Chapter 21 : Chapter Twenty - The Potter Curse
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The Potter Curse
Harry and Ginny tumbled through nothingness landing finally on a stone floor. As figures and furniture swirled into existence around them they found themselves in a large open hall filled with many people. It seemed to be an extremely rustic tavern constructed of heavy wooden timbers with an open beamed, thatched roof. There were lines of heavy tables filled with rather rough looking men, and women, dressed in heavy woven robes adorned with furs. There was an atmosphere of celebration as large trays of food were being brought out from a kitchen and set at tables around the room. Toward the front of the hall the frivolity increased as people were dancing happily to lively music. It took them a moment to adjust to the idea that this memory was a step back in time somewhere around a thousand years.
They were standing behind a tall, heavily muscled man, who was seated at the head of the central table, eating a shank of mutton between large draws from a huge tankard of strong smelling mead. He was talking animatedly with the others at the table, particularly a burly red headed man to his right.
"Harry," Ginny squeezed Harry's hand tighter as if to assure herself that he was still there. "It's all so real."
"Memories feel very real when you are inside them," Harry assured her, "but no one will see or hear us." As if to illustrate his point a lovely ginger haired woman came along the back of the tables carrying a large tray of food and walked right through them. Ginny giggled.
Harry moved a step closer to listen to the two men.
"Pray, what would old Hengist of Woodcroft say if he knew you'd been off slaying a dragon at the very Muggle settlement he was fleeing when he founded our quaint little Hogsmeade village, Caractacus?" asked the red head.
"He would no doubt try to curse me, but then he was always a bit dim when it came to getting along with people, even Wizards. And ye know full well if I hadn't gone to slay the dragon there, it would have turned up here sooner or later, or worse at the castle, and then what would have happened to all our years of labor?" The black haired man responded.
The red haired man laughed boisterously. "Always a thinkin' man Caractacus," he said. He reached in front of the platter of mutton and picked up a small triangular left side breast plate of metal armor. It was fitted with leather straps and elaborately worked with a raised heart motif. "And what do you plan to do with this muggle trinket, then?" he asked.
"I'll keep it of course," Caractacus responded, "'twas a gift from the Muggles, given in gratitude." He took the breast plate from the other man and set it back down on the table.
"Sometimes you are the most sentimental of fools Caractacus," the red head laughed again, "'tis naught but a Muggle bit of worked iron and too small for you as well."
"Tis a symbolic gift, Roald," Caractacus said, "given by a grateful people, they called it the hero's heart, and they meant that hero to be me. No honorable man treats such a gift with disrespect, even a Muggle gift."
That brought a broad smile to the red haired man, who then tore in to a shank of mutton with gusto.
Ginny giggled again, thinking that the man, Roald reminded her of her brother Ron as he devoured his food.
A moment later a woman approached the table carrying a platter of meat and sausage pies. She was quite beautiful, Harry thought, though a bit sturdy for his taste, but her long red hair, braided down her back was quite striking and her eyes, could have come directly from Ginny. Or perhaps it was the other way round he thought momentarily. She leaned between the two men to set the platter down in front of them.
As she was straightening back up, Caractacus pushed his chair back and pulled the woman down in to his lap. She protested playfully, making it obvious that there was a comfortable familiarity between them.
"Ah, Beathas my beauty," Caractacus teased, "when are you goin' to leave that no good husband of yours and realize 'tis I who truly loves thee?"
The woman grabbed the end of his thick beard and gave it a hard, but playful yank. "When are you going to realize that you could have any eligible woman in this whole village and quit flirtin' with your best friend's wife?" She pushed herself up from his lap. Harry and Ginny both realized that she was quite obviously pregnant, as she smoothly moved from Caractacus' playful embrace to Roald's waiting arms. She settled comfortably into the big man's lap and gave him a demonstrative kiss.
Caractacus smiled genuinely at them.
"She's right you know." Roald said, "If you took yourself a wife it might do you a world of good." Roald caressed his wife's belly with obvious pride and affection.
"Oh, you know I will never settle for a wife any less special than your Beathas," he smiled at the couple, "And where am I ever goin' to find such woman?" he chided.
"Well, I do have a few sisters, or if ye can wait, Caractacus," Beathas teased, "We'll just have to start having daughters 'til you find one that you like." She winked at Caractacus and pushed herself from her husband's arms smiling, "Now, I have to get back to the kitchen."
She practically danced away as Roald leaned in toward Caractacus and said. "Don't get your hopes up boyo, this first one's goin' to be a boy." The two of them laughed heartily.
Just then the large doors at the front of the building flung open and the room fell silent, the dancers parting to make a path.
A large imposing man walked in to the hall. He was dressed in a burgundy and gold traveling cloak. As he stepped forward he pulled away his hood revealing penetrating green eyes and a thick mane of dark red hair, streaked with hints of gray.
"Lord Gryffindor," Caractacus stood hastily, "to what do we owe the honor of this visit?" he asked.
The larger man shot Caractacus a look of displeasure. "Do not call me Lord, Caractacus," he said hastily, "You know I do not hold with such titles," his eyes shined with momentary mischief, "or would you prefer I call you, Lord Caractacus, knight of King Alfred's court, defender of the crown, defeater of Danes and Dragon slayer?"
There was a moment of silence as the two men seemed to lock gazes across the long table. Suddenly both men burst in to laughter. "You have me there," Caractacus conceded, "Professor then. To what do we owe the pleasure? Come to join us for a meal?"
