Title: Harry’s Vassals
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Chris King & Ladyholder
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 16,623
Warnings: Brief discussion of ritual sacrifice and cannibalism.
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
She read through the court transcript like the vast majority of the older students at Hogwarts. Hermione had never asked Harry about the sacrifice ritual, a part of her hadn’t wanted to know. Even reading what he’d said during the Wizengamot session was heartbreaking. The very idea that the Gryffindor ritual circle had given him memories of hundreds of young witches being murdered was deeply unsettling. She didn’t know how much he was expected to endure. He’d chosen to eat in his quarters, again, and she hadn’t said anything about it. Emmie had, in turn, started sitting at the table with her in an obvious demonstration of the fact that no matter how it might appear, Hermione was rarely alone and the Earl of Gryffindor saw to her protection in all circumstances.
It was the last day of classes before the Yule break and she was looking forward to it. It was Friday so Harry wouldn’t be disappearing to have dueling lessons with Flitwick. She slipped the paper into her bag and stood. The first years were subdued for a change, a little down perhaps because Harry hadn’t been at breakfast or dinner the night before. Ron was gone—he’d been excused from school after the verdict the day before. A small part of her wondered how he was doing. Professor Weasley was at the head table and had been stone-faced the entire meal, even when he’d read the paper. None of the Weasleys had attended Percy’s trial as he’d been disowned socially before it had even taken place. Arthur Weasley had tried very hard to limit the damage done to the rest of his children and she did wonder if he’d succeeded.
“Master Harry be waiting at the stairs for you,” Emmie said as she waved a hand to get rid of the dishes she’d brought with her. Hermione had noticed that early on that the elf never made work for the elves working in the castle.
“Thank you, Emmie.” The elf disappeared with a little pop but Hermione felt her brush past as they left the table.
Harry was lingering of the foyer near the stairs, having a conversation with a portrait. She paused to watch him and wasn’t surprised the woman in the portrait blushed and leaned forward to display an indecent amount of cleavage. If the woman hadn’t been dead for two hundred years, Hermione would probably have been put out. She walked over to him and slipped her hand into his.
“They’re very… nice, Madam Brooks,” Harry said with a wry grin. “I thought the Headmaster told you to stop showing off your considerable assets.”
The woman grinned and flicked a fan open. “He didn’t mean it. He didn’t even threaten to remove my portrait or consign me to the dungeon like Dippet used to. You’ll be late for class if you don’t go.” She winked at Hermione. “Good job, sweetheart, in my day you’d have had to watch your back until the very day you married him. The marriage market was very cutthroat.”
Hermione laughed and tugged Harry towards the stairs. “Come on, we only have five minutes until Ancient Runes.”
– – – –
Ancient Runes was painfully awkward. It was full of Ravenclaws and Slytherins. Harry didn’t have any house bias that he was aware of. Perhaps he would’ve if he’d been sorted at eleven. He noticed as soon as they entered the room that for the first time since the school year started that everyone was divided clearly by house. They were all working on individual projects in the class so after they’d retrieved their own projects from storage, Harry and Hermione had taken a table in between the Ravenclaws and the Slytherins. They were the only Gryffindors in the class and there were only two Hufflepuffs—Susan Bones and Ernest Macmillan. Susan and Ernie were seated on the other side of the Ravenclaws as far from the Slytherins as they could get.
Harry’s project was actually a request from Star. The elves made and sold a variety of parchment products in the Shoppe and she wanted to offer projection story books. So he was working on a way to embed pensieve qualities to the parchment. His success was varied and while they could’ve outsourced the project, it would’ve meant sharing the profit with an outside source. They all worked hard to insure most of the money made went into the Foundation. Babbling stopped at their table, watched Hermione for a few minutes and moved on. The silence was actually oppressive and not at all how the class normally functioned.
Draco sighed suddenly and dropped his quill on the table. “Sue Li, would you stop looking at me like I’m going to rip your heart out?”
Harry looked up and found the Japanese witch blushing furiously and put his own quill down. He hadn’t considered what it would be like for all of the students in Hogwarts to know the content of the sacrifice ritual. “I don’t mean to be crass, but not a single witch or wizard in this room would qualify for the ritual at this point. Unless someone has lied about their status.”
“Elizabeth loved Ancient Runes,” Sue Li burst out. “She really was amazing on a broom—better than her brother. She hated Witch Weekly and came to school with the teddy bear from the Foundation collection—a birthday present from her brother before her first year. She said she took off the glasses because she didn’t want anyone to think she was one of those crazy little girls obsessed with Harry Potter.”
“Her favorite dessert was orange sherbet,” Hermione said. “Sometimes she’d skip regular food entirely and just have that for lunch.” She brushed a tear from the corner of her eye.
“How is Cho involved?” Sue finally questioned. “What did she do? Is she the reason Elizabeth was taken?”
Harry had no answer to give. His father hadn’t given him permission to discuss the ongoing investigation with anyone and he only knew because the Glain Neidr was assisting the DMLE in collection of victim information.
“It’s obvious, Sue,” Hermione said. “Cho was brokering information to dark wizards about available witches at Hogwarts. She was a prefect her fifth and sixth year. Everyone knew she was going to be Head Girl. A lot of witches confided in her, looked to her for support and information. She probably saved the most powerful and gifted witches for her father’s conclave and sold the names of others to people like Percy Wesley and Tobias Savage. They took Luna from Hogwarts because she has a powerful magical legacy and her family is ancient. Her mother’s family magic is even older than her father’s as she was a Druid from Ireland. They took her when they did because of me. I was waging a campaign of information in this school—making lists and putting their victims on guard.”
“And also because they couldn’t be sure they’d continue to have access to the Gryffindor Circle,” Harry said. “Rumors have been circulating since I returned to Britain about the ritual space. It became known that I had the Sword of Gryffindor which was required for me to claim all of my rights in regards to the circle.”
“Neither of you are to blame for what happened to Luna and we saved her from that,” Daphne said. “She’s fine and doesn’t even remember being taken. I just… I can’t believe Ginny ate another witch’s heart.”
Harry took a deep breath to calm down his stomach. “It’s a dark ritual for more than one reason. I’m sorry to have revealed so much in a way that it would be reported in the paper that way. I had no idea the people in Britain were so… uninformed regarding the content of the ritual. I was told in explicit detail what it entailed when I was fifteen.”
“Why at fifteen?” Draco questioned.
“My father wanted to arrange my opening and I fought him on it. In fact, even after I was told the content of the ritual I refused to consider it. I stopped fighting when two wizards cursed him in the back and tried to take me off the street in Paris. I handled the business of it shortly thereafter. Like Elizabeth, I had some romantic ideas attached to it but I had to let those go in the face of my father’s near murder. After I was opened, the members of my conclave spread the information around and made sure it reached those that might be interested in attempting to take me for a sacrifice. I also made a point of having a very public affair with a friend.”
“To make sure no one thought you were still a virgin,” Susan said. “I was actually a bit surprised by the press at the time. For a few weeks over the summer, I think you and that French witch were in every major paper on the planet.”
“It served us both. A Veela is highly coveted for a sacrificial ritual,” Harry said. “Elizabeth’s last moment on Earth were terrible but and though it is a cliché to say, she’s in a better place. Her family magic is rich and it embraced her at death. She was welcomed to the afterlife by loved ones. Both sets of grandparents have already passed, so they were there for her and whatever she suffered in life faded very quickly. My mother told me, when I was kind of dead, that she didn’t remember being hit by the Killing Curse. My father knows intellectually that Tom Riddle tortured him that night but doesn’t have any memories of it happen.”
“Kind of dead?” Hermione repeated aghast. “Can you not be casual about it?” She wiped more tears from her face. “But I do agree, that Elizabeth was met by family.”
“But more,” Harry murmured. “She was brought into the embrace of Lady Magic herself and there is no greater comfort in that. So, yes, we can be angry at how she was taken from the world and punish those involved but you can take comfort in the fact that she’s safer now than she ever was in life.”
“It’s a hard comfort to accept,” Sue said. “Ginny came back to school. She was here—walking around with Elizabeth’s magic. She took classes and ate with us. She played Quidditch with us. And she’ll never be punished because in her greed she managed to drive herself crazy.”
“Maybe she was already crazy,” Hermione said. “Maybe that diary did ruin her when she was eleven years old.”
“Dark or crazy, it makes me really uncomfortable with the fact that she was here,” Sue Li said. “That there are other dark wizards and witches in the school.” Her gaze flicked to Draco.
Harry shifted in his seat. “Are you implying that I would have personally inducted a dark wizard into my conclave?” He watched Sue pale.
“Yes, certainly, but he’s dead.”
“His family…” Sue trailed off when Harry raised an eyebrow.
“Don’t make me embarrass you, Miss Li. The history of your family is horrific by anyone’s measure.” Harry just inclined his head when Babbling cleared her throat in reprimand. “That being said, I don’t judge anyone by the deeds of their family. It would best, really, if we all learned to meet people on equal ground and judge them on their own merit regardless of ancestry, blood status, or even house affiliation.” He glanced around the room. “One day, we’ll all be working in various situations here and abroad. It’s best if we learn to work together now. If you can’t even sit at the same table as Lord Malfoy because of the color of his tie—how do you expect to work in a professional circumstance with him?”
“So you’re saying he doesn’t bite,” Sue said then and offered a little smile.
“Oh, I wouldn’t tell such a lie,” Harry denied with a laugh. He pulled Godric from his neck and the snake became visible before them. He allowed the snake to pool on his parchment. “But letting fear and misunderstanding rule you is always going to be a mistake. It’s the snakes, right? I noticed early on that you’re very nervous around me.”
She blushed. “It’s not the snakes.”
Harry looked at her confused.
Hermione huffed. “For the love of Merlin, Harry, you probably make most witches nervous.”
