The Pendragon Legacy – Sneak Peek

Title: The Pendragon Legacy
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Hermione
Rating: R (eventually)

Notes: Of course I’m going to bash Ron and Ginny. They’re sixteen/seventeen (eventually) in this fic which is the age of consent in the UK so this one will eventually have sexual content.

Summary: During their fifth year, Harry and Hermione overhear a conversation that makes them rethink friendships, relationships, and their future in the magical world. They make a choice and Hermione’s plan reveals a legacy thought long lost.

I CANNOT BEGIN TO TELL YOU HOW MUCH I DON’T WANT QUESTIONS REGARDING THIS FIC BEING COMPLETE. IT’S A PRIVATE EXCERPT FOR A REASON. RESPECT THAT OR I WILL DELETE IT.

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Banner Art by Fan Arts Series

 

– – – –

Hermione was so lost in thought that Harry had basically been leading her down the hall after the DA meeting so when he grabbed her arm and pulled her into a small alcove, she went without a peep. He put his hand over her mouth when she turned to him with a question and he shook his head. She nodded her understanding and he released her. He pulled his cloak out of his bag and threw it on. She slid up into it when he opened it for her and flushed at being so close to him. It had been a year or more since they’d both been able to fit under the cloak without full body contact.

Ron and Ginny passed them in the hall and slipped into an unused classroom. Harry shifted them and Hermione gave him a nod. They moved into the room and tucked into one corner just before Ginny used her wand to shut the door and put up a privacy charm. Hermione stiffened at the use of magic she’d assumed Ginny wasn’t capable of and leaned into Harry even as she pulled her own wand. This was not good and she didn’t even know how as yet.

Ron shrugged off his robe and tossed it on a desk. “Are you sure I can’t give her a little bit of the potion this year? I hate the way she’s always with him and looking at him like he’s the next best thing to Merlin. It’s bullshite.”

Ginny huffed. “No, Ron, we can’t deviate from the plan at all. We have to be subtle. It has to be gradual or someone will catch on. Hermione is smart and frankly you’re never going to get her by yourself. She’s entirely out of your league. I’m not going to have a problem getting Harry but if I do a simple attraction draught should take care of any stumbling blocks. You’ve done most of my work for me—he loves our family and would do almost anything to be a real part of it. Marrying me is the best way for him to do that. He’s so emotionally needy, you know.”

Ron huffed. “I hope the money is worth it, Gin. He’s an arrogant git, you know.”

“Of course the money will be worth it. He’ll get more from Sirius as well—the Blacks are loaded, you know. Why that nutter hasn’t just bought his freedom is beyond me. He could’ve gotten himself declared innocent ages ago. Everyone knows Fudge is bought and paid for regularly.” Ginny rolled her eyes.

Hermione’s fingers tightened around her wand as Harry’s fingers trembled slightly in hers. She didn’t know if it was hurt or fury. Probably both because she didn’t know if she wanted to cry or curse them both into oblivion.

Ron started to pace and scowl. “So, I just have to watch my witch pine over Harry bleeding Potter for the next year?”

“Yes, then the jealousy potion keyed to you next year and a mild aversion draught so she’ll stop focusing on Harry. It’ll look very natural—like she’s gotten over her crush on moved on to you. Then you can use the bonding spell on her. Once we use the bonding spell—she’ll fall in love with you and never want any other wizard but you.” Ginny scrunched up her nose. “Though, honestly, you know Mum thinks you could do much better than Hermione. She’s a know-it-all and a Muggle-born. She isn’t all that pretty, you know. Lavender is prettier.”

“Harry wants her,” Ron said bluntly. “He leaves her alone because he thinks I have a crush on her but he wants her. She’s about all he wants on this whole planet and I deserve to get something he wants. I hope it eats him up on the inside—I’m going to make sure he knows when I start fucking her.”

Ginny laughed. “What could he possibly see in her?”

Ron shrugged. “Hell if I know but he does and that’s what I’ve been telling you since second year. You need to prepare for it, Gin because if you want him to really invest himself in you—you’re going to have to do a bonding spell of your own.”

Ginny scoffed. “I told you before he’s such an emotional mess—what with living those horrible Muggles and having no family that I probably won’t have to do much of anything. Besides, once I have sex with him I can invoke marriage protocols and he’ll have to marry me because I’m a pureblood witch. You know he knows nothing about ancient families work. He doesn’t know better than to take a pureblood witch’s virginity.”

Ron laughed. “Right.”

“And remember, you just have to keep this until we accomplish our goals. Just until we’re well situated with the money then I can divorce him and take everything because he’s a half-blood. He won’t know anything about marriage contracts or agreements and he trusts our family. He won’t even get to see any kids I have with him.”

“Gullible bastard,” Ron muttered.

Hermione tightened her fingers against Harry’s and he relaxed slightly as if to tell her he wasn’t going to lose his temper. Her mind was racing with implications, solutions, and ideas about how to protect themselves from Ron and Ginny’s plans.

“That’s why I brought you in here,” Ginny said. “You need to stop getting hostile with him. You’re going to mess up our plan like you almost did last year. It’s the last thing we need!” She flicked her wand towards the door and ended the privacy spell. “Do better or I won’t help you get Hermione, Ron. I mean it. I won’t have you messing this up for me!”

Hermione turned into Harry as the two Weasleys left the room, shutting the door behind them. She shuddered and tears sprung in her eyes. His hands clenched in her jumper as he clutched at her shaking with fury and what she figured was no small amount of grief.

“Come with me,” he whispered against her cheek and she could only nod her consent.

They left the classroom, still under his cloak and he led her to the second floor girl’s bathroom. She realized she was about to see the Chamber of Secrets. Harry hissed at the sink and it pulled away leaving a set of stone steps.

“The first time I didn’t know to ask for stairs,” Harry murmured. “I’ve been down quite a few times since—harvested the basilisk with Dobby’s help. I made a lot of money on it with the goblins. More money for that little bitch to steal I guess.”

She bit down on her lip but kept his hand as he pulled off the cloak. He stored it in his bag. They slipped down the stairs and she lit her wand as the sink closed above them. “You know we could’ve been having our meetings in here.”

“No, the Chamber is… it’s my private space at Hogwarts. I’m not going to share it with the DA. What if one of them betrays us to Umbridge?” Harry led her by the hand, his fingers clenched on hers down a hall and into the main chamber. The skeleton of the snake was the only thing that remained. “I keep it around to remind me how… dangerous shite is in the magical world.”

“How did you know? Have you followed them before?”

Harry shook his head. “I didn’t know what they were up to. Dobby told me they were meeting in secret and talking about potions. I used the map to watch for the last few weeks and I realized they meet pretty regularly in that classroom after DA meetings. I took a chance they would tonight. I brought you with me because… well, I wanted a witness that I could trust. I had no idea they were talking about potioning you.”

“This bonding spell… it must be some sort of soul or magical core bonding,” Hermione whispered. She turned to him. “Is it true?”

“That I’m a needy bastard? Probably.” Harry shrugged.

She huffed. “No, I mean… about you wanting me. What Ron said? Is that true?”

Harry flushed and looked down at their hands. “I thought… you knew actually. I thought you knew and were ignoring it to discourage me.”

“No, I didn’t know.” She moved closer to him, shifted up on her toes just a little and pressed her mouth against his.

Harry slid one arm around her and kissed her back. Their lips met again and again in soft sweet kisses until she couldn’t think, didn’t want to think. Harry wanted her. The evidence of which was pressing against her tummy and it was kind of exciting. Harry dropped his bag on the floor and she did the same. They had a least two hours to curfew as they’d quickly discovered that hiding DA meetings were easier if they weren’t all running for their dorms at curfew.

Finally, Harry lifted his mouth from hers and took a step back. “I… I’d never allow them to potion you, Hermione.”

“I know,” she whispered. “I know you wouldn’t.”

He leaned in and kissed her again then pulled her close. “You’re… you’re my everything, you know?”

“Why didn’t you tell me? Surely not because of Ron. Why didn’t you ever even try?” Hermione demanded fiercely.

“It seemed like you wanted him and I as I said—I thought you knew. You got so upset last year with him about the Yule Ball.”

“I…” She huffed. “He was such a git, Harry. Why would I want to be with him? He’s lazy and terrible. I thought that before tonight. He barely tries in his classes, has no career prospects and the only reason he made Prefect is because of Dumbledore. I asked Professor McGonagall, you know. She was going to name you but Dumbledore said you had too much pressure on you already without adding that to it as well.”

Harry frowned. “I didn’t know that. I just… I just thought she didn’t have any faith in me to be honest. It hurt a little that she picked Ron over me when I’m only second in our year behind you in Gryffindor and fourth in the school over all for our year. It’s bullshite that I didn’t get picked. I thought it was personal since it couldn’t have been academic.”

“I’m sorry I should’ve told you sooner,” Hermione said.

“I should’ve asked her myself,” Harry said. “I almost did. I almost asked the Headmaster at Grimmauld Place because it was… frankly unfair. And honestly? I could’ve used the support. Being named Prefect would’ve gone way towards making other students in the school trust me.” He led her over to a sofa and dropped down on it. She dropped down beside him. “Dobby brought me this sofa last year.”

She huffed. “How long have you been coming down here?”

“Since the tournament,” Harry admitted. “Since the night my came out of that stupid cup.” He cleared his throat. “Winky.”

The elf appeared immediately glanced briefly at Hermione and scrunched up her nose. “Master Harry bring meanie Knitting Witch to his special place?”

Hermione gaped at him. “I’m not a meanie.”

Winky frowned. “Winky not think Hogwarts elves would agree… trying to free them against their will. It be very mean, dark thing to do.”

Harry bit down on his lip. “Winky, you know what I said about that. She’s not trying to hurt any of them.”

“They know she mean well but it not be nice… being terrorized while they try to be working.” Winky shook her head. “She be trying to murder them.”

“I am not,” Hermione protested indignantly. “I’m trying to free them from slavery!”

Winky huffed and glared. “I be more powerful than any wizard, little witch girl. I be made of wild magic! I not a slave! I be needing a bond so I don’t go crazy and die!” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Master Harry you be telling me for a year that you’d tell her this.”

“She’s kind of hard headed,” Harry confided and laughed when Hermione poked him. “Besides, I told you that you could tell her and you got all mad and avoided me for a week.”

Winky frowned. “Why did Master Harry call Winky?”

He quickly related the story to her and Winky slowly sat down on the floor in front of her, her face scrunched up with fury.

“This be bad,” Winky said gravely. “You not… bonding spells be very dangerous.”

“Do you know how they work?” Hermione asked.

“When wizard wants witch… he cast bonding spell on her, force her to want him, to love him.”

“That can’t be legal,” Hermione exclaimed.

“You Muggle-born,” Winky said. “Bonding spells not legal on pure-bloods but Half-bloods and Muggle-borns not safe from them. If you try to end bond—it be breaking your magic.”

“So it’s a core bond,” Hermione said with a frown. “Why haven’t they already done it to me?”

“Yous not old enough—your core not mature enough to force bond. It not be sticking when you’re underage.”

“Right, that makes sense.” Hermione shifted closer to Harry. “There is no defense against this really. He could do it to me at any time—when my back is turned, when I’m asleep. I’d have no recourse and honestly after the spell was done I wouldn’t care, would I?”

“No, you not fight it once spell is done. It be very dark magic—to bind a witch up in such a way. Ron be dark wizard to think about doing it.” Winky frowned. “But he can’t be forcing bond on you if you already bonded.”

They both stared at her and Hermione felt shock and a bit of relief settling into her bones. “But I’m not old enough to bond yet.”

“You’re not old enough for the forced bonding spell,” Winky corrected. “You be old enough to pledge yourself—make a magical promise. But you can’t be taking it back so be sure.”

“We’ve got a bit to decide,” Harry said and squeezed her hand gently. “You can look up the various sorts of promises and bonds available to us in the library.”

“You’d do that for me?” Hermione asked.

“Of course but keep in mind that you aren’t the only one they’re plotting against. I think our best bet is to protect each from them the best we can.”

“A team,” Hermione agreed. She leaned over and pressed her mouth his.

He pulled her close and barely noticed when Winky popped away with a little huff. He nuzzled the side of her neck as he pulled her gently. She slid into his lap without any sort of real effort on his part. “I don’t make out with any of my Quidditch team mates so this isn’t like any team I’ve ever been on.”
“You’d better not,” Hermione said as she settled on his thighs. “We need to curse the shite out of those two.” She sat back and stared at him. “And it’s time to get rid of Umbridge.”

“Out of the school or in an unmarked grave in the Forbidden Forest because right now I’d be game for either,” Harry told her and laughed she smirked. He settled his hands on her hips. “I’ve got a few ideas but I haven’t done them because I was afraid you’d disapprove.”

She inclined her head. “What?”

“I’ve been studying parselmagic,” Harry said quietly. “That’s how I’ve been healing my hand.”

Her eyes grew damp. “Is your solution dark?”

He shook his head. “No darker or lighter than any other magic I’ve read about. I could kill someone with a piercing charm and all charms are considered light magic.”

She nodded her agreement and took a deep breath. “I read about it—you know—everything I could. The ability to heal with parselmagic is supposed to be practically extinct because you have to have a pure magical soul to heal with it.” She touched his face with trembling fingers. “I adore you, you know. I don’t think there’s anything you could do that would make me turn away.”

“Will you…” He took a big breath. “Will you be with me? Be my partner?” He touched her lips when she started to speak. “My partner in life, in magic. Be the family the needy little kid in me desperately wants?”

Tears slid down her cheeks as she nodded. He lifted his fingers from her mouth. “Yes. In life, in magic.” She leaned forward and they fell into another kiss.

– – – –

By mutual agreement, they decided to keep their new relationship under wraps until they could get some sort of magical bond in place to protect them from Ginny and Ron’s ambitions. It was difficult to even be friendly with his soon to be former friend, Harry honestly didn’t think he’d be able to keep the front up for very long. They’d made it through the whole day and Harry had earned himself a spectacular detention from Umbridge by being the biggest arsehole he knew how to be in class. It hadn’t been hard. He’d had four plus years of Potions with Severus Snape. Harry figured he could earn a NEWT in arseholery and Hermione had reluctantly agreed that he had been in top form during DADA.

A half hour after dinner, Harry dropped down in his seat in the DADA classroom and cheerfully began writing lines. He’d put a parselmagic pain relief spell on his hand before he’d come into the class as he’d been doing for about two weeks but he didn’t even bother to pretend it hurt as he wrote his lines out. Umbridge’s little puffs of irritated air made it clear she found his lack of pained winces less than satisfying and after only twenty minutes she stalked across the space and jerked the quill from his hand.

She glared at the quill, then at his parchment soaked in his own blood. The words were carved bold as shit in his hand which he turned for her inspection with a raised eyebrow.

“What is the meaning of this?” She hissed.

“It’s a blood quill. You actually can’t legally own one as they were created by the goblins and the use of them are strictly prohibited outside of the bank,” Harry pointed out. “I’d think you’d know very well what it is since you’ve made me write with it for weeks.”

“It’s supposed to hurt.”

“Oh. Is that the part you liked the most?” Harry asked. “Wow. You realize that makes you a deviant, right? You consider it torture and you’re enjoying it. The Muggles call that sadism but I guess in the magical world that just means you’re dark.” He leaned forward and stared at her really hard. “Are you a Death Eater? I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were considering your stance on purebloods. That seems like it would be right up your alley except for the fact that the Dark Lord would probably find you so fucking annoying that he would crucio you to death within a week.” He watched the color drain out of her face. “And your pink outfits would clash with his established color scheme. It would be madness and his pet snake would probably eat your cats.” He sat back in his chair and inclined his head as the curse he’d placed on the quill slowly seeped into her body. “Maybe if you tried being nice you could find a witch or wizard that would have you. Then you wouldn’t have to collect cats to stave off the loneliness.”

She huffed at him. “Get out.”

“But I haven’t finished my lines.”

“Get out!”

– – – –

Hermione held out her hand as soon as she saw him and he took it. They slid into a broom closet just down from the Gryffindor tower and she laughed as he pulled her close. “Done?”

“Yeah, I just cursed the shite out of her,” Harry confessed. “A three-fold karma curse. She’s never going to be the same. A regular wizard or witch can’t even see parselmagic curses.” He leaned on the wall and brought her close with his hands on her hips. “But you know that already because you’re brilliant.”

She laughed. “Don’t be a kiss arse.” She pressed an affectionate kiss against his mouth. “I found the bond I want to use. I need to research it some more but I think… I think it’ll even protect us from potions.”

“But?”

“It’s blood magic.”

“I don’t have a problem with that if you don’t,” Harry murmured and as he cupped the back of her head. “Sharing my blood with you pales in comparison to sharing my magic with you.”

“Speaking of,” Hermione took a deep breath. “I think when we do the bond that you might pass your parselmagic abilities to me. We’ll gain magical gifts from one another.”

“Is that a problem for you?”

“No, but it might be for you because… I have an eidetic memory—it’s a magical gift. I have perfect recall from the age of one up.” She took a deep breath when his mouth dropped open. “Your mind has all of your memories, Harry. It’s all there and if I give you this gift it will be available to you.”

“I’ll remember my parents.”

“You’ll remember your mother’s murder,” Hermione said quietly.

“It would be… it’ll be worth it,” Harry admitted in a hushed whisper. “I remember most of it already thanks to the Dementors in third year but to have even… just that much would be the best thing anyone had ever given me, Hermione.”

“It’s not something we can take back,” Hermione said quietly. “I’ll… be the only witch you ever know, Harry, the rest of your life. There is no divorce or separation from this bond.”

“You’re the person I trust most on this planet,” Harry said. “There is no one else I’d rather make a life and family with but if you’d rather not take this step with me—I’ll smother Ron in his sleep tonight.”

She blinked in surprise because she realized he was utterly serious. Hermione grinned. “Thanks but I think the bond will be the best option. It’s best to keep our options and your image light. It gives us an advantage.”

“As far as I’m concerned he’s a rapist,” Harry whispered against her hair as he pulled her close. “And any man that would do that doesn’t deserve to live.”

– – – –

Three weeks later, they were ready for the ceremony and Harry was relieved that Hermione hadn’t changed her mind in the slightest. In fact, if anything those weeks spent in Ginny’s snotty company and totally solidified Hermione’s mind on the whole subject. There were several small rooms in the Chamber, Hermione was one and he was another. Winky had brought them ritual robes with a shy little smile for them both. Both were a startling white and shining with magic, she’d also told they’d have to be starkers underneath. Harry stripped off his clothes, performed the cleansing spells Hermione had made him learn for the ritual and put on the robe. When he emerged, the door to the other room across the Chamber was opening.

Hermione emerged and met his gaze across the ritual circle they’d drawn together. She had a crown of tiny blood red roses on her head. She looked charming… old-world pagan. It was thrilling if he were going to be honest about it. The primitive and permanent nature of the bond they were entering into was exciting and beguiling. She’d belong only to him as long as he lived. No other wizard would hold her or touch her or kiss her but him. When they finally came to the point where they were both ready to consummate their bond—she’d be his first and he’d be hers.

