Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart. –Proverbs 3:3
Sirius was quickly learning that life on Founder's Isle tended to oscillate between exciting and dull. The first exciting cycle had lasted for Sirius' first two days of freedom, when he'd been settling in and riding dragonback to the nearest city for supplies. It ended the day his hosts arrived with their prisoner.
Sirius and Dudley watched with fascination as Pollux, Pallas, Saysa, Apollo, and Alexander lugged the unconscious body of Lucius Malfoy into the castle. A very raggedy-looking house-elf danced- literally- behind them. "Dobby is thanking you so much; Dobby's old master is very bad, but what is you to be doing with Dobby's bad master?"
"We'll just keep him for a while," shrugged Apollo. "Lo, Sirius, Dudley. Happy New Year!"
"This is Dobby," Pallas said cheerily.
"We gathered that," Sirius muttered.
The witch ignored him. "He's going to be working here, and don't be surprised if two more house-elves show up. We offered them jobs." (Sure enough, the next day two house-elves did move in. Sirius found them arguing with Kreacher over who got to make his lunch.)
"Enough of that, we've got a prisoner to stash!" laughed Apollo. "To the dungeons!"
Daphne walked through her family estates with a tiny smile on her face.
It had been three days since her rescue from Malfoy and two days since she'd been released from St. Mungo's. The Healers claimed that nothing was physically wrong with her; she'd just attempted accidental magic, probably some kind of involuntary Apparition, that had run afoul of the prison's wards and destabilized her core. Fortunately, she was perfectly fine now, though rather annoyed at how Astoria kept following her. Speaking of which….
"I'm fine, Tori," she sighed.
There was a tiny scuffling sound as her sister peeked around the door. She looked rather embarrassed.
When Tori had found out that her future father-in-law had kidnapped her sister, she'd been heartbroken. At first she hadn't wanted to believe that Draco had anything to do with it, but the Daily Prophet had corrected that delusion. Daphne, who was still hospitalized at the time, had then held a long discussion about what Draco was really like. It had taken many tears and denials, but the end result was that Harry's "clean up Slytherin House" campaign had another Greengrass supporter. After all, if Harry Potter was Draco's arch-nemesis (Tori's words, not hers), he had to be a wonderful person.
Even better, the betrothal agreement had been destroyed. That was a mixed blessing, though- Daphne was fairly certain she'd heard Tori trying to convince their parents that Harry would make a wonderful husband….
The elder sister smiled. Yes, Tori was a bit of a featherhead, but she loved her anyways.
"Are you going to follow me to the Longbottoms' home?" Daphne teased gently.
"I thought not. Neville should be here in about five minutes." Hopefully he wouldn't coddle her. Daphne was heartily sick of being cossetted.
As if on cue, the fireplace flared green. For a second it crackled merrily before disgorging the shape of Neville Longbottom onto the carpet. He was still coughing from the journey, but he seemed happier than Daphne had ever seen him. In fact, the Gryffindor was almost dancing with excitement.
Then he saw Astoria, and his face fell.
The younger Greengrass giggled. "Ooh… Daphne's got a boyfriend!" Still laughing gleefully, she darted out of the room, undoubtedly to tell their parents.
Neville blushed. "Er… does the house have any anti-Portkey wards?"
His "girlfriend" raised an eyebrow. "Why do you ask?"
The Gryffindor's voice dropped. "Because we're not going to my house. We- well, you'll see when we get there." He was grinning again, almost bouncing with anticipation.
Well, at least Neville would never kidnap her, especially not since her family knew she was with him. They were probably going to visit Harry or something- her parents still hadn't lifted their ban on contacting him, though Astoria was trying to change that. "No, there are no anti-Portkey wards."
The grin widened. "Excellent." Neville grabbed something from his pocket. Daphne peered closer; it was a golden oak leaf. For some reason, she had the feeling that it was very, very old.
"Do you trust me?"
"Of course," his friend murmured, and reached out to touch the Portkey.
"Ad Insulam Fundatorum."
