A little girl was laughing happily in the sunshine as fire hit his lungs. Artemis could see the murky waters surrounding him, embracing him, and yet he could feel a fairy dust potion overtake his veins, images flashing before his eyes. Just before he succumbed to it, Artemis wondered if he had overdosed somehow and now, in a place flooded with fairy magic, it was resurfacing in his blood stream and taunting him with images.
He closed his eyes against the blue-green water and sank deeper beneath the waves. Artemis knew Holly warned him if something could have gone wrong so, despite the fear that suddenly gripped his heart, he fell into the memories, his body somehow managing to swim deeper as he breathed in the water as if it were air. Then, in a moment, he lost himself completely.
The girl flashed before his eyes again, dancing happily within the garden. Long blonde hair flowed behind her. She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old and she rushed about the flowers happily until she came upon a weeping willow. She stilled and took in the sight before her, of a beautiful and stately looking woman with the same hair and a soft haunted smile on her face.
“Maman?” she inquired. “What’s wrong?”
The woman looked up and her smile brightened slightly, but it was almost forced.
“Gabrielle, darling. I didn’t see you there,” she murmured and then indicated that the child should sit beside her. “What have you been doing today?”
“Writing a letter to Fleur,” she responded. “There’s going to be a tournament. Did you know, Maman?”
“Yes, I did, ma petite,” Mrs. Delacour sighed. She glanced down at a moving photograph in her hand and Gabrielle leaned over, following her eyes. In the picture were two young girls, one a younger Mrs. Delacour and the other a beautiful young witch with strawberry blonde hair and striking green eyes. The two were dressed in formal robes, and yet the photograph was casual. Their fingers were entwined as the blonde haired girl laughed at the photographer happily, perhaps at some joke or a thought that had passed through her mind, while the second girl in her pale blue robes only had eyes for her friend and looked at her as if she couldn’t believe that such a beautiful creature would ever wish to be seen with her.
“Who is she, Maman?” Gabrielle inquired and Mrs. Delacour tensed for a moment, before setting the photograph away from her.
“A dear friend from Beauxbatons,” she responded. “Her name was Amarante.”
Gabrielle reached out for the photograph and gently traced the laughing girl’s face for a moment before innocent blue eyes looked up at her mother. “I do not think I have met her.”
“Non,” Mrs. Delacour responded after a pause. “She died long before you were born, petite. She knew Fleur, however, the one time she saw her.”
“Just once?” Gabrielle asked in confusion. “Why just the once, Maman?”
“We had an argument just before I married you father,” she reluctantly answered, as if choosing her words carefully. “I wanted her to be a bridesmaid, but she refused. It was only when I begged her to be Fleur’s godmother that she even came—and even then she refused the honor.”
Mother and daughter lapsed into silence. Gabrielle’s attention remained focused on the moving picture, her expression pensive as she possibly turned her mother’s words over in her young impressionable mind.
“You miss her,” Gabrielle suddenly realized.
“Yes, I suppose I do,” Mrs. Delacour murmured. “I loved her very much once.”
Loved. The word hung between them, one too young to fully understand the full meaning of such a word and the other trapped in the memories of a love that was no longer.
Gabrielle nodded sagely, despite her young age. “Well, Maman, you have Papa now,” she reasoned naïvely, but Mrs. Delacour only laughed sadly.
“That I do, Gabrielle. But we must never forget those who move on. The dead should remain remembered, my darling.”
“Of course, but I do not like to see you so sad.”
The wind murmured around them and the leaves of the weeping willow rustled as they moved in a gentle dance.
A flash of an emotion, too old for such a young child, flashed in Gabrielle’s ice-blue eyes. “You should not look at the photograph anymore, Maman,” she commanded. “It makes you sad—you love Papa.”
Madame Delacour’s breath hitched at the firmness of her child’s words and guilt momentarily flashed across her beautiful face. “Of course I love your father,” she chided, but her words rang hollow. “I always have.”
