Last time on Shadowed Soul...
"This is interesting," Draco muttered. "The Gaunts always claimed to be descendants of the main branch of the house of Slytherin. The Dark Lord claims to be the heir of Slytherin, so it does suggest that he may have come from them."
"I...you know how dangerous this conversation is for me. And for my family," Draco said quietly.
She placed a hand gently on his back, fingers tracing the marks that marred the pale skin. "If you think my reaction would be to pity you, love, you don't know me well."
Chapter 23: Family Matters
Hogshead. 10:30 am.
The letter wasn't signed, but it didn't need to be. Draco Malfoy would recognize his father's writing anywhere.
He thought he would have more time to make his decision. The world outside had just begun to show the first signs of winter. Christmas break was 2 weeks away. He wasn't ready.
Professor Boudreau had continued with his teaching as if their conversation had never happened. He even reduced the amount that he called on Draco for a few weeks to give him the space that he needed.
He didn't know what to do. He obviously had to meet with his father but...what did his father want from him? Would it be a task his conscience would let him complete? Did he want to do anything that would help the Dark Lord?
Unfortunately, he had the whole week to ponder his fate.
Today was the day, Blaise and Hermione decided, that they would be seen as a couple for the first time. They were aware that their relationship would cause some controversy and certainly a lot of conversation. But they didn't care. They fit together like funny puzzle pieces.
Saturday morning they walked into the Great Hall hand and hand. Ignoring the instant whispers they sat together with the 7th year Ravenclaws. It was a strategy they had devised in order to avoid it looking like they were giving their allegiance to one house or the other. Blaise seemed more nervous than she was. He didn't accept that she didn't care. She was already a muggleborn and a target of the loyalist Slytherins and Death Eaters. Being with him wasn't going to put much more, if any, harassment on her plate.
It was him she was worried about. When she asked if this would make his family a target he had just smiled at her and said that there was no love lost between his family and the Dark Lord these days. She didn't know that his father had recently confronted and tried to attack the Dark Lord while on a mission to extract the Riker traitor.
Blaise needed to have a talk with his father over Christmas about what he could possibly reveal to Hermione. He didn't like hiding so much from her, but security and family came first.
Padma smiled at them and made room as they came to the table, "Finally!"
Hermione blushed while Blaise laughed, "We've been together for a while, we've just been keeping it a bit quiet. Politics being as they are."
The 7th years understood that logic. Having gotten to know Blaise more through his openness in Kai's class they happily welcomed him as well with him. It didn't stop many of the lower year Ravenclaws from sending glares his way. It would take more than a few months to dispelled hundreds of years of bias and hatred.
Before eating, the pair both bowed their hands and quietly said a prayer to thank the gods for the fruits of the earth. A small flash of light appeared above each of their hands, an acknowledgement of their appreciation. Hermione grinned at him with her success. Blaise had begun teaching Hermione almost as soon as they started studying together. It made the Slytherin very happy to teach people what he knew. Few would ever reach the powerful connection that people like his father and Kai held with the gods, but the more people were involved, the stronger the Earth magic would be for them all.
Glancing at the Slytherin table, Blaise made eye contact with Malfoy. Knowing Kai's plans with Malfoy, he had tried to treat him with a bit more neutrality. Malfoy raised an eyebrow at him and gave him a smirk. Not a malicious one, oddly, but...amused? Blaise smirked back and gave a subtle shrug of his shoulders. Glancing to the side showed that Crabbe and Goyle were glaring at him hatefully. To them he gave the one fingered salute.
After breakfast Blaise was set to fulfill a major promise he had made to Hermione. With Kai busy brewing with Severus, Blaise had booked the room of requirement for the morning before their Hogsmeade trip.
Hermione was going to make her first connection to the Gods.
Typical of her, she had chosen Athena. Kai had chosen her as the goddess of strategy and warfare, but she also represented wisdom, courage, and justice. Athena was a very powerful god, but selective. Hermione would have to make a good argument as to why she deserved to be chosen by Athena. Some apprentice blood magic users never get chosen by any gods, leading to their expulsion.
