Title: Rowena’s Fire
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 12,186
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.
* * * * –
Harry settled into a chair in Transfiguration beside Neville and willed his stomach to settle. He knew he could call Emmie and get an update on Hermione’s circumstances but that felt like cheating. He knew that the elf would have come for him if there were trouble so he’d just resolved to stew with his worry. A couple high-pitched squeaks and one alarmed scream had him turning in his chair. He watched, flabbergasted, as Padfoot trotted up the aisle to the teacher’s desk and transformed into his father with rush of magic.
“Good morning, I am Lord Sirius Black, the Earl of Blackmoor and I will be your substitute teacher in Transfiguration for the next two days.” Sirius took a seat on McGonagall’s desk and swung his dragonhide clad feet like a first year. “She didn’t leave me any sort of plan so… well… she’ll definitely learn her lesson when she returns.” He smirked at the laughs and sighed when a small cat Patronus suddenly appeared in front of him.
“My lesson plans are in my desk, Lord Black. Get your rear off my desk!”
He huffed and hopped back off the desk as the Patronus faded. “She’s always had the most unnatural ability to know when I’m up to no good.” He grinned when the class laughed. “Now, I can’t tell you what’s going on with your Professor but I assure you she is quite well and nothing is wrong that won’t be fixed post haste.” He pulled out a thin black book and opened it up. “Today we’re going to talk about conjuration.”
* * * *
“Your Dad is a great teacher,” Seamus said as he joined Harry at the Gryffindor table for lunch. “That was fun and I’m not being a kiss arse.”
Harry laughed. “He was my first teacher. He has dual masteries in Transfiguration and Charms.”
“Could you take your NEWTs right now?” Neville asked.
“Yes, for everything except Care and Herbology but I wouldn’t get anything above an EE on any of it, which is not acceptable as far as my Dad is concerned.”
“But EEs are good scores,” Dean protested. “Would he be angry if you didn’t get Os?”
“Angry? No, of course not, but he would be disappointed if I under performed. He knows very well what I’m capable of and slacking off on academics has never been an option.”
“What’s it matter, Potter?” Ron asked with a sneer. “You’re rich already. You don’t have to work.”
Harry sighed and would’ve ignored the boy if Ron hadn’t garnered the attention of the younger kids at the table with his extremely rude question. “Of course, it matters. Respect is earned, Weasley, and I can’t very well conduct my business affairs in the magical and Muggle world if I’m uneducated. I’ll even attend a Muggle university after I take my NEWTs, which means I’ve also been preparing for exams in that world as well.”
“What on Earth for?”
Harry frowned at him. “A third of the Potter estate is invested in Muggle businesses some of which directly relate to magical businesses. For instance, I have a Muggle smelting factory for precious metals that supplies the Potter Foundry—which makes cauldrons for most of Europe. Then there are the Potter Farms—the agriculture branch is run entirely by Muggles and that food is funneled into magical businesses and charities—such as Potter Redoubt, the meals the Magical Primary school provides, and of course the perishable donations the Lily Potter Foundation makes to Hogwarts.” His gaze dropped to Ron’s over flowing plate. “In fact, that chicken on your plate was on a Muggle farm less than a week ago.”
Ron looked down at his plate in dismay. “Muggles grow our food?”
“A great deal of it, yes, and that is true the world over. We aren’t as isolated from them as many pure-bloods would like to believe.”
“Lord Harry,” Astoria said as she prodded Seamus out of the way and slid onto the bench beside him. She had a parchment clenched in her hand. “Your Dad is teaching transfiguration? Will it be hard? Do I need to know anything before I go in?”
Harry laughed. “No, just be polite and raise your hand when you have a question. He’s not one to tolerate being interrupted when he’s speaking.” Her pale blond hair was braided in three separate French braids that started just short of her hairline that braided together at the nape of her neck. “Your braids are nice. Did Miss Hermione do them?”
“Yes,” Astoria grinned. “She also talked Daphne into telling our mother that I need an enchanted brush so I won’t be so frizzy all the time. Maybe I’ll get it for Christmas.”
“Maybe you will,” Harry agreed.
“Lord Harry, you’re gonna let her go to Potter Redoubt, right? So she won’t have to go back to her parents’ house?”
“Leave off calling him Lord, midget. He told us to call him Harry,” Ron said crossly.
Astoria looked at him, clearly offended. “You know your sister isn’t rude like you so I know you weren’t raised that way. Any proper witch or wizard would know that I’m too young to call Lord Potter by his given name. I have to be of age or within a year of his age to do so. It’s like you were raised in a cave by Neanderthals.”
“Neanderwhat?” Ron demanded. “Did she just insult me again?”
“Since you don’t know what they are—I’m going to go with no,” Harry mused but his eyes went hard when Ron stood. “Weasley, prefect badge or not, you lay hand on this little girl and you’ll spend the rest of the week in the infirmary.” His gaze flicked briefly to Ron’s wand. “And if you curse her—I triple whatever you cast at her on you—whether you manage to hit her or not. Are we clear?”
“That’s fifty points, Potter, for threatening a prefect.”
Longbottom laughed. “You’re on probation, Ron, you can’t take points. Moreover, a prefect can’t take more than ten points. Did you even bother to read your handbook?”
“Besides, it’s really only a threat if you meant her harm,” Seamus said pleasantly. “You certainly weren’t about to curse a first year, were you?”
* * * *
Hermione paused and glanced out over the yard where she’d once played. “I don’t remember… really… ever being happy here. Even before they decided I was unnatural and responsible for the bad things that happened… my intelligence was an obstacle. I asked too many questions in Bible Study for instance, put a spotlight on scientific aspects of certain events that… well, they probably thought I was the devil long before I started to show signs of being a witch.”
“I wish I’d known this sooner,” Minerva said.
“I didn’t even know about Potter Redoubt,” Hermione said. “No one talks about it and it’s been around since 1986. It wasn’t included in any information I received or anything. That needs to be corrected.”
“The Board of Governors and the Wizengamot both have prevented materials being automatically passed out to Muggle-born and Muggle-raised students.”
“Is that why Madam Bones apologized to Lord Black?”
“Yes, but he is in some ways extreme. Not that I can blame him—you are aware of Lord Potter’s history?”
“His Muggle aunt almost killed him,” Hermione said. “Yes, I read about it in the book on Potter Redoubt in the library. They said he hadn’t been fed in more than a week when the aurors found him he had broken bones…”
“Many—in fact, so many that they magically induced a very deep sleep and regrew the majority of the large bones in his body to prevent him being crippled by it. It was his uncle who inflicted the most physical damage but in the end, it was the starvation that nearly killed him.”
“Why are his views extreme?”
“Well, he’s not so far gone that he advocates the outright removal of all Muggle-born children at the first sign of magic but he is of the opinion that an entire department should be created by the Ministry in order to monitor Muggle-born and Muggle-raised children. He wants quarterly evaluations, home inspections, and investigations into all reports of accidental magic.”
“That’s… that doesn’t seem all that extreme to me,” Hermione admitted. “Nearly every bout of accidental magical I had as a child was the result of some sort of trauma except for my teeth. My father pushed me down the stairs when I was eight—I hovered three inches over the ground when I finished tumbling down them. That was before things… changed, like I said.”
“Yes, about that,” Minerva said. “I’m going to have to check to see if you accidentally placed some sort of repelling magic around your room. Your accidental magic isn’t so accidental if you get my meaning.”
“What if they say no?” Hermione asked.
“They don’t have that option,” Minerva said tightly. “They’ll say yes and sign the papers or I’m going to see them put in Azkaban.” She knocked then, sharply on the door.
