The Sugar Quill
Author: Ara Kane (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Wizard King  Chapter: Chapter One
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

 

 

Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters, J.K. Rowling does. I guess I also don’t own the opening premise of this story. I ripped that off the Dalai Lama.

Technical Notes: In this fic, Ginny is named "Guinevere." I know people seem to favor "Virginia," but I felt the name didn’t quite go with the mood of the story. And I do remember watching a movie once upon a time wherein King Arthur’s pet name for his wife was "Ginny."

Author’s Notes: Hypothalamus-felt thanks to Seldes Katne for beta reading, and to the Sugar Quill, for taking a chance on **an unknown kid** :D I love SQ, and am proud to be part of it. (It only took two tries!) ~ Ara Kane

Chapter One

"He died facing east."

Henry looked away from the speaker and out the window, at the endless, barren hills. "Yes."

"That is where you must go to find the new King," the black-robed Warder told him.

"I know, Sirius," he replied rather testily. "I was born knowing."

Sirius smiled understandingly. Upon the sober young man’s brow, half-hidden by his unruly black hair, was the mark of the Seeker. It had been on his father’s brow, too, but James had died young; and thus it had fallen to Henry to find the new Wizard King.

Both Sirius and Henry had been present on that quiet, end-of-summer night when Albus died. The old King went calmly, even making a joke at the very end. "’Tis a pity, Lord Henry," Albus had said with a small smile, "that I must send you out when it is nearly autumn. Had I the choice, I would have gone in the spring, and given you a summer in the countryside as a farewell present." And then, with a deep, drawn-out sigh, the light faded from his eyes.

Sirius watched Henry frown thoughtfully out the window. The young man was not angry about having to go forth and find the new Wizard King; rather, he was more likely cursing the fates for making him do so at a time when Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters were on the rise. "You can do it, Harry," the Warder said softly. "I believe in you."

Henry smiled at the nickname. Sirius had been one of his father’s dearest friends. "Let us hope your faith is not misplaced."

"These are troubled times," the older man admitted, "but past Seekers have faced worse."

"Have they?"

"You have heard the stories, have you not?" James and his friends had spent their boyhood at the feet of James’ father, listening to the thrilling exploits of past Seekers, and then re-enacting the tales in the apple orchards of the family’s estate. In James’ absence, Sirius had passed on these stories to his son. He had even played the part of Seeker when Henry had been too young to claim his rightful role in the make-believe games.

Henry smiled again, remembering the time when a Seeker had been nothing more than a hero in a story. "It is another thing altogether to be living the adventure."

 

"Think of it this way, mate," Ronald, Henry’s closest friend, lectured that afternoon, "it’ll make quite a story to tell your grandchildren one day."

He had to raise his voice above the din of the crowded, rather stuffy room, but Henry and Ronald loved the Three Broomsticks, and made it a point to meet for a tankard or two whenever Ronald was in Hogsmeade on business.

"This is assuming I will have any children," Henry replied wryly.

"Of course you will!" the lanky young man regarded his friend incredulously over his ale. "You’ll need someone to replace you as Seeker someday, won’t you?"

"And this is assuming I will find a wife."

"Of course you will! There must be a woman out there who will be silly enough to have you."

"And this is assuming I will survive the Seeking."

"Of course you will!" Ronald said for the third time. His blue eyes were wide and his red hair seemed to catch fire with his indignation. "Don’t talk nonsense, Harry. And stop trying to complicate things."

"Would any of you gents fancy a good time?" a female voice at Henry’s elbow asked.

Both young men looked up to find a slender young woman, with hair as red as Ronald’s own, laughing merrily down at them. "Hush, Guinevere!" Ronald admonished his younger sister as he made a place for her beside him. "What if someone heard you and decided to take you up on the offer?"

She laughed again, the silvery sound drawing quite a few masculine eyes to their table. "Then I would have had to kill him."

"Would you have been able to do that?"

"Do you want to try me?" Guinevere pouted playfully at her brother. "Oh, honestly, Ron, nothing happened. I made sure you were in here before I entered." She then turned her warm brown gaze to the other man seated at the table. "Lord Henry," she said, acknowledging his presence with a deliberate nod of her head.

Henry swallowed the ale that had remained in his mouth all throughout the warm exchange between brother and sister. "Lady Ginny," he responded politely, with a nod of his own. She had grown taller, prettier, and more confident — nothing at all like the coltish little girl who had once trailed him and Ronald wherever they went.

"She doesn’t answer to ‘Ginny’ any longer," Ronald told his friend in a lofty tone of voice. "It’s Guinevere now."

