Author's Note: This is a little ficlet inspired by the Halloween mood. It may come a little late, but better late than never
I would like to thank the amazing people at the Harry/Fleur Discord for their support and company and also Astro, Hellstrike VonPelt, Abel Lecoq, x102reddragon, DavidTheAthenai and JuicyFruits123 for their great efforts as beta readers.
I also want to give a huge shoutout to DavidTheAthenai, whose concept of Fleur's grandmother I use in this little fic.
Harry/Fleur Discord: discord . gg / k8ZxUjE
The fire in their fireplace crackled merrily, providing warmth to the cottage on this dreary evening. The weather outside, cold and miserable, reflected the mood of the two inhabitants quite well. Both Harry and Fleur were resting on a sofa, Fleur sitting comfortably and Harry lying with his head in his lover's lap.
Their situation, if they were to be honest, was not great. In fact, it passed right over horrible and leapt right into abysmal. Albus Dumbledore was dead, had been dead for some time. Severus Snape now reigned at Hogwarts and his master, the self-styled Dark Lord Voldemort ruled magical Britain.
Despite Fleur's dexterous fingers gently caressing his hair, Harry had trouble seeing any silver lining in their current situation. Both have been declared Undesirables and have had many scrapes with Snatchers, hunters, and Death Eaters eager to improve their standing. Quite quickly, both Harry and Fleur had realized they needed to stain their hands with blood if they wished to survive.
"What are you thinking about, 'Arry?" Fleur's lovely voice reached his ears.
Harry sighed and opened his eyes, turning to look at her and replied, "I wonder now about the Weasleys. I know our parting was…"
Here, his usually gentle lover interrupted him with an annoyed huff, "Hmph, they…" Her retort was stopped by Harry's finger on her lips.
"I know they treated you horribly, there is no excuse for that. But they are not bad people. They selflessly accepted a little orphan into their hearts. They were the first actual family I remember wanting me around." Harry smiled sadly. "I wonder where they are now."
The fight seemed to have left Fleur at that moment as she too recalled the fire that destroyed the Burrow. Even now, months later, they had no idea what happened to the Weasley family.
"And Hermione," here, Harry's voice grew into a whisper, "I wonder what she would have told us."
Neither Harry nor Fleur truly wished to recall the last moments of the brilliant witch, consumed by a fast-acting withering curse.
After much effort and risk, they had managed to track down the necklace they had seen so long ago at Grimmauld Place, Voldemort's horcrux. They even opened and destroyed it too, but the price was high, too high. Harry still shuddered at the thought. And at what they'd found afterwards.
There was no Horcrux. Numerous curses, yes, traps, carefully layered in an intricate design that only a truly devious mind could have created.
And Voldemort had proven devious indeed.
Harry's eyes fell on the sparse, spartan decorations of their room. No magical portraits, and only one meagre vase of flowers there to give the room a sense of being inhabited. At least old Aberforth stood by them, having given them Albus' books and notes before going into hiding himself.
It was after much research that Harry and Fleur discovered the tragic truth. There were discrepancies, too many discrepancies between Albus' notes on how a Horcrux should behave and what they've experienced so far.
While the amount and variety of curses on the locket were indeed prodigious, it was no Horcrux.
After examining the ring they had received as inheritance, they'd found an almost identical spell residue there.
Voldemort was no fool. He was well aware that Albus Dumbledore would be among his greatest foes. He knew the man quite well. Albus was a very intelligent man. If he had a flaw, it was pride in his wits, pride in his own cleverness. And so, Voldemort had put down an ideal trap for such a man. Intricate puzzles that would lead Albus Dumbledore to try and solve them.
Voldemort succeeded. Albus succumbed to such a trap. It took over a year, but the curse on the ring sapped his life. Hermione too fell into such a trap. Even now, Harry and Fleur both often woke up from nightmares, again and again witnessing her wither and blacken after she put the necklace on. Unlike with Albus though, there was no way to slow down the progress of the curse.
And now, they were at the beginning again. How was it that Voldemort cheated death? They had only very little time to solve this puzzle. The Order of the Phoenix was scattered. The resistance against Voldemort was fractured and being slowly stamped out.
And Harry and Fleur? What did they have? Albus left them his notes, yet most of them were proven to be useless. However, when he wasn't writing about possible Horcruxes, there was another theme in Albus' notes. A curious symbol had drawn Harry's eyes many times. A triangle with a circle and a line inside. The Deathly Hallows. And in Albus' notes, there it was. His cloak. The Potters' cloak.
Time has moved on and now Harry and Fleur found themselves on the sofa again, Fleur's head nestled into the nape of Harry's neck.
"Fleur, do you think it's possible?" Harry's query seemed to perk Fleur up a bit.
"I am… unsure, mon cœur." Fleur whispered in his ear before quickly pecking his cheek. "This cloak is unlike any I 'ave seen. The results of the scan are definitely strange enough."
Harry grabbed her palm and brought it to his lips in a gentle kiss. "The stone in the ring Dumbledore left us… It feels strange as well. This can't be a coincidence. He may have been mistaken about the Horcruxes, but he was still brilliant. To think, the Hallows?"
Harry felt Fleur nod and her sweet voice spoke up, "Let me test the stone first, mon cœur. If the results are similar to your special cloak… That is a curious connection. 'ow did your family come by the cloak?"
Harry shrugged in response, "I honestly don't know. Both my parents died and I don't know who could have any idea now that Dumbledore is dead."
Here, Fleur moved to look him in the eyes, "There is the third 'allow too, the wand."
"According to the notes," Harry replied, "Dumbledore had it. It's in his tomb. That means sneaking into Hogwarts."
The fire was still going strong while the weather outside still worsened. But now, at least, the mood didn't seem so bleak. Both Harry and Fleur noticeably perked up now that it looked like they would have a goal to aim towards.
Fleur poked Harry in the chest. "We will perform some tests on your cloak before we try sneaking into one of the most well-guarded locations in Britain."
Harry could only nod in response, "Of course. No going off half-cocked on this."
And so it was agreed. They both sprang up from the sofa, immediately missing the warmth of the other. Harry cleaned up enough space on the floor and set the cloak down while Fleur brandished her rosewood wand. She resembled a conductor with her graceful movements as she mumbled incantation after incantation. Judging by the spark in her eyes, the results were encouraging.
His assumption was confirmed when Fleur jumped into his arms with a squeal. "Oh, mon amour, not even Gringotts' detection charms can find this cloak!"
It took only a few apparitions for them to reach the outskirts of Hogwarts. On the shore of the Black Lake stood the White Tomb, gleaming now in the rays of the setting sun. The students were all inside the castle and the grounds seemed emptier, desolate under the new regime. The two young lovers nodded at each other and Harry took out his cloak.
Shrouded from view, nobody seemed to notice the entrance of the two intruders. When no alarms sounded, they both heaved a sigh of relief. While this was the expected outcome, they were both on edge, their wands out.
Slowly they made their way over to the tomb, both straining their eyes for any sign of opposition.
'Ironic,' Harry thought, 'to be invading Hogwarts, ready to spill blood, so soon after the Death Eaters did the same.'
Luck was on their side. There wasn't a single soul about. Nobody noticed their slow, wary approach. Now, however, came the part that made Harry uneasy. Manoeuvring so that the Tomb would stand between them and the castle, and shield them from view, Harry proceeded to leave the protection of his cloak. Fleur remained concealed, on the lookout and ready to protect them both.
It took surprisingly little effort to open the tomb. There must have been numerous charms on it, because Dumbledore's body still looked as if he was merely asleep, ready to awaken at any time. Alas, Harry still remembered the flash of green that had taken the Headmaster's life.
