Chapter 1 : The Dark Guardian
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Please read or skim that first or else you will be totally lost, thanks!
Also includes an OC by Lady Julie Snape--Philip Anthony Snape, who will be an important supporting character in this story since she was the 701st reviewer for my story Arms of a Dark Angel, as promised.
And now, welcome to the world of Prince Manor!
Sept. 1st, 1994
"After the Malfoys were arrested for the first time, the Ministry sent Draco to an orphanage," Harry told a rapt Hermione and Ron, who wore expressions of shock and disbelief on their faces. He cast a quick glance at the top of Hedwig's cage, where Smidgen, a dreamweaver shimmerling, was curled up asleep. Only Harry could see through the glamour the fae winged cat had placed upon herself, for Harry was the Heir to Prince Manor and in him ran the blood of the fae.
He continued telling his best friends Draco's story over pumpkin juice, butterbeer, pumpkin pasties, and Cauldron Cakes.
"And then my dad made Draco his ward because he was his godfather and Draco needed a guardian so they wouldn't put him in foster care or whatever." Harry explained. He went on to detail how Draco and he had fought like cats and dogs in the beginning, despite Severus's warnings.
"Can't say I blame you one bit, mate," Ron sad sympathetically. "I mean, it's Malfoy."
"I would have agreed with you one hundred percent a few months ago, Ron. But that was before I started talking with Draco and stopped fighting with him. I know sometimes he can be a major pain in the arse, but he's not a Death Eater. His dad is, but he's not."
"We know that, Harry, said Hermione calmly, putting a hand on his arm. "We read the coverage of the trial and the way Malfoy . . .Draco . . .rejected his parents and their ways and chose to follow Professor Snape's example."
"Yeah, the twins were there and so was my dad. They told me all about it," Ron admitted. "It's just . . .it seems so weird, thinking of Malfoy as a good guy. I mean, he was such an arse to us in school, you know?"
"I know, Ron. But we all wear masks and sometimes you've got to look beyond them. I know you all thought my dad was a real nasty bugger, but over half of that was a mask to cover his actions as a spy. I learned that over the summer, like I told you. Draco was forced into acting like Lucius's version of a pureblood was supposed to act, but he doesn't really hate Muggleborns," Harry stressed, looking earnestly at Hermione. He hoped the girl was taking what he said to heart and also that his clumsy attempts at getting her to see a different side of Draco weren't going to screw things up even more.
"Are you sure about that, Harry?" Hermione asked, doubt creeping into her voice.
"Yes," Harry said firmly. "Now that he doesn't have to pretend anymore, you'll see a different side of Draco."
"Good. It's about time he started to grow up and quit acting like a bigot," said Hermione, then she turned to pet her new owl, Athena.
"Humph. I'll believe when I see it." Ron snorted.
"Fair enough. All I'm asking is that you give Draco the benefit of the doubt. And don't hold it against me if I happen to defend him once in awhile. After all, he is my brother. I know he can be a pain-in-the-arse, but we saved each other's bums a few times over the summer, so cut us some slack. You don't have to be like best mates or anything, just don't badmouth him, all right? He'll be getting enough of that from members of his own House that think he's a traitor. Agreed?"
Ron nodded reluctantly. He couldn't help but marvel at the change Harry had gone through over the summer, not only physically, but emotionally as well. Harry seemed older, wiser, than a mere fourteen-year-old. But then again, what he had endured would have changed anyone, Ron mused. It would take some getting used to, he thought. As would Harry's new position as Snape's son and Draco's brother. He wasn't sure if he liked it, but he would try and tolerate Malfoy for Harry's sake.
Meanwhile, Hermione was trying to figure out who could have sent her the wonderful unexpected gift of her new owl, Athena. "Isn't she just lovely, Harry? I was so shocked when I saw her coming down with a letter for me, and then to read the letter she brought and found out she was meant for me . . .it was like getting an unlooked for birthday present," she said, smiling dreamily.
Harry chuckled. "Yeah, I know what you mean, Mione. I got Hedwig as a gift from Hagrid for my eleventh birthday and she was the best present I ever got." Until Severus took me away to live at Prince Manor. I wonder what you'd think if you knew who sent you Athena? Would you be shocked, horrified, or thinking maybe it was a huge mistake? Too bad I can't let you in on the secret, but I promised my brother. Still, he couldn't resist teasing the girl a bit. "Have you been seeing someone we don't know about over the summer, Hermione?"
