A/N- I have changed the dates a little bit in regards to the Easter holiday, so I have bought their holidays forwards a few weeks and made it a three-week holiday in case people wonder about dates and such. Some references to Panic attacks follow in this chapter.
I would also like to take this time to thank my fantastic editor, Night Auditor, who is absolutely incredible, not just at editing but steering me in the right direction and helping me with ideas.
The Quibbler ‘front page’ was found at http://www.karenkavett.com/images/portfolio/other/quibbler2.jpg
TWENTY-SIX: THE DARKENED TRUTH
Time seemed to pass quickly, and before Harry knew it, the Easter holidays were upon them. Harry was excited for this holiday, in his five-year career at Hogwarts, except for summer, he had never gone away for the holidays. He chatted to his friends as they walked down to the station; Hermione and Draco were coming home with him while Neville returned to his ancestral home for the first week and then joined them for the second week.
“Well, if it ain’t Miss Prissy and his trio of Gryffindorks,” Zabini sneered as they approached the station. The tall black boy completely ignored Cepheus. Crabbe and Goyle had latched onto the boy and now followed him around as they once had Draco.
“Get lost, Zabini,” Draco drawled.
“I don’t know what you did to that Monahan Kid, but you’ll never win the war,” the boy hissed. Harry noticed Pansy Parkinson giving Draco dreamy looks, maybe hoping he would come back to the fold. Instead, Hermione took Cepheus hand and dragged him away, protesting. Harry took a final look at his quasi-brother and gently led Neville away. Draco stepped up to the taller boy, his eyes glittering with malice.
“Remember who you are talking to; I am a Son of Malfoy and Black. You might think you know what side I am on, but remember, my father used to be the right-hand man of the Dark Lord. So, I have more of a chance of becoming his loyal servant than you do,” Draco whispered to the boy, who paled. “I am still the Prince of Slytherin, whether you like it or not.”
Draco walked away, none of the four Slytherins seeing the slight grin on his face as he stepped aboard the Hogwarts Express. He moved down the passageway, eventually finding his friends. Harry was staring outside of the window as Neville and Hermione discussed something. Cepheus had already disappeared to find his year-mates.
“Did you miss me?” Draco asked as he entered the compartment.
“Like a Gnome misses Kneazles,” Harry drawled in a voice so similar to Draco the other occupants laughed out loud. Draco immediately got a grump on and sat down. Soon the train was underway as the four talked about the O. W. L’s and upcoming Quidditch matches. Hermione stretched and looked at her watch.
“Come on, Neville, we had better do our patrol,” she told the boy. Neville had become the newest Gryffindor prefect after Ron was removed from the job.
“You might see Daphne,” Draco teased the boy, who blushed.
“Leave him alone. I think it’s sweet he has a crush on the girl,” Hermione mock-admonished, then the pair were gone. Immediately Draco performed several spells for privacy, and Harry sat up, paying attention to the blond.
“What have you found out?” Harry asked curiously.
“Why couldn’t we tell Hermione? The research would go so much faster,” Draco whined.
“You know why, I want it to stay between us until I can go to Sirius with proof,” Harry returned, “now stop being a baby, and tell me what you found out?”
“Well, according to most records, Gryffindor’s sword, though he named it after himself, which I find a bit pretentious, really!” Draco went off on a tangent, so Harry urged him on. “Anyway, what we are taught is that Ragnuk the First forged the sword in the 10th Century and gifted it to the great wizard known as Gryffindor.”
“But you still believe Excalibur is Gryffindor’s sword?” Harry asked.
“I managed to get Aunt Andi to take me to The British Library a few weekends ago; I told her it was for a research project. So, I spoke to the Magical librarian and got access to their archives. I found a document from the mid-10th century saying that the sword Caliburn had been presented to Gryffindor by Cadmus Peverell and his wife, Drusilla Black. Before you ask, Caliburn is another name for Excalibur,” Draco explained. “Cadmus Peverell was the last of his name in that line; his son disowned his father and took his mother’s name. But there are mentions of Caliburn back over three hundred years until we reach the sixth century, wherein the journal by the Duke of Ilfracombe mentions that he hated the name Excalibur, so changed it to Caliburn, the sword’s first name.
