|SIYE Time:9:25 on 17th August 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Sequel to Darkness Within. This story begins the night before Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. Canon couples accurate to JKR. The romance between Harry and Ginny will develop slowly due to their ages. Please note rating and warnings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 27340; Chapter Total: 723
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you, Arnel, for your beta work on this chapter, and thank you to everyone who has reviewed this story! I truly appreciate it!!!
The shot glass shattered in Charlie’s hand. Pieces embedding themselves into his palm as liquor and blood dripped onto the table beneath his clenched fist. Bill glanced around uneasily, wishing they weren’t in a Muggle bar. At least they were tucked away in a corner of the dimly-lit establishment.
“How is Anna doing, now?” Charlie asked quietly.
“From what Mum and Tonks have said, she’s managing. The kids will all be going home tomorrow on the Hogwarts Express. Knowing Remus and Augusta, I’m sure they’ll keep her and Neville close for a while,” Bill gestured towards the clenched fist resting on the table. “Are you planning on doing anything about your hand?”
“Hmm.” Charlie looked down at his bloody palm with a frown before quickly pulling out the glass shards and pressing a wadded-up napkin against his hand. “And Sirius? You said he’s at St. Mungo’s?”
He nodded. “Sirius cracked his skull in the fight, but he’s healing remarkably well. Remus thinks he’ll be released in a few days.”
Charlie picked up the bottle of Scotch they’d ordered when they arrived and took a long swallow. “Where’s Malfoy?”
“Lucius Malfoy is in Azkaban. Narcissa took Draco to Finland apparently.”
“Where in Finland? Helsinki? Tampere? Ostrobothnia?”
“I have no idea, and even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you,” Bill said softly.
Charlie took another swig from the bottle. “If anyone deserves an unfortunate accident, it’s that kid.”
“I’m not disagreeing with you, and if he ever shows up near Anna again, you’ll probably have a werewolf and a few others ready to help with that accident. But for now, you’re better off letting it go.”
Charlie set the bottle down with a sigh. “Do you think they’d let me see Anna?”
“Not now,” Bill murmured. “You were planning on coming the last week of July. Stick to that. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see her then, and before you ask, as far as I know there has been no discussion about the betrothal letters.” He took another sip of his drink as the waitress came with their food. The fact that she cleared the broken glass off the table without comment and quickly brought over another shot glass was mute testimony of the bar’s usual clientele.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, absently observing the other patrons in the crowded bar. “So, tell me about you and Fleur. You’ve been dating almost a year, right?”
“Yeah, it’ll be a year next month.” Bill relaxed for the first time since they sat down. “Actually, I wanted to tell you that I asked her to marry me a couple of weeks ago. She agreed, and we’re planning a wedding for next summer. I’d like you to be the best man.”
“Wow! Seriously?” Charlie grinned. “Congratulations! I’d be honored to stand up with you. Now we have something to drink to.”
“So, how does it feel?” Remus asked. “Walking out of St. Mungo’s a free man?”
Sirius laughed. “Positively brilliant! I’m still amazed the acquittal went through that fast. The Wizengamot is not exactly known for quick action to rectify past mistakes.”
“That’s the truth,” Tonks said. “Listen, if you’re not ready to return to Grimmauld Place yet, Mum would be happy to put you up for a few days.”
“Andromeda was wonderful to visit me yesterday, and I definitely want to spend more time with her soon, but I need to go home and deal with my house-elf.”
Remus and Tonks exchanged a concerned glance.
“Augusta wants you to visit Longbottom Manor. Why don’t we go directly there?” Remus suggested. A raised eyebrow was the only response. “I understand you being upset with Kreacher, but…”
“If you’re about to tell me not to chop off his head and mount it on the wall, save your breath,” his friend snapped viciously.
Silently the trio entered Grimmauld Place. Remus sighed in resignation when the house-elf responded immediately to his master’s summons. This was bound to become ugly.
“Master has come home. My poor Mistress. Having a blood traitor son. Blew you off the family tapestry for the shame of having such a son.”
“Enough!” Sirius roared, grabbing the elf around the neck. “Because of you, my godson and a bunch of other kids almost died. We all could have died at the Ministry, and for what? For the pure-blood nonsense my mother always spouted, for Voldemort and his followers.” He shook the elf viciously. “You do realize my brother, Regulus, the one you always liked, was killed by those Death Eater fools!”
Kreacher’s eyes widened alarmingly, and Remus was about to intervene when the house-elf spoke. “Master Regulus wasn’t killed by Death Eaters.”
“Well, if he wasn’t killed by them, he was killed by Voldemort himself!” Sirius spat, releasing the elf with a disgusted glare.
