|SIYE Time:2:26 on 16th December 2017|
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: 10332; Chapter Total: 398
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you to my wonderful beta, Arnel!
Charlie glanced down once more at the letter he had received from Bill last week. It was a frustratingly brief note. Bill wanted to meet with him on his next day off at the Weinschenke Altes Presshaus in Durnstein, Austria. His brother had assured him that no one was ill or injured, but offered no reason for the sudden meeting. Charlie had sent the owl off with his reply that he would meet him at noon on Monday. He wondered what the urgency was and hoped that it might be good news for a change. Looking longingly at his broom for a moment, he stuffed his wallet into the pocket of his blue jeans. Charlie much preferred to fly, but didn’t have the time this morning. Exhaling slowly, he focused on his destination and Apparated away from the dragon reserve in Romania.
After two Apparition jumps, Charlie arrived at his destination near the Danube River. The small town was as picturesque as he remembered, but his eagerness to talk to his brother distracted him from enjoying the scenic location. Finding the restaurant, he saw that Bill was already at a table in the corner with a glass of beer in his hand.
“Hey, Charlie.” Bill stood up and gave him a quick hug. “I’m glad you were able to come.”
“I could hardly ignore your note,” he replied with a smirk.
The waitress came over and gave him a beer. Clearly, his brother had told her to bring it over as soon as he arrived.
“So,” Charlie commented. “Not that it’s not great to see you, but what did you want to meet me about?”
Bill rubbed his chin. “You might want to take a long swallow of that beer before I tell you.”
He chuckled as he picked up his drink and took a long, deliberate swallow. “Okay, now what’s going on?”
“Augusta Longbottom received two letters of interest for a betrothal with Anna,” Bill declared.
Charlie stared at his brother in disbelief as he tried to process the information. His abdomen clenching as though it’d been struck and was preparing for another blow.
“The letters came from the Malfoy and Macmillan families,” Bill continued. “According to Sirius, there was a bit of an incident between Draco Malfoy and Anna at the Macmillan’s Christmas Eve party.”
His brother described the way the Malfoy boy had taken a skin sample from Anna in the guise of admiring the pendant she was wearing. He explained the likelihood that a Paternity Potion had been utilized to confirm Anna as a member of the Longbottom family. Charlie felt a rushing in his ears as his jaw clenched and his face burned. “He touched her chest!”
“Breath, little brother,” Bill murmured.
If anyone else had talked to him that way, Charlie would have taken a deep breath and decked them. Coming from his big brother, he took a slow breath and forced himself to try to relax.
“Please, tell me she slapped the little sh…,” he broke off as the waitress returned.
Bill ordered their meals as well as another round of drinks while Charlie polished off his first beer.
“Of course, she didn’t slap him,” his brother muttered. “She is a sixteen-year-old girl who was attending her first formal holiday party. I’m sure she was confused and perhaps a little scared. Anna didn’t even admit to what happened until she was back home.”
Charlie rubbed the back of his neck. “So, how did Augusta respond to the betrothal letters?”
“Apparently, she graciously thanked both families for their interest and indicated that a decision would be made this summer,” Bill replied. “Remus is convinced that Anna will not be coerced into a betrothal agreement, but…” he shrugged. “The fact is, as much as the four of them act like a family, Remus is the tutor. He’s not the one who will be making the decision. It’s all up to Augusta, well, and Neville of course.”
“Merlin,” Charlie sighed. “Is Neville the male Head of House?”
Bill nodded. “Quite a responsibility for a fifteen-year-old kid.” He emptied his beer just as their food was delivered. He nodded his thanks to the waitress. “Neville and Anna are rather close. I can’t really see him trying to force her into something she doesn’t want to do.”
“Surely Augusta Longbottom wouldn’t want an alliance with the Malfoy family,” Charlie muttered.
