|SIYE Time:17:47 on 16th January 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: 13393; Chapter Total: 530
Awards: View Trophy Room
Huge thanks to Arnel who, among other things, taught me the correct spelling of Firewhisky!!!
Remus chuckled as he took another sip of his Firewhisky. He was glad Sirius had decided to drop by for a brief visit while Augusta and the children were at the Macmillan’s Christmas Eve party. These recent opportunities to reminisce with Sirius about the Marauder days were wonderful. They focused on tales that included James, and sometimes Lily, while purposely avoiding any mention of Peter. His old friend was an amusing storyteller and recounted some of their bawdier exploits with true relish. The fact that some of the stories were rather exaggerated did not lessen them in any way. Remus greatly appreciated that Sirius had become such a frequent visitor to Longbottom Manor. He knew that Augusta sincerely enjoyed his visits as well.
The Floo activated, and Anna stepped quickly from the fireplace, her hand covering the necklace at her throat.
“Hello, Remus. Sirius,” she murmured with a nod, walking purposefully across the room towards the door, apparently intending to leave the room. “Good night.”
“Wait a moment, Anna. You haven’t told us anything about the party,” Remus asserted as he set his glass on a nearby table.
She paused and seemed to take a deep breath before turning back to look at him. Her gaze was too carefully blank, setting his nerves on edge.
“How was it?” he inquired, with a slight frown.
“The party was lovely,” she replied, her smile too frozen to be completely genuine. “The Macmillan home is simply exquisite! The ballroom is huge and elegant, just as Aunt Augusta described. It was wonderful dancing with Neville and Ernie…” her voice trailed off as she bit her lip. One trembling hand still hovered over her chest in a strangely protective manner as she spoke. “I’m rather tired. I think I’ll go on up to bed.”
Remus exchanged a glance with Sirius, whose eyebrow was raised. Remus had, unfortunately, become accustomed enough with Anna’s attempts at faking a calm demeanor to recognize it easily, and truly she wasn’t even trying very hard now. Perhaps she was in fact too tired to maintain a façade.
Standing up, he slowly approached her. “What happened, Anna?” he asked softly.
She closed her eyes and shook her head briefly. “Nothing really. I overreacted.”
Neville stepped out of the Floo and went directly to Anna, grabbing both her arms and turning her to face him. “Did Malfoy do something?” he demanded. “Ernie was just telling me he thought he saw Malfoy touching your neck.”
She nodded slightly. “My skin is still burning,” Anna whispered. Her eyes betrayed her confusion.
Augusta exited the Floo expertly and settled herself comfortably in a high back chair near the fire, accepting the glass of Firewhisky passed to her with a grateful nod.
“Neville, Anna,” she began.
The teens turned to her respectfully.
“You both handled yourselves perfectly well at the party. I’m quite proud of you,” Augusta continued. She focused her gaze intently on Anna. “Now, please sit down and explain to me exactly what occurred between you and the Malfoy boy.”
Anna pressed her lips together hard, standing rigidly for a moment, before sighing softly and sitting on the sofa with Neville. Remus pretended not to notice the glass of Firewhisky Sirius handed her. She took a slow sip of the amber liquid.
“Draco asked Ernie for permission to dance with me,” she explained. “Ernie agreed of course. I mean, Draco was being perfectly polite and correct, so Ernie had to agree. He couldn’t really have refused.” She absently took another sip of her drink. “Draco was holding me…a bit too tightly. He kept talking about wanting to get to know me better and show me the grounds of Malfoy Manor. It was…uncomfortable. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I felt…” she shuddered slightly. “I was relieved when the music stopped, but he didn’t let go of me. He was complimenting my emerald pendant, and…he sort of traced around it with his finger.” She mimicked the motion with her own finger touching the skin of her upper chest lightly and winced. “His touch was…rough. It almost felt like a carpet burn. I think I…gasped, perhaps, and he backed away. Then, he offered his arm like a perfect gentleman, and escorted me back to Neville.” Anna shook her head slightly, looking lost in thought as she drained the remainder of the Firewhisky from her glass. “I overreacted,” she murmured, setting the glass down as she stood and walked over to her aunt. “He was…um…forward, but he didn’t actually do anything terrible. I’m sorry. We shouldn’t have left the party so early.”
Augusta took her hand gently. “You don’t need to apologize. You did nothing wrong, and it was a reasonable time for us to leave anyway,” she said reassuringly. “We were at the party for three hours! A perfectly adequate amount of time for you young people to be out for your first formal holiday party. And, it does sound as though the Malfoy boy was not behaving completely correctly,” her lips pursed in disapproval. “Though apparently, there’s no harm done. Now off to bed with you both. Christmas morning always comes early.”