He blushed. “Oh. Well.” He focused on Godric. “I’ll never get used to that kind of attention. I spent too much time with old men, I think. The first time a witch hit on me—she was at least twenty—I practically set myself fire crossing the room to hide behind my father.” Godric increased in size, coiled his body neatly, and lifted his head as his hood flared open.
”You used the wrong rune in the upper left corner. If you activate the sequence, this parchment will combust.”
Harry frowned and lifted the snake off the parchment, reviewed it and sighed.
“What?” Babbling questioned.
“He says I’ve used the wrong rune for the power requirement and he’s right.” He showed it to her and she hummed.
“Did you train him for rune casting?”
“No, he’s relatively new in my life actually. I confiscated him from another parselmouth because he was guilty of creature abuse. I’ve spent most of my time magically healing Godric from that abuse. That being said, I’ve used him in several rituals and Hermione used him in the ritual she performed. He was drenched in my magic during the soul retrieval.” He cleared his throat. “But you know that—you were there.”
“I was, indeed,” Babbling said. “It was an awe inspiring event.” She glanced towards Hermione who was reviewing Harry’s parchment. “I suspect that it’s merely a hint of what we can expect from Miss McGonagall.”
Hermione made a face and put Harry’s parchment back in front of him. “You aren’t the only one.”
– – – –
By the time they finished with Defense, he was more than ready to leave the school even if it meant being separated from Hermione for a little while. He knew that she and her mother had plans for dinner in London then they were taking a four day trip to Ireland to meet with the Witch’s Council. He had a feeling it was going to go badly but he’d kept out of it as it was Rowan Circle business and none of his concern. Aunt Min had consented to Emmie taking the trip with them so Harry had kept the rest of his opinions to himself. He stayed in his seat after the class was dismissed and Hermione left despite the fact that she’d made it clear she wanted to say.
Bill Weasley shrugged out of his robe and tossed it on the desk. “It’s been a hellish week but you know that well enough.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “I’m sorry, Bill. Despite everything he was your brother and I know what family means to you.”
“My mother will never be the same but she’s at home and down to a single calming potion a day,” Bill said as he took a seat on the desk in front of Harry’s. “My dad put Ron in St. Mungo’s for an evaluation as we don’t know the extent of the damage done to him by Percy, either magically or just by influence. Ron was always easily led as a child. I don’t think he ever outgrew it.”
“And if he’s just cut from the same cloth?” Harry questioned.
“I think you already know where he’s headed,” Bill said. “My father knows it, too, and there is nothing either one of us can do about it if he takes that road. He’ll be on his own and he’ll be informed of that fact before he returns to school.” He cleared his throat. “You’ve got something on your mind?”
“I heard that Charlie lost his place in the dragon preserve.”
“Yes, the man who runs it had a daughter and she was sacrificed in the seventies. He apologized to Charlie but he can’t stand the sight of him.” Bill exhaled sharply. “Of course, he’s inconsolable. It’s all he ever wanted and he was close to being offered an apprenticeship.”
“I have a pair of crazy people running around the Forbidden Forest acting as keepers for the forest. They could use a young, magically gifted wizard to help them. It wouldn’t be what he wants but it would be a job. I can send a note to Basil and Matilda about him. They were asking me about hiring them an assistant. He’d get a lot different creature experience and a reference from Basil Wallace—well if he could work himself into an apprenticeship with Master Wallace, he’d not have a problem getting a job after he gets his mastery.”
“You’ve got Basil Wallace in the Forbidden Forest wrangling Hagrid’s spiders?”
Harry grinned. “He’s having a great time and his wife has three new book ideas already. They’re like two crazy little peas in a pod out there.”
“I’ll talk to Charlie about it and thank you,” Bill said. “But that’s not why you stayed after class.”
“No, the issue of your family’s reputation isn’t going to be resolved with giving Charlie a new job.” He inclined his head and turned it slightly. “Thaddeus?”
Thaddeus Banner appeared in the flush of a disillusionment charm ending and left his place near the back of the room. “My Lord.”
“This is Master Thaddeus Banner, Baron of Briworth, Vassal of the House of Potter and a member of the Glain Neidr’s inner circle,” Harry explained. “My mother told me when I was… you know… that I should endeavor to keep the majority of your family from facing ruin. Percy’s criminal acts and Ron’s petty behavior has put our Houses on a very dangerous path, Bill, and you know that better than most. It could degrade into a blood feud and that’s the last thing I want. If my political and social standing in Britain are negatively impacted by this situation it would interfere with my ability to protect my family in the future. It would also impact how the Glain Neidr is received in this country. It could undo a near decade of work to make parselmouths socially acceptable. The Weasleys are an ancient Light family and being the cause of their ruin—would damage my House. It would damage my legacy.”
“Sometimes,” Bill began, “I look at you and I see a sixteen year old kid whose biggest concern is keeping his witch happy then you turn on a sickle and I come face to face with the man you are. It’s disconcerting to say the least. I agree that even perceived hostilities between our two Houses could damage your social position, in the short term, which would impact your long-term goals regarding the Glain Neidr. My family will suffer for generations due to Percy’s actions. But I don’t quite get the political angle.”
“My ability to function in the Wizengamot effectively is largely determined by what the other lords think of me and my father. Some of those bigoted old bastards would vote in the exact opposite of my position just to be contrary. My dad has spent the last eight years aligning us with traditionally light and grey houses to create voting blocs we can use to change Britain. I have to cultivate a powerful, but ultimately light image. My dealings with other families, especially light families, must be seen as fair. Also, I’d rather not come to Hogwarts twenty years from now to speak with the staff about a fight between your children and mine. I have to think that far ahead and what sort of life I’ll be bringing children into.”
“You’re far too young to have such burdens,” Bill said roughly. “But I can’t say you’re wrong and I wouldn’t want our children at odds either. Fleur is very concerned about the situation and I have to admit I was briefly worried she might leave me over it.” He rubbed his jaw. “She punched me in the face for expressing that.”
“Veela aren’t to be crossed that’s for certain,” Harry agreed as he played with his ring. The ruby in the setting glinted with magic as it shifted on his hand. “The Weasley family are a cadet branch of the House of Gryffindor.”
Harry nodded. “I need to meet with your father and the rest of your family, Bill. We need to do it as soon as possible.”
“Now?” Bill questioned.
“Today at the very least,” Harry said. “Hermione is going to Ireland with her mother so I have a few days on my hands and I’ll need them if my offer is accepted in full by your father. It’s also best if she not be… in attendance. I know my relationship with her infuriates Ron so this can’t be about the three of us. It has to be about the House of Potter and the House of Weasley. His jealousy and my intolerance of him isn’t something we should allow to fester—Shireford was right about that. I don’t owe your brother a single apology but I’m willing to acknowledge his disappointment.”
Bill sighed. “You don’t owe him that either, you know.”
“No, I know but this is about more than his drama. It has to be. Every word that came out of my mouth during Percy’s trial was designed to achieve the outcome I wanted. I wanted him executed for his crimes and I made sure everyone knew it. That paints me as vindictive which some people have no problem with but I have to balance that image with one of fairness. I’m a grey wizard but I must be seen as a good and honorable man.”
“I agree. I’ll gather everyone and I think I’ll have my father bring Ron home from St. Mungo’s if he hasn’t already done so.” He checked his watch. “Seven?”
“Seven,” Harry agreed. “I’ll bring Thaddeus with me so please let your father know to expect us both.”
“But not your father?” Bill questioned.
“No, we agree that his position in your father’s life as employer and the Minister for Magic could make the situation more awkward and I’d rather your father not feel any more pressure than he already does to make amends with me.”
Three hours later, Hermione was in Ireland and Harry’s magic was shifting inside him as it adjusted to their bond being stretched. It was not unexpected. Bonded couples rarely allowed themselves to be separated over such long distances. Shortly after her portkey had landed, she’d been on the mirror conveying her discomfort and making it perfectly clear how much she hated portkeys. It had been her second trip to Ireland with a portkey and Harry had a feeling that they were going to have a hard time on the portkey front in the future. Neither of them were of that method of transit and they were a necessity of international travel.
They exited the floo into a private meeting room at the bank.
“Harry,” Fleur exclaimed warmly and side stepped Banner neatly to throw herself into a hug. “I was so relieved to hear about your recovery. Janelle said Hermione did very well in the ritual.”
“Yes, she did,” Harry murmured and glanced around the room. He hadn’t met the majority of the Weasley family and there were far more in the room than he anticipated—nearly forty people from the looks of it.
An elderly man stepped forward, Arthur Weasley and another man Harry had never met flanked him as Fleur disengaged and returned to Bill’s side.
“Lord Potter,” Arthur murmured. “May I introduce my Uncle, Sir Ross Weasley. He is the patriarch of our family. This is my brother Billius.”
Harry stepped forward and offered Ross Weasley his hand as he swallowed his own shock. He’d had no idea that Arthur wasn’t the head of his family. “Sir, it’s an honor to meet you.”
Ross Weasley took his hand and Harry found himself on the end of a very thorough inspection. “You’ve got your grandfather’s look about you—he was a real bastard on the dueling platform.”
Harry grinned. “I aspire to such myself.”
“Saw you compete last year at the international tournament—I’d say you’re well on your way,” Ross said as he released Harry’s hand. “I understand you’re mentoring with Flitwick regarding your mastery.”
“Yes, I had to learn a whole class of cushioning charms,” Harry said. “Let’s take a seat.”
“Of course,” Ross said and motioned towards the conference table. “I believe you’ve met all of Arthur’s children with the exception of Charles.” He motioned to Charlie Weasley. “This is my son Elias and his sons—Phineus, Joshua, and Gordon. My nephew Billius’ sons are Conner, Deacon, Callum, and Boyd.”
