Reading Time: 53 Minutes
Title: Tom’s Curse
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 13,239
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse and violence against a child, bigotry, passing mention of rape, sexual harassment, discussion of magical sacrifices, dark rituals, 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.
Tying off her braid, Hermione entered the large dressing area connected to the showers. It was quite full but then, it was 30 minutes before breakfast started. She took a seat at one of the vanity tables and drew her wand with a little frown. Ginny sent her a venomous glare and left without a word.
Fay Dunbar snorted and shared a pointed look with Lavender.
“What?” Hermione asked.
“Harry Potter thinks you’re the next best thing to magic on this planet,” Parvati said with a smirk from a table across the room as she rubbed lotion on her legs . “No, really, he told Ginny off when she expressed shock that he was serious about courting you. He told her that you were beautiful, intelligent, kind, and elegant. Then he said having you on his arm was a boon to his magical house.”
“You don’t know what that means, do you,” Fay said curiously and nodded when Hermione shook her head. “A boon to a magical house is a blessing. Basically, he told Ginny that knowing you is a gift from Magic herself.”
Hermione blushed and exhaled sharply. “I don’t even know what to say to that.”
“You don’t have to say anything,” Fay said as she pulled a brush through her dark hair. “You are one lucky witch.”
“Oh, Hermione, I wanted to tell you that I stole your other Hogsmeade date—I didn’t think you’d mind,” Lavender said as she packed up her kit and stood. “I asked Seamus to take me after I told Ron I wouldn’t be going with him.”
Hermione turned on the stool to stare at Lavender. “I thought you liked Ron.”
“I did until recently,” Lavender admitted. “But he disrespected you, Hermione. I can’t see how that behavior is a one-off for him. How would he treat me? I mean you were supposed to be his friend since first year.”
Hermione frowned sadly. “I… look, if I ever ignored you girls in favor of him and eventually Ginny it wasn’t intentional. It’s just I never had friends before Hogwarts and after that thing with the troll—Ron was very nice to me. In Muggle school, every girl I knew was cruel to me. I guess that’s why I overlooked Ginny’s behavior. I was just used to bitches.”
Fay burst out laughing. “Oh. That’s grand. If you could say that to her face it would make my whole year.”
Hermione flushed but shrugged. She turned to Lavender. “He really hates that tea shop so if you expect more than one date you’ll avoid it… even on Valentine’s Day. Maybe especially on Valentine’s Day. He pretends he doesn’t like the book shop but he always buys at least two magazines. He’s not much for the Three Broomsticks but will go if you like it. He also won’t run off with his friends even if you say it’s okay. He’s also an excellent partner in a snowball fight.”
* * * *
Harry exited the shower stall wanting coffee. Mornings sucked and he felt like he hadn’t slept more than a few hours. He joined Neville at the sinks where he was patiently demonstrating the tie process again. Harry took pity on them both and flicked his wand at Joel’s tie.
Neville shook his head and sighed. “Don’t you dare undo that before the end of classes, kid.”
Joel laughed and darted out of the showers. Harry just shook his head at them both and rubbed his jaw. Just a faint hint of stubble but he went ahead and cast the shaving charm to take care of it before starting to dry his hair.
“Ron came back to the dorm last night but won’t be in classes today. He said he has to spend the day in detention with Dumbledore.” Neville snorted. “He made it sound like the Headmaster took over his punishment as a favor. Instead of admitting he has an in-school suspension.”
“Right,” Harry sighed. “I lost forty points, by the way, for breaking his arm.”
“Well, that’s the best loss of points ever,” Seamus said cheerfully as he joined them. “I reckon if you earned at least sixty a week that you could break his arm on the regular and no one would get mad.”
Harry laughed. “He’s lucky that’s all I broke.” He holstered his wand and grabbed the brush out of his kit. “He is one stupid bastard. I wonder if he remembers that this afternoon we have Quidditch try-outs.”
“That kid you were flying with last weekend is trying out for Keeper, right? No way Ron beats him out. He keeps saying he’s an awesome player but he tried out third year and didn’t make the team. We didn’t have it fourth year because of the tournament and he failed at try-outs last year, too,” Seamus explained.
“By the way,” Dean Thomas began. “On behalf of the rest of us—you suck.” He sighed when Harry turned to look at him. “Seriously. Courting? Do you realize just how high you set the bar yesterday?”
He grinned. “Sorry.”
“No, you’re not,” Seamus muttered. “You smug git.”
