Title: Gryffindor’s Covenant
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 13,559
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse and violence against a child, bigotry, passing mention of rape, sexual harassment, and explicit language
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
* * * *
Minerva McGonagall looked over her glasses at Ron Weasley and set aside the parchment he’d presented to her. “Lord Potter’s familiar is duly registered with the Ministry and the Board of Governors. She is a protected species and bonded to him. It is illegal to separate them against their will.”
“But the thing is dangerous, it almost killed Hermione yesterday,” Ron protested.
“No, Mr. Weasley, that is inaccurate. In fact, Rowena was merely protecting Hermione in a moment of great emotional stress – to her own detriment, I might add. Elemental vipers have no offensive magic to speak of. While a witch or a wizard can channel a great deal of parselmagic through them, their own native magic is protective. That is why I purchased that snake for Lord Potter and gifted her to him on his birthday over the summer.”
“You bought that snake?” Ron asked, aghast. “Why would you buy something so dark and dangerous?”
“Because there is nothing dark or dangerous about an elemental viper unless you present yourself as a threat to someone the snake cares for. Rowena happens to like my daughter a great deal and protected Hermione. As I’ve already said. I do not enjoy repeating myself, Mr. Weasley.”
“Your daughter?” Ron asked weakly.
“My daughter,” Minerva repeated evenly. “As to that matter, I’ve told her and I will tell you—I will not approve any future romantic relationship between the two of you. You have absolutely nothing to offer her, Mr. Weasley.”
He glared at her. “My family is poor but we’re very good people.”
“Your mother is a dear friend and I do not speak of your finances,” Minerva said icily. “Hermione does not need to marry for money for she will inherit the Ross fortune, which is substantial. She will want for nothing as she leaves Hogwarts and pursues other educational opportunities. When I say you have nothing to offer—I mean you personally. You’ve no ambition, no motivation, and your laziness is only outmatched by your greed. My daughter deserves a full magical partner who is her intellectual equal. She deserves a wizard or even a witch if that is her choice who is as strong and focused as she is. Hermione is the brightest witch of the age and I will not have her potential stamped out by your mediocrity. Are we clear?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Ron said sullenly. “I understand you perfectly.”
“I’ve left it up to her as to whether or not she will remain your friend. To be perfectly frank, I would not hold out much hope for you on that front either. You hurt and embarrassed her. I doubt she’ll ever trust you again.” She pulled a piece of parchment in front of her from a stack. “Now, you didn’t do your prefect rounds on Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday evening. Why?”
Ron frowned. “Well, Hermione wasn’t here to remind me.”
“The Head Boy handed you the schedule on the train along with the new handbook you haven’t read.”
“How do you know I haven’t read it?”
She smiled at him shrewdly. “They’re charmed to let me know when they’ve been read and how often they are referred to. You haven’t even opened the cover of yours.”
“Well, I’ve been busy with class and…”
“Yes, you failed to turn in your Charms homework yesterday and you fell asleep in the History of Magic. And all of this, after I put you on probation. Your mother is going to be very unhappy, Ronald.”
“You don’t have to tell her,” Ron protested.
“I have no choice,” Minerva said. “I’ll have to let her know you’re no longer a prefect and that will impact your tuition for next semester. Prefects receive a fifteen percent tuition break for their work on behalf of the school. Something you would know if you’d bothered to read your handbook. It was also in the handbook you received last year.”
“I suppose Perfect Potter is going to take my place, huh?”
“No, Lord Potter has far more pressing duties that require his attention. The new sixth year prefect will be Neville Longbottom. The position was to be his last year, but I was persuaded by the Headmaster to allow you the privilege in the hopes that it would motivate you. We are both disappointed.”
“If Hermione had been here…” Ron began hotly.
“It is not my daughter’s responsibility to make sure you do what you’re supposed to Mr. Weasley! How dare you blame her for your laziness!”
* * * *
Hermione looked up from her book as Ron joined them at the breakfast table. He was late, even for him, but she’d been told by Neville and Seamus that he was already gone from the boys’ dorm when they’d gotten up. He’d forgotten to put on his prefect badge, again. She wondered briefly, what he’d been up to but decided she really didn’t care. Besides, it was better that he hadn’t been around when Vincent Crabbe had come over and stuttered through his apology under Draco Malfoy’s watchful eye. By the end of it, she’d actually felt a great deal of pity for him, so she’d accepted his apology as graciously as she’d known how.
Draco had given Harry an abrupt nod and hauled his housemate away without another word. She was desperately curious as to what Harry had discussed with Malfoy, Fawley, and Davies when they’d visited him. Each of them held a great deal of sway over their own houses.
“So, Harry, I heard you joined the pity-date party Longbottom and Finnegan have going on for Granger.”
Hermione felt her face heat and she moved back from the table so she could leave only to have Harry’s hand settle over hers on the table firmly. Warmth spread from his skin to hers and her stomach unclenched.
Harry slowly closed his planner and put away his quill. “Lord Potter.”
“Pardon me?” Cho asked.
“You are to address me as Lord Potter,” Harry said shortly. “I’ve not given you permission to be familiar with me, Miss Chang.” He inspected her then, hard green eyes raking over her with so much disdain that Hermione almost flinched on the Head Girl’s behalf. “I pity the helpless, the starving, and the dying. I pity the foolish and the willfully ignorant. Hermione McGonagall is none of those things and therefore does not deserve, need, or require my pity. Seamus, does Hermione need your pity?”
“Nope.” Seamus smirked. “Neville, does Hermione need your pity?”
“Nope,” Neville said cheerfully. “Though I accept hers on a regular basis when it comes to my Potions homework.”
Chang flushed with fury and embarrassment. “McGonagall? How did that happen?”
Harry stood, offered Hermione his hand and she gratefully took it. “It is not our obligation, Miss Chang, to educate you. You’re a Ravenclaw—why don’t you go the library and look up all the different ways Hermione could have gained a new last name?”
Harry held her hand all the way out of the hall, Neville and Seamus following in their wake. On the stairs, Neville called up to them.
“See, Hermione, I told you he could tell someone to kiss his arse without actually saying it.”
She didn’t expect an escort all the way to History but said nothing and paused when Seamus and Neville abandoned them outside the classroom. Harry cleared his throat and released her hand.
“It’s not pity, you know.”
Hermione blushed. “You said.” She looked away from him and took a deep breath. “Seamus and Neville are good friends. I don’t think they were doing it out of pity either. Maybe more to spite Ron at first but then after that probably to avoid having to ask a real girl on a date.”
Harry laughed. “You’re a real girl.”
“Not to them,” Hermione said. “I mean, they know I’m female but I’m their friend.”
Harry leaned against the wall as more students filed past them and checked his watch. There was still five minutes before class started and Dobby could pop him to the dueling room Flitwick had set up on the seventh floor. “Cho Chang is…”
Harry grimaced. “Perhaps on the surface but underneath all of that extensive charm work is a very ugly person. She’s a blood purist, just like her father and the only reason I’m of any interest at all is because I have money and a title. Her father offered me a marriage contract over the summer and there was an entire paragraph detailing penalties for my half-blood status. My Dad sent him a Howler. I don’t know what she knows about that; she was perfectly charming to me when we met the first day of school but she’s honestly not someone I’m interested in even being friends with.”
“No, that was pretty clear,” Hermione admitted. “I don’t think she’s had anyone talk to her that way since Cedric Diggory dumped her in front of half the school.”
“I heard he had cause.”
“You heard right,” Hermione said. “I don’t suppose his family had enough money or power for her to take seriously because she had no problems cheating on him.”
“She plays games with people and I’m not interested in doing that,” Harry said.
Hermione nodded and shifted her bag on her shoulder. “Okay.”
“I’m…” Harry laughed and exhaled sharply. “My interest in you is not… idle.” He looked over her face and watched a blush steal across her cheeks. “I think you’re beautiful and brilliant. I’m really looking forward to getting to know you.”
“I don’t even know what to say to that,” Hermione admitted as she bit down on her bottom lip. She darted forward, kissed his cheek, and rushed into her classroom before he could reply.
“I see your hunt is going well,” Draco said dryly.
Harry grinned. “Perhaps.” He grew serious. “You’ll keep an eye on things in there? A ghost teacher isn’t going to be able to do much if… I don’t trust Weasley with her.”