With murmured ‘good nights,’ the teens went off to bed, leaving the adults with their Firewhisky.
Remus sipped his drink and gazed into the burning embers of the fire. “Why did Anna say that her skin was still burning?” he suddenly asked, glancing from Sirius to Augusta.
“I must have missed that part,” Augusta replied slowly. “Though I did notice her wince when she was demonstrating Draco’s admiration of her necklace.”
“Well, I can’t imagine her chest was burning because she was enjoying his attentions,” Sirius drawled before taking a long swallow from his glass.
Remus narrowed his eyes at his old friend and was about to make a heated reply when Sirius set down his drink decisively.
“Is Anna a pure-blood?” he inquired, focusing on Augusta. “An heiress?”
“Yes,” she replied slowly. “I mean Anna is certainly a pure-blood, though her father was a Squib. All her grandparents were definitely magical. Katherine attended Hogwarts, of course, and the other three were all Healers. Her Gringotts account is not huge, but she has a respectable inheritance which she will have complete control over when she comes of age in the coming year.” She paused uncertainly. “What does that have to do with anything? What are you thinking, Sirius?”
He rubbed his chin quietly for a moment lost in thought. “I’m wondering if young Malfoy took a skin sample. It would explain the burning sensation she described.”
“Why would he want a skin sample?” Remus asked, frustration evident in his tone. “How could he even take a skin sample with his finger?”
“Anna mentioned that his touch was rough,” Sirius reasoned. “Draco could have slipped a thin layer of dragon hide over his finger, like a glove. He pressed just hard enough on her skin to pick up a sample. He probably chose her chest to ensure a clean, uncontaminated skin sample. I doubt anyone else touched her there this evening. Once he had the sample, Draco slipped the dragon hide sheath off and into his pocket.” He picked up his glass and drained the amber liquid. “He could have accomplished it quite subtly, without much danger of Anna noticing.”
Augusta swore softly, earning a quick grin from Sirius, though it faded rapidly.
“Just as hair is most useful for a Polyjuice Potion, skin is most useful for a Paternity Potion,” Sirius continued. “Though the name is a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t truly show paternity. It works as more of a general indicator of family affiliation. It was once used rather commonly in pure-blood families to prove that an heir really was an heir. Of course, with cousins marrying cousins, and the potion results being rather indistinct, it’s not exactly a valuable indicator most of the time. However, if the Malfoy family is interested in Anna being a potential match for young Draco, I can well imagine Narcissa wanting to verify that she is indeed related to the Longbottom family.”
Augusta rubbed her head tiredly before looking up sharply. “Damn it! They’ll have taken a skin sample from my Frank for comparison.”
Sirius nodded grimly. “I’m sorry, Augusta. That would be the simplest solution and probably very easy for them. The Malfoy family has made several charitable donations to St. Mungo’s in recent years, and Narcissa is a regular visitor. If my suspicions are correct, she has likely already been to the Janus Thickey ward to get a sample from Frank.” He paused thoughtfully. “A simple inquiry with Gringotts will confirm the general health of Anna’s vault. The goblins won’t give specific information, of course, but they have always provided basic information to pure-blood families intent on cementing alliances with betrothal contracts.”
Remus could feel his body tensing, muscles flexing in mute frustration. His nails dug into the arm of his chair as a low growl escaped his lips.
“Easy there, Moony,” Sirius murmured. “Full moon’s not ‘til tomorrow.”
Lupin glared at his friend before turning his attention to the lady of the house. “Please tell me you would not even consider betrothing Anna to the Malfoy heir.”
Augusta huffed indignantly. “You should know me well enough by now to be certain that I would never betroth Anna to anyone against her will!”
Remus pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled slowly. “I apologize, Augusta,” he said formally. “I know full well you would not do such a thing. I’m not myself tonight.”
“It’s quite alright,” she assured him, reaching over to pat his arm gently. “I’m not opposed to betrothal contracts. I had one, so did Frank and Alice, but I will not enter either of the children into that kind of understanding unless they choose it.”
The werewolf nodded in solemn agreement, rubbing his forehead tiredly. “We may be jumping to conclusions. It’s possible he was just touching her somewhat inappropriately to see what he could get away with. His hands could be rough from all the Quidditch practice at Hogwarts. Anna herself said she overreacted, which is perfectly understandable of course. She’s not used to being handled in such a way, thank Merlin,” he glanced at the others. “We may be imagining more sinister motivations than actually exist.”