Pacing outside the Room of Requirement, Blaise focused on everything they needed in the ritual room, including a place outside of the ritual room where he could safely oversee it. The room inside was smooth solid granite. Floating fire lamps gave faint light across the small room. A door to the right led to a room with a glass covered window where he could watch.
He turned to her, seeing her eyes get almost wild with anxiety. He took one of her hands and put the other against her cheek, "You're going to do fine."
"What if she doesn't want me? What if she…."
"You'll be fine."
"What if I mess up the ritual and…"
"It just won't work. This kind of ritual is not dangerous. We'll just start over."
She let out a huge breath, "Okay, I needed to get that out of my system."
"I know. You know what you need to do?" he stepped back, looking towards the room.
"Yes," she opened her bag and took out of container of incense and a blood magic knife that Blaise had his father acquire for her.
"You know you don't need to do this to impress me, or for my respect. You should only do this if this is something you really want for yourself."
She smiled at him, her brown eyes warm with happiness. "I want this."
"Okay. I'll help direct you in painting the runes, then I'll look away until you're settled in the circle. Promise I won't peak."
The ritual required that Hermione came before Athena as she was born….stark naked.
The Gryffindor put on a brave smirk before leaning forward and kissing him heatedly, "I don't mind." She winked at him before walking to the center of the room.
He gulped and followed. Pulling out a book they found the correct runic patterns. Taking a deep breath Hermione cut her wrist, letting blood drain from her into a bowl before healing her wrist. Slowly but surely, she painted the runes on the floor, a pattern of concentric circles thick with runic prayers to Athena. On the inside was a circle that Hermione herself had to design. It contained a runic pattern that held her promise to Athena. It showed to Athena what Hermione planned to use the connection for: to fight for those who could not fight for themselves and to continue to hunt for lost magics and knowledge. Blaise thought Hermione stood a very good chance of receiving a blessing from the god.
The muggleborn finished the last of her personal runes then passed all of the implements to Blaise. He gave her one last smile before turning around. She quickly undressed, tossing her clothes over his shoulder. The teenager tried not to blush when her bra and knickers landed on the top of the pile.
"Ready?" he squeaked out.
"As I'll ever be," she whispered.
Careful not to disturb the runes, he walked out of the circles to the outside room. By the time he made it, laying her clothing down on the bench, she was seated with her back to him. He couldn't help but appreciate the strong curves of her shoulders, showing benefits of carrying many heavy books around the school and their classes with Kai.
He was taken from his admiration by the sound of her voice, raised softly in chanting, singing an ancient soft of worship. The dark eyed man sighed in contentment as he stared at her dive headfirst into something that brought him such joy and purpose.
Hermione felt an energy build inside her, a pressure rising. She kept focusing on her chant, focusing on raising her spirit to call to another plane of existence. As the energy rose she heard other voices join her own, singing in harmony with her chant. She never imagined how incredible this would feel. The Gryffindor felt so connected, so in tune with her body, her soul.
The pressure peaked within her and she felt an intense burning circle her wrists. She grinned in joy around the pain and switched to a new chant. Blaise told her that the burning was runes being branded into her flesh. It was the first sign of acceptance, her meditation ruins. They connected her to the other plane. Now she could make her bid to Athena herself.
"Speak to me, lady of Wisdom. Let me see and know that which may help me help others. Speak to me, lady of Justice. Make me clear of mind and heart as I fight for those that cannot fight for themselves. Speak to me, lady of Strength. Help me stay strong in a war for humanity itself."
If her eyes had been open she would have seen light flash around her as warmth infused her to the core.
"Hello child," a voice whispered softly across her mind. Hermione didn't feel the tears of joy that streamed down her face at the feeling.
"Hello my Lady. I seek that which cannot be treasured enough. I seek strength and wisdom to fight for justice and equality for all. I seek knowledge to know and respect the old ways. Will you help me in my cause?"
She had spent almost a month crafting what she would say to Athena. What does one say to a lady of magic itself? She knew in her heart, though, that her intentions were good and just.
"Yes, young one, your causes pleases me. We shall speak again."
And with that the voice was gone, the magic pulsing within her again as a new set of ruins burnt into her left forearm. The shield arm.