"What? No, of course not! I live in a Muggle neighborhood, Harry. No one from school would ever want to visit me," she said wistfully. "That's why I was so surprised when I got Athena. I usually only get letters from Ron and you."
Harry felt a pang of sympathy for his Housemate, he hadn't realized Hermione was feeling lonely and a bit left out of things because of what she was. "Um . . .well, whoever sent you her must really like you then. After all, he went through the trouble of giving you a gift and finding out your address."
"That's true. I just wish he wasn't so . . .mysterious."
"Maybe he's shy," Harry suggested with a smirk. I'm so lucky Draco's not here right now to hear me say that! I would be hexed into bits and pieces.
But that answer seemed to please Hermione for some reason. Maybe it was easier for a girl to like a boy who was shy? She continued petting Athena and feeding her owl treats.
Ron was doing likewise with his new owl, Zephyr, who had been a belated birthday present from Harry. Harry dug some treats from his pocket and fed Hedwig and Frost, not wanting his two owls to feel left out. As he did so, he surreptitiously slipped a piece of maple sugar candy to Smidgen, who was curled atop Hedwig's cage.
The shimmerling took the treat delicately, purring. :Thank you, Harry. I think you have done well in settling your friends' minds about your foster brother. :
I hope so, Smidgen, he thought, knowing the shimmerling would hear his thoughts, since she was telepathic. I'd hate for them to be quarreling endlessly with Draco. Are you thirsty? Do you want to come and sit on my shoulder?
:No, I am fine where I am, Harry. But thank you for your consideration, young Snape. I am going to take another nap, for when we arrive at school, I want to be well rested so I can explore.:
Harry hid a grin behind his hand. The shimmerling's insatiable curiosity was a family joke among them. "Think I'll take a nap," he said aloud, then settled back on the cushion, pillowing his head on his folded robes and closed his eyes, one hand clutching the medallion hidden beneath his shirt. Though Prince Manor was far away, a single touch of the Medallion of Inheritance served to make him feel at home. Both the medallion and his spirit were attuned to Prince Manor, and he allowed the warm cozy pulse of the manor to surround him and together with the soothing motion of the train, rock him to sleep.
* * * * * *
In another part of Britain, an old man died in agony from the venom of a giant cobra, who had been unleashed upon him for seeing that which no mortal ever should . . .the return of the necromancer known as Voldemort. The evil sorcerer was still weakened, still trapped in a feeble shell, a fraction of what he had once been when he was powerful, when the world had trembled at his footstep, and to speak his name was forbidden lest they summon him by chance.
Even so, his evil aura could be felt, it radiated outward from the crumbled Victorian house in a fetid miasma that permeated the very fabric of the astral plane. For those sensitive to such things, it was like a spreading stain of darkness, a midnight beacon in the waning daylight, and it made the tall watcher in the shadows shudder in disgust.
The watcher had long been a foe of the occupants of the Riddle House, unseen and unknown, but nevertheless a foe against the evil that threatened to rise again and spread misery and destruction throughout the land. His mouth tightened and he spat a curse as he felt the aura surrounding the house pulse with the satisfaction of a Muggle death.
One day, Riddle, you shall pay in blood for all the innocent lives you have taken. I would tear out your throat myself, did your wards not prevent me. The watcher thought angrily. Another time, Voldemort. You cannot hide forever.
Then the watcher gathered the shadows of his mastery about himself and appeared to vanish, leaving the occupants of Riddle House to their nefarious deeds. But not before speaking a soft Word and marking the door of the residence with a secret rune-one that would tell those who could read the nearly forgotten magic tongue that the ones inside had been marked for death by a Nightwalker.
He hoped that the ones inside the manor could read the Old Tongue and would know what the rune meant and be afraid, for he detested them and all they stood for.
* * * * * *
Realm of Faerie
Queen Titania's throne room
A few hours previous:
Soothing music drifted from a golden lyre played by invisible fingers. The melody echoed through the high vaulted ceiling and drifted over the azure velvet drapes that swathed the crystal windows, preventing curious eyes from seeing within. Thousands of twinkling rainbowed fairy lights lit up the room, which was large enough to hold all the denizens of the Seelie Court should the queen, Titania, desire to summon all of her subjects at once. She never had, but the hall had been designed to accommodate all of her subjects if necessary, just in case her realm fell under assault from her Unseelie cousins and they needed to seek shelter in the palace.
