Title: Magic’s Burden
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry/Hermione, Draco Malfoy/Daphne Greengrass
Word Count: 9,832
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse, discussion of sexually abusive situations, explicit language, and ritual magic.
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
– – – –
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cho said without a single hesitation. Her face projected all the innocence in the world.
Harry watched her deny knowing Luna Lovegood’s location for the third time in silence. Cho had been woken up and taken from her bed in Ravenclaw. She’d been brought directly to the Headmaster’s office by her Head of House and had no idea that Luna was currently in the infirmary having breakfast.
“Luna was kidnapped from Hogwarts and given to a dark conclave of wizards intent on sacrificing her,” Harry said finally interrupting Kingsley Shacklebolt when the older man had started to ask the same set of questions for the fourth time.
“That’s horrible,” Cho said and put her hand to chest in dismay.
“And you claim you know nothing about it?” Harry prodded.
“Of course not, Lord Potter,” Cho said. “I’d never be involved in anything so disgusting.”
“Then you won’t be upset at all to know that this particular group of dark wizards were so fucking stupid that they used my ritual space in the Dark Forest to attempt this abomination and when my conclave descended upon them, disrupting a profane and truly obscene act, we were forced to kill every single one of them.”
Her eyes went wide and wet in an instant. “What?” She asked in a hoarse whisper.
Harry stood and leaned down so they were eye to eye. “Your father is in a body bag at the Ministry with a hole where his heart used to be. You removed Luna Lovegood from this castle, cancelled the tracking charms on her clothes that the house elves were using to keep track of her things because her housemates are fucking thieves, and you gave her to your father. He was so bloody stupid that he tried to sacrifice a witch on my land. Now he, and every wizard we could find with him, is dead.”
Cho burst into tears. Harry straightened up and took a deep breath. “There now, Auror Shacklebolt, all settled. She’s an adult and dosing her with veritiserum shouldn’t be a problem once you get her to the Ministry. I’d very much like to know if this is the first time she’d helped her father’s conclave do such a thing, if they had other targets in the castle, and how many times they might have used my ritual space. Members of my conclave have been taking shifts in our efforts to clean that space of dark magic. They desecrated one of the oldest ritual circles in Britain with their foul existence.”
– – – –
Harry took the witness stand, declared himself, took the oath of truthfulness with no hesitation, and then sat down. He glanced briefly at his father who was observing the proceedings but not actively participating. Percy Weasley still had his job at the Ministry. Mostly because they were using him to spy on the bad elements of the government though Percy had no idea he was followed by house elves twenty-four/seven.
Because Percy still had his job, he was supporting Amos Diggory, the Undersecretary of Magic, with the task of leading the inquiry into the misuse of the Gryffindor Circle and the kidnapping of Luna Lovegood from Hogwarts.
“Lord Potter, thank you for taking time out of your studies to be with us today.”
“It’s no problem,” Harry said easily.
“First, just for the purposes of public record,” Amos cleared his throat and his gaze dropped to the parchment in front of him. “How long have you been the High Warlock of the Glain Neidr conclave?”
“I assumed the leadership of the Glain Neidr shortly after my fifteenth birthday,” Harry said.
“Can you tell us why?” Amos asked.
“We met in France to discuss the passing of our High Warlock. I joined the conclave when I was six years old at the behest of my healer, Castius Arnou and my Mentor, Hiro Ito. It was one of the paths they took to healing the mental, physical, and emotional damage I suffered at the hands of my Muggle relatives.” He paused at that then continued. “At any rate, we met in France and at that time there were forty-three of us. Due to our goals as a conclave and future plans for ritual magic, it was decided that the wizard with the highest Myrddin Rating would stand as High Warlock.” Shock teetered through the crowd.
“And at fifteen, you had the highest Myrddin Rating of any adult wizard in your entire conclave?” Amos Diggory asked, shock settling on his face.
“I’m fully matured magically,” Harry explained. “There are four men on this planet who have a comparable rating to mine and only one who rates higher that we are aware of.”
“I see. My thanks for clearing that up,” Amos said nervously and shifted his parchments around. “Where were you when told that Luna Lovegood was missing from Hogwarts?”
Harry exhaled sharply. “I was… in a broom closet.”
“A broom closet?” Amos repeated.
“What were you doing in a broom closet, Lord Potter?”
“Checking off an item on my bucket list,” Harry said blithely and grinned when several wizards in the audience burst out laughing, among them his own father. Amos Diggory blushed. “My house elf, Dobby, who acts as my majordomo and generally monitors Hogwarts’ security for me, came to me and reported that Luna Lovegood and Cho Chang were not in the castle. I used him and my familiar, Godric, to gather the appropriate people to have a discussion about searching for the two girls.”
“When did you come to suspect that perhaps Miss Lovegood had been kidnapped from the school?”
“I had certain knowledge of Miss Lovegood’s personal circumstances that led me to believe that she had not been opened,” Harry said diplomatically. “I came to know, through a friend, that Cho Chang’s father was a dark wizard. I suspected that perhaps Miss Chang had lured Miss Lovegood from the castle for her father or she’d outright kidnapped her. I was also informed that Lucius Malfoy was likely leading the ritual. Using blood willingly given to me from his son, I called my conclave to Hogwarts and performed a Dark Magic Seeking. It is a parselmagic spell that we use for curse breaking primarily.”
“What did this spell do exactly?”
“It sought out Lucius Malfoy, determined if he was performing a dark art, and… apparated my sword straight through his chest cavity,” Harry said bluntly. “We followed the sword, disrupted the ritual, and during the course of that pursuit—we were forced to kill all of the dark wizards involved.”
“Twenty died in the circle and another died later that evening at the hands of my conclave,” Harry said neutrally.
“How many… how many did you personally kill, Lord Potter?”
