A/N: The 2016 Montlhy prompt had a Medieval!AU. Now, what most people think of, when they think of the Medieval period, is roughly the 12th-14th centuries; when knights and the peerage were a set system and there was jousting and whatnot. The Medieval period is from AD 476 (Sack of Rome) to AD 1453 (Sack of Constantinople).
This story is set (sort of) in the 8th century during the time of the Celtic kingdoms… except that I've made all Hogwart-y.
Things you should know about the Celts:
1) Their women fought alongside their men in battle.
2) Queens were expected to lead their people in war.
3) Yes, they really did make drinking goblets out of their enemies' skulls. (It was a form of sympathetic magic in that by taking their enemies skull, and drinking from it, it would be infused with their enemies' good qualities: strength, agility, determination, fierceness, etc. It would be something you would do to someone who was a worthy foe—someone you admired.)
4) The Dal Riada (in what is now Scotland) was made up of 3 kindreds. The Dal Hogwarts (in this story) is made up of 4 kindreds: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw. Each kindred has a totem animal (as you should all know) and claims what we would call their House Founder as their mythical progenitor. (But to be honest, that doesn't really feature in this small story.)
5) Among the Celts there were some tribes that were 'civilised' by the Romans, and some that still clung fiercely to their tribal customs. In this story, the Slytherins represent one of the more Romanised tribes and the Gryffindors are still very much Celtic.
Warnings: This is a teensy bit bloodthirsty, which reflects the time period. Also… Dramione because I couldn't help but use the 'Gryffindor Princess' and 'Prince of Slytherin' of the fandom. Because, seriously? A Medieval!AU without some princesses seemed wrong.
A hair-raising, ululating wail rose from the courtyard like the mist that hung over the ground that surrounded Caisteal Leomhann. Harry turned away from the view and looked over the walk way down on the training grounds. The morning sun glinted on the twin blades his sister held in her hands. Slowly, she began to move the swords, going through her drills until they were spinning with a deadly grace.
"Faster," snapped Minerva McGonagall. "Your form is sloppy today, banfhlath."
"I almost feel sorry for her," Neville murmured from his place at Harry's right hand.
"Aye, except that it's our turn tomorrow and she'll be just as brutal with us," Harry retorted.
"No, my liege, I meant Minerva. Banfhlath Hermione is like a daughter to her. Losing her skills on the battlefield will be a blow to Gryffindor," Neville explained, his eyes on the deadly dance that the princess was currently engaged in.
"It can't be helped, Neville," Harry sighed. "This feud with Slytherin is bleeding our coffers and taking more warriors than Gryffindor can afford to lose. A marriage between Hermione and the Slytherin prince can bring peace to both lands."
Neville snorted. "Sending our banfhlath into that viper's pit is a mistake, my liege. They'll drown her in court intrigue, and they'll hire assassins to remove her as a threat. The last thing they want is the son of a Gryffindor on their throne."
"Perhaps. Or perhaps this union will bring about a new alliance between our kingdoms," Harry replied. "She is beautiful, is she not? How can their prince help but fall in love with her?"
"She is that, my liege," Neville agreed.
Harry turned to him and smirked evilly. "She is also cunning, intelligent, and vicious when riled. The poor bastards won't know what hit them if they try to take her out."
The clang of sword striking sword drew their attention back to the training grounds. Hermione was standing over her opponent, one of her swords pressed against the girl's neck.
"Do you yield?" Hermione's voice drifted up to them.
"I yield, my lady," Ginevra panted. "I yield."
Hermione stepped back, removing her sword from Ginevra's throat.
"One hopes that Slytherin produces less than stellar assassins," Minerva snapped. "Otherwise our banfhlath will be dead within the week. You will practice with me for the rest of the week, Ginevra. I'll not let you go as part of her retinue if you can't protect her."
"Understood, Mistress," Ginevra said solemnly. She bowed deeply to Minerva.
"20 laps," Minerva growled. She eyed Ginevra with a gimlet glare
"Yes, Mistress," Ginevra replied.
"What have you discovered?" King Lucius demanded with a frown.
"The Gryffindor princess is said to be comely," Severus began. Lucius waved a hand at him to continue. "She is beloved of her people. Sending her to us was an extremely unpopular move, but the Gryffindor kindred are loyal to their King."
