Title: Viktor’s Letter
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 13,161
Rating: NC-17 (sex and language)
Warnings: Sexual content, off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse and violence against a child, bigotry, passing mention of rape, sexual harassment, and explicit language
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
Harry settled into a table in the common room and watched Hermione gently rosin the bow of the violin he’d given her. He sharpened his quill and pulled a piece of fresh parchment from his bag as she started to play. The common room which had been almost empty when they arrived slowly filled with upper years who hadn’t yet gone to sleep.
Hermione, for her part, ignored the audience. Harry figured that ability came from performing so often in front of so many as a child. She played one song after another and he wrote his essay. By the time he was finished, she was utterly and completely lost in her music. He put his things away, quietly requested tea from Dobby and sat back to watch her play.
He noticed that most of the others were just watching at that point as well and that her mother was lingering in the portrait hole with Dumbledore. He waved at the tea he had and both nodded. Harry conjured two more teacups as they settled in at the table with him.
After nearly two hours, she lowered the bow and stretched her neck.
“My dear, that was truly lovely,” Dumbledore said with a smile as he snitched a second piece of lemon cake from the tray Dobby had provided when Harry had been distracted.
Hermione blushed and glanced around the room. “Oh.” She laughed when she got a bunch of smiles and few claps in return. “Thank you. I didn’t realize you were here.”
– – – –
He was really regretting the rather adorable high heeled Mary Jane’s Hermione had put on at his request. She groaned in frustration. “I’m never going to learn this.”
“Honestly, you’re just not this clumsy,” Harry complained as he sneakily cast a healing charm on his toes. “How can you be this bad at this?”
She huffed at him and crossed her arms in a pout. “I warned you!”
“You did,” he said with a helpless little laugh. “Okay. I know you wanted to learn this without magic but I had this charmed floor installed for a reason. I’m begging you on behalf of my toes to let me activate the charms.”
She pouted at him. “You didn’t learn on a charmed floor.”
“I’m an athlete—I’ve been fencing, dueling, and flying a professional grade broom since I was seven years old. By the time I took my first dance lesson—I could fence blindfolded. My situational and body awareness was three times what yours is now. Yes, I could spend a year teaching you to dance but, Mi, we have the British Ministry’s Yule Ball, the Spring Gala for the French Ministry of Magic in April, and I’ve been asked very nicely to attend the Summer Celebration in Rome. That’s three events in which you and I are going to be expected to take more than one turn on a dance floor under the watchful eye of a couple hundred people, a dozen of which will be reporters.”
“And if I don’t want to go to all of those things?” Hermione asked indigently.
“I’ll have to take someone else,” Harry said. “I’m certainly not attending any of those things without someone to watch my back because single witches are horrible, vicious, no good husband hunters. It’s amazing really that I didn’t lose my virginity in a coat closet at one of these events in the past. Maybe Lavender would go with me. She looks like a handy witch in a fight.”
Hermione grinned at him. “She’s pretty quick with a cosmetic charm.” She huffed. “Fine, turn on the tutoring spell.”
“Only if you’re sure. I could take the Patil twins—between the two of them they could guard my back and my front,” Harry said, rocking back on his heels as he spoke. “It’s not a bad idea, now that I think about it.”
“Activate the bloody spell, Potter,” Hermione snapped. “I’d curse you bald if you took another witch to a ball.”
Harry touched his short hair and scowled at her before activated the tutoring spell with a flick of his wand and restarted the music. “Okay, just relax. The magic will jerk you around if you fight it. It’ll slowly retreat as you learn so eventually the tutoring magic won’t have any impact on you when you’re dancing on the floor. Right now the guidance will be pretty heavy handed.”
He cast cushioning charms on his feet without a hint of apology, holstered his wand, and offered her his hand.
“Sorry about your toes,” she whispered as he pulled her close and spun her around.
“I’ve suffered much worse for you,” Harry admitted with a laugh. “That basilisk fang in my arm hurt like hell.”
“I bet,” Hermione shuddered.
“Relax a little. Body posture is important but so is relaxing—you don’t want to be so stiff. You’ll just make yourself sore.”
“Okay, what is this one?”
“Viennese Waltz,” Harry answered as they travelled around the room. “Lift your chin just a little, and don’t worry about what’s going on around you. It’s my job to keep you from hitting the wall or other people.”
“Okay.” She relaxed slightly and closed her eyes.
“Good idea but don’t get used to doing that,” Harry said. “The wizarding waltz is common in Europe but not so much in other countries. It’s considered rather old fashioned as it requires even more space between dance partners. I hate it and the only time I deploy that particular dance is when I’m dancing with a witch I’d rather not be dancing with.”
She laughed and opened her eyes. “This is much easier. You were right.”
“Just gotta trust the magic,” Harry said blithely as they moved around the old classroom turned dance studio. The music changed and they drifted into a different style of dance. “This is the tango.”
“A little closer,” Hermione said breathlessly as he brought her close and his hand settled lower on her back.
“Footwork is a bit fancier,” Harry agreed as she moved easily into the twists and turns of the dance. “Please don’t fight the magic when you’re whipping that little foot of yours between my legs.”
She laughed as he caught her around the waist and spun them around. “Deal.”
“How long will it take me learn this way?” Hermione asked after several minutes.
“A few weeks maybe—we can work on it on weekends? Muscle memory will build pretty quickly with magic helping this way.” He frowned a bit as they did another turn.
“The tutoring spell is correcting my form,” Harry admitted with a laugh. “It has been a while since I had in lessons. I guess my posture is a little sloppy.”
“A little extra tuition never hurt anyone, Lord Potter,” Hermione advised him primly.
He dipped her unexpectedly and she burst out laughing.
– – – –
Hermione took the stack of mail from Dobby and paused. “Something wrong, Dobby? Was there a cursed letter or something?”
Dobby shook his head. “Yous be getting letter from bad wizard, though. I not read it but I know he bad.”
Hermione shared a glance with Harry looked up from the book he was reading. The other Gryffindors were still plowing their way through lunch. She flipped through the stack—putting letters from various reporters in one stack. Their courting period had been announced in Witch Weekly a few days before so she’d expected the correspondence from various magazines and papers. She’d thought to ignore them but her friends had advised her against that. Cooperating with a few of them would help her shape her public image better than outright ignoring them all.
“What?” Harry asked as he closed the book.
She sighed. “Viktor Krum.” She raised an eyebrow as his expression went so neutral that it looked painful.
She broke the seal on the letter and unfolded it with a nervous knot forming in her belly.
I was stunned and very disappointed that you’d entered a formal, exclusive courting with Potter without gauging my own interest in you. I had thought we’d reached an understanding of sorts before I left Hogwarts. I’d hoped we’d be able to meet over the summer as our letters were simply not enough in the year since we parted.
I do apologize for not responding to your last letter quickly enough—I spent the month of August in a clinic in Switzerland due to a Quidditch injury. An injury, I’m happy to report, that no longer troubles me.
It is my intention to approach your adopted mother with my desire to have a short courting period which would end Potter’s exclusive access to you. It’s not uncommon for witches to be courted by multiple wizards at the same time. As I’m confident that your mother will agree—I will be taking you to the Yule Ball being held by the British Ministry on the 23rd of December.
I look forward to seeing you again,
“That son of a bitch!” Hermione shouted only to be outdone by her own mother.
“That bastard!” Minerva McGonagall snapped and half the glasses on the head table shattered.
Mother and daughter met in the middle of the hall and exchanged letters. They were quite a sight standing there—auras flaring gently and Hermione’s magic swirling around them in a storm, contained by the ward in Gryffindor’s Tear. He figured it was an excellent demonstration of the artifact’s ability to keep everyone in the castle safe. No one was running screaming from the hall.
Harry hopped up but didn’t beat Dumbledore who apparated across the hall, the show off, to stand in front of the door as both McGonagalls decided as one to exit the hall.
“Minerva, where are you going?” Albus questioned pleasantly.
“Bulgaria!” Minerva said sharply. “I’m going to castrate Viktor Krum!”
“And feed his bollocks to Crookshanks!” Hermione snapped.