Gryffindor's smile faded. "I wish my mission were of so friendly concern. I must needs speak with you, privately." he responded.
"Of course," Caractacus gestured to a side door.
Roald made to stand but Caractacus waved him stay with an open hand.
As the two men crossed the room, Harry and Ginny followed, slipping through the door just behind them. Beyond the door was a long hallway, the two men stepped in to yet another room which, upon entering appeared to be a private dining room. There was a single heavy wooden table and chairs, the walls were adorned with the trophy heads of several hunts.
Godric Gryffindor removed his heavy cloak and laid it on the back of a chair. He pulled his wand from his sleeve and cast a silencing charm upon the room "I will get right to the point my friend," he said turning to face Caractacus. "When did you last see Salazar?" the question hung in the air almost as though it were laced with accusation.
"It has been at least eight days," Caractacus answered, "What is your concern?"
"Rowena, Helga, and I have asked him to leave the castle." Godric spoke, his voice conveying a hint of sadness, "We have all been great companions these past fifty years through the founding of the school and the construction of Hogwarts. But he insists on professing these philosophies of blood status and Wizard superiority with which we do not hold. And, we suspect he has been dabbling in the Dark arts. So it has come to this."
Caractacus nodded his understanding. "He is a proud man," he said concernedly, "he will not take such a request easily."
"That is why I have come to you, Caractacus," Gryffindor said, "I have heard rumors that Salazar is raising forces to back his beliefs among former students. I fear that left unchecked this could escalate into a war of Wizard kind." He paused, watching his companion closely.
Ginny gasped at Harry's side. Harry patted her hand gently. "We know such a war never occurred, Ginny," He whispered comfortingly "Let's listen."
"You have spent so much time with Salazar during these final years of construction and expansion, Caractacus; I feared that perhaps you and your men had been so approached." Gryffindor said finally.
"I am well aware of Slytherin's teachings, and they hold no sway with me, if they did I could never have served so many years with the Muggle King Alfred." Caractacus said. "My men followed me here years ago because we tired of fighting the Muggle's constant wars, we laid down our arms to take up tools and finish construction of Hogwarts because we believe in the founder's vision, your vision, of a safe haven for the education of young Wizards and Witches, and the foundation of a greater Wizard society," He paused, crossing the few steps toward Gryffindor and placing his hand on the larger man's shoulder. "Do not fear, if I and my men have to take up arms again, it will be on the side of Hogwarts, its students, and its greater ideals for Wizarding kind."
Gryffindor likewise placed his hand on Caractacus' shoulder. "If Salazar has not departed the castle within the month, I may well call on you to come to the castle's aid."
"Let us hope it does not come to that," Caractacus responded.
The memory began to dim and twist around Harry and Ginny, fading into darkness before it quickly reformed leaving them standing on rough rocky ground.
"What happened?" Ginny asked.
"It's alright," Harry assured her, "just a change from one memory to another."
"Where is this then?" Ginny questioned as they looked around. Stone rose sharply from the ground on either side of them rising so high that the top was obscured in mist. A steady stream of water was splashing along the ground. It would have soaked their feet had they actually been standing there and not just phantoms within the memory.
Caractacus came around a sharp turn and slogged past them through the water. He was dressed now much as he had been in the previous memory, though he was wearing a heavy furred cloak and Harry saw that he carried a battleaxe across his back. He had a darkly determined look on his face.
"I think this is the bottom of the gorge just east of the castle," Harry said.
Ginny nodded. Together they followed Caractacus as he pressed on along the gorge bottom. Before long he reached what seemed a natural crack in the rock face in the left side of the gorge wall that had split wide enough to just permit the passage of a grown man. Caractacus forced himself into the crevasse with obvious effort.
Fortunately for Harry and Ginny, neither was as tall or stout as Caractacus, nor confined by the physical parameters of the memory, so they were able to follow with ease.
After about ten meters the space widened. Caractacus drew his wand and lit the end. After a few more meters the open top of the crevasse closed becoming a cave. It quickly opened in to what appeared to be natural cave formations. They continued to follow Caractacus closely as he wound his way through the labyrinth of natural passages until he came to a still pool of dark water deep in the recesses of the rock. Here he removed his formidable axe and threw off his heavy cloak, quickly re-securing the weapon. He began to move down into the water.
"Ginny," Harry said squeezing her hand, "I think this is going to lead us to the Chamber of Secrets. Are you going to be okay with that?"
Ginny looked at Harry her face filled with fear and apprehension. "I'll be okay," she whispered as she tried to form a smile, but failed. "Do we have to swim, Harry?" she asked.
Harry began to say something, but what it was, was lost as they suddenly felt themselves pulled down into the dark water. They both reflexively held their breath. It was an odd sensation as they felt surrounded by the cold water and yet not actually wet. They watched as Caractacus, illuminated only by his wand, navigated the narrow passage at a powerful swim, yet neither of them was swimming, in fact they were still quite upright. It was a long half minute before they could see an illuminated area of surface water above them. Caractacus broke the surface of the water silently and quickly made his way to the edge where he pulled himself up from the cold water. Harry and Ginny both gasped as they broke the surface allowing themselves to be pulled along by Caractacus in the memory.
