Honor to Serve
I know you want to know what happens to Snape. Unfortunately, those results take time, and the next two chapters all occur within 18 hours of the end of the hearing. Instead, I give you Voldemort's response to the loss of three of his best. I also give you a typical first encounter between a dark lord and the Snowdon. Evil Overlord Conventions apply, after all, she is a comic book hero.
Chapter Ten: The Storm
The storm raged over Great Windsor Park, trees swaying as the rain lashed wind blew. Pansy had woken up that morning to the rain, thunder, and lightning. She'd clung to Draco in the still unfamiliar room they shared in Windsor Castle, as guests of the Queen. It had calmed down through most of the day, into a gentle rain, pattering on the roof and windows of the ancient royal residence.
Now, the wind was back, blowing hard as Pansy stood near the Castle's apparition point. Through the window, the flash of lightning appeared, followed by not one, not two, but at least six cracks of thunder. The thunder rolled, and the lightning rolled over the wards. Pansy swore that she could see the dome of the wards in the sheets of rain coming down outside, as she stood by the window with the Queen Mother.
A crack echoed in the room, not of thunder though. Countess Snowdon appeared on the point, along with Pansy's Draco. The Countess looked up, first towards her mother, then at the lightning lighting up the wards. "How long has that been going on?" Snowdon asked, looking directly at the Queen Mother.
"About ten minutes," the Queen Mother said. "I'm not sure the wards are going to hold in the Upper Ward."
Snowdon cast a wordless spell, and her wand lit up with a pale yellow light. "Right. We've got about ten minutes, but they'll only be able to get into the courtyard." Another silent spell, and a white spectral owl left her wand and headed off through the walls. "Edward should be coming soon, but I don't think soon enough. Make sure the Queen is in a safe room. Draco, Pansy, I'm not going to ask you to fight, especially you, Pansy, since you're pregnant, but if you are, join me in the court yard in the next five minutes."
As the Queen Mother departed, the Snowdon swirled her cloak, and suddenly she was dressed in white robes with iridescent snow flakes stitched in them. A white feathered mask appeared over her eyes with blue lenses protecting them. For just a few seconds, Pansy thought of asking for an autograph. The thought changed. Yes, she was pregnant, but not that far along to be a problem. The doctor had not told her she couldn't do anything. So she was going to do something. "I'm in." The tone was firm.
Pansy looked at Draco, daring him to tell her no. The glare was enough. He nodded. "Tomorrow we'll talk about things." He turned to Snowdon. "I'm in."
"Care to be an owlet?" Snowdon asked with a twinkle in her eye, looking at Pansy. It was a twinkle that Pansy had only seen done by Headmaster Dumbledore before, when she'd gotten caught in her second year. There were some that said that twinkle was a sign of a powerful wizard or witch.
Pansy couldn't resist. "Yes."
Her Draco, shook his head as the Snowdon transfigured Pansy's robes. Her cloak changed to a feathered brown and white pattern, and her robes a lighter brown. The hood of her cloak rose, but did not obscure her vision. A black mask appeared over her eyes. "There. Consider yourself deputized, as my owlets in the Americas said."
Out into the rain, they went, Pansy sparing a glace to her Draco. He still had the robes, patterned on those the Weasley brothers had worn at Cedric's laying at state, on. The cloak, though was green, and under it Draco wore a white shirt with green epaulettes and matching green trousers. Pansy was sure that Draco's prized Welsh Green dragon hide boots were not going to be shining when he was done. It was about as fare as you could get from Death Eater regalia and still be within wizarding fashion.
The Snowdon pointed them to their places, near the center of the court yard in the Upper Ward. They drew their wands and waited in the rain.
It was not a long wait. Less than a minute after they took their place, there was a loud clap, as the wards over the Upper Ward fell. Sparkling motes of light drifted downward, as the snap of another ward rising over the Round Tower behind them occurred.
Pansy raised her wand, ready to cast, ready to hex, anyone who invaded Windsor Castle. Her Draco stood on the other side of the Snowdon, ready to respond as well. The Snowdon let out a low cry of an owl that echoed off the buildings of the Upper Ward.
Cracks filled the air, and three figures appeared. The center one could be no other than the Dark Lord himself. Pansy could not say, nor even think his name, but her wand stayed raised, as she looked at the snake like vestige of the risen dark lord. Potter's description his red eyed nemesis was quite accurate. At the Dark Lord's left was a Death Eater who's robes she knew, even with the mask covering his face. It was not her turn to speak though.
"Tom Mavolo Riddle, the so-called Lord Voldermort, we meet at last," the Snowdon said. "I do hope you don't intend to run away this time."
