Title: Harry’s Secret
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 13,878
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.
* * * *
Hermione looked up from her essay as a stack of books were slapped down in front of her. She stared at Ron as he sat down at her table, already irritated by his gall and he hadn’t even spoken. It wasn’t like she hadn’t anticipated the conversation that was about to take place. Ron was stubborn and utterly blind to their new circumstances. She knew he was under the impression that eventually things would return to the way they had been.
“I need your help with my Charms essay.”
“No,” Hermione said and went back to her own work.
“What do you mean, no?” Ron asked.
“No, I’m not going to help you,” Hermione said slowly and clearly. “I’ve shown you over and over again how to write your essays and you can’t be bothered to pay attention. I spent so much time in the past trying to show you only to have you do it half-arsed and barely get a passing grade. Why on Earth should I waste my valuable time helping you when you never learn anything from me?”
“You help Neville and Seamus,” Ron protested.
“Neville never told me I was mental for studying. Seamus never made fun of me for preferring the library to a game of exploding snap. Neville and Seamus learned how to structure their own essays by the end of first year, Ronald. I read over their work and offer suggestions and corrections. That’s all I do for them but I won’t even do that for you because you never make the corrections I suggest. You just—it’s like you just want to waste my time.”
“It doesn’t matter, Hermione,” Ron said hotly. “You’re a Muggle-born for the love of Merlin—you’re never going to get far in the Ministry or really in any job. You’ll work some dead end position until you get married then you’ll stay home like a proper witch and have children. Even with your recent adoption—it doesn’t make a difference. You’ll never be more than you are, which is just a bossy, plain, little know-it-all who should’ve been grateful I even wanted you.”
Before Hermione could respond, Harry was there, pulling Rowena carefully from her neck where the snake had retreated after dinner and grabbing Hermione by the arm.
“Come with me.”
She was trembling.
“Come on,” Harry said carefully. “Just take a deep breath and calm down. If you lose it in here—you might hurt one of the little kids.”
Hermione’s magical aura flared as Ron stood and started to move between them. “You get the hell away from us, Ron Weasley!”
“Neville, a little help here,” Harry said as he pulled her towards the door.
“Right.” Neville punched Ron in the stomach and grinned as the redhead doubled over in agony. “Merlin, that felt great. Ten points from myself for fighting!” Then he exchanged a high-five with Seamus.
“Excellent work,” Harry said breathlessly as he moved her through the portrait hole. “Get her mother and probably the Headmaster. I’m taking her to the dueling room.”
“Are you holding her magic in?” Neville asked flabbergasted as he followed them out of the portrait hole.
“More ward than spell. Sort of like a weather ward, you know the kind that keep storms away from your house? I have one on my ring to control my own bouts of accidental magic. She’s inside the ward because we’re touching.” Harry picked her up and walked swiftly down the hall and into the dueling chamber that the Headmaster and Professor Flitwick had prepared for him. He put her down on her feet, backed slowly away, erected the dueling wards, and let go.
Her magic lashed out against the ward like a hurricane. Harry leaned against the wall and watched as objects were conjured only to almost immediately fall to pieces. Fire swirled in the air around her, whipped up by a gale force wind. He judged himself ten kinds of an idiot and called Dobby.
“Oh, Master Harry, who upset your witch?”
“The Weasel,” Harry said bluntly. “Go get my Dad and Healer Arnou. Tell them I’m an idiot and ask them why the hell they failed to mention that she’d be my equal in magic.”
He barely glanced at Dumbledore and Aunt Min when they entered. He wasn’t surprised when Flitwick joined them as the man was keyed to the wards for the dueling room.
“What happened?” Minerva asked.
“Ron Weasley,” Harry said. “Whatever you said to him—it just made it worse, really. Now when he gets frustrated with her—he goes straight for her weak spots.”
“We’ve got to calm her down before she magically exhausts herself,” Minerva said. “She’s never had issues like this.”
“It’s my fault,” Harry said bluntly.
“I don’t understand,” Minerva said.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Magus often come in pairs, Minerva.”
Harry flushed when his Aunt Min turned on him with a glare. “I have a ton of reasonable excuses for keeping this a secret. I started to tell you earlier this evening but my Dad spent a lot of time drilling it into me how important it was to keep it a secret for her safety.”
“I’m an idiot,” Minerva muttered. “Really. The fire ward—her accidental magic. She’s a bloody elemental mage!”
“Yes,” Harry said. “Let’s see if we can’t get her to calm down without being drastic.” He handed Rowena to Minerva, broke through the wards, erected the strongest he had behind him and pulled his wand. He cast two stunning spells at her and wasn’t surprised when she deflected them both with a wandless shield.
He cast another and her head whipped around. She glared at him and drew her wand. Harry offered her a formal salute and her head tilted. She copied his action and as soon as he lowered his wand, she cast a banishing hex at him as powerful as anything he’d ever cast. He hit the ward high but landed on his feet nimbly. Harry offered her a smile just short of feral and responded in kind.
She grew more focused, less angry with each hex and charm until it became play. He watched it—the fury drain out of her. Her wand work became more precise, her body more fluid and most importantly her magic calmed. Her magic slowly receded. Oh, she was still mad but there was confusion and maybe a little bit of fear in her eyes now.
Harry lowered his wand just a little and she stopped. “Want to see something beautiful?”
“Yes,” Hermione whispered.
“Expecto Patronum!” Prongs leapt from his wand in a sweep of silver magic, his hooves clicking on the stones of the room as he cantered around them in a full circle.
A grim, a phoenix, a cat, a raven, and finally an owl joined Prongs—circling around them and Hermione slowly lowered her wand as they faded.
Harry put his wand away. “I’m so very sorry.”
She huffed at him. “The last time a boy told me that, I ended up punching Ron Weasley.”
“Good news is that Neville took care of it for you this time. However, in about an hour or so, if you feel the need to punch me—know already that you’re forgiven for it.”
She looked away from him. “Have you lied to me?”
“Not that I know of. I’ve certainly gone out of my way not to.”
“Have you manipulated me?”
“That depends—do you count the blatant flirting?”
“No,” she laughed and blushed.
“Are you going to tell me why I’ve been dreaming about you since my first year?” Hermione asked. “Because that would be nice.”
He frowned at her.
“Pardon me, I’m a little put out,” he admitted. “I never had dreams about you.”
“You were in the Chamber of Secrets my second year,” she said. “I thought… I thought I hallucinated that because of the shock but I didn’t. You were there. Fawkes brought you.”
Harry exhaled sharply and looked away from them all. “It was going to kill you.”
“Harry James Potter!” Minerva McGonagall snapped from behind the ward.
“It was going to kill her!” Harry shouted. “What the hell did you expect me to do? Just let that bloody waste of flesh and bone get my soulmate killed because his stupid bint of a sister poured her twisted little heart out to a goddamned dark object?”
“The Whomping Willow,” she said pointedly and turned to Sirius. “That black dog that saved me—was that you? Everyone said you turn into a grim and that you did it when you were teaching for my mum.”
“That was me,” Sirius confirmed from behind the ward.
“The troll my first year?”
“Don’t even get me started on that bloody troll!” Harry snapped. “And for the love of Merlin, what possessed you to try to get through all those traps! That greedy little bastard talked you into going for the stone so he could get rich! You went after a stone that you assumed, rightly, was fake! Had the Headmaster not got there ahead of you—you’d have run right into the arms of Voldemort!” He started to pace. “I can’t even tell you how many times in the past eight years I’ve almost had you kidnapped for your own safety! And I thought it would be better when you were in Hogwarts! By the goddess, was I mistaken!”
“Why are you yelling at me? I should be yelling!” Hermione shouted back at him. “You arse! What do you mean… eight… oh…” She huffed. “Did you spell my parents to stop hitting me?” She ignored the intake of breaths from the teachers that weren’t fully aware of her past. “Did you?”
“No, if I’d gone anywhere near your Muggle parents at the age of eight, I’d have probably killed them with accidental magic. I sent a house elf to protect you,” Harry admitted. “She spelled them to leave you alone. She killed that troll your first year. She slowed you down in the traps so the Headmaster could get to you in time. She alerted me that Ron had taken you down into the Chamber of Secrets. She prevented that psychotic priest from performing that exorcism on you. She kept Viktor Krum….” He trailed off.
