Title: Hermione’s Choice
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 11, 549
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse, violence against a child, bigotry
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
* * * *
Dobby had a pain potion and a pepper-up potion waiting for him when he woke. Harry rolled over and reached for the mirror that his elf must have removed from his transfigured clothes sometime during the night.
His Dad’s face appeared immediately. “Are you alright? Dobby said you were exhausted and you went to sleep before he even got you under the covers.”
“She’s beautiful,” Harry murmured. “So bright and lovely, just like I remember. She kept looking at me and blushing and calling me Lord Potter and she’s lovely, Dad.”
Sirius’ face relaxed and smiled. “Well, then, look at you all infatuated with your witch.”
“Not just any witch and not mine yet,” Harry said. “As to my exhaustion, some vicious bitch in Slytherin convinced all the first years they’d have to fight a dementor to be sorted. I thought they’d be okay after being sorted but… it was bad. Aunt Min said they were all in various states of hysteria after their curfew. The little Slytherins holed up in one room, made a blanket fort, and set up wards!”
Sirius laughed. “Brilliant but horrible at the same time.”
“The Hufflepuffs were trying to sleep in shifts and the Ravenclaws—two of them wore themselves out trying to cast the Patronus Charm. In Gryffindor, I’d imbued a stuffed unicorn with the charm and McGonagall saw it. One thing lead to another and I ended up casting it ten times in about an hour.”
“Not good in relation to our chain apparation yesterday morning,” Sirius said bluntly. “But I can’t say I would’ve done any different. I hope they’re going to punish that girl.”
“She’ll pay for it one way or another,” Harry assured him. “She was apparently wearing a prefect badge so all those kids took her at her word.” He checked the clock across from his bed for the time. “I have about an hour before breakfast. What’s on your agenda for the day?”
“Got business in London for the morning and I’ll be checking out that house in Hogsmeade that we’ve had our eye on. I’d like to have a safe house close by.”
“Sounds good. Say, is there a music shop in Hogsmeade?”
“There is,” Sirius said with a grin. “Regretting leaving it behind?”
“No, I wouldn’t have wanted it damaged in transport and it doesn’t have the right charm work for these temperatures but I figured you might pick one up that did? I have room for a baby grand in my suite—my personal common room is pretty large.”
“I’ll contact Minerva about permission to bring one then.”
“Say, if you could get one with thunderbird feathers in the keys instead of unicorn hair that would be great. The one in Paris is unicorn…”
Sirius eyed him. “If I pull that off would it be better than the snake Minerva bought you?”
“Sorry, but probably not. I’d still be really pleased though.”
“Some might say you’re spoiled rotten.”
Harry grinned. “No, I’m just well loved.”
His suite was divided into three rooms—an office, a common room, and sleeping quarters. In his sleeping quarters, was a door that lead to a narrow hallway that ended up in a communal bathing area that he figured he was sharing with the rest of the boys in Gryffindor. He warded the door before investigating the hall to prevent anyone from entering his quarters. His theory was confirmed when arrived with his toiletries in hand. He picked an empty stall and latched the door.
“Oi, Potter, is that you?”
Harry paused in his pouring of shampoo. “Huh, yeah?” He seriously hoped he wasn’t about to be offered a hand with his morning routine. His dad had been pretty blunt about how casual sex could be in the showers at Hogwarts. He wasn’t strictly opposed to sex with another wizard but Hermione was his only focus as far as relationships went at Hogwarts.
“Dean, Neville, and I want to know if you can charm something to keep Ron from snoring like a hippogriff!” Seamus Finnegan explained.
Harry laughed with relief. “None of you have mastered a silencing charm, yet?”
“He breaks them!” Neville Longbottom called out. “We sent him to the infirmary four times just in first year and Pomfrey swears there’s nothing wrong with him.”
“Suffocating him in his sleep is out?” Harry asked and grinned at the laughter he received in return. The slap of several sets of running feet made him frown. “Joel, Adam, Thomas, and Richard—you’d better not be running around in here. It’s dangerous.”
Four first years shouted out sorries and Harry heard four little thumps of stalls being shut and locked. “Did you guys sleep okay?”
“Yep, it was great!” Joel said.
Twenty minutes later, Harry was at a sink spelling his mouth and teeth clean. Neville Longbottom had taken the time to teach Richard, the only Muggle-born among the first year boys, the charms to clean his teeth. There was some wrangling over ties but between Harry, Seamus, Neville and the fifth year prefect, Colin Creevy, they managed to get them squared away.
He was using his wand to dry his hair when a bleary-eyed Ron Weasley finally entered the showers. The second and third years were in various states of dress. The seventh years, of which there were only three were already dressed and gone.
“You guys get the midgets up and dressed?” Ron asked over his shoulder as he entered a shower stall.
Neville huffed but said nothing as Ron closed the door.
“I don’t know how that lazy git got prefect over you again, Neville,” Seamus said lowly. “Dean and I were talking about it last night before we went to sleep. It’s bullshit.”
Neville shrugged. “You know Dumbledore favors the Weasleys. It’s just the way things are. My Dad wanted to complain last year but I told him not to bother.”
Harry frowned as he rummaged through his kit for a hair clip. He plucked one out that was fashioned like a snake and gathered his hair at the nape of his neck. His dad had figured out Harry was a parselmouth at the tender age of six. He’d set about changing opinions about parselmagic at that very moment. Using the power of both their houses, they’d reintroduced parselmagic healers in the UK and France. They’d recruited Parselmouths from all over the world, the biggest pay off, however, had been when a shaman from Arizona had cured Frank Longbottom when Harry was eight. Alice Longbottom had recovered briefly only to pass away in her sleep a few months later.
So, when it had came out when he was thirteen that the Boy-Who-Lived was a parselmouth, very few people were publicly outraged or even concerned as it was no longer considered a dark gift, not when it could do so much good.
“Well, there is always the joy of watching him utterly fail at the job and losing the badge,” Harry murmured. “In the mean time, we’ll pick up the slack so Hermione doesn’t have to do all the work with the first and second years. Just make sure McGonagall sees you doing it as often as possible.”
Seamus looked at him in wonder and grinned at Neville. “It’s like having our own personal Slytherin. Plan for evil, Scion Longbottom, plan for evil.”
Neville leaned in and whispered, “Ron is petrified of spiders.”
* * * *
Hermione was in the common room when he finally made it out of the bathroom and grabbed his bag. She was tying off a braid for Astoria when he stopped at the couch.
“Good morning, ladies, care to join me for breakfast?”
Astoria smiled. “We were waiting for you.”
Hermione blushed. “Good morning, Lord Potter.”
“Harry,” he corrected. “I seriously must insist otherwise I’ll have to call you Miss Granger and I was rather looking forward to calling you Hermione.”
Her eyes widened briefly and Astoria smirked at her.
“Harry,” Hermione said. “I can handle that, probably.”
“Good,” he said. “Breakfast?”
A very pretty witch in Slytherin colors was waiting at the bottom of stairs and the moment Astoria saw her she released her near death grip on Harry’s fingers and rushed down to meet her.
