Title: Hermione’s Circle
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 14,693
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse and violence against a child
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
They’d left her alone for longer than she expected actually as she’d reviewed the runes one after another. Hermione walked down the hallway leading into the ritual room where Harry lay on an altar—still and unmoving for going on thirteen hours. She walked into the room, ignoring the members of the Glain Neidr that had been stationed to watch over his body. She walked to the altar and placed her hand on the snakewood bracelet that they’d been unable to remove from him. His mirror popped out of it and into her hand.
She held the mirror for a few seconds, steeling herself for what she was about to do. “Janelle.” The mirror vibrated gently and a beautiful young woman appeared it in.
“Hermione.” Janelle stared at her eyes wide. “It’s true then? They announced on the wireless that he’d been cursed.”
“Yes.” Hermione took a deep breath. “I need you to be honest with me.”
“I’ll be as honest as I can—anything for Harry.”
“Are you in love with him?”
The girl bit down on her bottom lip. “Is it important?”
“The most important.”
Janelle closed her eyes. “Yes.”
Hermione nodded. “I need you to come to Britain and join me in ritual. I need you to come immediately.”
“Are you going to call Natalie, too?”
“Should I?” Hermione asked.
“Yes. He has no clue, you know. He’d have never… agreed to open her if he’d known she was in love with him. He’s very easy to love, Hermione.”
“Yes, he is,” Hermione said.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Janelle promised. “I trust I can go to Gringotts and get a portkey right to you.”
“Yes,” she said and glanced towards a goblin who left the room at a near run. The mirror went dark and she took a deep breath. “Natalie.”
The mirror filled immediately and the bitter disappointment on the girl’s face was hard to swallow. She was pretty—dark red hair and bright blue eyes that were darkening with unshed tears. “I thought… I thought he was calling to tell me he was okay. I’ve been trying his mirror all day. The wireless has talked about nothing but him being cursed for hours.”
“I’m sorry to get your hopes up,” Hermione murmured. “I called Janelle first and she suggested that I should call you as well.”
“What do you need from me?”
“I’ve been tasked with bringing Harry’s soul back from beyond the Veil. I’m going to build the ritual on love—the more intimate the love the better.” Hermione watched the girl flush. “I’d never ask this of you if I had a choice. You’re important to him so hurting you is the last thing I’d want to do.”
“I knew going into it that he didn’t return my feelings, Hermione. It’s fine. I’ve seen pictures of the two of you all over the papers—he never looked at me the way he looks at you. It’s amazing really. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
The mirror went dark and Hermione stood there for a moment before she shrank the mirror and tucked it into a pocket. She knelt on the ledge. She touched his face with trembling fingers. She said nothing as her mother appeared at her side.
“Miranda Lupin is here,” Minerva murmured. “As is Narcissa Malfoy and Piper Banner. They’ve requested to join us in ritual.”
Hermione nodded. “Yes, that’s fine. The more witches in the Circle that know him personally enough to have any sort of love for him will help.” She clenched her fingers on his hand. “I’ve two more coming—former lovers of his.”
Minerva’s eyes widened in surprise. “I don’t understand…”
“Both of them have been more intimate with him than I have,” Hermione confessed in a rush. “They both love him as I do. I can’t depend on the fact that we’re bonded solely to bring him back. I have to use every single resource I have, Mum. Natalie and Janelle are resources—very gifted witches each in their own right.”
“Three is a powerful number,” Armand Deering said from across the altar where he had stationed himself. “But you’ll be sharing magic with these young women if you do what I think you’re going to do.”
Hermione stared at him. “I’d have sex with them both at the same time in the middle of the Rowan Circle if it would help.” She stood and took a deep breath. “Would that help?”
Armand grinned at her suddenly. “I doubt it.”
“I’ll send Star when I’m ready for you to bring him to me,” Hermione said quietly. “His inner circle will be welcome inside the ritual stones of Rowan but the rest of the conclave will have to remain outside. I doubt I could handle much more than that when combined with the wealth of power I’ll be gaining from the coven.”
Armand nodded. “I assumed as much. Dumbledore will be leading the rest of the Glain Neidr in providing a ward around your ritual space to prevent interference.”
Hermione nodded. “That man… Humphries. Where is he? He was here earlier but left abruptly after I agreed to do the ritual.”
“He is no longer part of Lord Potter’s inner circle,” Armand said.
Hermione glared at the older man. “Do not play word games with me, Master Deering. Where is he?”
“Currently on Knockturn Alley but we’re unsure of his plans. He knows that Lord Potter intended on removing him from the conclave because of his… interest in you.”
Hermione frowned at that. “Howie.” An elf appeared immediately. “Which one of you is following Wilhelm Humphries?”
“Marco,” Howie answered immediately.
“Go to Marco and tell him that I want Humphries rendered unconscious and taken to the most secure location you have available to you. You’re both to remain there with him until Harry tells you otherwise. He is not to escape your custody. Defend yourselves from any injury. Take his wand, and any other magical focus he might have, take any portkeys or communication devices, and hide it all in a different location. He is a dangerous man, Howie. We can’t trust him around Harry while he’s vulnerable like this.”
Howie nodded slowly. “I go gets snake man and take him to dungeon in Potter Keep, Lady Potter. He not get free until you’re ready for him to be free.” The elf popped away without another word.
Hermione focused on Hiro Ito. “Is there anyone else in the Glain Neidr I can’t trust because now is the time to tell me. Because if a single one of them interferes tonight—I’m going to kill them where they stand.”
“Not if I beat you to it,” Hiro said wryly and they shared a little smirk. “Go prepare yourself and I will investigate his conclave on your behalf. I assure you that no untrustworthy man will be brought anywhere near your circle or your wizard.”
There was a clatter of heels suddenly and two girls appeared in the door way. Hermione stared at the two of them for a few seconds before she beckoned them forward. Janelle offered her a brief smile and tugged Natalie into the room. “We met in the portkey room.”
“Oh.” Natalie took a deep breath as they came close enough that she could see Harry’s face. “Merlin, he’s not even that still when he sleeps.”
Janelle frowned. “That little bitch who did this… she’s in custody right? Because I’m not above helping you hunt her down. I know a few curses that’ll turn your hair white while you cast them but she has that shite coming.”
“This curse was meant for me,” Hermione admitted.
“I’d look great with white hair,” Natalie said. She touched Harry’s hand hesitantly. “He’s so cold. He’s never cold.”
“He’d hate to be cold,” Janelle whispered. She brushed tears from her face with her free hand. “Let’s… I brought my ritual robe but I’ll need to cleanse and…” Her breath caught. “I probably need to meditate. I’m a mess.”
“You and me both,” Hermione said. “Come. We have a familial ritual space. My mother will introduce you both to it and we’ll prepare the best we can for what has to be done.”
– – – –
“So your ex-girlfriends are hot,” James said conversationally.
Harry huffed. “I don’t think Natalie counts as an ex.” He frowned. “I didn’t… I didn’t know either one of them felt that way about me. I should probably stop watching this. I think there are things I shouldn’t know. You shouldn’t have showed me how to look.”
“Don’t blame me. You’re the one trying to walk a hole in the afterlife, all worried about your witch,” James protested.
“I always knew, I think, that you’d have been the bad influence on me,” Harry lamented and laughed when his father did. “She looks good—on a mission. I’m always at my best when I can focus like that.”
Lily joined them on the bench with a sigh. “I leave for ten minutes and you’re showing him things you shouldn’t. This is like the broom all over again.”
“Don’t be a downer, Lily,” James admonished. “I hardly got to be any sort of influence before I died.”
Harry took a moment to look at Hermione again and found her at the Rowan Circle stepping out of a cistern and sliding into a gleaming silver ritual robe. “Time passes differently here. She was just at the bank.”
“Yes,” James agreed. “Honestly, sometimes it’s like I blinked and you grew up.”
Harry nodded. “Where’s Maia?”
Both of his parents stiffened and Lily took a deep, obviously painful breath. “She… was only with us a few years before she was reborn, Harry. Her soul was very young and let go of this existence very easily.”
Harry processed that in silence. “Astoria.” He looked down at his hands and found them shaking. “Astoria Greengrass.”
“Yes,” James admitted. “But you can never tell her, Harry. She won’t remember her time here and it would only hurt her. How did you guess?”
“I felt like I knew her the moment I met her. It felt… our family magic stirred inside me the night she was sorted. I’d picked her up to keep her from running full tilt out of the school and her reaction to Dementors is… frankly on par with my own. I think the Potter family magic must echo in her and it fed into her reaction to the Dementor that came to Hogwarts.” He cleared his throat. “And don’t worry—I’ll never tell her. She doesn’t deserve to be burdened with such knowledge. I’ve been treating her like my little sister since we met so it won’t be any different now that I know about her soul.” He cleared his throat and brushed a tear from the corner of his eye before it could fall. “It’s… good. It felt horrible knowing she died because of me.”