“I managed to unearth a diary extract from the son of Sir Bedivere Peverell, which tells the story of his father summoned to the death bed of Arthur. He is told to take the three magical items and hide them, so no one like Medraut can ever rise again.” Draco finished his tale.
“So, if Excalibur is real, then are the other relics real? The wand and the armour,” Harry asked.
“I would assume so, but I would have to do further research into all of them to discover what happened,” Draco answered thoughtfully. “Actually, I discovered a second sword; the legend of Excalibur has been mixed up with Clarent, the true sword in the stone.”
“So, Arthur had two swords?” Harry asked, fascinated by the tale.
“From snatches of stories written at the time, we know that Uther Pendragon knew that Medraut had a claim to the throne, so to make sure Arthur was crowned, he challenged anyone to pull Clarent from the Stone. Anyone that did would become the rightful king; after many men tried, Arthur pulled the sword from the Stone and declared king.
However, Arthur felt the sword was dark and malevolent, so he handed the sword to Medraut, not knowing this sword would quite literally kill him.”
“Do you know what happened to Clarent?” Harry asked, worried it may fall into the wrong hands.
“I didn’t have the time; I only managed to spend the week in London. But unfortunately, Madam Hooch would not allow me any more time off, and I think Andi was getting suspicious,” Draco replied.
“We have time over the Easter Holidays; perhaps we can use Neville as an excuse,” Harry answered. Silence descended for a moment as the two boys’ thought about King Arthur and the two legendary swords. “So, is this what you want to be as an adult, a historian?”
“I love history and research, but no, I would actually like to teach,” Draco admitted.
“Gunning for Professor Binn’s job?” Harry grinned at the boy.
“Who wants Binn’s job?” Hermione asked as she entered with Neville. They settled into a debate on teaching vs research. Harry watched his future wife and his quasi brother with a smile. He wondered how he had got here, an actual brother and father with two boys he considers brothers in all but blood. He was very fortunate.
Lord Voldemort surveyed those in the darkroom, similar to Harry’s vision to Riley; the large hall was worn and old. Once a grand ballroom, it had been neglected for so long the wood was beginning to rot, and the curtains looked moth-eaten, but the Death Eaters would never complain. The man once called Tom Riddle liked the atmosphere, it smelled of death, and he was death incarnate.
“The war is turning, but not in my favour,” Voldemort hissed, “I have been unable to reach the prophecy, especially after the attack on Weasley. It seems that Black has started to control the Wizengamot; he has even ousted Dumbledore.”
“But he is a boy!” one of the Death Eater’s foolishly said. So, Voldemort casually put the man under the Cruciatus curse.
“The child has grown into a man and somehow has managed to stop me from seeing into his mind. It is of no consequence; I have other ways of baiting him,” Voldemort batted the concern away casually. “However, he is a danger to some unique artefacts that I had hidden in my first reign. One of which is concealed at Hogwarts, and with my newest recruits, I shall have it once again.”
“We shall serve you to our dying breath,” the eight robed individuals intoned.
“So, you wish to become Death Eaters?” Voldemort asked the eight before him.
“Yes!” They all answered as one. Hundreds of darkly-clothed Death Eaters lined the Grand Hall for this initiation on the moon-lit night. Only the eight kneeling individuals were lined up in front of their master and lord. Voldemort reached the first one, throwing back the hood to reveal Pansy Parkinson, who looked up with adoration in her eyes,
“Ah, Miss Parkinson, your father and mother have served me well. I see a bright future ahead of you,” Voldemort praised the girl, then touched his wand to her upraised arm. The Dark Mark burned brightly on her pale skin. “May you serve me well.”
“Yes, My Lord,” the girl nodded, taking a step back to join her parents amongst the other Death Eaters. The same ritual happened for Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe and the two Carrow sisters before reaching a tall figure. However, unlike the other five, this initiate stood proud with broad shoulders. As Voldemort reached him, the figure swept its hood away to reveal Blaise Zabini.
“Blaise Zabini, your mother is incredibly loyal to me. She has been accommodating in the Wizengamot,” Voldemort praise aloud, “But you are already helping me before you have taken the Dark Mark. Communicating with Bella regularly.”