Harry held out both hands. “Now, ladies, I’m sure you don’t want to cross a border into another country and mutilate one of their citizens. It would lead to a lengthy jail term and while I’m sure you’d both look lovely in prison clothes—is he really worth spending a decade or two in a Bulgarian prison?”
Hermione snatched her letter from her mother’s hand and shoved it toward Harry. “Read this crap!”
Harry read the letter, gaze getting narrow and more deadly by the second. He folded it carefully and returned it to Hermione before taking the one that McGonagall had been sent.
I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing you to let you know that I will begin courting your daughter as of the date you receive this letter.
I’m sure you remember how close we became during my time at Hogwarts—so close in fact that I’m quite stunned that she would enter into a courting period with Lord Potter without disclosing the intimate nature of her relationship with me. If she had, I’m sure you would have contacted me about a marriage contract between my House and the House of Ross.
I am, of course, willing to enter into a marriage contract at any time. Hermione is a headstrong girl and certainly needs a firm hand. I believe I’m the wizard to offer her both the discipline and the encouragement she needs to be a proper wife.
I will, of course, be escorting Hermione to the Yule Ball in Britain. I’m sure Lord Potter will understand once you’ve explained my relationship with your daughter and your acceptance of a marriage contract on her behalf.
House of Krum
Harry exhaled. “Right.” He handed the letter to Dumbledore who read it, his mouth eventually dropping open in shock. “I… you know what?” He stepped back, threw open the doors. “Let me get you ladies your cloaks. You want to start a blood feud with House of Krum by castrating their scion? My sword is yours.”
Minerva huffed and Hermione stomped her foot.
“I mean it,” Harry said seriously. “Longbottom, wanna take a trip to Bulgaria?”
“I’m game,” Neville said. “I never did like Krum anyways. I’ll have to ask my dad to bring my sword but he can’t stand that whole family so he’d gladly do it.” He started rummaging through his bag and pulled out a communication mirror expectantly.
Minerva exhaled. “I need Howler parchment.”
“I’ve got one!” Daphne Greengrass offered and pulled a flaming red parchment out of her book bag. She hurried to the Deputy Headmistress and offered it. “I was going to send it to my cousin Jeffrey but I can get more.”
McGonagall took it with a nod and glared at Albus. “Tell that bloody bird of yours, Albus, that I will be needing his services momentarily.”
“You want to send a Howler via phoenix fire?” Albus asked. “Are you sure that’s wise? It’ll be heard for… five square kilometers, at least.”
“That is exactly what I want,” Minerva shouted. “I want everyone in the bleeding capitol city of Bulgaria to hear me tell of that vicious, stupid, presumptuous, inferior thug exactly what I think of him! Boss me around will he? I haven’t let a man tell me what to do since 1954 and I’ve married twice since then!”
Albus turned to Harry. “That’s true. I gave up trying to tell her what to do in the sixties. Things were much calmer around here after that.”
“Sir, there was a war,” Harry reminded.
“I think you underestimate how much misery an unhappy witch can cause.”
Harry nodded. “Can Muggles hear a Howler?”
Albus shook his head. “It would just sound like distant thunder to them. Or in this case maybe like the wrath of a very angry goddess.”
Harry laughed but stopped when both McGonagalls turned and stared at him with the same stern, furious look. “That is both sort of scary and kind of hot. Which upsets and confuses me. I’d thank you both to stop it, right now.”
Both of them huffed at him and marched away.
– – – –
Social Ethics. The course material was a book on magical law—local and international. The material wasn’t new to Harry but he’d reviewed the first five chapters for the first class. British magical law was frankly disgusting—he’d made a list and sent to his dad, mostly out of irritation since he knew that none of it was a mystery to the duly elected Minster for Magic. There was a very good reason the Lord Black had stated his intent to burn the magical government of Britain to the ground and do a festive jig on the ashes.
The teacher was a rather attractive man in his thirties who introduced himself as Kevan Gainer. He was a pure-blood from an old moneyed family who had his license to practice magical law and a Muggle degree in criminal justice. It was an interesting education for an extremely boring man. Harry couldn’t figure it out. But then some people really did have to get by on their looks.
Even Hermione almost nodded off. Harry wasn’t entirely convinced she didn’t sleep through the last half hour. If anyone could take notes while they were asleep—it was his girlfriend. Afterwards they dragged themselves to DADA where Bill Weasley managed to get the drop on every single one of them. It was, on the whole, a boring and demoralizing afternoon.
“And I didn’t think anything could top History of Magic,” Seamus muttered as he stared into his dinner despondently.
“The guy is a human Dementor,” Harry said.
“Maybe we should borrow Ashley for the next class,” Neville said with a yawn. “It’s like he infected us with boring. Sucked the fun out of our soul.”
“Or it could be that British magical law is the devil,” Hermione said thoughtfully. She swirled her spoon around in the air. “My Muggle parents often talked about the devil and I, quite rationally I might add, didn’t take their god-myths seriously. I should probably send them a note apologizing. Obviously the devil does exist and today we made first contact.”
“I don’t get how someone so pretty could be so boring,” Lavender said. “I mean, really.”
“Remember Lockhart?” Hermione said dryly. “Well, no, he wasn’t boring in the least. He’s just big giant lying liar who lied a lot to every single person he ever met.”
“He was pretty though,” Fay agreed. “A very pretty liar.” She sighed. “Bill Weasley is pretty too but I was too… ugh… to even enjoy that! Something is very wrong with this whole day.”
Harry pushed back his plate. “I need dessert. Lots of dessert.”
“Agreed,” Hermione pushed back her own plate. “We need chocolate cake or pie or tart. Something.” Desserts started appearing all over the table and everyone grabbed one. “Ice cream and biscuits would be nice, too.”
“The first years are never going to bed,” Neville said as he watched Astoria and Elisa grab pie, a dish of ice cream and several biscuits each.
“We’ll take them outside after dinner and wear them out,” Harry said.
They all ate in silence and when they finished, Hermione stood up and clapped her hands. “Okay, everyone go get changed into your casual clothes. We’re going to go outside and have some fun or else.”
Gryffindor and a good portion of Hufflepuff immediately left the hall. By the time they’d all changed and marched out to the Quidditch pitch armed with brooms, wands and a couple of lawn games, a good portion of the school had joined in, all of them trying to shake off the weird mood that had fallen over the school. A few of the professors had joined them—sitting in the stands chatting in the setting sun. Dumbledore lit the pitch lights but didn’t instruct them to head inside.
A game of magical paint ball developed as dusk set in and the entire pitch was lit up with kids running around covered in glow in the dark paint splotches courtesy of two rather inventive Hufflepuffs. Harry sat down on a bench next to Hermione, who had declared herself neutral in the paint ball war and promised dire consequences to anyone who caught her with the magical paint balls.
She frowned at him and touched his cheek. “You’re cold.”
“No,” Hermione shifted so she could face him. “Harry, you’re cold. Why are you cold? You’re never cold except for that day when Fudge…” She inclined her head as he paled. “Oh, no.”
“The kids,” Harry said as he stood. “Dumbledore!”
The Headmaster jerked and turned towards Harry who was about thirty yards away from him. He moved forward in surprise when Harry drew his wand and pointed towards the Forbidden Forest. “Expecto Patronum!”
Shadows started to move along the edge of the forest and screamed outright as a large stag leapt out of Potter’s wand and rammed into them. Godric flowed off Harry and slithered past the running children and expanded rapidly into a wall of fire—separating the forest from the children with an inferno of heat and flame.
“Go, Hermione, get the kids inside the castle,” Harry said as he mounted his broom. He shot off like a rocket and cast his Patronus again.
Hermione took a deep breath. “Potter elves to me!” She shouted. Elves started to appear around her in rapid pops. “Get the students! Get them all into the castle!”
Her mother called for the Hogwarts elves and repeated the instructions as she cast her own Patronus. The cat jumped lithely over the fire ward and joined several other Patronus in guard duty.
Emmie popped into place in front of Hermione. “I sorry, Miss Hermione.” She wrapped herself around Hermione and popped away from her before Hermione could protest. She came back ten seconds later grabbed Minerva without apology and popped away with her as well.
