Marriage Law Chapter 24
Hermione bustled about the ballroom fidgeting. She was waiting for the Amazonian contingency that was due to arrive to analyze the shard.
Sloozhanka shook her small head as she watched Hermione fuss over small pink flowers in a vase near a window.
Their bickering had started this morning when Hermione had insisted in wearing ‘inappropriate clothing for guests of this magnitude.’ Hermione had tried to explain that she knew the Amazonians that were coming on a bit of a more personal level and semiformal dress robes were inappropriate for working in.
“These women are madam’s friends, yes?” Sloozhanka asked.
“More like colleagues,” Hermione said, wondering of Sloozhanka knew what ‘colleagues’ meant. The flowers kept sagging on the right side in a most uncooperative way. Hermione took her wand out and perked them up a bit. “We are working together and have developed a camaraderie.”
“Madame is in a fine family now,” Sloozhanka said, placing her tiny fists on her hips. “It is not necessary for Madame to work.”
“Madame likes doing something,” Hermione said in an annoyed tone, turning to face the elf. “Madame would go batty with nothing to do. Working is interesting.”
“There are plenty of things to do,” Sloozhanka insisted stubbornly. “Ball season is almost upon us and Madame hasn’t even begun to prepare herself.”
“Beg pardon,” Hermione said taken aback. What on earth was ‘ball season?’
Green flames leaped up in the fireplace. Lexi, Asta, and Nyssa stepped through the flames into the Snape ballroom.
“Madame has a responsibility to represent the family socially when the season starts,” the little elf snapped briefly before disapperating with a small pop.
“What on earth was that about?” Lexi asked confusedly.
“I’m not entirely sure I want to know.” Hermione has a slightly horrified look on her face.
Asta projected an image she must have gleaned from Sloozhanka’s mind. Women and men in dress robes swept across a large floor to a classical piece of music. There was an image of Anastasia and Jacob much younger and laughing in an alcove as a very young Severus pirouetted in front of them in very tiny dress robes and tiny curled toe shoes.
“Oh, good lord,” Hermione muttered under her breath, in spite of the terribly cute version of Severus.
“As if you need any more to do,” Asta remarked.
Hermione made a mental note to ask Severus about Occlumancy.
“Where’s that husband of yours?” Lexi peered about. Asta shuffled her feet on the floor and was delighted with the wave effect of the ballroom floor.
“Preparing his lab.” Hermione bowed slightly to Nyssa who returned the formality with a small smile. “He’ll be ready to receive us and begin as soon as you’re ready.”
“I want to see a man!” Asta said to Nyssa excitedly. “Are they very tall?”
Hermione blinked. Asta had never seen a man. The chances Nyssa had seen one was minimal as well. This could be interesting.
“My husband is fairly tall,” Hermione said slowly as she led them from the ballroom. “Some men are very small. Just like some women are very small.”
Asta looked disappointed. Hermione wondered what she had heard about men.
Hermione would have loved to walk them through some of the finer rooms to an extraordinary laboratory, well lit with a high ceiling and spotless instruments whistling and whirring.
Unfortunately, a sullen teenage Severus had decided his lab was best tucked away in a subbasement.
An embarrassed Hermione led the women through the kitchens as they made their way to the basement entrance.
“What is that?” Asta demanded as Hermione reached for the brass knob on the basement door. She turned to see Asta pointing at a bowl of fruit.
“What is what?” Hermione asked.
“Asta!” Nyssa hissed, embarrassed.
Asta looked reproachful. She pointed at a piece of fuzzy orange fruit in the bowl.
“A peach?” Hermione asked blankly.
“Peach.” Asta rolled the word around in her mouth. She put her face near it and inhaled deeply. “What are they for?”
“It’s fruit. You eat it.” Hermione tried not to look confused.
“So it’s not just for scent?” Asta asked tentatively reaching out a hand to give the peach a poke.
Nyssa slapped Asta’s hand. “Stop that.”
Hermione laughed. “I’ll be sure to have peaches added to lunch. I think you’ll like them very much.”