"’Ginny’ is fine," Guinevere said, the pink bow of her mouth curving into an intimate sort of smile. Henry blinked.

"Oh, so you’re back to ‘Ginny’ again, are you? After ignoring Mother, Father and I whenever we called you that?" Ronald threw out his long arms in a helpless gesture. "I vow, Harry, I’ve seen some plenty confusing things in my day, but women…I don’t even know where to begin on women!"

 

Ronald usually came to the city to manage his family’s business affairs, but on that occasion, Lord Arthur and Lady Melinda also made the trip to attend the Wizard King’s funeral.

Albus had been a gentle leader, a revered teacher, and had known most of his subjects by name. In turn, they loved him dearly and served their country loyally; and on a crisp autumn morning, they turned out en masse to bid their beloved monarch farewell.

The Great Hall of the castle was brimming with people, the air thick from the many candles and closely packed bodies. Sunlight filtered down weakly through the hall’s enchanted ceiling, touching with gentle phantom fingers the body of Albus, the late Wizard King, lying on the bier near the back of the vast chamber.

From his place behind the bier, Henry could see Ronald, Guinevere and their parents, all with flaming red hair, standing near the center. Ronald had five older brothers, but Henry supposed they were all too far away to be reached in time.

He managed to give his friend a small nod when it came time for his part in the funeral rite. The Seeker rose from his chair and came forward at a stately pace, bowing to the body of his King. A young woman joined him as certain articles — a book, a patched old hat, and a pair of half-moon spectacles — dear to the late Wizard King were delivered into their hands. Together, they vowed to use them well in their search for the new King.

Finally, the Warders rose. Sirius, Remus and Severus, their faces somber, drew their wands and held them aloft. Together, they vowed to keep the kingdom safe until the Wizard King’s return.

And then the body of Albus, the Wizard King, burst into flame.

 

The young woman who had joined Henry during the funeral rite was Hermione, the Diviner, tasked to aid the Seeker’s quest by interpreting the signs and symbols that would lead them to the new Wizard King.

"I wouldn’t have wanted to become a Diviner," Ronald said as they gathered in Remus’ apartments after the funeral. He and Henry stood apart from the rest, watching Ronald’s parents speak to the Warders in grave tones. "All that studying, living apart from your family…" He shuddered.

The Diviner was standing off to one side with Guinevere. Both young women were tall and slender, but Hermione was pale from a lifetime spent in study, with tawny brown hair scraped back into a severe bun at the nape of her neck. "I don’t know," Henry observed as they watched Guinevere listen to Hermione’s chatter with a sweetly patient look on her face. "She seems to have come through it well."

"Hah! Wait until the Seeking. She’s barking mad, I tell you." Unlike Seekers, Diviners were selected in early childhood and raised in the study of the arts of interpretation. It was an admittedly lonely life. Indeed, quite a few had left before their training was complete, unable to withstand the pressure.

Ronald broke off when Hermione turned to look at them. Convinced that she was looking askance at his old, rather disheveled robes, the redheaded young man pulled a monstrous face at her. He and Henry choked back snorts of laughter when she stiffened and turned away with her nose in the air.

"Harry." They immediately straightened when Remus beckoned them to come near. Ronald choked back one final snort before joining Henry, his parents and the Warders near the center of the room.

"You must begin the Seeking soon." Severus, the third Warder, stared at Henry with his unsettling black eyes. "The danger grows greater the longer we remain without a King. The spies tell me that Voldemort is rallying his forces to raid the countryside. We must not lose the child."

"Voldemort will not be able to find him," Ronald said. "He knows not how."

Severus turned his piercing gaze on him. "The Dark Lord cares not about finding the child. He will concentrate on removing all the possibilities."

"B-but that’s monstrous!" he sputtered, outraged.

"The Dark Lord is the very essence of monstrous," Lady Melinda agreed angrily.

"We cannot let all those babies die, Harry," Ronald told his friend. "We must start out immediately. Just give me some time to pack some things and—"

"Ronald, Ronald," Lord Arthur interrupted gently, "the Seeking must indeed begin post haste, but who says that you are to go?"

He looked at his father blankly. "Of course I am to go. Harry cannot go without me." He appealed to Henry. "Am I not right?"

"I-I…I do not know," Henry mumbled. "I’ve never done this before."

"Well, you’re the Seeker, you should be able to bring whom you please!"

"Ronald!" Lady Melinda admonished.

The young man reddened and his shoulders slumped. "I am sorry."