Lily took his hand. “I’m so sorry, baby. I’d have done anything to stay with you, you know that, right?”
“I do,” Harry agreed. “Maybe when I was little I was angry with you both for dying but it was an irrational, selfish anger. But I accepted the sacrifice that was made for me and for Magic herself. Completing the prophecy was the obligation of the House of Potter.”
Lily started to say more but light shimmered in front of all three of them—golden and twinkling like a star. And when the light swooshed away, Aurélie hovered in front of them briefly before Hermione appeared with a rush of gold wings and sparks.
“Mi.” Harry stood and reached out for her hesitantly.
“Harry, you self-sacrificing arsehole,” Hermione hissed as he pulled her into his arms. “How dare you! How dare you take a curse for me!”
He held her shaking form close, breathing deeply against her hair. “How are… how the hell are you doing this?”
She huffed and poked him hard in the ribs. “I’m a bloody spirit-snake. I have a permanent magical connection with the goddamned afterlife!”
“Stop being mad at me before you shake yourself loose from meditation,” Harry said with a small laugh and relaxed when she did. He pressed a kiss against her forehead. “You didn’t come here to curse me out, right?”
“No. I didn’t even come for you,” Hermione admitted as she took a step back. “I didn’t think you’d be here to be honest. I wasn’t sure you were this far gone since you’re still breathing on your own basically.”
“You’re here for me then,” Lily said. “You’ve gathered all the other women in his life that love him… I’m your missing part. It’s a brilliant approach to take for the ritual.”
Hermione smiled and flushed. “Thank you. I have to think the men in the Glain Neidr were under the impression that I could use brute force to do it. None of them quite know what I’m about but they’re all being pretty careful with me. I don’t know how they’ll react once I start.”
“They’ll follow your lead,” Harry said. “It’s what I would want and they won’t disrespect me like that. Good call on the Humphries situation. Though for the record, Master Ito would’ve killed him for you if you’d asked.”
“I got that impression,” Hermione said. “It’s an option I’m leaving open. I knew I’d be vulnerable during casting and I didn’t trust he wouldn’t try to interfere in our bond to secure it for himself. Star told me I couldn’t trust him several hours ago.” She focused on James Potter with a frown. “You could’ve been less attractive, you know. I have the hardest time keeping witches away from him.”
James grinned and hugged her despite her huffy response to his smile. “I’d do almost anything to dance with you on the day you marry my son.”
Hermione made a soft sound of surprise. “I’ll dance twice with Sirius and make him act like a gentlemen at least once during the reception.”
James laughed. He kissed her cheek. “You’re everything we could’ve wanted for him, never doubt it.”
“Don’t make me cry,” Hermione complained. “I’m meditating with a bunch of women they might knock me loose from my trance if they think I’m in distress.”
Lily took her hand as James released her. “Tell me what you need from me.”
“I’ve never done it but I’m confident I can call your spirit to the living plane,” Hermione said quietly. “It won’t be pleasant for either of us but I won’t hold you longer than necessary, I swear it. You blessed a stone column within the Rowan Circle and you’re very familiar with our protocols because you were my mum’s Heiress at one time.”
“Yes,” Lily agreed. “You want me to activate the magic I left in the stone when I blessed it.”
“I’m going to use it as a beacon for Harry,” Hermione explained. “And your magic is very familiar to his soul—far more than my own. It won’t be the first time you used your magic to anchor his soul in his body.”
Lily made a soft, pleased sound. “You figured it out.”
“Not until I saw Harry’s blood runes and he told me about the ward. I’ve known since I heard about that night, that you sacrificed yourself for him and I assumed you used your magic to shield him but I couldn’t figure out how it worked if the curse actually hit him like it obviously did. Then I realized that you didn’t block the curse at all but instead used your magic to keep his soul in his body.”
“Because the Killing Curse doesn’t kill the body,” Lily said.
“It violates the soul’s connection with the body,” Hermione finished. “Yes and once I saw his runes I knew you gave him your magic. Harry said once that a magical sacrifice was a terrible kind of power. He unwittingly did the same thing for me.”
Hermione nodded. “Well, if this doesn’t work we’ll have time for a long conversation about this whole thing and if not, I’ll come back at some point in trance. It was actually stupidly easy to accomplish.”
“You’re very powerful,” Lily reminded. “A walk in the park for you would cause magical upheaval in the average magical.”
“You took off the Tear,” Harry said. “Hermione, it’s too soon!”
“I can’t do what needs to be done with that ward in place,” Hermione snapped. “If you want me to keep wearing your little trinket, Harry James, I suggest you get your arse back down there and put it back on me.” She poked him in the chest with one finger. “And I am so mad. If Ginny Weasley doesn’t end up locked up for the rest of her natural life—I’m going to throw her parts from Britain to Australia!”
“I saw that the DMLE thinks she’s a nutjob.”
“Nutjob or not, she’s going to pay!” Hermione frowned. “And so is the person who gave her that curse because she’s a bleeding moron and there is no way she looked it up on her own. Someone fed it to her and I’m going to end them, you watch.”
“I will adore that,” Harry admitted. He took her hand and led her away from his parents a bit and focused on her face. “Look, just relax and let your magical instincts guide you. This isn’t the first ritual anyone would’ve wanted you to lead right out of the gate but we don’t have a lot of choices right now. You’re going to have to hurt me. I know no one has told you so don’t be shocked by it. I want to come back. I want to live a long life with you. I’ve got plans and this whole dying thing isn’t among them. I want to show you the world, furnish our big house, make babies, and have fights just so we can have make up sex.”
She laughed. “Sounds great.”
He touched her face, rubbed his thumb over her bottom lip. “So, it’s going to hurt when you force me back because you’re going to have bend my magic to your will. But my magic will submit to you, Hermione. It knows you and it will recognize your intent. The magic in me is wild, perhaps even feral if the truth be known but I love you more than anything. I meant what I said before—you are the foundation on which I practice my craft.”
“If I fail?”
“I’ll be here waiting,” Harry whispered. He let his forehead rest on hers.
“May magic bless our unified purpose,” Hermione whispered.
– – – –
Hermione shook loose from the trance with a shudder and found herself face to face with Sirius Black. “Hey.”
Sirius stared at her for a few seconds. “Did you know that I am a true grim? A magical animagus, just like you?”
“I have a unique and frankly horrifying relationship with Death. We chat sometimes. He’s a real sarcastic bastard,” he admitted. “Did you talk to Harry? Is he okay?”
“He’s with James and Lily,” Hermione admitted and watched as Sirius relaxed. “I need you to be prepared, sir, I’m going to draw Lily Potter onto our plane for the ritual—it’s probably going to be pretty distressing for her but she’s agreed to do it. I don’t want to hurt you with this.”
Sirius took up both her hands. “You do what you must to bring my boy back to me, Hermione. I have every faith in you and I also know that Lily would do anything for him. I’d like to be in the circle—with his inner circle. I rarely practice with them because they most often do parselmagic but you won’t be doing that tonight.”
“Yes, of course.” She nodded. “You didn’t have to ask. I’ve already marked the place I want you to be during the ritual.” She reached out hesitantly and touched his sternum. “You love him. I’m going to build the whole ritual on love because it saved him once before and I believe it will again.”
“You realize this is probably going to hurt him physically.”
“Yes, I knew but Harry told me as much. I’m going to have to force his magic to accept my domain over him, even temporarily and I don’t expect it to happen without a fight. As much as he loves and respect me, his magic is feral without him awake to subdue it.”
A few minutes later, she led Harry’s father to his place in the circle and left him there. Her mother had already arranged everyone else in the place that Hermione had determined. Janelle and Natalie were in spots that would be to Hermione’s left and right respectively—the closest to her in any of the circles that spilled out in rings around the altar. The men of the Glain Neidr were spread out around the Rowan Circle, the ward they were casting shining like a small sun while Harry’s inner circle made up the final ring within Rowan itself.
Hermione went to the altar and touched Harry’s bracelet. His staff shimmered into the air above his body and she confidently snatched it from the air. She was about to show everyone what she was made of and that she was his match in every single way. “Rowena, I need you.” The snake appeared where it lay curled around Harry’s wrist and lifted her head. Hermione offered her free hand and the snake spun off Harry in a rush of magical sparks in favor of her arm. “Godric, you’ll stay with him.” The snake in question lit with black fire from his place curled up on Harry’s chest. “Once his magic wakes, you’re to launch your ward and keep him in place until the ritual is complete. He’ll be in a great deal of pain but we have no choice. I can’t afford for him to leave the altar in the middle of it.”
