A/N: When dealing with primary source documents that are hundreds of years old, and were most likely stored somewhere that was NOT light and moisture regulated, damaged manuscripts, scrolls and tablets are common. Often scholars do not get to work with a whole cohesive manuscript, but rather a series of fragments. When there is a missing spot or hole in the manuscript it is called a 'lacuna'. When the scholar records the text the lacuna is indicated by an ellipsis (...).
Ex: Draco knew that … Potter was a bad idea.
The ellipsis in the above sentence denotes information that was absent in the original text.
Additional Note: Annwn is the Celtic Underworld, and Arawn is the ruler of Annwn. The hounds of Annwn and the Hunt are elements of Celtic mythology. There is a myth involving a roebuck, a lapwing, and a hound. I hesitated to equate Hermione with the roebuck because in the HP-verse a doe is synonymous with Lily Potter. Therefore Hermione is a lapwing, which is a type of bird.
Updates: I usually write for the QLFC. This round we have a BYE (which means my team does not have to write, and gets a little break) so you are seeing far more updates, far more quickly than you normally will. I don't usually have a set day of the week because my Muse is a cheeky monkey that scoffs at deadlines. I will *try* to do one every two weeks.
"The Keeper is the Refuge and the Citadel of Her House's Honour. The wizard who desires a Keeper, who asks for Her aid, may find his House restored, but at a price. All Great Magic requires a Sacrifice freely given. The Restoration of a House requires a Sacrifice from the Keeper and from the wizards who would be Redeemed. The Keeper's Sacrifice is one of the mysteries of their kind, and much speculation has been made as to its nature. The wizards sacrifice the chance to go to the next world whether that be the Otherworld, or reincarnation. They wait in stasis until their Keeper Calls them, and if she does not Call then they are trapped there forever."
Tonks' Residence, June 30, 1998
"Thank you for coming Miss Granger," Andromeda Tonks murmured as she filled Hermione's cup.
"I'm hoping that you can help me, Mrs Tonks," Hermione admitted.
Andromeda appeared surprised. "I would think it would be the other way around." She paused for a moment and seemed to be considering Hermione. "And please, call me Andromeda."
"Thank you. Please call me Hermione. Well, as you may know, I'm a Muggleborn." Hermione couldn't help but glance at the slender blonde figure sitting next to Mrs Tonks… Andromeda.
"I believe I had heard that," Andromeda replied with a twitch of her lips.
"This last year made me aware that I'm unfamiliar with much of your world, and now I find out that there's even more that I don't know." Hermione scowled. She wasn't sure if anyone could really understand her frustration with the current situation. It wasn't that she didn't want to help the House of Black. To be honest, she wasn't sure if it was a question of wanting to help. She suspected that Harry was more right than he knew. For whatever reason, she was the 'Chosen One' for the House of Black. After listening to Augusta Longbottom, and learning of Cygnus and Orion she was even more determined to help, but that didn't mean that she wouldn't try to learn as much as she could about Keepers.
Andromeda nodded gravely. "Of course. Do you have any questions for us? We will answer them to the best of our ability."
"Do you know how I'm supposed to do it?" Hermione demanded.
"You mean you will? You're not going to refuse?" Mrs Malfoy blurted out. She appeared genuinely shocked.
"I will try," Hermione conceded. Then she shrugged helplessly. "But I have no idea how to do whatever it is I'm supposed to do."
"No one does," Mrs Malfoy offered.
"Yes, I know, it's a Mystery of Keepers." Hermione made a face and Tonks snickered from her spot next to her mother. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do, or how I'm meant to bring them back."
"I understand your frustration," Andromeda replied. She stared at her lap for a moment and then looked up at Hermione. A fragile vulnerability flickered in her face for just a moment before it vanished as though it had never been there. "When I left my House, I knew the consequences. Our Patriarch was… an unforgiving wizard."
Mrs Malfoy snorted. "I suppose that's more polite than saying he was a complete and utter bastard."
Andromeda cleared her throat and gave her sister a quelling look. "My father sent me a package, secretly, just before his death."
"What package?" Mrs Malfoy demanded. "And why did he send it to you?"
