|SIYE Time:17:49 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: 13397; Chapter Total: 517
Awards: View Trophy Room
Special thanks goes out to Arnel for her beta work!
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.
“Now that we’ve all had a few drinks, we’re ready for the next set of questions. I’ll start!” Fred exclaimed, pulling a slip of parchment from a bowl. “Never have I ever gone skinny dipping.”
Charlie’s eyes widened in surprise at the scene before him. All eight of the teens were sitting in a circle on the floor of Fred and George’s room. Each had a glass in their hand. His gaze settled on Anna just as she raised the drink to her lips and took a slow sip.
“Merlin, a drinking game!” Bill exclaimed as he shut the door behind them and placed a few charms on it.
Several flushed faces turned to look at him in shock.
“Hey, Bill, Charlie. You’re welcome to join us,” George muttered weakly. “We just got to the good questions.”
Bill groaned. “How much have you all had to drink?”
“Everyone’s still on their first glass,” Fred assured him. “We’re only taking sips.”
Bill sighed and exchanged a thoughtful glance with Charlie before facing the twins again. “Hand over the bottle.”
George passed the bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky over to his oldest brother.
“Are you going to turn us in?” Hermione asked fearfully.
“No,” Bill replied, as Charlie conjured a couple of glasses for them. “We are going to supervise.”
Relieved sighs echoed around the circle as Bill poured Firewhisky in both glasses. Charlie drained half his in one long swallow as he moved to sit between the grinning twins. Bill quietly refilled it, and sat next to Charlie as everyone shifted slightly to expand the circle.
“So, Anna, am I allowed to ask where and when you went skinny dipping?” Bill inquired with a side long glance at Charlie.
“Had to be back in Virginia when you were a kid,” Neville supplied. “Right, Anna?” He looked at her expectantly.
She chewed her lower lip nervously for a few seconds. “Not exactly,” she admitted.
Neville’s eyes widened.
“Well, we have the stream right there on the Manor property,” Anna explained, a blush creeping over her cheeks. “I’m always careful to only do it when you and Remus are busy elsewhere, so it’s not like anyone has ever seen me.” She glanced around the group. “Surely, I’m not the only one whose been skinny dipping.”
“Course not,” Charlie murmured. “I’m sure most of us have at some point.” He lifted his glass and took a slow sip to indicate that he had. It turned out that all the Weasley brothers, except Ron, had been skinny dipping at The Burrow’s pond.
George read the next statement. “Never have I ever kissed someone on the mouth.”
Hermione took a quick sip of her Firewhisky, as did Bill, Charlie, and the twins. Ron was scowling slightly as he stared at his glass. Fortunately, no one brought up Viktor Krum or the Yule Ball.
Ginny grabbed the next bit of parchment. “Never have I ever smoked.”
Bill and the twins took a drink, causing Ginny to raise an eyebrow at them, looking almost as imperious as their mum at that moment.
“I smoked a water pipe in Egypt,” Bill admitted with a shrug. “They’re very common there, and it was helpful in my job to become friendly with the locals.”
“We smoked cigarettes with a few lads in the village once,” Fred said. “Seemed harmless enough, though I don’t think we’ll be doing it again.” George nodded in agreement.
“Never have I ever stolen or illicitly consumed liquor or potions,” Neville read.
Everyone took a sip of their Firewhisky, some avoiding eye contact, while others smirked silently.
“Guess we’re all guilty of that one after tonight,” Neville quipped.
Ron read the next statement. “Never have I ever sunbathed topless or in the nude.”
Hermione, Charlie, Bill, and Anna took a drink.
Ron huffed as he exclaimed, “Really, Hermione!”
“It’s quite common on certain beaches in the south of France, Ronald,” she sputtered. “And, obviously, it’s not so unusual since Bill, Charlie, and Anna have also sunbathed without being covered up!”
“Well, I just don’t think it sounds decent!” Ron asserted.
“Don’t knock it ‘til you try it, little brother,” Charlie quietly advised.
Harry reached his hand into the bowl and rolled his eyes before he read. “Never have I ever received a detention at Hogwarts.” He chuckled as he raised his glass in mock salute. “More than I can count.” He took a long swallow from his glass. Almost everyone in the circle joined him.
Hermione took the next slip of parchment. “Never have I ever had to cover up a love bite.” She blushed slightly, but did not take a sip of her Firewhisky.
