Title: Darkly Loyal
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry Potter/Hermione Granger/Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: NC-17
Genre: Romance, Time Travel, Fantasy, Menage, Fix It
Warnings: Violence, Explicit Sex, Dark Themes, Temporary Main Character Death, death of a pregnant character, homicide, and permanent character deaths.
Author Note: The only people who are safe from a messy permanent death are my main characters (Harry, Hermione, and Draco).
Summary: The triad learns something unexpected about Deadmarsh and the Horde, Hermione & Harry both connect with their animagus forms, and people die.
“Parselmagic is wild—the purest magical connection possible on this plane but it requires a deep connection to one’s own magical core to practice such a pure craft.”
Harry considered that. “Then why do parselmouths have a reputation for being dark?”
“Magic is neither light nor dark. It is simply magic—how you use it is up to your own free will. Our Lord does not punish nor does he reward,” Quintin explained. “Magic is a neutral force in the world. You can choose to embrace it or ignore it. You can use it for good or ill—Magic cares not.”
Harry considered his conversations with Zir. “What do you think happens after we die?”
Quintin stretched and leaned back on his hands. “You tell me.”
“There is death magic in your core, Lord Potter. Did you die when you were cursed as a child, even briefly? Do you remember it?”
“I don’t remember dying as a child,” Harry said.
Deadmarsh hummed under his breath. “As to my own beliefs, I believe it is merely the next step in our evolution as a species. Some souls return to earth multiple times, and when you meet these people, they are quite different than others.”
“There is a richness in their magic that speaks of an ancient and powerful connection to Zir himself. You’re such a person—your soul is ancient. Your spouses feel the same—deeply connected to magic in a very ancient way. I don’t know if that is because of the Trinity or if they felt that way on their own. It’s genuinely a pleasure to teach all three of you.”
“Snape didn’t think so.”
“Snape was so corrupted by the dark mark and his own selfish desires that he was beyond even taking note of such magics in the world. What did the three of you think of the books?”
“We’ve read Parselmagic in Theory and The Magic of Snakes—one painted parselmagic has uncontrollable and feral while the other spoke of it in almost religious terms. Hermione finds the stark difference between the two approaches very irritating, but I think I’m more comfortable considering it a spiritual connection. Draco has an orderly and scientific mind, so he’ll take a different approach in the practice of the craft. I’ve touched my core in meditation and Draco has as well. Hermione is having a difficult time clearing her mind for long enough to make contact, but I think once she does she’ll settle down.” Harry took a deep breath. “You knew I was in the staff meeting.”
“Yes, at first I was confused by your spying, but then I realized Dumbledore is trying to enlist the staff in his little plot against you. Most of them don’t even pretend to cooperate if you’re concerned about that. The ones that have never taught you specifically ignore those conversations outright. Snape was a very bitter enemy of yours, but you know that.”
“He was an unpleasant man,” Harry agreed.
“You haven’t read Parselcraft by Armand Deering.”
“No, not yet,” Harry said and took a deep breath. “Hermione and Draco read it first, and it’s next on my list but as I said I want to make sure I can trust myself with new spells. Hermione assured me that the entire book is offensive magic and basic charms we already know.”
“I kept your fears about your absorption of spells in mind when I designed the reading list. I respect your own opinion about your abilities and moreover the fact that you’ve learned from what you consider a personal failing. Frankly, I don’t know many wizards who would consider such an ability anything less than a gift.”
“It is a gift,” Harry acknowledged. “But it’s also a burden because I have fast reflexes and once I get on target I can get tunnel vision. I really can’t afford to make mistakes, Professor Deadmarsh. Dumbledore is just waiting for me to slip up so he can take control of my life in some legal way and if he does that, he’ll target my marriage. I’d rather not go to Azkaban for his murder.”
“So you’re not opposed to killing him—you’d just rather not get caught.”
Harry laughed. “Who wants to go to Azkaban?”
“Granted,” Deadmarsh agreed and checked the clock. “You’re dismissed. Before our next lesson, I’d like you to work on fully unlocking your parselmagic. The process is outlined in Deering’s book—The Mechanics of Parselmagic.”
“Dobby found a copy yesterday in a bookstore in Canada, so it’s here,” Harry stood from the pillow bedecked platform they’d been sitting on. “Thank you for your time, Professor.”
“It’s an honor, Lord Potter, to teach the magic of the serpents.”
He was halfway to his quarters when Dumbledore came ambling down the stairs like the doddering old wizard he pretended to be.
“Ah, Lord Potter, I’d assumed you’d be in Hogsmeade to celebrate your wife’s birthday.”
“Her birthday was the 19th, sir, and we decided that going to Hogsmeade would put the other students at an unnecessary risk since Voldemort appears quite ardent in his desire to kill us.” Harry moved past the older wizard.
“Lord Potter, I’d like to see you in my office.”
Harry turned to him and frowned. “Sir, I’m trying very hard to be respectful because we’re in a public situation, but you shouldn’t think for a moment that I’m in a place where I’ll be willing to entertain your complaints about my marriage. It’s really none of your business.”
“You don’t understand the stakes,” Dumbledore insisted.
“And you don’t understand love. You think that’s the power that the Dark Lord knows not, but you’re more than willing to strip every bit of love out of my life because you don’t know it either. You’re honestly no better than Tom Riddle. You’re just as twisted as he is—you manipulate in the shadows and dominate people to meet your version of the greater good. Free will is apparently a sin in your world, and you appear to be unable to understand that some things are beyond your control.”
“A man,” Harry interrupted. “A terribly flawed and cruel, old man who’s had more power over others than any mortal should. You don’t have all the answers, sir. Hell, you don’t even have the ability to know all the damn questions.”
Dumbledore jerked back abruptly, his narrowed and he stared at Harry. “What have you done?”
“What do you mean?”
“No matter what you told Madam Bones, I know Severus Snape failed to teach you occlumency. Yet your mind appears to be surrounded by a vault of some kind. So I ask you again, Lord Potter, what have you done?”
Harry just stared at him, and for a moment he let the fury he kept carefully banked surface. Dumbledore took a step back on the landing. “I’ve done what I’ve always done—what was necessary. Perhaps you should ask yourself what you’ve done.” He smiled then. “I was reading through some of the books that Draco read as a child as I’d never really seen children’s books from the magical world.”
“Were you?” Dumbledore questioned.
“Yes, I read Tales of Beedle the Bard. Have you read that book?”
“A very long time, ago, yes. Most children read it at a young age. Did something strike you about that book?”
“I read in a family journal that the story of the three brothers is about one of my ancestors, Ignotus Peverell, and his brothers. I’ve only found a few references in the family grimoire about the brothers as their writings were long lost. It was a shame because Hermione was interested in reading their journals.”
“Perhaps you could search the Potter vault more thoroughly,” Dumbledore suggested and paused. “What did your grimoire say about the brothers? If you can say?”
“It was theorized that the story was a morality lesson—an ancestor said that objects of power can become intelligent and will often punish their owners if they aren’t treated with great care. It’s made me think about my cloak—the one you said that was an oddity.”
“And your conclusion?”
“Well, if it is the Cloak of Invisibility and we take the fairytale seriously—it appears to be the only one of the Hallows to stay in my family as Death intended. Perhaps the others were destroyed; otherwise, I think by now the stone and wand would’ve found their way home to my family where they belonged. Hermione’s book on magical theory says that like objects are often attracted to each other. Sirius said I used to crawl under the cloak and go to sleep. Sometimes I would even summon it and curl up with it in my cot.”
“What do you suppose that means?” Dumbledore asked, his eyes dark and severe.
“That I was a baby who liked shiny things?” Harry said and shrugged. “Good afternoon, Headmaster.” He strolled away and felt the brush of both of his spouses as he walked down the hall. They entered the suite, and they both appeared.
“That was a work of art,” Hermione praised. “He’ll fixate for weeks. Phineas said he stopped staring at the two boxes of dust several days ago and we can’t have that.”
“I think you scared him a little,” Draco said. “He was lurking around waiting for you to come back upstairs so he’ll probably interrogate Deadmarsh about your extra tuition.”
“Deadmarsh already agreed to tell him he was taking over Snape’s remedial potion tutoring,” Harry said and shed the day robe he’d put on at Winky’s wide-eyed insistence then turned to Draco. “Let’s go kill Percy Weasley.”
“I want to go,” Hermione said.
They both turned to stare at her.
“He killed me,” Hermione said. “He killed my baby, and I want to witness this, Harry. I’ve been very patient with you about all of this but I’ve got my limits, and this is just about it.”
“You’ll just watch from a distance.”
“Yes, well. Unless one of you gets hurt or injured.”
“We don’t engage in that sort of combat, love. At best, you might call our tactic a form of assassination. We’ll kill him and leave. He deserves worse, but we decided early on that our desire to punish these people had to be put aside for the sake of our safety,” Draco said. “And I’ll be honest, I don’t want you to go, but I know you have every right to see this. He’s part of the reason we’re here right now.”
– – – –
They used the map to make sure the secret passage was clear though they were disillusioned. They didn’t want to run into Ron or anyone else he might have told about the passage. Once they were in Hogsmeade, Harry relaxed a little and focused on the task at hand which was finding Percy. It turned out easier than expected as Percy was in front of the Hog’s Head with Ron. It was tempting to take them both out at the same time but they wanted to spread out Molly’s misery and killing them both at once would be a waste. Harry’s fingers tightened briefly in Hermione’s, and he prodded her close to the wall at the corner of the building. In the end, he and Draco had decided that one of them should stay close to her while the other took the shot. Draco claimed it was his turn to kill Percy and Harry couldn’t fault him for that.
Percy and Ron moved in their direction, and Harry put himself in front of Hermione. She moved closer, and he just knew she was peeking around him, so she didn’t miss anything. He’d have laughed in different circumstances.
“Look, I didn’t know they weren’t coming to Hogsmeade until we all lined up which wasn’t enough time to owl you anyway,” Ron said. “It’s not my fault they stayed in their quarters to shag all weekend.” He huffed. “At least, she’ll have been taught how to please a wizard.”
Percy grimaced. “I don’t know why you want that little whore anyway. She’s getting shagged by two wizards regularly, Ron.”
“Because I want Harry Potter to suffer,” Ron said. “And he loves her. He’s loved her since forever, and I want him to know I’m fucking her all the time when Dumbledore makes him divorce her. Then when I’m done with her—I’m going to kill her. I’ll tell him, too, but he won’t be able to say a damn thing because Mum is going to have him dosed up on so much loyalty potion he won’t even leave the house without permission. It’s what he deserves.”
“He should’ve done as we wanted and married Ginny.” Percy checked his watch. “I have to go. Start paying more attention to them, Ron, and send me the times when she’s outside of the castle for Herbology. I can take her then, but I’ll have to have the headmaster craft me a portkey. He wanted this resolved today though I don’t know why since we haven’t found anyone who can brew the potion. We can’t even make her cheat on him at this point due to that stupid Trinity bond. Remind Ginny to keep touching him—we need to keep a record of how the bond is developing and settling. I have Audrey researching spells to kill the bond, but it has to be done when they’re at a weak point. If Ginny can tempt Harry or at least emotionally lure him away from them, we can destroy the bond. Then the headmaster will get rid of Malfoy and clear the way for Ginny.”
Hermione’s hand curled into the side of his coat, but he could offer her no comfort in their current situation. Ron trotted off toward Zonko’s, and Percy started toward the apparition point. A curse jolted out of thin air and hit Percy. Weasley screamed horrifically shortly before blood burst from his eyes, mouth, and nose. His body fell to the ground and convulsed violently as people started to gather around. Draco’s hand slid into his as Percy continued to scream and jerk. Ron rushed through the crowd shouting his brother’s name, but Aberforth Dumbledore grabbed him before he could touch Percy.
“Let me go! That’s my brother!”
“He’s been hit with the sanguinem ignis. You can’t help him, and the spell might hurt you if you try to interfere before it has run its course.”
Blood fire. Draco had boiled Percy Weasley from the inside out with his own blood. The convulsions stopped, and Percy’s skin turned the color of cold ashes. Harry led them away from the scene. It wasn’t easy moving through the crowd without being detected and by the time they reached Honeydukes’ cellar Hermione was shaking. Harry picked her up as Draco opened the trap door. They hurried through the passage and were back in their quarters in just fifteen minutes.
Harry put her down as Draco ended their disillusionment charms. He turned to stare at his Consort in shock, but Hermione stumbled away from them and dropped down on the sofa. She was pale but dry-eyed.
“What?” Draco asked. “There is no need to get predictable. We’ve only used the cutting curse or piercing charms so far and well the ritual for Bella but the ministry is never going to see her body.”
“It’s exactly what he deserved,” Hermione murmured. She pulled her legs up and pressed them against her chest. “He was a terrible bastard.”
“Yes, he was,” Harry said.
“I feel a hundred percent better about this whole thing,” Hermione admitted and flushed. “Does that make me fucked up?”
“Well,” Harry started then sighed. “He did murder you, so I think you’re entitled to be pleased by his death and he was plotting to turn you into a sex slave for Ron.” He turned to Draco. “I didn’t know you knew magic like that.”
“My father taught me a lot of horrible things,” Draco admitted. “Every Death Eater is taught that curse, and it’s a favorite of the Lestranges. There is only one of those left, so the DMLE will probably blame Rodolphus for the murder. It’s not the sort of curse that the average person even knows about so it’ll be chalked up as Death Eater activity either way.”
“We need to change our clothes,” Hermione said and stood.
By the time they’d redressed in casual clothes, someone was knocking on the outer door. Harry wasn’t surprised to open it and find Dumbledore standing there. “Good afternoon, sir? Can I help you?”
“There’s been an attack in Hogsmeade. I was checking to make sure you were safe. Percy Weasley was murdered.”
“Odd,” Harry said. “I wonder why he was in Hogsmeade—he lives in London, right?”
“Yes, he did,” Dumbledore nodded. “Please stay in your quarters, Lord Potter. Everyone will be returned to their dorms shortly, and the DMLE is going to do a security check to make sure everything is in order here.”
– – – –
The next morning Bill Weasley was at the staff table, and Ginny was huddled up next to her brother, Ron, looking like her world had ended. Dumbledore announced the death of Percy Weasley, former Head Boy, gravely then explained that Bill Weasley would be taking over the position as professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Harry figured he was in the castle to keep an eye on Ron and Ginny and wondered how much guilt Molly had unloaded on her oldest to get him to return to Hogwarts. Ron appeared miserable, and as if he hadn’t slept at all the night before, it was quite delightful.
