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Chapter 27: Hello Darkness

"I remember you."

Hermione blinked in surprise. She had never met a Veela, but the woman did not sound like she was lying. "What? When?" The brunette questioned. Her trip to France had been sporadic but needed. The book she obtained from Borgain and Burke's kept referencing the Fire-daughters and after a lot of independent research she definitively narrowed it down to the Veelas. The colony she was currently seeing had been in their mountain since 1064. Their Matriarch, Elena Delacour, had been kind enough to meet with her and, since she had proven herself as a daughter of the Family, gave her a copy of the grimoire from the UK branch.

"You're the witch I gave to the Potters." The blonde Veela said, a frown marring her perfectly painted lips. "Did they not tell you where you came from?" At the brunette's negative response, the French witch hummed. Blue eyes gave the other witch a once over. Despite it being almost two decades ago, she could still see the muggle woman that the younger Potter resembled. "You look like your biological mother—a sweet woman despite being a squib tooth healer."

Hermione blinked in surprise. "Were they both nonmagical?" She never would have thought that she would be a muggleborn. If one were born to squibs, would they still be considered a muggleborn or would she a half-blood? Or would she still be considered a pureblood? Perhaps it is something she should ask Lucius. Just when did one's blood truly become muddled to the purist?

At that question, the blonde woman shrugged. She did not know. In fact, for all, she knew both could be squibs. "I knew your mother well—she spent half her life in France, but her family could be traced back to the original Family in Bulgaria." The Veela colony had detailed records of all the Familiam Sirin descendants since the massacre in the United Kingdom. The ledger magically updated each time another had been born. "She was a dear friend of mine. I wanted to keep you, but you were unable to live with us—Veela children are territorial and do not get along with non-Veela. To protect you, I reached out to the Potters. I knew they wanted another child and it seemed like Fate wanted you with them."

Truer words could not have been spoken. For it did seem like Magic had tied Hermione to the Potters. Seer blood ran through her veins, and thanks to her Veela Heritage accessing gifts was far easier than if she were a normal witch. With a flick of her wand, her tarot cards came zooming into the room and landed gently in front of her. The blonde shuffled the deck and laid out then cards face down in front of the brunette. They would see how true her assumption was.

Hermione blinked in confusion. They did not look like the normal tarot cards used in Divination. "Pick whichever three cards call out to your magic," The Veela simply said. Hermione gently moved her hand above each card, trying to see which made her magic tingle. The youngest Potter did not know how this related to the earlier question but figured there must be a purpose to it, nonetheless. When she found three, the other witch flicked her wand and the other cards went back into the deck.

"Each of the three you chose represents the future, present, and past." The pretty Veela pointed to left, center, and right as she spoke. "Curious, curious indeed." The Matriarch spoke, waving her hands over each of the cards, magic crackling in the air as she did so. The cards flipped over and went into varying positions. The Past card was flipped upside down while the present card was horizontal and the future card right-side up.

"It seems you were always destined for the Potters."

"What do you mean by that?" Hermione asked, unsure of the statement. Elena pointed to the top corner of each card which had a small family crest visible.

"Each life of yours is somehow tied to the Potters." The flaxen-haired woman said simply.

She pointed to the future card, "The Guide. This card represents someone who will have a huge influence on the lives of their cherished ones. The fact that the path extends behind the statute indicates that at some point in your future you will be a voice of reason and safety." That the Guide was the statue of a young teenager who hands a dagger sheathed on her leg told Elena far more than she had decided to share with the other witch. The future is murky and trying to rationalize it would have no benefit. Furthermore, the Veela Matriarch did not think it would be wise to tell the younger woman about how bloody her next life could be. Whatever tipping points currently surrounded the woman would be the deciding factor for the Wizarding World. The Potters would either make or break this war that rest on their soil. Should they fail, the next generation will suffer in their stead. She could only pray to their ancestors that it would end this time around. Children should never be the ones to wage a war.

Pointing to the card in the middle that represented the present, Elena spoke once more. "The Rebel," The elder witch spoke, a small smile on her face. She remembered the floo calls with Dorea who often spoke about the spunk of their adopted child. "The problem-child. The wild card with her own ideals. The one who will wage war to protect what she believes in. That she cradles the heart in her hands indicates good intentions. The crest adorning the heart shows devotion to the family that raised you and loved you despite the storm in the background. The Rebel is often faced with hard decisions, but you must not crack. "

Finally, the Veela pointed to the past card, "Death—the final adventure before the renewal. Something unique in your reading that I've only seen in the distant past is that Death holds Helleborine." Death rarely cradles a soul in her hands, but when she does it is because Fate had asked a lot out of them. It made her heart hurt for the young witch.