Steeling himself for this particular act, Harry quickly grabbed the wand that was placed in the Headmaster's fingers. Just touching the curiously shaped wand caused Harry to feel a strange tingle. This definitely wasn't an ordinary wand.
Still no alarm, and he knew that Fleur would let him know if she spied anybody. Even then, he hurried with closing the tomb again.
The slow journey away from the castle was just as nerve-wracking as the way in. Both Harry and Fleur were constantly looking over their shoulders, watching for anybody pursuing them. Finally, they crossed the boundary of the protective enchantments around Hogwarts, and wasting little time, they apparated away.
At their hidden cottage, Harry and Fleur quickly embraced each other before dissolving into a fit of giggles. They had done it! It took them a few minutes to calm down, yet they remained elated. Harry brandished the wand for Fleur to see.
"Let me see it!" Fleur sounded extremely excited and proceeded to weave her wand in a now familiar pattern, casting a battery of diagnostic tests. Her face progressively seemed to light up and she exuded nervous energy.
"It is them, 'Arry, what you hold is the third and last of the Deathly 'allows. The shape fits. The magical residue is the same as with the Stone and the Cloak! That is the Elder Wand!"
Harry carefully laid the wand down and embraced his silver-haired lover again, luxuriating in her softness and warmth. Exulting in achieving success for once. Yet this was not the end.
"What now, Flower?" he whispered into her ear.
Fleur reacted by leaning back a bit and touching her forehead to his. "I am not sure, mon cœur. But I know of somebody with more knowledge of these matters."
It turned out that the aforementioned somebody lived in Brittany. Such a trip proved trivial with magic involved. While Harry initially disliked apparition, he got used to it quite quickly by sheer necessity. Now even trips across the Channel proved a mere annoyance, and even that was far outweighed by the convenience of such a way to travel. It was fortunate that both he and Fleur possessed a knack for this branch of magic.
It was a startling change, Brittany lacked the oppressive atmosphere that both of them could feel in Britain. Just some distance over water and it seemed that the troubles they have so acutely felt were so far away.
Just another apparition jump and they were at the edge of what looked like a small village near an old forest. The houses were small, looked well cared for and decorated with carved pumpkins and lights.
"Be careful here, 'Arry," Fleur whispered to him as she took his hand. "This is a Veela Enclave. In this particular one, there are many cousins of mine. Keep close to me." Now her voice took on a teasing tone. "You wouldn't want to be lured away now, would you?"
Harry grinned in response and stole a quick kiss. "No, you are the only seductress for me."
"Just right," Fleur nodded and squeezed his hand. "Now follow me. They shouldn't pay too much attention to us."
Harry smiled and breathed in the atmosphere, festive and carefree, "While I like it here, why did we come?"
Fleur pointed to what definitely seemed the oldest building, a simple two-floor family house at the edge of the village, closest to the forest.
"There, my grand-mère lives in that 'ouse."
Harry nodded at her wand holster. "The one who…"
"Whose 'air is in my wand, oui. Mamie Elena is sure to know. She taught me the stories." Here she smiled brightly at Harry, the light in her eyes causing him to grin in response.
"But be careful, 'Arry, mamie can be… intense."
As they were walking through the village, getting a cheerful wave here and a curious glance there, Harry noticed that at least all the women shared Fleur's hair colour.
"What did you mean by that?" Harry was quite nervous now, not used to this kind of attention and tried to wave politely to a young couple with twin girls.
"Not many people 'ave learned that about the Veela. My papa is a 'uman, so I 'ave 'human blood as well as Veela. Just like my maman. But my mamie, she is a pure Veela. We age, but she doesn't."
This clearly surprised Harry as he stopped in his tracks, "Y-you mean she is?" He stuttered.
"Immortal? Oui, in a way. Pure Veela can still be killed. But she is 'ardy, you will see that." Fleur tugged him in the direction of the house, "She knows much."
Harry expected many different things, yet when he beheld grand-mère Elena and saw a beautiful, willowy woman with silvery hair and sky blue eyes, looking much younger than Fleur's mother Apolline, he was still surprised. She wore an elegant dress, showing off her magnificent figure, yet what drew Harry's gaze the most was the enormous, thick, ropy scar showing up beneath her dress, ranging from her right shoulder to her right thigh.
Upon being caught gawking at a scar of all things, Harry flushed, but Elena merely waved a hand.
"Bah, don't be ashamed. I'm not. You have your own scar, no? So, you are the young man that Fleur ended up bringing here. Not one of those Weasleys."
"Mamie!" Fleur squealed and rushed to embrace her.
"I am happy to see you, my little Flower. I heard you had some trouble back in England, eh?" She released her granddaughter and turned to Harry. "But first, young man, would you like to see the entire scar?" Elena winked flirtatiously, removing a strap of her dress from her shoulder.
Harry merely gawped, caught between embarrassment and awkwardness and tried to avert his eyes.
"Wondering about that scar? Hah, you should have seen the one who inflicted it!" Elena smirked, clearly enjoying the situation as she ran a delicate finger along the ropy scar tissue. The same couldn't be said about Fleur, who chose the age-old and reliable method of protest, pouting. "It might have marred my beauty - slightly - but what was left of him did not even look human anymore."
"Mamie. You promised. No stripping and no seducing other womens' lovers while Papi is with you."
Now it was Elena's turn to pout, and a truly devastating pout it was, with centuries of experience behind it.
"I am just teasing you, little Flower. Come, both of you, into the living room and take a seat wherever you wish. Make yourselves at home." With this, Elena turned around, beckoning them to follow her.
Harry did so curiously, staring at the numerous paintings, vases, statues, and murals decorating the obviously well-loved home. To his embarrassment, though not so much surprise, many of the decorations were quite… lewd. From vases shaped as comely maidens, statues depicting an entwined pair of lovers in the act to a tapestry showing a number of people, impairs and groups, in various positions. With a blush, Harry recognized a few of the positions he and Fleur had tried and enjoyed. He also made a mental note of one that seemed… fascinating. Elena obviously enjoyed the finer things in life and her tastes were quite peculiar.
Now they were seated in the living room, Elena in a comfortable armchair while Harry sat on a loveseat. Fleur chose Harry's lap as the most comfortable place to sit down, not that Harry minded. It was to Fleur's approval that his hands snaked around her waist, eliciting what sounded suspiciously like a purr.
"Now, what brings you two lovebirds here, not that I mind having you over." Elena began, "And can I offer you a drink? Water? Wine? Mead?"
Harry and Fleur looked at each other and both asked for a mead. Elena simply waved her wand and, fortunately, merely small glasses of mead flew into their hands, instead of the drinking horns that Harry somehow expected to appear. The drink was sweet, delicious with an aftertaste of wild berries.
Another silent look followed, which for some reason brought a smile to Elena's face. Finally, it was Fleur who spoke up. "We need your expertise, grand-mère. Your knowledge, to be precise. Show her, 'Arry."
So encouraged, Harry withdrew his cloak from his robes, followed by a bundle containing the Resurrection Stone, which still gave him an uneasy feeling. He still dared not touch it for long. At last, he withdrew a long, knotty wand.
Upon seeing these items, Elena grew solemn and stared directly into Harry's eyes.
"Harry Potter, of the Potters from Godric's Hollow, right?" Upon Harry's nod, she continued, "So you have them all here with you. Do you know what they are?"
Harry reluctantly nodded and replied, "I think so. These are the Deathly Hallows. But I would like to know how my family came to possess one of them. Fleur recognized them." And here, pride gleamed in Elena's eyes as she nodded approvingly at Fleur. "And she led me here."