“This is my vassal, Thaddeus Banner.” Harry took a seat at the head of the table. He was put off by the fact that Ross apparently had no intention of introducing the witches in the room. He also really didn’t anticipate the entire meeting being peaceful since Ron was already glaring at him.
Molly Weasley took a seat with her husband at the table, her fingers trembling slightly even as she clutched at Arthur’s hand. It made Harry furious—to see her so upset and to know he had a part in it, no matter the circumstances. Hermione had fond memories of the generous, if slightly overbearing, witch. He focused on Ross Weasley for lack of any other option and the elderly wizard.
“Will Lord Black be joining us?”
“No, sir, we discussed it and he doesn’t believe it should be a concern of the House of Black. Arthur, Fred, and George are employed in Black family holdings and my father and I both felt it would be best if he took a step back from the situation at hand.”
“Lord Potter,” Ross began then paused. “I have no idea how to go about making amends for the actions of Percival.”
“I’m not here seeking amends from your House, Sir Ross,” Harry said. “I’m here in the hopes that you and I can reach some sort of understanding in regards to how our families will be associated in the future. As I explained to Bill, I’d rather this not end in a blood feud and I think we both know it’s heading in that direction. There is a darkness in your family where it never has been before.”
“Yes, well, Arthur’s mother was a Black,” Elias said.
“So was my grandmother,” Harry said dryly. He sat back in his chair. “Let’s not make this about blood politics and family lines. The fact is that we share common ancestry—through the Black family and through the Gryffindor line. Family magic is influential, yes, but we all know that it doesn’t force you to be anything less than exactly what you are. Percival was a dark wizard and his corruption of Ginevra is a tragedy. She’s a mentally ill child and I bear her no ill-will for what she’s done.”
“Thank you for that,” Arthur said. “I know it must be difficult considering what she did and what her actions led you to.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “Her actions ultimately led to the world-wide exposure of both my soulmate and her animagus form. It forced me to accept my role as the wizarding patron of the Horde five years before it was planned in order to protect my soulmate from the untoward interest of many who see her as resource and nothing more. Had I a choice I would’ve requested that she never publicly reveal her animagus form.”
“I’ve already had several people approach me to question me regarding my response to this situation,” Ross said. “They want to know where the line will be drawn. Charles lost his job, though that had more to do with his boss’ reaction to Percy’s crimes than the potential for hostilities with the House of Potter. William works for the bank so I can assume his employment is endangered. Gordon also works for the bank. Elias has been informed that he’ll lose his job if you express displeasure with the House of Weasley formally.”
“I have no intention of making such a public announcement currently.”
“You ruined the Goyle family because their youngest son flirted with your witch before you ever started dating her,” Elias said. “Everyone knows it. They aren’t welcome anywhere on the Alley personally and had to hire someone to do their basic shopping. Even their house elf found a way to free herself and ran away.”
“Flirting?” Harry questioned. “Is that the rumor?”
“Yes,” Elias confirmed.
“What he did, Mr. Weasley, was put his hand up her skirt and order her to meet him in a broom closet for sex because he figured that’s all Muggle-born witches are good for,” Harry said. “I have a real problem with wizards who can’t keep their hands to themselves.” His gaze flicked briefly to Ron. “The lack of respect for women in this country is disgusting. I wasn’t even introduced to the witches in your family—witches you brought to this meeting but don’t appear to respect enough to treat them with the most common of courtesy. It’s no wonder, really, that Percival perceived no problem with the way he treated his sister if this is the example he grew up with.”
“I told you,” Bill said with a pointed look in his uncle’s direction.
Ross sighed. “You did.” He focused on Harry. “I chose not to introduce them because it’s my duty to protect them. I already failed in that regard with Ginevra… the first daughter born to our family in over a hundred years. The wives of our family wouldn’t be here at all if Molly hadn’t insisted on being included. I think they’ve all suffered quite enough stress, you see.”
“I think you’d be surprised by the strength of a woman’s heart,” Harry said in return. “But that is your decision and I respect it even if I don’t respect the practice or the idea itself. It looks like subjugation but then British marriage law reads like slavery so there is that as well. I find it extremely offensive.”
“Yet you recently signed a marriage contract yourself,” Ross pointed out.
“An extremely liberal one that would probably make your hair stand on end,” Harry said dryly. “And we won’t be getting married in Britain—I’m a citizen of France and we’ll marry there were the marriage laws ensure that my wife has equal legal standing but that’s not why we are here.”
“It’s part of the reason we’re here,” Elias said. “Just to be clear on that. Ronald’s plans regarding Miss Granger were known to me and my father. We agreed with the match because of her intelligence and you interfered in his relationship with her which demonstrated a marked lack of respect for our family.”
“I allowed her to make her own choice,” Harry said. “It was ignorant for any man at this table to assume they had the right to make such a decision for her. Hermione is the brightest witch of the age—magically powerful, beautiful, and due to her adoption very wealthy. The Ross legacy would be a boon to any magical family. She would’ve had plenty of choices regarding who she would marry. If it weren’t me—there would’ve been another and Ronald had no hope for anything beyond the shallowest of friendships unless he stooped so low as to try to potion her.”
“Hermione was mine!” Ron burst out. “She’s mine and I’ll have her!”
He turned to Ross. “Ronald is one of the reasons I called for this meeting because if he doesn’t let go of his plans, I’m going to kill him.” He glanced briefly at Molly when she made a horrified sound then refocused on Ross Weasley. “Hermione McGonagall will be the Countess of Gryffindor. In all ways but one, magic already considers her the Lady Potter. I don’t care what your nephew wanted, Sir Ross. I don’t care if you approved of his plans. It’s never going to happen and he needs to accept it and move on before it gets him killed.”
“You said in court that you don’t owe him an apology,” Elias pointed out. “If we disagreed?”
“This meeting will end right here and right now,” Harry said evenly. “His disappointment is not my responsibility and I did nothing wrong in regards to Hermione McGonagall.”
“I told you she was mine!” Ron shouted and huffed when his father put a hand on his arm and slouched down in his chair. “I told you and you disrespected me from the start by dating her and offering to court her. I don’t care about that soulmate dragonshite, Potter. All it means is that you’ve trapped her in a relationship she can’t even escape if you die. What choice did she even have, really?”
“Don’t act like you care about her choices,” Harry said in a mild tone. His magic was stirring inside him like a storm but he was determined to keep a lid on both his animagus form and his aura during this meeting. The last thing he wanted was to bully the Weasley family.
“You don’t know much about the ancient houses here in Britain,” Ross interjected. “You never took my nephew’s claim seriously.”
“I admit that my father has focused my education regarding British politics on the noble families and the inner workings of the Wizengamot,” Harry said. “But I hope you realize that nothing short of a wedding ring on her finger would’ve discouraged my pursuit of my own soulmate. In fact, had she expressed any serious interest in any wizard in Britain I would’ve come here as sooner and I won’t deny that I would’ve done my very best to gain her attention. All of that being said, if she would’ve preferred we only be friends—then my life long friendship would’ve been hers. Your nephew had five years to win her regard and her love but he chose to depend on his status as a pure-blood and ham-handed manipulation. He even expressed shock and disgust that I would be willing to court Hermione McGonagall.”
Ross frowned and focused on Ronald. “Is that true? You never tried to court her?”
“Why would I court a Muggle-born, Uncle Ross?” Ron asked confused. “She was lucky I wanted her at all and she should’ve never given Potter the time of day.”
“You didn’t have any dates with her?” Ross questioned.
“You didn’t express your romantic interest to her at any point?” Elias demanded in shock.
“No one else wanted her!” Ron shouted. “I had better things to do!”
“For fuck’s sake,” Bill muttered and Charlie Weasley let his head fall into his hand.
“I’ve seen her,” Elias said. “Her magical power is so evident that her skin practically glows in the light of day. She’s first in her class at Hogwarts. Any of these qualities would’ve garnered the attention of a smart wizard but when you combine all of that with her physical beauty.” He huffed. “She could have the personality of a troll and still have to beat wizards off with a Quidditch bat.” He winced when he noticed Harry glaring at him. “Not that I think she has the personality of a troll…”
“She’s lovely,” Molly said abruptly. “Inside and out—she’s gracious and generous with her time. Hermione approaches her magical life with all the honor and duty of a lady. She has a strong heart and her craft is pure. She would be a blessing to any House.” She glared at Ron. “I told you after your second year that she deserved better than your foolish behavior but you ignored me. You’ve been painting yourself the victim in this situation—telling everyone over and over again how Harry Potter stole your witch. She was barely even your friend, Ronald.”
Harry winced and shared a glance with Thaddeus.
“You speak of witches like they’re property,” Molly continued, magic drifting on her skin in her building ire. “And Hermione? You rarely showed her a single bit of respect when she visited us over the summers. You berated her for being responsible, made fun of her for taking her education so seriously, and your father was forced to ward the room she slept in so you wouldn’t try to peek at her like a pervert.”
Ron flushed furiously and glared at his mother only a few seconds before Bill slapped in the back of the head. “Ow, what the hell?”
“Do not glare at my mother,” Bill said and shook his head. “So we’ve established that Lord Potter didn’t interfere in a romantic relationship between Ron and Hermione. Moreover, I’d like to remind everyone at this table that Minerva McGonagall informed my parents and Ron personally that she would not be allowing her daughter to have a romantic relationship with Ron. In fact, she wasn’t even keen on them remaining friends but left that decision up to her daughter. Subsequently, Hermione ended that friendship due to Ron’s terrible behavior.”
“Fine, whatever,” Ron said and crossed his arms.
“How do we go forward?” Elias questioned.
Harry stared at the man for a long time and shook his head. “I don’t think we can. You must realize your father is rapidly losing his control over your Family magic. More so, you don’t have the magical power to stand as patriarch. I’d thought… I’d thought the next in line was Bill but I can see that’s not true and it changes things drastically.”