Harry checked the field one more time, summoned Godric who shrank to a normal size as he flew through the air, turned toward the school, and pushed his broom to the limit and barely managed to stop as he entered the doors. He tumbled, furious and shivering at the Headmaster’s feet. “Goddamn it!” He shouted as he stood. “Those sons of bitches drove us out of the castle!” He pulled his wands. Dumbledore joined him at the open double doors. The Dementors were swarming as close to the school as they could without breaching the wards.
“They’ve been feeding on us since lunch,” Dumbledore said lowly. “That’s why everyone was so… out of sorts most of the day. Sixteen fourth years earned detentions. Nearly five hundred points were taken in seventh period alone.”
“Got close enough to act like leeches but not enough to activate the ward,” Harry said grimly. “Smart. Too bloody smart if you ask me. They dragged us down until we wanted to leave the castle. They were waiting for the sun to set to maximize the terror they could cause when they swarmed onto the field. How many are supposed to be at Azkaban?”
“A hundred and twenty,” Dumbledore said grimly.
“Then about half of them are here,” Harry said. “They had to have left Azkaban last night to get here by mid-afternoon. They could’ve hidden in the clouds. The sky was dark as hell during lunch. The enchanted ceiling looked like something out of an end of the world scenario.”
“Want to kill some Dementors?” Harry asked him.
“I watched Healer Arnou’s memory of you doing it,” Dumbledore said. “What would you need me to do?”
“I just need your magic,” Harry admitted.
“You can have mine, too,” Bill Weasley said. He stepped forward and drew his wand. “We’re going outside, right?”
“Right,” Harry agreed. “Sir, can you lower the apparition ward? I need a few members of my conclave.”
“Yes,” Dumbledore said. He paused. “I’m trusting you a great deal, young man.”
“They won’t be a disappointment,” Harry said. He flinched when the hall doors finally gave in and expelled both his girlfriend and her mother.
“Honestly!” Hermione snapped. “Harry Potter! Your elf kidnapped me!”
“She was doing her job,” Harry said dryly. “A job you agreed that she could continue to do at her own discretion.”
She started to protest but then made the mistake of looking outside. “Fuck me.”
“Hermione Isobel!” Minerva snapped and exhaled sharply as she looked outside. “Well, at least we know the ward is effective.”
“At the very least,” Harry agreed. “Well, as plots go—this is an excellent one. What better way to undermine the authority of the new Minister than to have a dozen children at Hogwarts kissed?” He turned to the Headmaster. “Is it done?”
“Almost, I’m making in specific to inducted members of your conclave.”
“Let the rest of the students out of the hall so they can watch. I want the little spy to get a very good look at what I’m about to do.”
“You know who it is?” Dumbledore asked curiously.
“Pretty sure,” Harry admitted. “I need to confer with a pair of spies of my own but I think they’ll just confirm what I’ve already picked up and what Niall has told me as well. He wanders about a lot during the day while I’m in class.”
“Okay, my boy, the wards are adjusted.” He went to the doors of the hall and gently beckoned the children forward. They crowded into the front hall and stared out the doors toward the swarm of Dementors. “Lord Potter is about to earn the moniker that Mr. Malfoy gave him.”
Harry stepped over the threshold and the Dementors went into a frenzy. “I must be their primary target. That’s good.”
“How is that good?” Hermione demanded.
“When they were captured by the British Ministry three hundred years ago, they were bespelled with obedience. They’ve been ordered here to Kiss me. They aren’t going to leave without doing it. They won’t even leave when I start killing them.”
He drew a series of runes in the air around him then pushed them out with his magic, creating a large ritual circle as he worked. The Dementors backed up a little but not by much. Curious but not afraid, Harry thought. He pushed the circle out further and then called the senior members of his conclave. The ten men appeared, each dropping into place inside his circle with a thunderous boom. Every single one of them was a drama queen. Though Harry would admit that he was no different—he made a habit of a grand entrance in such situations himself.
Bill Weasley stepped forward and took an empty place and the Headmaster joined him. Harry turned towards Hogwarts and hissed low and hard. Four disillusioned vipers appeared as they crossed the threshold over Hermione’s feet. They slithered into his circle each glowing with their unique magic. Rowena slid down Hermione’s arm and joined them—growing in length to almost six feet as she caught fire.
Harry poured Godric onto the ground. “Let us begin. May magic bless our unified purpose.” Godric lit, his fire entirely red as he encircled Harry and went still. The fire ward licked at Harry’s knees warm and protective. “Ferire Patronus. Abi in malam rem.” Magic swelled around him, harvested from those he’d gathered by the runes he’d drawn. White fire poured out of his wand and he flung it out into the swarm of Dementors.
The screams were horrific as the white fire spread and consumed the entire swarm in just minutes. Harry stood where he was until the Dementors were nothing but ash in the wind. He lowered his wand and the runes confining the circle faded from the air around him.
“That was bloody brilliant!” Astoria Greengrass shouted from the doorway of the school, Ashley, the Fiercest Unicorn Ever, clutched in one hand.
Hermione dashed out of the school, between two old wizards, picked her way over six snakes and flung herself at him. “What was that spell?”
“Ferire Patronus. Abi in malam rem,” he repeated in Latin even as a horde of a different kind could be heard approaching the school.
She smirked. “You smited them and sent them to hell?”
“Something like that,” Harry admitted and let his head rest against hers as Amelia Bones and a handful of aurors darted into the courtyard. Without even looking at them, he threw out his wand arm and erected a ward that pushed them all back rather forcefully.
He turned to the men of his conclave. “I thank you for your timely assistance.”
They all bowed and apparated away silently.
“Lord Potter!” Amelia Bones said, exasperated.
He kissed Hermione’s forehead and turned to face the Director of Magical Law Enforcement. “Who has direct control over the Dementors, Madam Bones?”
“Myself, your father, the warden at Azkaban, the Chief Warlock while in the Wizengamot, and the Under Secretary of Magic.”
“Umbridge,” Harry said. “But she’s dead. Who’s the new Undersecretary?”
“Your father hasn’t appointed one. Percy Weasley has been handling the administrative tasks as he was doing much of that work for Umbridge anyways.” Amelia exhaled in an obvious effort to reign in her temper. “Someone fire called the Ministry and reported a swarm of Dementors?”
“Oh, there was one,” Harry assured. “Fifty-eight to be exact.”
“Where are they?” Amelia asked.
“I killed them,” Harry said coolly. “I warned Fudge and I even warned the leader of the Dementors when he came here with Fudge that I’d kill the next Dementor that came to this school. I pride myself on being a man of my word.”
“You destroyed Ministry property?” Dawlish asked in shock.
“Actually, the Dementors are classified as creatures and while their enslavement by the British Ministry of Magic is well known—it is not formal so they weren’t property. Also, it’s not illegal to kill one. It’s just supposed to be impossible,” Professor Gainer offered quite cheerfully from his place at the top of the steps. “Lord Potter was well within his rights to kill dark creatures invading his property under the Dark Creature Self Defense Act of 1764.”
“Now he decides to be entertaining,” Hermione said dryly. She whipped out her wand and stunned Dawlish when he moved towards Harry.
“Merlin’s pants, woman!” Harry snapped. “Is it too much to ask? Really? That’s the second time you’ve stunned that arsehole and this time, honestly, I’m not sure he was a threat.”
“It’s not my fault you’re slow and I don’t like how he looks at you,” Hermione said primly and tucked her wand away. “Besides you smited all those Dementors and I only got to watch.”
“Excellent points,” Harry acknowledged. “Though it’s rather emasculating.”
“Really?” Hermione asked. “I find that kind of hard to believe actually, considering…” Her gaze dropped briefly to his crotch and she raised an eyebrow at him.
“Don’t objectify me,” Harry admonished and started to say more only to be distracted by the sound of his father’s voice.
“Harry James Potter!” Sirius shouted as he entered the courtyard. “What the bloody fuck is going on? Sweet buggering Christ, you were less trouble in Paris when all I had to worry about was some witch kidnapping you for sex on a Friday night!”
Harry turned to Hermione. “There was absolutely no kidnapping for sex. Wizard’s honor.” He turned to his father. “And really—there are children listening.”
