The Flower of Death
Here's a Halloween gift to all my readers for the long time since my last section got published. I'm not entirely sure where I'd go with this one, it was written years ago :) but I kept coming back to it to tweak it and work more on it, but I never got that far into the story. Maybe one day I will return and flesh it out more.
8th December 1979
Voldemort surveyed the ruined structure of his meeting place before he focused upon the fiery warrior standing before him, barely touched by the battle and still breathing easily. His inner circle, his most trusted, his strongest, his elite, were scattered around the ravaged garden like children before a storm, bloody and scorched. Only Bellatrix remained between the warrior and himself. He wondered who would win between them, perhaps another day he could find that out.
Voldemort stepped forward without fear as he nodded in approval at his surroundings, "I concede your point, you are indeed more skilled than them. Very well, I shall accept your terms. Kneel before me." He motioned towards the last standing member of his Inner Circle, "Bellatrix, you will be our bonder."
Grasping the wrist of the supplicant, he turned it to show the pale and unmarked flesh awaiting his heraldry. His mind ran with gleeful joy at the images of the pain and suffering he would inflict due to today's events.
Voldemort's voice echoed across the field, golden light springing to life as the wires of an unbreakable oath wove around their hands. "Do you, in exchange for the safety and protection of House Potter from attack by Lord Voldemort and those sworn to his banner, excepting in self-defence, offer yourself to his service?"
"You will belong to me. Serve me. Fight for my dream of a new world. Even to your destruction should I desire it."
"Do you willingly accept my mark, a symbol of your Oath of Fealty. To serve me for as long as I shall live. To bind your soul to my service." With a slight glance at Bellatrix he continued, "To be my weapon, my wand, my wrath."
Voldemort smirked as the spell sealed. "Welcome to the Deatheaters, Lily Potter." Swiftly he brought his wand to the empty canvas of her flesh and his magic poured forth scorching her soul as the magic bound her to his service, his mark upon her flesh for the rest of her life. Unlike the inky black lines of the other dark marks, the unbreakable oath merged with the mark, leaving gold lines in her flesh, binding the black ink in place.
She staggered slightly as she stood, but Voldemort nodded in greater approval, she had not even whimpered at the agony of the ritual. Very few had taken such pain in the past so well. Most just screamed at the agony.
Smirking at his fallen elite, he motioned to Bellatrix, "Remove the truth of tonight from their memories but leave the results of the fight, after all, they all learnt a hard lesson tonight. There is always someone better."
He turned to face his new weapon, "And now it is time for Lily Potter to die." At her flinch at his statement, he smirked, "What? Did you believe you would return to Potter? Secretly serve me whilst being his wife? Be a spy within Dumbledore's followers? No. You belong to me now and Lord Voldemort does not share that which is his."
12th December 1979
James stood in Diagon Alley, one foot upon the cobbled street and the other upon the bottom step of Gringotts Bank, one hand clutching the letter received and verified as authentic through the banks services. Sirius stood to his right, his eyes scanning the quiet alley for threats. Dumbledore stood to his left, softly sucking on one of his muggle sweets, his manner calm and unconcerned but his eyes were focused and missed nothing.
The civilians gradually disappeared as they realised something major was about to happen and no-one wanted to be around when that occurred.
As Big Ben struck the stroke of midday in the distance, the Dark Lord himself strode from within the Bank, 2 figures followed him in Deatheater robes but with high wolf fur collars and unlike the normal skull design, these masks had a distinct wolf theme, with a unified stride, they levitated a stretcher between them.
Nodding sagely, as if his thoughts were confirmed, Voldemort took a single step down from the entrance and nodded politely to James Potter. "James Potter, Pater Familias of House Potter, Vassal of Dumbledore, Auror of the Ministry. I would say this is a pleasure but we both know it is not and I have no need of lies."
James took a step up towards the great enemy of Freedom and Progress, Sirius' grip tightening on his wand in readiness. "Your letter mentioned a meeting under Pax for today and to discuss Lily."
Dumbledore simply watched with an amused smirk but his own wand was in his grasp, his eyes never leaving the pale and noble features of Voldemort.
Voldemort frowned slightly at Potters tone before ignoring the lack of respect and decorum, "Indeed I did. I bear both distressing news in person and an offer of recompense." Motioning to the two figures, who maneuvered around their Master and placed the stretcher and its burden halfway between the two sides, carefully retreating to bodyguard positions for their Master.
"Normally, I would have given this situation greater respect, but, seeing as you appear to be in such a hurry, I must apologise for the lack of decorum. I come here today to offer Wergeld for the life of Lily Potter."
Sirius took a step back in horrified shock and Dumbledore's smile disappeared, replaced with a flash of pained horror before a cold but calm demeanour remained.
James simply blinked and whispered "No."
Voldemort's face twitched slightly as if fighting the urge to smirk, "As she knelt before me chained in magic, she was in agony, thus, in my renowned mercy, I took her life. She fought well and with honour, fighting for you. Over our many battles, I came to respect her ability and fire. In all of her kind, she was a unique gem, she surpassed the limits of her heritage, a True Gryffindor."
An honest sigh passed his lips, "I regret that I will never have the chance to face her in battle to the death again. Therefore I have brought her today and come to offer Wergeld in her memory. I shall mourn her loss for a lunar month, and you shall have the same month in peace. Those who serve my banner shall defend themselves only."
He paused and gestured to the silk covered body between them, "I have brought these remains for you to bury or burn with honour." He paused for a second before continuing, letting his words sink into the minds of those present, "I also offer this. An end to our conflict. I shall leave the House of Potter and those who stand under their Banner, alone. I shall bring no war to the homes and families of your Vassals. I shall swear this offer on my very life on the proviso that the House of Potter and those who stand under their banner afford those under my own banner the same courtesy. If you agree to my offer, send me an answer through the Goblins before the peace ends."
He looked down at Potter as he collapsed next to the body, tears running down his face as he pulled the silk back to see Lily's face. With a faint moment of confused interest which rapidly passed, Voldemort dropped an envelope next to Potter and nodded to him, "I am... sorry for your loss."
With a swirl of darkness and a pop of displaced air, he was gone, his two servants following in his wake.
Dumbledore looked at James Potter wailing as he rocked the cold body in his arms. Sirius stood with a hand on his shoulder, tears streaming down his own face. He reviewed the events once more in his mind, examining the minutiae of Voldemort's words and actions. He was missing something and that was a factor that Albus could not abide.
Voldemort stopped as he waited for his bodyguards to apparate into the space behind him. He took the moment to enjoy the silence of the estates grounds. The Malfoys may have been obnoxiously wealthy, but they knew how to display their power through their gardens and mansion.
The cries of the peacocks were the only thing he detested, he allowed himself a chuckle at the thought that perhaps the Malfoys were Peacock animagi and they kept the birds to hide amongst them.
With an almost synchronised crack of air, the 2 women appeared behind him. Turning slightly he nodded at the nearest of his followers, "Geri, see to the new recruits, bring them up to speed for their roles. I want my Valkyries to inspire terror in my enemies."
Glancing at the second follower, he continued, "Freki, you have the lunar month as promised to restore your focus and move past your weakness. We have a month to plan something to shake the very foundations of the Wizarding World."
Then he began to stride towards the entranceway and head towards his wing of the estate, pausing at the threshold, "Geri, inform the Malfoys I will be wanting roast peacock for dinner, I'm sure they can acquire some for me."
Geri and Freki bowed before entering their private chambers and removed their masks. Bellatrix turned to face her companion and sneered at the tears tracks that ran down Lily's face. "That is why love is a weakness. I thank the gods each day that I do not suffer with its taint."
"Insult someone else who cares what you think Bellatrix." Lily snarled at her, "For all the pain, it was worth it to me. He is safe now."
Bellatrix snorted in response. "Just be thankful our Master was merciful today, otherwise it would be you mourning him instead for his disrespect."
25th December 1979
Narcissa Malfoy sighed as she held back the once again Lily Evans hair as she vomited once more in the bathroom. "You know, that this is not just an illness. It's not that bad a thing. I can do the spell to tell you for sure if you want?"
"No!" Lily flinched as if struck by a stinging hex, "It's just a stomach bug, nothing more. It can't be more. I'll be better soon, you'll see, it's nothing to worry about."
Bellatrix kicked open the door and cast a spell at Lily before she could bring her wand to bear and shield herself. "Congratulations," she snarled, "It's a boy." At Bellatrix's words and the blue glow around her belly, Lily paled even further and fainted.
Narcissa winced at her sisters actions. "Bella! Are you serious? Is that how you do subtle!?"
Bella smirked, "Would you rather I did it in the Hall in front of everyone else?" She turned to walk out of the room, "Oh and Cissy, my name is Bellatrix, Sirius is our cousin, I would have thought you of all people would remember that."
Narcissa sighed as she rubbed her forehead, "At least Bella's in a good mood about it."
Voldemort looked down from his throne at his kneeling weapons with a raised eyebrow. The warmth of the roaring fire behind him, pleasing to him and his familiar.
"I will admit to surprise on the matter Freki, I was unaware that this would be an issue." He stroked the hood of his serpent, Astika hissing in pleasure at his masters caress, the Cobra's eyes watching Freki with curiosity.
Voldemort's eyes narrowed in annoyance at his familiar's focus, before he hissed his next words at Lily to test a theory. "It is not the Yule gift I had expected but another warrior raised in my service is an acceptable one."
Lily nodded as she hissed her own response, "As my life is yours, he shall be raised to honour you above all others."
Bella's eyes widened at her response and rapidly looked between her Master and her fellow Valkyrie.
Voldemort laughed before returning his tone to normal, "Perhaps he will inherit his mother's gifts and one day serve as my right hand. Young Malfoy is likely to groom his own son to take the place of my Left." He turned to Bellatrix and chuckled as he continued, "You won't mind will you Bellatrix? For Freki's son to be my right hand."
Bella bowed her head, "Whatever you desire my Master, so shall it be."
Voldemort nodded before waving them away. "Indeed. You have my blessings Freki, you may have this child and he shall be raised well to serve me. Both of you, leave me."
Bella waited for them to return to their wing of the mansion before staring at Lily. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Lily frowned at her peer, "Tell you what Bellatrix? You were the one who cast the spell on me."
Bella blinked in confusion at that, "No. I meant, why didn't you tell me that you're a Parselmouth."
Lily stared at Bella at that title, "I'm a what?"
Bella looked her in the eye and realised the truth of what had just happened. The woman honestly didn't know. "Freki... Lily. Have you honestly never noticed that you can talk to snakes?"
13th January 1980
The pair stood, hidden in the shadows of a copse of trees upon the crest of a hill, looking down to a valley below. Within the valley sat an old manor estate with extensive gardens, one Voldemort had admired many times in his youth. It was an amusing twist of fate that he return to the former home of Hepziabah Smith.
Voldemort nodded sagely with a smirk of pride on his face at his return to his war. Perhaps, if Alastor Moody attended, they may have been spotted, but unfortunately, for his prey, Alastor was the current bodyguard for the Minister of Magic.
The trap had been set, the bait prepared and the show would soon begin.
Lily stood beside him, her face pale and her eyes dilated, a flick of his wand caught her with a calming charm, nothing major but enough to focus her. It would not do for her to miss her plan come to fruition or to risk losing her child.
After all, the children are the future of his Empire.
A series of cracks echoed through the valley as the aurors arrived. He watched as they carefully advanced on the manor gates, passing through the wards and defences without problems. That was not unexpected, but frustrating to watch as the team progressed through the gardens, using the passphrases and counters that were noted to have been in place.
Voldemort raised an eyebrow in surprise at nothing happening when they used the correct command words to breach the reinforced and enchanted oaken doors to the manor itself. Turning, he opened his mouth to question why the trap had not sprung when he caught the flicker of anticipation in her eyes.
Quickly looking back to not miss anything, he caught motion on the edge of the grounds, a single Deatheater triggering a ward scheme that silently raised a dome over the estate, then the minion ran outside the anti-apparition and portkey wards before triggering his own portkey. None of those inside the grounds appeared to notice anything occurring which in itself was impressive.
Voldemort, never a patient man when he had no need to be, hissed his question to her, "What is supposed to happen now?"
She smiled as her eyes never left the building. "I reverse engineered and enhanced something of a prank I witnessed from my school years. Those who would recognise what has occurred will not be able to explain without implicating themselves in the attack. The original made an inverted and invisible shield that reflects only that which is cast inside. Once the prank is triggered, the spells on the trigger are released and will be contained within the dome, cutting curses focused on clothing and random colouring charms. On completion, the dome will collapse leaving the casters sigil to claim ownership of the event. I have tweaked it slightly."
Voldemort frowned in confusion and slight disappointment that a prank was going to signal his return to the war, "And what would be the trigger in this case?"
She smiled slightly, "The Aurors either moving the Hostage or removing any spells on him."
Before Voldemort could say anything further, a flash of light shone from the windows and scything blades of air and water erupted from within the manor, tearing through the stone building as if it were made of paper. Great arcing whips of fire erupted within the chaos and wildly slashed around, leaving molten stone and faint screams in its wake. With the sound of a great gong being struck repeatedly, the blades ricocheted from the dome, back towards the building, rapidly reducing it to rubble.
Within moments the screams were but echoes on the wind as the dome collapsed, forming his mark above the estate. The glowing green skull and snake seemed gleeful at the wreckage below it.
Voldemort nodded in approval, "A much more entertaining display than I had expected. An excellent example of what we can do."
Lily smiled, "Indeed my Lord, perhaps this will inspire the next Chief Warlock to be more amenable to the cause."
20th January 1980
Voldemort sighed as he finished reading the paper, folding it and placing it aside as he returned to his breakfast. His eggs and toast were getting cold. "I was informed, you may even say that I was promised, that the next Chief Warlock would be one of my followers Abraxas. I do believe that the choice was between Thaddeus Greengrass and yourself. Either of you would have been acceptable to me. But perhaps you could explain to me, why I had to read that Dumbledore is the new Chief Warlock in the morning paper, during my breakfast, rather than from your own lips as soon as possible after it occurred?"