"To answer your second question, I believe he considered you to be allied firmly with House Malfoy. I wasn't certain about whether or not you were a Death Eater like Bella. It's possible that Father wasn't certain either. I doubt he asked you." Andromeda pointed out.
Mrs. Malfoy pulled up her left sleeve and waved her bare, unblemished arm in her sister's face. "The answer is no," she retorted. She sighed and pulled her sleeve down. "I was trying to get pregnant during the First War. Lucius used that as an excuse to keep me out of Voldemort's Inner Circle."
"The point," Andromeda interjected firmly with another stern look at her sister, "is that Father wanted this far, far away from his House. I can only guess that he thought it would be safe with me."
Hermione watched the exchange between the two sisters, and shook her head. When she had been invited to tea she had imagined a number of scenarios, but this had not been among them. She noticed that Tonks was surprised as well, but the other witch appeared to be biting her lips to keep from laughing. Harry had moved closer to Hermione, and glanced at her with wide eyes.
"What was in the package?" Hermione asked loudly.
"A book," Andromeda replied. She pulled a small, slim volume from her robes and handed it to Hermione. She gave Hermione an apologetic look. "There isn't much there, and most of it is conjecture. It doesn't explain how to Call them back, or provide any sort of ritual."
De Arces Domuum. Hermione traced the title with her fingertips. Finally, a book about Keepers.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"If you can restore our House…" Mrs Malfoy's voice grew thick and she paused to clear her throat. "We will owe you more than our thanks."
Hermione blushed. "That's not necessary," she muttered.
Andromeda shrugged. "We cannot control how we feel."
Mrs Malfoy snorted in amusement. "Blacks have never been very good at that."
"No," Andromeda agreed with a small smile.
Grimmauld Place, October 28, 1998
As usual, Harry found Hermione in the library at Grimmauld Place pouring over the slim volume, and making copious notes. Andromeda had dismissed it out of hand, but after The Tales of Beedle the Bard Hermione wasn't willing to do that. Anything that looked promising earned a small notation in Hermione's neat handwriting. She had been researching for months, but she had made little headway. There was so little on the subject—even less than the Deathly Hallows—that it made research slow and painstaking. She frowned at her notes and sighed. There was another long night of research ahead of her. She knew that Harry, Andromeda and Mrs Malfoy had become resigned due to her lack of progress, but she refused to give up.
"It's getting late. I'm heading to bed. You want me to have Kreacher check on you in a few hours?" Harry offered.
Hermione stared at Harry. "You're bloody brilliant."
"Er, thank you?" He grinned at her. "I think you're pretty brilliant yourself."
"Kreacher?" Hermione called tentatively.
After several minutes Harry sighed and called Kreacher.
"Yes Master?" Kreacher bowed low. Harry was still not used to the new, polite Kreacher. The change in behaviour still made Harry a little nervous.
"Hermione needs your help," Harry informed him tightly. He longed to yell at the House Elf, but then Hermione would give him another lecture and he tried to avoid those at all costs.
"Master wants Kreacher to help his… friend?" Kreacher spasmed in her general direction. He had apparently adopted the general policy of not referring to Hermione rather than call her a Mudblood.
Harry's gaze narrowed on his House Elf. Hermione shot him a look and he smirked back at her. "Kreacher, the Keeper for the House of Black requires your assistance." They had avoided talking about it out loud, but perhaps it might be the impetus needed to kick start Kreacher into helping Hermione.
Kreacher's eyes widened impossibly. He stared at Hermione and then he turned to Harry and frowned. "Is Master teasing Kreacher?"
Harry shook his head. "Mrs Malfoy and Mrs Tonks both think she's the Keeper. Will you help her?"
Kreacher appeared to be frozen. His mouth opened and closed soundlessly. Finally he shook his head and turned to Hermione. He bowed so low that his ears brushed the floor. "How can Kreacher help the Keeper?"
Hermione leaned forward eagerly. "Do you know how I can find out about what I'm meant to do? Is there some sort of ritual written down somewhere?"
"That is a secret that belongs to the Keepers," Kreacher said slowly. He appeared to be distressed that he didn't have the answers that Hermione needed.
"What about this house?" Hermione asked. "Are there any books here? Any that Master Regulus may have shown you or asked you to hide that have to do with Keepers?"