As Bill, Charlie, and the twins took a drink from their glasses, Ginny leaned over to her and loudly whispered, “I bet you’re glad you didn’t have to drink that time.”
Hermione nodded as Anna giggled and read the next one. “Never have I ever gotten a tattoo or body piercing.”
Charlie was the only one who took a drink.
Bill smirked. “Really, little brother! Let’s see it then.”
Charlie stood up and shrugged off his shirt, revealing a tattoo of a dragon on his left shoulder blade.
“Is that a Hungarian Horntail?” Harry asked, standing up a bit unsteadily to get a closer look.
Charlie nodded and chuckled. “Yeah, the one you were up against in that first task of the Triwizard Tournament gave me my first scar.” Everyone’s attention was focused on him as he turned and pointed out the long slightly diagonal mark across his abdomen that disappeared beneath the waistline of his trousers. “It’s kind of a tradition on the reserve to get a tattoo of the first dragon that draws blood.”
As he looked up, his eyes locked with Anna’s. Her lips parted and a light blush suffused her cheeks. She slowly raised her glass and drained the remainder of her Firewhisky.
“Why’d you drink?” Neville asked. “You don’t have any tattoos or body piercings. Do you?” He blinked at her in confusion.
“Hmmm,” Anna mumbled, her glance shifting from Charlie to her cousin. “No, of course not. I…uh…that was the last one in the bowl.”
“The last what?” Ginny inquired peering into the bowl with a slight frown.
Charlie chuckled softly and yanked his shirt back over his head.
“The last question, and, it’s very late, so game’s over,” Bill stated, firmly. “Everyone drink a glass of water before you go to sleep, and, hopefully, you won’t be obviously hung over in the morning.” Pointing his wand at their glasses, he Vanished the remainder of the Firewhisky and filled each with water.
The teens quickly picked up their glasses and wished one another a good night. As they snuck off to their respective bedrooms, Bill and Charlie followed behind to make certain everyone made it okay. Charlie was rather impressed that the teens were all still capable of walking in a relatively straight line and, other than a few soft whispers and giggles, were being sensibly quiet.
“Good morning, Severus,” Narcissa smiled as she offered him a seat in the small sitting room of her home in Wiltshire. “Thank you for responding so promptly to my letter.” She sank gracefully into an armchair and began to pour tea.
“I’m always delighted to accept an invitation to your lovely home,” Snape replied and accepted the cup of tea. He glanced around the well-furnished, but modestly proportioned room. This space was clearly for the lady of the house and decorated as such. “Will Lucius be joining us?”
“No, he has business at the Ministry this morning,” she stated. “I hope you have been enjoying a relaxing Christmas holiday.”
Severus nodded. They spoke of mundane topics for several minutes. While he had been a guest at Malfoy Manor on many occasions, he rarely met with Narcissa alone unless she wanted to discuss Draco’s education. Fortunately, he was a dedicated pupil and was generally successful in his classes at Hogwarts. Severus waited patiently for his hostess to introduce the purpose of this meeting.
“I was wondering what you might be able to tell me about Miss Anna Henry,” Narcissa paused. “Draco has mentioned her, and I am rather curious to hear your thoughts of her.”
Severus’s head cocked to the side slightly in thought. “Miss Henry is a Gryffindor,” he began slowly. At her answering nod, he continued. “She is a pure-blood, I believe, connected to the Longbottom family, and now resides with them, though her early childhood was spent in the States.” He paused. “Virginia, to be precise.”
Narcissa smiled. “I have never been to Longbottom Manor personally, but my mother attended a garden party there many years ago and described it favorably.”
“The Longbottom family is respectably well-off from what I understand and, of course, one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight,” Severus confirmed. “Miss Henry and her cousin, Neville Longbottom, have the benefit of a tutor during the summer holidays. While she does not require extra tuition, her cousin certainly needs the assistance.”
“So, she is a good student,” Narcissa inquired.
Severus nodded. “She is a capable young witch in a quiet sort of way. I’ve never heard my colleagues speak badly of her, academically or personally. She is intelligent, without apparently feeling a constant need to show off, and well-behaved in the classroom. I have no doubt she will do well on her O.W.L.s this year. I believe she will achieve an Outstanding in Potions.”
Narcissa took a sip of her tea and seemed to be considering his words. “Have you noticed…anything else…anything unusual about her?”