“Daphne!” Astoria hugged her sister. “Where did you get that badge? I thought Pansy was the prefect for your year?”
“Not anymore,” Daphne said dryly. “Draco and I told you not to take her seriously, Toria. She’s an idiot.” She smiled as Harry and Hermione joined them. “Lord Potter, thank you. Professor Snape explained what you did. Our first years slept like babies.”
Astoria pulled her unicorn out of her bag. “Look what he did to Ashley, Daph. Isn’t it brilliant?”
“It is,” Daphne agreed. She touched the unicorn hesitantly and shook her head. “I’d heard something about this charm actually but I haven’t met anyone who could cast it. I understand they are using at St. Mungo’s in the spell damage ward. Your braid is very pretty, Toria, who did it?”
“Miss Hermione did it,” Astoria said. “She did it with a wand, Daph. Even mum can’t do that.”
Hermione blushed. “Standard wand hair charms make my hair stick up like mad so I had to come up with some unorthodox solutions unless I want to douse my head in a half gallon of sleek-ease potion.”
Daphne grinned. “I did wonder what happened after your first year when your hair stopped being all…” She waved a hand around her own head full of glossy black curls. “Poufy.”
“Professor McGonagall took me aside and explained the side effect of hair charms on naturally curly hair,” Hermione said dryly. “Lesson learned. I can’t even use a drying charm but I did get an enchanted brush that dries it quickly with no issues. And I’ve been experimenting with a few things in transfiguration.”
“Really? Mother was thinking about getting one of those for Astoria because as you might have noticed she looks like a pygmy puff if she uses a drying charm…Oh listen to us, boring Lord Potter with hair issues.”
“Beautiful girls never bore me,” Harry said sincerely.
All three of them blushed.
“Slick,” Daphne said admiringly. She turned to Astoria. “Did you want to eat with me? No one will say anything.”
She shifted closer to Harry. “Well, Lord Harry did invite me to eat with him this morning.”
Daphne shared a look with Hermione. “I always figured I’d get tossed aside for a handsome wizard eventually. Who knew it would start in her first year? I heard Cassie Lipscomb from Hufflepuff tried to get him to move into their dorm last night.”
“Well, he did fight off a horde of dark creatures in the night for them,” Hermione said with a little laugh.
They parted ways with Daphne and settled into the table. He found himself in the middle of Hermione and Astoria, which was sort of amusing in its own way. Unfortunately, he was also seated across from Ron who had the table manners of a hippogriff. He turned to Hermione. “So Hogwarts doesn’t have any etiquette classes?”
Hermione bit down on her lip to keep from laughing. “No. I suppose they depend on kids learning basic table manners and the like at home.”
“We learned at MPS,” Danica Ellis interjected from her place across from Astoria. She wrinkled her nose at Ron and scooted away slightly. “We learned how to navigate place settings at formal dinners, how to address nobles when we speak with them, and basic table manners in the first two years.”
Which was why, Harry figured, they’d all started calling him Lord Harry when he insisted on the use of his first name. He labeled breaking them of that habit a bad job and put some more eggs on his plate. “Richard, were you able to start MPS or did you attend a Muggle primary?”
Richard motioned to his mouth, chewed quickly, and swallowed. “Sir, I spent three years in Muggle primary before my accidental magic caused a situation that caused half my school to be obliviated. I was put in Magical Primary after that. My sister and little brother are there now. She’ll start Hogwarts next year.”
Ron plucked toast from the rack in the middle. “Saw you talking to that Slytherin. You know they’re all dark, right? You shouldn’t talk to them.”
Harry raised an eyebrow at him. “I didn’t realize your prefect badge gave you the authority to tell me who I should and should not speak with, Mr. Weasley.”
“That’s my sister you’re talking about, you rude boy!”
Ron glared at her. “Don’t make me take points from you, midget.”
“Go ahead, Weasel, I’ll just file a complaint.” Astoria pointed her finger at him. “I read the handbook, you know, I can protest any detention or point reduction with the Board of Governors. Try me. Casting aspersions on the character of another prefect could get you in big trouble.”
“Casting what?” Ron demanded.
“I’m not going to dumb myself down for you, Weasel,” Astoria sneered and turned to Harry. “My sister is not dark, Lord Harry. She’s not.”
“I know kiddo. Relax, I don’t let anyone make decisions for me, okay?” He refilled her pumpkin juice and sent Ron a dirty look. “And you shouldn’t call Mr. Weasley a weasel.”
“He called me a midget,” Astoria protested.
“There is no need to wallow in the mud with a pig, Astoria,” Danica said from across the table. “The only thing you’ll accomplish is dirtying yourself up.”
McGonagall appeared before anyone else could say anything but Ron glared pointedly at Astoria, which made Harry a little uneasy. He watched his Aunt pass out schedules and accepted his when his turn came. He set it on the table near Hermione and wasn’t at all surprised when she picked his up to compare.
“Oh, we have all the same classes except for Potions and History of Magic and this block of time you have with Flitwick on Mondays,” she said with a frown. “You’re not taking your potions NEWT?”
“No, I’ve finished all the requirements for that subject,” Harry said as she handed him back his schedule. “But cool that we share so many classes. You can show me around.” He paused. “You didn’t give me a map last night.”
“Oh,” Hermione blushed. “I’m sorry… but sure I can show you around.” She bit down on her lip. “How did you finish the requirements for potions?”
Harry paused in buttering his toast. “I… have studied at home for a long time with individual tutors so I had a lot of hands on instruction. I took my International NEWTs in Potions, History of Magic, Muggle Studies, and Dueling over the summer. I’m nearly ready to take my OWLs in Warding and Rune Casting but they aren’t offered at a local level so I’ll go to Rome in the summer to take those.”
“What is the difference between local ministry standards and the International level?” Hermione asked.
“Difficulty,” Neville answered from across from her. “The International Potions NEWT is more difficult than the Mastery test in Britain.”
She nodded. “So, why take them?”
“I’m a dual citizen of France and Great Britain,” Harry explained. “The standards between the two educational systems vary to an exaggerated degree. I’ll have to take my International NEWTs in every subject I take here at Hogwarts for them to be accepted in France. It isn’t as if we won’t learn the material to take the International exams because we will. The British Ministry just doesn’t test for it—they test for the lowest common denominator here which is fine, I guess, if you want to settle for that sort of mediocrity but my Dad didn’t teach me to settle.”
Hermione nodded. “So I could take my International OWLs? They’d let me, even if I already took the British ones?”
“Of course,” Harry agreed. “They’ll take place in August, if you like—you can travel to Rome with me and my Dad to take them. I’m taking the Warding and Runic Casting OWLs and I’d like to be ready for the Magical Theory and Mechanics OWL as well. Aunt Min will be going with us this year because there is a Transfiguration Conference there at the same time so you’ll have an appropriate chaperone if you’re concerned. One of my Dad’s masteries is in Transfiguration, he apprenticed under McGonagall, you see.”
She flushed. “Oh, well, that’s… that sounds great, Harry. I’d love that. Are they always in Rome?”
