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ANNOUNCEMENT: June 11, 2021
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Hearth and Home
"There's only one place West of the Isle of Cedars."
I stabbed the meat with my fork, pushing the words to the furthest corner of my mind.
It was a futile gesture, I'd already realized quite a while before; no matter what I did or tried, the thought of Hestia would return to the forefront of my mind.
How was she? What was she doing? Was she hurting?
All alone in this cruel and backwards world… I stifled the sigh threatening to break out my chest and pushed it down with great difficulty.
Now was not the time to whine and complain. I had a mission to do, but how would I go about it?
"— Harry." Came Daenerys' voice, breaking me out of my reverie. "Are you all right? You haven't said a word for the last five minutes."
I blinked. Had it already been that long? I set the silverware on the plate and finally let a weak sigh out.
Daenerys' violet eyes, drawn by the motion, finally noticed my full plate. Concern began to color her features as she leaned forward. "You've hardly even touched your food. Are you not well? Perhaps we can do this some other time, if you are too weary..."
"No, no." I said a little quickly.
Too quickly, I realized, for the statement only seemed to fan the flames of her concern. Daenerys got off of her chair and made her way around the table to stand by me.
My eyes roamed up to meet hers, taking in her simple, but elegant, blue silken dress on the way there.
She is so beautiful. I smiled, though the next thought killed it quickly. I have to tell her.
She leaned forward and pressed her hand against my forehead, checking my temperature and inadvertently giving me quite a show.
"I'm fine." I said, shifting away in my chair and taking her hands into my own. "There's just.."
"What?" She asked, her eyes meeting my own again.
A moment passed before she turned to Ser Barristan, giving him orders without saying a word.
He left the room, the aged warrior's expression one of disgruntled, but fond amusement.
Perhaps he approves of our relationship? I thought before turning my attention to the woman bent over me.
She pulled up one of the table chairs and sat by my side.
"Whatever it is you wish to tell me." Daenerys said, her voice both concerned and wary. "You can."
I opened my mouth and closed it, still not sure.
If Balthazar were here, he'd probably have just told me to spit it out, already.
"Much as I would hate to admit it, the overgrown garden snake would be right about this." Erebus whispered into my mind. "Just get it over with."
I nodded and braced myself for this conversation. I needed to be calm and collected, to give her the news in the nicest way possible, so she wouldn't take it badly.
"I'm leaving Meereen."
So of course, I ended up saying it in the worst way imaginable.
Even as I cringed on the inside, I saw Daenerys' face shift from shock, to sadness and then quickly to her queenly, frosty expression.
"Is that so?"
Oh, bloody hell. That didn't come out right, at all.
"I said inform her of your intentions, not spit in her face, you idiot." Erebus seemed fairly exasperated. "It seems you've somehow channeled the snake's stupidity without it even being here! Well done."
Sod off, Erebus.
"Oh, no, no." I quickly said, my hands waving frantically. "That didn't come out right."
"Too right." Daenerys maintained her frosty look. "It did not."
"I'm serious, it's not like how it sounds!" I tried to defend myself.
"And how is it supposed to sound like?" Daenerys said, not giving an inch.
She really wasn't making this easy, I thought with no small amount of frustration.
"There have been sightings of Hestia." I finally said, running my hand roughly through my hair.
The woman's eyes went wide as she leaned back in her chair.
"Oh." Was all Daenerys said before collecting herself. "I see."
"Yeah." I deflated. "I was told by one of my scouts just before coming here."
Daenerys nodded, taking the time to absorb the information. "Where was she seen?"
I sucked in a breath, wondering how she would react to my answer.
"Around the Isle of Cedars." I said, watching her straighten in her chair again. "The scout said she was headed westward."
"Westward?" Her eyes went even wider. "You mean…?"
"But, Valyria— it's not—" Daenerys said quickly, her voice a mixture of fear and excitement.
She began to fill a nearby goblet with sweetwine.
"I know." I said, shaking my head at her offering to pour me some. "That's why I have to leave. There's no telling what could happen to her if she stays there for too long."
"Valyria is the home of dragons." Daenerys said, having found her voice after a few sips. "Perhaps that is why she went there."
I nodded, fully in agreement.
"Likely the case. But, it doesn't change the fact that the place is likely a hellscape, from whatever it was the old Dragonlords did to cause the Doom." I said.
At the mention of her ancestors, Daenerys stilled and went into a thoughtful silence.
For a moment, I wished that I hadn't gotten rid of the Keeper. His information on the Doom would have been invaluable.
"He would have betrayed us at the first opportunity." Erebus thought to me.
