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"… but what I don't understand is, why must we grovel before those foreigners?"
"Because we need their aid, James. They are more than what they appear to be, and Severus assures me they can be trusted."
Galen paused, his hands frozen on the doorknob. He turned to his mother questioningly. When she nodded, he knocked on the door.
"Come in, Galen," Dumbledore's serene voice floated through, and Galen pushed the door open, and allowed his mother and brother to enter first.
Sitting inside were a large number of people. Dumbledore, in his usual place, with Snape, McGonagall and Flitwick behind him. Several others were sitting in the cramped office, and Dumbledore introduced them.
"Lady Amaryllis, mother of Galenel and Eldarion… Greenstar," the Headmaster said, and none present missed his slight pause before saying their last name. "James and Lily Potter, you know. Arthur and Molly Weasley, you have met. This is Sirius Black," he pointed to a shaggy black haired man, and moved on, "Kingsley Shacklebolt, Alastor Moody, and Nymphadora Tonks."
"Honestly, Albus!" Molly Weasley interrupted. "You cannot allow children to be part of this meeting. It is much too dangerous for them to know."
Galen grinned at his scowling brother, and touched his arm in restraint. Both turned to their mother.
"Thank you for your concern, Molly," said Amaryllis gently. "But my sons are mature enough to be here." Taking the seat that was offered her, she said, "If anyone shouldn't be here, it is I. But disregarding such trivialities," she looked at Dumbledore pointedly, "please continue."
But before Dumbledore could continue, James Potter got up, frowning. "Albus, I protest! If you are going to allow underage wizards to join the Order, then Daniel should be the first. This entire war, after all, is revolving around him."
"Sit down, James," Dumbledore said firmly. "If both you and Lily so wish, then Danny will join us. But we have wasted enough time already." He gazed resolutely, and waited until everyone had settled. He smiled at the two boys, who stood protectively beside their mother.
"The recent episode in the Chamber of Secrets has revealed a most woeful secret regarding our foe," he said calmly. "The Diary that young Galen destroyed was no ordinary diary." He sighed when everyone stared back at him blankly. Everyone, except Moody, and the Telcontars.
"A soul vessel," Galen provided. "The most evil and accursed of all artifacts."
"What are you talking about, boy?" someone demanded.
"The Diary contained half the soul of Voldemort," Galen said, and rolled his eyes when everyone cringed at the name. "As long as it was intact, Voldemort couldn't be killed."
There was silence for a while, and then a chorus of voices began ringing at once.
"Is that true, Albus?"
"But… the Diary is destroyed now!"
"Preposterous! The boy is deluded!"
"Silence!" Dumbledore ordered loudly. He sighed heavily, and looked reproachfully at Galen. "It wasn't my desire to reveal the specific details about the nature of the Diary. But what you said is indeed true." Frowning, he added, "Though I am not certain if I'm pleased to know of your awareness of such a dark object."
"Elvish instincts," Eldarion muttered, when several suspicious faces turned to the three of them. "The question now arises, was that the only one?"
Dumbledore gazed at the two boys silently, and then nodded. "Your instincts and reasoning are impeccable. It is my belief that Voldemort has created six, possibly seven, such vessels."
"Six!" the one-eyed man called Moody barked. "Is he insane? That means his current being has a sixth of his soul remaining."
"Not exactly accurate," Galen quipped in. "The fist vessel removes half the soul, the second removes half of that, leaving behind a quarter… and so on… so his current being contains merely a sixty-fourth part of his soul. So, yes, I'd say, he is insane, and barely human."
"Galen," his mother said warningly. Turning to the Headmaster, she said, "How do you suggest we proceed from here?"
"I have certain suspicions," Dumbledore said heavily, "as to what objects he might have used as his Horcruxes, but I will keep them to myself for the time being. My purpose in gathering you all here today was merely to introduce each other. In the days that await us, much will hinge on our ability to trust each other. I trust, you will all be able to let go of past misunderstandings," he glanced at Severus Snape, Sirius Black and James Potter, and continued, "And work together in ending this evil."
"Of course," Severus said icily, looking at James Potter and Sirius Black derisively. The other two didn't even bother replying.
Sighing, Dumbledore said, "It is also our honor to have the presence of…" he looked searchingly at Amaryllis, who refrained from reacting, "the House of Greenstar in our midst."
"I have never heard of Greenstar before," Moody said suspiciously. "How can we trust them?"