Gabrielle looked dubious at her mother’s assertion and instead plucked the photograph from the grass. “You are hiding this for some reason,” she said to herself and then passed it to her mother. “Je ne comprends pas.”
Getting up, she smoothed he robes around her, her eyes avoiding her mother’s stiff frame as she remained beneath the weeping willow tree.
“Why do you not cry, Maman?” Gabrielle asked innocently. “The tree cries around you and you are sad.”
“I cried all of my tears a long time ago for Amarante,” she responded after a moment. “Still it does one good to remember.”
“I suppose so,” the child answered after a moment. “I remember Fleur when she is away.”
A smile, slightly more genuine, passed over the mother’s face. “Yes. You remember Fleur when she is away, as I remember Amarante.”
“Oui,” Gabrielle began hesitantly. “However, I remember Fleur as my sister and I love her like that. I do not think from the picture that you loved Amarante as a sister. I am right, non?”
Two ice blue gazes met and a silent message passed between them, stretching out for several minutes.
“I think, Gabrielle, you are too young to know about such things,” Madame Delacour reprimanded.
Gabrielle only shrugged. “I know of you and that lady of the foreign minister,” she asserted, “and the wife of the banker, and the Muggle model that you would not bring around the house because of the moving portraits, though you brought the others.”
Madame Delacour gasped. “How did you—?”
“We were in the house, Fleur and I,” Gabrielle responded, a hurt expression in her eyes. “Sometimes it is like you do not even remember, just because you leave us with house elves.”
Then, with a rustle of her robes, Gabrielle was gone. Madame Delacour stared after her, the photograph lying momentarily forgotten in the grass.
The scene changed, flooding with blue water and grasping grindylow fingers, that Artemis broke easily as he swam through the waves. He felt the fairy dust hum in his blood and then succumbed to the darkness once again, ice-cold water burning his lungs as he drank it in, breathing strangely in his enchanted state.
Sirius Black was stretched out on a rumbled bed that was dusty with disuse, wearing only pajama bottoms. His ribs were almost concave he was so thin, but he only looked a year or so younger than he did now, although grimier, his eyes wild with want and need as his hand slithered down his chest. He tweaked his own nipple and he groaned into the half-darkness before his hand slid lower.
It was sickening and yet the scenes continued to flash before Artemis’s eyes as he swam deeper into the lake. He wasn’t present, he couldn’t turn away as a stiffening cock was released from the pajamas with a groan, and a strong hand grabbed the length, moving up and down harshly.
Artemis had never seen something so primal and yet so wrong. Sirius Black’s head was tipped back, his unwashed hair falling across a dusty pillow, half formed words escaping from his lips: Harry; James; Prongs. Again and again the same litany of names. Harry’s name would morph into his father’s. Whenever the word “James” left his lips first, Sirius Black would try to change it mid-syllable, creating an odd hybrid of a word “Jaerry,” over and over and over again. Hips jerked upward and a thumb glided over the head of the man’s erection, and Artemis could only see it with horror as Sirius panted and groaned. His hand gripped the sheets and it was then that Artemis noticed a discarded newspaper, which was open to a picture of Harry.
The date showed that it was the previous year. Harry had only been thirteen years old—hadn’t even met his godfather at this point, and yet the man’s wild eyes kept on turning to the picture, masturbating to the moving photograph of his own godson, his betrothed, the son of the man he still secretly wanted though a marriage to another and death now separated them.
Artemis felt sickened.
Sirius Black continued to jab his hips upward, obscene moans escaping his chapped lips just as he cried out, “James!” Shivers raced through his sweating, thin body, making him appear like a gasping corpse that was still clasping to the last hope of life before succumbing to death completely.
Inferi. The word floated across Artemis’s consciousness—having heard it somewhere, or read it. Harry might have even told him, he mused to himself. A prickle of a memory, of a half dream, of a boy coming across a cave with a gnarled creature, an elf, and being engulfed in a sea of dead bodies. He shook the half-image away, still swimming through the murky waters of the Black Lake, the image of Sirius Black once again resurfacing in front of his water-encrusted eyes.