Hermione flinched slightly when her father answered the door. “Dad, you remember Professor McGonagall.”
Her father looked between them. “Did you get yourself knocked up?”
Minerva frowned at him. “Your daughter is a proper witch, I’ll have you know.”
He snorted. “Right.” He motioned them in and shut the door with a bang.
Hermione sat down on the small sofa, close to her Head of House, fear pooling in her belly. She hated this house and wasn’t all that fond of her parents which made her felt guilty. Wasn’t she supposed to love them despite their actions? It would’ve been the Christian thing to do though honestly she’d never been much of a Christian. Even before she’d found out she was magical—the very idea of believing the Bible was factual put her off completely. Her rational mind couldn’t just accept it.
“I’ll put it to you bluntly,” Minerva said. She pulled out a parchment and a self-inking quill. “I don’t know what disgusts me more—your casual, ritual abuse of your own child or the fact that you involved your parish priest in activities that could see him memory charmed back into childhood. The Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the British Ministry of Magic has already contacted the Vatican regarding the priest and it is likely he will be removed from his place here in your community.
“We have a treaty with the church and this man came precariously close to violating it both in deed and word. Had he performed that exorcism on Hermione—the Catholic Church would’ve had to pay your daughter several million pounds in damages for the emotional abuse. They may very well settle a great deal of money on her for the forced baptism because while you might not have known what she was at that point in her life he did. He knew and tortured her anyway.
“Being a witch is not evil; magic is a divine gift and a responsibility, one your daughter has met with great dignity and care. Which you should be thankful for—she’s a very talented witch, so talented in fact, that she could make you forget you ever even knew her. She could have leveled this house in a temper tantrum from as young as five years old, killing you both in the backlash of it.
“As to your threat to burn her at the stake, you’d take care to remember what happened to London in 1666. Magic learned to protect her own, and when a group of young men tried to set fire to a pretty witch who wouldn’t give them the time of day—they set the entire city ablaze and she walked through that fire and returned to us unharmed.”
“What’s that paper?” Adam Granger asked gruffly.
“I’m going to adopt Hermione into my clan and House. Since she’ll still be a minor in the Muggle world after her upcoming birthday, you’ll need to forfeit your parental rights. You’re going to release her to my complete custody without a single word of protest or I will have you arrested for the abuse of a magical child and thrown in our jail. We let demons guard it. They are called Dementors,” Minerva said. She unrolled the parchment and proffered the quill.
“She’s our child,” Jane Granger protested. “We have a right to… see to the safety of her soul.”
“You’d best concern with the safety of your own soul,” Minerva snapped. “Dementors like to eat them, you see.”
Adam plucked the quill from her hand. “You could’ve have done this over the summer and we wouldn’t have had to pay for her schooling this year.” He signed in each place Minerva indicated then passed the quill to his wife. “You go through your room, girl, and take all of your crap with you today. Anything you leave behind will be burned.”
Minerva stared at him. “Dobby!”
The elf appeared immediately. “Professor Kitty wants Dobby?”
“Miss Granger’s room—go pack up all of her things—leave the furniture, she won’t need it. And thank you for making yourself available to me today, Dobby.”
“Professor Kitty is welcome. Lord Potter says to do whatevers you and Miss Hermione need today. I goes get trunk.” He popped away.
“What was that?” Adam Granger demanded.
“A house elf—a magical servant. Hermione recently met and became friends with the Earl of Gryffindor. His family is one of the oldest in magical Britain and incidentally, one of the wealthiest.” She picked up the contract and reviewed it. “Speaking of money.” She pulled out an envelope. “Here is twenty-six thousand pounds to cover the cost of Hermione’s tuition and supplies this year. I’d rather my child not be indebted to you from this point forward.” She let the scroll close, tucked it into her robes, stood, drew her wand and cast tracking charms on both Muggles before performing the secrecy spell that Amelia Bones had requested she place on the two Muggles.
“What was that?” Jane Granger shouted. “What did you do to us, you witch?”
“Tracking charms,” Minerva said blithely, “courtesy of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. The Director wanted to make sure she could find you should she need to in the future.” She paused. “Additionally, I don’t know if you plan on it, but I would avoid having more children if I were you. You’ve already produced one magical child—the likelihood that a second would be a Muggle, like you, is extremely slim.”
“It’s not our fault she’s a witch.”
“Oh, but it is,” Minerva corrected. “Magic is inherited. It is likely both of you have magical ancestors. And honestly, if you hadn’t wanted a magical child you shouldn’t have had a magical child.”
Dobby reappeared with an elegant, highly polished rosewood trunk at his feet. “Dobby be packing all of yous stuff, Miss Hermione.”
“Oh, Dobby, where did you get that trunk?” Hermione asked. “It looks expensive.”
“Lord Black pays for it. It be an early birthday present for you, Miss Hermione. It have a room inside it—for storage of all of your things.” He patted it and handed her a tiny key. “I pick it out. Do you like it?”
“It’s lovely,” Hermione whispered. “Thank you. Can you take it to Hogwarts for me?”
“Yes, Miss Hermione.”
She turned to her parents. “I guess this is it then—I’m honestly hurt by how easy this was for both of you. All I have ever wanted my whole life was your love and acceptance. I would have even turned my back on magic if I’d thought it would make a difference. But you see, you treated me badly before you even knew I was a witch. I don’t remember a time when either one of you ever hugged me or said you loved me. You’re the only tie I had with the Muggle world so I doubt we’ll see each other again… goodbye.”
Minerva took Hermione’s hand in hers and stared pointedly at the Muggles in front of her. “My father was a minister, a Muggle minister, and my mother was a witch. I was raised in a religious home and let me assure you of this—no just, moral god would condone the abuse of a child. You are both going straight to hell.” She apparated away, taking Hermione with her.
Hermione blinked and glanced around. “Merlin’s pants, where… what is… this isn’t Stonehenge, is it?”
“No, I’d think not. The magic of Stonehenge was destroyed sometime ago,” Minerva said bluntly. “And really, Miss Granger, Merlin’s pants?”
“Ron is a bad influence on me,” Hermione said, throwing her former friend under a bus without a single hesitation. “Oh, and he’s the reason that troll almost killed me first year and the reason I ended up in the Chamber of Secrets and why the Whomping Willow almost killed me in third. And he tried to blackmail me into figuring out a way past the age line during fourth year. Then he berated me and called me a traitor for going to the Yule Ball with Viktor Krum. He also tries to get me to do his homework for him but I swear I’ve never done it. And I think last summer at the Burrow he tried to peek at me while I was undressing. He walked into my room there six different times at bedtime without even knocking until I screamed at him and Mrs. Weasley told him off.”
“I certainly did tell him off,” Molly said cheerfully from their left.
Hermione jerked and gasped as witches started to appear all around her. “What is this?”
“This, dear one, is a coven,” Minerva said. “My coven to be specific, the Rowan Circle. Magical adoptions are primarily the magical responsibility of wizards. However, over the generations witches have found a way to adopt children without the aid of a wizard. Though, we still can’t make one without one of them.”
Hermione blushed. “Oh, am I going… will I be…”
“You’ll join my coven, yes. A daughter is a rare and very important gift in our world as male children are often coveted to continue the line. My mother was from the clan Ross. When the last of her brothers died, I was last with the family magic. I had two nephews—they both died with my son, Douglas. I’ve married twice in my life—once to a Muggle man named Dougal McGregor. We had one son live to adulthood. After the war, I married for the second time, a pure-blood wizard named Elphinstone Urquart. We were married just a few years before he had an accident and died. As I was his bonded wife at the time of his death, his family magic remains with me. Today, I will gift to you all of this—making you my daughter in blood and magic, if you agree.”