“Good afternoon Lord Black!” Astoria cheerfully called from the doorway. “Lord Harry killed a whole bunch of Dementors!”
“He smited them,” Hermione added. “It was great.”
“You’re all high on parselmagic,” Sirius snapped and turned to glare at Amelia Bones. “What the fuck is going on? I get shoved into a meeting with six ambassadors and come out to be told that the Auror Department had been dispatched to Hogwarts and Azkaban!” He huffed at her and turned to Harry. “How many Dementors?”
“Fifty-eight,” Harry said cheerfully and rocked back on his heels. “You. Are. Welcome.”
Sirius smirked at him. “A little late in the year for such a grand Father’s Day present, pup, but thank you.”
“I celebrate Father’s Day every day,” Harry assured. “And yes, we’re all a little high on parselmagic. We’re also probably having a delayed sugar induced high because we all ate dessert for dinner. Lots and lots of dessert. I personally had three pieces of cake and a half a chocolate tart.”
“I ate two lemon pies,” Dumbledore confessed.
“I had six biscuits…” Hermione trailed off. “And two bowls of ice cream. Dementors are hell on a diet.”
“You don’t need to diet,” Harry said.
“If I ate like I did at dinner every night I’d be as big as a hippogriff,” Hermione said.
“Totally wouldn’t care,” Harry said and smiled. “Really.”
“I know you mean that,” Hermione said with a laugh.
“So,” Harry began and with a little deliberation gathered up all six of his snakes. “We’ll all be going inside now and you lot can go back to London. It’s late and none of us are in the mood to entertain. The elves are quite done in so no tea and frankly I’m fairly close to cursing the entire lot of you. Except for my Dad—I’d never curse my Dad but the rest of you are trespassing and I’m already really, extremely brassed off.” He handed Rowena and Godric to Hermione. “My snakes are tired as well, so that’s that.”
Amelia opened her mouth to speak then closed it. She turned to Sirius. “His snakes are tired?”
“It’s bad business to prevent a parselmouth from taking care of his snakes,” Sirius said. “Not worth the consequences really—you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering when one of them will come visit you. I did that once. Those little bastards took turns scaring the crap out of me. Osiris tried to smother me.”
“He wasn’t going to smother you,” Harry admonished. “I wish you wouldn’t tell that story—idiots always take you seriously! He got cold and you were warm!” He passed Osiris and Horus to Neville as the boy approached.
Longbottom barely hesitated in carefully looping the snakes over his head. “Right, into the breach. Truth be known, I’d rather have gone to Bulgaria. This has been a shite day.” He waved at his father who entered the courtyard with what looked like the Board of Governors. “Fantastic.”
Harry huffed and Astoria Greengrass darted forward. She plucked Hathor and Isis out of his hands and calmly put the sisters over her head so they draped around her neck. The snakes trembled in excitement.
He turned on them. “What do you want?” Harry demanded, staring at what he considered to be the former Board of Governors. “I fired all of you.”
“You can’t fire us,” one man said snidely. “We control this school.”
“This school sits on my land, its classes take place in my castle, my money pays the teachers, buys supplies, and makes sure there is food on the table every single day. Tell me, Mr. Sykes, exactly how do you think you control a damn thing around here?” Harry demanded. He pointed his black wand at the man and magic sparked out of it. “All that you and your ilk did for the last fifteen years is mismanage the school and destroy the original Hogwarts Trust. A Trust that fell into your hands when my biological father was murdered by Voldemort. Tuition went up, the Ministry got more and more of it, and the Trust was utterly destroyed while the lot of you put up a pretence of greatness. This school would have closed in 1989 if it weren’t for the Lily Potter Foundation, or did you forget that?”
Sykes frowned at him. “And the oversight of the school remained ours.”
“Until such time that the next Lord Potter accepted his inheritance,” Harry finished bluntly. “I warned you all two years ago when you didn’t fight the tuition hike that the Ministry put into place that you’d pay for it. This is you paying for it.”
“We don’t agree and don’t accept your authority,” Sykes said.
Harry smiled. “What exactly do you plan to do about it?”
“We’re here to take charge—seeing how as you couldn’t even protect the school from Dementors…” The man trailed off and looked around. “Where are they? Sent back to Azkaban by the Ministry? A Ministry you said you didn’t need? Obviously, young man, you were mistaken.”
“Madam Bones, did you send the Dementors that came to visit us back to Azkaban?”
“No,” Amelia said. “You’d already killed them by the time I got here, Lord Potter. All fifty eight of them.”
“What nonsense is this?” Sykes demanded. “Amelia, you can’t be serious!”
“Oh, she is,” Dumbledore said and nodded. “They were… quite smited by the time he was done.”
“Totally smited,” Astoria Greengrass said cheerfully then glared at Sykes. “You’d best not be giving me a dirty look, Mr. Sykes. It might make my Daddy cross with you.”
“And just who is your daddy?” Sykes demanded furious.
“Lord Gerald Greengrass, Earl of Devonshire,” Harry said. “Stop looking at her like that before I get more cross with you.”
Sykes smirked. “Isn’t she just a bit young for you, Potter? I heard you were courting the Mudblood.”
The air went still around them and Harry transformed in a blink of an eye—effortlessly—and lunged at the man through the ward as everyone scattered at the sight of a full grown dragon. Sykes pissed himself and fainted before Harry got a hold of him. He roared at him in frustration, bathing the man in smoke and soot. With a swirl of magic he returned to his human form, fury roiling off him in waves.
“And this is the sort of man that you’d have lead you?” He asked of the rest of the former governors. “This foul twisted man is your voice? Really? Why don’t you just haul yourselves out to Azkaban and have your meetings in Bellatrix Lastrange’s cell?” They all flinched away from him as he walked through the still vibrating dueling ward he was using to keep them all out. “Get out and do not return. I don’t care if you sue me. I’ve already cut off your access to the Hogwarts vaults.” He grinned at them, eyes still a vivid purple. “Do let me know if you intend to challenge that. I’m sure everyone here would appreciate a practical lesson on the matter of goblins and their idea of justice.”
“Lord Potter, I’d like to enter,” Frank Longbottom said.
Harry inclined his head. “As a concerned parent or a Senior Auror?”
“Concerned parent,” Frank assured. “You’ve got my kid holding two vipers, you know.”
“He’s never been safer than he is right now,” Harry said bluntly. “My word on it.”
Frank nodded and accepted the hand Harry offered through the ward and winced as he was hauled inside. “Thank you.”
Sirius stepped through the ward without a look towards his people and wrapped his arm around Harry’s shoulders. “Come along, lad, you look like you could use a bit of a nap.”
Harry yawned. “Being me is kind of exhausting,” he admitted as he was prodded towards the castle, taking Hermione’s hand as it was offered. He paused because Astoria was still standing by the ward. “Toria?”
She huffed. “Make him wake up.”
Amelia Bones pulled her wand and woke the man.
Astoria pointed her finger at the man. “My Daddy is going to ruin your life!” Hathor and Isis hissed their agreement at him. She turned on her little heel and marched into the castle. “Daphne! Did you hear that Wilfred Sykes person disparage my character?”
“I sure did, Toria,” Daphne said with a hateful glare towards the man in question. “Come along, we’ll use your communication mirror to call Daddy.”
– – – –
DEMENTORS REBEL AGAINST MINISTRY! ATTACK HOGWARTS!
LORD POTTER A DRAGON ANIMAGUS?
Harry tossed the Prophet aside with a huff. He knew his father and Bones had been up nearly all night working on the issue and trying to figure out who had ordered the attack. The Dementors had been focused and certainly too intent on him for it be a rebellion of any kind. Amelia Bones had been quite horrified by the time she’d pulled out of the Headmaster’s pensieve. It had certainly replaced her relief when Harry had finally allowed her to enter the school. He’d sent everyone else home. Frank Longbottom had taken Bill Weasley’s guest room for the night and Harry hadn’t begrudged the man that. He and Neville were obviously just as close as Harry was to his own Dad.