“Unusual?” Severus repeated. He took a sip of his own tea as he deliberated what, if anything more, he should say about the girl. He was still surprised by his inability to successfully use Legilimency on her. He had attempted on several occasions to gently probe the girl’s mind and had yet to succeed. Though Albus Dumbledore would never admit it, Severus rather suspected the Headmaster had also tried and failed to use Legilimency on Miss Henry. Deciding to share something Draco would also know, he cleared his throat. “I did hear that she proved herself to be highly resistant to the Imperius Curse when exposed to it in class last school year.”
“Draco mentioned Professor Moody casting the curse on his Defense Against the Dark Arts students,” Narcissa murmured, a slight frown on her lips. “Of course, we did not realize at the time it was actually young Barty Crouch using Polyjuice Potion.” She shifted slightly in her chair. “What would that mean about her? A young girl being so resistant to the Imperius Curse?”
Severus sighed as he set his tea cup on the nearby table. “Well, it is unusual to be sure. Generally speaking, only those who are very strong, very powerful magically, can ever resist the Imperius Curse. As to what it means or how she achieved it,” he paused and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I can only guess that something about the tragedies of her past plays a role in allowing her that level of self-control.”
“And, what do you know of her past?” Narcissa pressed.
“Not a great deal,” he admitted. “She is an orphan. Augusta Longbottom is her guardian. She was raised by her grandmother in Virginia until the woman’s death. Her father brought her to England, and she joined Hogwarts as a third-year student. It was an unusual circumstance, but not unheard of. Unfortunately, her father died soon after in a fatal accident of some kind.”
“The poor girl,” she said softly, staring out the window, clearly lost in thought.
Severus peered at his hostess carefully. “May I ask why you are so interested in Miss Henry?”
Narcissa seemed to consider a moment before responding. “We are examining options for a potential match for Draco. When I encouraged Draco to provide us with the names of a few witches he favored, he mentioned Miss Henry.”
“A betrothal? Between Draco and Anna Henry?” he responded. “I am somewhat surprised you are not focusing on members of Slytherin House.”
“The other two young ladies are of Slytherin House; however, house affiliation is only one of several factors to consider, and nothing has been decided yet,” Narcissa explained. “Such an important decision should not be made quickly or carelessly.”
“Indeed,” Severus replied, silently wondering what other factors Narcissa found important in the decision of a match for her son.
They conversed for a short while longer before he bowed over her hand and took his leave. The Malfoy family’s interest in the Gryffindor witch was curious, and rather unexpected; however, he was certainly not one to dwell on his students’ love lives.
The owl from Gornuk arrived just as Augusta was about to enter the dining room for breakfast. Reading the missive from the goblin in charge of Anna’s Gringotts account, Augusta sighed and resigned herself to the conversation she had been avoiding since Christmas Eve night. Wordlessly, she handed the note to Remus as she entered the room.
The children were already at the table eating and talking about what they wanted to do on their last day home before returning to Hogwarts. Remus read the note, made eye contact with Augusta, and nodded. She waited until everyone was finished with their breakfasts before suggesting that they retire to the garden room for a talk.
Both children looked rather wary as they entered the room and sat beside one another on the sofa. Augusta and Remus sat in the armchairs facing them.
Augusta took a steadying breath before she began. “Anna, this is a letter from Gornuk. It arrived just before breakfast this morning.” She passed the letter to her great niece who opened it and leaned towards her cousin, so they could read it together.
“I don’t understand,” Anna said. “What does he mean that ‘an inquiry about my status has been made and responded to in the usual manner?’ My status regarding what exactly?”
“What Gornuk is telling us is that an established pure-blood family has made a request for basic information about your Gringotts account and financial circumstances,” Augusta explained. “By telling us that it was ‘responded to in the usual manner,’ we know that the family was informed that you will be coming of age this year and that you will gain complete control of your inheritance at that time. You are not rich by pure-blood standards, but you are respectably well-off financially.”
“So, that’s what the part about me being ‘a witch of respectable, independent means’ is all about,” Anna murmured.
“Yes,” Augusta confirmed. “Gringotts has long supplied this kind of information about pure-blood heirs and heiresses. It is part of the standard information gathering that occurs when a family is considering making an alliance.”
“Alliance?” she questioned.