Abraxas Malfoy bowed his head at his Masters questions, "I can only apologise for my failure, My Lord. Dumbledore had one of his minions suggest him at the last moment, the light faction immediately rallied behind him and Bagnold supported his camp. This drew a portion of the grey to vote for him. Had Greengrass removed himself from the running, I would have just beaten Dumbledore. Unfortunately he did not, therefore the remaining votes were split between us. Please allow me to redeem my honour my Lord."
Voldemort smiled, a smile that caused his old school friend to freeze in fear, "You were played Abraxas, played so blatantly that I am worried about your capabilities. No Abraxas, I believe that your rather inept attempt to strengthen your position in the Inner Circle has damaged several of my other plans. Although, Dumbledore taking the chief warlock post is actually in our favour as his approach to combat will do more damage to the Auror's morale than we ever could."
He waved a hand towards the paper as he continued, "The additional pressure will be a useful strain on his attention and resources. It may even give us leverage to finally remove him from Hogwarts."
He paused for a second to observe the mounting fear in one of his supposedly loyal followers, "However, should you have chosen to support him rather than fight him, it would have distracted him and his allies, they would have expended valuable time and effort into discovering why. Never mind the fact that if you had supported Greengrass instead and forced Dumbledore to expend additional political capital to win, I would have been pleased."
Abraxas fell to his knees, his hands raised in supplication, "My lord please…"
"Abraxas, don't beg." Voldemort sighed in annoyance, "It merely shames you and strengthens the point I made. You have become weak and foolish. No, your time is done. You will support your son in his new duties, you will obey his orders as if they were my own."
He looked over to the young man standing by the door, "Lucius Malfoy, your primary goal right now is to redeem your father's failures. You will acquire a post on the Hogwarts board and weaken Dumbledore's position there. You will also sow dissent amongst Dumbledore's allies in the Wizengamot. Whilst you're there, punish Greengrass for his presumption to take what belongs to me."
Lucius bowed respectfully, hiding his glee at his gain in power over his father, "I obey your Will my Lord."
Voldemort merely smirked as he returned to his eggs and toast. They were rather nice today.
31st July 1980
Lily looked at the bundle in Bellatrix's arms. "His name is Harry for my father, James for his and whilst it will always be Potter in my heart, Evans shall be his birthright."
Narcissa sat feeding her own son in the corner. "Have you not considered searching for your true ancestry and use that name?"
Lily sighed at that, "I've looked at what records I could find already, there's nothing there."
Narcissa chuckled at that, "Perhaps you are simply not looking in the right place. I'll see what I can find for you. Maybe a query to the Department of De Jure would be in order. But an alternative perhaps, is that I can ask Lucius to adopt you into his House. Harry James Malfoy whilst unusual would be acceptable. Pass him off as a cousin from the Colonies?"
Bella snorted at that, "Take the name of a minor House when he could be greater. No Lily, I shall write to my uncle on your behalf. Black Blood flows in his veins, but greater than that is that Slytherin's blood flows in him. Little Regulus wasn't married before his murder by Dumbledore's fanatics, we can adopt Harry and you formally into the Family. Claim he's Regulus's bastard, maybe we can alter records to say you were married in secret? I admit I abhor the concept of a Mudblood marrying a Black, but you are no true Mudblood, you bear a worthy heritage, one that demands respect." She returned the newborn to his mother's arms with a rare smile.
Lily hid her amusement at Bella's backhanded compliment, "Thank you, both of you. But don't make any actions yet, I doubt any of our wishes will matter once the Dark Lord returns and decides upon the matter."
Narcissa motioned to her sister, "We will leave you to rest, you sound exhausted. We can discuss this further at a later point."
As the door closed, Lily lowered her lips to Harry's ear. "Never forget, no matter your name. You are loved, so very loved my little knight."
Voldemort glanced at the sleeping woman in the bed, her red hair still sweat stained, exhausted to her very bones by the intense labour, she slumbered as she healed, it had not been an easy birth. Looking down into the crib, he raised an eyebrow in curiosity at the sleeping bundle of flesh. The boy had even been born with a caul, a sign of greatness and power according to the Old Ways.
Astika was entranced by the boy, honestly Voldemort was starting to get a little jealous of his hissing promises to help teach the hatchling how to be powerful, and apparently he could already tell that the boy had received their ancestor's blessings. Voldemort's fingers hovered over the babe's aura, trailing over the chakra points as he silently willed the spell into being.
An aurora of energy erupted from the child, arcs of green fire rippled through the air; the boy's aura was magnificent and powerful. He would grow to be a titan amongst the petty sheep of the Wizarding World. A strong and powerful Warlock in Voldemort's name should he receive the correct tutelage.
He released the spell as he ran his long fingers through the silken mass of black hair, so like his own, freezing in place as a random thought slithered through his mind.
Maybe not just a warrior or warlord.
Maybe... an Heir.
Not that he would end anytime soon, he had thoroughly made sure of that, but an heir would allow him to delegate to a trusted lieutenant, raise him to become a loyal king over a region. Only once he ruled the world as their Emperor, of course. Never mind the fact that the boy could rebuild the glorious House of Slytherin. It was such a pity in hindsight that Voldemort had sacrificed such an option in his youth for power. The potential alone was of interest. Great interest. Voldemort smiled to himself as this idea took root. A whisper of power cut a hair loose.
Before any final decisions, he would need to see if the boy would look the part. Polyjuice was easy enough, they had some in storage and the aging potion was simple enough, a few hours' work. The problem was finding a suitable test subject.
Then again, wasn't there that muggle children's hospital a few miles away. He could always acquire a test subject there.
1st September 1980
Lily sat at the back of the church, her fingers rolling over her wedding ring hanging from the chain around her neck. Her appearance altered to look like a random muggles through polyjuice.
James looked so strong and proud there at the altar, she sighed in memory of the last time she had seen him like this.
The music began and Myrina Greengrass walked down the aisle.
She was beautiful, regal and powerful in her shining white dress robes.
Lily snarled slightly at the memory of the newspaper headlines saying just that whilst declaring the wedding of the decade.
'A Proper Bride for a Pureblood Patriarch.'
Lily understood the politics involved, especially with James losing his will to fight and accepting the Dark Lords offer. The Potters were an old but barely Noble House, wealthy and respected. The Greengrass' were an Ancient and Noble family with many connections, but their fortunes had faded in recent generations. This union would raise both to a new height of power, wealth and influence. Never mind form a powerful political bulwark for the greys in the Wizengamot while also protecting the House of Greengrass from further strikes against them from the Dark Lord.
Lily quietly stood and left the church before they got to exchanging the vows.
She couldn't witness that, it hurt enough as it was to see him move on in his life.
Why, oh why did she think this would be a good idea?
1st November 1980
James sighed as he sat back in his dragonhide chair to watch his brother in all but parentage pace around his study once more. "Sirius, just calm down and tell me what's got you so worked up?"
The tall man snarled in frustration as he marched over and grabbed the newspaper to wave it at James, "Have you not bothered to read the Prophet today? Did you somehow miss the part that this new group of fighters destroyed three of our safe houses last night, Dearborn barely got away in time."
James sighed as he put his quill down, he wouldn't get anything done whilst Sirius was like this, "Your safe houses Sirius, not ours."
"Fine." Sirius frowned at his brother, "But have you heard what they're calling them? Valkyries! How arrogant and disrespectful is that?!" At James calm and bored look, he growled, "Look, Wormtail is working on his secret projects, Moony has gone on a mission for Dumbledore, so that leaves just you and me. We need to do something about this Prongs."
"No, we don't need to do anything." James said as he rubbed his forehead, his headache building at how frustrated he was with Sirius, "Just join me Sirius, transfer from the aurors, I can get you a post in my department, just let the war carry on and be safe. Let Dumbledore and Voldemort fight over the world and let them die for it. I keep asking Peter and Remus when I see them but they're stubborn just like you. Probably waiting to see what you do first."
Sirius stopped pacing and stared at James, "When did you give up Prongs? Where did my brave and courageous brother go? Where is the Knight of Gryffindor that backed me up against my cousins?"
"He died Sirius," James calmly said as he poured himself another cup of tea, "He died the day Lily was returned to me."
Sirius backed off in disgust, pointing at the photo on the front of the paper, "That. That one there is Bellatrix, I'd recognise her style anywhere, that there is the other leader of these… Valkyries. I don't know her, but her style's familiar. That one is Carrow, I'd recognise that bitch anywhere. He's got a group of female Deatheaters hunting for his enemies now. Next thing you know, he'll be offering the Vampires and Werewolves a position in his new world order."
"He's not the only one Sirius." James muttered as he leant back and stared at his friend, "Dumbledore is already doing that with Remus and I've sent my own emissaries to the werewolves. Better they keep out of this before it escalates beyond any control. As for the vampires, well they will never join the fight, they know what we would do to them during the day. Now, if you don't mind, I've heard enough and will not join you. I made an Oath, Sirius, and I will not break it. Not now. If you will excuse me, I need to attend the Wizengamot in less than an hour and try to mitigate the damage everyone else is doing."
Winter Equinox 1980
In an immense cave, hidden deep in the earth from muggle eyes, a great crowd waited for their Lord and Master to arrive. Great stalagmites and stalactites were ornately carved by ancient hands, depicting images of the old gods as they rose to rule the world of old. The carvings showed important events of their mortal worshippers building and warring in their name. The youngest carving had never been finished, depicting the meeting of the Roman Magi with the Druids of Albion.
Voldemort stepped forward on the raised section where ancient sacrifices had been made by the high druids of old. He looked over his gathered followers, surveying them for flaws, his regal bearing made him appear as a king before his subjects.
"On this night," he began, his words clear to all present, "We celebrate the Darkness, the longest night. Tomorrow the world will return to life, the light gaining in power. But unlike before, we shall not recede, we shall stand tall and strong. Powerful and mighty. We shall stride forth and take that which is ours in the light of day. No more shall we use the night to hide our approach, to add to the fear and our power. Our allies gather and we shall take what is ours!"
He allowed the cheers to abate before continuing.
"On this night I come bearing glorious tidings. For those of the Noble Houses, you have long desired me to produce an heir, to continue my hallowed lineage and to inherit my mantle once I have joined those honoured ancestors. Many have offered me their daughters in marriage or simply to bear my heir. Fear not, for tonight I present a gift to you all!"
He turned and took young Harry from the Deatheater who moved up beside him, raising him so that all could see. "I present to you, my son and heir, Arawn!"
He smiled as the cheers threatened to deafen him, his follower's approval pleasing to him and he realised, that this act had cemented the loyalty of many who doubted him. To name his son after the god of the dead, to show his respect for the Houses traditions, these were things he had previously believed unnecessary.
He passed the boy back to his guard, waving him back.
"Now, I must reward two who are most loyal to the cause. Freki, Geri, kneel before your Lord."
As the two women did as they were bid, Voldemort raised his wand and began his enchantment.
"In honour of your actions and your dedication to the cause, of your skill and power. I bestow upon you my blessings. I bestow upon you my gratitude and respect. I bestow upon you mantles more worthy of your positions."
He waved his wand and their robes, fur cloaks and wolf masks burned away in black fire. Their naked forms clear to see, but none of the Deatheaters dared look upon them, for such an insult would be to court death and worse.
Voldemort levitated a choker around each of their necks, each bearing a jet black gem. As they sealed around their throats, darkness flowed from the edges of his robes, pooling around their forms and flowing up their flesh. From the darkness masks of bone formed, their hair hidden beneath a hood as a crown of black thorns formed around their heads. The darkness flowed and solidified into combat robes, ornate detail and runic protections hidden in shiny black thread within the matt black material.
"Stand Freki. Stand Geri. Stand beside me as my Heralds and as my Queens."
His followers cheered as the women took their places, Voldemort raised his hands and silence descended. "I must bestow one last reward before the festivities may begin in full." He called upon the dark mark and one of his followers hissed in pain and moved forward to kneel before his master. "Faithful servant. For your service and loyalty, I place within your reach, my most precious possession. Here, tonight, I dub thee as my son's first bodyguard, his Praetorian. Serve us well and be rewarded in balance."
The Deatheater prostrated himself "My life for his before all others my Lord."
Voldemort smiled and motioned to the crowd, "Let the festivities begin!" Voldemort smiled and nodded before gesturing for his servant to rise, "Come Rookwood, join us, we have much to discuss."
19th January 1981
Sirius stood with a massive grin even as he held a salve soaked gauss pad against his ribs as Marlene tried to wrap a bandage around him. "We got him. We got the bastard."
His words echoed around the empty warehouse whilst Marlene prodded the wound, causing her partner to hiss in pain. "Enough. He almost got you, any more to the left and he'd have torn you in half."
Sirius chuckled before grunting in paid at his wound. "Nah, Snivellus isn't that good Marly. There's no way he's getting away with this. He'll be in Azkaban by the end of the week!"
"Shut it Sirius, you can't call me that now, we're still on duty. It's a bad bloody habit. I like you, a lot, but I like keeping my job more."
Dumbledore stepped through the door to the street outside at that point, "I concur with Miss McKinnon, Sirius, you should take more care in where you talk about such matters and how you deal with the other Order members."
Sirius frowned at the reprimand before his grin returned, "But we're safe here aren't we Headmaster? There's only us, Caradoc and Snivellus here. No muggle's will come near this place now we have the wards up."
Dumbledore smirked slightly, "Sirius, you know just as well as I, how an empty room may not in fact be empty. No, better to be sure and avoid risks to our security. Now, let Miss McKinnon finish dealing with your injury whilst I speak to our guest."
She grinned at him before pushing Sirius back onto his seat, "You heard the Headmaster, now sit! Stay! Good dog."