“Master knows nothing. Master is the nasty swine who broke his mother’s heart.”
“Right,” Sirius yelled. “Of course! I’m the horrible son of the family because I was Sorted into Gryffindor instead of Slytherin like every other Black. Well, I don’t know how you think I broke my mother’s heart since I assure you she didn’t have a heart! And, if you somehow know anything about who killed my brother and why, I order you to tell me now!”
Kreacher broke down into tragic sobs as he told of how Regulus had volunteered the house-elf’s services to the Dark Lord for a special mission. He divulged how he had been taken to a cave by the ocean to test the defenses surrounding a magical locket. As the story unfolded, Sirius’s face changed from one of anger to one of clear astonishment.
“Regulus told you to take him to the cave?” he asked.
The house-elf nodded miserably. “Master Regulus ordered me to leave with the locket and to destroy it. The Inferi were coming out of the lake and surrounding us. Kreacher could not escape with Master, could not help him.” Tears trickled down his face.
“My brother died trying to thwart Voldemort,” Sirius murmured. “What happened to the locket? Where is it?”
“Kreacher could not destroy it. Kreacher tried so many times, so many different ways, but it could not be broken.” He paused to glare at Sirius. “When Master and the blood traitor Weasleys were cleaning the drawing room, the locket was almost thrown out.”
Sirius frowned thoughtfully. “The locket we couldn’t open. I remember it. Was it actually thrown away, or is it still in the house?” He bent down and stared the elf in the eyes. “Kreacher, if you can find the locket, bring it to me. I will find a way to destroy it!” Sirius declared.
The house-elf looked startled but quickly left to do his master’s bidding.
“What do you think the locket is?” Remus asked.
Sirius shrugged. “Dark magic of some kind. If it was important to Voldemort and my brother was willing to die to destroy the thing, we need to learn what it is.”
Remus and Sirius strode into the Headmaster’s office at Hogwarts. He was sitting behind his desk with a messy array of parchment beside a pot of tea.
“Ah, welcome,” Albus greeted them. “Your timing is excellent as it offers me an excuse to put off this rather tedious paperwork for a bit longer. Would you like some tea?” He gestured towards the chairs before him.
“No, thank you,” Remus replied as they settled into the chairs. “I hope you received our message.”
“I did indeed. It sounded rather urgent. What is it you wished to show me?”
Sirius pulled the heavy gold pendant from his pocket. Numerous small green stones created an ornate S on the front of the large locket.
Albus’s eyes widened in surprise. “Was that Salazar Slytherin’s?”
“I don’t know,” Sirius admitted. “According to Kreacher, it was extremely important to Voldemort during the first wizarding war. My brother stole this locket from a cave and ordered our house-elf to destroy it. Kreacher was unable to do so.” He hesitated. “I can feel the evil in this thing. It’s almost pulsing like it’s alive.”
The Headmaster took the locket from his hand and examined it closely. “This makes three,” he murmured to himself. “How many more?”
“Three of what exactly?” Remus asked, leaning forward.
The older man’s head shot up. “I tend to forget how exceptional your hearing is.” His gaze was thoughtful. “I had a bit of an accident yesterday.” Albus held up his hand. It was blackened and shriveled up, looking disturbingly as though the flesh had been burned away.
“That looks like rather more than a simple accident,” Sirius observed quietly. “It has the appearance of a Dark spell. I certainly hope it wasn’t a fatal one.”
The Headmaster paused a moment too long.
“No!” Remus gasped. “How did it happen? Have you had it examined by an expert? Perhaps the Dark Magic can still be contained.”
“Calm yourself, please.” Albus smiled briefly at his former students and lowered his charred hand to his desk. “You are quite correct of course, Sirius. It was Dark magic. I succumbed to a very foolish temptation. My need for information outweighed all sense of reasonable precaution. I seem to be making a number of rather significant mistakes lately.” He stared at his hand for a moment. “The spell has been contained, but naturally the damage has been done and cannot be stopped from progressing.”
“How long do you have?” Sirius asked.
“A year,” he replied. “Perhaps a bit more, perhaps less. It is done now, and we must move forward.”
Albus examined the locket thoughtfully for a time before sighing in apparent resignation. “I have not told anyone what I am about to tell you, but I suddenly feel rather compelled to share this burden. Sirius, what do you believe this is?” He held up the locket. The sunlight from the window reflected off the object.
A muscle twitched in his jaw as the old Marauder considered vocalizing the insane thought that had entered his brain from the moment Kreacher handed him the cursed object. “I’m concerned that it may be a Horcrux.”