"Worry not, young Ronald," Sirius said. "In the absence of the Wizard King, Lord Voldemort will be torn between foiling the Seeker and taking the kingdom. We are thinking of forming a home guard in each of the provinces, to be on the alert in case the Dark Lord attacks. There will be action aplenty for all able-bodied men in the realm."

"Your archery skills will be sorely needed at home," Remus added. Even at a young age, Ronald’s skill with the longbow was already legendary.

"There, you see?" Lord Arthur said to his son. "We will wait; but as we wait, we will fight."

"But not too much, I hope," his wife added quickly.

 

After the funeral, Henry abided at the castle and began preparations for the Seeking. He packed his clothing and weapons, discussed supplies with Remus, and saw to his horse, Firebolt, making sure that the chestnut stallion was healthy and properly shod.

He also got better acquainted with the Diviner. As expected, Hermione was highly intelligent, perhaps to the point of acting superior, but she was not "barking mad." She was given to talking, but Henry suspected that was due more to loneliness than insanity. After all, growing up as she did, she probably had few, if any people her age to talk to.

"Seven children, did you say?" Hermione asked at supper the day before their journey was to begin. Henry had just finished telling her about Ronald and his sizable family. "My word."

"To see them all together boggles the mind," he agreed. "An entire family of all shapes and sizes, but all with bright red hair."

"And Lord Ronald is the tallest?"

"Yes."

A small frown crossed her face. "Hmm."

"What have you Seen about the Seeking?" he asked, hoping to divert the young woman’s mind from his friend’s abysmal first impression.

Hermione took a thoughtful sip of wine before answering. "I have Seen," she said, "that more will be added to our number and we will each of us be tested before our quest comes to an end."

"Our quest will end, then?"

"The Seeking always ends, but whether it ends happily or sadly remains to be known."

"Will it end happily?" Henry persisted despite the cryptic reply. "Will we find the new King?"

"That I do not know," Hermione responded gravely.

He gulped. "Will any of us die?"

"That, too, I do not know. I wish I had all the answers, Lord Henry, but I do not. They will come, one by one, when the time is right. I hope I will be able to recognize them when they do."

"So do I," he agreed.

She smiled slightly, showing rather large front teeth. "I shall try not to disappoint us both."

 

Remus had their horses waiting at dawn the next day. Firebolt snorted, his breath misting in the chill early-morning air, and pawed the cobblestones impatiently. Yasameen, Hermione’s gray mare, stood beside him with quiet dignity.

"Good luck," he said simply as Henry and Hermione came forward to take their reins.

"Stay true," Sirius told them.

"Do not fail our people," Severus admonished.

Hermione stifled a smile as Henry made a wry face after the third Warder’s less-than-affectionate farewell. She had put her foot in Yasameen’s stirrup when Ronald, riding a brown horse, clattered into the courtyard. "What on earth—" Severus bit out.

"Ron!" Henry exclaimed.

"Harry!" the redheaded young man cried back, grinning broadly.

"Wh–what are you doing here?"

"Going Seeking, of course," Ronald replied as he dismounted. Besides his bulging saddlebags, a well-worn longbow and quiver of arrows hung from his saddlebow. "You didn’t think I would let you go off by yourself, did you?"

"But you are not to go," Remus reminded him gently.

"That is what everyone told me, but I could not find it written anywhere," the young man said in a rather flippant tone of voice. "I have looked through all the books in the kingdom, I swear I have."

"You are needed for the home guard, do you not remember?" Sirius said.

The grin faded from Ronald’s face. "I remember. I wished I could go and stay both, but I needed to make a choice. And I choose to go."

"But you cannot go!" Severus snapped impatiently.

"He is to go."

Everyone spun around abruptly. "What?" they exclaimed as one.

"He is to go," Hermione repeated serenely. "I have Seen it. He is the Loyal One."

Henry smiled, pleased at the information, while Remus nodded in acceptance. Sirius looked vaguely disappointed and Severus vaguely annoyed. And Ronald was outraged. "Why didn’t you say anything before?" he demanded.

"I had not Seen it then," she replied with a small smile. He had to come to join them, despite all odds and orders, to be proven the Loyal One.

"Barking mad, I told you," Ronald grumbled, loud enough for her to hear, as they all mounted. Hermione hid her grin and did not answer. While she could not afford to make enemies, especially with the vital mission at hand, meeting this recalcitrant redhead showed her that a few foes were nevertheless necessary. They kept one on one’s toes.

"And on that cheerful note," Sirius said as the three riders disappeared into the early morning mists, "it all begins."

//
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