“What? Did you have her make him go away because you were jealous or something? He didn’t even answer my last letter! Is that your fault?”
“He’s a rapist!” Harry shouted as his magical aura flared with his temper. “He hasn’t written you because he’s in a clinic in Switzerland being treated for the persistent, potion resistant impotence he developed the night of the Yule Ball during your fourth year. And if he ever comes near you again I’m going to castrate him!”
She pointed one slim finger at him. “I’m perfectly capable of castrating him myself!” Hermione huffed. “I want to see this elf!”
Harry paused. “Emmie. Her name is Emmie and she’s special to me—she was my nanny elf when I was a baby. She was the real reason I was rescued from Privet Drive but that’s a secret.”
“Because if the British Ministry of Magic knew it was her who… it’s against the law for house elves to use defensive magic against Muggles for any reason.” He glanced towards their audience. “I wasn’t capable of accidental magic. I was so starved and broken—that I was near permanently magically exhausted. All the Ministry knows is that it was the large burst of accidental magic that saved me. Emmie used her bond with me—a bond that led her to me because I was near death. She was able to penetrate the wards hiding me—to fake my magical signature. In the magical backlash of the event, my Uncle Vernon was killed. My Aunt Petunia is in a Muggle nursing home. She can’t move from the neck down. Their son Dudley was the only one spared.”
“And you sent her to protect me?”
“I knew she was capable of doing what was required to keep you safe—from anyone Muggle or magical. I was quite relieved by her excellent troll combat skills. Total surprise.” He held out a hand and a little elf appeared under his hand. Her green hair was piled on top of her head in an elegant top knot. She was wearing a long sleeved red wool dress, black leggings, and knee high leather boots. Her blue eyes were bright with intelligence.
“Good evening, Miss Hermione.”
“How are you are related to Star?” Hermione guessed.
“I be her oldest daughter, Miss,” Emmie said.
“What were your orders when Lord Potter sent you to me?”
Emmie stared at her. “I was told to protect Hermione Jane Granger from all threats—magical, Muggle, physical, mental—as much as possible without being seen or discovered. I was told to make sure you always had enough to eat. I was told to make sure you never got cold at night.” Harry blushed and looked away from her. “I was told to quiet your nightmares if you had them. I was told to keep your secrets and to never reveal them to anyone, not even Master Harry, without your permission.”
“Did you ever tell him any of my secrets?”
Emmie inclined her head. “That be depending.”
“On what?” Hermione asked.
“Well, you not be able to tell me what was a secret because I was invisible so I had to decide what was a secret and what wasn’t,” Emmie explained. “I tell Master Harry when you do well in school and when you won awards. I show him memories of your violin recitals and how pretty you looked for the Yule Ball and when you do well in class.” She shrugged. “Then to be fair—I show you memories of him.”
“In my dreams,” Hermione said. “You showed me memories of him in my dreams.”
Emmie nodded. “To be fair.”
“Are you the reason my cousin Brenda breaks out in acne every time she sees me?” Hermione asked amused.
“She be a horrible girl,” Emmie defended. “She ugly on inside. I make her ugly on outside. Teach her a lesson.”
“Why do you still have the wards up?” Sirius asked.
“Hurricane,” Harry said simply. “I figure we’re in the eye.”
Hermione huffed. “I’m not going to lash out at you. At least you’ve never almost gotten me killed!” She glared at him. “Why didn’t you tell me before?
“When? When you were nine and had no idea what magic was? When you were eleven and going to a place I couldn’t follow? Your beautiful mind is an open book, Hermione, to even a very unskilled Legilimens. You’d never have been able to keep it a secret and you’ve spent the last five years surrounded by the children of Death Eaters! The Minister for Magic is so obsessed with me that he’s tried to kill my Dad twice. He sent a team of Hit Wizards to Paris when I was ten years old and the French Magical Secret Service had to guard me for the six months it took the ICW to intervene. Do you have any idea how much danger you could’ve been in if he’d even suspected what you were to me?”
“What about when you got here?” Hermione demanded. “It’s been almost two weeks!”
“Ah, yes… Hi, I’m Harry Potter. I’m your soulmate. Sorry about stalking you with my house elf and Hagrid. I meant well.” He flipped a hand around in the air and shook his head.
Hermione nodded. “Okay, that might have been… weird. Mostly because I don’t even know what a soulmate is. I mean, of course, I know what Muggles think it means.”
“I’m not the one to teach you,” Harry said bluntly. He dispelled the wards and left the room without another word.
Hermione stared after him in shock. “What? What was that?”
Sirius sighed. “That was my son strategically retreating from a situation that is probably going to hurt him a lot.”
She scowled at him. “Thanks for the vote of confidence, Lord Black.”
“Do you believe in God?”
“Did you believe in magic when you received your letter?” Sirius asked patiently.
“No, I thought… I thought it was utter nonsense.”
“Can you believe in something that you cannot see, cannot touch?”
She considered it. “Seeing is believing.”
“What do you think of Divination?”
“We make our own fate,” Hermione said firmly.
Dobby appeared in front of her with a small box. He held out a key. “My Harry Potter be sending you this, Miss.”
Hermione took the key and looked at Sirius Black. “What’s in the box?”
“A copy of the record from the Book of Souls and three books—the three best books ever written about the magic of soulmates. He bought them for you years ago. Read them, Miss McGonagall. Read them so very carefully. You only get one shot at this.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione demanded.
“Harry took one look at your name in the Book of Souls and accepted you—sight unseen. He believed in the magic of the book that Merlin created without question. He spent the next eight years of his life protecting you. He waged a private war for you—drove the spectral form of Voldemort into the next world before he could regain a body and be a threat to you.” Sirius watched the color drain out of her face.
“If you don’t accept him,” Minerva began but looked away without finishing her sentence.
“I’ll take him back to Paris and you’ll never see him again,” Sirius said when Minerva looked toward him for help. “It’ll be better for you both to make a clean break.”
“I don’t understand,” Hermione snapped. “How could never seeing him again be better?”
“Soulmate magic is fragile in the first stage. If you’d met when you were younger—you’d have probably bonded without even realizing it. Your magic would’ve accepted each other practically from the moment you met. But even now you stand there, Hermione, thinking that you barely know him. You think what you’ve just been told is extremely unfair to you,” Albus said. “But do remember that he accepted you when he knew nothing about you.”
“My magic… it’s acting out because he’s near?” Hermione asked.
“He is a magus,” Healer Arnou said. “The first of his kind in many hundreds of years. He is uniquely connected to the wild magic of our world. It stands to reason, though we never considered it, that his soulmate would be his peer in magic. You are a burgeoning elemental mage, Miss McGonagall. Should you reject your soulmate—it is likely this magic will once more go dormant and you’ll be as you were before you met him. But right now your magic is straining and growing—trying to reach out to his because no matter how you feel, your magic wants that connection to him.”
Hermione nodded. She reached out and took the box from Dobby with trembling hands. “Okay. Thank you so much, Dobby, for bringing this to me. Let Harry know that I will treat it with the utmost care.”
Dobby nodded and popped away.
Hermione hugged the box to her chest and took a deep breath before turning to Emmie. “I want to thank you very much for watching me over the years. You and I alone both know exactly what you spared me. You were there, right?”
Emmie nodded. “I was there. It be your secret.”
“You stopped me.”
Emmie nodded. “Protect Hermione Jane Granger from any threat, magical or Muggle.” She rocked back on her heels. “I like your new name.”
Hermione blushed. “Me, too.”
“I protect Hermione Isobel McGonagall, too.”
“If that is your wish and as long as Harry requests that you do so. You don’t have to hide anymore,” she whispered. “But, tonight I could use some privacy. Is that okay?”
Emmie inclined her head. “Can I be putting a charm on you so I be told if you are physically hurt?”
“Yes.” Hermione flinched briefly as the charm settled then Emmie disappeared silently. “Well, that explains why I never heard her pop.” She turned to them. “I need to speak with my mum and Lord Black privately please.”
Minerva offered her hand and Hermione rushed over to her adoptive mother. Minerva led them through the castle to her office and once they were inside cast several privacy charms. “Bloody hell.”