“No, they move around. Last year, I was fortunate that France was hosting the examiners from the ICW.”
“Why would you take your OWLs twice?” Ron asked in disgust. “That’s just mental, Hermione. You already scored twelve OWLs here in Britain, where it actually matters.”
“I’d like to see where I stand with others on that level, Ronald,” Hermione snapped. “It’s not mental.”
“Hey, how did we get 110 points before classes even began?” A boy down the table asked.
“Harry earned them, Colin,” Ron said around a mouth full of eggs. “For charming a bunch of stuffed animals for the first years.”
Astoria gamely removed Ashley from her book bag and waved it around. “It keeps bad stuff away.” She brandished it towards Ron. “Too bad it doesn’t make bad manners go away.”
“Oi,” Ron protested with a frown.
Harry laughed. “She’s got a point.”
Astoria pulled out her school map and huddled with it with the other first years for a few minutes before they agreed on their course of action. Harry watched them plan with an amused smile. They gathered up all of their things and marched off like a little army after saying their goodbyes.
“You’re great with them, you know,” Hermione said. “Professor McGonagall said you volunteer a lot with the kids from Potter Redoubt.” She blushed when he focused on her entirely. “Maybe I could… go with you sometime this year? I’d like to help if I can. I mean, if I wouldn’t be in the way.”
“If you want,” Harry agreed. “They’re great kids. Some are squibs so they end up in the Muggle school system. We’ve put four through university since my Dad organized it. The old orphanage was poorly funded and badly run. And he just thought investing in those kids was the right choice for us both. His parents threw him out of the house when he was young because they didn’t agree with his… social politics. We’re planning a trip over the winter holiday—Christmas can be pretty lonely for them so we’re all going to Paris.” He paused. “Another pair of hands would be well received. The little ones especially love meeting new people.”
“Christmas in Paris?” Hermione asked wide-eyed. “What would we do?”
“Shopping and ice skating. Snowball fights? There is a winter festival in Paris’ magical district. It just depends on what the kids want. There are only twenty-two residents at Potter Redoubt right now.”
“And you do this every Christmas?”
“For as long as I can remember, but it’s not always Paris. Two years ago, the kids talked us into taking them in the magical enclave in New Zealand.” He checked his watch and stood. “Charms first, I believe.”
“Yes,” Hermione said in agreement, she shouldered her own bag and turned to Ron. “Coming Ron?”
Ron stared at them both sour faced but nodded. “Sure.”
“Are there any…” Hermione paused as they started up the stairs. “Are there any residents here, Harry?”
“Twelve actually,” Harry admitted. “They knew in advance that I would be here this year but… well it’s a private thing, Hermione. We make sure they don’t stand out from the other students when it comes to their clothes and supplies. We want to give them the best start in life possible. Most probably don’t bring it up but they all know they can come to me if they need help with something.”
Hermione nodded. “Well, that’s great. I’m glad they get to come to Hogwarts if they want.”
He stepped over a trick stair, offered her his hand and helped her over it without much of a thought. Releasing her hand was a rather reluctant effort, however, but he was doing his level best to be friendly and not weird. He still had no idea how he was going to tell her about the Book of Souls. The whole situation was a stupidly hot mess, which was one reason why he hadn’t spoken with Emmie since his arrival at Hogwarts. He didn’t want to inadvertently increase… the creepy stalking thing.
“Do they take classes at Potter Redoubt?”
“It depends,” Harry admitted. “There is a full complement of tutors available as needed for those who won’t be able to pursue a magical education. Since Magical Primary School starts at five, most of the residents end up there for day school these days. Most of our non-magical residents are ready for university by the time they turn seventeen. Potter Redoubt has standing in the Muggle world as well. Those wanting to go to primary and secondary Muggle schools are encouraged to do so. Residents leave at around eighteen with a modest trust fund, if required, to get them started. Those that want to work in a trade have opportunities to apprentice; my Dad works really hard to get them into the jobs of their choice.”
They made it to the Charms classroom with little delay and Harry pulled out a seat for Hermione before sitting down beside her, unknowingly altering a seating arrangement the other Gryffindors in his year had been practicing since their first year together.
“A modest trust fund,” Ron repeated behind him. “What’s modest in your world, Potter?”
Harry glanced over his shoulder at him with a frown. “Pardon?”
“You said the residents of Potter Redoubt have a modest trust fund.”
“Oh, well, that’s not for me to say,” Harry said. “The matters of a Trust are private between me and my wards.”
He managed to ignore Ron the rest of Charms and Transfiguration though it took effort. Hermione was a serious note taker while Harry preferred to write down questions inspired by the lectures for further research. They both handled the practical portions easily enough though by the end of Transfiguration, he could tell that Hermione was getting pretty fed up with Ron Weasley’s attitude.
At lunchtime, they all returned to the tower and Harry dumped the books from his bag he wouldn’t need and picked up his homework planner so he could work on it at lunch before they went to Care of Magical Creatures. He was really looking forward to Hagrid’s class. Neville Longbottom was in the common room when Harry reentered to wait for Hermione as he’d promised. He dropped down on the couch as Seamus joined them.
“What is Weasley’s deal?” Harry asked.
“He has a weird thing for Granger,” Seamus smirked. “And you managed to invite her to Rome and Paris in the same conversation, mate.”
Harry started to respond but was cut off by the arrival of Hermione. She paused at the end of the sofa and frowned at all three of them. “What are you lot up to?”
“Evil,” Seamus said.
“Pure evil,” Neville agreed.
“We solemnly swear we are up to no good,” Harry said with a little smirk and sucked on his bottom lip when she blushed prettily. “Lunch?”
“Yes,” Hermione agreed. “I have a feeling I should watch all three of you closely.”
“We’re all very attractive,” Seamus said. “We don’t blame you for staring.” He offered her his arm and stuck his tongue out at Harry when she accepted it. “Hermione, my dear girl, are you sure you want to go to Rome with Potter? I’d be a much better companion. I know how to party.”
“If you were to somehow talk Harry into taking you to Rome, Seamus,” Hermione began as they exited through the portrait door. “I’d make you take your International OWLs.”
“Ach, lass, you’re a cruel witch!”
Harry hung back and walked with Neville, letting Seamus take Hermione far enough ahead that they had some privacy. “So… has he asked her out or anything?”
“No, spends most of his time making fun of her studying too much,” Neville explained. “He’s got his eye on dating Lavender Brown this year but he told us all in third year that Hermione was off limits.”
Harry frowned. “Seriously? And you just accepted that?”
“Merlin, no, me and Seamus take turns taking her to Hogsmeade and making him crazy. I asked her to the Yule Ball fourth year first chance I got just in case he got brave and tried but he was idiot really. When he finally did ask her, he acted like she was his final resort. Of course, that arsehole Viktor Krum beat me to the punch on the ball front but we watched him as much as we could. I ended up taking Ginny.”
“Arsehole?” Harry asked carefully.