"What is so special about that?" Hermione could feel her magic thrum inside her body, restless but it did not pose a threat. Despite working with Pandora Lovegood in the Department of Mysteries, Hermione had rarely trusted in prophecies. Most of them were wooly at the best of times and the arithmancy had always predicted the probability better. But as Pandora had often told her, true Seers were rare but not unheard of. To immediately dismiss something outright on a basis of chance could be catastrophic. So with her magic coursing in her veins at the elder witch's words, she decided to take the words on faith. She might not trust divination, but she did trust magic, and her magic agreed with the Veela Matriarch's statement.

"Well, my dear, simply meaning your destiny is always tied to the family that shares the connection to that particular orchid; which I believe is the Potters is it not?" Elena knew that it was true. Potter Manor's garden had a whole section of Helleborine. Most of the potions created by the family—including Sleekeazy—included some part of the plant. Red Helleborine was something unique to the Potters, mainly since it was Potter who grew the very first of that flower.

The brunette didn't say anything for a moment, almost as if she was trying to build up the nerve to say it. Finally, with a deep breath, she asked, "Why Death?" Hermione knew that the Potters had, historically, never feared Death. There were some rumors, but no proof, that her family did have a relationship a ship with Death, even with the invisibility cloak that James currently had. But the tarot card unnerved her.

Elena looked at the youngest Potter and shrugged. "I read the cards, child; I cannot control how they present themselves." The Veela Matriarch did not know why the cards would present themselves as they did—Magic had always been an entity on its own. The older witch thought about what she wanted to say next. "If I had to guess, Magic is telling you that there will be a choice and your decision will decide the next path. The cobblestone beneath Death suggests that She is heading towards you—whether to aid you or collect you, I do not know."

Hermione did not know either and that scared her. Because despite the hum of her magic, the words came out like a proclamation. Even if this card was technically about her past, she felt with her very soul that it somehow was connected to her present situation.

Hermione's decision had long since been made. She refused to shy away from all that she had planned and decided. She had made a pact with magic and the brunette would see it through.

The Veela Matriarch could see the resolve in the little brunette's eyes, and she knew then that whatever happens—Death had made a claim. This young slip of a witch would forever be tied to Death.

She just did not know if it was helpful or harmful.

Sirius did not know why he came here, during a thunderstorm, nonetheless. Something compelled him to but what he did not know. Perhaps guilt. Perhaps to seek forgiveness. Perhaps his very soul sought clemency. The Black Heir did not know what made him come to his brother's grave but here he stood.

Purple asters decorated the grave, the ancestral flower that had always been planted on a Black's grave. Somehow that made it more official, more real. His little brother is dead. He didn't even know why. Did he betray Voldemort? Did he get during an Auror raid? Hermione would know, but he doubted she would tell him.

Narcissa had been right. His brother's death rested solely at his feet. No matter how Regulus' died or who caused it, at the end of the day the blame could only rest on Sirius' shoulders. Nothing in the world could wash this stain from his hands.

Witchling had come to him, pleaded with him to save Regulus. But he refused and he did not have a good reason for it. He felt his brother had been dark and that redemption wouldn't be possible. Regardless of how he felt, he should have tried. It hurt nothing to at least attempt to help his younger brother. Now he couldn't.

Tears pricked at his eyes as he stared at the death date. Sirius fell to his knees and broke down in sobs. It only took his brother's death to finally make him cry. Regret weighed heavy in his heart. Memories of his childhood—the only good things about it outside of his friends—flashed through his head. Sneaking biscuits, bedtime stories, late-night discussions, even talks of their future. All the good things he just allowed himself to forget simply because Regulus wore green and Sirius took that to mean his brother sided with their mother.

But now he couldn't even make amends. He will never hear Regulus' voice again. There would be no possibility of floo calls. No owl-post. No meetings at the Hogs' Head. There are no longer even whispers on the stupid street at this point. Sirius had, since the age of twelve, been shite and communicating with his brother, but something about the grave just made his heartache.

He had always taken his brother for granted. Somehow, he always assumed that if he wanted to, he could talk to Regulus again. Not anymore. Sirius had taken his brother for granted. It hurt knowing that he caused that. Knowing that at the end of the day he ruined a good relationship with his brother over stupid notions.

Regulus hadn't deserved it.

"Regulus," he choked out the name and it felt like acid on his lips. He couldn't even formulate the words in his head, let alone speak them aloud. If he could say just one thing to his brother, it would be an apology. The words still refused to come out though. No matter what he tried to say all he could feel is the ache in his chest. The Gryffindor alum didn't know if the pain would ever go away—if anything it would probably just get worse. "What do I do?" Sirius questioned the gravestone. He didn't even know what to say. How could he make amends with the dead?