The Daily Prophet came, and Draco paid for their copy. The entire front page was dedicated to the public execution of Percy Weasley by a suspected Death Eater. Snape and Lestrange were mentioned in an article on page two, but then Snape had been the headline for a week. People had been furious over the lax security at Hogwarts that allowed an outsider to enter the school and kill a professor. Pansy Parkinson had been thoroughly questioned by the DMLE and her own parents regarding the rumors she was trading sex for grades. The end result was her removal from sixth-year potions and detention for the rest of the school year. Which had kind of horrified Draco as he’d had no idea that the rumor Hermione told Amelia Bones was true or even an actual rumor.
It was The Quibbler, however, that had Harry choking on his tea. He turned the paper and showed Hermione the headline.
THE MASTER OF DEATH WALKS AMONGST US!
The article listed every single person that he or Draco had killed since they returned to the past, including Thorfinn Rowle who had barely gotten a mention in the Prophet. Harry handed the paper to Draco who read it with slightly widened eyes. Draco tucked the paper into the Prophet and stored both in his bag. They all three looked toward Luna Lovegood who was at the Ravenclaw table eating a bowl of porridge. The girl smiled at them and waved. Harry waved back before he could help himself. The real kicker about the article, of course, was besides being dead-on accurate it was also incredibly positive as if the Master of Death was just taking out the trash and everyone should be thanking him.
A few minutes later they settled into a desk in Transfiguration, Draco was sitting across the aisle with Blaise. Harry turned to Hermione who’d pulled the paper out of Draco’s bag to read the article. She frowned at the contents then turned to Harry.
“I got nothing.”
Harry flicked a stream of magic at him with his fingertips, and a few people in the room gasped. “Do you have a theory?”
“No,” Draco admitted. “And even if I did it would be utterly ridiculous because, really?”
Hermione huffed, folded the paper and put it away in her own bag. “It’s all nonsense.”
“Of course, it is,” Harry said.
“Don’t patronize me, Potter.” She poked him in the side.
He poked her back. “Don’t start a fight you can’t win, Potter.”
“I’m on her side,” Draco said as thumbed through his book without even looking at them.
“You’re always on her side,” Harry complained.
“I’m not a wizard who is unaware of which side his bread is buttered,” Draco said dryly which caused a smattering of laughter throughout the class.
McGonagall entered at that moment, and the class grew quiet. She walked around to the front of her desk. “Five points to Slytherin for your common sense, Consort Potter.” She ignored the laughter that caused and pulled a stack of parchments from a drawer then distributed them with a flick of her wand. “I’d like to thank everyone for their thorough attention to last week’s topic. It’ll be the last essay you’ll have this year. The ministry has asked us to redesign our lessons in response to the rise in Death Eater activity. We’ll be concentrating on defensive transfiguration and conjuration. To that end, your theory work will have to be done independent of the class, and I’ll be focusing on practical lessons entirely. You’ll find a reading schedule on the back of your essay that covers the rest of the year. You’re expected to come to class having already read your assignment. Do not disappoint me.”
They were treated to much the same speech in Charms class while Deadmarsh had restructured his courses around more helpful potions—healing, pain relief, and the like. DADA class was canceled for the week, so they were free that afternoon and spent most of it in the library tracing the Lovegood family tree looking for something to explain them. They found it in the earlier thirteen hundreds—a Lovegood had married a woman who has reported half-High Elf. An ancient race of elves that had gone extinct over time though several magical families could claim to have the blood in their line. The Lovegoods were the last family in Britain from all reports. Fortunately, very few people took The Quibbler seriously and even if they did there was no evidence to connect them to the crimes. But they did have one thing that linked them to the legends of the Deathly Hallows.
They retreated to their suite and considered the little mess they’d made of the Dumbledore situation. Recreating the cloak had been amusing, but now it connected Harry in a genuine way to the Peverell brothers and the Deathly Hallows. They were brooding silently. Well, Harry was brooding, but he could tell that Hermione’s mind was practically turning cartwheels as she considered the angles and various solutions. But the best choice in Harry’s mind would just be if everything to do with the Hallows disappeared.
“Oh.” Harry sat up. “That’s perfect.”
“What?” Draco questioned.
“The stone and the wand were created from common objects. The cloak, in the story, Death himself wore.”
“That’s not perfect—it’s worse,” Hermione exclaimed. “Because we’ve made Dumbledore believe the damn thing survived so he might start to think you’re exactly what you are!”
“Well, unless “Death” takes it from me,” Harry pointed out reasonably, and her mouth dropped open.
“Oh.” Hermione bit down on her lip. “How?”
“I don’t know.” Harry shrugged. “You’re the smart one.”
She scowled. “Don’t act like you’re dumb, Harry James.” She turned to Draco. “Ideas?”
“I’m torn between some sort of dramatic invasion of Hogwarts or a mere disappearance with some kind of calling card left behind.”
“Epic and terrible things often happen to me on Halloween,” Harry pointed out.
“Dumbledore knows that the Elder Wand was destroyed just after you were in the Death Chamber,” Hermione said. “When is the last time the Veil of Death was used in Britain before Sirius fell through it?”
“More than a hundred years,” Draco said. “When the dementors were enslaved to the ministry it became popular to have criminals kissed as a form of execution. The theory being that if you’re kissed that you aren’t granted an afterlife—because your soul becomes part of a deathless creature.”
“That’s unnatural,” Harry muttered. “It makes me want to go to Azkaban and kill all the dementors.” He glanced at his spouses and found them both staring at him. “What?”
“Do you think you could kill a dementor?” Draco asked.
“I think he probably already has,” Hermione murmured. “Maybe more than one—during our third year when he saved Sirius and himself from being kissed with the time-turner.”
Harry considered that. “I can’t say for certain that I didn’t. My Patronus that night sort of resonated with magic. It’s the only time it ever did that. But back to the cloak. The simple solution would be to have Dobby take it back to the Arx, and I can take the dust to Dumbledore after Halloween and tell him I found dust in place of the cloak. No fake drama just genuine befuddlement on my part and it’ll make him focus a lot of energy on figuring out why the Hallows all three died—he doesn’t know for sure when the stone disintegrated. The only thing he knows is when the Elder Wand died.”
“True,” Hermione said. “And he’s probably speculated that they happened at the same time, but if we give him the dust after Halloween, he’ll have to reconsider that. We don’t know when he went after the stone but it certainly wasn’t in the month of June, and he spent a great deal of July looking for you.”
“He brought the second box of dust to Hogwarts on August 2nd,” Phineas interjected. “You’re saying that dust was the Resurrection Stone? The Deathly Hallows were real?”
“Yes, but they’ve all been destroyed at this point,” Hermione said. “We’ve been playing a game with Dumbledore—pretending the cloak survived, but it might come back to bite us if we aren’t careful. He hasn’t discussed this in his office?”
“The one time he discussed the contents of the boxes, he spoke with Snape and cast a privacy charm around his desk so the portraits couldn’t listen. Often, he trusts the loyalty spells attached to the frames, but every once in a while he gets paranoid. I suppose the Hallows are enough to make anyone a little paranoid,” Phineas said. “Well, it’s best if you stop your little game with him about the cloak so he’ll stop associating you with the Hallows. That can’t come to any good. He’s a power-hungry man, and it’s fortunate the Hallows were destroyed if he was seeking them. Dumbledore isn’t the sort that could handle being the Master of Death.”
“Power hungry,” Draco murmured. “Aren’t all men?”
“Yes, but there are different kinds of power,” Phineas said. “As you well know, Consort Potter. Magical power is a gift—and we can make no honest or moral advancements to our magical power. Financial power is often steeped in cruelty and the subjugation of others. But there is a power in knowledge that is so dangerous that it defies imagination. The more you know about a person, the more you can control them, and that’s the kind of power that Albus Dumbledore covets. He doesn’t seek political office because it doesn’t feed the monster in him.”
“Politicians are often controlled by the desires of others,” Hermione said. “Dumbledore manipulated Fudge repeatedly and when that failed—he killed him.”
“Dumbledore killed Fudge?” Phineas questioned. “Yes, actually, that makes a great deal of sense. The night before the murder was announced they had an argument in his office about Lord Potter. That’s how I found out he’d assumed the Blackmoor title. Fudge had explained to Dumbledore that there were no laws on the books they could use to imprison you because you were an adult magically and legally through the claiming of your title. Dumbledore was furious that Fudge couldn’t think of anything.”
“Fudge had no problems trumping charges up against me before,” Harry muttered.
“Yes, well, Fudge was all in a dither about the accidental death of his undersecretary at Gringotts. Apparently, the bank fined the ministry because one of their employees died in the accident as well and the goblins decided if the woman hadn’t been in their bank with her bad luck that their employee would’ve lived. The ministry had to pay a thousand galleons in damages to the bank.”
Harry laughed. “Best birthday present, ever.” He focused on the portrait. “What else?”
Phineas quirked an eyebrow but continued, “Fudge said that it wasn’t his fault that Dumbledore couldn’t keep you in line and that maybe he should’ve considered that before he got Sirius Black killed. Fudge said they should’ve given Sirius a trial like he wanted then they could’ve used magic to keep him in line. Dumbledore even agreed that Sirius’ being free would’ve been preferred to their current situation.”
“I see,” Harry said. He resolved to learn the blood boiling curse. “And?”
“Fudge said that he was going to do everything he could to stay on your good side because Britain needed you. Then he said that Dumbledore better hope you never ask him about Sirius because he would tell you exactly why your godfather never got the trial he was due. Then he stormed through the floo. Dumbledore followed ten minutes later. The next day, I heard from the Fat Lady that Fudge had been murdered in the night.”
“We should tell Rita that Dumbledore killed Fudge, anonymously,” Hermione said.
Harry sighed. “He’d probably kill her, and she’s a pain in the arse, but that would be kind of outline.”
“Right,” Hermione said with a huff. “And she did write a charming article about our Trinity bond for the Prophet.”
“I agree that the low drama approach is probably for the best and it’ll throw Dumbledore off if Harry seeks him out for advice over the cloak dust.” Draco stood and picked up all three book bags. “Let’s get started on the reading. It shouldn’t take long to get it done then we can practice spells in the ROR if you want.”
Two hours later, they’d finished the reading for Transfiguration and Charms—well Hermione finished nearly an hour before they did and was meditating by the fire. Harry set aside the Charms text and picked up the parselmagic book Deadmarsh wanted him to read. Draco wanted to work on his potion’s essay before they went to the ROR to practice.
“Oh,” Hermione said suddenly. Her eyes flew open, and magic stirred around her with little trails of smoke then she disappeared, and a small black cat took her place.
Draco sighed. “Merlin, she’s adorable.”
Harry stood and went to her. He sat down on the rug and Hermione crawled up into his lap and rubbed her head all over his hand. “Fantastic work, darling.” She just purred and rolled over on her back for a belly rub.
Harry frowned and checked his watch as he approached the table where Draco was seated in the library. “Where’s Hermione?”
“In our quarters,” Draco said as he closed a book and put it in the stack in front of him. “I’m finding a resource for our arithmancy essays, and she said something about taking a bath.”
“Draco, she’s not in our quarters. I just came from there.”
Draco’s head jerked up, and his eyes darkened. “What?”
Harry inhaled deeply to calm himself down. He wanted to believe that Hogwarts was basically safe for their wife and that not even Dumbledore would make a move against her in such a public way, but fear was swirling around in his gut. “Dobby.”
The house elf appeared immediately. “Yes, Master Harry?”
“Where is Hermione?” Harry demanded.
Dobby tilted his head. “Lady Potter in Come and Go Room.”
Harry turned on his heel and walked swiftly across the library. He was out the door before Draco caught up with him, but his spouse was with him as he came to a stop in front of the troll tapestry. Harry walked back and forth in front of the tapestry repeatedly thinking that he needed the room Hermione was in. The door appeared, and Draco jerked it open. They hurried inside and found themselves face to face with the Room of Lost Things. The horcrux, Harry thought. Had she gone for the horcrux? They’d agreed to leave it in the ROR until shortly before Yule break.
They walked to the central aisle, and Harry saw her, kneeling on the floor, her hair tumbled around her shoulders. He moved toward her, as he grew closer, he noticed she was rocking back and forth—something she did when she was distraught. A habit of a child often left to self-soothe, he’d always thought. She’d rocked herself to sleep at night because her parents couldn’t be bothered with the child neither of them had wanted.
Ron Weasley was on the floor in front of her—mouth agape, blood splattered all over his chest.
Draco slid to his knees beside her, and she turned to face him. Her face was bruised, and her mouth was bleeding. “What happened, love?” Draco pushed her hair back from her face.
“I was going to the library,” she whispered and wiped blood from her lips. “I was tired of waiting for Harry, and I remembered a book I wanted. I thought it would be okay. I didn’t mean to put myself at risk.”
“It’s okay,” Draco murmured. He drew his wand and healed her mouth then cleaned up the blood.
“Ron grabbed me and dragged me in here. He said we were going to talk and I thought I could handle him. I was so stupid. I’m so sorry.” Her mouth trembled, and tears spilled down her cheeks. “He demanded to know what I knew about Percy’s death—he said that he knew Harry had killed his brother and he was going to make me tell the truth. I laughed at him—it was so absurd.” She touched her cheek. “He hit me and grabbed my arms. Then he just shook me like a broken toy. I couldn’t stand for him to touch me it was horrifying. More so for the fact that the bond wasn’t hurting him. So he never even wanted me, did he? It was all just a game to hurt Harry. At least Ginny has some sort of genuine attraction for Harry or something. It was so odd.”
“He’s dead,” Harry said and looked at his wife as he ended the scan he’d performed on the body. “You hit him with a reductor curse in the chest. His heart and lungs are crushed.”
Hermione swallowed hard. “He just wouldn’t stop yelling at me, and he dragged me back here. He said that no one was going to ever find me. And he hit me again, and I drew my wand. The curse burst out of it without me even thinking about it. I just did it. I’m sorry this totally derailed the plan.”
“Did anyone see you with him?” Harry questioned.
“No, I don’t think so. There are a few portraits on the wall, but they were empty. Probably on purpose,” Hermione said grimly. “No witnesses to my disappearance. This is Dumbledore’s little plot.”
“The son of a bitch,” Harry said grimly. “Right. Draco, disillusion Ron’s body after I levitate it. I’m going to take him down into the Chamber of Secrets. Disillusion me as well, please. You heal her, clean her up and the two of you go to the library. Hermione, you have to act as normal as possible. It’s important.”
Hermione brushed tears from her face and nodded. “I can do this.” She turned to Draco who pulled a purple potion out of his bracelet. She took it and downed the contents of the vial with a grimace then handed it back to him.