“Yes, my Lord,” the dark-coloured boy almost sounded bored. Voldemort observed him carefully, knowing the intelligent Death Eaters were trouble.
“Because, my Lord, Potter-Black and his group are a bunch of fucking pansies. I have a network of spies at my disposal at Hogwarts, including Gryffindor and two within Black’s own circle,” Zabini spat out, “He is an overhyped jumped-up little shit that should never have been born.”
“I applaud your passion, but I am not going to mark you. Your knowledge has proven most welcome with regards to our last few attacks. I want you to keep writing to Bella and inform me of everything. It has been some time since I was last at Hogwarts, so I need to know their defences.” Blaise Zabini stepped back into the crowd with a small smile. He knew Voldemort only saw him as a jealous teenager, but the Zabini were never underestimated.
Finally, Voldemort turned to the last two figures of the line-up, who, like Blaise before them, were both standing tall, but even the other Death Eaters could see the shock of red hair that emerged from the two hoods. The dark lord pushed back the first man’s hood.
“My family have no idea of my true loyalties. We could have been an Ancient and Noble Family if they had not squandered the wealth before joining that Muggle-loving fool, Dumbledore. I can give you information from the Ministry.”
“I find that acceptable,” Voldemort agreed before stepping forward to press his wand against the underarm of Percy Weasley. The Dark Mark appeared glowing Black and smoking, but Percy neither grimaced nor screamed, staring at the Dark Lord the whole time with hard eyes.
“I will serve you well,” Percy intoned, then dropped back into the crowd. Finally, the last of the initiates stood before Lord Voldemort. The pale-face man had an evil smile on his face as he pushed back the hood to reveal-
“Ronald Weasley, one-third of the Golden Trio. I was shocked when you approached me at the beginning of the year,” Voldemort spoke to the young man. “Then you used a snake to attack Harry Black; that was truly inspired.”
“How did you know it was me?” Ron asked, shocked by the Dark Lord.
“I have my ways of knowing, Master Weasley, but you are well placed in Hogwarts to help deliver some revenge,” Voldemort stepping forward to press his wand against the underarm of Ronald Weasley. The Dark Mark appeared glowing Black and smoking, unlike his older brother Ron screamed as he felt awful pain. Finally, he moved away, and the Death Eaters watched Voldemort as he turned to the shadows near the door, a figure emerging.
“Master Black, how nice to see that you have come to your senses,” Voldemort spoke sarcastically as the figure took off his hood to reveal Draco Black. Everyone heard the gasp of breath in the complete silence, most knowing it came from Lucius Malfoy. “I do wonder, though, about your loyalty to me. You have been seen in the company of Potter, I mean Black, and your mother has completely denounced her husband. So why should I believe you are my subject?”
“Because I have the cunning of Slytherin, when my mother asked for Sanctuary, I ingrained myself in my cousin’s good graces and now I the most important person here.”
“You are impertinent,” Voldemort snarled, raising his wand, ready to kill this child.
“I am the person that can make everything happen for you, Lord Voldemort,” Draco replied, not taking his grey eyes from Voldemort’s red ones. Instead, he looked at the snake-like man before him and grinned, “I can hand you, Harry Black!”
“Master Black, you may have just become my favourite person,” Voldemort’s face morphed into something akin to a smile. “If you can do what you say, then you will take your place as my right-hand.”
“I can,” Draco promised as Peter Pettigrew and Lucius Malfoy watched the boy angrily as Voldemort welcomed him back into the group with open arms. Voldemort knew not to mark the pale-headed boy, especially if he was hiding in Harry’s inner circle.
Harry and his group of friends had enjoyed the first few days back of the Easter holidays though Sirius referred to the holiday as the Vernal equinox or a time of renewal, rebirth and new beginnings. On Tuesday evening, Sirius was taking them to a Festival to celebrate the Spring equinox.
“Why do you call it the vernal equinox?” Harry had asked.
“Because it is the beginning of new life. Wizards celebrate the old pagan calendar to an extent; Yule or winter solstice you already saw, then the Spring or vernal equinox in March, Beltane or Walpurgis night in May, the summer solstice in June, the autumn equinox and then Samhain in October,” Sirius had replied.