Harry chuckled a little, suddenly realizing that he was not wet, he imagined there had been no reason for holding his breath. Ginny gasped at his side and he became aware suddenly of just where they were. Towering stone pillars entwined with carved serpents rose to support a ceiling lost in darkness. They followed Caractacus up from the natural slope of the cave to where the constructed stone floor began. Harry recognized the large entrance door of the Chamber to his left realizing that they were indeed within the Chamber of Secrets. Caractacus took a moment to draw his wand and cast a drying charm. He then proceeded cautiously down the center of the hall between the large pillars. Harry and Ginny followed.
At the far end of the huge chamber the statue of Salazar Slytherin stood quiet vigil over the expansive space. Torches flickered and guttered at each pillar casting the chamber in an orange light.
"It seems much bigger than I remember, Harry," Ginny said quietly.
"I think that's the effect of the firelight," Harry whispered back.
Caractacus came to the center of the open Chamber before the massive statue and stopped. There he suddenly called, "Lord Slytherin." His voice echoed in the chamber. After a moment he repeated himself.
There was the distinct sound of rock sliding against rock, though Harry could not tell where it was coming from in the echoing chamber.
From behind the statue a man appeared, walking calmly around the massive sweep of carved robe. He was a tall, thin man with a bald head and a long thin graying beard that swept nearly to the floor. His robes were green with silver trimmings. He raised one bushy eyebrow in recognition as he came round the front of the statute.
"Lord Caractacus, son of a potter," Salazar Slytherin said, "May I ask how you entered my secret Chamber?"
Caractacus seemed to wince at the use of his Muggle title. "I and my men constructed this chamber for you Lord Slytherin," he responded. "Do you find it surprising that a chamber of secrets should have a secret entrance known only to its builder?"
Slytherin seemed unaffected. He spoke calmly, "no, I suppose not. Though, perhaps I should have chosen another as my secret keeper."
"I have not betrayed your secret," Caractacus spat with a bit of anger, "not even the men who carved your precious statue recall doing so. Beyond yourself, only I as secret keeper, have knowledge of this place. Your charms have not been violated, and I will honor my oath unto my death."
"Good," Slytherin said, "So, what is your purpose in coming to me here?"
"I know of your army of followers gathered in the forest," Caractacus spoke, "My own men are gathered above ready to repel them should it become necessary." He paused staring intently at the man standing confidently before him. "You have been asked to leave the Castle, I come to discover if you intend to do so, or if you intend to plunge the Wizard world into a war that may well prove to be its end?"
"And if my answer displeases you?" Slytherin said smirking.
Caractacus did not respond immediately, clearly his mind was considering various possibilities. "History already considers you one of the foremost Wizards of the age, you are one of the founders of Hogwarts and your name will live on through one of its student houses for as long a the school stands, do you really wish to be remembered as a tyrant who plunged the Wizard world into war over blood status?"
Slytherin seemed momentarily taken aback "I cannot expect you to understand the need for blood purity, you who were born to a daughter of the house of Peverell in marriage to a lowly Muggle potter."
Caractacus laughed, "You seek to insult me with my heritage? I am proud of my Muggle father, he was a great man, who taught me honor and bravery. Even your colleagues thought so, for was it not Rowena Ravenclaw who personally asked him to come and begin construction of Hogwarts Castle? I am proud to wear the name Potter, just as I am proud to have taken up his work on the castle upon his death. Do not forget, Lord Slytherin," somehow Caractacus made the title sound insulting, "I too know a little about history, and I know the Peverell family story of Anabal Slytherin."
Slytherin's eyes widened with terrified surprise.
Caractacus pushed on. "The story goes that a Muggle came to my great-great grandfather's house seeking work and refuge. He was made a stable hand and later became groundskeeper. He married one of the house servants and had a beautiful raven haired daughter. She grew so beautiful that the Master's sons each sought her hand in marriage, but Master Peverell would not allow a union between any of his sons and a servant. One day, mysteriously, Anabal Slytherin packed up his family and disappeared to the east. The rumor of course was that his daughter was with child by one of the Master's sons. That is the only other place that I have ever heard the name Slytherin." Caractacus paused. "Do you even know which of my great uncles was your father; you who are a bastard son of the house of Peverell."
Slyherin's eyes betrayed his anger. "Who have you told of this tale?"
"No one," Caractacus replied, "one does not freely share the dishonor of ones family." He chuckled darkly, "Funny, don't you think, that if pure blood status is so important, that the union of Wizard and Muggle so often produces such powerful Wizards?"
Slytherin's wand flashed suddenly, a bolt of red light shot at Caractacus, who was obviously ready for the attack and had his shield up deflecting the spell.
Ginny screamed as the deflected spell passed through her and Harry. Harry gripped her hand tighter.
The two men launched in to heated battle, spells flashing between them at a furious pace. At first both men's shields seemed to hold. Deflected spells of intense force crashed in to the walls of the chamber causing the stone walls to crack and splinter. Slytherin attacked with fire, which Caractacus countered with water raised from the surrounding pools. The water turned to ice as a blizzard assaulted Caractacus, who countered with his own fire.
For long minutes the two men seemed evenly matched as they weaved and dodged each other, neither letting the other rest against their assault. The pace seemed to slow as they each tired, but the spells keep flying causing them to seek cover behind statue and pillar respectively.
Caractacus drew his battleaxe as Slytherin stepped from his cover and cast a powerful blasting curse. It slammed into Caractacus' shield and battered his protection down to nothing before both spells dissipated. Caractacus flashed his wand upon his axe and it glowed as he raised a powerful arm and cast the axe at Slytherin.
