|SIYE Time:6:48 on 24th April 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: 21184; Chapter Total: 430
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you to Arnel for her work as beta and for helping rewrite a dull paragraph! Thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and reviewing!!!!
For a Price
The Portkey took Sirius and Bill to the outskirts of the small city of Vaasa, Finland a couple of hours before the scheduled meeting time. Sirius had wanted to arrive early enough to briefly scout out the area prior to meeting his cousin, Narcissa. He had learned the value of caution over the last several months. While his instincts assured him that Cissy’s letter had been written in earnest, he knew he would be a fool to completely trust her. Agreeing to this meeting had been an easy decision to make. Her offer of assistance in arranging an attack on Malfoy Manor - the current residence of her Dark Lord - was too tempting to be ignored.
Admittedly her offer was not without selfish motivations. Cissy wanted to save her husband and ensure her son would never be branded as a Death Eater. Part of Sirius felt disgust at her complete lack of care or concern for the rest of wizarding Britain, or for the Muggles who suffered and died under Voldemort’s orders. Another part of him admitted to himself, though to no one else, that he wanted to see Voldemort destroyed primarily to save Harry. He owed it to James and Lily to do anything in his power to protect their son, to give him the chance for a better, happier future.
“Looks clear.” Bill’s quiet comment drew Sirius from his musings.
Sirius peered about carefully with as casual an air as he could. The street had a reasonable amount of pedestrian traffic but was not busy. People were well bundled against the cold, wearing heavy coats, thick scarves, and warm hats. He and Bill had chosen their own attire carefully, selecting garments that were dark and refined, yet easily forgettable.
Crossing the street, they went to the front door of the Gustav Wasa.
“Brilliant!” Sirius scoffed. “The restaurant’s closed.”
“Of course, it is,” Narcissa’s cold voice floated towards him. “We could hardly have the privacy required for our conversation in a busy restaurant.”
Sirius turned sharply towards his cousin. Her long, blonde hair was hidden beneath an elegant shawl, but her blue eyes were as piercing as ever. Slipping her wand from the black sleeve of her long wool coat, she tapped the door handle and whispered a password before stepping lightly across the threshold. Sirius and Bill followed behind her to find themselves in a strangely sophisticated cellar restaurant with exposed brick walls and high windows.
A waiter greeted Narcissa by name and led them to a small dining area where wine awaited them on the table.
“So we have the entire place to ourselves?” Bill inquired.
“Most things are available for a price, Mr. Weasley,” Narcissa replied. “I happen to be acquainted with the owner, so this was not difficult to arrange. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve already placed the order for our meal.”
Sirius sat in a chair that had his back to the wall. “I’m not concerned about the food, but I would like to hear about Malfoy Manor.”
Cissy nodded as she allowed Bill to help her into a chair. “We should begin with these.” She withdrew several parchments from her bag and spread them out in the middle of the table. “I have drawn up simple blueprints for each level of Malfoy Manor.”
Both men leaned forward to peruse the drawings.
“I wouldn’t call these simple,” Bill muttered. “You’ve identified every doorway and window in every room of the house. Did you draw this all from memory?”
She raised an eyebrow. “It was my home for twenty years.”
Sirius tapped one section of the parchment. “So, this is a secret passageway and staircase leading from this room to…” He shuffled to the next page which displayed the floor above. “this one?”
“Yes,” Cissy said. “I marked each with a code as you can see.” She withdrew another sheet of parchment. “Here I have described in detail how to access each of the secret passageways and rooms. Most are simple to gain entry to, requiring only a password spoken to the correct portrait or the push of a particular section of the wall. Only this one is blood protected.” She indicated the hidden room off the library. “Lucius and Draco are the only ones who can access it. A small blood sacrifice is required, and it must be Malfoy blood. However, there is nothing particularly interesting about the room.”
“Have you been in it?” Sirius inquired.
“Not in the literal sense, but I have become aware of the contents of the room over time,” Cissy said. “It is a small study containing Malfoy family genealogical information, a few heirlooms, and books on Dark magic and the history of wizarding Britain among other things.”