Birds of a feather, eh? I gave an inarticulate grunt. I don't like the implication behind your statement.
"We do not know how the creatures of this world can function." Erebus said. "In our world, conquering another demon gives you the right to wield its power and gain its obedience. Here, on the other hand…"
I nodded in understanding. I was delving into uncharted territory. Absorbing the Keeper's power into Balthazar was most likely the best scenario I could have hoped for, given the circumstances.
For all I knew, I could have had my very identity subsumed by the creatures here— however unlikely that situation might have been.
"Just so." Erebus said. "With their heightened psychic abilities, it's not too much of a stretch of logic to assume this much."
Euron had taught me never to underestimate the wizards of this world again. They were determined and had absolutely no issue sacrificing as many people as they needed to build their powers up.
Just how many people had Euron killed? How many had the Red Priests killed in the name of their Red God?
How many wildlings and Night's Watchmen had the ice demons killed, North of the Wall?
"Harry." Daenerys' voice brought me back to reality. "How can you be sure of this information?"
I blinked, not having expected the question. "What?"
Daenerys began to repeat her question but I waved it away.
"I heard what you said, Daenerys." I said. "Do you think my own scout's lying to me?"
Daenerys shook her head. "No, I do not doubt the veracity of your scout's claim."
I took a deep breath, slowly realizing where she was going with this. "But it might no longer be true."
"Yes." Daenerys said, her face apologetic. "Hestia could have shifted in direction, changed her course."
"... Erebus?" I said, looking down at the sheathed falchion by my chair.
"It's certainly possible." Erebus said. "But I don't think that is the case."
"How do you mean?" Daenerys asked, her face twisting into a sheepish look. "I'm not quite sure how to address you… Lord Erebus?"
"The Emperor of Darkness. The Darkbringer. Lord of the Dark Realm." Erebus said. "But just Erebus will do, thank you, Queen Daenerys Targaryen."
"Then Daenerys will do for me, as well." The woman replied, her violet eyes glittering with happiness.
"I like this one." Erebus said, much to the woman's delight. "Now, if we could simply get rid of the meddlesome snake—"
"Balthazar stays." I said, stifling the urge to roll my eyes.
I was about to open my mouth to continue, but was interrupted by Daenerys' laughter— it could barely be called that, muffled as it was by her attempting to keep it quiet.
Unbidden, my own laughter burst forth from my chest and joined hers; but it didn't feel good.
The weight on my shoulders continued to increase with every laugh, every shake of shoulders, until they visibly sagged in a sudden wave of exhaustion.
"I…" I breathed, feeling drained. I stared at my hands, which were trembling. Had they been shaking this entire time?
Daenerys gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. My eyes turned to her, searching her face, and only found understanding and concern being projected back to me.
Once again, my world was filled with silver. Daenerys pressed into me, sitting on my lap and wrapping her arms around me in a gentle embrace.
"It's all right, Harry." Daenerys said in a low, soft tone, and I felt her fingers softly rubbing the back of my head. "I understand."
"You…" I looked up at her, eyes slowly widening. "What do you.."
"I understand, Harry." And for a moment, Daenerys' eyes shone with an unfathomable sadness, threatening to swallow me with its sheer depth and intensity.
"Daenerys…" I said, not knowing what else to say.
"You don't have to say anything, Harry." Daenerys said, gently rubbing the side of my face. "I can see it, clear as pure water. I have seen it in myself. Many times, in fact."
I swallowed down the sudden lump in my throat.
"There is nothing worse in this world than losing your family. Your sun and stars." Daenerys continued, her fingers gently stroking the back of my head, breaking through the walls I'd built around myself. "I, too, have lost. I understand."
I just kept staring at her for a few more moments.
"You do, don't you?" I said, looking at her as if seeing her for the very first time.
Sure, I'd known she'd been married in the not-so-distant past, but I had never truly thought about it.
This was the true face of Daenerys Targaryen; a beautiful soul whose inner kindness was marred and mutilated by this shit heap of a world.
Twisted and ground down by forces outside of our own understanding, she and I were the same; handed burdens we didn't want, in order to save a world that didn't give two shits about us.
Almost unconsciously, I tightened my hold around her. Whether she noticed it or not, she didn't comment on it.
"It's all right." She said again, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "Harry."
And just like that, my carefully created façade broke along with the dam I had built around my emotions.
"I lost her." I pressed my face into the woman's shoulder. "I lost Hestia— I just let it happen. I couldn't stop it. I couldn't do anything—"
I saw Cedric's corpse in my mind's eye, lying dead in that damned graveyard— maybe Hestia was also dead now, in Valyria.