The Headmaster nodded solemnly. “I wondered if a member of the House of Black would have knowledge of such things.”
“What is a Horcrux?” Remus inquired.
“My understanding of it is limited.” Sirius admitted. “However, I believe it is an object that somehow holds a piece of a wizard’s soul, allowing him to achieve a type of immortality.”
Albus nodded. “That is correct. I am unfortunately quite certain that Voldemort has made multiple Horcruxes. Harry destroyed the first years ago, the diary that forced Miss Weasley to open the Chamber of Secrets. I destroyed another yesterday.” He held up a ring. “This belonged to Voldemort’s grandfather, a wizard by the name of Marvolo Gaunt. And, now you have brought me what I am certain is a third.”
Remus leapt from his chair to pace the room. “How is this possible? How are Horcruxes even made?”
“They are made from the act of murder, from tearing one’s soul, destroying the essence of one’s humanity,” the Headmaster explained. “Of course, for the wizard cruel enough and desperate enough to perform such an abomination, the soul is not truly valued, only immortality. Our problem is that Voldemort cannot actually die as long as a Horcrux exists.”
Sirius rubbed his eyes tiredly. “How are Horcruxes destroyed?”
“They are not easily defeated, but it can be done. Harry eliminated the power of the diary by driving a Basilisk fang into it. I was able to destroy the ring with Fiendfyre,” Albus paused thoughtfully as he attempted to pry open the locket. “Every Horcrux has measures of protection to make it difficult for them to be found and neutralized. I will need to spend some time working on how to exterminate the piece of Voldemort’s soul currently residing in this, particularly since I fear it will have to be opened first.”
Remus nodded. “If you need us to assist in any way, research perhaps, we would certainly like to help.”
“I will keep you informed of my progress,” Albus smiled. “Thank you for bringing this to me. I’m beginning to realize that while secrecy is of vital importance in our efforts, sharing information with a select few is perhaps even more valuable to our cause. I do ask that you refrain from mentioning the specifics of what we have discussed to anyone. We certainly don’t want Voldemort to learn that we are making strides towards his ultimate destruction.”
“Agreed,” Sirius replied. “At least for now, no one else needs to know about this. While I’m here, I wanted to inform you that I will be collecting Harry from his aunt’s house tomorrow morning.”
“Tomorrow! He’s only been home for a few days.”
“Nevertheless, I am moving him to Grimmauld Place tomorrow. He is my godson and now that I have finally been exonerated by the Wizengamot, I have full legal guardianship over Harry. He will live with me.”
“Sirius,” the Headmaster sighed. “Please understand, the blood wards protecting Harry at his aunt’s house cannot possibly hold with such a short stay. He must live there for a longer period of time, at least another week.”
He shook his head. “I won’t leave him there for another day. Harry has never said anything directly, but Fred and George told me some rather disturbing facts during their stay at Grimmauld Place over the Christmas holidays. My home is under a Fidelius Charm. Since it is secure enough for the Order to use as its Headquarters, I am confident it is secure enough for my godson.”
“What sort of disturbing facts?” Albus asked.
“The twins said that Harry’s bedroom had bars on the window when they went to rescue him just before his second year at Hogwarts. They had to remove all of his school supplies from a locked cupboard under the stairs of the house.” Sirius exhaled slowly. “Fred and George told me they didn’t really put it together in their minds at the time, but later they realized Harry was being severely neglected, perhaps even abused, by his relatives.”
The Headmaster shook his head. “I don’t believe that would be possible. Not with all of the wards and other protections surrounding the house.” He gestured towards half a dozen silver instruments on a shelf in his office. “I would have been alerted if Harry were harmed.”
Remus frowned. “These are all magical instruments, to detect magical problems. If Harry was deprived of food for a couple of days, or physically injured by a fist rather than a wand, would these actually alert you?”
Albus stared out the window. He appeared troubled by the possibility that Harry had been overtly mistreated by his relatives. “Please keep me informed of…anything I need to be informed of.”
“How are you, my dear?” Augusta asked as she walked into the garden room of Longbottom Manor.
“I’m fine, thank you,” Anna replied, closing her book to give her aunt her full attention as she sat up properly on the sofa. “Will Remus be starting our summer lessons soon?”
Augusta sat in the chair across from her. “Yes. He is rather preoccupied with Sirius at the moment, but I’m sure you’ll be starting lessons in another day or two. Harry may even be joining you and Neville periodically.”
“That would be great!” Neville piped up from his spot on the floor. “We normally don’t have the chance to see Harry over the summer.”