"It is good that she did, young Harry. Sit comfortably, have another mead and listen carefully, for it's quite a tale. Your family, the Potters have lived in Godric's Hollow for centuries, but it wasn't always the case. For all these years they kept the cloak in their family, a legacy they poorly understood.
They didn't always live there, however. It was your ancestor Hardwin who settled in that village, moving there from Stinchcombe. It was love that brought him to Godric's Hollow, for he married a witch of renowned beauty that lived there. Iolanthe, granddaughter of Ignotus, of the Peverell family. And it is through Iolanthe that the cloak passed into your family. An old, cursed mark of shame."
Harry appeared shocked by that pronouncement but Elena swiftly continued.
"The Peverells, the three oathbreakers, gained these artefacts. When Iolanthe's grandfather and his two brothers were young, they were ambitious and power-hungry. Yet they were skilled too, and their knowledge in things arcane truly stood out. They sought out even more power and knowledge and, in their daring, they settled on a plan. The legends tell of them meeting Death near a river and outsmarting it by building a bridge. Bah, as if!" She drained her cup with a hearty swig, "They sought to find their way to the realm of the Faerie King, but all the natural gateways were barred. So they made their own. Even today, the gateway still stands and functions in a way. It is an archway made of stone with a whispering veil hanging down. It is still being studied by your Ministry of Magic, but the skill and prowess of the Peverells eludes them still"
The surprises seemed to be far from over, it seemed, and Harry got a sinking feeling in his stomach.
"The Faerie King rules over the Otherworld, He calls it Annwn. No mortal may leave this realm alive without the King's permission. The King, Gwyn ap Nudd, is a warrior and he values valour. So, when the three wizards dared make their own way into his realm, he welcomed them as honoured guests. They further impressed him with their prowess and finally, they sought to enter into his service.
Gwyn ap Nudd decided to accept all three of them, such a good impression the three brothers left there, that three of the King's daughters agreed to marry the three brothers. The King agreed and as a dowry, he bestowed a gift on each brother."
At this point of the story, Harry felt Fleur wiggle a bit in his lap, trying to find a more comfortable position. Judging by the expression on her face, she had spent much time listening to her grandmother's stories. So he also tried to relax and watch Elena as she continued.
"And so the brothers returned triumphant, each a Knight of the realm of Annwn, married to a beautiful Fey princess and bearing a gift from the King himself. Each brother had to swear fealty to Gwyn ap Nudd. He is a fair ruler, so the brothers easily agreed."
Elena took a sip of her mead and focused on the story, a grimace of distaste twisting her features.
"The first brother, Antioch was to serve as a knight and hunter, seeking out and slaying those who would try to cheat death and upset the order of things as well as the servants of the Queen of Elphame, the King's sworn enemy. It was only for this righteous purpose that the mighty wand was to be wielded.
Yet Antioch was not a righteous man. In his hubris he raised the wand against his personal enemies, boasting of its wondrous power. He slew them, yet by this murder he brought dishonour to his liege, thus breaking his vows.
His wife left him over this betrayal and the wand became cursed, exaggerating both his bloodlust and tendency for boasting. Soon after, having boasted of his unbeatable wand, Antioch was killed in his sleep and his wand stolen away. It is due to his betrayal that it has cut a bloody swath across history."
Elena crossed her shapely legs, surreptitiously winked at Harry and continued with her story, while Harry squeezed Fleur in his lap. Fleur merely rolled her eyes at her mamie's antics.
"Cadmus, the second brother, was tasked to be the King's eyes in the world of the living. When his brother found enemies too numerous to defeat on his own, Cadmus was to use the Stone to contact a soul in the King's court and thus summon and direct the Wild Hunt. Again, it was to be done only against the King's enemies.
For a time this worked well, Cadmus had much time to fall in love with his beautiful wife and have a few children. Many a necromancer was brought to an end by the vigil of the second brother. But then Antioch died. Cadmus loved his big brother and in a quest for revenge, he found the identity of his killers. He proceeded to summon the Wild Hunt and direct them to find his brother's killers.
However, they were common rabble, not necromancers, nor sworn fighters of Elphame's Queen. Thus, his vow was broken as well. His wife, too, left him and the King's gift turned into a curse. Many a night Cadmus spent using the stone, calling for his wife. Whether she truly answered him or the stone merely conjured an apparition, nobody truly knows, but the intangible visions of his distraught and disappointed wife slowly led Cadmus to take his own life. The stone remained in his family, slowly driving each member insane or even to suicide."
Elena furrowed her brows here in sorrow and Harry had to avert his gaze too. The family with the Stone, they became the Gaunts, the pathetic wretches that gave rise to Voldemort. Elena released a sigh and took another sip of her mead before continuing.
"And Ignotus, the third brother, his task was to guard the hillock near Godric's Hollow, for it contained a large gateway to the Otherworld. It was through there that the Wild Hunt quite often entered our land. His cloak would allow him not to bring any attention to him during his long vigil as well as allow him to freely cross the boundaries to make sure that the way was clear.
His life proved quite peaceful and he gladly settled down in that village with his wife being an object of envy by most of the menfolk there. Yet it was clear that the great beauty deeply loved her husband and soon their children brought joy to the village. It didn't matter that Ignotus seemed strange and disappeared every day, the family was accepted into the community.
It was the deaths of his brothers that caused Ignotus to abandon his post and seek Cadmus' family to see whether they were doing well. Even so, he broke his oath to his King and so his marriage was ended too. But Gwyn ap Nudd is a fair ruler and he understands the duty one has to their kin, so the curse on the cloak did not lead to Ignotus' death. When he died, the King himself came for him and took him to Annwn, for Ignotus' wife missed him dearly."
Elena looked into her glass with a disappointed frown and turned it upside down. Not even a droplet of the mead remained, so she set the glass down on a nearby table and once again focused on Harry. Even had he had his doubts about Elena being Fleur's grandmother before, this focused look gave her such an uncanny resemblance to his lover, whose arms were wrapped around his shoulders, that the relation between the two extraordinary women became clear.
"Ignotus' eldest son had a daughter, Iolanthe, and as you've already heard, she married Hardwin Potter, a rather handsome man by all accounts."
Harry made use of the break in storytelling and asked the question that bothered him the most the whole time, "Excuse me, madame…"
"Call me Elena, dearie." Elena interrupted him with a coquetous shrug.
"Elena then, but how do you know all these things?
Elena chuckled in response and raised a perfect, silvery eyebrow. "How old do you think I am, youngster? I remember when it happened, of course. It was a big scandal, every Fey heard the story. I remember it well, it happened just after I buried my twelfth husband. Darling Alaric, the things he could achieve with his hands…"
Unbelievably, Fleur's face lit up with a blush, "Mamie…" It sounded like a petulant whine.
"Calm yourself, my Flower, I am allowed to reminisce, no? Very well, let's focus on the future and not on the past, hm? Now that you know the story, what do you intend to do, Harry Potter?"
Harry gulped, suddenly, Elena's gaze sharpened. Never had he felt under such intense scrutiny. With sweaty palms he finished his glass and ran his hand through his still messy hair, gathering his thoughts. After a moment, he replied, "Albus Dumbledore's notes led us to gather the Hallows. I admit, I feel uneasy in the presence of all three."
To this, Elena nodded sharply, "Good. At least you are sensitive. All three Hallows bear a curse after the Peverells' betrayals, even if the cloak is relatively benign. Tell me, Flower, is he brash, reckless? Does he shy away from the public?"
Fleur could only nod in reply, her eyes wide.
"You feel the curse of all three taking hold of you, young Harry. But, you have also managed to unite the Hallows, no small feat."
Harry tried to duck, even though his movements were restricted by Fleur sitting in his lap.