"That's all charming, Severus, to be sure, but what about the girl? What is she like?" Lucius asked drily. He nodded to his son. "Our prince would like to know what sort of woman he'll be taking to wife."
"Our spies say that she is a well-trained lady for all that she is a Gryffindor. She can run a castle, and has held it under siege while her brother was away fighting. She can read and write, plays the lute, can sing and dance, and is able to speak several different languages," Severus continued. He looked up and grimaced at his prince. "I am sorry, your highness. It was impossible to actually infiltrate Castle Lion. The Gryffindor kindred are leery of outsiders."
"That's to be expected," Prince Draco soothed Severus. "They were at war, after all."
"No doubt they can spot a Slytherin at 100 paces," Queen Narcissa observed coolly from her place next to her king.
Severus sighed. "Your highness is correct, to a point. Their stronghold is only staffed by actual members of the kindred, and they're a close-mouthed bunch."
"No rumours of insanity or promiscuity?" King Lucius asked.
"No, your highness. Not that we've heard, anyway," Severus amended.
"Very well, when does Princess Hermione arrive?" Lucius asked.
"Next week, your highness," Severus replied after consulting his scroll. "The wedding will take place on the summer solstice."
"Good," Queen Narcissa said with a nod. She turned to look at her son sternly. "Early wedded and often bedded," she reminded him.
A dull flush crept up Prince Draco neck. "Mother!"
"You need heirs, my prince," Queen Narcissa pointed out.
"I know my duty, Mother," Prince Draco muttered.
"Sit still, my lady," Lavender snapped. She pinched her banfhlath who shrieked and turned to glare up at her. "I need to finish your hair. Please, my lady."
"Have you seen him, Parvati?" Hermione asked curiously.
"I have, my lady," Parvati replied. "He is… pretty."
Hermione's nose wrinkled. "Pretty?"
"Aye, my lady. All of these Slytherin dress in silks and velvet. I've not seen a kilt among them, for all they belong to the Dal Hogwarts," Parvati explained.
"Not a decent pair of wool breeks, either," Ginevra added with a haughty sniff.
"Do they not ride horses?" Hermione asked in surprise.
"I believe they do, my lady," Parvati rushed to assure her. "It is just that they do it… differently."
"Like Slytherins," Ginevra muttered darkly.
Hermione rolled her eyes at her ladies-in-waiting. "You will all most likely end up marrying Slytherins. You understood that when you joined my retinue. This is our kingdom now. These are our people from this point on. We must… we must learn how to become like them."
Ginevra sighed heavily. "I know, my lady. It's just that they're so…"
"Slytherin?" Lavender asked with a smirk.
"Yes!" Ginevra exclaimed.
The Gryffindor princess, Hermione, came to him in a saffron-dyed linen shift, her arms covered in complex, swirling, interlaced designs painted on her skin with ochre. Her hair was a wild, curling nimbus that floated about her head almost of its own free will. There were flowers and beads worked into it so that it caught the sunlight every time she turned her head. Around her throat sat an elaborately carved torc made of red and yellow gold. He knew, from Severus' reports, that among her people the torc was a symbol of her royal birth and, to them, it would have declaimed her as a princess. She stood before him, proud and regal, and looked him straight in the eye.
"Draco of Slytherin," she said slowly.
The reports of Severus' spies had claimed that her eyes were 'brown'. Draco had to wonder if they were stupid or blind. Her eyes were not brown. They were like amber, or like that drink the Gryffindors favoured, Uisge beatha. They were like liquid fire or molten gold.
"Hermione of Gryffindor," He replied.
Beneath the solstice sun, they grasped one another's left forearms. Draco could feel the thick ochre paste slide underneath his fingers and he knew his hands would be stained red for days. He stared at their joined arms. The druid priestess wrapped a thick cord made up of Slytherin and Gryffindor's colors around them.
"I take you as my husband," she said clearly and distinctly. "Your people will be my people. Your enemies will be my enemies. Your allies will be my allies."
Draco carefully held the cup to her lips and helped her to drink.
"I take you as my wife," he replied, raising his voice so that everyone could hear him. "My people will be your people. My allies will by your allies. My enemies will be your enemies. Let every Slytherin know that you are my woman—chosen from among all women. Let every hand be raised to help you and every heart open to you."
Her hand was steady as she raised the cup to help him drink. When he kissed her she tasted like wine and herbs and something else. When she led him to dance around the bonfire, he followed, and when she led him back to the Kastell and their marriage bed, he followed as well.
