A/N: Thanks to all of those who have stuck with me these long years. Updates are slow coming but they do come, I promise. This chapter is dedicated to all of you who continue to read and review. Your feedback is much appreciated.
I felt another wave of nausea hit me and promptly emptied my stomach completely. I sat back on the cool tile floor, breathing heavily for a moment, trying to recover. I was going to have to find a way to get some message to the outside… I needed my potions, to stave off the morning sickness, and the nutrient potions for the baby.
I clutched my abdomen and felt tears prick my eyes. I took another deep breath and stood. The mirror above the sink showed my face; my skin was a bit pale, not surprising considering that I'd been vomiting for the past hour.
"You are going to get out of here," I promised myself, looking into my own emerald eyes, cold and determined. "You will find a way. You must. Tom would be disappointed if you continue to sit here and do nothing."
I splashed some cool water on my face and ran my fingers through my hair. When I was presentable, I walked out of the bathroom and into the small bed chamber that I had been in for the past two weeks. I wasn't allowed outside of it, and my only visitors were Dumbledore and a red-haired woman named Molly. My uncle had not returned, and I began to despair that he would help me escape. Yet, it was clear that he had not betrayed my identity…
Dumbledore sat with me for an hour each day, questioning me about my knowledge of the war, my life before I had been found, and what I knew of my parents. I suspected that he knew I was blocking him from my thoughts, and tried over and over again to penetrate deeper into my mind. I had been successful thusfar, but who knew how long I would be able to maintain the pretense of total ignorance? My mental shields were firmly in place, but that might be keeping Tom from contacting me…
There was a swift knock on the door before Molly entered the room carrying a breakfast tray.
"Good morning, Harri, dear," she said cheerfully. "How are you today?"
"My stomach is still upset," I replied, taking care to look as pathetic as possible. To my satisfaction, she reacted just as I thought she would, coming over and putting a hand to my forehead.
"You are warm, dear," she said kindly. "You just drink your tea, and I'll see about getting you something."
"Is there any chance I could get out of this room? Just for a bit," I added hastily, noting her worried expression. "It's stiflingly warm in here, and I could use some fresh air." I could see her mulling it over, her brow creased in apprehension.
"Well… Albus said it was safer for you here."
"Oh," I said, looking down. I began to blink rapidly, causing tears to well up in my eyes. "I understand, Molly. I'm just… I'm just lonely cooped up here."
"You poor dear!" she exclaimed, exuding maternal affection. She gave me a quick hug and said, "I'll see what I can do. I don't see why you couldn't move about the house. This is the safest place in England, after all."
I made sure that my eyes were wide and sincere, and said, "Would you, Molly? That would be so kind."
"Think nothing of it, dear. I'll be back in a tick."
I smiled the moment the door clicked shut behind her. Finally, some progress… I settled back into the armchair and poured myself a cup of tea and waited.
"Harri, dear? I've brought someone to see to your fever," announced Molly from the landing outside my door. She poked her head in and I smiled at her. She really was a kind woman, and part of me felt guilty at manipulating her.
I felt all breath leave my body as I saw Severus Snape enter the room behind her. He stilled, and it was a good thing that Molly was chattering out an introduction instead of watching him, because the look on his face was full of shocked recognition.
"Thank you, Molly," he said, recovering himself and cutting her off midsentence. She bristled slightly and turned to me.
"Is there anything else you need, dear?"
"No, thank you," I replied, unable to take my eyes from the dark haired wizard.
"I believe you brought me here to examine the girl, Molly," Snape said in a curt tone, "Which does not, in any way, require your presence. I'm sure one of your many offspring is in need of you."
"Be polite, Severus," she snapped back. "Don't frighten the poor girl with your bullying." He narrowed his eyes at her as she left. It took him just a few strides to cross the room. He knelt down and took one of my hands in his, looking up into my face searchingly.
"My Lady, how is it that you are here? I was under the impression that I was coming to tend to the long lost Potter brat – "
"And I am she, Severus."
