Chapter 7 : Chapter Seven - The Forging of A Blade
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Author’s notes and disclaimer. Generic fanfiction author icon reappears from the shadows and smiles, tentatively. Welcome. I’m glad to see everyone has stuck around. Hopefully that means you’re enjoying this story. I’m still not JKR, and the Harry Potter Universe is still owned by JKR and various corporate entities. No infringement is intended and all rights of the owners are respected and preserved.
Fair warning time. This is the chapter where the ‘sensitive topic or issue’ raises its ugly head for the first time. Actually, a couple of them. While I think that I’ve dealt with them in such a manner as to preserve the ‘15+’ rating the story currently has, if the general feeling is that this pushes the story into the next category, I’ll oblige.
As for the general things I usually blather about; this is still Harmony, this isn’t a forum for Weasley bashing (though Molly is getting tiresome and she hasn’t appeared onstage yet), and please have patience regarding Ginevra and her situation (although, this chapter will do a bit towards explaining a few things regarding that). Real life has been totally uncooperative with the number of disasters I’ve had come up, so I’m even further behind answering reviews than I normally am. Luckily, this story was written quite a number of chapters ahead when I started publishing them, so I’ve been able to keep to some sort of sane schedule regarding updates, and I do appreciate everyone’s comments and suggestions. I read them all, and I am going to answer them all.
Enough of this, I’m really not trying to pad my wordcount stats here. And now … back to our regularly scheduled programming. Fanfiction author icon slowly fades from sight, smiling enigmatically.
As the clasp engaged, Ginny experienced a momentary sense of vertigo that swept over her and was suddenly gone. The vault had disappeared from her sight; in its place was a vista from the top of a mountain somewhere. Looking around her, in the valley below she could see the outlines of a walled town in the distance. At the edge of the small pasture, facing the city, sat a young woman on the ground with her back to her. Shaking her head, Ginny took a cautious step towards her.
“Bellatrix, I’d thought you’d given up after so many years. You’re not fit for the office and you know it. Send your sister Andi if they want someone to take up the mantle, otherwise leave me here in peace until the family manages to bring forth a proper candidate.”
Looking around in alarm, Ginny caught herself as she instinctively started to look for the unlamented Bellatrix Lastrange. Turning back, she found herself being stared at by the young woman who spoke.
“You’re certainly not Bellatrix. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were that Evans chit that young Sirius was so fond of.” Staring at Ginny, the young woman seemed to be sizing her up, evaluating her.
Chuckling bitterly, Ginny shook her head. “I think you’re referring to Lily Potter, and I’ve heard that I have a passing resemblance to her on a couple of occasions.” Looking sharply, Ginny glared. “However, seeing as she’s the mother of one of my best friends, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t refer to her that way.”
“So she finally chose young James.” Smiling, the mysterious woman nodded. “Good for her. Sirius may have been one of the best that the family could come up with in the last century, but he wasn’t very well suited to her.” Lazily waving her hand, she conjured up a couple of overstuffed armchairs that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Gryffindor Common Room. “Why don’t you sit with me while I try to make up for my total lack of manners?”
Looking around, Ginny glanced warily at the offered chair. “I think a few explanations might be in order since this doesn’t seem to be Gringott’s. Regardless of what Sirius said, this seems a bit much for simply trying on a necklace.”
Laughing merrily, the other witch folded herself into one of the chairs. Shaking her head, she controlled herself and smiled at Ginny. “I can’t believe Sirius would do this, but since you’re here, I suppose I’ll have to explain everything to you.” Seeing the look on Ginny’s face, she shrugged. “Or, you could concentrate on removing the necklace and once you’re back in Gringott’s you can go ask Sirius to explain things to you if you wish.”
“That would be a bit difficult, since Sirius has passed on.” Seeing no need to enlighten the other witch about Sirius not being as gone as most were, she watched carefully to gauge the other woman’s reaction to the news.
Suddenly sobering, the other young woman began to study Ginny carefully. “Now that’s most peculiar. If young Sirius Black isn’t the Head of House, I wonder who could have sent you to me.”