“So why does Hogwarts celebrate the typically Catholic or Mundane holidays?” Harry had asked, knowing Christmas and Easter were more from the Catholic religion.
“That would be Dumbledore; around the Nineteen sixties, the old Headmaster thought it would be better to change the holidays to fit in with Mundane pupils, make them feel more at home,” Sirius returned with a frown, then he had changed the subject.
Now Harry was sat on his bed reading up on the traditional Wizard festivals and rituals while Hermione lay on his stomach reading her own book.
“Are you ready to go?” Sirius asked, popping his head through the door.
“Sure, Dad,” Harry responded, both teens leaving their books on the bed as they pulled on their shoes, “Is it just you and Remus taking us?”
“Remus is already there,” Sirius returned, then left them alone. By the time they got to the parlour room, Sirius and Remus had already gone leaving Harry alone with Hermione. He stared into the fireplace, mesmerised by the dancing flames.
“Are you alright?” Hermione asked, gently touching his shoulder. He jerked, and she realised he had gone incredibly pale; his eyes were dilated. She had never seen him in a panic, but she had heard about his anxiety attacks when he visited the Mind Healer.
“What if the goblins can’t help? What if I have to marry Ginny?” Harry suddenly exclaimed, his speech reverting back to what it was like at the beginning of the summer.
“Harry, I have faith in your father, Remus and the goblins. So, you will not be marrying that bitch, Ginny Weasley. Only over my dead body will she get her slutty little hands on you,” Hermione started off softly, then grew angrier as she spoke. Harry was so shocked by her outburst; he was able to control his breathing and calm himself. He took a few minutes to compose himself, but he felt better already.
“Thank you, my Lady Rendlesham,” He slid his arms around her, kissing the woman of dreams thoroughly.
At Gringotts, first Harry, then Hermione emerged into the private waiting room used for the most important Houses. Sirius and Remus were already settled on black leather sofas whispering.
“What took you so long?” Sirius looked at his son, then the fire roared, and Hermione entered. Remus could not contain his laughter as he looked over Harry and Hermione.
“I think they were brushing up on some skills,” Remus roared. Harry narrowed his eyes but had never seen his pseudo-uncle so relaxed so let it go.
“Maglugg will see you now,” a goblin announced. Remus was still chuckling when they entered the door with Maglugg’s name on it. Duggat was in there, of course, standing just to the side of the desk.
“Afternoon, Maglugg, Duggat,” Sirius greeted the two goblins casually as he settled in one of the chairs. Remus, Harry and Hermione took the other three chairs in the room.
“Firstly, let me just congratulate you on your Betrothal; you make a beautiful couple,” Maglugg announced. Hermione blushed, but the goblin truly liked the pair. After more than six months of dealing with the Black Heir, he had really come to like Harry.
“Thank you,” Harry replied, looking at Hermione with a slight grin on his face.
“Secondly, we think we have discovered a way to break the betrothal contract with Miss Weasley,” Maglugg suggested.
“Really?” Hermione leant forward on her chair.
“There may be a complication,” Harry looked at Remus and Sirius, “During the defence class before Christmas, I noticed Ginny fiddling with something on her finger.I did a check with my skills, finding that there was some kind of light like a line going from the object to my core.”
“It is a complication,” Maglugg looked suddenly furious. He turned to Duggat, speaking angrily in a language Harry did not understand. They exchanged words, both talking rapidly. Finally, Maglugg looked at the group assembled. “It seems Duggat missed a vital item when he did an inventory of the Potter Vaults; it appears from your description that Miss Weasley has put on the Potter Betrothal Ring.”
“Does this change things?” Remus asked. Maglugg shuffled through some parchment papers.
“Ah, -here yes, the contract has updated,” the goblin spoke to himself before brandishing the parchment. “We took the liberty of securing copies of the contracts from the Ministry and our own Records. As Harry Black, you have a contract with Miss Hermione Granger to be betrothed though this is not binding until the day you marry. However, the Black Betrothal ring has been activated, which does bind the pair together. As Harry Potter, signed by your legal guardian, you are contracted to Miss Ginevra Weasley, strengthened by the use of the Potter Betrothal ring.”
“So, what does it mean?” Harry asked, confused.