"That is impossible," he said, voice low with some emotion that I couldn't quite place. But then, few people had ever claimed to be able to read Severus Snape's moods. I knew that Tom wouldn't like it, but I saw no other option than to reveal the truth to this man. He was one of my husband's most trusted Death Eaters, and spy. This was my way out.
"I am going to entrust you with information, Severus. But know that the cost of breaking this trust will be your life. Do you understand?"
"Of course, my Lady." I brushed my mind against his, and felt his barriers go down freely – a sign that he was willingly allowing me access to his thoughts. He was loyal ultimately to himself, but I could sense the truth in his words.
"My mother was Lily Potter," I said finally. His eyes widened just a fraction, a crack in his normally flawless composure. "And my father was Regulus Black."
He jolted to his feet in surprise.
"So, you're – "
"Harriet Potter, yes. But my true name is Persephone Black."
"Does… does the Dark Lord know?"
"Of course," I replied, confused. "Why wouldn't he?"
"There was a prophecy, my Lady," Severus said, those dark eyes boring into me with a sharp intensity. "A prophecy naming Harriet Potter as the one who would defeat the Dark Lord."
"That is ridiculous," I spat, anger beginning to rise in me. "How dare you say that to me?"
"It is the truth, my Lady. That is why Dumbledore has you holed up in this derelict – he believes that you will be the ultimate weapon against the Dark. The entire wizarding world believes it."
I rose from the chair, anger transforming into rage. "That bastard," I hissed out, "wants me to be his puppet against my own husband! I'm going to kill him!"
I lunged towards the door, only to find myself in the surprisingly strong grasp of Severus. Futilely, I pushed against his chest, trying to get away, trying to get out of that room… I sank to my knees, feeling the tears begin to fall.
"I'll never get out of here, will I, Severus?" I whispered. "He'll never let me go if that's what he believes."
"The Dark Lord will level the Ministry of Magic itself if it means your safe return," he replied, voice surprisingly soft. I looked up at him, pouring all of my fear and desperation into my eyes so that he could see the truth of it.
"I'm pregnant, Severus. Tom… the Dark Lord… Severus, he doesn't even know." I watched his features change, become hard and unreadable.
"I will return you to him," he said with the brevity of a vow. "And I will see to your medical needs until I can." I nodded, wiping the tears from my cheeks. He stood and helped me to my feet.
"The Dark Lord will hear of this, my Lady. I will deliver the message personally. And I will send potions for you in the morning, with instructions."
"I shall owe you a debt, Severus. Your loyalty will not be forgotten."
He bowed to me and left, and for the first time, I began to feel hope.
Snape hurried down the stairs to the first floor landing. Dumbledore had wanted to meet with him that afternoon, but he had to get to the Dark Lord immediately. He would come up with some excuse later to make the old man happy.
Lily's daughter is alive.
The thought filled him with emotions that he had long believed were no longer possible. Finally, after nearly twenty years, he had a chance at redemption. It was his fault that the Dark Lord had pursued the Potters in the first place. And all Snape had hoped at the time was that Potter would be killed and he would have a chance to bring Lily back over to their side... His own selfish wish to impress the Dark Lord, to fulfill a child's need for revenge, had lead to the death of one he saw as a sister, and of her innocent child.
Or so he had thought. This time, this time he had another chance, to save Lily's daughter, to keep another child from losing its parents to this war.
They had only a few short weeks to get Persephone out of Dumbledore's clutches. After that, the signs of her pregnancy would become noticeable, and it would be impossible to maintain the pretense that she had been living sequestered from the world. If Dumbledore had any inkling that he had not just his prophesied Girl-Who-Lived, but the wife and unborn child of the Dark Lord in his hands… The Lord of the Light was, at his core, a good man, and for years had fought for his vision of peace… but he would not hesitate to sacrifice others if it would mean bringing the Dark Lord to heel.
And Snape was going to do all he could to keep that knowledge secret.
Pressing his wand to the Dark Mark, Snape apparated to the Dark Lord.
The new headquarters was in one of the older homes owned by Cassandra Zabini. The manor was set on the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake, well isolated from any muggle populations, and large enough to support the permanent members of the Dark Lord's household. He appeared just outside the front gate, which opened at a touch of his wand, keyed to recognize bearers of the Dark Mark. Quickly, he hurried up the gravel lane to the house.