Draco shifted slightly and peeked into the class. “Looks like Neville is sitting with her. I’ll take the table across from her. I’d like to say the Weasel is smart enough not to mess with her now that she’s been ritually adopted but I wouldn’t bet on it.”
“Thanks.” He called for Dobby and the elf gave him a look before dutifully popping him away to the right class.
* * * *
Neville came to lunch wearing the prefect badge that had been missing from Ron’s robes at breakfast. Hermione looked so relieved that Harry wondered exactly how much of a burden it had been. He doubted Weasley had done any of the prefect work in Gryffindor and probably hadn’t the year before either. Moreover, the seventh year prefects in Gryffindor might as well have been invisible.
“Is that why she kept you after class?” Harry asked as Astoria tucked in between him and Dean Thomas. The other boy made room for the first year with a wry grin in Harry’s direction.
Neville nodded. “Remind me to read the handbook after dinner. She was quite serious about how important she thought that was.”
“So what’s going on with you, Miss Greengrass?”
Astoria scrunched up her nose. “Thomas pulled my braid but I told him he was being rude and he apologized. So I sat with him for Potions and our potion was almost perfect and Professor Snape didn’t call either one of us a dunderhead, which is a total win. In Charms, we all demonstrated that we could do the lumos charm, which you already taught us and I earned ten points for Gryffindor because mine didn’t end until I said nox. Darius Edwards from Slytherin pointed his wand at me and I told him that he was being irresponsible because you said a wand is a tool and a great responsibility. And he immediately apologized.” She beamed at him when he smiled. “What’s going on with you, Lord Harry?”
“First, I had my dueling tuition with Professor Flitwick and he was quite cruel to me. After that, I returned to my office to handle my correspondence. I received a stupidly long letter from a bloke in France who wants some of my money. He won’t be getting any of it as his business plan is sparse and unorganized. We reviewed the various summoning charms today and we all learned that Rowena is not at all pleased to be summoned.” The snake shifted from her place wound around his tie and hissed at him in displeasure. “Then in Transfiguration we were assigned an extremely long essay on conjuration.” He paused when Astoria went chalk white before a chill drifted over his bones.
He turned around and saw the current Minister for Magic standing in the entranceway of the hall with a fucking Dementor apparently on hand as his bodyguard. The man smiled broadly and headed right towards him. He knew the Minister was wearing an amulet that prevented him from feeling the effects of a Dementor but it was still creepy as fuck to have the man be so cheerful in the presence of one. Harry left the bench, shoved a near catatonic Astoria into Dean’s arms and had his wand in hand before the teachers at the head of the room even realized what was going on.
“Are you out of your mind?” Harry demanded loudly as he approached the Minister. “You brought a Dementor in here?” Half the first years were in hysterics and the older students were gathering them up quickly, pulling them towards the front of the hall.
He grabbed the man by the harm and hauled him from the hall without even looking directly at the Dementor; despite the chill in his mind and the screaming… the begging, he knew to be his mother’s voice though he no longer actively remembered her. He kept the Minister moving until they were completely out of the castle and in the courtyard.
“How dare you bring a monster into the school!” Harry shouted. “What is wrong with you?”
Fudge sputtered and jerked his arm free of Harry’s hold. “You’ve ignored all of my letters, boy, and I came here today to talk to you. I won’t be ignored!”
“You’re going to be sued for traumatizing a bunch of children by exposing them to a dark creature,” Harry snapped. “Ignore you? I have every bloody right to ignore you. You’ve tried to kidnap me six times! I had to file a protective order with the ICW so I could leave my own home because you sent a team of Hit Wizards to Paris!”
“You are a British citizen! Sirius Black kidnapped you and took you abroad!”
“My father does not need your permission to live in another country,” Harry snapped. “And I don’t either, you bastard. How bloody dare you assume to tell the Lord of an Ancient and Noble House where he can and cannot live!”
“You’re the Boy-Who-Lived! An icon and he took you from your home country. Of course, I had to get you back. I have an obligation…”
“Do not ever call me that obscene, foul name again,” Harry seethed. His magic heaved around him and he didn’t notice the Dementor rush away from them both as Fawkes arrived. Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, and Flitwick joined them at that moment. “The Boy-Who-Lived? Why in the hell would I want to accept such a horrific title? To be reminded day after day of the murder of my parents. To be known as the only survivor of the near annihilation of the House of Potter?” His magic flared out around him in a horrific display. “You… you get away from me Fudge and don’t you ever come here again. You and the Ministry you represent have broken faith with the House of Potter! You have violated the agreement between the Earl of Gryffindor and the Ministry of Magic by endangering the lives of the students of Hogwarts.” He pointed his wand towards the Dementor that was lingering near the edge of the courtyard. “And you! You go and tell all of your kind that to come here is a death sentence! Leave at once!”
“You can’t kill a Dementor,” Fudge protested hotly.
“I killed the two you sent to Potter Cottage the summer I turned thirteen,” Harry returned and Fudge paled. Harry’s aura flared wide open. “Get the fuck off my land, Fudge!”
Harry stood still, fury and magic roiling around his body, as Fudge hurried away. “Rory, Dobby, Penny, Jinx, and Lulu.” Five elves appeared immediately all dressed in Potter colors. “Dobby, retrieve the trunk from Potter Cottage with the ward in it. Rory, go to my father and tell him that Fudge brought a bloody Dementor to the school to intimidate me with it. Lulu, go teach the house elves in the kitchens here how to make your special hot chocolate. The one you make for Dad. Jinx, go to the home of Gerald Greengrass and tell him that Astoria is going to need her mother.” He focused on the single female elf remaining. “I need Healer Arnou. Tell him I need him to come immediately. Arrange his floo travel with the Headmaster.”
The elf hesitated. “Lord Potter should come home. Yous not well.”
“I have to remain here, Penny. Get Healer Arnou.” The elf popped away and Harry carefully put away his wand.
“Harry,” Minerva began.
“What do you hear when you are near them?” Harry asked.
“I…” Minerva paused. “I had two children. One died the day he was born. I often hear him crying, a sound I was denied because he was stillborn.” She cleared her throat. “Other times, I hear… I was there the day my first husband was murdered. They tortured him to death in front of me… all the while blaming me for his death because I’d had no business marrying a Muggle. What do you hear?”
“My mother begging for my life,” Harry said quietly. “Voldemort killing her. Him. Just him. Musing about my existence and fate and how he would live forever.” A weathered hand picked up his and Dumbledore pressed a rather large square of chocolate in his hand. “Fudge knows. Fudge knows exactly what a Dementor does to me because he or the Ministry paid a Healer in Paris… that summer… he betrayed his oath as a Healer and told that son of a bitch everything I’d said. Eventually he ended up in jail for it but the damage was done.”
“Your language, Lord Potter,” Minerva chastised weakly.
“My apologies, Aunt Min, I’m not myself.”
“The cause is sufficient,” Snape murmured. “He is a son of a bitch. I’ve met her—Rosemary Fudge? Deplorable woman.”
Harry laughed. “My dad hates her, too.” He bit down on the chocolate. “Fantastic, just fantastic. I wonder how many blanket forts you guys will battle with tonight.” He sighed as he spotted his father marching up the path. “Furious Black, incoming.”
“Harry.” Sirius reached out for him the moment he could and Harry was tired of being a grown man about it. He wrapped his arms around his father with a shudder of distress. “I’m going to ruin him,” Black said fiercely. His fingers clenched in Harry’s hair. “Castius is on his way.”
“My shields are gone,” Harry whispered hoarsely against his father’s neck.
“Let’s get you into a bed in the infirmary.”
“No.” Harry shook his head and took a step back. “No. That’s out of the question.”
“Harry,” Sirius protested. “You’re so pale.”
“Right.” Harry took a deep breath. He pulled his second wand; the gleaming black wood practically glowed with magic. He cast a charm with a hiss and his skin took on a healthy glow, his eyes went from dull to bright. The sheen of sweat on his forehead disappeared.
“Your lips could be a bit pinker,” Sirius said critically and inclined his head as Harry cast again. “Better. For a kid with no interest whatsoever in his personal appearance, you are extremely clever with a glamour charm.”
“I came out of the womb looking amazing,” Harry said dryly.
“You were a terribly attractive baby,” Dumbledore said. “A beard puller but very pretty.”