“At this time, you are have entered into a contract with two young women. Families used to have two or more wives when there were more than two hereditary names involved.” Harry looked at Remus, and Sirius bewildered. Hermione was chewing it over in her head.
“Let me explain, Harry, say, for example, a Black was to marry a Longbottom who was the last of their family then the potential heir would take on the Longbottom name to continue the family line. However, the Black family being dominant, would need the first-born son to take over the line, so would write another contract with a family with lots of children, marrying the second-born daughter with the caveat she produces an Heir to the Black Family.”
“So, in this case, Ginny is the daughter who would produce an heir for the ‘Potter’ line as stated in the contract,” Hermione held a piece of parchment in her hand, “while I would produce an Heir for the Black line.”
“I sort of see. However, I only want one person,” Harry looked lovingly at Hermione.
“In legal terms, Miss Weasley’s child, if born, could inherit monies, but not titles as you are not the blood-child of James Potter. The Blacks are one of the oldest families investing in Gringotts’s from the beginning. Still, they take precedence over all other families in law and magic,” Maglugg explained, getting to the punchline, “if you were to marry before the 11th of August 1996, the magic that binds the Potter contract will be null and void.”
“Why the 11th of August?” Sirius asked, but Hermione had already figured it out.
“Ginny’s fifteen birthday. Until recently, fifteen was the majority age. Even though seventeen is now the majority age in the Wizarding World, I think fifteen is still locked in the laws,” Hermione recited from the books she had read. “I’m guessing once she reaches fifteen, the contract will be Ironclad.”
“You would be correct, Miss Granger. However, in order to legally and magically break the bindings, you would need to be wed before the 11th of August,” Maglugg confirmed.
“Well then, we’ll have to organise a summer wedding,” Remus suggested. Harry frowned, then looked at Hermione.
“I love you, Hermione, and want you to be in my life forever, but if it is too soon for you to be married, just say the word,” Harry looked earnestly at her.
“I am not letting you come close to getting engaged to that ginger-haired little weasel,” Hermione told him, stunning the rest of the group. She saw their faces laughing at their dropped jaws.
“Alright then, the 2nd of June it is then,” Sirius announce abruptly.
“Why the 2nd of June?” Harry wondered.
“Because that was the day your mother and I were going to get married,” Sirius answered. He got a smile from his son, which turned into a massive grin.
“OK, 2nd of June it is, but that’s only three months away,” Hermione was looking anxious now.
“Do not worry. Narcissa is the queen of this sort of thing. She will have you organised in no time,” Sirius replied smugly.
“Great,” Harry yelled, grabbing Hermione swinging her around to hear her delightful giggles. Remus and Sirius led on fondly.
“Before you go, not to put water on the fire, but to remind you, should you not get married, then Black/Potter inheritance will be liable for a Bride price of 1 million Galleons,” Duggat spoke.
“That’s steep,” Hermione goggled at the amount.
“It is a certain percentage of the Groom’s accounts, and since Lord Rendlesham’s is now connected to the Blacks, the magic will take that into account,” Duggat explained.
“I bet you that was Mrs Weasley; remember she never liked me in the Fourth Year when the Press ran those articles featuring me as your girlfriend then some kind of harlot,” Hermione snarled. Sirius did not know what to say, so he looked at his clock.
“Is everything ready for our meeting?” He tried to turn the subject away to calm down the enraged witch.
“Yes, your Grace.”
“What meeting?” Harry looked from his Father to his Uncle.
“We have arranged a meeting with the Selwyn’s, hopefully, to arrange an Alliance,” Sirius explained. They were led from Maglugg’s office through the hallways; goblins in armour watched as they marched past several doorways. They were then shown into what appeared to be a conference room set up with a table and comfortable chairs. On a sideboard were silver goblets and a silver pourer. Remus went over, pouring the drinks for each of the four who immediately came to get one.
“Ahh, elderflower wine, delightful,” Sirius praised the drink, settling in at the head of the table. Harry sat to his right while Remus to his left, then Hermione took a seat next to Harry. Five minutes later, the door opened again; Sirius immediately got to his feet, followed by the other three. First to enter was an older man, who could have been anywhere between sixty and a hundred years old. Behind him was the Lady Selwyn, who he met during the summer, followed by two girls. The eldest was the same age as Harry and Hermione but whippet-thin with dark hair and alert blue eyes. The other girl was Danica Selwyn, but she was so utterly different from her older sister.