“I honestly couldn’t say,” Harry admitted. “Lucius Malfoy for certain. Unfortunately for him and his followers, shortly after I arrived my animagus form broke free and I had something of a rage black out. When I gained control of myself, they were all dead. My conclave suffered no injuries.”
“This is a terrible burden for such a young man,” Amos said quietly.
“It is the duty of a good man to do for society what society cannot do for itself,” Harry said firmly. “They were horrible, vicious, and dark men with no hope for redemption. We’ve learned that they’ve sacrificed upwards of ten witches on the altar of Gryffindor in the past year alone and several hundred since the 1970s. It will take my conclave more than a year to truly cleanse the circle and the surrounding forest. The trees around the circle are in various stages of death and decay due to the dark magic they created. I won’t lose any sleep over what I did.”
“You were able to save Luna Lovegood’s life.”
“Yes, we were able to extract her from the ritual though if we’d been even thirty minutes later it would’ve been too late. She has recovered with no medical issues to speak of.”
“Thank you, Lord Potter.”
Harry stood and opened the short wood door to the box as the clerk called Hermione to the witness box. He held the door for her and offered her a hand as she took the two steps to the chair. They shared a small look before he returned to his seat in the witnesses area.
“If you would state your name for the record,” Amos Diggory prodded.
“Hermione Isobel McGonagall, Heiress of the House of Ross,” Hermione said. She took her oath carefully and put her wand away with minimal fuss.
“You are the sixth year prefect for Gyffindor, is that correct?”
“Yes, a duty I share with Neville Longbottom.”
“Where were you when you found out that Luna Lovegood and Cho Chang were missing from the school?”
Hermione raised an eyebrow and glanced at Harry who could only smirk at her.
“I was in a broom closet helping the Earl of Gryffindor with his bucket list,” Hermione said primly and just stared when the Amos Diggory blinked at her in surprise. “Thanks, by the way, I’ve gone my entire Hogwarts career without getting detention.”
Amos laughed before he could help himself. “My apologies. Can you tell me what actions you took after you found out?”
“I did a search of the area of the castle that Cho Chang liked to frequent, including several of the broom closets on the second floor where I’d come across her in the last year while Harry went to Ravenclaw to speak with the Head Boy, Roger Davies. They confirmed that both Luna Lovegood and Cho Chang were not in the dorms. I went down to the foyer of the castle where everyone was gathered to formulate a plan. I knew… or at very least strongly believed that Luna had been taken for a sacrificial ritual.”
“Why did you suspect that?”
“Shortly after my adoption, it was explained to me that being a virgin after the age of fifteen is dangerous in the magical world. Having never read magical newspapers from other countries, I was uninformed about the epidemic of dark ritual sacrifices that have been taking place all over the world for the past fifteen years. I was horrified and I immediately set about educating every single witch in the castle that I thought might be at risk. I came to know in the last few weeks that Luna Lovegood was actually the only sixteen year old witch in the castle to be unopened. She assured me that she’d made arrangements and that she appreciated my concern on her behalf. I asked her…” Hermione blushed. “I asked her not to go into Hogsmeade and she agreed that it wasn’t worth the risk. In fact, we made a pact among all the young witches in the castle that… no witch over the age of fifteen who remained unopened would go to Hogsmeade. It’s just… not safe for them.”
“Why did you take this task on yourself, Miss McGonagall?” Amos asked gravely.
“I feel it is my duty as a witch, as a member of the Rowan Circle, and as the daughter of the Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts to see to the safety of the young women at the school. We live in a society where our rights are subjugated at the whim of wizards, our lives are taken due to the base desires of dark wizards, and our innocence is used against us like a cudgel. What am I supposed to do? I live a society where instead of teaching wizards not to rape—you teach a witch how to avoid getting raped. I don’t accept that, Mr. Diggory, and frankly I’m going to do my level best to fix it. I started by teaching the fourth year girls at Hogwarts blasting hexes.” She lifted her chin and squared her shoulders. “Wandless blasting hexes.”
“I’m afraid I don’t follow your logic,” Amos admitted.
Hermione cleared her throat. “Harry, I’m going to need a target to demonstrate on.”
Harry pulled his wand and conjured a man shaped dueling target a few feet from the witness box. “Show them what you got, sweetheart.”
Hermione pulled off her red dragon hide gloves, placed them on the stand then drew her wand, which she also put down. Then she lifted her hand, palm out and hit the dueling target with a blasting hex that left a crater where the crotch area of the target was supposed to be. “Castration hexes are rather complicated, you see, but a blasting hex is very simple. It’s no more complicated than the lumos charm and I’ve yet to find a witch who can’t be taught to do it without a wand. I’ve already started on the third year girls.”
Harry vanished the target with a small laugh as half the men in the room turned various shades of green. “You’re so adorable. I don’t even know what to do with you half the time.”
“I’ll just make my own bucket list,” she said as she holstered her wand and put on her gloves. She turned to Diggory. “Mr. Diggory, did you have any more questions for me?”
Amos cleared his throat. “I’m sure I do.” He referred to his parchment. “You went with your mother to the Gryffindor Circle, correct?”
“Yes, the Headmaster made a portkey to get us all there at once.”
“And what did you see upon your arrival?”
“A bunch of dead dark wizards and an innocent sixteen year old girl naked, on a ritual altar,” Hermione said plainly. “The Glain Neidr conclave was… removing the bodies from the ritual space and cleaning the circle as much as they could so they could break Luna free from the ritual which was more than half complete from what I was told. The High Warlock requested that my mother, the High Witch of the Rowan Circle, gather every witch she could and asked her to cast the aperta mulieris around his entire conclave as it had been decided that the only way to safely remove Luna from the ritual was to open her. She called her coven immediately and Lord Potter activated the cleansing protocols for the circle and cisterns rose out of the ground to receive us. We all cleansed and donned ritual robes for what would come next.”
“How many people were there?” Amos asked.