"Alastor is right," James Potter said. "I demand an oath of secrecy from them." Turning to an increasingly irate Dumbledore, he said, "You may trust Sniv… Snape's words, but the rest of us don't! How do you know that his friends aren't Death Eaters as well."
Snape hissed angrily, "Shut up, you fools! You do not know whom you're insulting!"
"James," Dumbledore said warningly, before he could say anything else. But he frowned as well. "But I'm afraid James is right. I must request our new friends to give an oath of loyalty so that we…"
"Enough!" a voice snapped, and to everyone's surprise, it wasn't Snape… it wasn't even Lady Amaryllis who spoke. It was her son, Eldarion Greenstar - the heir.
Drawing himself proudly, Eldarion set his cold and unflinching grey eyes at Dumbledore. "Against this approaching darkness, you have given yourself a responsibility to fight it. So has our father. We do not defer to your authority, Dumbledore, and you have no right to ask any oath from us. This is not a game of chess between you and the Lord of Darkness, and this is much more than a personal vendetta. You are but merely another piece, just as the rest of us. We came here under the belief that there will be an alliance. We did not come to give our allegiance to anyone."
"Lindel!" Amaryllis silenced him with a quiet command.
"I apologize for the manner of my outburst," Eldarion said with a stony face. "But I do not apologize for my words. You will receive no oath from me." Turning, he left the office.
"Of all the disrespectful…"
"How dare he!"
"Albus, see what I meant!"
Galen gave his hand to his mother, to help her up. He looked at her, and she shook her head. They turned to the door, but before exiting, Amaryllis turned to Snape, "I give you leave, Severus. You may tell these imbeciles why my son was insulted by your employer."
The next day, Galen and Eldarion walked back to the Great Hall. They had just seen the Headmaster again, who had profusely apologized for any offence.
"I see what Uncle Severus meant," Galen said snippily. "Old greybeard wishes to control everything! It is fortunate for him that he has no malicious intentions towards us…" He shook his head, and asked "How's Daphne? Have you two got together yet?"
"No," said Eldarion. "Her family is in enough trouble as it is, without having to add me in. She will come as my companion for the New Years Eve dinner, though." He frowned at the sight that met him in the Great Hall, and said, "Why does your sister look as if she is about to kill someone?"
Galen turned to his right, and grimaced. Anthea and Danny Potter had their wands pointed at each other, and neither appeared to be willing to let go. Ron was there, but he was busy holding Ginny back, who had a strange and dazed expression on her face. Shrugging, he said, "I'll see you later, Eldarion. Say hello to Daph."
"Her name is Daphne," Eldarion muttered, shaking his head in disgust, as he walked away.
Galen walked to the two siblings, and asked, "What's going on here?"
Seeing Galen, Anthea bellowed in fury, "THAT… THAT FOUL PERVERT! HE DOSED GINNY WITH A LOVE POTION! AND SHE…" she pointed towards Ginny, who was staring dreamily at Danny Potter.
Galen raised an eyebrow, looked at Ginny carefully, and laughed out loud.
"Galen!" Anthea screamed. "Have you lost your mind? You could lose Ginny to him?" she spat out in disgust.
"Calm down, Anthie," Galen said, smiling at her. "I'm glad I can trust you to look after my well-being, but there is no need to murder your brother. At least, not yet."
At that moment, Ginny's voice came out. "Lemme go! Lemme go!" she yelled. "Danny! Yoohoo, Danny!"
"See," Danny said jubilantly. "She wants me."
Galen's smile disappeared, and he turned to Danny threateningly, making the boy-hero falter. Looking at his brother coldly, Galen said, "Try this again, and I give you my word, Voldemort will be the least of your concerns." Walking to Ginny, he grabbed her by the waist, and said to Ron, "I'll keep her from doing anything foolish."
Carrying Ginny by her waist, Galen led her back to the Common Room, disregarding her protests. He whispered as they walked, "Cut it out, Gin. You're not fooling me." Grinning, he added cheekily, "You needn't have gone through so much trouble just to make me carry you. A simple request would have sufficed."
Ginny looked at Galen with a pout. "You are not my Danny! Leggo!" Then, she giggled. "Though, I've heard that Elvish singing is an excellent antidote to lust potions."