“What’s a seventeen year old guy doing asking out a girl he thought was fourteen?” Neville asked with a sincere frown. “My Dad sent me a letter about him—said it was rumored that Krum—well he was accused of sexual assault at the World Cup but the charges were dropped. Speaking of Hermione’s age… her birthday is September 19th. It’s her seventeenth birthday. We’ll have one Hogsmeade weekend just before. Her first year… well, it was pretty bad what with the troll and Ron nearly getting her killed because he’s a git. So in her second year, Seamus and I both bought her presents. Then in third year, some of the others got into it because it would make Ron so mad.”
“Does she know?”
“Oh, nothing much gets past Hermione,” Neville assured. “The gifts are sincere there is just an added benefit of making Ron jealous. He pretty much doesn’t want anyone to get anything if he can’t have it. Does that make sense?”
“In an ugly way, yes,” Harry said with a grimace of distaste. “Hmmm, can I have the first turn on the Hogsmeade thing this year… well, can I have all of them actually?”
Neville grinned. “She’s a really pretty witch and she doesn’t make us go to that stupid tea shop. You’re asking a lot of us, Harry.”
“I came to Hogwarts to meet her,” Harry confided.
Neville stopped and stared him. “What? Wait… you mean you’re… did you really go see the Book of Souls when you were eight?”
Harry flushed because those rumors had been all over the papers for weeks after he and Sirius had made the trip. And had resurfaced again when it had become known that Sirius had rejected every betrothal offer made for Harry. He knew enough about the Longbottom family to feel like he could trust Neville with his secret and he desperately needed a peer at Hogwarts he could count on. He could always memory charm the boy if it turned out to be a poor decision. Just the train of thought made him feel like an arsehole but Hermione’s safety was more important than his own ethics. “Yeah.”
“Merlin’s pants,” Neville said. “Now I gotta go find some other witch to take to Hogsmeade.”
Harry laughed as they started to walk. “Please don’t tell anyone. I don’t even know how to tell her. How do you have that conversation?”
“I have no bloody clue,” Neville admitted. “What did your Dad suggest?”
“He was all for contacting the French DMLE and hunting her down that day,” Harry said with a laugh. “We figured she was a Muggle-born. When she came to Hogwarts, it was a nightmare because my dad didn’t want me back in Britain until after I claimed my title.”
“I bet. It’s a good thing no one knows—being that to you is sort of dangerous.”
Harry winced. “Tell you a secret?”
“Another?” Neville asked with a grin. “Sure.”
“Hermione’s had a magical bodyguard since the day after I found out her name.”
“I don’t blame you one bit, Harry, I would’ve sent a house elf to her, too. Don’t know how she’s going to react but you know… I mean… protecting your wife is a serious duty in the magical world.”
“Not my wife, yet.”
“I think soulmate is probably worse,” Neville murmured as they started down the final staircase. He paused and drew his wand. “I, Neville Longbottom, scion of the House of Longbottom, do solemnly swear on my magic to keep Lord Harry Potter’s secrets. So mote it be.” The oath settled on him with a light golden glow and Harry stared astounded.
“The Longbottoms have stood with the House of Potter for a long time. I don’t want there to be any confusion, okay?”
“Thank you, Neville, truly.”
Harry frowned as they caught sight of Astoria Greengrass in the hands of a dark haired girl in Slytherin colors being shaken roughly. Astoria was trying to get away from her but the girl was holding onto her tightly. Harry hurried down the final steps and half way across the entrance before the doors to hall blew open and Astoria shouted.
“Let me go!” She wrenched free of the witch, pulled out her little unicorn and shouted. “Expecto Patronum!” Harry’s mouth dropped open when a Patronus poured out of the unicorn and charged right at the older girl. The claws of the leopard scrapping on the stone floor of the castle. The leopard growled at the Slytherin, swiped at her with his paw without actually touching her.
Harry and Neville reached Astoria before her sister or any of the staff from the hall could. The cat hissed at the girl again and faded away. Astoria took a deep breath and promptly fainted. Harry caught her easily enough, her little unicorn fell to the floor no longer shining brightly with the enchantment he’d previously cast on it.
The mediwitch approached them with her wand drawn and cast a diagnostic charm on Astoria even as Daphne Greengrass came towards them at a run.
“Pansy! What did you do to her?”
“Me?” Pansy demanded. “She attacked me with that… thing. With that cat! She cursed me, for Merlin’s sake.”
Harry shifted Astoria’s weight with a frown at the girl. “A Patronus is light, protective magic.” He turned to Dumbledore. “Neville and I came down the stairs and found Astoria being shaken like a broken toy by that girl.”
“She’s magically exhausted,” Poppy said. “Severus, if you could take her? She’ll need to stay in the infirmary overnight.”
Harry handed her over to Snape without comment and picked up the unicorn. He drew his wand cast the charm with a soft murmur; renewing the protection on it then handed it to Poppy. “She’ll be upset if it’s missing when she wakes.”
Snape looked towards Pansy. “Parkinson, that’ll be another fifty points from Slytherin and two more weeks of detention.”
Albus said nothing as they left then turned to Harry and Neville. “Harry, did you cast that Patronus?”
“No, sir, my Patronus is a stag. That was all Astoria.”
“But the unicorn was just enchanted,” Neville said. “She didn’t have her wand in her hand.”
“I’d say she broke the enchantment on the stuffed animal with accidental magic,” Harry said. “And that Patronus was hers; she just used the magical energy I put in the enchantment to give it form.”
“I’m in agreement,” Albus said. “Get some lunch gentlemen.”
Ron was seated next to Hermione and Seamus was on her other side. Harry sat down across from her and settled on his own lunch quickly.
“Is Astoria okay?” Hermione asked from across the table.
“Magically exhausted from breaking the enchantment I cast on the unicorn,” Harry admitted. “I guess that sort of settles who scared her so badly on the train. I wonder if we should congratulate Parkinson on becoming a little kid’s personal dementor.”
“She should be ashamed of herself,” Hermione said with a frown.
“She should probably be more concerned with the fact that she rooms with Daphne Greengrass,” Neville said. “That’s a witch I wouldn’t cross.”
“But maybe one you could take to Hogsmeade?” Harry suggested with a little grin.
Across the table, Hermione huffed. “Don’t go giving away my Hogsmeade dates, Harry Potter. I think it’s Neville’s turn to ask me since Seamus went last at the end of last year.”
Harry offered her a look over the rim of his tea mug. “I thought perhaps I’d take a turn and you could give me a tour. I’ve never been before, you know. And Neville did proclaim you were one of the few witches in the castle that wouldn’t make me sit in a stuffy tea room and eat dry biscuits.”
“Well, that seems fair since you’ve all but given Neville away,” Hermione said by way of agreement even as a blush stole across her cheeks.
“Great, I need a few books on warding and I’ll probably need to update my collection of sheet music if my Dad comes through with what I asked for.”
“You play an instrument?” Hermione pushed aside her plate and closed the book she’d been reading when he arrived. “I play the violin. I really miss it—my parents sold mine.”