“The Rowan Circle is eighty-seven witches and the Glain Neidr consists of fifty-three wizards. There were ten Aurors, Madame Bones, Lord Black, Headmaster Dumbledore, Professor William Weasley, Professor Snape, Professor Flitwick, and Master Hiro Ito was also on site. So, one hundred and fifty-seven wizards and witches.” She paused. “Plus the fifty-six Potter house elves, an unknown, to me, number of Hogwarts elves, twelve centaur, a herd of unicorn who proved quite resistant to the idea of leaving, and six goblins whom I was not intruduced to. Oh, and Radko Krum but that wouldn’t be evident until after the ritual was complete.”
“The father of Viktor Krum, the wizard that challenged your courting period with Lord Potter.”
“Yes,” Hermione said. “Because I also live in a world where a wizard I hardly knew, didn’t respect, didn’t want, and preferred to never see again apparently had the right to intrude on my relationship, harass me, try to kill my boyfriend in a duel, and if he’d succeeded he would have had the right to force me to socialize with him because he decided he wanted my money. Frankly, there are a lot of wizards that walk around alive today only because witches don’t want to go to prison for killing them.”
Amos cleared his throat and blew out between his lips in shock as his gaze dropped briefly to the parchment. Finally he lifted his head. “Though I’m probably not the first to say it, lass, let me say that the House of Ross is served well by you Miss McGonagall. I have no further questions.” He set aside a stack of parchment. “We would hear from Lord Draco Malfoy at this point.”
Draco stood as Hermione did. He opened the witness box for her and offered her a hand down which she took with a smile. He returned her to her seat then took the box. Draco declared himself, took the oath and sat back to wait for Amos Diggory to ask his first question.
“You are a member of the Glain Neidr conclave?” Amos began.
“As of last night, yes. In order to fulfill my duty to Luna Lovegood, I entered their conclave and allowed the awakening of my parselmagic.”
“Your duty?” Amos prodded.
Draco took a deep breath. “It is distasteful, Mr. Diggory, to speak of such things even in this inquiry. Miss Lovegood arranged for me to handle her private opening over the Yule break. The decisions we made together regarding that issue were negated by her kidnapping. I was the wizard she chose and I did what was required of me in order to meet the duty she gifted me with.”
“Your father was killed as a member of the dark conclave that intended on sacrificing Luna Lovegood. Did he find out from you that Miss Lovegood had arranged her opening?”
“No, it was none of his business. I made it a point to speak to my sire as little as possible. I received letters from him but I never responded and I’ve spent less than a week in our ancestral home every year since I started Hogwarts. I spend most of my summers with the Greengrass family.”
“May we know the reason behind this break with your patriarch?”
“He was a vicious Death Eater,” Draco said bluntly. “He tortured my mother, beat her so often that I’m surprised he didn’t kill her, and finally drove her from our home when I was ten years old. Thanks to him, I haven’t seen my own mother in six years. I was his Heir. Family magic and a duty to my title made me stay with him but more importantly I had to stay behind because if she’d taken his Heir… he’d have had a method of finding her. The same method that Lord Potter used to find him last night.”
“Was he… abusive towards you?”
“No, he’d have never risked damaging my magic. I was property to him—a continuation of an obscene legacy that began when my father knelt before Tom Riddle and gratefully accepted the Dark Mark. A mark he once promised me that I would be given. His confidence in the return of Voldemort would eventually lead him to fall apart mentally. When the remaining Death Eaters realized that the Dark Lord wasn’t coming back and that the rumors about Potter banishing his soul into the Veil were true—he turned to a bottle for comfort. I’m frankly fortunate to have an estate left to manage. Chieftain Ragnok has promised to give my financial holdings his personal attention as we work through the mess my father left behind.”
“And you hold no animosity towards Lord Potter for his actions last night?”
“None at all?” Amos prodded.
“I am in Lord Potter’s debt,” Draco said. “He did me an immense favor last night.”
Amos cleared his throat in an attempt to hide his obvious shock. “You provided Minister Black with a list of dark wizards that matched up name for name with the wizards that were killed last night. How did you come to know these names?”
“I was introduced them the summer after my first year. He attempted to induct me into their conclave as an acolyte but I was unwilling and he was under the impression that his will was strong enough to bend me to his purposes. The magical backlash unfortunately didn’t kill him but knocking him and his entire conclave on their arses was quite satisfying. After that summer, I made it a point to be in my father’s presence as little as possible. I made the list of names after that event and kept it in one of my text books. I added to the list over the years—whenever my father would mention someone more than once in his letters to me. I’ve already turned over all of his personal correspondence to me to the DMLE.”
After Draco left the box, Minerva McGonagall was called to the witness box. She settled in the chair after her oath and regarded Amos Diggory with the same patient stare her adopted daughter had used.
He cleared his throat and shifted on his feet. “I’m suddenly quite convinced that I did something at Hogwarts that I was never punished for.”
Minerva regarded him closely. “I’m sure you did. Hufflepuffs often get away with a lot—looking so innocent and sweet all the time.”
He smiled then. “Right, then. We’ve discussed the circumstances leading up to Lord Potter’s forced claiming of the Gryffindor Circle, the ritual that was performed in order to free Miss Lovegood, and the condition of the ritual space after the event. Madam McGonagall, at this point I’d like to talk to you about the actions of Radko Krum and his son. Events that would come to their conclusion last night as you all finished in your endeavors to save a young witch’s life.”
“Viktor Krum came to Hogwarts for the Triwizard tournament. At the time, my daughter was a fourth year. They developed a casual friendship that led to him requesting that she attend the Yule Ball with him, which she agreed to do as friends. They exchanged a handful of letters over the course of her fifth year after he left Hogwarts. After I adopted Hermione—it became widely known that she would was to be considered the magical and financial heiress of the House of Ross. I received fifteen different marriage contract offers in that first week alone. I rejected them all out of hand.”
“And yet you agreed to an exclusive courting period with Lord Potter—a wizard your daughter barely knew at the time.”