“I seriously doubt it,” his brother agreed. “The Macmillan family though…Augusta and Emily Macmillan have been friends for decades. Both families are respectable members of the Sacred Twenty-eight, well-off financially, with similar political views, and rather traditional beliefs. The Macmillan kid is a Hufflepuff prefect and friendly with Neville.” He sighed. “Charlie, I really think you need to accept the possibility that Anna could be betrothed to him soon.”
Charlie drained his glass and stared blankly at the table. His mind raced through a confusing whirl of possibilities, hopes, and dreams. He couldn’t lose her. Even the idea of it left him empty, hollow in a way he had never experienced. She wasn’t his yet, but he knew that she could be, that she would be, if he had the chance. He had to secure that chance. With the decision made, he felt calmer.
“Bill, please tell Mum and Dad I’m coming home this weekend,” Charlie requested.
“What are you going to do?” his brother inquired.
“I’m going to tell Mum and Dad the truth, that I’ve been interested in Anna since the World Cup, that I’m trying to secure a transfer to one of the dragon reserves in Britain.” He met his brother’s eyes and smiled. “Then, I’m going to ask Mum to compose a letter of interest for a betrothal with Anna.”
Bill raised an eyebrow and stared at his brother. “You do realize the Weasley family is not exactly traditional enough to have recently been involved in a betrothal agreement.”
Charlie nodded confidently. “Mum will manage. She was a Prewett after all.”
His brother chuckled. “I’ll let them know you’re coming home.”
As they started eating their goulash soup, bratwurst and sauerkraut, their conversation turned to other topics, including Bill’s girlfriend. Charlie grinned as he listened to the near reverence in his brother’s tone when he talked about Fleur Delacour.
“Ah, Severus,” Albus greeted his Potions Master. “Good of you to join me on this fine evening.”
Snape grimaced as he pulled his cloak more tightly around him. “The Astronomy Tower is perhaps not the most comfortable place to be meeting in February,” he replied, his tone as frigid as the air surrounding them.
The Headmaster chuckled. “The temperature is perhaps not the most hospitable, but the view of the stars more than makes up for any unpleasantness.”
A sigh escaped the other man’s lips. “I suppose there is a purpose in your request to meet me here.”
“Indeed,” Albus replied, turning his gaze away from the brilliance of the night sky. “How are the Occlumency lessons coming along with our young Harry?”
Severus leaned against the stone wall. “Surprisingly, Mr. Potter is showing definite improvement,” he replied.
Cocking his head, the Headmaster waited for more information.
“Mr. Potter is demonstrating that he can focus well enough to block my most mundane efforts to infiltrate his mind. I am unclear about the exact method he is utilizing, but some sort of thick fog seems to be protecting his most private memories. I have been unable to access any interesting or important thoughts these last few sessions,” Severus paused. “Whether he can hold out against me during a truly concerted effort remains to be seen.”
Albus smiled, his blue eyes twinkling in the moonlight. “I’m pleased to hear he has made such progress and appreciate that you have chosen to not yet make a truly concerted effort. You are an excellent teacher, Severus,” he declared. “I have long held confidence that you could rise to the occasion when called upon.”
The Potions Master sneered, but managed to contain himself somewhat. “Do you honestly believe Occlumency will be enough to keep the Dark Lord out of Potter’s mind? We both know that it was not truly Legilimency at work when the boy saw the snake attack Arthur Weasley.”
Nodding thoughtfully, the Headmaster sighed. “Occlumency may help,” he stated clearly. “The effort can only benefit Harry and appears to be causing him no harm. Every magical skill he can master will undoubtedly help him survive the trials ahead.” Shifting his gaze back to the constellations, he appeared lost in thought. “The connection between Voldemort and our young Harry seems to defy all logic. I am convinced he is not possessing the boy, but beyond that.” He shook his head slowly. “We must hope that your training is enough to protect him.”
Severus raised an eyebrow. “And, what of the situation here at Hogwarts?” he pressed. “Dolores Umbridge will not rest until she has driven you from this castle and taken over the school entirely.”