It was near lunch, so there shouldn't be too many in the house. Indeed, when he entered the front hall, there was only a house elf to greet him.
"Take me to the Dark Lord, immediately," he barked out, interrupting the creature as it greeted him.
"Of course, Master Snape," the elf replied, leading Snape through the west wing of the house, through several halls to a conservatory. The Dark Lord sat at a table with Ladies Malfoy and Zabini, clearly in the mid-luncheon. It was Narcissa who saw him first.
"Severus?" The other two turned to him, and Snape could see the Dark Lord frown in confusion.
"Forgive me, my Lord for the interruption." Snape hesitated, glancing at the ladies. "I need to speak with you privately, my Lord," he said at last in a low voice. The Dark Lord looked at him curiously, but nodded his head. With a wave of his hand, the witches rose and excused themselves from the table. Snape could sense the heavy gaze that Narcissa was giving him, but he was sure the Dark Lord wouldn't want an audience.
"What is it?"
"I have seen your wife, my Lord."
The Dark Lord tensed visibly. "Where?"
"Dumbledore has her, my Lord. With the Order."
"Damn it!" his Lord exclaimed, jumping to his feet. A pulse of magic flooded the room momentarily, causing the lunch table to be thrown some ten feet into the air, landing on the other side of the conservatory. Porcelain and glass shattered as they hit the floor. The Dark Lord was pacing, his body shaking with unmistakable rage.
"Is she…" he hesitated, and for the first time that Snape could remember, the Dark Lord had true sorrow in his eyes. "Is she well?"
"She is strong, my Lord. The Order believes that she is Harriet Potter, and she has Dumbledore completely fooled. It will offer her protection, for now." The Dark Lord nodded and resumed pacing.
"My Lord? What of the prophecy?" Snape knew that he was in very dangerous territory, but he had to know…
"That prophecy," the Dark Lord spat in disgust, "was a fraud, perpetrated by Lily Potter."
Of all of the things that Snape had expected, that had never crossed his mind. Oh, sweet Merlin – the prophecy was a fake? Lily had died for nothing?! But… why? Why would she paint a target on her own child?
"My Lord… I am afraid that I don't understand. Why -?"
"Why would Lily Potter fabricate a prophecy about her daughter?" the Dark Lord finished for him, a sardonic look on his face. "Lady Malfoy has spent the past eighteen years trying to answer that very question. If you could provide any insight into the matter, Severus, I'm sure she would be delighted to hear it."
Snape frowned. There had to have been a reason… perhaps a diversion? But to hide what? What were you hiding Lily?
"We will need to devise a way to retrieve my wife, Severus. It must be done cautiously. I need you to maintain Dumbledore's trust, especially with the election in just five months. Thicknesse is favored to win, which would finally give us control of the Ministry… I will select some others that I trust to assist you… It may take a few weeks to extract her without suspicion… I have no doubt that Persephone will be able to handle the Order herself for another few weeks. Dumbledore will keep her safe so long as he continues to believe that she is the Girl-Who-Lived. But that will make it even more difficult to get outside of the antiapparition barrier around their headquarters – "
"We may not have that much time, my Lord," Snape interjected quietly, dreading the reaction. "There is one more thing that you must know." The other wizard paused in his movement, his back to Snape.
"Yes?" he hissed out, in a tone that brought lesser wizards to their knees in fear.
"She is with child, my Lord." The Dark Lord turned to face him, eyes wide.
"You are certain?"
"She… she told me herself, my Lord."
Snape felt the magic just in time to throw up a shield charm around them both. All around them, the glass walls of the conservatory were blown apart, showering shards down upon them in a blast that shook the manor itself. Out of the corner of his eye, Snape saw Narcissa Malfoy appear in the doorway, eyes wide in shock.
The Dark Lord's gaze bore into him, glowing red with fury.
"Bring me my wife, Severus. I don't care how. Next time that I lay eyes upon you, it had better be at her return. Do you understand me?"