As she was being studied, Ginny returned the favor. Even sitting, the mysterious witch that faced her was tall and had an air of physical power and grace to her. Chestnut hair that would fall in waves below her shoulders was pulled back and held in place with a simple clip. Her eyes were a deeply piercing blue that seemed to be very old.
“You’re not a Black by birth, that much is certain.” Looking Ginny up and down, she nodded as she talked. “But, you’re part of the family or you wouldn’t be here.” Ginny watched as the other witch’s eyes unfocused slightly. “Blood and oath bound, to an individual, you’re part of the household, though no oath to the family holds you.” Shaking her head, she motioned towards the other chair. “Sit, and we can explain things to each other.”
This time, Ginny took the offer and seated herself in the other chair. “Why do I get the feeling that there’s more to this than a simple bequest from Sirius Black?”
“Nothing is ever simple with the Ancient and Honorable House of Black, even before we came to England. Back in France, the Lenoir tended to make things a bit more complicated than needed.” Nodding her head, the older witch smiled. “Allow me to introduce myself. Technically, I am Joyeuse, the necklace you donned. In life I was Amaudru, daughter of Charles and Himiltrude. My mother was a witch, and since my father was attempting to forge closer ties with Rome, my mother suggested that he allow her to retire to what is now known as France so that he could take another wife more pleasing to Rome.”
“That seems a bit cavalier. Your mother just gave up her husband, your father, so he could advance himself?” Scowling, Ginny narrowed her eyes. “I’m not certain that I think very much of him if he allowed it.”
“The relationship between my father and my mother wasn’t one of the great fated romances; it would be better to say they suited each other and were comfortable in each other’s company.” Peering at Ginny closely, she smiled. “More like the relationship you have with Sirius’ godson and heir.” Nodding to herself, she smiled. “That explains much.”
“How does my friendship with Harry explain anything about your parents?” Shaking her head, Ginny eyed the other witch suspiciously.
“Please, your feelings for the young man are plain to see. You care for him, and I see the pair of you shared a certain amount of physical attraction to each other, at one time. My mother and father were like that. My mother realized that the circumstances of the times wouldn’t permit a formal marriage between the two of them, so they took what time they had, and remained close for the rest of his life.” Smiling mysteriously, Amaudru nodded. “I can see why you were selected for this responsibility.”
“I do care for him, love him actually.” Blushing, Ginny nodded in recognition of what the other witch had implied. “If he wasn’t perfectly suited for my best friend, I’d try to see if I could convince him that we could be happy enough, but the two of them are scary together and this is truly the first time I’ve ever seen him happy since I’ve known him.”
“Which is good. Twice, in a very long history, the Sicari of the Blacks hasn’t been someone who cared for the Head of the House, and both times things were very strained.” Looking grim, Amaudru nodded at Ginny. “Do you understand the role you’ve been asked to fulfill?
“Not at all. All I knew, when I put the necklace on, was that Sirius had left me a bequest. He left a letter in the vault, and it hinted at a few things, but being Sirius, he never really came out and said anything concrete.” Looking annoyed, Ginny cast a glance around her, taking in the view surrounding her, feeling the mountain breeze as it lifted her hair gently. “This is a bit elaborate for a prank, even one of Sirius’, so I’m going to go with the premise that there’s something more to this than a few bits of old family trivia that he saw fit to leave me.”
“May I see the letter?” Seeing the confusion in her eyes, Amaudru smiled. “One of the magics of my construction is that here in this place, we can bring anything that would be accessible to your physical body in the outer world. If the letter is within easy reach…”
Thinking about the letter, Ginny was surprised to realize she could feel the parchment between her fingers. Looking down in her hand, she saw that she was holding the letter, which she had placed in her pocket before she had gone to inspect the jewelry that was part of her bequest. Holding out the missive, she offered it to the witch sitting across from her.
Nodding, Amaudru took the letter and sat back to read it. Shaking her head, her face became a mask as she read through the letter Sirius had left for Ginny. Letting the letter fall to her lap, she closed her eyes and concentrated for a second. Finally she nodded to herself and looked up at Ginny.
“I should have known, that conniving harridan is up to her old tricks again.” Looking Ginny straight in the eye, Amadru shook her head in disbelief. “Have you met this scheming fraud?”