“How dare you,” Elias demanded crossly and started to stand.
“No, Elias, he’s right,” Ross murmured and took ahold of Elias’ arm to force him to remain seated. “Had I a handle on the distribution and control of our Family magic I would’ve known about Percy and I did not. I would’ve suspected that Ginevra had a dark object during her first year and I did not. We’ve both known for a while now that Bill is the most powerful male in the family—he’s already a warlock and not even thirty.” He focused on Harry. “What had you intended on offering Bill?”
“There are but two ways to align to magical houses,” Harry said. “Through marriage and through the oath of a vassal. Even if I were inclined towards marriage, there are no daughters in your family viable for such an action. That leaves the role of a vassal. If Bill were your heir, that is what I would offer him—a place at my side as a vassal. I would offer to wake his parselmagic, arrange his mentorship with a member of the inner circle of the Glain Neidr, and after training he would be granted a place within the inner circle of my conclave. It would firmly entrench our two families and create bond oaths that would make a large scale conflict between your family and mine practically impossible.”
“How many vassal houses do you have?” Arthur questioned.
Harry paused. “Two—Banner and Pierce. Lucas Pierce is currently at the International Academy of Magic studying for his mastery in potions. I expect he’ll join me here permanently in Britain in next six months.”
“Bill’s not my father’s heir,” Elias said. “And you’re saying you won’t offer the position of vassal to me.”
“I mean no offense with this,” Harry began after a long moment. “But while you have plenty of magical ability to get you through your life in a magical society, you don’t have any hope of sustaining a vassal bond with me. I’m an archmagus. Moreover, your family magic will be greatly weakened when it falls on you to be Patriarch. All of Arthur’s children are more robust magically than you. It is likely why your father no longer has a full grasp on the family magic. He’s not strong enough and neither are you.”
“You’re saying that we’ll lose our Family magic,” Elias said.
“I don’t know the magical theory well enough to make such a determination but I do know it would be irresponsible of me to add a magical oath on top of the situation, especially one that would be as taxing as a vassal oath is. It would cripple you magically and it would eventually fail. That would be a political and social nightmare for both your family and mine. It’s the last thing the Weasley family needs—in the wake of Percival’s crimes.”
“Why are you offering this to us?” Arthur questioned.
“Because…” Harry took a deep breath. “The curse separated my soul from my body and I went beyond the Veil. I was met by my parents. My mother asked several things of me and this was one of them. She said it was the most honorable position I could take in this situation and that all she would ever ask of me is to be an honorable man. I wouldn’t want to be a disappointment to her. When I asked her why she told me that she was very fond of Molly and in life considered her a dear friend.”
“I held you once, when you were little,” Molly said suddenly. “Well, more than once actually because your mother brought you to the Rowan Circle several times leading up to your blessing ceremony.”
“Should I apologize?” Harry asked. “I’ve been told I had some unfortunate habits as an infant.”
Molly paused then she laughed. Harry figured it must have been the first laugh in a while because her husband and sons all relaxed around her. Even Ross and Elias looked relieved. “It was your mother’s fault, she’s the one that breast fed you.”
“My dad said they went around apologizing to every witch that held me through most of my infancy because I expected to be fed by all of them,” Harry admitted and grinned briefly when Bill laughed. “I can’t and won’t make any demands on you regarding your heir, Sir Ross. But in our current situation, I don’t know what path to take with your family.”
“You’re a surprising young man,” Ross said roughly. “What you’re offering our House hasn’t been offered to us ever. Our blood feud with the Malfoy family lasted hundreds of years and tainted us socially despite the fact that things were settled between our families over fifty years ago. It’s my understanding that Lord Malfoy is part of your conclave.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “That’s a matter of public record. His role within the conclave is private but he is a very light wizard and despite his intense dislike of your nephew, Ronald, he has no genuine desire to make things difficult for your family.”
Ross closed his eyes briefly. “And what sort of trouble has Ronald courted with Lord Malfoy?”
“Ronald is very… invested in the politics of how people are sorted at Hogwarts. It’s a failing but one he will hopefully overcome with experience. They have an antagonistic relationship but Lord Malfoy has worked, since assuming his title, to distance himself from the petty arguments he indulged in before. He has larger and more important issues to deal with as you might imagine.”
“He’s in a difficult position to be certain,” Ross agreed. “But then you have that in common with him. He must find your friendship a source of relief.”
Harry inclined his head but didn’t acknowledge Ross’ assumption about his friendship with Draco. Such associations weren’t to be acknowledged informally. “It is interesting having a peer close to my age but if you are concerned that he might influence me regarding the treatment of your family socially or politically, you needn’t be. My father raised me to make my own decisions and very few people on this planet have the ability to make me do anything less than exactly what I plan to do.”
He leaned back and watched Ross process that. The elderly wizard was in the midst of making a decision that would change the course of the House of Weasley for generations and it wasn’t all to do with Harry’s offer. The resentment was already building on Elias’ face and it would only get worse. Bill was more powerful and was marrying a beautiful woman from an influential family in France. Fleur would give him equally powerful children—beautiful children with a hint of Veela aura who would move through the magical world with ease and grace.
“Percival has us in ruin and his family will get all the benefit,” Elias said snidely. “Isn’t that fortunate?”
“Aren’t you all the same family?” Harry asked, his confusion so genuine he didn’t even have to pretend. Thaddeus shifted closer and put a hand on Harry’s knee and he glanced briefly as his vassal seeking direction. Banner inclined his head briefly and Harry cleared his throat. “Pardon me, I’m afraid I don’t quite understand the dynamics of a large family.” He watched the men at the table adjust but he focused on Molly Weasley who looked uncomfortable and miserable once more. “Though I do consider it in the poorest of taste to call these circumstances fortunate for anyone.”
“Not even you?” Elias questioned.
“Do you honestly have no idea what it means to take on a vassal?” Harry questioned and raised an eyebrow when the older man blushed. “Oh, you don’t. You have a magical marriage, correct?”
“Yes, of course,” Elias snapped.
“The bond oath between a nobleman and a vassal is twice as robust magically as a standard marriage bond,” Thaddeus said plainly. “And he currently maintains two plus a core bond with his soulmate. What he’s offering your family is an honor and more so it is a magical burden that he and his descendants will bear. He’s doing you a favor, Mr. Weasley, and moderate your tone when you speak to the Earl of Gryffindor.”
Elias flushed and averted his gaze. “My apologies, Lord Potter.”
Harry stood. “We’re obviously not on the same page and I have no place in the discussion that needs to take place with your family, Sir Ross. I made decisions about your family based on the false public image you present. Even my father is unaware of who is actually the head of the House of Weasley.” He stepped back from the table and Thaddeus stood. “My offer was made in good faith but I think you understand the only circumstances in which we can move forward. I won’t be offended if you decline and for what it’s worth, I’m willing to make a public statement to clear the air and make it known I don’t hold any of you responsible for Percy’s actions. We both know it’ll only go so far.”
“If I may have twenty-four hours to make a decision?” Ross questioned.
“Sir, you may take as long as you like to make this decision. But the longer we wait, the more speculation and damage could be done to your family. Percival’s crimes were horrific.”
“You just had to tell everyone what the ritual was,” Ron muttered. “Most people didn’t know and didn’t care, Potter!”
Harry accepted his cloak from Thaddeus and slipped it on with a frown forming. “In what world is that a good thing, Ronald? Ignorance serves no purpose and I really hope that you learn that eventually.”
“She was mine!” Ron finally burst out and stood. “I put up with her! I was her friend when no one else wanted to be near her!” He rounded the table in Harry’s direction and Harry put a hand on Thaddeus to stop his vassal from interfering. “And now I get nothing because of you!”
“Because of you,” Harry corrected. “You verbally abused her and degraded her self-esteem in ways not even the horrible people who raised her were able to accomplish. You and Ginny spent so much time convincing Hermione that she was plain and boring that she actually believes it. She is genuinely perplexed when someone compliments her on anything other than her intelligence because of you. I know why you did it, of course. You wanted her to believe she had no options but you. It was important, for your plan, that she not think she deserved better than a lazy, entitled, pure-blood wizard who never planned to work a day in his life.”
Ron’s right hand curled into a fist.
“Be careful, boy, we’re on goblin territory,” Thaddeus murmured.
“What’s that matter?” Ron demanded.
“It means, you bloody fool, that Potter could rip you limb from limb in this room and no one would ever be able to say a word to him!” Fred burst out. He walked across the room, snagged Ron by the ear and dragged him away from Harry. “Also, who gave you the idea that you could attack a Peer of the Realm? Hasn’t Percy damaged our family enough? Or are you going to break our mother’s heart, too?” He shoved Ron into a chair. “Move and I’ll break your legs.”
Harry exhaled sharply and focused on Thaddeus.
Banner merely raised an eyebrow.
“Are you honestly under the impression that I can’t handle that vicious boy?”
“Of course not, my Lord.”
Harry straightened his waistcoat and focused on Bill Weasley. “As you already know, there is an unclaimed barony that has languished in the Black family for three generations as the magics attached to it are quite light and even my father is a grey wizard. With his blessing and the help of the Glain Neidr, you could ritually claim barony of Braemar due to your mother’s blood relation to the Black family.”
Bill nodded and turned to Fleur to gauge her reaction.
She lifted one perfect pale blond eyebrow. “I would be a beautiful Baroness.”
“This claiming would allow your uncle to save face and no one ever need know the truth state of your family magic,” Harry continued and focused on Ross as he spoke. “It would be the natural order of things for you to grant the headship of your Family to your newly married nephew who has claimed a barony through his mother’s family. Being able to claim such a light and well-respected title would do a great deal to shore you up your family’s position. It comes with a small estate just outside of the magical enclave of Brae in Scotland which is about two hundred miles from Hogwarts.”