The familiar tugging sensation pulled at Daphne's navel, but she ignored it. Like many purebloods, she spoke enough Latin to understand what Neville had said. Ad Insulam Fundatorum… "to the island of the founders…." Founders of what?
The Portkey dropped them off in the cold, snowy outdoors. Several feet ahead stood an ancient stone fort.
"C'mon! They're waiting for us!"
Well, 'they' would probably be inside, and it was rather chilly out. Besides, though this probably wasn't a simple visit to Harry or Blaise or even Hermione (she doubted any of them lived in a stone castle), she trusted Neville.
Besides, their other friends were waiting for them just inside the building. They were grinning too, but no one was smiling more widely than the woman whom Daphne had never seen before. She recognized the description, though: golden eyes shot through with black slit-pupils, long dark hair, pointed teeth, tall and slender and dressed in green. She was one of the rescuers.
"Daphne," Neville said, trying to curb his exuberance with forced solemnity, "I'd like you to meet Lady Saysa of the Chamber, Queen of Serpents, Servant of the Four, Guardian of the Prophecies. Saysa, this is Daphne Greengrass-" (the smile was back) "-Daughter of Frost."
"An interesting introduction," Daphne murmured. She smiled. "On behalf of the House of Greengrass, I thank you for rescuing me from Lucius Malfoy."
The Lady of the Chamber smiled. "You are very welcome," she said softly.
Blaise chuckled. "Now that that's out of the way, it's time for the good stuff."
The next few hours were filled with revelation upon revelation, the truth about the last year and a half, and the truth of what had happened over a thousand years ago. Harry began by telling about how he'd grown up with snakes and introducing her to Sisith, the dark serpent wound around his shoulders. He told her about the Sorting Hat, about how confused he'd been to have another man's memories. He told her about Sisith's hunt for the basilisk, and how, one day in December, the serpent had found her.
"I'd like to see this basilisk," Daphne said dryly. What Harry was saying about his childhood and Sorting and even his strange memories made sense- she always had wondered where he'd learned everything- but a basilisk hiding in Hogwarts?
"To the Chamber, then?" asked Blaise. "It's too small here, and I'd rather stay inside."
Harry shrugged. "Well, we were going to go there anyways."
Two minutes later, Daphne and her friends were standing inside the legendary Chamber of Secrets.
Saysa closed her eyes. For a moment, she was still, but then she seemed to melt. Hair shrunk, clothing folded into skin. Arms and legs blurred into her body. Within just a few seconds, she had become a sixty-foot snake.
Daphne felt like kicking herself. Neville had introduced the woman as "Lady of the Chamber, Queen of Serpents," and she did have a rather serpentine look about her- but in Daphne's defense, it really WAS unheard of for a basilisk to become human. "How?" she squeaked.
"To make a long story short, someone let her drink the Animagus potion." Hermione glared at Harry.
"I said I was sorry."
Daphne was too stunned to pay attention to the byplay. Saysa's transformation confirmed everything they'd said, and some instinct said that things would only get wilder. "I… see. Er- what happens next?"
"Hagrid decides to raise a baby dragon in his wooden hut."
The story of Norbert(a) was both comical and believable. Yes, Hagrid would do something like that.
But the story about Harry facing Voldemort at the end of that year and discovering that his "ancestral memories" belonged to the Dark Lord was even less credible than the basilisk.
"Enough!" Daphne interrupted. "I would greatly appreciate it if you told me the truth, instead of all these lies." She thought of how everyone had been grinning, obviously in anticipation of a prank. How foolish she'd been to trust them!
"Morsmordre," Harry said quietly. A very familiar serpent-and-skull floated out of his wand. "Believe me now?" He flicked his wand; a brilliant red stone flew into his free hand. "The Dark Mark and Philosopher's Stone should be proof enough." To demonstrate, he transformed a random pebble into solid gold.
Daphne decided to believe him. "How?" she repeated softly.
"I'm not really certain," Harry admitted. "I think it has something to do with how I'm the real Boy-Who-Lived."