“I know,” Sirius said quietly. “This isn’t how we expected… frankly… what we planned was underhanded, but I’ve spent a great deal of time making sure that Harry valued the bond with his soulmate above all other things. So when I sent him here—his goal was to become her friend in the most honest fashion possible and hopefully allow nature to take its course. We believed that if she was allowed to work her way into a romantic relationship with him that the bond would take care of itself as if they’d met when they were children.”
“I agree,” Minerva said and glanced at Hermione who was frowning at them. “I adore you child, but your rational mind will not serve you in the days to come.”
Hermione set the box on the desk in front of her and carefully put the key in the lock. She opened it and stared at the contents for a few seconds before she carefully withdrew the scroll. She untied the ribbon and opened it gently as the gently glowing parchment bathed her face in golden light.
Let it be known that there is no lighter, no purer magic than the magic of twin souls meeting and being reunited. It is to be considered a crime against magic to stand between two so gifted by magic herself with a perfect companion in life and love—a soulmate.
Harry James Potter ~ Magical Soulmates ~ Hermione Isobel McGonagall
“Can you tell me when and why Harry went to see the Book of Souls?”
Sirius nodded. “The simple answer is that my son is a romantic at heart. The long, complicated answer is that a few weeks before his eight birthday, he came to me and asked me how his parents fell in love. We’d gone to a wedding, you see, and Harry had acted as the ring bearer. He’d gotten an up front and personal look at the settling of his Uncle Remus’ marriage bond. He was utterly fascinated by the entire thing.
“I told him how James and Lily were practically at each other’s throats from the moment they met. She was a Muggle-born. He was a pure-blood. He was arrogant and something of a bully. She was self-righteous and always thought she was right.” Sirius laughed and shared a look with Minerva was nodding her head in agreement. “They were so very passionate with each other every minute that they were together that it was almost uncomfortable to watch them—whether they were fighting or not. Finally, in the their fifth year they had this huge blow-out in the common room where James boldly claimed that he was going to marry her because they were soulmates.
“Well, Lily was a witch very much inside her own head. She laughed and told him he was full of shite, to be frank. They ended up making this big wager in front of the entire house. They would go to the Book of Souls and if they were soulmates—she would marry him after they graduated Hogwarts. If they weren’t listed together in the Book of Souls, he would leave her alone for the rest of her natural life.”
Her eyes went wide. “Those stakes were pretty high.”
“Indeed, like I said they were very passionate people,” Sirius explained. “So vivid and passionate and lovely. Their loss is such a burden even to this day for anyone who had the honor of knowing them. Well, the next Hogsmeade weekend—they marched into Three Broomsticks and before anyone was the wiser they flooed to Diagon Alley, went to the Ministry, and practically raced to the Book of Souls. A good portion of the other fifth years in our house were in their wake. The punishment we all received probably set a house record for points and detentions received at one time.
“Anyway, they entered the room where the book was and they came out fifteen minutes later. Both of them were a bit pale and shaken. James cleared his throat and said, ‘Well, it’s my great honor to introduce you to the future Lady Potter, Lily Evans.’ Needless to say we were all stunned speechless and that was exactly how Dumbledore and Minerva found the eleven of us. Standing there, dumbfounded.”
Minerva laughed. “It was certainly shocking. Soulmates are so rare—so very rare and precious to magic. Lily and James were rarely seen apart after that day.”
Sirius nodded and cleared his throat. “Despite how much they’d fought before that day—they accepted the magic that linked them together and they respected the gift they’d been given. Their bond started forming in that room as they looked at their page. He…Harry was enthralled by the story and I regretted telling it to him because just a few days later he would ask me to take him to the Book of Souls. It was the only thing he wanted for his birthday. I couldn’t deny him. Even if it didn’t open to him—I thought he deserved to see the book that brought his parents together; that made them stop and really see each other.”
He took a deep breath. “When I asked him why he wanted to go, he told me that Fate had taken his biological parents from him. He said that Fate had placed a terrible burden on him and that he deserved someone that would love him forever. He deserved a soulmate.” He glanced up at the choked sound and found Hermione covering her mouth with tears streaming down her face. “Do we need to stop?”
She shook her head mutely and wiped hastily at her cheeks.
“Getting him into Britain was a nightmare. Finally, we decided the best way was to have him snuck in with the dverger. Fudge and his people monitored my portkey activity heavily, which is why I eventually became adept at chain-apparition and why Harry has an international license himself. The British Ministry is forbidden from tracking wizards and witches licensed by the ICW. They have immunity status for apparition. Minerva, you might consider getting the same for Hermione.”
“You snuck him in through the bank?” Hermione prodded.
“Oh, not quite. We snuck him into Britain Polyjuiced as a dverger. He was part of a mass transfer of employees from the Paris branch of the bank. I met him at the bank, put him under an invisibility cloak and he followed me into the Ministry. He sat with me all day while I conducted the business of our titles and even sat through a two hour session of the Wizengamot in utter silence. Then when I could—I went down to the Department of Mysteries and we entered the room where the book is kept. Harry was too short to reach the pedestal,” Sirius admitted fondly.
“So I picked him up and he put his hands on it and… said his name. The book opened in a flash of magic and the pages flipped rapidly until they stopped and there… there you were. He wouldn’t be ashamed for you to know that he burst into tears. After I calmed him down, we left but an old Auror friend of mine by the name of Mad Eye Moody accidently revealed Harry because he’s a paranoid bastard. I had to use an emergency portkey to escape the Ministry with him. Which led to me being sued by the Minister for custody of Harry for the second time. They said I recklessly endangered his life by having him look at the Book of Souls and they also tried to order him to reveal his soulmate’s name. Due to his age, the court proceedings were sealed. The most the wizarding public ever found out was that Harry had visited the Book of Souls and that I cancelled every single betrothal contract offer I had on hand for him after his eighth birthday.”
“He didn’t tell them my name.”
“No, dear, he did not,” Sirius said. “He stood up in front of the International Confederation of Wizards, four hundred of the most politically powerful wizards and witches on this planet, and threatened to give up his British citizenship and his title as Lord Potter if Fudge asked about his soulmate one more time. Then, in what will remain the most shocking moment in ICW history, he told Cornelius Fudge to kiss his arse.”
“Literally?” Hermione asked. “Or did he just cut him down with disdain and make Fudge feel like that was what happened?”
“Literally—in English, French, and German because he said it the first time in English and Fudge said, ‘Pardon me?’ like he was outraged. And Harry said, ‘Oh, you don’t speak English?’ Then he repeated it in French and German. Then he quite politely offered to translate it into Latin and Spanish should Fudge still be confused.”
“What happened?” Hermione asked.
“The Supreme Mugwhump, Albus Dumbledore, burst out laughing,” Sirius said dryly. “And Fudge was sent back to Britain, shame faced for trying to bully an eight year old in front of basically the entire world. And I was commended on his thorough language arts education.”
Hermione’s gaze dropped to the scroll. She traced Harry’s name with steady fingers. “He bought me books.”
“He had to read all about soul bonds and he couldn’t see how someone who was his soulmate wouldn’t want books about it, too.”
Hermione put the scroll carefully back in the box and locked it. She looked down at the simple gold key, turning it over in her fingers. “This is a Gringotts key.”
She looked at the box and huffed. “He put our scroll and three books in a portable vault?”
“He put the single biggest weakness he has in a portable vault,” Sirius said.
“I’m not a weakness,” Hermione said tightly. She stood, fisted the key in her hand and stalked from the room, ignoring them both when they tried to stop her. They both continued to protest as she hurried towards Gryffindor. “Oh.” She turned around at the portrait and glared at them both. “Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I’m some heartless bitch that doesn’t understand the gift I’ve been given? He’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever met in my life. He’s kind, intelligent, charitable, great with children, and so magically gifted that it takes my breath away.” She pointed at each of them for emphasis, turned around and glared at the Fat Lady until the portrait swung open with a squeak.
Harry was sitting in one of the bay windows in the common room, speaking quietly with Rowena when she caught sight of him. He frowned briefly at the sight of her but stood—shoulders squared like he was about to go to war. Rowena slithered up his arm and wrapped around his throat in her customary position.
“Harry James Potter.”
“Hermione Isobel McGonagall,” he returned.
Magical soulmates. The words flowed between them, unsaid but rushing with power and the weight of fate.
“Is this where I apologize again?”
She huffed. “I am so angry with you, Harry Potter!” Then she launched herself at him, threw her arms around his neck, and pressed her mouth against his.