Harry left the ROR while Draco healed their wife and noted that all of the portraits were still empty. He entered the third-floor girl’s bathroom shortly after that and prodded Ron’s body down the slide under the sink. He went next and ended the disillusionment charms as he closed the entrance to the chamber. He cleaned up the rock slide easily enough. Once inside the main chamber, he sat down and stared at the body for a long time—overwhelmed by the fact that Hermione had killed. And that Dumbledore had conspired with Ron to kidnap and or kill Hermione in Hogwarts. While everyone else could be manipulated to believe whatever they wanted about Ron, Dumbledore himself would know where Ron was supposed to be and what he was supposed to do so he would suspect Hermione was involved in the disappearance of his little minion.
Harry stood and started to pace around the chamber—furious and sad all at once. If he were going to be honest, he never intended on asking or really even allowing Hermione to kill. Yet, the first time she’d been confronted with a physical threat, her response had been just as vicious as anything he would’ve done.
“Calm down, Potter.”
Harry turned and found Zir staring at the body. “I never wanted this for her.”
“I know,” Zir admitted. “I had to prod her to act, or he would’ve killed her. Killing isn’t part of her nature or least it wasn’t. The core of your wife is at war with the elements of the Hallow that is part of her now. All the Hallows are instruments of life and death, Harry.”
“Yes, sir.” Harry took a deep breath. “I don’t know how to protect her from Dumbledore’s speculation.”
“What you need is for Ron Weasley to leave the castle of his own free will in front of witnesses,” Zir said.
“He’s quite dead,” Harry said.
“Yes, quite but in the future you’d grown very good at illusionary magic. Could you project a version of him?”
“Perhaps but it wouldn’t be interactive,” Harry frowned. “I mean unless—well, there’s always polyjuice, but we don’t have any on hand.” He took a deep breath. “Dobby.”
Dobby appeared and poked Ron’s leg. “Bad Wheezy dead.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “I need you to travel out of the country and buy polyjuice. Do you know where you can buy it?”
“How much?” Dobby questioned.
“Enough for at least two hours,” Harry said.
“Dobby go to France,” the elf decided and glanced briefly at Zir. He waved then popped away.
“I can cast the twin spell,” Harry said. “I’ll cast it then dose myself with polyjuice. I can go to dinner as Ron then have an argument with myself in the foyer outside of the Great Hall then I’ll storm out of the castle. Dobby can bring me back. Meanwhile, Ron misses curfew, and everyone will start looking for him.” He pulled his wand and cast a body preservation spell on the remains “He’ll keep down here for at least a day under that spell. Draco and I will dump his body in the forest after that.”
“Sounds a little risky but good,” Zir commented. “Remember your mission for me and thank your Consort for Percy Weasley. He’s coming in handy—I’m making him clean up my records. I haven’t had an assistant in five hundred years.”
Harry frowned. “That sounds like a reward.”
“I’m also making him supervise Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. They don’t have much to do while the Dark Twat is down here fucking about.” Zir shrugged when Harry laughed. “Go back to your spouses before they go spare. Again.”
– – – –
Hermione was curled up in Draco’s lap, her face buried against his neck when he returned to their quarters. There was a stack of books on the side table, and Draco’s bag was thrown on the floor near the sofa. Harry sat down and wasn’t surprised when Draco transferred their wife into his lap. His Consort had never handled Hermione being upset well. In fact, the last big argument they’d had was about Harry hurting Hermione’s feelings and making her cry which was practically a mortal sin in Draco’s book.
“It’ll be okay.”
“Dumbledore will know I’m responsible,” Hermione whispered. “He’ll know, Harry.”
“I sent Dobby to France to buy polyjuice. Ron Weasley will be a dinner tonight as normal. He’ll storm out of the castle after a little argument between the two of us, and he’ll miss curfew. Draco and I will dump his body in the forest.”
“I don’t think I could pull off acting like Weasley,” Draco admitted reluctantly.
“I’m going to polyjuice myself as Ron and generate the twin warrior spell at the same time. I have magical power to burn so I can do it, but we’ll have to be careful. Dobby’s going to bring me enough polyjuice for two hours just in case. After I leave the castle as Ron, Dobby will join me in the forest and bring me back into the castle.”
“You can’t separate that much from your magical projection,” Draco said. “The projection might last until you’re at Hagrid’s cottage.”
“Which means that the three of you must get up the stairs and to our quarters before I reach Hagrid’s cabin,” Harry said. “We have to present this just the right way to make sure Dumbledore thinks that Ron failed in his plan to get to her.”
“Except how did they know I’d be out of the suite by myself?” Hermione questioned.
Harry looked at the portrait of Phineas. “Well?”
“He has several portraits whose sole purpose is to monitor Lady Potter, including the Fat Lady. It’s couched as a security concern, so they don’t even realize he’s using them as spies for a terrible purpose.”
“And you walked right past her,” Harry said. “Alone.”
“I’m sorry,” Hermione said. “I shouldn’t have let him drag me into the Room of Requirement. I was just so caught off-guard by his behavior, and I feel stupid. But Ron as a teenager was nothing like Ron as an adult and I didn’t consider the teenage version of him a threat.”
“The good thing is that he was too dumb to realize how dangerous you are,” Harry murmured. “Let’s get ready for dinner.”
– – – –
Acting like a rude git turned out to be kind of fun in a terrible way. He ate way too much though and felt kind of sick. For her own sake, Harry had insulted Lavender Brown twice, and the second time he asked her if she was sure she should have dessert due to her weight, and the girl had punched him in the arm before moving. Maybe she wouldn’t be too upset when Ron went missing. Hermione looked at him in horror several times throughout the meal as if she hadn’t really thought he could imitate Ron so well. He was kind of disgusted and proud at the same time.
They got up first, and his twin sent him a look full of judgment as planned. So, Harry stood up and trotted after his spouses and twin, mulish expression firmly in place. “What are you looking at Potter?”
“An idiot,” his twin responded.
“Gentlemen,” Dumbledore moved into their space. “Let’s not fight.”
“Let’s go Harry,” Hermione grabbed the twin’s hand, and the three of them went up the staircase.
He turned to the headmaster. “Sir.”
“I thought we agreed that you’d work to mend your relationship with Potter,” Dumbledore said idly. Harry barely refrained from flinching when the man cupped his elbow and guided him away from the hall. “You need to reestablish his trust, Mr. Weasley. Why was she at dinner?”
“Malfoy met her halfway and escorted her to the library,” Harry said. “I didn’t think I could take them both and not get caught.”
“Too bad, we could’ve made it seem as if they’d run off together and abandoned poor Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Do try to make an effort, Mr. Weasley. The loss of your brother has disrupted many of our plans and your mother assured me you’d learn to pull your weight.”
“I can be as good as Percy was,” Harry boasted because he could almost see Ron saying that shite. “You just watch.”
“We shall see,” Dumbledore murmured. “Remember, no fighting with Potter. You need to be his friend—someone he can depend on and turn to when we ruin his little family. It’s the only way, you see.”
The old man released him and walked away.
Harry turned and left the castle. He walked past several groups of fifth and sixth years in the courtyard then waved at Hagrid as he passed the man. He walked around the lake and stepped into the forest. Dobby appeared as soon as he was out of sight and popped him back into the castle in the bedroom of their suite just in case there was a visitor in the living area.
Draco and Hermione came in immediately.
“He chastised me for arguing with Potter,” Harry said dryly. “Also, Ron has a little prick. It’s practically like having no dick at all.” He refrained from touching his crotch. “Which is really messing with my head.”
“Another reason why our wedding night was so awkward,” Hermione admitted. “Ron told me he was average. I was in no way prepared to see what you swing around.”
“Swing?” Harry repeated with a laugh. He checked his watch. “Okay, the second dose should be wearing off in a few minutes.”
“Thank Merlin, because this is creeping me out,” Draco complained. “I adore you, but if you were stuck in that body for eternity, our love would be chaste.”
Harry laughed and shuddered as the potion started to wear off. He hated polyjuice more than any other potion, but he was used to using it as he often did in the future as part of his job with the ICW. He took off the clothes they’d transfigured to fit Ron’s slightly taller frame and tossed them in the basket for Winky to take care of.
“That actually went better than planned,” Hermione said. “Now, Ron’s last contact before his disappearance is Dumbledore, and multiple witnesses saw the three of us return to our quarters.”
“There were a dozen or so people in the courtyard, and I waved at Hagrid before I walked around the lake.” Harry pulled on a pair of cotton lounge pants and a T-shirt. “Winky.”
The house elf appeared with a little pop. “You needs me, Master Harry?”
“How did Dumbledore expect to get Snape down in the chamber to harvest the basilisk?”
“Dumbles say they ask you to open it before Yule break,” Winky explained and pulled on her ear. “But Greasy Git dead now.”
“And Bad Wheezy dead.”
“Yes, at least one of them,” Harry said.
“Fangirl Wheezy tells Lavender Brown that Lady Potter be a whore,” Winky reported. “I put itching hex on her privates.”
Draco snorted. “Great work, Winky.”
Winky blushed but then focused on Harry. “Maybe Master Harry make Bad Wheezy look like a Dark Wheezy.”
Winky shrugged. “Master Harry snake-mouth. Dark Twat snake-mouth. Can Master Harry make Dark Twat’s bad mark?”
“Unfortunately, I’ve never seen him do it,” Harry admitted.
“I have.” Draco took a deep breath. “Several times.”
– – – –
At midnight, there was a sharp knock on their door. Harry left the bed and pulled on a robe to answer it. His Head of House, Dumbledore, Bill Weasley, and the twins were out in the hallway. Harry rubbed the back of his head and cleared his throat. “Pardon me, I was asleep. Is something wrong?”
“Ron Weasley is missing,” Minerva said. “The twins tell me you have the Marauder’s Map.”
“Oh, well, yes. I entailed it to my estate over the summer, so I don’t think it’ll work for anyone else anymore.” He glanced over his shoulder, and Phineas disappeared into the cottage in his portrait with a little wave. “Please come in. I’ll wake Hermione and Draco then get the map.”
They were both already up and putting on robes when he came into the bedroom. “Ron’s missing,” he said it loudly enough for those in the living area to hear it. “Mi, where’s the map?”
“Oh, in your desk.” Hermione pulled her hair up as she left the bedroom and crossed the living area to the large desk that she most often sat at but was officially Harry’s. “Here.” She pulled it from the middle drawer. “Ron was at dinner, but then he never misses a meal. Though he was kind of rude—well more rude than normal.”
“Yes, I spoke with him out in the hall and suggested that he take a walk to clear his head,” Dumbledore said, and Harry had to admire how smoothly the man could lie.
Harry put his wand to the map and activated it with the murmured passphrase. “Find Ron Weasley.” The map shifted and swirled but showed no result.
“I didn’t know the map would do that. Are you sure that works?” George questioned.
“Find George Weasley,” Harry said. The map swirled and displayed their quarters. George’s ribbon glowed gold. “Find Pansy Parkinson.” Pansy was still in the infirmary. “Find Ron Weasley.” The map stuttered and didn’t move away from Pansy. “He’s not in the castle or on the grounds. The map doesn’t show the forest, but it does cover the Shrieking Shack. Oh, it also doesn’t show the Room of Requirement as my father and his friends didn’t find it when they were here as students.”
“The portraits in the front hall report that he never came back into the castle,” Dumbledore admitted. “I’d hoped they’d merely missed his return.”
“Well, there is a secret passage from Zonko’s,” Harry said and moved the map to show it. “He’s not in the passage itself, but if he went as far as Hogsmeade, he would’ve probably tried to use that passage to return to school if he were out after hours. He knows the contents of the map very well.”
“I’ll go Hogsmeade and check for him,” Bill said. He turned the twins. “Go to the Room of Requirement and see if he’s using it.”
Harry closed the map and put it back in his desk. “Anything I can do to help?”
“No, thank you, Lord Potter. We’ve confined everyone to their dorms,” Minerva said. “But thank you for checking the map. I’m glad it made its way back to you—your father was a very gifted spell crafter, and I believe that the map was his best work in that regard.”
“Professor Lupin made it seem like they created it together.”
“No,” Minerva said with a shake of her head. “That map was your father’s fifth-year project in Ancient Runes. Runecraft is a genuine gift in your line. I was pleased to see that you made an O on your OWL with only self-study.” She turned to Dumbledore. “Albus, I’ll meet with the rest of the heads and make sure everyone else is accounted for.” She prodded him out ahead of her.
Phineas popped out as soon as the door shut.
“Follow Dumbledore as much as you can,” Harry instructed. “We need to know every single step he takes in the search for Ron.”
– – – –
They snuck down into the chamber shortly before dawn and used the basilisk’s pathway into the forest to take the body out of Hogwarts, in the opposite direction of where the DMLE was currently searching. Harry had watched the memory of Voldemort giving the Dark Mark several times before he tested it on a piece of bone down in the chamber. It looked right, so he’d done it again to Ron’s arm and destroyed the practice bone just in case. The mark couldn’t attach itself to Ron’s magic because he was dead, but the connection died with the marked person anyway. It looked real, and Harry had to think that it would be enough. They dumped the body and made it back upstairs in time to get dressed for breakfast.
There were a dozen aurors in the hall when they arrived to eat so they took their seats and acted as casually as they could which turned out quite a lot because Hermione had managed to shed the slight bit of guilt she’d had about killing Ron long before he and Draco dumped the body. Shacklebolt was at the opposite end of the Gryffindor table conducting interviews with each person in the house asking when they’d last seen Ron. By the time he made it down the table to them, Harry had finished his porridge and a small portion of eggs.
“Lord Potter, if I may ask you and your spouses a few questions?”
“Of course, Auror Shacklebolt. Please sit.” Harry waved at the table across from them. They’d placed Hermione between them this morning, and Draco was seated next to Lavender Brown while Harry was on the very end of the table. “We saw Ron at dinner last night, and he followed us out. I admit to insulting him—he’d been kind of terrible at dinner. He was rude to Lavender which was odd behavior for him as he’s normally nice to attractive girls.”
Shacklebolt nodded and wrote in his notebook. “And the three of you went upstairs directly after dinner?”
“Yes, we’d been to the library earlier in the day because DADA was canceled for a week while Professor Weasley settles into the job and of course, his family has to deal with Percy’s funeral arrangements,” Hermione said. “I can’t believe Ron would worry his mother like this after what happened to Percy, but I’ve often said he has the emotional depth of a teaspoon. He’s just so thoughtless sometimes that I could scream.”
“We hope he’s just run off because he was upset about his brother’s death. He did witness it,” Lavender interjected. “It was a terrible scene, and Ron was really upset about it.”