Daphne was not even surprised at that. A detached, analytical part of her mind noted that she was probably suffering from severe suspension of disbelief due to information overload.
Her friends picked up their story.
Their summer had been rather boring, but things started getting weird again around Halloween. Thousand-year-old prophecies? The Winter Queen of the Fae had given them new forms (which they had used to break her out of Malfoy's house)? Covert meetings with centaur archons? A Muggle-born throwing a birthday party for Slytherin's monster?
It was utterly preposterous, too ridiculous to be true. Yet it was also too insane to be a lie.
Then the oddness reached its climax. "But Saysa said that there were supposed to be five people in my team," Harry explained. "We had the Lightning Speaker," he gestured at himself, "the Prince of Flowers," Neville grinned sheepishly. Apparently Daphne wasn't the only one with a hard time believing everything. "…the Smoking Mirror," Blaise waved, "and Truth's Messenger," Hermione nodded, "but we didn't have the Daughter of Frost."
"I see," Daphne muttered. "You believe that I am the fulfillment of a thousand-year-old prophecy that no one except an equally old basilisk has ever heard of. That is absurd." Yet why can't I doubt you?
Perhaps it was seeing Saysa's true form. Perhaps it was the Philosopher's Stone or Harry's Dark Mark. Perhaps they had drugged her or the kidnapping had driven her mad. Whatever the reason, she believed them. It was absurd, it could probably get her checked into a psychiatric hospital, but she knew they were speaking the truth.
She shook her head, remembered how Harry and Blaise had once approached her about cleaning up Slytherin House. This was just another business proposition, that was all- certainly wilder than what they'd suggested a year ago, but still just another business proposition.
They were talking at her, trying to make her believe what she knew already. Daphne ignored them, thinking. Just a very ambitious business venture, that was all. Forget about the prophecies and basilisks, just focus on the professional aspect. She was a Greengrass, after all; this was what she'd been raised for.
"What exactly does being this 'Daughter of Frost' entail?" she finally blurted out.
The others froze. They'd undoubtedly been expecting her to protest or threaten them with Aurors or something. That she hadn't done so was quite a shock.
Blaise was the first to recover. Laughing, he commented, "Yeah, I can just tell you're a Greengrass. Oh, Merlin, 'what does it entail'?" Then he frowned. "I guess it means you're stuck with us."
Hermione snorted. "Of course it doesn't! It means that she's going to help us overthrow Dumbledore and Voldemort and transform the wizarding world! Er- you will, won't you?"
"Do I have a choice?"
"There is always choice," Saysa said quietly. Daphne started; she hadn't noticed the basilisk return to her humanoid form. "However, we would greatly appreciate it if you chose quickly. There are things I must say to you five."
She sighed. If the wizarding world went to Hades in a handbasket because she refused to help- and if the Founders had hidden a basilisk beneath the school to help with it, that was entirely too likely- she would never forgive herself. "We will negotiate the specifics later," she murmured, "but yes, I will help you."
Blaise muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "Greengrasses." Daphne ignored him, turned her attention to Saysa. Neville quietly explained, "She wanted to talk with us after we beat Malfoy, but Harry thought it would be best to wait for you."
The serpent-woman shook her head. "First, Harry must explain what Horcruxes are and why I had to obey Riddle."
"But you didn't," Hermione pointed out. "Not this time, at least. Do Horcruxes count?"
A smile. "That's part of what I must say."
It was a very grim Harry Potter who quietly told his newest ally all about Voldemort's Horcruxes. Daphne listened with a sense of growing horror. She'd always thought that Mark's- er, Harry's- defeat of the Dark Lord had permanently ended a reign of terror. If he returned, as seemed inevitable…. It did not bear thinking about.
In comparison, Hermione's tale about binding Saysa to the Slytherin line seemed almost tame. It really was a good plan, though in retrospect, if it had allowed Voldemort access to a new weapon, they probably shouldn't have done it.
"So what do you have to tell us?" Hermione finally asked.
Saysa hesitated. "The good news first," she muttered under her breath. A smile crossed her face. "Do you remember what you said to me on our mission, Hermione?" she asked. "Actually, it was more of an order."