“No, not really. I mean I’m pretty thrilled with the outcome, including breaking his arm. Yesterday was actually pretty decent, all things considered.”
* * * *
He’d jinxed himself. It was the only thing he could think as he followed the rest of the Gryffindor sixth years into breakfast only to see Dolores Umbridge at the staff table chatting with an obviously pained Albus Dumbledore. Furious, he handed his bag to Hermione and strolled over to the staff table. He stopped in front of Dumbledore and stared pointedly.
“Ah, Lord Potter, good morning. I was just informing Madam Umbridge that her intentions to… inspect the school were impossible.”
“Inspect the school for what exactly?” Harry asked mildly.
“It is really no concern of yours,” Umbridge said. “Run along and have breakfast, Harry. You won’t even notice I’m here.”
“Lord Potter,” Harry corrected. “That’s how you are to me address me. As to your intentions, the Headmaster is right. The British Ministry of Magic lost their ability to have any sort of over sight over this school when Fudge broke the covenant between the government and the Earl of Gryffindor.” He paused and glared. “That’s me, by the way. I’ve allowed Auror Dawlish to remain in his position as teacher because Headmaster Dumbledore assured me that his authority on school property was limited to that of a teacher.”
“Many parents are very concerned about what is going on here,” Dolores said.
“I don’t care,” Harry said simply. “Hogwarts is just one of many fine magical educational institutions in Europe and anyone uncomfortable with my ownership can leave. This school hasn’t operated at a profit in a hundred years so it isn’t like I care if there are five or five hundred students. I could turn this place into a magical hotel and make more money out of it in a year than it’ll make in the next four hundred years as a school.”
Umbridge sputtered briefly. “I must insist that I be allowed to review the classes being taught here.”
“I must insist you leave,” Harry said. “Right now and do not ever return. Do let anyone who contacts you know that if they aren’t happy with the job the teachers do around here, they can send for their children and they will be sent home in the most expedient method possible.”
“Auror Dawlish! I want you to take Lord Potter into custody for interfering in Ministry business,” Umbridge snapped.
“Don’t do it, Dawlish,” Flitwick advised as the Auror stood. “He’s a Mastery level dueler—he’ll leave you drooling on the floor if you draw your wand.”
Harry eyed the man with hard green eyes, shifting slightly to put his body between the Auror and Hermione as she came to stand with him.
“What’s going on?” Hermione asked.
“Nothing I can’t handle, love,” Harry said.
“Miss Granger, surely you aren’t associating with this criminal,” Umbridge simpered.
“McGonagall,” Hermione corrected. “And the only one currently breaking the law around here is you.”
“The Ministry doesn’t accept Mr. Potter’s stance on our agreement,” Umbridge said.
“Lord Potter could’ve ended the agreement five different times in the past six years as the Ministry of Magic has demonstrated a sincere lack of competency in protecting the school and the students within,” Hermione said. She shifted slightly and Harry blinked in surprise because she’d just put herself between him and Umbridge.
“McGonagall,” Hermione corrected. “Are you without a single brain cell in your head? If you can’t even keep track of something so simple as a couple of names, I hesitate to believe you’d be capable of understanding the curriculum here at Hogwarts enough to do a proper audit of the classes.”
Harry bit down on his lip and averted his gaze. He connected with Draco Malfoy who was lounging like a king at the head of the Slytherin table and the other young man smirked at him. When he felt he could look at Umbridge without laughing, he refocused on the pink cardigan bedecked witch and sighed. It was no wonder, really, that she was Fudge’s henchwoman. Harry doubted that Fudge could’ve gotten someone smart to do his dirty work.
Hermione crossed her arms and frowned at Umbridge. “Though, truly, your circumstances do fascinate me. I’ve never quite figured out how a toad gained the ability to transfigure itself into a human. It’s a stunning magical accomplishment.”
Harry exhaled sharply to keep from laughing. He shifted again as Dawlish moved around the table. “Auror Dawlish, if you draw your wand in front of all of these little kids with the intent to do me harm—I’m going to put you down.”
“I happen to like my job, kid.”
“Do you?” Harry asked pleasantly. “Hmmm, hey Malfoy, what’s the punishment for an employee of the Ministry drawing their wand on a Peer of the Realm without due legal cause?”
“The loss of their job and two years in Azkaban,” Draco said as he casually set aside his napkin and stood from the Slytherin table. “Of course, only the Wizengamot itself or the ICW can order the arrest of a Peer of the Realm.”
