Chapter 28


Hermione fastened her dark brown woolen cloak around her shoulders as she stood in front of the fireplace in her apartments at Hogwarts. She frowned in disapproval at her over protective husband, though she wasn’t facing him.


“You are to exercise extreme caution.” Severus frowned at her back. The daft girl was taking things far too lightly.


“I know, Severus.” She sounded as if they had gone over this a million times before. Perhaps because they had. She understood his unease, but he was starting to sound like a broken record.


“We have no proof of what this is.” he insisted.


“I know, Severus.” She turned and gave him a testy look.


“This is serious, girl!” Severus barked. “The Amazons and the Brotherhood can only be trusted so far.”


“They seem to truly want to help us,” Hermione reasoned, her cloak swirling around her as she sharply turned. “And what do they have to gain?”


“A bit too easy to convince if you ask me,” Severus grumbled as he fussed over Hermione’s cloak buttons. “And neither has asked for anything. Don’t you find that a bit strange?”


“Some people find knowledge valuable,” Hermione said testily, brushing his hands away. “This is an item from legend. And perhaps many think the bitterness between the Brotherhood and the Amazons has gone on long enough. If they combine their libraries they’ll be one of the most powerful organizations in the world. Ever think of that?”


“Perhaps.” Severus looked thoughtfully at her.


He actually had not thought of that. Cheeky wench.


“And Pieter is in the Brotherhood. Don’t you even trust your own cousin?” She fiddled with his tarnished silver cloak fastenings.


“Pieter is bound to the Brotherhood by ancient powerful magicks.” Severus frowned. “Those ties run far deeper than any blood relation.”


Hermione looked thoughtful. She stood back and examined Severus. “Why aren’t you in the Brotherhood if Pieter is?”


“I decided to follow the Dark Lord,” Severus said dryly. “Silly me.”


“Oh.” Hermione turned red.


Of course.


“It’s a wonder they’re even letting me participate in any of this,” Severus mused.


“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hermione snapped. She wrapped a warm beige colored scarf over head and pulled on her matching gloves. “They would have been foolish to use anyone else.”


Severus looked amused at his wife’s indignation. “Thank you, wife.”


Hermione sniffed imperiously at him.


Severus tried not to laugh. He was rubbing off on her.


He motioned to the jar of Floo powder near the fireplace. “After you, my dear.”


She threw a handful of powder in the fireplace and green flames roared to life. She arched an eyebrow at him as she stepped into the flames.


He wasn’t ever really sure if she knew why he laughed at her.




Hermione was surprised to be walking through an ornate stone fireplace sitting by itself on a floating plate of ice, much like the one she had ridden to the Amazonian tower the first time she had visited.


Severus handed Hermione a broom from a black iron rack that was placed nearby. There seemed to be a glowing ice cube in the distance and they had to get to it somehow.


“You can fly, can’t you?”


“Of course I can.” Hermione took the broom from him and glided easily upwards.


“I hear your first experience with a broom was not a pleasant one.” Severus chuckled.


“I was eleven, Severus. I have improved in many things since then.”


“One would hope so,” Severus sniffed.


He really was jumping up and down on her last nerve.


As Hermione flew to the meeting place, she noticed small yellowish glowing lights under the water. She knew it must be a security measure, but she shuddered to think of what it was.


She and Severus came to a soft landing near an arched door cut out in the cube of ice. Two men dressed in black were guarding the opening. They had no markings upon them so Hermione could only guess what faction they represented.


One held out a small water filled tank with a small orange fish inside. It glowed slightly.


“Good Lord.” Severus peered at the tank. “Is that what I think it is?”


The guard smirked, but still didn’t say a word. Severus plunged his hand in the tank and the small fish cuddled up to him. The guard motioned for Severus to walk through the door.


“What is that?” Hermione asked as she stuck her hand in the tank. The small fish cuddled up to her and she gave it a gentle stroke.


“A Pethar. Very rare. Allergic to Polyjuice Potion. So much so that if someone is under the influence they go against their normally gentle and friendly nature and try to get away.” Severus gave the tank a glance again. “I suppose he’s not up for sale after negotiations?”


The guard smiled and shook his head.


“Pity.” Severus walked through the doorway to the meeting place and Hermione followed him.


Hermione gasped as she entered the room.


They seemed to be in a room made of frosted ice. It was cool, but not cold. Hermione pulled her scarf off her brown curls, but kept it on. She hazarded a guess that they were floating on a slab of ice somewhere in the vicinity of the Amazonian tower. The lighting was satisfactory but dim.