“He pulled hair, too,” Sirius said sadly. “Of course, he’ll still do that if you get his temper up.”
“Dumbledore!” Eliza Greengrass shouted as she stomped up the path, her husband hurrying after her. “Some house elf just came to our house and told us Fudge brought a bloody Dementor into the school!”
“Yes, that was my elf,” Harry said. “Sorry about the abrupt appearance.”
Eliza paused, flummoxed, and recovered. “Oh, no, she was quite polite and her little dress was adorable. I’m going to order some uniforms for our elves. She promised she’d come back with a catalog for the shop your House uses.” She turned on Dumbledore. “And what are you going to do about this? My Astoria was already a nervous wreck talking about Dementors! And now this! That bloody idiot Fudge!”
“Well, Lord Potter did ban him and Dementors from the school,” Snape said bluntly. “And Lord Black has plans to ruin him—though his method is a mystery.”
“I’m going to run him out of office, bankrupt him, sleep with his new trophy wife, and…” Sirius trailed off when Harry poked him. “Okay, maybe not the wife. She’s not all that attractive anyway.”
* * * *
The hall was the mess they expected it to be. Harry joined his fellow Gryffindors. Astoria abandoned them all for her mother but the rest were huddled in a little knot of limbs, their enchanted stuffed animals clutched in tight fists.
“We had the house elves retrieve them,” Hermione explained when Harry picked up Ashley, which Astoria had abandoned on her chair when she saw her parents. He handed it to Danica and watched her house mates shift closer to her.
Dobby appeared in front of with a large ebony trunk at his feet. “Healer Arnou be waiting at the Leaky Cauldron.”
Harry turned to the Headmaster and the man nodded and left the room. Harry knelt in front of the trunk and opened it with careful hands. Thirty glowing rune stones were inside; magic flowed out of it as he let the lid fall open completely.
“Merlin’s pants,” Flitwick muttered. “What is that?”
“This is an anti-Dementor ward,” Harry said and every first year in the room darted forward to look, including Astoria who had to pry herself out of her mother’s arms. “It was created at Gringotts. The House of Black has three of them and this one is mine—I had it created for the home I’m building in Godric’s Hollow.”
“You’re building a house?” Astoria asked and reached out hesitantly and touched one of the stones.
“It’s all right,” Harry picked up the stone she touched and put it her hands. “And yes, I’m building a house in Godric’s Hollow. I own most of the land there and the Ministry… well they tried to claim the cottage my parents died in and build a memorial with it. I had to tear it down to prevent it.”
“That’s horrible,” Hermione murmured and hesitantly picked up one of the stones. “But this is amazing. Are you sure you want to put the ward here? What about your house?”
“I can have another made,” Harry said as he watched her stand and take the stone to little group of Slytherins who were huddled near but separately from the rest. They crowded around her instantly to touch it.
“Why are you building a house?” Astoria asked, clutching at the stone.
“Because a man needs such a place to take a wife,” Harry said dryly. “And Potter Keep is a drafty old castle that is literally haunted.”
“I’m available for a marriage contract,” Astoria told him boldly and grinned when he laughed.
He tugged on one of her braids. “Wouldn’t you rather marry for love? I know I would.”
“My mum says that a pretty wizard is a witch’s reward for putting up with all of his bad habits,” Astoria proclaimed. “And you’re the prettiest wizard in this place… well, you and Malfoy.”
“Thanks kid,” Draco said dryly as he moved closer to look at the contents of the trunk.
Astoria smirked at him.
“Did you need help placing these stones?” Draco asked.
“We need to implant them in the castle’s foundation as evenly spaced as possible,” Harry explained. “They need contact with the building they are protecting.”
Healer Castius Arnou entered the hall at the moment, in all of his French gorgeous glory, causing several witches including both McGonagalls to do a double take. Harry would have been put out if he didn’t know that Castius preferred wizards and that he actually preferred Sirius Black above them all. He’d never put his nose in their open relationship but he did wish sometimes they’d settle down and make a proper family with him. He’d known Castius nearly his entire life it seemed and did in some respects consider him a second parent.
“I’m fine, Castius, I called you here to help with the ward,” He motioned to it spread out among the children casting most of the hall in a white glow. Harry picked up a small white trunk that was nestled among the last of the stones. “Headmaster, this is the heart of the ward. You’ll need to add it to the main ward stone of the school so you’ll be able to maintain the anti-Dementor ward along with the rest.”
“Ah, thank you,” Dumbledore said and took the box carefully. “I take it since you’ve called Healer Arnou that this ward is parselmagic?”
“Once it’s up—no Dementor will ever enter the walls of this building again,” Arnou said. “In fact, they probably won’t come within fifty meters of the castle proper. The ward will repel Dementors, lethifolds, and as Gringotts recently learned inferi.”
“Fascinating, how did the dverger develop this magic?” Flitwick asked stroking his fingers over the stone he’d picked up.
“They didn’t,” Arnou said and glanced towards Harry who shrugged. “Harry manifested the first anti-Dementor ward when Dementors attacked him and his father at Potter Cottage. After the fact, with study we learned to encase that magic in runic warding stones. It takes a full conclave of parselmouths to create a ward like this so the creation of the wards has fallen to the bank as they have the highest concentration of parselmouths trained in ritual magic.”
“Right then,” Draco said. “Note to everyone—don’t irritate Potter.”
“Did you help make this ward?” Hermione asked.
Harry nodded. “It was for my home—so yes.” He pulled out is blackwood wand as he stood. “Let’s get this thing settled before Fudge does something more stupid.”
Dumbledore immediately conjured a map of the school and directed the placement of the stones around the exterior of the castle. When everyone had the assignments, he turned to the two parselmouths in the room.
“Castius will go with you to the warding room,” Harry said. “I will go outside and make each stone a permanent part of the castle so they can’t be stolen. Each parselmouth actually speaks two dialects of parseltongue—the common tongue and his own variant. I will use my personal dialect to place the stones—no other parselmouth on Earth will be able to remove them.”
“But you…” Dumbledore said. “Would that make you a target?”
“Anyone who would use Dementors against this school is already my enemy, they just don’t know it, yet,” Harry returned evenly. “Let’s get this done, sir.”
Castius pulled out a potion vial and put it in Harry’s hand and Harry drank it without protest. He pocketed the vial for disposal later. He ignored Hermione’s questioning look and the frown that followed when he didn’t proffer an answer to her unspoken question. He really wasn’t prepared to admit how weak he was—not in front of little kids who thought him practically invincible. They needed to think he was going to make everything alright or they’d all spend weeks dealing with the fall-out of Fudge’s very brief visit.
Hermione stayed with him—watchful and but making no appearance of worry as he moved around the outside of the castle carefully using his magic to push the stones into the foundation of the castle. When he’d placed the final one near the front doors, he sat down on the stairs and took a deep breath.
“You’re barely on your feet,” Hermione said lowly.
“Just don’t let me pass out in public,” Harry said. “That’s the last thing they need to see.”
“Okay,” Hermione stood and offered him her hand. “It wasn’t pepper-up.”
“No, but a variant of it. A magical stimulant but it’s going to wear off in about thirty minutes.”
“And that glamour you’re wearing?”
“You’re too smart for my own good,” Harry murmured as they entered the school. He paused as the wards shifted around them. “It’s active.”
“Yes, I felt it,” Hermione admitted breathlessly. “I can’t believe you created something like this at thirteen. That’s amazing.”
“It was an act of love,” Harry said simply. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t let them take my Dad from me.”
* * * *
“I want the Board of Governors disbanded, immediately,” Harry said tiredly as his father manhandled him out of uniform and into a pair of pajamas. “We’ll need to do a full audit of the school trust, evaluate all of the expenses and…”
“Hush, lad,” Sirius said gently. “You’re exhausted.”
Harry huffed. “I’m a grown man.”
Sirius laughed as he prodded Harry into the bed and covered him up. “You’re being a ridiculous grown man.”
Harry blew air out between his lips as his father sat down on the edge of the bed. “Honestly, I want all those bastards fired.”
“They don’t even know how hard they’re going to be fired,” Sirius said reasonably. “I’m sorry for this. I should’ve been paying attention to the fact that Fudge was getting very frustrated with your ignoring him. We should’ve seen this coming.”