Hermione was wearing a mid-thigh length light brown cashmere jumper, a pair of black leggings, and knee high boots in the same camel color as her jumper. She’d also brought a mid thigh black full skirted coat down with her. It was draped over the back of the sofa. Apparently the entire school had slept in and the elves had delivered a light breakfast to the different common rooms. Her hair was down, falling over her shoulders in careful but fun transfigured curls. Harry was honestly rather put out that he’d never considered transfiguring his own hair. He touched his hair then shook it off. Mourning his loss was ridiculous, it was just hair.
He’d put on his oldest, most favorite jeans, a grey cashmere jumper, and his favorite wool dark green peacoat. He rather hated fashion but he knew that the Shoppe made money hand over first whenever he wore their clothes out in public, but it was all for a good cause so he didn’t kick up much of a fuss. He’d paired his jeans with a new pair of boots that had appeared in his closet—they were fashioned like Muggle combat boots only a little more slim at the toe and made out of dragon hide. They were very comfortable.
He said nothing as Hermione picked up his abandoned paper and absently munched on a piece of toast. They had about twenty minutes before they would apparate to London where their auror guards would be waiting. He wondered what poor souls had earned that particular duty for the day. No one could possibly want it – following two teenagers around Muggle London for the day.
Hermione huffed. “Honestly, someone should buy this rag and fire everyone who works for it then hire some honest people to actually report news for a bloody change.” She tossed the paper on the sofa next to her. “So, the plan?”
“I promised your mum we’d be back at the school by seven pm. Otherwise, I didn’t make any serious plans. We could go to lunch, see a movie, or whatever you want. I’ve never actually been to London properly that I remember.”
“Movie?” Hermione hummed. “I wanted to see Dangerous Minds but my parents refused to let me go before school started.”
“Do you have a magical ID?” Harry asked. “We’d probably need it to get tickets to that one since it’s rated for adults.”
“I have an ID,” Hermione said. “Mum received it from the Ministry shortly before my birthday party. But it’ll say I’m seventeen.”
“Only to other magicals. To Muggles, it’ll say whatever we need it to say for the moment until our real age isn’t a deterrent. It’ll look like Muggle ID when they see it as well.”
“Oh, brilliant,” Hermione said and frowned. “Where is Rowena?”
“I have them all in the heat box in my room,” Harry said. “I can’t take them into London since we’ll be spending so much time with Muggles. Well, I could take Godric but that would hurt Rowena’s feelings. So he decided to stay with her in the heat box with the vipers. They’re all still quite tired from all that Dementor smiting we did. That particular ritual is ripe with parselmagic.”
“It was the ward, right? That’s the magic you used to imbue ward stones for the anti-Dementor ward,” Hermione said. “But instead of putting it into stones—you used it to burn up all those Dementors.”
“Which was amazing,” Seamus said with a heavy yawn. “You guys get to go to London?”
Harry paused but then nodded. “Yeah, I asked.”
“Makes sense—you are pretty used to going wherever you want, right?” Seamus stretched and yawned again. “This must be like Hogzaban or something to you.”
“Complete with Dementors,” Dean said dryly and flinched when half the room glared at him. “What? Too soon?”
Harry snorted. “Maybe just a little.” He held up his fingers in demonstration. “Kiki!” A little elf appeared in a pair of red overalls and a sun hat. He frowned. “What are you about today?”
“I be in Godric’s Hollow today. It be my turn to supervise Torrie. It be a good thing—he be trying to convince a family of gnomes to move in!” Kiki proclaimed, hands on her hips as she explained.
Harry couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, but I think gnomes are rather cute.”
Kiki huffed. “Master Harry thinks real dragons are cute. Master Harry be spending too much time with Mr. Hagrid! Besides we not be planting food in the gardens. What would gnomes eat?”
Harry inclined his head. “I suppose you could plant them a little patch of vegetables in the north corner? Next to the green house?”
Kiki pulled off her hat and twisted one of her ears with her fingers. “Master Harry be bad for encouraging Torrie’s craziness.” She fanned herself with the hat in dismay.
“You should be on the stage,” Harry told her seriously. “But honestly—what’s wrong with a little family of gnomes? Tossing them is recreational for me and fun for them. If we feed them, they’ll even keep other pests out of the garden.”
“If you be insisting,” Kiki said. She shoved on her hat. “Now what Master Harry be wanting?”
“Well, you’re usually the one darting about with a camera for Star’s catalogs.” He waved at Hermione. “She’s all turned out in one of the fall outfits.”
“Oh,” Kiki huffed. “That Joey talked me into trading places with him today.”
“Talked?” Harry asked.
“Fine, he won a trade off me last month when we play poker and he use it today to get out of Torrie watching duty.” Kiki eyed Hermione. “I think he cheated. Now I won’t get to go Muggle London. It not be fair.”
“Did you not brag to him for a solid month about spending a week with me and Dad in Tokyo?” Harry asked. “You made him cry, Kiki.”
She snorted. “It not be the first time I make him cry!”
“Go on back to Torrie, you mean thing,” Harry admonished. “Tell him yes to the gnomes but no to the Whomping Willow. I saw it on the supply list. If he plants one on the property, Emmie will probably hang him from it by his ankle and leave him there.” She popped away and before he could say anything another elf popped into her place.
“Master Harry be wanting Joey.”
He eyed the complicated looking magical camera dangling from around the elf’s neck. “What’s your Aunt Star got planned for today?”
“The Prophet and Witch Weekly have requests for pictures of you.”
“Contractually—how many do I have supply between now and December?”
“Six but both publications can bes taking yous picture at Ball as much as they want since it be public event.”
Harry huffed. “Right. So?”
“Aunt Star wants candids, casual stuff, especially if Miss Hermione be wearing her new clothes.” Joey glanced at her shyly. “Which she be doing.” He frowned. “Yous not wear your snake today, Miss Hermione?”
“Oh, I have it on,” Hermione said and stood. The mithril snake was wrapped around her waist like a belt, the head curled under and pressed against her hip bone rather seductively, Harry thought. “See.”
Joey nodded. “Very smart, Miss Hermione. Can Joey be taking yous picture today?”
Hermione frowned and sat. “For what?”
“For Shoppe catalog and Potter PR package,” Joey said matter of factly. “If we give them pictures, they not follow Master Harry around harassing him like idiots. We give Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly, European Magical News… many magazines and papers twenty pictures a year. Lord Black make deal when reporter nearly kill himself trying to take picture of Master Harry.”
“He didn’t nearly get himself killed,” Harry said with a laugh.
“Yous not see Auntie Star,” Joey said. “She be sooo mad. She hunt down that stupid wizard and break his camera and make him…” Joey paused and whispered. “Impotent.”
“Impotent?” Hermione asked. “Why would…” Her gaze narrowed. “Who did this reporter work for, Joey?”
Harry blushed furiously and covered his face with both hands.
“Play Witch,” Joey said brightly. “We’s not send them any pictures ever. Lord Black be suing them for invasion of privacy and trespassing and harassment.”
“You’d better not,” Hermione said outraged. “Good lord, Harry, how old were you?”
He sighed. “I’d just turned fifteen, so age of consent applied. I look older than I am—I have since I was about twelve. Some of that is parselmagic—I’m finished with my magical maturity. I honestly wasn’t kidding about older women hitting on me at those big events like the Ministry Ball. It’s a nightmare. The Italian Minister’s eighteen year old daughter cornered me last year at a function and told me she wasn’t wearing any knickers. Then tried to basically kidnap me into a closet. My Dad barely got there in time to save me from being educated on the finer points of Italian love play as she put it.”
“You could have fought her off,” Hermione said narrow eyed. “You had your wand, right?”
Harry shared a look with Neville who was grinning at his predicament. “It’s considered rather impolite to draw your wand in the middle of a society ball on a witch.”
“I’m probably not going to be known for my good manners,” Hermione declared hotly. She turned to Joey. “I’ll want to see any of the pictures you take if that’s alright. You could bring me copies?”
“Of course, Miss Hermione.” Joey popped away.
– – – –
The apparition point for London was actually in Diagon Alley. The aurors were young and dressed suitably in Muggle clothes, which was relieving. A lot of magicals just had no ability whatsoever to blend in with Muggles. Hermione discovered rather quickly that the two young men in question were not particularly pleased to have drawn babysitting duty for the two of them but she chose to ignore it. Instead, they popped into the pet store in Diagon Alley and ordered some stuff for the various animals in their lives then left the Alley.