Slytherin seemed to find the action humorous as he cast his shield. The axe struck the shield and stuck there as if lodged in a tree. Tendrils of magical energy flashed from the axe, like lightening, encompassing the shield charm and surrounding Slytherin. There was a deafening explosion of cracking thunder and a flash of blinding light.
Slytherin lay dazed, on the stone floor of the chamber. Caractacus got to his feet and cast "Expelliarmus" causing Slytherin's wand to fly from his hand and crash into the stone wall of the chamber, where it fell broken to the floor.
Harry and Ginny came closer as Caractacus retrieved his axe and pulling Slytherin to his knees held the broad blade of the weapon to his throat.
"You are defeated Salazar," Caractacus growled angrily, "concede and swear it!" he demanded.
Slytherin's voice came in a raspy whisper, "I concede, I am defeated and I shall never battle you again, lest my own life be forfeit, I swear."
Caractacus withdrew his axe and dropped Slytherin to the stone floor. "Thou wilt disband thy followers and return to the lands of thy birth where I expect I shall not hear of you again." Caractacus ordered. "You may keep your place in history. I will not disgrace Hogwarts with the truth of your intentions. If you attempt to build power again I will hunt you till I see your end."
Slytherin looked up at him angrily, "I will leave the castle and do as you wish," he pushed himself up to his knees and leaning heavily on the foot of the statue pulled himself to his feet. "I see now, that it is not yet time for my war. I will seal this chamber for a thousand years. But know this, Caractacus, the seeds I have planted will grow, that you cannot prevent. You have averted the war at this time, but one day there will come a child of my line, who will embrace my ideals and forward my work no matter the cost."
Caractacus turned and began to walk back toward the front of the chamber. "On that day, there will be a Potter to defeat your champion," he said.
"That I cannot allow," Slytherin shouted, he reached beneath his beard and grabbed something which was hung around his neck.
Harry gasped as he recognized the gold locket. It was the one they had seen at Grimmauld Place.
Holding the locket in one hand Slytherin waved his other hand before him and spoke an incantation in a language Harry did not recognize. A green mist rose from the locket which had opened in his palm. It floated toward Caractacus.
Turning, Caractacus cast a shield charm, but the mist floated through it as if it weren't there. It engulfed him and disappeared into him. He fell to his knees.
"What magic is this? Cast without wand, by one already defeated?"
Harry pulled Ginny closer to Caractacus as their perception of the world around them began to fade.
"It is ancient magic," Slytherin said as he stepped closer, gloating. "It is fae magic, taught to me by the Witch who raised me. Cast through the last wisps of a fairies' wing kept in my locket." Slytherin circled. "Yes, I am defeated Caractacus, you defeated me and I conceded. I cannot kill you, but I can curse you! And my curse is that you shall not father children."
Caractacus glowed a sickly green for a moment before collapsing to the ground. Harry and Ginny's perception began to narrow and fade rapidly as Caractacus was losing consciousness.
Slytherin began to cackle with laughter.
The world collapsed in on itself. With a gasp both Harry and Ginny found themselves standing against the desk in the study. Harry sat heavily in the desk chair and Ginny pulled herself into his lap. They sat in silence for what might have been minutes, or moments.
"What was that all about Harry?" Ginny finally asked, "none of it fits with any history we have ever been taught."
"No, it doesn't," Harry conceded, "but I'm inclined to believe it's true nonetheless."
"But how could it be true Harry? If it is as we saw, then your ancestor Caractacus would never have had any children?"
"And yet, here I am," Harry sighed, "perhaps I'm not truly a Potter after all?"
"That can't be," Ginny said, "what about your inheritance? The blood locks, the blood stone protecting this house? All of that seems dependant on you being exactly who you are, Harry Potter."
"Then perhaps the answer lies in one of the other memories," Harry said after a short pause. "Are you up to looking at another?"
Ginny got up off his lap and pulled him to his feet. "I'm ready if you are," she smiled excitedly at him.
Harry used his wand and carefully withdrew the memory from the Pensieve returning it to its vial. Satisfied that it was secure in the proper slot within the lockbox he picked up the next vial in the line. The tag read, 'Armes Weasley-Potter, c. 1147 - Potter Curse/Blessing.'
Harry broke the wax seal and removed the stopper from the vial. Carefully, he tipped the pearly contents in to the Pensieve and stirred the surface with his wand.
Again, Harry and Ginny stood hand in hand and placed their free hands in the Pensieve. Ginny found the sense of falling into the memory a bit less disconcerting this second time. They lit on a solid stone balcony. It was near dusk and a cool fragrant breeze made Harry guess that it was springtime.
There were two figures on the balcony, apparently enjoying the pleasant evening. One was a tall grey haired man dressed in a deep blue silken robe that hung loose from his broad shoulders. Even from the back Harry could tell this was Caractacus. The man had his arm around a woman. She was a full head shorter than him and dressed in an equally splendid robe of a similar blue. From behind her most striking feature was her fiery red hair, elaborately braided, adorned with wild flowers and reaching nearly to the floor.
"Happy Anniversary, my love," came Caractacus' voice, calm and gentle. Gone were the commanding authoritative tones so evident in the previous memory.
The woman turned to him and wrapping her arms about his neck pulled them together in a deep and telling kiss. That these two people were deeply and abidingly in love was evident.
Harry felt Ginny cling to his arm and lean into him at his side. He wrapped his arm around her affectionately.