“Maybe it’s better that it happened this way,” Harry said and fought back a yawn. “We can better protect the school now that he’s violated the agreement between my House and the Ministry.”
“I don’t disagree but I hardly think a visit from a Dementor is good by anyone’s definition.” Sirius pushed Harry’s hair back from his forehead with a sigh as the last of the glamour charms Harry had placed fell due to his magical exhaustion. “Did you… was it the same?”
“Yeah, her begging him not to kill me,” Harry said lowly and averted his gaze briefly. “That’s enough to make me want to go burn down Fudge’s house.”
Sirius grinned. “I should’ve known all along what your animagus form would be. You adored fire to a scary degree even as a baby.”
Harry smiled but it fell from his face quickly. “I didn’t want her to see how weak it made me.”
“You’d do her a great disservice if you assume she’ll be put off by this. We all have our personal demons and no one is without weakness. You have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Harry huffed and one fist clenched the quilt covering him. “I just… I don’t think I fear anything as much as I fear the thought of her not wanting me back.”
“That’s pretty reasonable,” Castius said as he proffered a potion vial filled with a purple liquid. “Dreamless sleep will only be to your benefit tonight.”
Harry sat up with a frown but took the vial. “I imagine I won’t be the only one taking this particular potion tonight.”
“No, I should probably go down and see if we need to have a supply delivered,” Sirius said. “I doubt Poppy has the supplies to dose most of the children in this place.”
“Yeah, take it out of the Foundation’s budget, not the schools,” Harry said as he uncorked the vial. “Emmie.”
The elf appeared immediately. She looked him over with a critical eye. “You sick.”
“Healer Arnou will take care of me shortly,” Harry said. “I want you to keep a close eye on Hermione tonight. If she doesn’t take her dreamless potion… tell Dobby so he can report it to Aunt Min.”
Emmie nodded. “Miss Hermione be down in the common room pacing around waiting to see Lord Black.”
Harry nodded. “Very well, if you get sleepy call Kiki to help you.”
“Yes, Master Harry,” Emmie said and popped away when he gave her a little nod.
Dobby popped into the same spot Emmie had vacated and outright frowned at Harry. “You should be sleeping!”
Harry grinned at him. “I should rename you Bossy.” He downed his potion. “I’m going to sleep really hard and Healer Arnou is going to put me under a ward. I want you to stay with me tonight. Don’t let anyone but my father or Healer Arnou enter this room under any circumstances.”
Dobby nodded and snapped his fingers. A miniature bed appeared near the window and he hopped up on it. “I set my own ward after we be alone.”
“Sounds great,” Harry agreed and let his father prod him back into the pillows.
Harry stayed still as Castius cast on him, parselmagic foreign to his own drifting over his body in thick but comforting waves. Castius had been his first tutor in parselmagic. Harry had learned enough healing magic in parseltongue to give most non-parselmouth healers a run for their money by the time he was ten. He was a certified Healer as a part of the International Confederation of Wizards but it wasn’t something he spoke of often.
Once the wards were in place, he fell into a meditative state and relaxed under the protection of the two people he trusted most on Earth. Everything else fell away.
Sirius watched Harry surrender with a frown. When it was done, he allowed himself to be pulled from his son’s bedroom.
“I hate leaving him here,” Sirius said lowly.
“I know but he has Dobby.”
“It’s dangerous and foolish and I’m going to fucking ruin Fudge. I held back in the past to prevent him from trying to damage Harry’s ability to claim the Potter estate early but he’s gone too far.”
“Oh, I’m sure he’s very aware of that. Those kids were horrified and not just the youngest like Harry has talked about. The ward will negate some of the more intense nightmares but I agree that most of the first and second years should be potioned. That Dementor was entirely too close to them.” He checked his watch. “I’ll go talk with Poppy about supplies and get what she needs.”
“Right.” Sirius huffed. “I guess we should go back to Hogsmeade. I haven’t even finished telling the elves how I want it decorated. I want it to feel like home in case Harry needs a break from this bloody place.” He glanced back towards the closed door. “He’ll sleep all night?”
“Just like always,” Castius assured.
They left Harry’s suite and found Hermione McGonagall lingering at the bottom of the stairs just as Emmie said she was.
“Is he alright?” She demanded and blushed when Sirius raised an eyebrow at her. But she firmed up her lips and raised one fine dark brown eyebrow in return.
Sirius grinned at her. “He’ll be fine.”
“He didn’t seem fine,” Hermione said lowly glancing over her shoulder as she did so. The rest of the common room wasn’t paying them any attention. “He was wearing a glamour, his aura flared visible repeatedly, and his fingers were trembling by the time he pushed in the last stone.”
“I’ve put him under a parselmagic ward,” Castius said. “To protect his mind while he rebuilds his shields. Being exposed to a Dementor… is a difficult experience for Lord Potter but he will be all better in the morning.”
Sirius sighed. “You’ve studied bogarts, correct?”
“Yes, in third year.”
“What is your bogart?”
“A Catholic priest,” Hermione said and smiled sadly when Sirius flinched.
“Harry’s is a Dementor,” he said bluntly and watched her pale. “Exactly. He hears his mother murdered whenever he’s near one. It’s not an experience that he would like to repeat often. He’ll be fine in the morning and wouldn’t want to be treated like he’s fragile. He hates that.”
“Thank you,” Hermione said. “I’ll try not to be an idiot in the morning then. Should we send him dinner? Will Dobby…. I mean… should I do anything?”
“No, he’ll sleep the rest of the day and night. Dobby will see to him when he wakes up. Just try to make tomorrow as normal as possible,” Castius explained.
“Normal.” Hermione nodded, clearly accepting it as a mission. “I can do normal.”
“Sure you can,” Sirius said wryly. “The House of Ross looks good on you by the way.”
“Thank you, Lord Black.”
* * * *
Classes had been cancelled for the rest of the day, which was just as well since no one could concentrate. Hermione used the time to set herself up in the common room at a table and work on her schedule. She resolved to reread all of her fifth year books as a refresher leading up to taking her International OWLs and her new mother had already ordered several prep texts for her to work with as well.
“I suppose you’re thrilled that I lost my badge,” Ron said. “I’m going to have my mum file a complaint with the Headmaster.”
Hermione looked up and found Ron glaring at her. She sighed. “If you do, they’ll call me and I’ll have to tell them that the only prefect duty you’ve ever done was rounds and that was only because I reminded you. I won’t lie to my Mum or the Headmaster for you, Ronald. You didn’t deserve to be given the badge in the first place. I always assumed you got it out of charity. The tuition break was probably really helpful to your parents.”
Ron flushed. “You’re saying I didn’t earn it?”
Hermione huffed. “Honestly, Ron, you’re in the lower ten percent of our entire class and dead last in the grade standings for our year in Gryffindor. You’re lazy and I guess I enabled that for years. You’ve already missed turning in four assignments this year because I haven’t nagged you about them. You’ll be lucky to earn a single NEWT if you’re allowed to attend for your seventh year. At the rate you’re going, you might not even make the grades to return next year.”
She turned her attention back to her planner but he snatched it off the table and slammed it shut. “What’s wrong with you?” She demanded and grabbed the book from his hand.
“I’m talking to you and I don’t appreciate being dismissed.”
She stood and her wand slid out of her holster and into her hand with a little flick of her wrist. “How would you like to spend the rest of the week in the infirmary?” He took a step back from her. “We have nothing to talk about, Ronald. You’re a lazy git and I don’t have time for you.”
“You don’t think Potter is serious about you, do you?” Ron asked and laughed. “For the love of Merlin, Hermione, he could have any witch he wanted. Why would he settle for you? Surely you know better than that.”
She couldn’t help but flinch and that made her furious because Ron knew he’d gotten to her. She could see it in his smirk and his eyes—dark with anger and something else quite ugly.
“I happen to know a lot of things,” she finally said. “I know amazing things and I know really horrible things. I know what’s it like to be hated for being smarter than most of the people around me. I know what it’s like to get punched in the face by my own father. I know how it feels to play a piece of music so beautiful that you can’t help but cry and you don’t even care who sees you. I know what it’s like to be looked down for merely the fact that I was born of Muggle parents. I know how amazing it is to finish a book and start a new one almost immediately. I know you’ve never in your life been a true friend to a single person. I know you’re a jealous, inferior wizard who thinks the entire world owes him a living.” She poked him in the chest with her wand and he paled. “I know that if you don’t get out of my face I’m going to curse you so hard six generations of your ancestors are going to sit up in the Weasley Family Crypt and demand to know what happened.” She poked him again. “That’s what I know, Weasel.”