Guards from both the Ministry and the Brotherhood stood at each of the windows. Hermione was sure from the presence of Alexandra and Nyssa there was at least one platoon from the Amazons present nearby.


The Ministry guards seemed to be made up of a mix of Aurors and people from the Department of Mysteries. They wore light grey robes made of some sort of silky material as uniforms and short circular hats of the same color with no brims. Hermione was surprised to see each of them had two wands on their belts. It made her a little nervous.


The Brotherhood guards were dressed in deep green velvet robes with black fur trim. Pointed shoulder pads jutted out dramatically and curled up, making the guards look like they had broader shoulders than normal. Gold piping embellished them. They all had shaved heads and wore woven gold and silver circlets with a red stone set into the forehead. Hermione spied black curly-toed boots poking out from under their robes.


A rectangular wooden table with a blank parchment on it lay between two benches. A white candle burned at each corner of the table. Silver runes etched in shells were inlaid around the edge of the table. Each end of the table had two heavy wooden chairs.


Red sealing wax slowly bubbled in a small brass cauldron above a single white tea light. A silver blade lay nearby.


“Hello, dear,” Nyssa greeted Hermione as she stepped into the room. “The Brotherhood has sent their security forces but their representatives have yet to arrive.”


A nearby Ministry guard, a short, stout man with wiry red hair that seemed to stick out in all directions, rolled his eyes as if he had heard much about the subject. Hermione tried not to giggle.


“The Amazons probably had scouts in place on our property weeks before you came to work in my laboratory,” Severus sniffed. Nyssa looked embarrassed. “I’m sure the Brotherhood is just as invested in their security measures.”


“Are we the first from England to arrive?” Hermione asked changing the subject. “Besides security, of course.”


“Yes,” Alexandra said before Nyssa started up again. “Your Ministry officials have yet to get here.”


“I believe Dumbledore is also coming,” Snape said as he whisked his cloak off dramatically. He folded it over one arm and approached the table. “Along with Arthur, of course.”


“He is such a pleasant man,” Nyssa said warmly as they walked to the table. “Now each of you sits at opposite ends.”


Hermione sat and was happy to find the wooden chair had been magically warmed and was quite comfortable.


Severus sat opposite her after placing his cloak on the back of his chair. The cauldron bubbled in front of him and orange and gold light played off his face.


Nyssa and Alexandra sat on one side of the table and Nyssa gave Alexandra a startled look as Alexandra flicked a grape out of her sleeve and popped it in her mouth.


“What on earth was that?” Nyssa demanded.


“A preservation bag sewn into the sleeve of my robes.” Alexandra snorted. “I told you they wouldn’t be here on time.”


Hermione let out a laugh and a small bell rung as they saw small green flames leap up in the distance. She turned and watched as Pieter and Nicolai made their way to the tiny island and were checked through security. They were wearing their normal burgundy robes along with tall black cylindrical hats.


“They’re on time enough,” Hermione said as Pieter and Nicolai took their hats off as they approached the table. “They’re earlier than the Ministry group.”


“Complaining already, temptress?” Nicolai sniffed. He seemed to be in his usual grouchy mood.


Hermione stifled a laugh.


“Oh for pity’s sake,” Nyssa grumbled.


Alexandra rolled her eyes. Although Nicolai had been put in charge of negotiations, it was clear he was never going to approve of the negotiations.


Pieter sat on Hermione’s right, leaving Nicolai near Severus.


“And how are you, dear cousin?” Pieter asked warmly as he pulled a piroshki out of his robes and handed it to Hermione. “Yuri would like to know when you and your barbarian of a husband plan on visiting Mageeya Topeek again.”


“Barbarian?” Severus said surprised. “What’ve I done to you?”


“Yes, barbarian!” Pieter rumbled at Severus. “How can you take a bride and not present her during Ball Season? It is uncivilized!”


Severus looked deeply offended. “I refuse to unveil her like a piece of chattel.”


Pieter waved his hand dismissively. “Ridiculous! She must meet the families we are close to! And it would make Anna happy to have a friend at the next ball.”

Hermione couldn’t imagine why Anna would be lonely at such an event. She looked at Severus.


“Be that as it may,” Severus harrumphed at Pieter, “Mother is expecting us in France. If you’ll remember, you were invited.”


The bell rang again and momentarily Arthur Weasley and Mrs. Longbottom walked through the door. Mrs. Longbottom was carrying a large ancient looking red leather bound book with brass fittings binding it together.


“Hello, everyone,” Arthur said cheerfully as he undid a gold silk tie and a deep burgundy curtain fell over the door.