"As you wish, my princess," Galen said joyfully. He let her go at that, and they walked to the Common Room. Galen brought his harp out, and sang peacefully, as Ginny lay on the couch, her head on his lap. It was a mournful song that brought tears to both their eyes.
"I apologize for pretending, Galen," she whispered after a while. "I wanted to see how you would react."
"Did I pass the test?" he asked curiously.
In response, the redhead got up, and grabbed his face. Bringing it closer, she kissed him. Within minutes, their hands were all over each other, their hair tussled up, and their lips continuously pressed against each other. Finally, Ginny parted breathlessly.
"How did you know?" she asked curiously.
Galen shrugged. "Instincts."
"Elvish?" Ginny asked musingly, as if it made sense.
"No," Galen said, to her surprise. "Instincts of love. Your eyes… I know how you look at me. It wasn't the same."
Feeling tears emerge in her eyes, Ginny said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have…"
"Don't do it again," he said simply, and reached for her lips. "How can I be angry with you when even a Love Potion failed to affect you… mm…"
The New Years Eve Dinner was a special occasion planned by Dumbledore, to boost the morale of the large number of people staying back in Hogwarts for the vacation. For Galen, it was a day of foreboding.
"I don't want to wear my ceremonial robes, Aunt Delia!" Galen said grumpily. "And that's final!"
Raising an eyebrow in a manner incredibly similar to her nephews, Delia looked back with twinkling eyes, and called out loudly, "Amary! Your son does not want to wear his…"
"Okay! Okay!" Galen interrupted hastily. "I'll wear them! You don't have to bring her in, traitor."
"Traitor?" Delia said with wide eyes, with mock-anguish. "My own neffypoo… Life, thou art but a bitter pill for the diseased." She pretended to be in anguish for a few moments, while Galen rubbed his forehead in frustration. Then she brightened. "Shall we talk to Ginny now?"
Galen shook his head mournfully, and said, "Why me… Isn't Eldarion your… uh… neffypoo as well? Can't you make his life miserable for a change?"
"My! Don't you feel honored!" Delia said happily, pinching Galen's cheek. Then, grabbing Galen's arm, she ran to where she knew Ginny would be.
"Ginevra!" she called out. "Do you have a moment, dear? My neffypoo has something important to ask you."
Ginny looked up from her homework essay, and mouthed 'neffypoo' with disbelief. Seeing Delia wink at her, she giggled and said, "Yes, Galen?"
Galen, for his part, removed himself from Delia's grasp, and walked with dignity towards Ginny. Sitting next to her, he looked at his aunt, and said, "Why don't you bug Uncle Severus for a while?" Thinking, he hastily added, "On second thought, please wait." Turning to Ginny, he said, "Will you, my princess, grace me with your companionship for the dinner tomorrow night?"
Confused, Ginny said, "Of course, but why do you need to ask?"
"Great!" he said. "Aunt Delia will bring the proper robes tonight."
"Proper robes?" Ginny asked dangerously. "Do you mean to suggest that I don't have proper robes, Galenel?"
"See!" Galen threw his hand in despair at his aunt. "Adar was right! You are cruel and sadistic! She's angry with me now, and I hope you're happy!" and he scuttled away in a hurry, leaving behind a confused Ginny and a mirthful Delia.
"Don't be upset, Ginny," she said, after Galen had vanished from sight. Laughing, she said, "Oh this brings back memories. You know Galen is a prince, right?" When Ginny nodded, she said, "On formal occasions, he has to wear his ceremonial robes, and is expected to have a companion or date, with matching clothes."
"Oh," Ginny said. "All right. Why didn't he just say that?" she asked, completely baffled by Galen's behavior.
With a mischievous grin, the older woman said, "That might have something to do with the horrible and highly exaggerated tales my brother might have told him… about the first time he attended a formal event with the girl he loved. For some strange and unexplainable reason, Galen believes I am going to tease him mercilessly, and you will hate him because of all the embarrassing secrets I'll spill out." She blinked, and said, "Come to think of it, Amaryllis and Isildur did have a major fight the next day… hmm…"
Pushing her books away, Ginny turned to Delia with glee. "You must tell me." She got up, and added, "But I must now find your dear neffypoo, and convince him that I still love him… before he runs off with the eagles again."
"He told you about that, did he?" Delia asked, with a grin. She watched the younger girl scamper after her nephew, and sighed happily. Turning, she was about to leave the Common Room, when a dark haired man accosted her.