"Thank you, even if it was more fortune than skill. We need to find a way to defeat… the one who now rules Magical Britain. But, he has found some way to cheat death. Professor Dumbledore thought he did it using Horcruxes, but that turned out to be false."
Fleur caught his hand into her own and quickly kissed his cheek before speaking up herself.
"Oui, 'Arry. Don't sell yourself short, you did very well. I recognized the items, but knew you would know more, mamie. Could you give us some advice? Why would the 'Eadmaster of 'Ogwarts want 'Arry to gather three cursed items?"
"Bah," Elena scoffed in distaste, "Many people over the years tried to gather them. There is the foolish legend that whoever would manage to get the wand, the stone and the cloak would become the Master of Death. Stupid babbling of ignorant writers. As if any mortal could achieve that!" Elena shook her head angrily, "No, but still, the King wouldn't leave such cursed items in this world indefinitely. There is a way to break these curses. And do not fool yourself, these items, they are powerful."
While the thought of being thrice-cursed made Harry's blood run cold, Elena's words perked him up. "How should we go about breaking the curse on the Hallows?"
Elena's features hardened and she spoke in a serious voice, "If you wish to be free from their curse, you must succeed where their original owners failed. Prove that unlike the Peverells, you will not succumb to hubris, to blind revenge. Prove that you are better than the three brothers were."
Harry felt goosebumps sprout on his arms, "But how? How can I do that?"
Elena now turned her intense, predatory gaze at Fleur. "Tell me, little Flower, tell me of the young man you have chosen. Is his heart filled with courage?"
Fleur shifted under her grandmother's scrutiny but answered honestly, "Oui, I don't know a braver man."
"Good," Elena nodded, "Is he righteous? Could he stay his hand from harming the innocent, even when they anger him?"
Fleur simply nodded in response.
"Hm, what of his pride? Should he receive a task, would he keep at it?" Elena's questions now came at a rapid pace.
Again, Fleur nodded, "Oui, 'Arry is an 'onorable man, an 'umble man. Maybe a bit too much sometimes."
Now, Harry almost wished for the ground to open up and swallow him whole. Whatever he expected from this visit, his lover and her grandmother analyzing him this way certainly wasn't it.
Elena closed her eyes and mumbled to herself for a moment before nodding resolutely and again looking at them both.
"Very well, you, Flower, certainly seem sure of your man, good. I truly hope you are right. I will help you, lead you through a ritual and your Harry will get his chance to prove his qualities.
"What ritual, mamie?" Fleur whispered breathlessly.
Elena smiled mirthlessly, "Why, Flower, we will summon the King of the Faeries, the Leader of the Wild Hunt, Gwyn ap Nudd himself. It must be to Him that your Harry will have to prove himself."
A chill seemed to have settled in the room at that ominous proclamation. Even with his limited education, Harry had heard of the Wild Hunt, one of the omens of death.
"But how?" Harry asked.
Elena raised her eyebrow again, "I am a Veela, and here, in Brittany, I live in his lands. I am his subject. Therefore I know how to call to my King."
After that long and certainly exhausting discussion, Elena asked both Harry and Fleur to take a hold of her hands. She led them out of the house and towards the forest. At Harry's wondering look Fleur just nodded reassuringly and smiled sweetly, beckoning him to just go along. They reached the edge of the forest and were heading towards the largest oak. Harry wondered for a minute why they were going that way, but then Elena reached the shade of the tree, seeming to touch the trunk. The world shifted, it was a curious experience, mixing up sight, sound and smell. One moment seeing only a green canopy, hearing the cracking of wood, smelling the soil, the only constants being his hand, holding onto Elena. Suddenly they found themselves in the countryside near a gently rising hill, a gateway, as Elena told them beforehand.
Intense instruction followed where both Harry and Fleur had to learn positioning and manners to use during the ritual and after, when the King will arrive. Harry had a more difficult job, having to learn many words by heart. Still, they managed it and Elena, visibly satisfied, led them inside a circle of trees.
There, they each took up positions, forming a triangle. Fairy lights seemed to float into the circle as Elena started chanting in an unknown language. Her voice rose and fell in an enchanting melody. It was only their grim purpose there that kept Harry from being enthralled by the spectacle. Fleur, meanwhile, kept a wary eye on their surroundings, for any disruption of such a ritual could lead to dire consequences.
After a few minutes of Elena's song, Harry recognized the place where he was supposed to step in. Taking out his cloak, he spoke, willing his voice to sound clear and more confident than he felt.
"A holder of the cloak you gave away, of Ignotus' legacy, a holder of his shame has come to stand before you, O King, O Liege Lord. I beseech thee, grant this one an audience!"
Now Harry took out the Stone and carefully laid it on the ground, on top of his cloak.
"I hold the Stone you gave away, the Stone to call your Hunt, the legacy of Cadmus and his betrayal and I am here to stand before you, O King, O Liege Lord. I beseech thee twice, grant this one an audience!"
And finally, Harry brandished the Elder Wand, again feeling the tingling in his fingers. So he hurried to put it on the ground, next to the Stone.
"Here is the Wand, your Dowry, O King, the legacy of Antioch, the Oathbreaker. I came here to stand before you, O King, O Liege Lord. I beseech thee thrice, grant this one an audience!"
Wind picked up now and whipped the three in the tree circle. The fairy lights flitted around, seemingly in a frenzy and a peal of thunder sounded in the distance. Suddenly Elena quickly gestured at them, the meaning clear. Kneel! Harry was glad for the gesture, for over the sound of the gusts of wind, peals of thunder and cracking of trees, no word could be heard.
The three quickly dropped to their knees while the lightning strikes and peals of thunder increased in frequency, seemingly reaching a crescendo, until, with a final strike, a thunderbolt hit the middle of the clearing.
Suddenly, silence reigned, the winter stopped and the fairy lights fled the tree circle. Harry could only hear the quick, shallow breathing of both himself and his compatriots. And then… footsteps, heavy footsteps and clanging of metal.
A large figure entered the tree circle, yet Harry, nor Fleur dared raise their heads.
"In answer to your summons, I have come." sounded a deep, resonant voice with an otherworldly echo.
"My attention you have indeed earned. Now speak, lest it is my ire you wish to taste." The voice seemed to come from behind every tree. The air felt as if the pressure rose and beads of sweat rolled down Harry's face as he willed his teeth to stop chattering.
It was Elena's voice that rang in answer to the King's command, "My liege, I helped this young man call you."
A metallic chink sounded as the figure probably turned its head towards Harry.
"Look up and see me better, then," the booming voice sounded, again almost confusing Harry's senses. "For you have never seen the likes of me before.
And it was indeed true. The man, if he could be called that, whom Harry beheld resembled nobody in Harry's memory, standing tall and broad shouldered, with a powerful look, garbed in ancient looking armour. While Hagrid may have been larger, he doubted even his chances in a contest of strength with this being. On his head sat a helmet of an unknown metal crowned with a pair of antlers. His face was hard to see clearly, both due to the surrounding darkness and the shade of the helmet. On his broad shoulders was a colourful cape, a golden circular brooch on his left shoulder.
Remembering the King's previous warning, Harry haltingly spoke up, keeping in mind the quick lesson on manners from Elena, "O King, I have here before you the three gifts you gave out long ago to the Peverells."
The King's intense gaze seemed to drill into Harry's mind, making him subconsciously gulp, yet he couldn't recognize what colour the King's eyes were.
"To the brothers who broke their oaths to you, O King. I am to face a mighty foe, one that opposes you and tries to cheat death. We do not know how he will secure his immortality. Only that these three," Harry pointed at the Hallows, "are to play a key role. But the curse that lies on each of them would bring me to ruin before my foe could be vanquished. And so I called out to you, O King."