He stepped into the ritual circle first and the runes lit up on the floor underneath him. Then he offered her his hands. She accepted with a firm nod of her head and a smile, placing both of her hands confidently in his. Harry pulled her carefully into the circle as required—inviting her into his life, his heart, and his magical house.

“I join with you, Hermione Jane Granger, in ritual of my own freewill,” Harry said.

She smiled. “I join with you, Harry James Potter, in ritual of my own freewill.”

There were ritual words they had to say but first there was a revealing of sorts where they had to bare themselves emotionally before their partner. It was a daunting task but one he’d spent the last few weeks working on. He didn’t want her to doubt for a minute he was very serious about every aspect of the ritual. He had to go first which he figured was just old fashioned chivalry at play. The ritual itself was very old—the most ancient of all bonding rites and rarely performed in the modern day due to the intimacy of the bond, the chastity requirements for both parties, and of course its permanence.

“Over the last few weeks, as we prepared to meet in this place and take this step together, I’ve thought a great deal about what I would say in this moment. There are a hundred things I could tell you about myself and about my past that you don’t know but I came to realize that in this moment that the most honest and revealing thing I could ever tell you is this—there came a time during the night of the Third Task when I thought that I should just let him kill me.”

He paused at her gasp of shock but then continued, “I was so tired and hurt. And to give the dark bastard credit where credit is due—he’s terrifying. But in that same moment, you were there in my mind and in my heart. Out of all the people I know in this world, it was my fear for you and my desperate need to keep you safe that made me stand up. I survived for you and I will do so every single day forward for as long as I can. I can’t promise to live forever but know that my heart will be with you in my final moments on this earth.”

Hermione took a shuddery breath and blinked back tears. “I thought I knew what you were going to say.” She huffed when he laughed. “I thought about this for a while as well—considered what you knew about me and what I could tell you that would be meaningful and honest. After second year, my parents offered to send me to Salem to complete my magical education. They even submitted my application and I was accepted. The Headmistress of the school came to Britain to speak with me about it.” He doubted he kept the shock and horror off his face considering how she paused and bit down on her bottom lip.

Hermione squared her shoulders and took a deep breath. “So I thought it about it for a few weeks then it was…it was your birthday and I realized that I wouldn’t just be leaving Hogwarts. I would be leaving you. The idea was so instantly horrifying that I lost control of my magic for the first time since I was eleven. I shattered every single window in the house and damaged several of the houses around us. Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey arrived on my doorstep around the same time as the DMLE. They all thought I was in magical upheaval but come to find out I was breaking my own heart with thoughts of leaving you. I realized then that I would never, under any circumstances leave you of my own freewill.”

He’d been terrible to her over the broom in third year. It made guilt and horror pool in his stomach in such a way that he thought he might be sick. Her fingers tightened against his and he brought himself back into the moment. He nodded and she smiled.

He released her hands and drew his wand from the holster on his wrist. She held out her palms to him and he cut them as carefully as he could. The idea of hurting her was an uncomfortable one for him but the ritual called for it. He cut both of his palms, holstered is wand and offered her his hands again. She took them and blood slicked between them. The rune protocols in the ritual circle they’d drawn activated and the entire Chamber seemed to fill with the light from their magic.

“Hermione, I will bear your burdens as if they are my own. I will defend your honor. I will be faithful in heart, mind, and body. I will be your husband, your lover, your shelter, the father of your children, and your partner in magic and in life. I swear this on my magic. So shall it eternally be.” The ritual circle swept up into a frenzy around them, heaving with magic.

“Harry, I will bear your burdens as if they are my own. I will honor you and your magical House. I will be faithful in heart, mind, and body. I will be your wife, your lover, your shelter, the mother of your children, and your partner in magic and in life. I swear this on my magic. So shall it eternally be.”

There was a gentle tug on his core and a gold ribbon of magic swirled out of his chest. It met the one coming from Hermione and they watched in shock as the two ribbons met and wound tightly together until it was thick and sound. It fluttered away as if carried on a wind but the little tug on his core persisted. His connection with her thrummed with loyalty and so much love that it was overwhelming.

Harry pulled her close, their hands still clenched as the magic worked between them. She lifted up on her toes and met his kiss. It was the most magical moment of his life.

Chapter Two

He honestly hadn’t expected the curse to kill her so he was just as surprised as anyone else when Umbridge tipped arse over tea kettle down the central staircase. Fortunately, he’d been near the front doors getting ready to leave for Hogsmeade when it happened so no one could legitimately accuse him of pushing her. In fact, in a truly funny twist a fate Ron had been standing directly behind the toad when she tripped and fell.

Harry allowed himself to be herded into the Great Hall along with Hermione who was staring at Umbridge’s remains in fascinated horror. He could also feel a slight bleed of satisfaction through their bond. He didn’t blame her, he was feeling pretty good about it as well. They sat down at the Gryffindor table and hot chocolate appeared after about thirty seconds. Harry shrugged and reached for a cup which seemed to encourage everyone around him to do the same.

“You don’t seem all that shocked, Harry,” Neville pointed out.

“Since when have we kept a DADA professor more than a year?” Harry asked with a raised eyebrow. “It was kind of silly for the Ministry to put one of their own employees in the position whenever knows Voldemort cursed it.” He rolled his eyes when everyone around him but Hermione shuddered in horror.

“Would you stop saying that name,” Ginny exclaimed in exasperation. “It makes people uncomfortable.”

“Your cowardice is not reason enough for me to disrespect my parents and the sacrifice they made by being afraid of that foul, ignorant, dark, racist piece of shite,” Harry snapped. “I don’t fear his name. I don’t fear him. I don’t fear his slaves either. He’s a terrorist with delusions of grandeur that are so laughable I don’t see how a single person takes him seriously. If you’ve got a problem with my opinions, Ginerva, sit elsewhere.”

He accepted the plate of biscuits Hermione pulled his way and frowned at Ron when he found the red head glaring at him. “Problem?”

“Don’t talk to my sister like that,” Ron snapped.

“Tell your sister that she doesn’t have the right to tell me how to speak,” Harry said mildly.

“She’s right, you shouldn’t say it. It just makes everyone uncomfortable but you’re an arrogant git so you don’t even care.”

Harry made a show of checking his pockets then nodded. “You’re right. Apparently my give-a-shite has gone missing. Let me know if you locate it.”

Neville snorted which caused a cascade of laughter down their end of the table, Ron just flushed red and glared.

“Why didn’t you two wait for me in the common room?”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “I told you this morning when I got up that I was going to Hogsmeade with Hermione, Ron. I was pretty clear on it.” He turned to Seamus. “Wasn’t I clear?”

“Yeah, mate, you were speaking English and everything,” Seamus said with an amused laugh.

“We always go to Hogsmeade with Hermione,” Ron snapped.

“I didn’t say we.” Harry frowned at him.

“For the love of Merlin,” Hermione began when Ron only managed to look confused. “Harry and I had a date planned, Ron. We were going to Hogsmeade together but Umbridge managed to trip over her own feet and die. Now we won’t even get to go to Hogsmeade. I’m sure the DMLE is on its way to interrogate us all.” She huffed, pulled a book out of her little bag and resized it.

“You had a date with Hermione,” Ron repeated with a glare in Harry’s direction. “What the hell, Harry?”

Harry broke a biscuit in half and offered one piece to Hermione who took it as she opened her book in front of her. “I’m pretty sure your Dad explained to you how things work with witches, Ron. You find one you want and if you’re on your best behavior and refrain from acting like an immature git at every single opportunity eventually she might take pity on you and go out with you.”

Dean Thomas laughed. “Yeah, that’s pretty much what my Dad said.”

“You can’t just date Hermione without talking to me about it,” Ron protested.

Hermione’s book slapped shut with an ominous thud. “What exactly does that mean Ronald Weasley? I don’t need your permission to date someone. This is just like that thing with Viktor all over again. You acting like a jealous git for no reason whatsoever. It’s irrational and foolish.”

“Maybe I like you,” Ron said. “Maybe I want to date you.”

Hermione made a face so genuinely horrified that in another time and place Harry might have felt sorry for the bastard. “You do not.”

“I do so,” Ron protested with a glare.

Hermione huffed. “What’s my favorite color? My favorite book? How do I take my tea? What was the name of my first pet? What do I want to get my Mastery in when I leave Hogwarts?”

Ron frowned. “How would I know all of that stupid stuff?”

Hermione turned to Harry who was the midst of reaching for another biscuit. “Well?”

“Blue but you most often wear pink when we aren’t in uniform because that’s your mother’s favorite color and she buys you clothes all the time when you aren’t around to protest. Anne of Green Gables is your favorite Muggle book and Hogwarts, a history is your favorite magical book followed closely by Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. You prefer three sugars in your tea but you always only ask for two when someone else pours for you as to not appear greedy. Your first pet was a Jack Russell terrier named Atticus who died the year before you started Hogwarts after he was hit by a lorry. And your first Mastery will probably be in Transfiguration though I think you’d probably follow that up with one in Charms.” He broke another biscuit in half and offered her a piece which she took with a little frown in Ron’s direction. “The really pitiful part of that, Ron, is that she’s said all of that in front of you more than once. You rarely pay her any attention at all so it’s ridiculous that you’d have some sort of problem with the two of us dating.”

“You can’t just decide that, Harry,” Ron protested.

“Can I decide?” Hermione asked with a glare. “Or does my opinion in this discussion have no meaning for you? Because I got news for you, Ron. I wouldn’t actually go out with you. You’ve poor table manners and terrible grades. The only things you talk about are Quidditch and chess—which I find extremely boring, by the way. You have daft opinions about Muggles and speak disrespectfully of my parents on a regular basis because they aren’t magical.”

“You think I’m boring?” Ron asked in disbelief.

“We just have nothing common besides our friendship with Harry, Ron. It’s not personal.” She started to reopen her book but Ron huffed dramatically. “What?”

“So you know all that stuff about Harry, then?”

“His favorite color is red. He takes his tea with cream and one sugar. His favorite Muggle book is Dune by Frank Herbert. His favorite magical book is Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling though recently he’s been reading Transformation Through the Ages quite a lot. He’d like to take a Mastery in Dueling but he’s also considering International Magical Law. Hedwig is the first pet he’s ever had though he thinks that his parents might have had a cat when he was a baby but he doesn’t remember its name.” She frowned. “Again, things we’ve discussed in front of you.”

Ron turned to glare at Harry. “If you’re going to date her then we can’t be friends anymore.”

“That’s unfortunate, I guess,” Harry said and turned to Hermione. “You owe me a galleon.”

She frowned at him. “It was a sucker’s bet.” But she grabbed her bag, rummaged through it and produced a galleon which Harry promptly pocketed. “Will you go to the library with me after we get interrogated? I want to find another book on experimental charms.”

“Sure.” Harry went back to sipping his hot chocolate without even looking at Ron.

“You’re just going to pick her over me?” Ron asked, clearly shocked.

“I’m straight,” Harry said with his most serious expression. “Of course, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being gay but I prefer witches. I’m not even a little bi-curious so why would I pick you over her?”

Before Ron could say anything else Dumbledore arrived at the table with a pair of Aurors, Amelia Bones, and Minister Fudge. “Mr. Potter, the Minister believes you viciously murdered Professor Umbridge.”

“Oh.” Harry considered that and turned to Hermione. “Do you think he’s delusional or merely a liar?”

“He’s probably doing it for attention,” Hermione mused. “He certainly likes to get in the paper. It’s a shame though—that he would use the tragic death of one of his own employees to further himself.” She paused. “Though, it wouldn’t be fair at all to rule out the thought that he’s just a nutter. Mental health services in the magical world are sorely lacking. Mind healing is practically a lost art in what passes for modern magical society in Britain.”

Fudge sputtered. “I’m not crazy!”

“Sure you are,” Harry said with pity. “After all, you’ve already been told that I was nowhere near Umbridge when she fell down the stairs. In fact, I was standing near the front doors in line getting ready to leave the castle. I had a date you see and I’d have never viciously murdered a professor on the day of my first date with Hermione. It took me several weeks to get her to go out with me to begin with. And I had to practically swear on my magic to get EEs or Os on all my OWLs to get snogging privileges on a probationary basis. Besides you’ve already demonstrated a marked lack of ability to accept reality so the only conclusion is that you’re insane.”

Fudge glared. “Madam Bones take Potter into custody for murder!”

Harry stood, his wand flicking into his hand he did so. Nearly every member of the DA stood up with him, wands drawn. Fudge glanced around the room and started to pale.

“What is the meaning of this?” Fudge shouted.

“You were so concerned about Dumbledore raising an army against you that you put an employee in the school to watch him and torture me,” Harry said evenly. “I fought off a possessed teacher when I was eleven, killed a basilisk when I was twelve, out flew a dragon and managed to escape a cemetery full of Death Eaters and Voldemort himself at fourteen. Did you honestly think I wouldn’t be in this school feathering my nest? I wasn’t the only one that Umbridge tortured and harassed Fudge. You let her bully us in the only place many of us have ever felt safe. You put a bloody terrorist in our school, you foolish git.” He inclined his head. “And now you want to arrest and charge me with murder for an accident that everyone in this room witnessed.”

“You did it!”

Harry put his wand to his sternum and the room still around him. “I, Harry James Potter, do solemnly swear on my magic the following: Sirius Orion Black is innocent and he was thrown in Azkaban without a trial. Minister Fudge knows this and tried to murder him anyway. Tom Riddle also known as Voldemort was resurrected on June 24, 1995 after I was kidnapped from Hogwarts during the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament. Peter Pettigrew is alive. He set up my godfather for mass murder when he faked his death and he murdered Cedric Diggory. I am not responsible for the death of Dolores Umbridge. So mote it be.”

The silence was deafening. Fudge looked like he was going to be ill and Amelia Bones had gone a frightening shade of white. The Aurors standing at her back were shocked still. Harry threw out his wand arm and his Patronus burst out of it in a sweep of silent spell work that no one misunderstood. Prongs pranced around the front of the room, hooves clicking on the floor in a startling display of power.

“Will there be any more questions?” Hermione asked pointedly. “Harry and I want to go to the library. We’ve been researching solicitors.”
“Solicitors?” Fudge questioned. “What for?”

“I’m going to sue you and the Ministry for defamation of character, harassment, attempted murder, and torture,” Harry said coolly. “The ICW is going to hear my complaint over the Yule break.” He focused on Amelia Bones. “Are you going to arrest me or what?”

Bones took a deep breath. “You’re free to go, Mr. Potter.” She paused and glared briefly at Fudge who looked close to passing out. “Though I would like to have a very long conversation with you at some point about everything you just accused the Minister of.”

“I’m sure the Headmaster can make arrangements for us,” Harry agreed. “Right now, though, we really have to start going through the solicitors both locally and abroad who volunteered to represent me in the World Court.”

“Yes, and now we can add attempted-false arrest and an unfounded accusation of murder,” Hermione said cheerfully. She turned to Harry. “I honestly sort of wish he’d put you in Azkaban for a couple of hours. It would have added weight and emotional impact to our lawsuit. Not that I want you to be tortured by Dementors, again, so we’ll just have to make do with all the other horrible and illegal stuff he’s done already.”

Harry grinned at her. “I find you four times more attractive than normal when you’re being mean to someone I dislike. Could we stop by the Slytherin table so you can insult Malfoy before we go to the library?”

“No, Harry, I’m not going to pick on the Ferret. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Not exactly thrilling, you know.”

Harry laughed. “That’ll do. Let’s go.”

– – – –

They weren’t surprised at all when McGonagall appeared in the library three hours later and requested Harry’s presence in the Headmaster’s office. If she had a single protest regarding Hermione’s automatic inclusion, she didn’t let on. The office was full of people he didn’t know and quite a few he did, having met them at Grimmauld Place over the summer. There were two blood quills sitting on the Headmaster’s desk. Dumbledore looked grave, furious.

“Did she make you write lines with one of these quills, Harry?” Dumbledore demanded.

“Yes, several hours at a time a few times a week since September,” Harry admitted.

“Poppy says you haven’t been to the infirmary to treat the injury,” Minerva said quietly. “How have you been treating your hand?”

“Hermione had dittany but the wound wasn’t… it wasn’t going to work long term so I looked up a few healing spells in the library and I found a section in one of the healing books on healing with parselmagic.” He paused at the gasps that caused from the people from the Ministry. “I tried it and it worked.”

“You’ve been healing yourself with parselmagic?” Poppy demanded. She got up and took up his hand. She ran a scan on his hand and took a deep breath. “Oh.”

“Poppy?”

“He’s healed his hand fifty-six times in the last three months,” Poppy said tightly. She turned to glare at Dumbledore. “How dare you let that bitch do this! She could have damaged him for life! There could’ve been nerve damage! This is his wand hand!” She paused at that and turned to Harry. “You used your left hand for healing.”

“I didn’t have a choice I couldn’t direct the healing with my right hand and heal the top of my right hand at the same time,” Harry admitted and flushed at the looks he received. “Is that a problem?”

“Very few people are capable of casting such powerful magic unless they’re using their dominant hand which is why the loss of your wand arm can be a severe blow to a magical person,” Poppy said quietly. She closed the diagnostic charm she’d cast. “We’ll speak later, Mr. Potter.”

“All right,” Harry agreed before focusing on Dumbledore. “Who are all these people and what do they want?”

“Whether it was your intention or not, Mr. Potter, you brought our country and government to its knees with a single magical vow,” Amelia Bones said quietly. “I’ve arrested Cornelius Fudge, the Wizengamot is chaos, the ICW is convening within the next thirty-six hours, and we’ve declared war on the Dark Lord Voldemort.”

Harry frowned. “Who is the new Minister of Magic?”

“I am,” a man said quietly. He stood from his place by the fire.

“Mr. Potter, may I present the Earl of Dunshire—Lord Jonah McGregor,” Amelia Bones said. “The Wizengamot placed him as Minister fifteen minutes ago. His first act was to request a meeting with you.”

Harry stood and offered the man his hand. “Sir.” He grinned then. “I take it you won’t be available to represent me in the World Court now.”

McGregor laughed as they shook hands. “I’m afraid not, lad.”

He glanced towards Hermione who had pulled out a piece of parchment. They all watched her unroll the twenty-inch parchment and decisively cross off a name. She rolled the document up and put it back in her book bag before looking up to find everyone in the room staring at her.

“What?” Hermione asked.

“That’s probably the most important document in Britain right now,” Amelia Bones said quietly. “The ICW is very interested in Mr. Potter’s circumstances and they’ll be expecting him to name his legal representation shortly. We’re on the brink of being sanctioned internationally for crimes against magic, human right violations, and the government endorsed torture of children.” She wet her lips and took a deep breath. “Mr. Potter why didn’t you or any of the other children involved report her?”