Harry Potter was many things but first and foremost, he was Sirius Black’s son—he wrapped his arms around her and surrendered without a single second of hesitation. She gasped against his lips as he lifted her off the floor and he took the opportunity to deepen the kiss.
“Lord Potter!” Minerva admonished.
Harry lifted his head and very carefully set Hermione on her feet. “She started it. I’m just relieved she isn’t going to argue with me the same way she argues with Weasley.” He touched her face and shook his head. “You are such a surprise.”
“I might hex you later,” she told him crossly as she freed herself.
“What was that?” Ron demanded. “Hermione!”
“Mind your own business!” Hermione shouted at him. “You leave me alone. We are no longer friends—you thoughtless, cruel jerk!”
“Fine!” Ron shouted back. “Be his whore! It isn’t like he’s going to marry you—you’re nothing but a Mudbl—“
Harry’s wand snapped in his hand and he hissed, “Stupefy!” Ron Weasley hit the wall with a vicious thud before anyone else could interfere. The silence that followed wasn’t at all shocking. Most hadn’t witnessed his performance in the potions lab and he consistently performed in class without using parselmagic at all. The blackwood wand in his hand shimmered with magic briefly and it disappeared with a flick of his wrist.
Harry exhaled sharply—his breathing almost loud in the silent room. “Professor McGonagall, I request permission to court your daughter.”
Minerva inclined her head. “One year. Exclusive.”
“One year,” he agreed. Harry stalked across the common room, grabbed one of Weasley’s arms and hauled him over his shoulder easily. “Excuse me.”
Minerva huffed. “Where are you taking him, Lord Potter?”
“The infirmary… eventually,” Harry said lowly. “The rest is much too crass to share with a lady.”
Minerva stepped out of his way and sent Sirius Black a pointed look. Lord Black offered her a little salute with his wand and trotted out after his son.
Hermione, who had never once read a single book on courting and magical marriage, looked flummoxed. “One year? What does that mean?”
Minerva offered her hand. “Come along then—we’ll have a talk about it.”
She accepted her mother’s hand. “One year?”
“He has one year to put a promise ring on your finger,” Minerva explained patiently as she prodded Hermione out of Gryffindor tower. “Then a further two years to produce a betrothal ring. It is a prelude to a marriage contract. That way the relationship is acknowledged as serious but you are allowed to make all the decisions. If at any time within the next year you find you aren’t interested in a more serious relationship, we’ll end the exclusive courting period.”
* * * *
“Rennervate,” Harry hissed.
Ron Weasley woke to find himself sitting in a chair in a little used classroom, magically bound and being glared at by Harry Potter, Sirius Black, the Headmaster, Professor Snape and a French wizard he remembered seeing in the hall the day Potter launched the Dementor ward. “What’s going on?”
“You and I are going to have a conversation that is long overdue,” Harry said icily. “I’ve put up with you and your foul, disgusting behavior for the last time, Weasley.”
“Why did you come here?” Ron demanded. “You ruined everything! She’s mine! She was always going to be mine!”
“You’re delusional,” Harry said lowly. “She can hardly stand you, Weasel, the only way you could’ve gotten her to agree to even date you would’ve been to potion her within an inch of her life. She thinks you’re inferior—you are. She thinks you’re lazy—you are. She knows you’re ambitionless, thoughtless, and greedy. Hermione McGonagall is the brightest witch of the age—acknowledged so not just in Great Britain but in much of the modern magical world. After she sits her NEWTs—magical scholars all over Europe will scramble to gain her attention in an effort to secure her as an apprentice. The magical world will be at her feet, Weasley. You’re the only one—well you and that vicious girl you call a sister—who doesn’t seem to get it.”
“She’s a Muggle-born,” Ron scoffed. “The laws in Britain won’t…”
“Don’t matter,” Harry snapped. “I’ll give her the world, Ronald. She can go wherever she wants, learn whatever she wants from whomever strikes her fancy. Nothing will be beyond her reach. Also, your ignorance of magical law is literally a tragedy. She was magically adopted. She is considered a half-blood legally due to her own mother’s blood status. And when I marry her—and I will marry her—she’ll be Lady Potter and no one will deny my Lady wife anything she wants. Not without regretting it a lot.”
“She’s not going to marry you—you’re dark! And she’s going to see it eventually.”
“I’m neither dark nor light,” Harry disagreed coolly. “I am instead a shade of grey. Every man in this room is such—a shade of grey. Do you want to know why, Weasley?” Harry smirked when Ron just glared at him. “Every single one of us has killed with magic.” The color washed out of the boy’s face and Harry almost pitied him. “The others—they all fought in the last blood war for the Light—fought, killed, and nearly died. Me… well…”
“You murdered your Muggle relatives,” Ron said snidely. “Everyone knows the Ministry covered that up for you.”
“My Uncle was killed in the backlash of accidental magic but my Aunt still lives—confined to a bed in a Muggle hospital for the rest of her life. But I wasn’t speaking of them,” Harry said. “Despite how they exist—Dementors are sentient creatures and I’ve killed two of them.”
“You also did a rather amazing job of killing the Dark Lord, twice,” Albus Dumbledore said with a bright smile. “The second time was practically a religious experience.”
Harry laughed. “I wasn’t aware you’d seen those memories, sir.”
“Your father was kind enough to share them with me shortly after it happened.” Albus sighed and turned to Ron. “I’m very disappointed in you, Mr. Weasley. Your behavior this year has been cruel and terribly unseemly. I’ve assured Lord Black for years that his son would be welcomed here. That many of his peers would embrace him and be his friend. Look how you’ve treated him and that is not to say how furious I am over how you’ve treated Miss McGonagall. Harry is quite right—she is an amazing and brilliant young woman with the most promising future.”
“Everything was better without him,” Ron said sullenly. “He could have any witch he wants in this castle. He picked her and she’s falling for his crap! Just like she did Viktor Krum in fourth year!” He glared at Harry. “You don’t have the right to come here and just take her away from me. I won’t let it happen.”
“It already has happened,” Harry assured him. “And even if I mess up—even if I’m stupid enough to lose her—you’re never going to have her. She’s already made that perfect clear to you. And no matter what else happens between Hermione and I, I’d never allow anyone to force her to do anything she doesn’t want.”
“I will have her and no one—not you and not her so-called adopted mother is going to get in my way!”
“He’s an idiot,” Snape said silkily. “Minerva will end him if she hears him talking like this.”
“I’d beat you unconscious, Weasley, but I foolishly gathered an audience for this conversation,” Harry said tiredly. “Have you heard enough, Arthur?”
Arthur Weasley pulled off the invisibility cloak he’d been given and silently passed it to Harry who gave it to Dobby who appeared at his side without prompting. “I have, Lord Potter.”
“Dad, what are you doing here?”
“Minerva owled me earlier in the week and informed me that your romantic interest in her daughter was not welcome. She explained to me why and I couldn’t disagree, though Molly was disappointed that you’d acquitted yourself so poorly in the years you’ve known Hermione that you weren’t even going to be allowed to court her.”
“Court her?” Ron gave his father a disgusted look. “Why would anyone have to court her? I mean, so what if she was adopted—she’s still just Hermione and a Muggle-born. I was going to ask you to write up a marriage contract in our seventh year. Why on Earth would I waste time courting her when I could be having fun with all the other pretty witches?”
Harry backhanded him. He exhaled sharply and purposely walked away. “My apologies, Arthur, I’m going to have to leave this room before I do him permanent injury.” He paused at the door. “That pain relief spell I cast on his arm is going to fade in the next ten minutes by the way.”
“My arm? What’s wrong with my arm?” Ron demanded as Potter left.
“He broke it stunning you into a wall for calling Hermione McGonagall a whore and a Mudblood,” Sirius Black said. He sighed. “Arthur—this changes nothing concerning our business ventures. And the twins are settled into their internships with Marauder, Inc. with no problems—you won’t regret letting them go to Paris.”
Ron huffed and glared at Black. The internships the twins had won over the summer had been all that anyone talked about at home. But no one had told him with whom they’d won the internship or where they’d eventually gone to live.
“It is unfortunate that your youngest son has no ambition to speak of,” Sirius said. “I’d best go find mine and calm him down before he does something magically exhausting. He’s not a physically violent person by nature—his Muggle relatives saw to that so for him to be so angry that he would physically lay hands on another person—well, the last time that happened—he changed into his animagus form. It took me four days to coax him out of it because we hadn’t quite finished the process, you see. He hadn’t mediated enough with his animal not to lose himself to the primitive nature of the beast he connected with.”