After the couple broke from a long lingering kiss they stood together eyes locked. Harry got the impression that there was deep communication passing in their gaze.
The balcony door opened and a House-Elf stepped through quietly. She was carrying a golden tray upon which stood two crystal goblets. They were filled with a shimmering liquid that appeared to be golden in color and luminescent.
"Master, Mistress," the Elf squeaked in a high, childish sounding voice, "Jeri is so pleased to bring the blessing of the fairies to her beloved and honored Masters."
The woman turned and kneeling down to the Elf's level took the two goblets from the tray. "You flatter us so, dear Jeri, it is you that brings honor to our household, with your service." The little Elf blushed pink, and bowing backed away.
"Have all the casks of honey cream been set out, Jeri?" Caractacus asked.
"Jeri has seen to it herself, Master. Not a single nut or berry has been missed, all that the house has to offer is set out as instructed," the Elf squeaked happily.
"Then you must gather all the House-Elves and join your cousins in the start of the Maying," Caractacus commanded gently, "I do not wish you to serve us further until you have had your fill of the celebration's frivolities. You will honor us beyond measure with your happiness."
A broad smile stretched the face of the little Elf, "Yes, Master," she replied as she closed the balcony door.
Ginny giggled at Harry's side, "Harry, I've never been much around House-Elves until I met you, but it seems to me that your ancestors got it right. If it's in their nature to serve, it seems only right that we should assure their happiness."
Harry nodded in agreement, "it does seem that a happy Elf, makes a happy Master."
"Caractacus?" the woman questioned, recapturing Harry and Ginny's attention. "Dost thou feel ever wrong in accepting the gift of life from the fairies?"
"No, Armes, my love, it is after all, a gift, freely given," Caractacus replied, and he clinked his goblet to hers, "to long life, health and happiness," he said.
Armes smiled happily at her husband, "life, health and happiness," she repeated, and they each drank the contents of their goblets. After a few moments of silence, she turned again. "Art thou contented, my husband?" she asked.
"I am content, you know this, my love," he said without hesitation.
"Aye," she smiled wrapping her arms about his neck once more, "but we both know there is one thing that would make us truly happy, beyond content."
Caractacus looked suddenly sad. "I thought we had agreed not to speak of it again," he stated plainly.
"Aye, my Love, I know, we did agree," Armes said apologetically, "but each year at the Maying, I feel a longing."
"Aye, Love, I feel it too," Caractacus said with resignation. Then he chuckled, "how could we not feel something when by midnight the fairies will reach a mating frenzy."
There was a long silence, "I would like to try again," Armes said.
"My dear, what have we left to try?" Caractacus asked, not expecting an answer. "For years I went to every curse breaker I know, and none were able to offer solution. The curse is unbreakable; I've accepted it as the price for averting a war." He paused. "Then, once we found each other were bonded, and wed, we tried again for twenty years. I do not know what is left to try."
"Please, my Love, do not be angry with me," Armes said "I have acted without you; I have invited, Helga and Rowena to visit us anon, here at the Castle."
Caractacus looked at his wife with surprise. "Lady Hufflepuff, and Lady Ravenclaw?" he asked with astonishment. "They have not left Hogwarts in many years; surely they declined such an invitation. And why during the Maying, we do not have guests during the Maying."
"Surely you are not saying that Lady Hufflepuff, and Lady Ravenclaw are not welcome in our home, Husband?" Armes asked teasingly.
"Of course they are welcome," Caractacus pronounced, "but, certainly they did not accept?"
Armes smiled mischievously at Caractacus.
"They did?" Caractacus asked, clearly hoping for a negative answer.
Armes nodded affirmatively. "They will arrive early afternoon on the morrow."
"What is it you expect that they can do?" Caractacus asked.
"I do not know, but what is the harm in telling them the story and seeing if they have any ideas?" Armes said pleadingly.
"Alright, my Love, you win," Caractacus said, looking deep in to her eyes. "But you know what this means, now I must go and make their visit okay with the fairies."
Armes blushed and giggled girlishly, "It means you will have to address the fairies, during the start of Maying." She giggled a bit more. "Which means you will have to appear before them naked in the moonlight, and you will return after filled with amorous need," She blushed more deeply. "But, 'tis our anniversary, husband, surely you were planning to make love with me anyway?" She flashed her eyelashes, "May I watch from the balcony?" she teased.
Ginny began to giggle at Harry's side and Harry was struck by how similar she sounded to Armes. He turned to look at her and she was blushing furiously. It made Harry blush as well and he chuckled with a slight embarrassment.
Caractacus pulled his wife's arms from around his neck, but held firmly to both of her hands. "Oh no, m'lady," he said firmly, "'twas all your idea, so thou wilt attend with me," he pulled her toward the balcony doors. Ginny and Harry reflexively stepped out of the way.
"Oh my," Armes said as they passed through the doors. She was still giggling.
Darkness fell upon Harry and Ginny as the memory faded, only to reform anew.
Harry and Ginny found themselves in a very nicely appointed parlor. It was a bright room filled with light from broad windows. At a small table sat Armes, beautifully dressed in a simple pale green gown. At the table with her were two very elderly women, both had pure white hair, one was slightly plump and dressed in black, trimmed with gold, the other tall and lean dressed in deep blue with Bronze trim. Both women showed their extreme age not only in their rugose appearance, but in their slow movements.