Only now, at this very moment, the Black Heir finally understood what Witchling had meant about feeling genuine remorse. Guilt isn't a simple apology to clean the slate. It is this fire burning at his belly. This heavy feeling in his chest that weighs him down. Remorse is this feeling that drowns the very soul. He had never felt like this before. He can't even seek repentance—there is no refuge for him in this world for all the stupid things he did to Regulus. And, honestly, Sirius knew he deserved that.

He deserved to live with this feeling. Had he spoken with his brother, had he helped Witchling save his brother, had he done several other things then maybe his life would be different now. Maybe he would still have his brother. The Black Heir did not know what he would do now—but one he knew one thing. He would hold on to all of those he currently loved.

He would not allow himself to make the same mistake he had with Regulus.

Marlene cursed.

"Language, sweetheart," Regulus said with a cluck of his tongue. A smile formed on his lips when the Scottish lass turned to curse at him; he knew damn well she hated that nickname. Over the last few months, he had grown close with the blonde. She would never replace Bambi as his confidant and best friend, but the Gryffindor alum had wormed her way into their friend group and became rather dear to him.

"This place is warded ten ways to Sunday!" The witch snarled. They would need a senior curse-breaker to lift these wards. Yes, she as an Auror had known various little tricks, but these wards were another thing altogether. They could probably use a ward-buster but there is no guarantee that Voldemort would not know the moment these wards break. The last thing they needed is for that Dark bastard to realize they knew about the Horcruxes.

"Is this where I pointed out how little the light families know?" Regulus questioned with a teasing lilt in his voice. Despite Marlene being a pureblood, there were somethings that she did not know in their culture simply for how light her family had been. Most light families never practiced what they consider dark—and blood magic had always been considered a dark practice. Regulus couldn't even fault the logic. Blood magic could be used to create inferni, to make a person a slave, to slowly torture a person or raise the dead. But just because something is dark doesn't mean it cannot have light uses. Most dark families used their blood to power the ward of their homes. But the downside is that if blood from at least one member of that family is freely given, then those same wards could be broken down.

The little glare the blonde shot at him just made Regulus grin at her again. From his coat pocket, Regulus pulled out the vial of Morfin Gaunt's blood that Marlene had gotten from her visit to Azkaban earlier that day. "Watch and learn sweetheart," he told her, wandlessly summoning his wand from the holster on his left arm.

Muttering a few incantations under his breath he revealed the wards for the tiny shack. They were a hodgepodge mixture, and all seemed to be teetering on failing. Both magicals studied the wards looking for weakness; in most wards, there were sections of the ward which had more power behind it than other parts. These portions of the wards appeared a darker color than those with less power behind it.

He finally found the thinnest layer of magic, which he threw the vial against. The glass vial cracked slowly before breaking entirely. Instead of dripping to the ground the wards absorbed the blood. Red cracks began to appear in the wards before they silently shattered in a span of under ten minutes.

Marlene had attempted to take a step forward before Regulus had tugged her. "Are you a bloody Auror or aren't you?" He hissed angrily. This witch could be the most infuriating at times—even worse than Bambi and he thought that said something. Just because the wards broke did not mean they were safe from danger. He knew from experience that the Dark Lord had access to inferni. As the last of the bloodline he had unfettered access to this place and the older wizard—albeit deranged—was no idiot. He could booby trap this entire property to ensure his soul was well guarded. No Slytherin would be stupid enough to rely on wards alone.

Swishing his wand to the right and down before pulling it up and drawing a triangle in the air, Regulus had checked for dark magic. Nothing showed outside the house, but something resided in the hut itself. He did not know what gave off the strong tainted presence, but he felt positive that it did not belong solely to the Horcrux. "Something is inside that hut and it is not friendly."

"Of course, it isn't friendly. Name a single thing that dark bastard has ever done that could be considered friendly?" Marlene shot back. Part of her felt embarrassed for her earlier mistake. She had just been so happy the wards were broken so easily that she forgot wards were not Riddle's only methods of containment. Using spells taught to her by her mentor, McKinnon verified that there were no other traps. It seemed like Riddle did rely on the wards as the primary defense of the shack.

But he did add extra protection inside the shack which to Marlene confirmed the presence of a Horcrux. However, they wouldn't know what that extra protection would be until they went in or at the very least opened the door. Taking a deep breath, the Gryffindor alum took the first few steps forward with her wand stretched out before her. At the crinkle of leaves, she let out a soft curse before casting a silencio at her feet and on the path stretched out before her. Blue eyes glanced at Regulus who did the same.