“I play the violin and the piano. I have a violin in my rooms that you’re welcome to borrow. My dad is going to ask the Headmaster if he can bring me a piano since I have room in my personal common room for a baby grand. I didn’t think I’d miss mine at home but it’s weird not having access to it and it’s just been a day. My Dad originally offered to buy me a trunk with a dimensional space so I could bring my piano from the Paris house but I didn’t want to risk the temperatures up here damaging it. It doesn’t have the right charm work for the highlands.” He poured himself some water from a pitcher. “Have you ever played a magical instrument? All of my instruments are made with wand wood. It makes a huge difference.”
“Oh! What wood?”
“I have a holly violin and one made of vine,” Harry said and watched her eyes light with pleasure. “The vine belonged to my mother which is interesting in itself as her own wand was willow. They were both made by the Stradivari family.”
“My wand is vine,” Hermione admitted. “I’d heard the Stradivari family was magical.”
Harry turned at the sound of his aunt’s voice. “Professor.”
“Your father is in the foyer. He brought you what you requested… I thought you could show him up to your rooms. You have a little over forty five minutes before your next class.”
“Brilliant,” Harry said and slid off the bench. “Interested in meeting the current Lord Black, Hermione?”
Hermione hopped up immediately and shouldered her bag; she tucked her unread book into the bag as she used Seamus briefly to support her exit from the bench. “I want to thank him for the gift certificate to Flourish & Blotts. I sent him a thank you card, of course. Did you know?”
“I was aware,” Harry admitted. They met at the end of the table and left the hall together.
His Dad was lingering near the stairs with a shining box made of holly in hand. “Hey Pup.”
“Dad,” Harry said with a smile as he prodded Hermione forward with a hand at the small of her back. “You found one?”
“As requested, I had to wait an hour or so for some additional charm work.” He offered the box. “Holly and thunderbird feathers.”
Harry took the box with a big smile. “Hermione Granger, may I present the Earl of Blackmoor and my father in magic, Lord Sirius Black.”
Sirius offered her a formal bow and Hermione’s eyes went wide and her blush deepened. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Granger.”
“Thank you, Lord Black, you as well. I really enjoyed myself at the bookstore with your gift certificate. I finally was able to buy a library trunk for all of my books. Just a basic model because, of course, I had to buy a bunch more books,” Hermione said earnestly.
Sirius grinned. “I’m glad I could contribute to the learning and organization of the brightest witch of the age.”
“Did you want to come up and see this set up?” Harry asked of her.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to intrude on your brief time with your Dad,” Hermione backed away towards the Hall. “I’ll wait at the front entrance for you? We have Care next.”
“Sure, give me 30 minutes.” Harry watched her walk away a bit wistfully and turned to his father. “I managed to invite her to Paris for Christmas and Rome this summer all in the space of a twenty minute conversation about Potter Redoubt and my NEWTs.”
Sirius snorted. “Oh, lad.” He wrapped an arm around Harry’s shoulders as they started up the stairs. “Wow this place hasn’t changed a single bit since I was here.”
It took them just a few minutes to reach the tower and the Fat Lady giggled and blushed when Sirius greeted her.
“You womanizer,” Harry complained good naturedly as he lead his father through the common room and up the short set of stairs to his quarters. The portrait on his door swung open for him automatically and Sirius sent Niall a smirk as he passed through. “I suppose you are to blame for that as well?”
“Well, his portrait was already here but I do have several from the Potter and Black families keeping an eye on you. You’re theirs as much as you are mine and despite appearances—even Niall is very fond of you.” Sirius shed his cloak as the door closed behind them. “And you’re right—she is quite lovely. A true English rose, that one. Lily and James would’ve loved her practically on sight.” He pulled out another box out of his cloak. “I did have Celia bring your sheet music from Paris. The music shop is called Dominic Maestro’s and he also sells tuning charms if you find you need one. I left the tutoring charms in place but the runes aren’t activated. Just in case you have a first year or two around this place who talks you into letting them practice on it.”
Harry took a deep breath as his father unpacked and resized the instrument with a flick of his wand. “Dad, wow.”
“Oh, the bench,” Sirius dug into his robe and pulled out a tiny piano bench which he placed on the floor and resized.
Harry sat down on the bench with a bright smile. He touched the keys gently, played a simple melody to test the quality of the sound before turning to his father. “This is absolutely brilliant.”
Sirius brought the box of sheet music forward and they stored it in the bench seat after Harry stood. “I’m really glad you like it. If I were a responsible parent I would say this is your Christmas presents for the next five years.”
Harry grinned. “Well, thank Merlin, you’re not one of those!” His smile faded and he sighed. “Dad, that prat Ron Weasley is a menace.”
“What’s going on?”
“He’s verbally abusive to most of the younger years, he treats Hermione like she’s a piece of property, and actually had the bollocks to tell all the guys in their third year that she was off-limits. So, of course, two of them take turns taking her on dates to Hogsmeade just to spite him. He’s spent most of the morning glaring at me and it’s just the first day of classes.”
“If I wanted a witch and she was looking at another wizard the way Hermione Granger was looking at you—I’d be pretty irritated myself,” Sirius admitted. “You’ve certainly got her attention, Harry, so be careful that you don’t rush things and upset her. And don’t lie to her—you’re already harboring a very big secret. There is no need to add to it.”
They made their way downstairs and Hermione was lingering near the front doors just as she said would be. She smiled when they approached. She held out Harry’s bag. “You left it in the hall.”
“Thanks,” Harry shouldered his glanced at her deceptively thin bag. “That does have a weightless charm on it, right?”
She nodded. “Thank you for asking.”
“I raised a gentleman, Miss Granger,” Sirius said and offered her his arm, she curled her fingers around his forearm with a small smile. “So you be sure to send me a letter if he forgets his manners.”
“Recruiting spies is a horrible parenting technique,” Harry said with a laugh as they left the castle.
Sirius just smirked at him and just short of the path that would lead to Hagrid’s hut he paused with a courtly little bow as he transferred Hermione’s hand to Harry’s arm. “You two have fun in class.”
Harry adored Hagrid so he enjoyed the class despite Ron’s pratness and a few brief contacts with Draco Malfoy. Harry’s first meeting with Narcissa was a vivid memory—her face Technicolor with bruises, shackles around her wrists as she sat in a office in Paris branch of Gringotts having been caught trying to take funds directly from the Black Trust with an old key. Since she’d never made it the vault, the dverger hadn’t insisted on charges. It had been very fortunate. He’d never forget the way she’d clung to Sirius and cried. She’d been in hiding ever since. He didn’t see that changing until Lucius died since magical marriages were forever.
From Care, they went to Herbology where Harry shared a table with Neville and Hermione for which he was glad. He rather hated plants and they weren’t very fond of him as a result. His skills in Herbology were one thing definitely holding him back from a mastery in Potions, at least at an international level. He’d never be able to grow and nurture his own ingredients, which didn’t make it impossible, but it did lower his personal expectations in the art. Some potions required care from the very start of the plant’s growth cycle.
Outside the greenhouse, Malfoy made it clear that he wanted a conversation and Harry reluctantly motioned the rest of his house to leave him to it. He took note that Hermione and Neville both stopped a small distance away from them to give them privacy but were obviously waiting on him.