“Why would he need the Glain Neidr to claim the title?” Elias questioned.
Bill frowned and Harry figured that the older man was a little irritated by his cousin’s lack of knowledge on the subject. “Because I would need a ritual in place to structure and moderate the claiming of the magic of the title. It’s not part of our family magic at present and I’d have to take it all at once. Doing it outside of ritual could shatter my core and render me a squib. Lord Black informed me of the fact that I could claim the title shortly after my seventeenth birthday but I wasn’t… I didn’t see any need for it and honestly I wasn’t sure I wanted to sit on the Wizengamot, not even in the lower house.”
“I will leave you to this discussion,” Harry said. “Both Bill and Arthur can reach me on my private communication mirror.”
– – – –
“I wonder how many other families in Britain are hiding their failing Family magic,” Sirius murmured. “I don’t hold it against Arthur—I’m sure he was doing as he was instructed by his uncle but it’s annoying not to have a true picture of British society.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “The only families we can really be sure are the ones that have claimed Wizengamot seats through a magical title. The rest is going to have be pure speculation unless we’re introduced as I was today.” He sat back with the glass of wine his father had poured him. “I miss her like a limb.” He shifted and averted his gaze at the looks that his father and Thaddeus sent him. “I didn’t expect the bond to respond this way. None of the books really discuss the more intimate parts of the bond for the obvious reasons.”
“You’re also worried about what’s happening.”
Harry couldn’t deny it. “You know how High Witch Réamonn feels about me, especially after you refused the marriage contract for her daughter on my behalf last year. I know I can’t shelter Hermione from disappointment and hurt but Merlin, I really, desperately wish I could.” He checked his watch. “Lucas’ portkey should arrive within the next thirty minutes. Thaddeus, would you go back to the bank to greet him? He hasn’t been added to the wards here so we’ll have to do that before he can enter the property.”
“Of course.” Thaddeus stood. He paused at Harry’s shoulder and put a hand on his shoulder. “You did well, today, and kept your temper even better than I did. I don’t see how you haven’t cut that little bastard’s head off.”
Harry smirked into his wine glass. “I cursed the shite out of him, Thaddeus. He’s never going to be the same.”
Banner laughed and left without another word.
“What did you put on him?” Sirius questioned.
“A variation on the karma curse,” Harry said. “A physical act of aggression on his part will see it doubled on him. If he does good, he receives what he earns honestly. If he does bad, he’ll receive it back on a biblical level. Bill sealed both the curse and the knowledge that it was cast with family magic—Ron can’t have it removed and he can’t tell anyone I did it.” He took a sip of the wine and frowned. “I did it after he hit Hermione. It was either that or hide his body in the forest.”
“That’s the high ground?” Sirius questioned.
“He hit my woman,” Harry said. “Tell me you’d have done differently.”
His father inclined his head. “Point.” He cleared his throat. “Did you still want to go to Paris?”
“Yes.” Harry stood. “Let me change clothes and I’ll be ready.” He turned to Sirius. “I shouldn’t be more than two hours and I accepted the two-way portkey that Ragnok offered me.”
Sirius nodded. “Don’t be a complete arsehole about this, Harry.”
“That’s why I’m leaving Thaddeus here,” Harry said dryly.
– – – –
The portkey dropped him into a private destination point in the Paris branch of Gringotts. A pair of goblin guards fell in behind him as he left the arrival area and went to the office he had been assigned over a year ago in the bank. He pushed open the door and found Castius Arnou waiting, sitting on a leather sofa with a book in hand. Harry pulled the door shut behind him and shed his wool coat. He dropped the garment on the back of the large chair in front of Castius and sat.
Arnou closed the book with a small frown and tossed it on the sofa. “If I were capable of half the devilry people shudder to think a parselmouth can do—I’d be a very dangerous man.”
“You are a dangerous man,” Harry said. “One of the first things you taught me was exactly how dangerous I was and how that danger would grow exponentially with my age. You were the one to explain how much of a risk it was to seek out my animagus spirit but you also taught me how to embrace the dragon spirit that is intimately entwined with my own nature. You taught me patience when I didn’t have the sense to consider it a priority.”
Harry frowned at him and rubbed his knee in frustration. “Castius, you don’t have the right to treat me like a child.”
“Do you?” Harry demanded. “Because I don’t think you look at me and see me for who I am. I’m not that beaten and starved child anymore.”
Castius blinked and shook his head. “I leave the coddling to Sirius.”
Harry frowned at him. “You think you don’t owe your High Warlock an explanation for leaving Britain without a single word? We have two rituals planned in the next week and you’ve ignored every single request Armand has made of you.”
“I needed some space from him,” Castius said shortly. “And I didn’t want to deal with your disappointment on top of it.”
“You’re both idiots,” Harry snapped. “It was always going to come to this, Castius! I’ve never once allowed myself to think he’d take the elixir and I can’t believe you really thought otherwise. Your personal relationship with my father is none of my business and I’ve known that for quite a while. I never expected, however, when the two of you imploded that you’d leave me, too.”
Castius mouth dropped open. “Harry, it’s not like that.”
“You deactivated your mirror, ignored the business of our conclave, and sent a two sentence note basically telling me to mind my own business when the letter I sent you had nothing but conclave business in it.” He glared at the Frenchmen. “Aren’t you a little old to be sulking like this?”
“I’ve not been sulking,” Castius protested and then sighed. “Okay, maybe a little but frankly I think I’m entitled to little bit of a sulk. Your father is an arsehole.”
“This is not news,” Harry said. “I learned every bit of arseholery I have at my disposal at his knee. He does love you, you know.”
“I do know,” Castius said quietly. “I don’t want to talk about it, Harry.”
“Fine, we won’t talk about it,” Harry said and stood. He picked up his coat. “Armand will be here in about an hour. You can explain yourself to him, then. He has quite a lot to say about the fact that you’ve ignored him for the past two weeks.” He pulled the coat on and fastened the four buttons at the top of the coat.
Castius smiled. “You took an elegant turn on us, kid. I have to say your father doesn’t quite know what to do with you.”
“Part of me thinks you’d have both preferred it if I’d never grown up,” Harry said.
“You were much easier to manage when you were small,” Castius agreed. “Easier to please and distract.”
“Perhaps,” Harry said. “But I couldn’t stay a kid forever. I waited as long as I could, you know. I let you both hold me back in terms of my education and the development of my magic because you wanted me to slow down and be a kid.”
“I fear your childhood was robbed from you long before we met,” Castius agreed and slouched on the sofa. “Are you really going to send Armand here?”
Harry laughed. “I made him take three meetings with Ragnok in the last twenty-four hours just so I could get here ahead of him. You’re on your own with him. Even I know better than to ignore one of his letters and you managed to ignore five.”
“But you could…” Castius trailed off when Harry raised an eyebrow at him. “You know, I hate it when your father gives me that look.”
“I’m not going to get between you and Armand. I don’t even think I’m old enough to be in the same room for the lecture you’re going to get,” Harry said. He paused then. “But I’d remind you that he’s the closest thing I have to grandfather and if you get out of line with him—there will be hell to pay. Your utter lack of respect for him over the two weeks has really pissed me off. Do better or withdraw from the Glain Neidr.”
– – – –
Harry stopped in the door way of his father’s office and waved at him. His father paused briefly in his mirror call to wave back before Harry moved on. He went through kitchen and out onto the back porch. Harry took the wide path through the heavily charmed garden that was more for show than use. Safe potion ingredients, flowers, and adult trees that had been transplanted from the Forbidden Forest. In the back corner, he stopped and looked up.
“Hello, sweetheart.” Hedwig barked and left her nest. She flew down and perched on the hand he offered. He stroked his fingers over her head. “How are your babies?” She made a chuffing sound and leaned on his chest. “I’m glad you came back here to nest instead of going into the forest with that Lothario you’ve been hooking up with.” He walked over to a bench and sat down. “I don’t approve you know—he’s very shifty and he didn’t even help you build a nest.” She chuffed again and snipped at his fingers. “I know, you’re an independent kind of girl. You don’t need him, do you?” Harry laughed when she barked. “I guess he already served his purpose and I am looking forward to seeing your babies.” He stroked her feathers. “Well, you’ll let me know if you need anything and I’ve already expanded your perch both here and at Hogwarts. I wish you’d chosen to nest inside or waited until spring. I know the garden is warm but environmental charms can fail.”
“I not let Miss Hedwig’s eggs get cold.”
Harry turned and found Elroy down the path. He had a basket at his feet and it was half full of weeds. “I trust you’ll take care of them.”
“It be your nature to worry,” Elroy said as he returned to his task. “You big broody mess over your witch being in Ireland.”
“I don’t…” Harry sighed. “I didn’t feel comfortable protesting the trip first because the matters of her mother’s coven are none of my concern and second my only real reason was that I didn’t want her to get her feelings hurt.”
“I be understanding,” Elroy agreed. “It not good when Miss Hermione’s feelings are hurt.”
“No,” Harry said with a sigh and ran a hand down Hedwig’s back. The owl nuzzled against his chest and relaxed there. “She’s not sleeping much I don’t think. Can we do anything to make her more comfortable?”
“I set up more security charms,” Elroy offered. “But she be mother. Mothers worry.”
Harry nodded. “Okay.”
– – – –
“So how is he?”
Harry dropped his napkin over his thigh and picked up his fork. “Out of sorts—far more than I’ve ever seen him but he’s not angry. I guess I wish you’d just stayed friends but… that’s not something I have the right to… I realize that’s selfish but you’re both important to me and you’ve hurt each other. I feel like I should be mad at someone and I don’t even know who.”
Sirius drained half of his wine glass.