“You’re going to regret this.”
“No, I’m not, Ronald. That’s the difference between you and me. I’m capable of rational thought. I’m capable of considering all of my available options and making an intelligent choice based on available evidence. I can predict the outcome of practically every conversation we’re going to have as long as you live. You’re going to walk away from every single one of them a loser. Because that’s what you are… a loser.”
* * * *
“Look, Hermione, all I’m saying is that you shouldn’t get your heart set on someone like Harry Potter. He’s just out of your league.”
Hermione hesitated in her strokes but looked resolutely in the mirror as she brushed her hair. Part two of the Weasley onslaught had begun, she thought. She preferred to shower at night and unfortunately, Ginny Weasley did too, so she often found herself in the younger girl’s company.
“Out of her league?” Lavender Brown asked as she came out of a shower stall in a dressing robe, her hair up in an enchanted towel. “Hermione is an heiress to an extremely powerful magical legacy and a bloody fortune. She is literally the smartest witch of our generation and touted by most as the second coming of Rowena bloody Ravenclaw. Even before her adoption, she was regarded by a good portion of the wizards in this castle as the catch of the decade!”
“Her magical adoption doesn’t change the fact that she’s a Muggle-born. And frankly, since McGonagall herself was a half-blood it doesn’t add much weight to that argument legally. Harry Potter is the Heir to the House of Black and he’ll probably be forced to marry a pure-blood to keep that title,” Ginny said. “Besides what does Hermione have in common with a man like Harry Potter?”
Fay Dunbar who was sitting at one of the vanity tables in the room turned on the stool. “Oh, let’s see—he’s brilliant, she’s brilliant. They both clearly love to read as I rarely see him without a book in his hands. The first thing she did practically upon meeting him was volunteer to go with him to Potter Redoubt—a cause that everyone knows is near and dear to him. She expressed sincere interest in taking her International OWLs and NEWTs, which he considers extremely important.
“Though it honestly doesn’t matter what we think they have in common—he’s obviously very taken with her. She’s pretty much all he looked at the first night and he’s already maneuvered his way into a date with her. He sits with her in every class they share and let’s not forget the thing with his familiar.” Fay raised an eyebrow. “Do you see any other witch in this castle besides Astoria Greengrass even getting to touch Rowena much less wear her like a piece of jewelry?”
Hermione blushed. “Rowena likes me.”
“Yes, his elemental viper likes her,” Fay said with a smirk and turned back to the mirror. “You girls might want to look that particular subject up. Elemental vipers are territorial and they rarely tolerate anyone outside of their bonded.”
“Then there is Crabbe’s apology,” Parvati said. “It was hardly the first time he’d pointed his wand at Hermione but he apologized the next day. Frankly, I was half-afraid he was going to piss himself during that. Harry just stared at him the entire time. He wasn’t apologizing to Hermione because he was in the wrong—he was apologizing because he’s petrified of Potter.”
“It’s just a date,” Hermione said softly. “And I think I might have berated him into it. I was just so mad.”
“No,” Lavender said. “You didn’t berate him into anything, Hermione. I was there when that whole thing went down. He’s just completely gone on you. He barely took his eyes off you that first night, you know.”
A squeak caught her attention then and she turned to find Ginny trying to climb up on the sink. Rowena was slithering across the cool tiles of the bathroom—easily six feet long. Hermione crouched as the snake approached—hissing the entire time.
“Hey, Rowena.” She held out her fingers and the snake immediately shrank down to her smallest size and wrapped herself around Hermione’s wrist. “Lonely? I bet you are but Harry’s Dad said he’d wake up like normal in the morning. So you don’t have to worry.”
Parvati leaned in. “Do you think she understands you?”
Hermione shrugged. “Seems rude not to talk to her when I know how intelligent she is. Besides—I think she can understand English. She knew—well she was just as mad at Goyle as I was. I think she knew what he said and I think she told Harry, too.” She inclined her head. “Let’s do an experiment.”
Everyone but Ginny gathered around.
“Rowena, can you wiggle your tail?”
The snake obligingly moved her tail.
“Flick my wrist two times with your tongue.” She grinned when the snake did as instructed. “Okay, two flicks for yes and one for no. Is Harry sleeping?”
“Do you need your warming charms renewed?”
“Well you can stay with me until Harry wakes up.” Hermione lifted her hand and the snake slithered around her neck with a contented hiss.
“I rest my case,” Fay said dryly.
Ginny huffed. “It’s just a stupid snake.”
Rowena reared up and her hood snapped open in obvious anger.
“It’s alright, Rowena, we know you’re not stupid,” Hermione said with a glare towards Ginny. “You realize she’s going to tell Harry you insulted her?”
Ginny flushed. “She’ll probably forget about it in an hour so. I doubt she has any sort of long term memory.”
Rowena hissed at Ginny again.
Hermione patted her head and the snake calmed down. “Really, Ginny, she knew how to find me. She remembered how I smelled before my adoption because she told Harry that I smelled different to her afterward. I’d have thought being a pure-blood; you’d have a little more respect for a wizard’s familiar. Even Crabbe took the time to apologize to Harry for pointing his wand at her.”
She picked up her brush and put it in her toiletry kit before pulling out a length of silk to wrap up her hair. Something her new mother had purchased for her with the appropriate enchantments for Hermione’s hair.
Ginny frowned at her for a few seconds then seemed to shake off her obvious irritation. “When are you going to forgive Ron?”
“I’m not,” Hermione said bluntly. “He’s a horrible person and he’s made me miserable for the last time. Besides Mum disapproves of the friendship because Ron is a lazy git and she’s already told me that while she might tolerate it if I continued to be his friend, he would never be welcome as a romantic partner.”
Ginny’s mouth dropped open. “Does my Mum know this?”
“It was discussed after my adoption and since your Mum is a part of our coven, yes she’s aware.”
“You joined the Rowan Circle?” Ginny demanded, clearly outraged. “You’re not old enough! Most witches have to spend a decade as an acolyte to the coven before they’re considered for membership!”
“I joined the coven, yes.” Hermione finished tucking her hair away. She packed away the rest of her things. “It was required as part of the adoption ritual. My adoption was both blood and magic. I’m now the daughter of Minerva McGonagall, High Witch of the Rowan Circle and I took my place at her side in the rituals of the coven. I am her heir within the coven as well, you see.”
“That’s just the limit,” Ginny snapped and stalked out of the bathroom.
“I don’t know why you put up with her,” Fay said. “She’s a little bitch.”
“Fay!” Hermione admonished.
“No, seriously,” Parvati said. “She’s rotten and spoiled. More than that, she makes a hobby out of tearing you down—just like her brother did. They can’t stand how smart you are. They resent your accomplishments and Ginny has a mean, ugly streak that even Ron can’t compete with.”
Hermione sighed. “Harry sent me a note over the summer but Ginny convinced me that it couldn’t have possibly been him and that someone was obviously playing a joke on me so I didn’t send my response. Then I saw Hedwig that first night and I realized he had sent me a note. I was mortified, I mean, I ignored him and sent his father a thank you card in the same week. He never even brought it up.”
“His reaction to Cho was stunning,” Fay said with a smirk. “I don’t think she’s been quite put in her place like that since Cedric dumped her after he caught her in a broom closet with Terry Boot. That slag. How she could cheat on Cedric Diggory is a mystery I’ll personally never solve.”
“It was an extremely poor decision. I’d heard he was considering offering her a promise ring,” Lavender said. “He had it all picked out and everything.”
“So you think Ginny wants Harry,” Hermione said. “That’s what that pure-blood nonsense was really about, right? I’ve met Lord Black—he seemed to be aware of Harry’s interest in me and he wasn’t at all concerned about it. But then it’s just a date and it isn’t like Harry is considering marrying me or anything.”
