Summary: Lucius Malfoy finds a way to put the Patriarch of House Gresham, his family's long-time competitor, in his debt. The great houses of the land are divided in a struggle for power, but Lucius will mercilessly bend this advantage to his benefit in the form of entry to The Guild to train his son, and the scion of House Nott, Theo. Thus tipping the balance in the favor of House Malfoy.
Universe: Almost completely AU. Lots of the original characters, and the tone of the conflict is the same, but tons of things aren't the same here. Medieval-Era: all people are wizards, warlocks, mages, witches, etc. There are common-folk magical people, and wealthy wizarding families. Schooling is more of a "privilege" than it is an entitlement and is done with private tutors and by way of the family's teachings, depending on your family. There will be more on this in the story. Hermione's family name has been changed to Gresham, and there are more OC characters included. Because I can.
Rating: M. Not for children or people easily offended. I was initially planning a number of adult themes, and will likely warn at the heading of the chapter for said adult-content.
These things MAY or MAY NOT include: brutality (implied, or on/off screen), some violence against women. Sex things: con, dub-con and possible non-con (I have yet to decide fully on non-con or not). Maybe self-gratification/fantasy.
I want there to be room for me to decide as I go, depending on how this story takes shape. I have a very clear idea of where the story will go, but that particulars are getting worked out in the writing. I don't want anyone to be pearl-clutching later saying "Oh my goodness!"
Suffice to say this is an adult-themed story. Swearing, deception, everything exciting in a book. I'm even going to work in some solid romance, if I can. But that's going to be a slow burn. I want it to occur naturally, and in order for the story to flow, it's going to be slow.
If you still live at home and are young enough that you need to ask your parents' permission for things; please read this disclaimed and realize that it probably wasn't meant for your age group. I cannot control what young people get up to on the interwebs, but please understand I am not posting this to ruin innocents or childhoods, or whatever.
On that note, however, I have not written fantasy in 20 years. I would like actual feedback on this work. I'd like to make it great for everyone reading!
Authors Note: I do not own the characters, or the original personalities behind them. JKR has that privilege. I wrote this original story line with all of my own OCs that had nothing to do with HP in any fashion. However, after years of this story sitting on a shelf, I dusted it off and started revisions, as well as subbing out these characters with HP ones. So as a result, people like Loren and Ursa are original to my story line and are in no way related to the HP people. So yes; Ursa is named for a constellation. But she's not a Black. I was just too lazy and set in my mind to change her name. I inserted the Malfoys and other HP families in places where there were originally my own characters in this story.
Maybe someday I'll just post the original and people can decide which one they like better. But, for now, I really hope someone in this vast interweb enjoys reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Because I love me some good old fashioned D&D, and I LOVE me some HP as well.
The summer days were almost over in the Reach, but the sun remained determined and bright as it cast its rays through the leaves that danced along the branches among the soft breezes and sunshine. It was a time that was fairly pleasant to simply wander the upper skyways of the keep, or find oneself walking toward the yard as the heat of the day crept ever upward. Such time was precious for the Lady of House Gresham, but she savored it whenever she could; between raising two children, maintaining the household and securing time alone with her Lord and husband, Ursa Gresham never missed an opportunity to savor the good weather when it was present.
The mountains surrounding Gresham Keep stretched high into the sky with sudden and jagged peaks that dwarfed the castle in their center. Protected by miles and miles of winding mountains in either direction, the sky above was perfectly blue in this early evening. Ursa smiled and closed her book on her lap, closing her eyes and savoring the warmth around her. It had been a perfect summer already, and she felt her contentment humming along her bones as her magic rippled along joyously.
Her resplendent moment was interrupted as the sounds of nickering horse soared up from the courtyard below her. The familiar sound of her husband's mount as he brought him to halt and dismount. Ursa frowned a little and opened her eyes to confirm for herself what she heard; there below her was the dark hair and eyes of her Lord and husband, Loren Gresham. His horse was coated with sweat that glistened against his chestnut coat. He had rode his horse hard and fast to reach the Keep. Harder than he should have, she thought to herself. His attendants bringing up the afters of his procession were similarly put out of place. Her chin tilted to one side as she took in the character of his face; he frowned darkly, his eyes looked full of storms and rage and his brows were pulled down fiercely over them. She placed her book to the table next to her and rose without waving or calling out to attract Lord Gresham's attentions. Ursa simply swept up her gowns and walked herself decidedly towards the doors to their rooms, and out of their chambers.