Dawlish took two steps back and raised his hands in a gesture of surrender, which Harry didn’t buy for a minute. The whole situation was contrived and foolish. Rowena stirred on his neck and as magic started to shift around him.
Harry tilted his head slightly and hissed, ”If you value your fucking life you will back very slowly away from my mate and make yourself visible. Whatever Umbridge’s promised you can’t be worth the misery I will bring down on you.”
A wizard appeared on Hermione’s right and slowly backed away. “My Lord, I made a mistake in coming here.”
“We all make mistakes now and again,” Harry said reasonably. He turned to the man. “Your purpose here?”
“I was ordered to use Legilimency on Hermione Granger to determine her relationship with you. I don’t know why. There are rumors all over the Ministry about the Book of Souls, you, and Miss Granger.”
Harry’s eyes darkened with fury. “And you thought it was a good idea to come here and test me on this? Are you out of your bleeding mind?”
“Orders are orders—they figure you’ve already occluded her mind with parselmagic.”
He hadn’t, because he was a fucking idiot, but he certainly would as soon as possible. “So you set about to rape the mind of a sixteen year old girl? A girl you believe is the soulmate of a fellow parselmouth and the Lord of an Ancient and Noble House?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Dolores Umbridge, I declare you an enemy of the House of Potter and the House of Black.”
“As you are an enemy of the House of Potter and the House of Black,” Hermione began after a brief glance towards her adopted mother, “so shall you be, Dolores Umbridge, an enemy of the House of Ross.”
“As you are an enemy of the House of Potter, so shall you be, Dolores Umbridge, an enemy of the House of Longbottom,” Neville declared from the Gryffindor table.
“As you are an enemy of the House of Potter, so shall you be, Dolores Umbridge, an enemy of the House of Dunbar,” Fay said as she stood up beside Neville.
“As you are an enemy of the House of Longbottom, so shall you be, Dolores Umbridge, an enemy of the House of Bones,” a girl’s voice rang out.
“As you are an enemy of the House of Bones, so shall you be, Dolores Umbridge, an enemy of the House of Greengrass.”
“As you are an enemy of the House of Greengrass, so shall you be, Dolores Umbridge, an enemy of the House of Nott.”
“As tradition dictates,” Draco Malfoy began as he walked to stand next to Harry, placing himself between Potter and Dawlish. “As you are an enemy of the House of Greengrass, the House of Black, and the House of Nott, so shall you be, Dolores Umbridge, an enemy of the House of Malfoy.”
Umbridge had paled by the time Daphne Greengrass spoke. She glared at Harry. “You will pay for this.”
“Not to be a cliché but I really look forward to you trying,” Harry said. “I’d like to curse you absolutely silly.”
“Lord Potter,” Draco began in a lazy drawl. “It’s unseemly to abuse a magical creature. For all we know this could be the only toad to ever achieve human transfiguration. We should capture her and let Hermione study her. Really, for the good of toads everywhere.”
“If she’s an example of a smart toad, I actually fear for the species,” Hermione said.
Dawlish drew his wand and Hermione stunned him with a dainty little flick of her wrist. Harry’s mouth dropped open as the Auror was thrown back a good ten feet and hit the stone floor with a thud.
He turned to her. “What was that?”
“A stunner,” Hermione answered. “My first silent one.”
“Twenty-five points to Gryffindor,” Snape said silkily as he sipped his tea at the head table.
Harry frowned at her.
“What?” Hermione frowned back at him. “I can’t stun someone drawing their wand on us?”
“You can stun anyone you like,” Harry assured. “I just sort of wanted to do it myself.”
“I could wake him up,” Draco offered. “We could all take a turn.”
Harry huffed. “Dolores, leave before I lose my patience with you. You’ve already put me off breakfast.”
“Miss McGonagall, where am I going to get another DADA professor?” Albus asked with a raised eyebrow. “Obviously, Auror Dawlish will have to go—if he can’t even deflect a stunner from a sixth year.”
“Well, I’d suggest you take on the position but DADA professors don’t last long around here.” Her eyes lit up and she turned to Harry. “We could ask the toad to do it.”
“That might be considered a threat and elevate our current social position from polite hatred to outright blood feud,” Harry explained. “Not that I’m opposed. I’m of the mind that you can start a blood feud with anyone you like, sweetheart. My sword is yours and Rowena loves toads. They’re her favorite food.”