And then suddenly the magic was gone. Hermione sagged forward, catching herself on her hands as she finally opened her eyes. She gasped as she took in the beautiful spirals that now decorated her left forearm, glinting as if inlaid with gold. Around her wrists were delicate gray runes, made up of 3 ruins repeating: humility, respect, perseverance. She loved them. Blaise said that the ruins would fade over time, only to appear when she learned how to call on their magic specifically.
Speaking of Blaise, she heard him softly calling her name, trying not to startle her.
She turned to him and yelled "I DID IT!"
He smiled at her then blushed blood red as she stood in front of him naked.
Seeing him blush she remembered her state and squealed, turning back around.
"Um, could you leave my clothes there and turn around?" she called.
When he acquiesced, she used her wand to remove the blood runes on the floor, clearing the remaining magic, before getting dressed. Once dressed she excitedly showed Blaise her new markings.
"She accepted me, I can't believe she accepted me!"
"That's a great honour Hermione. I'm very proud. Wait until I tell father, he will be very happy for you."
She blushed from him praise. "Now, some butterbeer and chips to celebrate!"
Ahead of his meeting with Severus, Kai stood in contemplation in his rooms. He had purposefully drained a portion of his magic in order to be able to trigger a rejuvenation. His experiments had so far been completely unsuccessful.
Cutting his palm, he coated the blade in his blood before placing it on the floor. Walking to the other side of the room he sat staring hard at his most prized possession.
Dropping into meditation, the assassin reached out to find his connection with the blade. It felt faint at their current distance but it was there.
Using that connection he tried to trigger the wild magic vortex. He felt a gentle breeze pull around his as magic sparked around the black knife. Kai concentrated harder as a vortex did not form but continued to flash. Suddenly, he felt a pull on his magic and he startled, snapping out of the meditation.
"What the hell?" he whispered, standing.
Then it hit him, the knife drew wild magic from around it to imbue into the person in contact with the knife. Since he was no longer in contact with the knife it would drawn on his power as well. That was a problem. However, there should be a certain distance he could be away from the knife where he could still access the knife but not be included in the drawing. Or, if the knife was in a place with suitable magic concentration he could be nearby and the knife wouldn't need to draw his magic.
Either way, it was his first piece of progress and worth celebrating.
A knock at the door made him call the dagger to him, cleaning the blade before sliding it back into its sheath.
Severus stood on the other side of the door wearing protective work robes.
A hour later Kai and Severus sat in silence, staring hopefully at a bubbling cauldron. They had been working together on and off for two months on modifications for Severus' original Wolfsbane potion.
Both thought that if they were able to make a version that worked better for turned werewolves, or even was less expensive and stored better they may be able to lure away the last werewolves loyal to Voldemort. Most of those that joined him because of the ministry discrimination had started to drift away with new regulations in place. Now allowed to travel to other countries, many were moving to North America were werewolves had the largest degree of acceptance.
While well rounded, Kai would never describe himself as exceptionally good at potions. He occasionally had a decent idea though, like his gillyweed idea. Severus had combined that with a few of his ideas then set about developing a process so that a functioning potion could be made. They were on attempt 5 with all previous attempts having either exploded or melted the cauldron...or both.
So today they sat safely behind a magical blast screen waiting the requisite 30 minutes for the potion to simmer. So far they had passed all previous points where the mixture had exploded or melted the cauldron.
Previously, Kai had no idea how much went into developing a potion. It was crazy how much work had gone in to just developing this batch just to find a combination and procedure where their desired ingredients just didn't destroy themselves.
Kai laughed quietly. "What are our chances?"
"If this remains stable? Pretty good I think. I'm hoping after this it will be simply a process of testing and refining to optimize the results. Then find some willing subjects."
As if to crush their dreams, the potion exploded with before unseen violence. The loud crash sent both men to the floor, hands up with shields projected in front of them. Their instincts were not needed though as the original blast shield held.
"DAMMIT!" Severus growled. "I really thought that one would stay."