Hermione nodded, tears welling in her eyes. “I agree.”
* * * *
Harry felt a shift in his core—something intrinsic, important had changed. He left his desk and went straight to his trunk. Inside, he found a locked portable vault. Harry pulled the key from around his neck and unlocked it with shaking fingers. Four books and a rolled piece of parchment were inside. He put down the box, unrolled the document, and sagged on the stone floor in relief. He skipped to the end where their names were written in an elegant script and found:
Harry James Potter – Magical Soulmates – Hermione Isobel McGonagall
He touched her new name with trembling fingers, startled that the magic of an adoption ritual was strong enough to alter the magical record he’d received directly from the Book of Souls. Harry carefully rerolled the scroll, tucked it back into the box, and locked it. Now he had a new problem. He was going to have to ask Minerva McGonagall if he could court her daughter.
* * * *
“Have a good time, darling?” Castius Arnou asked.
Sirius unfastened his waistcoat as he spelled the soot from his clothes. “Not so bad, mostly NEWT studies and one class of first years. Minerva should be back for Monday classes so just another day of it. Harry seemed… comfortable I guess. He’s made a strong connection with his god brother. I feel like an arse. I should’ve arranged for some kind of contact with them. Lily would’ve wanted that. She adored Neville as a baby and was his godmother.”
“You’re a horrible father,” Castius said solemnly. “I don’t know how he came out so normal with you around.”
Sirius laughed and sprawled on the sofa beside his lover of ten years with a sigh. “What did you have in mind for dinner?”
“The elves are still putting the house together. Elroy promised me curry on Saturday though. I figured we might go out; maybe even Muggle London.”
Sirius nodded. “Sure if that’s what you want. Movie?”
“I have no idea what is playing right now. We could pick up a paper or stop by the theater to check the times on the way to dinner.” Castius stood. “But you’re going to have to change your clothes.”
“Maybe you could help me.”
Castius laughed. “A late dinner then?”
“It could be quick,” Sirius assured.
“If I’m going to take off my clothes, I expect to be properly compensated for it,” Castius told him with a mild little glare that had Sirius laughing.
“I aim to please.”
“You aim to misbehave on a regular basis,” Castius said as he stood and offered Sirius his hand. “Come along, my Lord, and we’ll get you sorted.”
* * * *
Friday had passed without Hermione or McGonagall returning to the school but Harry had kept his mouth shut. He had no way of explaining his knowledge of his soulmate’s situation so he let the rumors and speculation fly about around him without discussion. He’d spent most of Saturday morning working on the correspondence that made up his small part of operations for the Lily Potter Foundation and Potter Redoubt specifically. Most of the admin work fell to Mrs. Christin, who ran the orphanage, and Remus Lupin, who was the Director of the foundation, but they both insisted he have a hand in the operations. It was a relatively new thing for him as neither had pressed duties on him before he’d claimed his title.
One of the former residents of Potter Redoubt had been accepted into Muggle medical school so arranging tuition assistance for that had recently crossed his desk. The rest was just operating expenses that he had to approve. He trusted both Mrs. Christin and Remus Lupin but he did his duty and read each report thoroughly before approving the expenses and setting them aside to be sent to the bank.
“Lord Potter, you have a visitor.”
Harry glanced up at the small portrait of Niall Gryffindor that was on the wall in front of his desk. “Who?”
Harry made a face. “Tell her I’m unavailable.”
Niall raised an eyebrow. “She’s an attractive little witch.”
“She’s flat-chested,” Harry countered. “She borders on boyish. You just like her red hair.”
Niall shrugged. “Was a bit of a weakness of mine but you know I married a blonde.”
“A really busty one,” Harry reminded. “Seriously, I’ve seen her portrait at the Keep.”
Niall grinned. “She was gorgeous, no? I’ll tell Miss Weasley to fuck off.”
“Politely,” Harry said with a sigh.
“If you insist,” Niall said with a smirk. He disappeared from the frame and came back shortly. “She wants to know when you’ll be available.”
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. “Fuck me.”
“Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s on her agenda,” Niall said cheerfully. “Good Lord, lad, if I’d claimed my title while I was at Hogwarts I would’ve tupped my way through my entire peer group.”
“I have no doubts,” Harry said dryly. “Tell her that I’ll be out in the common room in about an hour.”
An hour later, he gathered up his Transfiguration homework and made his way out to a table in the common room to endure whatever the only daughter of Arthur and Molly Weasley had planned. He resolved to set up a privacy protocol on the portrait immediately that would prevent anyone from sending Niall to fetch him if it was engaged. At the moment, the portrait was obligated to report all visitors no matter the situation or Harry’s preferences. Ginny was in a seat across from him at the two-person table before he’d even got himself sorted to work.
Harry inclined his head. “My apologies for not having time for you earlier, Miss Weasley, I had several letters to write that could not wait. How can I help you?”
She blushed under his gaze as she set her books down on the table. “I was just thinking that we could study together. I heard you really did well on your OWLs and I could use a more mature eye.”
“I don’t have the time to tutor,” Harry said. “If I did that schedule would probably fill up pretty quickly with my wards from Potter Redoubt—several of them requested it of me if I had time.”
“Oh, nothing formal like that…” Ginny smiled. “I just thought we could spend some time together. We could go to your quarters if you wanted.”
“No,” Harry said immediately. “I’m an adult, Miss Weasley, and you’re underage. We won’t be spending any time together in private, it would be inappropriate.”
“But you’re just sixteen,” she protested.
“I’m magically and legally an adult due to claiming my title. It’s best if I avoid any chance of impropriety.”
“So you wouldn’t date an underage witch?” Ginny asked.
“Public dates, yes, but for anything beyond that I would require parental permission. It’s merely a precaution. It is my duty to protect the honor of my house,” Harry said as he opened up his book to the reading assignment.
“I’m sure my mum and Dad would give me permission to be in your quarters,” Ginny said slyly.
“I’ve no intentions of asking,” Harry said.
“I’d just like to get to know you.”
Harry couldn’t keep from frowning. “To what end?”
“Do you intend to… not date anyone while you’re here?” Ginny demanded, exasperated.
“No, I have a date with Hermione Granger for the first Hogsmeade weekend actually. She’ll be seventeen in a few weeks so that’s something to consider. There are probably other sixth year girls who’ll be seventeen this year and there are the seventh years themselves. I have plenty of options.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Hermione? Seriously? She’ll bore you silly. All she talks about are books and school work and Muggle stuff.”
It would’ve been easy to allow himself to be furious at the girl but that wasn’t the sort of reaction that would serve him at all. It also wouldn’t do Hermione any favors among the other witches in their house if he lost his temper with one every time they expressed interest in him.
“I happen to like books, school work, and Muggle stuff. I spend a great deal of time in the Muggle world actually. It’ll be relief to date a witch who won’t be so out of place in that world. My last girlfriend had never set foot outside the magical enclave in Paris.” He pulled out several pieces of parchment and considered his assignment briefly before calling for his elf. Dobby appeared instantly. “Hey, I need Modern Transfiguration by Elias Riverstone and Transfigure This by Esmeralda Forth.”
Dobby nodded. “Would yous like me to set up small library in your office here?”
“That would be great,” Harry admitted. “Fifteen to twenty titles on each subject I’m studying for my NEWTs. Pick the ones I use the most often and we can add to that as needed.”
“Yes, Master Harry,” Dobby popped away.