“She told me that she’d see me expelled and my wand destroyed if I complained to anyone. When I made that clear that I wasn’t afraid of that… she threatened…” Harry’s hand unwittingly sought out Hermione’s and their fingers clenched together. “She threatened to do it to Hermione. In fact, Hermione was the only Muggle-born in the school who wasn’t forced to use the blood quill because I… I took her detentions.”

“Harry.” Hermione turned to stare at him in horror.

“That’s why I had detentions multiple times a week,” Harry admitted. “I couldn’t protect the others but I could protect Hermione. Umbridge was surprisingly easy to manipulate actually. I found a parselmagic pain relief charm about three weeks ago and she didn’t even notice when I started faking it. I started casting it on everyone who got her special detentions. She liked to focus on me though which was good because it gave the others a break. As much as the blood quill hurt at first… it was the treatment that came with it that had the potential to leave the most damaging scars.”

“I don’t follow,” McGonagall said tightly.

“She enjoyed it, Professor,” Harry said. “In fact, I’d go so far as to say she enjoyed the pain she was inflicting in a very… deviant sort of way.” He flushed and averted his gaze. “I never felt safe in her company to be honest. I cast temporary chastity charms on the younger lads just in case with their consent.”

“Merlin,” Amelia Bones said weakly, she barely managed to find a seat as she went weak in the knees. “Did she touch you?”

“If she had, you’d have me in a cell for her murder!” Hermione snapped and shrugged at the looks she got. “As far as we know, she never actually touched any of them but we decided to be safe rather than sorry. None of the girls reported feeling uncomfortable that way around her. But she had a habit of touching Dennis Creevy’s hair, petting him like one might… a cat. We were worried but Harry protected them the best he could with the charm and one of the older kids tried to get detention if one of the younger boys was caught up in Filch’s little traps. Harry practically made it a hobby to get detention in the last month.”

“Why didn’t you come to me?” Dumbledore finally demanded.

Harry stared at the elderly man for a minute in silence. “You let them put me on trial for defending my own life. You let them abuse me in the press and have repeatedly demonstrated to me in the last six months that you didn’t have the time for me. I’m not actually an idiot. I’m second in my entire class after Hermione. But you’ve demonstrated a marked lack of faith in me since May which is frankly insulting as hell. I escaped a situation that would’ve seen most adults murdered—both in the cemetery and when I was attacked by Dementors for the third time in my life. Frankly, sir, I’m pretty fed up with how I’ve been treated.”

“Yes, that’s clear,” Dumbledore said. “You have my utmost apologies, Harry. I never meant for you to think… any of that. Fudge has done a lot to undermine me and destroy a reputation I spent decades banking on to protect the school and my students. I distanced myself from you to protect you from that. That was obviously a grave error on my part—so grave that you felt you had no choice but to seek help from the ICW. It is obvious you don’t trust us with your well-being. What can we do to fix this situation between us?”

“I don’t know,” Harry admitted honestly. “I feel betrayed and moreover I don’t feel safe in this country. I don’t feel safe in this school. For many of us, especially those of us raised in the Muggle world, Hogwarts is the first safe place we’ve ever known and you let Umbridge take that away from us. Frankly sir, it’s unforgiveable.” He looked down his shoe, frowned at the ragged condition of Dudley’s old trainer and took a deep breath. “The House of Potter has made immense sacrifices for magical Britain for generations and the disrespect shown my family here makes me think that when I’m an adult—I’d be better served living in another country. How could I trust any of you with the family I’ll one day make when I can’t even trust you with my own well-being? Can I trust the government to defeat Voldemort when so many refuse to believe he’s even back? Can I trust this school to be safe for my own children when I’ve been nearly killed here multiple times? I don’t think this is the future my parents fought and died for, sir.”

“Your disappointment in us is understandable,” McGregor said. “You know I believe you.” He paused and waited until Harry nodded. “You know I believe in justice.”

“Yes, sir. Your correspondence with us has been quite frank on both subjects.” Harry took a deep breath and started to say more but the floo flared and ejected a goblin.

The small being glanced around the room, openly glaring at practically everyone but then focused on Harry. “Good, I can’t stand to wait. I’m glad you’re already here.”

“Hello, Griphook.” Harry scrunched up his nose as he considered what he should say. “I should probably something about your piles of gold and the corpses of your enemies but I forget the wording.” He grinned when the goblin snorted. “How can I help you?”

The goblin walked to him and held up a hand when Harry started to stand. “You did something quite unexpected last night.”

“I consider it the private business of my magical house,” Harry said quickly.

“And the Horde agrees but the magic of what you’ve done is already producing quite a bit of activity,” Griphook said. He proffered a wooden box. “You must claim this to the honor of all three of your houses.”

“Three?” Harry asked with a raised eyebrow. He took the box after a quick nod from Hermione, the only person he checked with in the room. It wasn’t an action that anyone missed.

Griphook inclined his head as Harry opened the box. “You are the scion and heir to the Houses Potter and Black. The House of Potter is ancient. The House of Black is both ancient and noble. You’re the Black Heir. Moreover, Your Grace, you are the Regent of Pendragon through your beloved and highly magical mother. In modern times you are the Duke of Avalon, acknowledged so upon your birth by the Horde, the ICW, and the Muggle Queen herself. This was to be a secret until your magical maturity.”

“But?” Hermione questioned softly.

“His actions last night… in taking you into his magical house as a protected member,” he paused when they both relaxed, “he’s claimed the role of Patriarch of the House of Potter. That must be met with the claiming of his title. Magic will no longer wait for him.”

Harry opened the box and found a ring inside. Beside it was a shining diamond pendant on a thin mithril chain. “I…”

“It crossed my mind that you’d be unaware that your House owed Miss Granger a token of your esteem. It represents the magical promises you made her, Duke Potter.” He paused and offered the two of them a sly grin. “The ring first.”

Harry pulled the ring from the box with trembling fingers and slid it on. Magic danced over his hand and settled over him. His scar tingled briefly before his magic subdued it as it had been doing for weeks since he’d learned to occlude his mind with parselmagic. He picked the pendant up and gave the box back to Griphook who slid it into a pocket of his waist coat despite its size.

“I took the liberty of putting several anti-theft protections on the pendant but you’ll have to ward it and bind it to her magic,” Griphook said. “It was in your main vault. I believe your father gave it to your mother on their first anniversary.”

Harry drew the chain over her head and settled the pendant on her without discussion then drew his wand. He placed the tip on the diamond and hissed much to the shock of many in the room. At in ea prudentia. Mente defendunt. Tueri magi. Tenetur in magicis..”

Hermione cleared her throat and touched the sparkling diamond as it settled against her skin in a fashion she knew to be permanent. “What did you put on it?”

“A discretion ward, a ward to defend your mind from outside influence or intrusion, and because it is bound to your core—I put a defensive ward on it that would deflect most magic designed to damage or destroy your core. It won’t fight off everything and it certainly wouldn’t hold out against the Imperious but it would probably give you a fighting chance against it and other behavioral modification charms. Combined with Griphook’s work, the pendant can’t be removed by anyone but you or me for as long as you live.” He stowed his wand and glanced around the room and found quite a few people pale and shocked. “I’m a parselmouth, get over it. It’s really old news.”

“You must worry for Miss Granger’s safety a great deal to put a discretion ward on her,” Bones said quietly. “Is that a problem in Hogwarts?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” Harry allowed. “But she’s a Muggle-born and any pureblood wizard in this place could throw her in a broom closet and rape her without having to fear spending a single day in jail for it.” Hermione’s hand settled on his and he turned it so they could thread their fingers together. “She’s a member of my magical house and therefore my responsibility. How I choose to protect her is really no one’s business but my own, Madam Bones.”

“Of course, Your Grace.”

Harry turned to Hermione. “That was so weird.” She grinned at him and shrugged. “Right, something to get used to.” He focused on Griphook. “You said this was a secret. Who knew about it?”

“Your parents, of course. They found out when you were born—magic activated within the bank waking up the Avalon Protocol. I was informed as I am the Potter account manager and I have been for nearly two hundred years. The Chieftain knew as well. That is it. It was deemed that for your safety that your magical legacy would be discussed with absolutely no one else until you claimed the title. The Queen is being informed as we speak that you’ve claimed your title. Your title is both magical and Muggle, your Grace.”

Harry looked at the ring in silence for a few seconds and took a deep breath. “I can’t…” He stood up and everyone stood up with him. He led Hermione away from the chairs and to a large window past Fawkes. His fingers clenched against hers in little bursts of anxiety. He brought her close and pressed his cheek against hers as he whispered, “I can’t sue the realm—it would be treason to act against Avalon in such a way.”

“That… makes sense,” Hermione murmured. “The ring has magical properties?”

“Yes, I’m surprised I can stand. I feel I’m in the middle of a magical storm. Do you feel it?”

“Yes,” Hermione admitted. “We’re going to catch hell hiding what we’ve done long term.” She bit down on her lip. “Do you regret it?”

“No and I never will,” Harry promised.

“Your choice for solicitor?”

“Jeffrey Townsend is British and noble-born,” Harry whispered. “We’ll go with him and put him on retainer for our House.” His fingers clenched in her jumper as he considered what he needed to do. “We’ll have him contact the ICW and tell them that due to the claiming of my title that I’m no longer in the position to bring a suit against the British Ministry of Magic without risking my magical legacy. I am honor bound to defend the realm, I can’t bloody attack it – not even legally.”

Hermione nodded as they separated. She pulled several scrolls from her bag and went to a small empty table near the windows. “Griphook, would you join us please? I need to know the protocol for Harry signing a legal document.” She unrolled the scroll from Jeffrey Townsend as the goblin joined them and cast a privacy ward around them.

Griphook accepted the document read it carefully and held out his hand for a quill. He put it down on the table and made several small corrections which he showed in turn to them both. “This needs a privacy clause.” He waved a hand over the parchment to make room for the paragraph he wanted to add and the parchment grew three inches in length.

“In the Muggle world, a solicitor is bound to keep a client’s privacy,” Harry said.

“It’s murky in the magical world,” Griphook remarked as he wrote. “It’s best to leave no room for misconceptions. He will not be offended by the stipulations. He sent you a boiler-plate contract with the expectation that you’d make any changes you require for your magical House. You’ve made a good choice—he’s a Light wizard from an ancient and noble family. His experience with the bank, international law, and the Wizengamot make him a very good wizard to have in your corner.”

“I had my house elves investigate all the solicitors who answered my initial query,” Harry admitted. “They were extremely thorough. I have blackmail material on half the sitting members of the Wizengamot at this point. I’m not remotely ashamed of myself.”

Griphook grinned as he finished the document and passed it back to Hermione. “You’ve the heart of a goblin, your Grace. It remains my honor to serve the House of Potter.”

Hermione passed the contract to Harry who read through it entirely, pausing at the new section and at the corrections Griphook made throughout. The goblin had added his title to the document, changed the House of Potter’s status to reflect its new noble status. “You said I’m the Black Heir as well, correct?”

“Ah, yes,” Griphook agreed and made a grabby motion for the contract which Harry passed back to him. He made the contract longer, shifted a few paragraphs down and started a new one regarding the House of Black. “Are you aware of your godfather’s location?”

“I’m sure I shouldn’t say,” Harry said mildly.

Griphook inclined his head in agreement as he wrote. “Very well, due to his current legal circumstances and your own very new legal status you are the de facto Lord Black until which time your godfather can legally claim his title. Combined with the political weight you now have as the Duke of Avalon you can force the Wizengamot to give him the trial he’s due.”

“How?” Harry asked.

“You have veto power over the body,” Griphook paused and turned to stare at Harry. “You… you do realize what it means to be the Heir Regent of Pendragon, correct?”

“I’m afraid I don’t,” Harry admitted in a hushed whisper.

Griphook leaned in and looked him right in the eye. “You’re the living embodiment of Arthur Pendragon in the modern world—you’ve the blood and magic of the last magical king in you. You’re Regent over Avalon, Duke Potter. But unlike the Muggle Queen whose power is largely symbolic, your authority over magical Britain is quite expansive. You’re the most politically powerful wizard in Britain at this very moment.” He frowned. “Will you tell me why the two of you did what you did?”

Harry quickly and quietly outlined the plot they’d discovered about Ginny and Ron Weasley. He admitted to spying on the entire family through his house elves and the plot seemed to be limited to the two youngest entirely though their mother was a bit sketchy on the potions front as she did have the ingredients on hand to brew several different love and attraction potions.

“But they’ve yet to act on their plot,” Griphook surmised shrewdly. “You do realize if she attempts to force a bond on an already bonded wizard that the magical backlash will probably render her a squib?”

“She’ll have brought that shite on herself as far as I’m concerned,” Harry said. “And him as well. Do you think she would risk trying to potion or curse me now that I’ve claimed my title?”

“She’ll be more interested, I’d say,” Griphook said. “You both must realize that you’ll not be able to keep your bonded status a secret long-term.”

“We know,” Harry said. “And frankly it’s a matter of privacy at this point. No one can change what we’ve done so they can all go rot for all I care.” He paused. “It is permanent, right? Even without consummation?” He flushed as he asked the question.

“Yes, it is a bond to the death and quite old fashioned. I haven’t heard of it being used in Britain in nearly five hundred years. The Chieftain is quite pleased by it though. Your commitment to each other and to our Lady Magic is a blessing in these times,” Griphook said. “The Chieftain will be curious about your circumstances. I’ll have no choice but to debrief him.”

“That’s fine,” Hermione said. “We know you can’t keep secrets from him. And we’d appreciate any help the Horde can offer in keeping the secret of our bond as long as possible. We’d rather not explain why we did it over and over again. It’s no one’s business but our own.”

“Very well.” He offered the quill to Harry. “You sign first then I will teach you the spell that noble’s use to certify their signature.”

He signed his name and was only mildly surprised when his magic prodded him into adding his title and magical houses to the document. Griphook guided him through the spell and helped him seal the scroll before dispelling the privacy ward he’d created.

Fawkes trilled and held out one foot. Harry paused but then obligingly offered the scroll. “Don’t tell Hedwig, she’ll get jealous.” Fawkes flamed away with the document.

“May we know your choice?” McGregor asked.

“Jeffrey Townsend,” Harry said and watched that news settle on the room. “My new circumstances require a… different approach to seeing my grievances against the Ministry resolved. It would damage my magical legacy to proceed as I intended.” He led Hermione back to the chairs they’d abandoned and they sat once more. Everyone else regained their chairs as well.

“And your decision regarding your pending suit with the World Court against Fudge?” McGregor asked.

“I’m not ready to discuss it,” Harry said. “Minister Fudge acted against the best interests of the realm repeatedly—he used his power as Minister to suppress information vital to the safety of the citizens he was tasked with protecting. He made a habit of circumventing the Wizengamot and imposing his own idea of justice with no regard to the law or the civil liberties of his citizens. Moreover, the Ministry itself was complicit in his destructive, amoral, and most certainly illegal behavior.”

The people from the Ministry left after a brief discussion with Dumbledore regarding his return to the Chief Warlock position and they were left with the senior members of the Order. Harry had studiously avoided looking at them during the discussion with McGregor and he wasn’t all that interested in speaking with them after the fact.

“Well, that was…” Moody trailed off with a frown. “I haven’t… Albus? What does that Regent of Pendragon stuff mean?”

Albus turned to look at Harry. “We are, for all intents and purposes, sitting in the presence of the first magical King of Britain in two thousand years. Arthur abdicated is throne because he only had two children and they were both squibs. It was deemed that should in the future, a male descendent of his line be born with magic that the title of the Duke of Avalon would be bestowed upon him for he would hold regency over all magicals—wizard, witch, and creature in the realm.” The elderly wizard inclined his head. “You did far more than take Miss Granger into your magical house.”

“Perhaps I did,” Harry agreed. “But that is the private business of the House of Potter and I’m unwilling to discuss it at this point. I took steps to protect myself and my best friend because it appeared we had no one prepared to defend us. I mean no insult to anyone in this room, it was just the perspective we had as we approached several problems.”

“You must have performed a high magical art,” Dumbledore said then. “Nothing short of that would have placed you as the Patriarch of your magical house.” He exhaled sharply and frowned. “Unless Miss Granger is pregnant?”

Hermione’s mouth dropped open and she blushed furiously as Harry glanced her way. “I’m the brightest witch of the age, Headmaster!”

“I don’t follow,” Dumbledore admitted.

“I’m perfectly capable of casting a contraceptive charm,” Hermione exclaimed exasperated and huffed when Harry laughed and Dumbledore blushed. “Harry James.”

“Sorry.” He rolled his eyes and focused on Dumbledore. “I did perform a high magical art and I’m not going to discuss the details of it with you or anyone else at this point. The goblins know because there are… magical circumstances that require they know.”

“Very well,” Dumbledore said and started to stand.

“Headmaster, surely you’re not just going to….” Molly said. “This is ridiculous. He’s too young to accept a title and it’s unacceptable that none of us knew about it. How could this be a secret from you? Did Black know? Harry needs to explain what he’s done.”

Harry stood and Hermione stood with him. “I don’t owe anyone in this room explanations. The goblins already explained why my parents kept it a secret and it’s no wonder, really. If it had been known it’s entirely likely that someone better at murder would have succeeded where Voldemort has repeatedly failed.” He focused on Molly. “Or some witch in this castle might have gotten it in her head to potion or curse me into a marriage I’d never want on my own in a million years. The business of my magical house is not your concern, Mrs. Weasley. It’s no one’s concern but my own. I’ve learned a lot in the last year, you know. I’ve learned who I can trust and who I can’t. I’ve learned that most of the adults in my life are willing to lie to my face in order to protect their own interests and agenda. I’ve learned that very few people in this room actually respect me. I’m nothing more than a job to some, an attention seeking brat to one, a child to you, and a weapon to the rest. There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to make a choice on where he will stand and who will stand with him. I’ve made my choice. I don’t care what any of you think about that choice.” He slid his hand into Hermione’s. “I’m finished with this conversation.” They left in the stunned silence that followed.

Chapter Three

His instance on spending Yule with his godfather had been met immediately by the Headmaster though he could tell not everyone in the Order was pleased that he’d been allowed out of Hogwarts at all. Hermione had gone home to Crawford with her parents and to be on hand when the goblins warded her parents’ house. A letter from her the day after they’d left Hogwarts confirmed that everything had gone as planned on the warding front and her parents had been quite happy to accept the magical protection the House of Potter offered. Apparently, Hermione and her father had, had words over the diamond pendant but Hermione hadn’t removed it.

He’d spent Christmas with Sirius and Remus. The rest of the Order had made themselves scarce after Harry’s arrival at headquarters which he appreciated, he really didn’t have a lot to say to them. Well, he didn’t have anything kind to say to many of them. It was the day after Christmas when the shite had sort of hit the fan but that was hardly his fault. Dobby had brought him his mail and in it where nearly fifty marriage contract offers. He’d rejected every single one and sent them back to the bank to handle. He’d been in the library reading when Sirius had retrieved him and brought him to the formal dining room where the Headmaster was having tea. Unfortunately, he wasn’t alone. There were several men at the table that he’d never met, McGregor was in attendance with Amelia Bones, as well as Molly and Arthur Weasley.