Looking totally perplexed, Ginny stared at Amaudru in disbelief. “Are we talking about the same person here? This Maeve is an elf, Queen of the Elves in fact.” Shaking her head, Ginny shrugged. “And apparently she’s my friend’s grandmother, several times removed.”
Shaking her head, Amaudru launched into a series of oaths that sounded, to Ginny’s ear, to be a mixture of something that was almost French and something that was almost Latin. Sitting back and watching her new acquaintance/possession vent, Ginny tried to reconcile this very distinct and negative reaction with Hermione’s descriptions of the elven woman who had been instrumental in helping to save Ginny’s life and sanity.
Coming to the conclusion that she didn’t have enough facts on either side of the equation that would allow her to decide the right or wrong of it, she waited until Amaudru wound down before fixing her with a, she hoped, McGonagall worthy glare. “Are you quite finished?”
Looking surprised at the younger witch’s reaction, Amaudru flushed a bit and nodded. “Aye, it’s just that that seeing her name after all of these years took me by surprise.”
“I would take it that there is a bit of history between the two of you.” Seeing the other witch’s nod and glare, Ginny sighed. “Why don’t you tell me your interaction with her, and then I’ll relate mine.”
“Did your friend mention the Treaty of Ben Loyal?” Seeing Ginny’s tentative nod, Amaudru smiled grimly. “Maeve strong-armed the Kings of what you know as England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland into signing a totally nonsensical treaty that imposed a series of arcane restrictions on the succession of the five thrones.” Shaking her head, she saw the question in Ginny’s eye. “I can count. She also wheedled my father into signing her bloody treaty. Then she took most of her ruddy elves and withdrew them beyond the gates of the world, leaving Europe at the mercy of Rome and then a host of invaders.”
“Your father?” Linking in her mind, the casual mention of her father’s given name with the list of monarchs that Hermione had attached to the Treaty of Ben Loyal, Ginny mentally shook her head at what she knew was coming next.
“Aye, Charles of the Franks, son of Pippin the Short. You may have heard him called Carolus Magnus or Charlemagne. The old fool never could tell a pretty wench ‘no’, she took him to the mountains of Scotland in January and he caught his death in the weather up there.” Shaking her head, tears glistened in her eyes. “I told him not to go, my mother told him not to go. He should have sent my thrice damned brother in his place, he was co-ruler by then.”
“Why did he go?” Asking softly, Ginny began to see the grief of a daughter for a beloved but distant father at work here, more that any actual misconduct upon the part of Maeve as the source of Amaudru’s ire.
“That self-serving Angilbert insisted that he should be the one.” Chuckling bitterly, she shook her head. “At least my sister’s almost husband only survived him by less than a fortnight.”
“I might be mistaken, but I’m seeing Maeve’s hand in my being here with you.” Seeing the resigned look in Amaudru’s eyes, Ginny took that as leave to continue. “Right or wrong, apparently she’s convinced Sirius that I’m the person to inherit this ‘office’ you spoke of when I first arrived.” Seeing another resigned nod from Amaudru, Ginny smiled. “Why don’t you explain exactly what I’ve been signed up for, and then I’ll tell you what I know of her.”
Taking a minute to compose herself, Amaudru finally nodded to Ginny. Smiling thinly she sighed and took a deep breath.
“In medieval France, and since then, the family Black has been guardians of the Light.” Seeing the skeptical look on Ginny’s face, Amaudru nodded. “In France, the family is known as Lenoir, and the family motto ‘Toujours Pur’ referred to the state of our souls, not our blood status. During what turned out to be the last two years of my father’s life, he contacted me in Paris to come and help him to create a solution to guarding the Light in those portions of his empire that would become known as France.
Joyeuse was originally fashioned as a response to the need for hunting one of the early incarnations of La bête du Gévaudan, or the Beast of Gevaudan, in the ninth century. French wizards, realizing that the creature was the result of some foolish attempt at breeding a dire wolf with a barghest, petitioned my father to allow me to create items to serve in the destruction of this fell beast. Bearing the same name as the legendary sword of my father, the stones were cut using his legendary blade from the carcass of a dragon that he had slain.