Snape nodded slowly, knowing that his life now depended upon this mission. He turned and left the room. As he crossed the threshold, he grabbed Narcissa Malfoy and pulled her with him, away from that scene of destruction. She protested, but he didn't stop. He required her assistance, and right at that moment, the conservatory was not the safest place to be.
The wrath of the Dark Lord was going to be terrible, indeed.
Narcissa would have been proud, I thought. I didn't even flinch when Dumbledore entered the room. He was in magenta today – a color so bright that I would not have believed of its existence if it wasn't before me. Dear Merlin – were those Berty Bott's Beans dancing along the hem of the robes?
"Harriet, my dear! How are you today?"
"Well, Albus," I replied, falling into the now familiar script of our afternoon tea. "And yourself?"
"As well as one can hope for when you reach my age," he replied genially, accepting the cup I had poured for him. I might be a prisoner, but that was no excuse to forget my manners as a hostess.
"What would you like to ask me about today?"
"Oh, my dear girl, I thought that today you might like to do the asking yourself."
This was new, I thought suspiciously. Carefully, I thought about how I wanted this conversation to go.
"Is there any reason why I cannot see the rest of the house?" I asked as innocently as possible. "I grow awfully restless and lonely here in this room. I'm… I'm not used to being trapped inside."
"Ah. Molly mentioned as much to me the other day," the older wizard said, appearing to mull it over.
"I just want to go home, Albus," I pleaded. Those cornflower blue eyes softened behind his spectacles.
"You are here for your own safety, my dear. You would be in terrible danger if our enemies learned of your survival."
"But what enemies? I have lived my entire life with house elves – I hadn't met any other wizards until I came here. How can I have made enemies?"
"The Dark Lord and his Death Eaters are the enemies of the free wizarding world, my dear," Dumbledore said in a tone one would use with a child. "And he has every reason to want to harm you."
"I don't understand." I saw Dumbledore pause, and I knew what was coming next. I prepared myself to show the appropriate amount of surprise.
"There is a prophecy, child. A prophecy concerning yourself and the Dark Lord."
"Prophecy?" I asked incredulously.
"You are the Chosen One, Harriet. You are the one who will defeat the Dark Lord." He watched me process the information, assessing my response.
"You must be mistaken," I stammered, eyes wide. "I… I don't have anything to do with this war of yours."
"This war impacts all of us, Harriet."
"But I am no soldier! How am I to defeat the greatest Dark Lord of all time? With tea and scones?" I shot back, allowing some of my true anger into my voice.
"If you had been raised with your parents, we would have trained you for this, Harriet," Dumbledore said. There was the tiniest hint of remorse in his tone, though whether it was over the loss of my parents or the opportunity to mold me into his perfect tool, I could not say.
"Why is the Dark Lord your enemy? What threat is he really?" I pushed, genuinely curious about the answer.
"He seeks to rule us all, my dear, and to make half-bloods, like you and I, and muggleborns second class citizens or slaves. The world would become a dangerous place indeed if the only wizards in power practiced Dark magic."
"But Dark magic is not inherently bad. Does that not make you just as prejudiced?"
Those cornflower blue eyes studied me intently, and I fought not to look away. I knew that I was right, and that Dumbledore, in all his wisdom, was absolutely wrong. My husband was many things – fierce, passionate, and yes, even cruel – but he was fighting for his people. He was fighting for the Dark witches and wizards whose power was fading and might soon leave them altogether.
"That is a fair point," he said at last. "I used to have interesting conversations with your mother about the nature of magic."
"Have you read her work, then? Her theories about the balance of Light and Dark?"
"You have her research?"
"There was a copy in my library at home," I replied coolly. "She argued fervently that the eradication of Dark magic would throw the equilibrium so far from center that wizards might lose their powers for several generations. So if I am to destroy this Dark Lord, who will step in to help Dark wizards preserve their own magic? Who will keep Dark children from being neutered and forced to practice Light magic? Tell me that, Lord Dumbledore, and I will consider working with you!"