Harry took a seat.

“Harry,” Dumbledore began. “This is Gerald Greengrass, Elijah Abbott, and Montgomery Fawley. Everyone else you’ve met previously so I will spare you an introduction. Gentlemen, meet his Grace the Duke of Avalon, Harry James Potter.”

Harry gave them all a brief nod. “Good morning. Has something horrible happened? It’s an odd time to be away from your families.”

“You received a few contracts from the bank this morning…” Dumbledore began.

“A few?” Harry questioned. “I guess you could say that—forty-seven in total.” He accepted the tea Sirius poured him. “It was rather offensive actually.”

“Offensive?” McGregor asked.

“Well, yes, I know perhaps four or five of those witches well enough to call them by their first name but not much else. Moreover, every single one of those contracts read more like a bill of sale than anything else. It’s kind of horrifying how women are treated like sexual property in the magical world. I’d never allow a daughter of mine to be sold into a marriage. Nor would I want her to marry for political or social gain. It’s disgusting really.”

“Quite a few people are upset with how you quickly rejected the offers,” Sirius said. “Such a thing is usually held in… consideration for at least six months if not longer, Harry.”

“Now or six months from now, my answer would’ve been no different,” Harry said honestly and held out his hand for a piece of cake from the center of the table. The saucer slid neatly across the cloth and into his hand. “I’d like to love the woman I marry. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

“Young men of your position often don’t have such a luxury,” Gerald Greengrass said abruptly. “Your noble circumstances require a certain sort of wife, Duke Potter.”

“You mean a pure-blood,” Harry said and raised an eyebrow when people started to shift nervously in their seats. “Well, that’s interesting since my new noble circumstances were brought about because of my Muggle-born mother. Blood purity is frankly the last consideration I’d make when taking a wife. It matters so little to me that I couldn’t even accurately measure it.” He paused and focused on Elijah Abbott. “Your daughter is a well-known lesbian. I’m genuinely horrified that you would force her to marry a wizard to further yourself politically and socially. You may be insulted but I’m sure she’s so relieved that I’ll probably get a thank-you card. If you really wanted to make your daughter happy, you’d offer the House of Bones a contract.” He glanced towards Amelia Bones and shrugged when her mouth dropped open.

He focused on Gerald Greengrass. “Your daughter Daphne rather can’t stand me—she thinks I’m an irredeemable git and I think rather poorly of her as well. Astoria is a child and while I realize the contract wouldn’t have been valid until she turned seventeen, the very idea of being betrothed to a child made me want to throw up.” He turned to Fawley. “I don’t know your daughter—at all. I know your son, Sullivan, a bit and he’s a womanizing arsehole who has no respect for himself and treats witches like they’re disposable but then he learned that sort of misogyny at your knee. Considering your reputation and the fact that you keep two mistresses—one in London and one in Paris—you aren’t someone I’d want to be associated with. There is absolutely no way in hell I’d marry into your family while you’re still breathing and philandering your way through Europe.”

“You think can just say what you want?” Fawley questioned tightly. “And get away with it?”

Harry inclined his head. “What exactly do you plan to do about it?” He leaned forward. “Are you going to whine to the Prophet? Get in line—Fudge has been doing that for months. The people of this country love me and hate me by turns through no fault of my own. I’m beyond caring what they think. I don’t care what you think either.” He sat back in his chair when the man stood and put his hand on his godfather’s arm when Sirius started to stand. “You can’t possibly think you intimidate me.”

“Dumbledore isn’t going to always be around to protect you,” Greengrass said mildly.

“He’s pretty fierce,” Harry agreed as Fawley sat back down in the wake of the Headmaster’s glare. “But I’ve faced Voldemort three times in my life on my own. In two instances, he found himself a disembodied wraith afterward and I’ve walked away from every encounter basically unharmed.” He lifted an eyebrow at Greengrass as the man visibly paled. “Maybe I’m just lucky.” With a shrug, he picked up his fork. “Now, really, you didn’t all come here to lecture me about pure-blood marriage protocols, right? Because that would be foolish since I’m not a pure-blood and incidentally I’ve made no announcements whatsoever letting society at large know I’m receptive to contract offers. I know my godfather hasn’t made any such announcements and thanks to cowardice and bigotry my parents aren’t here to make such an announcement on my behalf.”

“There was some concern that you were unaware of the… insult you had delivered with your near instant rejections,” Amelia Bones said and offered him a wry grin. “But I can see that is not the case at all.”

“It was rather insulting of them all to presume to know what sort of witch I’d want for a wife,” Harry confided. “Moreover, that I’d consider being a pure-blood the only qualification required for the Duchess of Avalon. The fact is that if I had to depend on a contract to find a wife—the list of qualifications would be longer than I am tall.” His godfather snorted and bit down on his lip when Harry nudged him. “Though thank you for not offering me Susan in sacrifice. I appreciate your restraint and good sense.” He turned to the Minister. “What do you think?”

“I was forced to marry a witch I didn’t want due to a contract,” McGregor said quietly. “It was a miserable experience for us both because she was in love with another man and carried that love until the very day she died. I’d wish it on no one. I lost the love of my life because of that contract, Harry. She hasn’t looked me in the eye in fifty-two years. Don’t let these people bully you on this issue. You owe absolutely no one anything and your choice of wife is the private business of your House.”

Harry nodded. “I appreciate your support, Minister. It’s rather refreshing actually. Minister Fudge was such a…” He trailed off. “I can’t say right now but remind me later and I’ll give you a more explicit opinion. I don’t like to say those kinds of words in front of witches. If Hermione found out, she’d be very cross with me and I endeavor to never ever make her cross with me.”

McGregor stood. “Gentlemen, I believe you’re done here.”

Greengrass, Abbott, and Fawley left their seats but Harry could tell they were all individually quite furious with him. He inclined his head as he stared at them. Then he focused on Greengrass. “Your mistress’ name is Eliza.” He looked toward Abbott. “You’ve been keeping a wizard named Christopher in rather resplendent circumstances for a decade.” And finally at Fawley. “Monica and a Muggle woman named Josephine.” They all three left, pale and furious.

McGregor snorted and pointed a finger at Harry. “You’re very entertaining.”

Harry turned his attention to his cake as McGregor left and the door was shut firmly behind him. He figured a member of the Order was outside the door waiting to escort their guests out of the house. He wondered what sort of vows the four of them had to take to even get the secret.

“I had no idea there were so many contracts,” Dumbledore said.

“I can’t see how you would,” Harry admitted. “You aren’t my guardian of record anymore, sir, and my account manager at the bank wasn’t obligated to send them to you for review. I’ve advised him that I’m not open to contract offers so there won’t be anymore. There wasn’t official policy in place before this morning so he had no choice but to receive the offers. Now he can refuse delivery before I have to insult any more ancient, pure-blood families by chastising them for trying to sell me their daughters like livestock.”

“Harry, you do realize that’s not what the contract process is, right?” Sirius asked with a frown.

“Really?” Harry raised an eyebrow. “The average bride price on those contracts was fifty thousand galleons, Sirius. I was given the results of magical tests regarding chastity and fertility on every single one of them. Each contract also included a lineage test performed by the goblins. Go try to buy a bull for stud or better yet—a fancy, pure bred dog. You’ll get the same basic paperwork on your purchase. Thanks to those contracts, I know the menstrual cycle of thirty-six girls who go to Hogwarts. I didn’t need to know that.”

“So you did read all the contracts individually?” Dumbledore asked curiously.

“Yes, of course. They were all equally horrifying but I read through them all. I also made a list of names and arranged for Dobby to pick up a neutralizing draught from the bank every morning for me to take every morning while I’m at Hogwarts. The really effective love potions might be illegal but lust and attraction potions are not. I’m not going to be tricked into sleeping with a pure-blood witch and forced to marry her by those really outdated and sexist chastity protocols.” He scrunched up his nose and glanced towards Molly who was an alarming shade of red. “Is this about the contract for Ginny?”

“Yes,” Molly snapped. “How dare you sit there and throw our traditions in our face?”

“Actually, I followed protocol to the letter,” Harry said coolly. “Since I’ve not had an official introduction society and have not indicated my willingness to entertain potential matches—every single contract sent to me was an insult to the House of Potter. I was actually very polite and didn’t take an official position on the foul and unseemly behavior of practically every single so-called pure-blood family in Britain. I haven’t even announced my courting terms, Mrs. Weasley.”

“Courting terms?” Molly asked with a frown. “What do you mean by terms?”

“I am the Regent of Pendragon,” Harry snapped, his magic shifted on his skin and his voice practically echoed in the room due to the magical weight of his claim. “There would be stringent contractual terms required of both the witch and her family. Why do you think I dismissed Stephanie Fawley completely out of hand? Her father and brother are dishonorable gits and I won’t be associated with them. The Greengrass family? There are three members of their family in Azkaban—marked Death Eaters. The witch I marry must be above reproach and her family must be honorable. Protecting the honor of my House is important, of course, but I must also consider the Pendragon legacy which stretches out behind me for thousands of years.”

“None of that would apply to Ginny,” Molly exclaimed. “We’re a Light family.”

“Sort of,” Harry agreed. “I mean, you’re the granddaughter of Lucretia Black who is frankly the darkest witch to come out of the House of Black in six hundred years. She makes Bellatrix Lestrange look like a Hufflepuff. And Mr. Weasley is the grandson of Lysdandra Yaxley who was burned at the stake for performing dark arts on corpses in 1945. Of course, I can’t hold any of that against you really, since they’re all my relatives, too. Even without the blood adoption, we’re all cousins of a sort because my grandfather Charlus married Dorea Black. So really, all that nonsense you talked over the summer about Sirius being dark because he was a Black is kind of hypocritical.” He scrunched up his nose. “Also, all of this cousin-marrying makes me extremely uncomfortable. Incest is illegal in the Muggle world, you know.”

Sirius laughed.

“I’m pretty sure that’s why squibs are being born left, right, and center in pure-blood families,” Harry told Sirius. “Hermione and I have been tracking birth records and Hogwarts enrollment—just as curiosity mind you—and the number of accidental deaths involving pure-blood children shortly before their eleventh birthday is extremely disconcerting. I guess they’d prefer a dead kid to a live squib.” He went back to his cake with a frown. He stabbed at briefly. “So, about Ginny’s contract. I said no. You can be angry or insulted if you want. That’s a perfectly valid response to rejection. I’m pretty angry and insulted myself, you see. I’m more insulted by the personal note I received from Ginny along with the contract.” He focused on Molly. “You know the one that was charmed to make me find your daughter attractive?”

Molly’s mouth dropped open. “What?”

“You heard me. The goblins are… quite furious. They have that note but I have a copy for my own records. I don’t know what was more outrageous—the attraction charm or all the ugly, unacceptable things she said about Hermione.”

“I did not charm Ginny’s letter,” Molly protested.

“No, Percy did,” Harry explained. “The goblins had no problem finding the wand signature attached to the spell or matching it with Percy since he’s an account holder. They’ve turned that situation over to the DMLE at my request—they wanted to put him on trial themselves but that would have ended really badly for Percy and it could’ve cost Bill his job which wouldn’t have been fair and Chieftain Ragnok agreed. He says Bill is a very valuable and talented employee at the bank. The goblins have invested a lot in his training and would’ve been furious with your entire family if they’d had to fire him due to Percy’s dishonorable behavior. As long as the situation remains “wizard’s business”, they can ignore it. Of course, both the DMLE and the goblins consider using behavioral charms on a noble-born wizard a very serious crime. He’ll be lucky to avoid a jail sentence.”

“Harry,” Dumbledore began with a sigh, “I’d prefer that you not press charges against Mr. Weasley for his error in judgment. He’s very attached to his younger sister and obviously just wanted the best for her.”

“Oh, I didn’t file charges,” Harry assured. “The goblins found the charmed letter before I did, you see. All of my incoming correspondence is filtered through a goblin mail ward before Hedwig brings it to me. They found the charm and were hunting for Percy when I found out about it. The only thing I could do at that point was to make sure the case was referred to the DMLE so the goblins wouldn’t behead him upon capture. Which frankly was exactly what they planned to do. I asked the Auror in charge to go easy on him but the case has already been referred to the prosecutor’s office due to the goblin certified evidence. If you want him out of trouble, you’re going to have to throw your own weight around in the Wizengamot.”

“I apologize for my son’s behavior,” Arthur said. “I’m relieved it never reached you.”

“It’s fine, I know Percy isn’t exactly… on good terms with the rest of the family. Perhaps he sent Ginny the parchment already charmed but I can’t think she didn’t know exactly what it was for. Still, she’s just fourteen so I doubt she’ll be charged by the DMLE for sending the letter. They’ll blame Percy entirely—adult influence and all of that.” Harry finished off his cake and checked his watch. “Right, so here it is and I need to be very blunt about this Mrs. Weasley. I don’t want Ginny. She’s physically attractive but she sort of reminds me of my mother and that’s creepy. No decent wizard would ever want to marry a woman who looks like his mother. I have a few pictures of my mum when she was Ginny’s age and they could pass for sisters.

“Moreover, she’s petty and mean-spirited.” He pulled a folded piece of parchment out of his jeans and unfolded it. “This is the letter she sent me attached to the contract offer your family made. Well, it’s a copy of the letter as the original is with the DMLE. In it, she spends most of her time degrading and insulting practically every single witch at Hogwarts who I’ve ever took a second look at. She saved most of her ugliness for Hermione but did take the time to assure me that Parvati Patil, whom I took to the ball last year, is a gold-digging whore and Cho Chang is and I quote your daughter here, an ignorant slag.  The problem is, of course, this letter is part of a case before the DMLE which means it’ll be read during the trial and be reported on in the Prophet. This behavior is so unseemly and damaging there is absolutely no way I could ever consider her a proper choice for my Duchess.”

Arthur cleared his throat. “Can I see that?”

Harry gamely passed it to him. “You can keep it. I won’t be responding to her personally.”

“You’re making decisions that you’re too young to make,” Albus said. “I realize you’re enamored with Miss Granger and rightly so—she’s an amazing and talented young woman but it would be best if you kept your options open, Harry. Alienating the Ancient and Noble families with your current attitude is going to win you no favors.”

“Oh, that’s not true and you know it,” Harry scoffed. “I could go over to the floo and firecall Gerald Greengrass right now and tell him I changed my mind and he’d dart over here like he was being chased by a dragon with a new contract in hand immediately. I’m stupidly famous, wealthy, and titled. Which means I’m not crazy any more – I’m eccentric and I’m not rude – I’m forthright and refreshing.”

Sirius snorted and held up a hand when Dumbledore glared at him. “You know he’s right.”

“I believe Ginny would make a proper wife,” Dumbledore announced. “She is from a Light family and those in pure-blood circles would accept the choice without rancor. Arthur will prepare a new contract offer.”

“I will not,” Arthur snapped. He put down Ginny’s letter and glared at Molly when she started to protest. “I didn’t want to offer the contract at all. Ginny is immature and ill-prepared for a betrothal. Moreover, Duke Potter has already stated very bluntly that he doesn’t want Ginny. I’ll not have my daughter forced into an arranged marriage where her husband can barely tolerate her. What sort of father do you think I am?”

Albus stared at him, flabbergasted. “It is a good match for Ginny.”

“Stop badgering him,” Harry said tiredly. “I’ll set the next contract I get sent on fire, I swear to Merlin.” He stood and held up a hand when Dumbledore started to protest. “You know that high magical art I did that activated my title?” He questioned as more than one person in the room stilled. “Right, in that ritual I made a vow on my magic and being forced into a contract would violate that vow.”

“Why would you make such a vow?” Molly asked, shocked and horrified.

“Because I will marry for love. I’m entitled to it, Mrs. Weasley. I’ve sacrificed enough for magical Britain and I’m not going to sacrifice anything else—not my life, not my future, and not my happiness with the witch of my choice. No one is going to force me to marry someone I don’t want—not without destroying my magic and most likely their own in the process.” He focused on Dumbledore who was pale with shock. “Are we clear?”

“Very clear,” Dumbledore said. “Did Miss Granger make similar vows as well? To protect herself?”

“That is not for me to say though it would be a severe mistake for anyone to try to force her will due to the wards I have placed on her. The discretion ward wouldn’t care if she were forced to marry some wizard or not. He’d never be able to consummate the union without her explicit, unforced consent. The pendant I gave her would probably make her a widow within minutes of the forced marriage being put into place. And as the patriarch of her magical House, I’ve ordered her not to remove it for any reason as long she lives. It is my duty and magical right to protect her from the unwanted attention of inferior, ignorant and certainly unworthy wizards. She’s the brightest witch of the age and I’ll have absolutely no one to abuse or misuse her.”

– – – –

Sirius found his godson in the private ritual room behind a family ward several hours later. He leaned in the doorway aware that those that were with him were unable to see into the room.

“What’s he doing?” Remus asked.

“I don’t honestly know,” Sirius admitted.

“Describe it to us,” Severus Snape suggested.

“He’s starkers for one and there are about a hundred runes active on the ritual floor. He’s standing in the middle of the circle and the magic moving around him is white—like fresh snow.”

“Ritual cleansing and healing,” Remus said. “Very difficult to cast on your own actually. Does it appear to be stable?”

“Very stable. I feel like I could enter the room and it wouldn’t interfere.” He frowned and looked towards Snape. “Did you know he was capable of such magic?”

“He’s an untainted parselmouth. He should be capable of this and far more but I didn’t realize he’d been studying it. The Headmaster had all of the books on parselmagic removed from the library during second year when Harry was revealed to be a parselmouth. Most of them weren’t kind at all in their portrayal of parselmagic and he figured it would damage Potter among his peers.” Snape frowned. “This is not the first ritual of this kind that he’s done. He’s gained weight and height—a significant amount in the past three months. At one time, he was the shortest in his year and now he’s on par with the tallest. I thought he’d had a natural growth spurt. Both of his parents were tall. You shouldn’t tell the Headmaster about this, Black, he’d be very angry. His prejudice against parselmagic is borderline psychotic to be frank.”

“He doesn’t need to know the private business of Harry’s magical House,” Sirius said. He shifted when the magic around Harry darkened to blue and he frowned. “It went from white to blue.”

“Are you fucking with us?” Remus demanded in a harsh whisper.

“No. I’m not, I promise. It went from a brilliant white to a dark blue like the ocean. There are strains of gold streaming out of him.”

“It’s magical communion,” Severus said quietly.

“Communion?” Sirius questioned.

“Merlin, Black, you should’ve taken Magical Theory. He’s using wild magic to build a core reserve. It’s the only light method available to increase your magical power but most people are so far removed from wild magic that they’re incapable of it.”

The light show ended then and Harry lifted his head. He winced at his godfather and ran hands through his hair. “Sir.”

“Get dressed, kid, you’ve got some explaining to do,” Sirius said shortly.

“Sure,” Harry agreed.