“What is his form?” Dumbledore asked.
Sirius smirked. “You’ll just have to wait and see. It’s going to blow your mind.”
* * * *
They found Harry prowling around his dueling room, his magical aura flaring like an ocean tide. Sirius watched him for a few long minutes—caught up in the boy he once was and the man he’d become.
Sirius huffed and they all three entered the room. Snape cast a privacy ward as soon as Castius secured the door. “News from Lucius?”
“He was quite put out to find my access to Lord Potter is so restricted,” Snape said. “He’d hoped I’d be able to influence him while I had him in the classroom. You were right about it, of course, but it’s irritating as hell to have a Mastery level potions student in this castle that I can barely have a conversation with in public. Minerva is the lynch pin. She’s like a lioness whenever I get near Harry which, again, was excellent planning. No one suspects the true nature of our relationship, not even Albus.”
“I don’t think the Headmaster is a threat,” Harry said suddenly. “He’s done nothing but his various jobs since Voldemort was finally destroyed.” He held up a hand when Sirius started to protest. “Honestly, Dad, do you believe for a minute that Albus Dumbledore would’ve left me in that house if he’d known I was being abused?”
Sirius huffed. “No, I don’t, but that isn’t the point! He bloody well should’ve been paying attention! You were his magical ward for over a year and the people he left you with nearly murdered you with abuse. I’m not ever going to forgive him.”
“I won’t ask you to,” Harry said evenly. “We’ve had that conversation enough over the years to know that’s impossible. What I’m telling you is that the man isn’t a problem beyond the fact that he thinks every Tom, Dick and Death Eater is redeemable.” He shot Severus Snape a knowing look and the Potions Master shrugged. “The real issue is Lucius Malfoy and the following he’s gathered in the wake of Tom Riddle’s destruction. His own son is backing away from him privately and now publically. Draco has aligned himself with me and is doing his best to force the rest of Slytherin into doing the same.”
“And succeeding,” Severus agreed. “None of them want to get on Potter’s bad side. Very few pure-bloods in this school failed to realize what it meant when he called all of the Potter elves to him in the middle of the Great Hall.”
Sirius huffed in surprise. “Why did you do that, pup?”
Harry grimaced. “I let Weasley get a rise out of me, that’s all. The foolish twat said that I wasn’t powerful enough to maintain two familiar bonds and since my mother was Muggle-born, I’d barely manage to bond with one house elf. I proved him wrong.” He waved a hand in dismissal. “The added benefit, of course, is sixteen letters left Hogwarts shortly afterward. Two headed straight for Cornelius Fudge so we know he has spies here now. We weren’t sure before. One is a Ministry Auror on loan for the DADA position—John Dawlish. His wand work is sloppy or he’s very good at pretending to be a mediocre wizard.”
“He’s just subpar,” Severus said snidely. “I assure you.” He leaned against the wall. “Should I apologize about Goyle?”
“That depends,” Harry said. “Did you know he was going to lay hands on my witch?”
“Then no.” He huffed. “Why the fuck didn’t you tell me someone was raped in your House when I was thirteen?”
Severus glared. “Because you were thirteen, Harry. I took care of it.”
“Unfortunately that lesson didn’t penetrate the rest of the student population. The level of sexual harassment in this place is profound. Goyle was so fucking comfortable bullying a witch for sex that he did it in the middle of your class!”
“I heard about your little meeting that evening with Davies, Fawley, and Draco Malfoy,” Severus prodded.
“Gryffindor lacks leadership,” Harry said bluntly. “The last wizard in the house with any sort of clout was Oliver Wood and apparently he was more interested in Quidditch than breathing. Percy Weasley subjugated the house with the rulebook but didn’t care what they did to anyone out of the house. As talented as the Weasley twins are—they were bullies and often picked on the younger students to an untold and sometimes ugly degree.” He huffed. “Willaby!” An elf appeared immediately.
“Yes, Master Harry?”
“Bring the vipers to me.”
“And the runespoor? She’ll be mad to be left at home.”
“Yes, her, too. No need to leave her out of the fun. Send them one at a time. Osiris first. Wait a few minutes then send Horus. Isis and Hathor together. Then send the Fates.”
Willaby nodded and disappeared. A slim black snake shimmered on the floor in front of Harry and he knelt.
“Master Harry need me?”
Rowena coiled off Harry’s neck, slid down on his body and onto the floor as Harry picked Osiris up. “You will watch the Slytherins for me. I wish to know everything.” He pulled out his blackwood wand to cast a warming charm then disillusioned the snake before putting him back on the floor. He glanced towards Snape. “He’ll go to Slytherin. He won’t need feeding and if he does—he’ll come to me. If you’d make a nest for him in an out of the way spot so he can rest—I’d appreciate it. The dungeons are cold; he might come to you for warming charms when you aren’t teaching. He’ll hiss at you before he comes into physical contact. Do try to avoid hurting him.”
“I’m not nearly as paranoid as Moody,” Snape said peevishly.
“No,” Harry agreed. “You never tried to stun me in the middle of the Ministry so that’s something.”
A dark brown and gold snake appeared then.
“Horus shall rule Scotland!”
Harry laughed. “You aren’t big enough to rule anything.” He cast the warming charm aware that Horus was easily the most sensitive of his snakes and the most likely to bitch loudly about being cold. “You will watch the Hufflepuffs. Tell me who their allies are, who they fear, and who they admire. Watch their magic—tell me which ones are powerful and learn who I can trust among them.” He disillusioned the snake and watched it slither away. His snakes were never hidden from him due to his parselmouth abilities.
A pair of black, grey and white snakes appeared next. Harry smiled at them and sat down in a lotus position as the twins approached. “Darlings.” Isis and Hathor were the first snakes he ever bought—sisters that had insisted on coming home with him when he was just six years old. Harry had been at the time disappointed when neither of them inclined to bond with him but he’d learned over the years that their bond with each other precluded a familiar bond.
Both slithered over his legs and into his lap, vying for attention without the edge of competition. “You will watch the children of Ravenclaw. They are the largest house—spread out over many rooms in their ivory tower of knowledge. Learn from them—find out what they seek to know. Study their magic. Tell me how they are divided—the Light, the Dark, and the Grey.” He renewed their warming charm before he disillusioned them both and they slithered away to wait with the others who were at the door waiting to leave.
The runespoor appeared last. “Have you met the Fates, Severus?”
“I have not,” Snape said coolly. “I believe you got her shortly after my last visit to Paris. You didn’t bring any of your snakes to Rome over the summer.”
The snake in question coiled wildly in front of Harry—all three heads weaving and hissing at once. Harry reached out and stroked the center head. “This is Decima, my little dreamer. To the left is Nona, my cunning little planner. And on the right is Morta, my much valued voice of reason.” He turned to Snape. “I had to spell them to prevent fighting. When I found them—Decima and Nona had nearly killed Morta. Why breeders don’t spell them at birth is a mystery. It doesn’t impact the quality of their eggs or their ability to breed in the future. The spell just prevents them from arguing all the time.”
“Most breeders don’t care about their life span after they’ve harvested all the eggs that can be harvested. Runespoor are only reproductive their first two years so they don’t bother hiring a parselmouth to spell their behavior,” Castius said lowly.
“She is three,” Harry admitted. “I think that’s why I found her abandoned in that alley last fall. She’d outgrown her usefulness. I’ll never understand the cruelty of some people.” He picked up the runespoor and hummed. “I have a special task for you, lovelies.” He stroked their heads as they twined together and hissed back to him practically in one voice. “I will have Dobby take you to the house of the Minister for Magic. You will learn everything there is to know about him—where he hides the extra money he makes from bribes, who fucks him—literally and figuratively. When you know everything there is know—you may decide his fate and dispense your judgment as you see fit.”
“Yes, Master Harry, this shall be done,” Nona hissed.
Harry rose from the floor and called for Dobby. He cast a series of charms on the runespoor, being very careful to put a lot of power in her warming charm since she might be outside for a protracted period of time before she found a way in Fudge’s house.