“Harry, Hermione, Remus, permit me to introduce you to Lord Selwyn, the twelfth Marquess of Gloucester. Lord Selwyn, this my son and heir Harry Black, the Marquess of Rendlesham, his betrothed Hermione Granger and the Steward of House Black, Remus Lupin,” Sirius introduced his family to the older man who nodded at them all politely.
“This my daughter and heir, Alwyn, the Countess of Stroud, who I believe you have already met. These are my granddaughters Lady Seraphina and Danica,” the man presented his family. Danica was observing Harry.
“Well met,” Harry bowed to the older man, then the woman and girls in order.
“I will be perfectly blunt. I have been starting a third side to this war. However, though Dumbledore has disappeared, he still has his followers willing to do his work. He is still communicating with them, I am sure,” Sirius laid his cards on the table, metaphorically speaking. “Voldemort also has a large faction of followers, but there are those that do not want to bow down a half-blood maniac, but nor do they want to openly declare for the ‘light’ side. Therefore, I’m proposing an alliance between our families, including trade.”
“What makes you think I would want to join an Alliance?” Theodore Selwyn asked, leaning back on the chair he occupied. “How do you know I have not promised my family to the Dark Lord?”
“Voldemort is pressing forward; this time, he will not accept neutrality. Anybody he deems unworthy, whether they are pureblood, half-blood or muggle-born, he will kill without hesitation; my son has already fought him several times and has seen how depraved the man has actually become,” Sirius returned. The old man turned to look at the boy, regarding him as the dark-haired boy squirmed in his seat. Several minutes went by without a word from either party, but just as Sirius went to speak again, the elder Selwyn spoke up.
“I have heard rumours that you have faced the Dark Lord several times. Is it true you faced him after the unfortunate incident as a baby?” Selwyn asked. Sirius looked ready to speak harshly, but Remus put a hand on his arm.
“I have faced him four times, Sir. Once as a baby, the second time I faced his Soul who had possessed a Hogwarts professor, the third time I met his spirit and defeated him. Finally, the last time he was resurrected, yet I came out alive,” Harry answered as though reporting the news.
“Before this year, you were seen as mediocre, lucky to win against the Dark Lord. Now with your fathers’ backing, I have heard you are both taking the halls of Wizengamot by storm,” Selwyn prodded. Remus once again held Sirius back.
“That is the second time you have called Voldemort, The Dark Lord. Are you really one of his arse-kissers, a pure-blood lord on his hands and knees kissing the hem of his robe?” Harry asked, sitting back with a relaxed look. Now Danica looked like she was about to spit feathers as Selwyn’s glare suddenly turned to laughter.
“Oh, I like you, boy. So, Danica tells me you are leading the young Alliance at Hogwarts? That you are allied with the former Malfoy Brat,” Selwyn spoke fondly. “And for your information, I would never bow down to a monster. Selwyn’s have more pride than bending to a wannabe pure-blood sycophant.”
“Good. Yes, we have had several meetings to discuss the future. So far, it is only the former Potter Alliance. Still, in the next meeting, we shall be hosting the Greengrass sisters among a few others who have joined the Black-Longbottom Alliance,” Harry answered, sounding like the perfect pureblood son. “Draco is a difficult case, he may have joined the alliance, but he has doubts.”
“In that case, we can pen a deal today, and I shall join your alliance,” Selwyn replied, then looked to Sirius. “I am joining because I believe that young man to be a leader, I shall assist you in any way, but I ask that Danica is taken into the House of Black as a Ward. I know that the practice has been out of date for many years, but I feel it may benefit her and your family,”
“That is very interesting; I will be happy to accept. Now that Miss Granger is betrothed to my son, she will need a lady-in-waiting that might assist her in our traditions and ways,” Sirius agreed.
They spent a little longer negotiating different deals while Harry soon got bored, though Hermione watched with bright eyes. Finally, after a couple of hours and lunch, they bid each other goodbye, having signed a parchment with the deal firmly in place.