He left the ritual room a few minutes later pulling a T-shirt over his head. “I wasn’t doing anything dark.”

“I know,” Sirius said wearily. They went into the potions lab with Remus and Snape in tow and Sirius launched a privacy ward. “Tell me why you’re doing very advanced healing work on yourself, Harry.”

Harry flushed and averted his gaze. He shoved his hands into his pockets and leaned against an empty table. “Well, I was a bit underfed before Hogwarts. Not enough to ever actually starve mind you, but my aunt has always been begrudging on the food front. I came to realize she knew I needed more food than the average kid because I was magical. She was trying to… starve my magic. She wanted it to die before I ever had a chance to know I had it. What she didn’t know and wouldn’t have ever guessed is that because my mother created the wards on Privet Drive—they fed me. I’ve been reading a lot of magical theory since second year. I bought a bunch of books on parselmagic before my third year when I was on Diagon Alley. Mr. Blotts even ordered me books from abroad—Japan and Brazil especially as parselmouths are very well-received in both of those countries due to healing abilities.”

“The wards on Privet Drive were supposed to derive their power from you,” Snape said.

“Yes, and they do. They sort of became a syphon for wild magic. They’re not exactly sentient, but they’re very close to it and it was an act of self-preservation for them.  Also, they’re very attached to me on an emotional level. I think I could harvest them and put them into a rune stone. They no longer need or even want to be with my Aunt Petunia. Any affection my mother left in the wards for my Aunt has been utterly destroyed due to how she treated me as a child.”

“Did they hurt you?” Snape questioned.

“My Uncle thinks he has,” Harry said. “I mean he’s beat me once and only once. Once the wards recognized he was a threat, he never managed to land another blow and neither did my aunt. If they’d managed to hit me every single time they’d tried over the years—I’d be dead or brain damaged.” He lifted away from the table and walked over to the counter and started to pull potions ingredients. “I’m going to harvest the wards on Privet Drive over the summer. I’ve been constructing a pair of runic bracelets to house it. One for myself and one for Hermione. Our magic will feed the ward and since she’s part of my magical house—she’ll help me keep the protective magic my mother created the night sacrificed herself for me.” He sorted his ingredients, pulled a cauldron, and started to prepare the ingredients themselves.

“I was led to believe you were a below average potion’s student,” Remus said as he watched Harry deftly prepare a rare, potent variant of a pepper-up potion.

“He’s the single best brewer at Hogwarts outside of myself,” Snape said. “He has his mother’s gift for it and her intuition as well. He could take his NEWT right now and get an O. I expect him to be ready for his mastery in two years.”

“It would be bad for his cover if I were his prized student,” Harry murmured as he worked. “I’m actually fourth to Hermione in our year across the board and the top ten students are separated by percentage points. I have to do independent studies in Runes and Arithmancy to keep up the front that I’m half-arsing my education. It’s important to Dumbledore that I be ignorant, or at least that I appear ignorant. He wasn’t happy when I wanted to do the independent studies in second year but he relented when I agreed to tell no one. Hermione knows now but she’ll keep it a secret. It’s nice to have someone to talk to about the subjects instead of just the professors. She was pretty pissed about my independent study in magical theory and ritual magic with Flitwick, though but it came in handy when we had to build our ritual circle.”

“Where did you build it?”

Harry focused on Remus Lupin. “Are you asking for yourself or the Headmaster? Not that it matters, particularly, as Hogwarts won’t let him see it.” He bottled his potion but kept a single dose in the cauldron which he transferred to a glass and tossed it back. “The Chamber of Secrets.”

“I’m not spying on you for Dumbledore, Harry,” Remus said roughly. “Dumbledore told the staff that the Chamber sealed itself.”

“I sealed it,” Harry admitted. “It’s private my space and I didn’t want him or anyone else in there without my permission. I put a new password on the space in parseltongue. Well, several passwords actually. The Dark Git would have a terrible time opening it and parselmagic is defensive in nature. If he tried to force his way through—he’d end up disembodied again. Which he might appreciate. I seriously doubt he meant to come back looking like a freak in a side-show.” He picked up his potions and dropped them into the front pocket of his jeans.

Dobby appeared in front of him and preferred an envelope. Harry took the envelope and the elf popped away without a word. He opened it and frowned as he pulled the heavy parchment from the envelope.

Duke Potter,

 

You and a guest are cordially invited to the New Year’s Ball at the British Ministry of Magic.

 

The feast will begin at 7:00pm and the ball will close at midnight.

 

Lord Jonah McGregor

Earl of Dunshire

Minister

British Ministry of Magic

Harry frowned and started to dismiss it out of hand but then he remembered Hermione in that pretty dress, dancing with Viktor Krum at the Yule Ball the year before. “Dobby.” The elf appeared. “I need a quill.”

The elf rummaged through his pockets and pulled out a self-inking quill which he passed to Harry. “You have response?”

“No, I have a question for Hermione. Please wait for her response and be prepared to run any errands she might need over the next couple of days. But I’d like to know what she says before you go running off doing whatever she wants.” He passed the parchment back to the elf and Dobby popped away.

He returned less than a minute later, tugging on one ear, and huffed. “She be screaming yes over and over again.”

“Oh, good.” Harry scrunched up his nose in thought. “She’ll probably need a dress… I’ll need new robes as well. I should’ve thought this through. I hate dress robes.”

“She be really excited,” Dobby said. “Too late to take it back.”

Harry laughed. “I won’t take it back. But get ready because in less than ten minutes she’s going to realize she needs a ball gown.”

Dobby started to speak but then tilted his head. “She be calling.”

“Go ahead and remind her I need robes as well. You have my measurements, right?” Harry leaned against the counter. “Don’t let her go to Diagon Alley by herself or just with her mother—it’s dangerous.”

Chapter Four

He was eating breakfast when Dumbledore made an appearance along with a large portion of the Order. He frowned at them. “You’re not seriously going to make me leave the kitchen during breakfast so you can have an Order meeting, right? There are ten different rooms on the ground floor of this house you could use.”

“Actually, I’d like to speak with you about your acceptance of the Minister’s invitation to the New Year’s Ball this evening,” Dumbledore said. “And your intention to take Miss Granger. Don’t you think after the fiasco with the contracts that you’d be better served keeping a low profile?”

“First, those contracts are absolutely none of your business, sir,” Harry paused at the looks he got. “Second, I’m not the one who violated protocol. You know that and so do those so-called pureblood families. It was presumptuous and extremely rude for a single one of them to supersede the process established by the noble houses in 1546. They don’t have the right to be offended—they’re the ones that didn’t wait until my courting terms were announced. So if it was a fiasco, it wasn’t one of my making. Third, everyone knows that the House of Potter has no restrictions regarding blood status. Anyone who’d have a problem with me seeing Hermione Granger romantically is a misinformed, ignorant bigot and I’d not want anything to do with them to begin with.”

“So you’re just going to throw all of our traditions in our faces?” Molly asked.

“That depends,” Harry said conversationally. “Are all of your traditions built on the foolish idea that you’re superior because of your blood status?”

“It’s not about blood!” Molly snapped. “It’s about values, moral character, and modesty.”

Harry pushed aside his plate and sat back in his chair, eyes glittering with fury. Had he been adult most of the men in the room would’ve already drawn their wands. As it was, Dumbledore and Moody very discreetly did so. “I don’t like what you’re implying, Mrs. Weasley. You should be careful—you’re precariously close to insulting my Noble and Ancient house.”

“We can’t overlook that Hermione Granger was raised by Muggles. She doesn’t have our values. She’s not a proper witch.”

“My mother was raised by Muggles,” Harry said.

“I meant no insult to your mother,” Molly exclaimed.

“Sure, sure,” Harry agreed. “No need to disparage a dead woman when you can imply that my sixteen year old girlfriend is a whore.”

Sirius exhaled sharply and Minerva McGonagall huffed with building fury. Harry figured he wouldn’t even have to put Molly Weasley in her place if she kept it up because McGonagall was going to blow her top.

“You should be thinking about your future and about the kind of witch that you’ll marry.”

“What makes you think I’m not?” Harry asked and raised an eyebrow when the older woman’s mouth dropped open. “Hermione is the brightest witch of the age,” Harry began. “She’s beautiful, magically powerful, and loyal. There hasn’t been a single day of our entire friendship when I doubted her faith in me. Even when I gave her no reason whatsoever to be my friend, she has stood with me. She’s worldly, refined, complicated, even tempered, future-minded and she conducts herself like a lady. I know she will conduct herself with all the refinement required of my station. I trust her and frankly I don’t trust easily or often. She is exactly the sort of witch I can see myself married to in the future.” He stood and dropped his napkin on his plate. “She doesn’t care that I’m famous or that I have a title. She’s never been a fan. I’ve always just been Harry to her—not some ridiculous mythical fantasy she read about in picture books when she was a child because she didn’t grow up hearing fairytales about the bleeding Boy-Who-Lived.”

He focused on Dumbledore. “You’ve got an agenda. I don’t know quite what it is but I want you to know that it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to have any respect for you whatsoever. You’re going to have to make a choice soon—between me and whatever plans you made.” Harry tapped the table gently with his index finger. “I’m no longer a pawn on the board, sir. My world is black and white and I will make no allowances for grey. I’ve made the first move. You can either stand with me on my side or you can hide in the shadows like we both know most of the magical world will do and watch Riddle try to kill me. You either stand in the light with me or you don’t stand with me at all.”

Harry left the table, paused and turned. “And Mrs. Weasley, the next time I want to have a conversation about traditions and pureblood superiority—I’ll go find a Death Eater to talk to.”

“I’m not a Death Eater,” Molly shouted, horrified.

“No, you’re worse. At least they aren’t two-faced about it,” Harry said coolly and left before she could say another word.

Moody snorted. “Merlin, that boy’s got a way about him.”

“He… he…” Molly huffed.

“He certainly made himself clear,” Sirius said carefully. “And I’d like to do the same.” He stood and straightened his waistcoat before focusing on Arthur Weasley. “If your wife ever speaks of Hermione Granger in such a fashion again, Arthur, I will have no choice but to reconsider my decision to accept the House of Weasley as a cadet branch House of Black. That young woman saved my life and I owe her a Life Debt. I won’t have anyone disparage her. She is a lovely and brilliant witch whom I have a great deal of admiration and respect for. Had Harry not brought her into his own house as a protected member—I would’ve offered her sponsorship within my own magical House.”

– – – –

He checked his cuff links as he left his room and looked up to watch as the door across the hall opened to reveal Hermione. She and her parents had arrived just two hours before. They had a Ministry approved portkey for arrival and departure from the Ball that would insure they were within the security perimeter the entire time which Sirius had insisted on. She was wearing red, but he’d known that since he knew his waistcoat had been matched to her dress. It was fitted across the top with transparent straps cupping her shoulders before fanning out around her slender form in enough material to make several dresses.

“You’re beautiful.”

She blushed. “Thanks.” She held out a diamond encrusted cuff. “I can’t fasten the holster.”

He took the wand holster and wrapped it around her slim wrist. “I’m sorry. Looks like the auto-fastening charm failed. I should’ve had Griphook check before he sent the collection. Are the ear rings too heavy?”

“No, they’re feather light,” Hermione murmured as he pulled his wand and put a little sticking charm on the clasp to keep the holster secure. She reached into her room and retrieved her wand from the small table, it disappeared in a flush of magic indicating that she’d holstered it. She picked up a small box. “Griphook sent something else…”

“What?”

Hermione flushed. “It’s a promise ring.”

Harry laughed. “He’s crafty, that one.”

“Very,” Hermione agreed.

He took the box and opened it. The ring was mithril, a perfect heart-shaped ruby adorned the simple band. He pulled the ring from the bed of velvet and she took the box. “I look forward to the day I can put the ring you deserve on your hand.” He slipped the ring on her finger and it sized to fit her. “Though this is quite satisfying in the meantime.”

“Do you think we should tell them?”

“Your parents have no protection against mind magics,” Harry murmured. “I’m sure Sirius could protect himself in that regard but it seems… unfair to tell him and not tell your parents. You know?”

“I do,” Hermione murmured. “How long do you think we can keep it a secret?”

“I don’t know but I think the longer we do the more hurt we’ll cause our families,” Harry admitted with a soft sigh. “It seemed so simple… really… until I had to look your father in the eye while you introduced me as your boyfriend.”

She winced. “Yeah, that… I’ve never lied to my parents before, Harry. It was very difficult. I don’t know how I’ll make it through an entire summer with them to be honest without confessing to what we’ve done.”

“Let’s just get through tonight and make a decision after we’ve slept on it. We’ll get up early and find somewhere private to have a conversation.”

“Okay.” She paused briefly, grabbed a black velvet cloak which he took for her and folded over one arm. “Just one more thing—my mum has a camera.”

Harry laughed. “Well, I think we’ll suffer through that storm together.”

Come to find out, her mother and Sirius both had cameras. The endured nearly twenty minutes of pictures and still had ten minutes before the portkey activated. Harry could tell that Rebecca Granger wanted to take more pictures so he turned to Hermione and she raised one eyebrow at him.

“Game plan?” He questioned.

“We don’t drink or eat anything unless Dobby has approved it,” Hermione said. “We stay in the public eye and don’t allow anyone to move us into a private location. We only dance with each other. You can’t watch my back if I wander off.”

“Right,” Harry agreed as he picked up her cloak and helped her put it on. “When one of us is ready to exit a conversation—the code word is song. If someone draws their wand on you or attempts to use any magic of any kind in your direction either wandless or through some focus object… how do you respond?”

“I curse first—hard, fast, and look for an exit,” Hermione said. “Winky is my emergency travel companion in the event of anti-portkey wards.” She straightened his bow tie. “And you will refrain from losing your temper and if you find a conversation particularly vexing and wish to be extracted from it immediately – your code word is dragon. If it all possible, you’ll refrain from using parseltongue if you’re drawn into a situation where you must use magic. There is no need to reveal to anyone at this thing just how much you’ve studied on that subject. If someone brings up Umbridge?”

“Her tragic death pains me as I wish she’d lived long enough to be put in Azkaban,” Harry said promptly.

“Not particularly polite but it’s honest,” Hermione said. “But you’re the Duke of Avalon. If they don’t want your honest opinion—they shouldn’t ask you questions.”

“Right.”  Sirius said and they both turned to stare at the adults in the room—all three of whom looked a little flabbergasted. “I agree with all of that.” He stepped forward and held out two galleons. “These are emergency portkeys. They’ll bring you to this room. It the event that this whole thing goes to shite, you’re both to use these immediately.” They took the portkeys. She tucked hers into the side of her bodice and just grinned when Sirius blushed. Harry dropped his in a front pocket. “The password activation phrase is Death Eaters Suck. It needs skin contact which Hermione has resolved quite… well. Harry, you’ll have to put your hand in your pocket.”

– – – –

Sirius had stepped out of head of them in line and was introduced on his own to the crowd in the large hall. There was a little titter of excitement through the crowd as this was his first public appearance since the announcement that he was innocent.  The guard at the door gave him a nod and Hermione’s fingers clinched briefly on his arm as they stepped forward and entered the room.

“His Grace the Duke of Avalon and Miss Hermione Granger.” He ignored the flash of magical cameras as he led her down the staircase and towards the area where his godfather waited.

Twenty minutes after they arrived, they were on the dance floor pretending to ignore the stares.

“You’re doing very well,” Hermione whispered. “When did you learn to dance?”

He eyed her as he led her around the floor. “Promise not to laugh?”

“I swear,” she said with a small grin.

“Dobby and Winky taught me.” He flushed when her eyes brightened with amusement but then she looked away. “What?”

“I’ve not been a good friend to you, have I?”

“Why would you ask that?”

“You kept all of these secrets,” Hermione said.

“Dumbledore told me not to tell anyone but I made a decision some weeks ago—to stand on my own two feet and I chose who would stand with me. I meant what I told the Order, Hermione. I’m no longer his good little soldier. I have to make my own path.”

“I’ve got your back,” she whispered against his jaw.

“I know.”

– – – –

The next morning after only five hours of sleep, they met in the library. The ball had actually gone well—the meal pleasant and the conversation civil. Most of the people he’d met were unfamiliar with him and were only just meeting him as a Duke so they didn’t treat him like a child they could order about—not like the people in the Order. Curled up in the bay window, they silently reflected on the situation they’d put themselves in.

Hermione curled her fingers with his, playing really with the splay of his fingers, much longer and thicker than her own. “I didn’t consider how much it would hurt to lie. Last night, Mum asked me… after the Ball if we were having sex.”

“Sirius asked me, too, in private,” Harry admitted. “He was surprised by my answer—he says we’re too comfortable with one another physically and that it looks like we’re more intimate than we are but he didn’t think I was lying to him.”

“That’s the bond, I think,” Hermione murmured. “Magical bonds are intimate. You look at me like I’m the center of your world.”

“You are,” he admitted in a whisper and flushed when her eyes met his. He brushed hair from her forehead. “Sometimes I catch you looking at me and I feel like I could move mountains. I could stay like this with you for the rest of my life and never want for anything.”

“We have to tell them.”

“I think so,” Harry agreed. “Lying to them is… I’m ashamed of myself.”

“Then how about the two of you join us for breakfast and tell us what we need to know,” Ryan Granger said dryly from the doorway of the library. “And you can probably start with the ring you put on my daughter’s finger last night. The Prophet had some very interesting things to say about it this morning.”

Hermione glanced at the ring and Harry shrugged. “You know as much about it as I do—Griphook sent it with the other jewelry you wore last night, remember?”

“Right.” Hermione slipped out of the bay window with a blush and chewed her bottom lip nervously as her father led them down the hall and to a set of stairs that went down into the kitchen.

Harry pulled out her chair at the table and took a deep breath as he sat down. “I… we… need as much privacy as you can magically provide, Sirius.”

Sirius stared at him for a few seconds and stood. He walked across the room, pulled a landscape painting off the wall above the fireplace to reveal a glowing square stone. He cut his palm with his wand and placed it on the stone. “Clauditis descendit.”

“What was that?” Rebecca asked magic swept over the room and presumably out through the house.

“He just locked down the wards,” Harry said. He accepted the tea Hermione fixed him out of habit and focused on his godfather as the older man healed his hand. “What sort of mental protections can we offer Hermione’s parents?”

Sirius considered that for a minute in silence. “I could have… wards created for them. It wouldn’t stop the Imperius or prevent them from being interrogated by potions but it would help them keep a secret. They could be warded in such away that if they came upon a threatening situation—they’d be portkeyed to a safe location. Do you have a secret that requires that level of magical protection, Harry?”

“Yes.”

Sirius nodded. “I’ll go the bank and have something created to protect them immediately following this conversation. No magical person except the three of us will go anywhere near them until they’re protected and no one is entering or leaving this house but me until I lift the lock down.”

“I’d like to show you a memory,” Harry said quietly. “You have a projection pensieve, right? One that her parents could see?”