“Why was your house elf dressed like a person?” Ginny asked, horror tingeing her voice.
Harry started to respond but Dobby reappeared with the books. “Thanks, Dobby. Could you arrange dinner for me in my quarters tonight? I’ve had my fill of the Hall for the day.”
Dobby nodded. “Elroy be making curry for Lord Black and Healer Arnou this evening. Would yous like that or something else?”
Harry hummed under his breath. “I’d actually prefer Italian. How about you send Albert to that little bistro place in Tuscany that Dad always gets take-away from? Lobster ravioli, house salad, and tiramisu.”
Dobby nodded. “Elf white wine.”
Harry grinned. Elf wines were non-alcoholic but still quite nice. “Sounds good, oh and espresso with tiramisu. How about seven? Let me know if Albert takes longer.”
“Yes, Master Harry,” Dobby popped away with barely a glance in Ginny’s direction.
He focused on Ginny who was frowning at him. “It’s illegal to abuse or neglect a bonded servant in France. I could be heavily fined for allowing my elves to dress in rags. Moreover, I would be ashamed of myself if I treated a sentient magical creature with such disrespect. The plight of house elves in this country is just one of many reasons why I’ve been reluctant to live here. I don’t know that I’ll be a full time resident after I leave Hogwarts either. Between the disgusting pure-blood agenda, the outright persecution of magical creatures, and the slave conditions of house elves… well frankly, I feel that Britain should be brought before the ICW and tried for multiple counts of crimes against Magic.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being a pure-blood.”
“No, but there is a lot wrong with assuming that pure-bloods are better than the rest of us. I have more magical power than any pure-blood in this castle. Hermione Granger is the brightest witch of the age, easily an Enchantress level witch currently, and most of the pure-bloods in this castle make the asinine assumption that they’re better than she is. It couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“So you find her magical potential attractive?” Ginny assumed.
“I find every single bit of her attractive,” Harry said dryly. He opened up his extra books to the chapters he wanted to read before writing his essay. Both books were new and he’d read roughly half of each one over the summer. “Not that it’s any of your business.”
“It’s just…” Ginny huffed. “You’ll see. You’re wasting your time with her.” She stood up and stalked out of the common room.
* * * *
Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. The Quidditch pitch was quite full by the time he arrived. Harry pulled out his game set and expanded the trunk with a push of his magic. Most of the kids on the pitch were from Potter Redoubt so Jonas had obviously spread the word that Harry would be on the field on Sunday. He pulled out his two brooms and resized both as Jonas trotted over from the stands. He passed Jonas the Nimbus and left his Firebolt hovering to his right.
“Alright, you lot, gather around and let’s figure out what everyone needs.”
They made quick work of sorting themselves by position and left it to him to set up drills, which he did quickly enough. The Redoubt kids were familiar with how both practice and games worked when Harry was in the mix so they guided the ones that weren’t aware into place without making a big deal of it. After nearly two hours of working with all three main positions, he pulled out four practice snitches and put a fourth year Hufflepuff through the ringer. Once she begged off, he set one of the snitches to an advanced setting and let it go. It zipped around the pitch quickly and after watching it for a few seconds, he shot off if in its wake. It took him a half hour of near top speed racing to catch it and by the time he did, Katie Bell and what remained of the Gryffindor Quidditch team was in the stands watching. She just shook her head at him and laughed.
* * * *
Her hair was darker. It was the first thing he noticed. Her mouth a little fuller. Nose just a bit more narrow at the tip. Harry blew out a surprised exhale. He’d thought her beautiful before but the small changes were quite charming when combined. She looked up at him and bit down on her bottom lip. “Hi.”
“Well, look at you,” Harry said amused. He dropped down on the sofa beside her. “How do you feel? My Dad said you’d accepted an offer from Professor McGonagall. I’ve heard adoption ceremonies can be exhausting.”
“I slept most of the weekend,” Hermione admitted. “It’s not much… really…” She touched her hair, which now was near black with honey brown highlights that most witches would to pay to have charmed in.
“You’re beautiful,” Harry said. “You were before and you are now.” A fat orange cat came down the stairs toward her and he frowned. “What is that?”
“Oh, his name is Crookshanks. I wanted to buy him years ago but my parents wouldn’t let me. He’s so mean that when I went back to the pet store yesterday afternoon he was still there. He’s an adoption present from my new mother.”
“Is that weird?” Harry asked.
“Well, he’s half-Kneazle.”
“I meant that Professor McGonagall is now your mum,” Harry clarified with a laugh as the small lion jumped into his lap and made himself at home. He accepted the weight of the animal with no complaint and rubbed his big head carefully. “Well, at least he’s got good taste.”
Hermione shrugged. “He tried to scalp Ron during our trip to Diagon Alley third year. I should’ve realized then what a git he is.”
“I’m sorry for whatever part I played in him hurting you,” Harry said quietly as Crookshanks rolled over in his lap and started to purr. “This cat is not mean. He’s a big, ugly baby. That’s what he is.”
“He’s not ugly,” Hermione protested with a grin. “He’s got character. The first time I saw him I knew he was mine. I’m pretty sure he agreed.”
“Which is probably why he was still waiting for you to come back to the store,” Harry murmured. “You knew he was still there, right?”
Hermione flushed. “Yes, I did.”
“Sometime during that first meeting, despite the fact that you left him behind—you created the beginnings of a familiar bond with him. Have you read about those bonds?”
“Yes, during my second year,” Hermione explained. “That’s why I wanted to go to the Alley before third year and look for a pet.” She inclined her head. “Do you have a familiar?”
“I do, two actually. You’ve met Hedwig already,” Harry said and carefully lifted Crookshanks off his lap. “Here, you might want to hold him.”
“Okay,” Hermione said and took her cat. She blinked in surprise when Harry gently pulled a small red and black snake from around his neck. “Where…”
“She was disillusioned. I cancelled the spell when I touched her.” The snake coiled around his fingers hissing. “She’s telling me you smell different than you did before but that it’s nice.” Harry laughed. “And that you smell like Aunt Kitty.”
“That’s what all of my snakes call Aunt Min because she made sure to introduce herself in both forms. Didn’t she transform when you bought Crookshanks?”
“Right there in the store,” Hermione admitted. “I’ve taken private tuition from her on the process since the middle of fifth year.”
“It’s a very handy gift to have,” Harry admitted. He eyed Crookshanks who was sitting very still in his witch’s lap. “Rowena, this is Crookshanks, Hermione’s familiar. You are not to harm him if you can help it.” He glanced up as he finished speaking and found Hermione slightly pale. His stomach clenched up. “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve never seen a parselmouth speak to a snake before,” Hermione admitted. “It was just a surprise. I mean I’m pretty sure you used parselmagic to charm Astoria’s unicorn but… that was non-verbal, right?”
“An unpleasant surprise it seems like,” Harry said carefully. “You know… I’d never use it to hurt someone. Yes, I’m capable of some very powerful magic because of it but I’ve never performed dark magic. I never will. It would destroy my abilities as a Healer. My Dad worked really hard to clean up the mess the Death Eaters left over most of Europe so I wouldn’t have to deal with the same crap my parents dealt with.”
“I’m not afraid of you, Harry,” Hermione murmured. “You just shocked me that’s all. Can I hold her?” She released Crookshanks and the cat plopped down on the couch in between then and batted playfully at the tip of Rowena’s tail when the snake slid a little down Harry’s arm and flicked her tail at the cat. “What is she?”
“An elemental viper,” Harry said as Harry transferred Rowena to Hermione’s hand. “Her name is Rowena and she’s just a month hold. The egg hatched on August 2nd.”