Godric rapidly increased his size, wound himself around Harry swiftly and let his head rest just above Harry’s heart. “Yes, my Queen.”
She took her place and pushed her magic into the stones beneath her feet. Rowan lit around her in a brilliant display, the ancient wards of the Rowan Circle activated. Underneath the coiling magic of her adopted clan, Hermione could feel the gentle thrum of magical influence Harry had left behind after he’d cleaned Rowan all those weeks before. Nocturne vibrated eager and content in her hand. Hermione was relieved—she had wondered if the staff would even come to her. The choice to use it was instinctual so she wasn’t going to second guess herself.
Hermione held Nocturne out in front of her, pushed with her magic and cast the first rune. Algiz, the guardian. It rose into the air above her and she reached out with her magic and touched the spirit of her animagus form. Lily Potter shimmered into place in front of her—ethereal and so beautiful it was breathtaking. The older woman gave Hermione a gentle nod and moved through the circle in determination. She stopped in front of the rune stone she’d personally blessed and, with one look towards Sirius Black who could only smile at the sight of her, stepped into the large stone column. The rune stone trembled and a continuous stream of light shot straight out of the top.
Eihwazi, for strength. The rune spun out of the top of the staff and took its place with no prodding from her and she relaxed. Harry had been right, Magic would guide her. Wunjo, for fellowship. Kenaz, for love and passion. Berkano, renewal. Sowilo, life force. And the final rune, Dagaz, for awakening. They spun out one by one and formed a circle in the air above her head in a startling display of magical power—each glowing with purpose and pure white light.
“May Magic bless our unified purpose,” Hermione began and magic heaved in the Rowan Circle like the ocean as the runes skimmed the surface of every magical core within the ritual space and gathered magic.
“I seek what has been unjustly taken. I seek Fate’s Hand on this Earth. Let the Fates hear and heed my call.” The wind picked up and a storm gathered over them—roiling with lightning and thunder. Dark clouds stretched out as far as the eye could see.
“Fate bind him–body and soul. Fate behold him–heart and magic. Fate spare him–honor the mother’s sacrifice. And restore to me what is mine,” Hermione said, her magic causing her voice to drift over the circle despite the ferocity of the storm above them.
“Bound to my soul.” Harry arched on the altar suddenly and screamed. He fought against Godric but the snake grew rapidly and subdued him with brute strength.
“Bound to my magic,” Hermione claimed and magic flowed out of her—bursting over the ritual space like fireworks.
“Bound to my heart,” she whispered fiercely and held herself still as Harry screamed. Her grip tightened on the staff and she gave one final push of her magic. The runes above her pulsed, spread out further, and Harry’s magic lashed out. It moved toward her and her alone—furious and wild but as Harry predicted it calmed the moment it touched her skin. It swept around her, filled with his intense love for her before snapping back into his body with a crack.
Everything stopped. The storm above them dissipated in an instant. Hermione watched Godric relax and release Harry on the altar. The snake shrank away and curled protectively around one wrist. He shifted then on the altar and he turned his head to look at her. Bright green eyes met hers and the relief was so immediate that her knees weakened. She held Nocturne tightly because she wasn’t done and couldn’t go to him, not yet.
“We are one,” Hermione said, filling up the aching silence once more. She called down the runes one by one and they retreated into her. Finally, with a little push of her magic she released the spirit of Lily Potter. The stone column darkened as the light fled. “The circle is open but unbroken and so shall it remain at the blessing of our beloved Lady Magic.”
Her knees buckled but before she could hit the stones, he was there catching her. Harry held her close, fingers trembling against the fabric of her ritual robe.
“You were perfect,” he whispered against her hair. “That was righteous, love.”
“I think,” she whispered back, “I’m going to pass out.” Her fingers loosened on Nocturne and the staff hovered in the air beside them as she released it. Her eye lids fluttered shut and Harry picked her up.
Harry glanced around the circles, no one had moved from where Hermione had placed them. “My thanks.” He focused on his father. “Dad.”
“Take your Lady somewhere safe where she can rest, lad. I’ll be right behind you,” Sirius said quietly.
Harry reached out with his magic, Nocturne shrank down and disappeared into his bracelet. He apparated without another word.
Sirius started to move but stumbled to his knees. Around him, every member of the Rowan Circle sank to their knees as well and the Glain Neidr members inside the circle followed suit—among them Hiro Ito. Dumbledore came rushing into the circle along with the rest of the Glain Neidr. He knelt at Minerva’s side immediately.
“Just exhausted,” Minerva said wryly. “We’re all going to need pepper-up to even get home. If you’d help me with my daughter’s special guests,” she said with an inclination towards Natalie and Janelle who were struggling to support each other and stand at the same time. “Hermione cast at a mage level—we should’ve been prepared for that.”
“Ah.” Albus laughed. “I hazard to say that is the last time you’ll underestimate your daughter.”
Minerva laughed weakly and would’ve said something else if it were not for the small pop of apparition. She turned and found Jonah McGregor, the Earl of Dunshire, standing at the edge of her ritual space. “Lord McGregor.”
The man huffed. “For fuck’s sake, Minerva, your ritual circle just caught the notice of the entire bloody island. The ICW was notified. The Muggle Prime Minister declared a state of emergency due to an unexpected super storm.” He looked around the now serene space of the ritual circle. “Where is your daughter?”
“In an undisclosed location,” Minerva said tartly as Albus helped her stand. “Why? You can’t possibly be considering arresting her. She’s done something improbable not illegal.”
“I have Healers from St. Mungo’s standing by,” Jonah said. “And a team of warders from the DOM in case your wards are broken. I’m just here to help, Min. I thought you knew me better than that.”
She huffed and took the pepper-up potion that was thrust her in direction. She shared a glance with an amused Hiro Ito and downed the potion he offered her without discussion. “You can enter but keep the rest of your people back—the wards would repel them. My ancestral wards held but I think a few of my security protocols and the Muggle repelling work failed. If you’d renew those, I’d be in your debt. I don’t have the energy to do it myself.”
McGregor grinned. “You never removed me from your wards?”
She flushed. “Would you try to refrain from being an arse? I’ve had a trying bloody day!”
McGregor grinned. “There’s the lass I remember—I was beginning to think adopting a teenager had made you soft.”
– – – –
The elf appeared immediately and stared at him with tear-filled eyes before crawling up into his lap. Harry patted her back as she wrapped her arms around him. “I’m sorry.”
“You always make a mess,” Star complained. She sat down on the arm of the chair and propped her feet up on his thigh before turning to stare at Hermione McGonagall where she lay asleep on the bed. “She did so well.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “Did anyone… we didn’t lose any bonds, did we?”
“Your bond with Sunshine be weakest but her parents held it until you came back,” Star said. “Everyone be fine. Tired but fine. We all need day of rest. Many have forgotten what it be like to be so diminished.”
Harry nodded. “I’m sorry for that. I expected… a curse of some kind but I never thought that a Hogwarts student would know such magic. She certainly didn’t learn it from a text book or from the library in the school. I figured a cutting curse or maybe a reductor—nothing that I couldn’t have handled in the long term even if it had hurt.”
“Yous witch is holding snake-man hostage at Keep,” Star reminded.
Harry grinned. “Yeah, I watched that part. I think Howie and Marco are enjoying themselves a bit too much—you know they’re cleaning the torture equipment down there in front of him and verbally planning how they might use it on him.”
Star snorted. “It is no less than he be deserving for coveting our Lady Potter.”
“They can release him,” Harry said. “But have someone keep an eye on him. I’d like to know where he is at all times until I’ve dealt with him personally.” The wards in the house shifted and he knew his father had returned. “Dad is here. I’ll call you later after Hermione wakes up.”
Star snorted. “That not be likely. Probably be having thank-Merlin-we-not-die fun times.”
“Star!” Harry said with a laugh. “Go on now.” She popped away with a little grin and Harry stood.
His father was waiting in the salon part of his suite, still dressed in a ritual robe. “Dad.”
Sirius turned and looked at him. “I’m torn between grounding you and buying you something extremely impractical and inappropriate.”
Harry laughed and moved forward. His father drew him into a tight embrace and Harry let himself relax into the feeling of safety his Dad always gave him. “I… I’m so sorry I worried you but I wouldn’t have done anything different if I’d known what would happen.”
“I know.” Sirius closed his eyes and held his son. “You saw James and Lily.”
“Yeah,” Harry said. “I did.”
“No,” Harry whispered. “They said her soul only stayed a few years before she was reborn.” He realized in that moment that he could no more tell his Dad than he could Astoria. It would be terrible and unfair. “But they said she is happy and safe.”