"It's all right, Harry." Daenerys continued to soothe me. "Let it out."
"He took her from me." I bit out, anger overwhelming my sadness. "He tortured her and I couldn't stop him, because I'm weak. I can't—"
Daenerys raised my head and looked at me with her intense gaze.
"Harry Potter." She said, her voice even, though the flame in her violet eyes was wild and vibrant. "You are not weak. We have gone into battle together, against superior numbers, and terrible odds— and we have won the day. I shall be your stalwart ally in this— as you have been mine."
"You don't know what you're talking about." I said weakly. "You don't know what he can do, what he did to me…"
"T'is true. I have not faced this man." Daenerys admitted with a nod. "But I do know this: he was not able to end you."
Her words slammed into me with the fury of a horse kick to the forehead.
"So long as you live to see another day, you cannot give up. If you do, then he will have truly won the day." Daenerys said. "So, I urge you, Harry Potter. Do not speak of yourself in this way, ever again. Your Queen commands it."
Despite the situation, I found myself smiling wryly. "My Queen commands it?"
She said nothing, only nodding in reply.
"What does that make me, then?" I said, not caring of how it may have sounded. "Your King? Because I most certainly don't see myself kneeling and bowing to—"
That was all I managed to say as Daenerys furiously pressed her lips against my own.
I let out a cry of shock, but that barely lasted a moment before I returned the kiss with equal fervor and passion, watching, in my mind's eye, as her red, fiery energy intermingled with my erratic, writhing blue.
Half a minute later, we broke apart to regain our breaths.
"Does that answer your question?" Daenerys said, her intense eyes still trained onto mine.
"...I guess it does." I said, before taking a satisfying, deep breath. "Thank you, Daenerys. I needed that."
"Dany." She said, smiling. "Call me Dany when we're alone."
"All right." I said, returning the expression. "Dany, then."
"If you two are quite done?" Erebus entered the conversation, sounding very irritated.
Daenerys bounced as she started, but luckily did not fall off of me and onto the stone floor.
The next few moments were spent with the both of us getting ahold of ourselves.
Daenerys made no move to get off of my lap. It was just as well— I didn't want her to leave.
"Sorry, Erebus." I said. "I really needed that. I hadn't realized how tense I've been, all this time."
"You humans continue to mystify me." Erebus said, clattering in his sheath by the table. "One moment, you display incredible strength and capacity to adapt to your surroundings, and the next, you succumb to your emotions like unstable hatchlings."
I frowned at his words.
"Such is our nature, Erebus." Daenerys said before I could, raising her hand and igniting a flame in it with a gesture, doing her best to keep it steady and to make it give off a smooth, comfortable heat.
"It is like the fire you see. It can be slow, strong and steady." Daenerys said and let go of her magic, watching the air above her blaze for a few moments before the flame dissipated into nothing. "Or it can be wild, ferocious, and short lived."
"There is fire in humans." Erebus seemed to agree. "Perhaps it needs to be nurtured from time to time to allow its host to function. Very well. I grasp your meaning."
"I thank you for your understanding." Daenerys smiled.
A moment passed before I began to face reality once again.
"You're right, Daener— Dany." I said, seeing her smile at the method of address. "It could be that Hestia changed course. And, even if she did land on Valyria, it's quite the large landmass, despite all of the destruction."
"All correct." Erebus said. "And you cannot use your locator magic."
I nodded, my mind trying to sort through this issue. "I can't locate her with magic. I think I might have to look for her the old fashioned way: with my eyes and ears."
I winced, even as I said it. That sort of search would take me quite a while— weeks, if I was lucky and in an ideal environment.
Valyria was nowhere near ideal. Active volcanoes, sulfur and other toxic gases in the air, as well as the water— and those were the things observed on the mere outskirts of the territory.
Who knew what horrors lurked from within? This was the same society who'd ushered in its own apocalypse. These were the same people who'd created the god damned horn.
"I may know of a way to find her."
I turned to Daenerys, the hopeful look on her face almost melting my heart once more.
"Truly? Tell me." I said.
"I'll show you." She said.
"So, where are we going?" I finally asked, after a minute and a half of walking up stairs.
"You'll see." Came Daenerys' terse reply.
Behind me, Barristan made his way up the stairs, his armor clinging and clanging with every step.
"The armor must be hell on your knees and back, Ser Barristan." I said.
"Oh, yes." The old man smiled, his eyes crinkling with amusement. "Though I am quite used to it. The life of a Kingsguard— or a Queensguard, in my case, is seldom a relaxing one."
I nodded, accepting his explanation.