Dumbledore smiled at the pair and walked towards the door to the jury rigged cell, nodding to Caradoc Dearborn who stood watching through a window. "Anything?"
Caradoc grunted in frustration, "Got the usual setup running, he showed a bit of interest, but remains calm. Comes across a little smug. Like he knows something. You want me to come in as well or watch?"
Dumbledore looked through the window himself before shaking his head, "No thank you Caradoc, I'm sure everything will be fine. Go get some food and drink, I doubt this will take long."
Caradoc frowned as he nodded at the command, "If you're sure. Best keep Black busy before he gets any ideas."
Dumbledore smiled at him with a twinkle in his eye, "Indeed, that might be for the best."
Severus sat stoically within the conjured ropes that bound him, his blood stained robes stuck to his skin as he tried to catch any details of the room he was contained within. They had at least treated his wounds to prevent his death by blood loss, which was interesting in itself. A harsh light shone from above hiding the details of his prison within the shadows, but he was aware that he was being observed.
A faint breeze tickled his cheek and he readied himself for the interrogation that was sure to follow.
Severus managed not to shiver in fear at the rich and powerful voice that came from the darkness. "Mr Snape, I wish it was a surprise for us to meet once more like this, but we both know I'd be lying."
Severus doubted that he managed to look away in time as Dumbledore entered the region of light. Even with his formidable natural skill at Occlumency, there were few who could match Dumbledore's ability at Legilimency. He had even heard whispers that the Headmaster had surpassed the abilities of those born with the cursed gift.
Dumbledore conjured a comfortable looking chair and sat in it, looking down at his kneeling prisoner. "It appears that you are in a bit of a quandary. Your wand shows the casting of the Dark Mark as the last spell used, you were captured at the scene of a rather grizzly murder of a muggleborn's family, never mind the fact that you injured an auror in your attempt to escape. No, it does not look good for you Mr Snape."
Severus rocked back onto his heels, focusing his attention on the headmaster's nose rather than eyes. "Then why am I here rather than in a cell at the Ministry?"
"No denials? No claims of falsified evidence? Polyjuice perhaps?"
"Why bother? You have me as your prisoner, not the ministry, yours. It's been over an hour already and I'm not dead, so unless you suspect a more than adequate brewe to be involved, I am me. There's also the fact that I'm not being readied to be transported elsewhere. You let me see you. So you want something from me?"
Dumbledore smiled slightly, "I must admit it is a pleasure to deal with such a mind as yours. I wish to make you a deal Mr Snape. It's rather simple. I want you to become my spy amongst my enemy's ranks."
Snape sighed as he closed his eyes, "Of course you do. I'm a natural Occlumens, already in the ranks of your enemy. Tell me headmaster, why should I not agree and just tell the Dark Lord what has happened? Will you not bind me with Oaths? It's not like it would be the first time you've done that to me."
Dumbledore twitched as he almost winced in memory of how he had handled that incident, definitely not his best moment, but fear could do that even to the best of them, "Beyond almost certain death? You are a survivor Mr Snape, you always have been. You will be provided a full pardon for your crimes, I will personally assure your safety following the war as well as provide a suitable stipend to maintain a comfortable lifestyle for the rest of your life. Sirius Black will know what you are and have done but be unable to touch you for it. As for Oaths, we both know there is always a way around them, it just depends upon if you are willing to pay the cost."
Snape smirked and raised an eyebrow, "Money, protection, a pardon and the chance to rub Blacks nose in it for years to come. I must admit temptation of your offer. Throw in Potter asking for my forgiveness and I'd consider agreeing."
Dumbledore chuckled at that, "I am afraid that miracles such as that are beyond even my skill to perform. Perhaps something else?"
Snape nodded and smirked at Dumbledore, "Alchemy. You will teach me everything you know about Alchemy. Now, not after the war. That would be of great interest."
Dumbledore sat back and stroked his beard at that as he pondered the idea. "I could start you on the path, give you the same lessons I was provided, but I'm afraid that the Path of Alchemy is a journey of self-discovery. This is agreeable. And as for why you would actually follow through on being my spy and for not telling your master of this meeting, it is a simple reason with troubling repercussions. Lily Potter was personally tortured and murdered by Lord Voldemort."
Severus froze as his heart seemed to stop in his chest, he knew she had been killed in the war, but no-one knew who had done the deed. "I… He… What?"
Dumbledore looked sadly down at the young man before him, witnessing another soul crushed by Voldemorts actions, "I can swear upon the truth of the matter as well as provide a pensieve memory to watch should you desire it, but your master informed James Potter that he had tortured and killed Lily whilst Sirius Black and I were present. That is the reason for Potters formation of his alliance and why he is not involved in the war. It broke him."
Severus leant forward to hide his eyes and the tears barely held back, behind his hair, "You win Dumbledore. You have your spy. Just promise me this. When he's killed, I either get to make the final blow, or witness it."
"I will see what can be done for you." With a flick of his wand the ropes were banished, "Shall we begin?"
14th February 1981
Peter Pettigrew froze in fear as the voice echoed from the shadows behind him. He had thought himself safe in his flat, the best wards and protections he could wield used in its defence and all for nothing.
He slowly and carefully turned around to face his likely murderers, being as brave as he could manage in his final moments, instead whimpering at the bone masks of Freki and Geri as they watched him from the corners of his living room.
Taking a deep and likely final gulp of air, he bowed his head politely, "Good evening ladies, how have I deserved the pleasure of your company on such a night?"
Geri snorted in amusement at that, "You're right sister, he is braver than he looks."
"I assure you sister, Mr Pettigrew here is full of surprises." Freki answered before stepping slightly into the light, "His records show him to be hardworking, cunning and skilled in charms, especially exotic ones and spell crafting. It's the reason that he's an Unspeakable and became an animagus as a teen."
Peter froze at that, trying to think of anyone who knew that secret beyond his close circle of allies.
Geri chuckled, "Him? What is he? A pig or sheep?"
Freki suddenly had her wand in hand and slowly twirled it, ready to use it if he tried anything, "Oh, nothing so ridiculous, Mr Pettigrew here is a common brown rat."
His eyes fell upon the twirling wand and he froze in recognition of it. The name fell from his lips in shock as realisation thundered through his mind, "Lily…"
Freki laughed out loud at that, "See sister, a few clues and he discovered my secret in minutes." She sighed and hissed something under her breath which made her bone mask melt away, "Hello Peter. I'm here to make you an offer that I don't think you will refuse."
21st February 1981
Dumbledore's voice cut over the hubbub Severus from the busy bar room below, "It's good to see you Severus, would you like a drink? Or do you wish to get straight to business?"
Severus frowned at his ally, "You called, I'm here. What do you need to let the Dark Lord know?"
Dumbledore chuckled, "Very well. Business it is. I had an interview for a new divination tutor earlier today in the Hogshead. It was… interesting. I will re-engineer events and I wish for you to witness them, then provide your observations to the Dark Lord. Were he to be aware of it, the balance of the war could shift in our favour."
Severus raised an eyebrow in interest, "I take it that you have a cover for why I would manage to overhear it?"
"Professor Slughorn is looking to take a sabbatical, a potentially long one that may lead to retirement. I have advertised the post already in the Prophet. Were you to come to acquire the post, it would put you in an excellent position to observe matters of importance and acquire intelligence that would be of use to the Dark Lord. You would be safe behind these walls, have resources difficult to acquire and the only major prices would be that you live within the den of your enemy and have to teach children."
Severus slowly nodded as he began forming the mental construct to hide the conversation from the Dark Lord, "I did notice the advert in question and had pondered it. Very well, there shouldn't be too much problem in the memory chain. Shall we get to work?"
Voldemort sat silhouetted in his throne, framed by the roaring fireplace behind him, as he watched the young Deatheater recover from the brutal invasion he had just performed on his memories. Whilst he could have been gentle, the fact that the man had been caught had angered him, thus he had struck with enough power to truly hurt, but not enough to inflict permanent damage. Even the cruciatus was less painful than that which he had inflicted upon his follower.
His anger and hunger to inflict pain sated for the moment, Voldemort waited until the man managed to recover himself enough to return to kneeling, then he leant forward to observe him, "Severus Snape. Brought into the fold by Lucius Malfoy, a genius of the art of potioncraft and from our recent experience, a rare student of occlumency. I have been watching your progress with interest. Your name has been mentioned several times by my most trusted. Even Freki and Geri have mentioned your name and ability. More than once. Now, for you bring me a gift such as this? Impressive."
He leant back and rested his arms on the chair, Astika coiled around his shoulders hissing gently at the warmth from the fire burning behind the throne. Snape remained kneeling before him, regaining his composure and focus with each breath. "I must reward you suitably, but I must also punish you."
Snape's head snapped up in fear at that, "My Lord?"
Voldemort nodded to himself, "A prodigy such as you would rise through the ranks with little trouble. But for your gift to me, you shall be rewarded greatly. Tonight you will join the Inner Circle, prepare yourself, for it will be an exhausting experience. Now, whilst you showed ambition and cunning in your attempt to spy on Dumbledore and loyalty when you escaped and came to inform me immediately. The issue I have is that you were caught. A spy must never be caught alive."
He tapped his long, elegant fingers against his chin before smiling, "I have just the punishment in mind. You will continue with your plan, learn everything you can from within Hogwarts, you will report anything that may be of interest, no matter how small. You will not stop in your duty until I relieve you of it. And every time I see you, I will examine your memories, much as I have today, until the day you can stop me. Then and only then will you be forgiven for your failure. Take this lesson to heart, for I do not tolerate nor reward failure."
Voldemort waved a hand towards the side of the room and a bell rang, Lucius Malfoy soon opened the door to the hall, "My Lord?"
"Ah Lucius, see to our guest, clean him up and make sure he will be ready for tonight."
Lucius raised an eyebrow in surprise at that, "Mr Snape will be attending? Congratulations! Very well my Lord, I will ensure everything is ready."
Voldemort smiled at the young men, leaning forward in his throne as he grinned at them, "Excellent. I expect great things of you Severus Snape. Great things indeed."
21st June 1981
Sirius glanced around at the burning village from his shelter at the edge of the cottage. The fires roared as the air echoed with the screams of the injured. He ran from his cover to a broken doorway. There. At the end of the road was the village green, standing under the tree was a figure performing a ritual of some kind. Deatheaters were hunting their prey amongst the ruins. Harsh laughter mixed with the screams and tore into his mind.
A brute of a Deatheater entered the room from behind Sirius, pulling his robes back on, and gaped in surprise at seeing the auror. Sirius fired a silent cutting curse into his mouth and snarled at the body as it collapsed backward.
He motioned to Marlene, no McKinnon, she was McKinnon at work, to investigate as he watched the street. Ripples of power were building across his skin as the ritualist started to chant. It didn't hide the sound of his partner vomiting at what she found, behind him though.
Sighing, he waited for McKinnon to gather herself and clean up as he gathering his own courage, motioning to the team across the road and they began to move, shadow to shadow, towards the target.
They split and moved behind one of the horseless carriages the muggles used. He motioned to Longbottom who nudged his rookie partner Edgar Bones on the shoulder. Frank motioned the rookie to more solid cover in a garden a few houses down.
Sirius motioned to McKinnon to move and use a nearby tree for cover when a voice he recognised called out and made him freeze in fear.
"Sirius? Is that you? Freki! My blood traitor of a cousin is here!"
The figure chanting didn't even glance at them as Bellatrix swiftly began to cast at them, laughing behind her bone mask as she did so.
Sirius went sprawling as McKinnon accio'd him from his cover as it erupted in fire from Bellatrix's spells. McKinnon took a moment to gasp air into her lungs from the strain and barely dove aside as a sickly green spell struck the tree she was hiding behind, the tree scorched and died as the curse took hold.
"No. No. No." Bellatrix wagged a finger at the young auror as if reprimanding a child, "You aren't meant to play, you weren't invited. But if you want to join in, I suppose I can let you. You see, I'm nice like that."
Sirius jumped up and snapped a trio of bone breakers at his cousin, he watched in horror as she dodged two and deflected the third towards McKinnon. Marlene barely managed to summon some wreckage in the way to block the spell, however Bellatrix simply banished the wreckage towards Marlene.
Dodging it, Marlene cast a stunner followed by a cutting curse which Bellatrix simply moved out of the way of. Sirius began to incant a binding curse when Bellatrix simply flicked a crucio at him. The moment of burning agony as his nerves tried to tear themselves apart made him stagger and ruin the spell. He gasped to fill his empty lungs and realised she had not even bothered to hold it upon him in order to remove McKinnon from the battle.
Sirius recognised the curse as it caught McKinnon in the gut and as she folded over at the impact, Sectumsempra, one of Snivellus'. Before he could use the counter curse, a ribbon of fire tore through his own coats enchantments and sent him back to impact with the tree.
With a screaming rush of noise, the ancient tree at the heart of the village tore itself open, shrapnel cutting through the air, killing one of the Deatheaters and a chunk embedding itself in Longbottom's leg.
Bellatrix simply deflected the shrapnel heading towards her, "Oh goody, it worked. Anyway, playtimes over children. See you soon!" With that, Bellatrix simply apparated away.
Sirius scrambled to his feet and rapidly gave a wave of the counter-curse at McKinnon, it would hold her for the moment. Spinning, he saw the ritualist reaching for something within the ruins of the tree and sent a rapid flurry of spells at them to stop them from completing their goal.
As they dodged back, Sirius noted that the ritualist was a woman as she dropped the bundle on the ground. For a moment, the blood froze in his veins as he realised it was Freki, the second leader of Voldemort's Valkyries he was facing, not just a mere Deatheater, but one of its leaders. And he was alone.
A quick accio summoned the package into his grasp, quickly followed by a bone breaker from the woman. He collapsed as he felt his shoulder shatter under the spell. Gasping in agony, he fell onto his back, his hand still tight around the long leather bound bundle.