Shacklebolt nodded. “Yes, I took his statement that day. Thank you for your time and if you think of anything that might help—please go to a professor.”
“Of course,” Harry said. “Oh, you know he spoke with the headmaster after we had our little—thing. I mean he just asked me what I was looking at and I said an idiot then Headmaster Dumbledore came along and told us not to argue. They were still talking when we went up the stairs.”
Shacklebolt made a few more notes and stood. “Thank you.”
Harry didn’t trust him at all so he watched the older man walk away and wondered how everything would shake out. They couldn’t legitimately blame either of them for Ron’s death due to lack of evidence and timing, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t suspect the truth or at least suspect that one or all three of them were directly responsible. Mad-Eye Moody was stomping around near the teacher’s table, but Harry determinedly ignored him despite the fact the man was outright staring at him.
Classes were canceled and seventh years were recruited to help search the forest while the sixth years were taxed with basically keeping up with everyone else in the castle under the supervision of the heads of house who’d been required to stay behind by Dumbledore. Hermione organized a few magical games in the hall for the younger years, and that worked out well enough. Ginny wasn’t among the fifth years, and McGonagall had told them that Molly had the girl with her. Harry figured that it was a good idea for her to cling to her spawn because Ginny was definitely on their list one way or another. He’d make sure soon enough that marrying Ginny Weasley was no longer a remote possibility for him. He honestly didn’t care if Dumbledore thought he was involved.
The house elves were serving dinner when the seventh years returned. Cho Chang was unusually pale, and her eyes were puffy. It took less than ten minutes for it to come out that she’d been the one to find Ron’s body. The shock of his death rippled through the hall, and so did the news that Michael Corner, who’d been with Cho, found the Dark Mark on Ron’s arm. Several Ravenclaws made noise about having Death Eaters in the school and how everyone should be checked for the mark. Harry noticed that the conversation was making Theo Nott and Pansy Parkinson very uncomfortable. Pansy’s wig looked like her normal hair and Winky had been sad to report that it had a powerful sticking charm on it that was locked to Pansy’s magical signature so she couldn’t snatch it off her head.
“Nott looks petrified,” Draco murmured as he a cut piece of cake in half for him and Harry to share. Neither of them liked sweets a lot, but there was no sharing cake or any other sort of dessert with Hermione.
“I guess we know who Voldemort’s new fucktoy is,” Hermione said.
Draco choked on his milk. “For Merlin’s sake, Hermione.”
She shrugged delicately, and they all straightened up when the doors opened to admit the headmaster.
Dumbledore moved to the front of the room and went to the podium.
“Students, it is my duty to inform you that Ronald Weasley, sixth-year prefect for Gryffindor, has been found in the Forbidden Forest and is deceased. Every year, I warn you all that the forest is dangerous and that you should not go into it at night or without supervision. Mr. Weasley ignored my warnings last night, and his young life has come to an abrupt end. For your own safety, the wards will be activated, and you’ll not be allowed to leave the grounds at all until Yule break. Weekend trips to Hogsmeade are also canceled as the war has come so close to us that I cannot risk your lives for a bit of enjoyment. I will ask several of the shops if they might visit us on Saturdays as they have time—so we may replenish our candy supplies.”
He paused. “The Weasley family has been dealt another devastating blow and young Ginevra, who is the fifth year prefect for Gryffindor, will be homeschooled for the rest of the year. She’ll return to us after the Yule break. Please keep your families in mind during this difficult time and spare your parents the loss of you by following the rules. Good evening.”
Dumbledore left the room without eating, and silence reigned in his wake.
Harry stared at the letter he’d received from Molly Weasley in confusion. It was devoid of any sort of manipulative magic, so it was kind of surprising. Maybe her losses had genuinely thrown the woman off her game. He opened it with a glance toward Hermione who was curled up on the sofa in their quarters with a piece of toast and a book. They’d elected to have breakfast in their quarters so they could relax.
I realize we’ve had a few difficult moments recently, but it would be a relief to me if you’d come home for Ron’s funeral. You’ve been an angry place due to Sirius’ death, and we understand that but now is the time for our family to heal and I want my children to be near me. Since practically from the day you met Ron, you’ve been a part of our family—I hope you know that won’t change with his passing. He’d want me to take care of you.
Harry snorted. “This woman has lost her damn mind.”
He passed the letter to Draco who started laughing almost immediately. Draco stood and walked over to where Hermione was and gave her the letter who looked curious. Harry watched her mouth drop open as she read it.
Hermione lifted her gaze from the parchment and bit down on her bottom lip. “Maybe she had a mental break? This seems like a special level of crazy. She actually signed it mum. What the actual fuck?”
Harry could only shake his head. He really didn’t even know. It was so crazy he couldn’t be legitimately offended. “Maybe she was always batshite, and we were just too inexperienced to notice.”
Hermione grimaced which told him she didn’t appreciate that theory but couldn’t find fault in it. She tossed the letter aside. “Did you notice that no one was really upset about Ron except for Cho and I figure that was because she saw a dead body not because it was Ron.”
“He wasn’t a kind person,” Harry said. “I have to think very few people actually liked him, including his own brothers. He had all of Percy’s personality and none of his intelligence, so he wasn’t even useful to their ridiculous little campaign.”
“I wonder how many people Dumbledore is indoctrinated,” Hermione murmured. “How many members of the Order are corrupted beyond reason? Is it just Moody and Remus?”
“I don’t know.” Harry took a deep breath. “He’s had a long time to build relationships and create resources—some are probably deeper than we can know at this point. He won a lot of hearts with the defeat of Grindelwald.”
“How do we undermine that?” Draco questioned. “Skeeter did a lot to Dumbledore’s reputation after he died and Fudge made an impact with the removal from the Wizengamot and the ICW.”
“It would be good for us if Rita’s book came out while Dumbledore was alive,” Draco said. “People would come at him from all angles trying to get answers for the accusations she made regarding his love affair with Gellert.”
“Dumbledore used to shag Grindelwald?” Phineas asked.
Harry grinned at the fresh horror on the portrait’s face. “Yes, he did.”
“Merlin, I thought Gellert had better taste than that.”
Surprisingly, that set Draco off who laughed himself breathless, and his laughter reduced Hermione to giggles in short order. They had transfiguration first, so he herded his still very amused spouses out of the suite and to the classroom. They were just a minute early. Hermione and Draco sat in the front desk, and Harry took a seat with Neville who was seated alone. The class passed quickly enough, and McGonagall didn’t seem surprised when the three of them stayed behind.
Harry just handed her Molly’s letter. To give her credit, she managed to keep her mouth from hanging open completely. Minerva huffed and sat down at her desk. “Merlin, she’s off her trolley.”
He bit down on his lip. “Yeah, something like that. Obviously, I have no interest in attending the funeral, and really if I did want to, it would be a security nightmare. It would make the situation more of a target than it already is. I’m sure Voldemort is really enjoying himself right now—having taken two sons from a prominent light pure-blood family.”
“And the boy many still presume to be your very good friend,” Minerva said. “Albus has worked hard to make sure your fracture with the Weasley family isn’t well-known. That’s for his own good, mind you, rather than yours.”
“Can I trust a single member of the Order of Phoenix?” Harry asked her.
She looked at him and shook her head no then she said, “The Order of the Phoenix has always worked for the greater good of society, Harry.”
Merlin, he hated those words, and it was clear that Minerva McGonagall wasn’t all that enamored with the phrase herself.
“As your godmother, I will write Molly and inform her that your attendance would be dangerous for you and her family.” Minerva folded the letter and tucked it into the pocket of her dress. “Off with you before you’re late for potions.”
Potions was honestly kind of dull without Snape doing his bat imitation, but it passed the time, and Harry used most of the class watching Draco brew. He’d wondered early on in their relationship why Draco had eventually become a Healer when he was so gifted a potion brewer. Eventually, his Consort had admitted that his family had done so much damage in the world that he felt like he needed to help in healing some part of it. He made his own potion without much thought—it was a pain relief potion, and that was one potion that he became very familiar with creating during training at the ICW.
Deadmarsh was near the back of the room when Pansy came over to their area.
Draco held up a hand before she even spoke. “There’s a war going on outside of this school and that ridiculous mark on your arm has left you thinking that you’re special and important.” He turned to stare at her then. “But it doesn’t make you a special—it makes you expendable to both sides. To the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters, you’re fodder in their little crusade, and to the Light, you’re corrupted and ruined.”
She huffed, and Deadmarsh strolled up the aisle. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Here’s a few basic truths, you foolish little girl, there isn’t a single magical government on this planet led by a dark wizard. Not a single so-called Dark Lord has ever managed to take over a country and keep that control for more than a year. In Riddle’s first blood war, seven hundred and twenty-three people died. Five hundred and forty-one of them were Death Eaters or individuals acting on Dark Lord’s behalf. Fifty-three Death Eaters went to Azkaban and when Riddle finally trotted out there to rescue them—only fifteen were sane enough to bother breaking out.”
Harry noted that the girl was pale and her pupils were dilated with shock.
“You’re already dead,” Draco said.
Pansy burst into tears. Harry had no pity for her—after all Pansy Parkinson had accepted the Dark Mark and promised to kill Hermione for Riddle. The girl ran down the aisle and out of the classroom. Deadmarsh sighed and casually took five points from Slytherin for her leaving class without permission.
“That was unnecessary,” Nott hissed.
Harry cleared his throat and looked toward Theo. “Call it morbid curiosity, but I have to ask. Since Voldemort is more snake than man these days—is his prick like a snake’s? Draco and I have a bet about it.”
Deadmarsh cleared his throat. “Two points from Gryffindor for your language, Lord Potter.” But he turned to Theo. “Though if you know the answer to that question, I’m dead curious myself.”
Theo flushed and averted his gaze. “I couldn’t say, Professor.”
It was kind of horrifying as Harry realized that Theo’s circumstances weren’t like Draco’s had been sixth year. Was the boy already Voldemort’s Consort? It was a little nauseating to think about, so he focused his attention on putting his potions in vials after Deadmarsh approved it. Draco had made the largest batch of anyone else in the room at Deadmarsh’s request, so Harry and Hermione helped him package all of his potion before they cleaned their cauldrons and turned in their vials.
They were all leaving class when someone’s curiosity got the best of them because Nott was hit with a bond verification spell and glowed white in response. Married. Theo Nott was married. Nott immediately drew his wand and pointed it at Blaise Zabini but before he could cast anything his wand jerked out of his hand and sailed across the room. Deadmarsh caught it.
“Mr. Zabini, did you violate Mr. Nott’s privacy with a spell?”
Zabini grimaced. “Yes, Professor Deadmarsh.”
“Twenty points from Slytherin and one-hour detention every day until Yule break.” Deadmarsh focused on Theo. “That’ll be twenty points from you, Mr. Nott for drawing your wand. Though you might have been taught differently at home, in my classroom the proper response would’ve been to draw my attention to your situation. Come retrieve your wand.”
Draco turned and walked away. Hermione followed after him at a quick pace, and Harry took a deep breath as his Consort abruptly turned and went into the men’s room. The only public one on the dungeon level. Hermione stopped at the door, but Harry pushed open the door briefly to make sure Draco was alone in the room. All of the stalls were empty except for the one Draco was in. He closed the door on Draco’s retching and leaned on the frame. Hermione slipped into place, pale and shaking.
“Killing him would be an act of mercy,” Harry whispered against her neck.
“Chances that he’s not Voldemort’s Consort?”
“Zero, I’d think. We know he’s taken Draco’s place in the ranks,” Harry said. The door opened, and he offered Draco his hand.
Draco took it and squeezed his fingers lightly. “Before Yule break.”
Harry nodded. He didn’t like Theo Nott and never had, but there was no need to let that boy go home to Voldemort and be subjected to that creature’s idea of marital privilege. Nott wasn’t in Ancient Runes, and Harry wasn’t all that surprised. He exchanged a look with Blaise Zabini, who looked deeply troubled. The other Slytherins were subdued as well. Babbling didn’t comment on it, and he wondered if she’d already heard about what had happened. They moved through the class quickly enough, and dinner was a little quiet as well so the news had traveled fast.
Nott was at the Slytherin table, but he wasn’t talking to anyone but Pansy. Harry wondered if she was the only other marked follower in the school. The boy didn’t look embarrassed or emotionally distressed—he looked furious, and Harry figured that was a recipe for disaster. Fury and desperation had led to one of the most challenging moments of his life. He looked toward Draco at that moment, and as if his Consort understood, Harry got a frown for his trouble.
Draco leaned forward a bit and sighed just a little, so Harry pushed the memory of his lover lying on that bathroom floor so long ago out of his head. He’d put it behind him, really, but being back in his sixteen-year-old body was bringing back a lot of the guilt associated with that event. Hermione was eyeing a piece of chocolate cake near him, so Harry picked it up and put it in front of her. She smiled and cleaned her fork. He checked on Nott again and found the boy glaring at him. Harry lifted an eyebrow, and Nott averted his gaze.
“I pity him,” Hermione admitted and flushed when they both looked her way. “I know, but can you imagine?”
Harry couldn’t help but shudder. “Having seen Voldemort up close—I can, and it’s not pleasant in any single way. He looks like a snake and smells dead.”
Draco pushed his plate away, and Harry grimaced. “Yes, exactly. He smells dead, his breath is often rancid because he doesn’t care at all about his personal hygiene which surprised me.” He ignored the fact that everyone at the table had turned to stare and the Ravenclaws were turning to listen, as well. “He’s as cold as a corpse, too, like he has ice water in his veins. I met him after fourth year, and he made a habit of petting my face like some…corrupt, perverted uncle.”
Lavender Brown, who was sitting next to him, picked up the teapot and filled up Draco’s cup. “Here have some more tea, Draco. You look like you’re about to be ill.”
“I guess I didn’t consider that in escaping that situation that I’d set someone else up to take my place,” Draco admitted and put a bit of sugar in his tea. “Thank you, Lavender.”
“I’d have killed myself first,” Dean Thomas admitted from across the table.
“I’d have been in Potter’s lap so fast he’d have thought I apparated,” McLaggen said.
Draco smirked then. “He was a bit surprised, I must say.”
That caused a smattering of laughter at both the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables.
“Harry’s hero-complex is always getting him into interesting situations,” Neville said. “Trolls, basilisks, dementors, etc., etc.”
“Are you comparing me to a dementor?” Draco questioned.
Neville laughed. “Well, you’re prettier than one, so that’s something.”
Draco tossed a sugar cube at Neville.
Harry grabbed a piece of cake, split it in two and put half on Hermione’s empty dessert plate. She pushed it in Draco’s direction.