Sirius nodded. “You don’t have to tell me her name, lad. It’s okay. I’m not sure I could handle it but I’m glad you know it so you can watch over her… I mean if that’s possible.”
“I’ll watch over her,” Harry promised against Sirius’ neck. “I swear.”
“Castius and the rest of your conclave are downstairs. They aren’t going to leave until you’ve shown them your face and allowed for an inspection. Minerva took Janelle and Natalie back to her house and Ito says they’re fine. They’re both magically exhausted, however. They apparently gave over their magic to Hermione during the ritual—she wielded her own magic plus theirs during the ritual. So… all three witches you’ve ever slept with have shared magic on a level so deep that it defies imagination.”
Harry groaned. “Wow.”
Sirius laughed. “It’ll be fine.” He wrapped a hand around Harry’s shoulder and prodded him towards the door. “Come on now and indulge a bunch of old men who are quite worried about you. I don’t think Armand has slept since you were cursed unless you count the four hours that he was unconscious when Hiro stunned him.”
The men of his conclave were in the ritual room in the basement, most of them looked okay but his inner circle looked like they’d gone a few rounds with a dragon or two. It was Castius who stepped forward, took him by the hand, and lead him to the altar in the room. Harry gamely hopped up on it and allowed the man to scan him to his heart’s content. Castius had been his healer for as long as he could really remember so he didn’t even bother to pay attention to the spells the man was casting—trusting him was like breathing.
“Verdict?” Sirius demanded roughly after nearly five minutes of casting on Castius’ part.
Castius lowered his wand with a frown. “He has more of his mother’s magic stirring in him than he ever has before and a few damaged channels which are rapidly repairing themselves which is par for his course. A little muscle fatigue and some bruising from when Godric held him in place. But he already took a healing potion for that.”
“Yes, from my stores in my bracelet,” Harry admitted and stretched. “Physically and magically I feel fine. I’m a bit pissed, of course, and I can’t believe that vicious little bitch tried to kill Hermione.”
“We have her in a secure room at St. Mungo’s,” Sirius said quietly. “She’s quite… insane actually. Ito found traces of Voldemort’s magic in her.”
Harry frowned. “We had her thoroughly healed after the events of the Chamber,” he protested. “I paid for it myself through the Gryffindor Trust.”
“Yes and she went through a thorough battery of tests,” Castius agreed. “Jacob handled her mind healing.”
Harry turned to look at Jacob Dyson and raised an eyebrow.
“There were four sessions the summer after her first year,” Jacob said. “She had no physical symptoms of having been possessed and my investigation of her mind revealed she barely remembered having the diary at all. Magically, she suffered an untold amount of damage—he destroyed two-thirds of her core attempting to resurrect himself. She was lucky to come out of it with enough magic to practice as a normal witch and I told her as much. I advised her against apparition and any of the high magical arts such as the animagus transformation. Had you asked me five years ago if she would be capable of casting the curse you were hit with—I would’ve said no.”
“And I assume you’ve given her another look?” Harry asked patiently.
“She was given someone’s magic,” Dyson said shortly. “There is no other explanation that fits. Knowing what we know about her brother Percy and his involvement in some of the shadier parts of the Ministry as well as Lucius Malfoy’s conclave, I’m left to assume that she was fed the magic of at least one sacrifice. It’s ugly, Harry. All this time we thought they were killing indiscriminately for their own gain but the implications of this…”
“Take the magic of a Muggle-born or Half-blood to restore or increase the magic of a pureblood’s child,” Harry said. “It’s very ugly and I agree the implications are horrifying. A new and different kind of blood war if people were to be talked into considering it a form of justice for any perceived wrong doing.” He rubbed his face with both hands and took a deep breath. “How about the influence on her mind?”
“I’d have sworn on my magic she was cleansed completely,” Jacob murmured. “I can’t explain it.”
“No, I can’t either,” Castius admitted. “More than one of us checked on that girl in the year that followed the incident in the Chamber and saw nothing like we see in her mind now.”
“She took classes every day for going three years after the Chamber in the DADA classroom were his soul leech lay active and very angry,” Harry said and watched them all adjust to that. “Perhaps it latched onto her because she was familiar and tainted her beyond any repair. We know what is in her isn’t a genuine part of Riddle so we can get past that part at least. I trust the DMLE will make sure she remains in custody for the time being.” He turned to his father. “It’s time, I think, for us to stop fucking around on the issue of the dark faction still at work in the Ministry. Whether you’ve gathered enough evidence or not, they need to be dealt with. I’d bet almost anything that Percy gave his sister that curse to use on Hermione. We’d both be dead right now if I hadn’t taken the curse for her.”
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know but we have a more pressing matter before us than Savage and his little band of dark bastards.” Sirius sighed at his son’s dubious expression. “The ICW council is coming here. All of them. Tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Harry frowned. “In response to what exactly?”
“Hermione broke the Muggle repelling charms on the Rowan Circle and pretty much everyone in Britain noticed the show. The Muggle government is passing it off as an unexpected astrological event but the ICW is demanding an explanation from her and from me. Dumbledore is trying to placate them but it’s not working to be honest. We’ve told them that the person who led the ritual is exhausted and unconscious.”
“She’s not facing any sort of charges is she?”
“No, because the storm she conjured managed to obscure the magic and she didn’t come close to showing magic to a Muggle. They’d have a hard time making charges regarding the statute stick. The ritual itself is considered a grey art but there are no local or international laws against it. I don’t know if she conjured that storm on purpose to hide her work or if her magic innately protected her when the charms on the circle started to fail. She did, however, produce a super storm that hovered above the entire country for nearly twenty minutes only disappear in a near instant. It’s going to baffle the fuck out of Muggle scientists for decades to come.”
Harry nodded. Harry flicked his mirror out of his bracelet. “Lise.” The mirror was still for a second before it shook a little and his solicitor’s face appeared in it.
Lise Delacour stared at him pointedly. “You. I’m glad to see you in whole and hale. My little cousin sent a note to the family regarding her international portkey. I understand from various resources that she’s currently in the care of Minerva McGonagall. Is there a problem?”
“No, Janelle is magically exhausted for her part in the ritual but will recover well from what I’ve been told.” Harry rubbed the back of his neck as he considered his words. “The ICW is coming here.” He frowned when she snorted. “All of them, Lise. They have it in their heads that they’re going to intrude on the private ritual business of my future wife. I want you do something about it.”
Lise huffed. “They’d never presume to stick their nose in this if it had been a conclave— ces sexistes fils de pute.” She frowned. “Though honestly I’m sure I can do anything about it, Harry. The entire magical world has heard about it already and it happened less than two hours ago. There are reports coming out of Britain on the wireless that Hermione McGonagall retrievedyour soul from the afterlife. Is that true?”
“If it is?” Harry asked neutrally.
“It’s… going to have to be addressed in public so there is no confusion as to what she did and how she did it. Her magical motivations, her abilities, and the power she demonstrated is going to scare people stupid. Elemental mages were once the most hunted of us because of the danger they present to society at large. She could wipe out the populations of entire cities with the sort of storm she conjured last night. Create natural disasters beyond the scope of anyone’s imagination. On top of that, she’s set to marry one of the most powerful and celebrated wizards of our time. I warned you long ago that your marriage would have sweeping political implications. There are many who’d prefer you marry into one family or another for the benefit of magical society as a whole. Ancient familial blood lines and magic aren’t going to be served by you marrying and fathering children with a Muggle-born witch. To some people, her adoption into the House of Ross means nothing.”
“They can all kiss my arse,” Harry said crossly. “I don’t care what they want!”
“I know,” Lise said quietly. “You never have and above all else, Harry, that has always been clear to practically anyone who had a conversation with you. I’ll stick my foot in the ICW’s proceedings as soon as I set foot on British soil. Be prepared and Harry?”
“You’re going to have present a united, unbreakable front—the two of you. Any sort of weakness from one or both of you that display before the ICW and the rest of the world will only be to the detriment of your magical House. She owes not a single person on this planet an apology for the defense of her Lord and she must make that clear to anyone who’d dare assume to demand one.”
– – – –
She’d hoped to wake up and spend the better part of the morning in Harry’s arms doing whatever the hell he wanted for as long as he wanted but instead she’d been prodded into a shower and into her nicest dress and day robe by her mother. Harry was somewhere else in the house being briefed by his lawyer who had arrived while Hermione had slept.
Inari was perched on the vanity table in front of her watching as Hermione used her wand to create an intricate braid. She blew fire in ire and plopped down on her belly. “Stupid Rowena always in your hair.”
Rowena hissed at Inari from her place on Hermione’s neck, “I was here first, puny lizard.”