From the chambers high in the Keep, she made haste to descend the steps and walks through their home to intercept her husband deeper inside the walls of their home. Sounds of household staff and various staff were being bidden away as she understood that Loren to be bidding them out of his company. She quickened her feet as she approached the double doors of Loren's private study to find that the doors were parted, if only slightly. This was Loren's way of permitting her entry inside. There was an unspoken language about her Lord that had taken only the first year of their marriage to commit to memory, and she knew this to mean her Lord and husband wished her with him.
Loren had been away a number of weeks already, and Ursa could feel her heart begin to beat wildly at the knowledge that she would be able to feel the warmth of his arms around her again. His hands and breath filled with the fire of his love for his wife. It felt like too long a time to be apart from him, and her heart ached to fall back into closeness with him once again.
While being apart for several weeks was not unusual, it was frequent that Ursa would join him on his travels. Loren took great pride in his wife; she was not only a great beauty, but she had an exceptional aptitude. The eldest of the siblings of House Allerton, her family had instilled in Ursa a great love of knowledge and learning. House Allerton itself had, on countless occasion, produced some of the greatest scholars the lands had known. Brilliant and agile minds, which Loren prized greatly in his beloved wife. Along with her relentless nature, he never ceased to find himself in utter enjoyment with her presence. But more than that; he loved her greatly for it. He valued her mind above all others.
Unlike many houses, their marriage had never been one brought forth for any conveniences. Loren had, at his earliest opportunity, pursued Ursa and done so without relent. Much to her clandestine pleasure. While she never gave him any direct affirmation that she desired his pursuit, she very stealthily cast him the errant and well-aimed veiled smile when he was near her. At a young age, such subtly was one of the only things she was allowed in the presence of any suitor, and she used this to every advantage to convey to him her encouragement of his interests.
Stolen glances and smiles turned to blushes and passing grazes of fingers in secrecy. Those in turn became tactile diversions of chaperones as they lingered together around turns in passageways and dark corners to exchange meaningful glances, and feathery touches on cheeks. The light brushing of lips in darkened alcoves that lasted fleeting moments as they absconded as quickly as they arrived. Such was the little game they created together as Loren bent his father's ear to allow him to consider a suit for Ursa's hand. Much to Loren's absolute delight, House Allerton acquiesced to the suit without hesitation. A longtime ally of House Gresham, there was little apprehension between houses to overcome in the pursuit. Terms were drawn and executed, and a marriage was accorded easily.
The anticipation that Ursa felt, and has always felt when the blaze of Loren's eyes was on her was no more lessened by the years of their marriage than it had been when they were young, and he courted her. Oh, how he loathed the traditions and stifling requirements of a courtly pursuit of her. To desire her so greatly and yet be allowed not more than the kissing of her fingers, or the touch of her wrist in his hand caused him many nights of torment. The way she partially veiled her bronze orbs to him with a slight smile to entreat him to her heart. It drove him positively mad. On the surface they parlayed in polite exchanges and discussions, but beneath the surface, underneath the little bows and curtseys, his desire for Ursa was nothing short of ungentlemanly.
Ursa swept a final corner to the large double doors of Loren's personal study. Her eyes alighted to the sight of her husband's back, and she realized immediately that something was not right in this picture; Loren never faced away from her when he returned to their House. He always faced in wait for Ursa to join him, no matter what outcomes they were to reveal to each other, no matter how long they had spent apart.
Wordlessly she swept into the room, and closed the doors behind her. Without so much as a glance Loren spoke to her in a dull and unmoved tone; "Silence, and lock them." Ursa did as she was asked and cast the appropriate number of silencing and locking charms that would prove to Loren that whatever was spoken behind these doors, it would ensure all necessary secrecy.
She approached her husband slowly, bringing herself to his side behind a sitting chair in front of the hearth within the room and looked to his face. His normally warm pallor seemed practically ashen and dull. His eyes open, but as if they weren't really seeing what was before him. Feeling the nerves tighten in her midsection, she placed her hands at the top of the wooden chair she stood behind, not more than an arms distance from her husband.
He said nothing, gave no indication that he was even aware anymore that she stood just a small space away from him. The tone of their normal greetings to each other not even lingering on their own tongues. The tension in this room gave Ursa a deepening sense of unease, but she was reticent to break the silence right away. She knew Loren better than any other could ever claim, and his composure was one that was best served in coming to her and not the opposite.