“If you get drunk and pass out—I’ll leave you where you fall and not let any of the house elves put you to bed,” Harry told him flatly.
“You’re terrible to me,” Sirius muttered but he put down his glass and picked up his fork. “I even asked Elroy to make roast for you.”
“I’m truly spoiled rotten,” Harry said. He grabbed a dinner roll from the basket between them, cut it open, and buttered it. “What did you find out about the Weasley situation?”
“First, nearly a third of Arthur’s income from the Ministry was going into the family trust which Ross Weasley manages very badly. He only invests in pure-blood businesses with no regard to the success of the business. He takes a fourth of the income made from his own sons but for some reason I can’t discern, he’s never asked Bill or Charlie for a single sickle.”
“Fear,” Harry said. “He knows either one of them could take control of the family magic by force if they wanted. Having met the rest of the family, it’s no wonder where both Percy and Ron’s sense of entitlement comes from. Ross is old but he’s set in his ways and convinced of his superiority. His oldest son, the current heir, will be a problem for Bill.”
“So you think that Ross will step down in favor of Bill?”
“I think Bill knows what must be done and he’ll do what is required to see that his family is protected. He has a… vested interest in the redemption of the family name.”
“Fleur Delacour,” Sirius said. “I can’t say I’d blame the lad for making a stand to keep her at his side.”
“He’s in way over his head,” Harry confided. “You should’ve seen her face when she realized she could be a baroness. He’ll request the title formally within the month. She doesn’t need money, he knows that, but he could give her something very few have—nobility.”
“A man will do a lot to keep his witch happy,” Sirius agreed. “Speaking of, what did you get Hermione for Yule?”
“So far just a pair of platinum hair combs set with black diamonds. I’ve Ragnok investigating a trip to the Library of Alexandria for us over the summer. I asked Aunt Min in advance and Razel is arranging the accommodations.”
“Not like you to throw your name around,” Sirius murmured. “The Librarian in Alexandria rarely allows more than two visitors a year and people wait for decades for their chance.”
Harry shrugged. “It’ll make her happy.”
The wards thrummed through both of their minds, announcing an unauthorized visitor and Sirius stood. “Finish your meal, lad, you’ve done quite enough business today.”
Harry sat back but nodded. He stabbed at a potato on his plate and cut it into four sections. He was chewing on a piece when Bill Weasley was practically dragged into the room by Thaddeus and Lucas Pierce. They all three looked a little worse for wear. He frowned at them and swallowed the potato. “What’s wrong?”
“I decided to go check on him,” Thaddeus said grimly. “I found him unconscious and cursed in the back in front of his cottage in Devon. He’s healed but I figured bringing him here was better than letting his stay at his home.”
“Right.” Harry focused on Bill. “Do you want to say it or would you prefer that we just all assume what happened?”
“My uncle named me his heir,” Bill said hoarsely. He rubbed a shaking hand over his face and accepted the glass of wine Sirius pressed on him. “I was returning to my cottage to rest because we’re going to do the heir ritual tomorrow. He’s already writing a letter to you detailing our plan. After I accept the barony from the Black family, I’ll go through the assumption of magical burden to gain control of a large portion of the family magic so my uncle can rest. They confessed, finally, that Elias tried to do the ritual six years ago but it failed. They’ve both known for quite a while that our Family Magic is failing. It’s on the cusp already—far more than even you speculated during the meeting. We’re precariously close to losing our status as an ancient family. Uncle Ross wasn’t going to… he’d have rather it failed entirely than admit it. It would’ve taken us decades to rebuild our magical legacy.” He drank the whole glass of wine. “My cousin Elias is… reluctant to relinquish his place as heir and was livid when I announced that until I had a son old enough to assume my place—that Charlie would stand as my heir.”
“So he followed you home and cursed you in the back?” Sirius questioned. “Do you want to involve the DMLE?”
Bill shook his head. “We don’t need another scandal, Lord Black.” He took a deep breath. “He’s lucky Fleur returned to London because if he’d hurt her, too, I’m not sure I could’ve refrained from his cold blood murder.”
“Right,” Harry said and stood. “Thaddeus, Armand is in Paris so I’ll need you to activate the conclave seal. Just the inner circle, please. You can bring in Draco, he could use the experience. Lucas start prepping the ritual room.” He pulled the grey cashmere jumper he was wearing over his head as he left the room.
“He’s an abrupt sort when he’s irritated,” Bill observed. “What are we doing?”
“You’re about to become a Baron.”
“But won’t we need the entire conclave…” Bill trailed off.
“You were present during that little magical demonstration at school?” Sirius questioned.
“Yes,” Bill said. “I thought… at the time that he was holding back.”
“He’s only limited by his physical body’s ability to harness and moderate the magic he can draw on. His magic is wild—feral. Had we thought we could wait, Harry wouldn’t have needed the Horde to conduct the ritual that destroyed Riddle. He’s… Hiro Ito once told me that periodically a magical person comes along whose place in the world is to restore balance.”
“And that’s Harry?”
“No, it was Tom Riddle,” Sirius said and watched Bill absorb that. “But Riddle was corrupt and instead of bringing balance to the magic of our world—he brought destruction and he tainted us. He tainted the very magic that infuses us all. When Harry was born, wild magic sought refuge in him. He’s not balance—he’s chaos, restoration, a force of change.”
Bill nodded. “What does that make his soulmate?”
“The real power Riddle knew not,” Sirius said. “With the very act of existing Hermione McGonagall changed the path of our entire world because Harry bent magic to his will to protect her when she was nothing more than a name on a page. Her magical development is a point of concern, of course, but that’s honestly not our business.”
– – – –
Harry pulled on his dark green ritual robe and glanced over the rune work that Lucas Pierce had done. Pierce was only four years older than Harry and had declined to officially join the Glain Neidr until after he’d finished his schooling abroad. It was something he understood, as Lucas was a wizard very invested in his duty. Being so far from Harry as a vassal was taxing on them both. The House of Pierce had almost fallen much like the House of Potter and while Lucas was the last of his line he was powerful enough to maintain a strong, deeply personal link with the ancient family magic of his house. He’d been raised in America by a distant relative of his Muggle mother’s and the day he’d turned seventeen, he’d taken a portkey to Paris and took his vow as Harry’s vassal. In fact, he’d become Harry’s vassal roughly six months before Thaddeus.
“Looks good,” Harry murmured. “Did you have time to visit with your foster mother?”
“Yes, though she is less patient with magical matters than she was when I was a younger. The invitation to attend the New York School of Magic solved a lot of issues and answered questions. It was a relief then and now it’s more of a threat.” Lucas shrugged. “I try to keep it out of her house since it makes her so uncomfortable but it means my visits are short and the people I grew up with who don’t know what I am think I’m a twat for not being around more often.” He stripped off his clothes efficiently and stepped into the cistern for cleaning. “I suppose I don’t need to question you about your choices here, Harry.”
“It’s difficult—balancing what I want with what people expect from me. The people of Britain have this image of me that I’m never going to live up to and I think I disappointed many when I…”
“Killed Viktor Krum.”
“It wasn’t the best decision I could’ve made politically and it led to Dumbledore nearly dying for me. I’ve gotten some backlash on that front among the older members of the Wizengamot who view Albus has a living legend. They don’t understand why he would be willing to die for me. One even pointed out to my father that I’d served my purpose.”
“Arrogant twat,” Lucas muttered as he pulled on a dark green robe. He started to say something else but Draco Malfoy entered the room at that point, pulling off a cloak.
“Lord Draco Malfoy, meet my vassal Lucas Pierce, the Baron of Ravenway. He is currently the last of his line but his first born daughter will be the Heiress of Ravenclaw.”
Draco stepped forward and offered Lucas his hand. “It’s an honor.”
Lucas took the hand. “Britain sure makes them pretty.”
Draco laughed and blushed. “Thanks, I didn’t realize Harry had two vassals.”
“I’m normally in Rome studying but I’ve come for Yule and to meet the future Lady Potter.” Lucas released his hand. “I understand that Thaddeus is mentoring you. You have my deepest condolences.”
“Arsehole,” Thaddeus said cheerfully as he entered the room with Bill.
Armand entered a few seconds behind with Castius. Harry raised an eyebrow at the two of them but didn’t say anything. Lucas took care to introduce himself and Thaddeus settled Bill in the ritual room with little fanfare. The last to arrive was Quintin Deadmarsh.
“My apologies for being late, Lord Potter, I had to use a cleansing chamber at the bank before coming here,” Deadmarsh said as he went to a cistern and started to strip out of his clothing.
Harry knew that many in his conclave took care to never bring a trace of their outside magical practices into his circle and he appreciated that more than he was willing to speak to. The balance in the Glain Neidr depended on their ability to mesh with him and his magic—it was their responsibility to meet him in the circle as untainted as possible and it would be untoward for him to comment on it really. He had to trust them all to meet the burden of being a part of his conclave.
“Where is the Lady Potter?” Armand questioned.
“In Ireland with her mother—she’s to be introduced as the Rowan Circle Heiress to the Witch’s Council,” Harry said.
“Did you prepare her for Emerta?”
Harry grimaced and shook his head. “It’s not my place and beside if I’d started a conversation about High Witch Emerta Réamonn it would’ve only ended up a big mess. I especially didn’t want to discuss her daughter and that utter clusterfuck.” He huffed. “I’m sixteen and I think my past is entirely too sordid.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know how not to be rude about this, Harry, but you’ve only slept with three witches. I’ve slept with twelve in the past two years. Your past is not sordid.” He grinned then. “But I can tell you exactly why you have a problem keeping witches from trying to climb on your prick if you haven’t figured it out already.”
“I swear to Merlin his father was not a centaur,” Sirius said from his place lounging in the doorway.