"Hello, beautiful," he said huskily.
"Spoken for," she said indifferently.
"Snape?" he asked in disbelief.
"Yes," she said coldly. "And please don't lace my drinks with potions."
"Snape's got a Death Eater meeting tomorrow!" he blurted out.
"Oh for Varda's Sake, leave me alone!"
The New Years Eve dinner was a special celebratory occasion thought up by Dumbledore to heal the rifts present in those who would be fighting against Voldemort. He had even invited outsiders such as Amelia Bones and her niece. It was a lavish occasion, and at one table were seated Dumbledore, the two Potters, the two Weasleys, and the two women from New Numenor.
After Snape had revealed their true identity, there had been instant uproar, and quite a few of the people refused to believe in the existence of such a hidden place, and such forgotten folk. But eventually, they were convinced, after seeing Snape's memories in a Pensieve. Since then, there had been great awe attached to the personage of the four members of the royal family.
"Galen and Ginny look stunning," Lily Potter remarked with a smile, as the two Gryffindors emerged to the Hall, holding each other's arm.
They were both clad in matching royal blue and silver garments, and Eldarion and Daphne were in emerald green and black. They all joined Ron and Anthea on a table, and were happily chattering.
"They do, don't they?" Molly said thoughtfully. With a troubled expression, she turned to Amaryllis, and said, "She could never have afforded such a dress. Your Highness, our social or financial status isn't comparable…"
She was interrupted by Delia, who chose that moment to excuse herself. With a forlorn expression, she got up, and was about to leave.
Amaryllis smiled kindly at her sister-in-law, and said, "Why don't you join the children, Delia. I'm sure Ginny would be most interested on hearing what Galen did on his first formal event. I picked the same bracelet for today." Turning to Molly, she added, "Do call me Amaryllis, Molly. The smile that your daughter brings to my son's face is worth more than all the gold in this universe to me. Please don't let such issues come between our children's happiness."
Delia wandered towards her nephews, and pinched Galen from behind, making him jump up with a yelp. Pushing him aside, she took his seat.
"Evil woman!" Galen complained, but kissed the side of his aunt's head. He whispered, "He'll be all right, Aunt Delia!" She smiled, and touched Galen's cheek, before he walked away to find himself another seat.
"You must be Daphne," Delia said, looking at a slim, dark haired girl, with a reserved but elegantly beautiful face. "It is a pleasure to finally meet you, dear."
Daphne nodded with a small smile. She looked around, and then at Eldarion.
"Don't worry," Delia said reassuringly. "I don't know most people here either." Turning to Ginny, she said suddenly, "There's an interesting tale behind that bracelet you are wearing." Seeing Ginny's eyes gleam, she leaned forward, ignoring Galen who had just returned.
"Our dear boy was about nine," Delia said, swatting Galen's hand, when he tried to take his own glass of pumpkin juice, "and like a proper gentle-boy, was escorting the young daughter of the king of… a country I cannot name, but in Asia. The rulers of five different countries had gathered together to discuss on a… particularly nasty issue. When Galen and Yasmeen wandered towards the High Table, hand in hand mind, though I think that was more of an initiative on Yasmeen's part... But seeing them, one of the queens promptly called our cute and delightful little boy to her side. After talking him for a few minutes, she removed her bracelet and said, 'For your pretty friend,' and of course, meaning Yasmeen. But our dear boy… his eyes lit up with joy, and he said 'Reeeeeally?' and on the queen's nod, ran away happily with the bracelet. Now, all of us were surprised, for Yasmeen was standing right there. So, we followed the vivacious boy." She turned around, and pinched a highly reddened cheek. "You really thought eagles like bracelets, didn't you?"
Amidst all the laughter, Galen banged his head on the table. At first, it appeared he was just frustrated, but then he jumped up, with blood shot eyes, and yelled, "DIAGON ALLEY!" He ran to the High Table, and said, "Death Eater raid! Diagon Alley! Uncle Severus is there!" Ignoring the gasps of surprise and disbelief, he looked straight at his mother. "Amme?"
Amaryllis hesitated for a long moment, but with a heavy heart, she gave a short nod.
The instant he received his mother's approval, Galen turned to his brother, who had joined him, and called for Morwen. Instantly, a silver white phoenix appeared, and Galen grabbed the phoenix's tail feather with one hand, and his brother with the other.
The next instant, they both vanished.