Hermione resolved to ignore them both. They managed to keep their hostilities to the trading of insults. Harry thought it was hilarious and Godric had apparently decided to stay on neutral ground. Inari had been severely irritated to be left behind when Hermione had gone to the Rowen Circle but she hadn’t wanted to risk the dragon-snake in a full on ritual when she hadn’t even cast with her in a personal circle yet.
Harry sat down on the bench beside her. “Today is going to be a bit of a trial for you… emotionally.”
He pressed a soft kiss against the side of her neck just above Rowena before sliding Gryffindor’s Tear back into place. He fastened the clasp. “Just remember, they can be curious all the want but you did nothing wrong in that ritual. You were amazing, Hermione, and coming back to you in that moment was the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”
“It hurt you a lot,” Hermione whispered.
“We knew it would,” Harry said. “And it’s fine because I’m here and we’re together just like we were always meant to be. I’d suffer a great deal to be with you—to have a life with you. I love you.”
“I love you.” She turned to him, her eyes sparkling with tears. “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” Harry asked confused.
“For this—for their curiosity and for making an international mess. I was so focused on you that I didn’t care in that moment. You were the only thing that mattered and now we’re probably going to have to reveal a secret you’ve kept for eight years.”
“Did you conjure the storm on purpose?”
“Yes,” Hermione admitted. “I didn’t mean for it to get that big but I knew I was going to stress the protections on the Circle to an untold degree. I thought the storm would hide my magic.”
“It did,” Harry said with a laugh. “Look, there was no property damage or injuries. The storm stayed high in the sky. It only rained for like ten minutes. Yes, it was visually impressive but that’s it. You didn’t hurt anyone at all and you saved our lives. I watched Master Ito’s memory of the entire ritual and I have to say, sweetheart, if that’s how you’re going to work coming out of the gate—I can’t fucking wait to see what you can do once you’ve gotten some experience. You rocked my world.”
She scrunched up her nose. “Or at the very least, the entire British Isles.”
Harry grinned. “You’re adorable. Let’s go tell the ICW to kiss our arses then we can find some out of the way place to celebrate not dying because I’ve been informed we owe each other some thank-Merlin-we-didn’t-die sex.”
She bit down on her lip. “I was rather looking forward to it actually. It was very irritating to get woken up by my mother instead of you this morning.”
“Yes, well, I was pretty much dragged out of here an hour before by my Dad because the ICW isn’t taking no for an answer. They’re threatening to sanction the British Ministry if we don’t show up for the inquiry.”
Hermione nodded. “Mum said.” She took a deep breath. “I gave permission for the ritual to be viewed.”
“I was told,” Harry said. He looked away from her. “That’s your call, sweetheart, but I would support you completely if you changed your mind. None of them have the right to intrude on the matters of your coven when you’ve done nothing illegal.” He picked up her hand and pressed a kiss to trembling fingers. “I’ve got your back so don’t worry.”
She nodded. “I know.” She picked up a fist full of tiny pins with little red crystals on the tips. “Put these in my hair.”
Harry took the pins and stood. “Any particular way?”
“No, just push them into the bun just so the crystals show. Space them out evenly.” She noticed with some amusement that he handled the chore with as seriously as he could but there was a little smile playing on his mouth the entire time. “Put a little sticking charm on them so they don’t fall out.”
He pulled his wand. “I had no idea you put this much thought into these little arrangements of yours.”
“It’s a thing—my thing. Witch Weekly has this whole poll thing where witches all over the country owl in with their votes on which braid or arrangement they like best.” She flushed when he laughed. “It helps… if they can relate to me, right? It makes me a person and not just some abstract idea attached to you?”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. He finished the charm work with a few thoughtful flicks of his wand. “It looks nice—not as extravagant as some of the things I’ve seen you do.”
“Sometimes simple makes a more powerful statement,” Hermione said. “These little pins come in a set of ten colors at the Shoppe. You know Star had to offer a replica of the barrettes you bought me?”
Harry huffed and leaned on the vanity table. “That’s insane, sweetheart.”
“Yes, perhaps but it also works to our advantage,” Hermione said as she focused on him. “Witches all over the world see our whirlwind romance as something special—your request for a courtship period was old-fashioned and many in my mum’s generation found it endearing. You defended our courtship in a duel which a lot of younger women found terribly romantic instead of just terrible.”
“And now I took a curse for you and you retrieved my magical soul from the afterlife,” Harry said quietly. “That’s… the makings of a really silly romance movie isn’t it?”
She laughed, pulled Rowena free from her neck and lifted her hand. The snake slide around her bun with a little contented hiss. “Yes, and they don’t even know about all the fantastic sex we have.”
“The ICW is cockblocking me,” Harry said. “They’re really going to regret that.”
“What if they won’t let me talk around why I was chosen?” Hermione asked.
“Then we tell them the truth. While I’ve refused to answer questions, I’ve never lied to the ICW. It would be a… big mistake to do so.”
– – – –
“The International Confederation of Wizards convenes this inquiry on this date, November 24, 1996.” Dumbledore inclined his head towards the other one-hundred and fifty members of the Confederation. “Miss McGonagall, I would remind you and everyone here that you are not on trial and there are no pending charges against you on a local or international level.”
Hermione nodded but didn’t glance towards Harry whom she knew to be vibrating with fury. They’d separated them upon arrival and he would’ve certainly caused a scene if Master Ito hadn’t interfered. Neither her mother nor the solicitor, Lise Delacour, Harry had on retainer had been allowed to remain with her either. She shifted in the chair and crossed her legs. If they were waiting for her to fill up the silence that followed Dumbledore’s announcement they were going to be in for a long wait. The press took so many pictures that she had little dots of light dancing in front of her eyes.
“Well?” One man demanded.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and the man sat back with a frown. “I recognize, Mr. Franco Leone from Italy.”
Hermione focused on the man and raised one eyebrow at him.
Leone huffed. “Explain yourself!”
She inclined her head. “Did you have a particular subject in mind or would you like to know the intricacies of how I transfigured my braid this morning because I could talk about that for a bit. I’ve been writing a paper on…”
“Enough of your nonsense!” Leone snapped.
“Don’t take that tone with me, Mr. Leone,” Hermione said with a frown. “You lot have ruined my Saturday, you know. I had plans that didn’t involve sitting in a stuffy room with a bunch ofwizards I don’t even know. If you’d like for me to speak about something specific I suggest you take the time to formulate some proper questions and speak to me in a civilized way when you ask them. I’m not some criminal and don’t appreciate being yelled at in such a way.”
“Who exactly do you think you are?” Leone asked through clenched the teeth.
“I am Hermione Isobel McGonagall, the heiress of the House of Ross and the betrothed of Lord Harry James Potter. That makes me the future Countess of Gryffindor, that’s who I am, Mr. Leone.” Inari took that moment to slip out of the pocket in Hermione’s robe and crawl out onto the table in front of her. Hermione picked the Ryūda up and Inari blew a furious bit of fire at the Italian wizard.
“What the hell is that?”
Hermione frowned. “A Ryūda—a Japanese dragon-snake. Surely you didn’t interrupt my Saturday to talk about my familiar, Mr. Leone. Though she’s very pretty and interesting. I’m sort of surprised that a man your age would be so… uninformed about the magical creatures from other countries.” She turned to the representative from Japan. “Perhaps you could instruct him, Master Kimura, on the matter of Ryūda at some later date so we can continue on to more important topics.”
Midori Kimura of Japan offered her a wry grin. “It would be a pleasure.”
Hermione inclined her head and focused on Leone. “Did you have any other questions for me?”
“You performed necromancy!” Leone shouted in frustration.
“I did no such thing,” Hermione scoffed. “And besides even if I had—it’s not illegal in Britain and the only International laws concerning necromancy concern the creation of inferi. As you can quite plainly see, the Lord Potter looks nothing like an inferius. In fact, since he was at no point dead—nothing in the ritual I performed could be considered necromancy by anyone with the smallest knowledge of magical theory. Though I did recently read an absolutely fascinating treatise on zombies and the practice of Hoodoo in the States. Purely as an academic curiosity, you see.”
Leone sputtered and started to stand but Dumbledore cleared his throat. The Italian wizard retreated with a glare in her direction. “Perhaps someone with a cooler head could ask questions.” He looked around the room. “I recognize Mr. Adam Stevens from the United States.”
“Thank you, sir.” Stevens cleared his throat. “Thank you for joining us this morning, Miss McGonagall. Can you tell us why you’re wearing Gryffindor’s Tear?”