Nyssa looked thankful for the quick solution to a distraction. Hermione had a feeling Asta would have many questions about many things, but Wizarding Studies was not the reason the Amazons were here.
Hermione finally broke down as they made their way through the pantry. “I’m sorry for the informality.”
“I wish you had to walk through the kitchens to get to our lab,” Lexi laughed as she bit into an apple she had pinched out of a bin.
Kari had opted to stay at the Snape estate for a few weeks following the Final Battle, just to make sure it really was all over. Lexi had visited a bit and had become very comfortable, although Hermione and Severus had been working at Hogwarts and had not been able to join them.
Nyssa sighed resignedly over the younger Amazon’s behavior. Hermione patted her on the shoulder and the older woman smiled wearily. “Sometimes it is like getting kittens to obey.”
“I know what you mean.” Hermione thought of Harry and Ron when they were younger.
The women would their way through the levels of sub basement until they came to a heavy wooden door with a much worn, dusty Slytherin crest on it. Hermione knocked.
The door swung open to reveal Severus puttering about, lighting Bunsen burners and stoking small fires of different colored flame held within stone bowls that ran along a polished black counter.
“Is that Archimedes Light!” Nyssa exclaimed, all protocol aside. She scurried up to examine the contents of the stone bowls.
“It is.” Hermione could have sworn Severus smirked for a moment.
“Asta! Come here!” Nyssa barked.
Asta stepped forward and licked her lips at the sight of the bowls. Hermione felt nervous. Archimedes Light was highly volatile. She wasn’t even sure why Severus had prepared samples.
“This is a fine example!” Nyssa went on as if the others weren’t in the room. “The Jotun used to be masters of Archimedes Light. Once lit, it needs no fuel. Once burned by it, you will be forever scarred.”
“It smells wonderful!” Asta said, practically swooning.
The others looked at her quizzically. There was no smell.
“You smell something?” Nyssa asked?
“Like daydreams and nightmares!” Asta said excitedly. “Wishes and hopes and desires and secrets!”
She picked up a bowl and inhaled deeply. Snape moved to take it from her before she hurt herself, but he watched as the flames licked her face harmlessly. She should have been screaming. He looked at Nyssa, but she looked bewildered.
Before they could do anything, Asta lifted the bowl to her lips and gulped the contents down.
Nyssa let out a tiny scream. Lexi dropped her apple and covered her mouth with her hands.
Asta stood there for a moment. Then she burped. Tiny bolts of lightening shot out of her mouth. She looked embarrassed.
“I’m so sorry. Don’t know what came over me. That was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.”
“Good Lord,” Severus swayed a bit on his feet.
“How do you feel?” Nyssa demanded. She had grabbed Asta by the forearms and was practically shaking her. She looked terrified.
“Like your head does after your third cup of tea in the morning.” Asta said. She looked slightly giddy.
Nyssa let go of Asta. “Years with you and we still know practically nothing.”
“I didn’t know either.” Asta reasoned with her. “But it was lovely. Do you think maybe I can have another?”
“Hello, Severus,” Lexi said, finally acknowledging him as she searched the floor for her apple. “And how has your morning been?”
“Hello,” said Severus, weakly. “Fine, with the exception of your friend gulping down toxins like cocktails. Any more surprises for me?”
“What’s a cocktail?” Asta asked inquisitively.
“Nothing you need,” Hermione interjected quickly. “Ever.” Severus raised an eyebrow. “Just try not to drink any more fire until we’re done using it.”
Asta seemed to be pleased with the idea of another tasty drink later. Nyssa looked at her suspiciously. Hermione wondered if Asta was a little drunk. Severus seemed not to mind and gave Asta a bowl of fresh peas to shell to distract her.
“What is that for?” Nyssa asked Severus quietly as she kept an eye on Asta.
Hours later Severus and the ladies made their way back to the kitchens. Asta was giddy with 4 cups of Archimedes Light. Severus had reasoned it was easier than trying to dispose of it and Nyssa had given up protesting.