“Yes there are members of the Order that are squibs so we had to buy a pensieve that they could see,” Sirius admitted. He stood and disappeared into a room just off the kitchen and returned with a small silver bowl nestled in a stone basin.

Harry drew his wand as soon as Sirius placed the pensieve on the table and pulled a long silver strand from his temple. He let it pool in the bowl and sat back. “It’s not… Hermione and I want you both to know that this isn’t something we did lightly or without a great deal of thought. We really aren’t having sex, never have had sex, and currently don’t feel our relationship is mature enough for anything beyond kissing.”

“Okay,” Rebecca Granger said. “I… believe you both on that subject but there is something going on.”

“Yes,” Hermione said and touched the rune on the pensieve to activate the memory. It spilled out in the room and her parents got their first look at Hogwarts. She and Harry were walking down a hall. She slipped her hand into Harry’s and they watched the betrayal of Ginny and Ron play out before them again. She blushed furiously when she realized that Harry hadn’t ended the memory before they kissed and huffed.

“They need to see us making the decision, Mi,” Harry said quietly.

The memory ended shortly after she agreed to bond with him. Ryan Granger took a deep breath. “Sirius? Is that elf’s interpretation true? Can that red headed little fucker force a bond on my daughter and rape her, legally?”

“Yes,” Sirius said quietly. “She wouldn’t even… after the bond settled she’d have absolutely no free will at all and no desire to fight it. The law would be on his side because of his pure-blood status and she’s right, he could do it to her at any time after she turns seventeen. His age wouldn’t matter since he would be willing in the bond.”

“And what that girl has planned for Harry?” Rebecca questioned.

“Mostly true—chastity protocols would force him to marry her but his title would prevent the main part of her plan from happening. She would be chattel in his noble house after marriage no matter her blood status.” Sirius focused on Harry. “When did this take place, Harry?”

“The first week of November,” Harry said as he drew the memory out of the pensieve and returned it to his temple. “There’s more.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Sirius said. “So which rite did you use?”

Hermione flushed and glanced briefly at her parents. “I… Mum?”

“Oh, honey,” Rebecca whispered and closed her eyes. She brushed tears from her cheeks. “Whatever you did to protect yourself from getting magically and physically raped by that little bastard… whatever you did… is fine. I’ll never hold it against you.”

“Neither will I,” Ryan promised. “I swear it. Whatever the two of you have done—to protect yourselves from this bullshite has my blessing. Just tell us.”

“I’d like to show you instead,” Hermione admitted. She pulled her wand and drew out a memory of her own. “We both deeply regret that the three of you couldn’t be there to witness it. We considered asking Dobby to bring you but we weren’t sure if we could get it past the Headmaster and we knew he’d try to stop us.” She activated the pensieve again.

“Where is this?” Sirius asked.

“Still the Chamber of Secrets,” Harry said. “We redecorated a little for the event.”

The statues were draped with flowing white curtains, fairy lights danced in the air above them, and the glowing ritual circle Harry was standing in lit up most of the room. The three adults watched the bonding ceremony in stunned silence and when it was over the pensieve went dark. Sirius took a deep breath.

“I’ve never seen a bond settle like that before. Can still you feel it?”

“Yes,” Harry admitted. “It’s like we… I don’t know where her magic ends and mine begins to be honest. We don’t share thoughts but I have an emotional and physical awareness of her that none of the books talked about in detail. It’s like our souls met. Does that make any sense?”

“Yes,” Sirius murmured. “It makes a great deal of sense but it doesn’t actually… I mean you’ve both told us you aren’t sexually intimate and that sort of bond speaks to a deep and intimate connection.”

“You can check us if you want,” Harry said.

“No, lad, I’d never invade the privacy of your marriage that way and I trust your word. You told me you’re a virgin and I believe you. Beyond that, no one has the right to tell you can’t bed your own wife.” He looked at the pensieve. “Tell me about the rite you chose.”

“We wanted one that would hold up even without consummation,” Hermione said plainly but blushed furiously. “Because we… we just agree we’re not ready for that and we didn’t want to risk some sort of annulment or legal action against us that would destroy our bond. We did this when Fudge was still Minister so we had reason to worry about his special brand of crazy on top of everything else. Also, we aren’t convinced that the Headmaster is… innocent in this matter. His desire to control Harry is quite ardent. We researched permanent bonds that didn’t require sex magic to complete and settled on the Rite of Wedded Hearts. It just felt like the right one for both of us. We couldn’t have completed it together if we weren’t in the same place emotionally.”

“Oh.” Sirius blew out a surprised breath and sat back in his chair. “Merlin.”

“What does that mean?” Rebecca asked.

“The Rite of Wedded Hearts is the oldest magical marriage rite that I’m aware of,” Sirius said. “It’s soul and blood magic. And Hermione is quite right—even without consummation they are so intimately and magically entwined that their bond is practically eternal. They’ve entrenched a magical bond into the very essence of their magical souls. They’re bound in a very permanent way.”

“Like soulmates?” Ryan questioned.

“Yes, but not something born out of pre-destiny or design but one created out of a deep, mutual romantic love which does more to explain their synergy than the idea that they might be sexually intimate as we suspected.”

“Synergy?” Hermione questioned.

“I can’t really explain it,” Sirius admitted. “But your mother pointed it out first – yesterday when you arrived at the house—you just sort of moved in tandem like you were two halves of the same person being reunited. Your awareness of each other physically is preternatural and I apologize for assuming it was sexual in nature. I also understand why you want to keep this a secret. Though I’m more than willing to see Ronald and Ginerva punished for their planned transgressions against you both.”

“I think Molly knows their plans or at least part of their plans,” Harry said. “She was very invested in having me sign a contract for Ginny and I’m not at all convinced she didn’t know about the charmed parchment Percy gave Ginny to use to write her letter.” He frowned. “You said something about a story in the Prophet?”

“Yes, the ring you put on Hermione last night,” Rebecca said. “It’s an ancient promise ring—passed down through the Gryffindor line directly to the Potters.” She put the newspaper down in front of them. “Apparently, Rowena Ravenclaw wore it first as a betrothal ring and it was last seen on the hand of Dorea Black who wore it for two years before she married your grandfather, Charlus Potter.”

A picture of the two of them dancing dominated the front page of the Prophet along with the headline: IS THE DUKE OF AVALON COURTING THE BRIGHTEST WITCH OF THE AGE?

Hermione snorted. “I didn’t even get a date until after we were married.”

“That’s hardly my fault. I offered to smoother Ron in his sleep,” Harry said blithely. He turned to Sirius. “So what’s the courting process?”

Sirius smirked at him. “It usually starts with an informal agreement to see each other exclusively and the first courting gift is a promise ring—a symbol of your intentions to give the young witch in question all of your attention. After a year of exclusive dating, the wizard’s family approaches the witch’s family with a betrothal contract. The betrothal can last anywhere from six months to several years depending on the age of the two in question. Your parents didn’t court but your grandparents did. People will find the idea very charming and Hermione will be… looked upon quite favorably by the more traditional members of our society for engaging in the courting protocols. Your grandparents began courting their fifth year. He presented her with a promise ring quite unexpectedly I’m told but she welcomed his suit and they were inseparable after that. Their wedding was something of an event back in the day. Potters traditionally marry for love and there hasn’t been a contracted marriage purely for social or political gain in your family in several hundred years.”

“But there will be backlash as well,” Hermione said. “There are plenty of people who’ll find it offensive that a Muggle-born is being courted like a wizard might court a pureblood witch.”

“Surely,” Sirius agreed. “But those people suck and we don’t like them already so we don’t care what they think.”

“Okay, so is there a formal announcement to be made regarding courting?” Harry asked.

“Well, you’re no under no obligation to announce your own terms regarding the future Duchess of Avalon,” Sirius said. “As your magical guardian and legal parent, I should make an announcement regarding the fact that you’ve entered into an exclusive courting period and no contract offers during this period will be reviewed, entertained or tolerated. This protects you and Hermione from outside interest.” He paused. “Sort of, there is a challenge aspect to the courting protocols.”

“You mean some hot headed wizard might get it in his head to challenge me for her affections?” Harry asked.

“Something like that—or at least challenge you for the right to court her as well. If you get challenged, you’ll want to put down the wizard down decisively. Mark him for life.” Sirius held up a hand when Hermione stared at him aghast. “I’ve seen such situations evolve into a competition of sorts. If he puts the first down challenger like an enemy—none of his peers will look on it as a game. They won’t challenge him unless then really mean it and want you. Besides, you’re married so you can’t actually allow any other wizard to actively court your romantic interest. It’s eventually going to come out that you’re married. There is no need to start a blood feud with one of the ancient families.”

“So you’re saying that the heir of an ancient and noble family wouldn’t challenge me?”

“You’re Regent,” Sirius murmured. “It would be a great dishonor on their own noble house to interfere in your decisions or relationships. You can expect the heirs and even Lords of noble houses to approach you for alliances and formal friendships in the weeks to come.” He checked his watch. “Speaking of, the first Wizengamot session of the New Year is held at mid-day on January 1st of every year. How would you like to take your seat today?”

“Really?” Harry asked.

“As much as I wish it were different, you’re not a child and I won’t treat you like one. Send Dobby to Madam Malkin and tell him to retrieve a full set of Wizengamot robes for you. She’ll have your crest already from the goblins. She is contracted by the Ministry to provide all Wizengamot robes.”

Chapter Five

He put his hand down and covered the Potter coat of arms on his box. If he hadn’t been warned in advance magic would swell around him he’d have probably jerked his hand back. There was a gentle thud as the magic of houses settled on his box and a second seal appeared on his box. Under his fingers, a second coat of arms appeared—Pendragon. He looked up and met his godfather’s gaze and found the older man staring at him intently. Sirius gave him a firm nod.

Harry sat down and his family magic settled over the entire Wizengamot much to their shock. Dumbledore was back in the Chief Warlock seat which didn’t surprise Harry—he’d heard as much at the ball the night before. The elderly wizard regarded him with a curious expression then nodded.

“I am pleased to welcome our peer, the Duke of Avalon to the Wizengamot,” Dumbledore said formally and everyone else in the room took their seats. “As you might have noticed, the Avalon Protocols have activated. The Wizengamot, herself, has acknowledged the Duke of Avalon’s role among us. There are those of you who have questioned this situation in the last few weeks and you did research. You’ve also come to understand that not a single person in this room can interfere in the rights given to Harry Potter by blood and magic.”

Several seals lit at once but Harry just focused on Dumbledore.

“I recognize the Earl of Northshire, Gerald Greengrass.”

“Chief Warlock, surely there must be some recourse regarding his placement on this council at his current age. Magical law forbids the claiming of a Wizengamot seat before the age of twenty-one.”

“For appointed seats, that may be true but Duke Potter’s seat is not appointed, it is his by royal right and the Queen has already made herself perfectly clear on this matter. You were there, Lord Greengrass, when she rendered her decision.”

He had a transcript of that entire conversation by way of the goblins so he didn’t even bother to look concerned or curious about their secret meeting with the Muggle queen. The Lords of the Wizengamot had spent the weeks since he’d claimed his title trying to find some way to control or manage him. The last effort had been the betrothal contracts—all but the Weasley contract had a regent clause that would forfeited his seat to his future father-in-law until his twenty-fifth birthday. The other seals went dark and Dumbledore shifted several parchments around in front of him.

“The first order of business is the Marriage Law of 1836.”

A book appeared in front of Harry and opened with a swish of magic. He read through the law that was about to be voted on. It was horrific and sexist to say the least.

“As many of you know, the Marriage Law must be ratified yearly,” Dumbledore continued, off-hand as he rummaged through his parchments. “All those in favor?”

Harry frowned as everyone but Sirius voted. He raised an eyebrow at his godfather and the man inclined his head. Harry realized with some shock that his godfather was waiting for him to vote because he was senior in their political relationship. He voted no with both of his seals and the entire process came to a halt. Sirius grinned and sat back in his chair.

Dumbledore’s head jerked up. “Duke Potter?”

“Sir, when is the last time you read the Marriage Law of 1836?” Harry demanded. “Have any of you read it in even the last decade?”

Dumbledore flushed. “I can’t confirm that I’ve ever read it.”

Harry looked down at the book in front of him. “Let me read it for you, then, Chief Warlock. As a witch is to be considered marital property, no woman shall be granted the right to seek a divorce or annulment. A divorce may be granted only at the request of the husband or the witch’s father shall he be magical.” He frowned at the elderly wizard when he looked befuddled. “Do you think any single part of that is moral? Witches aren’t property and this is law is nothing more than legalized hostage-taking.”

“You’re a young man and…” Dumbledore trailed off when Harry glared at him.

“Are you saying that witches are property? Like a piece of land or a trunk or wand? Is that what you’re saying? It certainly explains the barter system you lot have going on that is masquerading as betrothal contracts. Half the men in this room offered to sell me their daughters and most of them only wanted to control my Wizengamot seat for the next ten years and fifty thousand galleons.” Harry sat back in his chair, furious. “You’re all morally bankrupt. No wonder a man like Tom Riddle had no problems branding you gits like slaves and inciting you to fight amongst yourselves like a bunch of greedy, feral children.”

The silence was deafening.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. “The Marriage Law of 1836 is hereby struck from the magical record.” He held up a hand when several seals lit. “Gentlemen, it is done and cannot be undone. Duke Potter voted with both of his seals. Whether he intended to, or not, once he voted with the Pendragon seal this matter was decided. Should anyone wish to draft a replacement law—the procedure to do so is in your handbook. You have three months to file your legal parchments before we meet again at which time the proposed law can be debated and voted on.”

It hadn’t been his intention but he didn’t regret it.

“Why bother?” Tobias Savage snapped in fury. “He’ll just veto it again!”

“Give me one good reason why you should own your wife,” Harry snapped back and Savage paled. “Just one. Why should you be able to legally hold your wife in a marriage if she no longer wants it? Why exactly are you entitled to more rights than a witch?”

“I…”
“Do you think you’re smarter?” Harry asked. “More magically powerful? Do you think because you’re physically stronger than most witches that you are better?”

“You’re creating a situation that could destroy families,” Savage finally protested.

“If you aren’t man enough to keep your woman happy, that is no fault of mine,” Harry said evenly. “If the only thing keeping families together in this country is an outdated, sexist, amoral law designed to make women slaves to the men they are often forced to marry through contracts their father arranges then it is certainly time all of you learn a new meaning to the word family. Let’s start with the knowledge that a man doesn’t own his wife and work our way towards the idea that it is inappropriate to sell your female offspring like cattle, you bleeding Neanderthals.”

“Oh, lad,” Sirius said with a sigh. “You are the light of my life.”

Dumbledore cleared his throat. “The next matter of business is the proposed change to the Diagon Alley Business Tax Assessment. Mr. Blotts, you’re granted leave to speak before the Wizengamot.”

Harry watched curiously as the man left the audience and went to stand at a podium in the center of the floor. He really hoped Mr. Blotts wasn’t an arsehole. His store was Hermione’s favorite. His book wiggled slightly and reopened again to display the agreement that Blotts was proposing changes to. It was a fairly long entry in the book. He frowned and wondered if he’d be able to take the book with him. He looked up when he realized Mr. Blotts hadn’t started speaking and found everyone in the staring at him.

Mr. Blotts cleared his throat. “I’m willing to wait to the next session if Duke Potter would like a chance to review the entire agreement.”

Harry flushed. “My apologies, I don’t mean to delay the process. I just want to be fully informed before I vote.”

“It makes you rare among your peers, Duke Potter,” Dumbledore said with a wry amusement.  “May I summarize the agreement?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“In the spring of 1982, the Diagon Alley Tax Assessment was created by the protocols to tax business owners on the Alley in order to fund advancements in magical technology which would of course lead to increased revenue and more businesses on the Alley.”

Harry nodded. “That sounds cool.”

Dumbledore smiled. “Yes. We think so, too.”

Harry folded his hands in front of him. “How many businesses have been added to the Alley since 1982?”

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. “I… well, honestly… Mr. Blotts, do you have a number for Duke Potter?”

“None,” Blotts said dryly. “Not a single business has opened on the Alley since 1980 as a matter of a fact.”

“Okay, I mean, I guess we can’t make people open businesses,” Harry said and shared a look with Sirius who looked equally perplexed. “Into what department at the Ministry does the tax revenue from this assessment go?”

“The Department of Magical Innovations,” Blotts said before Dumbledore could.

“Is there someone from that department here today?” Harry asked and a man easily Dumbledore’s age stood up and joined Blotts on the floor. “Good morning.”

“Good morning, Duke Potter. My name is Earnest Binns and I’m the Director of the Department of Magical Innovations.”

“Awesome, any relation to my history professor?”

“Yes, he’s my great grandfather,” Earnest admitted. “I apologize on behalf of my family for all the boredom you’ve suffered in his hands.”

Harry grinned. “I forgive you but I can’t speak for my peers. So, how much money is budgeted into your department every year from the Assessment?”

“Around seventy thousand galleons, which has allows us to investigate and see invented a variety of devices and concepts—first among them a multi-channel wireless and last year a magical recorder. A member of my staff is currently working on a compact, long distance version of the communication mirror. On the whole, we have three to four concepts ready for public consumption every year.”

Harry nodded but leaned forward with a frown. “I don’t… I’ve never seen a multi-channel wireless or a magical recorder. I’ve never heard of either.”

“No, I’m not surprised. I’ve not been allowed to distribute the innovations we make,” Earnest explained.

“Why?” Harry asked.

“The last two Ministers have directly interfered with the announcement and implementation of new technology because neither believed the people of Britain should embrace new ideas or technology.”

“Do you think it’s the inbreeding?” He asked Earnest.

“Inbreeding, isolationism, bigotry, and old-world snobbery,” the elderly wizard answered. “We aren’t allowed to import magical technology from other countries either. Every year we lose money on imports and even more on exports of our own new concepts and technologies.”

“Mr. Blotts, what changes were you going to propose to the Assessment?” Harry asked.

Blotts looked sort of furious. “Well, first Duke Potter, I think I speak on behalf of all the business owners on the Alley when I demand that Mr. Binns be allowed to do his bloody job properly! I’ve been trying to get a magical catalog from the U.S. for five years but the Ministry won’t accept my customs form to import it. Now I know why!”

“Fortunately, Fudge is… where ever they put corrupt, criminally stupid politicians who aren’t currently in power,” Harry said cheerfully. “Lord McGregor, I trust we can see that Mr. Binns is allowed to do his job properly from now on?”

“Aye, Duke Potter, I’ll see to it,” McGregor said with a rueful shake of his head.

“You had a second point, Mr. Blotts?” Harry prodded.

“Yes, and it’s my primary concern for being here,” Blotts explained. “Over the last five years my tax has steadily increased until this year it was double. I asked around the Alley and discovered that every muggle-born or half-blood owned business on the Alley had their taxes increased to the point of double while the pure-bloods have had the same rate for the last ten years. There is no provision for blood status in the Assessment, Duke Potter. The Ministry has been circumventing the authority of the Wizengamot in order to impose stricter taxes based purely on blood. I’m seeking reparations and a judgment on this issue.”