Harry blushed furiously. “You’re all a bunch of arseholes. Every single one of you.” He’d have said more but a little hum of vibration from his bracelet caught his attention. He pulled out his communication mirror and activated it. Hermione’s face filled it. “Hey, you, did eating help settle your stomach?”
“Portkeys are the devil,” Hermione exclaimed. “Are you doing some sort of ritual? You’re in your green robe.”
“I am, in fact, getting ready for a ritual. Armand is currently fussing over Lucas’ rune work.”
“Oh, so he arrived then? Good. Did he bring the books I was promised?”
“Yes, they’re on my desk at Hogwarts.” Harry tilted his head and considered her face. “You look out of sorts.”
“Mum took me to dinner with several other coven leaders,” Hermione admitted her voice going soft as she spoke. “I was pretty comfortable in the magical world, you know. I thought I had a very good understanding of magic and my place. I was confident in my education and I had no clue at all just how much I was missing. I made some pretty stupid assumptions early on about magical culture and every single day it seems I’m slapped in the face with how wrong I was. Even with Mum—when she offered to adopt me, my only real thought that whole time was that I’d finally be safe and that I wouldn’t have to worry about my parents taking magic away from me. That was it. I didn’t consider what she was offering me. Honestly, I didn’t understand what she was offering me until it was done. Until the Ross legacy was embracing my magical core in such a way that I’d never thought possible. I’d thought all along that my magic was mine—separate from the magical world and other people. But it isn’t that simple.”
Harry nodded. “What are you looking for here?”
“From you?” Hermione questioned, her tone amused.
“Nothing in particular but didn’t you ever wonder about your place in the world?”
“I don’t think I had the chance to do that,” Harry admitted. “My place was decided for me before I was even born and by the time I would’ve questioned it I was already a part of the Glain Neidr and I was being bombarded with information on an hourly basis. I was pushed, prodded, and eventually dragged through my ritual education so I could meet my fate as soon as possible. That was my choice but once I made it, it set things in motion that I’d never worried about before. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know what my first destiny was.”
“Well my life didn’t end with his so I assume there is more for me to do, more to learn, more to see.” He watched her think about that. “But this isn’t why you called, right?”
“No, are you alone?”
“No, I’m in the ritual room already. We’re going to claim Bill’s title tonight.”
“Ah, that’s a story I’ll have to hear later. Well, I called to offer to do that thing you asked for but you’re busy.”
“I could be extremely unbusy and by myself in about an hour,” Harry said.
She laughed. “Call me when you’re done then.”
The mirror went blank and Harry frowned. He put the mirror way and held up a finger when Thaddeus started to speak. “Do not ask.”
Banner laughed. “I would never. We’re almost ready.”
“Do you always…” Draco trailed off with a frown. “You know if Daphne were complaining to me about something and I just asked her point blank what she wanted me to say—I’d pay for it for months.”
“Too right,” Thaddeus agreed. “I’d be sleeping in Piper’s barn with that ridiculous hippogriff of hers.”
“How am I supposed to give her what she wants if I don’t ask?” Harry questioned as he glanced over the circle. He walked around the edge of it, checking rune placement and in two places stopping to touch faintly glowing symbols with his toes. “I could read her mind, I guess, but that would be rude and sort of difficult because she’s in Ireland currently.” He turned to Thaddeus. “Is it really so odd? An open dialogue with a witch?”
“Not odd but certainly unusual,” Thaddeus admitted. “But then Miss McGonagall is quite known for her own forthright manner so in this it is probably merely a function of your soulmate bond that you don’t bother to filter yourself with her.”
Harry touched another rune with his toes. “Hmmm.”
“What are you doing?” Draco asked in confusion.
“Checking the power distribution in the circle,” Harry said. “I taxed the wards in this room heavily and also apparently damaged several of the power runes for the ritual space. I haven’t had a chance to bring a team of goblins in to fix it after I used it last.”
“This circle was set with goblin magic,” Lucas protested. “How did you…”
“Magical communion,” Harry said simply and continued his path around the circle. He touched several more runes. “Looks like we need shore up just three. Armand?”
Deering took the same path Harry did, stopping at the same runes until they were side by side. “Yes, just the three. You take the two distribution related ones and I’ll take the power gathering rune. We should do it before Mr. Weasley claims his title, else we might tear this house down.”
Harry sat down outside the circle and flicked a platinum quill designed for casting semi-permanent runic magic out of his bracelet and wasn’t surprised with both Lucas and Draco joined him. Lucas had more ritual training but not within the Glain Neidr because Harry had preferred that the younger of his two vassals pursue his own educational interests first which had taken Lucas Pierce to Rome shortly after they’d met.
“What are you seeking your mastery in, Lucas?” Draco questioned.
“Potions first though I’ve taken a secondary in Herbology as a result and will probably seek private tutelage in the subject once I come to Britain,” Lucas murmured as he settled in beside Harry. “I’ve been apprenticing in ritual magic and potions under Master Arrigo Naldi in Rome.”
“He’s… a legend in potion making circles,” Draco said. “Not to be rude, but how did an American get such attention from one the most renowned Potion’s Master of Italy?”
Harry traced the rune with his finger. “He’s my vassal,” he murmured and tilted his head. “I asked Master Naldi to give Lucas his attention and he was pleased to do so as a favor to me. Since Lucas has survived so many years in his company, I can assume his work is satisfactory. Master Naldi would just as soon as kill most people as talk to them.”
“How did you break this rune, seriously?” Lucas asked as he watched Harry use the quill to push magic gently into the rune until it started to take on the same golden glow as the rest of the circle.
“I shared a magical communion rite with Hermione,” Harry said as he worked. “I underestimated her response to my magic and to the communion itself. It was after… I almost died so I can assume her emotional state played a factor as well. Though after the communion she was much more at ease emotionally so it wasn’t a bad choice in the end—just ill considered. I should’ve taken her to the bank for it but what is done is done.”
“Have you been here since he was cursed, Lucas?” Draco asked.
“I was…” Lucas flushed and Harry focused on him.
“What?” Harry questioned.
“Your incapacitation impacted me very dramatically, my Lord.” He glanced across the room at Thaddeus Banner and found the man staring off towards the floor.
“What happened?” Harry asked. “Thaddeus?”
“We didn’t want to worry you while you were recovering,” Thaddeus began. “You took us both down with you. We both suffered extreme, but ultimately recoverable, magical exhaustion. I was on my feet before your Lady was ready for the ritual. Lucas is younger but not as experienced magically and took longer to recover. We’d have survived your death but it is the nature of vassal oaths.”
It made Harry deeply uncomfortable. He refocused on the rune as he worked. “Bill, I won’t be offended if this information makes you reconsider my offer.”
“Frankly, I owe it to my family to make right what I can and I’d take the oath even if your near death had killed both of your current vassals,” Bill said as he stepped out of the cistern. “Banner has a house here in Hogsmeade. Should I find lodgings close to the school as well?”
“I have another house one block over that you can use,” Harry said and returned his attention to the rune in front of him. “You share your cottage with your brother, Charlie, right?”
“Right,” Bill agreed. “He’s currently drowning his sorrows in a bottle and a wizard but I’ll make sure he’s available and sober when you’re ready to meet with him.”
Harry started to respond but his bracelet trembled. He took out the mirror and activated it. “Hey, love, we haven’t even started the ritual yet.”
“Oh, good. I was worried you were already starting and I’d have to stand you up. Mum and I were invited to a little party of some sort in Dublin so we’re going to be gone a few hours.”
Harry sat the mirror down, flicked his magic to keep it up so she could see him. “While you’re in Dublin could you visit their magical market? The Emerald Snake Emporium is open 24/7.”
“Do I need to make a list?”
“No, it’s not a genuine shopping thing. The elves would be horrified if I asked you to shop for supplies. About a year ago, I was there and the owner promised me a Grand Medusa. He’s the only breeder of the species in Europe currently. They would’ve hatched in November if his operation produced eggs. I meant to send him a letter but I forgot.”
“What’s a Grand Medusa?”
“A special type of Runespoor—very magical but jade green like an Okinawa habu instead of the traditional blue. Very few breeders offer their venom and shed skin on the market so it would be lucrative for the Lair.”
“Do you want me to send it to Serpent’s Lair or bring it back to Britain with me?”
“I’d adore seeing it first,” Harry admitted. “If he has one set aside for me, call Star about a bank draft and she’ll get one from Razel. I was quoted twenty-five thousand galleons for a male and seventy-five thousand for a female. If he offers you a breeding pair, ask to see their lineage. I’d prefer that they not share a common ancestor but if they do—at least twenty generations in separation is required to prevent complications.” He looked up when she huffed. “What?”
“You want me to call Star and ask her to bring me a hundred thousand galleons to buy two snakes.”
“Well, I can send someone later if you don’t want to,” Harry said as he returned his attention to the rune. “But it would give you an opportunity to see how a group of snakes responds to you in a controlled setting. They’ll all be caged.”
“Experimentation and shopping—difficult combination to deny. All right but I’ll probably send the snakes to you through Star. I wouldn’t want them to get stolen and security here is fine in keeping out Muggles but pretty lax otherwise. Mum had to launch her own wards for our rooms.”
“I’d like to send Howie there to keep an eye on you both.” He lifted his head and their gazes connected. “I think we’ve both learned a powerful lesson already about how important our individual safety is to our mutual survival.”
“Howie’s the short-tempered one that almost killed Ron,” Hermione pointed out.
“He’s currently my favorite,” Harry confided and grinned when she laughed. “Agreed?”
“Yes, fine. I’ll call you in the morning.” The mirror went blank and he reached out for it as he called for two elves. “Howie, Marco.” Both elves appeared in front of him, frowned and immediately sat down despite the fact they were in the ritual circle. “Marco, where is David Connolly?”