“I’ve known Harry Potter since he was eleven years old,” Minerva said severely. “He is an honorable, powerful, and intelligent wizard. It is my duty to see that my daughter makes a match that suits her emotionally and magically as much as possible. He is the only wizard I would have for her husband. I made that perfectly clear to Viktor Krum when he protested their courting period and tried to insinuate that he’d had intimate knowledge of my daughter. As if I wouldn’t know? I brought her into my coven as a full member and adopted her in blood and magic. She has no secrets from me. Not even ones about broom closets.” She offered her daughter a little smirk when Hermione laughed abruptly.
“At any rate, unbeknownst to us, Radko Krum was a part of or an invited guest of the dark conclave attempting to murder Luna Lovegood. After we finished the ritual, I broke with the coven and we apparated away from the scene to give the Glain Neidr room to deal with the desecration of the ritual space.”
“When did you come to know that Radko Krum tried to murder Lord Potter?”
“Close to an hour after I returned to Hogwarts, the Headmaster returned with Fawkes, his Phoenix, as a chick. I was surprised as the bird had enjoyed a burning day shortly before school started and wasn’t due for another for more than a year. Albus told me that Fawkes had taken the Killing Curse for him. He went onto explain that he’d placed himself in that path of that curse to prevent Lord Potter’s death.” Minerva cleared her throat. “I helped him get Fawkes settled then immediately went to Hogsmeade to see… Harry for myself. Albus had told me that Lord Black had taken him to their residence there. He was asleep but I was allowed to peek into his room. After that, I returned to Hogwarts to inform my daughter of the event and the circumstances.”
“And what do you know about the death of Radko Krum?”
“He was an extremely stupid wizard,” Minerva said bluntly. “He tried to kill a High Warlock in full view of his conclave. The Glain Neidr cut him to pieces from what I was told. Literally into pieces. Which is no less than what he deserved. When you kick a nest of snakes, whatever happens you’ve got coming.”
“What would you say to people who have expressed concern that two of the largest ritual circles in Britain have obviously formed a close relationship.”
“I’d tell them to get used to it. My daughter is being groomed to take my place as the High Witch of the Rowan Circle. I believe my coven and Lord Potter’s conclave will know an intimate and rewarding relationship for some decades to come.”
“And if they are worried about the collective use of magical power for rites and rituals that most magicals aren’t capable of?”
“I’d say the same thing I’ve been telling you children for years—if you don’t want my negative attention—don’t do anything stupid enough to warrant it.” Minerva crossed her legs at the knee and sat back primly in her chair with a little frown.
Harry figured more than one person would walk out of the courtroom trying to figure out if Minerva McGonagall had somehow, despite her age, had a secret baby she let Muggles raise for the last seventeen years because Hermione was regarding Amos Diggory with the same put upon frown.
Diggory cleared his throat. “Yes, thank you, Madam.”
Then Hiro Ito took the stand. Harry wasn’t prepared for that and his hand slipped into Hermione’s because he suddenly knew why his Mentor had been chosen. Ito wasn’t bound by conclave rules to hold the secrets of his space and he’d had the best view of the Killing Curse being thrown.
Draco Malfoy reached out and took Hermione’s left hand and shared a look with Harry. The color washed out of Hermione’s face as the pensieve was brought into the center of the room.
“Master Ito, if you could give a summary of what we’re about to see?”
“While I’m not magically bound to hold the secrets of the Glain Neidr conclave,” Hiro began, “I am honor bound to protect the sanctity of their circle. The ritual has already been closed by the time the memory begins. The Rowan Coven departed and Lord Potter was about to formally release his own conclave from the ritual space when a Killing Curse was directed at him. Albus Dumbledore, who had maintained our outer protective ward throughout the eighty-three minutes it took to complete the ritual, apparated across the ritual space and placed himself bodily between Lord Potter and the dark wizard casting the curse by the time the curse actually left his wand. Fawkes appeared in a flash of flame and took the curse for his companion. Every single member of the Glain Neidr conclave and myself hit the offender with a variety of cutting curses. He was dead before he hit the ground and incidentally dead before the phoenix completely fell to ash. We’re still arguing over who gets to claim the kill. More than one of us aimed for his head, you see.” Ito sighed and shook his head. “It is a very graphic memory. I recommend those with a weak constitution leave the room.” He proffered a vial with a shining silver memory in it and Diggory took it with a sharp exhale.
“Right. Then.” Amos went to the pensieve and poured the memory into it. The memory surrounded them with little fanfare.
The ritual space was still lit with the faery lights that Harry had conjured, the ritual rune stones were still glowing with a soft blue light. In the memory, Harry turned and exchanged a brief look with Dumbledore before the older man suddenly apparated, the scream of Avada Kedavra, phoenix song, and the sound of over fifty wizards unleashing one cutting curse after another.
Hermione’s fingers tightened against his but her expression remained clear, her eyes dry and hard. Blood sprayed out over the ground where Krum fell and the memory ended just as the Minister for Magic apparated to the scene and grabbed hold of his son.
Amos Diggory was silent for a long moment. “I… I’m surprised the Glain Neidr cast in Latin.”
Ito smiled then. “They didn’t. That’s what parseltongue sounds like to a non-parselmouth, Mr. Diggory. The problem, I think for those who are incapable of practicing parselmagic, is the assumption that the language of the snakes is our foundation.”
“And it’s not?
“No, parselmagic is a form of wild magic that is intimately connected with serpents. The ability to speak with serpents and the ability to perform parselmagic are often combined but that is not always the case. Tom Riddle was not a true parselmouth. He descended from the Gaunt line which descended from Salazar Slytherin. I knew the man, he was a Beast Speaker by nature and knew nothing of parselmagic. Over the years, his descendants tailored their abilities to speak to animals through rituals in order to pass themselves off as parselmouths. Parselmagic is inherently light in practice as is all wild magic. No parselmouth could perform the dark arts that Riddle performed and actually keep their magic, much less their ability to speak to snakes. The connection my kind has with magic is so profound that such a profound betrayal would outright kill most of us. If you embrace the gift of parselmagic and practice your craft within the embrace of the serpents, then to betray that trust is to be considered an oath breaker. Yes, there are dark arts practitioners among my kind but they are… far less dark than you might assume and certainly couldn’t do what Tom Riddle did and survive it.”