“I think that is actually a criminal matter,” Harry said and turned to Dumbledore. “Shouldn’t the DMLE investigate this and the Department of Tax Revenue?”

“Yes, they should,” Dumbledore agreed, obviously furious. “Amelia?”

A woman stood up from one of the Ministry seats. “Yes, of course, Chief Warlock. I’ll launch an investigation immediately and start an audit of the department and all Ministry funds with your backing?”

“You have it,” Dumbledore said. “Mr. Blotts, if you could wait until the next session for her findings?”

“Yes, of course.” Blotts nodded but paused and pulled out a brown wrapped paper package. “Duke Potter, with your permission? I assumed I would at least see your godfather today. I have Miss Granger’s recent book order.”

“Oh, sure, thank you. She’ll be thrilled.” Blotts crossed the floor and handed him the package. “Just charge it to my account.”

“Yes, of course.”

He put the package down on his desk and shrugged when he noticed several of his peers staring at him. “What? Books make her happy. If you put some thought into keeping your witches happy you wouldn’t need a law to force them to stay married to you.” He looked down at the big book the Wizengamot had given him. “Can I take this with me?”

“It’s your handbook, Duke Potter, of course you can take it with you. I’m sure Miss Granger will find it very interesting.” Dumbledore said with some amusement. He looked down at his own desk. “Next on our agenda is Nigel Whitmeyer v. the British Ministry of Magic. Madam Bones?”

The woman took the podium Blotts had vacated. “Amelia Bones, Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Nigel Whitmeyer was taken into custody on December 26h of this year and charged with battery, assault, and grievous injury of his minor son. The child’s name is under a seal for his own privacy, Chief Warlock. My brief contains a list of the child’s injuries, his treatment at St. Mungo’s and his father’s confession. We’re seeking a summary judgment from the Wizengamot as Mr. Whitmeyer has waived his right to trial.” She put a scroll down in front of her and it duplicated around the room.

Harry noticed less than half the men on the Wizengamot bothered to open it. It made his stomach hurt. He opened his and read it with a helpless fury boiling in his gut. The boy was just five years old and his father had beaten him bloody and broken three bones. He’d suffered a similar beating at the hands of Vernon Dursley around that age. He remembered the betrayal of it, the physical and emotional hurt, and the fear that lingered in him for years afterward. More, the fury remained a part of him. He put aside the brief and focused on Dumbledore who as looking at him expectantly.

“Sir?”

“A summary judgment from the Wizengamot in the past would’ve been one voted on by all members. However, the Avalon Protocols dictate that now such a judgment should come directly from you as you are the Regent.”

“What is the traditional response to this situation?” Harry asked, voice subdued.

“I hesitate to say,” Dumbledore admitted. “You will find it extremely offensive.”

“I find a great many traditions of magical Britain extremely offensive. It’s like living in the dark ages and I mean that in every single way,” Harry admitted bluntly. “Just tell me, sir.”

“Mr. Whitmeyer is a pure-blood. Per the voting record of this body for the last ten years, the most likely sentence would be no more than thirty days in a Ministry holding cell and a five hundred galleon fine.”

“And if he were a half-blood or a Muggle-born? What would they receive for the severe physical abuse of a five year old boy?” Harry asked.

“Ten years in Azkaban for the first offense.”

Harry looked toward his godfather, and found the man staring at his own copy of the brief. He turned to Amelia Bones. “Madam Bones, is this the first time Mr. Whitmeyer has been charged by the DMLE for child abuse?”

She took a deep breath. “No, Your Grace, it is not. This is the third time I’ve brought him before the Wizengamot for the abuse of one of his children. I’ve also charged him and seen him convicted with abusing his wife twice. He has served seventy-three days total for these crimes and paid two thousand galleons in fines. In the cases of his abuse of his wife, he was not given a term of confinement.”

“We should probably give her a medal for refraining from killing him in his sleep,” Harry said and Amelia inclined her head in agreement. “Lord McGregor, your thoughts?”

“He’s gaming the system, Your Grace, banking on his blood status to keep him out of Azkaban. There is no telling how often he’s beat or abused them that didn’t require a visit to St. Mungo’s for healing. He’ll kill one of them—a child or his wife eventually unless something is done.”

“Chief Warlock?”

“He’s been given many chances to correct his behavior and I, too, agree that he waived a trial because he assumed that he would receive the same as he did the last time he was before us,” Dumbledore said gravely. “While I believe in redemption, Duke Potter, one must also realize that there are those who are irredeemable.”

“Lord Greengrass, what do you think?” Harry asked and focused on the man in question.

Greengrass cleared his throat and leaned forward. “Your Grace, this body has given him more than ample chances to see himself to a mental health professional. I voted for a term in Azkaban the last time he was before us but the majority settled on a fine and in that instance he’d beaten his wife so severely that she spent three weeks in St. Mungo’s.”

“Lord Black?”

His godfather set aside the parchment with a grimace. “He’s a lousy human being, Harry, and his family deserves better.”

“Lord Savage?”

Savage blinked in surprise at being included. “Disciplining a child is a family matter but I admit this falls well outside of discipline. Upon reflection I wish I’d voted differently the last time he appeared before us.” He looked down at the brief. “This child’s arm was broken in three places.”

Harry nodded, glanced briefly at Whitmeyer and found the man pale then focused on Amelia Bones. “Is his wife here?”

“She is,” Amelia said and turned to a young woman who stood. She was easily ten years younger than the defendant. She led the woman to the witness stand. “Let the record show that Selene Whitmeyer has taken the witness stand at the behest of the Duke of Avalon.”

“Mrs. Whitmeyer, was your marriage arranged?”

She shook her head. “I’m Muggle-born, Your Grace. Such things are reserved for the daughters of pure-blood families.”

“Do you love your husband?”

Selene flushed and looked away from Harry. “At one time, I loved him very much but his behavior has killed that. You can’t love or respect a man that you fear.”

“Mrs. Whitmeyer, what do you wish of me?” Harry asked.

She looked confused for a moment then shock settled on her face. Tears welled in her eyes and her breath hitched as she blurted out, “I want a divorce.”

“You can’t divorce me, you stupid cunt,” Whitmeyer shouted and stood, wrenching free of the Auror that tried to grab ahold of him. “Leave me? You try to leave me and I’ll fucking kill you. You think this fifteen year old boy is going to save you? How dare you embarrass me like this you little–.”

“Silence!” Harry snapped as he stood and his aura flared out around him in his building temper. Whitmeyer took a step back and fell into the chair he’d jerked out of. Harry smoothed down the front of his waistcoat and his aura receded around him before regaining his seat. “Mr. Whitmeyer, like the Chief Warlock, I am a believer in redemption. I walk the path of the Light and it is always my hope that through faith and good acts that I can bring those of who have strayed off that path back into the Light. However, you’ve demonstrated repeatedly that you are unworthy of such hope and attention on behalf of society at large. You once made promises to this woman—and it is my judgment that you’ve violated every single one of those promises. Your inability to be a proper husband and father is only made worse by your heinous temper and hateful nature.”

Harry sat back in his chair and stared dispassionately at Whitmeyer. “You were given gifts that you never deserved—a woman’s love and three children. You had a duty to your family and to magic to live as an honorable man. It was your duty to protect of your wife and children from harm, you failed. It was your duty to shelter and provide for your family, you failed.”

“What would you know of fatherhood?” Whitmeyer burst out. “You have none of your own and you’re still a boy!”

“You’re right that I don’t much about what it means to be a good father,” Harry conceded and paused when one of the Aurors poked Whitmeyer with a wand. “My father died for me and my mother—he put himself between me and the darkest wizard of our time. I am alive here today because both my parents sacrificed themselves for me. His sacrifice on behalf of his family is humbling. I hope I’m half the man my father was in his final moments because he was righteous and in the Light until his very last breath. You would know nothing of that.” He put his hand on the book in front of him and it glowed briefly and flipped open after he lifted his hand way. The information he need regarding the Avalon Protocol and summary judgments was revealed. He was stunned to realize the depth of his power in the Wizengamot. He closed the book.

“Nigel Whitmeyer, as you’ve pled guilty of the gross physical abuse of a child under the age of ten, it is my judgment that you shall be remanded to Azkaban for a period of fifty years.” He paused as the gasp of shock that teetered through the audience. “Mrs. Whitmeyer’s request for a divorce is granted. All financial concerns and material assets will be given to Mrs. Whitmeyer, up to and including any monies in any vault belonging to her husband no matter the name or alias it might be listed under. She will also retain primary custody of all three Whitmeyer children unless it is proven before the Wizengamot that she is unfit.” He turned to Dumbledore and found the elderly wizard looking at him. “This is my will, Chief Warlock.”

“Your will be done, Your Grace.”

Selene Whitmeyer burst into tears.

– – – –

Harry exited the floo and into Grimmauld Place only to get an armful of his wife. “Hey.”

“You were amazing,” Hermione whispered fiercely against his cheek. “Absolutely amazing.” She stepped back, eyes shining. “Do you realize you single handedly advanced witch’s rights in Britain by a hundred years or more? You granted a Muggle-born witch a divorce against her husband’s wishes, Harry. No Muggle-born witch has ever had that—not in the history of the Wizengamot. I’m so proud. Really.”

He took a deep breath and flushed. “I just did the right thing.”

“You’ll find, Your Grace, that very few of your peers are inclined to do the right thing,” Dumbledore said gravely. “I’m ashamed that I’ve never read the Marriage Law of 1836. Please trust that you will not catch me so unaware regarding such things again. I seriously doubt that many of your peers had read the law and had no idea what it said. It’s been approved without any sort of discussion or protest for over a hundred years.”

“Come, let’s have tea. I have a tray in the library waiting on you. Where are my books?”

Harry pulled the package out of his cloak and passed it to her. “You get points for the hug before the demand for books.”

She grinned and tugged him from the kitchen and up the stairs.

Sirius shut the door behind them and activated the privacy protocols the Order used when they met in the kitchen much to the shock of everyone. Dumbledore was normally the one to do so. “What? It’s my bloody house, you know. You can’t think he does anything magically in this crypt without my explicit permission.” He huffed and shrugged out of his robe. “Let’s have a frank discussion, Albus.”

“Very well, Lord Black,” Dumbledore said.

Sirius focused on Molly Weasley. “Are you here under the impression that you can lecture the Duke of Avalon on what he said and did on the Wizengamot today?”

Molly flushed. “He was very presumptuous.”

“He was nothing of the kind,” Sirius said. “Harry doesn’t answer to anyone in that room, Molly. He ranks above us all, Dumbledore included. He is our Regent and he is at his most powerful when he’s sitting in his Wizengamot seat. No one has the right to tell Harry how to act or what to say when he takes that seat. It is beyond the pale to think otherwise. You do not question the King.”

Molly’s mouth dropped open and she turned to Dumbledore.

“I told you weeks ago when we were in my office at Hogwarts, Molly,” Dumbledore said tiredly. “Harry Potter is the Duke of Avalon. He holds regency over every magical person and creature in the United Kingdom. This isn’t up for discussion or debate. It cannot be changed or put aside because it makes people uncomfortable. It is his birth right.”

“He’s fifteen. You said yourself that he’s making decisions he’s too young to make.”

Dumbledore grimaced. “I’ve come to regret that conversation, a lot. It’s my own fault for not fully researching the matter and making assumptions about his own understanding of his title and place in the magical world. I’ve made terrible choices where Harry Potter is concerned and I’m afraid those choices will follow me for a very long time when it comes to my interactions with him. I’ve come to know that the moment he put on the Pendragon ring, a vast magical legacy began to settle on him and his mind. It teaches him in his sleep for the love of Merlin. The goblins were very blunt about the ring and the legacy. Within the next year, Harry Potter will be fully entrenched in the Pendragon legacy and he will be a force to be reckoned with. Men like Tom Riddle play at the kind of power the Regent will have at his disposal—political and magical power. Tom was arrogant, very arrogant to assume he was Harry Potter’s equal and he will pay for that assumption in a thousand ways before it is all said and done.”

“And don’t you think now is the time to insure he is properly influenced? That Granger girl has too much power over him, that’s obvious. You should work to remove her from the situation as much as possible. You’re her magical guardian, Albus. Sign a betrothal contract for her and get her out of Harry’s life so we can arrange for him to be properly matched.”

“You’re insane,” Sirius said seriously. “Don’t you know that Harry would ruin you and everyone involved in such a mess? Merlin help the wizard who ended up on the other end of that betrothal contract because he’d find himself dead on dueling stage in short order. If Harry bothered to wait for a dueling stage to be erected, that is.”

“Agreed,” Dumbledore said quietly. “Molly, Harry has made it clear he is not going to marry your daughter.”

“If the Granger girl was out of the picture, I could fix that,” Molly said hotly. “There are protocols in place that would insure it.”

“Enough,” Arthur shouted. “Molly, how bloody dare you… even think about setting my daughter up for such a thing!”

“She’d be more than willing,” Molly returned. “Ginny wants to marry Harry Potter. She expects to marry him. She deserves this, Arthur, after everything she went through in her first year. She wants to be the Duchess of Avalon.”

“It’s not ever going to happen,” Sirius said. “I mean that, Molly. If you daughter is so wrapped up in this mess that she can’t be reasoned with—I suggest you get her to a mind healer. Harry has made himself perfectly clear on his front and if you think for a second I’d allow you trap my boy into a marriage against his will then you need a mind healer, too!” He turned to Dumbledore. “You’ve lost a lot of ground with him, and I know you want it back. The best way to do that is to fully support his choices. He’s chosen Hermione Granger. She is the future of his magical house. You know very well what a Potter man is like once he sets his mind and heart on someone. This is a done deal, Albus. Moreover, her safety is paramount to his continued cooperation. If she were to come to harm—it would be extremely bad. James killed brutally in the defense of Lily and I can’t see Harry being that different when it comes to his witch. He’s powerful and you’re right—he grows more so every single day. It is Hermione Granger we can count on to keep him in the Light. Remember that.”

“I will,” Albus promised. “And I do agree with you—it’s a done deal. He’s made his choice and it is obvious to anyone who bothers to look at him. Even today, every single decision he made was made with her in mind whether that was his intent or not. And though I wished to ignore it, he set his heart on her when they were little more than first years.”

“I don’t agree to this,” Molly protested. “I won’t have that know-it-all Muggle-born getting what my Ginny wants!”

“Arthur,” Sirius said. “I’m the Earl of Blackmoor and I don’t fucking appreciate being ignored in my own goddamned house. I’ve tolerated her disrespect of me, my house, and my family for as long as I will. Understood?”

“Yes, Lord Black.”

Sirius glared at Molly when she flushed with fury. “Don’t test me, Molly.” He pulled a pack of herbal cigarettes out of his cloak and lit one with his wand and turned to Dumbledore. “You need to tell Harry the prophecy. He has the right to know what’s coming and more importantly, Albus, I think it could be an act of treason to keep it from him.”

Albus winced. “Yes, I agree with that—on both accounts. He deserves to know and it probably is treason to keep such a thing from him considering that Riddle has been resurrected.”

Chapter

“Are you ready?” Harry questioned as he curled his free hand around her hip.

She leaned back against him with a nod. “Yes.”

“Okay, take a deep breath,” Harry murmured against her neck. “Close your eyes and focus on the sharpest, brightest and happiest memory you have. Keep it brief and vivid. Don’t stray far from it. Are you there?”

“Yes,” Hermione admitted and bit down on her bottom lip. “I’m… yes. I’m there.”

“Get lost in it,” Harry instructed against her hair. “Take in the sounds and smells—all of the physical sensations of the moment. Think of nothing else.” He raised his own wand. “Ready?”

“Ready.” She lifted her wand.

“Then show me what you got,” Harry dared.

Expecto Patronum!” Hermione’s wand bucked and a lioness roared out of it. The shining silver Patronus prowled around the room much to the shock of everyone watching.

“For the record,” Remus said dryly from beside Sirius. “That’s not how I taught him.”

“That’s not how anyone teaches it,” Minerva said dryly. “Though I imagine a fair portion of the witches at Hogwarts would jump at the chance to learn if he made himself available for private lessons.”

“Don’t suggest that in front of Hermione,” Rebecca Granger warned.

Minerva snorted. “I don’t pick fights in my own pride, dear.”

A large stag joined the lioness, the click of hooves on the stone floor of the dueling room was shocking all on its own.

“What does this spell do,” Ryan Granger questioned.

“It drives off Dementors and several other dark creatures that are put off by positive emotions. Harry used this charm to save his life over the summer when he was attacked unexpectedly,” Albus explained. “It is a very difficult charm to do and most adults aren’t capable of it. I didn’t accomplish it until I was in my late twenties due to… personal grief. I’m not all surprised that your daughter has managed it—she’s quite the brightest student we have at Hogwarts.”

Ryan smiled. “She has always done well academically. I worried that it would isolate her at Hogwarts as it did in primary.”

“Her friendship with Mr. Potter made all the difference I believe,” Minerva said. “I can’t say that she doesn’t have peers that are jealous over her accomplishments and relationships but she does well.”

Harry Potter hit the floor at their feet just then and several of them jerked back.

Harry stood, dusted off his arse with a grin. “That was fantastic.”

Hermione huffed. “You’re not hurt, right?”

“Not even my pride,” Harry said and laughed when she huffed. “Again?”

“Yes, but try to cast a stronger shield this time for Merlin’s sake. That was a very lackluster effort on your part. I could’ve walked right up to you and kicked it down.”

“Now, that is just ugly,” Harry cautioned and regained his place. “Aren’t you supposed to be nice to me?”

“Nope, I read the courting protocols twice. You have to be nice to me and I have to tolerate your efforts not to be a total git.”

Hermione raised her wand, waited until he conjured a shield and front of himself and threw a series of fireballs at him with a dainty flick of her wand. Mouths all around the room dropped open. The first four broke on his shield, the fifth pushed him, and the sixth knocked him on his arse.

Harry stood, stretched and took his place, and gave her a nod. “Again and stop holding back.” He held up a hand when she started to protest. “That’s an order.”

Her gaze narrowed and she used her wand to put her hair up. “As you will, Your Grace.”

Sirius started to protest but bit it back. He knew his godson was right—he couldn’t begin to learn to defend himself if they all went easy on him. The talk about the prophecy was looming and Harry seemed to have some clue as to what it would be about because he’d insisted on being told in front of the entire Order and Hermione’s parents. He’d been forced to explain that her parents already wore heavily fortified goblin charms to protect the secrets that they already knew.

Harry hit the floor, his shield shattering with the first burst of fire from her wand. He huffed and sat up on his elbows. “That was great. Where did you learn to do that?”

She frowned at him. “Hexes, Curses, and Chain Casting by Armand Deering.” She tapped one little foot. “Are you all right?”

“Fantastic,” Harry declared and rolled to his feet. “I think I know what I’m doing wrong.” He cast the shield charm again, this time silently. It settled on him, like a gold film covering him from head to toe. “Again.”