“Dobby, Cornelius Fudge has a date with the Fates,” Harry said as he gently placed the coiled snake in Dobby’s hands. “Get her as close to his house as you possibly can without being seen. If you can get her inside, do so. When she’s finished her mission—you’ll know. I’ve placed a charm on her that will activate and she will call you. Retrieve her and bring her to me.” He disillusioned the snake and Dobby disappeared.
* * * *
Sirius turned to his lover as soon as they went through the gates of Hogwarts. “What did he ask the Fates to do?”
Castius caught Sirius’ hand in his own and shook his head. “I don’t know. He switched to his personal dialect when he spoke to the runespoor. The others he sent to spy on various houses as you must have guessed. But, if she were mine… I would have her gather information on Fudge then kill him.”
Sirius swore and turned to march back up to the castle.
“No,” Castius said and tugged the Lord Black towards the apparition point. “He’s the man you raised him to be and Cornelius Fudge has tried to execute you twice. He would’ve kept you in Azkaban if he could have. The man is a foul bastard and Harry has every right to dispense justice to a man who holds himself above the law.”
“But they’ll know he was poisoned,” Sirius protested. “It’ll be traced back to Harry if anyone ever finds that snake.”
“Sirius, there are literally hundreds of runespoors in Britain alone. Moreover, since the runespoor is bred from a common adder—their venom is essentially the same. Besides, it is no less than what he deserves.”
* * * *
Hermione curled up on the sofa in her mother’s quarters, her expression drawn and sad. “I have… something to tell you.”
“I’m listening,” Minerva said.
“When my father accused me of getting knocked up—you admonished him by saying I was a proper witch,” she began and blushed. “Well, that’s not true. I’m not a proper witch at all.”
“Hermione,” Minerva began and sighed. “I’m very well aware of the fact that you aren’t a virgin. I knew the moment you returned to Hogwarts this year.”
“Why? How?” Hermione questioned.
“I cast charms on all of the witches in Gryffindor to insure they aren’t misused. To make sure they aren’t forced to engage in sexual activities. I knew, before Harry said, that Viktor Krum was not a wizard to be trusted. The night of the Yule Ball I was searching for you because your charms were responding to his ill intent. If Emmie hadn’t been there to protect you, the magic I had on you would’ve achieved the same result in that I would’ve castrated that bastard the moment I got to you.”
“Oh.” She huffed. “I see.”
“I know the sex you had over the summer was consensual—had it not been, I would have apparated to you the moment things got out of hand with that boy. No witch in Gryffindor is going to be ill used like that if I have anything to say about it. There was an incident a few years ago—all of the Heads have taken this responsibility on.”
“Don’t you think it might be wise to teach the boys not to rape instead of just defending us against it?” Hermione demanded the blushed when Minerva raised an eyebrow at her. “Sorry.”
“No, you’re not wrong. The Board of Governors refused to allow us to add a class regarding social ethics and responsibilities.”
“Of course they did,” Hermione said hotly. She sighed. “It was consensual but I… regret it. I was just so angry with my parents that I acted out, sought to hurt them in any way I could. I made sure they knew about it. I was careful though and he’s a kind boy. His name is Joshua and he moved in across the street a few months before I came home from school last year. We used protection but…”
“But?” Minerva asked concerned. “Did he give you some social disease? We can cure most of those, you know.”
“No, of course not,” Hermione blushed. “We used condoms for protection but the last time we were together—the condom broke.” She paused. “A condom is a latex sleeve…”
“Hermione, I’m very aware of what a condom is. I was raised in a Muggle home myself, you know.”
She nodded. “Right. Well, it broke and I was so furious with myself. I spent two whole weeks worried that I was pregnant and that I’d ruined my life trying to punish my parents. I got so overwrought that I almost…” Hermione paused. “I almost killed myself.”
Minerva pulled her into her arms with a wounded sound. “Oh, lass, why didn’t you write me? I would’ve helped you.”
“I was so worried that you’d be disappointed in me,” Hermione whispered. “Emmie?”
The elf appeared immediately. “Yes, Miss?”
“Did you stop me from killing myself?” Hermione asked baldly.
“Protect you from yourself,” Emmie said. “You be in bad place in your head but I protect you. That’s my job.” She paused, clearly flustered. “I cast contraceptive charm on you.”
Hermione blinked in surprise. “When?”
“When you started dating that Muggle boy. I not interfere—it was your choice but I knew you wouldn’t want to make a baby because you have future planned out. I take care of it but I couldn’t be telling yous, okay. I know it not right to do it without your permission but I be ordered to protect you.” She pulled on one ear in frustration. “You be very trying sometimes, Miss Hermione.”
“I bet,” Minerva said with a little sigh. “How far did you get, Hermione?”
“I took a part my father’s razor and tried to cut my throat,” Hermione whispered.
“I be making the blade dull so it not work,” Emmie confessed. “Make her lay on bed and sleep. Then I calls my mum and she comes and cast healing magic on her mind to keep her safe. We keeps Harry Potter’s soulmate safe as possible.”
“Does Harry know about any of that?” Hermione asked.
Emmie shook her head. “It be your secret, but it would’ve hurt my Master Harry Potter so much if he be knowing that you tries to hurt yourself so we not tell him.”
“What about Joshua?”
“That be your secret, too,” Emmie said. “It be consensual—your business.”
“Will he be upset that I’m not a virgin?” Hermione asked in a low voice. “If I’d known… that he was… if I’d known I had a soulmate…”
“Harry Potter be modern wizard,” Emmie said. “He not expect anything from a witch but her honesty.”
Minerva sighed. “If you were still a virgin, Hermione, I would’ve suggested you divest yourself of that particular problem this year. Harry isn’t going to be surprised, disgusted, or horrified that you aren’t a virgin.”
“A virgin your age is open to many threats for ritual magic,” Minerva said. “I doubt Harry is inexperienced himself. I’m sure Sirius would have taken care of that problem as soon as it was appropriate to do so to avoid his son being used for a dark purpose. Many dark arts rituals call for the blood of a virgin.”
“Will Harry expect sex from me?” Hermione asked.
“I can’t imagine he would be opposed to it once you’re better acquainted,” Minerva allowed. “Sex magic is one way of strengthening the bonds between two magical people. Would he pressure you for it? Absolutely not—he’s not that kind of man.”
“Huh.” She eyed Emmie. “Do you know if Harry ever dated any witch seriously?”
Emmie blushed. “Master Harry Potter date Janelle Delacour. Broke up with her before he came to Hogwarts.”
“Delacour?” Hermione asked aghast. “He dated a half-Veela?”
“Oh, no, Janelle be full Veela. Fleur’s first cousin. She be eighteen next month.”
“How am I supposed to compete with a full Veela?” Hermione demanded, horrified.
Emmie huffed at her. “You not compete with anyone. Yous Master Harry Potter’s soulmate. No witch ever mean more to him than you.”
“But a Veela?”
“Master Harry be immune to Veela allure,” Emmie bragged and offered Hermione a smirk when the witch’s mouth dropped open in shock. “He adept at Occlumency. Not let anyone mess with his mind. Protect his secrets.”
“Protect me,” Hermione whispered. “I don’t know how I’ll ever measure up to the image he has of me.”
“Master Harry not be lying to himself about you,” Emmie said before Minerva could. “He knows you not perfect. He just not care. He not be perfect either.”
* * * *
Harry found himself in the common room reading a second year’s Transfiguration essay—a task he knew that Hermione normally did. Neville had a pile of Herbology homework and Lavender Brown was working through a series of Charms practicals with the first years.
He looked up and barely concealed a frown at the sight of Ginny Weasley. He really had nothing to say to the girl though she hadn’t gotten that clue. “Yes?”
“I was wondering if you’d read over my Potions essay?” She offered the scroll and he took it.
“Sure, give me a minute to finish this up.” He put the scroll down and ignored how she took the empty chair next to him.
A few minutes passed and after he handed Dennis Creevy his essay, the younger students made themselves scarce. Harry ignored the behavior and Ginny’s obvious power play with the other members of their house. He read through the parchment quickly, frowning a bit as he did so.
“Ashwinder eggs aren’t covered until sixth year,” Harry said. “At least, not here at Hogwarts.”
“It’s an extra credit essay. We were told we could pick an ingredient and write an essay on it,” Ginny explained. She smiled. “So I figured Ashwinder eggs would be the most interesting. Don’t you think? Have you ever seen an Ashwinder?”