“Harry is a half-blood,” Lavender pointed out. “If there were any blood restrictions in the House of Black—Lord Black wouldn’t have been able to even claim Harry as his heir. I honestly wouldn’t worry about it. That’s Harry’s business and he’ll handle it how he sees fit. He wants you, Hermione. He looks at you like you’re the only witch in this whole school. Enjoy it and enjoy his attention. Don’t let Ginny’s dragonshite get to you. For all we know Potter came here to meet you.”
“Meet me?” Hermione frowned. “Why on Earth would he have done that?”
“Right,” Fay said with a laugh. “Why would a wealthy, intelligent young man about to enter the marriage market seek to meet the brightest witch of the age? I wonder how many marriage offers McGonagall will have to put off for you this year alone.” She smirked when Hermione looked at her horrified.
* * * *
Harry entered the hall with just thirty minutes left before their first class of the day. The sight that greeted him was rather a shock. He knew Rowena was with Hermione—he always knew where the snake was. He just hadn’t expected to find his familiar wrapped up around Hermione’s rather elegantly arranged hair. Rowena looked to actually be a part of the intricate braid that the witch had wrapped into a bun on her head.
Hermione was on the far end of the table nearest the teachers’ table and Hedwig was perched on a short, obviously conjured perch peering at Hermione’s book with her. Neville and Seamus were seated across from her watching the display with some interest.
Harry slid into place beside her at the table. “Hermione—do I want to know how you got Rowena to do that?”
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him as she looked up from her book. She started to close it but Hedwig barked at her in reprimand. She flushed. “Sorry, Hedwig.” She turned the book so the owl could continue to look at it and pinned Harry with a look. “I know she understands English. We’ve already had several conversations this morning.”
He barely managed to keep his mouth shut. Though all magical snakes had the innate ability to understand other languages they didn’t often have conversations with anyone couldn’t speak their own language.
He eyed his familiar. ”What are you on about, Rowena?”
“Your witch is smart. I not ignore her when she asks questions.”
“Fair enough. Remember to keep my secrets.”
She hissed at him for the insulting reminder and tucked her head up under Hermione’s bun in a pout.
“You hurt her feelings,” Hermione said with a frown.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “How do you know that?”
“She’s all stiff like she got last night…” She trailed off and glanced down the table.
“Last night when what?” Harry asked tightly. “Did someone hurt her?”
“Physically, of course not. I would have told you immediately. Someone said she was just a stupid snake. Rowena didn’t like being called stupid that’s all.”
“No sentient magical creature would,” Harry said. He reached up and touched his familiar. “Come here, sweetheart.” Rowena slithered gently out of Hermione’s hair and onto his fingers. “How are your warming charms?”
”Your witch renewed them this morning,” Rowena admitted.
Harry hid his surprise. “Who said you were stupid?”
“Wheezy girl. Emmie be right. She mean girl. She tell your witch that you out of her league and that you never marry Muggle-born.” Rowena lifted in her head and her hood opened slowly in display. “Wheezy girl want you but I not like her. She smell cruel.”
“You know I have no interest in that foolish little girl, Rowena.” He stroked her head with one finger and tilted his head. “Did Hermione cast a cleaning spell on you?”
“Yes, her magic tickles. She borrow book about snake care from the library.”
“Did you want to go back to being a hair ornament for her today?” Harry asked, clearly amused.
“Stay visible—show everyone Hermione is yours,” Rowena said decisively. “Report back later on any competition from other males.”
Harry laughed. “Right.” He lifted his hand and let Rowena slither back around Hermione’s braided bun. He turned to Hedwig. “And you—you’ve already read that book.”
Hedwig barked at him imperiously.
“She’s not your book stand,” Harry reminded her sternly. “Your perch upstairs is all set up for you. Dobby put a new book in for you this morning.” He raised an eyebrow when Hedwig cocked her head. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Volume Two by Newt Scamander.”
Hermione huffed as Hedwig lifted off the perch and immediately flew for the magical window at the top of the hall. She vanished the perch she’d conjured for the bird and turned to Harry. “Can I borrow that when she’s done?”
“We’d be better off buying you your own copy,” Harry said. “It took her two years to read the first volume because she kept going off to find the creatures after she read about them. That’s why I don’t always use her for my post. She’s… a bit of an adventurer and I don’t have the heart to force her to stick around in case I need to send a letter.”
“Wait, your owl actually reads?” Dean asked, shocked.
“How else would she deliver mail?” Harry asked. “As to her extra reading—that is not my fault. Well, not entirely my fault. She was an odd bird when Hagrid gave her to me. About six months after I got her, she was attacked by another bird and came home injured. She couldn’t fly for nearly two months while her wing healed. We had to have parts of it regenerated. At any rate, I started reading aloud to her because she looked depressed. Eventually she got tired of me reading to her and started sitting on my shoulder to read on her own.”
“You have two familiars,” Neville said. “Post owls get really smart when they’re bonded.”
“No wizard can have two familiars,” Ron said snidely. “That’s just stupid, Neville.”
“Actually, Ronald, you’re wrong.” Hermione glared at him when he started to speak. “Powerful wizards can have up to three fully developed familiar bonds. Just like mage level wizards can have multiple house elves.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Even most pure-blood wizards can rarely support more than one house elf.”
“So, you’re saying that because my mother was a Muggle-born that I couldn’t possible support more than one house elf,” Harry said pushing aside his breakfast.
“Don’t be insulted, Potter. It’s not a big deal. It’s just one of those things. I don’t care that you’re a half-blood or anything.”
“I’m the last Potter. True?”
Ron frowned. “True. Everyone knows that.”
Harry exhaled sharply. “Potter elves to me.” Elves dressed in red and black started to pop in all around them, crowding three rows deep around the table. Fifty-six in total. “Any questions, Weasley?”
Ron gapped at him. “What… how… can you have so many elves?”
“Harry Potter be powerful—elves from all over the world come to him and request to join his family and take care of him,” a little female elf said. “We work on the Potter Farm, at Potter Redoubt, and in Godric’s Hollow, and Master’s businesses and at the Lily Potter Foundation—do lots of charity and volunteer work around the world.”
Harry grinned at her. “This is Star; she’s actually the Head Elf and has been with the Potter family for two hundred years.
“Hello, Star,” Hermione said. “Your dress is adorable.”
“Good morning, Miss Hermione,” Star said without missing a beat. “Stevie at the Tailor Shoppe in Paris be making all of our uniforms. We also provide uniforms to all elves in France. We make lots of money for the Foundation in wizarding fashion, too. We make you nice dress when you come to Paris.” She inclined her head. “Can elves be going, Lord Potter?”
“The rest can go. You stay a minute.” He patted the bench beside him as she snapped her fingers. The other elves popped away immediately.
She climbed onto the bench, summoned herself some tea and prepared a cup. “Is Master Harry enjoying Hogwarts?”
“It certainly has its high points,” Harry allowed. “Did you have time to start that list I asked for before the end of the year?”
“I’m nearly be done,” Star said. “I had to stop working on it to go Godric’s Hollow. I not be knowing why Master Harry put Torrie in charge of decorating new manor grounds when Torrie not know Devil Snare from Whomping Willow.”
Harry laughed. “Oh, come on, Torrie is not that bad.”
“You say that now but when you garden be a disaster and you can’t get married in it because you future wife be horrified by the wizard-eating plants in it you be blaming yourself and not Star.”
“That’s a deal.”
She huffed at him. “I be keeping an eye on you both! Otherwise I not being able to look the Lady Potter in the eye the rest of my life.”
“I’m sure the Lady Potter will be just as thrilled with you as I am,” Harry said. “Now any problems?”
“Just Torrie and his foolishness,” Star said seriously. “Next time I goes back there I expect to be finding a real dragon. Maybe I be taking Mr. Hagrid with me for protection.”
“I don’t know,” Harry began. “If Torrie got me a dragon to play with—he might become my favorite.”
She snorted. “Everyone be knowing Emmie be your favorite!” She vanished her tea cup. “You be late for class if you not go now.”
“It’s like I’m not even the boss of you,” Harry said dryly as he stood and everyone around them stood as well.
“I the boss until you get married then your Lady Potter be the boss,” Star said with a little laugh and popped away.
“That sounds about right, mate,” Neville said as they left the table.
“The wizard should be in charge in the marriage,” Ron said as they left the hall and rolled his eyes when Hermione glared at him.
“Right because that’s how it worked out in your family,” Hermione sniped. “I’ve met your mum, Ron.”