Hermione frowned at him, reached up, and pulled Rowena off of his neck despite the fact that she was invisible at the time. “You’re not feeding that toad to Rowena! What if it makes her sick? It could put her off food for weeks.” Rowena hissed her agreement, as she appeared in Hermione’s hand which made Harry smile at them both fondly.
He turned and found Dolores Umbridge still standing right where she was the first time he saw her, mouth hanging open in shock. “You’re still here? Why are you still here? Is it your intention to irritate me so much that I traumatize the first years?”
“Lord Harry, you go ahead and make her regret coming here!” A boy from Slytherin’s direction shouted. “We won’t be traumatized.”
“I can close my eyes!” Astoria exclaimed. “I have Ashley!”
“Ashley saves the day,” Draco said dryly. “Merlin help the man that little witch ends up married to—he’ll never hold a candle to Lord Potter, the Dementor Killer.”
“Shut it, Malfoy,” Harry said with a surprised laugh. “Okay, seriously, Dolores, get out of my castle.” He pointed towards the double doors. His gaze flicked pointedly at the parselmouth. “And you—you’d best tell every parselmouth that the British Ministry employs that the first one of them to put their wand to the task of hurting my witch won’t live long enough to regret it.”
The man nodded mutely and started to leave.
“Take Dawlish with you,” Harry said icily. He said nothing else as the parselmouth left with Dawlish thrown over one shoulder and Umbridge following along meekly in his wake. Harry turned to Dumbledore. “The wards need to be adjusted, sir.”
Dumbledore inclined his head. “Minerva and I have already discussed it.”
* * * *
“It seems, my boy, that you’re not dealing with the arrival of Harry Potter very well,” Albus began. He peered over his glasses at Ron Weasley. “That’s not even taking into consideration your completely unacceptable treatment of Hermione McGonagall.”
Ron huffed. “I can’t believe she let Professor McGonagall adopt her. Hermione ruined all of my plans.”
“And what about Hermione’s plans?” Albus questioned. “Her goals? Her interests in education after Hogwarts?”
Ron shrugged. “It isn’t as if it matters—a proper witch should stay home with the kids.”
“And you believe a brilliant young woman like Hermione McGonagall would be happy to stay home with children?” Albus asked dryly. “It appears that you do not know her at all, Mr. Weasley. Her charms and transfiguration work are both near mastery levels and she hasn’t even sat her NEWTs.”
“Yes, she’s so special and brilliant,” Ron said darkly. “She’s been throwing that in everyone’s face basically since she got here. Being courted by Harry Bloody Potter is just ridiculous. Hermione is never going to learn her place in the magical world like this, sir. It isn’t like he’s really serious about her.”
“I’m trying to be patient with you,” Albus said as pleasantly as he could. “But you’re making it difficult, Ronald.”
“None of this is my fault,” Ron bit out. “I can’t even… I’m not allowed on a broom for a bloody week because Potter broke my arm so I’m going to miss Quidditch try-outs.”
“Yes, well, when you provoke a lion—a mauling is often the result,” Albus said coolly. “I took forty points from Lord Potter, of course, for stunning you but really, Mr. Weasley, you called Miss McGonagall a whore and a mudblood. You should realize that her mother is so put out with you she wanted to send you home to your mother for a week.”
“Well, she’s the one just letting her daughter run around kissing a bloke she barely knows.”
“Harry Potter is an excellent wizard and a very good man,” Albus said gravely. “He is exactly the sort of wizard that Minerva wishes for her daughter’s future. As to what you might have planned, wanted, or expected from Hermione McGonagall, it’s simply not going to happen. Minerva has made this very clear to you, to her daughter, and to your parents.” Albus conjured a table near the back of his office. “You will do the homework you’ve failed to turn in since the year started today. You’ll also be responsible for any assignments handed out for the next two days.”
* * * *
Emmie popped into place in front of Harry, her expression absolutely furious. “You come with me, Master Harry.” She held out her hand.
Harry looked around the common room and his gaze connected with Neville’s, who looked a little worried. “Right, tell Hermione I’m with Emmie and I’ll be back as soon as I can?”
Harry took Emmie’s hand and allowed himself to be popped. They reappeared in the corridor leading to the History of Magic classroom. Harry had escorted Hermione there and had gone off to work in his office space. He approached the class, aware that it had ended more than ten minutes before.
“Look, Granger, we’re just trying to make sure you understand exactly how the magical world works. A man like Harry Potter isn’t just out of your league—you aren’t even the kind of witch he’d be normally be friends with.”