Bill frowned. “Is that what your husband told you?”
She glanced from him to her cousin. “My husband told me nothing, but he is not the most formidable Occlumens. Even when a man is, he has moments of susceptibility when an observant wife can learn what she wants to know.”
Something about her smirk had Sirius hastily shifting his eyes away from her as he reinforced his own Occlumency shields. He had never been particularly skilled in that area, but over the last few months he had read a couple of books on the subject and improved somewhat.
“Is this all you know about the wards and other security measures at the Manor?” Bill asked. He was completely focused on another parchment.
Cissy nodded slowly, her lips pursed, and brow furrowed. “I know it isn’t much. I spent some time last week with Draco discussing all of this, but he knows no more than I do.”
Bill exhaled audibly.
“What’s wrong?” Sirius inquired, glancing at the notes Bill was scrutinizing.
The curse-breaker closed his eyes briefly. “Well, the good news is it won’t be like trying to break into Hogwarts or Gringotts.” He forced a slight smirk. “The bad news is it’s one very small step down from that.”
Sirius grimaced. “What are we looking at?”
“The wards are layered,” Bill began. “Blood wards and security wards that go back for centuries, each combining and merging with the others before them. These are not the type of wards that can be easily dismantled or circumvented. They either must be hit hard and continuously by several wizards at the same time, or they must be meticulously disassembled. That takes a great deal of time and power.”
“Can you do it?” Sirius asked.
Bill rubbed his forehead as he stared at the notes. “Probably,” he finally allowed. “I’ll need to spend quite a bit of time studying this and doing research.” He gestured towards the stack of parchments on the table.
Their waiter now entered the dining room, carrying a tray with three steaming bowls upon it. Sirius quickly rolled up the parchments and stuffed them into his mokeskin pouch. An uneasy silence fell over the three occupants of the table as they ate the delicious almond potato soup and savored the excellent wine that accompanied it.
Narcissa put her spoon down with a slight clang. “I’ve provided everything I know. Will you help me remove Lucius safely from the Manor?”
“We can’t make any promises,” Sirius stated clearly. “How exactly do you plan to reach him?”
“I won’t have to wait for the wards to fall,” she said. “I can enter the house easily and make my way to our bed chamber. If you follow my advice and attack at night, he will be easy to find. I promise you that neither Lucius nor I will raise the alarm or betray you in any way.”
The room was silent as the waiter removed the empty bowls and served their entrees - reindeer fillet with a red wine sauce.
“You understand I can’t guarantee your safety once the attack begins,” Sirius said. “You’ll have to exit the Manor quickly or at least hide in the lowest level of the house before our forces reach you.”
She nodded. “I understand the risks.”
“Good. Then, you’ll understand why I require an Unbreakable Vow from you. Bill will be our Bonder.”
Narcissa sighed, a resigned look on her face.
“Also, you must not help Bellatrix in any way,” Sirius continued. “Not with a warning of any kind, and definitely not by assisting her in leaving the Manor.”
She swallowed. “I know I can’t save my sister.”
Sirius heard the wistfulness of her tone and for a moment understood her pain. His relationship with his own brother had been complicated to say the least. He regretted so much of what had been said and left unsaid between himself and Regulus. Undoubtedly, Narcissa had similar feelings towards her sisters - particularly the sister who had succumbed so completely to the Dark Arts. Forcing his thoughts to return to the matter at hand, he added. “We’ll do the Unbreakable Vow with a Family Blood Bond.”
Her eyes widened. “That’s not necessary!”
“I’m afraid it is, Cissy,” Sirius said as calmly as he could. “You married a Death Eater and stood by silently while your own sister, Andromeda, was cut from the family. I was cast out and falsely imprisoned and you never sought to contact me. From what Andy and Tonks have told me, you’ve made no attempt to reconnect with the only decent members of our family we have left.”
She shook her head. “I can’t do that to Draco!”