The palace was formed of fae marble, spelled to withstand almost any natural disaster, and most magical ones as well, including dragon fire. It was iridescent, and glistened when the lights from overhead struck it. The floor was patterned in shades of teal, cream and soft lavender in feathery geometric patterns, broken only by a thick swath of royal purple carpet leading up to the dias where Titania's throne rested. The throne was carved of pure alabaster with a plump purple cushion, but it was currently unoccupied.
In one corner, a few of the high fae were dancing quietly, twirling in graceful patterns, the women wearing colorful silk skirts and gossamyr shawls that swirled and glittered in the court lights. Some wore jewels in their hair or on their person, others wore plain unadorned silk, but all were inhumanly lovely to behold. Some had large gossamer wings, others none. Their male partners were no less beautiful, wearing an array of styles of breeches and cloaks and tunics in jewel tones in silk or samite or crushed velvet. Earrings winked and flashed in pointed ears as they whirled and glided in a dance that was centuries old.
Pixies and shimmerlings flew through the air, laughing and teasing each other, while unseen servants brought trays of food and summerdew to those who requested it. Frolics and revels were common in Titania's court, for she was a benevolent and merry monarch, though not one who was given over entirely to pleasure. She was a shrewd and strong ruler, both magically and politically, having reigned for over nine hundred years.
Farther down the hall, in a secluded alcove set with spells so no prying eyes or ears could overhear them, sat a tall woman dressed in a deep blue tunic and breeches set with a few discreet twinkling sapphires, diamonds and opal about the collar and hem. Sleek white dragonscale boots hugged her thighs, and she wore a dagger strapped to her calf and another on her belt. Tucked on the opposite side was a scepter of ivory set with aquamarines and a large diamond, the symbol of the royal house of faerie. Titania's platinum hair spilled down her back in a frothing silver wave, the tresses decked with tiny glittering jewels and glowstones, her pointed ears tilted to catch any sign of her missing guest.
Next to her was a diminutive woman in mithril armor wearing gray leathers and a long sword. Across her back was slung a quiver and a longbow. Her dark curly hair was cut short and her green eyes were watchful, scanning the room for any threats to her monarch. On her gray swansdown-lined cloak was a brooch of silver-two crossed swords, designating Sarai Valinek as Captain of the Queen's Blades, her most trusted defender. Despite her size, there was no more skilled and deadly fighter in the Seelie Court than the half-fae warrior.
Titania drummed one elegant finger on the glass tabletop and glanced at her companion with an impatient air. "Does he not know it is very rude to keep royalty waiting?"
"Perhaps it has not yet become dark in the World Beyond, Your Grace," Sarai said quietly.
Titania huffed, arching one feathery eyebrow in disbelief. "The time of our meeting was set to coincide with the sunset in the mortal realm. Besides, he possesses a Sunstone, so that point is moot."
Sarai did not respond, knowing the queen was working herself into a royal snit because of her guest's tardiness and not wanting to feel the lash of her sovereign's tongue.
Suddenly there was a stirring in the air and then a tall man with midnight hair and violet eyes appeared further down the hall. He was handsome as well, though not like the inhuman perfection of the fae. He was slender and there was an air of danger in his eyes and about his muscled frame that gave one pause. He was dressed simply, in dark breeches and boots and a long flowing cream shirt, and a long black cloak lined with violet silk that matched his eyes. He wore both sword and dagger and his easy stride as he approached the secluded corner showed that he was well-versed in the dance of swords.
Titania looked up as the newcomer halted and bowed deeply to her, a frown stealing across her delicate features. Her aqua eyes flashed disapproval. "You are late, Nightwalker. I hope you have a pertinent excuse for keeping me waiting."
"Forgive me, Your Highness, my lateness is inexcusable." The vampire bowed again in apology. "But perhaps you may forgive me when you hear what I have discovered, Your Grace?"
Titania waved him to a seat. "Speak then, Philip Anthony Snape. If I find your tale interesting enough, I may grant you clemency, sir," the queen said, a faint teasing note in her voice. Like all fae women, Titania loved to flirt with handsome men, fae and non-fae as the whim took her.
"I pray so, Your Grace," Philip said, inclining his head to the fae lady and her Captain. Then he lowered his voice to the barest whisper and said, "We will not be overheard?"
"No. I have set the wards myself. You need not fear any eavesdropping," Titania reassured him. "What has transpired in the world since I sent you out a month ago, Philip?"