“This is really none of your business, Cho,” Hermione said. “It’s pathetic that you’re so bent out of shape about a wizard you’ve barely even met that you lurked outside of my class to threaten me. He hardly notices you exist unless you’re throwing yourself at him.”
“You’re in my way,” Cho hissed. “You’re going to end this whole ridiculous courting period and frankly it’s best if you cease to even be his friend. Lord Potter deserves a proper pure-blood witch.”
“Don’t make us hurt you, Granger.”
“You could try but you and I both know that I could wipe the floor with you and your friend,” Hermione said dryly. “As for Harry, our relationship is absolutely none of your business. He chose me and if you have a problem with that, I suggest you tell him. Though, based on previous your conversations with him, you might attempt to make at least semi-private. There is really no reason for you to be humiliated in public like that twice.”
“You bitch!” Cho snapped.
Harry pushed the open door all the way open and leaned on the doorframe. “Mi.” All three witches turned to look at him. Hermione’s gaze narrowed slightly at the nickname but he saw that she was also pleased by it. “I’m always willing to wait for a beautiful woman but I’m starving and you’re ten minutes late for lunch. Umbridge ruined breakfast for me. You’re about to reduce me to whining.”
She shouldered her bag and pushed through Cho Chang and Marietta Edgecomb with a little flounce that Harry found adorable. “Sorry, I got caught up in a conversation.”
He offered her a hand. “An ugly, insulting one at that,” Harry said with a little glare at Cho that had her paling. “You’d do well, Miss Chang, to stay out of my business. Else I’ll have to contact your father about your inappropriate interest in my personal life. Are we clear?”
A blush stained her cheeks. “Yes, Lord Potter.”
He paused and stared at her pointedly. “Miss Chang, you’re a bully. You’re a bigot. You’re petty, abusive, and from what I’ve heard utterly incapable of being faithful. You may be physically attractive to some wizards but unfortunately for yourself and practically everyone around you—you are ugly all the way to the goddamned bone.” He pulled Hermione from the room and past a shocked Lavender Brown who must have doubled back for Hermione.
“I can take care of myself, you know,” Hermione said with a little laugh as Harry led her away.
“Sure, I have literally a dozen of examples of how that’s true. Wait, is that the bathroom where you were attacked by the troll?”
“No, that was on second floor,” she corrected with a sigh.
He said nothing else until they were near the portrait hole for Gryffindor. Harry frowned and tugged her into a little alcove. “Look, a lot of people take one look at me and all they see is my money, fame, or the political power. They want to own part of it or in some cases—all of it. I’m not even a person to someone like Cho Chang. She’s probably been instructed by her father to get my attention. My Dad received five marriage contract offers the third day of school for me. He refused them all out of hand—without discussion and you know why.”
Hermione nodded. “I do know.”
“Good. I’d be really disappointed if you let a witch like Cho Chang make you doubt me.” He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed her palm. “Because I’m all about Hermione Isobel McGonagall, you know?”
“So, no more Veela girls?” Hermione asked in a small voice.
“Didn’t take you for a Witch Weekly fan,” Harry said dryly. “They played up my relationship with Janelle—made it seem more romantic than it ever was or ever could’ve been. She graduated from Beauxbatons in May of last year and is the niece of a favored tutor. I was asked to attend to her opening ritual.” He paused. “Do I have to spell that out for you?”
Hermione shook her head. “Mum explained.”
“Right,” Harry said. “I had… engaged in a private experience with a fellow student of Madam Delacour earlier last year. Being who I am and a virgin was just too stupidly dangerous. I agreed to participate in Janelle’s more formal ceremony because she was worried about being misused—both as a witch and a Veela. I’m immune to the allure and she wanted an honest experience with a wizard.”
“I’m not angry—you don’t have to justify your relationship with her.”
“I think I do,” Harry said gently. “You brought it up—so you’re thinking about it. I consider her a friend and yes, we were lovers for much of the summer but I ended it before I came here. She has no expectations of a future relationship with me. I told her in advance what I could and couldn’t give her. Neither one of us were emotionally invested in the relationship.”
“Except…” Hermione exhaled. “I mean… you’ve had a lover so when would you expect that from me? You’re probably used to having…”
“Sex?” Harry asked and sighed when she nodded. “One question, are you a virgin?”
“Then I am content to wait until we get married if that is your wish.” Harry watched her digest that. “I thought we were going to table this discussion until after our first date at least.”
