Albus Dumbledore sat staring at the seemingly inconsequential ring upon his desk. The gold was old, and dull, and the black stone was cracked, quite seriously now. That had been caused by the Sword of Gryffindor, resting at his side now. The old man had broken the stone only an hour before, after retrieving it from a broken down hut just south of Little Hangelton that very afternoon.
It had been rather difficult to get, which made him wonder what other wards and protections he might face when he found the others. While it was true that Lord Voldemort was a most powerful individual, Dumbledore felt he lacked imagination. Perhaps it was another weakness they might exploit in the future.
He opened his desk drawer at the sound of frantic knocking on his office door. He dropped the ring inside where it fell upon a mangled looking book that had several holes stabbed into the covers.
"Enter." Dumbledore said as he shut the drawer. His familiar, a rare and beautiful looking phoenix chirped musically from its perch in the corner. Dumbledore couldn't help but smile at the great bird's attempt to calm his master.
"I was not expecting you this evening, Severus. How may I help you?" Dumbledore said, rising from his seat and going to a cabinet behind him. He pulled two crystal goblets from within, and poured a measure of amber liquid from a large decanter in each before turning around to hand one to his potions master, who looked rather haggard at the moment. Dumbledore was fairly confident he knew what it was that was having such a pronounced affect on the younger man.
"My apologies for disturbing you, but I had to come. This couldn't wait for , well, anything. It is as we thought. Narcissa came to me, asking for help." Severus Snape said, gratefully accepting the liquor, and swallowing it all in one swig.
"Did you make our offer?" Dumbledore asked, feeling the hair on the back of his neck begin to stand up. It was clear that something had gone horribly wrong. Snape was not a man to be so easily agitated. The dark haired man refused to meet Dumbledore's eyes, and pushed past the headmaster to pour another drink.
"There was a complication. Rodolphus was there. He is most upset. He feels the Dark Lord should not have allowed Longbottom to get away with murdering his wife. Albus…" Snape turned to look at the older man. "He's sworn revenge."
"We knew that would happen." The old Headmaster replied calmly. "I have already made arrangements for those concerned. They will be quite safe for the holiday. What of Narcissa?"
"They had me in a corner, I had no choice." Snape said quickly, looking away from Dumbledore again.
"Severus." Dumbledore said firmly. "Tell me what happened."
Snape took a deep breath, and swallowed his second drink.
"I took the Unbreakable Vow. If Draco cannot accomplish the task set before him, then I must be the one to…"
Dumbledore looked as if he'd been slapped by a giant. Snape did not finish his sentence. He simply watched horrorstruck as the elder man emptied his own goblet of alcohol. Silence reigned for several long moments. Only the sounds from the silver instruments and the occasional coo from Fawkes broke the tense quiet.
"This does complicate things." Dumbledore finally whispered.
"I had no choice." Snape repeated. If I had refused…"
"Then they would have suspected you more than they do now." Dumbledore said waving his hand airily. "How long do we have?"
"Until the end of the school year. The Dark Lord does not expect the boy to survive, Albus. I think he meant for me to be the one to….He meant for me to do it all along." Snape said sadly.
"That is quite clear, I think. Well, at least we have some warning, and I shall be able to get my affairs in order. However, it will make matters even more difficult than I had anticipated. I will need your help, and it will mean that…"
"NO!" Snape said vehemently. "You swore that you'd never tell him."
"I did, and I have kept my word all these years. However, I believe that you have been mistaken in not telling him yourself. I have said from the very moment he walked through our doors that you have hidden behind your grudges and have failed to see the young man he has become. He is much like his father, it is true, however, he also possess many of his mother's finer qualities, including his capacity for forgiveness."
"He would never forgive what I did. I can't even forgive myself." Snape said hatefully.
"Perhaps together you two might find a way. He will need you, especially after I am gone."
"Stop it!" Snape snapped. "You're not going anywhere. I decided on my way here that I would do my best to help Draco. If we can turn him back from this path…"
"It will not be easy." Dumbledore pointed out. "You yourself told me that he sought the Dark Lord out on his own. He is angry, and like Rodolphus, seeks revenge for the insults he believes he has suffered."
"But you'll be able to make him see reason." Snape replied. "And then, I shall finally shake off this horrid existence once and for all, and Potter will never know of my sins."