The Headmaster chuckled. “I’m aware of her aspirations, though I sincerely appreciate your warning.” He turned calmly to the other man. “I do hope that in the event I am forced to leave, you and Minerva will work together to maintain order and protect the students.”
He nodded grimly before turning on his heel and leaving the Astronomy Tower.
Lucius strolled into his bedroom to find his wife in the process of changing for dinner. They were to dine out with the Minister and a few of his other guests this evening. Dismissing the house-elf attending her, he approached Narcissa and caressed the bare skin of her shoulders.
“We have to be ready to leave in an hour, Lucius,” she quietly reminded him.
He kissed her neck and shoulders before finally claiming her lips. Narcissa melted under his touch, whimpering softly into his mouth as his hands continued to stroke her smooth skin.
Finally ending his gentle assault, he smirked. “Unfortunately, I know you require the full hour to prepare, and it would not due for us to be late. I hope we will be able to continue this after dinner.”
She smiled warmly, and he was pleased to see the heat of desire in her eyes. He knew his wife well, and appreciated how she could relax and allow her true emotions to show in the confines of their home. Narcissa was rarely anything but coldly aloof in public.
Helping her into her dress robes, he noticed a letter on her vanity table. “Is that a reply from Augusta Longbottom?”
“Yes,” she nodded. “Augusta replied very graciously and perfectly correctly to my letter. The decision regarding a betrothal will be made this summer.”
Lucius frowned. “I rather thought she would immediately accept such an opportunity. There isn’t a family in Britain to rival our wealth and position.”
His wife patted his cheek. “Not every family thinks of wealth and position as the primary motivations behind a betrothal agreement. Miss Henry is a pure-blood heiress at a time when precious few are available. I have no doubt Augusta will have multiple offers to consider. We can only hope that ours is the most appealing.” She sat on the small stool in front of her vanity and began to brush out her long hair.
He nodded thoughtfully as he watched her reflection in the mirror. “My dear, I am somewhat unclear about why you have chosen the Longbottom ward as the focus of our efforts for a betrothal for Draco. Surely, one of the other young ladies he mentioned, both of whom are members of Slytherin House, would be a better option.”
“Ordinarily, I would agree with you,” Narcissa replied. “However, I can assure you that an alliance between Draco and Miss Henry would be…” Her hand stilled as her voice lowered until it was barely a whisper. “It would be…uniquely advantageous.”
Lucius stared at his wife. He knew she was hiding something. She had been pensive ever since the Macmillan’s Christmas Eve gathering. He had not considered that it might be something truly important absorbing her thoughts until this moment. “Why would it be so advantageous? What do you know about Miss Henry?”
Narcissa set her brush on the vanity table and stood to face him, gazing into his eyes.
He felt the probing almost immediately and hastily tried to block her. His Occlumency skills had never been particularly strong, and this day was no exception.
Sighing, his wife broke eye contact. “I think it would be better for you to not ask too many questions.” She rubbed his arm gently and kissed his cheek. Her actions softened her words and the implied disappointment behind them.
“Well,” he murmured. “If a match between Draco and Miss Henry is so vital, perhaps we should be advising him to ensure that the betrothal takes place.”
“Hmmm…you are quite correct,” she agreed. “I will send a letter off to him tomorrow encouraging him to court her properly. Dates in Hogsmeade, walks around the lake, a token of his affection before they part at the end of the school year. I’m sure he will charm her as easily as you charmed me.” Narcissa smiled at him before glancing pointedly at the clock. “Now if you really expect me to be ready on time, you will leave me alone for the next twenty minutes.”
Lucius grinned. “As you wish, my love.” He left the bedroom and headed towards the drawing room for a drink. He couldn’t help but wonder why his wife was so fixated on the idea of a betrothal between their son and Miss Henry. He admitted to himself that it was futile to speculate. She would not share her reasoning with him until she was ready. One decision he was comfortable making was to send his own letter to his son encouraging him to do everything in his power to successfully seduce the young witch.