Kreacher frowned and shook his head so that his great ears flapped slightly. "No, but there is Master Regulus' diary. He was hiding that, and only Kreacher knows where it is."
"Would you let me read it?" Hermione asked in a gentle, soothing voice. "Maybe he left me clues so that I can Call him back?"
"Kreacher will go fetch it right now!" The House Elf left with a loud crack.
The diary of Regulus Black began after Sirius left his House. It carefully recorded Regulus' fears for himself and for his House.
"I fear the only recourse we have left is a Keeper. I ask for one nightly, but I'm not certain what good it will do. Keepers come when they will, not when we will."
"It is impossible to find credible information. I've done what I can, but I don't know if it will be enough."
Harry eventually went to bed and left her alone in the library. Kreacher made her promise to call him if she needed anything at all, and then he headed to the kitchen. Hermione avidly read the entries in Regulus' diary. Normally, she would feel odd reading someone's private thoughts, but the idea that she might end up bound to a wizard she didn't know absolved her guilt. Sometime in the early morning hours she came across an entry unlike the others.
"I was able to steal a few hours in the Dark Lord's library, and I found a scroll so ancient that it was almost crumbling. I don't believe that the Dark Lord realized what it was. It appears as though he thought it was just some sort of spell to bring back the dead. I'm not sure if he thought it was a spell similar to the one that creates Inferi, or if he thought it called back a wizard's soul.
I have copied the text exactly, but there were several lacunae in the scroll itself. I hope it is complete enough.
When the Veil grows thin, and the path to Annwn is open;
Shall the Keeper stand at the Gate and Call.
With Her Blood shall she Anoint the Gate,
With Her Tears shall She …,
By Her Sweat shall She Call them forth.
May the Heart of the Keeper be steadfast,
May the Mind of the Keeper be …,
… the Soul of the Keeper be constant.
Blessed is the House that has a Keeper,
And Blessed are the wizards Called.
This is the clearest description I have ever seen of the Ritual of Calling. I don't know what the 'gate' could be unless it is one of the magical historical sites. It implies that the Veil is a physical presence, but I've never heard of or read anything like that.
My Lady, I can only hope that this helps you. Take pity on my House, we need you. I don't know who you will Call, but I promise you that we will not fail you."
The words swam in front of Hermione's eyes and she blinked rapidly to bring them back in focus. She could feel her cheeks heating up as Regulus' final words to her sank in. Even without knowing her, he was looking forward to her arrival. It was odd to think about-that someone who had never met her, and did not know her, was thinking about her. She pressed her hands to her cheeks to cool them and tried to concentrate on the text in front of her.
When the Veil grew thin… that sounded familiar. Hermione started flipping through her notes and gasped when she found it. According to legend, the Veil grew thin on two nights of the year. The first was May Day or Beltane, and the other was Samhain or All Hallows' Eve.
All Hallows' Eve was in just a few days. Regulus might not have known where to find a physical manifestation of the Veil, but Hermione did. She chewed on her lower lip absently. Should she tell Harry, or was this something she could only do alone? Hermione hadn't been conscious when Sirius had been taken by the Veil, but she had heard about it from Professor Lupin and several others. She knew that Harry could hear the Veil and that he had been attracted to it. That frightened her. The last thing she wanted to do was lose Harry to the Veil while she was trying to Call the House of Black. She could beg his forgiveness later… if it even worked.
Grimmauld Place, October 30, 1998 (Midnight)
Harry was asleep. Hermione had already checked ten times. Thank Merlin he was used to her staying up late to research. She had tried to act normally the last few days, but she wasn't sure if she had been successful. She thought Harry was watching her with an odd expression, but sometimes he did that when she was in full research mode. The house was completely silent. Hermione took a deep breath and sighed. She had dressed for stealth: jeans, a jumper, and a pair of comfortable trainers. She clutched her beaded bag in shaking fingers.
"What can Kreacher do for the Keeper?" The House Elf asked.
Hermione knelt down to his level. "Can you take me to the Veil room in the Department of Mysteries?"
Kreacher's eyes grew wide as he realized the implications of her request. "Is the Keeper going to Call Master Regulus back through the Veil?"