– – – –
Hermione shuddered, her fingers digging into Harry’s shoulder as she sobbed against his neck. She’d held herself together until they’d apparated from the Ministry and into the foyer of the townhouse in Hogsmeade. Her knees had buckled and she’d burst into tears. Harry had picked her up and taken her into a warm, airy kitchen and sat down in a chair by a large fireplace with her in his lap. So far, he’d said nothing just held her and rubbed her back in a gentle motion.
They were alone in the house as his father had stayed in London and her mother had returned to Hogwarts. He pressed a bunch of conjured tissues in her hand and she lifted her head. Then she took a deep shuddery breath. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I wasn’t in the best of shape when my dad brought me here. Thanks to the Dementors,” he explained, “my memories of the killing curse that took my mother from me linger in my mind despite the memory suppression that Castius did for me. No other curse looks like that. It… Merlin, it hurts just to look at it. To have it cast at me… to have yet another person make every effort to die for me…”
“I tried so hard to keep it in,” Hermione whispered. “I knew it happened. I knew it was horrible. I just didn’t expect to see it. I need to be stronger, I know that.”
“Stronger?” Harry asked softly. “Oh, sweetheart, you don’t have to be more than you are. Every moment of every day, you are exactly what I want.” He ran his fingers through her hair carefully. “You did so well today. I’m so proud that you’re mine.”
“I feel so much for you,” she whispered. “Too much.”
“Too much?” Harry asked.
“All at once,” Hermione admitted. “And I can’t control it. It hurts sometimes and it’s good and horrible and…” She huffed when he laughed. “What?”
“Don’t you know I feel the same? Sometimes you just… looking at you makes it difficult to breathe. I expected to love you. I even expected to want you. But the way I feel about you is sort of crazy sometimes.”
She relaxed a little. “Okay. Good. I mean…” Hermione laughed. “I don’t mean good that you’re all messed up like me but it’s nice not to be alone.”
“You’re never alone,” Harry murmured against her temple. He turned her slightly so they were eye to eye. “You know that right? I’ve always been with you… since the moment I saw your name in that book.”
“I’d like to see the book,” Hermione admitted. “I mean, I know we can’t go together right now because we’d never be able to hide it but I want to see the book. Is that crazy?”
“No,” Harry said. “It is the most magical experience of my life to date. I would love to go with you and see it again,” Harry murmured and rubbed his thumb over her bottom lip. “We should go back to Hogwarts.”
Hermione nodded. “Yes, I know.” She looked around the kitchen. “This is a nice room.”
“Do you want a tour?”
“Some other time,” Hermione admitted. “I’d like… I’d really like to go back to Hogwarts and just be together. Is that okay?”
“Be together naked or be together in the library?” Harry asked and smirked when she blushed.
“Well, we have a few assignments that are due this week so we should be in the library,” Hermione said.
“The library it is,” Harry said. “And maybe if I’m really lucky you’ll sneak into my room tonight and keep me company while I sleep.”
“Maybe I will,” Hermione agreed.
– – – –
Hermione looked up from the book she was reviewing as Harry joined her at the table with a stack of books. He settled in front of her and started to read. She found him stupidly attractive. He nudged her foot under the table and she flushed before turning her attention to her essay. She picked up her quill and took several notes from the text before she closed it and retrieved one of the books on experimental charms he’d brought with him to the table.
She looked up and found him staring at her. She nudged his foot and he laughed softly before returning his attention to his own reading. Hermione had the weirdest feeling that they would’ve gotten more accomplished if they’d gone off to his room and got each other off before coming to the library. They hadn’t been together like that since the duel and she missed him. Missed his hands on her, his mouth on her breasts, his cock pressed against her thigh as they kissed.
“You’ve got to stop looking at me like that or we’re going to end up in another broom closet,” Harry said quietly and nudged her foot again. “Honestly.”
She grinned and went back to reading. They managed to get through Charms and Transfiguration together then he went off to the stacks to find a title on rune casting that made her envy his personalized education. Though she was selfish because she’d give almost anything if he’d been with her since first year.
He’d quickly become the center of her world and part of her wondered if it would’ve been like that since the beginning. Would they have held hands and shared chaste little kisses when they thought no one was looking? Would he have taken her to the Yule Ball? Would she have been with him for his fifteenth birthday party on that lovely boat in the middle of a bright blue sea? Hermione pushed aside all of those what ifs and focused her attention on her potions essay.
She only managed to write two more inches than required which was unusual for her but Professor Snape had a habit of docking from her grade if she was long winded. He never assigned long essays, which she figured had more to do with his impatience with reading them rather than the necessity of them in potions work.
She picked up Harry’s Charms essay and he closed the book he’d been reading and held out his hand for her potions work. Her mum had been right about his ability to be her peer when it came to academics. He was intellectually her equal and her superior in magical power. Though she’d been warned by Master Ito and Healer Arnou that her core would expand and grow to match Harry’s.
He hummed under his breath and plucked up one of the books she’d used for her essay. “Are you sure about the distribution of nightshade over the surface of the potion?”
“I…” She frowned at him. “Maybe.”
He grinned at her and handed back the essay along with the book. “Nightshade should be added to the cauldron first as the base of the potion and stirred in a counter clock wise motion to prevent it from rising to the surface to neutralize its poisonous qualities.”
Hermione picked up her wand to make the correction, a little flustered to have made such a mistake. She remembered reading that section in the book, not once but twice to verify that she’d had the right of it only to reverse it when she’d gone to write the essay. A cursory check of her notes proved that she’d at least written it down correctly the first time.