"Countess Snowdon, I assure you that this time there will be no interruptions," the Dark Lord said. "Shall we duel?" He bowed.
"We shall," the Snowdon said. "At the next lightning?" The Dark Lord nodded. "Then prepare yourself."
"And Father, I think it is time we have a reckoning, as well," Pansy said to the man across from her.
"What can you do, little girl?" her father sneered.
Pansy wasn't sure she could beat her own father, the man she had been afraid of all her life. But she had Draco at her side now, and the Snowdon had made her one of her owlets. She wasn't going to let them down. She knew that the Snowdon had become the Royal Wizard at just fourteen. Pansy was older than the Snowdon had been when she became the Royal Wizard. She could do this. She knew her father, but her father had never seen her stand up for herself. He'd never seen her duel. Pansy had been the dueling champ for her year in Slytherin since her second year.
On the other side of the Snowdon, she heard her Draco exchanging words. "It looks like the Quidditch team is going to require a new chaser," he said.
"Don't you mean seeker?" the Death Eater across from Draco said.
"I don't think so," Draco said, just before lightning stuck.
Pansy opened with a flame curse, cast silently. Her father was surprised. Pansy was sure that he hadn't expected her to cast so quickly. Her fast cast and several spells she had learnt to cast silently had been how she had run the tables in dueling the past spring. She'd even beat Bole, who had been a seventh year to her fourth. She wasn't worried about Draco. He'd finished right behind her, and there was no way that Warrington was going to beat him.
Her father had to put out the flames before he could respond, and Pansy didn't let up. She followed up quickly, "Reducto! Protego!" Her father twisted to avoid the curse, and fired back with an attempt to disarm her. It bounced off her shield. Pansy smiled. "Confrigo!" She'd never done the spell in a duel at Hogwarts, but she put all her power into it, feeling all her confidence in it.
Her father flew across the court yard, impacting the entry to the State Apartments. He didn't get up. Pansy kept her eye on him, moving towards the man who had decreed that she should not have Draco's child. Her attention was split, though, as the Snowdon was fighting the Dark Lord, and Draco was still at work with his opponent.
Suddenly Draco shouted out, "Expelliarmus!" and the Death Eater who had been his opponent shot back towards the Royal Apartments. Draco neatly caught his wand with his off hand and followed up with a silent binding spell.
Pansy did the same to her father, now that Draco's actions has reminded her. She stepped up to the side of her Draco as both of them turned to face where the Snowdon was fighting the Dark Lord. Above them, the wards were slowly repairing themselves. Two out a three victories had assured that the ancient wards, once broken, would rise again for the Royal Family.
Crackle. Snap. Bang. Hiss. Flame and water, light and dark, still the Snowdon fought the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord was strong, and his attacks varied, constantly changing. The Snowdon was more experienced, and had fought more dark lords of his ilk than many heroes of the light. Age was not a factor. In fact, both of them would have been in the same class at Hogwarts, if the Snowdon had attended the school.
The Snowdon had once been curious, and asked the Sorting Hat which house she would have been sorted in. The comic that that story had been told in, issue 170, had surprised no one. Pansy figured that it would have been an epic rivalry between the Snowdon in Gryffindor and the Dark Lord in Slytherin.
Lightning stuck the ground, just missing the Dark Lord. The Snowdon was smiling. The Dark Lord was not. Another bolt struck, and the Dark Lord bowed. "You have mastered me, for now," the Dark Lord said, and in a wisp of smoke, he was gone. Above the Castle the wards snapped into place again and went invisible.
"Why do they always do that with the first attack on me?" the Snowdon asked to the empty air.
The pain in Harry Potter's scar had ended shortly before he was due to join his aunt and uncle for dinner at a rather exclusive restaurant. Harry was paying for it, so there was no way he was going to be late. He'd been a little surprised that Uncle Vernon had suggested going to a French restaurant, but after that suggestion, Harry had chosen the best one he could find. He was quite fortunate that his fellow Tri-Wizard Champion had answered his letter so quickly.
Fleur had recommended La Gavroche off Upper Brook Street in London. Not only that, but she offered to make the reservations for him, knowing how busy he was in the Wizengamot. He was quite certain that was going to cost him a pretty penny, but it would be worth it. A quiet dinner with his aunt and uncle, with whom he was finally getting along with, that he didn't have to cook.
Harry wasn't sure why his Aunt and Uncle had suggested that they have dinner away from Number Four. He did know that Dudley had a few plans, that Harry was quite sure that should his mother at least find out about would result in a less than pleasant reaction. He hoped that Dudley had chosen the option that was less likely to go wrong.