"I'm going to try, but I need your help," she whispered. "I don't what condition the wizards will be in. I don't know if they'll be hurt or sick in anyway. You might have to bring them here."
"Kreacher will take the Keeper, and Kreacher will help with the wizards," he said resolutely.
"Thank you Kreacher," Hermione breathed. She stood up and stared at him. "What do I need to do?"
"Kreacher will have to hold the Keeper's hand," he explained.
Hermione grabbed his hand. "Okay. Let's go. It's almost time."
With a crack they were gone from Grimmauld Place and standing in the Veil room. Hermione stared at the Veil; the stone arch seemed menacing. She had never been in this room and awake, and she peered around cautiously. The Veil seemed to flutter, but there was no breeze. A shiver went down her spine. She moved toward it slowly, but she stopped when a dark figure moved in front of it.
"Who approaches the Gate of Annwn?" The figure demanded in a resonant voice. His head was covered with a black hood, and he was swathed in black robes that seemed to flutter with the same non-existent breeze that made the Veil flutter.
"The Keeper for the House of Black," she replied in loud, clear voice. She clutched the hem of her jumper to hide her shaking hands.
"Are you willing to pay the price?" The figure asked.
A frisson of fear went through Hermione. She knew there was a sacrifice involved, but no one knew what it was. Despite the few slim volumes and Regulus' notes she had no idea what was going to happen tonight. She swallowed her fear. "I am," she replied in a shaky voice.
"Very well," the figure murmured.
The snick of his sword leaving its scabbard was Hermione's only warning. The figure placed the blade tip at her heart, which was pounding so loudly that she was certain anyone could hear it.
"You are trying to take that which belongs to me," the figure continued. "I demand payment for what is mine. I require your blood, your sweat, and your tears."
"I will give it freely," Hermione swore. Even though she couldn't see his face, she sensed a mocking smile.
"We shall see."
The baying of hounds filled the air and Hermione could feel her heart stuttering in her breast. Adrenaline raced through her veins, and she pumped her wings to gain altitude. She needed to escape the hounds. If they caught her, she would lose. The pounding of hooves echoing through the woods made Hermione's fear ratchet even higher. The Hunt was coming for her.
No matter how hard she flew, no matter how far she flew, the Hounds stayed with her. It felt as though she had been flying for days, but in Annwn time flowed differently so it was difficult to tell. She may have been flying for years, or it might have been minutes. Hermione's wings ached, and she longed to stop, but she could not. If she stopped, the House of Black would fall.
A whistling sound was her only warning before an arrow pierced her breast. A scream was ripped from her lips as she plummeted to the forest floor. She landed with a heavy thud and she whimpered in pain. She could feel her heart's blood pumping out of her with every laboured breath she took. Heavy boots walked closer and closer to her, and Arawn knelt by her. Even though she was in agony, she watched him as he leaned down to her.
"You did not give up," he observed. "You were steadfast and focused. Your heart, your soul, and mind remained focused on your goal. Despite overwhelming odds you stayed true to the House of Black." He picked up her small body and lifted it in one hand. "A worthy sacrifice!" He proclaimed.
"A worthy sacrifice!" The Hunt bellowed back.
Hermione took one last breath and saw dark spots appear before her eyes.
"Rest, my Lady," Arawn murmured.
Hermione woke with a gasp and bolted upright. The dark figure moved forward and held out a hand. She tentatively placed her hand in his, and allowed him to pull her to her feet. She knew, now, who he was.
"Arawn," she murmured.
He bowed elegantly. "At your service, my Lady," he replied. He paused and she could hear the smirk in his voice. "For tonight, at least."
"What do I do now?" She asked.
"You have paid the price to Annwn," he explained. "You have access for this one night. Use it well, my Lady." He appeared to shimmer in front of her eyes and then he was gone.
Hermione opened her bag and pulled out a small knife. She cut her palm carefully and pressed it to the stone of the arch, anointing it with her blood. Her eyes filled with tears as the rough stone gouged the wound and she let them fall. The fear that had ridden her through her sacrifice was cooling on her skin. She absently swiped at her brow with a bloody hand. The sweat stung her wound, bringing new tears to her eyes. The arch began to glow. Hermione stepped back. She was supposed to Call back her wizards, but she wasn't sure how to do that. After everything else that she had done, she couldn't stop now.