Hermione bought a newspaper to check out the movie listings as they headed towards a café for lunch. The two aurors sat a bit away from them but Harry instructed their server that he would be paying for their lunch. After they ordered, Hermione relaxed in her seat and stared at him.
“I was just thinking about something my mum said during my first year at Hogwarts—about how most young women in my position usually had to eventually chose between two worlds, depending on the man they married.” She frowned. “I can’t imagine how Ron or even Neville would do in a situation like this. They are rather… isolated.”
Harry nodded. “Dad made sure I could move easily between both worlds so to speak. I have to be able to do so for business and my is title relevant in both if you get my meaning.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Excuse me?”
Harry laughed. “You didn’t know? Most of the ancient families are titled in both societies. Black, Potter, Greenhouse, Savage, Longbottom—it’s why they are so wealthy and so socially connected. The families can easily make money and move around in both worlds. My Dad has titles in the UK and France. That’s one reason why he moved there after what happened and why the French government on both sides of the divide went to the wall for him regarding my custody.”
They both grew quiet as their food was delivered and sat back with sandwiches and chips. The aurors finished eating sooner and wandered across the street. Hermione watched one of them slip into the shadows, probably to report on their position and activities.
“I wonder what those two did to draw this duty?”
Harry laughed as he pulled out his credit card and put it on the tray with the bill for both tables. “Something horrible. We should ask them.”
“Maybe not; they look all serious and gung-ho.”
“I don’t suppose it would do to lose the Minister’s son,” Harry murmured dryly as he signed off on the credit card after some quick math regarding the tip.
They chose to walk the few blocks to the theater and there wasn’t much of a line for tickets when they arrived with nearly thirty minutes to spare. Harry bought tickets for all four of them and wasn’t asked for his ID. The two older wizards looked a little puzzled by the activity so Harry approached them while Hermione got in line with his credit card for popcorn and drinks.
“You guys ever been to a movie?”
“No, sir,” the one who introduced himself as Rogers admitted. “Read about them in Muggle Studies though.”
“Me too,” Smythe admitted and looked around the theater’s lobby. “Is that what this place is?”
“It’s a movie theater—most of them have a bunch of different screens so they can show different movies all at once,” Harry explained. He handed them both a ticket. “I realize you have to keep an eye on me and I appreciate you probably got stuck with this rather crap duty so I figure if we’re going to be on a double date I could make things as easy as possible.”
Rogers snorted. “I knew I should’ve begged for Tonks to be my partner today.”
“What?” Smythe demanded with a smirk. “I’m not pretty enough for you?”
Harry laughed. “Looks like Hermione got you guys some popcorn.”
The aurors set a few rows above them and to Hermione’s right which Harry appreciated. The movie was good, inspiring really. Movies were one of his dad’s favorite Muggle things so Harry had seen a lot of them growing up. The two aurors were a little jarred by the experience so Harry took pity on them and after the movie they wandered in and out of a few shops before heading back to the Alley for ice cream. Both men seemed to relax a little once they were back in magical territory, which was a shame really because their brief sojourn in the Alley earlier in the day had been blessedly unnoticed. That wasn’t the case the second time around.
Fortunately, Florean Fortescue was a rather fierce old man and he drove out the crowd with a little brandishing of his wand. He even tinted his windows to prevent gawking which the aurors were grateful for.
“Some people,” Fortescue said with a sigh. “Just don’t know any better, really. Acting a fool like that. Now, what can I get you children? Something terrible for you I’d suspect. Now, Miss McGonagall, you favor cherry ice cream I believe. Just plain cherry. And Dobby normally gets chocolate for the young Lord Potter.”
She grinned at him. “Just two scoops. I’ve been terrible lately.”
“And Lord Potter?”
“Two scoops for me as well,” Harry said and frowned slightly as magic brushed up against his. The magic was familiar, so very familiar that he almost relaxed. The two aurors were on the other side of the parlor having declined ice cream.
“Something…” He reached out and snatched a beetle right out of the air. “Hmmm, Auror Rogers?”
The auror came to him, wand drawn. “Catch something interesting, lad?”
“Just a beetle…” Harry said and slowly opened his hand. The insect sat perfectly still in his palm, too still to be a real insect. “A little late in the year for one I’d think.”
Rogers conjured a jar and scooped up the beetle with a little smirk. “Looks a little familiar actually.”
“A little,” Harry agreed. “If it is who I think it is—I have a restraining order against her. She isn’t to be within twenty feet of me unless we’re both attending the same event as guests.”
Rogers dropped the jar in his jacket pocket and retreated with a nod of understanding.
Hermione pursed her lips and frowned. “Rita Skeeter.”
Harry grinned at her as their ice cream popped into place. “I have to wonder if I’d ever get anything past you.”
“Why on Earth would you try?” Hermione asked. “No man needs to borrow that kind of trouble.” She pointed at him with her spoon. “Besides, I’d be an excellent partner in shenanigans.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Harry said. “Want me to buy the Daily Prophet and fire everyone? I totally would.”
“It would make a spectacular Christmas present for basically everyone,” Hermione said. “But especially me because they routinely ruin my breakfast with their ignorance and there is just no excuse for that.”
“That could totally be rule number two,” Harry said thoughtfully.
“What’s rule number one?” Hermione asked with a raised an eyebrow.
“Unless someone’s dead or literally on fire, there is no excuse for…” He leaned in and whispered in her ear, “being a cock block.”
Hermione burst out laughing. “That is excellent rule number one.”
– – – –
The new Minister was sitting in the Head Auror’s office when Rogers and Smythe returned from duty. Rogers set the glass jar on Shacklebolt’s desk. “Potter caught this in the ice cream parlor. We’re both pretty convinced it’s Rita Skeeter.”
Sirius sighed. “He literally caught her? She was that close to him?”
“He informed me that there is a restraining order in place,” Rogers said. “He just reached out and snatched her out of the air. I think she might have been disillusioned.”
“I can feel other animagus if they get too close,” Sirius explained. “They don’t feel like genuine animals.” He picked up the jar and spilled the beetle out onto the desk. “Well, Rita, are you going to show yourself or will we be required to hurt you by forcing your change?”
The beetle flew off the desk and changed into a witch with a little flash of magic. She huffed. “Your son is a thug. He could have killed me.”
“But he didn’t,” Sirius said. “He could’ve and no one would’ve ever known. People kill bugs every day.”
Shacklebolt sighed and activated a rune on his desk. A pair of aurors entered. “Charge Ms. Skeeter with being an unregistered animagus, stalking an underaged wizard, and violating a restraining order.” He focused on Rogers and Smythe as Rita was hauled away. “Report.”
Rogers started to speak then closed his mouth.
Sirius laughed. “Relax, just be honest. If my kid was a snot or chose to be difficult, I’d really like to know. His personal safety is very important to me.”
Rogers nodded. “He didn’t try to evade us; kept to public venues. Kept a hand on Miss McGonagall, properly mind you, whenever they entered crowded areas in the shops. They bought a few things that he shrank and pocketed when the situation allowed. At no point did I worry that he might violate the Statute of Secrecy. They both negotiate the Muggle world easily and without hesitation. They went to lunch, saw a movie that was a bit adult but nothing overly explicit, had some ice cream where we had a little bit of a crowd problem and then they returned to Hogwarts. He interacted with us when warranted but otherwise focused on her.”
“Focused on her too much?” Sirius questioned. “Would you say that his situational awareness was impacted by her presence?”
Roger shook his head. “I couldn’t tell you what his situational awareness is when she’s not around but he knew where Smythe and I were at all times. Beyond keeping her close and making one bloke turn tail in run with a look—he appeared to be just a kid on a date.”
“Turn tail and run?” Shacklebolt asked.
“They were in a Muggle bookstore. The girl… she was very distracted by her shopping. Potter sort of rotated around her going to different sections as they talked about Muggle universities. They bought several books on maths, business, economics, and science. At any rate, there was this boy about their age who appeared very interested in approaching Miss McGonagall. Potter cut him off neatly without a word and just stared at him for a few seconds. Kid practically ran from the store,” Smythe explained.