Pieter and Nicolai nodded at Mrs. Longbottom politely. Alexandra and Nyssa stared openmouthed at the stuffed vulture perched on her hat.


Arthur introduced Neville’s grandmother. “This is Augusta Longbottom. She possesses what we believe to be the only written information about the shard from the time period when it was supposedly created. I had her bring this information today.”


Nyssa breathed in. “Incredible. Your records must be kept in impeccable order for you to find information this quickly.”


“Not as much as you would think.” Mrs. Longbottom walked over to the table and dropped the book with a heavy thud onto the parchment. “I enjoyed this volume in our family library when I was much younger and remembered the legend when the girl produced the pendant.”


“Convenient,” Nicolai said flatly. Pieter threw him a look.


Thankfully, Mrs. Longbottom ignored him. “Jared also talked about various sundries made from pieces of the bridge for sentimental reasons.”


She peered at Nicolai and made a face as if a strong, foul odor had passed under her nose. Hermione was just thankful he had not really been slapped. Mrs. Longbottom was not known for her patience.


The bell rang again and Arthur lifted up the burgundy curtain and peered out into the darkness.


“That should be Dumbledore,” Arthur said, dropping the fabric. “He was afraid he was going to be late. Business at the school.”


“Anything we should be concerned about?” Severus asked.


“Not at all. Something about a niffler loose in the Ravenclaw common room. Unauthorized pet, I’m afraid.”


Hermione chuckled. “At least it wasn’t one of ours.”


Severus wondered if she was talking about Slytherin or Gryffindor.


“I am terribly sorry,” Dumbledore said as he whisked through the door. He took his pointed purple hat off and brushed dust and ash off of it. “It looks like my lateness has been holding things up.”


“Not at all, Professor,” Hermione said.


“Yes, we were just getting started,” Nyssa said warmly as Alexandra got up to give her father a kiss on the cheek.


“I take it you have already read the journals before us,” Nicolai said looking unsettled.


Hermione guessed he was not the type of person that liked surprises.


“Actually, no,” Dumbledore confessed. “I do have a school to run, Nici. Occasionally I don’t have the time to page through the journals of Pure Blooded families.”


Hermione looked at Severus. From the glance he gave her, he hadn’t known that Dumbledore knew Nicolai either, let alone well enough to call him Nici.


Nicolai threw Dumbledore a filthy look, but seemed to lose some of his pompousness.


Pieter laughed heartily, but didn’t look surprised at all. He clapped Nicolai on the back, nearly knocking him forward into the table. Nicolai looked distinctly annoyed.


“You have not changed much since your second year at Durmstrang, I take it?” Pieter boomed merrily.


“Some of us find genealogical histories interesting.” Nicolai sniffed.


“Exactly!” Mrs. Longbottom broke in as she opened the book. Hermione winced as she heard neglected leather binding crackle. “I spent hours reading these as a girl during my summers home from Hogwarts. This was one of my favorite stories.”


Nicolai looked at her with a bit more respect than he had before.


Hermione still wondered about the ‘Durmstrang’ comment.


“A lot of the items would simply sing a family epic. I suppose the magic would have drained from these by now,” Mrs. Longbottom said thoughtfully. “Some held Valkyrie song, but since none of you have gone mad or deaf, I’d suppose that one’s not applicable.”


Severus shifted uneasily in his seat. The Jotun made him nervous. Period. Combine the Death Eaters with Monty Python’s  surrealistic sense of humor and you have the nicest of the Jotun. There was no reason they wouldn’t find the torturing of a descendent of a god amusing. They might even find it worthy of a festival day.


“The patterns of flashing lights indicate something is written in the language of Light and Dark,” Mrs. Longbottom explained.


She looked accusingly at Nicolai. He attempted to look innocent. He failed.


“What do you know?” Mrs. Longbottom snapped at him.


“Whatever do you mean?” Nicolai said lightly.


Pieter frowned at him.


“You bring me as a representative, bring my family from two countries into this plan, put my reputation and integrity on the line, and you have withheld information?” Pieter’s voice steadily rose until it was a dull roar.


Hermione suddenly felt sorry for Pieter’s children when they finally pushed their father over the edge. Nicolai flinched in spite of being Pieter’s superior. He had obviously hit a nerve.


Everyone at the table stared at Nicolai.


“It’s a key. Not like you wouldn’t have found out eventually anyway.”


“Is that what your big secret is?” Mrs. Longbottom sniffed. “We thought you knew something interesting.”


Nicolai looked outraged. “You knew?


“Key to what?” Hermione interrupted before war broke out.


