namely learning as much as he could about the Skybolt and entering himself and Boreal in it and training hard to win the race. He knew he had no other option but to win, given the deal they had made with O'Shea. He knew as well that the odds of his doing so-a green rider who had never even been on a pegasus before the summer-was almost impossible. But he had done the impossible before. He had survived the deadliest wizard of the era, thwarted a curse that had claimed the lives of all its victims. Compared to that, what was a pegasus race?
"I'll go and read them soon as I wash up, Dad," he told the older wizard, going into the bathroom to do so.
The cool water felt good upon his puffy eyes and flushed cheeks, he allowed himself to linger for a bit with a cloth over his eyes before turning off the water and walking into the den to peruse the material Severus had procured.
He picked up the entry form for the Skybolt first, it had a deadline of August 7th, four days from today. There was a fee of 150 Galleons to enter, plus an extra 50 to withdraw from the race due to unforseen injuries. Harry winced at the price, but they had no choice but to pay it. The first blank asked for the rider's name and age. He plucked a quill from a holder on the bookshelf and then hesitated. Should he put his true name or the alias Severus had told them? He could only imagine the media circus that would occur if he gave his real name and people learned that Harry Potter was riding in the Skybolt.
No, he knew he was to keep a low profile. So he put down Rider: Harry Knight, age 12. A note underneath the age portion stated that if the rider were under legal age, a consent form had to be signed by a parent or guardian giving permission for the rider to participate in the race, and waving all lawsuits pertaining to bodily injury. Underneath the space for the rider's name was a space for the parent or guardian's name and in that space he wrote Tobias Knight. There was also a box to check if the rider were bonded or unbonded. Harry carefully checked the first one. Then came the section on his mount, name, breed, pedigree, date of birth, stable where foaled and owner. Harry filled in as much as he could, querying his stallion about the specifics, until the form read as follows: Windseeker's Boreal, Silver Arrow, twenty years of age, born April 18th, 1971, by Firefox out of Freedom, foaled at Misty River Stables, Kentucky, USA. Owner: Tobias Knight.
Harry carefully signed his name to the document and then floated the paper over to Severus, who was reading a copy of the Prophet in the recliner. Severus quickly signed his alias, and said he would send this, the consent form, and the money out tonight with Hedwig, to be sure of making the deadline. Unknown to Harry he had also been in contact with certain people, ensuring that his alias was not penetrated, creating a false background and records for one Tobias Knight and his son Harry, residents of California.
Then he picked up the racing form, which was a catalog of all the current races that a pegasus could enter, and who was entered in what race and how big the purse was and what the course was like. Several of them had already taken place, the Skybolt was among the last of the great money races to be held at the end of the summer, August 24th. Harry noted that the name Quicksilver came up several times as the winner in several other races. Quicksilver is the name of the other son of Firefox that O'Shea owns. Boreal's brother, Harry reminded himself. Quicksilver had won a total of five out of five races, dominating his competition and grossing over a thousand Galleons that season. Harry bit his lip. From the statistics, it looked like Quicksilver would be the one to beat. Also in the running was another Silver Arrow called Silver Flight, he was the second highest winning stallion, followed by a Royal White mare called Bolt of Glory.
So, he knew his opponents. He wondered if being inactive on the racing circuit would affect Boreal's performance any. He supposed it would simply mean that they would have to train harder during the next three weeks.
He then took up the magazine called Wings of Fire: the Official Racing Standard and read about the official rules for a race. First and foremost was that a rider must be a certain height and weight, no taller than 5'3 and no more than 115lbs. Harry met both those requirements easily, he was not even five feet and barely ninety-eight pounds with clothes on. That made sense, the lighter the rider, the quicker the pegasus could fly.
It was illegal, however, to use magic to alter a rider's weigh or height, and the use of such Alteration Charms and Featherlight Charms was strictly prohibited. Any rider caught using them would be immediately suspended from racing for a month.
They even had rules about the tack a pegasus could wear. It had to be of a lightweight leather made from a wyvern's hide, and also had to have padding stitched into it to protect the pegasus's hide from being rubbed raw by the friction of the rider sitting in the saddle. The bridle was also of the same type of leather and could not contain a hard metal bit or much of a bit at all, since a pegasus was not a horse, to be controlled by harsh implements in their mouths.
Third was the requirements a rider had in regards to equipment. A rider was required to wear a reinforced hard hat, reinforced by charms of Cushioning and Impact Reducers. They were allowed to wear silks of various styles and colors to reflect their racing stable. Boots could only be knee-high and must not have spurs, and a crop was permitted only to warn another rider whose pegasus was getting too close and trying to foul an opponent deliberately. Using a crop on a pegasus was grounds for disqualification.
Both pegasus and rider had to have an annual physical by a certified Healer, ensuring they had no infectious diseases and were in good health. Any attempt to race a sick pegasus was also grounds for suspension. Harry thought that was easy enough to obtain, and both he and Boreal were in perfect health.