He stacked her transfiguration and charms essays to the side as he finished reading them without comment and went to take back some books as she read his work over. He returned just as she finished his transfiguration essay on conjuring water to create ice when he returned with the book on rune casting that he’d apparently checked out.
Since she had questions about his essay, she herded him out of the library so they could discuss it without getting glared at by the librarian.
“You can just conjure ice.”
“True,” Harry said as he shouldered her school bag along with his own despite the fact that it was weightless. “But if you conjure water first—you can use the freezing charm which creates actual ice versus a conjured ice that is fragile and easily broken.”
She frowned at him as they entered the common room. “But it should be the same. You’re conjuring ice from the air.”
“It’s a mystery for the ages,” Harry said with a little grin. He led her over to the fire and dumped their bags on an empty chair. “Here, let’s experiment.”
She sat down with him as he conjured a low table. “Okay.”
Harry pulled his holly wand and with a swish conjured a ball of ice. It spun between them, sparkling with magic and refracting light. She drew her own wand and took over the levitation of the ball of ice when he gave her a nod. He held out his hand and water rushed up from his palm. He used his wand to gather it up until it was writhing mass of water above his hand. Then he used a freezing charm.
“See the difference?”
“The one that started as water is denser,” Hermione said. “Perhaps because it’s closer to the natural process of ice creation and the conjured ice is more… magic than anything else. Conjuring water is practically a scientific process as your magic literally draws water out of the air.”
“Exactly, conjured ice isn’t created that way. It’s cold, it’s wet, and it would certainly serve the purpose but conjured ice is not actually made of water. It’s structured magic.”
“So frozen conjured water would last longer than conjured ice,” Hermione surmised.
“Perhaps but only if we allow for the natural process of ice melting to happen. If the magic used to conjure both is equal then we have to allow for the breakdown of magic before the break down of ice itself.” He paused. “Though it must be said that I’m not an elemental and that makes all the difference. An elemental wizard or witch can create ice rather than conjure much like he or she can create fire.”
“Create fire, water, and ice,” Hermione agreed. “Manipulate earth and wind.” Hermione lifted her hand under the conjured ball of ice that was still spinning at the direction of her wand and flame leapt out of her hand and enveloped the ice in a burst of magic.
Harry maneuvered the other ball of ice over her hand and it disappeared in a hiss of steam as fire took it as well. “See the difference in how they were destroyed by fire?”
“Yes. Can I see it again?”
He conjured the water first, froze it and slowly levitated it into the fire that still flickered out of her palm. Then he conjured a ball of ice for her to destroy with the fire in her hand.
“That’s… okay. I see. Where did you learn this?”
“Madam Delacour, my magical theory tutor, spent the last year building up to my OWLs teaching me the fundamental principles of conjuring,” Harry explained. “Once I mastered that, she transitioned into experimental charms in conjunction with transfiguration.”
“Like what?” Hermione asked.
“Hmmm,” Harry reached for his bag and pulled out a blank piece of parchment. He placed it on the small table between them. “Most of my tuition starting from when I was eight years old evolved around combat skills because my father feared that Voldemort would be resurrected before we could fully banish his spirit. He came very close to succeeding on three different occasions.” Harry ignored the intakes of breath of the people in watching them. He put away the holly wand and drew his black wand. “Advanced transfiguration is a very handy combat skill but it requires a lot of concentration and a lot of power to maintain. I have magical power to burn in the average duel and I can cast with two wands at the same time.”
“You can cast different magic at the same time with two wands,” Hermione clarified. “I could probably cast dual stunners or whatever with two wands but I’m not sure I could cast different spells from two wands at the same time.”
“I think you underestimate your abilities,” Harry said simply. “We can try it out in the dueling room later if you want. You can probably master casting a shield with one wand and spells with another fairly easily.”
“Okay, we can try.” She watched him, narrow eyed as he tore the parchment into six pieces and began transfiguring. He created a little miniature Dumbledore, a hooded wizard of unknown origin, and four suits of armor. Each was little over an inch high. “That’s kind of adorable.”
Harry laughed as she gently poked Dumbledore with her wand. The little figure was still briefly then he cast an animation charm on the entire set of figures. Little Dumbledore brandished his wand at her menacingly and Hermione giggled.
“With direct transfiguration animation,” Harry began, “you can control what your transfigurations do. However, if you cast an animation charm at them—they have independence.”
“That doesn’t sound too handy in a fight, sir,” Jonas admitted. “What if they get in your way?”
“They are still working because of your magic so they are being controlled by your subconscious mind,” Harry explained. “You have to trust your magic to act on your behalf, to protect you, and to work with you when you need it.”
“This is the founding principal behind the doppleganger spell? The twin warrior?” Hermione said. “He’s actually a mass transfiguration.”
“A manifestation of your subconscious mind,” Hermione said and huffed. “That’s just stupidly complex, Harry.”
“No more complex than turning into a dragon,” Harry retorted. “Honestly, transfiguring dragons teeth is more difficult. The first five or six times I did it—I either had human teeth or no teeth at all.”
Hermione giggled. “Oh.”
Harry swished his wand and all of the figured piled together and his animagus form emerged from the pile of parchment people. It blew out a tiny flame and puffed smoke in indignation.
Hermione picked him up off the table and the dragon curled around her hand with a loud rumbling purr. “This actually reminds me of one my biggest disappointments concerning the magical world.”
“What?” Harry asked, amused.
“The pure lack of animated toys,” Hermione said. “I know that some stuffed animals have a few functions—like teddy bears that hug back and stuff like that but I mean a real animated toy. A miniature dragon like this with a personality and the ability to learn new things. A smart interactive toy. Now that I know about what it would take to really create one I understand why it isn’t done. It would be stupidly expensive I suppose.” The parchment dragon continued to wallow in her palm, sprawled out on its belly.