“Look,” Draco began. He closed his eyes and took a very deep breath before focusing on Harry. “I’d like to write my mum a letter.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “Suppose that were possible—what would this letter contain?”
“I miss her,” Draco said lowly. “I miss her so much there is like a hole in my heart. I’ve barely spoken to my father since the day she left. He’s drinking himself to death and has been since that whole mess with You-Know-Who’s spirit during our first year. Whatever Dumbledore did when he caught him—by the beginning of third year, despite my father’s efforts, the Dark Lord is completely gone. All of his followers know it.”
That was something Harry knew better than most. He’d been there when the last horcrux, the one inside his scar, was removed and destroyed. It had been the diary in the Chamber of Secrets that had been the final piece they were missing. The rest had been found by the dverger and the French Ministry leading up to Harry’s thirteenth birthday when they all agreed he was physically strong enough for the removal.
“I can’t and won’t admit that I have the ability to contact your mother,” Harry said. “Legally you know the ramifications of that as well as I do. My father has been sued four times by your father seeking information on Narcissa. Neither one of us are going to budge a bloody inch concerning her safety. You know he’d used the Imperius curse on her for years.”
“I do know,” Draco said. “And you’ll never know the depth of my gratitude, Lord Potter. My father would kill her on sight. She begged me to go with her but I knew if I did… he’d never stop searching, never let her go. I thought she had a better chance without me. I wasn’t wrong. I regret what I said to her. I regret so much that the last words to my mother were so ugly and frankly unforgivable.” He turned from Harry and looked out over the grounds of the school.
“Write your letter,” Harry said shortly. “It won’t be private so I hope you don’t have that expectation. No charms or attempts at location charms. I’ll send it to my dad and he’ll decide where it should go. I can make no promises, Draco and if this proves to be some ploy by your father… well, frankly, you’ll wish fondly for the return of your father’s so-called Dark Lord. Are we clear?”
“Very, Lord Potter.”
* * * *
Harry was inputting his schedule in his planner when Ron Weasley dropped down on the sofa across from him. The girls were all up in the sixth year dorms as they’d decided at dinner to have some sort of party involving braids and hair charms. Daphne Greengrass had shown up to take part and Hermione had just pointed a finger at Ron when he started to complain about a Slytherin in their dorm.
“So, Harry,” Ron began. “Look, I’m just going to be blunt about this. Hermione is mine.”
Harry hummed under his breath. “So you’re her boyfriend?”
“You’ve told her that you fancy her and your working your way towards being her boyfriend?”
Harry looked up from his planner. “You’ve at least gone on a date? You’ve taken her to Hogsmeade? She stayed at your house over the summer briefly, right? You went into a village for a date? Took a walk together? A picnic? Something?”
Ron frowned at him. “No, she’s just mine.”
“You’ve never been on any sort of date, you’ve never told her how you feel about her, and you’ve already asked Lavender Brown on a date for the Hogsmeade weekend. Is Hermione aware that you’ve claimed her like a piece of land, Weasley? Or this just something you’re going to spring on her one day like a bad rash?”
“Look, Hermione isn’t the sort of witch you date for fun. She’s a serious girl. Honestly, she’s boring. She’s the sort of witch you marry. She’ll make a proper wife and when I’m ready to settle down—she’ll be waiting.”
“Well, I do agree that she is definitely the sort of witch a smart wizard would want to marry… I disagree about the dating thing. I think she’d be a lot of fun on a date. I certainly look forward to finding out.”
“You can’t,” Ron snapped. “You’re not dating her, Potter. A mate doesn’t do that.”
“We aren’t mates, Weasley,” Harry said icily. “I barely know you and frankly I’m not all that interested in getting to know you. You’re ill-mannered, lazy, verbally abusive, and not to be entirely ugly about it but I don’t make a habit of making friends with people like you.”
“People like me?” Ron demanded. “What? You mean poor? We can’t all be rich bastards like you.”
“No, I mean you’re a bigot and a bully,” Harry responded and returned to his planner in the shocked silence that followed.
A third year came across the room to Harry at that point and he focused on the boy. He was a resident of Potter Redoubt but Harry knew that it wasn’t public knowledge. “Jonas, what can I do for you?”
“You said to see you about the Nimbus when I decided. I figured I’d try out for Keeper.”
“You’re a great Keeper,” Harry agreed. He slid his quill into the special holder on the planner. “I won’t have time to fly with you until Sunday, is that cool?”
“Absolutely, sir.” He paused. “Are you trying out? Because that would be great.”
“I’m thinking about it,” Harry admitted. “I’d like to play because both of my dads did but my schedule is pretty tight.”
“What too busy answering fan mail?” Ron asked snidely.
Jonas frowned at him. “Lord Potter doesn’t get fan mail, Weasley. Everyone knows Lord Black put a mail ward on him when he was a little kid to prevent it. All unsolicited mail is sent to Gringotts and a form letter is sent in return.”
Harry stood, ignoring Ron, “Come along then, I’ll get you the Nimbus. If you make the team, it’s yours.”
“Oh, no way,” Jonas exclaimed. “Seriously?”
Harry grinned as they exited the common room. “Dad got me a Firebolt for my birthday this year.”
“Brilliant, can I fly it on Sunday?”
“Sure, kid. I’ll get Dobby pick up my quidditch set from the cottage and bring it out for us to play. I could use some time with the snitch. Why don’t you gather up everyone who’s thinking about trying out and we’ll do some drills.”
* * * *
Neville sat down in front of Hermione in the library and stared for a few minutes. “I’m your friend, right?”
Hermione looked up startled and closed her book. “Of course, Neville, do you need help with something? I’ve got some time…”
“I’m sorry,” Neville blurted out. “I’m so sorry, Hermione.”
“For what?” She asked with a frown.
“For… just letting Ron Weasley get away with the shite he’s been getting away since forever,” Neville murmured and cleared his throat. “Look, the Transfiguration classroom is empty. Can we go there and talk? You’re not going to like what I have to say and I’d hate to see you banned from the library.”
Her eyes went wide but she nodded and gathered up her things. They quickly made their way to the empty classroom and she put her bag on her regular desk out of habit and turned to face Neville. “Okay, so what’s going on?”
“You know how me and Seamus take turns asking you to Hogsmeade?” Neville began nervously.
Hermione’s eyes grew dark and she bit down on her lip. “I always thought you boys were quite kind to do that, Neville. I mean, no one else seems to be interested in… well, I know I’m plain and bossy and no one likes a know-it-all. Ginny’s told me more than once.”
Neville went white with shame. He sat down in a chair and slumped there. “Oh, Hermione, I had no idea you thought that. Merlin, I think you’re very pretty.” He rubbed his face with both hands. “Look, tonight in the common room while you were upstairs with all those girls… Ron and Harry had an argument.”
“What they could be arguing about? They barely know each other.”