Marco huffed. “Stupid snake-man be thinking he go to Ireland to spy on our Lady Potter but I corrupt his portkey and send him to Norway then steal his wand.” Marco produced the wand and waved it.
Harry grinned as he stored his mirror. “Leave his wand in his flat in London.”
Marco nodded. “He big dumb wizard, you know. Edy be following him and he not even be able to navigate without a wand. He walk in circle for hours.”
“Walk?” Harry questioned. “He can apparate without a wand.”
“Not from middle of giant preserve he can’t!” Marco said with a laugh and clapped his hands.
“Well, do enjoy yourself,” Harry said with a grin as the elf popped away. “Howie, I’d like you to join Aunt Min and Hermione in Ireland. Emmie is with them already but Hermione told me their rooms aren’t as secure as Aunt Min would prefer. Feel free to maim intruders but avoid killing, if you can.” Howie nodded and left.
He looked up when no one spoke and found his inner circle staring at him. “What?”
“Seriously?” Armand questioned. “You’re going to breed the Grand Medusa?”
“It’ll be fun,” Harry said as he pushed power into the rune one final time then lifted the quill.
“You neglected to tell her that an adult Grand Medusa is fifty percent larger than a traditional runespoor.”
“She adores surprises,” Harry said as he stood and moved to the next failed rune. “Besides she’s purchasing infants. Though I imagine she’ll be thrilled with meeting their mothers. I spent several hours with his breeding females—they’re very alluring and interesting.” He paused. “I know you believe that I ignore her basic nature, Armand, and think of her only as a witch but I know what’s it like to have a magical beast lurking under my skin. I have a healthy respect for the coatl in her, I just don’t put the beast before the woman.”
– – – –
The inheritance ritual was simple, really, at least as far as casting went. Harry wasn’t all that surprised to be hosting most of his inner circle afterward though. Castius had left with Armand which he figured was for the best considering the way his father and the Frenchman had looked each other before and after the ritual. Harry pulled on a pair of pajama bottoms then exited his bathroom. His father lingering by a pair of French doors leading to the small balcony off of Harry’s rooms.
“Is it hard?”
“What?” Sirius questioned.
“Letting someone you love go.” Harry sat down on the bed and tucked his bare feet under the covers.
“You don’t let the people you love go—at least not in an emotional way. It’s not easy when a relationship you value and respect ends, even if you expect it to eventually. I worried about you coming here—meeting her. It was difficult to watch you get on that train thinking that this whole thing might end in heartbreak for you. That’s a different kind of letting go—watching someone you love go off and explore something or someone that could break them wide open.”
Harry nodded and rubbed his face. “My eye correction charm is about to expire.”
“Do you want your contacts or frames?” Sirius questioned as he walked across the room towards a dresser. He pulled open the top drawer and rifled through the contents.
“The frames. I don’t have the energy to put the contacts in,” Harry admitted. “Maybe in the morning after breakfast. I was kind of surprised the charm survived Hermione’s ritual.” He paused when his father brought a small black case across the room. The older man pulled a pair of narrow rectangle shaped lenses from the case and put them on the nightstand. “Between you and me—my magic rolled over for her like a puppy.”
Sirius snorted and sat down on the edge of the bed. “I’ll keep that in mind in case something happens that requires you be subdued.”
Harry rolled his eyes and collapsed back onto the bed. “Are you tucking me in?” He asked in amusement.
“Maybe I am,” Sirius said. “I’ve missed you like crazy, you know. I know I’ve seen you more than most parents see their kids when they’re at Hogwarts but until recently there wasn’t a single day that passed that I didn’t see you—not since that day.”
“Can I talk to you about that?”
“The Dursleys?” Sirius questioned and frowned. He shoved off his shoes and got comfortable on the foot of the bed. “Shoot.”
“I’d like you to hear me out,” Harry cautioned.
“I always listen to you, Harry, even when you say shit that makes me want to pull out all of my luxurious hair.”
Harry huffed and tugged on his short hair. “That woman.”
Sirius grinned. “So talk to me, pup.”
“Mum.” Harry paused and took a deep breath. “Mum said that Vernon Dursley—he abused Aunt Petunia. He blamed her for me being there and hit her as often. Mum is disappointed and hurt that her sister didn’t try to escape or report him or even get help. But she’s also devastated that her sister was treated so cruelly not only by Vernon Dursley but by Dumbledore as well.”
Sirius folded his legs into the lotus position and pulled a pack of herbals out of his pocket. “Sorry, but I can’t have this conversation without…” The black cigarette lit in his hand and he took a long draw. Then he took another, his expression stormy. “Fuck.” He ran his free hand through his hair in frustration. “Tell me about Dumbledore.”
“Apparently my Aunt’s neck was broken during Emmie’s response to finding me half-dead,” Harry said quietly. “It could be fixed with magic and Petunia knows it. Dumbledore visits her every single year on my birthday. He shares whatever news he has of me, pictures if he has new ones, and waits for her to beg for magical intervention for her condition. He refuses then he leaves.”
“He doesn’t know that she was abused, too.”
“No, I haven’t told him and I don’t think I can. He’s already wallowing in enough guilt to drown himself and Hagrid both.” He smiled briefly when Sirius did. “Petunia isn’t blameless in her situation or for what with happened to me. But he’s torturing himself and her. Mum said… she said I had the power to end that cycle for them both.”
“Move her, hide her?” Sirius questioned then he frowned. “Harry.” He took another drag on his cigarette. “Heal her.”
“Yes,” Harry said. “I’m considering a rather drastic approach actually because I can’t forgive her and I don’t want her in my life but I can’t see myself as a good man without accepting responsibility for her.”
“You’re a better man than me, Harry,” Sirius said quietly. “I can’t… I wouldn’t do this in your place but I won’t interfere in whatever you have planned. What about her son?”
“He’s in a juvenile detention center. Vernon’s sister… well, apparently she’s a nightmare and she raised one as well. Mum says that Dudley is a lost cause and really no different or better than his own father because of Marge Dursley. I’ve considered retrieving him, memory charming him into infancy and letting Petunia deal with the fall out. But taking his memories—won’t change the core of him. Do you believe that… well, that we’re born a certain way? Do you think Riddle was born with evil in him or did it come to him in the space of time?”
“What has your cousin done?” Sirius questioned.
“He beat another kid half to death for a pair of shoes,” Harry murmured. “I found that out from Star because she’s been attending Dumbledore’s meetings with my aunt for the past four years.”
“Leave him where he is—he deserves none of your attention,” Sirius said. “I mean that, Harry. His victim deserves justice and using magic to free Dudley Dursley from the hell of his own making wouldn’t be justice.”
Harry nodded. “Okay, I agree but I am concerned that Petunia will ask it of me.”
“You can tell her that his criminal acts prohibit you from acting on his behalf,” Sirius suggested. “Because they do as far as I’m concerned.” He pointed at his son with his herbal then at himself. “Minister for Magic talking.”
Harry stared for a second then laugh. “Geez, I wondered when you’d play that card.”
– – – –
“It’s difficult—staying in Rome.” Lucas bent at the waist and took a deep breath to steady himself as Thaddeus paused near the back of their sparring space. He glanced towards Bill Weasley who was watchful and still mostly subdued by the ritual claiming of his title. “How are you?”
“I feel like someone dropped a house on me,” Bill admitted.
“You’re almost done, Lucas, could you take your mastery qualifications at the ICW sooner?” Thaddeus questioned. “Magically, I understand how difficult it is for you. It takes an astounding amount of control on my part not to roam the halls of Hogwarts like one of the ghosts. If he were younger, I could get away with it but at his age it would be difficult to justify and he’s stubborn.”
“Yes, well,” Lucas took a deep breath. “Who’d have seen a fifteen year old witch unleashing a curse like that? I’d have expected a cutting or blasting curse myself in his place. I understand his position and his choice but for fuck’s sake, Thaddeus!”
Banner just nodded.
Lucas rubbed his face with both hands. “Tell me about her.”
“She’s…” Thaddeus exhaled and shook his head. “Hard to describe—beautiful certainly but we already knew that. Brilliant and open to new experiences in a way that surprise me considering her conservative religious upbringing. But I have to think that she’s suppressed a great deal of what happened with her parents. She accepts him for who he is and doesn’t shy away from parselmagic at all. She embraced her adoptive mother and her mother’s coven like a starving child. I think in some ways she probably was starving—for information and acceptance. They’re lovers—intense and passionate lovers. There was and maybe still is a bit of jealousy on her part regarding his previous partners. Magically she’s extremely gifted and dangerous.”
“And the coatl issue?”
“More dangerous than she is,” Bill interjected. “The ICW and the Horde are catching hell keeping some very powerful people at bay where she’s concerned. They’d use her up and spit her out if she weren’t the betrothed of the Earl of Gryffindor. On the darker, unofficial side of things—two separate contracts have been offered for her live capture for study and experimentation. So Ragnok created a hit list and put the two people who wanted her captured on it. They’re already dead and it’s spread pretty far and wide that the Horde will respond with an extreme amount of deadly violence in her defense.” He cleared his throat. “Lord Potter certainly made the right choice in that regard. The Italian government is courting a rebellion and they know it. Gringotts ordered a branch retreat from Milan and Florence. They’re threatening to close the one in Rome if the ICW doesn’t issue an emergency proclamation regarding her status as a protected magical person. Dumbledore is there as we speak working on the issue.”
Lucas took a deep breath. “I’ll take my certifications in January and move to Britain. Fortunately, Lord Black has already handled the official issues regarding my familial barony and citizenship. I even have Muggle citizenship papers.” He ran his fingers through his short dark brown hair. “What happened to Harry’s hair?”
“He tried to subdue an elemental witch in a temper,” Thaddeus said wryly. “Don’t bring it up—he’s still in mourning.”