"That is unacceptable, Severus, and I refuse to allow it. You remember what you swore to me? To her?" Dumbledore looked angrily at Snape who was now shaking with rage.
"You are far more valuable to the light than I am." Snape said bitterly.
"And I am old. I'm tired, and I not as fast as I once was. My time is ending, Severus. Whether through natural cause, or murder, it is coming. I've known it for a long time. I am ready for it. It is only you who I can trust to carry on. Should Lord Voldemort manage his coup, than we will need someone to protect the young. We need him to make you the Headmaster of the school."
Snape nodded, remembering their many conversations about what the Dark Lord had planned for the magical community when he eliminated his enemies once and for all. Voldemort planned to purify the magical community, by ridding it of all muggleborns, and then to turn his forces on the Muggles.
Dumbledore reminded Snape of another man who had wished to destroy people he hated, and what it had done to the world. This was exactly the same, with the exception that the Muggles would not be able to fight against this.
"I am going to hold you to your oath, even after my death Severus." Dumbledore said firmly, and smiled softly to himself as Snape glared at him.
"You're going to make it easy for me to want to end your life, aren't you." Snape said, knowing the Headmaster's plan before it had even been spoken.
"Indeed. Now, since you are here, I'd like it if you would help me with a few matters." Dumbledore rose from his seat. Snape simply watched him, hating and loving the man who had saved his life, just as he hated and loved another young man, who reminded him of two people who brought out the very best, and very worst of him, so long ago.
She stood in front of a full length mirror, her dressing gown open, and hanging off her arms. Her dark brown hair was done in a loose pile on her head, and deep brown eyes were glistening with pained tears as she inspected her figure.
Daphne Greengrass had developed a very attractive figure. Most other girls would have given anything to have her body. Her legs were long, and slim, and the color of fresh cream. She had a slender build, like a dancers, with good curves. Daphne had liked her figure very much, and rarely found flaw with what she had been given. Until a few weeks ago.
As she stared almost blankly, her fingers traced a long ropey looking purple scar. It began just below her left shoulder and ran diagonally down her torso, cutting across her breast and stopping just above her navel. It stood out in stark contrast against her light colored skin, and felt rough on her fingertips.
Daphne had received the scar from Antonin Dolohov, she'd been told. One of the Death eaters that she and several other Hogwarts Students had fought against in the Department of Mysteries while attempting a rescue of her then boyfriend's godfather.
At the thought of that night, Daphne's chest constricted a bit. It had been two weeks since Ron Weasley's funeral, and the day that Harry Potter had broken her heart. The boy had told her that he was breaking up with her for her own safety, and he had left before she could say or do anything. After he had left, everything was a blur to her. She vaguely remembered falling down, and her friends trying to give comfort. She wasn't even sure how she'd arrived home.
She had spent the last two weeks sequestered in her bedroom, doing hardly any more than sleeping. The family elf had made sure she took the potions she had been prescribed, and making sure she ate, but that was it. She hadn't even spoken to her mother and father, though her parents had tried.
"Miss Daphne's bath be ready." A soft childlike voice said. Daphne turned and nodded at the diminutive house elf who disappeared with a quiet pop. Daphne slipped her robe off, and slid into the delicious warmth of her bath. Franny, the elf, always made it perfect, and the heat penetrated her body all the way to her bones.
Daphne shut her eyes and tried to clear her mind, but it didn't work. She saw him so clearly. Harry had been an amazing boyfriend, and she loved him deeply. She could not stop thinking that she had done something wrong. Maybe he thought she was weak because she had gotten hurt, or maybe He had seen her in action and realized she was not very powerful.
Daphne knew none of it was true, but her sadness at being left by the boy she had loved, was doing things to her self esteem.
The truth was, Harry Potter had broken up with her to protect her. At least that was what he had said. He hadn't even come to see her while she recovered in the hospital wing. With the help of her other friends, Daphne was sure that he had learned something very disturbing. She was also sure it had something to do with what had happened in the Department of Mysteries. Hermione said that between losing Ron, nearly losing the rest of them, and whatever Dumbledore had shared with him, Harry likely felt he had no other alternative.
Memories of her year with Harry flooded her mind, and she recalled the first time they had ever kissed. They had been interrupted several times before. Each time they had gotten close to sharing their first kiss, someone would ruin it. Her younger sister screaming from behind some bushes where she had been spying, or Draco Malfoy hexing Harry.