Neville sighed. “Because Harry Potter is not the sort of bloke that Ron Weasley can talk to anyway he likes. The rest of us just take Ron’s mouth then do what we want, you know. Because we know that despite his sorting, he’s basically a coward. Ron ordered Harry to stay away from you because you belonged to him. Harry didn’t take that well at all, to be honest. He asked Ron if he was your boyfriend or if you’d dated or even taken a bloody walk and Ron said no. Ron said that you weren’t the kind of girl that a wizard dated for fun because you were boring and that you were the kind of girl a wizard married. He’s already decided to date Lavender this year, you know. He said when he was ready to settle down that you’d be there waiting for him.”
“Ron said I belonged to him,” Hermione said through clenched teeth. “He’s never… even said he likes me!”
“I know,” Neville said lowly. “Look, so he gave us all this same speech in third year.”
Hermione blushed. “That’s when you and Seamus… what, you did it to spite him?”
“Maybe at first,” Neville admitted. “But we both think you’re great and we don’t mind going to the book store first and you’re frankly brilliant and pretty and it’s no hardship to walk around Hogsmeade with a very attractive witch who can hold a conversation.”
She crossed her arms and tears spilled down her cheeks. “Oh, he’s so horrible. How dare he!” She paced around the room, neither one of them noticed the cat perched on of the top bookshelves. “What did Harry say?”
“Well, Harry said he thought you would be fun to date and he definitely agreed you were the kind of witch that a wizard would be lucky to marry someday. And he said he looked forward to going out with you to Hogsmeade. And Ron ordered him—said Harry was absolutely not going to go out with you. And tried to say that a “mate” wouldn’t try to go out with a witch his friend liked.” Neville laughed then. “And Harry told him that Ron was not and was never going to be his mate. He said he didn’t make friends with people like Ron—ill mannered, verbally abusive bullies to be specific. He all but told Ron to kiss his arse. Though I’m pretty sure it was implied. It’s just that Harry is very polite even when he’s telling someone off.”
Hermione huffed. She pulled her prefect pin off her robe, set it very carefully on McGonagall’s desk and stalked out of the room.
Minerva jumped off the bookshelf a cat and gained her feet as witch to face a stunned Neville Longbottom. She picked up Hermione’s badge. “Well, Longbottom, it’s probably best we follow along and prevent her from murdering the idiot.”
“You were my choice for male prefect,” Minerva said as they exited the classroom. “I was overruled. I’m sorry I didn’t fight for you.”
“Sometimes it’s best to step back from a battle and let the war get on with itself, Professor.”
* * * *
“And another thing, Ron Weasley, you’d still be in third year if it weren’t for me making you do your homework!” Hermione shouted. “I don’t belong to you, you complete and utter tosser! I don’t even like you half the time!”
“You come to the Burrow every summer,” Ron protested.
“Because my parents are devout Catholics!” Hermione shouted. “They’re religious zealots, Ronald! They tried to get their priest to perform an exorcism on me for the love of Merlin! I’d go to Pansy Parkinson’s house for the summer to avoid them! I’ve spent the last two hours in the library reading up how I can claim sanctuary status at Potter Redoubt so I never have to go home again because I’m half afraid they’ll build a bloody bonfire in the backyard and burn me at the stake!” Her breathing was labored and the common room was full. “And you know what, Weasel, you have horrible table manners and your career prospects are zero. You barely pay attention in class, you only received two OWLs despite my wasted efforts to get you to study, you’re a half-arsed wizard with an inferiority complex and no witch in her right mind would marry a fool like you!”
Then she punched him in the face. “And that, you prat, is for calling the first years midgets and threatening to take points from them for knowing you’re a bleeding moron!” She turned and found Harry Potter leaning in the archway that lead to his quarters. “Lord Potter, we are going on a real date when we go to Hogsmeade. There will be lunch and book shopping and maybe the music store and your undivided attention on me the whole time!”
“Miss Granger, it would be my honor,” Harry said with a wry grin.
“Right.” She turned came face to face with her Head of House. “Ma’am.”
Minerva carefully pinned Hermione’s badge back on her robe and glanced around the room. “Miss Granger, your charges are up past curfew.” She turned to Ron who was picking himself up off the floor. “Weasley, detention with Professor Snape. You’ll be notified of the time.”
“But she hit me,” Ron protested.
“And if it were me in her place, you’d be under the care of Madam Pomfrey for a month,” Minerva said coolly. “Take ten points, Miss Granger, for your restraint.” She stalked out of the tower.
Hermione took a deep breath. “Neville, would you see that first and second year boys get settled in for the night? Thank you.”
* * * *
Harry was sitting at his desk watching his father laugh his ass off on the communication mirror. The mirror was on a stand so Harry busied himself organizing his parchments from Gringotts while the older man got a hold of himself. Sirius finally stopped laughing and Harry let his chair rock back with a sigh.
“I’m glad someone told her. I had no idea what to do what that but I figured I’d have to tell her what he’d told me. It was the most ridiculous conversation I’ve ever had and that’s saying something.”
Hedwig flew through the window at that point and landed on the perch he kept next to his desk, a letter on her leg. Harry frowned because he was quite sure she’d been out hunting. He took the letter when Hedwig offered him her leg and barked at him in reprimand. He shot his father a look when Sirius laughed. His beautiful Snowy Owl was well known amongst family and friends to be extremely impatient when she wasn’t given the attention she was due.
“Only Hadgrid would get a shirty owl,” Harry muttered and grinned when Hedwig barked at him again.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write me. I’ve worked very hard at Hogwarts and my education is very important to me. It was an honor to be named the top student of my year and I hope to keep that position throughout my academic career.
Everyone says you live in Paris; it is one of my favorite cities. I hope this note finds you well and enjoying your summer.
Miss Hermione Jane Granger
He put the letter down on his desk and rocked a little in the chair. Emmie had never told him she’d actually written a response; and he hadn’t asked about it. The truth was he hadn’t wanted to know why he hadn’t received a response when his own father had gotten a carefully worded thank you card. The date at the top of the parchment meant she’d written it the day she received his.
The female elf appeared immediately dressed in a dark red dress with the Potter crest on the pocket, black woolen stockings, and little dragon hide boots made up the rest of the elf’s outfit. Harry smiled at her and turned his chair so they were eye to eye.
“How are you?”
“I be good Master Harry,” Emmie smiled, her gaze shifted to the parchment on his desk. “She finally be sending it.”
“Can you tell me why she didn’t send it without revealing any of her secrets?” Harry asked.
“Girl Wheezy convince Miss Hermione that you were too important and famous to send her a letter. She be saying to Miss Hermione that she be not special and plain,” Emmie reported with a frown. “Girl Wheezy be mean witch.”
“Yes, I agree,” Harry sighed. “I’m not particularly fond of either Weasley that is here at Hogwarts.” He sighed. “I do have a problem, though.”
“What?” Sirius asked.
“She’s going to file for sanctuary with Potter Redoubt,” Harry murmured. “I certainly can’t blame her if she actually fears her parents are that far gone but it creates a legal and ethical situation for me.”