"We were delighted that you accepted our invitation, you honor us with your visit." Armes was saying.
"Nonsense, child" Rowena Ravenclaw, said in what Harry thought was a rather deep and very stately voice. "Twas an honor to receive your invitation," she said, "As you can well imagine, we do not venture out much at our age, but none would refuse an invitation from the Potters."
"After all," Helga Huffelpuff cut in, "thy husband, and his father before him, practically built Hogwarts." Her voice was much higher and almost girlish compared to her companion's.
Just then Caractacus entered the room levitating a tray laden with a pitcher of ale, and one of currant juice and a succulent array of sweet breads and honey biscuits. The tray landed gently at the center of the table and he began to serve drinks.
"My goodness, Caractacus," Rowena commented as she took a glass of juice, "You have doted on us all afternoon, there is no need to serve us personally, where ever are your House-Elves?"
"Rowena," Helga interrupted abruptly, "Haven't you noticed, the Castle is inundated with Fae magic at the moment. Doubtless the Potters have released their elves for the Maying."
"The Maying?" Rowena said, the thought obviously not having occurred to her. She looked around the room. "Oh my," she said with sudden realization.
"We have long honored the fairies in our household," Caractacus said with a broad smile. "As the Maying began last evening with the new moon, you may see many fairie here, and you will have to excuse them, if they are a bit indiscreet." Having served drinks he took a seat next to his wife.
As if to example his statement several fairies entered the room flitting here and there, a few lighted on the trolley and began to help themselves to biscuits, while others landed about the room and began doing things that most Witches and Wizards would consider required the utmost secured privacy.
Rowena acted as if she simply hadn't noticed, but Helga leaned forward and said, "I think it most beautiful. If there were not students at the Castle this time of year I would release all the Hogwarts elves to celebrate."
"As it is they manage to celebrate quite enough down in their quarters," Rowena added and the two women began to laugh.
Their laughter caught the attention of the fairies at the table and they inched closer sitting on the table edge as though joining the conversation, while munching on crumbs of biscuits which they brought in small piles next to them. They seemed to be watching the older women with curiosity.
Helga eyed the small creatures with intense curiosity of her own. "I was not aware, Caractacus, that you had such a good relationship with the Fea," she asked.
"Yes, well I built it up over many years after settling here," Caractacus answered dismissively, trying to make nothing of the question, "Tis a very simple matter of respect and kindness."
Helga nodded understandingly, before continuing, "And I am guessing, given your obvious physical health that you have unlocked the mystery of the famed fairie potion of health and long life? After all you are only, what, roughly a hundred years younger than Rowena and I? And you my dear," she said turning to Armes, "you must be rapidly approaching your centennial birthday? And look at you, not a grey hair to be seen."
Armes blushed slightly.
Caractacus finished a bite of his bread and set the remainder down. "I am sorry, I cannot tell you the secret of the potion," he said. Helga nodded her understanding, but disappointment showed on her face. After a moment he smiled. "All I can tell you is that the secret is very simple as many secrets indeed are. It took me many years to discover and the gift is not mine to share."
"Well, the pursuit of a long and healthy life is not necessarily a pursuit of the dark arts, as Godric would have taught," Rowena, said a bit forlornly. Helga reached out and took her hand at the mention of Gryffindor. "It is the pursuit of immortality that becomes dark. I trust this is not thy purpose here?" she asked.
"Oh no," Caractacus answered, "I have no desire to live forever. Just long enough to..." his voice trailed away.
"What is it," Helga asked, "what troubles you?"
Armes took her husband's hand and patted it gently. "My husband has a tale to tell you, a secret tale that he guards most diligently, but it is the reason we have asked you both here for this visit."
The two elderly women nodded, wide eyed.
"What I have to tell you concerns the events of Salazar Slytherin's departure from Hogwarts," he paused, "there are parts of the story which I am bound by oath to keep secret, so please, let me tell my tale, and ask me no questions."
Rowena and Helga again nodded.
Slowly, and deliberately Caractacus began to tell the tale, beginning with Godric Gryffindor seeking his assistance, should it come to a battle. He elaborated some on his preparations and his despair at the idea that it might come to a blood status war between Wizard kind.
Leaving out entirely the detail that he faced Slytherin in the Chamber of secrets, he described going to see Slytherin with intent to plead with him not to pursue his course of action. Rowena and Helga both gasped when he explained how despite his intention the conversation turned quickly to accusation about blood status, and again as Caractacus recounted Slytherin's heritage, and the impurity of his own blood.
Caractacus described in as much detail as he could, dueling with and finally defeating Slytherin. He told how Slytherin promised that after a thousand years a child of his line would come to finish his work. To which he had responded that a Potter would be present to defeat such a dark champion of injustice.
Then he described how Salazar had used a remnant of a fairie wing to cast a curse upon him proclaiming that he should never have an heir, a curse that to this day Caractacus had not been able to break.
"My intent in befriending the Fea was to seek an answer to the curse, when no Wizard had been able to give one," Caractacus paused, nearly in tears. "The fairies here have become great friends to this household, but even they have no means to defeat this dreaded proclamation."
Clutching at Caractacus' hand Armes spoke up. "We have sought every means to overcome this curse, and for these past many years we have resigned ourselves to its hold, but I convinced my husband to tell you this tale so that we might seek your advice," she said, "The two of you are our last hope for an answer."