She shrugged and asked, “if I were a virgin?”
“I’d be concerned about your welfare and honestly I’d probably do my best to talk you into my bed or suggest a ritual opening at the very least. Five witches were kidnapped and murdered in Paris last year alone—all of them virgins. The dark magic was so invested in their remains that their families weren’t even allowed to bury them properly.” He winced when she paled. “I take it Aunt Min didn’t explain that in detail?”
“No,” Hermione said hoarsely. “I had… I mean… I trusted her when she said it was dangerous to remain a virgin.”
“It started during Voldemort’s reign,” Harry said quietly. “Death Eaters killed over a hundred young witches and wizards in virgin sacrifices—Muggle-born and half-bloods. Then eventually pure-blood children of the Light side. The boys were older—15 to seventeen mostly. The girls were as young as thirteen—as long as they were menstruating that’s all that matters for most dark arts. Though they’ve learned through trial and error that the closer the witch is to her magical maturation, the more potent the ritual will be. So 15 to seventeen is an ideal age to sacrifice a virgin magical—witch or wizard.”
“But he’s gone.”
“And he left behind hundreds of dark wizards who know these rituals and know how powerful they can make them. The knowledge and information spread quickly. There were an estimated two hundred sacrifices world wide last year.”
“I was worried you’d be upset that you weren’t going to be my first,” Hermione admitted.
“I can’t say it I would’ve been opposed to that but it would be hypocritical for me to be angry considering my own history.” He brushed her hair from her forehead. “Are you… did you love him?”
“No, he was more a friend than a boyfriend,” Hermione murmured. “And I won’t see him again unless I go out of my way to. He was a Muggle—a neighbor of my biological parents.”
“We have a lot going on around us and between us—but we’re basically strangers. Yes, I’ve seen countless memories of you from Emmie and she apparently gave you just as many dreams about me. If you’re concerned about something—ask me. I’ll tell you the truth if I’m able and tell you I can’t answer a question if it comes to that.”
“Do you really want me? Is that you or magic pushing us together?” Hermione asked. “I mean… physically… well, there are prettier girls here. I’m not all that curvy like Lavender and Fay is tall and willowy. I’m not very tall.” She looked away from him. “And not at all exotic like Parvati.”
“It’s shocking really to find a witch who looks like you… who literally has no idea how attractive they are,” Harry said conversationally. “Do I want you? Yes, of course I do. I could spread you out on my bed and make a meal of you.” He smirked when she blushed. “I’m not the only wizard in this school who thinks that way and I’m not talking about the Weasel. He tore you down, Hermione, because he’s an insecure little bastard who knew he had no chance of really competing against anyone you genuinely became interested in. Neville Longbottom is worth ten of Ron Weasley—as a wizard and as a man. Ginerva Weasley tore you down because that’s what selfish little girls like her do—they build themselves up by making others feel inferior.”
“She wants you,” Hermione said softly.
“She’d hardly be the first delusional fan girl interested in taking a ride, but I don’t want her as I’ve already explained. I don’t want Cho Chang either. And as attractive as your roommates are—and they are all quite lovely each in their own right—I don’t want them either. I want you and no one else. Not even Janelle Delacour. That’s over and I have no interest in revisiting it.”
“Taking a ride,” Hermione repeated and flushed. “Harry James.”
He laughed and pressed a kiss against her forehead as he pulled her close. He kissed her jaw before whispering, “I’m a great ride and when we’re both ready for it—I’ll make sure you never have any reason to doubt how much I want you.”
* * * *
Katie Bell clapped her hands as everyone settled in around her on the pitch. “Alright, first things—Harry, I watched your drills on Sunday and to be frank, you have no competition. I’ve never seen flying like that outside of a professional game. You’re our Seeker. Thank you for making time for the team. Since you’ve played Chaser… I’d like you to help me try out people for that position and the Keeper position.”
“Not a problem,” Harry said.
“Oh, and congratulations,” Katie began dryly. “You’re the first person to ever successfully get Hermione to the Quidditch pitch.”
Harry glanced over where Hermione was in the bleachers. Rowena was curled around one slim wrist and it appeared as though Hermione was reading aloud. Which could only mean she was reading for his familiar.
“I’ve heard the real accomplishment would be getting her on a broom,” Harry said dryly as he rose in the air and flew around the group in a lazy circle. “Weren’t the Weasley twins your Beaters?”