She inclined her head. “Oh… that’s brilliant, Harry.” She lifted her wand and sixteen fireballs later, the shield still shimmered around him. “How does your core feel?”

“At rest,” Harry admitted. “I think… I’ve stumbled upon a rather daunting fact about parselmagic.”

“What?” She asked curiously. She poked him with her wand and was deflected gently. “Wow.”

“Parselmagic is wild,” Harry said and raised an eyebrow when her mouth dropped open. He held out a hand for her and she took it. They all watched in stupefied silence as the golden film enveloped her as well. “Feel that?”

“Oh, my goodness,” Hermione said wide-eyed. “This is what…”

“Yes,” Harry said abruptly. “This is exactly what I remember.”

“Remember?” Dumbledore questioned from the sidelines. “Have you manifested this shield before, Harry?”

Harry nodded but he remained focus on Hermione. “Yes, just once. I remembered it a few days ago when I was meditating. Hermione and I are pursuing our animagus forms.” He turned slightly when Minerva huffed. “We weren’t going to try without you, ma’am. We just figured it would be bad to waste your time if we can’t even reach the meditative state required to search out our spirit animals.”

“Just once,” Sirius said. “You mean…”

“Yes, the night Riddle murdered my parents,” Harry said. The shield flexed around them both, glowed brighter.

Dumbledore drew his wand. “Do you mind?”

“Just me,” Harry said with a frown and let go of Hermione’s hand. She stared at him for a minute but withdrew from the dueling space. “I can’t guarantee how I’d respond if you pointed your wand at my witch, sir.”

“If you’re anything like your father, I’d not survive it,” Dumbledore admitted. “Very few did with him.” He pointed his wand. “Ready?”

“You should activate the dueling wards just in case,” Harry cautioned.

Dumbledore nodded and erected the wards with a flick before focusing on Harry. He chain cast forty stunners one after another—the last four pushed Harry back. He cracked his neck and began again. “Moody, join me.”

Mad-Eye entered the warded area drew his wand and together they let loose. At the end of a combined one-hundred six stunning spells, Harry was on his knees panting hard but the shield was shimmering around him.

“Enough,” Hermione snapped. “You’ll magically exhaust him.”

“Quite,” Dumbledore said. “This is a fascinating discovery, Harry. Truly. I look forward to exploring it more fully and I’ll start researching parselmagic’s relationship to wild magic as soon as I can.”

“And as quietly as you can,” Harry cautioned. “Also, since certain magical bonds can cause the transference of gifts you might see if there is a way I could give parselmagic to others. Many would say no out of inherent and unwarranted prejudice but I’m willing to share it with the Light.”

Dumbledore stared at him for a moment and put away his wand. He walked to Harry and offered him his hand as the shield faded away like smoke. Harry took it and Albus helped him stand.

“You said that you’d be happy to be half the man your father was in his final moments. I want you to know, Harry, that you already are the most righteous and just person I’ve ever known. The moment you entered Hogwarts your first year, the entire castle responded to your magic and to the purity of your heart.

“Tonight, I’m going to place an immense and unthinkable burden on you. I have no choice but to do so but do know that I will stand with you in the Light until I draw my last breath. You were right, before, I had an agenda and I can’t say it served you. I believed it the right thing to do but now I stand before you—and I can’t step onto that path. There are many in this country who wish they could ignore your legacy. They’ll attempt to undermine you, control you, or destroy you because they covet your power and your relationship with magic. I’m not among them. You are the King. You are my King and your enemies are my enemies.”

Harry swallowed hard and put his hand over the top of Dumbledore’s. The Pendragon ring glowed and light arced off the ruby embedded in it. “May Magic bless us in our efforts to protect the realm of Avalon in times of peace and war.”

– – – –

“The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies… and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not… and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives… the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”

Harry frowned and sat back in his chair. Four listens and he still didn’t quite get all of it but he knew something was off about his interpretation. Hermione had a piece of parchment and she was furiously scribbling on it. Her parents were shocked silent, Sirius looked horrified. He’d known there was a prophecy but only Dumbledore, the Longbottoms, and the Potters had known the exact wording.

“Mi?”

“It explains so much,” Hermione said as she worked. “That’s why he languished without much of an existence until your first year at Hogwarts. The wards on Privet Drive probably kept him from truly connecting with you due to your mother’s blood sacrifice. Also, he’s been stymied and held back by your magical maturation which is why he had to wait until the very end of the tournament to grab you. Honestly, he’d have been better served strategically by kidnapping you during the second task but magically he wasn’t ready so he had hold off and kidnap you at the end. He couldn’t risk you leaving Hogwarts and going back to Privet Drive—it would have cut off his connection with you.”

“And he would’ve had to start over again,” Harry surmised. “Which is why he was dormant basically all of my second and third year. The diary was separate from him. Whatever I did to his spirit at the end of my first year, it took him a long time to recover.”

“Yes, exactly,” Hermione agreed. “It also explains why your scar hurts whenever you’re around him. You said it was worse in the cemetery after his resurrection?”

“Ten times worse than anything I experienced first year,” Harry agreed. He grabbed a piece of parchment and one of the quills she’d brought with her to the table. “The question is… will magic make him my equal or will it make me his equal?”

“You’re asking which one you is more powerful,” Hermione questioned. “Riddle’s casting power was below 1000 on the Myrrdin Scale when he took his NEWTs. You shot above that the first time at the end of third year—with the Dementors. Your Patronus killed several of them at the lake that night which I thought was practically an urban legend until I watched it happen. The arithmancy… well, I think the prophecy will strive to make him your equal so you can meet on even ground. But it’s a fluffy subject and I hate it.” She scrunched up her nose. “I don’t know why you waste your time with it.”

“Granted, she’s never taught me a thing but I do… I can scry,” he admitted and flushed at the looks he received from everyone including his wife. “I can read cards. Tea leaves are meaningless to me.”

“Palms?” Hermione asked with a frown in his direction.

“Yeah,” Harry admitted. “But it’s not… I see what lies beneath, not what you see. Magical people have channels and lines under the skin. I can read them—especially in the palm.”

She put down her quill and offered him her wand hand. “Show me.”

“You’re so bossy,” Harry said amused. “It’s easily the most adorable part of you. When you were younger,” he began as he took her hand turned it gently in his, “the bossier you were—the wilder your hair would be. Perhaps a magical response to your irritation? I don’t know but it was amusing.”

She huffed. “Harry.”

He focused on her palm and stared intently at the way her magic gathered in her wand hand—all the channels in her body that started in her core ended in her hand. “You’ll be capable of wandless magic after your maturation, I can see the channels expanding already. Your affinity for charms borders on a magical gift but your true talent is in transfiguration. You know that already but it’s interesting to see it reflected in your magical channels. Our fate is known the moment we are born, you know.”

“So divination says,” Hermione murmured.

Harry hummed under his breath. “This is your son.” He touched one shining line and smiled. “Our son.” He traced the line for a few seconds, oblivious to their audience at that point. “Then… oh. Twins. Sorry.”

Hermione huffed. “You should be!”

He laughed. “Girls though so at least you’ll have reinforcements.” He followed the line further. “Another boy late in life.” He followed the line along the curve of her thumb. “A grandchild—a girl, then a boy.” He noticed her fingers were trembling and he paused. “Sorry, did I go too far?”

“No,” Hermione said hoarsely. “Not at all. It’s just a relief to have some inkling that we’re both going to get out of this alive.”

“It’s more than inkling,” Harry said and let go of her hand. “I know when and how I will defeat him. I’ve known for months now. He’s not going to kill me, Hermione. I promise.”

“Are you prepared to share that vision?”

Harry turned to look at Dumbledore, glanced briefly at the pensieve the older man had used to show him the prophecy. “I believe some things are best left unsaid. Had the prophecy remained unknown, Riddle would’ve never seen me coming. It altered my path and made it twice as difficult as it had to be. The matters of Fate are best served in the hands of those who have been gifted with the knowledge.”

“What did you say to Hermione?” Ryan asked.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“The entire time you were holding her hand, all we could hear were whispering noises,” Sirius explained.

“Channel reading is very intimate,” Harry said. “Perhaps my magic responded to that to protect her privacy? I don’t know. I’ve only practiced on Dobby and we were alone.”

“You can read the channels of a house elf?” Remus asked, clearly shocked.

“I practiced most of my divination abilities on Dobby and in turn Winky when I bonded with her. My accuracy is very high now–nearly one hundred percent as long as I don’t push for information that Magic doesn’t want me to know.” He held out a hand and Remus put his hand in Harry’s. He stared for a moment, traced one long line twisting line from the top of his pinky nearly all the way to the wrist before releasing the werewolf. “You’ll have a son. His mother’s name is not for me to know but it is safe for you to have children. You won’t pass your curse to them. I seem to have a gift for tracing family lines. I was able to tell Dobby where three of his siblings were when I read his lines. I can’t see the end–your death. It’s not for me to know.”

Harry picked up the parchment that Hermione had been working with and reviewed what she’d written. “Something is missing, right?”

She nodded. “Can we listen again?

Harry activated the pensieve and it played out for the fifth time. He frowned. “What power could I have that he knows not? The prophecy says we are equal yet he outstrips me leaps and bounds in intellectual knowledge and age. If it’s just magical power then I could’ve defeated him in first year.” He focused on Dumbledore. “What do you think it is?”

“At one time I thought perhaps it was love. There is a terrible and powerful magic in love. But…” Dumbledore paused and summoned a tea cup for himself. He poured tea and sat back with it. “The first time I saw you—you were just three weeks old. Your father brought you to an Order meeting because your mother was exhausted. He was, too, to be frank. He fell asleep during the meeting when we were passing you around. When it came my turn, I honestly wasn’t going to hold you. I’d never held an infant in my life and was quite afraid I’d drop you. I figured your mother would murder me if I did.”

Harry laughed.

“But I relented and I was in for a surprise because your magic… I could feel it. I’d never felt anything like it. James was very tight lipped about it but he assured me you were quite alright. Now, I know it was the Pendragon legacy. It’s always been with you. Last week, I went to speak with your Aunt Petunia. It was a visit with several purposes. I wanted to let her know how I felt about how you were treated in her home when she promised me that she’d treat you like her own.”

Harry grimaced. “I can very well imagine how that conversation went.”

“She resents you greatly for your magic but more so because of your mother. Had I known the depth of it, I’d have never left you with her. I’m not at all ashamed to say that I knocked her unconscious and rifled through her mind. I found dozens of memories of your mother—I wanted to see if I was right and I was.”

“Right about what?”

“Your grandparents doted on Lily from the moment she was born. She was cherished, coddled, and given everything she wanted. They couldn’t help themselves and Petunia doted on her sister as well. Then her letter came. Your grandparents were thrilled to know that Lily was so special. Petunia was not. She was furious—furious that Lily was going away and she began to suspect, rightly so, that magic had influenced how everyone treated Lily. She felt manipulated and betrayed.”

Harry frowned. “That’s why I’m so famous, right? Now just because I survived the curse and Voldemort got pushed back because of the Legacy. I’ve started to remember weird things, you know. I’ve seen and interacted with magical people my whole life. I’m pretty sure Earnest Binns taught me science in Primary but he was wearing some kind of glamour. His voice was very familiar. I’ve seen most of the people in this room on a near weekly basis since I was five—on the street, in the library, and in stores. The first time I went the Alley—all the adults recognized me.” He turned to Molly. “You… set me up.”

Molly flushed. “Oh, Harry, it wasn’t malicious. Hagrid forgot to tell you how to get to the train and Albus flooed me to make sure you were okay. I couldn’t very well march up to you and order you walk through the wall. So I just walked a circle around you and talked like a fool until you noticed me. Arthur must have memory charmed half a dozen Muggles to cover for me!”

Hermione snorted then started to laugh. She leaned on Harry and laughed with absolute abandon much to everyone’s shock. “Can… you just… it must have been such a sight!”

“It was,” Molly said ruefully. “Ron was complaining, the twins thought it was a grand game and Percy was being all huffy because he was a Prefect and I was going to make him late for his meeting. I sent Albus a Howler when I got home.”

Harry nodded and turned to Dumbledore. “I trust that the oaths of the Order will prevent anyone from discussing what has happened here tonight?”

“Yes, of course. I activated the secrecy protocols before we all sat down.”

“In that case, and I mean no insult to anyone but I need to speak with a few people in private so if you could close the meeting?”

“Yes, who needs to stay?” Albus questioned.

“You, Sirius, Hermione’s parents, the Weasleys and Professor McGonagall.” He took Hermione’s hand. “And Hermione of course.” He focused on Remus. “You can stay if you want or hear about it later in private. I know you have plans.”

Remus looked down at his palm and huffed. “Saw more than you said, huh?”

He grinned. “A little. We can meet tomorrow if you’d like—perhaps it would be better that way.”

“I’ll go then,” Remus said. “But I’ll be over first thing to hear it.”

Dumbledore let the rest of the Order leave, closed the door, reactivated the protocols and retrieved his memory from the pensieve.

Harry rubbed Hermione’s ring with this thumb and magic sparked off the ruby in a little show of fireworks. “I’ve been on the fence about how to handle this and Hermione would quite honestly be entirely okay with letting it play out to the bloody end and trust me when I say the end would be bloody.” He focused on Arthur. “I believe you a good man—in fact one of the best I’ve ever known. It would frankly break my heart to ever come to believe something different.”

Arthur put a hand on Molly’s arm when she huffed and started to speak. “The Duke of Avalon is speaking to me, Molly. I would have you remember his station and ours in this conversation.” He focused on Harry. “I’d never want there to be a day when I’d break your heart, Harry. I believe myself loyal to the realm and the Light.”
Harry nodded. “Hermione, we’ll use your memory. You have better control on ending a memory at the appropriate place.”

Hermione drew her wand and pulled a long silver strand of memory out of her temple. She dropped into the pensieve and turned to Dumbledore. “Sir, I believe it best if you perform a verification charm so everyone at the table will know that the memory hasn’t been altered in any single way.”

Dumbledore nodded and pulled his wand. He pointed it at the memory. “Verum.” The memory glowed blue. “It is unaltered and almost entirely without bias. Excellent work, Miss Granger.”

“Thank you, sir.” Hermione stowed her wand and put her hand on Harry’s. She squeezed gently and Dumbledore started the pensieve. It wasn’t a very long memory—Ginny hadn’t been interested in berating her brother for long concerning his inability to follow her plan.

Molly was pale. Arthur was red faced and vibrating with fury. He turned on his wife. “Did you know? Did you know they were plotting something so unspeakably dark?”

“No.” Molly shook her head. “I swear, Arthur. I admit I encouraged Ginny to get his attention—try out for Quidditch, maybe wear a perfume with an attraction potion. It wouldn’t have worked at all if he weren’t already attracted to her—you know that.” She rubbed a shaking hand over her face. “I just made the sort of suggestions my mother made to me—act interested in the things that interest him even if they bore you silly.”

“I always knew you hated Muggle Studies,” Arthur confided. He looked at the pensieve. “Where would they even get access to the forced bonding spells? They aren’t in our library at home and surely they aren’t in any book in Hogwarts. They have no money of their own and I can’t imagine anyone helping them order such things via owl.”

“But there is a whole shelf of them in this house,” Sirius said. “I found them shortly after Harry showed us this meeting on New Year’s Day. I’ve removed them from the shelves but as you can see the damage has already been done.”

“Yes, quite,” Arthur said.

“They can’t understand what it means,” Molly said. “Surely they misunderstood or didn’t read the ramifications of the spell…”

“It doesn’t bloody matter,” Minerva hissed. “It’s dark and what Ginerva is planning is line theft.

“Yes, it is,” Arthur said. “She couldn’t have known about the title at the time of this memory.”

“It is no secret I’m the Heir to the House of Black,” Harry said. “She mentioned it on the train actually—that she’d overheard the Headmaster and Sirius talking about my being his heir.”

Arthur’s shoulders slumped. “You’re right, of course.”

“What did you mean, the bloody end?” Molly questioned.

Harry stared at her. “We took steps to protect ourselves from their plans. Hermione turns seventeen next year so we didn’t want to risk putting it off nor could we count on anyone to really help us. We knew that once the bond was in place that it wouldn’t end unless Ron was dead.” He paused when Molly paled. “I considered it a viable option, you should know that. I’ll kill him, Molly, if he ever gets it in his head to act on his obscene and foul ambitions. But Hermione wants me to keep my image as Light and as clean as possible so we researched the matter thoroughly and took a series of oaths to protect us. Those oaths are private and I will not be discussing them here tonight. The end result is, however, that should your son attempt to force Hermione to bond with him that he will forfeit his magic. Ginevra’s punishment would be far more reaching considering who I am. She’d lose her magic and she would likely be charged and convicted of treason.”

Molly glared at Hermione. “And you’d have let my son lose his magic?”

“He’s plotting to rape me,” Hermione shouted and tears welled in her eyes. She sat back in her chair, crossed her arms over her chest and turned away from them. “He’s a terrible person, Mrs. Weasley, and I wouldn’t lose a single night’s sleep if he lost his magic.”

Harry took a deep breath to calm himself down. The last thing he needed was to be reminded of what the end result of a forced bonding spell would entail. The table under his hand trembled and Hermione sat up. She put her hand on his and he forced his magic down.

“As you can imagine,” Harry said. “This situation has us both very upset. I considered Ron my friend. He was, in fact, the first friend I ever made but now I have to wonder if there was ever a single moment in our friendship that was genuine. He doesn’t understand loyalty and he has no respect for anyone—honestly not even himself. He has no honor and I find him irredeemable. He targeted Hermione because he wants to hurt me, wants to make me want something he has. It’s nightmarish on several levels, chief among them that he has no problems subjugating and raping a woman to exact some kind of revenge on me. Revenge—for what I don’t even know. I’ve done my best to be a true and loyal friend to him from the very first day—even when it was difficult. Even when I knew he was preventing me from making other friends because I thought he deserved my loyalty.”

He stood and Hermione stood with him. “I don’t care what you do to the two of them but I trust you’ll see this matter resolved quickly and quietly. It doesn’t serve our cause for there to be such discord in the Order or within the people I need to support me in the months and years to come.” He focused on Molly. “Hermione is as far you are concerned, the Duchess of Avalon, and you will treat her as such for the rest of your life. I will broker no argument and there shall never be a single moment where I’ll indulge any debate of it with you or anyone else. Am I clear?”

Molly paled as Harry’s skin started to glow with magic. “As you will, Your Grace.”

236 Comments:

  1. I don’t know why I’m tantalising myself reading excerpts instead of stories in progress, but your writing is just so good, I can’t help myself.

  2. omg love this story very well written can not wait for more xx

  3. I absolutely loved this. It is brilliant. Your portrayals of Harry and Hermoine are wonderful and you managed to believably turn Dumbledore from his agenda to Harry’s. I don’t know when you’ll have more of this but I’ll wait as long as necessary for the rest.

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