But that beautiful afternoon, after playing muggle football, they had shared a special moment, and it had been better than she had ever imagined it would be. Harry had been so tender with her. The way he had held her, and how soft his lips were on her own.
That one perfect moment had been followed by a very difficult year, in which a giant toad with some kind of personal vendetta had all but banned the use of magic, in a school that was supposed to teach magic. Harry had fought back though. He had led a secret group where he taught them how to fight, should they ever be attacked. She had stood by him through it all, even though their relationship suffered.
Most every other couple snuck off after curfew to advance their physical relationship. Exploring the castle with one's significant other to find secret places to explore one another was a rite of passage. One that Daphne had gladly passed upon in order to support Harry. When all was said and done, she felt their relationship was all the stronger for it. Besides, she was hopeful they could make up for what they missed this year. But Harry had ruined it when he told her they could no longer be together. He wanted to keep her safe.
Daphne wiped the tears that had begun to fall. What on earth made Harry think she'd be safer without him? She'd been seen with him. She had fought at his side. She had announced her alignment to the world. What made him think no one would come after her to make her pay for her allegiance?
She wondered about this so much that her brain hurt. She wished that she could talk to him and find out what he'd been told. She would have given anything to know what had happened. To understand why Harry had abandoned the people who cared about him the most.
Despite the warmth of her bath, Daphne began to shiver again. Ever since Harry had disappeared with Dumbledore, she had been suffering bouts of chills that nothing could warm. She sighed heavily, and climbed out of the tub, dried herself, and wrapped herself in her fluffiest robe.
She walked back to her bedroom, and found her younger sister, Astoria waiting for her.
"Tori, I'm really not in the mood." Daphne said wearily.
"This is getting really awful to watch." Astoria looked up at her older sister. Astoria looked closer to their mother than Daphne did. At thirteen, Astoria's breasts were already as large as Daphne's, and it was clear that the younger girl would be much bustier. She had light brown hair and hazel eyes. She was more athletically built than Daphne, but her face was very soft and feminine, just like their mother's.
"Have you tried writing him?" Astoria asked.
"I have no idea where to send the letter." Daphne sighed, sitting in front of her vanity. She watched her younger sister in the mirror. Astoria got up from her seat on Daphne's bed.
"Dad could find out, if you asked him. They're really worried about you."
Daphne didn't say anything. She knew her mother and father were worried. They had told her so several times when they tried to get her to talk about it. Daphne had simply stared at a point between them to avoid their eyes. She hated how she was acting, but she had never felt so awful in her life. She had seen girls get dumped at school and seen them cry, but most of them were as right as rain a few days later, some of them already with new boyfriends. Tracey always called the rebounds, which Daphne had never really understood.
"What exactly happened? None of this makes any sense to me, and I know that you don't want to talk about the Ministry, but I'm totally confused. Every time I saw him with you…he looked so happy. You both did." Astoria tried to get her sister talking.
"We were." Daphne sighed, her eyes falling to her lap. "He just…I…"
She fell silent and Astoria came forward and put a hand on her sister's shoulder. "What did he say?"
Daphne shut her eyes, trying to fight another wave of tears. She remembered how sad he looked that day. How determined to say what he had to say and leave. Yet, he looked so conflicted with himself. His eyes looked so sad as he'd broken up with her.
"He told me that it was for my own safety." Daphne sighed after a long moment. "He thinks that You-Know-Who will leave me alone if I'm not dating him."
"Well, that's stupid." Astoria replied sarcastically. "I don't think it really matters if you two are together or not. If he wants to hurt Harry, he'll come after all of you guys, even if Harry's not hanging around you anymore. Doesn't he realize that you guys might actually be better off fighting side by side? I thought he was smart, but now…"
Daphne couldn't help but smile at her sister's indigence. Daphne couldn't understand Harry's thought process either, but who could really understand boys at all.
"I think it's truly sad that he didn't even give you a chance to say how you felt. He just tells you how it's going to be, and then leaves without hearing your opinion. I never thought Harry would be that guy."
Daphne suddenly looked up at her sister. Astoria was still ranting.
"I mean, really. Sure, I understand that he wants you to be safe, and that's sweet, and noble and all, but wouldn't you be safer with him? I mean, I've seen him fight…well, in the DA, but I could se how amazing he was, and you and him together. I don't think you guys got beat by anyone. Ok, sure, you got hurt at the Ministry. But a lot of people got hurt. Maybe if he learned some healing stuff, he would have known you were ok, and then maybe things would have been different. And besides, He is totally in love with you. Anyone whose got a decent pair of eyes can see it. Who does he think he's kidding?"