The vampire drew in a breath, an affectation he maintained while among mortals, though he did not need to breathe any longer. "When I accepted this assignment from you, my lady, I did so because I wished to observe my descendents more closely as well as keep an eye on those dark wizards who seek to overthrow the Balance in their favor. In exchange for a Sunstone I agreed to be your eyes and ears in the World Beyond. Much has happened since then, Your Grace, both good and bad." Philip cleared his throat and toyed idly with the Sunstone upon a chain about his neck. "You will know, of course, that young Harry Snape has been chosen the heir to Prince Manor."
Titania nodded. "Yes, Sarai's mortal lover, Severus, has informed us of that happy incident. Though I did not meet the boy personally, I trust the manor's Guardians, and if he is anything like his father, he shall do well in ruling the manor. What else?"
"There have been rumors that the Cup of Wonders has reappeared once more in the mortal realm, I felt its resonance as I passed by that wizard school in the north of Scotland called Hogwarts."
"At Hogwarts?" Sarai gasped. "Are you certain, Phil?"
The vampire nodded. "Yes, Captain. I was around when Merlin first borrowed the cup, and then returned it to the Cup Maidens after Arthur was healed."
"Who kept it safe until a thieving mortal named Galahad stole it, believing it to be the sacred cup of his religion. He in turn had it stolen from him by Nimue, Merlin's apprentice, who hid it away." Titania said tartly. "And since then it has been in the hands of mortals, who have no clue how to use it."
"True. But perhaps we may yet get it back." Philip demurred. "In any case, the cup was the least of my unexpected discoveries. While I was patrolling the area about the school, I chanced to feel a disturbance in the astral ether and I followed the dark taint to a dilapidated manor house on a deserted street in a small town called Little Hangleton. I remained hidden and observed that there was a dark aura coming from the house. I could smell blood and death, an old man had died recently, killed by dark sorcery. When I peered in a window I saw a child-like figure holding a wand that reeked of dark magic. He looked barely old enough to handle such power but I could sense that the soul inhabiting his body was far older . . .and steeped in darkness."
Titania gave a grimace of distaste. "That sounds like the old enemy of Severus's, does it not, Sarai?"
"It does indeed, Your Grace. Severus says once he was a member of Slytherin, a half-blood wizard, he calls himself Lord Voldemort, a dark necromancer of the worst order."
"But was not this Voldemort killed thirteen years ago?" the queen asked.
"Yes, by a failed spell, trying to kill Severus's son, Harry," Sarai explained. "But I suppose, using his dark arts, he has managed to avoid death and find a new host for his spirit."
"I would agree, Lady Valinek," Philip concurred. "And that is grave news indeed. He must be stopped. By any means necessary. Last time he tried to take over all of magical Britain and Europe as well. Had he succeeded, he would have thrown the world into darkness. It was by Merlin's own luck that he was stopped."
"Say rather by the power of the Mother's Guardianship spell," Sarai corrected. "It was that which saved Harry's life. But you are right, Phil. Voldemort must be stopped. I only wish that I might go and help guard Harry and fight beside Severus myself. But my oath . . ." she trailed off, her green eyes pensive.
Titania looked up at her Blade and said softly, "If it were possible, I would release you from my service, Sarai. But you know well that the Unseelie are stirring again, and I cannot spare you at this time. I am sorry, Captain."
"I understand, Your Grace. My duty to the throne comes before all else," the warrior said without rancor. But oh, how I wish that were not so! And that I could return to the mortal realm and stand beside my beloved and help him in his time of need. I fear he is going to need it.
"This Voldemort, is he a threat to the young heir?" Titania asked sharply.
"Oh yes, Your Grace." Philip nodded. "There is no one Voldemort wishes dead more than Harry Potter, who is now known as Harry Albus Snape."
Titania's eyes flashed. "Though it is not my policy to interfere in the affairs of mortals, this once I shall make an exception, since by his Prince blood, young Snape is one of the Seelie Court. And I shall not allow one of my kin to be hunted down like a stag to sate the bloodlust of a necromancer! You say this Voldemort has died once before? How is he then able to return from the Veil? Is he one of your kind, Nightwalker?"
"No. He's not a vampire," Phlip told her. "That I would know. I can always sense another of my kind. I don't know how he manages to return from the dead, but it is not because he is immortal or undead. I believe he can be killed somehow."
"Of course. Everything alive can die somehow," Titania said simply. She narrowed her almond-shaped eyes and said shortly, "Do you think there is a chance that Voldemort will try and ally himself with my cousin Maeve of the Unseelie Court?"