"Yes. I told you not to kill Malfoy, and you came to your senses and didn't."
"No. I couldn't kill him, no more than I could have freed myself from Riddle's bondage."
Dead silence reigned in the Chamber of Secrets.
Hermione's eyes were huge. "But- that's- I'm Muggle-born! I can't- only a Slytherin- the biological kind, not the House- could do that!"
"It has been a thousand years since my master's death. There must have been at least one Squib in his line since then."
"But- me?- the Heiress of Salazar Slytherin!"
Blaise burst out laughing. Hermione and Saysa glared. "Sorry," the black boy chortled, "it's just that all this time we've been laughing at Voldemort for searching for some imaginary rival Heir, and it turns out he was right all along!"
The others (except Daphne, who was still suffering from information overload and related psychological phenomena) began to grin. Then they chuckled. Then they were howling with laughter. Even Daphne found herself chuckling, though not as loudly as the others.
"And the other Horcrux, the diadem," commented Neville. "Didn't it try ordering Saysa around? But she didn't obey because Hermione told her she didn't have to listen to him anymore!"
"I always wondered about that," confessed Blaise. "This is brilliant! We should un-Petrify Malfoy just to rub it in his face."
Saysa stopped laughing. "No," she said quietly. "We cannot release him."
Harry grimaced. "Time for the bad news, I take it?"
The Guardian grimaced. "I have told you of my second sight, yes?" At their nods, she continued, "I viewed Lucius with my second sight to see what affects the Horcrux had on his aura." She scowled. "Foul! Only once have I seen anything like it." She flinched. "And that is the bad news." She turned to the youngest human. "Harry… I think that your scar is a Horcrux."
The world froze. Hermione and Daphne were white as sheets, Neville's hands were in fists, Blaise's eyes were nearly popping out of his head. Slowly, very slowly, Harry reached up to touch his scar. "Well," he said quietly, "that explains the memories."
"I suppose it does," breathed Hermione. "Oh Harry-" She enveloped him in a hug.
"That is why I insisted on keeping Malfoy," Saysa explained quietly. "If Harry is a Horcrux- I might be wrong- we will need a way to extract it without killing him. I reasoned that we could use Malfoy as a test subject."
"Good idea," Harry said quietly. "I'll work on isolating it through Occlumency- it makes sense it's a Horcrux; I should have guessed- I want it out."
"We all do," whispered Saysa. "And we will succeed."
Hermione's eyes went wide. "But you can't be a Horcrux!" she exclaimed. "It's a dead giveaway that Mark isn't the Boy-Who-Lived. Don't you think that Dumbledore would have noticed a piece of Voldemort's soul in your head? Don't you think he-" She froze again, horror freezing her features. "No," the Ravenclaw breathed. "He does know about- about the Horcrux. And I'll bet my wand he knows you're the real Boy-Who-Lived."
"So why did he say it was Mark? I mean, if V-Voldemort ever returns, which you guys say he will, he'll just tell the truth," Neville wondered.
"Would anyone believe Voldemort?" wondered Hermione. "I mean, as opposed to the great and good Albus Dumbledore, who has never been wrong before."
"But that doesn't explain why he did it in the first place!" Neville yelled.
"Because," whispered Blaise, his voice shaking, "the Horcrux has to die, and the easiest way to accomplish that is by killing Harry. Oh Merlin…."
Neville understood. "He's a sacrifice!"
"Not just a sacrifice," said Harry quietly. "He wants Mark to kill me."
Dun dun dun…. *insert dramatic music here*
I was originally going to do one more chapter in this book, but now I'm not. Book 3 is going to start several months after the conclusion of this book, but several important things happen in those months. Other than writing another, totally uninteresting book that takes place in those months and has NO POINT other than to explain a few things that show up in Book 3, the only thing I could think of was writing a series of one-shots that go behind the scenes and cover important information. It'll be called "Behind and Between," and it'll also include things from Saysa's past and missing scenes.