Harry put down his umbrella as he stepped into the building. He'd traveled to this part of London via the flue located in the Marks and Spenser store's hidden Wizengamot clothing section in their flagship store off Oxford Street. He couldn't resist purchasing some of a rather new pig shaped confectionary, for use the next time he encountered his predecessor as Gryffindor Seeker.
The five block walk in the rain had been mostly boring, though he had went a little too far down Audley Street. Fortunately one of the United States Marines at their Embassy had been nice enough to point him in the right direction.
His aunt and uncle were waiting for him, but from the looks of Uncle Vernon's coat, only just barely. "Potter, party of three, I assume?"
Hermione had recommended that he keep his aunt and uncle off balance a bit. With either his Wizengamot salary, or the interest from his mostly untouched vault, he could afford a weekly dinner or two like this. Hermione had told him that such dinners after sessions were not uncommon, but Harry had never eaten at such a posh place. He figured it was better to try the place with his family than with another Wizengamot member.
Aunt Petunia appeared to be quite interested in the menu. Her eyes seemed to light up as she read it. Uncle Vernon, on the other hand, had an expression of resigned acceptance. Harry was sure now that despite the fact that Uncle Vernon had suggested it, it was because of his aunt that he'd done so. Despite the fact that Vernon was in upper management, Harry was well aware of his uncle's preference for pub grub. He'd had to cook it, after all.
With the menus before them, it didn't take long for them to decide on their meal. Summoning the waiter, Harry ordered first. "I'll have the Sole Grillée et Langoustines, Aubergine Fumée
Sauce Vierge au Balsamic Blanc. Sadly, I'm too young for the wine list, so perhaps a tall glass of sparkling water?"
"Very well, sir," the waiter said. "And you madame?"
Aunt Petunia had been practically drooling over the menu. He'd told her that he expected her to order what she wanted, regardless of Uncle Vernon's wishes. So Harry wasn't surprised when she began, "Well, I'm eating for two, so I'd like to start with the Coquilles St. Jacques Grillées et Minestrone de Palourdes, and follow up with the Homard Sauté et son Jus à la Citronelle et Coco. The Doctor says I should avoid wine, so I think I shall follow in my nephew's footsteps and have sparkling water."
Harry was sure that his uncle had changed what he planned to order at the last possible minute, probably because he wasn't sure he could pronounce it right. "I'll have the Râble de Lapin et Galette au Parmesan, and a glass of the Côte-de-Nuits Villages, unless you think there is a better match?"
"Mounsier, you are quite correct given today's listed selections," the waiter replied. "May I suggest the Le Plateau de Fromages Affinés to nibble on as you await your entrees?"
"Certainly," Uncle Vernon said, as he handed over his menu. "My nephew here, though he considers himself not yet of age for the wine, may need a bit of an education as to the appropriate choice."
"The young gentleman would find either the Chateau Roubine "Terre de Croix" Semillon or Pouilly Fume appropriate for his meal, though the Vouvray Sec "La Dilettante" would not be an inappropriate choice given the particulars of his dish."
"Thank you, I think Harry could stand a small glass of the Chateau Roubine," Vernon said, before turning back to Harry as the waiter left. He took a deep breath, and Harry could tell that his uncle was preparing to say something he found hard to say. "I know I have not been what I should have been to you since you came to live with us, Harry. I was an angry man, and I blamed you, a baby on our doorstep, for what those Death Eaters did to my baby daughter. I was wrong. There is nothing I can do to change the past, and I don't deserve your forgiveness.
Uncle Vernon looked down at the place setting. "I had two heart attacks this past February. I spent three weeks in the hospital recovering from an emergency operation after the second. The doctor said I had loose weight and get my anger under control. He recommended Doctor Perks."
Vernon reached over and took Aunt Petunia's hand. "I felt like my whole world was crashing. Then Pet told me she was pregnant. I had something new to live for again. I started looking at my life, really looking at it. Doctor Perks really helped, especially after he told me that his daughter was in your class at Hogwarts."
"Sally-Anne?" Harry asked. The idea of his uncle finding out that his psychologist's daughter was in his class. "Her father is your doctor?"
"Yes," Uncle Vernon said as the selection of cheeses arrived and were placed on the table. "Hard as it might seem to you, finding out that my doctor had a magical daughter at your benighted school was actually a good thing. I did have a bit of a break at first, but that cute little girl, well it was hard to see her as a witch, and a different perspective on everything helps. Judging from your nightmares some nights, you might benefit from him too."
In the silence of the next few minutes, Harry considered it. It seemed like he had nightmares of one type or another all of his life. He lived between bouts of stress. If it wasn't for his Firebolt, and Quidditch, he wouldn't have anything that he really could relax in. There was also the Dark Lord after him. His life was not sane.