Kai stood and looked at the melted remains of the cauldron, "That may have been the most violent reaction yet. I wonder what triggered…." He paused, ears perked. "Ah...Blaise and Hermione are completing a blood magic ritual in the Room of Requirement. There are vibrations of energy moving all through the castle right now. I'd bet that would trigger it. Sorry for forgetting about that, Blaise asked me a couple of weeks ago."
The potions master scowled and raised an eyebrow, "The goody-two-shoes Gryffindor is doing blood magic...with one of my Slytherins."
"Hermione is too curious to let something as simple as legality step between her and new information, especially now that she understand that it's illegality is foolish," Kai smiled fondly, "Blaise is both a good and bad influence on that one."
With a wave of his hand the cauldron and hissing mess disappeared. "Well, there's nothing to be done until they finish, shall we get some lunch?"
Draco cracked his fingers nervously as he quietly split off from his classmates and headed towards the Hogshead. He concentrated on bringing up his Occulmency shields, storing damning thoughts and memories behind layers and layers of shields.
Ducking behind a copse of trees, he slipped the hood of his cloak over his head. It would be best if he went unseen inside the pub. Slipping in, he glanced around at the few inhabitants. A hooded person sat at a table in the back corner. One of their hands rested on the edge of the table with just the three center fingers visible over the edge. This M of fingers was the signal he was looking for.
Hesitantly he slipped into the booth, feeling the heavy privacy wards around it as he passed through them. His father had been on the run using some better hidden Malfoy properties for 4 months now. Draco didn't know how separation from his business and family had effected the man.
"Sir," he said quietly.
"Hello Draco," his father had apparently brought another Death Eater with him. That was not a good sign.
Lucius leaned forward, his long blonde hair peeking from around the collar of his cloak. "I have a mission for you from the Dark Lord. This is a great honour for our family, Draco, and an opportunity for revenge."
The Malfoy heir stiffened in his seat. He thought he had more time!
"What does he require from me?" Draco asked as calmly as he could manage.
"He has a plan to capture the Shadow."
After hearing the plan Draco frowned, "It will be impossible to complete this mission without losing my place at Hogwarts. It would out me as a sympathizer as well."
"The Dark Lord has other eyes and ears in Hogwarts. You will be more valuable to the cause by his side. We must pull together those we can trust."
Draco almost flinched at the word trust. He didn't feel like he was trustworthy right now.
"What are his plans for the Shadow?"
The other Death Eater, Avery he thought, eyed him with mild suspicion, "To kill him of course."
The teenager swallowed.
"Ickle Drakey stomach sick?" he sneered at him taunting. "I thought you were a grown wizard now. Don't want to disappoint your father."
"I won't get within 10 feet of the target. There is no trust between us. This is an impossible task."
Please please just let me get out of here. I could warn Kai…
He startled inside. Apparently he had made his decision.
"Draco, you will do this, or suffer the anger of the Dark Lord. That is an experience you may not survive. Cease your cowardice."
"Cowardice?" The blonde's courage built as he accepted his decision. He sneered at his father, "To refuse to bow to a mudblood like him? If the news is to be believed, he is on the decline."
A hand swiped across the table and gripped his arm, sharp nails gouging into his skin.
"Shut your mouth you insolent boy. Have you lost your mind? Did I not raise you better?" his father hissed.
"Have you? A Malfoy bows to no one. I refuse to let you continue to destroy our family and my future."
Avery's eyes grew wilder as Draco spoke. He was starting to regret his boldness. The Slytherin had acted like a bloody Gryffindor.
"This is your last chance, boy," Lucius snarled. "No son of mine becomes a blood traitor."
He had to stand his ground now. "No. That man, no, creature, is going to get our entire family killed in this foolish attempt at war. With proper legislation we could promote and return to the old ways without senseless destruction of potent magical blood."
Avery whipped out his wand and cast a powerful binding spell on him. Sitting in a booth, he was unable to dodge and he was too close to block with a shield. Locked upright, he looked down his nose at the man, eyes belying his terror. Was this the end? Would his father truly let him be killed like this?
The dark wizard was breathing heavily, as if trying to reign in his anger.
"Lucius, I shall just make sure that he does what is asked of him."