She didn't know what might be guarding the Horcrux but figured silencing themselves would probably be the best option. Taking another breath to calm her nerves she and Regulus began to make their way towards the shoddy shack. It probably had some shoring charms—Marlene didn't know how else that ruddy hovel had remained standing all these years.

A slight shuffle from behind the door made the two magicals pause. Biting her lip, the last McKinnon summoned all her Gryffindor courage before casting a quick alohomora. The soft snick the lock made before the door opened had been the only sound from either side. Neither magical moved for a solid minute. However, as the seconds passed and no other sound came from inside the shack, Regulus had decided they needed to be the ones who made the first move. So, he had transfigured a leaf into a small mouse before casting an imperio and making the mouse enter the wooden building.

The cracking of the mouse's neck had told them it was a wise decision, despite Marlene's scowl at the use of an unforgiveable. So, Regulus repeated the process, only this time he transfigured a leaf into a rabbit and made the rabbit push open the door further but did not let it go into the shack. The Black wizard wanted to see if he could force out whatever guarded the Horcrux by using its prey drive.

It worked.

The green body of a king cobra had inched its way towards the rabbit. Regulus knew that this would be their only chance at killing the shack guardian; so, as it went to strike at the rabbit, the wizard cast his strongest Avada Kedavra while Marlene had hit it with a severing charm. The dark-haired man then recast the imperio at the rabbit and made it enter further into the shack.

Nothing happened though and it caused the two to let out a sigh of relief. Regulus had taken the first step into the shack and took a good look at the snake. It looked like the Dark Lord's familiar, but he could not be sure as he never had an up-close look at the snake. It did, however, have the same markings and coloring. That made the wizard nervous because if it truly was Nagini then the Dark Lord would notice her absence which meant they're timeline had just drastically increased.

"Did you have to use the unforgivables?" Marlene hissed at him with a frown marring her lips.

"Would you rather be the mouse, sweetheart?" He groused out, rolling his eyes as he spoke. The only living thing he had harmed with his use of the curses had been the snake which would have killed them. He released the imperious curse from the rabbit but did not end his transfiguration spell just yet. It seemed that there had only been one snake thus far, but they could not verify that since they had yet to find the Horcrux.

Walking further into the shack, he glanced around only to see it broken furniture surrounding them. Nothing stood out to him, but Marlene had been immediately fixated by the fireplace. The pillars holding it up had been decorated with snakes climbing the wall. In the upper center portion of the fireplace, a thin silver ring adorned the stone.

Regulus had walked towards it, only for Marlene to grab his left hand and pull him back towards her. The blonde knew without a doubt that the ring was the Horcrux they were looking for. It reeked of dark magic but more than anything it had called out to her, tempting her to reach for it and put it on. It was only her training with Alastor that stopped her. If she could endure the imperious curse and keep her mind, she could resist that stupid ring.

Taking a closer step towards the hearth, Marlene had looked at the ring. A stone rested in its center instead of a jewel. The blonde flicked her wand in a complicated wand motion which revealed another set of wards guarding the Horcrux. The auror figured it would be wise to not touch the ring and instead used four severing charms, forming a box around the ring. She repeated the severing charm several more times until the little box could be safely excavated from the fireplace. Looking at the little stone square that the ring still adorned made all the blood drain from her face.

There in the center of the stone had an engraving that the last McKinnon would recognize anywhere. Marlene knew their problem had just gotten a hell of a lot bigger. This went further than just Horcruxes.


"Could you ever forgive him?" The brunette asked. The question has been bugging her since she had returned to Britain. The Veela Matriarch had told her that her fate had always been tied to the Potters and Hermione just did not know how to feel about that. She could not even wrap her head around what that might even mean.

Glancing at the portrait of Ariana, Aberforth contemplated the question. It had been something he wondered himself decades ago but the bitter rage that bubbled in his chest at the mere thought of his brother had given him the answer. "No."

"Why?" the lass questioned, and it was moments like this that her age shined through. Aberforth wished that he could have that kind of naivety and kindness. But he had been embittered for far too long. Still, he took his time to formulate an answer for the witch who reminded him so much of his beloved sister.

"Remember when I explained to you about real remorse?" The barkeep asked. watched as she nodded. He could hear the soft thud of her feet kicking his bar and he gave her a soft chastisement before continuing. "Albus had never given a genuine apology." His brother would beat around the bush and give candy-coated words that he believed Aberforth wanted to hear. But in all these years, Albus had never owned up to his part in their sister's death.