Augusta frowned. “What are you doing on the floor? I thought you’d be in the greenhouse.”
Neville moved to sit next to Anna on the sofa. “I think we should probably discuss the betrothal letters this morning.”
Augusta raised an eyebrow at her grandson. He really was growing up to be a wonderful young man, even when he was attempting to challenge her authority. “I have them here.” She handed the four letters over to the teenagers. “I’ve written a few responses to Narcissa Malfoy in the past week, but have burnt them all due to…well, unfortunate language shall we say.”
“At least we all agree that we are definitely rejecting the option of a betrothal agreement with the Malfoy family,” Neville proclaimed.
“Glad to hear it,” Remus remarked as he entered the room and settled into a wingback chair.
Augusta closed her eyes in exasperation. She had wanted to have a private conversation with Anna about the betrothals, yet somehow both of the men of the house were present for it. “Well, what are your thoughts about the other three?”
“I think we can all agree to a ‘no’ for Zabini, right, Anna?” Neville questioned.
“So, that leaves Ernie Macmillan and Charlie Weasley.” Augusta smiled. “They are both fine young men from good families. I’ve been told Ernie is a capable student, and of course, as the Macmillan heir he has excellent prospects. Charlie is well-established in his career and has already requested a transfer to one of the British dragon reserves.”
Anna sat still and nodded silently, her hands twisting in her lap as she chewed her bottom lip. Neville glanced towards her and then covered her hands with his own. “Let’s decline all of the betrothal offers.”
Augusta pressed her lips together and tried not to glare at her grandson. “That is far easier said than done. For a pure-blood witch to receive four offers and refuse them all? It would practically preclude her from making a proper match in the future.” She sighed. “I know this is difficult, especially after what the Malfoy boy tried to do.”
“Why are we not saying it?” Neville demanded. “He almost raped Anna because he thought he could! He thought he had the right! He thought it would force us into agreeing to a marriage between them! This is exactly where all of this pure-blood betrothal crap leads to!”
“Not every pure-blood tradition is abhorrent, Neville!” His grandmother insisted. “I was betrothed to marry your grandfather, and I loved him dearly until the day he died. Your parents were betrothed before their marriage. I assure you they were very happy! Anna has two excellent offers, and it would be very foolish indeed to not seriously consider accepting one of them.”
“How soon do I have to decide?” Anna asked.
Augusta examined the girl carefully. “We need to make a decision by the first of August to allow me enough time to write the proper responses to inform the families involved. I understand that this is very difficult, but I would like to sincerely encourage you to consider your options carefully.”
“What do you think I should do?”
“I would like to see you enter into a betrothal agreement with Ernie or Charlie. Either young man would be a wonderful choice. You could enter into a betrothal contract this summer and have the next two years to become better acquainted, in person if you choose Ernie or by letter if you choose Charlie. Typically, weddings take place the year after schooling is completed, so you have a great deal of time to develop the relationship.”
Anna nodded and stood up. “I think I’ll take a walk in the garden. Please, excuse me.”
“I’ll join you,” Neville said, taking her hand as they left the room.
Augusta rubbed her temples wearily. “Go ahead and say it, Remus. I know you must have an opinion.”
“I think you’re quite correct to encourage Anna to consider the offers. Dismissing them all out of anger or fear because of Draco Malfoy would be rather short-sighted.” He shifted in his chair. “Having said that, I can’t help but wonder if her father would approve of her being betrothed to marry at such a young age.”
“Andrew may have been a Squib, but he was raised by magical parents and had a great deal of respect for wizarding tradition.”
“And, what of her grandmother, Katherine? Didn’t she flee Britain to escape her own betrothal after finishing her education at Hogwarts?”
“My husband always thought that was the reason,” Augusta admitted. “Personally, I never believed it. Katherine was very fond of her fiancé. He was a couple of years older so they were unable to see each other much during the school year.” A small smile played at her lips. “I actually walked in on a rather private moment between the two during the Christmas holidays of her seventh year. They weren’t doing anything too scandalous, but it was abundantly obvious they were enjoying their time together.”
Remus frowned. “So why do you think Katherine left?”
“I honestly don’t know what happened. The note Katherine left for us was apologetic but revealed nothing. Other than a Christmas card, we didn’t hear from her for almost a year. At that point, she announced her recent marriage to an American Healer and a while later the birth of her daughter.” She sighed. “I regret that we didn’t communicate beyond a few letters each year and the occasional photograph as the children grew.”
“Sounds like a mystery that will never be solved,” Remus remarked as he stood up. “I’ll go find the children. Dueling practice may be a worthwhile stress reliever for our first lesson of the summer.”
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