The stones incorporated into the necklace’s construction were chosen for their abilities to protect and augment the wearer. The carnelians are sovereign protection against Dark Magic that causes death, storing the negative energy until it could be either used against the Dark Wizard or creature that created the effect, or safely dispersed by the wearer.
The moonstones absorb magic designed to effect the emotions of the wearer, either for good or for ill, and notify the wearer of the influence and its source. The twin pieces of jet protect the mind from illusions and other attempts to beguile the intellect, allowing the wearer to see the attempts for what they are and respond accordingly. They also strengthen the psychic abilities of the wearer. While not granting any abilities in and of themselves, they allow the wearer to use the ones they have to their fullest potential and aide in the awakening of latent abilities.
Finally, the tsavorites assist the wearer with being true to herself and finding the courage that exists within, regardless of the chaos that surrounds her. While not guaranteeing that the wearer will always make the ‘right’ choice, as proven by the recent history of the Ancient and Honorable House of Black, they enable the wearer to make that choice free of outside constraints “
“And this treasure Sirius has left to me?” Looking a bit taken aback, Ginny instinctively reached up to where the necklace would lay around her neck in the outside world.
“Actually we’re only getting started. The Lenoir family was very pragmatic and proactive about being guardians of the Light. Unlike your former Headmaster, my family was less inclined to wait for the Dark to raise its ugly head; we preferred to nip it in the bud, if we could.
The family is very ancient, and they borrowed from an ancient tradition during the Roman days to create an office within the family to protect the Light. Calling it ‘Sicarius Nigra’, or the Black Dagger, one person, usually a witch, became the family guardian and protector against the Dark.”
Making a peculiar gesture with her left hand, Amaudru summed a number of items that Ginny had remembered from the vault to a low table that appeared at the same time. A hat, a cloak, a pair of low boots, a broach, a pair of rings, a pair of earrings, and an ancient looking wand sheath and belt appeared in front of her.
“Before we go any further, there’s something I need to know.” Amaudru gazed at Ginny with a look that seemed to measure and evaluate the younger witch. “This Harry who is now the Head of House, from what I can see in your thoughts, he’s a champion of the Light, no?”
“Yes, a reluctant one, but a champion nevertheless.” Seeing the look on Amaudru’s face, she smiled kindly. “His reluctance comes from not being comfortable with being in the limelight or having any sort of notoriety. The two of them have a profound sense of what is right and are almost driven to try to correct injustice when they see it.”
“May I?” From Amaudru’s look and gesture, Ginny realized that she was asking permission to access her memories of Harry.
“Since this entire conversation is occurring in my mind, isn’t it a bit formal to ask my permission?” Smiling, Ginny chuckled at the look on the other witch’s face.
“Ginny, until we establish exactly what our relationship is going to be, I thought it better to rely upon the courtesy I learned in my father’s court. If you accept my offer, which I’m becoming more and more certain that I’m going to make, there will come a time when we both will have complete and unfettered access to the thoughts and memories of the other. Until then, may I please access your memories of this Harry and this other that you seem to feel is so inexorably linked to him?
Nodding, Ginny sat back and braced herself for whatever was to come. Amaudru leaned back in the chair she was sitting in and closed her eyes. Ginny felt a bit of disorientation for a split second, and then it was as if her memories were a muggle movie that was playing at very high speed. Starting with the moment she first saw Harry at Platform 9 and 3/4s, her memories spooled past her mind’s eye at a dizzying speed. The Chamber of Secrets, the TriWizard Tournament, the Final Battle, and then Harry’s defeat of Tom Riddle’s final Horcrux all seemed to slow just a bit, but she was soon left with the moment she parted company with Harry and Hermione before she made her way to the car that would take her to the vault.
Watching the other witch for several minutes, Ginny found the expression on her face very curious. Just as she was going to speak, to dispel the silence, Amaudru opened her eyes and nodded.
“Well, that explains much and adds many more questions to the pot.” Nodding to Ginny, she smiled at her. “You don’t do much by halves, do you?”
“Beg pardon?” Not entirely certain how to take that last comment, Ginny leaned forward and shrugged.
“Falling so deeply in love with a wizard when he’s soul and oath bound to another. That’s got to make things difficult for you.”