“You know, sometimes, the three of you act like you’ve been married for years,” Lavender said. “Especially at meal times.”
Draco grabbed a new fork and concentrated on his cake. “We were on our own the whole summer, and we got used to each other pretty quickly.”
Without Ron and Ginny, Gryffindor was starting to relax around Draco which Harry found a relief. Tense meal times hadn’t been helping his appetite. He already dreaded Ginny’s return after Yule break because he could just imagine how Molly was spending their time together. Especially if she’d completely gone off the deep end like he suspected.
They left the hall with pretty much everyone else, Blaise was sitting on the stairs waiting on them. He stood as they approached.
“Something wrong?” Draco questioned.
“I didn’t really think he was married to the Dark Lord,” Blaise said in a low tone. “Everyone is really freaked out. Well, everyone except for Pansy who apparently already knew. The first years are afraid to even look at him, and he’s a prefect for fuck’s sake. A couple people have already gone to Professor Vector to complain. I mean she’s our Head of House right now, but she’s not even had time to learn the names of people who aren’t in her classes.”
“You know Dumbledore won’t do a thing about him,” Draco said. “Well, except try to recruit to him to spy on Riddle which will just get Nott killed because he’s not even subtle enough to keep his status as a Death Eater a secret around a bunch of kids.”
Blaise sighed and started to respond, but a cutting curse hit him in the chest. He stumbled backward, and Draco caught him with a shout of shock. Harry turned and hit Theo Nott, who was already pointing his wand at him, with a banishing charm. It threw him backward, and he hit the double doors of the entrance with a terrible thud.
Draco performed two different healing spells in quick succession. Then he cast a stasis charm they were probably going to have to explain his knowledge of. Poppy Pomfrey pushed through the crowd then.
“I think I might have hurt Nott,” Harry said. “I didn’t mean to push him that far back.”
“He’s dead, lad,” Pomfrey said. “He broke his neck when he hit the doors, but you’re not to blame for this so don’t let anyone say otherwise.” She levitated Blaise. “Consort Potter, you’ve saved your friend’s life with your quick work. You can come with me if you’d like—he’s your best mate, is he not?”
“He is,” Draco admitted. “I can floo call his mother?”
“Yes, of course,” Poppy agreed.
Harry pulled Hermione back and just gave Draco a nod. With a grimace, he unbuttoned his robe and walked across the foyer. He covered Nott’s body as Hermione directed the kids up the stairs. Minerva McGonagall joined him at the doors.
“It wasn’t on purpose. I was just trying to knock him off his feet, but I guess…” Harry took a deep breath. He really hadn’t meant to kill Nott in front of so many people. “I thought he’d killed Blaise and that I was next. Both of us had antagonized him in Potions class by accident really. Neither one of us realized that Theo actually was Voldemort’s Consort.”
Minerva blanched. “I hadn’t heard. What a nightmare.”
“Quite,” Harry agreed and sighed as Dumbledore approached. “My apologies, sir, I was just trying to keep everyone safe.”
“I’ve been told you used a banishing charm,” the headmaster said. “We often use more magic than intended in an emergency or dangerous situations. No one using a banishment charm could intend such an outcome. I’ve already summoned the DMLE. Do you know Mr. Zabini’s status?”
“Fortunately, Draco is quite interested in the healing arts and knows a few spells. He stopped the bleeding and put Blaise in some sort of stasis. Draco told me about the charms, but I don’t know much about them.” Harry took a deep breath and rubbed the back of his neck.
Hermione came to stand with him. “Neville went up with Draco and just came back down. They’ve called in a healer from St. Mungo’s. Apparently, Blaise has a punctured lung.”
“Merlin,” Harry said.
“There is a small conference room we can wait in,” Minerva said and guided Harry away from the body. “Albus can stay with Mr. Nott.”
In the end, they waited nearly an hour before Amelia Bones entered with Amos Diggory and Kingsley Shacklebolt. Draco had come down from the infirmary just ten minutes before. Blaise was asleep but would recover in a few days.
“I’ve questioned several witnesses,” Bones said without preamble. “Concerning both the incident in potions and his unfortunate response after dinner.”
“May I be frank?” Harry questioned.
“Of course, Lord Potter.”
“I was an arsehole in potions,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t honestly believe that Nott was in a position to know the appearance of Voldemort’s genitalia. It’s just been my habit for years to bait people like him. Fussing with Slytherin is practically a hobby for Gryffindors, and despite my marriage to Draco, I do often default to such behavior which is immature. I regret it. I’d have never exposed his terrible circumstances on purpose. I was surprised when Blaise’s charm revealed that Nott was married and everyone immediately assumed that he was Riddle’s Consort. Blaise confirmed that for us after dinner.”
Bones nodded and made several notes. “The general animosity between Gryffindor and Slytherin has been going on decades, Lord Potter. It was even a problem when I was a student.”
“Do I need a solicitor?” Harry questioned.
She shook her head. “You defended yourself and a classmate, Lord Potter. You’re not facing any charges. Mr. Nott was a marked Death Eater as you might have suspected and he attempted to murder Blaise Zabini. Had he survived he would be in custody and on his way to Azkaban.”
Harry sat back in his seat and sighed. “And now Riddle has yet another reason to want me dead.”
“Another reason?” Diggory questioned. “Lord Potter, do you know why the Dark Lord is so focused on you?”
“I’m prophesied to fight him—as his equal,” Harry said. “That’s why he tried to murder me as a baby, why he murdered my parents, and why he’s been trying to kill me since 1991. The headmaster knew it all along and didn’t bother to tell me until last June. Voldemort broke into the ministry to get the prophecy, but fortunately, I broke it before he could listen to it—he only knows half of it, you see.”
Harry rubbed at his right knee as they all absorbed that. Even Shacklebolt appeared surprised and kind of horrified. “It changed a lot of things for me—I think if I’d known about the prophecy when I was younger I’d have done many things differently. I would’ve definitely been more prepared for what happened in the cemetery. Cedric and I were both blindsided by that. I would’ve made such a fuss over Pettigrew third year that Fudge would’ve had to pay attention to me. Pettigrew might have gotten caught, my godfather might be alive, and maybe I wouldn’t have been forced to participate in that tournament at all. But Dumbledore works under the assumption that he knows best and the rest of us should just stumble along with as little information as possible while he manipulates everyone and everything around him to meet his own vision of good.”
Diggory was flushed red with fury. “And you know the entire prophecy?”
“Yes, Headmaster Dumbledore finally revealed it to me the night my godfather was murdered by Bellatrix Lestrange. I suppose he thought to redirect my anger because I was furious with him. He knew that Voldemort had a connection with me and could manipulate me and that the Death Eaters were trying to get that stupid prophecy. He didn’t bother to tell me so I fell right into Riddle’s trap and my godfather was killed trying to protect me. Dumbledore has known the prophecy since before I was even born and he hasn’t done a thing to prepare me for it.”
Hermione slipped her hand into his.
“Even now he’s more focused on ruining my marriage than preparing me to deal with Riddle. He has tons of information about Riddle, and he hasn’t shared any of it with me.”
Diggory frowned. “Lord Potter, the headmaster assured me that you were being manipulated into this marriage. It wasn’t until I contacted Director Arnou personally that I came to realize differently. You took an honorable path to protect a member of your adopted house and no one could legitimately have a problem with it.”
“Dumbledore thinks I should marry Ginny Weasley and he’ll do everything he can to force me to do so.” Harry glanced toward Shacklebolt and found the man looking worried. He guessed he’d wandered into territory the man did know and was probably on board with. “But I have a Trinity bond. Why on earth would I give that up with two people I love for an arranged marriage with a girl who is more fan than a friend?”
“I see no reason you would,” Amelia said. “It’s a bond to be envied.”
“The ministry has received dozens of well wishes as your bond is the first immaculate one Britain has garnered in many hundreds of years,” Diggory said. “We’ll make an announcement regarding Nott’s death and your defense of Mr. Zabini’s life. There should be no other questions or concerns but I will place an official pardon in the file with the case just in case someone in the future might decide to try to use against you. A minister’s pardon cannot be overturned or ignored by the Wizengamot.”
“Thank you,” Harry said. He tried very hard not to look surprised and turned to Amelia. “Are the senior officials in the ministry protected and monitored for manipulation? I mean, if you were potioned or cursed—would it be figured out quickly?”
“There is no official policy,” Amelia said. “Though in the seventies, tests were done regularly to find people who had been put under the Imperius.”
“We should have an official policy,” the minister decided. “We’ll draft it together, Amelia, and I’ll use emergency power to make it a law.”
“Of course, Minister.”
“If it’s possible, we’d like a copy of the pardon for our own records,” Draco said. “It can be sent to Chieftain Ragnok.”
“That won’t be a problem, Consort Potter.” Bones stood. “I’ll take it to the chieftain personally to ensure it’s handled properly and the copy is an official one.”
The door opened, and Dumbledore entered.
Harry stood, and his spouses stood with him. He offered his hand to the minister. “Thank you, Minister, for your understanding during this difficult situation.”
“I believe, Lord Potter, that we were at odds over the summer due to false assumptions on my part. The last year has been difficult for me, and I haven’t handled the loss of my son well.”
“I don’t know how anyone could handle the loss of a child well, Minister.” Harry glanced briefly at Dumbledore then focused on Amelia Bones as he and the minister parted. “I think that policy should be implemented very soon, Madam Bones. Death Eaters probably aren’t your only concern in that regard.”
“Yes, I agree.”
Harry prodded Hermione and Draco gently past Dumbledore and with a small look in the headmaster’s direction he left the room as well. More and more, he was beginning to question how much of Amos Diggory’s hatred for him in the future had been his own and how much he’d been manipulated into. He knew from experience that Molly Weasley was just as capable as Dumbledore when it came to manipulative spells and potions.
Harry turned just as he stepped on the first step. Hermione and Draco stopped to above him on the stairs to watch.
“Yes, sir?” Harry questioned and met Dumbledore’s gaze.
“Do you believe it was wise to involve the ministry in the prophecy situation?”
“It seemed odd to me that the elected leader of our government wasn’t informed of the prophecy. If I’m going to survive this war—I need the ministry on my side.”
Dumbledore frowned at him and glanced across the foyer to the double doors. Nott’s body was gone. “People tend to die around you. Did you notice?”
“Then perhaps, for your own sake, you should keep your distance.” Harry smirked as Dumbledore’s mouth fell open. “Have a good evening, sir.”
His magic stirred, but Harry forced himself to relax. He kept his eyes closed and settled his mind as much as he could as his core heated. Harry had never really gotten this deep into his magic because his personal power had always intimidated him—though he’d never admitted it aloud. The moment he touched his form, nestled down in his magic, his entire body warmed. A snake. He’d known that—even in the future. It was one reason why he’d never pursued his animagus form aggressively. His magic curled and he shuddered as he gave in to the transformation for the first time. The animagus spell was reported to tingle, but his shifting was a warm, rich pleasure.
Draco sat down on the rug by the fire and ran a finger delicately along the shape of his body and Harry flicked his tail at his Consort. “You’re gorgeous.”
“Black Mamba,” Hermione said. “At least that’s what the name is in the Muggle world.”
“Magicals call this snake a Death Asp,” Draco said. “They have a small bit of magic but not enough to be considered a true magical species, so their existence wasn’t hidden from Muggles.”
“We should test his venom,” Hermione murmured.
“Agreed.” Draco stood up and left.
Harry slithered across the rug and into his wife’s lap. She rubbed his head gently. “Beautiful.” He flicked his tongue out and tasted the air around her.
Draco returned with an empty potion vial. He hummed under his breath as he sat down with Hermione. “I really…normally I just make a snake bite with a spell then milk the venom. I’d rather not do that to you, love.” He rubbed the top of Harry’s head.
Harry opened his mouth and displayed his fangs as he moved off Hermione’s lap. He’d rather not risk dripping venom onto her skin. Draco brought the vial to him and gently maneuvered it against his fangs. The venom flowed without much thought on his part, and the vial immediately cracked. Draco cursed and dropped it as the venom fell to the stone floor.
“Fuck.” He drew his wand and summoned another vial, one made of goblin-wrought steel. He gathered up all the spilled venom and put it in the vial. “Death Asp venom isn’t supposed to be corrosive.”
Harry shifted immediately, and the three of them knelt there. The stone was slightly pitted where the venom had struck. He’d seen that before. “But basilisk venom is—the floor of the Chamber of Secrets is pitted like this.”
“We can’t leave this stone like this.” Hermione frowned. “Winky.” The house elf appeared immediately. “We’ve had a little accident. Can you repair this piece of the floor?”
Winky knelt down and cast a spell on it then frowned. “Basilisk venom.”
“Yes,” Draco said as he sealed the vial in his hand.
“Stone can’t be fixed,” Winky admitted, but then she ran her finger around the entire edge of the seal. The flat piece of stone broke free of the floor, she turned it over and put it back into place. She cleaned the stone with a flick of her fingers and sat back to study it. It looked slightly different than the other stones on the floor. So she cast another silent spell, and the color of the stone shifted until it matched the rest of the floor. “There.”
“Excellent work, Winky,” Hermione said. “What are you doing today?”
“Winky following stupid Pansy,” she admitted. “She be so boring, Lady Potter. Not even worth cursing.”
Hermione laughed. “Okay, well go back to that and curse her for the hell of it.”
“Of course,” Winky said and popped away.
Hermione turned to Harry. “You’re producing basilisk venom.”
Harry sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, we know I have basilisk venom in my body, but it’s been neutralized by the phoenix tears my bone marrow produces. I guess it’s finally found an outlet.”
“The venom is highly magical,” Draco reported as he stood with the vial. “It’s not really a surprise that your snake form is using it. I think you’d probably not be venomous at all if you hadn’t been exposed to a basilisk. Most snake animagus prove to be sort of impotent on the venom front.”
“Basilisk venom is very expensive,” Harry said.
“Yes, there are only four legitimate breeders on the planet.” Draco looked at the vial in his hand. “This is probably worth upwards of five thousand galleons. It’s good to have a source but don’t let me get crazy on you—you know I can get hyper-focused when I’m researching and brewing.”
Harry nodded. “The first time you ask to milk me, you’ll probably spend a week on your knees.”
Draco grinned. “That’s not exactly a threat.”
“Congratulations on your transformation, my Lord,” Phineas said from his portrait. “I witnessed a conversation I believe you’ll find interesting.”
Harry sat down on the sofa and Hermione curled into his lap. Draco sat down beside him and stored the vial in his bracelet. “Thank you, Phineas. It’s late in the night for spying.”