“A marital alliance by means of a betrothal contract between a witch and a wizard. We don’t know definitively which family made the inquiry,” Augusta paused. “Based upon what happened at the Christmas Eve party at the Macmillan residence, I think we can fairly assume that it was the Malfoy family.”
“Absolutely not!” Neville exclaimed, standing up suddenly, his fists clenched at his sides. “There is no way in bloody hell Anna will ever be betrothed to Draco Malfoy!”
“Neville, please sit down and calm yourself,” Remus insisted quietly. “There is more we need to explain and discuss. Getting upset right now will not do anyone any good.” He glanced meaningfully towards Anna.
Neville looked at his cousin, noting her pale face and the way her hands twisted in her lap. He sat down and placed a hand over hers, squeezing gently. “It will be okay,” he assured her.
She nodded, but did not speak.
“Anna,” Remus continued. “When you all came home from the Macmillan’s Christmas Eve party, you indicated that your skin burned where Draco had touched you. Sirius wondered if it might be possible that Draco took a skin sample at that time to use in a Paternity Potion. The potion doesn’t really confirm parenthood, but it can confirm if family members are in fact related. If Sirius is correct, your skin sample was used to confirm that you are a member of the Longbottom family.”
“What would that prove?” Neville asked in confusion.
“It would help confirm that Anna is pure-blood, or at the very least, not Muggle-born,” Augusta explained. “Narcissa Malfoy was on the visitor’s log at St. Mungo’s just before Christmas Eve. She visited the Janus Thickey Ward, Neville.” She paused for a moment looking at her grandson. “I spoke with the Healer. She confirmed that Mrs. Malfoy spent some time with your father. There is little doubt in my mind, a skin sample was taken from Frank to compare it with Anna’s.”
“I’ve never heard of a Paternity Potion,” Anna murmured. “Is that how it works? Comparing two samples and looking for similarities?”
“That is my understanding of it,” her aunt confirmed. “The test is not specific enough to show exact relationships or to magically create an entire genealogy. However, the samples would confirm that you and Frank are related. Not that anyone who knew your grandmother could ever doubt it. You are looking more like Katherine as you get older.”
Anna nodded and tried to force a smile, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “So, what happens now?”
“Now, we wait,” she replied. “If our suspicions are correct and the Malfoy family is considering you as a potential match for Draco, they are likely exploring other options as well. It is perfectly possible that nothing will come of this, that another witch will become the focus.”
“Well, that’s certainly something to hope for!” Neville exclaimed.
Augusta nodded. “If the Malfoy family selects you, Anna, Narcissa Malfoy will send me a letter of interest in establishing a betrothal contract. If that happens, I will send you an owl at Hogwarts and inform you of the situation. I will also respond to Mrs. Malfoy that we are honored by their interest and that I will be discussing options with you in person this summer and making a decision at that time.”
“Why not just say no?” Neville asked.
“First, that would be incredibly rude,” she replied, frowning at her grandson. “Refusing to even take the time to consider a marital alliance with another member of the Sacred Twenty-Eight would not be wise, particularly with the social and political climate being what it is. Second, the fact is that multiple letters of interest may be arriving. It is better to politely thank each family and inform them that a decision will be made this summer. That way, we can delay for now and calmly consider what to do when we have more time. As a rule, it is far easier to decline offers with the news that another offer has been selected and a betrothal is imminent.”
“So,” Anna whispered. “If multiple offers are made, I have to select one of them.”
Neville opened his mouth and appeared about to stand again.
“No,” Augusta replied firmly, giving her grandson a brief quelling look. “We will never force you into a betrothal contract with anyone. Delaying a negative response simply gives us more time to handle this in the best way possible.”
Anna nodded, and Neville smiled reassuringly at her.
“With that being said,” Remus continued. “It would definitely be best not to encourage anyone’s regard at the present time.”
“Meaning?” Neville asked.
“Anna should probably refrain from dating anyone,” Remus explained. “As male Head of Longbottom House, Neville, you could even refuse to allow her to date or be alone with another boy.”
“Which is heavy-handed and not something I would ordinarily condone.” Augusta sighed loudly. “However, given the current situation, it might be for the best.”
Anna’s eyes were shifting frequently among them as she listened. “Am I in danger?”
“No, of course not,” Augusta assured her. “I will not enter you into a betrothal without your consent. This is a delicate situation, and I really should have anticipated it, but everything will be alright.”
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