The man lay back, his hand covered in his own seed and he reached up and wiped it off lazily on the dusty bed sheets, grime now clinging to his spunk-coated fingernails. The sight was horrifying, gross, and still Sirius Black lay panting, the sweat cooling on his stomach as the last shivers of his disgusting pleasure raced through him. A few moments later and he lay panting on the bed, turning toward the newspaper and the picture of a young boy, with flashing eyes, black hair, and a jagged scar on his forehead. “Prongslet,” he murmured affectionately at the picture, tracing the lines of the young face, staining the paper. “Harry.”
Tears welled up in his eyes and then they were falling down his grime-covered face, his gaze never leaving the picture. “Why, Jamie, why?” he murmured as he clutched himself. James, however, had been dead for years, twelve at this point, and was unable to answer. Still, Artemis was forced to watch on as Sirius Black lay in his own filth, his eyes tracing the picture.
The vision became more focused and Artemis noted that the picture appeared to be a covert photograph. Harry was sitting in some kind of a café, an ice cream half-eaten in front of him and a wide smile on his face as he stared at the seat across from him, almost as if there was someone sitting there and talking to him just beyond the frame.
Artemis shivered. There was love written across Harry’s young face, pure affection, and somehow he knew that he had been sitting in the chair opposite, although it hadn’t happened for him yet.
The shot was slightly fuzzy, showing that it had been taken from far away and with some enhanced lens. Paparazzi. At least Harry would be relatively safe from them as Hyperion Black, though sometimes the Fowls were followed if the paparazzi could even keep up with their movements around the world. They hadn’t managed to catch a photograph of Artemis since he was about thirteen.
The disgusting fingers were once again tracing the lines of Harry’s laughing and happy face. Sirius Black’s eyes tightened as he took in the expression, the look of pure and childlike happiness. “Were you even happy, James, after you condemned the two of us to a half-life?”
No one answered in the darkened room, but Sirius looked as if he was never expecting one. Instead, his dark gaze continued to linger on the youthful face of the boy, his godson, before the scene changed once again.
“H-He’s engaged,” Ginny murmured, her flaming red hair falling into her young face. “A marriage contract.”
She was sitting on a four-poster bed that had bright crimson hangings and sheets on it. Several other similar beds crowded around hers in what appeared to be a stone room in some sort of tower, possibly one of Hogwarts’ many towers—a dormitory, Artemis supposed. Granger sat across from her, clearly dressed for bed, and looked at Ginny in confusion.
“What do you mean a marriage contract?”
“Professor Dumbledore came and told us,” Ginny confided, “over Christmas. It appears that James Potter signed a marriage contract just after he got engaged to his wife.”
“I highly doubt it,” Granger responded, crossing her arms. “Lily Potter was a Muggle-born and would never have agreed to such—barbarism.” Her voice was laced with doubt and aversion to the idea. Artemis found himself actually agreeing with her as he continued to swim through the underwater world.
Ginny’s eyes looked at her in confusion before understanding entered them. “Hermione, in the wizarding world, a wife doesn’t have any say concerning marriage contracts. It doesn’t matter what she thought, only that James Potter was a pureblood and therefore had the right.”
“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Granger snapped. “First house elves and now—this. Marriage contracts? Who’s it with?”
Biting her lip, Ginny looked away. A moment later she shrugged. “We don’t know. Dumbledore didn’t say.” She didn’t meet Granger’s questioning look.
“What did Ronald say?” Granger’s voice was small, hesitant.
Ginny only shrugged. “Everyone was yelling at once. Mum didn’t believe it at first. She’s been going mad ever since Harry disappeared—and now this. She locked herself in her room for days and was just—crying.”
“Well, did Harry know?” Granger questioned.
Shaking her red hair away from the face, Ginny bit her lip and glanced up at her friend. “Not that we know of. It’s genuine, however. Once he comes back he’ll have to be informed.”
The two girls stared at one another.