“Shacklebolt and Dumbledore had an argument,” Phineas said. “The one-eyed wizard was in attendance, but he didn’t say anything at all until Shacklebolt left. Apparently, Amelia Bones ordered Shacklebolt to leave to the Order of the Phoenix or be fired. Dumbledore wanted him to lie and say he quit, but Shacklebolt said he wasn’t going to lie to his boss that Dumbledore’s cause wasn’t worth his career or his life.
“Dumbledore called him a coward and questioned his loyalty to the Light which made the auror so furious I’m surprised he didn’t draw his wand. Shacklebolt fired back that he wasn’t the one trying to subjugate a peer for money. Dumbledore denied his plans involved the Potter or Black money, but Shacklebolt laughed in his face and said he wasn’t a bloody fool. He also said he’d read the report from the ICW in full and he knows that Consort Potter is not dark nor is he a Death Eater. Dumbledore said he didn’t care and that the marriage had to be destroyed for the greater good. Shacklebolt told him to shove the greater good up his arse and stormed out of the tower.”
“Wow.” Hermione laughed. “I’d love to have seen that in person. What did Moody say?”
“Is that he one-eyed bloke’s name?” Phineas questioned.
“Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody,” Harry murmured. “He’s a retired auror and was at one time very dedicated in his duty to see dark wizards punished. I don’t know if Dumbledore corrupted him with magic or just influenced him with an ideology. He’s the sort to do either or both to gather supporters. Many of the members of the Order are merely fanatical followers due to the man’s fame and power. They don’t think he can do wrong and that whatever he wants must be right.”
“Right then, Moody reported that all of the ministry employees had been recalled in the last four hours and tested for compulsions and potions use. He suspects that Shacklebolt was among them and that might explain his abrupt change of attitude. Dumbledore was quite furious and complained for several minutes about the new emergency law that Diggory signed, against Dumbledore’s advice, shortly after returning to the ministry. Dumbledore said it was a violation of privacy.”
“More like a hassle for him since he’s going to lose people he had in his pocket fast. Even if they can’t trace the potions or spells back to him directly—having those people freed from his magical influence will have a long-reaching impact on his plans,” Draco said. “Did Moody say anything else?”
“He asked if Dumbledore had been able to talk Minerva into rejoining the Order and Dumbledore said no. Moreover, McGonagall is wearing some sort of device that keeps her safe from charms and potions. Dumbledore said his only recourse would be the Imperius and that McGonagall’s lover would probably find it in short order.”
The three of them shared a look and focused on the portrait. “Her lover?”
“Yes,” Phineas grinned. “Apparently, McGonagall has been having a thoroughly torrid affair with some bloke in the Unspeakables the better part of twenty years. I didn’t get a name, and I don’t know if Dumbledore even knows his real name—just his code name—Croaker.”
“Croaker is the Head Unspeakable, Phineas.”
“Well, at least she has excellent taste in shags,” Phineas said.
Draco laughed and stood. “Speaking of shags—let’s go to bed.”
Phineas huffed. “That’s all you three do.”
“Don’t be a cockblock,” Harry said and pointed a finger at him when the portrait laughed. “Go interrogate the other portraits you have working for you so we’ll have a good picture of the mood of the school in the morning. I need to know how much I should watch my back with our peers.”
“Hell, lad, the general consensus already is that you did that boy a favor, but I’ll check in,” Phineas said and walked out of the portrait.
They showered together, but Harry left the bathroom first and sprawled on the bed to stare at the ceiling. His animagus form was sort of slithering around in his magic, and it was weirdly comforting. Hermione slipped up onto the bed and between his legs. She trailed her soft lips up the length of his half-hard prick, and he hardened fully with a soft groan. She sucked him in and slid one lubed finger into his arse.
“Merlin, sweetheart,” Harry whispered and spread his legs. She fingered him just the way he liked, pressing against his prostate with steady pressure. He ran a shaking hand through her hair. “Would you like to fuck me?”
She pulled off his cock with a sweet little pop and smiled. “Yeah, I would.”
“Get your strap-on,” Harry encouraged, and she pulled her finger from him.
She moved off to the bed and went to the storage trunk they had sitting at the end of the bed. Dobby had brought it to Hogwarts for personal storage. She brought the harness and a dildo back to the bed as Draco left the bathroom. She’d not chosen the largest of the dildos which didn’t surprise him, Hermione liked the ones that looked natural on her body—slender and just about seven inches long. She put the harness on before climbing back onto the bed. Draco settled down beside her and latched greedily onto one pert breast. Hermione made a pleased sound and cupped the back of his head. Harry figured the two of them were just a lactation spell away from a genuine fetish, but he’d never comment on it as he’d never wish them to think he had a problem with it. He didn’t. Harry was also pretty sure he’d enjoy watching such a thing.
Harry took the dildo and moved between her legs. He’d tailored all three of them to her so they’d give her a variety of very pleasurable sensations, but they had to be sort of mated to her body. He wasn’t sure the harness would be necessary, but he had admit he found the little straps of leather very sexy. He loved the way it crossed her hips, encircled her thighs and framed her gorgeous cunt. Sitting aside the dildo, he slid down to his stomach and pushed his hands under her arse as he licked her opening. Fingers clenched in his hair as he sucked on her clit. Hermione shuddered and groaned as she quickly gave into orgasm. He loved that about her—the way she utterly surrendered to pleasure. In the mood to indulge himself, he dipped his tongue into her hole and licked into her repeatedly.
“You’re so greedy,” Hermione exclaimed with a laugh and threw one leg over his shoulder. “Put my cock on so I can fuck you.”
Harry groaned and reached out for the dildo. He really hoped the runes he’d put on it would do what he’d read they would do. The harness had a few magical functions, so he put the dildo into place and the harness attached itself. Hermione shivered a little as he activated the runes. Magic rushed over the dildo, and he huffed in surprise as it took on a flesh-like appearance and adhered to her body. He adored magic.
“How does this feel?”
“Weird,” she admitted and hissed in shock as he ran a finger along the length of her cock. “Oh.”
“Good?” Draco asked.
“Different,” she murmured.
Harry murmured a lubrication charm and used his slick hand to slick the dildo. “This looks almost real.”
Hermione arched a little on the bed and shuddered as he jacked her dick with a slow, sure movement. “Fuck.”
“How do you want me?” Harry asked.
“On your back,” Hermione murmured. She sat up and rolled to her knees as he shifted into the position she wanted.
He spread his legs and watched his wife get settled, her nipples were still wet and hard from Draco’s mouth. The first time she’d brought up buying a strap-on, he’d been concerned and even worried that she was insecure being a woman in their triad. All of that had fallen away during their shopping trip to Paris when they’d tried on a harness for her in a private dressing room. Despite the dildo, they’d slipped into that harness, she’d remained womanly and so feminine. He adored it, and he knew Draco felt the same. If their gorgeous wife wanted to fuck them—they were both totally on board with it.
“What are you thinking about?” Hermione asked as she activated his prep runes.
He hummed under his breath as the magic worked. “When we went to buy that first harness, and the wizard behind the counter tried to give you that frilly lace thing at first. And you insisted that it be dragonhide.”
She hooked her thumb into the black dragon hide wrapped around her thigh. “It’s the best, and I deserve the best.”
“You certainly do,” Draco agreed. “Slide that pretty cock of yours into his arse.”
Hermione was smaller than Draco and fit between his thighs in a way that offered no sort of strain. It made getting fucked by her a luxury of sorts if he were honest about it. He let his legs fall open a little as she braced herself with one hand on his chest and used the other to get her cock into place. She pushed in with a soft moan, and her eyes fluttered shut briefly.
“You okay, sweetheart?”
“It’s like…” She shifted and braced herself with both hands. “God, it’s perfect. You’re so warm and tight.” Hermione shuddered and rocked against his prostate with a delicious roll of her hips. Her cheeks were flushed red and her eyes half-closed as she fucked him. “I think I just fell in love all over again.”
That startled a small laugh out of Draco. “He does have a fantastic arse.”
“It’s like I’m fucking you with my clit,” Hermione admitted breathlessly. She bit down on her lip and her nails curled against his pecs. “Can I…fuck.”
“Yeah, baby, you can fuck me harder,” Harry urged. He caught his knees with both hands and pulled his legs back. “You’re so pretty like this.” Her tits bounced a little every time she thrust into him, and her slim hips were slapping against his arse with a sharp little smack that was absolutely perfect. “Let me get on my knees.”
“Great idea,” she agreed and pulled free of him with a little groan.
Her hands were all over him as he shifted around and came to his knees. He spread his legs a bit wider to make it easier for her and she slid back into his arsehole with one relentless thrust. Her cock was warm and felt like skin, but it was harder than any real dick he’d ever had.
“I want you to blow Draco while I fuck you,” Hermione decided as she grabbed his hips. “No, I want him to fuck your mouth.”
“Merlin, you’re perfect,” Draco decided, and Harry had to agree. They’d won the lottery on the wife front.
They all three shifted down the bed a little and Draco settled down in front of him on his knees. His Consort wrapped one hand around his own cock and rubbed the head against Harry’s lips then pushed in with a hiss of pleasure. Harry loved giving head, eating pussy, rimming—he adored all oral sex. He shuddered as Hermione started to move. Her strokes were even, deep, and very much like Draco since he was the one that had taught her to fuck. Harry groaned around Draco’s cock and closed his eyes against the intense pleasure.
Draco ran his fingers through Harry’s hair and made a fist. “I love watching her fuck your arse.”
Harry couldn’t say he hated it. He sucked strongly on his Consort’s prick, and Draco groaned as he pulled almost entirely out of his mouth then pushed back in. Hermione had one hand clenched on his hip, and the other was pressed against the middle of his back. She was fucking into him hard and rougher than he’d have ever done her. It was beyond perfect, and his cock was aching. He was tempted to jerk off but refrained—he knew from experience he’d have a better orgasm if he held out a little longer.
She started to make the soft, breathy sounds of pleasure that sounded almost helpless then she rolled her hips and pressed against his prostate. He came all over the bed underneath them with a startled groan. Hermione fucked him through it, her movements a little jerky and uncoordinated—he realized then that she was coming. She’d come from fucking him. It sent a thrill of shock and pleasure down his spine as his Consort spilled into his mouth with a startled shout.
They dropped in a pile of sated bodies. After a few minutes, Harry got his breath back and helped his wife out of the harness. He put the whole thing on the nightstand to take care of later, and they settled her between them. She was all orgasm-limber and sleepy. As much as she’s enjoyed pegging in the future, she’d never come from doing it.
“I’m awesome,” Hermione said and stretched. Her toes curled charmingly, and she yawned. “I’m not even mad that you didn’t make me one of those in the future.”
“I was planning on it, I’d just read a paper on the concept a week before everything happened. Well, the originator probably hadn’t thought about the purpose I put it to. It was designed to give people with severed limbs better control over their prosthetics.”
“Brilliant,” Hermione murmured as she rubbed her belly as she yawned again.
“Poor girl, you wore yourself out,” Draco drew his wand and cast a few cleaning charms on the three of them and the bed.
Harry pulled the duvet up and covered them. “Go to sleep.”
“I need to wash my dick,” Hermione muttered.
Harry laughed and kissed her forehead. “I’ll take care of it.”
“Awesome, you’re my favorite husband.”
“Hey,” Draco said with a laugh and nudged her.
“You can be my favorite tomorrow,” Hermione declared as she curled on her side and hugged her pillow. She was unconscious roughly thirty seconds later.
“I swear that’s the ugliest thing she does,” Draco admitted. “How did we end up with a wife who can fall to sleep at the drop of a hat?”
Harry grinned as he slipped from the bed and picked up the harness and dildo. He separated them with a little push of his magic. “Just lucky I guess.”
Draco left the bed too and took the harness. He used a few cleaning charms designed for leather and tucked it away in the trunk while Harry went into the bathroom to use soap and water on the dildo. Draco leaned on the sink as he watched. “Very lucky.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, he smiled as he soaped the silicone. “I’ve often wondered how Muggle materials like silicone end up in the magical world when so many are very invested in keeping technology and innovation out of magical society.”
“Well, when it comes to a wizard’s ability to get off, exceptions are made,” Draco grinned when Harry laughed. “The thing with Diggory has me confused and really pissed off. I’ll be honest—I focused a lot of my anger on him, and now it feels misplaced. How much of his behavior in the future was his own? Did seeing the memory of Cedric murdered earlier cause a mental shift in him or did Molly Weasley manipulate him in the future?”
“Arthur was in a better position to do it as the Undersecretary of Magic,” Harry said. “I didn’t consider him a threat. When he found her body, he wasn’t all that surprised. I watched him for a few minutes, and I think he knew the plan all along. Whether he agreed or not he was complicit in every single thing his wife did to ruin my life and in turn yours.” He glanced out into the bedroom. “Which means he’s just as guilty of Hermione’s murder as Percy or Molly.”
“Moody is our next target.”
“I agree. His hands are just as dirty as Dumbledore’s, and he obviously knows a lot about the old man’s plans. He’s in deeper than Lupin. It might force Dumbledore to confide more in Lupin, and perhaps Phineas can listen in on those talks. Either way, Moody is a bigger threat than Lupin despite the fact that he’s a werewolf.” Draco used a drying charm on the dildo, and they put it back in the trunk before returning to bed.
Dobby popped into the room, one hand over his eyes. Harry laughed at the sight of him. “Something wrong Dobby?”
“Dobby not want to disturb fun times, Master Harry, but Dumbles be going to visit Deadmarsh. I shows you memory. It be important.”
“We’ll meet you out in the living area,” Harry said and went to the dresser. He grabbed a pair of pajama bottoms for himself and Draco.
Dobby had the pensieve set up by the fireplace when they came out, and a shining silver memory was already in it. They exchanged a look before plunging into the memory together. Dobby must have been tucked into the man’s office already because there was a knock on the door and Deadmarsh stood up from the desk and opened it to Dumbledore.
“Headmaster, is something wrong?”
“No, my boy, not at all. I apologize for the late hour, but I haven’t had a chance to really to speak with you since classes started. The portrait across from your office reported you were still up when I asked so I felt it would be okay to knock.”
“Of course, come in,” Deadmarsh motioned him toward a pair of chairs. “Something to drink? I’m afraid I only have tea and butterbeer.”
“Butterbeer would be lovely,” Dumbledore said cheerfully, and Harry made a jerking off motion for Draco. The blond laughed and rolled his eyes.
“We had a difficult day,” Deadmarsh said. “I should’ve realized Mr. Nott was in a dangerous frame of mind.”
“I spoke with him at your suggestion, and he was upset, of course, but I didn’t believe he would try to harm anyone.”