"Hermione," he whispered against her soft skin. "My Hermione."
It was not easy, to be a Slytherin, but Hermione tried. She wore the silks and the velvets of their women. She learned to sit quietly and smile coyly and listen. She let them think her cowed by their wealth and culture. Her ladies followed her lead and Lady Lavender and Lady Parvati exceeded her by becoming sparkling jewels of the court. Still… there was always a certain level of reserve from the King and Queen, and their court. Some days, Draco's love was enough.
"I hate this," Ginevra huffed at her side. "They think that we're uncultured barbarians."
"We are," Hermione retorted. "I would cheerfully gut half the people in this room with my blades."
"They don't accept you," Ginevra continued almost under her breath. "You'll never truly be one of them."
Hermione shrugged. "As long as they bow to me as their Queen, I care not."
"You say that now because your prince is besotted with you," Ginevra grumbled.
"You complain only because my prince's clansman ignores you," Hermione countered with a smirk.
"What Sir Blaise does is none of my affair," Ginevra said haughtily.
"I see," Hermione murmured, the smirk still firmly in place.
"Bugger off," Ginevra growled.
Silence filled the court when the blood-soaked, filthy knight was practically carried before the King and Queen. He stumbled, almost falling to his knees, but he managed to hold himself up straight. He swept a deep bow.
"Your graces," he said in a raspy voice. "I bring news of Prince Draco."
"The prince?" The Queen's voice rose an octave.
"He has been taken captive," the knight admitted. "Along with Sir Blaise and Sir Theodore."
The King frowned at the messenger. "Are they alive?"
The Queen was only able to half-listen, fear for her son—her only child—bubbling up within her. She sought out her daughter-in-law who was listening to the messenger with an inscrutable expression.
"Do they want a ransom for him?" The princess demanded.
The messenger turned to look at her, and then turned back to the King. Lucius waved a hand at him impatiently.
"Answer our daughter's questions," he snapped.
Narcissa blinked in surprise. It was the first time that Lucius had publicly referred to the foreign princess as a member of the Slytherin royal family. The messenger turned back to Hermione who was now glaring at him with an expression that Narcissa had never seen on her daughter-in-law's face before.
"They have requested no ransom," the messenger admitted. He swallowed. "It is… we think that it is Lord Gregorius of Goyle and Lord Vincent of Crabbe. They have never… they do not accept…"
"Me," Princess Hermione said stiffly. "They do not accept me… so they have kidnapped their prince?"
"Where are they?" Lucius demanded.
Out of the corner of her eye, Narcissa saw the princess Hermione turn on her heel and leave the audience chamber. Her ladies-in-waiting trailed after her. Once the messenger was taken to rest, and the room was cleared, Narcissa rose to go and follow her daughter-in-law.
Fury raced in her veins. Stupid girl! How dare she disrespect Lucius and herself that way? Narcissa marched into Princess Hermione's rooms and froze. Lavender and Parvati were busy braiding Hermione's hair into some kind of elaborate display. The princess was dressed in leather breeks and a leather jerkin and her lady Ginevra was buckling something to the princess' chest.
"What are you doing?" Narcissa asked once she found her voice.
Hermione turned to glare at her. "I'm going to get my husband."
Narcissa blinked and then nodded. "Do you need anything from me?"
"Some horses," Hermione said at last.
"It will be done," Narcissa replied.
"Something is happening," Sir Theodore whispered, shaking Prince Draco and Sir Blaise awake.
"Can you hear anything?" Draco asked.
"I think so," he replied. "Look there."
Carefully, Draco got to his feet. It was difficult, since his hands were tied behind his back, but he managed anyway. Sir Theodore and Sir Blaise both leaned against one another as they struggled to their feet. Draco's wrists had gone numb, but moving like this had jarred his hands and he frowned at the pins and needles sensation. Once he was free, he was going to kill Goyle.
The three men tried to peer at the riders that were coming closer to the Goyle's camp. In front, was his Hermione dressed as a banfhlath of Gryffindor. He could see her torc, gleaming in the sun, resting on her collarbone as she rode. The slowed as they neared the camp and Hermione's horse shook its head and pawed at the ground.
"Goyle!" She bellowed, cupping her hands around her mouth to amplify her speech.