“Well,” Ginny began in a small voice, “aren’t you going to tell me how sorry you are?” Her young voice held a sense of reproach and her brown eyes flashed angrily at Granger.
Granger glared back at her.
“I thought so,” Ginny sighed, shrugging her shoulders. “You thought of him as more than a friend.”
Her friend didn’t deny it and their gazes held.
“What about Ron?”
“What of him?” Granger shrugged, her wild and bushy hair falling into her face as she fiddled with her sleeve.
“You know he fancies you.”
“Does he?” Granger questioned with a quiet laugh. “He has an odd way of showing it.”
“Don’t,” Ginny ordered, her voice shaking. “Don’t say that.”
Granger snorted. “He only asked me to the Yule Ball as a last reserve and then spent the whole night complaining that Harry wasn’t there and then going on about Krum and Malfoy and how happy they looked. Not that I blame him for being sickened.” Her nose scrunched up.
Ginny clearly wasn’t listening, her eyes looking out the window. “It doesn’t matter anymore,” she sighed. “Harry’s engaged and, well, if he breaks another magical contract. . .” Her voice trailed off.
“He hasn’t broken one yet. There’s still more than a month until the Second Task—whatever it is.”
“I suppose Malfoy knows,” Ginny grumbled. “He and Krum are now always together. Did you know I ran into them on the shore of the Black Lake? It’s just—Malfoy!”
Something clawed at his ankle and Artemis broke out of the passive vision and looked down to see that he had been swimming through seaweed. His clothes were bogged down with water and he kicked out against the thin fingers that were grabbing at him. He pushed through the seaweed and as he finally exited the infestation, he began to undo his tie and unbutton his shirt with waterlogged shirt. He was cold, but the extra time wasn’t worth it. His clothes were only weigh him down.
Artemis watched impassively as the purple tie and the white shirt sank to the lake floor. Harry liked that tie, he remembered, it was why he wore it. He would have to get another one.
He pushed forward, his eyes straining through the water that was almost frozen time, but just continued. Memories passed through his mind, Ginny and Granger fighting harshly just before the second task until the other Weasleys had drawn them apart. They had had their wands drawn, each accusing the other of wanting to steal Harry and wanting to comfort him when he found out about the contract.
Sirius Black looking on from a distance, a look of self reproach on his face as he glanced over the two young witches before his eyes sought the castle, watching the front doors as if expecting someone to leave the school. When someone finally did—the Malfoys with Artemis and Harry—his eyes widened and he looked away again, hurrying Granger away to the stands, leaving Ginny with her brothers.
A face swam in front of his vision and Artemis almost stopped swimming, the sludge of fairy dust and prune juice rising in his throat like bile. Regulus Black was lying in the rain beneath a gnarled crab apple tree, a lost look on his face. He was alone, and yet his lips moved, almost as if he were practicing a speech or singing quietly to himself. Artemis could hear nothing and instead kept on swimming, looking desperately for demons or imps and for the little girl—Gabrielle—whose mother had once loved Amarante Vilaneuve. Still there was nothing but stones and seaweed and more black water that obscured his already hampered vision.
Narcissa Malfoy was lying on a bed, her golden hair spread around her, as Lucius settled on top of her, kissing the swell of one breast as a smirk passed across his lips before he made love to his beautiful wife, hoping for another child so that Draco’s future could be secured with the young man he might soon choose.
The vision blurred before Artemis’s eyes and still he was swimming through the dark waves, seaweed all around him and large green eyes looking at him through the darkness. He shuddered as he continued to breathe air through his lungs, looking for the familiar demon eyes of young imps or the white blonde hair of the young girl that had gone missing beneath the waves, and yet he still saw nothing.
A little boy was sitting on a small cot in a strange, dark cupboard, shivering under a small blanket. Spiders crawled along the underside of steps and only a weak light made it through a crack under the door. The place was cold, barbaric, and Artemis could even see the boy’s breath come out in pants as it solidified in the air.
“What child is this,” the small boy sang, his voice wavering on the high notes. He couldn’t have been more than six, and his soft notes wheezed painfully out of him, yet still he sang to himself in the small cupboard. “Who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleep-ing.”