She blinked in surprise and for the first time since she sat down looked towards Harry for support. He gave her an abrupt nod and she cleared her throat. “Shortly after I met Lord Potter, my magical maturation took a turn for the extreme. I’d been on a gradual shift in the process since I was fifteen. I had several bouts of accidental magic that made my mother worry that I was going to damage my core through upheaval. Lord Potter offered me the use of the Tear which he had used to moderate his own accidental outbursts. He keyed it to me with blood magic in a small ritual.”
Stevens nodded. “And were you wearing it yesterday evening when you led the Rowan Circle in ritual?”
“No, I removed it. I worried that the ward on the Tear might interfere with my ability to cast within the circle as the principal practitioner.”
“We know from reports from the British Ministry of Magic that Lord Potter was cursed with Magicis Iudicium Puritas. This incredible dark curse judges a person’s blood and if they are not determined to be magical enough—they’re killed. Lord Potter is a Half-blood and yet you said at no point was he dead. How can that be true, Miss McGonagall?”
“Harry is magically very interesting,” Hermione said. “There are magical protections at work around him that are more than a decade old—remnants of the magical sacrifice his mother made for him. He survived the Killing Curse, Mr. Stevens. Why exactly are you surprised that he’d survive another assumed to be fatal curse?”
Stevens gaped at her. “Miss McGonagall, what exactly do you know about his mother’s magical sacrifice?”
“Only what anyone with half a brain could work out,” Hermione said exasperated. “I assume you know how the Killing Curse works, right?” She paused and he nodded. “Everyone knows that Harry was hit by the curse—it’s a fact. We also know he survived it when he shouldn’t have. We know his mother sacrificed herself for him. Yet, we also know that others have made such emotional sacrifices in the past without gaining the benefit she did. It stands to reason that she was in the midst of a ritual of some kind when Voldemort killed her. It wasn’t just a sacrifice, it was a ritual sacrifice. She didn’t prevent the curse from hitting her son. Lily Potter kept the curse from violating his soul. She used her magic and life force to protect the magical soul of her son.” Hermione relaxed in her chair. “It is a terrible sort of power, Mr. Stevens, and more so for the fact that even today her sacrifice resonates in her son’s magic. It will probably be passed on to any children we have.”
Stevens stared at her for a long moment before clearing his throat. “Yes, I see. It is a well rationed thought, Miss McGonagall. And you used this… theory to do what exactly?”
“Originally, I was tasked by the Glain Neidr to retrieve Lord Potter’s soul through the Rite of Resurgence.”
“Why you?” Stevens asked, confused. “The Glain Neidr is famous the world over for their magical power in ritual. Why would they ask you, specifically, to retrieve the soul of their High Warlock?”
Hermione wet her bottom lip. “It was believed that I was the most uniquely suited to retrieve Lord Potter due to our mutual feelings for one another. Love based magic had sheltered his soul once before.”
Stevens gaze narrowed. “That’s not the entire truth.”
“No, but it is true.” Hermione lifted her chin when the older man frowned at her. “My animagus form has a unique affinity with the afterlife, Mr. Stevens. For my personal safety, Lord Potter had requested I keep that information to myself for the time being. I am registered privately with the British Ministry of Magic.”
Stevens frowned. “Again, not the entire truth.”
“You’re kind of annoying,” Hermione complained much to the obvious amusement of half the people in the room.
“I could say the same,” Stevens exclaimed. “It’s probably been fifty years since I’ve encountered a woman your age so contrary.” He paused and grinned. “You might know her—she adopted you.”
Hermione flushed with genuine pleasure. “Oh, well thank you, that’s very kind of you to say.” She smiled at him and Stevens blinked in surprise. “As to the other matter, it’s obvious isn’t it? The Glain Neidr asked me to retrieve Lord Potter’s soul because we’re soulmates.”
“You are Harry Potter’s soulmate?” Stevens asked.
Hermione frowned at him. “You all knew he had one. He admitted as such when he was eight years old in front of this body. Did you honestly think he’d just ask any witch to marry him? How… just how… do I prevent from getting that daft in my old age?” She turned to her mother. “This just happens to wizards, right?”
Minerva snorted which unleashed a great deal of inappropriate laughter from the press and general audience that had been allowed to attend the inquiry. Hermione sat back in her chair and pulled a little gold tin out of her robe pocket which she opened. Inari hissed excitedly and fluttered her wings as she prowled across the small table she was on. Hermione offered her familiar a little piece of dried meat which Inari promptly roasted it. The display brought the entire room silent. Hermione fed the charred meat to Inari and looked toward Dumbledore.
“If the Glain Neidr had performed this ritual on their own,” Hermione began, “would the ICW being having this inquiry?”
“If the outcome was the same, I would hope so,” Albus said. “But I cannot say for certain.”
Hermione nodded. “Do you suppose they would be so concerned about the magic I used last evening if I had failed? Well, not that it would’ve mattered to me much—as I would be dead as well.”
The representative from Japan raised his wand.
“I recognize Master Kimura of Japan.”
“Miss McGonagall, you said you were originally tasked with performing the Rite of Resurgence. The implication being that is not what you cast. Can you explain to what you did cast?”
Hermione closed the tin and tucked it away which made Inari sprawl out on the table in disappointment. “I studied the Rite of Resurgence thoroughly while everyone else was preparing for their parts in the ritual. I came to realize that I needed… to do something more proactive than merely invite Harry’s soul to return to his body. The ritual is extremely passive and I feared that due to the fact that he’d dominated his magical core—that his magic might not bow down to such a ritual.”
“You altered the ritual.”
“Yes.” Hermione nodded. “Everyone was telling me to follow my magical instincts and in my experiences with Harry’s magic… I knew that the ritual wouldn’t be enough as it was originally structured. Fortunately for me, I had a few assets on Earth and beyond to help me in my endeavors.”
“I used the power of three—myself and two of Harry’s former lovers—to draw a personal circle of power within the ritual itself. I positioned adult witches who each loved Harry in their own way around myself and my personal circle. I placed the inner circle of his conclave next then the rest of the Rowan Circle spread out beyond them in graduating circles of power and influence. Witches who had birthed at least one son were placed closer to the center while those who had never had any children at all were placed on the outer edges for balance. Then I drew Lily Potter’s soul into the ritual with runic magic so she could act as a beacon for her son.”
“You did what?” Leone burst out.
“The first rune I cast was Algiz. I called on the power of a guardian and Lily Potter answered my call. She returned to the living plane as a spirit and helped guide Harry home to me.”
Leone glared at her. “What exactly is your animagus form?”
“It is exactly none of your business,” Hermione said. “I don’t have to reveal that to this body. I’m registered with my own government and there are no international requirements about such information.”
“Dumbledore!” Leone turned on him. “I demand to know the answer to my question.”
“Mr. Leone, I’ll not make such an order,” Dumbledore said gravely. “I consider a person’s animagus form a deeply personal matter. I don’t even agree with forced registration at a local level.”
“This young woman called forward a spirit of a woman dead more than a decade,” Leone hissed. “And you think we don’t have the right to know how she did it?”
“I asked her,” Hermione snapped and took a deep breath when the Tear started to vibrate on her skin. She touched the diamond and took another deep breath to calm down. “I took a full hour before the ritual to meditate. I achieved a trance like state similar to when I was searching for my animagus form. I sought out Lily Potter’s magic in that trance like state and had a conversation with her. I told her my purpose and asked for her help. She readily agreed. I’d have never done it against her will.”
“Why not?” Kimura asked and glared pointedly at Leone who started to speak. “I have the floor, Representative Leone. If you forget yourself again—you’ll meet me on the dueling stage. That is, you’ll meet me after you recover from whatever Potter does to you for you inappropriate behavior towards his Lady.” He turned to Hermione. “Why wouldn’t you have used her against her will?”
“Have you ever heard of the Resurrection Stone?” Hermione asked.
“Yes, of course. It is a child’s fairytale, young lady.”
“It may be,” Hermione said. “But there are truths to be found in legends and myths, Master Kimura. To call a soul to Earth is a torture. It hurt her and if she had fought me in the least it would have been… like getting stabbed in the gut for myself. Repeatedly stabbed. As it was, it hurt quite a bit for me to draw her down. Once she was here…the pain lessened but it didn’t go away fully until I released her and the ritual circle entirely. It could be years before I’m capable of such a thing again—it was magically expensive to me in ways I’m not prepared to talk about.”
“Was your core damaged during the ritual?”
“No, not at all. In fact, I’m only wearing the Tear today because Harry was worried I might lose my temper with some of you.” Her gaze drifted briefly back to Leone who glared at her. “Some more than others obviously.” She propped her head on her hand and stared at Kimura. “You remind me of Master Ito—magically. Are you related?”
Kimura blinked in surprise. “You can feel my magic?”