"Um, hello?" She cleared her throat and took a deep breath. "I am the Keeper of the House of Black. I'm, um, I'm here for my wizards?"
The Veil rippled and Hermione wrapped her arms around her middle to keep from trembling. A young man stepped out of the Veil and looked around curiously. He was tall and slender with a slightly arrogant air to him. He had dark grey eyes, and full, almost pouty lips. His nose was aristocratic and he had a strong jaw with a slight cleft in his chin. He was a very handsome man Hermione decided.
"Master Regulus!" Kreacher cried ecstatically and began weeping.
"Kreacher?" Regulus' eyes widened and he turned toward the House Elf. "What are you doing here?"
"Kreacher brought the Keeper," the House Elf announced proudly.
Regulus whirled until he spotted Hermione and then he froze. "My Lady," he whispered.
"Hello." Hermione smiled weakly.
Regulus moved forward and took her hand in his. "Thank you," he murmured fervently and kissed the back of her hand.
"Your journal was the key," she admitted shyly.
"You found it?" Regulus' fingers tightened on her and Hermione was surprised to see pride in his eyes. "You are as clever as you are beautiful. We are truly blessed."
"We?" Hermione echoed him.
"The House of Black," he elaborated. He gave her a self-deprecating smile. "I doubt I'm the only one who will be called."
At that moment the Veil rippled again, and Hermione automatically turned toward it. Another wizard stepped through the Veil. He, too, was young and tall, but he was broader in the shoulder than Regulus. Where Regulus was striking and handsome, this wizard was teeth-achingly beautiful. He was almost pretty, but he emanated power and strength. His eyes were a lighter shade of grey, his cheekbones well-defined, and his lips full. His resemblance to an avenging archangel in a painting she'd seen once was unsettling.
"Regulus?" The wizard looked surprised to see him there.
Regulus let go of Hermione's hands. "Father?"
The two wizards embraced, and Regulus pulled him eagerly over to Hermione. "This is our Keeper, Father," Regulus introduced Hermione. "My Lady, this is my father, Orion Black."
"It is an honour," Orion murmured and bowed deeply.
Hermione blushed. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Who else do you think will come through?" Orion asked Regulus.
"I'm not sure," Regulus replied. He turned to Hermione. "Do you know, my Lady?"
Hermione bit her lip. She wasn't sure if she should say; what if she got their hopes up and she was wrong? The arch was still glowing, and Hermione suspected that meant it was still active. "I'm not certain. There may be one or two more."
As soon as she was done speaking, the Veil rippled once more. The wizard that stepped through this time was tall and slender like Regulus. His eyes were darker, almost black, and he had a strong jaw. Hermione almost felt the urge to roll her eyes. Was every wizard of the House of Black gorgeous? Didn't they have at least one ugly duckling?
"Cygnus!" Orion cried joyfully and went to embrace his cousin. Then he practically dragged Cygnus over to Hermione. "This is our Keeper," he said in a reverent voice that made her blush once again.
"My Lady," Cygnus murmured and bowed just as deeply as Orion had done. "Thank you so much."
"You're welcome," Hermione murmured.
"Is anyone else coming?" Cygnus asked.
Hermione turned back to the Veil. "It's still glowing," she muttered.
All three wizards turned and scrutinized the Veil. It rippled one more time, and one more wizard stepped through. Although he was much younger-looking, and much healthier-looking than she remembered- his handsome face was still instantly familiar.
"Sirius!" Hermione cried in relief.
Sirius stared at her in surprise. "Hermione?"
"Are you familiar with our Keeper, Sirius?" Cygnus asked with a frown.
"Our Keeper?" Sirius echoed. He blinked and then looked at Hermione who was biting her lip and staring up at him with those cinnamon brown eyes.
"I guess you were wrong." She informed him quietly.
"I was wrong?" Sirius echoed again.
Hermione shifted slightly on her feet. "You said I wasn't your Keeper." She reminded him softly.
"You did what?" Orion demanded in a horrified voice.
"It's a long story," Sirius muttered and dull flush rose in his cheeks.
"Which you will explain," Orion retorted.