The beautiful childish notes haunted Artemis as he continued to swim. “I love you,” Artemis found himself whispering, and the boy—a young Harry, no more than five or six years old—looked up as if he had heard.
“Daddy?” he whispered.
Artemis smiled to himself, thinking how he couldn’t quite give Harry the parents he had been deprived of, and continued to swim, watching as a small smile lit Harry’s face at the thought of his father looking down on him from heaven, and then continued to sing the Christmas Carol: “Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while loving arms enclose him.”
The words were childlike, mispronounced and lisping, and yet Artemis knew he had never heard anything quite so beautiful. Harry’s green eyes were bright under his thick black fringe, hidden already behind thick glasses perhaps from spending so much time in the dark cupboard he was now sleeping in.
As soon as Artemis had fully protected Harry from wizarding England, he would destroy Harry’s Muggle relatives. He would buy up their mortgage, whatever companies they worked for, and would make sure that they suffered before having them completely blacklisted. No one crossed a Fowl or whatever he considered was his rightful property or his family. They had made the worst mistake of their lives when they locked up a child and left him unloved for the simple crime of possessing magic in his blood.
Little Harry continued to sing of shepherds and wise men and a child that was loved by its mother, and he was now singing for the voice that had whispered in the darkness that he was loved by someone unseen. As his childlike voice warbled on the final voice and then he took in a great breath as tears formed in his eyes. “I love you, Daddy,” he whispered back into the darkness.
Artemis desperately wanted to reveal himself but he was not sleeping, only traveling through a fairy haunted mere, and therefore wasn’t in the room, simply watching it from afar as his cold and tired hands continued to push through the water, pressing him forward to the little girl who was trapped.
“No,” Artemis whispered. “A friend.”
Harry looked up startled, his beautiful eyes still wet and his lips trembling. “A friend?” he murmured in awe, a small smile on his face.
“You’re special and you’re loved,” Artemis choked through the water in his lungs. “I’ll be watching and loving you, little Harry.”
Then the small cupboard and the boy trapped within it were gone, and Artemis was looking up at a horrible statue of a merman, a little girl tied to the base of it. Her eyes were closed and yet her childish face was contorted in fear, as if a nightmare plagued her in her drugged sleep.
Several imps swam about her and Artemis looked on before, with a cry, he announced his appearance. The small demons looked over at him with fear in their eyes.
Artemis’s world blurred again and in the next moment, time had restarted, and he was swimming upward, water choking him as he could no longer breathe. He pushed upward, upward, needing air desperately and he barely felt the small girl in his arms or his hand clasped painfully around a thin demon wrist.
He could see the sun above him and his eyes widened in belief before he was breaking the surface, coughing the water trapped in his lungs before taking large gulps of air.
People were screaming all around him and Artemis blinked, seeing that he was not far from the platform and swam forward, his legs kicking tiredly as he kept his firm holds on Gabrielle and the imp he had somehow captured in the seconds—the years—that were missing in his memory when he was in the demon-colony beneath the waves of the Black Lake.
“Hold him,” he commanded as he came up to the platform and thrust the imp above the water toward Lucius Malfoy, who had rushed up with Harry and the rest of the Malfoys. “I need to question him later.”
Lucius nodded and pulled the small creature from the water and then, carefully, Artemis was lifting Gabrielle above him. Fleur Delacour was crying as she grasped her sister and then time skipped again. He was lying on the pier, shivering as a towel was wrapped around him and his head rested in Harry’s lap.
He could see Albus’s eyes peering at him from behind the small group of friends that were protecting him from view.
Harry’s fingers were tracing his face lovingly and shivering lips met his briefly in welcome.
“How long?” he murmured as he curled into Harry’s protective embrace.
“Four, five minutes at most,” Harry whispered, his words not asking the question that Artemis knew was hovering in his twin flame’s mind.
“Demons,” he sighed in answer and then fell into a deep sleep in his beloved’s arms.