“You’ll be doing nothing to your son as long as you keep your word,” Sirius reminded her. “As insane as I know it seems for a member of Slytherin House, I don’t quite trust your own sense of self-preservation. The Unbreakable Vow will be completed with a Family Blood Bond and tied to your only son and heir.” He paused and watched her closely. “I’m sure you know how this works, Cissy. Even if you do betray us and die by breaking your own vow, your son will live. He’ll simply suffer frequent illness or be impotent, perhaps just infertile.”
“You bastard!” Narcissa’s hand trembled as she lifted her wine glass to her lips, taking a healthy swallow of the deep red vintage.
“Regrettably, I’m quite certain that I am a Black and therefore not a bastard,” Sirius said. “Pull it together, Cissy! You want our help, you must prove yourself. I’m not asking for that much. You simply have to promise to not purposely betray us!”
She glared at him as she silently drank the last of her wine.
Bill glanced occasionally from one cousin to the other as he slowly finished eating his meal.
It wasn’t until the last bite was taken that Narcissa stood slowly and traced her wand across the width of her wrist making a shallow cut. Sirius rose from his seat, creating a similar cut on his own arm before grasping his cousin’s forearm. Their blood mingled as they stood in silence for several moments.
Bill pulled out his wand and began reciting the enchantments necessary to create this rather complex version of the Unbreakable Vow. Magic filled the air as Narcissa Malfoy promised to assist the Order of the Phoenix in taking down the Dark forces threatening wizarding Britain, promised to help those loyal to Albus Dumbledore infiltrate Malfoy Manor, promised to support Harry Potter in his quest to destroy the Dark Lord, and promised to save no Death Eater other than her husband.
“We found it.” Remus laid the diadem of Rowena Ravenclaw on the Headmaster’s Desk.
Albus stared at the object silently for a moment before withdrawing his wand and casting several spells on the magical artifact. They had been working in teams, slowly and methodically searching through the Room of Hidden Things for weeks. Their persistence had finally been rewarded.
“Well done.” He glanced up at the two men standing before him. Remus looked as tired as he usually did following the full moon. Charlie eyed the elegant tiara with wary disgust. “I suppose we may as well destroy it immediately,” Albus continued.
“Remus told me the Horcrux is likely to fight back,” Charlie said.
Nodding slowly, the Headmaster rose from his desk and retrieved the sword of Godric Gryffindor from its place on the wall. “They are the most detestable forms of magic I have ever had the misfortune to encounter, and believe me, at my age that is truly saying something.”
“At least once the diadem is destroyed, we’ll be one step closer to finishing Voldemort,” Remus said.
“I still can’t believe he made multiple Horcruxes,” Charlie muttered. “No wonder he is so much less than human.”
Albus glanced between the two men before holding out the sword to Charlie. “I don’t suppose you would be interested in doing the honors?”
Charlie cracked a smile as he reached for the sword. “I doubt I’ll ever have another chance to obliterate a piece of that bastard’s soul. Do I literally just strike it?”
“As hard and as fast as you can,” Remus answered as he pulled out his wand.
“Whenever you are ready, Charlie,” Albus said. He used his wand to levitate the diadem to the stone floor a few feet from his desk.
Charlie raised the sword high above his head before swinging the blade down rapidly and striking the precious artifact. The sharp clang of metal against metal reverberated throughout the Headmaster’s office. A cloud of black mist emerged from the diadem and slowly dissipated into the air. Crimson ichor oozed from the blue sapphire of the tiara and stained the floor below. Charlie drew in a sudden gasp as he collapsed to his knees.
“Are you all right?” Remus grabbed his shoulder.
Charlie nodded. “It’s done?”
“Yes, the Horcrux is destroyed,” Albus assured him. “It didn’t appear to put up much resistance, but…how do you feel?”
“I’m fine.” Charlie staggered to his feet, still looking slightly disoriented. “It pulled at the bond.” His gaze focused on the door leading out of the Headmaster’s office. “Anna’s coming.”
The Headmaster raised his eyebrows. “Remus, perhaps you could invite Miss Henry to join us.”
Remus made his way rapidly down the spiral staircase and soon returned with Anna.
“Charlie!” She ran into his arms.