“Elemental? So, she’s magical. What can she do? How was she created?”
“At the moment, nothing much because of her age but when she’s older—she’ll be able to dramatically alter her size from the size she is now to the size of a basilisk at will. She’ll be able to disillusion herself and travel with fire. She can also use her fire to create a powerful magical ward for ritual magic. Right now, she can change her size somewhat but it’s nothing very dramatic compared to what she’ll be able to do at say six months. Her poison isn’t deadly to humans but her venom can make someone very sick. As to how she was created—the breeder bred a viper and a cobra, non-magical, then the eggs were placed in magical boxes. Rowena was incubated in magical fire.”
“Fire travel? Like a phoenix?” Hermione asked fascinated.
“Exactly like a phoenix. There are different kinds of elemental vipers of course—but Rowena’s affinity is fire, of course, because she was in a firebox. Have you ever seen one?”
“No,” Hermione admitted, clearly fascinated. She stroked Rowena’s head with gentle fingertips and smiled. “I think she likes me.”
“She’s my familiar,” Harry said wryly as Crookshanks crawled back onto his lap and butted his head against Harry’s stomach. “She will mirror my emotions.” He looked down at Crookshanks. “I don’t let grown up witches sit in my lap until after the first date.”
Hermione blushed then grinned. “I’ll keep that in mind, Lord Potter.” She inclined her head and very carefully raised her hand to her shoulder. Rowena flowed off her fingers and wrapped around Hermione’s neck gently—tucking her head into her coils.
Harry grinned. “Why don’t you keep her with you today?”
“What about bonding?” Hermione asked.
“She doesn’t seem to be distressed to be in your company. I’ve been keeping her close because she’s small.” He rubbed Crookshanks’ head. “And not particularly independent like this big guy. I think we’re well passed the first stage, I just got used to her.”
“Will she need to eat?”
Harry laughed. “Not at the moment but for future reference she prefers her food to be still moving when she gets it.”
“Ugh,” Hermione grimaced. “She’s lucky she’s so beautiful. I bet Mum got you a red one because of Gryffindor.”
“I have no doubts whatsoever about that,” Harry agreed, thinking of Rowena’s iridescent red egg and the lovely ruby color she’d been at birth. Now she was a mixture of red and black scales. “Her egg looked like a cluster of rubies. I still have it. She cracked it down the middle coming out. I thought I might make it into a box of some sort with a little hinge and a latch.”
“Very good idea,” Hermione approved. “I’ve always thought those keepsake boxes made of eggs are really lovely. My grandmother had one made out of an ostrich egg. It had a velvet lining—she said she kept her secrets in it. I miss her a great deal. She wasn’t like my mother… and honestly didn’t like my father much. I think, looking back on it, that she was a squib. She never spoke of her family and married my grandfather when she was eighteen. I remember that she absolutely adored me and called me her little…” Hermione took a deep breath. “Her little miracle. She must have known I was magical.”
Neville and Seamus came barreling down the stairs at the moment with bags.
Hermione raised one fine eyebrow at them. “Must you run about like that?”
“Good lord,” Seamus proclaimed. “You sounded…” He tilted his head. “You look, huh, prettier than usual actually. Did you color charm your hair?”
“I was adopted,” Hermione said. “In blood and magic.”
“Oh, wow,” Neville said. “So, what’s your new name?”
“New name?” Seamus asked confused.
“It happens,” Neville explained. “Sometimes it’s family magic and other times it’s a choice that the new parents and adopted child make together.”
“Hermione Isobel McGonagall,” Hermione said with a slight smile.
Seamus sagged against the couch with an exaggerated groan. “Now we’ll never get away with a bloody thing.”
“Congrats, Hermione,” Neville said and elbowed Seamus. “That is brilliant and the changes aren’t so drastic—you just look more you. The Ross legacy looks good on you. I understand that Isobel Ross was a really beautiful witch. Many wizards were disappointed when she gave up magic to marry a Muggle.”
“Who is Isobel Ross?” Seamus asked.
“Professor McGonagall’s mother,” Neville explained. He leaned forward a bit. “Hermione, there is a snake around your neck.”
“Rowena,” Hermione explained and touched the snake. “This is Harry’s familiar. She’s going to hang out with me today.” She checked her watch. “Oh, we need to get Potions.”
“Let me disillusion her,” Harry said and pulled his wand. “That way no one will harass you with questions.” Hermione lifted her chin slightly and didn’t move as Harry’s magic moved over but her eyes got a little wide. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she answered in a small voice. “Lovely. Thank you. I’ll see you at lunch?”
“Lunch,” he nodded in agreement. “I have dueling with Flitwick so I’ll have to come back here for a shower after that. Meet you here?”
* * * *
Severus Snape noted the changes with the future Head Girl the moment she entered the room. He also had strict instructions to keep McGonagall’s new daughter away from Ron Weasley, whom he’d been brow beaten by Albus to accept in his NEWT class. She was above average student even in potions so he often paired her with less talented students. The second less talented student in his class was from his own house, much to his disgust. He casually rearranged the pairings—until the Weasel was seated with Daphne Greengrass, he’d owe the girl big and Hermione McGonagall was partnered with Gregory Goyle. He’d have to give Gryffindor points to make up for that.
He got them working and sat down at his desk to work on the test he didn’t plan to warn anyone about. He had to get his kicks someway. A startled scream broke him from his thoughts, he looked up just in time to see Gregory Goyle jolt away from his partner, and Rowena coiled off Hermione in a seething hissing mass of fire. The snake struck out at Goyle twice while the class descended into chaos. Vincent Crabbe drew his wand and pointed it at the snake.
“No!” Hermione shouted. She reached out, snatched the six-foot snake up, and backed quickly away from the all. The snake’s fire flowed over her body like water, bathing her in a truly eerie red and black light.
“Crabbe!” Snape shouted. “Lower your bloody wand before you get yourself thrown in Azkaban! An elemental viper is a protected species and more to the point that particular one is the familiar of Lord Potter.”
The doors to his classroom flew open and Harry Potter came through them, Flitwick and the Headmaster at his heels. The young Lord was dressed in t-shirt, trainers, and a pair of ragged jeans that clung to his surprisingly strong, but lean frame. He must have been in a dueling session.
Harry looked around the room briefly and focused on Hermione who was huddled in the corner near the back of the room. Rowena was burning and hissing in fury. “Merlin.”
“I’m not sure what happened,” Snape admitted.
“She’s not making much sense,” Harry said. “Something about a cruel boy and bad touching and…” He trailed off and his eyes darkened. He walked around the lab table separating him from Hermione and went down on his knees in front of her. “Rowena! That’s enough!” The snake continued to hiss threats over Harry’s shoulder at one of the boys in the back of the classroom. “Hermione.” The girl’s eyes focused on him. “Don’t be scared.”
Severus Snape snorted. “She picked up that snake after it caught fire, Potter.”
“Right,” Harry murmured. “She’s not old enough for this. She shouldn’t be capable of this kind of transformation for another five or so months and fire? Burning like this is supposed to be impossible until they are a year old. She hatched a month ago.” He reached out but was repelled by the fire ward. He reared back in shock. “Calm down, sweetheart, and tell me what happened.”
“Big ugly boy touch your witch in private place. Order her to meet him in closet. Call her mudblood. Her magic flared then we were like this. I kill him! Squeeze him. Take all of his air!”
Harry sat back on his heels. “Okay. Hermione apparently had a bit of accidental magic and Rowena caught the rush of the unfocused magic. This was the result.”