By that time his stomach was growling and Rellah was standing at the doorway, "Master Sev, Master Harry, supper is on the table."
Severus set aside his paper and rose. "Thank you, Rellah. Come, Harry, you can finish reading that later."
Harry was more than ready to eat, for some reason he was starving, though he had done nothing physical at all today besides sweep the back porch. Rellah had made a wonderful roast beef with new potatoes baked to a golden crisp and Yorkshire pudding and steamed cauliflower. Harry devoured everything on his plate, it tasted wonderful. Then he went back for seconds of the tender beef and the potatoes.
Severus raised an eyebrow. "I would assume, from the amount of food you're eating, that you're getting a growth spurt, most likely."
Harry's fork clattered against his plate. "A what? A growth spurt? Oh no!"
Severus stared at him. His son had said the words "growth spurt" with the same amount of utter horror and fear as one would utter the words "terminal cancer". "Harry? What is the matter? I would think you'd be happy to be finally growing a few inches. You are, I believe, the smallest in your year."
"I am, well I would be, except . . .uh, you see, if I get too tall I can't race Boreal, Dad . . " he glared down at his hands, wondering why of all the times his body had picked now to betray him.
"Harry, relax. You won't start shooting up overnight, son."
"No. You're not a weed. You may be an inch or so taller by summer's end, but you should still meet the requirements for a race rider." Severus reassured him.
"You know about that?"
"Of course. I read the material before you did." Severus chuckled. "Finish your supper, Harry. You'll need your strength for the flying you and Boreal will be doing soon, provided I can find a race course nearby to use."
Harry nodded, then picked up his fork and resumed eating. Rellah's cooking was impossible to resist.
He returned to his reading right after supper, learning that the Skybolt was known as the premier racing course because of its age, the race had first begun in 1791, hosted by the new confederation of American wizards, and this year would be the two hundredth anniversary of the race. Back in the beginning, the Skybolt had been a mere two miles instead of the more grueling two and a half miles, and had only standard obstacles to fly through, like poles, gates, and rings. Today the obstacles were much more dangerous, wind tunnels, rings of fire, corkscrew passages, obstacles which tested the endurance, reflexes, and speed of both pegasus and rider to the limit.
Many pegasi and riders had failed to finish the course, the Skybolt was known to be unmerciful and unforgiving of mistakes, and then there was always the chance that another rider would foul you and result in you going off course or getting injured and there would go all your dreams of glory. It was known that even a slight mishap could spell defeat, hence the phrase "If you can fly the Skybolt, you can fly anywhere". The purse for winning the Skybolt was 2000 Galleons, plus an ornate jeweled cup engraved with the rider and pegasus's name and the year they had won in.
Twenty pegasi would start in the great race, but by the course's end there would be only one winner.
Harry frowned down at the map of the race course, it was a current one showing the position of all the obstacles and he crumpled the parchment and vowed silently that at finish line there would be Boreal first and the rest nowhere near them.
He set down the Skybolt course map and said softly, "Dad, where do I get some racing silks?"
"Most stables provide them for their riders," Severus said. "However, since we're our own stable, that means we need to make them."
"I can help you there, Master Sev," Rellah spoke up. "I am very good with a needle, sir."
"You'd make me silks, Rellah?"
"Indeed, young master. You ride for the Peaceful Glen, and therefore you need silks that reflect that." She tilted her head slightly. "What colors would you like, young master?"
"Uh . . ." Harry thought hard.
"Would you like Gryffindor colors?" suggested his father.
Harry shook his head. "No. I'm not flying for Gryffindor." He thought hard. Then he came up with the perfect combination. "Black, with white sleeves, Rellah. And on the sleeve, in gold thread, a pair of wings and a golden lily. We'll be the Winged Lily Stables." He glanced uncertainly at his father. "How does that sound?"
Severus didn't answer for a moment.
"It's stupid, right?"
"No. I think it's highly appropriate, Harry."
The boy grinned. "Can you do it, Rellah?"
The woodkin smiled affirmatively. "Indeed, young master. It'll be no problem at all. I should have them finished within four days. Stand up, Master Harry, so I can take your measurements."
Harry rose, and the woodkin moved about him with a long knotted string, muttering to herself. It took five minutes and then she was finished. "Good night, sirs. Sleep well. I shall begin them tomorrow."
"Thanks, Rellah." Harry called as the woodkin vanished in a cloud of sparkles.
Then he spotted the tray of tea and ginger cakes upon the table. "Dad, d'you want some dessert?"
Severus nodded, and the two of them had tea and cakes. Harry ate his cake slowly, savoring the sweet and spicy taste. The tea was a soothing lavender-chamomile blend, good for digestion and as a sleep aid. The young wizard sipped his tea and thought that the only thing he needed to worry about right then was finding a race course to practice on.
Look out, O'Shea! ‘Cause the Snapes are going to whip your wicked arse good!
Chapter End Notes:
How did you like this one? I hope it served to whet your appetite for the next chapter, where Harry & Boreal begin training.
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