“You’ve got daft ideas, Hermione. But it’s not your fault—I mean you were raised by Muggles.”
Harry took her hand as they both stepped over the trick step on the shifting stair case and went to the next level. “A marriage should be a partnership, Weasley. A man that goes into it expecting to subjugate his wife for a lifetime is just asking to be miserable or in a grave depending on the woman. Though I suppose—in some cases a quick death might be a relief.”
“What was up with showing off like that in the hall,” Ron demanded as they entered the classroom for Transfiguration.
“I wasn’t showing off. I was making a point,” Harry said as he pulled out Hermione’s chair for her. “I consider it one of my duties to the world to attempt to broaden the narrowest of minds whenever I can.”
* * * *
Hermione plucked up the last book she needed for her essay and hesitated briefly before approaching the table that Harry Potter had staked out for himself in the library. He’d been especially brilliant in Arithmancy earlier in the day and she had some questions about a theory he’d mentioned in class but she’d also heard he’d rather abruptly rebuffed Ginny’s attempts at studying together. Granted, she was a year below him but it was pretty common for students prepping for their OWLs to seek out a sixth year student for extra tuition if time permitted.
Harry looked up at that moment and seemed to immediately focus on her. She wondered at that, he’d demonstrated a level of situational and environmental awareness that bordered on military. It made her very curious about his private studies and why his father had felt the need to train him in such a way. The headlines about the banishment of Voldemort’s spirit her third year flitted through her mind and she wondered how much he’d had to do with that. He’d have been just thirteen years old… and Lord Black had proven to be nearly rabid in the protection of his son. She had to think he would’ve never allowed Harry to participate in any of the rituals that had taken place to prevent the Dark Lord’s return.
Harry raised an eyebrow at her and stood. She quickly found herself divested of her stack of books. “Do you often stand in the middle of the library lost in thought with a pile of books?”
She blushed. “I… shut it.”
He laughed and motioned her to follow him. He put her books across from his own workspace and pulled out a chair for her. “Join me.”
She took a seat but didn’t speak until he’d sat down as well. “Why are you taking private dueling with Professor Flitwick?”
It hadn’t been what she’d intended on asking but she couldn’t figure out how to ask him if he’d been in some sort of war. The whole thing was ridiculous. There hadn’t been any sort of serious combat in the magical world since the 70s.
“I’m working on my Mastery in Dueling. It is a tradition in the House of Black to dabble in the professional dueling circuit. Most of the competitions don’t require a Mastery but the big ones do. I’m already very close to qualifying as a Master in the subject and since I have access to one of the best duelers on the planet, it seemed prudent to accept the time and attention he offered me.”
“Why didn’t you take your NEWT in DADA while you were in Rome then? Surely you’d do well.”
“The practical part, yes, but not the theory.” He pulled his wand and cast a charm as he spoke.
“What was that?” Hermione asked.
“Mixture of privacy and silencing charm that way we won’t get in trouble with Madam Pince for talking.”
“Mum said you were an Occlumens.” Hermione glanced over the books. “And as such you had a near perfect recall.”
“Auditory, yes. I rarely have to be told the same thing twice but the written word… the memories tend to blur together if I try to use my mental organizational skills in that manner. I have to learn the material just like anyone else. Occlumency can improve memory skills to an untold degree but you’re still dependent on the limits of your own mind.”
“You’ve answered every single question put to you in class accurately.”
“I could say the same about you,” Harry said with a grin. “It’s a useful skill but one I originally learned to protect my mind from outside influence. I have a lot of political and financial power. It was important to protect the legacy of my House and to insure that I was never influenced in a way that would be detrimental the House of Potter.”
Hermione nodded. “Okay.” She started to arrange her books by subject. “What are you working on?”
“I need to proof my Transfiguration essay and I just finished the Arithmancy problems we were assigned this afternoon. I outlined my Charms essay before I went to dinner.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow and pulled out several pieces of parchment from her bag. “How about I proof your Transfiguration essay and you proof mine?”
“That’s a deal,” Harry agreed.
They worked in silence for a long time and she made a few notes on a piece of parchment about his essay, which were more for her on purposes than his. She pointed out a few sections that could use some filling out and he wrote three questions on a piece of parchment that he placed on top of her essay when he handed it back. She stared at the questions and inclined her head as she considered the ramifications of the answers on the content of her essay and her opinion on the laws of conjuring. She had another day to consider the topic so she nodded and it aside.
“Ginny Weasley.” She blinked when he actually grimaced. Ginny was actually quite popular with the boys in the castle. She was pretty, athletic, magically gifted, and smart enough to do well but not intellectually threatening. “She… she’s very interested in you.”
“I couldn’t be less interested in her if I actually put in an effort,” Harry said dryly. He sighed. “Did she say something to you?”
Hermione felt her face heat with a blush she couldn’t stop. “Yes, but it’s hardly the first time. She’s quite… well, she’s never had a problem saying exactly what she thinks.”
Harry nodded thoughtfully. “Then I can just imagine what she might have said to you. She made it pretty clear to me what she thought of our upcoming date and what she listed as your failings. Chief among them that she thought you were boring.”
Hermione huffed but shrugged. “Perhaps I am.”
He looked around at the almost empty library. “Nearly every sixth year in this place is taking Transfiguration and all of them were assigned the same essay as you and I. How many do you think have even started them much less finished?”
“Most the Ravenclaws probably,” Hermione said. “But that’s about it. Quidditch try-outs are approaching so people are either practicing their broom skills or watching others do it. It’s pretty standard for this time of the year actually.”
“Right. The thing is that Ginny Weasley assumes that she and I have a lot in common. We don’t. I do love Quidditch. I love flying. Academically, I suppose she’s interesting enough but…” Harry shrugged.
“What?” Hermione asked, genuinely curious.
“She’s rather boyish,” Harry admitted. “There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and I’m sure plenty of men find her physically attractive but I don’t.”
“She uses more cosmetic and glamour charms than practically anyone I know,” Hermione said.
Harry sighed. “I find glamour charms terribly distracting actually but I wasn’t talking about how she presents herself. She makes the most of what she has both physically and magically.”
“Then I don’t…” Hermione blushed and laughed as she finally caught his meaning. “Harry James.”
“I can’t help it,” Harry said with a laugh. “My Dad said I was breast fed.”
She sputtered. “You…” Hermione covered her mouth to keep from laughing because Ginny was quite small in that particular area and wouldn’t even need a bra in the Muggle world. “That’s…” She looked down at her own chest. Her own endowment was modest but she had enough to fill out a jumper and a sundress properly. She was a full b-cup when she wore a bra, which she didn’t have to do at school since support charms were much more comfortable. “Right.”
He laughed. “Yours are quite nice if you’re interested in knowing that.”
“Lavender is bigger,” Hermione blurted out.
“Oh, I took note of that,” Harry said with a grave nod. “It’d be hard not to.”
She huffed but laughed when he just smirked. “You’re such a boy.”
“Well, yes,” Harry said. “But it’s not just about Ginny’s physical attributes or… lack thereof.”
“I find her genuinely irritating,” Harry admitted. “She’s rather abrupt with the younger students, granted she’s better than Ron, who has the social skills of a feral hippogriff, but it’s not by much. I also don’t have the time or the inclination to make time for someone who’d go out of her way to degrade a person she’s supposed to be friends with.”
“I thought… well, I thought we were friends but that’s not really the case,” Hermione said. “She’s no more friend than Ron ever was. I feel like a fool.”
“Don’t,” Harry said gently. “It’s hardly your fault they’re such poor human beings.”
“Quite nice, you said?”
His gaze dropped down briefly and he wet his bottom lip. “Yeah, great actually. I should be ashamed of myself for objectifying you like this.”
“But you’re not,” Hermione said, too amused to even pretend to be offended.
“You can objectify me if you want,” Harry said with a little grin. “I’ve been reliable informed that I’m attractive.”
“Witch Weekly?” Hermione asked and laughed when he nodded.
“And the editor of Play Witch,” Harry said and laughed when her mouth dropped open in shock. “That expression of disbelief on your face is insulting.”
“You’re just sixteen,” Hermione protested.
“But I’m magically and legally an adult,” Harry said and grew serious. “And that matters to an untold degree in the magical world. Due to my title, I can’t risk… being alone in an intimate circumstance with an underage witch without parental consent. So, don’t be offended if you aren’t invited into my quarters until after your birthday.”