He blinked a few times to clear his vision until she stood over him, the empty eyes of the mask bore down upon him. She kicked him in the shattered shoulder and he reflexively released the package with a cry of agony.
As she reached down, she deflected a spell from Edgar Bones as he rushed in and riposted with a blood boiling curse. Sighing in annoyance she began to reach for the package again when a sharp crack of an apparition demanded her attention.
Dumbledore had arrived.
Unfortunately he was facing the tree and not the ritualist.
Snarling, she began to raise her wand towards Dumbledore's back.
Screaming in agony, Sirius lunged for his own wand and sent a bone breaker at her head.
Her head snapped back as the mask shattered under the spell.
A furious burning green eye and a curl of fiery red hair was the centre of Sirius' entire world as her head snapped down to make eye contact with him.
Her own bone breaker smashed into his pelvis and he screamed at the agony as she twisted away to dodge Dumbledore's stunner.
Apparating across the green, she quickly tried to accio the package, but Dumbledore snatched it from the air with seeker like reflexes before it even made it halfway.
Snarling, she fired a volley of killing curses at the aurors before apparating away as Dumbledore focused on blocking them.
Sirius sighed in agonised relief as he began to pass out, it was over, Dumbledore had saved them.
Sirius lay in the hospital bed, his mind rushing as he tried to block the pain as the skele-grow got to work on his shoulder and pelvis.
He looked over his team as they slumbered and healed from tonight's events.
Edgar Bones was twitching as his blood was replaced with potions to aid in the healing.
Marlene McKinnon was still in danger as the wounds in her gut kept opening up and there was a sickly smell of rot each time it happened, but the smell was getting weaker each time they cast the counter-curse he had supplied them with.
Frank Longbottom would be fine but they were keeping him overnight just to make sure.
He focused on the last few seconds of the fight, forcing himself to review the ritualist as best he could. To see the eye of Freki as she glared at him.
After the eighth time, he sighed, tears running down his cheeks.
How was he going to tell Prongs?
Voldemort stared down at the kneeling women, "You. Failed?"
Freki nodded, "It was my failure my Lord, I was overconfident and Dumbledore arrived before I could acquire the relic and escape."
Voldemort looked down at her, his fingers clenched around his wand, the desire to Crucio her almost overtook him, before he smothered it. Anger would not help here. "So Dumbledore has the sword, did anything useful come from tonight?"
Geri nodded, "Pettigrew's research for the location was perfect and the ritual he provided halved our expected time for the mission."
Voldemort nodded at that, "We will have to reward him for his service, we will leave it in Narcissa's hand to find him a suitable match. Anything else?"
Freki took a deep breath, "I believe that Sirius Black knows who I am."
Voldemort paused and spoke with a curious tone, "Believes or knows?"
Freki shivered, "I am almost certain he knows my Lord."
Voldemort chuckled, "Excellent. It's about time."
He took hold of her chin and twisted his enchantment on her choker, the hood collapsed to mist as the crown of black thorns wove through her hair, the thorns gripping the forehead of the bone mask to hold it in place, leaving the vibrant red of her hair on show for all to see. He let go and stroked over Bellatrix's hooded head, the enchantment twisting to match Lily's.
"I have been waiting for this day." He sighed in pleasure, "Let them know who comes for them. Shatter their hope. You will both strike tomorrow at Hogsmead, burn and destroy as you will. The moment Dumbledore arrives and sees you, you will split, one shall strike at Godric's Hollow, the other at the blood traitor Weasley's, cause damage and chaos, I care not who goes where. The moment he arrives at either location, use the Mark to signal the other and go to Diagon Alley, repeat the destruction there, then return here using the usual protocols."
They responded together, "Your Will, my Lord." As one they stood and left the chamber.
Voldemort sat on his throne, stroking Astika for a moment, "I wonder how the old man will handle this?"
22nd June 1981
Severus frowned as he looked at his hated Queens.
Whilst all present knew that Bellatrix Lestrange was Geri, a supposed secret that Rodolphus revealed within a week of taking her current position, while he was deep in his cups. No-one seemed to know the true identity of Freki, or they were being much more careful about it.
None dared even hold a betting pool on the matter. Bellatrix had been rather… forceful after she discovered the last one.
Today, their disguises had been weakened. Both stood there without their hoods, their hair on display and he was struck with the colour of Freki's hair. That red was reminiscent of a Bones or Prewitt, but not quite right. The only person he could remember with that exact shade was dead and the reason he was a double agent.
He didn't have any longer to think about it as Geri stepped forward and started splitting the deatheaters present into 2 groups.
Dumbledore arrived to chaos in the streets of Hogsmead.
The civilians were running around, trying to find safety and protection from the flashing spells of the Deatheaters.
He internally flinched as an Auror screamed as he was torn in 2 by the cutting curse that struck him. The child he was protecting stared up in horror as gore splattered all over him.
A quick series of flicks sent out a flurry of spells.
The Deatheater who had been laughing in glee, was frozen rigid and fell to the floor, the boy fell into a deep slumber and the last few minutes of his memory wiped clean, the body cleaned and stuck together to appear whole for now. A small wall of stone rose to shield the boy as Dumbledore stepped forward.
A twisted and putrid purple spell splashed across his shield spell as he was spotted.
The battlefield went quiet as everyone froze at the sight of him.
Hope arose in the civilians whilst fear flooded through the Deatheaters.
All bar 2.
Freki and Geri nodded and called out commands, the Deatheaters all twisting away and escaping as one.
Frowning, he looked around, ready for an ambush when a patronus appeared beside him. "Godrics Hollow is under attack." Moments later as he was readying himself to apparate, another appeared, "Deatheaters in Ottery Saint Catchpole."
Groaning in annoyance, he made a decision and went to Godrics Hollow.
Arriving, he found a number of houses on fire and muggles fleeing in terror around him. A flash of green almost took him by surprise, but a muggle ran into the spell aimed at him.
Internally roaring in rage, Dumbledore stepped through the mob, his wand spitting out spells at a rate few could even come close to matching.
Three Deatheaters fell in that opening salvo, two more in the next five seconds, another 2 in the next thirty, leaving only four and Freki.
Freki in turn raised a hand and the Deatheaters stepped back, "Headmaster, what a surprise to see you today."
Dumbledore nodded in return as he carefully began weaving anti-apparition wards over the area, "Freki. I would ask you to surrender, but we all know that's not going to happen."
Freki laughed at that, "Indeed not Headmaster."
Dumbledore glanced around at the destruction, "I have heard a disturbing rumour about you. I have been told a name."
"Oh? How interesting." She gave a mock bow of apology, "But I'm afraid, we're running late."
With that, they twisted away again before he could finish the charm to prevent apparition.
Dumbledore reached out with his magic and followed them into more chaos.
Diagon Alley was a warzone. Shoppers were cowering in terror as shops burned around them, Deatheaters began pulling back from him on arrival, several held hostages before them, ready to inflict harm if he were to try anything.
Freki called out and Bellatrix Lestrange turned to look in his direction.
Laughing, she called out a word and the Deatheaters all disappeared in a series of colourful pops.
Portkey's he realised, all bound to a command item to be triggered with a single word. Likely taking the fallen with them as well. Ingenious and effective but very annoying, he'd have to try and build his own version.
The last to leave was Freki, who stabbed a knife into a piece of parchment on a doorframe and vanished in a twist of colour like her peers.
Dumbledore sighed in frustration as he walked towards the parchment, his wand flicking around, the fires ending under his will and bleeding wounds slowed as the Aurors finally arrived and began to help people.
A quick check told him the paper had been transfigured as had the knife, but no other magic had been performed upon it. Tugging the paper clear of the blade, he read the words and frowned in confusion at the meaning.
'Ask Horace about Francis.'
James sat in the dark room, the only light came from the swirling silver in the pensieve and from the hall through the open door, his eyes were glazed and unfocused as he struggled to deal with the new information Sirius had given him.
Lily was alive!
Lily was alive and a Death Eater.
Lily was one of Voldemort's Inner Circle, one of his Valkyries and according to his spies, one of his Queens.
Lily was Freki, the woman who had ambushed the Prewett twins alongside 4 others and killed them when they were on their way to meet with him.
And that wasn't near the worst that Lily had done.
He brushed his tears away and screamed into the darkness, his anguish and agony of her betrayal almost physical.
He screamed and cried and ranted until he was hoarse.
Lil... No. That betrayer, that Oathbreaker would suffer. She would suffer for every betrayal, every slight, every iota of pain she had inflicted upon him.
He snarled at the picture he had on his desk and flicked his wand at it. Smouldering fragments peppered the wall as his magic ripped into it.
He spun, his wand tip glowing with his enraged magic, intent upon removing all traces of her from his life to meet Myrina's eyes in the doorway.
He stood numbly as his heavily pregnant wife waddled towards him and slapped him.
His eyes widened at the blow before he froze as her fingertips touched his stinging cheek gently. "The slap was for breaking your promise. You told me that I would be first in your heart. Your rage and hate says otherwise." A cool finger traced the tear trails on his skin. "You will go to bed and sleep off this anger. That woman is dead to you. Do you understand?"
At his blank stare, she grasped his chin and forced him to meet her eyes. "Do you understand?"
"Yes," he whispered.
"Good. She is dead and gone. You made a deal with a Dark Lord, you will uphold it." She took his hand and placed it upon her belly, "Our son will soon be here, with us. You will let it go and focus on your family that is here, now, with you. I'll join you in a few minutes. I'll have the elves clean up."
Myrina watched as James left the room, becoming more sure and focused with each step. She waited a moment before summoning a fragment of the picture frame from his desk to her hand.
She examined the smiling face on the photo, running a finger across it for a moment before smiling at it, "Thank you Lily. I have been jealous of you for over a decade. Now, he will let that part of him that held onto you wither and die. Now he will be everything he can be, if only to spite you and your master. Now he will be free of you and finally belong to me, heart and soul. As he should have always been."
29th June 1981
"Are you sure?" Snape asked Dumbledore as they waited for their host to answer the door.
Dumbledore nodded to the young man beside him, "I am. I'm hoping that I can try and gain some information from Horace today and I need him distracted."
The door opened and Horace Slughorn smiled at his expected guest and unexpected companion, "Ah, Headmaster, this is a pleasant surprise. Mr Snape didn't inform me that you would be joining us tonight."
Dumbledore smiled and strolled into the house past his host, nodding politely as he went, "Apologies for the lack of notice Horace, but with such a change to the school occurring, I wished to make sure nothing was forgotten or misunderstood during your discussions. I remember how much of a mess occurred when Minerva took over her post."
Horace chuckled at that, "Oh my, yes that was a disaster wasn't it." He leant slightly towards Snape and mock whispered to him, "Apparently, someone forgot to tell her the passwords for the Teachers Hall, it was months before she brought the situation up. Apparently she thought we were snubbing her over her youth."
He chuckled as he led his guests into his living room, "Of course, the poor girl was dreadfully embarrassed when it turned out we all thought she knew. Turns out a lot of cat related issues suddenly stopped around certain staff members."
Dumbledore chuckled at that, "Indeed, the number of hairballs I discovered in my slippers dramatically reduced for some strange and unrelated reason. To be fair, I thought Fawkes was angry at me and had kept kidnapping sick cats to prank me for a while."
Horace burst out laughing, "Indeed Headmaster, indeed." He gestured for them to take seats while he gathered some papers together, "Now, to help you find your feet, Severus, I've gathered a selection of my lesson plans for you to give you some examples to build your own from."
Dumbledore coughed slightly, "Apologies Horace, before you get going, I have a query for you."
Horace frowned for a moment before smiling jovially at Dumbledore, "Yes Headmaster? How can I help?"
Dumbledore smiled back at his now former Potions Master, "A name recently came up in conversation but I was sure you had no children, so perhaps it is a nephew or similar, does the name Francis mean anything to you?"
Horace blinked in surprise for a moment at the name, "Francis? Well, the only Francis I know is… one second please." With that he stood and went to table near the window, bringing back a creamy white fish swimming in a glass bowl, which he placed on his desk, "Headmaster, I'd like to introduce you to one of my most prized possessions. Francis."
Dumbledore leant forward in curiosity, "How intriguing, where did you get him?"
Horace smiled, turning sad as he glanced at Severus, "T'was a student who gave me Francis... One spring afternoon I discovered a bowl on my desk, just a few inches of clear water in it. Floating on the surface was a flower petal... as I watched, it sank... just before it reached the bottom, it was transformed, into a wee fish. It was beautiful magic, wondrous to behold. The flower petal had come from a…"
At that, Severus paled more than normal and wobbled slightly in his seat, "Lily." He whispered, "It was Lily."
Horace smiled sadly at his former student, "Quite right Severus, Lily Evans gave me this. Honestly, when I read about her death, I was distraught. She was one of my finest, I do miss her, but every day that I sit there and watch Francis swim around, I know I have a little bit of her with me still and it inspires me to keep going. It's remarkable really, I still don't know how she managed to wrangle such a simple little transfiguration to continue after she passed. Simply remarkable."
"It is indeed Horace." Dumbledore said as he gave a knowing look at the fish as it calmly continued its simple life, unaware of what it meant to those watching it.
31st October 1981
James nodded and smiled at his hosts as he took the offered drink, "Thank you. I must admit that I am surprised that you decided to do this, I thought you were loyal to Dumbledore's cause."
Frank nodded as he glanced at his wife and son in the next room. "I am more loyal to my family than Dumbledore. There are things I am sworn not to discuss with others who do not know, but having reviewed recent facts and events, I believe that my son is being used as bait in the war. I can't let that happen." He spread his hands out to reference Potter Hall around him, "So, here we are."
James smiled and nodded as he watched Myrina and his four month old son, Charlus, meet Alice and Neville. "Here we are indeed. I understand Frank, I understand completely. I presume the nature of evidence to your claim is restricted by your Oaths?"