“Yep, but Neville and Seamus have been on the reserve team since third year. I’m a planner, Potter.”
He laughed. “Let me know when you’re ready for me.” He shot off across the pitch in a steep climb.
Jonas easily secured the Keeper position—no one came close to his performance and Harry hadn’t expected differently. Jonas had come to Paris for a few weeks over the last two years with the rest of Potter Redoubt and had always done well in the games that they’d organized.
Ginny Weasley took the Chaser position. Harry had to admit she’d been the best choice even if he really didn’t look forward to spending even that much time with her. He’d ignored her hopeful smile in his direction after Katie had announced her choice.
He flew over the stands and found his girl glaring at him. “What?”
“I’m not sure I can watch you play, Harry. You’re an absolute nightmare on a broom. I saw you do that stupid Wonky Faint.”
“Wronski Feint,” Harry corrected with a laugh. He offered her his hand. “Want to take a ride?”
“I trust you mean on your broom,” Hermione said pointedly.
“At the moment,” Harry agreed. “However, the other is always an option for you in some fashion or another.”
She shrank her book and put it in the pocket of her jeans. Rowena disappeared up her sleeve and reappeared at her collar with a sweep of glittering red scales. “I want you to know I’m only agreeing to this because it’s the sort of thing couples do and Ginny is glaring at me.”
“I’ll take it,” he agreed amiably as she slid on behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
She settled with a little huff. “Don’t you dare do anything crazy while I’m on this thing.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
He took off at a sedate pace and hid a grin when she squeaked slightly every time he increased the speed. It took nearly twenty minutes for her to relax her near death grip on him and open her eyes. Though her thighs continued to tighten against his body every time he turned them so he did that as often as possible. The vertical climb had her cursing under her breath and the gentle twirl in the middle of it surprised a laugh out of her.
By the time he shot out over Black Lake, she was relaxed against him, her eyes bright with amusement and her cheeks slightly pink from the wind. They both laughed when the giant squid playfully splashed water at them. Harry weaved easily in and out of the squid’s various arms as it gently flailed around like he was trying to dance with them.
* * * *
Minerva watched Harry and Hermione playing with the giant squid from her office. Albus joined her at the window and sighed.
“I know. I could kill Fudge for being so foolish that Harry couldn’t come here his first year. Things would’ve been so much better for Hermione if he had. Just look at the changes in her since his arrival. She would’ve never tolerated Ron Weasley’s abusive friendship if she’d had Harry.”
“I imagine that Ronald would’ve never had the chance to become Hermione’s friend if Harry had come here his first year,” Albus murmured. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to protect him in Britain. Perhaps I should’ve taken the position of Minister when it was offered to me all those years ago. Harry Potter would’ve been safer in his own home country if I had.”
Minerva sighed. “I doubt the lad would’ve wanted you to give up Hogwarts to do something you hate. He doesn’t… Harry forgave you, Albus. It’s Sirius that will never recover from it.”
“I’ll never recover either,” Albus said quietly. “You weren’t there, Minerva, when we found him in a cupboard that he’d clearly dragged himself into. If Vernon Dursley hadn’t already been dead, I would’ve murdered him. His Aunt is in a Muggle nursing to this day because I refused to send her to St. Mungo’s where they would’ve easily fixed her injuries.”
“I didn’t know that,” Minerva admitted. “I thought she refused to go.”
“Oh, no, she begged to go,” Albus said. “She begs to receive magical treatment every time I see her.”
“You see her?” Minerva demanded. “Albus?”
“I visit her every year on Harry’s birthday and tell her any news I have him. Sirius sends me an update every year so I have things to tell her. Trips around the world, his test scores, his friends, and how amazingly magical he is.”
“That’s torture, you know.”
“I don’t care,” Albus said. “Her son and Vernon’s sister never visit her. She hasn’t seen Dudley since that horrible day. But I do keep track of him so I can tell her how he is doing too. He’s currently serving time in a Muggle juvenile detention center for beating another child nearly to death over a pair of shoes.”
“Merlin,” Minerva muttered. “I’d best be down in the entrance when they come in or Argus will try to give them detention for being wet in the castle.”
* * * *
After dinner, Hermione gathered up all of her roommates in their dorm room, shut the door, locked it and turned to them. “None of you are virgins, right? Because if you are, we need to rectify that as soon as possible.”
“I am,” Fay said. “I assumed you were, too. We were trying to figure out how to talk you about that.”