The small group made up of knights of Slytherin shuffled around and finally Sir Gregory came to the fore. He sneered at Princess Hermione in her war regalia. Then he executed a mocking, disrespectful bow.
"How can I serve your highness?" He asked.
"You will give me my husband, or I will drink your blood from your skull," Hermione snarled. She reined her horse in as it stamped its feet.
"Are we really expected to believe that you are a threat?" Sir Gregory scoffed. "You're a simple barbarian that had to be taught how to use a fork. You're no match for a knight of Slytherin!"
Hermione tossed her hair, sending her braids over her shoulder. Her smile was feral and vicious.
"You think not, Sir Gregory?" She asked. She glanced at her companions, whom Draco recognized as her ladies-in-waiting, and tilted her head. "What say you, my ladies?"
"I think he doesn't deserve to have his skull made into a goblet," Lady Ginevra growled. She pulled a javelin from the large quiver strapped to her horse's saddle.
"Well, Sir Gregory? Will you give me my husband, or must I take him from you?" Princess Hermione demanded.
"What a Queen she will make," Sir Theodore whispered in awe. Prince Draco and Sir Blaise nodded silently their eyes fixed on Hermione.
"You may try, your highness," Sir Gregory told her and bowed again mockingly.
Lady Ginevra's javelin went straight through the armour of the knight standing next to Sir Gregory and lodged in his chest. He fell to his knees and blood bubbled up between his lips. Lady Lavender and Lady Parvati also pulled out javelins and flung them with deadly accuracy.
With a glance to her ladies, Princess Hermione dismounted with ease and tossed her reins to Lady Ginevra. She unsheathed the twin blades that were strapped to her back and advanced on Sir Gregory.
"Did you know your wife was skilled with a blade?" Sir Blaise asked.
"No, I… she never said," Prince Draco muttered.
"I would bet it's because the court kept complaining about how she wasn't very lady-like," Sir Theodore offered.
It was true, the prince supposed, that his royal wife was not overly lady-like, but that had never bothered him as much as it had the court. The twin blades in her hands begin to spin in deadly rotations and she stalked around Sir Gregory with that cold, feral smile on her face. He should probably be frightened or horrified, but Draco felt instead a surge of pride and affection.
Unlike the rest of his court, his Hermione had come to rescue him, and she was apparently willing to slaughter anyone who tried to stand in her way. He found himself feeling grateful to the stupid feud that had brought her to him and made her his princess.
Just then, one of the blades moved through the air in a whistling arc, severed Sir Gregory's head, and sent it flying to land right at Draco's feet. Princess Hermione had kicked Sir Gregory's body away from her, but she still had a fine spray of blood on her face and her hair.
"Do you stand with Sir Gregory or with your prince?" Hermione demanded. She grabbed the edge of Sir Gregory's cloak and used it to clean her blades.
Every last knight knelt and bowed their heads to Draco. He turned to his princess and raised one white-blond brow. She grinned at him then, a true smile rather than the grim, battle-rictus she had worn earlier.
"It is up to you, my lord husband. Mercy or the sword?" She asked.
Draco frowned and looked at the small group of knights that had followed Gregory. It could just as easily happen again, and Hermione might not be able to ride off and rescue him as she had done today. He needed to make a statement—to make sure that no one ever tried to usurp his position or threaten his family again. Draco wasn't stupid. He knew that this had been a ploy to bring his father to heel. He turned to face his wife.
"Kill them all," he told her.
"As my prince wills," Hermione replied.
"Mother says you didn't even ask permission from Father," Draco protested when they had both been washed and fed, and had presented themselves at court. "You just left."
"I wasn't certain if anyone in court was a friend of Sir Gregory," Hermione replied. She paused and eyed her husband gravely. "Up to and including your father."
"So you just took off to save me all by yourself," Draco sputtered.
"I took my ladies," Hermione said with a shrug. She frowned at him. "You are mine. None shall take you from me without a reckoning."
Draco stared at her for a moment, considering her words. "It is the same for me," he admitted. "Would anyone take you they would rue the day for the rest of their lives, which would be exceedingly short."
Hermione smiled smugly at him. "Come to bed husband and let me see to your wounds."
"I don't really have any wounds," Draco protested.
"Come to bed anyway." Hermione looked at him over her shoulder.
"Perhaps it would be best if you checked," Draco decided. "It is better to be cautious."