At Franks pained nod, James smiled gently, "Then I shall pry no further. Very well, I accept your request to join the Alliance, you shall have all the protections and support that provides. I shall inform the Wizengamot tomorrow in the session. My terms for this will be no different to any of the other Houses, no secret requirements and no extras. You swear your oath and I shall do the rest."
"I cannot," Frank winced, "nor can Alice. Dumbledore bound us to complex Oaths of his own that would prevent that. He's lost too many Houses to your faction to afford any more. But Neville is free of them. I cannot swear for myself, but as Lord Longbottom I can pledge my son to your Oaths. He will be protected at least."
"I don't like it," James said with a frown, but I'm not surprised that Dumbledore would twist matters to prevent further dissenters from leaving." He sighed as he pondered the matter for a moment, nodding to himself, he made sure he had eye contact with Frank. "I shall foster your son then. Raise him as part of the Alliance for the duration of the war, at the end of which he would be returned to you. You do realise, you will need to attend tomorrow's session? You will need to declare this before the others to ensure no-one thinks I am kidnapping your heir or holding him hostage."
Frank sighed and rubbed his face. "I will be there, I shall make the formal Oaths on Neville's behalf in the session. I have to take the risk, I will do anything I can to protect him."
James nodded, "Understandable, I would likely do the same if the roles were reversed. I shall accept Neville as a ward of the Potters on the proviso of your Oaths tomorrow."
Frank relaxed as he leant back, "Better to do them now rather than leave anything to chance." Drawing his wand, he raising the point towards the heavens as he spoke his Oath, "As Pater Familias of the Ancient and Noble House of Longbottom, I accept your offer of taking my son and heir Neville as your Ward with all the protections and restrictions that entails. On this, I swear upon my True Name."
James nodded respectfully, mirroring Franks actions with his own wand, "As Pater Familias of the Noble House of Potter, I accept your request to take your son and heir Neville as a Ward of House Potter with all the protections and duties that entails. On this, I swear upon my True Name."
James smiled before finishing his drink and signalled to his wife, "Now, if you will excuse us, I shall see you tomorrow at the Wizengamot to finalise this. I shall have a room prepared for Neville after we have lunch and add you and Alice to the Estates Wards for safe passage starting after the Wizengamot session, you and your wife are welcome over as much as you want to spend time with your son. Enjoy your evening together, hopefully this war will end soon and things will return to the way it was."
Peter Pettigrew knelt before his Master, pride and fear warring as he waited for the Dark Lords judgement.
The regal and powerful voice cut through his musings, "You have served us well once more and shall be rewarded suitably once this night is over." Voldemort motioned with his wand and his victim floated into the air. "I believe that your name is Marlene McKinnon, yes? I have heard that you are an adequate duellist, however, if my servant here captured you, even using trickery, then I am afraid that I doubt that reputation is deserved."
"However," he waited a moment to let the despair sink deeper within her soul, "I am a merciful man, so I shall provide you a choice. Give me the location of the Longbottom's, and I shall free you once this is over. Or, you can duel me, freedom if you win, the location if I do. Or, I can give you to Geri here and she can… persuade you to provide the information. I do believe you have already met, yes?" He smiled at the raw unadulterated fear in the woman's eyes. "But I do not believe that any of that will be necessary, do you?"
Her head bowed in defeat, she began to cry as she spoke the words that would haunt her soul for the remainder of her life. "The Longbottoms can be found at Hatstall Cottage, Godrics Hollow, Wiltshire."
Voldemort glanced at Freki, who nodded and apparated away. He hummed a tune to himself as they waited for the few minutes it took for Freki to confirm the information.
With a small crack, Freki reappeared and knelt before her Lord. "They are there, although they appear to be packing, I believe they will be relocating soon. There is also the possibility that this is because Dumbledore is aware of your guests capture."
Voldemort tapped his chin in thought, "Pettigrew, contact your allies in Dumbledore's Order, enquire about our guest. Distract them and get them looking for her."
Peter bowed and apparated away as instructed.
"Freki, make preparations for the attack on the ministry to occur tonight, I think 10 o'clock would be a good time, let things settle down whilst everyone is at the celebrations." Freki bowed and apparated away to begin her mission. Voldemort nodded pleased at how tonight was progressing before he slashed his wand and a line of light green magic struck McKinnon across the throat.
As she gurgled and gasped, trying to breathe through her severed throat, Voldemort moved her head back to make eye contact and open the wound further. "Don't worry, it will all be over soon, I promised you freedom, and you have it, freedom from the agony of your betrayal. Death is a mercy compared to what you would have suffered."
With a final gurgle and sluggish spurt of blood, the life in her eyes faded as she went limp and still. Voldemort turned to Bellatrix, "Geri, prepare the body for the Inferius ritual, I think her allies from the Order will miss her company, it would be rude not to return her to them. In fact, send her home, let her family be the first to welcome her. After all, is not today the day when the dead visit their families."
He turned and began to stride away, "I shall deal with the Longbottoms personally. The danger their son poses will end today."
Lily staggered as did all the other Deatheaters as they all felt a searing pain in their Marks. She reflexively dodged the stunner and separated her attackers head from his body with Severus' Curse.
"My Lady!" One of the minions cried out as he ran up to her in the lull of the combat, "The Mark!"
She grabbed his flailing wrist and stared at the rapidly fading tattoo-like brand becoming a faintly branded scar. Dropping the fool, she yanked back her own sleeve to find her scar like his, but the gold lining around her own had turned almost bronze, as if its lustre was dulling. A dull pressure at the back of her mind frayed and she realised her Oaths to the Dark Lord were damaged from his end. He was still there, but held onto life with his fingertips.
She was about to command them to resume their attack and take the Ministry when the most cowardly of her forces apparated away. The noise heralded a chain reaction as her forces morale shattered and her victory was stolen from her.
Snarling in disgust she saw the surprised reaction on Moody's face as she spun into darkness.
Lily surged into being midstride in the Dark Lords Mansion, Rookwood stood waiting for her and she felt the wards slam shut behind her. She hissed the command phrase and her mask flowed back into her choker, "Why were the wards down?"
Rookwood bowed at her angry tone, "They collapsed on the Dark Lords defeat, his magic was sustaining them directly."
Her step faltered at that, "It's not some form of trick by Dumbledore, he's truly gone? What about his guard, what do they report?"
"Nothing, they have not reported back. Geri has returned from her mission with the Inferius attacks and left already with a few others, she will investigate what happened further. Our priority is Lord Arawn. I was a spy in the Ministry, others amongst our ranks were aware of that, we must presume that I will be hunted soon. I require you to seal my memories of your son, do not let them have them from me. I must presume at this time that the Dark Lord is dead, therefore we must protect his heir until he is old enough to take his Lord's place."
Freki gave him an appraising look, "You say Lord, not Father."
"Do you believe me to be a fool?" At her snort of annoyance, he continued, "The date of your arrival in our Lords Court suggests you were pregnant on arrival, the boy has your eyes and I was alone with him for long enough to perform certain spells. I know his ancestry and unless your own birth is a lie, I can work out the rest. Now, you need to run and hide. Use Greyback and his allies to get out of the country until we know more. Even with my memories sealed or wiped, my Oaths will remain. But I will not let the enemy kill or take Arawn for their own. So, I'll…"
He staggered a moment as the spell washed over him, his mind blanking before he blinked back into focus. A faint hissing behind him demanded he pay attention. Strange, he shook his head clear, no matter. "My Lady, I shall… My apologies, the backlash of our Lords death must be affecting me stronger than I feared. I shall set a costly distraction for Lord Arawn's escape. I shall leave such matters in your hands, I must know nothing my Lady. I will catastrophically collapse the wards in 20 minutes, please ensure you and the young Lord are well clear of the destruction."
Freki nodded behind her mask to Rookwood, "As you so rightly said that first night, my life for his."
2nd November 1981
Bellatrix stood over the spasming body of Augusta Longbottom, "Where is he?!"
The old battle-axe shakily laughed, "He's gone! Your precious Master is dead and gone. My Frank got him."
"Crucio!" Bellatrix snarled, holding the spell for nearly a minute, "You're lying! There is no way your son killed him. Where is he!? Where is the Dark Lord!?"
Augusta cackled, the sound rough from her screams, "Gone! Dead! And even if I knew I wouldn't tell you!"
Bellatrix snarled at her in response, "If he's dead then I shall avenge him. Where is your Grandson?"
Augusta paled and gasped in agony, "No. Kill me if you must, but I won't let you dare touch Neville."
The door banged open as Rodolphus rushed into the room, rapidly checking for threats, "Geri! Merlin… Bella!" Rodolphus yelled as he moved alongside her to try and get his wife's attention. "The boy's not here and the auror's are at the gates, we need to go!"
"No," she snarled at him, "not until we have one or the other!"
"Merlin's sake Bella, we need to go!" He grabbed her arm and yanked her towards the door, "The others are holding our exit route; we don't have time for this!"
Bellatrix growled as she pulled free of his grasp, conjuring a large and barbed metal spear and rammed it down through Augusta's stomach, pinning her in place to the floorboards below. "Now, don't go anywhere, I want you to watch your world burn around you and know that I will hunt your grandson down and either take him to raise as my own or to Crucio him into madness no matter how long it takes me."
Rodolphus grabbed her by the arm again and yanked her away, "We have to go!"
Bella snarled as she summoned a spider of fire and threw it at the wall, watching as the fiendfyre split into more spiders and rapidly spread across the wall of the building.
She spun to escape, the heavy weight of wards holding her in place, her eyes widened in shock at the danger when a flash of red narrowly missed her to slam Rodolphus into a wall, she dove for cover and raised her wand to summon him alongside her when another bolt of red came from thin air at the edge of her vision and slammed into her ribs.
Alastor Moody growled as he broke his disillusionment and hurried to stop his childhood friends bleeding. "Hush now Auggie, you'll be fine soon, just another scar." He glanced up as his latest apprentice hurried into the room and began the counterspell for the Fiendfyre, grunting in approval, he carefully removed the conjured metal and began to stop the bleeding.
4th November 1981
Peter sighed at his friends question, the 17th repetition of the same question… he'd been counting. "No James, I can thin it down to Newcastle, but no more detailed. Just be glad that you pulled enough favours to get me involved, any other Unspeakable would have ignored your request."
James chuckled, "Yeah, but they aren't as nice as you Wormtail." Sobering, he placed his hand on his friends shoulder. "We need to find her soon. We got Bellatrix, but She'll be a rallying point for the rest of the Deatheaters. We need her behind bars or in the ground, nothing less will do."
Peter turned to look from his tools at James. "You know I should be giving this to the auror's and not you. They find out and they'll stick me in a hole for the next decade."
James shrugged, "We find her, they'll give you a medal. If you don't we keep quiet about it. We're just running out of time."
Peter rubbed his eyes, "I'll do my best, but if you want more accuracy, then I'll need better tools. And some coffee, coffee would really help."
James smiled, "Sure thing, give me a list and I'll get right on it."
Peter chuckled as he scribbled the pieces on a sheet of parchment, smiling as he passed it across to his friend. "Get me everything on there and I can find her as long as she's in this half of the world."
James grinned and nodded, "I'll get you what you need as quickly as I can, I'll have an intern bring you your coffee and some biscuits, I've got to get back to work. Owl me the moment you have anything."
Peter smiled at his friend, "I'll tell you immediately, now get going."
He watched as James left his office before snapping a patronus out, whispering the message to be sent. "Go to Freki, Potter is hunting you. Your location is compromised. Move now. I will update you as soon as I know more."
Within her comfortable and very secure office, Minister Millicent Bagnold stared at the man opposite her as she watched him drink a cup of tea as if the words that could destroy their world had not just passed his lips, "Are you insane?"
Albus Dumbledore blinked in shock as he put down his cup, "I beg your pardon?"
"I asked if you were insane." She lifted her own cup and took a sip, "I presume, you have paid attention to what has been happening, the war that just ended."
"I'm sorry Minister, but that's the very reason I am asking for this. We have the opportunity to cut the rot from society, to root out Voldemort's followers once and for all."
She tapped a finger on the document before her, "Whilst a noble cause, to protect our society. My issue on the matter, Chief Warlock, is that you have asked me to authorise the Veritaserum interrogation of 14 members of the Wizengamot, 22 respected members of society and countless others, all of which are your political rivals or their allies. Not only that, but you wish me to do this with little to no evidence and on your suggestion alone."
He waved the issue aside as if it were of no relevance, "I am sure that many of those accused will be found innocent of participating in criminal activities. But for the few who are not innocent, it will allow us to root out the corruption and protect the future of our people."
"By becoming a tyrant and throwing away centuries of law, by creating my own Inquisition or Witch Hunt?" She sat back and glared at Dumbledore before she began to smirk, "Actually, you know what; I think that it could be an excellent idea, a great equaliser of society. Therefore I will agree with your request on the simple proviso that you and your followers are the first to undergo the procedure."
Albus blinked in shock before his voice shifted from grandfatherly to growling anger, "Excuse me?! We are not criminals Minister, we have done nothing wrong."
"Really?" Millicent waved away his anger as if it were irrelevant, "So, let's use just one example, you are stating that you did not give orders to your illegal vigilante group, this Order of the Phoenix, that resulted in the deaths of 7 individuals at the Selwyn estate in November? You are willing to be interrogated on the matter with the use of Veritaserum and a recorded interrogation. You are willing to answer for any crimes against our countries laws that you potentially have performed that will be revealed by the thorough interrogation that would occur."
Albus sat back, his face was an image of calm whilst his fingers whitened at the grip he held on the arms of his chair, "I can promise you that I gave no such orders and that those who fought alongside me were concerned citizens who defended themselves from aggressors."