Harry looked over his shoulder at his Head of House. “Professor, this looks a lot worse than it actually is. The fire ward isn’t going to hurt her.”
Minerva took a deep breath and put a hand on her stomach. “Alright, alright, this is… Severus we need to clear this room.”
“Agreed, all of the students but the boy she was sitting with should leave,” Harry said lowly. “He should stay so that he won’t be difficult for you to find later.”
“Goyle,” Snape began. “Sit.” He pointed towards a chair. “The rest of you, get out!”
“Aunt Min… just give me a minute to contain Rowena. I’m going to have to force my way past the ward. I won’t hurt Hermione.”
“I have every faith in you, Harry,” Minerva said quietly.
The doors to the classroom opened and Professor Sprout entered. “Minerva, one of your Gryffindors just came and told me….” Pomona trailed off. “Merlin’s pants.”
Harry laughed. He couldn’t help it and he turned back to Hermione and found her covering her mouth to hide her own giggling. He shook his head. “You can’t talk at all can you?”
She opened her mouth but no sound came out. She shrugged.
“Right. Can you let her go?”
Hermione looked down at her hand and bit down on her bottom lip. She shook her head.
“Okay. I’m going to have knock her out with parselmagic. You’ll probably pass out shortly after. It won’t hurt and when you wake up this will all be over.”
Her gaze flicked to Goyle in a panic.
“Don’t worry. That bastard so much as thinks about coming near you I’m going to turn him inside out,” Harry said bluntly. He flicked his wrist and a gleaming blackwood wand slid into his hand. “This is probably going to freak you out, and I’m sorry. Just know, I’d never hurt you, okay?”
“Rowena, I’m so sorry for this.”
“It won’t kill me.”
”I swore to protect you,” Harry said sadly. “You’re too young for this. Our bond too new.” He started to move his wand, the gesture slow and precise as he pushed magic into his wand. He drew the first rune in the shimmering fire surrounding them. Then another and another, the shocked silence of his teachers bore down on his back as he broke down the fire ward his familiar had created with Hermione’s magic. When he could, he jabbed the wand through the fire and pointed it at Rowena. “Stupefy!”
The fire flared then was sucked away in a vortex of magic as the snake shrank and fell unconscious from Hermione’s hands. The witch blinked and took a deep breath even as her eyes glazed over. “Harry that was… dead sexy.”
He caught her as she fainted and plucked Rowena’s lax form the folds of Hermione’s skirt. “Right. Earlier today, she went pale as parchment listening to me talk to Rowena and now it’s sexy? I’ll never understand witches,” he bitched under his breath as he used a sticking charm to drape his familiar around his neck then he picked Hermione up. “This one is for the infirmary.” He glared pointedly at Goyle. “And that one—needs a lesson in manners.”
“What did you do, Mr. Goyle?” Minerva demanded turning. “Well?”
“I…” Goyle exhaled. “I just told Granger she looked nice today.”
“McGonagall,” Minerva hissed in correction. “Her name is Hermione McGonagall. Now what did you do to my daughter to reduce her to accidental magic? A problem she’s only ever had in extreme cases of emotional and/or physical distress.”
Greg Goyle wasn’t a particularly smart boy but neither was he suicidal. “I want my Dad.”
Harry frowned at the boy. “I bet you do.”
“Mind you own business, Potter.”
“I certainly will,” Harry said pointedly. “When your Daddy gets here, beg to go home with him Goyle. There isn’t room enough for two us here and in case you missed it, I actually own this pile of rocks.”
Of course, the students from potions class were still lingering in the hallway when he and Minerva left with Hermione. He ignored them the best he could and followed his Aunt with the slight weight of Hermione in his arms. It would be all over the school by lunch that he’d carried her to the infirmary.
* * * *
“Ah, lad, I’m sorry,” the healer from St. Mungo’s said as soon as he heard the entire story. “Have you tried to wake her?”
Harry shook his head as he cradled Rowena in his hands. “I don’t… I don’t think I’m ready to know.”
“You didn’t have a choice. Had you allowed it to continue, it would’ve eventually burned them both out and damaged Miss McGonagall’s magic irreparably. Neither one of them were in control of that fire,” Todd Dyson said gently. “It was very unfortunate accident.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Dumbledore said.
“He used defensive parselmagic on his familiar,” Healer Dyson said. “It is very likely that it broke their bond. If it did—the likelihood that it can be recreated is zero. Her magic will never trust him.”
“Defensive?” Snape questioned.
“I broke her fire ward with runic magic then I stunned her,” Harry explained. “She’s so young and I’m not sure she’ll be able to accept that it was necessary no matter what she said. If her trust in me wasn’t strong enough for it—our bond will die the moment she wakes.” He cradled the snake carefully in his hands, already a bit heartbroken. He didn’t regret it. The potential risk to Hermione had been too great and as much as he adored Rowena, Hermione was… everything. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. “Healer Dyson, if it’s gone… it would be a great favor to me if you’d take her.”
“Lord Potter, I…”
“She is a baby,” Harry said. “She bonded with me within minutes of leaving her egg. I don’t know what being unbonded would do to her long term. So, please, say you’ll take her if it is necessary.”
“It would be my honor,” Dyson said finally. He plucked a pillow up from an unused cot and placed it on Harry’s lap. “Did you want me to wake her?”
“No, my magic put her out—it should wake her up,” Harry said. He withdrew his blackwood wand again. “I don’t want her to associate your magic with this trauma. It’ll make your bonding with her more difficult.” He cleared his throat. ”Rennervate.”
Rowena coiled immediately, her body curling and writhing on the pillow for a few seconds before she settled and flicked her tail restlessly. “Cold. Stupid ugly boy. Bad touch. Cold, Harry. Me cold.”
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” Harry murmured and cast a warming charm on her before picking her up gently. “Better?”
She flicked her tongue out in a pouty manner. “I go sleep. Fire go out. I not dumb. I understand, you know.”
“What?” Dumbledore asked.
“She’s berating him for letting her get cold and for believing she wasn’t mature enough to understand his actions,” Dyson said and sighed. “Their bond is fine.” Then he glanced over to the curtained area where Hermione was. “Headmaster, I’ll need to run some diagnostics on her that Poppy won’t be familiar with. She was exposed to a rather large amount of parselmagic from Rowena herself.”
* * * *
Hermione stayed still under the attention of the healer from St. Mungo’s until he lowered his wand and his magic retreated. “I’m fine.”
“You are,” he agreed. “May I ask why you had Lord Potter’s familiar with you today?”
“She wanted to go to class with me,” Hermione said. “I didn’t mean to hurt her. Is she okay?”
“She is fine and was not harmed by your accidental magic,” Dyson assured. “In fact, all you did was help her mature a little faster than nature intended. Her bond with Lord Potter remains healthy and her biggest complaint was that during the breaking of her fire ward, he inadvertently removed the warming charms he placed on her.”
Hermione relaxed. “Okay. Good.”
“Now,” Dyson began and glanced briefly at Poppy before continuing. “You have a very large and painful looking bruise on your upper thigh.”
Hermione blushed and adverted her gaze with a huff. “Yes, I… I’d rather not talk about it.”
“That is not an option,” Minerva snapped and took a deep breath when her daughter flinched. “Hermione, I expect you to be honest what happened. You’re not in trouble.”
Hermione looked toward her then, her eyes glistening with tears. “I didn’t encourage it… I promise.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Poppy soothed and sat down on the bed with a small jar of paste. “This bruise balm. We’ll apply it after Healer Dyson leaves if you’d prefer.”