“The magical world is so different from the Muggle world. Sex appears to be rather casual after the age of consent and yet marriage and bethrothal contracts are thrown around like confetti on a regular basis,” Hermione said. “I can just imagine how that could be used against you because of your adult status.”
“Oh, I’m sure more than one witch in this castle has been tasked by their parents with the goal of getting into my bed which would lead nowhere without a pregnancy,” Harry admitted. “But I’m not going to let anyone take my choices away from me. I don’t intend to be involved with any underage witches and I have a parselmagic contraceptive charm in place. I’m not particularly worried about that sort of accident happening.”
“Could you be potioned or cursed?”
“Potioned, no. My ring is charmed to alert me if I have a potion in my hand no matter the context. Cursed? I’d like to see someone try.” He frowned. “I’m of the curse first, ask questions if they wake up school of thought.”
“I think I should attend that school,” Hermione said. “Ron would be unconscious a lot.”
* * * *
Harry found Minerva McGonagall in her private office across the hall from the Transfiguration classroom. He cleared his throat and rapped his knuckles against the door frame.
She took off her reading glasses as she waved him in. “You look nervous. Did you break something that can’t be fixed?”
Harry laughed and shook his head. He pulled the door shut behind him and took a deep breath. “I…” He dropped down in the chair she motioned him to and exhaled sharply. “I have a date with Hermione to Hogsmeade.”
“Yes, even the DMLE is aware,” Minerva said dryly.
Harry laughed and flushed. “I asked her before she was adopted, of course, but I feel like I should ask your permission or speak with you about… well. Just well.” He waved a hand in the air. “I’ve never had to do this.”
Minerva laughed. “Look at you, you’re a nervous wreck.”
He almost glared at her; instead, he slouched down in the chair and pouted. “Aunt Min, that’s just mean.”
Minerva sat back in her chair. “Okay, two questions.” She paused and didn’t continue until he nodded his agreement. “Are you serious about getting to know her?”
“You have secrets,” Minerva said. “Some I can speculate on and some I can’t. You have responsibilities in the magical world that stretch far beyond this school. Can I trust you to be as honest with her as possible?”
Harry nodded. “Yes, ma’am. I’d never want to be dishonest with either one of you. Yes, I have secrets. There are some things that I’d like to speak with you about eventually but there are other things I’d prefer to never discuss again with anyone. There are… very unfortunate situations in my past but that’s done and magic willing it will never be revisited.”
“You speak of Voldemort.”
“Yes,” Harry said with a nod.
“What of your conclave?” Minerva asked.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware that you… of course, you know. I suppose Armand Dearing told you?”
“He had no choice, lad, I asked for the Glain Neidr’s assistance in cleansing my ritual circle over the summer and he had to put me off because their High Warlock was in Canada. He felt they would need your extra power to accomplish what I needed done.”
“Why does your space need to be cleansed?” Harry asked surprised. “The Rowan Circle has used that land exclusively for two hundred years.”
Minerva nodded. “Yes, but I discovered that two members of my coven were using the space for less than savory rituals. Nothing dark, mind you, but toward the darker end of grey and I cast them out over the summer.”
Harry nodded. “Right.” He reached into the inner pocket of his robe and pulled out his planner. “I’d need the full conclave to do a renewal of that nature and magnitude. Did you wish to have your coven participate in full or mostly observe?”
“A mixture, I should think. I’d like Hermione to be included, she needs the experience in such matters,” Minerva said and pulled out her own planner. “And, of course, you may date my daughter. I trust you’ll treat her with the care and respect she deserves. Also, she could use a buffer between her and that Weasley boy.”
“I’m precariously close to cursing him impotent for the rest of his natural life,” Harry admitted. “And his sister… well don’t be surprised if she breaks out in a case of magic resistant acne.”
Minerva snorted. “I won’t. Ten points for your forethought and planning. Gryffindors so often rush off without a plan of any sort.”
“I made a list.” Harry paused. “It’s fourteen inches long at this point.”
“Oh, lad, you’re a wizard after my own heart.”
Harry grinned. “If I was twenty years older and you were twenty years younger, I’d chase you about this castle.”
Minerva laughed. “You cheeky little thing.”
Harry just smirked. “I’ve seen pictures of you, you know. I don’t know how you managed to get through life without four or five husbands.”
“Hush,” Minerva said sternly but ruined it by smiling. “Now, I can arrange a gathering in October or November.”
“October works better as we have a full moon on the 26th which is a Saturday. The full moon in November is on a Monday. The one in December is the day before Yule. I trust you’ve asked this of my conclave because of our parselmagic.”
Minerva nodded. “It is not well-known but the Rowan circle as founded by a female parselmouth. She did most of the initial spell work and it lingers in the space even today. In order to fully clean the space, I need that spell work renewed as well.”
Harry leaned forward and put aside his planner. “There was a parselmouth in the House of Ross?” He held out his hand was gratified when she immediately placed hers in his. “Have you ever been tested for latency?”
“No, up until a few years ago even being latent would’ve been damaging to me socially,” Minerva admitted. She took a deep breath as he pulled his blackwood wand and drew a series of runes on the surface of her hand with his magic. “Sometimes, lad, you blow my mind.”
Harry grinned at her. “I’m hoping to get that same sort of reaction from your daughter eventually. She’s horrifically difficult to impress.”
“I’ve never seen anyone handle runic magic the way you do,” Minerva admitted.
“My mentor says that my gifts with runic magic border on… innate. It comes very easy to me, far easier than any other magic I’ve learned over the years.” He bit down on his lip as a diagnostic spun out between them, filling the air with glowing purple runes. He reviewed it as a matter of course but he already knew the results. He could feel it. He felt it the moment he’d drawn the first rune as he’d glanced just lightly over her magic. “You’re… latent.”
“Oh.” Minerva took a deep breath as Harry dispelled the runes with a slash of his wand. “That’s… what do I do about that?”
“It’s a personal choice, Aunt Min. Waking your parselmagic at your age wouldn’t be dangerous to your health and it has the potential to be a very rewarding experience. However, it would also open your core to magical gifts that might be difficult to adjust to. I don’t know what impact it would have on your animagus form, if any. Most parselmouths are snakes.”
“You aren’t,” Minerva said.
“And I suffered for it,” Harry said simply. “You might even say I earned my form through that pain. Maybe that was for the best, actually. If the pain had been too much then I wouldn’t have had the fortitude or the self-control to be what I am.”
Minerva nodded. “Very well, I’ll think about it. In the mean time, let’s plan for October. I’ll have the potions prepared…” She trailed off when he shook his head. “No?”
“No, it’s best if they’re made by a parselmouth. Some members of my conclave are profoundly paranoid when it comes to our ritual magic and the potions that are used. Healer Arnou has a Mastery in Potions. I’ll send him a list and we’ll plan for… there fifty-three men in my conclave at present including me.”
“My coven has eighty-seven members, including Hermione who is the youngest witch in our circle and the first to be added in over ten years.”
Harry nodded. “Let’s brew for a hundred? You said you didn’t intend for your entire coven to be included.”
“Myself, Hermione, and my inner circle number just twenty-one witches,” Minerva said.
“Seventy-four,” Harry murmured. “I’ll round up to a hundred just to be safe. Better to have too much than not enough. If you haven’t already ordered one, you need to get Hermione a ritual robe with the appropriate protections in place to shield her from magical intrusions.” He blushed. “I mean, I wouldn’t do it on purpose but I’m attracted to her and my magic would respond to that if we were in the same ritual.”
Minerva nodded. “I understand, lad. You can trust that I’ll take care of my daughter and her magic in such circumstances. Such magical intimacy is not to be casual.” She paused. “I trust that you’ll take care with that in your interactions with her in the future.”
“Of course, Ma’am, I’ve never…” He shook his head. “I’ve never let anyone have that sort of access to my magic ma’am and I wouldn’t intentionally touch her that way or any other without her explicit consent. Sharing magic is more intimate than sex.”
“Yes, it is,” Minerva agreed. “I’m glad you think so. Some young people take such things for granted.”
“Then they are foolish and need to be educated,” Harry said. “The first thing my dad taught me about my magic is to guard it as I would my life.”