Draco's eyes widened.
Hand in hand Blaise and Hermione cheerful walked towards the Great Hall, looking for a sandwich to take with them into the town. At the doors they crossed paths with exiting Professors Snape and Boudreau.
Hermione couldn't help but excitedly tell the professors about her success.
"That's impressive Hermione. Athena is very choosy in who she speaks to. Athena is one of mine, so free to ask me questions as you progress." Kai was always pleased to see new Europeans exploring the art.
After some polite conversation with the pair about the potions they had been experimenting with ("A new version of Wolfbane!" Hermione had gaped) the teenagers retrieved a sandwich and headed to the gates.
The brilliant sun and unseasonably mild temperatures made the walk wonderful, full of many off course journeys for stolen kisses.
Tonks waved to them as they approached the gate. She and the rest of the auror team were monitoring Hogsmeade to keep the students safe. Tonks was the security checkpoint to get back into Hogwarts. Every student was scanned for contraband, animagi, and polyjuice before they could enter the the grounds.
The auror's festive green and red curly hair made them laugh as she reflected the Christmas spirit burgeoning in the town.
"You're festive today Tonks!" Hermione chirped.
"It helps make students more comfortable as I cast a bunch of spells at them. The young ones get pretty nervous," the auror gave a tight smile, looking forward to the end of the war.
"That's very considerate of you, how on Earth did Kai get a lady like you?" Blaise smirked, wagging his eyebrows.
"Oh, I don't know, must be his bedroom skills," she flashed a mischievous smile.
The Slytherin faked gagging, turning away from the women. "Things I don't need to hear!"
"I'm going to invite him to meet my family this Christmas. Am I insane?"
"Nah, he'll be as charming as he can be. Will he be vaguely freaked out? Oh gods yes. It'll be great. I request video of you asking," dark eyes gave her a pleading look. "He won't be able to say no but he'll be so awkward."
"Does he usually celebrate Christmas with your family?" Hermione asked.
"Yes and no. He does visit over the holidays but we usually gather for the winter solstice and do rituals as a family. It's a very powerful time of the year. We don't really do much of the tree and presents thing," Blaise shrugged. They were all independently wealthy but driven, gifts weren't really on their need list. But the solstice, that was full of laughter and drinking and other fun after the formalities were over. "Last year Dad got Kai so drunk after the solstice he was hardly fit to stand for 2 days. "
Tonks bent over in laughter, "Merlin, I haven't seen him drink except the occasional glass of wine. How ridiculous is he?"
She paused her laughter for a moment to scan a seventh year passing back through. Waving them on she turned back to the pair.
"He's hilarious. It's like he's got this prankster streak in him that he doesn't really let out. But when he drinks he lets it out. I think that's why Dad tried to get him drunker, so that he'd just go to sleep and leave him alone."
The group shared a laugh at Kai's expense.
"Speaking of, he and Professor Snape were not in a great mood when we saw them, something about their latest potion attempt blowing up again," Hermione said.
"Oh dear," the Auror replied, rolling her eyes. Hopefully they didn't take it too hard else she'd have to deal with a grumpy Severus later. Well… Grumpier.
She turned as she saw someone approach. It was the Malfoy kid. She looked up at him expectantly.
"Heading back up?"
"Yes ma'am." he nodded stiffly but politely. "Oh, I found this form on the ground by the pub, it looks like an Auror department form. Do you think it might belong to one of the Aurors?"
He held out a short page of parchment, slightly damp presumably from being on the ground.
"Perhaps," she reached for the page, eyes seeing the Auror department stamp in the top corner.
As soon as she touched the page she and the parchment disappeared.
"What the fuck?!" Blaise yelled, looking to Malfoy, whipping out his wand. "Where did you send her?"
As he looked into Blaise's eyes, Blaise noticed that they were… empty?
"Give this to the Shadow," Malfoy intoned as he dropped another page on the ground. His voice was suddenly cold and empty.
"He's under the Imperius," Blaise hissed to Hermione, wand trained on his fellow Slytherin.
Suddenly Malfoy had his wand on himself, "Avada…"
Sorry not sorry ;)