“Yes, please,” Hermione took a deep breath. “Professor Snape reassigned our partners today—I guess to separate me from Ron which was fine. Unfortunately, the only student as bad as Ron is Greg Goyle. I knew that I would get another student in the class who was doing poorly. All of the better potions students are stuck with those who won’t do well unsupervised to prevent accidents and the like.
“And we were working fairly well together, I thought. He retrieved all the ingredients and was listening to my instructions about cutting them when he said… he said… that I looked different, good.” She took a deep breath. “Then he put his hand on my thigh and squeezed really hard and ordered me to meet him in the broom closet on the third floor after dinner.” She took a deep breath. “Then he squeezed harder and said, ‘don’t look shocked, Granger, fucking is all mudbloods are good for’.” She brushed away tears. “And I lost control of my magic and Rowena got big and caught fire and Vincent Crabbe pointed his wand at her and I just picked her up to protect her. I didn’t know it would trap me in her fire ward.”
“You picked up an elemental viper while it was on fire?” Dyson demanded. “She didn’t catch fire after you holding her? You’re sure?”
“Severus said the same thing,” Minerva murmured. “That she picked Rowena up after she was already on fire.”
Dyson frowned and left them without another word.
* * * *
Harry looked up as the Healer stormed towards him. He held up a hand and said in parseltongue, “I know.”
“You know?” Dyson demanded. “Why did you not tell me this to begin with?”
“A man’s soulmate is a private matter, Healer Dyson and she does not know. We’ve only just met, you see.”
Dyson frowned at him and ignored the curious look he was getting from Dumbledore. “Does anyone else know?”
“Very few people and this won’t alert anyone else to the circumstances—despite how far we have come; much of parselmagic is shrouded in mystery. It would be dangerous if anyone knew. You’ll keep this secret?”
“Of course, you’re the bloody High Warlock of our conclave! I’m bound to keep your secrets,” Dyson hissed obviously furious to even be asked. He exhaled and shook his head before turning to the Headmaster. “She was mishandled by the male student she was partnered with in potions but physically she is fine. Emotionally she is quite upset as would any proper witch who had been groped and insulted the way she was.”
Dumbledore frowned and left them, marching towards the curtained off area. He paused outside the curtain. “Minerva, come here at once and tell me what is going on!”
* * * *
Harry was settled in a chair near the Headmaster’s desk, chatting in a low tone with Rowena when Alan Goyle came through the floo. Greg was sitting in front of the Headmaster’s desk, sweating under the cold fury pouring off the older man. Minerva was standing on Albus’ left while Snape was on his right. Harry could actually give Greg Goyle a little credit for not expiring from fear under the weight of their combined anger.
Harry relaxed, let the hand Rowena was coiled around rest on the arm of the chair, and crossed his legs at the knee. The relaxed posture, he hoped, would hide his own boiling fury. Emmie had never attended Hermione’s classes but she would definitely be in any class Harry wasn’t in from now on. He had to wonder what other abuses or mistreatment Hermione had endured in classes because Emmie hadn’t been there to protect her.
“So what? He touched up a mudblood? You called me here for this dragonshite?” Alan Goyle demanded harshly. “That Granger chit needs to be put in her place! The lot of you letting her flounce about this school like she owns it…” He trailed off because Minerva had her wand in his face.
“He touched up my daughter, Goyle. And her name is McGonagall now, has been for nearly four days. She is the blood and magical Heiress of the House of Ross, you vicious stupid bastard. Your son is lucky to still have his bollocks.” Every man in the room winced and Harry was no exception. “And we called you here to take your spawn home with you. He’s no longer welcome in this school.”
“You can’t expel him for groping a witch and asking her to meet him in a broom closet,” Alan Goyle shouted. “That’s ridiculous!”
“You’re right, unfortunately,” Dumbledore said gravely. “However, I can suspend him.”
“How long is he suspended?”
“Two years should about do it,” Albus said pleasantly. “If you’d prefer, we’d be happy to send his school records to Durmstrang.”
Goyle went to draw his wand.
“Stop!” Harry snapped out in parseltongue. “Pain.” The man sank to his knees, his hand clutching at his arm. “Take your thug of a son and go, Mr. Goyle and never forget what having yourself marked as a slave by that monster left you and your magic open to. He is not welcome to return, ever. In fact, neither of you are welcome on any piece of land I own. You should stop by Gringotts and get a list—it’s public knowledge after all. The consequences of testing me on this will be extremely painful for you both. After all, you’re to blame for his behavior. He’ll become the man you raised him to be – to both of your detriments.” Rowena lifted her head and hissed at them both, spitting in fury despite Harry’s calm exterior, telling everyone just how far gone Potter’s temper was. “As for this place—I own it and Hermione McGonagall can flounce about it any way she bloody likes.”
Greg helped his father stand and they started towards the fire.
“Greg,” Harry began lowly. He paused until the boy met his gaze. “You ever come near her again and I’ll use your skin to make my house elves new boots.” His mouth quirked in a hard little smile at the looks of disbelief he received from both Goyles. “I was raised in the House of Black and I’m every single inch the man my father raised me to be.” Rowena rose up off his hand bodily and her hood snapped open, framing her head in glistening ruby red scales. Both Goyles stumbled through the floo and disappeared in a rush of green fire.
Snape cleared his throat. “I… wasn’t affected by what you did to him.”
“I didn’t wish for you to be,” Harry said simply. He stood, lifted his hand so Rowena could wrap around his neck.
* * * *
Harry was half way to Gryffindor before he was essentially ambushed by six Slytherins. He raised an eyebrow at them and flicked his wrist to draw his wand. “Problem?”
Draco Malfoy cleared his throat and to his credit only glanced briefly at the wand Harry drew. “We don’t know what Goyle did to Granger but we want you to know whatever it was—we don’t support it, wouldn’t have allowed it, and were he not already apparently gone he would be soundly punished for it. Crabbe is also extremely sorry for brandishing his wand at your familiar and your witch. He was overwrought. It won’t happen again.”
“My witch, you say?” Harry asked.
Draco raised an eyebrow. “She was wearing your familiar, Lord Potter.”
Harry nodded. He could hardly deny it. “I’d be displeased to learn that Goyle’s unseemly behavior is the norm around here. A gentleman holds the honor of a witch above his own.”
“We all agree,” Draco said. “And those in Slytherin who don’t understand on what we all agree on will be educated by morning.”
“It’s all I can ask,” Harry said in agreement. He inclined his head. “Good evening, gentlemen. Walk with me, Draco.”
Roger Davies and Sullivan Fawley, the sixth year prefect Hufflepuff, were waiting for him outside the door leading into Gryffindor. They all three waited a respectful distance while he said the password and motioned them to follow him in. The common room was quite crowded. Hermione was on the sofa with Astoria and a few second year girls that he didn’t know well.
Harry pulled Rowena from his neck as he walked, paused briefly behind the sofa, letting his fingers trail through Hermione’s unbound hair and Rowena slithered down over her shoulder. Crookshanks hopped up on the back of the couch and Harry obliging plucked him up as he headed towards his quarters with his still silent company in tow.
“What the fuck, Potter?” Ron demanded. “That snake almost killed her earlier and now you’ve got a Slytherin in here?”
“Watch your mouth, Weasley,” Harry snapped. “And mind your own business.” Crookshanks hissed at Ron. “I’ve met trolls with better manners.” The portrait to his quarters swung open and he dropped Crookshanks on the small sofa in front of his fire. “Dobby.”
The elf appeared immediately. “Lord Potter.”