The silence was broken by the arrival of their dinner. The topic was not picked back up though. Instead, Uncle Vernon brought up their visit to the Tower, and some things they had seen on the way there and back, despite their "manic driver."
Through the whole meal though, Harry's thoughts kept going back to Vernon's words. 'You might benefit from him too.' He'd lived from trauma to trauma, he'd grown up abused. Until he had arrived at Hogwarts, he believed that no one would support him. He believed that he would never have friends. Now, he knew that was not true. He had friends.
First there was Ron, not always the most faithful friend. He was a bit prone to be jealous at times, and he was definitely a drag on Harry's grades, at times. Of course he's next friend, Hermione helped him balance that part out. If Harry needed to know something, he knew that Hermione would know it. She was a girl, something that was a fact, but hadn't really been on Harry's radar, much. Recently, though, he found himself reacting to that now quite obvious fact, more often that he really felt comfortable admitting.
Then there was Neville. Shy, tentative, Neville, with the green thumb, who always seemed to be on the edge of the group, never quite joining them. Until, that is, politics got involved. Neville was a font of information on that, and Harry had found Neville's company to be more comfortable than with either Ron or Hermione. The former, Harry still felt a little unsure about if he'd be there for him, and the latter, well there was that physical reaction. Harry shook his head to clear it.
Harry wasn't quite sure about Draco yet. He wanted to be friends. There was something about the idea of making friends with his Hogwarts rival that appealed to him. Harry knew that Draco had effectively cut his ties with Voldemort. He'd even dropped the name that he'd heard Ron use so often like it was a curse word. There was someone who needed more help than Harry did.
The meal was quite enjoyable, even with his mind distracted. He'd never quite heard or seen his aunt and uncle like this. Uncle Vernon kept reaching over to squeeze his aunt's hand, and once Aunt Petunia had actually giggled. Aunt Petunia was not supposed to giggle. Uncle Vernon was not supposed to act reasonable. These were pillars in Harry Potter's world, and they were gone. It was good that they were gone, but Harry found himself adrift as he intercepted the bill. This was the Potter party, after all, not the Dursley party.
He signed his name to the receipt before stepping out of the restaurant. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were going to spend the night at a nearby hotel, as the dinner had been quite late. Too late to drive back to Surrey, as Uncle Vernon had said. Harry was flueing home, thought he'd have to walk back to Oxford Street.
He hadn't gone three steps when an gilded bald eagle with an eleven meter wingspan landed in the next intersection.
Dudley Dursley carefully moved the dinner he'd just heated from it's package onto the plates. He couldn't cook like Harry. Dudley firmly believed that Harry was the best cook in the house, not that he'd ever tell his mother that. Dudley could heat up prepared dinners from the store, though. He moved the plates over to the table, and lit the candles. He dimmed the lights a bit, then called out, "Porta, time to eat."
Porta had not been able to go home to change. Her parents had been at the hospital all day with her older brother Piers. Piers had woken up around three, and Porta had gotten the call from her parents at four. That's when Dudley had decided to do a special dinner. He'd told her that it would be by candlelight. She'd told him that she would be ready for the romantic dinner.
Dudley had just started his mother's record player, when Porta entered the room. She wore one of Dudley's plain sleeveless shirts, a deep green one that was long on Dudley, but on Porta's six inch shorter form, it was practically a dress. She'd found a red rope somewhere, and tied it around her waist. Her feet were still bare, and she seemed to be gliding into the room, no dancing. She slid up against Dudley, as the music swelled. A light kiss on his cheek, and she moved to chair.
Dudley pulled it out for her, and she took a seat. On a whim, Dudley knelled slightly beside her, and raised her hand to his lips, bestowing a kiss on it. Porta giggled as Dudley stood. As he took his seat opposite her, he smiled and reach across the table, like he had seen his parents due the past few weeks, his hand gently cupping over hers.
They ate in mostly silence. Words didn't seem to be necessary. Bare feet met trainers, then socks, under the table. Hands touched again. The candles burned, their light lending a romantic glow, hiding the troubles of the last few days in the shadows of the room.
Trouble would return, but under the candlelight in Number Four, the world and its troubles were far away. Once the house had been referred to as Azkaban South, but tonight it was an oasis of calm in the middle of the storm.
In the morning, his parents would come home. In the morning, an aged headmaster would stop by to see how the garden had faired. In the morning the papers would arrive with the news of the night. In the morning, his cousin would limp through the door. In the morning, nothing would be the same.
Tonight though, it was Dudley and Porta, alone, together, an isolated world in the middle of the storm.
Author's Note: The muse seems to be settling on this story for a while, so as long as she doesn't get any chocolate, you can expect regular updates. Especially since next week I've got off.