Sirius snorted. “Parselmouths, scaring the shit out of people since the dawn of time. I never met one couldn’t stare at you in such a way that you worry they might be boring a hole in your forehead.”
“She didn’t even notice,” Rogers continued. “But she didn’t notice their waiter checking her out either.”
“There was a total lack of flirting,” Smythe said. “I thought this was pretty much their second date? That’s what Tonks said and they acted like an old married couple really. A happily married couple but still they weren’t…”
“Awkward,” Rogers supplied. “They weren’t awkward. At any rate, he wasn’t a snot about the detail and bought us lunch before we could figure out how to use the Muggle money you sent with us.” He pulled out the envelope and put it on the desk. “It was definitely better than Hogsmeade duty, that’s for certain.”
Smythe cleared his throat. “Just one thing… what is rule number one?”
Sirius grinned. “Unless someone’s dead or literally on fire there is no excuse for being a cock block.”
“Excellent rule number one.”
– – – –
Minerva was doing something she’d never thought she’d do again—she was searching for her child. She knew Hermione was in the castle and could’ve easily cheated by getting the elves to reveal her location but it was sort of like a treasure hunt and that appealed to her inner nature. Besides, darting around the castle in her Kneazle form was rather fun in its own right. She caught the scent of lemongrass which she’d come to associate with Hermione since it was the main scent in her favorite shampoo.
Gene Kelly’s voice drifted down the hall as she got closer to the classroom that Harry had appropriated earlier in the week and put down a charmed dance floor. The Headmaster has found the request amusing and the rest of the staff hadn’t cared either way. She paused in the doorway, stunned to see Harry and Hermione moving around in the room in a nearly perfect executed fox trot to Singing in the Rain. They were both rather amused with each other and the music. Minerva bobbed her head gently as she watched them, amused by their ease with one another.
The music changed and they transitioned into a waltz which was a little stiffer for them both. She figured the charms on the floor were a little stricter with them. After a few minutes, she walked across the room and jumped into the window to lay beside Crookshanks. She could wait a while before asking about her daughter’s date.
– – – –
Draco Malfoy was pacing around the astronomy tower nervously while Harry leaned on the wall and watched his peer work through a series of false starts. He’d agreed to the after curfew meeting much to Hermione’s displeasure because a part of him wanted to do everything he could to return Narcissa’s son to her.
“You know you can’t be told where she is,” Harry finally said when Malfoy stopped pacing around.
“I know,” Draco nodded. “But… she’s my mother.”
“Your father would murder her,” Harry said. “You and I both know that. She was lucky to survive their marriage as long as she did.”
“I know. I was there!” Draco shouted and took a deep calming breath. “Fuck, I’m sorry.”
“No apologies needed,” Harry murmured and sat down on a bench. He sighed when Draco joined him. “What do you want to do?”
“I want to go home for Yule and kill my father,” Draco said and huffed. “But the likelihood that I’d get away with it is slim to none. He has followers. They’d kill me in revenge.”
“I have no doubts,” Harry said. “I also totally support the goal.”
Draco snorted. “How goes your campaign with the fair Miss McGonagall?”
“Very well, I think,” Harry admitted. “She’s challenging, that’s for certain.” He paused and shrugged. “I like it though.”
“I was always thought she’d end up with Weasley and that it would be a bloody shame,” Draco said. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“You should curse the shit out of Weasley the first chance you get,” Draco suggested. “I’d have done it years ago if it wouldn’t have started a war between Gryffindor and Slytherin.”
“I bet these days half the house would help you hide his parts,” Harry said dryly. “Especially the first years. They hate his guts. I caught the first year boys pranking the shower stall he always uses before I came up here.”
Draco huffed. “You stopped them?”
“What sort of wizard do you take me for?” Harry demanded. “I helped them.”
Draco laughed. “I sort of miss Fred and George—their favorite target was their own brother.” He cleared his throat. “So what’s up with you and the Weaselette?”
Harry frowned and then laughed. “Weaslette? That’s… yeah, that works on so many levels. As to that, there is nothing going on there. I wouldn’t fuck that witch with someone else’s dick.”
“I really hope you told her so,” Draco said with a laugh.
“It was a close thing but no not those exact words. She tried to ask me to open her.”
“But you’re magically and legally an adult.” Draco exhaled sharply. “Wow, and I thought Weasel had horrible manners. Your whole courting period has got witches all over this castle excited, by the way. The rest of us blokes think you’re an arsehole.”
“It was the best and most expedient way of making sure that Minerva McGonagall knew that my intentions were utterly serious,” Harry said.
“And it’ll keep other wizards away from her unless they’re willing to challenge you to a duel,” Draco said. “Which only a fucking idiot would do.”
“You afraid of me, Malfoy?”
Draco snorted. “No, but I’m not an idiot either. There is simply no need whatsoever to pick a fight with a dragon.”
Harry shrugged. “I’d never use my form in a duel unless my opponent did it first. Honestly, it’s not a particularly useful form.”
“You can fly without a broom,” Draco protested.
“Yes, there is that but I meant from a combat perspective. I could hurt more than just an enemy and my magical abilities are limited in my form,” Harry explained.
Godric left his place around his neck, slithered down his arm, and across his thigh. He appeared as he nudged Draco with his head briefly and moved into the Slytherin’s lap.
Draco hesitated briefly before picking up the snake. “Wow.”
“His name is Godric,” Harry said.
“I had heard,” Draco admitted. “He’s beautiful.”
“And very aware of it,” Harry said. “Snakes are terribly vain creatures.” He laughed when Godric flicked his tongue out at him. “He likes your magic I think.”
“I’m a latent parselmouth,” Draco said. “My father wants to wait until I’m an adult before I wake it.”
“What do you want?” Harry asked.
“He’s my patriarch,” Draco said as he stroked Godric’s head. “I can’t risk disobeying him.”
Harry nodded. “When you’re ready, come to me. The Glain Neidr would be honored to wake your parselmagic.”
“Thank you that would be…yeah,” Draco flushed. “You’re their High Warlock, right?”
“Yes, since my fifteenth birthday,” Harry admitted.
“Are there times when you regret being a parselmouth?” Draco asked.
“Not a single day,” Harry said. “I can’t ever regret being born the way I was because in the end it was my gifts as a parselmouth that prevented the return of Tom Riddle. Had I been left ignorant of what I was and my parselmagic gifts as the British Ministry intended, we’d be embroiled in a blood war right now. I can’t calculate the odds that the two of us would be sitting here together if that were the case.”
“My father certainly had plans for me,” Draco said. “He’ll kill you if he ever gets a chance.”
“And if I kill him instead?” Harry asked. “What will happen between you and I if that comes to pass?”
Draco took a deep breath. “I would be in your debt far more than I am at the moment.”
“You’re not in my debt,” Harry protested.
“You and Lord Black sheltered and protected my mother. I assure you, Lord Potter, I owe you a debt,” Draco said evenly.
“Call me Harry.” He stood and held out his hand for his snake. Godric swirled out from Draco’s hand and wrapped around Harry’s fingers in a sweep of red sparks. “Show off.”
“Draco then,” Malfoy said as he left the bench.
It was no surprise at all to find his witch at the bottom of the tower. Daphne Greengrass was waiting with her. They both frowned at the two of them.
Harry shared a glance with Draco. “They’re acting like we were up there making out.”
“He’s a great kisser,” Daphne said.
“It would be extremely hot to watch,” Hermione allowed. She turned to Daphne. “They’re both so pretty.”
Harry laughed and looped an arm around her. “You’re horrible.”
Draco glanced them all over and focused on Daphne. “If, by some chance, we agreed to such activity, what sort of odds could we expect on the two of you returning the favor for us to watch?”
“You’re a cad,” Daphne said with a laugh. “Come along before we get caught.”
“But, Daph, she’s already seen you naked,” Draco cajoled as she dragged him away. “I bet she’s amazing looking naked.”
“She totally is,” Daphne confided as they went around the corner.
Harry turned to Hermione with his mouth slightly ajar. “You saw each other naked?”