“What’s your animagus form’s name?” Hermione asked suddenly. “It has one right?”
Harry grinned. “Well, that’s a secret.”
“Oh, really,” Hermione said.
“Maybe later,” Harry said and flicked the dragon in her hand. It roared fire at him in retaliation but Harry just laughed.
– – – –
Sirius set aside the last of the files on the inquiry and regarded John Dawlish, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Amelia Bones with a tired glare. “Right, out with it.”
“Hiro Ito,” Amelia Bones said with a sigh. “When he entered the country—he declared two snakes. A magical boa constrictor and a runespoor.”
“And,” Dawlish said. “We still haven’t found the snake that poisoned Madam Umbridge. I’d like permission to confiscate the runespoor and have it tested and questioned by a parselmouth in the employ of the Ministry.”
“Have you confiscated and questioned all of the other runespoors in Britain?” Sirius asked.
“Of course not,” John said.
“Then how exactly, Auror Dawlish, are you going to excuse accusing a high ranking member of the ICW of murder? Hiro Ito is a decorated war mage for the International Confederation of Wizards and has been so for nearly seven hundred years.”
“A war mage?” Bones asked shocked. “That’s… there hasn’t been… seven hundred years?”
“Hiro Ito is thousands of years old,” Sirius said patiently. “He is, among parselmouths, a king. You can’t think for a moment that even one in our employ would act against his wishes. Not a single parselmouth on this planet is stupid enough to attempt to force one of that man’s snakes to divulge secrets. Additionally, Hiro Ito hadn’t left Japan in over hundred years until the morning of Harry’s duel with Viktor Krum.”
“Your son has demonstrated a distinct lack of a problem with killing,” John Dawlish said finally.
“He stood here in this office and swore on his magic that he had nothing to do with Umbridge’s death,” Sirius said. “He’s a soldier, Auror Dawlish, and has spent thousands of hours in combat simulators across four continents. He has only ever killed in the defense of himself or others, therefore he has no reason for regrets. His animagus form is a dragon, Dawlish. Do you even understand what that means?”
“He’s powerful?” Dawlish finally said.
Sirius snorted. “The path to the animagus transformation begins with a spiritual journey to seek out your inner spirit animal. It is the purest expression possible of a magical person’s soul.”
“You’re a big dog,” Dawlish said. “Are you a real grim or do you just look like one?”
“I am a grim,” Sirius said neutrally. “I am capable of multiple dog shapes as a result, though the default is the grim. I can disillusion myself in any form without the use of a wand. I’m capable of apparition in my animagus form. I could draw lightning from the sky on a sunny day, should it strike my fancy.”
Dawlish paled slightly. “I… had no idea.”
“No, I don’t imagine you did. I suggest you read up animagus theory, Auror Dawlish, and pay attention to what it tells you about the people around you that have a form. My son is loyal and fierce in his defence of what is his.”
“Hebridean Blacks mate for life,” Dawlish said as an afterthought. “What the hell was Viktor Krum thinking to challenge Potter for that girl’s affection?”
“He obviously knew even less about animagus than you,” Sirius said. “The only reason you have a job, Dawlish, is because I’ve been assured that you are actually a very light wizard and you’re dedicated to your job. In fact, you are dedicated to your job to a fault. You were blind to the machinations of Fudge and Umbridge to such a degree that it hasn’t yet crossed your mind how truly damaging they were to the Ministry.” Sirius sat back in his chair. “The house elf I’ve had following you around said that you were so goody-two-shoes that you bored her to tears within a week. For the love of Merlin, man, get laid,” Sirius admonished. “It would do you a world of good.”
Amelia snorted then she frowned. “Wait, have you been spying on me?”
“Of course I have,” Sirius said bluntly. “No one got a pass. Harry’s elves have been spying on every single person in a position of power in the Ministry. Not even the Unspeakables were overlooked and those crazy motherfuckers are in dire need of a talking to.” He huffed. “You know they are down there trying to create a Dementor, right?”
Amelia paled. “What?”
“That’s not all they’re up to but that’s the most stupid,” Sirius said. He pulled open a drawer and pulled out a piece of parchment. “Let’s talk about Xian Chang and his plans for my son.”
“Xian Chang is dead,” Amelia said. “What do his plans matter now?”
“He had quite a bit of support in the Ministry,” Sirius explained. “Rufus Scrimgeour, Gawain Robards, Cuthbert Mockridge, Dolores Umbridge, Cornelius Fudge, Walden McNair, Percy Weasley, and Lucius Malfoy were all in a conspiracy together that began and ended with the idea that they if they forced my son to marry the appropriate witch they could control him, his money, and his title. They had two witches picked out to attempt to gain his attention by whatever means necessary—Ginny Weasley and Cho Chang. The surviving members of this conspiracy are still working towards this goal. They’ve tried to send Ginny Weasley lust potions on three different occasions since I was made Minister.”
“Why haven’t you fired them?” Amelia asked dryly. “Before they manage to potion your son so that he ends up rutting on that Weasley chit?”
“First, there isn’t a potion on this planet that would make Harry rut on any witch,” Sirius said without a hint of concern. “Second, I don’t want to just fire them. I want to put them in prison.”
“Your son is powerful,” Kingsley allowed. “But you can’t count on his magical power to help him fight off potions.”
“It has nothing to do with his magical power,” Sirius said quietly. “I’m going to need all three of you to take a vow on your magic not to reveal what I’m about to tell you.” He wasn’t surprised when all three of them quickly pulled their wands and made extremely explicits vows. He took a deep breath. “Harry has a living soulmate—so he is immune to love and lust potions.”
Kinglsey snorted as he put away his wand. “That certainly explains why McGonagall didn’t hesitate to allow an exclusive courting period so quickly.”
“Thank Merlin Fudge never knew,” Amelia said. “He’d have… the poor girl would’ve never survived to even meet your son, to be frank.”