Harry tried not to quail under the King's weighty gaze and maintained eye contact, though he felt more terrified than when facing a Dementor.
"To bring before me these, to ask me to lift a curse I put on them myself, descendant of a traitor," Gwyn ap Nudd growled, sending shivers down Harry's spine, "You have courage. Or mayhaps you are a fool."
As it often happened with Harry, when the time for a direct confrontation came, he found his nerves. This time he simply shrugged, "I have been told both quite often, O King."
That seemed to amuse the being, for he chuckled, the deep sound resonating around the tree circle, "Indeed, Harry, son of James and Lily, you have."
"You know me?" Harry blurted out, hoping his voice didn't sound as high as it seemed to him.
"The Fey are my subjects, Harry Potter. You do not know how many surround you, no wizard truly does. I have heard of your courage, slayer of Serpents' King, of your will when facing Despair's Fiends. Of your bravery I have no doubt." Gwyn's mighty voice resonated, seemingly, deep in Harry's bones.
Even in the shadows, Harry could see the King's darkened face scowl.
"Yet bravery alone will not suffice to convince," Gwyn now turned to the so far silent Fleur, "So tell me, little Fey, tell me of Harry Potter. And stand, look at me."
Fleur, doing her best not to shake visibly, complied with the order.
"'Arry is a valiant man…" she began, only to be interrupted.
"I know this already, little Fey. Tell me, has he struck in anger when his cause was unjust?"
Fleur seemed to try to avert her gaze, yet at the same time she wasn't able to move.
"I… 'Arry told me of 'ow 'e cursed 'is rival years ago, yet 'e was provoked."
"Your loyalty to your chosen does you credit, little Fey, but tell the truth without embellishment," Gwyn chided Fleur, yet he sounded oddly gentle.
"'Arry struck first. But in the years that followed, 'e matured, left the boy and became a man. A man of his word," Fleur went on, her voice steadily growing stronger.
The King steepled his metal-clad fingers. "Indeed?"
"Oui." Fleur nodded, "A word once given, 'Arry does not break."
Gwyn's intense gaze seemed to hold Fleur hostage, but Harry dared not move now, too much depended on this going well.
"Now, little Fey, tell me of his heart. Brave he may be, honour his word he may, but is he a righteous man? Will he not shy away from a grisly duty?" he queried further, his resonating voice having an almost hypnotic quality.
"Non," Fleur shook her head feebly, "'Arry does not run, retreat yes, to fight another day, but fight 'e shall. For this reason, 'Arry is 'ere. 'Is foe, 'e is unjust."
"Ah," the King nodded, the movement seeming quite strange with his broad, antlered crown, "I have heard of this foe, nameless shall he remain. Good, not a word of lie you spoke to me. Indeed I have heard of Harry Potter. And I am glad the tales of his righteousness held true. Little Dobby spoke truly earnestly in your favour."
"Dobby?" Harry blurted out. He hadn't seen his little friend in a long time. Now he knew where Dobby vanished to.
"As I said," the King turned his gaze back to Harry, "Fey are my subjects. Little Dobby spoke fervently of your goodness, of your just nature. And had your lover tried to lie to me, I would have known. So, I know you keep your word. Oaths are sacred Harry Potter. Especially oaths sworn in a tree circle. I would have you swear an oath."
Harry felt his heart pounding as he listened to this otherworldly being, to a king of an entire world.
"Swear to me, Harry Potter, swear on your blood to be faithful to me, Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Annwn, to never cause me harm, to pay me my due honour and to stand with me against all foes."
Feeling the eyes of everyone present, the King, Elena, Fleur and a myriad of other Fairies, Harry straightened himself and looked directly into the King's fiery eyes.
"I so swear in good faith and without deceit." Just as he finished, Harry felt a weight settle on his shoulders, for he knew this was perhaps the most important vow he had ever sworn. Then another thing startled him, he felt the intimately familiar delicate palm of his lover taking his hand.
Eyes shining with intense pride, Fleur stood beside Harry, her back straight and posture fierce, "I too so swear, in good faith and without deceit."
There was a surprised gasp from Elena, but it was drowned out by a deep laugh, resonating and making all the leaves on the surrounding trees rustle. "Oh indeed? As is only proper, you stand together. As you have sworn together, should you break your oaths, you shall suffer together. Very well, Harry Potter and Fleur Delacour, I dub you a Knight and a Dame of the Realm of Annwn and charge you to remember virtues of friendship, of generosity, of courtesy, of modesty, and of bravery."
Even a year ago, Harry would have been shocked, would have protested Fleur taking upon herself such a risk. But at this moment, they had a strong trust, built up through adversity. He knew he wouldn't break his word, would never intentionally hurt Fleur, just as he knew she would never hurt him.
And now Gwyn ap Nudd smiled. It was a truly unnerving sight, yet for some reason, Harry felt reassured.
"The curses are now lifted. You may keep the Wand, the Stone and the Cloak and use them in your service." The King pointed at Harry, "And now, my Knight, it is time to start your duties. Your foe awaits, the one who scarred your brow and even now, the trace of his foulness remains in your scar. But worry not. With his departure from this world, that trace too shall fade. Do not hesitate, hold out the Stone, Harry. Name the foe to be hunted!"
Harry knelt and for the first time unwrapped the Stone, a rounded, smooth, grey pebble. As if guided by an invisible hand, he turned it around in his palm, stood up and thrust his arm towards his King, exclaiming loudly and clearly, "The foe's name is Tom Marvolo Riddle, the self styled Lord Voldemort!"
Lightning flashed at this proclamation, followed by a peal of thunder. Gwyn ap Nudd reached behind his back and took out a curved, decorated horn. He blew it, the sound echoing, changing, very much unlike how he imagined a horn should sound, Harry thought. There was a flash of light in the direction of the hill.
First came the clamor, baying of hounds, neighing of horses, the sound of hooves. A procession of glowing figures arrived, white-coated hounds , their shiny pelts reflecting the disturbing shine of their red ears, all being led by a wailing crone, Mallt-y-Nos. Countless riders, all wearing a spectral mantle, wielding spears and bows, arrived and stopped respectfully, not approaching.
The King turned to face the procession, smiling widely and greeted them in a booming voice. "Welcome, my Hunters. Let me introduce our newest Knight and Dame. We have our prey, but first, ready my horse and two others." Gwyn ap Nudd turned back to Harry and Fleur who both were trying their best not to stare. In the King's hands were two mantles, the same as what the other Hunters were wearing.
"I invite you, Harry Potter and Fleur Delacour, on this Wild Hunt, do you accept?"
Harry couldn't stop the wild smile that appeared on his face, even if he wanted. He knew he had to hunt down Voldemort, so this offer was no choice at all. In unison, Harry and Fleur accepted the mantles and threw them around their shoulders.
The world seemed to brighten to Harry, each colour now popping out to his eyes, each sound crystal clear, despite being mixed up. Gazing at Fleur, he noticed her features being sharper, her eyes turning amber, as if they belonged to a bird of prey.
Likewise, Fleur saw Harry's features sharpen, his eyes gaining an inhuman glint. While it was quite common for the sight of her lover to inflame her lust, the overwhelming presence of the King kept her in check so far. She managed to restrain herself as a Dame should before her King. Yet now, the sight of Harry made her muscles coil, ready to spring at a moment's notice.
Three glowing hunters brought forth three horses. One of those, a gigantic creature, black as midnight, was undoubtedly Du y Moroedd, for no other horse would bear Gwyn ap Nudd. Harry watched the hunter that brought a rather more normal sized mare to him. Despite the glow and the inhumanly sharp features, there was a familiarity in the shape of his eyes and his jet black hair too looked familiar.