“I can offer her guardianship,” Sirius said. “But she doesn’t know me from Adam. Her little tirade in the common room is going to have consequences, Harry. I can’t even imagine how many letters have already left Hogwarts detailing what she said. You said there is a Greengrass in your house?”
“Well, she’s either writing a letter or has already been on a communication mirror. Lord Greengrass had me charm six for him over the summer when we met in Italy.” Sirius sighed. “Just let me think about it and could you send your mirror to Minerva? I’d like to speak with her.”
“If possible,” Sirius said.
“Dobby, is Aunt Min indisposed?”
Dobby looked up from his book and tilted his head as if in thought. “Professor Kitty be in her office speaking on floo with Madam Bones.”
* * * *
Hermione followed her Head of House out of the Great Hall, having already begun to regret the large breakfast Neville and Harry had cajoled her into eating. It had spread around the school like wild fire that she’d had a fight with Ron Weasley. She’d been relieved to discover, however, that nothing she’d said had made it out of the tower. The other Gryffindors were tight lipped about it but most of the school knew something horrible had been said.
“Ma’am, I’m… I’ll accept any punishment you deem fit for the scene I caused last night.”
“There will be no punishments,” Minerva snapped. “You weren’t out of line at all and if had it been me, that little git would be getting most of his bones regrown even as we speak. I’ve placed him on probation and if he doesn’t begin to do his duties as prefect, he will be dismissed.” She paused at her own office door. “There are several people here who have come to speak with you about what you said last night concerning your parents. You have plenty of options, Miss Granger, and I will be your advocate today in whatever you decide. Okay?”
“Yes, thank you.”
The entered together and she was a little shocked to find four people, including the Headmaster and Harry’s father, in the room. She sat down at the table at Professor McGonagall’s instruction and waited. A woman with a monocle cleared her throat.
“I am Amelia Bones, Director of Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” the woman began. “I’m uncertain as to where to begin, Miss Granger. Could you please tell us about your home life?”
Hermione took a deep breath calming breath. “When I was six, two front teeth—baby teeth fell out. When the adult teeth grew back, they were large and I begged my parents to fix them but I was too young for braces really. I still had several of my baby teeth. I kept complaining, bitterly, about them and how my cousin Brenda called me names because of it—Beaver among them.” She winced at the memory. “At any rate, on my seventh birthday I had a party and I wished with my birthday wish that my teeth were all normal and perfect.” She blushed. “And the next morning I woke up—all of my baby teeth were on my pillow and in place were perfectly normal teeth and my two front teeth had shrunk down to the right size. I haven’t had a cavity or any sort of tooth problem since.”
“Some wish,” the Headmaster said with a grin. “But not uncommon with magical children.”
“My parents are dentists, that’s a Muggle tooth healer,” Hermione murmured. “They were absolutely horrified. They took me into their offices and examined me and pulled three of my new teeth.” She shuddered at the memory and several adults in the room paled. “Of course, they grew back. It took about an hour. My mother was and remains very religious. She immediately took me to her priest and explained to him what had happened. They… forcefully baptized me. I thought he was going to drown me.”
She looked down at her hands and blinked back tears she was not going to shed before glancing briefly at Harry’s father. He looked absolutely furious. Hermione was really surprised he was in the room and wondered if it had anything to do with her professed research into Potter Redoubt. An avenue she was sure she could no longer take.
“After that, they only touched me to discipline me. If I brought home anything less than a perfect score on a test, I was severely disciplined. When the bruises faded too quickly… I was locked in my room and fed there like a prisoner. Then… well, things changed again. A few weeks before my ninth birthday, my parents calmed down and whenever they would get angry with me, they would leave the room. My mother tried to hit me once and ended up hitting herself. Last summer, they sat me down after I returned from Hogwarts and informed me that witchcraft was the art of the devil and they were going to have the parish priest perform an exorcism.”
“And?” Amelia demanded tightly.
“The priest came but he was unable to enter my room, every time he tried—he was violently repelled.”
“In times of great stress,” Dumbledore began. “Your magic will protect you from Muggles, and honestly most especially the very religious. Magic has not forgotten the torture inflicted on her people by the church, Miss Granger. You mentioned you feared your parents might burn you at the stake. Was that based on a threat they made?”
“Yes,” Hermione whispered.
“Rest assured had they tried they would’ve suffered greatly for it. Magic has learned to protect us from such since the witch burnings,” Amelia said. “They’d have probably burned down half their neighborhood but you’d have walked out of it without a scratch.” She sighed and turned to Lord Black. “Sirius, I apologize. You were absolutely right—we don’t do enough to protect Muggle-born. I took one look at your blood status and thought you were just trying to build another pure-blood supremacy platform.”
“My family was known for it,” Sirius murmured. “I bear you no ill-will.”
“Right,” Amelia said and focused on Hermione. “I understand you’ve met Lord Black? He’s here today representing Potter Redoubt. I also brought the Director of the Department of Education, Pius Thicknesse. We are all very invested, Miss Granger, in your safety and your future. Now, last night, you mentioned that you’d like to apply for sanctuary status with Potter Redoubt.”
“I…” Hermione blushed. “I was going to but then I researched it and finished reading the policies for Potter Redoubt and…” She bit down on her lip. “You see, Madam Bones, I have a date with Lord Potter.”
Amelia’s eyes lit with amusement. “Yes, I… viewed Minerva’s memory of the incident in your common room. Excellent right cross, dear.”
“Oh.” Hermione blew out an exasperated breath. “That horrible boy. At any rate, when I returned to my dorm, I finished reading the charter for Potter Redoubt and realized that if I applied for sanctuary that I’d become Harry’s magical ward until I leave Hogwarts which means he’d have to cancel our date. That might sound a little foolish and immature to you but… well… maybe it is…” She looked down at her hands and shrugged. “I’d be his ward for two years and what if he finds some other witch in the mean time?” She huffed. “That’s so silly, right? I don’t want to return to my parents, not even for a week or two like I have in the past. I don’t trust them.”
“Not to put too fine of a point on it,” Sirius began,“Harry isn’t particularly interested in that scenario either which is why we are all here today, Miss Granger. That doesn’t mean you’d be denied a place at Potter Redoubt if that becomes your choice. Harry will understand and accept the necessity of it. Until he claimed his title, I acted as regent and guardian to the residents to Potter Redoubt. We could arrange something similar for you.”
“As Headmaster I can offer you magical guardianship, you’d become a ward of Hogwarts until the end of your seventh year,” Dumbledore explained. “It has not been done in several hundred years but the rule exists.”
“And I’d be subject to anyone who took your place,” Hermione murmured. “Like when that horrible Umbridge woman came during second year?”
“Or, I could adopt you,” Minerva said before Bones or Thicknesse could speak. “Legally, you’ll be an adult in just a few weeks in the magical world but you’re also still a sixth year student which means you have wand rights outside of school. However, in the Muggle world you’d be underage. I have no living children and as such, I have no heir, Hermione. My house is ancient and my family magic is quite powerful. I would hate to see it end with me. You’d be a boon to my house and to my magical legacy.”
Hermione promptly threw herself at her Head of House and burst into tears. “Yes, please.”