"One man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist." Millicent said as she opened a draw and pulled out a form and a quill, she filled in a few sections and nodded to herself as she completed a paragraph at the end before placing the form on the desk in front of Dumbledore. She then opened another draw and pulled out an ornate box, withdrawing a black quill and placed it beside the form, "Use the Bloodquill to sign that form and we'll soon find out the truth. Then we'll question everyone you mention in your recorded Interrogation as to their part in events."
She allowed herself a small grin as she continued, "Once that is done, we shall expand to repeat the process with those they fought against for their side of the matter, and follow those chains up to wherever they lead. Perhaps we'll also be able to clear up some of our auror's cold cases whilst we're at it. After all, your request has no stipulation on time period, we could get every crime a person has committed and punish them for it. All of them."
She tapped her chin in a mocking image of thought, "This sounds better every moment, don't you think? How many truths would we discover? What do you think Chief Warlock? Of course the findings would be made public following the trial. No more lies. No more secrets. How many of your secrets are you willing to reveal to the public."
Millicent leant back and stared at the paling face of the most powerful wizard still living, "Where do I stop Dumbledore? You would have me build a golden age on a foundation of blood, bones and ash. How many innocents would remain after the Purge? You would make me into a monster and tyrant that would put all the Dark Lords of the world to shame. All in the name of Justice."
She sighed and rubbed her face in exhaustion, "It's up to you now Dumbledore. Sign that form and we will begin and the terrible truth will out. Or. Walk away and never speak of this again. Forget the concept, never allow it even to begin or be uttered in your presence. It will become anathema to you."
Dumbledore stood and picked up the quill, examining it for a moment, before snapping it and dropping it on the form. "What happens next is on you Millicent. All that innocent blood will be on your hands." He turned and began to storm out of the room.
"Dumbledore!" she called as his hand touched the handle, "Your hypocrisy disgusts me. So I will make this clear. I have had everything spoken within this chamber recorded, several meetings worth in fact. I have records and evidence of all the dirty dealings I have discovered over the years. Sworn testimony with evidence and memory recordings of the interviewer, interviewee and two separate witnesses. If you try anything to remove or harm me, then it all becomes public, all of it."
Dumbledore snorted "Is that a threat Minister?"
"A promise, Mr Dumbledore, I never threaten." She paused for a moment and saw that he would be willing to call her bluff, "And to make sure you appreciate the potential of what you could unleash. I know what happened that night."
Dumbledore's snark was vicious in its simplicity, "What night would that be Minister? There have been several in my life and I'm still here."
Millicent's grin was malicious and hungry, "The night you fought Gellert Grindelwald."
Dumbledore grunted in amusement and waved the comment away. "So you know how I defeated him and helped end the war, what would that do?"
Millicent's smile didn't waver but instead became colder and more vicious, "Hatstall Cottage, Godric's Hollow, Wiltshire. 3 participants duelling and 1 victim. Your brother's memory was most illuminating. Shall I continue?"
Dumbledore froze, "No. You have said everything you need to."
7th November 1981
Albus raised his wand once more to fill the Wizengamot chamber with an explosion of noise to silence those present. "Enough! I will have order or I will silence you all. Now, I thank the Honourable Minister for such passionate words before the ICW and her authorisation of restoring Auror guidelines to a pre-war status. But we have a great deal to resolve before we are done for the day."
He lowered his wand and motioned to the court scribe to continue, "To our next proposal, one put forward by the House of Diggory. Following the results of the trial of the House of Lestrange and Bartemius Crouch Junior, the House of Diggory queries what action is to be taken regarding the placement of The Boy-Who-Lived, Neville Longbottom, due to his current circumstances. Patriarch Diggory has suggested that the Boy-Who-Lived be placed in a secure and loving home until his Grandmother has returned to full health or is declared unable to raise the child by the confirmation of three healers from St Mungo's."
He glared at the raised mutterings until they became silent again. "Obviously this is a topic of great importance to us all, therefore I will call a recess of an hour for the members of the Wizengamot to discuss the matter before we move on to the debate and finding a suitable solution. Patriarch Diggory will speak first to outline his proposal following the recess."
Albus hammered the gavel to signify the break in the session and swept from the chamber, nodding politely to his allies. A quick hand signal from the edge of his vision prompted him to alter his course and join the Minister.
"Chief Warlock," she said with no sign of their ongoing cold war.
"Minister," he responded, just as calmly, "How can I assist you?"
"I'll cut straight to the point, I have had queries regarding your ploy to control the Boy-Who-Lived. Both Potter and Malfoy have made similar proposals regarding the matter. Malfoy has lost his seat and has too little political capital at this time to make a proper try, but Potter has a good chance to win the vote. I don't want that to happen, therefore I am going to propose a deal."
She shook her head with a sneer of disgust before she continued, "With your backing, I will swap the leadership of the DMLE and the DIMC following the scandal of the Lestrange and Crouch Junior case, the Elder Crouch will enter political exile, Potter gets a more prestigious position that caters to his ambition but on the proviso that he makes no claim for the boy. Malfoy lacks the support to disrupt matters and I will let your camp claim the boy on the agreement that he will remain with his grandmother. I will also not allow any member of the Wizengamot, baring his regent, to help raise the child. I presume you already have a few options on the matter?"
Dumbledore nodded along with her offer, it was better than he had expected to be able to get, not that she appeared to realise this, he had already lost several supporters to Potters faction the moment Voldemort fell, "I had considered a few families, but only a few would be appropriate to your requests. Would the Weasley's be suitable?"
"Arthur Weasley?" She nodded as she considered the youngest Head of a Department in over a century, even if it is the Department of Muggle Affairs. "He would be acceptable. No betrothals though Dumbledore. Arthur will assist raising the boy, should he choose to marry the Weasley daughter, that will be Longbottom's choice and his alone."
Dumbledore mentally cut that chain of planning for the moment. "I would have it no other way."
Millicent gave him a look telling him that she knew what he was thinking and would be watching, "I'm sure you wouldn't. Then we have an accord?"
December 23rd 1981
Lily smiled down at Harry in the pushchair, placing the toy back in his grasp from where he had dropped it. As she stood, her eyes caught something in the reflection of the shop window beside her, a man in an aurors coat watching from across the road.
Acting as if nothing was wrong, she calmly continued on her way, eyes scanning for others. It might be a coincidence, a muggleborn auror returning home.
She stopped telling herself lies before she got herself or Harry killed.
He saw her.
He had recognised her.
Reinforcements would already be en route now.
She had to get away. Damn it, why had they found her here of all places? Anywhere other than a muggle high street and she'd have apparated away. She couldn't afford to bring attention down on them. Three more days and they'd have been on their way to Iceland and from there to either Svalbard or the America's. If Nazi's could escape to South America, so could Deatheaters.
Ahead of them, a woman in an auror's coat stepped to the edge of the pavement and began to scan her eyes across the civilians around her.
Lily spotted an alley coming up and smoothly entered it before she was spotted, moving behind a dumpster, she pulled Harry into her arms and banished the conjured pushchair. Taking a deep breath, she twisted to apparate away but felt a heavy weight slam into her from the air.
A hissed keyphrase in parseltongue produced no reaction from her portkey.
This was a trap. She had walked into a fucking trap. Merlin! She was losing her edge. Someone had squealed about the hideout, they had been waiting for her.
The sounds from the street began to fade, she only had a few moments as they settled the muggle repelling charms over the area.
"Jessy!" she hissed.
The almost solid silence was broken as the house elf popped into the alley beside her. "Mistress calls."
"She has a house elf, lock it down!"
Lily blinked at hearing Sirius' voice. Fuck. This was going to get messy. "Jessy, take Harry, you remember your instructions, if I am not there in an hour, you know what to do."
"Jessy can take mistress too."
"Go!" she snarled at the Elf, "There's no time!"
With a strained crack, Jessy popped away, forcing herself through the wards as they were trying to seal her escape.
Lily sighed and focused herself. If they were coming for her, then they would follow after Harry. She had to buy time for them to get away and for her to get out of the wards to get back to her son.
Hissing the command phrase, her choker rippled across her throat as her mask of bone grew over her face, her hair remained free as the crown of black thorns rippled through her fiery locks and the dark liquid of the collar poured down her, burning away the muggle clothes as it formed into her combat robes. Her wand leapt from its holster into her grip, eager to punish those who dared to trap her.
She took a deep breath before swinging out and opening fire on Sirius and the aurors.
If they were going to take her, she would make them earn every drop of blood with a thousand of their own.
The healer dumped her outer robe on the hook and sighed as she moved to her desk, she shuffled the papers for a moment before leaning back, the weariness pouring from her as she sighed. The dark of her office calming to her troubled mind.
A voice broke the silence from the shadows in the corner. "I have some questions."
The healer held back the scream as she recognised the man. "Patriarch Potter!" she gasped in surprise, "Questions?"
"Yes," he leant forward into the light from the window. "You examined Li... The prisoner. Tell me the results."
The Healer blinked in shock at his demand, "Um, I. I don't. I'm not sure if that's..."
His voice cut through her stammering. "I said, tell me the results."
"Of... Of course. There's not much I can really tell you that you wouldn't already know. There's no trace of potions in her system, beyond those used to capture and contain her of course. She's in excellent health all told, other than a few scars and injuries sustained in the last few years there's not much to tell. Her blood matches that of an old sample and this has been confirmed with the goblins for authenticity. She also has a scar on her lower torso that matches with her Hogwarts records of her Appendix being removed during her summer in her 4th year. She will survive her injuries from the capture and will likely make a full recovery. All I can say is that she's had an excellent healer looking after her health and there were no complications from the birth..."
"Birth?" his cold voice snapped at her.
"Oh." The healer blinked in surprise at his interruption. "But, I thought. Oh. Yes, well." She took a deep breath before continuing. "Lil..." she stopped at hearing his hiss at the name and seeing the hate in Potters eyes. "The prisoner was pregnant and gave birth at least six months ago, more likely towards a year ago. The signs of breastfeeding have faded and her physique is in peak condition. The child grew to term and was born naturally. I didn't see any signs of complications."
He stood and glared down at her. "This never happened, I was not here. Is that understood?"
The healer blanched as she leant back in her chair to get as much distance from the man as she could, "Yes sir, of course."
Arcturus Black looked down at the female elf that had just popped into his study. Apparently he needed better security. "Why are you here elf?" He noticed the faint evidence that the elf had been bleeding from her eyes, nose and ears, one eye bloodshot and the skin too pale to be healthy. If he had to guess, she looked like she had broken through an elf ward recently. He detested guessing which added to his now souring mood.
The elf bowed deeply, "Mistress said to keep the young Master safe should Aurors capture her."
Arcturus sneered in annoyance, "I do not run an orphanage, take the child there."
"Jessy cannot." She answered without hesitation, wring her ears in her hands.
He sighed in annoyance, "Who is your Mistress elf?"
"Mistress was called Freki by the Dark Lord." The elf's spine straightened with pride at her statement.
Arcturus froze, his drink half way to his lips forgotten at the elf's words. Placing the glass back on his desk he coughed. "Freki? Your master was the Dark Lord?"
"No, Jessy's Mistress was Freki, Jessy was given to Mistress by Geri… by Bellatrix Black. Jessy was told to keep the young master safe, here is safe. Here is Family."
Ah, a Black Elf. That explained why his wards hadn't blocked her access, no matter; there was a more important question to ask right now. "What do you mean family?"
The elf bowed her head again, but there was a tone of reverence in her voice he was amused by, "Young master bears Black Blood through Dorea Black."
Arcturus' grin almost split his harsh features. "My cousin Dorea?"
"Jessy knows so, her blood carries through her son and to his son." The elf confirmed this with a faint smile, pleased at how his tone had turned amused by the information.
Arcturus barked a sharp laugh before grinning at the elf. "Bring your young master, I shall examine him and then decide if I shall aid you or not."
With barely enough time to take a sip between pops, the elf had returned. A toddler wrapped in a forest green cloth was gently placed upon the desk.
Using his wand to move the cloth, Arcturus found a perfectly normal looking child with emerald green eyes staring up at him, no fear in those eyes, not even at the burn scars on his face that caused veteran aurors to flinch and young children to burst into tears at the sight of him.
A quick series of spells and a moment later, awe filled the man as the child's aura filled the room, vibrant and powerful already. With the correct training, the boy could become a juggernaut, surpassing the old fool Dumbledore. He cast the final spell and smoothly deciphered the arcane runes spinning in the helix pattern, no corruption or taint and there was enough kinship for the child to inherit directly. He stopped for a moment before muttering a spell believed long forgotten.
He smirked as black lines rippled across the boys flesh, his sharp eyes examined them for the answers he sought, before chuckling. "How interesting. A nexus of lineages, Potter and Black of course and... there is a link to the Peverell's, not unexpected with the Potter blood, but… Oh my! Slytherin. This must be the child Bellatrix was talking to her mother about. Then that would mean…" He hid his smile at the very concept of holding the next Dark Lord in his hands.
Gently he sat in his chair and put the boy on his knee. "What is his name?"
The elf bowed once more, "The young Masters name is Harry James Evans sir."
Arcturus sneered at that, "Well, that will simply not do, but if it was good enough for the Dark Lord, how about... Harold? The name of the last true king of England and kin to the House of Black, who died to defend this land from foreign invaders. Then... Mordred, no, too obvious, Medraut, the welsh version, yes an appropriate middle name I think. Yes, Harold Medraut Black."
He turned smiling to the elf who looked pleased by the man's reaction, she didn't notice the wand in his hand until the flash of pale grey light shattered the front of her skull. "Rule 29, No lose threads. Don't worry little Harold, I'll teach you all of them. Servus!"
As the elf popped into the room, it ignored the body with practiced ease. "How may Servus serve the great and glorious Master."
"Clean this mess up, throw it to the dogs, we mustn't waste anything after all. Then prepare the Heirs Chamber for Harold here. Once that is done, summon my lawyer."