“He was a desperate boy in a horrible situation,” Deadmarsh said as he sat down. “The pressure was going to be the death of him one way or another, but I’m sorry that Lord Potter was put in such a terrible situation. He’s an honorable young man, and he obviously did not mean for Nott to be killed.”
“No, it was clearly an accident,” Dumbledore agreed. “Fortunately, the DMLE also thought that as well, and the matter has already been put to rest officially. Lord Potter is quite adept at handling difficult situations with his peers, so I believe he will weather this storm well.”
“Good. He has his spouses, of course, and love offers an immense comfort to those of us lucky enough to find it.”
“You’re not married.”
“No, but I’ve been with the same wizard for nearly a decade. We met while training as curse breakers in Egypt.” Deadmarsh explained. “We’ve been considering a third, so it’s been nice to see such a successful triad in practice. I hope that Zale and I are as lucky in love as Lord Potter is.”
“Yes, well.” Dumbledore sighed. “Young love can often have tragic consequences. I’m very worried about the situation Lord Potter has created for himself. I believe the love between the three of them is manufactured.”
“That’s not actually possible, Headmaster, Director Arnou couldn’t have certified their bond if they were potioned or being manipulated into marriage.” Deadmarsh relaxed back in the chair and crossed his legs casually. “It’s odd, really, that you’re so focused on the marriage of three students. Are you somehow related to Lord Potter?”
Deadmarsh frowned. “Do you have some sort of romantic affection for him?”
Harry gaped, and Dumbledore’s mouth fell open.
“Of course not,” Dumbledore snapped. “It’s my duty to his parents to see him safe and in a proper marriage, Professor Deadmarsh.”
“Pardon me, sir, but I don’t think James Potter would be all that thrilled with your preoccupation with where his son puts his prick,” Deadmarsh said dryly.
“I think I have a crush on him,” Draco said to Harry in the silence that followed. “Don’t get mad.”
“Hell, I have a crush, too,” Harry admitted.
Dumbledore stood and stalked angrily to the door. Harry noted the old bastard kept his butterbeer in hand. “I’d hoped to discuss you joining a special endeavor for the war effort, but I don’t think you’re the right sort after all.”
“That’s probably true,” Deadmarsh agreed with a smile. “I don’t make a habit of trying to regulate the love lives of sixteen-year-olds.”
Dumbledore huffed and slammed the door shut when he left.
Deadmarsh stood, drew his wand and pointed it toward the chair Dumbledore had sat in. It glowed bright green.
“Compulsion charm,” Harry said. “Probably loyalty to Dumbledore himself.”
“Agreed,” Draco said as they watched Deadmarsh dispel the charm with a flick of his wand.
Deadmarsh went to the fireplace and threw in floo powder. Ragnok’s head appeared immediately. “That arse just tried to charm me with a loyalty compulsion.”
Ragnok snorted. “Good thing you’re immune to such things. What else have you learned?”
“The Potters have minds like dragon-guarded vaults. They work together well, and whatever book they’re operating out of—they’re on the same page a hundred percent of the time. As far as I can tell, she’s not been left alone since they arrived in the castle. Lord Potter is intolerant of Dumbledore just as you were led to believe. I don’t know if they killed Snape or the Weasley boy, but the Potters weren’t tolerating either one of them very well. I saw Lord Potter shortly after he accidentally killed Theodore Nott and he was relatively unfazed by it.”
“And the death magic?”
“They all three saturated with it, but it’s honestly not unpleasant to be around them. I still don’t know how far they traveled back in time or what their main purpose is. The time magic is fading fast—inside a month that will be gone, but the death magic remains.”
“Which means they used a soul rendering to return to the past. That requires a blood sacrifice.”
“True,” Deadmarsh agreed. “That being said—your impression of Lord Potter was right on the money. He isn’t a light wizard by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s a fair one. He isn’t the sort to kill indiscriminately, and we can’t ignore the fact that they carry Zir’s blessing. Anyone with the slightest bit of metaphysical magic knowledge can see his mark on them, and that has nothing to do with time travel. They were probably born with those blessings.”
“Dumbledore probably sees those marks as well.”
“Certainly, he’s petrified of the kind of power they have together, and that’s why he’s really working to destroy their Trinity. He doesn’t give a shite about the marriage to the Weasley girl, so he’s leading that family around by the nose for his own benefit. Are you certain we can trust William?”
“He took an oath of loyalty to the Horde. His mother might think he’s working on Dumbledore’s behalf in that school but he’s as much mine as you are,” Ragnok said. “Your orders remain the same, Quin. We are in the service of Magic. If Dumbledore becomes a genuine threat to Death’s Trinity—end him.”
They fell out of the memory with a jolt, and Harry stared at the pensieve in shock. Hermione was kneeling on the rug between them.
“You didn’t come to bed, and it woke me up,” she admitted. “What’s the memory?”
“Watch it,” Draco said hoarsely.
Harry sat back and said nothing in the silence that followed. When Hermione emerged from the memory, she was pale with shock. Dobby retrieved the memory and popped away with pensieve. Harry stood and picked up Hermione. They went back to the bedroom and crawled into bed. Hermione caught both of their hands and held them tightly.
“Death’s Trinity,” she whispered, and they shifted closer together.
Three days after Nott’s fortunate demise, Pansy Parkinson hung herself. All four of her roommates ended up in the infirmary in hysterics and had to be sedated. Winky was relieved to be through with spying on the junior Death Eater but sort of pissed off she’d missed the whole hanging thing since she’d been asleep. Hermione was kind of irritated that she didn’t get to curse the girl some more. Draco was convinced that Winky and Hermione had driven the girl to suicide. The theory had cheered up both them both up immensely so Harry agreed with him even though it was getting closer and closer to Yule and perhaps Pansy hadn’t wanted to go home in the wake of Nott’s death and her failure to complete her mission.
Bill Weasley proved to be a competent teacher who stuck close to the textbook that Snape had chosen. All classroom time was dedicated to practical lessons, but that wasn’t much of a surprise considering the way the rest of the classes had been restructured to teach them survival skills. Winky had started spying on Molly Weasley, and every single report started with, ‘She be a hot mess, Lady Potter.’ Winky had also started eroding the spell work that kept the Burrow together so when the time came, she could drop Molly’s house on her just like Hermione wanted. Harry and Draco had resolved to stay out of that situation since neither of them was interested in crossing both Hermione and Winky at the same time.
Moody was stomping around the school. Dumbledore had announced at dinner shortly after they’d made the announcement about Pansy’s suicide that he’d hired security for the school. Security apparently equaled Moody and Remus Lupin. They’d only seen Lupin at the announcement, so Harry figured the werewolf was skulking around the school under an invisibility cloak. Phineas made a habit of watching their security reports to Dumbledore which mostly consisted of a detailed reporting of Harry’s activities in the school.
The Quibbler continued to be Death’s number one fan and had dedicated an entire edition to the Deathly Hallows. They hadn’t connected him personally to the Peverells, but the three brothers were reported to be from that family. Harry really didn’t know what was more disconcerting—the goblin’s knowledge of their time travel, the Lovegood’s creepy fascination with Death, or the fact that Remus Lupin was stalking him around Hogwarts. Hermione was firmly of the belief that having a werewolf stalk them was easily the most disturbing part of their day.
Being confined to the grounds of Hogwarts by the wards hadn’t been a big problem for them as Winky and Dobby could come and go at will. The secret passage had been sealed by Dumbledore, but there were others that not even the twins didn’t know about. They could still come and go through the Chamber of Secrets though Dumbledore was convinced that was sealed as well. It had taken just a hand full of minutes for Harry to figure out the passage between the Room of Requirement and the Chamber of Secrets—though it would take a parselmouth to find it so he wasn’t all that concerned that Dumbledore would find out he had a second path into the Chamber.
He would admit that he’d been sort of lulled into a false sense of security by the boredom of classes and the same schedule day in and day out. Harry entered his quarters and found Draco pacing around in front of the empty portrait.
“Moody agreed to kill me for Dumbledore,” Draco said shortly. “Phineas told Hermione while I was retrieving some books from the library. And our wife—the same woman that promised us she wouldn’t trot off by herself—disillusioned herself and left the bloody suite! Dobby and Winky can’t find her except to say they know she’s in the castle.”
“Then she’s probably in her animagus form at this point,” Harry said. “It changes her magical signature. Dobby reported that he couldn’t pinpoint my exact location when I was in my form.”
“They’re searching, but I’m so bloody furious. I’d spank her if I had it in me to hit a woman,” Draco said.
“He’s not on the grounds per the map. She’s not showing up on the bloody map either.” He pulled his wand and disillusioned them both. “Let’s go.”
Her disillusionment charm wasn’t going to hold up under scrutiny—not the way Draco’s did. They moved quickly through the school and were half-way down the central staircase when Draco paused. His hand tightened in Harry’s. Harry stilled and looked around just in time to see Dumbledore and Moody on the lower level talking. They were obviously in some kind of privacy spell, but the argument was heated. Moody was shouting and waving a hand around. Suddenly, the retired auror turned and moved to stomp down the stairs. Dumbledore drew his wand. A spell shot out, just one flight of stairs up from Dumbledore—it flew past the old man and hit Moody in the back. The auror tumbled down the stairs despite the two charms the headmaster cast to save his grizzled old minion.
Draco released Harry’s hand and moved. Harry stayed where he was, and in just a minute, his wife’s small hand slipped into his. They kept her between them and returned to their quarters—not even stopping to see if her spell had done the job. They’d find out soon enough.
Draco ended their spells the second they were behind closed doors. Harry grabbed her, he couldn’t help it and pressed her to the wall with firm but careful hands. “That was reckless and fucking foolish!”
She glared at him. “I’m an adult, Harry. He was a threat! He had to go!”
“What did you tell us the day we were going to Malfoy Manor to capture Bellatrix?” Harry demanded.
“That…” Her mouth trembled. “That we’re a team and that I wanted you to go together so you could keep each other safe.”
“Safety in goddamned numbers,” Harry hissed and shook her a little. “That’s what you insisted on, Hermione. And we’ve done it! I even stopped Draco from butchering Snape in a fit because I was doing my best to do as we promised you!”
“Harry,” Draco said. “That’s enough.” He got between them, pulled her from Harry’s hands as she started to cry.
“Fine,” Harry snapped. “Coddle her! You aren’t the one that had to render her soul!”
He stalked out of the suite before he could do more damage to any of them. His fury was misplaced, and it hurt. It hurt so fucking much to think about that moment when her body had turned to ash, and their…son had been lost. There was a crowd of people at the end of the hallway leading to the stairs from Gryffindor tower so he moved through them until he could stand with Neville.
“Moody fell down the stairs. He’s dead,” Neville said. “Lavender said she saw the headmaster point his wand at him and there was a spell, but she couldn’t figure out what the spell was. She’s with McGonagall, and the DMLE has been called.” He sighed. “You don’t honestly think the headmaster killed him, right?”
“No, I mean surely not,” Harry said, but it was kind of amusing that Lavender thought so and would be telling the DMLE that.
“She said they were arguing before Moody fell, but they had a privacy spell up and she couldn’t hear what it was about.”
“Right, well, maybe there was a security issue that Moody was paranoid about. You know he was sort of crazy,” Harry said, and Dean Thomas nodded.
“Yeah, mate, though I’m not sure when Fake Moody took Real Moody’s place in fourth year.”
Harry shrugged. “People who’d known him for years didn’t notice a change in his behavior, so I guess Crouch, Jr did a pretty good job of pretending to be him.” He sighed. “I hope they don’t close the school.”
“It’s like an epidemic,” Neville agreed. “And we haven’t even gotten through Halloween, yet.”
All of the Gryffindors groaned, and Harry exhaled. “Right, well, I’ll do my best to keep my bad luck to myself this year.”
“Not your fault, mate,” Neville said. “Where are your prettier spouses?”
“In our quarters,” Harry said and poked him.
“I can look,” Neville proclaimed and laughed when Harry poked him again. “Don’t be stingy and greedy, Harry.”
“Yeah, keep it classy,” Dean advised.
Draco slipped through the crowd to stand beside him. “Something happen?”
“Moody’s dead. Lavender saw Dumbledore cast a spell at him and they were arguing.”
“Huh.” Draco leaned forward to look down the stairs over the railing. “Well, the silver lining is that you weren’t anywhere near this mess.”
“True,” Harry agreed. “Well, they’ll probably confine us to our dorms in short order so everyone should be prepared to eat in their common rooms. Hell, even the hired security isn’t even safe to roam the halls. This is worse than second year.”
“Did I ever apologize for spreading those rumors about you being the Heir of Slytherin?”
“I like to think you’re apologizing every single time you blow me,” Harry said.
Draco laughed. “Yeah, you keep on thinking that. Dobby wants to know what we want for dinner.” He took his head and pulled him free of their giggling peers. “Not classy, Lord Potter.”
“I’m all classy all the time, Consort Potter, I’ve got the title to prove it.”
“I swear I’ll never get all that Muggle upbringing off you,” Draco declared.
Harry let himself be pulled back into their quarters. Hermione was seated in her favorite chair by the fire, Crookshanks was in her lap. The cat had been roaming the castle for weeks, glutting himself on mice but Harry wasn’t surprised to see him in his mistress’ lap. He sighed and shrugged out of his robe. He was going to have to sit on the goddamned rug and talk about his fucking feelings, and nothing in him wanted to do it because he was so angry. The cat jumped down and hissed at him before stalking off.
“I.” He ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“Of course not, Harry.” Hermione stood and came to him. He hated that he flinched when she wrapped her fingers around his wrist. “Hey.” She pulled him to the rug, and they sat down together.
Draco, the traitor, retreated to the sofa and took off his shoes.
“I violated the spirit of our plan and took unnecessary personal risk,” Hermione said. “I’ve apologized to Draco already. I’m so sorry, Harry. After what happened with Ron, I have no excuse. I just so angry when I heard that Moody had agreed to kill Draco that I lost it for a bit.”
“I understand that part,” Harry admitted. He took a deep breath and focused on the fire.
“Harry.” She shifted around onto her knees and cupped his face, so their eyes met. “Please. Whatever you not saying—I need you to say it. I promise I won’t hold it against you.”
“You’ve…” Harry closed his eyes and pulled his face from her hands. He rubbed both hands over his head and shuddered. “You were always the lightest and purest person in my life. I’ve ruined that in you—brought you down a dark path. Woke some darkness in you that you’d have never touched on your own. I was so desperate to keep you that I corrupted the very core of you with a bloody Deathly Hallow. I never said, but I think that of all the brothers I sympathized most with Cadmus the most. The Resurrection Stone was a constant and overwhelming temptation in my life. I always knew exactly how far I was from it at any given time. Even halfway across the world, I could feel the pull of it on my magic.”