"Have you ever ridden before?" the hunter addressed him in a friendly tone, despite his otherworldly voice.
Harry nodded, watching the magnificent animal who remained calm despite all the clamor.
"She is a calm one, won't buck you or throw you off," the hunter patted the mare's neck, "Don't you worry, kinsman."
Harry had no time to wonder, since both the King and Fleur have already saddled up. Not willing to tarry, he swung up on the horse, surprised by her calm demeanor and hoping it would last. He was determined to watch the riders around him to learn the proper gestures and noticed the same hunter winking at him and demonstrating the proper way to hold the reins.
Elena, in the meantime, took a few steps back and bowed to the King, who waved his gauntleted hand. She recognized the gesture as the dismissal it was and waved to Fleur and Harry before leaving. She really needed another drink now.
"And now, my Hunters," the King bellowed, the strange resonance still accompanying his voice, "Let this Wild Hunt COMMENCE!"
And with the wailing of Mallt-y-Nos, the howling and barking of the hounds and countless horns being blown, the procession rode off, lifting off into the air. It was unlike any flight Harry had ever experienced, the wind blowing in his face unable to dull his growing excitement.
With a final sharp, keening wail, the Cŵn Annwn were let loose. Immediately the pack ran off in several directions, leading the King to let loose a booming laugh. "And now we see, Harry Potter, the mystery of your foe's survival. Behold my Hounds! The best trackers of any world. See them run off. In each direction there is a piece of your foe!"
Harry felt his excitement dim a bit, puzzlement showing on his face and sneaking into his voice, "So he has made Horcruxes?"
The King shook his antlered head, "No mere trinkets. Observe in how many directions they run. No. Each prey of my hounds is a man or a woman. A man or woman marked with his brand. Every one of them had to accept him into their soul when they took that mark. An honour, they surely thought. And now, to bring down our foe, each and every one of these Death Eaters must meet their end. What a pretentious name! We shall provide them a hearty meal indeed!"
And with a mighty shout, the King bade the Wild Hunt forward, to follow the Hounds. With much clamor, the spectral cavalcade made their way across the skies as seers around Europe all collapsed and trembled. An ill omen was let loose on the world.
Despite having a broad range of magic available and being proud of their pure magical blood, this safe house stank of filth and mould. Even with the Dark Lord in charge of the country, of course he would be given an assignment in a place like this. Unlike Lucius, who had his money, or Yaxley, who was posted at the Ministry, he, Peter Pettigrew, was relegated to watching this dirty hovel.
Wasn't it him who sought out the Dark Lord? He helped him regain his power, but still the other Death Eaters looked down on him, sneered at him and called him a rat when they thought he wasn't listening. But he would prove his worth, and would show the Dark Lord who was a truly loyal valuable servant and who was just a power-hungry hanger-on. He was sure he would be able to track down James' son and lead his Lord to him.
Wasn't it him who led the Death Eaters in the assault at the Burrow, having memorized the protective enchantments on the home? So what if some Death Eaters fell to the Weasleys' desperate defense? It wasn't his fault Avery was incompetent, damnit! But no, it was Wormtail, watch the recruits here, in this lice-infested hole.
Was he just destined for everything in his life to go wrong?
Peter's bout of self-pity was interrupted by a noise from the outside, probably a pack of wild dogs running around. It sounded like they were running away, the barking growing fainter. Something must have driven them into a frenzy, such howling. Peter shivered, it felt wrong, but it wasn't a full moon, so it couldn't have been werewolves.
Anyway, it sounded like the dogs were going away, so Peter headed for the pantry, there had to be something he could eat or drink, it was time for a snack anyway.
He found only stale bread. Merlin, he was going to curse the fool in charge of food!
At least the recruits showed promise, not only proper wizarding pride. Each of them earned the Mark, demonstrating their mastery of the Unforgivable Curses on bound, hapless muggles.
There was a crash outside.
"Merlin's beard, what now?" exclaimed Peter in annoyance. Today just looked like one long annoyance. "Just what do you think you're doing, you dimwits?" Peter tried his best to roar intimidatingly, however, his voice refused to cooperate, sounding instead all too similar to a whine.
Instead of the expected answer or even any of the recruits reporting there was another crash followed by an infernal clamor, baying of hounds, metallic bangs and the wails, sounding worse than a Banshee. Finally he heard the recruits, screaming in horror and stammering out curses.
Rounding the corner, Peter beheld a scene the likes of which he thought he was done with after Dumbledore's death. Utter chaos reigned, the floor was strewn with the tattered remains of his recruits. White coated, snarling hounds were tearing what remained of the forces under his command into pieces while in the center of the entrance hallway stood a chariot, of all things, being pulled by black horses.
With trepidation he took in the detail of all the animals now watching him with glowing blood-red eyes. And in the chariot stood perhaps the ugliest crone he had ever seen, even the hags in Knockturn Alleys looked appealing compared to her. With a malicious sneer the crone pointed at him and revealed herself to be the source of the unearthly wail.
A rank smelling puddle was now spreading around Pettigrew as he tried to force his body to move, to lift his wand or at least to run away, but before he could lift his now leaden arm, one of the hounds, Peter dimly noticed them glowing, and were their ears really red? Before he finished the thought, the hound lunged at him. He managed to fend it off by smacking it with his arm, but another hound made use of the distraction and bit into his other arm.
The other hounds quickly followed, jumping on Pettigrew, bringing him to the ground. The last thing he heard being the high cackling of the crone as the maw of the lead hound filled his vision.
"Good, my Hounds," Mallt-y-Nos cackled, "bring me the soul of the traitor!"
The lead Cŵn Annwn, with surprising care, bit down on the mangled head of what used to be Peter Pettigrew and tore his ear off. The other Hound similarly went about their job and Mallt-y-Nos smiled crookedly as she added the ears to her necklace. She got many new pieces for her collection.
Headmaster Severus Snape, it had a nice sound, even if the reality was different from what he had dreamed of. His task was to keep the student population docile, make them willing to accept the teachings that he and his compatriots offered. But mostly he had to deal with a band of dunderheads every day.
As he sat in the luxurious Headmaster's Office, having removed the nonsensical trinkets of his predecessor, he rubbed his forehead as he contemplated using Longbottom's intestines in a new potion. That fool still refused to understand the situation and kept causing trouble. At least none of the Weasley brood were here. Otherwise, his patience would have long ago run out. Had the twins been here, he would have let the Carrows deal with them as they saw fit. He was under no illusion. The twins wouldn't have left the Carrows' office under their own power.
It seemed that Dumbledore's plan, relying so much on the Potter brat, failed, like so many of the foolish boy's efforts. He tried to map the boy's movements, but while he started according to the plans Dumbledore shared with him, Potter quickly proved incapable of following written instructions, just as Severus kept telling Dumbledore for years. Now nobody knew where Potter was, though there were traces of him from time to time, in the form of dead Snatchers.
Lupin had gone to the ground too and nobody knew what happened to Shacklebolt or Tonks. He probably needed a healing potion, or at least one for Dreamless Sleep. Just thinking about the hated werewolf was enough to hear an echo of howling. Severus shivered, ever since that night many years ago, he detested anything canine. Fortunately, the echo grew faint.
The Carrows were probably torturing the Lovegood chit right now, retaliating for her father's articles in the rag, under the guise of detention. Still, he managed to secure a position of power for himself, come what may, when this conflict ends, Severus Snape was going to have the prestige he truly deserved. After suffering through years of disdain from the majority of the student body, he was going to be remembered as a respected Headmaster of Hogwarts.