Hermione frowned and unconsciously started to bite her lower lip. She had wondered herself about her relationship with the Potters. Her relationship with her father has improved since their last meeting—they had been exchanging owls and floo calls more often. Furthermore, James seemed to be trying to reconnect with her via the owl letters he kept sending to the Hog's Head. Hermione wanted to believe that he had learned from their past experiences but the doubt continued to swell in her every time she read one of his letters. The brunette had no clue what to do, but Hermione knew she did not want to be like Aberforth. As nice as he has been towards her, Hermione also knew that being angry all the time was tiring.

"Would Ariana want you to?" Hermione asked.

"Yes." The answer had been instantaneous. The older wizard knew without a doubt that his sweet, kind sister would want her two brothers to support each other. He tried to live his life with that in mind—the old man has never refused his brother when he needed help, but that did not mean he had to like his brother. Aberforth knew what Ariana would want, but he also knew the experiences that life had taught him since her death. He tried to figure out how to properly explain this to the young witch—she wouldn't know as her armor had not been fully tested. Until she experienced her dents and cracks to dull her armor, Hermione would never truly understand what he meant. The young lass has been through her shares of battles, but she has—to this day—always been shielded from the worst of things by someone else. "But life is not always kind, Hermione."

"I know that," she said softly. She knew that very well. Hagrid had been kicked out of school with his wand snapped at the tender age of thirteen. Severus had been beaten at home and emotionally tormented by her brother. Regulus had been forced to take the mark of a psychopath all to please his family. And, perhaps the worst of them all, to Hermione anyway, was Marlene had lost her family and home. The blonde had lost the people she could go to for help; she had lost the home she had grown up in. Hermione couldn't imagine being left bereft of everything she had held dear. That Marlene could, had shown Hermione why the other witch had been sorted into Gryffindor.

"I love my brother—but I do not like him," Aberforth explained. Picking up the rag to his left and the glass on his right, the barkeep began to clean the glass. He did not know how to explain this next part to her. He knew that she would understand part of it, but he did not know if she would be able to conceptually understand the rest. "I really do not like him. Sometimes, I feel like it boils over into hate. It's this dark part inside of me claws at me every time I see my brother." Aberforth knew that, still, to this day he would have preferred that Albus had been the one who died instead of his tender-hearted sister.

He scrubbed at the glass with the rag just a little harder to give him something to do. "Remember how I told you that darkness serves a purpose?" The brunette nodded at his statement he let out a sigh. "It's that anger and resentment that allows me to experience the twinkling of the stars." It's the dark aspect of those emotions that help him appreciate his sister all the more and to some degree, it helps him appreciate his elder brother as well. As he said earlier, he may dislike the man but he has always lent a hand when he could. Aberforth has never turned him away.

But the resentment still lingered no matter how many decades had passed. The barkeep did not think it would ever go away and he was perfectly fine with that because his elder brother deserved it. He chose Grindelwald over their family, over their sister. Albus might silently bear this burned on his shoulders but Aberforth has yet to see any indication that the Hogwarts headmaster truly felt remorse.

"Stars?" Hermione tilted her head slightly to the right as she asked.

"They're beautiful are they not?" Abeforth responded. He meant it too. During the night when he couldn't sleep, he would go outside and just stare at the sky above him. The twinkling of the starts helped calm him. He liked to believe that his sister was up in the stars watching over him and his brother.

"Yes," Hermione replied hesitantly. She still didn't know fully what he meant by his statement of how anger allowed him to see the stars though. Hermione had figured that the anger and resentment would symbolically make the light of the stars harder to see.

"If it was always sunny, the stars would have never been seen," Abeforth replied. This is the truth that hurts the most. It is perhaps the most accurate description of life that he had ever experienced. Life would never be kind. It would allow you light for the way only to cruelly snuff it out without the barest of efforts. It would give you a lighthouse to light the way, only to snuff it out and ravage your ship in an all-consuming storm.

But the darkness allows one to see the stars. And those stars made the darkness worth it. it made all the anger and the rage at his brother worth the ire his sister might bestow on him should he ever see her again—because they sparkled so beautifully and proved that light could travel vast distances.

If light can shine in the darkness of space, it could shine anywhere.

But the darkness is needed to see it.

"A Knight in shining armor is a man who never had his metal truly tested," © online blog

"There is no refuge from memory and remorse in this world. The spirits of our foolish deeds haunt us, with or without repentance." ©Gilbert Parker

"I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had. But I didn't. ©Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner.

Brother © Falling in Reverse

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift." © Mary Oliver

"I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars," © OG Mandino

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