“What happens in the girls’ dorm stays in the girls’ dorm,” Hermione said.
“Just how many naked girls were there? When was this?” Harry asked as she tugged him towards Gryffindor. “No, really, I need to know. Was Lavender naked, too?”
“She might have been,” Hermione admitted and glared at him. “You want to see Lavender naked?”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “What bloke in this school doesn’t?”
She opened her mouth to respond then sighed. “No, you’re absolutely right about that and for the record, she’s lovely.”
“That’s…” He trailed off as she gave the password. “You’re a terrible tease.”
The common room was basically abandoned but he led her through it to his quarters because he figured they were due a private conversation about a topic she’d artfully avoided the night before and the entire time they were in London. She dropped down on his sofa and pouted at him as if she already knew what he was about to say.
Hermione frowned. “He was always very careful and kind with me. It never crossed my mind that he was grooming me for what would’ve amounted to date rape.”
Harry nodded and pulled two butter beers out of a small cooling cabinet that Dobby kept stocked for him. “Alright.” He opened both bottles and came to the couch. “Look, I…” He looked down at the bottles and passed her one. “Did you know that you were my first kiss, too?”
“No,” Hermione said. “That’s charming actually. I’ve almost totally gotten over wanting to hex you for all of that.”
Harry laughed. “I was so worried about you that night. Emmie had never once asked for help in such a way before. None of us were really prepared for what happened, me least of all. I knew enough about the diary to know that it was a problem. Emmie had been watching the situation as closely as she could but her primary mission was you. She kept you and another girl from being petrified, did she tell you?”
“No, we’re still in pre-Hogwarts years in her confession,” Hermione said dryly. “Yesterday she told me the story of how she hexed this boy who tried to bully me at school with a clumsiness spell.”
“She’s always been something of a vengeful little thing,” Harry admitted. “Regardless, when the basilisk almost petrified you… Emmie reported back to me and I had my account manager at Gringotts start putting together a team to deal with the snake. They were due to come to the school in just two days when Ginny Weasley basically lured you and her brother down into the Chamber.”
“We followed her.”
“I don’t believe that was all of it,” Harry admitted. “The dark artifact she had was extremely powerful and it held part of Tom Riddle’s soul. Not an imprint but an actual part of him and it was keen on surviving. He would’ve needed more magic than a magically immature girl could’ve provided on her own. He was going to sacrifice you and Ron Weasley.”
Hermione grimaced. “Do you think she knew that?”
“Even if she had, she would’ve been in no condition to refuse him. I think she’s an idiot, granted, because she should have given that thing to her father the moment it started talking to her. In retrospect, I should’ve had Emmie take it from her but we didn’t know what it really was until it was too late.” He took a drink of his butter beer and started to peel the label from the bottle.
“Are you nervous?” Hermione asked with an abrupt laugh.
“I… no. I don’t know how to talk to you about this,” Harry admitted.
“I don’t want him.”
“You don’t want him now,” Harry clarified. “Now that you know his reputation.”
Hermione frowned at him. “Okay, I found him attractive briefly and I enjoyed his attention but I only kissed him once. It was rather horrible actually. He’d had firewhiskey during the Yule Ball. Not sure where he got it but that’s neither here nor there. I went back to my dorm and brushed my teeth for ten minutes with a tooth brush. Lavender laughed at me for not using a charm but the teeth cleaning charm just wasn’t getting the taste of him out of my mouth.”
Harry laughed. “Yeah, okay, it’s just he’s very interested in seeing you socially.”
“But I’m with you.”
“You have the right to open up a full courtship process and entertain more than one suitor,” Harry said. “Many European magical communities have such social rules. Unspoken codes that we’re expected to adhere to.”
“Your mother and I locked you into an exclusive courting period without even asking you. These are your choices, Hermione,” Harry said quietly. “You’re entitled to them. Frankly, witches don’t have a lot of rights in Britain so it’s important that you exercise the ones you do have.”
“I have no interest whatsoever in Viktor Krum. I don’t care if he’s never been convicted of what he’s done. You said he’s a rapist.”
“The British Ministry of Magic says he’s a rapist,” Harry corrected. “The DMLE investigated him and had charges ready when his father bribed the family of the witch he raped at the World Cup to drop the charges. You know she’s here at Hogwarts.”
Hermione paled. “So she was here… when he was. She had to see him all bloody year.”
“Yes,” Harry said quietly. “I don’t know her name and I never tried to find out but she turned fourteen that summer so she’s probably a sixth year with us.” He brushed a tear from her face with his thumb and took her butter beer from her hand. He set them both on the floor and pulled her close. She settled against him with a shudder. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought this up.”
“No,” Hermione said. She turned her face and pressed it against his neck. “No, I needed to talk about it. I’ve been avoiding it. Mum has charms on all the girls in Gryffindor.”
“Charms they would’ve had to get parental consent for,” Harry agreed. “It was probably included in the letters they sent out that summer for fourth year and the charms applied during the first week of that school year.”
“I can’t live in a society where this gets brushed aside like it’s not important,” Hermione whispered. “I can’t, Harry.”
“My Dad is working on releasing all the names of the witches and wizards that have been sacrificed within the confines of magical Britain. The public has a right to know how bad it is here and what they’ve let so-called former Death Eaters get away with.”
Hermione nodded. “I’m going to figure out how to make a wizard think twice about attacking a witch. You watch me.”
“I’ve got your back,” Harry murmured against her hair. “No one is going to touch you without your permission and not pay a very painful price for it.”
“I can take care of myself,” she said.
“You’re a badass,” Harry agreed. “But I’d consider it a privilege and an honor if you’d allow me the opportunity to protect you whenever it is reasonable for me to do so.” He paused. “And sometimes even when it’s stupid and irrational.”
She laughed. “Can I keep stunning Dawlish?”
“Maybe one day he’ll learn to get out of the way or at least shield himself,” Harry said dryly. “We’ll tell Dad that you consider it your duty to train Dawlish up before he gets himself killed on duty.”
“I might kick Ginny’s arse before the school year is over.”
“I’ll hold your books while you do it.”
Hermione laughed. “I’m going to ask Emmie to curse Cho Chang with magic resistant acne. Right now she’s helping Daphne Greengrass ruin Pansy Parkinson’s life.”
“Well, as long as she’s having fun,” Harry said dryly. “What have you girls done so far to her?”
“Hmmm, mild nightmare curse that didn’t work because of the anti-Dementor ward, itching hexes in all of her knickers which worked beautifully, Emmie cancels her alarm charm every single night so she’s always late for breakfast, and we put Muggle dye in her shampoo this evening.”
Which, he thought, might explain Star’s blue braids. They’d been experimenting with Muggle dye to see if it would stick to an individual with magic. He figured he should probably put his foot down about it but he couldn’t stand Pansy Parkinson.
“Why does she treat Astoria the way she does?” Harry asked.
“It’s not about Astoria. It’s about Daphne,” Hermione said. She shifted in his arms and leaned back against him. “Pansy wants Draco Malfoy and Daphne is in her way. She’s no match against a witch her own age so she tries to pick on Astoria. But she’ll figure out that’s a bad idea. Yesterday, I taught Astoria the Bat-Bogey hex.”
Harry laughed. “I really hope I get to see that in action.”
“She was very dedicated and her wand work on the hex is quick. Parkinson won’t have a chance to deflect. Not that she’d try. She doesn’t see Astoria as a real threat.” Hermione turned suddenly and faced him. “Why?”
“Why what?” Harry asked.
“Why did you bring up that whole courting process? Do you want to see other people?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then why?” She frowned at him.
“I…” Harry took a deep breath. “Visiting the Book of Souls remains one of the most magical moments of my life.” He ran his fingers along her jaw. “And you’re such a gift to me but I don’t want you to ever think you don’t have any choice. If I’m not what you want, no matter what Fate says, I want you to be comfortable telling me that. I just need to know you’re here because you want to be and not because you think you should be.”
“I wanted you before I was told you were my soulmate,” Hermione said quietly. “I don’t see that changing, Harry. You’re just… everything I could ever want.” She leaned in and pressed her mouth against his briefly then cupped the back of his head as she crawled fully into his lap.
“Yeah,” she promised.