A tremor interrupted Snape's daydreams and almost threw him out of the throne-like chair. A loud scream tore through the school. The Caterwauling charm was tripped! Intruders! Was it Potter? Could he be so foolish that he would enter Hogwarts now?
Severus gathered himself and ran from his office, calling for his personal elf, "Matty, come to your master!" There was no reply. And so, cursing under his breath, Severus Snape ran through the corridors heading to the Great Hall, as was agreed with other teachers. Along the way he noticed that all the portrait frames were empty. What was happening? As if that wasn't enough, all the torches and chandeliers went out. And was it getting cold? Dementors?
Another noise cut through the air, mixing with the high pitched screaming of the alarm, other screams and yells, scared, pained. And was it… horses? What in Maeve's name was happening?
Finally, he arrived at the doors to the Great Hall, breathless and scared and blew the doors open. There was an absolute bedlam, students of all Houses were cowering at the edges, even those seventh years who took the Mark, Alecto Carrow was trying to create a barricade from the teachers' table while Amycus was… clutching an arrow sticking from his chest?
The clamor overwhelmed him now, the sound of hooves, neighing of horses, growling and barking of white-coated glowing hounds that mingled among the students, seemingly at random choosing ones to tear their throat out. And on those nightmarish black horses with blood-red eyes, sat strange, spectral, lithe figures with red glowing eyes too, wielding long lances and bows, watching the hounds choose students and from time to time loose an arrow. Just now Gregory Goyle stumbled, an arrow sticking out of his left eye. They were choosing the Marked students.
"Stop what you are doing if you hope for mercy!" Snape bellowed, addressing the central rider, a tall, graceful figure with long black hair.
"Mercy?" the figure's voice resonated around the hall, "From you? Heh, no, Death Eater. There shall be no mercy tonight."
And while the leader was speaking, three of his companions loosed their arrows at Severus. He wordlessly conjured a shield only to watch the arrows pass through without resistance. The shock of the impact sent him to the ground, loosening his bowels. Breathing became difficult with an arrow in each lung, while the third was sticking out of his thigh. The screaming Alecto trying to fend off three glowing hounds without much success was the last thing Severus Snape saw as life faded from his eyes.
When even Alecto's cries changed into a fading gurgling, the apparent leader raised his hand, "Stop! Our prey here lies dead! Hunters, collect the trophies!" Now he turned to the rest of the students and the petrified professors, "Do not interfere, lest you wish to join those fools who died tonight!"
Several hunters got off their glowing ominous mounts, drawing long, curved knives. Minerva McGonagall and Filius Flitwick watched their grisly work, gesturing for the remaining students to stand down, not wanting to risk further loss of life. It was fortunate that the hunters worked quickly and efficiently, so it was soon over. After the hunter remounted, the leader beckoned.
"The Hunt is not over yet! Huntsmen, forward!"
And as quickly as the Wild Hunt appeared at Hogwarts, it also departed, leaving many souls deeply shaken, wondering how something like that could have happened.
Only later in the evening did they find Sybill Trelawney, sitting in the corner of her quarters, shaking and swaying side to side. It took days before she was able to speak a single word.
It looked to be the end of another lazy day at the Ministry of Magic. The flow of visitors slowed down to a trickle. The last process with traitorous mudbloods for the day was finished and the Snatchers were returning to the building to give reports of their activity for the day. The resistance seemed to have died down too. At least Walden Macnair hoped that it was so. Was that the sound of barking dogs? No, impossible, it was probably just a long day. He was tired of having to hunt them down in their various rat's nests all across the country. While his axe got to taste blood from time to time, it was nothing compared to having the freedom to do as he wanted with his victims.
Dolores Umbridge was sitting in her office, arranging the reports of captured mudbloods into tidy stacks. Finally, she smiled at the kitten portrait on the wall, finally her table looked presentable. Another batch of those criminals were processed today. If only they had managed to catch that disgusting half-breed Lupin, but it was only a question of time. Similarly, the Weasley traitors seemed to have disappeared, but sooner or later, the eyes of the Ministry would find them. Finally, under new, proper management, the Ministry was working efficiently, dedicating resources to dealing with issues that truly mattered.
She was sure that there were still some traitors in the Ministry though, but she would reveal them. The old maniac, Moody, was certainly barmy, but she managed to procure his eye. With this she kept her subordinates under constant surveillance. Just one misstep would be enough, she would catch them soon. That nasty Potter was last sighted with the French half-breed who represented the Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. How that fine school had fallen. A half-breed headmistress, a half-breed Triwizard Champion. But when Britain was finally purified, Dolores was sure they would be able to assist France in that noble endeavor as well. The muggle interference in their world was finally coming to an end. As was proper.
Dolores was torn from her musings by a commotion outside. She opened the door to her office to scold her assistant only to stand there gaping as the sound of horns reverberated throughout the building. People were panicking, running to and fro, clearly they needed leadership.
"Quiet!" Dolores' saccharine voice sounded, only to be ignored. Stamping in anger, Dolores decided to go and see what the commotion was about, after visiting the Law Enforcement headquarters, of course.
Ordering one of the men she knew to be marked to follow her, she went after her target. However, instead of the orderly central of Britain's finest law enforcers she found only chaos and slaughter. The Aurors and Snatchers were mounting a desperate resistance while their foes, glowing mounted figures and white beasts seemed to easily dodge any incoming spells. Most of the Snatchers were lying dead, struck by arrows, torn to pieces or even trampled under the hooves of the nightmarish horses the intruders somehow rode right into the middle of the ministry.
"It's the Merlin forsaken Fey" Walden Maccnair bellowed as he desperately swung his axe, trying to clear more space around himself. One of the beasts, a red-eared hound lay whining at his feet and the rest surrounded him, growling but not daring to approach. "Iron, you maggots, use cold iron!"
But his efforts seemed to be in vain as the remaining Aurors broke rank, each desperately trying to fend off the hounds while making barricades to stop the mounted beings from charging. They saw how effective such a charge was, many of their comrades died impaled on the spectral lances.
"How dare you attack the Ministry of Magic," Dolores raged, flinging an explosive curse into the middle of the mounted formation, "Filthy beasts, you will learn your place!"
Yet her spell seemed to fade into nothing upon hitting what looked like a circular muggle shield. Dolores' initiative proved to be her undoing as several of the snarling hounds now lunged at her. The first bit into her wand arm, but only managed to tear off her sleeve, the second one however jumped on her chest while the third and fourth each bit into her leg. Dolores was going nowhere, and the snarling maw of the hound on her chest filled her vision. She felt the first hound bite her right hand and heard her wand snap.
Yet the hounds attacked no further, perhaps they were content to immobilize her? However, judging by the sounds, the situation looked bleak, Walden's bellows were drowned out by pained cries of their people, the frequency of spellfire was going down with each twang of a bowstring, until, finally, the wizards broke. She heard the rapid hoofbeats as the intruders charged. Walden's last desperate shout ended with a gurgle and the ugly, sharp sound of metal piercing flesh.
Everything was silent now, except for the panting of the beast sitting on her chest. And that hound now backed off. Dolores could for the first time in minutes see again, but her legs refused to obey her. As she lay and cursed her own weakness, she heard the hooves again, one of the monstrous horses and their riders approached her, stopping so the rider looked directly down at her face. He was handsome, or he could have been, had he been human.
"Though you bear no Mark, you interfered with our Hunt at your own peril. Our Hounds can smell your soul, stained with foul deeds." The being intoned, contempt clear in its glowing red eyes. "Curse now your foolishness and perish!"
The point of the rider's lance descended quickly, cutting off any reply Dolores might have had.