Daphne could only stare, her younger sister's speech making perfect sense to her. Harry had decided the fate of their relationship without even respecting her enough to hear her opinion on the matter. And she didn't want to let him go. She loved him, and she'd risked her life for him. How dare he think he could just toss her aside.
"You're right." Daphne said softly. "Who the hell does he think he is?"
"Damn right!" Astoria said smacking her fist into her hand.
"I almost died fighting with him. He can't toss me aside like a broken wand. I'm going to show that arrogant little git that He's stuck with me. He's not getting rid of me so easily. Voldemort be damned!" Daphne said. She was suddenly filled with serious rage at what had happened to her.
"Whoa." Astoria stepped back, trying to suppress a shudder.
"What?" Daphne looked up at her sister, who had gone suddenly pale.
"You must really be mad. You said You-Know-Who's name."
"Harry has no idea what he's done. Personally, if it were me, I'd punch him right in the eye, make him apologize to me, and then once I'm finished showing him the error of crossing a Greengrass woman, I'd make him snog me until he couldn't see straight."
Daphne smiled for the first time in two weeks. "Thanks for that." She said a bit wryly, scrunching her nose. "Though I could have done without the last bit. I don't fancy imagining you snogging my soon to be boyfriend."
"Sorry. I got a bit carried away."
Daphne went to her wardrobe and began pulling out some clothes. She began dressing quickly and purposefully.
"Where are you going?" Astoria asked curiously.
"To talk to dad. If you think I'm waiting all summer until school starts, you're mad."
Jonathan Greengrass sat in his study looking over some new legislation that was being passed around the Wizengamont. There was a lot happening these days. The biggest thing happening was the outcry for the resignation of Cornelius Fudge. Fudge was trying desperately to hang on to his office, but it was clear to everyone who worked within the Ministry that there would be a new Minister of Magic.
A few names were being mentioned. First there was Pius Thicknese. Pius as a politicians, politician. He was as smooth and charismatic as Lucius Malfoy, though not nearly as wealthy. Jonathan was not a fan of Thicknese, but not because of how much he reminded people of Malfoy senior, but because of the whispers that surrounded the man. Though there was nothing concrete, it was widely rumored that Pius was a fan of the Dark arts, and it was through his subtle use of those arts that helped get so high in government. Jonathan felt there might be a bit of truth to those whispers, as Pius was quite an idiot.
Another name was Rufus Scrimgeour. Jonathan didn't really know much about the man, other than he was a very decorated Auror. He looked a lot like a lion, with a mane of dark blond hair, and a grizzled face. Jonathan knew nothing of the man's politics, but assumed he would be very proactive against the Dark Lord.
The last name, the one who seemed to be getting the most mentions, was Amelia Bones, the Head of the Auror department. Amelia was a very capable witch, and Jonathan was certain that she would lead the magical community well against the threat of the Death Eaters and their leader.
Madam Bones was well liked within the Ministry, and other than her decidedly pro muggle born stance, she had the majority of support to become the new Minister of Magic. Unfortunately, her opinion of Muggles seemed to be the only thing that would make things difficult for her. Too many seats on the Wizengamont were held by ancient pure blood houses, many of whom believed that Muggleborns had somehow stolen magic from wizards.
Jonathan had once questioned one of those who felt this was the only possible explanation for Muggleborns, only to get a very long-winded speech of nonsense.
Jonathan himself was Pureblood, but he felt that if it were not for Muggleborns, wizards would have died out a millennia ago. His father had explained it to him while he was still in Hogwarts. As he grew up, and did a bit of study in wizard lineage, he found that his father was right. More than a handful of families died out, or at least bred the magic right out of the line.
There were other things happening, keeping Jonathan and his fellows quite busy. The trial of former Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge was going to take place in the next month. The case against the former Ministry worker was pretty solid. She had used the Cruciatus curse on Minerva McGonagall, and it was rumored that she had used it on Harry Potter as well.
The Boy Who Lived.
The Boy That Had Broken The Heart Of His Daughter.
Jonathan did not know the details. He only knew that Harry had told his daughter that they couldn't see each other anymore. He had done so at the funeral for the Weasley boy. Daphne had come home devastated.