“I have guests. Table for four—tea and some of the lemon cake from that bakery in Paris. Also, ask Hermione if she’d like any of the cake.”
“I be sending Kiki for the cake,” Dobby said as he snapped his fingers and a table with four chairs appeared. He disappeared and by the time they were seated Dobby had a tea service in place.
“I’ve not heard exactly what happened from her,” Harry began. “But Rowena told me that Goyle basically touched Hermione inappropriately and ordered her to meet him in a broom closet for sex. He also called her a mudblood.” He added honey to his tea and stirred it with careful movements. “Is this the kind of thing that happens often?”
“No,” Fawley said shocked. “No, I’ve never heard anything like that happening in all the time that I’ve been here in Hufflepuff.”
“There was an incident in my fifth year,” Roger began. “Some of the girls in our house had taken to bullying Luna Lovegood. It got around one day that Luna wasn’t wearing any knickers under her uniform because all of hers had been stolen. One of her fellow third years cornered her in the library and tried to verify that. It took Madam Pomfrey six weeks to lift the impotence curse she put on him. After that, I made it clear that the bullying would stop and we made sure that the boy in question learned exactly why what he did was wrong.”
“There was a rape in Slytherin,” Draco said quietly. “I was a third year when it happened. They were both seventh years. Professor Snape… had him expelled. The witch withdrew and never returned. At the beginning of my fourth year, he gathered all the boys up and told us the unfortunate story of how Marcus Flint had been castrated over the summer while he was asleep and no one knew how it had happened. Two first years had nightmares for weeks about having their bollocks mysteriously fall off.”
Dobby appeared with a tray full of cake, which he distributed magically and popped away again.
“I could’ve killed him,” Harry said quietly. “I’m still not quite certain I won’t eventually if I’m given the opportunity. My father would destroy me for even considering coercing a woman into sex. Force? Merlin, I’m sure my funeral would be well attended.”
“Agreed,” Sullivan said. “Unless my mum got to me first then there probably wouldn’t be enough to bury.” He picked up his fork and tried his cake. “Oh.”
Harry smiled briefly. “Fantastic, right?” He sat back, draped a napkin over his thigh. “I don’t know how Dumbledore plans to address this situation. If the rape in Slytherin wasn’t enough to make him start a class in social ethics and responsibility, I don’t know what it would take. There are classes in Magical Primary about courting etiquette and the like but most of the kids our age weren’t enrolled. More importantly, neither rape nor what Goyle planned was about sex. He wanted to dominate her, put her in her place. His father even said something about Hermione not knowing her place and being allowed to flounce around this school like she owns it.”
“A lot of pure-blood families were outraged when it was published in the paper that Hermione was the top student of the year,” Draco began. “She is a Muggle-born and there were plenty who believed that she shouldn’t be allowed to do better than pure-bloods.”
“I’m sure your father was on that bandwagon,” Harry said dryly.
“Yes,” Draco agreed. “But then he can’t even keep his wife at home so his opinion on the matter of witches doesn’t hold a lot of weight with me.”
Roger Davies snorted. “Merlin, Malfoy.”
“It’s true and also this cake is the most amazing thing I’ve ever had in my mouth,” Draco admitted.
“That’s a shame,” Harry said dryly. “As pretty as you are I’d assumed the witches would be falling all over you.”
Sullivan Fawley just grinned. “Malfoy’s just coy about it.”
“I’d wager there isn’t a coy bone in his body,” Roger said and sighed. “So what do we do? Hold some private meetings?”
“Or we can gather up all the witches and teach them the castration hex,” Harry said casually. “But that might impede population growth in the UK. No offense, but I’ve met a lot of wankers since coming here.”
“I heard that McGonagall is furious,” Sullivan said.
“She adopted Hermione—magic and blood last week. That’s why they were gone until this morning,” Harry said. “Goyle groped the Deputy Headmistress’ daughter, the Heiress to the House of Ross.”
“I assumed as much as soon as I saw her,” Draco said. “Though I thought for a minute it might have been your father that adopted her.”
Harry grimaced. “I’d have to disown myself.”
“You’ve got it pretty bad for a witch you met less than a week ago,” Roger said dryly.
Harry shrugged. “I’m going to do my level best to marry that witch, lads.”
“Happy hunting,” Fawley said cheerfully.
“You’re going to have to ask McGonagall if you can date her,” Draco said. “There is no envy for you to be had, Potter, none at all.”
* * * *
No envy to be had? Harry wasn’t so sure he agreed. Ron Weasley glared at him furiously as he escorted his guests out of the dorm before sitting down on the sofa near Hermione. Rowena came to him and curled around his arm, hissing nonsense as she did so.
“What is she saying?” Hermione asked.
“It’s not always words,” Harry admitted. “Sometimes… well it’s like when Crookshanks purrs I guess. Nonsense noise.”
“Are all elemental vipers bred from a cobra?”
“Most but that’s just aesthetics. They are very beautiful snakes. The father was the cobra. The female is always a viper; in Rowena’s case, her mother was a Malayan pit viper. There were papers detailing her lineage, which is quite prestigious, with the firebox when I received it. Her mother’s line has been breeding elemental vipers for nearly six hundred years.”
“So what were Malfoy, Fawley, and Davies here for?” Hermione asked as she closed her book and turned on the couch to face him.
“Tea and cake,” Harry said and smiled when she frowned at him. “And a conversation about social responsibility and ethics. Vincent Crabbe is extremely sorry he pointed his wand at you by the way. I expect you’ll get a formal apology tomorrow.”
“Formal?” Hermione frowned. “Is… that different than a regular one?”
“Very. He’ll probably be forced to rehearse it in the mirror,” Harry said with a wry grin. “When he does apologize, if you accept, just thank him and say he’s forgiven.”
“And if I don’t accept?” Hermione asked, obviously curious.
“Tell him you acknowledge his effort and that you will let him know at a later date your decision. Or you can refer him to your mother.”
“He didn’t actually cast anything at you and even if he had, Rowena’s fire ward would’ve deflected anything short of an Unforgiveable. If you consider him as twisted as Goyle and incapable of learning a lesson, then you are under no obligation to accept his apology.” Harry stroked Rowena’s head with careful fingers. “He’ll apologize for pointing his wand at Rowena and I will accept it. I have no issue with him at present. Honestly, I can’t believe he was the only one to draw his wand. At least he has some self-preservation.”
Hermione bit down on her lip and shook her head. “I’ll think about it.”
“Of course you shouldn’t accept that slimy Slytherin’s apology!” Ron snapped.
“I didn’t ask you, Ron!” Hermione snapped. “What I do or don’t do is none of your business.” She gathered up her books and left them in a huff; Crookshanks shot Ron a dirty look and trotted after his mistress.
Harry looked up and found Ron glaring at him. “Problem?”
“Since you arrived,” Ron began in a low tone. “You’ve done nothing but lord your wealth and fame over everyone. I don’t know what you’ve got planned for her but it’s not going got happen. Hermione is mine. I’ve been her friend for a long time and I’ll be her friend long after you are gone. As for your pet, that thing is dangerous and I’m filing a complaint with Professor McGonagall in the morning. It’ll be gone by the end of the day. Mark my words.”
Harry could’ve warned him but he wasn’t feeling very charitable where Ron Weasley was concerned. The boy was delusional. It’s like he’d totally forgotten what Hermione had said to him that night though he was still sporting the remnants of the shiner she’d given him as apparently Poppy Pomfrey had refused him any bruise balm. After a long minute staring at him, Harry stood and left the room without another word in Weasley’s direction.
Next Episode: Gryffindor’s Covenant