There was a long silence in the room as Helga and Rowena considered the problem. Both seemed determined to offer something, but neither looked like an answer was forthcoming. Finally Rowena spoke. "Curses of any kind are a complicated matter, and this one is very perplexing. I should like to examine you Caractacus, if you are agreeable?"
"Of course," he responded quickly.
Rowena and Helga both rose and moved a chair a little away from the table, asking Caractacus to move to it. Once he was seated they both drew their wands and began circling him, casting various spells upon him and consulting the resultant colors which glowed about him, or sparked from their wards. After nearly fifteen minutes of examination, both women returned to their chairs at the table where Armes refreshed their juice.
Caractacus returned to the table as well.
"Secrets and promises surround you Caractacus, you are bound to Salazar Slytherin by more than this curse," Rowena said finally.
"It is quite certain that there is no way to break this curse," Helga concluded.
Caractacus took Armes' hands in his as she dropped her head a bit and tears streaked her face.
"However," Rowena continued, "tell me once again, exactly the words Salazar used when he cursed you."
Caractacus looked up in confusion, as if searching his memory. "He said, 'I cannot kill you, but I can curse you! And my curse is that you shall not father children'."
"You are certain these where his exact words?" Helga asked.
Caractacus nodded. Armes looked up at the two women who were looking back and forth between each other and had begun to smile.
"It is possible, we may be able to help you after all," Rowena said.
Armes' expression brightened.
"Curses, especially very powerful curses can be very particular and quite literal things," Helga began to explain, "in this case, if Salazar's words were exactly as you have recounted and he in fact said 'you shall not father children' it is certain that he meant, and you interpreted, that you would never father 'any' children. But taken literally, you may not father children, but 'a child' is not 'children' so even though we cannot break the curse, we may be able to amend it with a curse of our own," Helga smiled triumphantly.
"There would be consequences, you understand," Rowena said, "but if we, say, cursed the House of Potter so that there could only ever be a single child in each generation," she said.
"Perhaps a single boy child," Helga added hastily.
"This we may be able to accomplish," Rowena stated, clearly she was still thinking about it. "We may have to add some conditions."
"What conditions are you thinking?" Caractacus asked.
"Future Potter marriages would have to be bonded couples, most certainly," Helga offered.
"It would mean that the curse would be extended in to the future, but it would allow for a future that right now does not seem possible," Rowena stated, "you must decide if that is something you can live with."
Armes looked up in to her husband's hardened face with a pleading expression. After a moment his features softened.
"We will have to consider this matter carefully," Caractacus said, "It is not a decision to be made hastily."
"Quite right," Rowena concurred, "If we agree to proceed some considerable preparation will be required as well."
"I suggest that we conclude the matter for now," Helga stated, "Rowena and I will give it our attention upon our return to Hogwarts, and you can send us an owl once you have had appropriate time to consider and come to a decision,"
They all nodded in agreement.
"Now," Helga continued, "if we have all had enough refreshment, I for one would very much like to see the Castle gardens."
They finished their glasses and setting them all on the service tray, set out from the parlor. Armes walked arm in arm with Helga, and Caractacus with Rowena to support the older women.
As they were leaving the room the memory began to fade, just as Rowena leaned in close to Caractacus and whispered, "She's never been all that fancy on gardens; she just wants to see more of the fairies a Maying."
The memory swirled to nothing and quickly began to reform again. Harry and Ginny found themselves in a fire lit bedchamber where a woman was screaming. A quick glance about the room revealed that the screaming woman was Armes, who was near the foot of the large bed propped into a near squatting position against a padded triangular shaped support. Three matronly women attended her. Harry turned red at the realization she was giving birth, and he was grateful that he was standing near the edge of the bed at her side and somewhat behind her. Ginny on the other hand released Harry's hand and rushed to the foot of the bed where she could get a more direct view.
As Armes screamed again Harry found himself examining the room and noticing that it was a winter night outside, the windows, covered in frost.
After a few more screams the room was filled with a new screaming voice as a wailing baby was removed to a sideboard to be washed and dressed.
The attendants were bustling about the room, one taking the baby while the others saw to Armes' needs as she too was cleaned up and plied with potions. The birthing board was removed and she was set to rest comfortably in the bed.
The woman attending the baby came to the bedside and presented the now calm child to its mother. "You have a strong son m'lady," she said as she placed the baby in to Armes' waiting arms.
"My husband," Armes asked.
Almost immediately the chamber door swung open and Caractacus rushed in from the room beyond. He came directly to the bedside.
The attendants hurried from the room and closed the door behind them.
"You have a son, my Husband," Armes said proudly.
"We have a son, my Love," Caractacus corrected as he leaned down to kiss both mother and child. After a minute he stood back up and Armes held up the baby to his gentle embrace. With tears of joy trickling from his eyes he held back the swaddling blanket from the baby's face and beheld his son. "Would that we could have prevented my curse from moving to you our son," he said.
"How can you look at him and think of the curse my Love," Armes said, "I look upon him and think only that we are mightily blessed," she paused, "all else will be solved in time."
Caractacus sat on the bed next to Armes and together they held their son. "Yes my Love, all things in time, for now we know that the House of Potter will abide," he said.
Ginny had returned to Harry's side and taken his hand, she smiled up at him obviously delighted with the memory before her. Harry smiled at her in return, as the memory faded into darkness and once again they found themselves leaning against the desk in the study.