The elf bowed low and flicked a finger towards the corpse, sending it elsewhere with a pop, "Of course Master, Servus lives to serve. Shall I summon a female to care for the young Master?"
Arcturus pondered the matter for a moment, "Summon Andromeda, how old is her daughter?"
Servus popped away for a moment before returning to his Master, "Nymphadora is 8 years old master."
"Eight? My, how time flies." He tapped his chin in thought as the boy seemed focused on the Elf's comings and goings, happily babbling at Servus. "Go to her and inform her that she has a chance to redeem herself within the Family, oh and Servus, you are to make sure Harold is safe at all times. Keep a sharp eye on Walburga and her elf especially, our cover story is likely to upset her."
"Yes master." Servus bowed and popped away to begin his sacred work.
Arcturus grinned as he leant back in his chair, picking up his glass and pouring more than half of it into the fire as an offering. "Thank you Honoured Ancestors, for delivering the Dark Lord's heir to our House."
December 24th 1981
Andromeda stared at the doorway to the large and sprawling estate of her great uncle, the man who was Patriarch of the Ancient and Noble House of Black. The oak doors were blackened with age and fire, the cold iron studs to reinforce it had also turned black with age, but even now, after all this time, the runes carved into them shone with a clean silvery light. The glow of similar runes shone from every stone used to build this monument to the power of her Ancestors, a sign that the Pater Familias had the wards activate and ready for war.
You'd need an army to break through those wards, she knew this for a fact, after all, the only time they had been breached had taken just that and the cost to do so had been bloody.
She took another deep breath and slowly released it, her hand clenching down on Ted's hand in fear as she raised her wand and gently knocked on the door with her magic.
Almost immediately, the door was opened by a wizened old elf, who barely nodded to her in greeting, ignored Ted and glanced at Nymphadora with curiosity.
"Servus." she greeted with a nod, "I am here as requested."
The elf snorted at the word 'requested', "Greetings." he flicked a finger and their coats and cloaks were suddenly elsewhere, "Master will be pleased you answered his summons so quickly. Master is in his study, you will follow Servus."
He stopped and turned to look at Nymphadora again, "Do not wander, do not touch, do not talk. Miss knows these rules, now so do you."
With that, he clicked his hand and a ball of light appeared above his open palm, leading the way into the unlit maze of corridors, the Tonks following him within the glow of the light.
It felt like an age and almost immediately when they found themselves outside an ebony door, carved with the Black Family crest and protective runes. Servus flicked a finger at the door and waited to be summoned, after a moment, he nodded and opened the way.
Within the study, Arcturus Black sat with a small boy on his knee, wandlessly levitating a few small but colourful wooden blocks before the child to entertain him. Arcturus' scars shone in the firelight, casting a grim visage on the slightly smiling face.
His voice was powerful, but rough with age and damage, yet still sure of his authority, "Happy Yule Andromeda, it's been some time since we last met."
She curtseyed and was pleased when Ted bowed and Nymphadora managed a passing attempt at a curtsey as she had instructed them. She was also thankful that Ted kept silent and waited for her queues. "Happy Yule Pater, I was 14 when we last spoke."
He nodded and raised an eyebrow at her.
Blushing slightly, she gestured to her husband, "Apologies, this is my husband, Edward Tonks, Healer." She then gestured to her daughter, "My Daughter, Nymphadora Tonks." She gestured to the man before them, "This is my great uncle, Arcturus Black, Pater Familias and Patriarch of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, Order of Merlin First Class, Master Duellist, Dragonslayer."
Arcturus nodded to them, "Greetings, welcome to my home," he motioned to the side where Servus stood with a tray of bread, a small bowl of salt and cups of water, "I offer my guests bread, salt and hearth."
Andromeda relaxed as she took the offering and her family copied her.
Arcturus chuckled at the relief in her posture, "Andromeda, if I wanted you dead, I'd have done it by now. Now let me see your daughter."
Rather than look at him in fear as she was nudged forward, Arcturus was amused to see curiosity and awe in Nymphadora's face.
"Hello Nymphadora," he said with a nightmare inducing smile, "it is a pleasure to finally meet you."
She blinked for a second and grinned back, "My name is Dora and those are so cool." her face began to show scars, replicating his own.
He reached out and gently touched her on the cheek she was replicating, "Don't do that. You are you, I am me. You don't want these scars. They burn even now after all these years."
She blinked and looked away, trying to hide her tears at his soft but intense rebuke.
He took her chin and turned her head to look him in the eyes, "Black Blood flows in your veins, Nymphadora, you bear a gift long lost to us, use it well, but do not let it define you. These scars are mine to bear, earned by killing a dragon in the war against Grindelwald, if you want scars of your own, you need to earn them."
She stared at him in awe before nodding at his words.
As he sat back in his chair and shook the colourful blocks before Harold to regain his attention, he carried on talking to the girl, "Your mother named you Nymphadora, an appropriate name as you are indeed a gift from the spirits. If you wish me to call you something else, you would need to prove your worth to me. Only one person still lives who has done that and that is your aunt Bellatrix. If you want the same honour, you will have to work very hard to earn that right."
Arcturus looked up at his grandniece and pointed to some seats, gently pushing the girl towards them, "Sit." Now he turned to look at the mud... No. He needed to rein that attitude in with the Dark Lord lost to them and his need for his niece. "Edward Tonks, of no lineage of interest. You have made yourself into the man you are today, healing is a difficult path to walk. You have provided for your family as well as you can. I can respect that."
He motioned towards Nymphadora, "You have returned a lost gift to our blood, for that you have my thanks. But, you did not come to me to ask for the hand of a daughter of my House. Understand that Vendetta have been raised and won for less. So, my anger shall be mitigated by my respect and thanks to you. Know that your actions and words will be watched in detail from now on." he pointed at the seat beside Andromeda, "Sit."
He hid his smirk at how the couple held each other's hands on the arms of their chair in fear of his anger, which was good; they at least understood who had the power in this conversation. "Now, I have summoned you Andromeda, to offer you a duty and by doing so return you to the fold of your kin where you belong."
He waited for her to nod her understanding, "I would like to introduce you to my heir, Harold Black, son of Regulus Black."
Andromeda blinked in shock at that, "But I thought..."
"Yes, he died at the hands of Dumbledore's vigilantes before his son was born. His mother was in hiding, she was a... Muggleborn. She died in one of the last raids of the war, likely caught in the crossfire. Harold was brought to me by a heavily injured House Elf that was gifted to her by Regulus for protection. Something of a scandal I must admit, the heir of my House marrying a muggleborn in secret and without my permission. But apparently, not without precedent."
He gave her a knowing look to which she flinched, "So, due to my age and the lack of a witch to raise him with his parent's loss, I wish to make you an offer. You will raise Harold appropriately; you will protect and care for him as if he were your own. You will be provided the South Wing for Harold and your family to use as their own. In exchange, you will be restored to my House in full as will your kin. Your household will be provided a suitable stipend for your service and a suitable Dowry for Andromeda's worth will be provided."
He paused for a moment to let that settle in their minds, "Unfortunately, Andromeda's Bride Price is beyond any means your family could provide, the Notts were very interested in a marriage between our houses, their offer was… interesting. The Malfoys offer, which gained them Narcissa instead of the intended Andromeda, was rather impressive for them, Abraxas puts Goblins to shame at how strongly he holds onto every Knut. Therefore, I have the documents prepared that you, Edward, are to have sacrificed the potential of your lineage to earn the right to be married into the House of Black."
He raised a hand to signal them to remain quiet, "Let me explain matters to you Edward, first of all, understand that this is no insult to your kin, but if I am to do this properly, then your family must have paid a suitable price. To lose their son and heir, to my House, is one I deem acceptable. You could even take this as an opportunity, how many doors have been closed to you for your heritage. Now, you and your daughter would have the backing of my House."
At their shocked looks, he smiled, "Think on this properly, do not dismiss it without true thought."
Nymphadora looked at Arcturus in curiosity, "What happens to Harold if Mummy and Daddy don't agree? Do I still get a little brother?"
Arcturus grimaced at that, "I'm afraid not Nymphadora, if your parents say no, then I must call upon my next choice to raise Harold. Walburga is his grandmother, she has already raised boys, including Harold's father and she has a more than acceptable claim upon Harold."
At Andromeda's look of horror he knew he had won, he would have to get Nymphadora a reward for her unexpected aid. Perhaps a pony? Girls liked ponies, he was sure of it. A nice Abraxan foal would be a good present for her.
Andromeda glanced at her husband, "We need to discuss this. It's not a small thing you are asking for."
"No," Arturus smiled, "It is not. You will be my guests for tonight, I would hear your answer in the morning."
1st September 1991
Harold Black, looked out the window of the cabin to watch the landscape flash past. An open book on runes sat on his lap, his finger holding his place on the page. His cousin Draco had already left to pester some of the children of the Light focused families, he grew so bored so easily. Nymphadora kept saying that if he hadn't been a Malfoy, he'd definitely be a Gryffindor.
He chuckled slightly in memory of her attempts to get Draco to agree to become one just to upset Uncle Lucius. He would have owed her just to see Lucius' face when he heard the news.
Then again with the stories he had heard about his exiled uncle, perhaps Draco still might wear red and gold.
A knock at the door drew his attention; there stood a young girl in school robes but without the markings of a house. Her hair was… unique, there was no other way to describe it. Teeth that reminded him a little of a rabbit bit her lip as she gathered her courage to ask him a question. "I'm sorry to bother you, but do you mind if I join you? I've been kicked out of my carriage."
Harry smiled gently at her, "Of course you may, please sit. Did you ask a prefect for help?"
"There was a prefect there," she frowned at the memory as she sat in the offered spot, "he was the one to tell me to leave and make space for my betters."
Harry frowned for a second before smiling again. "Betters? Did he have red or green on his robes?"
She cocked her head slightly in curiosity at that, "Red as his hair."
"Ah, a Weasley." He said with a nod, "Well that means the Boy-Who-Lived will be aboard as well. They practically act as his guards."
"Oh, I've read all about him." She shuffled in her seat, "Do you know if it's true?"
Harry smirked at the opening she gave him, "That he's an arrogant prat? I'm afraid that is true."
The girl smiled slightly before trying to stop herself, "But he stopped He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."
Harry raised an eyebrow to join his smirk, "Did he? I think a toddler would be of little threat to a Dark Lord of Voldemort's calibre. What did he do? Use accidental magic to throw a full nappy at him?"
They both chuckled at that image before Harry continued, "Much more likely is that his parents did something to defeat Voldemort and protect their son. I respect the Longbottom's, not their son."
The girl frowned in confusion, "Voldemort?"
"Yes. Ah, you're a Firstborn I take it." He asked her.
"Firstborn?" she asked in confusion, having not heard the title before.
He shrugged at her question, "The common term used is Muggleborn, but I dislike that title."
"Oh, yes, why?" she began to wind her hair around her fingers as her nerves increased, "Is that a problem?"
"Not at all," Harry smiled at her, "Voldemort is the name used by the Dark Lord you know as You-Know-Who or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Grandfather, well he's my great grandfather actually, but he always told me that you should not fear a name, you should fear the man, or woman, behind it if they are worthy enough to earn your fear."
He blinked in surprise at himself before wincing, "But where are my manners? First of all, introductions are in order. Normally as a Firstborn you would introduce yourself to me, however as you are a lady and are apparently unaware of the norms, it is better manners for me to introduce myself to you." He stood and bowed slightly with his right hand raised to near his heart, "Harold Black Heir Apparent of the Ancient and Noble House of Black, at your service."
She frowned in confusion, before trying to replicate his actions, "Hermione Granger, I apologise but isn't that rather formal for modern times?"
He waved off any potential insult in her words. "As you were raised, yes, but in the world you entered, it is simply manners. I understand that this is all strange to you, amazing and new, but this is a like entering a new country. If you were to go to China, would you act the same and impose your view of society on them, or would you try to fit in?"
Remembering some of the horrible tourists she had travelled with on holiday, she winced. "I try to research and not insult anyone where-ever I go."
Harry smiled at her answer, turning, he pulled his satchel down from the rack, reaching into it up to his shoulder, he pulled out an old and beaten thin blue book as well as a black leather book. Passing them to her, he nodded at her to take them. "These will help you Miss Granger. The black one is the basics of etiquette used by the British magical's, the blue one is my mother's personal journal about her questions and research on the matter."
She frowned in confusion as she ran through the information she had been given, "Your mother was a... Firstborn?"
Harry smiled at her, pleased that she had caught on quickly, "That's what I've been told, and my Grandfather has seen no need to lie about it. My family has a rather… unfortunate attitude when it comes to Firstborns, so for my father to marry one, well, she must have been something truly special." He smiled fondly at his memory of the 2 photo's he had at home of them. It was such a pity that he didn't have one of them together, but with their forbidden relationship, he wasn't surprised.
Harry smiled sadly at her as he continued, "They both died in the war, father before I was even born, my grandfather doesn't think he even knew my mother was pregnant. I was told mother died in a raid near the end of the war, I'm too young to really remember her. I was raised by my Grandfather with help from my cousin and her husband who is a Firstborn himself. Then there was my actual grandmother…"
He shook himself away from bad memories and unconsciously ran a finger along the faint scar on his cheek, before gesturing to the books in her hands, "Read them, ask questions and then return them when you're ready. Until then, my friends call me Harry."
Hermione smiled at him, "Then it's Hermione, Harry. So where do you think you will end up? Which House I mean."
Harry tapped his chin in thought. "Really, it doesn't matter to me, all the houses have their advantages and weaknesses, we all carry a portion of the aspects for each house, you just need to refine them, but I rather expect to end up in either Slytherin or Ravenclaw."
She nodded at that, "I'm hoping for Gryffindor."
"Might I ask why?" his tone was crafted to be polite but curious, no need to cause any problems before he got to School.
She grinned at him, "You may. And in answer to your intended question, Headmaster Dumbledore went there, and it's the house of the brave. But I suppose Ravenclaw would also be good."
