Some questions that need answering-

are they back in time? no, they're not. i have yet to reveal what the hell is going on there, but do not fear! i actually do know what i'm doing with that!

it's so confusing, what the hell is going on? yes, yes, i know its not so clear. i'm working on that, and after i get that fixed, i can work on clearing up the beginning of the story as well.

meandering chapters, yes, i know... i've only just now figured out a plot that i like and that i'm prbly going to stick with

Thanks to:
DanCrazed, Sienna61, Hotkat144, wasu, tefy, and -FALLEN FOR ANGEL-
for the reviews!

Disclaimer: see chapter eighteen

---wooow… it sure has been a while since my last update. sry for leaving you all for four long months: AP tests, SATs, finals… not to mention school in general has a way of killing inspiration… but enough of that, summer's finally here! second week of break, actually, but now i'm back to write more! hopefully i haven't lost too many of my readers during my long break... i'll try better, attempt to get chapters written before the last ones are fossilized, but with four stories going… well, more than that actually, seeing as i have more that i haven't posted which i work on occasionally… anyway, i'm rambling again aren't i? hmm, i wonder how many of you actually read my A/Ns… they're quite entertaining aren't they? loi, well, enough of this... after so long, i'm sure a lengthy note is exactly what you want to read instead. oh, something i just remembered: this chappie will make no sense and won't seem like it connects to the original plot at all... that's because it doesn't. this new little plot twist i came up with a few chapters back, and well, i need to go back and rewrite the first part of this story to make it flow XD tehe---

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Hermione tried to subtly crane her neck to see the charm in Susana's hand, unsuccessfully at that.

"The blade," the countess began, "it is whole." She spoke more to herself than to those gathered in the chamber. She held up the chain and Hermione caught a glimpse of a crystal sword, with a hilt of gold.

Narcissa stood and handed an empty vial to Susana before reaching a hand out for Hermione. "Come here, dear. Take this," she said and gave Hermione a chain that was twin to Draco's. She fastened it around her neck and held the charm up for inspection.

It was a rose. Tiny petals bloomed delicately atop a long, smooth stem. Hermione stared in awe at the small flower in her hand. She traced the curve of the stem with a finger, amazed that the detailed charm was made of wood and not real. Holding it closer, she noticed a drop of red in the very center of the blossom. At first, she thought it was a ruby, but as she watched the shimmers of light dancing across its surface and knew it had to be something else.

Looking up, she met Narcissa's gaze. So many questions were flashing across Hermione's mind that she could only gape like a fish at the woman. She felt a hand at her elbow and Susana led the girl back to her seat before returning to her own.

"You must have many questions," Narcissa smiled. "We shall start from the beginning. Susana?"

Susana looked at Hermione with tears in her eyes, "You were such a small babe, and you had such a pretty little smile." Dabbing her eyes with a small cloth, she continued, "Your mother came to us from a small village down the way. She had been beaten within an inch of her life, and in labor. My father was Lord of this estate at the time. He immediately sent for a midwife and a doctor, while my mother ordered the maids to prepare clean cloths and hot water. I stood by your mother's bedside as the maids rushed about drawing curtains and banking the fire.

"The doctor arrived, the midwife just behind him. When she saw them, she shrieked for them to stay back. She tried to sit up and wave them away, but a wave of pain hit and I watched in horror as fresh cuts and bruises appeared on her skin. Half the maids cried out in terror and ran from the room, the midwife in the lead. My mother quickly ordered the rest from the chamber, and only she, the doctor and I were left with your mother. As the doctor moved to tend to your mother's wounds, she cried out once more for him not to come closer. When he ignored her, she swept her hand in a wide arc before her and he was thrown into the wall. He lay, slumped against the wall, unmoving.

"Your mother fell back into the pillows with a cry and her belly began glowing a bright blue. She reached out and clutched my hand tightly. I admit, I had pulled back, but her grip would not loosen. She spoke quickly as the glow spread across her body. In a hoarse whisper, she told me, 'Protect her. Merlin's blood courses through her veins. She must live!' Her grip on my arm dropped just as the glow reached her finger tips. She cried out in agony as the light engulfed her. The glow became blinding; I shielded my eyes as the light exploded silently. Waves of light slammed into me and I was thrown off my feet. My mother caught my hand and pulled me close, huddling together in a corner. We heard your mother's voice cry out 'Hermione' before the light vanished.

"We slowly moved toward the bed. All that was left was you, no trace of your mother having ever laid there." Susana sighed, "Those were dark times, when even thinking the name 'Merlin' would have a hundred swords at your throat. Lord Voldemort's power was increasing with each day and it threatened to shatter our barriers. Many believed that Merlin had brought it upon us by meddling with the outside world, no matter how many years past it was and the man himself long dead. I knew I could not keep you safe with me, so I sent you to my dearest friend."

"You stayed with me for a month, but I knew you could not stay with me, not with my husband's connections," Narcissa spoke up. "James and I were friends during our years at Hogwarts, although not openly so, House rivalry and all. I hated to admit it, but if anyone could keep you safe it would be the Potters. Dumbledore was on their side and he was the only one with the power to keep the Dark Lord at bay. Lily, of course, knew. It was she who came up with the story they told Dumbledore when they realized that you were not safe with them."

"Am I not safe with anyone?" Hermione cried out suddenly. "I'm being foisted from person to person—!"

"Circumstances being what they were, can you not see for yourself that the decisions that were made were the right ones?" Susana interrupted.

Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but instead she sat back in her chair, fiddling with the wooden rose charm.

Draco spoke for the first time since entering the chamber. "So Granger is Merlin's descendant, and I've got Avalonian blood thanks to your mum. Any other little secrets we should know about?" he demanded bitterly. His mind was spinning with more information than he knew what to do with. His life wasn't supposed to be this complicated. He was the son of a Death Eater. He was to follow his father's footsteps no matter what. Sure, it was a convenient out of the life his father had planned for him, but it was an out with no road map. Whichever god he angered to bring all this upon him must be really pissed off.

"You are the Guardians of the Sword." Susana's statement was met with confusion.

"What she means," Narcissa said, "is that you are the keepers of Excalibur. Only the two of you can harness its power and the power of the Philosopher's Stone."

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"How is this possible?" the Dark Lord demanded, pacing across the chamber.

Lucius Malfoy stood to the side. He remained silent, knowing that his Lord would be angered, to say the least, if he were to interrupt Voldemort's thoughts.

"The poison suppresses magic!" he screeched. "How is this—!"

The Dark Lord stopped suddenly, and Lucius ventured a cautious remark, "My Lord?"

A sinister grin spread across his face. "Lucius," he hissed, "what do you know of Avalon?"