Only around a few dozen minutes had passed since I'd attended lunch with Daenerys, I thought as I continued to walk up the stairs, taking the occasional nibble out of the grapes that the girl had essentially forced into my hand.
I stared at her from behind, trying to understand just what it was that made her tick.
Whenever I thought I was finally getting a feel for her, Daenerys went and did something strange and new.
It was quite refreshing, all things considered.
Even Jon, bless his soul, had been painfully simple to figure out— his sole wish in life was to be accepted and loved by his own family. Not that there was anything wrong with being simple to figure out, I reasoned, thinking of Ron.
Down to earth, easy to understand. I thought, still staring at her. But she's also mysterious and queenly. I don't know what to make of her.
"Here we are." Daenerys said as we all reached the top of the stairs, where a pair of Unsullied were waiting.
With a nod of greeting and respect, the two guards opened the doors, allowing us passage.
I felt a gust of air blast against my face, sighing in relief as I began to feel refreshed by it. The walk up here had been quite the annoying one, after all.
Judging by Ser Barristan's straightening posture, I figured he'd enjoyed the breeze as well.
Without a word, Daenerys led us into the large chamber, towards the center, upon which a stone table rose from the ground, empty. The rest of the great chamber was equally as empty, save a set of shelves kept in the right corner, stocked with various implements which I was not able to identify from this distance.
"What is this place?" I said, feeling a little confused.
"Pardon the curiosity, Your Grace." Barristan said. "But I find myself as curious as young Lord Potter."
"All will be revealed." Daenerys gave a cryptic reply as she headed to the right corner, ascending the stool to retrieve something off of the top shelf.
As she placed it on the center table, I began to realize what it was.
"I believe I understand, now." Barristan said, turning to give his Queen a look of curiosity mixed in with anticipation. "Have you divined its secrets, then, Your Grace?"
"I have not." Daenerys sent an apologetic smile his way. "I have not been able to find the time to try. I suppose now is as good a chance as any to see with my own eyes."
I took the object in my hand and admired its craftsmanship. "Valyrian mages really knew their stuff, huh?"
Whatever my thoughts were on the Dragonbinder, even I could not help but admire the sheer genius and intellect behind the rune matrices covering its surface.
The object in my hand was no less impressive.
Set on the center of an unblemished surface of pure gold, the chiseled obsidian candle lured me in with its smooth, cylindrical spiral shape.
A true work of art and magic.
"I wasn't aware there were any glass candles here." I said, placing the obsidian candle back on the table. "At least, not after my encounter with the Red Priests."
Daenerys frowned at the mention of the day of our meeting, likely remembering the unpleasantness involved, but replied regardless. "I believe these were old relics from the age when Meereen was a part of the Freehold. After the Doom, and then the last dragon's death, I doubt anyone considered trying to use them in any meaningful way."
"The Masters in Oldtown have always said that magic is dead in all the lands." Ser Barristan said, though he frowned. "I'd believed them— at least, until recently."
I stared down at the candle in question, feeling for the energy around it. "I see."
"Harry?" Daenerys said, sending me a curious look. "What do you mean?"
"Can't you feel it?" I asked, gesturing at the candle.
"Feel what?" She focused her attention back onto the candle, scrunching her eyes.
A few seconds of futile concentration later, she shook her head. "I see nothing."
"I'm not surprised." I said, holding my closed right hand up, with only my index extended. "You're still learning how to channel your magic."
Daenerys nodded, watching as the tip of my finger lit up with the telltale light blue of my magic. Ser Barristan moved to stand by the girl to get a better look.
"And possibly to take the hit, in case you decide to attack the girl." Erebus whispered in my mind. "Paranoid man, isn't he?"
I don't blame him. I thought back, directing my finger towards the dragonglass candle. "Watch."
The spark gained a wispy, ethereal quality as it floated off of my finger and moved towards the glass candle of its own volition. Daenerys and Barristan watched as the spark entered the candle.
The end of the candle sparked blue, filling the draughty room with its powerful light.
I smiled at their surprised looks. "I see why there are no torch sconces here."
"You…" Daenerys said, surprised beyond belief. "How were you able to light the candle with nary a thought?"
I stared at the spark for a moment longer before I turned to her, releasing my power from the candle and plunging us all back into relative darkness. "I've had a lot of sensing practice, as well as practice using my magic. Though… I don't think it worked as intended— perhaps my magic is not compatible."
"No matter. You should be able to do it, too, Daenerys. Give it a try."
Daenerys frowned, not believing a word, but she raised her hand regardless.
"Just remember." I said. "A very light touch, you're not trying to break it, but simply to commune with it."