He had been proud when he had learned that she had stood by the boy and fought Death Eaters within the Ministry. He and his wife had of course been horrified to learn that she had nearly lost her life, but proud that she had chosen the side of right, and fought what she believed, or at least, who she loved.
Jonathan had been impressed by the boy when they had met. He was quite smart, if not a bit uninformed. He had stood against the government, and inevitably won when the truth came to light. He had suffered at the hands of those who are meant to protect the youth, and he had led his fellows against the dark.
And yet, right now, All Jonathan wanted to do was find the boy and strangle him for the pain he had caused his daughter. The trouble was, he couldn't help but feel there was more to the story. Unfortunately, Daphne wasn't talking.
Jonathan looked up to see Daphne standing in the doorway.
"Daphne? Come in. Are you alright?" He asked, and Daphne nodded, then screwed up her face and shook her head.
"I need your help. I need to talk to Harry. Better yet, I need to see him. I need to fix this. He's wrong, and I need to show him that he's wrong."
"I don't understand." Jonathan said, leaning back in his chair.
"Harry thinks he's protecting me. That's why he broke things off with me. But it wasn't just me. He thinks by staying away from us, he can, I don't know…"
"He thinks the Dark Lord will not attack you or the others if he is no longer friendly with any of you."
Daphne nodded. "But he's wrong. He needs us. Voldemort will kill us all no matter what Harry thinks. He knows we all care for Harry."
Jonathan suppressed a shudder at Daphne's use of the Dark Lord's name, but stared incredulously at her.
"He's truly had an influence on you. You would never have spoken the name before."
"Dad…I love him." Daphne admitted softly. "It isn't some school thing that will go away after graduate. I would have gladly given my life for him that night. I feel so empty without him. Like I'm broken. It like Mom always told us. I'm stronger with him. I'm whole."
Jonathan stared at his eldest daughter for a moment. He knew exactly what she was talking about, because he felt the same about his wife, Daphne's mother. Aurora was an extraordinary woman. Jonathan could not imagine a life without her, and would do anything she asked of him, no matter how strange, or silly. He lived his life for his family.
"You think he will listen to you?" Jonathan asked.
"He had his say." Daphne said bitterly. "Now it's my turn to express my opinion. He's not getting rid of me for some stupid, half thought out reasoning."
Jonathan gave a rare smile, and even chuckled. "Just like your mother. She was the very same when we began dating. I had it in my head that I should marry a pureblood. I tried to break things off with her right before we graduated."
Daphne's mouth hung open. She had never known that her father had tried to end things with her mother.
"Between her and your grandfather, I was set straight, and a month later, I proposed. She said no."
"What?" Daphne exclaimed.
"Yes. She said no, but refused to end our relationship. She wanted me to earn it, I suppose. I asked again a few months later. She said yes that time. But if she had not, there is no doubt in my mind we would have remained together, just as deeply in love as we are now."
"I think our love has deepened."
Both Daphne and her father turned to find Daphne's mother standing in the doorway, holding a steaming mug of tea, which she set before her father. She settled into her husband's lap and kissed his lips softly. A year ago, Daphne might have been sickened a tad bit watching such a display from her mother and father, but right now, it seemed like the most beautiful scene she had ever witnessed.
"Daphne, I, that is we, are very proud of the young woman you're becoming." Aurora said as she faced her eldest daughter. "You are intelligent, thoughtful, kind, very beautiful, and surprisingly powerful. You have proven that you are fully capable of making good decisions, and facing the consequences of your actions. You are more mature than either your father or I was at your age. If you are sure of your feelings for Harry, than I believe you should be allowed to confront him, and figure this out with him."
At that Aurora turned back to face her husband, who nodded his agreement.
"Your mother is right. You are only a little over a year away from becoming of age. Yet, you have shown that you can act well beyond your years. Perhaps it would be alright for you to try and solve this dilemma. Tomorrow, I will track down Harry's address, and you can take the Knight Bus for the day. Just promise not to hex the boy. It wouldn't do for you to receive a Ministry citation. You are still underage."
"I promise I won't hex him." Daphne smiled as she rose from her seat. "Thank you both."
After she left, Aurora turned a worried expression to her husband, who mirrored her concern.
"Why am I suddenly afraid for the boy?" She asked, and Jonathan began to chuckle softly.