“The ability to create one is an innate part of my parselmagic abilities,” Harry said coolly. “By the way, you owe Rowena an apology.”
She flushed. “You want me to apologize to your snake? Isn’t that little ridiculous? I can’t believe Hermione told you.”
“Rowena told me,” Harry corrected. “A bonded familiar is as smart as the wizard or witch they bond with. I would think you’d know that considering you were raised in a magical household.”
She huffed. “I apologize for being rude to your familiar. It won’t happen again.”
Harry frowned at her but returned to her essay. “You have one mistake—an Ashwinder can be made with any magical fire including Fiendfyre.”
“But the book in the library…”
“Is wrong,” Harry said bluntly. “A parselmouth can use any sort of magical fire to create, control, and diminish an Ashwinder to create the eggs.” He handed the scroll back to her. “A fact I’m sure Professor Snape is very aware of.”
“Oh, well, thanks.” She bit down on her lip. “I was… I’ll be sixteen over the summer.”
“And?” Harry asked.
“It’s just that…I’ve asked my mother for a ritual opening. I was wondering…”
“Stop,” Harry said abruptly. “It is terribly crass to discuss this in public and inappropriate for a minor witch to approach an adult wizard with such a request herself.” He gathered up all of his books and shoved them into his bag. “Miss Weasley, you’re to address me as Lord Potter from now on. Your casual disregard for protocol leaves me no choice but to discourage you from being familiar with me. Are we clear?”
She blushed but she was obviously furious. “Yes, Lord Potter.”
“And don’t bother asking your father to make the request. I’m in an exclusive courting period. I would never disrespect Hermione by engaging in a sex ritual with another witch in her own bloody coven.”
“You can’t be… you were serious about courting Hermione?” Ginny asked loudly. “She’s… why on Earth would you want her?”
“She’s beautiful,” Harry said just as loudly. “Intelligent, thoughtful, considerate to the wishes and well being of others, and the most magically gifted witch I’ve ever met. Moreover, she is a kind, gracious, and elegantly put together woman that I respect a great deal. Having her on my arm is a boon to my magical house. Good evening, Miss Weasley.”
“Wow,” Fay Dunbar said as he Harry left the common room. “Wow.”
“Right,” Lavender said with a little laugh. “Now that we’ve got that sorted.” She glanced at Neville who was frowning at Ginny. “What’s wrong Neville?”
“What did you ask him to do Ginny?”
She blushed and glared at him. “None of your business.”
“It must have been quite inappropriate to make him that mad. His magic was flaring.”
“I didn’t notice that,” Fay said.
Neville blushed. “It didn’t reach the visual spectrum but it was close. I have mage sight.”
“Oh, that’s great,” Parvati said with a smile. “When did that develop for you?”
“Over the summer,” Neville admitted. “My dad has been training me.” He focused on Ginny. “I really hope you haven’t insulted him, Ginerva. He’s really friendly with all of us, but he is the Lord of an Ancient and Noble House. Should he feel you’ve insulted him, you could cause an ugly political situation for your father. There is a reason why the Slytherins treat Harry with so much respect, and it’s not all about his magical power. Yes, they respect the fact that he’s magically gifted but he’s… got enough political weight to ruin entire families should he so choose. Your family is probably already pretty on the outs with him because of Ron’s disgusting behavior.”
Ginny glared at him. “He can’t take that sort of thing all that seriously—I mean, if he’s going to settle for Hermione of all people then obviously social politics are the least of his concerns. Like anyone is going to take him seriously if he marries a Muggle-born.”
“His mother was Muggle-born,” Neville snapped. “And Lily Potter was my godmother. You watch your mouth, Ginerva, or you’ll find yourself insulting yet another Ancient and Noble house this evening.” He picked up his own books and headed towards Harry’s rooms.
The portrait of Niall Gryffindor offered him a jaunty salute and opened for him without pause. Neville hesitated briefly but then piano music drifted out through the portrait hole and he found himself drawn into the room. He found his new friend at a baby grand piano, playing.
He put his book bag down on a sofa in front of the fireplace and watched in silence as Harry played. After the song was finished, he cleared his throat and Harry turned his head slightly.
“My dad had me tutored in music starting when I was very young—we both find peace of mind in it.” He turned on the bench. “Problem?”
“You tell me,” Neville said dryly.
Harry huffed. “That foolish chit tried to ask me to open her in a ritual after her next birthday.” He flushed when Neville’s mouth dropped open. “I met her father this evening because of Ron—he’ll be mortified when he hears. I’ve never… surely her parents didn’t raise her to be that way.”
“No, surely not,” Neville said quietly. “Hmm, have you done that before?”
Harry paused but then nodded. “Twice, actually, at the behest of my father and my magical theory teacher. They felt it was dangerous for me to remain a virgin. One of Madam Delacour’s students was the first and the second was her niece, whom I dated for a few months afterward.”
Neville nodded. “I had a private experience over the summer with… a friend. She’s not a Gryffindor. My Gran was opposed but my father insisted.”
“You decided not to pursue a relationship with her?”
“We aren’t very compatible,” Neville admitted with a wry grin. “She actually prefers witches. She chose me because we grew up together and knew that I would treat her with respect afterward. I was really honored when her aunt approached my dad about it. Honored and relieved, I didn’t want to end up going to a professional which my father was considering. I mean I know it’s a decent and much needed profession but it was good to have sex for the first time with a friend.”
Harry nodded. “Right. Well, I need to report this matter to my father.”
“As soon as possible,” Neville said dryly. “The Weasley family sure is a pain in your arse.”
“You’re telling me,” Harry agreed.
* * * *
Sirius raised a finger and pulled out his enchanted mirror. “Pardon me, Arthur, it’s Harry.”
Arthur Weasley nodded and concentrated on his meal. He took note of the privacy charm that Lord Black cast before answering the mirror and grimaced at the shock then fury that drifted over his new friend’s face. The friendship with Lord Black had been a surprise and a boon for his family. His twins were enjoying themselves in Paris and their letters were full of good cheer about all that they were learning.
He’d signed a contract just three days ago to head a new company Lord Black was starting in the UK to further magical experiments with Muggle technologies. They were arranging for storefronts in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade to start. Molly had been nervous about him quitting the Ministry but had calmed down after seeing the ten year employment contract Lord Black had signed.
He looked up when Sirius let the privacy charm drop. “Well?”
“Ginerva tried to ask Harry to open her,” Sirius said bluntly. “He cut her off before she got the entire sentence out but her intent was clear as day. He’s insulted and furious but more so during the conversation that followed—Ginny expressed outright shock that Harry was serious about courting Hermione.”
“You know Hermione has been coming to the Burrow since the summer before her third year. I would’ve told anyone before the last two weeks that she was Ginny’s best friend and a very close, even dear, friend of Ron’s as well.”
“Arthur, Harry is magically and legally an adult. Your minor daughter asked him to have sex with her without any sort of parental agreement of any kind regarding her being opened. I made it clear to him before he ever set foot on the train to Hogwarts that he wasn’t to involve himself romantically or sexually with underage witches without parental consent. That’s why he asked McGonagall for a courting period with Hermione. Not the only reason, mind you, he is quite infatuated with her.”
“You have to know that Harry will take his courting of Hermione McGonagall very seriously. He’ll defend her and the relationship he wants to have with her. You and I both know that your youngest son is no match for Harry.” He held out a hand when Arthur started to stand. “We need… honestly, what is wrong with your two youngest that they insist on tearing a young woman like Hermione to pieces at every opportunity? They’ve acted like her friends for years and this year—it’s like they both lost their minds.”
“I don’t think they’ve ever really been her friends,” Arthur said tiredly. “I think Ron abused her good nature for help with his school work and Ginny… well, Ginny followed her brother’s lead. Molly spoiled them both rotten. They were just babies when the war ended. Molly had lost so much in the war that she just invested herself in our two youngest to a negative and harmful degree. We realized it too late and we’ve tried to correct Ron and Ginny but they are spoiled, foul tempered, and of the opinion they are entitled to everything without having to work for it.”