By the end of it, I was practically shouting at him. It was clear that the Lord of Light was not accustomed to being questioned in such a manner with any frequency. He was pressed defensively into his chair, with almost an expression of alarm on his face.
"I had no idea that you were so passionate about this issue," he said, finally, attempting to recover some composure.
"Well, clearly someone must be, Albus," I hissed, "Because you do not appear to have considered this side of your war."
"Do you truly believe that Dark witches and wizards are incapable of practicing other forms of magic? That there is no choice in how we practice our gifts?"
"If I could but have a chance to return to my home," I said, taking advantage of this sudden opportunity, "I could bring you my mother's work, and you would know the truth of what I say. Do not fight for freedom of one class when the cost is freedom of another."
"I cannot do that, Harriet. You must trust me when I say that your very life is in danger outside of these walls." Dumbledore reached out and took one of my hands. "You are our only hope against the Dark Lord. He fights for the freedom of no one."
I tore my hand away, fighting to control my anger. Standing, I moved toward the door and opened it, my back to the man in the armchair.
"I will not be your tool, Dumbledore, in a war that I do not believe in. And I cannot support a man who would hold an innocent woman against her will. Please leave."
I heard the rustle of fabric as he stood, his footsteps coming towards me and then past the threshold onto the landing.
"We will speak again, Harriet," he whispered, and the door closed after him. I went to my bed, exhausted, and finally let the tears fall.
I awoke some hours later in the darkness. There was the sound of two people arguing quietly outside of the bedroom door, and I fought through the thickness of slumber to focus on what was being said. The door opened and light flooded into the room, causing me to pull my hand over my eyes to shield them from the sudden brilliance.
"This is my house, and I cannot allow this to continue!" I recognized the voice of my uncle, and blinked to clear my vision and take in the three figures that had entered the room. Sirius was closest to me, his back turned, arguing with the other two on the landing. One was a man that I had seen before – Remus, the werewolf – and the other was a rather pretty girl about my age with bushy brown hair.
"But Dumbledore – "
"I don't give a witch's tit what he said, she is my goddaughter, and I will not let her stay a prisoner!"
"Sirius?" I questioned, drawing their attention. My uncle moved quickly to help me up, pulling me tightly into an embrace.
"I cannot get you out of the house, but I can get you out of this room," he whispered directly into my ear, just enough that I could hear it… Well, the werewolf must have caught it as well, but perhaps not… I nodded into his shoulder, and he released me, still gripping one arm. Together we moved out of the room and onto the landing, the others staring wide-eyed.
"Harriet, let's go on a tour of my home, shall we?" Sirius said in a loud, challenging voice, eyes locked in challenge.
"Perhaps," the bushy haired girl said, her confident tone at startling odds with the pale, terrified expression on her face, "she would like to get dressed, Sirius, and not parade about the house in her dressing gown."
"These are my only clothes," I said. The girl turned to me, blinking in confusion.
"I was taken from my bed in the middle of the night," I snapped, "There wasn't time to pack anything."
The girl blinked at me once more, and then an air of calm determination settled over her.
"Then you shall come to my room first and we will find something suitable for you. Sirius, Remus, you may see her at dinner." And with that, she moved to the stair with an expectant look at me. I had no idea who this woman was, but if she was willing to support my move out of that room, I would at least cooperate. When one has no other choice, cooperation is always the easiest path. I gathered my skirts, and moved down the stair behind her with deliberate grace.
My room appeared to be on the fourth landing, though I had no idea if there were more floors below. The home was clearly a Dark one, though it spoke of old prestige that had long since lost the wealth required to maintain it. The papers on the wall were cracked and peeling in some places, and the paintings that hung from the walls were nearly blackened with dust. There were heavy brocade curtains at intervals along the halls, behind which were the whispers of live portraits, hidden away for Merlin knew what reason.
I could hear the sounds of laughter and conversation drifting up from the lower floor, and the unmistakable aroma of preparing food. I followed the girl down to the second floor landing, and then along a hallway lined with doors.
"This is me, then," she said, turning to a door on her left and pushing it open. "I'm Hermione, by the way. Hermione Granger."
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