Harry sat heavily in the desk chair; he wasn't upset by the memories, or even confused, just a little astounded, that his family history was so complex and so interwoven with Hogwarts history. And these had only been the first two memories; there were still ten more to go.
Ginny sat herself in Harry's lap. "Well, at least we know that you are in fact a Potter," she said, "Your family history is amazing, Harry."
"Yeah, well it seems like Potters are always at the center of trouble to me," Harry said off handedly, "seems like this whole thing with Voldemort started way before any of us existed."
Ginny took Harry's head in her hands and lifted his face to meet her gaze. "Caractacus was a hero, Harry, he put everyone and everything he knew ahead of himself, and he averted a war that so early in our history might have been truly devastating," she said, "you should be proud to be descended from him."
Harry nodded his head, "I am Ginny," he said, "I guess I am just a bit overwhelmed."
"I guess that is understandable,' Ginny said as she leaned in and kissed him.
"What about you?" Harry asked.
"Me?" Ginny said, giving him a quizzical look.
"Aren't you curious just how you are related to Armes?" Harry asked, "And didn't you notice that the woman Beathas and her husband Roald looked a lot like Weasleys? I swear you have exactly the same eyes."
Ginny giggled. "Yes I noticed," She said, "the way Roald was eating reminded me of Ron too. He got the same sort of look Ron gets, that look that warns you to keep your fingers clear of his plate."
Harry laughed. "Well, it is certainly a lot to think about," he said, "and that was just the first two memories."
"Well, do you want to look at another," Ginny asked.
Harry pulled out his pocket watch and looked at it. "We have been here nearly two hours," He said with mild surprise, "I suspect people have begun to wonder where we have gotten off to. I think perhaps more memories can wait. We should get back before your mother comes looking for us."
Ginny smiled and nodded agreement. She wrapped her arms around Harry's neck and leaned in to him pressing her lips to his. The kiss grew quite passionate, lasting a good minute or two. When Ginny finally pulled herself away, gasping for breath, she said, "there, if we are going to have to face the assumptions that we stole away for a bit of snogging, I want it to be at least partially true."
Harry chuckled. "Right you are," he said, and pulled her back in to a repeat performance.
Some fifteen minutes later, when they finally pulled apart, Harry carefully withdrew the memory from the Pensieve and returned it to its vial. Then he levitated the Pensieve back to its drawer, leaving the liquid in it ready for its next use. Ginny returned the empty jar to the drawer as Harry locked up the box of memories in the desk.
They left the study and began walking back to the sitting room.
They had barely made it to the central stairs when they saw Ron and Hermione coming down the stairs from the floor above. Hermione had the parchments of instructions from his Grandfather clutched in her hand. Harry had completely forgotten about them.
"Where did you two get off to?" Ron asked.
"We've been in the study," Harry explained.
"Harry," Hermione began, "I was reading these instructions some more," she indicated the parchments with a gesture. "Your Grandfather says in here, that the memories which have been left for you have remained sealed since they were collected, apparently no one has ever looked at them, not even your own ancestors. He says that you are the one they have been left for and you should look at them alone."
Harry looked a little embarrassed and then he squeezed Ginny's hand a little. "Well, it's a bit late for that," he said, "Ginny and I just looked at the first two."
"Really?" Hermione asked enthusiastically, her curiosity getting the better of her. "And, they weren't too private to share?" she asked.
"No, I don't think so," Harry responded, "The first one was from, what would it be, my great- great-great-great-grandfather, Caractacus Potter." Harry counted off the 'greats' with his fingers as he spoke. "And, while I really wouldn't want just anyone looking at it, there was nothing there too private to share with Ginny. As a matter of fact, I suspect there was a glimpse of some Weasley ancestry in it as well."
Ron's eyes grew large, "Really?" he asked, "Do you think I could give it a look see, Mate?"
"Yeah, I think both you and Hermione can look at it if you like," Harry replied, "The second one was about Caractacus and his wife Armes, who we know was a Weasley."
"And the 'Potter Curse'?" Hermione asked, "Do you know what it is now?"
"Yes," Harry said, "basically, in the first memory, Salazar Slytherin curses my ancestor Caractacus so that he cannot have children. And, in the second memory, with the help of Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff, the curse is modified so that the Potters can only have one boy child each generation. But, there was nothing there that yet explains how to break the curse. I suspect there will be more about it in later memories."
"The Hogwarts founders appear in these memories?" Hermione exclaimed. "Harry, that is fantastic, there are very few records about the founders still in existence. This could be historically significant."
Harry chuckled, "I suppose so, but the memories are not about them directly."
"Even so," Hermione persisted, "I should very much like to see them if I may?"
"Of course," Harry said, pulling out his watch again and looking at it. "But right now I suspect we should be getting back to the sitting room," he looked from Ron to Ginny and back again. "I suspect your parents are thinking about returning home soon, and they will want Ginny to return with them. And, there are guests in the manor."
"I suppose you are right, Harry," Hermione said resignedly, obviously anxious to view the memories as soon a possible.
The four of them headed for the sitting room.
"So, when did you get all grown up, Mate?" Ron said nudging Harry's arm with his elbow.
Harry shrugged his shoulders, "dunno," he said.
"Well, c'mon then," Ron said increasing the pace with his long strides. "Maybe one of the Elves put some more puddings out."
Ginny, Hermione and Harry all laughed.
"What?" Ron turned to look at them, still moving, "I'm hungry."
"Ron, you are always hungry," they said nearly in unison.
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The Binding of Matrimony
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