"We should probably leave soon," Hermione murmured with a worried glance at the Veil. It had stopped glowing, which she assumed meant that there were no more wizards left to come through. Arawn frightened her, and she wasn't willing to push him.
"Of course, my Lady," Regulus agreed. He turned to Kreacher. "Can you take all of us at once?"
Kreacher nodded exuberantly. "Kreacher can take all of you," he stated confidently.
"The library please, Kreacher," Hermione suggested.
They all held hands and Kreacher Apparated them with a crack. The four wizards glanced around with curiously and then turned back to Hermione.
"What now, my Lady?" Orion asked.
"Well, ultimately we will restore your House," Hermione replied. She frowned, and bit her lip. "How do we do that?"
"Food and then sleep," Sirius suggested.
"Kreacher?" Hermione turned in a circle looking for the House Elf. He was standing near Regulus looking up at him with adoring eyes. Hermione smiled fondly. "Kreacher?"
"Yes Keeper?" Kreacher reluctantly pulled himself away from Regulus' side.
"I believe our wizards are hungry. Do you think that you can whip something up in the kitchen?" She asked gently.
Kreacher nodded eagerly. "Kreacher will make an early breakfast for the young Masters."
Hermione blinked at that, but Kreacher was right. She hadn't really paid attention when she Called them through the Veil because she was still disoriented from her sacrifice. They were all very young looking. She knew that Regulus had died when he was only 19 years old so she imagined he looked as he had at his death. Orion, Cygnus, and Sirius had been much older and they all appeared to be just a couple years older than Regulus and herself. It might be part of restoring the House. Hermione supposed that it would be more helpful to have young wizards redeem their family's honour, especially if it took years to do so.
Once Kreacher had a meal ready he popped back in the library to alert them. Regulus watched their Keeper smile kindly at Kreacher and he felt warmth spread through his chest. Sirius had called her Hermione, and Regulus thought that it suited her. Regulus offered her his arm and she blushed furiously, but she slipped her arm through his. His father and Cousin Cygnus nodded approvingly, and Regulus knew that there was a ridiculous smile on his lips as he led their Keeper to the kitchen. He had just met her, and he already liked her.
"Why did you assume we had no Keeper?" Orion demanded partway through their meal.
Sirius sighed. "At that point, Father, I had given up all hope." He leaned forward and looked down the table at their Keeper. "I'm sorry Hermione."
Their Keeper was immediately shaking her head. "No, Sirius. Anyone who went through what you went through would have suffered from doubts."
"What do you mean?" Orion asked. Worry for his son was evident in his face and his tone.
Hermione turned toward Orion and bit her lip. She glanced at Sirius and then stared at her plate, obviously reluctant to speak of it whatever it was. A sense of uneasiness spread through Regulus. What had happened to his brother after his death that upset their Keeper so much?
"It's a long story Father." Sirius sighed and rubbed a hand over his face.
"James and Lily Potter were murdered," Cygnus spoke up. He glanced down the table at his nephew. "Sirius was charged with the murder and thrown in Azkaban."
Regulus stared at his brother. "No," he protested. Regulus knew how much Sirius had loved Potter. He had burned with jealousy for years because Potter had taken his place as Sirius' brother. It just wasn't possible. Sirius would die first before he would let anything happen to Potter.
"Of course he didn't!" Their Keeper snapped. Righteous indignation shone in her eyes. Her lips twisted with distaste. "It was Pettigrew."
"Tell me he died," Sirius demanded.
Their Keeper paled. "He did," she whispered.
An awkward silence stretched between them until they heard the sound of the Floo activating. Then there was a loud crashing noise, and their Keeper sighed and rolled her eyes heavenwards.
Suddenly, Regulus heard his mother screaming at the top of her lungs. "Stains of dishonour, filthy half-breeds, blood traitors, children of filth!"
"Mother?" Regulus sputtered.
Orion turned to their Keeper with an expression of absolute horror. "Walburga is still alive?"
"Not exactly," she muttered.
There was another loud crash. Their Keeper rose with a sigh and moved toward the hall. All of them stood automatically when she did and they followed her out into the hall. A slender witch was wrestling with an umbrella stand that caught on her robes and cursing under her breath. There was a portrait of Mother on the wall, and it was from there that all of the screaming issued. As soon as Mother's portrait caught sight of Hermione her eyes widened and she began to froth at the mouth.