The silence had begun to feel like an eternity by the time Loren took a noisy breath in and let it back out again. Risking breaking his reverie, Ursa let a hand move out to him, to touch his right arm as she stood in her silence to respect the temper of her husband. Her fingers grazed the cold of his outer leathers, still unchanged from his journey back to the Reach. She knew that he knew completely consciously that she stood beside him, that in her silence she beseeched him to speak to her. In his eyes she could see the wordless war that was raging behind them, his brow occasionally making movements as though he would frown or scowl, but never quite fully forming the expression.
Her eyes focused on his profile; his strong nose set well in the center of his face made for the foundation of his handsome face. His eyes appeared dark in this low light, even though Ursa knew that, when struck with the right light, they were the color of the terra from with all life was sprung. When he smiled how they warmed so enchantingly. He had let his beard begin to grow in the anticipation of the colder mountain nights; along with his dark wavy hair that brushed the tops of his shoulders, they caressed the remainder of his olive skin in their darkness.
The softest of words was murmured, so much that Ursa didn't even realize they were spoken. "I-" She turned her head and waited. Loren blinked slowly, "I have failed our House, Wife." His words were so quiet that Ursa couldn't hear what he had said. Her eyes and face wore the expression of her curiosity.
"Loren, how have you-?" she started, and he moved to pull away from the touch she was only barely connected to him through.
"We will be welcoming two latecomers to Guild training this summer, it seems." She nodded slowly.
"Whom shall we be expecting, my Lord husband?"
"House Malfoy, and House Nott." He said simply. Ursa felt the blood in her face completely drain away.
"Gods Above and Below, Loren. You cannot be serious." His wife breathed out, claiming the back of the carved wooden chair with her hands. Her knuckles were white and pink with strain and she felt as though her knees would not hold her. Loren, Lord of House Gresham, hung his head in utter and complete defeat and nodded in affirmation to his wife. An action a man such as he would never, under any circumstance be caught doing in front of his Guild, or even children. His wife, Ursa, breathed in sharply at his continued confirmation. "Has word reached the children?"
"Not yet," His words came slowly and laboriously, his eyes closed. He breathed slowly through his nose, trying to keep his own emotions in check. He felt his mind boiling to the point where he felt violence growing within his mind. Ideas brewing he had not entertained since he was a younger man, filled with fires of justice and righteous indignation. Notions of fire, and blood and maniacal victories. Ah, Maturation had certainly quelled his infernos' tendencies, but his soul remained as quick to desire recompense for the circumstances.
His wife again took in air swiftly as she picked up the back of the chair sharply and gave it a quick slam into the floor. The sudden noise broke Loren out of his visions abruptly to look at his wife. Her bright eyes wide with indignation at him. "Loren, you must explain this," she paused, her beautiful face forming the word bitterly "House Malfoy? How could you allow them -? Was there no other way?" She stopped, identifying how she was winding herself into a frenzy. Her husband's eyes upon her were filled with uncertainty. He rose to claim his wife in her rising temper into his arms, but she recoiled instantly.
Anger surged through her husband at his wife's refusal of his supplication, and rejection. Ursa saw it wash over him, and felt her heart pull to her husband. She knew he would never- had never- laid any hand unkindly on her. Despite his fiery rages, he had never once dared to touch her in anger. He would never have turned his passions upon her in any other way than one designed for the fires created from heated bodies. Atop warm sheets, in exchanged of shared breathes and low moans. Many of those passions he had shared with her.
But at that moment, as he lunged for her, she felt a moment of doubt. Loren pulled her without compunction into his arms and forced her to allow him to hold her. She hardened her body, furiously refusing to allow herself to melt, as she always would, into his broad and comforting arms. She felt such an anger to him at his actions. She did not understand. His hard eyes bored into hers as she felt her words slip through her lips. "How long has Lucius known about the Cast , my Lord? How would he have known to seek such a request?" Her eyes softened at her last question, as her implication was clear; The Gresham family was tightly guarded about their family's practices, and the presence of any outsider was regarded with unfriendliness. The only outsiders allowed to their home in the Morvan Reaches were ones with express invitations. Trustworthy and known, and certainly not ones from House Malfoy. Only someone close to their family would have told Lucius Malfoy their most closely circumspect secret.
Lord Gresham stared at his wife for moments, rolling his answers along his mind before he decided what answer he would give her. "I cannot answer that, My One. I have yet to determine where he would have learned of it. But I could not refuse him this request." Ursa bright bronze eyes looked hard at him.
"How, Loren?" She softened and reached up to palm his cheeks and seek his brown eyes in hers. "Tell me, my love." She entreated softly, loosening herself to her husband to remind him of the safety they had in each other. Loren's body sighed into her, his breath relaxing into hers and the warmth of her hands on his face brought him back to there here, to them, together. She was his best and most trustworthy counsel. Her wisdom had shone as a beacon above all others when all the other possibilities seemed extinguished.