“I’m fine, love.” He held her in a tight embrace. “I’m sorry you felt that. We were dealing with an object tainted by Dark Magic. I had no idea it would affect our bond that way.”
Anna sighed and leaned back slightly to glance at the other occupants of the room. “Is it something to do with Tom Riddle?”
“It is indeed,” Albus admitted. “Fortunately, the item has been destroyed and is no longer a threat to anyone. May I ask how it impacted your bond? What did you feel?”
Charlie shrugged and relaxed his hold on Anna, though he continued to unconsciously rub slow circles on her back. “My magic seemed to spike briefly and then settle right back to normal. Almost the way it does when learning a new spell and putting far too much power into it, and then feeling a bit drained for having expelled so much magical energy. The feeling was uncomfortable, but not painful. I don’t know exactly how to describe the way it felt with our bond other than there was a pulling sensation.”
“Anna?” Remus inquired.
“I felt a sudden pulling on my magic through the bond,” she explained. “It was uncomfortable and made me feel anxious. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.”
“And now?” Albus asked.
Both were silent for a moment. Charlie smiled, and Anna relaxed more comfortably against him. “We both feel perfectly normal now,” he said. “Although, I fully admit I’m ready for this day to be over!”
Murmurs of good night followed, and the pair left the office quickly.
“Five down, one to go,” Remus remarked, rubbing at his face as he collapsed into a chair.
Albus’s eyes were twinkling as he faced the other man. “I believe this calls for a celebratory drink!”
Harry paced the Gryffindor common room, anxiously casting glances towards the girls’ staircase. He was nervous and excited. His black dress robes, which had felt comfortable enough when he put them on an hour ago, suddenly felt a bit too constricting. During the Triwizard Tournament, he had escorted a friend to the Yule Ball. Being able to take his girlfriend to the ball this year was distinctly different. Thoughts of Ginny swirled through his mind. He wondered what her dress would look like, how her hair would be done, what it would feel like to hold her in his arms and dance with her all evening. Looking over at Ron, he realized his friend was likely feeling as overwhelmed as he was.
“Mind if I wait with you?” Charlie asked.
“What’s taking them so long?” Ron scowled as he peered at the empty staircase leading up to the girls’ dormitories.
Charlie chuckled as he settled into one of the overstuffed armchairs by the fire. “Take a bit of advice from your older brother. A witch is always worth waiting for. Have a seat and relax. When your girl appears, tell her how beautiful she looks and how lucky you are to be her date for the evening. I guarantee you’ll have a great night!”
Seamus laughed as he collapsed onto a nearby sofa. A few of the other guys were also looking visibly relieved.
Though Charlie was the Care of Magical Creatures Professor, he was not currently teaching any of the sixth or seventh year Gryffindors since none had chosen to continue that elective into their N.E.W.T. years. Among the younger students, he was known as the cool teacher and was therefore seen as far more human and approachable than most of the faculty. Harry could readily admit that any professor who had been a successful Seeker, Quidditch captain, member of the infamous Weasley clan, and Dragon handler at the largest Reserve in Europe was likely to be idolized by many students. The fact that Charlie had a calm, easy-going nature, and was often willing to talk to his students about a vast array of topics only added to his popularity.
Suddenly soft voices and excited giggles filled the air. In a steady stream, girls were descending the staircase finding their dates or quickly exiting the common room if their dates were members of another house.
Harry watched Ginny slowly make her way down the steps. She was wearing a knee-length dark green gown. Her hair was pulled back from her face and flowed down her back in loose waves. The light caught every fiery tendril. Her bright brown eyes were staring at him intently.
“You’re beautiful,” Harry murmured. He took her hands and pulled her gently towards him.
She smiled. “You’re looking rather dashing yourself.”
His mind went blissfully blank as he wrapped her snugly in his arms and lowered his lips to hers. She was soft and pliant. Her lips moved beneath his in eager exploration. The light floral scent of her hair was both calming and stimulating to his senses. A whimper escaped her throat.
“Oi!” Ron exclaimed.