"Good work, Hunters. Take care of the wounded, this prey had teeth!" The leader exclaimed and a cheer answered him. "And collect the trophies! This night isn't done yet!"
They were in one of the most secure locations in magical Britain, and yet, Lord Voldemort felt a shiver running down his spine, sitting at the head of the table in the dining hall of Malfoy Manor, his most faithful and most useful servants watching him.
Lord Voldemort was no fool, he had long ago learned not to ignore these feelings, but it had to wait. Now, there could be now show of weakness. His Death Eaters were strong, but he was the most powerful. But after the feast, he would have to remind Lucius to re-apply the silencing charms on his kennels, his hounds could get loud. Fortunately it seemed they didn't find barking without anything happening too entertaining, so they grew quiet.
The Malfoys watched him quietly while the Lestranges did not bother hiding their adoring glances at his magnificence. And why should they. He arranged for the most powerful of his foes to die an ignoble death. The families openly defying him were shattered. He, Lord Voldemort was the undisputed ruler of magical Britain. Already, plans were forming in his brilliant mind to subvert the muggles. They were dumb, but destructive. Why not use that to his advantage, turn muggle against muggle, and let them destroy each other? They had the propensity for that anyway. The other wizarding countries would surely send their envoys with thanks for rescuing them from the muggles' yoke.
Still, something was wrong. The food should have already appeared. He looked towards Lucius who appeared unsure. What kind of pureblood tolerated such disobedience from his house-elves?
"Is there anything you have forgotten to mention, Lucius?" The outwardly calm tone of Voldemort's voice did little to soothe Lucius' nerves.
"No, my Lord," Lucius looked into Voldemort's eyes to prove his honesty. "Please, accept my apologies. I will personally punish my elves."
"Of course, Lucius," Voldemort waved his hand, "Lord Voldemort is magnanimous. But find out what the matter is."
The other Death Eaters started snickering and jeering, Lucius' reputation just took a major hit. Draco's glare seemed to lack any noticeable effect and was quickly quelled by Fenrir Greyback's leer.
But the mocking and jeering was interrupted by the sound of numerous horns, echoing seemingly from all directions. The gathered Death Eaters looked at each other nervously before looking to their Lord for leadership. Voldemort already had his wand in hand, his snake by his side. Barely did they manage to draw their wands when the main doors were blown off their hinges, the sound of horns growing deafening.
Then there was wailing, howling, growling, barking, the sound of hooves on the stone floor and in charged a cavalcade of glowing riders, led by an antlered figure mounted on a gargantuan steed black as night. A throng of white-coated hounds followed, then a chariot pulled by black horses with blood-red eyes, carrying the ugliest crone the Death Eaters had ever seen. Around her neck, the cackling being had a necklace made of bloody ears. And then another formation of riders charged in, loosing arrows and wielding lances.
Calling it a battle would be a misnomer, not many Death Eaters were ready to fight for their lives. The fright and shock slowed their reactions. Half of them fell to the first salvo of arrows and then the Hounds were amongst them, snarling, biting, clawing and tearing.
There was Rodolphus on the ground, twitching as a spectral hound bit into his throat, Draco was kneeling on the ground, wailing as he cradled his father, whose lifeblood was flowing from several wounds. His cries didn't last long as a lance pierced his throat.
Greyback tried to put up a fight, more beast than man, he charged the riders, not noticing several arrows sticking from his hulking body. But in his tunnel vision he missed two riders flanking him. A duo of lances impaled him from the sides, but still Fenrir tried to force his way forward. In the end, more lances found their target in his body, his corpse staying upright, supported by the shafts even while he breathed his last.
Bellatrix and Rabastan stood back to back, surrounded by snarling hounds, conjuring iron shields to protect themselves from arrows. It was a pair of hunters, a female with eyes like a hawk and a black haired male with flaming eyes, that charged them. Bellatrix and Rabastan perished, trampled by the black horses, their hearts pierced by long lances.
Finally, there stood only Voldemort with Nagini curled at his side, watching hatefully as the apparitions formed a circle around him. Whatever curses he had thrown, hadn't worked, conjured predators had been slain. He had even tried Fiendfyre when he had seen the battle had been lost, trying to give their victory a bitter taste, but the large, antlered figure simply blew its horn and all the flames vanished. Lord Voldemort now faced magic unlike any he had seen in his life and now he desperately sought a gap in the formation encircling him. But wherever he looked, he saw either a snarling maw, glinting spear tip or the cackling crone.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle, self-styled Lord Voldemort," the figure intoned with a booming, resonant voice, "your flight is over."
This proclamation did little to calm Voldemort's nerves. The obviously male figure's voice shook him to his core, his face, black as soot, showed no sign of mercy.
"No apparition such as you may defeat me, phantom," Voldemort impressively schooled his voice, "There is a prophecy. But, you are impressive. Let us lay down our weapons. We need not fight. We can join forces and achieve more together than separated."
The King of the Wild Hunt shook his head, "A fool to the end. Then die a fool."
The King's mighty lance impaled Voldemort's chest, piercing his heart. The tatters of Voldemort's soul wailed as Mallt-y-Nos cackled, collecting his pale, misshapen ear for her collection.
Compared to the rapid entry, the Hunt took their time with their departure. The Hunt was good, a reason for celebration, so they took their time collecting trophies. The chariot and hounds disappeared, a final wail announcing that Mallt-y-Nos was content for a time, the Hunters departed to a nearby hillock until only the King, Harry and Fleur remained.
"And thus the Wild Hunt is ended," Gwyn ap Nudd proclaimed, smiling and turning to his youngest Hunters. "You may return the mantles, should you wish to."
Harry and Fleur exchanged a silent look. The experience was otherworldly, exhilarating, but they nodded to each other and as if practiced, simultaneously removed the mantles. The changes that overcame them in that tree circle in Brittany seemed to fade, yet in both their eyes there was now a new sheen.
"You have questions, Harry. Ask." Gwyn ap Nudd encouraged.
Harry gulped, his throat suddenly dry, "Voldemort was right, there was a prophecy. How?"
"How is it that he died at my hand, then?" Gwyn allowed himself to smile. "I could tell you many things, Harry. Mayhaps because it was by your hand that the Hunt was summoned. Mayhaps with you being my Knight, I have a duty to you too?" Gwyn patted Harry on his shoulder, "Or maybe, as your elder, I took the duty on myself, my blood too flows in your veins, grandson."
Fleur gasped and touched Harry's cheek, "'Arry, Iolanthe…"
"You arrived at the truth," Gwyn ap Nudd kept smiling, "Iolanthe was the granddaughter of Ignotus and my daughter. Many generations may lie between us, mostly human blood may flow in your veins. But you chose to swear yourself to me."
Gwyn ap Nudd squeezed Harry's shoulder and let go, "But keep in mind what is important, my Knight and Dame. Tom Marvolo Riddle is truly dead. There shall be much turmoil in Britain yet, but I have faith in you. I charge you to watch over Britain. Should any attempt what your foe did, dispose of them. But remember, the best fight is the one you win." Here, Gwyn's gaze grew intense again, "If the rot of necromancy takes too deep a hold of the wizards, if too many fall to its lure, call the Wild Hunt. You do not stand alone."
Fleur joyfully embraced Harry at those words, putting her head on his shoulder.
"I will ask you to build your home near one of my gateways. I expect to be invited to your wedding. Mallt-y-Nos tells me she has a wedding present ready, a breeding pair of Hounds took a liking to you."
This caused Harry and Fleur to exchange a nervous glance.
"Do not worry, they know well how to blend in. And, Harry, Fleur, I expect you to visit from time to time. Now let us return to Brittany, Elena eagerly awaits the pair of you. Fare well."