After what felt like long moments, he loosed his large hands from around her arms, coming back to himself and seeing his lady wife as she truly was; her anger dissipated, and only her questioning eyes remained open to his answer.
"Lucius has uncovered a nine hundred year old Covenant between House Gresham and House Malfoy that remains intact and legally binding. It could still be redeemed in the eyes of the Houses under the Old Laws." Ursa's eyes remained steady upon him, not daring to interrupt. "It would have sealed the Houses together in an alliance through a Sacrament between the oldest son of Gresham, Helio, and a daughter of Malfoy named Ariadne. However, the Sacrament was never fulfilled as Helio broke with the Accord in marrying a wife of his choosing from another House." Ursa drank in the information as Loren poured it forth for her, the lines of the family since that decision. One that Helio, it seemed, had not paid any regard toward. She regarded the information carefully as she pursued him again, carefully.
"Does his demand include the satisfaction of the Sacrament?"
"It has not." Loren's steady voice softened with implication. "But House Malfoy has no daughters, only one Scion."
Ursa gasped as the pieces fell into place. "No Loren, we cannot- She's – How can this still be valid after almost a thousand years?!" She cried. "We cannot bind our child to that house! Our only daughter!" In her face, the desolation of what was to come rose fiercely, contorting her lovely features with utter revulsion. "House Malfoy pays no homage to the Guild itself and has no standing among us, would the remaining Guild allow this to stand?" Her hands had dropped, but their closeness together remained. The heat of her husband upon her as she had to crane her neck to keep eye contact with him in her shorter stature.
Her Lord continued, evenly. "I have persuaded Lucius to consider releasing us from the Sacrament, as they were the House wounded by the breach, in exchange for the son of Malfoy and Nott to be trained alongside Hermione and Tyt'o once the clutches have hatched."
Two sons. She thought. Two in exchange for the marriage to our daughter. Two chicks for our one witch? She looked at him in question. "To bond and train two of them for our only daughter, Loren?" He nodded.
"Malfoy has aligned himself with the fallen house of Gaunt. The Madman. Many other houses follow along with him. Nott, MacNair, Lestrange. I am not certain that the Guild could win against such odds were it to come to war."
This brought Ursa to exact attention. "War, my Lord? Are you most certain that Malfoy would be so foolish as to exact-" Loren's hissing answer caught her sentence short.
"As sure I am that our Cast is not ready yet!"
"The clutching will happen so soon, Loren. There may not be time-"
"I know this, Ursa." Her hand crept to his sleeve and he turned away from his wife.
"If they are not trained, and won't bond, we might lose-" Loren exploded as he wheeled back to her.
His guilt was immediate when he saw her beautiful face wilt under the force of his anger. Tears threatened her eyes as she felt the force or his anger flood over her. In an effort to counsel him, and understand more of what they were facing, Loren felt anger at everything facing him. Her voice quieted.
"We will need to prepare them. The both of them." She stated resolutely, and looked past him towards the dying fire in their hearth as plans and machinations were stirring behind her eyes even as she spoke. She gathered her determination around her as a cloak of strength for her husband, and her children. "If we do not train them well enough, and they are not able to call a bond with any chick in the clutch, those chicks are as good as lost to us. To the Guild as riders." Ursa caught his Loren's elbow and looked at him quickly. "May we but dare to hope that there will be no such loss to us in this, Loren."
He shook his own head in uncertainty at the suggestion she made. "It is yet to be unseen, my Heart." The sigh in his words was filled with his fading determination, now clinging by a mere thread within him. Ursa saw this and felt herself steel at the waning resolves of her Lord and husband. Their house would not be brought to heel by this; House Gresham bowed to no House, and her Lord bowed to the treachery of no man.
Loren looked to his beautiful wife as she stared into him with those bronze eyes of hers, filled with a purposeful intend. Her strength had been one of the first things that had drawn him to her, and it was still a beacon for him in any darkness they had to cross together. She was alight with her unwavering resolve.
Ursa wrapped her hand upon his and squeezed it in solidarity, its strength swept through him and filled his heart with its resolve. They would find a way to keep this from being a failure. This war had already begun to encroach itself upon their people and lands, and dallied now in sweeping their family into an unknown game, with rules they were not certain they could navigate.
 Cast is what you call a group of hawks. But these are Dragons, so I'm going to burgle it.