On Valentine’s Day morning, Harry felt a wonderful sense of calm wash over him as he walked along the path into Hogsmeade with his friends. Escaping the castle for a few hours was a much-needed reprieve from the reality of fifth year at Hogwarts. His Occlumency lessons with Snape had been going much better in the last few weeks, and he was grateful he had somehow managed to avoid another detention with Umbridge. Still, the professors constantly reminded them of the importance of their O.W.L. year, and the homework was never-ending. He often worked until past midnight and was still not confident that he would pass all the courses he needed to be considered for Auror training after Hogwarts. At least the D.A. meetings were a bright spot in every week.
Ron and Ginny were unable to come into the village with them because the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain, Angelina Johnson, had ordered a full day training to prepare for the coming match against Hufflepuff. With the loss of the team’s Seeker and both Beaters, Angelina was determined to give her new players as much experience as possible. Harry fought off a feeling of jealousy as he saw Ron and Ginny in the distance, soaring on their brooms above the pitch. He missed the rushing wind and the intense speed he could achieve with his Firebolt when diving for the Snitch. He desperately wanted to be up in the air with them, and he felt a confusing desire to observe Ginny flying from a much closer position.
Their group of four had been joined by Ernie Macmillan. The Hufflepuff prefect had approached Neville and Anna just after dinner the night before and asked for permission to accompany their group. Neville had agreed, and so far, it hadn’t seemed too awkward. The possibility of Anna soon being betrothed to be married was still a foreign concept to Harry, but at least Ernie was a decent bloke. Harry knew he had a lot to learn about the wizarding world, particularly about the rules followed by much of pure-blood society. This situation was another example of how his Muggle upbringing had left him somewhat unprepared. Harry, Neville, and Ernie walked and talked with one another while Hermione and Anna went ahead discussing which shops they wanted to visit first.
“Let’s go into Honeydukes,” Anna suggested. “I promised to get some dark chocolate for Ginny.”
Hermione nodded. “I should probably pick up some chocolate frogs for Ron. I know he intended to get some.”
They entered the sweets shop and purchased a variety of candy treats and chocolates before moving on to the next store. It seemed that they visited every shop in the village over the next two hours, spending the longest period of time in Tomes and Scrolls.
“We need to get to the Three Broomsticks,” Hermione announced as they departed the bookstore.
The others nodded and followed her into the pub where they approached Luna Lovegood and Rita Skeeter at a small table in the back.
“What’s going on?” Harry sputtered as Hermione guided him to a chair directly across from the journalist. He blanched as he observed Neville, Anna, and Ernie make their way to an empty table nearby, leaving him alone with Hermione, Luna, and Rita.
“Harry, you have an opportunity to tell Rita Skeeter the truth about Voldemort and his Death Eaters. You can explain how he came back last year,” Hermione said earnestly. “The Daily Prophet has been publishing nothing but lies for months. They will never acknowledge that wizarding Britain is in any danger from Voldemort and his followers. You must warn people. They need to be told.” She took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Luna will make sure that the article is published accurately in her father’s publication, The Quibbler.”
He stared at his best friend with wide eyes and whispered frantically. “You…you just expect her to write the truth, to write what I say!” He gestured towards Rita Skeeter with a look of incredulity on his face.
“Of course,” Hermione replied calmly. “Unless she wants to write an insider’s view of the conditions in Azkaban, I firmly believe that Rita will report exactly what you say and that Luna’s father will publish it accurately.”
Harry blinked as he considered the hold that Hermione had over the intrepid reporter. In truth, he wasn’t certain that the threat of trial for being an illegal Animagus was enough to control the witch. Seeing the determined look on his best friend’s face, he sighed in resignation and decided to hope for the best.
Author’s Notes: Disclaimer — Part of this chapter comes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
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