"It's a possibility, Your Grace," Philip allowed. "If Voldemort does not approach her, she may send an emissary to him. She has always loved causing discord among mortals, as you well know. It is meat and drink to her."
Titania scowled. "That must not be allowed to occur. I have far too much trouble with her as it is without adding some mortal sorcerer to the mix. Philip, I would order you to guard young Snape, save that I think my order is unnecessary and you will do so whether I wish it or no."
"That is true. Harry is my descendant, as is his father Severus. I am bound by ties of blood to protect my kin," the vampire said. "It is to my sorrow that I did not know of the danger to him until it was too late all those years ago. That will not be the case this time. This time I shall be closer than his shadow, and Voldemort will find that I am not so easily defeated as a human wizard." Philip bared his fangs slightly, and the aura of danger increased about him.
"Good. Because they need all the help they can get," Sarai remarked. "From what Sev has told me, Harry and his brother Draco are magnets for trouble."
To her surprise, Philip chuckled. "As are most children. I should know, for I have twin boys, and though they are only four, they are already driving me crazy with their escapades."
The queen of faerie struggled to maintain her royal façade, but in the end had to allow herself a commiserating smile. "Aye, I know exactly how you feel, Philip. My own sons and my daughter were mischief incarnate and to this day Balin still tries my patience. But such are the joys of parenting."
"Which I am happy to not have discovered just yet," Sarai remarked wryly.
Titania slanted an amused glance at her bodyguard. "Ah, but if you intend to marry your Severus, Captain Valinek, you may experience those joys sooner than you think."
"Be that as it may, my liege, if we don't make an effort to protect his children, I may never get that chance," Sarai said.
"You are correct, little cousin. May I therefore suggest that you put all of your considerable power forth to protect your descendents, Philip? I shall not command it, since you are not technically one of my subjects."
"You would not need to, Your Majesty," Philip replied. There was a determined glint in his violet eyes. "I would do so anyway. Furthermore, I will be on the lookout for the Cup of Wonders and if an opportunity presents itself I shall attempt to reclaim it and return it to you, its rightful owners."
"Thank you, Philip. You are a good ally, for all that you are a Nightwalker." Titania acknowledged, pleased. "I suppose it is true what they say, there is good and bad in every kind of creature."
Both Philip and Sarai agreed with that statement.
"Your Grace, I should be departing soon. If I recall correctly, the term for young wizards begins September 1st and I would like to be at Hogwarts when young Harry and his brother get off the train and make sure they are unharmed. Voldemort has been known to place spies in the school." Philip rose to his feet.
"Go then, sir. And mind you guard well, Nightwalker. Prince Manor must not be left without its heir." Titania admonished, then waved Philip off.
The Nightwalker bowed and then swirling his cloak in a dramatic flair, vanished as quickly as he had come, using his vampiric powers.
* * * * * *
The Hogwarts Express pulled into the station in front of the castle and the students disembarked, shouting, laughing, grumbling as was typical for children newly arrived at school for a new year.
Harry came off the train carrying Hedwig and Frost's cages and floating his trunk behind him, right after Ron and Hermione. Smidgen was perched upon his shoulder, hidden from all save Harry, Draco, and Severus. Harry squinted in the bright sunshine and then followed his friends, though not before catching the eye of his foster brother first and giving him a nod and a wink.
Draco pretended to scowl and sniff, but he gave Harry a swift half-smile before turning away to walk with his Slytherin buddies towards the horseless carriages that would bring the older students to school.
Neither boy noticed the dark watcher who was standing in the shadow of a large oak, observing their progress, his dark clothing blending perfectly with the tree, one hand cupping the Sunstone pendant. He watched as the two got into the carriages and then followed behind, unseen, as he had promised.
Just a reminder, since this my AU universe expect plenty of twists, and the tournament will not be running to canon, there may be different tasks and surprises along the way.
For those of you unfamiliar with fae terms:
Seelie Court/fae: the Light members of the faerie realm, those who are pledged to bring no serious harm to humans or their world and who keep the Balance between Light and Dark. They include such members as high court fae, nymphs, dryads, sprites, shimmerlings, ect. Summer Queen Titania.
Unseelie Court/fae: The opposite Dark fae, those who delight in causing harm and mayhem to mortals and their world. They seek to break the Balance in their favor, by whatever means necessary. Members include dark fae, nighthags, trolls, banshees, harpies, lurks, darkhounds, ect. Winter Queen Maeve.