He nodded in thought for a moment, "Hermione, let me ask you a question, are you called Albus Dumbledore?"
"No, of course not." She answered with a frown.
"Then why are you trying to be him and not you." He continued with a soft smile, "Do you wish to be brave or are you brave?"
"Well I want to do well, I want to be the best I can be." She answered as she thought over her answer, "I want to prove to everyone that I deserve to be here. And I suppose the answer is both to your second question."
Harry nodded at that, starting to explain the lessons his grandfather had given him, "To be the best scholar or student, then Ravenclaw sounds a better fit. If your ambitions are greater, to be recognised across our world, then Slytherin sounds like a better mix. As for the bravery, you have no need to prove how brave you are. You're here aren't you? Other Firstborn would have refused the invitation out of fear of the unknown. You have nothing to prove to anyone, the only person you need to make proud is you. So just be you, trust yourself, trust in yourself."
She smiled to show she wasn't upset, "How did you get so wise? Are you sure you're a first year? And what about Hufflepuff as an option?" She gave the book a quick glance in the first few pages, seeing a moving drawing of a man and woman introducing themselves to each other.
Harry laughed, "There is nothing wrong with Hufflepuff, but they focus on hard work and loyalty above all. Whilst I am loyal to my family, it is hard for me to trust others, I've been burnt in the past by those I trusted."
At her look of concern, he waved a hand to show it didn't bother him, "I've been told that I am mature for my age, as I grew up quickly. But I'll tell you a secret, I'll likely end up in Ravenclaw as no true Slytherin would be caught in the house of green and silver. They have a bad reputation and if you are truly ambitious and want to rise beyond the limits imposed by others, study, learn all you can and allow nothing to hold you back without your permission. Only the strong change the world, so be strong."
Draco chuckled from the doorway, "Quoting Patriarch Black on your podium already cousin?"
Harry smirked at the other boy. "For all to hear Draco, and manners!"
Draco raised an eyebrow in amusement. "As you wish." He repeated the introduction Harry had given her, but less formal and sloppier in posture, as if he didn't really care, "My apologies Miss. Draco Malfoy, Heir Apparent of the House of Malfoy, at your service."
She stood and gave a rough curtsey to Harry's obvious pleasure, "Hermione Granger."
Draco blinked in confusion, "Of the Dagworth-Granger's?"
Hermione frowned as she thought about her relatives, "I haven't heard of them so not that I am aware of."
Draco's face went cold at her response. "Ah, Mu… Muggleborn then."
Harry's smile disappeared and his voice went cold. "Draco, I will not hear anything against Miss Granger, nor will I allow your prejudices to colour my friendships."
Draco glared at Harry for a moment before jerkily nodding. "Very well Harold, we shall speak again later. I'll return to my friends."
Hermione watched in confusion as they became coldly polite to each other, once Draco had left, he noticed her curious and worried look.
Sighing, he rubbed his brow. "My apologies Hermione, my cousin was raised in a household where your birth, bloodlines and position in society is vitally important. Whilst my Grandfather tried to instil the same within me, he also taught me to think for myself. If I am to strengthen my House when I become Pater Familias and the Patriarch of the House, then I need to be strong and capable of standing on my own merits. My cousin and her husband gave me a much more balanced upbringing whilst they helped raise me. All in all, you could say that my family is a messy subject."
Shrinking in on herself, she imagined he would dismiss her and she would return to being friendless once more. "I don't want to cause problems. I'll leave..."
"No." He calmed himself at her flinch from his sharp tone. "No," he said again in a much gentler fashion, "I will choose my own friends for myself. So, I'd like to be your friend if I may?"
He almost flinched at the hope suddenly burning in her eyes. "Of course, I'd love to be friends with you. But it seems like you'll be in trouble if we're friends."
Harry nodded and smiled at her. "Good, then Hermione, ignore Draco. He doesn't know any better. It would be an insult to my mother and my cousin-in-law if I allowed anyone to insult Firstborns around me. Like I said, she was obviously special enough for my father to break tradition to marry her and have me."
He glanced back towards the now closed doorway, "I'll sort matters out with Draco later. Now, let's try and brighten the mood shall we? I know, let's play a game to help us learn about each other and our worlds, my Grandfather taught me it. It's called 'Three Whys'. I'll ask a question of why something is, you answer, I then ask why, you answer and I ask why once more, if you answer all my questions well, then you get a point. If you answer I don't know or are unable to answer, then I get a point. We alternate the starter questions. So, you ask first on something to get us started."
She nodded in interest to the rules, "It sounds fun. Hmm… why are the manners you've informed me of so important to magical's?"
He smiled at her as he sat back, "We live in a world of decorum and protocol to minimise the chances of insulting someone and in turn causing a duel or worse."
"Because we are all armed with a deadly weapon. Better to be polite in an armed society, than to constantly have to defend yourself from others."
"You understand that you can ask a more focused question than that don't you?" At her knowing smirk, he nodded the point to her, "Very well. Why are we armed? Why it's better to be polite? Or why we have to defend ourselves from others?"
Hermione's smirk turned into a knowing grin, "Yes."
He smiled at her in amusement, "Well played. I look forward to seeing you in my House. So, where shall we start?"
Albus steepled his fingers as he looked at his spy, "Severus, I need you to investigate all the boys in the new entrants."
Snape merely raised an eyebrow to display his curiosity, "Investigate Headmaster?"
"Legilimens if you must, but we need to find Arawn." He waved away the man's concern at the scale of the orders, "When Voldemort returns, he will be looking for his son, we must find the child before then. He will likely be hidden amongst those families that followed him. I have people checking those in the other schools already."
Severus motioned towards Hogsmead where the train would be arriving soon, "You do realise that some children will be protected or aware of the spell. Were I to use it on the wrong child and be discovered, I would have no protection. I would be arrested and they would dig deep. Potter alone happily would tear my mind apart at the first opportunity to do so."
Dumbledore frowned and sighed deeply at the animosity between the 2 men, "James and I have discussed the matter, as the head of the DMLE, he will not allow anyone to take action beyond a cursory investigation, he is aware of the danger the child provides as a rallying point alone. He has also informed me that you will have been quietly placed on retainer regarding a major crime that is still under investigation. Between his position and my own, you will be protected."
Severus sighed in frustration, "As you wish. Shall I bother trying the Boy-Who-Lived?"
"Yes," Dumbledore told him with a smile, "But inform him first before doing so, it will make it appear fair and complete to do so if an investigation occurs. I would suggest starting as soon as possible, perhaps in your meeting with the first years following the feast?"
3rd October 1991
"There is no sign of him here."
Albus looked up from his paperwork at the annoyed huff from his spy as he dropped into the chair before his desk, "Are you sure, Severus?"
Severus thought about sneering, but his headache was bad enough to not try and aggravate it further with Dumbledore's attitude. "I am. I have just finished checking every male in the year that I could. I focused on the first years in my House, both boys and girls, I thought it best to make sure. All those that could be Arawn are protected in some fashion barring Davis, but she avoids direct eye contact for the most part. It took a little more effort, but she knows nothing of note either. As for the other Houses, there is no sign there that I can see, the majority are much less protected than my own. However, I found a few anomalies, the Granger girl for one, she is difficult to read."
Albus chuckled at the plight of many Muggleborn entering his school, "Too overwhelmed with the school?"
Severus snorted, "Unfortunately not. She is hyper aware of everything and catalogues it for later. Her memory is very sharp, dangerously so, I'm pretty sure she suspects something but is unsure as to what has actually occurred. I also believe that she has been taught the rudiments of occlumency."
"Hmm," Albus popped another lemon drop in his mouth and sucked it a moment before continuing, "We shall have to be careful around her then. Did Poppy provide anything?"
Severus sighed, "Nothing of note from what she could tell me. No-one appears to require special attention in my House this year, no oddities either. They are all remarkably normal and healthy."
"A pity," Dumbledore said with a shrug, "I must presume then that Arawn is either being home-schooled, is unaware of his heritage or is one of the protected children."
"I take it your other agents found nothing?" Severus queried.
"No, nothing new on that front and neither have James' investigations into the matter." Dumbledore paused for a moment before continuing, "He has once again pushed for veritaserum to be used on the Azkaban prisoners but our rivals will not allow that to even reach a vote. Too much of a risk on certain incriminating secrets coming out."
Severus grunted in annoyance, "I too would appreciate some of those secrets never seeing the light of day."
Albus smirked at Severus, "I imagine so. Hmm, perhaps you might see to taking a few of your first years under your wing as it were. Perhaps they may let slip a few useful fragments of information if they grew to trust you."
"I have retained ties to the old crowd, so their children would not doubt the connection." Severus conceded, "Zabini's mother has always played both sides in any conflict, he will likely be the same, the question is if the risk would be worth the reward. Although I must make note of the Black heir."
"Oh?" Dumbledore queried, "How so?"
"I can't read him at all and he knows I've tried." Severus admitted, "It would take an active assault to read him, something I doubt I would be protected from. Especially with his Grandfather's attitude to attacks on his family."
At Dumbledore's agreeing wince, Severus continued, "He is observant and capable of holding himself back to appear weaker than he actually is. Like many Ravenclaws, he has few friends, baring Granger they are all sycophants due to his family connections, but he is aware of their attitude. I believe that he is the source of Granger's occlumency training as well. Then there is also the fact that he must take after his mother rather strongly as there is little if anything of Regulus Black in his appearance."
Albus pondered this for a moment before nodding and returning to his paperwork, "I want you to keep an eye on him Severus. We cannot ask Filius to watch one of his own like that. Too many questions would be asked. If Harold Black is Arawn, then he shall surely give a clue soon enough."
20th July 1993
As the privacy wards cut her cell from the world, James Potter entered the space before the bars. "Hello Oathbreaker, it's been a year since we last spoke. I see you're doing well."
James smirked at the rocking figure with fiery red hair, once lustrous and full of life, now thin and dirty, almost lifeless. His eyes roved over her form in disgust, like her hair, her curves had thinned to almost a skeleton; her beautiful almost porcelain skin had turned to the paleness of a corpse.
He smiled as he began to taunt her, "Myrina sends her regards as would Charlus and Dorea if they knew you even existed. Oh you should see Charlus fly, he was born for the air, a natural. Do you ever imagine if we had a child if they would have been as skilled?"
He looked down at her still rocking figure, mumbling under her breath. "He's finished his first year, top of the class of course, there was some trouble at the school, but everything's been resolved. The Black Heir was involved, I'm sure of it, but no-one will allow me to investigate further. But now that old Lucretia has followed her father, it means I can finally aid Sirius in recovering what is his. His claim is stronger than Regulus' bastard, no matter what Andromeda says, she only wants to keep the power of Regent."
He snorted in disgust at his memories of the boy, "Harold Medraut Black. What sort of name is that for a Black anyway?" His anger rose at the memory of the woman who had once been Sirius' favourite cousin, the only one that supposedly had broken free like he had. Rather than help Sirius, she had turned on him, returning to the fold and kept stonewalling any action Sirius took to try and claim his heritage, taking a deep breath he calmed himself before continuing, "Then I can dig the truth out about the boy's parentage. Perhaps I will suggest a Test of Inheritance, see where that leads. See if it gives me the answers I suspect."
He looked out the window at the storm ravaging the island and prison, before returning his gaze to her, a sneer spread across his face at old memories of their time together. "I don't know why I come here. You betrayed the Order, you betrayed me. Were you always a whore? I wonder how long you were fucking the Deatheaters behind my back, maybe you always had been. Snivellus would have done almost anything for that, perhaps that was why he was so enamoured with you. I wonder if you were fucking him for all those years. Maybe it was just the Dark Lord you were fucking?"
He snarled at her as she continued to rock and ignore him. "Charlus is amazing, he has my hair and his mother's eyes, a good mix. He is smart, skilled and powerful. Dorea will be a beauty, just like her mother, smart and curious. Unlike whatever spawn fell from your womb, likely the rumoured Arawn. Do you think it's still out there? Alive and aware of the monsters that spawned it."
Still she ignored him.
"Do you think it will plead for its life when I finally find it? What do you think I should do? Currently I'm thinking of flaying it to death, make it suffer, bleed out and heal it to keep going for a good long while. Do you think it will enjoy it?"
"Stop ignoring me!" He screamed in anger at her. "Crucio!"
As Lily writhed under the spell, still she refused to cry out or look at him.
Tears ran down his face as the spell collapsed. "Why?! Why did you do it? Why betray me? Was it worth it in the end?"
He rubbed the traitorous tears from his face. "Even after all these years, still you refuse to answer me, answer anyone… Very well. I'll see you next year, Oathbreaker."
As his steps faded and the reinforced and enchanted oak door sealed behind him, Lily slowly gathered herself and moved to a lotus position, her mental defences washing away the pain, the trickle of magic available to her within her shackles soothing her nerves as the damage was repaired. It wasn't much of an effect, but James had no skill using such a curse, he lacked the stomach to wield it as it should be.
She began her mantra of the last two years and brought up the few memories she had of her son, one of the very few lights in her life now. Thankfully the pain connected to those memories protected them from the Dementors hunger. Silver wisps began to float around her, driving back the darkness and the Dementor's presence, their clawed hands reaching for her, trying to consume her as they had others.
As the privacy spell collapsed, Bella made eye contact from her cell across the corridor and one of Lily's wisps floated into Bella's cupped hands, where she curled around the light as best she could to shield it from the darkness around them. Gratitude for her sister's gift filled her hollow form as the Dementor silently screamed in rage at yet another denied meal.
Filled with the closest it could feel to rage, the Dementor continued its patrol, the door opening to let it pass and the guards on duty twitched and shivered at the cold but burning passion in the Oathbreaker's words. Words they had not recognised beyond mumbles previously.
"He's at Hogwarts. He's at Hogwarts. He's at Hogwarts..."