“I certainly hope so,” Augusta replied. “In the meantime, let’s be careful what we say to the children. They don’t need to know about our suspicions yet.”
Sirius stood up with the bottle of Firewhisky in hand and carefully refilled their glasses. “Well,” he drawled. “Let’s drink to that, and hope for a complete lack of requests for a betrothal in the coming year.”
“Order meeting tonight,” Ginny announced as she walked into the library of Grimmauld Place. “Mum just told me we are going to have an early tea. Then, she wants all of us to stay upstairs during the meeting.” She sank gracefully to the floor beside Ron and Harry, who were engaged in a game of Exploding Snap.
“Well,” Fred smirked from his spot on the sofa. “I’m sure we can find a way to obtain a bit of information.”
“Right you are,” George agreed, pulling out an Extendable Ear from his pocket and flashing a smile.
“She asked me to remind the two of you that she will be putting an Imperturbable Charm on the door during the meeting,” Ginny continued.
Her brothers scowled, while Hermione just sighed as she turned the page of her book.
“Any good news?” Harry asked.
She grinned and nodded. “Charlie’s coming in from Romania for the meeting and will be staying overnight,” she replied. “Mum also said that Professor Lupin and Augusta Longbottom are coming for the meeting, so Neville and Anna will be here this evening. We’re supposed to prepare our bedrooms for them to stay over because the meeting will probably run late.”
“Well, that is good news!” Harry smiled. “Merlin knows we have plenty of room in this old place.”
“We should plan some fun activities since we’re all going to be trapped upstairs all evening while the adults are in a meeting,” Hermione enthused.
Fred glanced at his twin and raised an eyebrow. George nodded and smirked.
“No need to plan a thing, Hermione,” George began.
“We’ve got this completely covered,” Fred agreed.
They leapt up from the sofa and left the room with cackling whispers and a definite spring in their steps.
“Why am I suddenly feeling a bit worried?” Hermione muttered as the door closed behind the twins.
“Because you feel the need to be correct and responsible most of the time,” Ginny quipped.
“Well, I am a prefect,” Hermione exclaimed. “And, so is Ron!”
“Hermione, I think we could all do with a bit of harmless fun,” Harry said. “Besides, you’re not prefects here.”
Narcissa gave the potion a final stir and carefully siphoned off the required amount to the center of the parchment. It would take several minutes to set before she could read the results and compare it to the results from the skin sample she had obtained from Frank Longbottom the day before Christmas Eve. The Paternity Potion was not commonly known outside of the Sacred Twenty-Eight, and it was not a perfect test of fatherhood. However, the potion was reliable enough to suit her purposes.
Draco had come home for the Christmas holiday and supplied his mother with two extra names, Astoria Greengrass and Anna Henry. Narcissa knew the Greengrass family well and had been aware of Astoria since birth. Miss Henry was more of a mystery. She wanted to confirm that the girl was indeed related to the Longbottom family before seeking more information about her. Draco had clearly been quite taken with her at the Macmillan party. Narcissa had carefully observed them from a distance and noticed his obvious interest. The young lady appeared to be a calm, polite witch and certainly an accomplished dancer. She was not truly beautiful, but was pleasantly attractive and had the type of figure that would certainly appeal to any wizard.
Glancing over at the parchment, she saw that it was ready and set it on the table next to the one of Frank Longbottom. A slow smile spread across her face as she recognized that they were indeed a match. Miss Henry was definitely a Longbottom relative. She was reaching for the two parchments to add them to her files, when her hand froze.
“Oh, Merlin,” she whispered, glancing around the room fearfully even though she was quite alone.
Moving swiftly to her filed parchments of all the Paternity Potion tests she had ever completed, she thumbed through them until she reached the one labeled D.L. Her hands were shaking as she removed the precious parchment and set it next to Miss Henry’s. Her memory had not failed her, though it had been so long. She recognized the match immediately.
“How is this possible?” she murmured to herself. “Daughter, granddaughter… and does he even know? Does she know?”
Again, she glanced around the empty room fearfully. Her heart pounded painfully in her chest as she considered the possibilities and the opportunity. Her mind raced as she carefully labeled A.H. on the newest parchment and filed all three away. She needed time to think before making any kind of decision.
“Eww, I can’t believe you had to dance with Draco Malfoy!” Ginny exclaimed. “He’s so vile.”
Anna nodded. “It was definitely an uncomfortable experience, but you know how it is at a polite society event. I couldn’t exactly refuse.”
“Why not?” Ron grimaced.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “As Anna just stated, Ronald, it was a formal occasion, and he requested the favor of a dance in the way a gentleman does. She couldn’t have really said ‘no,’ and neither could Ernie.”