“What other choice did you have?” Hermione questioned.
“We could’ve lived without as you as long as we could’ve run—killed most of them in the process and history would remember Harry Potter as just another out of control dark wizard.”
“I’d have never wanted for you to take that path, Harry,” Hermione whispered. “I don’t resent you for what has happened or for the magical legacy that my soul will carry for eternity. Perhaps we were always meant to evolve into what we are in this very moment. You didn’t ruin or destroy me.”
“Do you feel the slightest bit of remorse about cursing Moody in the back and framing the headmaster for it?” He looked at her then and found her looking amused. “Mi.”
She snorted. “No, I don’t. I regret nothing about the killing part.”
He laughed reluctantly. “You. This is not how you are,” he said helplessly.
“Do you know of a single predator in the natural world that feels guilt for ending a threat to their safety?” Hermione questioned.
“No.” Harry frowned.
“You might be Death, Harry Potter, but I am a child of Gaia. That’s what Zir said. I’m Nature, and my animagus form is the domestic version of one of the most successful predators on the planet. Maybe the stone woke something in me but whatever it that is—it’s not unnatural or foreign to me.”
“I didn’t want you to kill,” Harry finally said. “I never wanted that. I’d have done anything to prevent it.”
She sighed. “Harry.” Hermione pulled her knees up to her chest and stared at him. “Don’t put me on a pedestal because I’m not perfect or pure or even light. Getting my soul rendered with a Deathly Hallow didn’t remake me. It just woke me up like it woke you up.”
“And what of our son?” Harry asked.
Tears welled in her eyes, and she took a deep breath. “You’ve been in the presence of the Lord of Magic multiple times. Don’t you believe that he has our son? That he keeps the soul of our child safe? He’ll be returned to us in the future, and we’ll make sure when the time is right that he will be as safe here as he is there.”
“It’s a cold comfort,” Harry said and looked away from her.
“Do you blame me?” Hermione questioned. “For not protecting myself better? For not requesting a different doctor at the ICW when I went in for a physical?”
“No, of course not.”
“Then the only person to blame is Percy Weasley because he’s the one that killed me and he killed our son. There was no other outcome for either of us because of Percy’s actions. Molly’s greed killed me. Dumbledore’s plotting and twisted manipulations killed me. They dragged us screaming into that conclusion, and now we’re making them pay for it. I want them to pay just as much as you do and you don’t have the bloody right to try to tell me I don’t.”
“I know that intellectually but a part of me wishes that it was different and that your biggest concern really was studying for your NEWTs. I hate this. I hate them. I hate Albus Dumbledore so much that I could rip him limb from limb. I want your life to be beautiful and full of books and love.”
“Well, I certainly don’t have enough books.”
He laughed reluctantly and looked at her. “Mi.”
“No, really, there is no such thing as enough when it comes to books.”
“You’ve got the libraries of three ancient families—there must be twenty thousand books in that library.” He pulled her into his lap.
“Yes, but the only new books are the ones I’ve added, and that’s just about a hundred. Honestly, do you know how many books have been published in the time those libraries were established? Your mum never had a chance to update the Potter library, and it was already a hundred years out of date. And the Black library? No one has updated that collection in three hundred years. Thankfully, the Malfoy library is a little modern, but honestly, there are probably about twenty thousand titles in English that I don’t have and need.”
“Need,” Harry repeated with a raised eyebrow. “Honestly?”
“Want desperately,” Hermione corrected. “You’d never hurt me, you know.”
“I want to believe that, but I grew up in a violent household and frankly I’ve got a lot of anger burning in me that I don’t know how to control. It’s worse here in Hogwarts—surrounded by Dumbledore’s bullshite manipulations. Every single day I get closer to just exploding on him, and I don’t know how that will pan out.”
Draco stood from the sofa and came to the rug. He sat down and plucked at the fibers of the floor covering with a frown. “I grew up in a violent home, too. My father hit me so often that it was normal. I didn’t realize it wasn’t like that in other families until I came to Hogwarts. I don’t have it in me—Merlin knows I tried at one point to be as much like my father as I could, but it just wasn’t there. You can trust, Harry, that I’ll never allow you to go there with either of us. I don’t believe you would get violent with her or me for that matter, but I won’t hesitate to subdue you if it comes down to it. We can talk about mind healing—our best bet might be a goblin healer whom we apparently have no secrets, to begin with.”
“Are you any closer to figuring out how they knew?”
“Information on goblin magic is sorely lacking in the Hogwarts library, and Dobby doesn’t read well enough to search our catalog at home. Winky is teaching him and so am I,” Hermione said. “Oh, there is a problem at the Arx.”
Harry frowned. “The wards are fine. I’d know if they weren’t.”
“It’s not that.” Hermione sighed. “Dobby!”
Dobby appeared and frowned at them. “Dobby not sitting on rug, either! I not be fooled by your pretend-stairs!”
Hermione laughed. “Can you bring him?”
“Oh.” Dobby sighed. “Silly owlet.” He popped away and came back with Branwell whom he put on the rug and left.
Hermione slipped off Harry’s lap as the little owlet hooted happily and hopped to Harry. “Dobby says he’s depressed and refuses to hunt with his siblings.”
“You crazy little thing,” Harry said and picked the owlet up. He rubbed the little guy’s head, and Branwell fluttered his wings.
“His crush is completely out of hand,” Draco said in amusement.
Phineas cleared his throat, and Harry left the rug. He sat down on the sofa with his owlet and glared at the portrait. To his amusement, the painting blushed. “Right. From now on when there is seriously fucked up news to tell—you should request a meeting with all three of us.”
“Of course, my Lord. Amelia Bones has questioned Dumbledore.”
“How’d that go?”
“Dumbledore’s wand proved that he didn’t fire the curse that killed Moody and that he was trying to save him,” Phineas said then turned to Hermione. “Where on earth did you learn to cast a silent organ buster? He was dead before he even started to fall.”
“I read a lot,” Hermione said. “And I’ve had some magical defenses classes.”
“I just bet,” Phineas said. “Well, the curse is dark as fuck, of course. You’ll need to clean your wand.”
“I used my stave,” Hermione said. “No one knows I have one and it can’t be tested for previous spells anyway.”
“Brilliant,” Phineas praised.
“Don’t encourage her,” Draco ordered. “Anything else?”
“Dumbledore immediately cast speculation that you were the easily the darkest student in the school and suggested that you be questioned.”
“Arsehole,” Draco muttered. “What did Bones say?”
“She asked him if he had any proof that you were capable of the curse or you were even anywhere near the scene of the incident, and he admitted he had none. She said she couldn’t just accuse the wedded spouse of a peer with murder without any sort of evidence at all. Then said that she’d tested your wand previously and that you clearly weren’t dark at all. At that point, she asked why he’d hired security for the school without discussing it with her because Moody had been retired with cause.”
“Apparently his magical channels were damaged due to repeated cursing, and he couldn’t get ward notifications. He was useless in a security position as he couldn’t interact with the wards of the school and use them to monitor the grounds.”
“Ah,” Draco said. “Snape had that problem—Riddle crucio’d him so much that he couldn’t maintain wards or even visitor notifications. That’s why prefects were given a password to his quarters but were required to call out immediately upon entering. Failure to do so would result in the loss of your position and detention until you left Hogwarts.”
“That means Snape couldn’t perform ritual magic either,” Harry said.
“It’s probably why Pettigrew was chosen for the resurrection ritual—he was one of the few Death Eaters that Riddle hasn’t damaged beyond help in that regard. He does it on purpose, of course, because the path to additional power is ritual based. None of his followers can be allowed to be more powerful than he is.”
“Dumbledore isn’t all that different from Riddle in the end,” Harry said and rubbed Branwell’s head. “Your mum is going to miss you, silly little thing.” Branwell curled his talons around Harry’s thumb and hooted indignantly. “You’re so far from intimidating that it’s not even funny.”
“In other news, the entire school thinks Dumbledore killed Moody and since Bones left without arresting him that he used some curse on her to make her not arrest him.” Phineas grinned.
Hermione burst out laughing.
– – – –
McGonagall had made Katie Bell the captain of the Quidditch team after Harry had declined. He was still playing Seeker as Umbridge’s ban had been rescinded during the summer. Draco had left the Slytherin team because he actually hated the sport as much as Hermione did. He’d played because of his father and Snape. McLaggen had made Keeper instead of Ron because Hermione hadn’t been around to help. Ginny had made the team, but Katie had already replaced her with Colin Creevy of all people who had turned out to be a great Chaser during a second try-out.
Draco and Hermione were in the stands when practice ended so Harry flew to them. “Hey, you didn’t have to come out in the cold.” It was only four days to Halloween, and the air had a chill that Harry found exhilarating, but he knew Hermione hated being cold.
“Neville came to see us. He’s a wreck, Harry.” Hermione’s mouth firmed up. “Dumbledore told him the fucking prophecy.”
“What?” Harry frowned. “Why would he do that?”
“Neville wants to talk to you. He’s in greenhouse six.”
Harry grimaced. “I’ll meet you guys there after I change.”
The time it took him to change and walk to the greenhouses did nothing to calm him down. Neville was at the back repotting plants.
Longbottom turned to him, and his shoulders slumped. “Harry.” He glanced briefly at Draco and Hermione. “Dumbledore is a terrible person.”
Hermione shot a privacy charm at the greenhouse door and they all three settled down at a table. “Tell us what’s going on.”
“Dumbledore called me into his office after breakfast. He told me about the prophecy, and he said that it could’ve been about me and maybe it was about me. He said that it’s possible that Riddle made a mistake. Then he told me the Lestranges tortured my parents to get information about Harry’s location. Oh, he was quick to tell me that I shouldn’t resent Harry for it because he was just a baby. He told me that he was beginning to think the prophecy was about me because Harry hadn’t proven to be a good wizard. Then he asked me if you guys had confided in me and if I knew where you were this summer.”
“I’m not surprised. He invested a lot of time, effort, and magic into finding me this summer.”
“He said I had a duty to the Light to watch you and tell him if you were doing dark things. He said sometimes good wizards had to do terrible things for the greater good and asked me if I could kill to defend the Light.” Neville grimaced. “I told him that I was not going to spy on my friend and that I didn’t believe for a second that you were a Death Eater or anything like that. Then he tried to memory charm me.”
“Tried?” Hermione questioned.
Neville put his hand on the table between them, and after a few seconds, a family ring appeared. “I claimed my title over the summer in ritual, but my grandmother is going to remain my regent until I’m twenty-one. I saw no reason to announce what is essentially family business until I’m ready to sit in my seat on the Wizengamot. Additionally, she didn’t want Dumbledore trying to manipulate me. He doesn’t realize his charm slid right off me, so he thinks I won’t remember this conversation. But he basically asked me to kill a peer, and I can’t ignore that. What do we do?”
“Have you told your grandmother?”
“No, I don’t want to put her in danger,” Neville sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “Merlin, where’s a Death Eater when you need one? It’d be lovely if one would just trot on in and take him out for us.”
Draco laughed. “Neville.”
“I don’t mean it, I guess,” Neville said with a shrug. “But that old bastard tried to memory charm me, and that’s irritating. If anyone’s dark—it’s him. Manipulating someone’s mind is worse than murder in some ways. I always thought the Imperius was the worst of the Unforgiveables. I know what everyone would think I’d fear the Crucio more, but I don’t. The very idea of someone controlling me—messing with my mind is horrifying.”
“I agree,” Harry said. “I’d rather be tortured than be made to do something against my will.” He sighed. “So he’ll try again with you—when he does, just agree.”
“Harry.” Neville stared at him in horror. “I won’t spy on you.”
“No, but you’ll be safer and so will your grandmother if Dumbledore thinks you’re willing to do what he wants. I’ll even give you information you can feed him that won’t be all that important, but it’ll keep him happy, and he’ll believe you’re on his side which is honestly the safest place you can be at this moment.” Harry put his hand on Neville’s. “I want you to know that the prophecy isn’t about you and it never was.”
“I’m absolutely certain. This isn’t your burden and don’t let Dumbledore ever make you doubt that. This is my fate, Nev, and it was never meant to be yours. The only reason he’d want to put you in the middle of this is to damage your magical house. He has no idea you’ve claimed your title. I’m sure he hopes that the Longbottom title will languish for decades with your father in St. Mungo’s.”
Neville took a deep breath. “Dumbledore influenced my grandmother before Hogwarts. He convinced her to force my father’s wand on me and told her that he was inviting me to Hogwarts out of charity and that he’d help her hide the fact that I was practically a squib. I was fatigued after what happened at the ministry in June. And I kept getting really tired, so my gran took me to a private healer. My core was bound, Harry, and it had been since I was five.”
“Son of a bitch,” Harry muttered.
“We can’t prove he did it, but he obviously wanted to make me practically a squib. That’s why my grandmother had me claim the title over the summer in ritual. She said if you could claim a title from an adopted house that I should have the power at sixteen to take the title my father due to his infirmity. It worked, the first time. I just don’t understand why he would do it.”
“The Wizengamot has the all the power in Britain when it comes to the creation of laws and the way the government is structured,” Draco said. “Your father was a progressive and so was Harry’s godfather, who held the Black proxy for his grandfather. During the short period they worked within the body they made huge strides in the rights of women and werewolves. Work that was largely destroyed by Dumbledore after they were no longer around to lead their voting blocs. I think one reason Sirius Black was cursed to prevent him from having children was to destroy the power that the Blackmoor title has as a founding member of the Wizengamot. Dumbledore didn’t realize that James Potter loved Sirius Black like a brother and was more than willing to share his first born son with him.”
“So it’s all about power,” Neville said.
“The power to keep Britain in the dark ages, basically,” Hermione said. “To keep pure-bloods in their rightful place and to make sure our society is as separate from Muggles as possible. Dumbledore hates Muggles—just as much as his father did, if not more, thanks to the influence of Grindelwald in his youth. In fact, Dumbledore’s prejudice is the reason we have Voldemort today. He forced Tom Riddle to return to that orphanage year after year when he knew it was destroying him. Dumbledore could’ve interfered, but he didn’t. Instead, he basically nurtured the hatred of Muggles in the darkest wizard of our time. Voldemort makes Grindelwald look like a toddler who needs a nap.”
“I’ll keep my head down and will reluctantly agree to keep an eye on you when he asks again because I agree—I think he will especially since he believes I’ve been memory charmed. He’s probably trying to figure out the right approach.” Neville frowned. “I’d like him to punch him in his face.”
“You’re a brother to me,” Harry said wryly and laughed when Neville grinned.