“It’s not like that, totally. I know that I love Harry. I suppose I love them both.” Shaking her head, Ginny closed her eyes. “Harry’s happiness means everything to me, and those two are scarily perfect together. I was foolish and hurtful, I tried to bend the reality of those two to my will and it almost destroyed us all.” Opening her eyes, she nodded sadly. “I’d lay down my life for those two, gladly.”
“Dying is easy.” Seeing the look on Ginny’s face, Amaudru nodded. “Really it is. It’s noble, but once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. It’s much more difficult to live your life for them.” Pausing for a second, she added. “Or kill.”
Seeing the shocked look on Ginny’s face, Amaudru nodded. “That’s what the Black Dagger does, she kills. Not in a fair fight, not toe-to-toe like some bloody Paladin my father had. The Dagger makes the tough decisions about defending the Light.” Smiling sadly, she nodded. “A very wise man once said ‘Good isn’t stupid, and it’s about damn time Good stopped acting as if it were.’”
“Isn’t indiscriminate slaughter one of the things that made Voldemort evil?” Looking at the other witch carefully, Ginny was thinking furiously about some of the things she had said.
“If the family had wanted a berserker, to slaughter anyone who disagreed with them, we would have created one of those huge axes and gone recruiting among the Rus or the Vikings. What the Light needs is a precise instrument to recognize those evils that are going to spread ruin and destruction and stop them before they become a society wide menace. From the images in your mind, I saw the frustration with your Ministry when those Death Eaters were released to prey upon the innocent again.” Seeing the nod on Ginny’s face, she continued.
“How many lives would have been saved if Lucius Malfoy had been stopped? Dolohov? Greyback? Bellatrix LeStrange nee Black? Tom Riddle? Grindelwald? Amycus Carrow?”
As the litany of names rolled off the other witch’s tongue, anger began to burn inside her. Ginny thought about the things that Lucius Malfoy was responsible for. The night at the Department of Mysteries when Dolohov had almost killed Hermione. Fenrir Greyback’s savage cruelty over such a long time. How it crushed Harry’s soul to watch his Godfather die at the hands of Bellatrix. The hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed by Voldemort and Grindelwald in their wars to rid the wizarding world of the muggleborn. Of the night the Carrows had taken her from her dorm and what Amycrus had done to her, leaving her bloody and violated in front of the portrait hole hours later for Neville to find.
“How many lives could have been spared if someone would have taken a look at the cruelty and evil these possessed and done something effective?”
“I won’t do revenge.” Staring impassively, Ginny glanced down at the items on the table in front of her. “I won’t be a mindless killer.”
“I’m not asking you to. Justice sometimes demands things that the system is unable to provide. Wealth and power makes certain individuals beyond the system. If the system will suffice, then bring Evil to the system and let Justice be served.” Nodding at the clenched fists in Ginny’s lap, Amaudru continued. “But when it can’t or won’t, or there isn’t time to prevent injustice, then that’s when the Black Dagger becomes a shield for the weak, a protector of the innocent.”
Smiling ironically, Amaudru shrugged. “And nothing says you have to eliminate every threat permanently. If someone had put the fear of the Light into a young Tom Riddle in that orphanage, Lord Voldemort might never have seen the light of day. Sometimes it’s beneficial to remind the wicked that they aren’t the scariest things on the field of battle.” Looking stern, she nodded. “There is a reason the guilty fear the dark, for Black is the colour of the dark.”
Thinking about the things she had seen in her short life, Ginny could see the sense in what was being proposed to her. How much of her life had been taken from her from the machinations of evil. Lucius Malfoy had chosen her as the vehicle to bring terror and death to Hogwarts, and ended up leaving her with a sliver of Tom Riddle’s soul whispering in her ear. If someone had stopped his evil when it became apparent that corrupt and moronic officials like Fudge were incapable of looking past his wealth, her life and the lives of many others would be very different today. If someone had stopped the Carrows when witches began disappearing from their dorms…. Breaking off that train of thought, she nodded.
“I’ll do it, but on my own terms.” Lowering her head, Ginny’s eyes focused on her hands, folded in her lap as if in supplication or prayer. “I’ll take up this quest; I’ll be your bloody Dagger.”
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