“No, I can see it,” Hermione admitted with a flush. “Since I woke up from the ritual last night.” She returned her attention to Inari. “In fact, Harry woke me up. He was asleep and I woke up surrounded by the light of a small sun. I realized it was his magic. It took me an hour to get my mage sight under control, with Master Ito’s assistance, and go back to sleep.”
Kimura nodded. “It’s not a surprise to find a magical gift unleashed in the wake of such an event as you had last night, Miss McGonagall. As to your question, yes he is my many many many greats Uncle.” He relaxed in his chair. “I’ve been told that you’ve consented to the viewing of the ritual. Is that still on the table for you?”
Hermione glanced only briefly at Leone before nodding. “I have nothing to hide.”
Hiro Ito left the audience as a pensieve was brought to the center of the room. He drew a memory from his head with an elegant swish of his wand and dropped it into the pensieve. “I was inside the ritual circle. I believe my memory of the event should more than suffice.” He activate the pensieve and the memory spilled out around them.
Hermione watched herself in the memory, sort of surprised and awed by the poise she displayed considering how nervous she knew she’d been. The memory ended shortly after Harry apparated out of the circle. Ito retrieved his memory and left the floor to return to his place beside Harry in the audience.
“That was an outstanding act of magic, Miss McGonagall,” Kimura said gravely. “I’ve never seen the like.”
Leone raised his wand. Hermione could tell that Dumbledore didn’t want to give him the floor again but the rules obviously didn’t allow for him to ignore a member of the body. “Mr. Leone, you may speak.”
“Was the storm accidental magic?”
“No,” Hermione said. “I cast it to hide the magic when I realized the protocols for the circle might not hold. It wasn’t until I was in place and already casting that I realized that between my own personal power and the power I was gathering in the circle—that we were going to overwhelm the Muggle repelling protocols which would not only reveal the magic I was going to cast but also the ward that the Glain Neidr had cast around my entire ritual space. Several security wards also failed though they’ve already been replaced.”
“Several months ago, the ICW received a report about a similar such storm in the South Pacific. Lord Potter claimed responsibility for that storm. Was that you?”
“Yes, in fact, it was the event that led to me being given the Tear to wear. It’s when my mother and Lord Potter realized that my maturation was going in a direction no one expected.”
“And what direction would that be?” Leone asked.
“I am a burgeoning elemental magus,” Hermione said. “I should think that would be obvious. As to my affinity, I don’t have one. I’m equally gifted with all four elements though I’ve always been especially fond of fire. It is an emotional preference, not a magical one.”
“You said this ritual was magically expensive but it didn’t damage your core. Explain that.”
“It’s a personal concern. I won’t discuss it.”
Leone’s gaze narrowed on her. “Could you resurrect someone who is dead, where there is no body?”
Hermione felt cold settle in her body and Rowena slid down out of her hair to pool on the table in front of her—lit with dark red fire. “Why would you ask such a profane question? It is a crime against nature and magic to do such a thing.”
“Could you do it?” Leone demanded, his eyes dark with fury and some sort of mania that made Hermione’s skin crawl. Rowena’s upper body rose from the table, her hood snapped open and she spit venom at the Italian. “And control that snake!”
“She’s not my familiar, Mr. Leone, she belongs to the Lord Potter. I suppose he considers you a threat to me,” Hermione said. “As to your question—I don’t know and I would never try.”
“Never,” she confirmed. “The only person I’d even be tempted to do it for would be Harry and I wouldn’t survive his death by more than a few minutes. Perhaps just enough time to viciously murder the person responsible for killing us both.” She leaned forward and glared pointedly at the man, her eyes shifting gold briefly. “You remember that.” Hermione took a deep breath. “But it does bring up a concern and perhaps there are others who think I could be valuable to them and their little pet causes.” She pulled her wand and stood. She placed the tip on her sternum and focused on Dumbledore whose mouth had dropped open. “I, Hermione Isobel McGonagall of the House of Ross, do solemnly swear on my magic to never under any circumstances attempt to resurrect the Dark Lord known as Voldemort, born Tom Marvolo Riddle of the House of Gaunt. So mote it be.” The magical oath settled and she put her wand down. “There now. Does anyone else have any ridiculous questions to ask me? Half the day is gone and I’ve got better things to do then answer your questions concerning an event that is absolutely none of your business.”
“I have one,” Kimura said. He inclined his head and stared at her. “This was your first ritual as the principal practitioner?”
Kimura nodded. “Well as the Muggles are fond of saying, you knocked it out of the park.”
“Yes, well,” Hermione began with a small frown. “I was made a promise.” She sat down in the chair when Dumbledore raised an eyebrow at her.
Leone stood. “Considering her refusal to answer questions truthfully, I’d like to put forward a motion for a formal trial.”
“On what grounds?” Dumbledore said curiously. “The last time I checked—being a contrary seventeen year old witch isn’t a crime. If it were, Franco, I could have a good portion of the sixth and seventh year witches at Hogwarts up on charges by the end of the day.”
“She violated the Statute of Secrecy!”
“Bullshit,” Adam Stevens stood. “In fact, she went out of her way to hide her magical endeavor and the purity of her craft was just displayed for us all to see. She broke no laws and didn’t even come close to performing a dark art! Speak your true purpose, Leone, or shut the hell up.”
Hermione stared at the American wizard with wide eyes.
The man flushed. “My apologies to the House of Ross for my language.”
She bit down on her lip and leaned forward a bit. “I’ve heard worse.”
“Her animagus form is so dangerous her future husband is forcing her to hide it!” Leone shouted. “And he’s a fucking dragon for the love of Merlin!”
Hermione took a deep breath and focused on Harry who looked resigned.
“Show them what you got, sweetheart,” Harry said and sighed.
Hermione stood and with a sweep of magic shifted into her form. She rose high in the room, shining with magic, wings sweeping out in a wide arc as she hovered above them. Harry left his seat, walked to the center of the room and she gracefully lowered her body into his arms, her feather tipped tail winding around his left arm.
Harry focused on Franco Leone. “She is not dangerous. What she is, you overbearing git, is unique in this world. Far more unique than even myself, as I’ve met two other wizards in my life with a dragon for their form. One who achieved the transformation and another who chose not to ever attempt it.” He looked around the room, his gaze brushing over the press in the process. “I was never worried about what she might do to any of you. But I fear what some of you might attempt to do to her.” He turned to Dumbledore. “My Lady is done here, sir.”
Dumbledore nodded. “As you will, Lord Potter.”
Harry summoned Inari from the table and Rowena slithered down the leg of the table and across the room. She shimmied up his leg just as Godric light with black fire. They flamed away without another word.
Several wands were raised at the same time and Dumbledore took a moment to look around the room. Leone looked shocked, horrified. “I recognize Esteban Garza of Mexico.”
Garza stood. “At this point, I would like to remind every single magical person on this planet that the coatl are an internationally protected species. They are also an endangered species. There hasn’t been a coatl animagus in my country’s recorded history. Lord Potter was quite right about her uniqueness in the world.” He paused and glared at Leone. “Moreover, the coatl is an inherently Light species and while the natural ones among us are capable of great feats of magic, they shy away from people in general. The coatl are special to my people, Dumbledore. My country and my people would take great exception to seeing that young woman misused or hurt because of her animagus form. I personally would consider it an act of war.”
Leone sputtered. “She is a valuable resource! She can commune with the dead for fuck’s sake! She has a responsibility to magical kind to make herself available to us for the greater good.”
Before anyone else could say anything Minerva McGonagall disappeared from her seat. With a thunderous boom that made the building tremble, she appeared right in front of the Italian, her wand drawn, vibrating with power and glowing at the tip. “My daughter is not a resource. If you ever come near her—I’ll end you.”
Leone started to draw his wand.
“Don’t,” Dumbledore said in warning, his tone brokering no compromise. “That’s my sister in magic standing in front of you, Franco. I’d have you remember what I told you so many years ago when you tried to quite unsuccessfully court her.”
Leone huffed and sat down.
Minerva looked around the room. “Frankly, you’d better hope that Lord Potter gets to you first if any one of you even attempt to do her harm because he’d at least make it quick.” She turned on her heel and apparated out of the ballroom turned meeting hall without a sound.
– – – –
She found her daughter sitting in the kitchen of their townhouse—the third place she looked as she’d first gone to the house Sirius Black kept in Hogsmeade only to find it empty. A brief check in with Hogwarts had also proved fruitless as the wards had told her that neither her daughter nor her betrothed were in the castle.
Minerva sat down and said nothing while Hermione fixed another cup of tea and placed it in front of her. “Where’s your wizard, lass?”
Hermione wet her bottom lip. “He took Janelle and Natalie to the bank to see to their travels. It seemed like the thing to do.”