“Right.” Sirius sighed. “Harry reprimanded her and informed her that she was to cease to be familiar with him. He also told her that he was unwilling to engage any sort of ritual magic with another witch because of his courting period with Hermione. I think you should probably discuss this with Molly before you speak with Ginerva. Especially considering that a formal ritual would’ve involved the Rowan Circle. Your daughter just asked Harry to have sex with her in front of Hermione. That is beyond crass and into another realm of inappropriate altogether. Harry asked for permission to court Hermione in front of everyone in Gryffindor, Arthur. It is no secret that Minerva granted him a full year of her daughter’s exclusive attention unless Hermione determines that they are incompatible.”
Arthur swore under his breath and looked toward the bar keeper of the Leaky Cauldron. “I need a bloody drink.”
“Tom!” Sirius called out. “Bring us a bottle of firewhiskey! We’ll be getting quite drunk in your fine establishment this evening! Also, I give you permission now to stun me unconscious if I try to apparate home later!”
* * * *
Harry didn’t use his elves to travel often, though when he did they were very amused by him and his reluctance. First and foremost, he figured they didn’t deserve to be treated like a taxi service. Second, it was lazy. Still, when Emmie came to him and said Hermione wanted to see him in her mother’s private quarters and offered him her hand, he’d taken it without question. It was past curfew, so he figured this was their way of insuring he didn’t get caught out in the halls. He was a little surprised to just see Hermione but also kind of relieved. He didn’t know if he could have handled the pressure of his conversation in front of Minerva McGonagall on top of everything else.
He was sure he should apologize again. “I’m high-handed, arrogant, and it was completely out of line for me to ask your mother for a courting period without even discussing it with you first and since you have a ton of reasons to be pissed at me, it would be great if you’d just accept that in general I’m really very sorry for most of it. I can’t and won’t apologize for Emmie’s presence in your life because I don’t regret giving her the task of protecting you when I couldn’t. But I apologize for the rest of it without any sort of stipulation or expectation of forgiveness.”
Hermione bit down on her bottom lip as her eyes brightened with humor. “I think that under the circumstances that you were just doing what you’ve been doing for years—trying to protect me.” She inclined her head and stared at him. “Mum is already asleep. I figured this wouldn’t be breaking your rule about being alone with me until my birthday but if it does…”
“No, this is fine,” Harry said. “We’re courting and have your mother’s permission to pursue a romantic relationship until you say otherwise. And I trust you.”
“Far more than I’ve had a chance to properly earn,” Hermione said. “I… I wanted to thank you for protecting me.”
As Emmie popped away, Harry sat down on the opposite end of the sofa Hermione was on and turned so he could face her. “Helping you keep your magic contained in the common room was in no small bit self-preservation. I’m sure you could have torn the tower down.”
Hermione laughed abruptly. “I got so mad. I hated him in that moment. I hated him so much I could have ripped him limb from limb.”
“He’s probably the only person to witness it who didn’t understand that,” Harry said.
“But that’s not what I meant.” She reached out and took his hand in hers. She slid down the couch so their legs touched just a little. “I mean… since that day. Since that day you saw my name in that book, you’ve been protecting me in some fashion or another. You held our secret. You mastered a mind art that most adult magicals don’t even attempt to protect us, and you did it before you were nine years old. I think I have the right to be angry about this but I don’t have it in me. Maybe you should’ve told me as soon as you could but you didn’t. I know I couldn’t have kept it a secret as a first year. I’ve been studying magical theory and meditation for two years and I don’t have a functional mental shield. The only thing I can do at this point is recognize when someone is trying to infiltrate my mind. Fudge would’ve used me against you.”
“Fudge would’ve gotten himself killed,” Harry returned and looked down at their hands. “And you do have the right to be upset. I wouldn’t hold it against you. In your place, I would be boiling over with fury. I kept something fundamental to your magical existence from you for eight years. I came here and all along I knew you were perfect me while I left you to wonder if we had any sort of romantic potential at all.”
“I can see how it would’ve been an awkward conversation and I understand your fear, too,” Hermione murmured. “What would have happened if you’d taken me aside that first night and told me and I rejected the very idea of it?”
Harry took a deep breath even as the color washed out of his face. “I… I don’t know actually. Right now our magic is sort of reaching out but we don’t have any sort of bond. I would’ve been hurt, furious. I can’t say I would’ve stayed. In fact, I’d have probably been gone by morning.”
Her fingers tightened in his hand. “That would’ve been really stupid of me.”
“Is that how you think it would’ve gone?” Harry asked quietly, incapable of keeping the hurt out of his voice.
“I don’t know,” Hermione said honestly. “I guess I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to even imagine how that would’ve hurt you. I’d never want to hurt you, Harry. You’ve filled up my dreams for years and now you’re here—bigger than life and so magical. You make me want to believe in love at first sight and happily ever afters and that’s just silly.”
“It’s okay to be silly,” Harry said. He leaned against the back of the sofa and rubbed his thumb over the top of her hand. “I don’t have any crazy expectations, you know. I never allowed myself to think about what sort of future you and I would have once we met. If you only wanted friendship from me, I would… it would take some adjustment on my part since I’m physically attracted to you to a distracting degree but I could be content with that.”
“Content but not happy.”
“I’ve read enough about soul bonds to know that if all we allowed ourselves is friendship, we’d be… basically wasting the most profound magical gift either one of us will ever receive.” Harry looked across the room to the small fireplace that was home to a bustling little fire that was obviously a floo connection, based merely on the quality of the fire. “I wouldn’t be happy but it would have to be enough despite how complicated things would eventually become.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m the last of my magical line, Hermione. I have no choice but to marry and provide an heir for the House of Potter.” He glanced over her face and saw a variety of emotions he didn’t know her well enough to determine. “Well, that’s not true. I could never marry and let my house die with me but that would be such a waste of my family’s magic and all the work that my ancestors did before me. I could adopt and I will at some point. But I have to admit that I’m actually looking forward to that whole marriage thing.”
“Marriage thing,” she repeated and grinned. “Do you have the wedding planned?”
“Nah, all those bridal magazines are so confusing,” he protested with a small smile and relaxed when she laughed. “But Star does seem to be of the mind that I’m getting married in the garden at Godric’s Hollow. I can’t be held accountable for whatever she and the elves might have already planned. I give them a lot of autonomy.”
“My mum explained to me what a formal courting period is,” Hermione said abruptly. “She told me I could end it at any time. Can you really live with that sort of uncertainty? It hardly seems fair to you.”
“Considering our situation and my own actions,” Harry began. “Your comfort is far more important to me in this circumstance than my own. I want you, Hermione, but only on your own terms. I think the formal courting period is archaic and outdated. It does however, give us a social buffer from outside interest. We can use each other to keep other potential partners at bay while we explore what it would mean for us to have a romantic relationship.”
“And sexual,” Hermione said pointedly. “There are two different paragraphs detailing sexual access in the magical accord you and my Mum agreed to in front of the entire house!”
Harry laughed. There was no actual contract between them, but the agreed upon terms of a formal courtship were known to practically everyone. “Yeah.” He bit down on his lip when she frowned at him. “That’s the archaic part. I’m not going to pressure you for anything, not even sex. I think most couples start negotiating sex stuff after a few dates. We haven’t even had one.”
She huffed. “Right. You’re being awfully accommodating.”
“I’ve been awfully secretive. I don’t even think I’ve told you everything, yet. Five years from now something stupid will crop up that I did and didn’t tell you, and you’ll probably storm off and buy a hundred books all about hiding your git boyfriend’s body.”
“I’d only need one,” Hermione said seriously and smirked when he blinked.
“It’s moments like this when I sincerely want to crawl on top of you,” Harry told her. “I mean, seriously. The meaner you are, the more likely I am to have an inappropriate public erection.”
Hermione burst out laughing. “Harry James.”
“Honesty is my gift to you,” he told her solemnly.
She nodded thoughtfully. “You should know I’m not opposed, at all, to diamonds.”
“I will definitely keep that in mind. I probably owe you a ‘sorry I stalked you for eight years like a creepy but well-intentioned hero from a Victorian romance novel’ gift.”
Hermione laughed and leaned forward. She pressed a soft, chaste kiss against the corner of his mouth and withdrew. “That’s so cute that you assume you’d be the hero.”
“I have evidence of the fact that you’re probably the only witch in Britain in our peer group who hasn’t wished at least once I was the hero of their personal fairytale.”
“I don’t need a fairytale,” Hermione said. She looked down at their hands before focusing on his face. “I have the real thing.”