“I think I’d have pleaded a sudden headache or something,” Harry murmured to Ron. Neville nodded in silent agreement.
The twins had been leading the group upstairs towards their bedroom. They stopped and turned dramatically just outside their door.
“My dear witches…” Fred began.
“And, gentle wizards…” George continued.
“We have prepared for you…”
“An evening of pure edification…”
“A true opportunity for you to learn…”
“Each other’s deepest and darkest secrets…”
“With the utilization of strong libation…”
“And, the willingness to participate in an activity of open inquiry…”
“We invite you to enter our humble abode…”
“Lift a glass…”
“And, bare your souls.”
The younger teens entered the room silently to find a wide-open space on the floor with a circle of eight glasses, each filled almost to the brim with an amber liquid. Two small bowls with slips of parchment were in the middle of the circle.
“What are we doing?” Ron asked, his brow wrinkled in confusion.
“It’s a drinking game, Ronald!” Hermione exclaimed.
“Right you are!” Fred praised as he clasped her hand and bowed over it.
“The Never Have I Ever Drinking Game,” George proclaimed.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Hermione protested.
“Stop thinking so much, Hermione,” Ginny giggled. “It’ll be brilliant!” She sat on the floor before one of the glasses and looked around expectantly.
One by one all the other teens joined her in a circle around the glasses on the floor.
“How do we play the game?” Harry inquired.
George quickly explained the rules to the group and said that he would go first to demonstrate. “We’ll start with this bowl. It has easier questions,” he announced with a smirk. He grabbed a small slip of parchment from the bowl and read.
“Never have I ever ridden a horse.”
“So, if I have ridden a horse, I must take a sip,” Anna confirmed.
“Yes,” Fred nodded. “Have you ridden a horse?”
“Um-hmm,” she nodded as she took a sip.
“I’m guessing you’ve had Firewhisky previously,” George mentioned with a smirk.
“A time or two,” she agreed.
The game continued with each of them in turn pulling a slip of parchment and reading the statement. The questions were all rather innocuous. They learned that Hermione was the only one who had ever eaten snails. Neville and Harry were the only two who had never traveled outside of Britain. Everyone had broken a bone at some point in their lives. Hermione and Harry were the only ones who had never danced in the rain. Anna and Hermione were the only two who had been surfing in the ocean. They had all played Wizards’ Chess. Only the Weasleys had ever milked a cow.
“That was the last question in this bowl,” Harry announced.
“Yes, indeed,” Fred exclaimed, reaching for the other bowl. “Now that we’ve all had a few drinks, we’re ready for the next set of questions. I’ll start!”
The Order meeting finally ended. Charlie stood up and stretched. He wasn’t used to sitting that long. Most of the discussions had been about things he wouldn’t be involved in either, so his mind had wandered a bit. Since he lived and worked at the dragon reserve in Romania, his main task for the Order was recruitment and information gathering there. He had requested a transfer to one of the dragon reserves in Britain well over a year ago, and hoped there would be an opening soon. Bill was the only one in the family who knew about his plans to return home and the reason behind his decision, the young witch upstairs. Though now that a war was likely, he had even more motivation to move back to Britain as soon as possible. He had caught a brief glimpse of Anna when she arrived with her family, moments before the meeting was scheduled to begin. Unfortunately, Mum had hurried all the teens upstairs before he had a chance to even say hello.
“Thank you, Molly, for letting the children stay the night,” Augusta said as she hugged the witch. “Remus will be staying here, of course, and will bring them back to the Manor in the morning.”
“No trouble at all,” Mum assured her. “It’s almost midnight now. The girls are probably already asleep, and I’ll check on the boys and make sure they turn in soon.”
The Order members quickly departed, and Mum stifled a yawn as she finished cleaning the last of the dishes.
“Go on to bed, Mum,” Charlie suggested, kissing her cheek. “I’ll check on the boys before turning in.”
“I’ll join you, little brother,” Bill said. “I’m eager to hear about your latest adventures. We didn’t have much time to talk before the meeting started.”
“Thank you, boys,” Mum sighed tiredly before wishing them a good night.
Charlie and Bill headed up the stairs. “So, what do you think? Fred and George’s room first?” Charlie asked.
“Undoubtedly the best place to start,” Bill agreed. “You do realize they are probably up to something.”
Charlie grinned. “I certainly hope so! I’d be rather disappointed if they were all asleep already. Do you think they found a way around the Imperturbable Charm?”
“We’ll soon find out,” Bill replied, opening the door to the twins’ room after a single perfunctory knock.
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