Daenerys closed her eyes and nodded, before extending her hand, palm facing the ceiling.
With some concentration, she summoned her flame, opening her eyes to gaze upon it.
Her violet eyes glinted under the firelight as she attempted to get a hold of her own energy.
"It's much more difficult than I thought it would be." Daenerys said, her voice strained with exertion. "The fire within— it does not wish to weaken."
I frowned, remembering my times with Jon. He'd had to deal with the same issues. "Don't fight the fire. It's not your enemy."
"Don't fight it?" Daenerys looked at me like I'd grown a second head. "It is wild, unruly! You have seen its effects, firsthand!"
I nodded. "Yes, you were quite effective with wielding it on the battlefield. Just do that."
"I don't wish…" Daenerys trailed off before gathering herself. "I don't wish to harm those who are near me."
"Your Grace…" Barristan tried but went silent when she pinned him with her gaze.
I wasn't so easily cowed. "This is about the first time you used your power, isn't it?"
Daenerys turned to me as if she'd been struck.
"That wasn't your fault." I said quickly, pre-empting whatever explanation she'd been preparing. "You were dealing with forces outside of your understanding."
"That doesn't excuse what I've done— that poor man. He was loyal to me, and I repaid him with fire and injury." Daenerys said, her voice tinged with pain and regret.
"You're right. It doesn't erase what happened." I said, shocking her again. "I've made my fair share of mistakes when I was first controlling my powers, too."
I'd become so drunk on power that I let it get to my head. I wondered if Professor McGonagall would ever forgive me for being such a foolish child— if I would ever see her or anyone from home again, that is.
"You'll end up hurting more people if you don't learn to master yourself." I continued. "Magic is wondrous, beautiful, but also terrible. Our own is no different."
Daenerys closed her eyes, warring with herself for quite a while before she opened them again.
"What must I do?" Daenerys asked, eyes shining with determination.
I smiled. "Lift the candle with your hand."
Daenerys blinked and did as I asked.
"Now, set it down."
Daenerys put it back down, the base hitting the table with the sound of metal scratching against stone.
At her quizzical look, I began to explain. "When you took the candle, did you think about reaching your arm forward, wrapping your fingers around the candle and closing your hand?"
"What?" Daenerys got an incredulous look over her face. "No, of course not."
"Exactly. That's exactly my point." I said with a nod. "You don't think about it, you just do it. Your body responds to your will without any further prompting."
"I see." Daenerys said, her eyes shifting as she processed the information, before widening in realization. "I must treat the fire as if it is the same as my body?"
I shook my head. "Almost. You and the fire— you're one and the same. You are flesh, and you are fire. Do you understand?"
"Dragons are fire made flesh." Daenerys nodded as she quoted a line from a book I'd read on dragons. She turned towards the glass candle and extended her hand, eyes closed in determination.
A full minute passed, and I was ready to call it quits when a small, red ember flew into the candle. Almost instantly, the obsidian's tip lit up with a bright red flame.
Daenerys staggered forward, leaning onto the stone table and placing her hands on either side of the glass candle.
"Your Grace!" Cried Ser Barristan.
"I can see!" Daenerys' voice took on a strange quality. "There's so much, I cannot focus."
"What do you see?" Barristan asked, and it was a testament to the seriousness of the situation that he'd not referred to her by her title.
"The earth below, the heavens above, the dark blue sea…" Daenerys continued to speak, struggling to concentrate. "So beautiful, so vast— endless, even!"
She turned to me, her eyes replaced with a shade of red that reminded me of Voldemort. "And I see you, as you are, Harry Potter. Your soul shines with light and dark. How strange, for how can blackness shine…?"
"Daenerys." I said calmly, ignoring the chill that ran up my spine. "Hestia. Can you find her? Please."
"Hestia." Daenerys repeated, as if it was the first time she'd heard the name. "The Greek Goddess of the Hearth. You have truly named her well, Harry Potter."
She'd known about Hestia's name, but how did she know its origin was Greek? My eyes fell down to the glass candle held between her hands. This thing was more powerful than I thought it was— a true tool of Divination.
Professor Trelawney was nothing compared to this.
"Hestia… yes. I see her." Daenerys smiled as she slowly gained control of herself, the red in her eyes gradually replaced by the violet. "I know where she is. Hidden in Valyria's final bastion, atop its highest broken tower."
She pinned me with a demanding gaze, even as she drew her hands away from the obsidian candle, her voice returning to normal. "And I'm going with you."
As the candle's flame winked out of existence and the room descended into darkness once again, I could only nod in response.
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