Harry’s head snapped up. He felt his face growing hot as he realized he had kissed Ginny in full view of two of her brothers and numerous members of Gryffindor House.
“Why aren’t you saying anything?” Ron demanded.
Harry opened his mouth to speak before realized his friend was glaring at his older brother.
“I’m practicing not being a hypocrite,” Charlie said calmly. “You might want to try it, unless you’re honestly planning to not kiss your own date this evening.”
Ron sputtered, while Hermione’s cheeks flushed pink. Ginny began giggling quietly in Harry’s arms.
“Well said, love. Shall we go down?” Anna asked.
Charlie wrapped his arms around her and whispered something in her ear that made her face turn bright red as her lips parted. Harry was almost glad he couldn’t hear their conversation.
The group slowly made their way down the staircases to the Great Hall. The room had truly been transformed. Small tables set for eight students each filled the perimeter of the space with a large open area in the middle for dancing. A band was setting up in one corner and brightly lit Christmas trees were adorning each of the other three corners.
Their group joined Neville and Luna at a table and were soon enjoying a delicious meal. Harry missed most of the conversation during dinner, but thoroughly enjoyed having his left hand resting on Ginny’s thigh throughout the meal. After the pudding was finally eaten, the dancing began. Harry grinned as the music started and he was able to take Ginny into his arms once more.
Harry silently thanked Sirius for the opportunity of dancing lessons, for the miracle of permanently escaping his aunt and uncle’s home on Privet Drive, for the advice on how to ask the girl he loved to be his girlfriend.
His mind froze at the thought and he clasped Ginny more firmly in his arms. He loved her. He couldn’t honestly name the moment he was sure, the moment this feeling had filled him so completely, but he was certain of it now. He loved Ginny.
“Are you okay, Harry?” Ginny asked.
He smiled. “Better than okay. This night is perfect.”
She threaded her fingers lightly through the hair at the nape of his neck. “Yes, it is.”
Harry pressed his lips gently to hers, mindful of the room full of students and teachers. He wanted to savor every moment of this night, enjoy every dance, revel in every touch.
He was completely oblivious to the passage of time as the night wore on, and perfectly content to be so happily unaware. Ginny’s flowery scent, the soft skin he was able to touch, and her graceful movements filled his every desire. As the last song of the evening was announced, he was certain of one thing, this night could not end.
“Let’s go,” Harry whispered in her ear.
Ginny’s eyes widened in surprise before she nodded and allowed him to lead her out of the Great Hall and rapidly up the many staircases to the Astronomy Tower. She melted against him as he murmured a warming spell, conjured a thick blanket, and pulled her down to the stone floor. He stroked the soft skin of her cheek with his thumb.
“I love you, Ginny.”
Her lips curved into a radiant smile. “I love you, Harry.”
His heart thundered in his chest as he pushed her back gently to lay on the blanket. Her fiery red hair was spread out around her and his fingers immediately sought out the brilliant softness. Harry covered her slender frame with his own and kissed her with all the passion consuming him. She returned his kiss with equal enthusiasm, her arms wrapping around him securely. A bright, golden light suddenly filled his vision, overwhelming his senses and paralyzing his body. As his limbs froze, he felt vaguely relieved that she was safely encapsulated within his embrace.
They were flying through the brisk air enjoying the thrill of the wind whipping through their hair as they soared on their broomsticks into the ever-darkening night. They were walking through the orchard at The Burrow on a fine spring day admiring the blossoms on the fruit trees. They were swimming in the pond, stealing kisses, pressing their scantily clad bodies together. They were…
Stabbing pain such as Harry had never experienced suddenly obliterated all other sensations. The piercing agony in his skull was joined by a chilling scream that echoed nauseatingly through his tortured mind. Blinding fear caused his entire body to tremble and twitch as he fought the paralysis seizing him. The desperate need to protect Ginny from this unknown menace was overwhelming. He forced himself to block out the sickening pain enough to concentrate on her smell, on the feel of her slight frame still securely beneath him. A dizzying numbness washed over him as a red haze obliterated his awareness….
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