“Oh, don’t think for a moment that Hermione hasn’t had the best magical protection possible since Harry found out about her when he was eight years old. Fudge would have gotten himself killed if he’d acted out against that young witch. There is a reason why Harry started bonding elves left, right, and center as soon as he could. Moreover, if Fudge had ever even thought of moving against her—I’m afraid that Harry would’ve apparated into this place, transformed into his animagus form and torn you all to pieces.”
“No doubt,” Dawlish said. “Though to be fair, she’s quite… something herself. I get a lot of flak for her having stunned me but I’d challenge any Auror in this place to outdraw her. She’s quick as a snake and twice as mean.”
“I’d like to close the book on Umbridge’s murder,” Amelia said suddenly. “General consensus is that whoever killed her also killed Fudge.”
“Suspects on Fudge’s murder?” Sirius questioned.
“Considering the list you’ve given us about the conspiracy to control the Potter holdings, we have to consider that one of his own people killed them both. He managed to fully alienate Lord Potter within days of his arrival at Hogwarts. He brought a Dementor to the school, violating the covenant between the Ministry and the school—creating the situation where our premier magical school is completely out of the control of our government. That had to have infuriated many of his own people. Umbridge was an utter tool and quite stupid on top of it. I wouldn’t have taken out one without the other,” Amelia said. “They had no way of knowing that I wouldn’t be elected Minister—I can assume if I had been, I would’ve been approached and maybe encouraged to include my niece in that foolish marriage scheme they had going for your son.”
“I’m considering throwing Gerald Greengrass in a cell for a few weeks,” Sirius admitted. “Just you know, here, not in Azkaban or anything. I could be lounging on a beach in Rome. My kid is in school for a change. But, no, I’m having to babysit a bunch of fucking tools I never have liked. All because Gerald lets his daughter wear the trousers in their family.”
“What?” Amelia asked, stunned.
Sirius snorted. “General consensus at Hogwarts is that Lucius Malfoy was in Daphne Greengrass’ way on the matter of one Draco Malfoy and she asked her daddy to get rid of him. If only they’d waited a few more weeks to murder Fudge,” Sirius lamented and rocked back in his chair. “Lucius would’ve been dead and Amelia would be sitting here and I could be in the Mediterranean with a glass of wine in one hand and my incredibly fit wizard in the other.”
Kingsley huffed. “You say that like there is chance we actually believe that you’d have left Harry in this country by himself.”
“My son is a certified badass,” Sirius protested.
– – – –
Harry said nothing when Albus Dumbledore took a seat beside him on the dock. The Giant Squid waved an arm at them both. “I always regretted that I didn’t get to take the boat ride across the lake as a first year.”
“I regret it as well.”
Harry nodded. “You need to give yourself a break, sir.”
“I don’t follow.”
Harry huffed and turned to look at him. “I’m of two minds really—on one hand, you’ve spent the better part of thirteen years wallowing in guilt so you literally haven’t had time to stick your overly large nose in anyone’s business. On the other, you’ve been punishing yourself for thirteen years for a mistake that you did not make by yourself.”
Albus sighed. “Had you died in the hands of those Muggles, I would’ve doomed us to a terrible fate. Voldemort would’ve returned and everything you see around you would’ve either already been destroyed or on the brink destruction. Every year, I see dozens of students sorted that would’ve never survived such a situation. Your beautiful witch among them.”
Harry’s jaw clenched at the thought but he nodded. “I know that better than most, Albus.”
“I need you to let it go,” Harry said finally. “I need you to stop visiting my aunt in that nursing home. I need you to forgive yourself because I forgave you years ago.”
“I don’t deserve it.”
“Shut up,” Harry said crossly. “You and I are pretty unique in this world we live in, you know.”
“For our magical power?” Dumbledore questioned.
“No, because the two of us once stood between the world and an evil so great that it defied imagination. We both stood and we both won. We also both paid an unspeakable price for the freedom that everyone around us takes for granted. They’ll never know what it cost. They’ll never understand the depth of the nightmare you and I lived.”
“I let my enemy live.”
“Do you regret that?” Harry asked.
“No. At one time, he was… I loved him a great deal. I couldn’t kill him because a part of me will always love him.”
Harry nodded. “In some ways, you paid a bigger price.”
“You paid with the lives of your family.”
“That wasn’t a choice I made,” Harry said. “I didn’t have to choose. My path was thrown out in front of me by Fate. You… you took a very difficult and ultimately lonely road to fulfill your destiny.”
“It’s funny,” Dumbledore said. “I never really considered it a choice.”
“You could’ve taken his side,” Harry said. “You could’ve stood with him. You could’ve died with him when the time came because it would’ve certainly come to that.”
“No. I couldn’t have.”
“And that was your choice,” Harry said gently.
“There will come a day when I will ask you to take my wand from me,” Dumbledore said. “Do you understand?”
Albus nodded. “And if someone else were to take it from me…”
“I’ll take it back,” Harry promised. “I swear it.”
“Good, I believe such a wand would be safe in the hands of your family.” Albus stood but paused to look over the lake. “The burden of a great wizard is often overwhelming but in the months that you’ve been here, Harry, I’ve come to realize that you carry those burdens with a great deal of grace. It is truly an honor to know you.”
“Thank you.” Harry stood and stretched. “Sir, how would you like to help me with a little project?”
Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow at him. Harry grinned and walked off the dock and transformed into his animagus form. He lifted a front leg and bowed slightly.
“I think I’m going to need a sticking charm on my bum!”
– – – –
“My word!” Minerva shot up from her favorite chair and darted to the window, Hermione close at her heels. “Is that… I’m going to… they’re both going to get detention!”
Hermione threw open the window to get a better look and huffed in exasperation as a dragon flew past the window again and Dumbledore shouted a gleeful, “woohoo!”
“Harry James Potter, you better not drop him!” Minerva shouted. “Ten points from Gryffindor for being a bloody Gryffindor!”