“We’ve just gotten a glance at it; we haven’t been able to read the message yet,” Nicolai admitted. “For all we know, the magic has decayed and the message is incomprehensible. We don’t know the skill of the witch or wizard who made the item. And we didn’t get to test it to prove it’s a piece of the bridge. Everything we had was purely speculation.”


Severus tilted his head at Pieter. “Although it may be considered unscrupulous to withhold information, this was just a theory. A theory that panned out, but just a theory nonetheless.”


Pieter still glared at Nicolai, grumbling under his breath.


“So now let’s negotiate,” Dumbledore said.


He stood by the table as the others hammered out the details. When everything was finished and etched onto the parchment each of them pricked themselves with the silver dagger and let three drops of blood flow into the sealing wax.


Nyssa and Nicolai chanted a spell over the cauldron of wax and the color turned grey.


Pieter pulled a wooden box out of his robes. When he opened it Hermione saw there were four brass seals in it. He handed one to Dumbledore, one to Nyssa, one to Nicolai, and one to Arthur.


Nyssa poured four dollops of wax at the bottom of the page.


Hermione watched as the seals pressed into the wax: Phoenix, crossed arrows, crossed wands, and a book and a sword. They all had the initials ‘EA’ flourished in the center.


“What is ‘EA’ for?” Hermione asked.


Eastern Alliance,” Pieter said proudly.


“Did you make these?” Severus asked, taking the Phoenix one from Dumbledore.


“Misha did help a bit,” Pieter said, puffing his chest out with pride. “He has been spending a lot of time with my first metalworking kit. It is adorable.”


Nicolai sighed at the mention of Pieter’s children. Hermione speculated he had to hear about them all day.


Nicolai pulled a scroll case out of his robes and pulled out a red lacquered scroll case. When he unrolled the parchment contained in it and laid it on the table, small bolts of lightening ran through it, flashing the colors of the rainbow.


“Lay your hands on it,” Nicolai said.


All who were not from the Brotherhood, including Mrs. Longbottom, reached out and touched the page.


Hermione saw multi-colored stars flash in front of her eyes. When the flashing stopped, she removed her hands from the page.


She felt slightly disoriented, and shook her head slightly.


“That was the language of Light and Dark. The language of Fire and Stone will be a bit more difficult to learn. We will meet next Saturday night. Then there will be a full moon. This time at a place of our choosing.” Nicolai picked the parchment back up after everyone had finished. He rolled it tightly and stuffed it back into its scroll case. Then he tucked it into his robes.


“Here is a copy of the prophecy,” Nyssa said, fishing a blue leather scroll case out from under her robes. “Translated and a copy of the original that you may check for any mistakes that may have been made.”


“Thank you,” Nicolai said, taking the scroll case gently from her and tucking it under his robes. It was the first civil thing he had said to her.


“After the Saturday exchange we will release the spell keeping the whales away from you,” Nyssa said.


“Good!” Pieter clapped his hands together. “Then may I suggest we have a viewing and observational analysis of the relic on the Tuesday after. Anna can pack us a nice dinner.”


“As if that poor woman doesn’t have enough to do!” Hermione said testily. “What are you thinking?!”


Pieter laughed a big booming laugh. “It is her joy!”


“Anna used to prepare banquets before she got involved with this fool,” Severus explained, throwing a look at his cousin. “When she has the opportunity to ply her craft Pieter takes the children away. Once her spells are going I hear she finally gets peace and quiet.”


Hermione relaxed a little.


“I know she would like company…” Pieter hinted at Hermione.


Hermione suddenly got the idea Pieter was trying to get Anna to talk to her about Ball Season.


“I’ll be glad to stop in to see her,” Hermione said, smiling.


Severus looked decidedly grouchy about this.


“Wednesday is better for us,” Alexandra said and she consulted a silver pocket watch she had pulled out of her robes.


“Wednesday, then,” Nicolai said.


“We can meet at the Ministry for that,” Arthur said. “We have the best place for that, I think.”


“Perfect,” Nyssa said smiling.


Dumbledore rolled the large parchment outlining the agreement of the new Eastern Alliance up and put it into a long, brown leather scroll case. “I think, ladies and gentlemen, that we may call this a successful evening and declare it time to retire.”


They shook hands all around and flew back to the fireplace, taking turns taking the Floo back to their respective homes.


“See you in the morning!” Dumbledore said cheerily to Hermione and Severus as he tossed a handful of powder into the flames and disappeared.


“Wonderful,” Severus grumbled as he reached for a handful of powder. Hermione chuckled.


Even with everything going according to plan, he could find something to complain about.