The research had been discouraging. They knew nothing more about the shard, except it didn’t seem to react to anything at all. As far as Severus could tell it was nothing more than an indestructible night light.
“Well, you can’t expect them to relinquish a powerful magic item,” Lexi shrugged.
“But it’s a piece of the rainbow bridge,” Nyssa insisted. “It’s sacred. There has to be something we’re missing.”
“The path to the other planes may have been a sacred thing to the humans, but it was just a road to the Gods until it was shattered,” Severus shrugged. “Albeit a road with very limited access.”
Nyssa looked at Severus skeptically.
“I think it’s time to consult the epics,” Nyssa said slowly.
“We don’t have access to the epics.” Asta was sniffing at a plate of cut up peach curiously. “Brotherhood holds the epics. Too bad they can’t read them.” She gave a buzzing giggle as she reached out a finger and roasted the peach with a small snap of lightening from her fingertip.
Severus and Hermione glanced at each other. It was apparent neither of them had a clue and neither of them were sure it was appropriate to ask.
“You have family in the brotherhood.” Lexi leveled a look at Severus.
Asta looked at Hermione. Hermione saw every reference to Pieter she had in her mind flash before her eyes.
“What in blazes was that!” Severus thundered as he shook his head.
“I think she may have a bit of a control problem when drunk.” Lexi looked apologetic.
“You ripped right through my barriers!” Severus accused.
“What barriers?” Asta slurred slightly. “Can we go to the lake later?”
Nyssa looked alarmed as Asta swooned. Severus leaped forward and caught Asta before she banged into the kitchen table. She snored loudly.
“Dear God!” Nyssa looked annoyed.
“We can have her moved to a bedroom while she sleeps it off.” Hermione tried to look hopeful. “Severus can see if he can get a hold of Pieter.”
Nyssa relaxed visibly. Hermione wasn’t sure if this is from the tentative offer of help from the brotherhood, or avoiding taking a drunken Asta back to the Amazons immediately.
Green flames leaped in the ballroom fireplace and Hermione, Lexi, and Nyssa curtsied as three representatives from the Brotherhood strode through the flames. They had agreed to meet at such short notice, but seemed offended they were not informed of the pendant when it was first acquired. .
Pieter looked very handsome in the robes the brothers wore. They were a thick fabric of burgundy and black.
The older gentleman in the party looked stern as his eyes fell on Hermione. He was taller than Pieter, but nearing an elderly state. His white hair was cropped close to his head and his skin looked as if he didn’t see the sun much.
The third man was Viktor Krum. He winked at Hermione as they bowed back to the Amazons.
When this formality was done, Viktor stepped forward and scooped Hermione up in a hug. She squeaked in surprise. She saw Severus frowning deeply out of the corner of her eye.
“Viktor!” Pieter laughed. He stepped forward to shake the hand and kiss the cheek of Lexi. “Put my dear cousin down! We are supposed to appear mysterious and regal.” Anna had insisted the girls come visit during their visit after the Final Battle and Pieter was quite fond of Lexi and Kari.
“Don’t know why I even bother.” The elder man shook his head. Nyssa looked at him sympathetically.
“Let us see this bit of jewelry you carry.” Pieter peered at Hermione. “It seems that Muggle bloodlines can be far more valuable than we formerly gave them credit for.”
Viktor gave Hermione a proud look as Pieter shot a look at the older gentleman. Hermione wasn’t surprised the Brotherhood had prejudices against non magical people. Most of the time they were so isolated they had no cause to come in contact with Muggles.
The older man stayed silent, but looked at Hermione, waiting for her to show the pendant.
Hermione pulled the silver chain with a leather pouch wrapped around the pendant from beneath her robes. She fought her hair as she pulled it from over her head and handed it to the older gentleman when he held his hand out.
Pieter breathed in as the pouch was removed.
“Extraordinary.” The grey haired man squinted at the lights inside. “Have you figured out how to read it yet?”
“Read it?” Hermione whispered faintly.
“It seems as if we have some translations to trade.” Pieter looked at the older man meaningfully.
“It seems as if we may.”