“Having met them both, shared magic with them… are you still jealous of the relationship he had with Janelle?” Minerva asked and watched her daughter as she wandlessly summoned a package of biscuit from the counter. She had to wonder if the girl was even conscious of the fact that she’d done it but she said nothing as Hermione opened the package and piled a bunch of chocolate covered wafers onto a plate between them.
“No, not at all. I don’t think I was ever jealous of her specifically.” Hermione frowned. “I trust Harry. It was more about me than her. More about the level of intimacy that Harry and I have.”
Minerva broke a biscuit into two pieces and dunked the tip of one into her tea much to her daughter’s obvious disgust. “So, you’ve never had intercourse with him.”
“Mum.” Hermione flushed. She huffed and frowned at her tea. “I… no, we haven’t. We agreed not to until we were both on the same page emotionally—specifically when he was ready to give me a ring and I was ready to accept it.” She turned her engagement ring on her finger. “It seemed like a good boundary at first.”
“It made me silly,” Hermione complained. “I turned into one of those foolish girls who get jealous at the mere mention of another woman and I’d never want to be that way. It’s worse now that I’ve met them to be honest. Not the jealousy but the feeling that I was being stupid and jealous for no reason. Thankfully, I managed to keep it mostly to myself. I didn’t use to be this way.”
Minerva hummed under her breath. “I think the ramifications of your magical adoption are far more reaching than we first expected.”
“I don’t follow,” Hermione admitted.
“I’ve always been a jealous woman when my heart is involved in a relationship, Hermione. I nearly walked away from magic completely to avoid seeing the man I loved with another woman. I didn’t trust myself. She was no more to blame for their marriage than he was. Neither wanted it but the arrangement suited their parents. It would’ve been profane for me to take my temper out on her so I retreated as much as I could.”
Hermione nodded. “Okay, I’ll work on it.”
“Yes, you should,” Minerva agreed.
– – – –
Harry was at a loss as to what to say to her. Natalie Thibodaux had been his friend for ten years. They’d learned to fly together on training brooms. He’d told her that he had a soulmate when they were nine years old. He hadn’t revealed the name but he’d told her. Maybe it was the knowledge that she knew he had a living soulmate that made him overlook her feelings for him.
“I don’t know what to say,” he finally confessed. She turned from the map she’d been studying on the wall. Dark blue eyes lit with amusement as she watched him fidget in the doorway of the office he had at Gringotts in London but had never used a moment in his life until today. “Thank you for… coming, for helping her.”
Natalie smiled, wry and clearly amused with his discomfort. “Merlin, Harry, you haven’t looked this nervous since we had sex.”
He flushed. “I’d have… I’m sorry. I’m very sorry, Natalie. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I always knew it wasn’t going to be me,” Natalie said patiently. She sat down on the sofa and patted it. He joined her and took up her hand. “It’s fine.”
“But I hurt you.”
“No,” Natalie whispered. “You never hurt me, Harry. You’ve always been my friend when I needed one most. You gave me all I ever asked of you, you know and I never once considered asking you for your love because I knew it wasn’t for me.”
“I do love you,” Harry protested.
“Not like you love Hermione,” Natalie said. She clenched her fingers on his. “I thought I’d hate her. I was prepared to put on a good face but I just knew I was going to resent the hell out of her but I don’t. She’d have kicked in the gates of hell for you, you know. I’ve never known someone so fierce and loyal in their love before. You’re a very lucky wizard.”
“I know.” Harry closed his eyes. “I know that very well but not just because of Hermione. I’ve known more love than I ever expected and if for a moment, ever, I hurt you by not returning your feelings the way you needed please know that I am so very sorry.” He kissed the top of her hand quickly and pressed the portkey against her palm.
“I don’t regret it, you know. I’d never regret that you were my first.”
“I don’t regret it either,” Harry admitted. “At the time there was no one I trusted more than you. Though, in retrospect I think I got the better end of the deal that night.”
Natalie grinned. “I always thought I came out with the better deal.” She nudged him with her shoulder when he laughed. “Be careful with Janelle, Harry. She’s a lot more fragile than she looks. I always figured you kind of knew about how I felt but were too nice to say anything.”
“No, I’m an oblivious bastard,” Harry muttered. He checked his watch. “You can use your portkey at any time. Janelle should be finished with her floo call, I wanted to see her before she left as well.”
They stood at the same time and Natalie released his hand. “Don’t feel guilty about me, Harry. I promise you, I always knew we weren’t going to be anything more than friends. Not a single one of our friends in Paris believed they were your soulmate. Janelle is no exception in that regard.”
Harry nodded and shoved his hands into his pockets. “Oh, hey, my Dad thinks you’re gorgeous by the way.” He jerked his head upwards a little. “The one up there but he had a thing for red heads when he was alive.”
Natalie grinned. “I am gorgeous.”
She activated her portkey with a laugh, leaving Harry alone in the office and agitated with what was about to happen. The door behind him opened and Janelle Delacour entered.
She huffed. “I missed Natalie. I was going to ask her a question about her sister, Josephine.”
Harry leaned on the desk and stared at her. He was kind of angry at her, he realized—for the deceit mostly. Janelle had told him more than once that her attraction to him was purely physical.
Janelle scrunched up her nose at him. “You have your disappointed face on, Harry. No man should look disappointed at the sight of me. I’m amazing.”
“You lied to me.”
“So?” Janelle demanded and glared at him briefly before looking away. “Was I supposed to cling to you and act like an idiot?”
“No, but for fuck’s sake, Janelle, you let me use you for sex!” He shut the door with a wave of his hand and it rattled in the frame from the force. “I thought we were on the same page. I thought we were having a bit of fun before you left for the States. I’d have never treated you so casually if I’d known how you felt.”
She huffed. “Stop acting like I’m the victim in some romantic tragedy, Harry. You were painfully honest with me about your feelings where I am concerned. I’m a Veela, I saw the soulmate magic at work on you. I knew you were destined for someone else, okay? It was no secret to me. And we used each other for sex—for great sex. The witch in me finds you fascinating and yes, I’m in love with you but the Veela part of me knows you’re utterly unavailable from a mating perspective. I’m not going to pine myself to death or anything foolish like that.” She threw herself on the sofa in an elegant sprawl and crossed her legs at the knee. “You’re not mine and you were never going to be. I can’t help how I feel.”
“You didn’t have to lie to me,” Harry said.
“Sure I did,” Janelle said cheerfully with a flick of artfully crafted blond curls. “You’d have been too honorable to continue fucking me and I really enjoyed that part.”
Harry flushed then exhaled long and deep. “You’re a bit mean.”
She smirked. “Don’t act like you don’t like it. I listened to your witch on the wireless telling off the entire ICW for wasting her time. You adore mean witches.”
“Yeah, I kind of do,” he admitted and checked his watch. “Your portkey done?”
She opened her palm to reveal a fancy gold skeleton key. “Yes, all set. I just need activate it.”
“Your witch told me she was jealous of me last night,” Janelle admitted. “There she was, standing in a shining ritual robe given to her by the Chieftain of the Horde—made of spun mithril no less—and she tells me that she’s jealous of me. Then she apologized for it. Then we all three had a long conversation about you.” She smirked when he groaned. “Then she gave me this.”
Harry looked at little broach on Janelle’s lapel and laughed. It was shaped into a dozen red roses. “I see.”
“You do?” Janelle said with a laugh. “I don’t. She said she was going to send it to me for Christmas but since I was here… that I could have it now. It’s lovely and has a ward on it to help me mask my allure. I can activate it by touching it with my magic.”
Harry bit down on his lip and shook his head. “It’s nice and she meant it sincerely. Don’t think it’s some inside… joke at your expense or anything.”
“No, I could tell she was sincere about giving it to me,” Janelle admitted and grinned. “Don’t worry about me so much, Harry. You’re not irreplaceable.” She lifted an eyebrow. “You’re not even all that pretty.”
He grinned at her. “I have some fairly complicated feelings for you, I admit, but Hermione…”
“Oh, you don’t have to say,” Janelle said with a small smile. “Merlin, I don’t see how anyone could miss it really. The pictures in Witch Weekly of you both are utterly ridiculous. It’s like some sappy romance novel come true.”
“I never meant to hurt you and I feel like a cad for all the fantastic sex we had.”
Janelle laughed. “You’ll get over it and I’ll get over you before I’m invited to the wedding.” She stood and waved her portkey. “And honestly, Harry, never, ever apologize for great sex, it’s daft.”
He started to respond but she disappeared in a flush of portkey magic. He huffed and exhaled sharply. Fantastic. He stood and straightened his waist coat then headed for Ragnok’s office. It was time for him to make some moves of his own before Leone or someone worse made a move that put the House of Potter at odds with the ICW.