"Mudblood scum!" She shrieked. "How dare you defile the house of my fathers!"
Out of the corner of his eye, Regulus saw his father's face grow purple in rage. He could feel a similar rage rising in his own chest. That anyone would insult their Keeper infuriated him—that it was a member of his House made it ten times worse. Father reached into his robes for his wand and fired several hexes at her portrait. She began to screech in rage, but one of his hexes did something and she was cut off mid-rant.
"Sorry about that Hermione," the witch apologized as she tugged at her robes. "You'll have to show me that hex it works better than anything else we've tried."
"Who are you?" Orion demanded. He was already upset that his late wife had insulted their Keeper, and now there were strange people Flooing in at all hours of the day and night. He had warded this house with every safety measure he could think of—how was it that unknown witches could still get in?
The strange witch froze and stared at all of them. Her eyes widened and her mouth fell open in surprise. She turned to their Keeper and gestured at them mutely. "You," she finally managed to get out. She swallowed and tried again. "You did it?"
Their Keeper blushed and nodded.
"How have you been, Dora?" Sirius asked with a grin.
"Sirius!" The witch seemed happy to see him and she hurried to hug him.
Regulus frowned at the familiarity of the strange witch. Sirius belonged to their Keeper now just as the rest of them did. He turned to their Keeper, but she was smiling widely at the scene in front of her. Orion and Cygnus appeared to be just as confused as he was.
"Oh!" The strange witch exclaimed. "I'd better go get Mother. She'll never forgive me if I don't."
"You might as well bring everyone," their Keeper told the witch.
"I'll be right back," she said with a nod and ducked back into the Floo.
"Hermione? What's all the noise… Sirius?" A slender-looking man stood on the stairs wearing only a pair of Muggle sleeping pants. Regulus would recognize that wild black hair anywhere. The man raced down the stairs and flung himself at Regulus' brother.
"Harry," Sirius choked out and he was hugging the man back.
Regulus frowned at Sirius and then turned to their Keeper. He realized that Orion and Cygnus had done the same thing and all three of them were now scowling at their Keeper.
"Harry is Sirius' godson," she told them quietly. The three wizards nodded. That made sense to them. Harry's strong physical resemblance to the Potter scion was lost on none of them. She smiled then. "That's how Andromeda and Tonks figured out that I was your Keeper."
Sirius was shaking his head, one arm around Harry's shoulders. "I was an idiot, Hermione. I should have realized."
Hermione shrugged. "I had no idea until after you had passed through the Veil."
The Floo activated again and several people came through in rapid succession. Cygnus, Orion, and Regulus automatically moved closer to their Keeper and ranged themselves around her protectively.
Cygnus started slightly and then looked at the group of people who had come through the Floo. "Andromeda? Narcissa?"
The two sisters hugged their father exuberantly and he hugged them back. Andromeda introduced the witch from earlier as her daughter, Dora. Then Dora introduced her husband and son.
"Husband?" Sirius appeared stunned. "Moony you married Dora?"
The husband blushed a dark red. "Are you mad?" He asked quietly.
Regulus frowned. The husband looked familiar, but he couldn't quite place him.
"No, just surprised," Sirius admitted.
The rest of the morning quickly devolved into loud, boisterous chatter as Sirius spoke with Harry, Dora, and her husband. Cygnus was trying to listen to both of his daughters patiently while they tried to catch him up on everything that had happened since his death. Orion had sidled next to Cygnus and was listening intently as Narcissa began to explain some law that the Wizengamot had passed. Regulus moved to stand near their Keeper. She was watching everything with a small smile, but she wasn't a part of either group.
"Are you all right, my Lady?" He asked.
She nodded. "Oh yes. They all seem very happy, don't they?"
"All because of you, my Lady," he reminded her.
She looked up at him then, and blushed again. "Thank you," she murmured.
"Shall we sit?" He asked.
A quick glance around the room brought a small frown to her lips. "It's a bit crowded. I suppose I could transfigure that wingback into a settee."
Regulus quashed the urge to offer his lap as a resting place. He had a feeling that their Keeper wasn't ready for those sorts of flirtations… yet.