“I’m not. I had a… relationship over the summer with a Muggle boy. Mum assured me that it didn’t have to be a wizard,” Hermione explained. “Look, Fay, we need to handle this soon. Harry said five witches were kidnapped in Paris last year and murdered in dark rituals because they were virgins. And we need to survey the fifth year girls to make sure their parents are making arrangements to deal with it when it is appropriate.”
Fay nodded. “My guardian gave me until the holidays to find a wizard. He said he would approach their family with the request if I wanted to be formal. I was considering Neville. Susan Bones said that he was… gentle and very sweet with her over the summer. She prefers witches, as you know, and she said she’d go to bed with Neville again if he wanted.”
“He’s a great wizard,” Hermione agreed. “Harry seems to think a great deal of him as well.”
“Their families have been aligned—for hundreds of years. At one point, the Longbottom family were vassals to the Earl of Gryffindor,” Parvati explained. “Padma and I were opened over the summer—formal ritual. We met the boys we are to marry and the betrothal contracts were signed before the ceremonies.”
“You met the wizard you’re going to marry on the day you became engaged?” Hermione asked, clearly shocked.
“Some girls in India don’t meet their future husband until the day of the wedding,” Parvati admitted. “My father has made a very good choice for me. I’ve been quill friends with Basant for many years now. He is a good man and wizard. I’m looking forward to our marriage.”
“What brought this on?” Lavender asked. “Something to do with Harry telling Cho she was ugly to the bone?” She smirked. “Merlin, Hermione, I could’ve kissed him for that. Cho is such a bitch.”
Hermione huffed. “I… well, I asked Harry if he wanted me.” She blushed. “He told me he could lay me out on his bed and make a meal of me.” She patted her heated cheeks. “Now that’s all I can think about.”
“I wonder if he meant that sort of literally,” Parvati said. “I mean—you know—oral sex.”
Hermione took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I mean the boy I was with over the summer didn’t do that. He said it wasn’t… well, he said it was gross to him. But then I didn’t do it for him either because… I didn’t know how and if he wasn’t going to return the favor then it seemed rather selfish of him to ask for it.”
“I think Ginny Weasley asked Harry to open her in a ritual. She’s mentioned wanting a ritual for her sixteenth birthday,” Lavender blurted out. “The other night in the common room,” she continued and turned to Fay. “Remember when he got all bent out of shape with her? I think that’s what she asked him that made him so furious.”
“Honestly,” Hermione exclaimed with a huff. She laughed. “He told me that she wasn’t the first delusional fan girl who wanted to take a ride on him.” All three of her roommates started laughing with her. “And that he wasn’t interested.”
“Why would he be?” Lavender asked. “Merlin, Hermione, you look like a million galleons naked. With your flat tummy and pert tits—if I liked witches I’d have been angling to get in your knickers since last year.”
Hermione blushed. “Lavender!”
“I’m serious. You should hear Susan Bones talk about you,” Lavender continued. “You get that girl so wet. It’s lucky we don’t have a lot of classes with the Hufflepuffs—Bones barely gets anything done in Astronomy and Ancient Runes as is.” She laughed. “Though I probably didn’t help matters when I pointed out that you keep yourself shaved down there.”
“Why would you tell her that?” Hermione asked, horrified and flattered at the same time.
“Well, how else is the girl supposed to rub one off about you? Accurate fantasies are more potent, you know.”
Hermione frowned slightly. “Oh, Merlin, what if he wants oral sex from me?”
“Clearly,” Lavender said slowly. “We need to get some books.”
Parvati smirked and went to her trunk. “I’ve got this one covered.” She pulled out a thick book. “Ladies, I’d like to introduce you to the Magical Kama Sutra.” She paused for effect. “The fully illustrated Magical Kama Sutra. It has tutoring charms.”
“Tutoring what?” Hermione asked aghast.
* * * *
Hermione was having a difficult time looking him in the eye. Harry was pretty sure he hadn’t done anything between the night before and the breakfast they were currently working their way through to warrant that. Even their broom ride had gone really well and he’d been worried as Emmie had told him often that Hermione was afraid of flying.
She turned to him and flushed bright red. “Good morning.”
“Is something wrong?”
“No,” she said resolutely. “Everything is perfect. We should go. We’ll be late for class.”
He frowned at her. “The Headmaster told everyone to stay seated because he has a few announcements.”
She cleared her throat and appeared at a loss of words.
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “You didn’t even hear him, did you?”
“I was a bit distracted,” Hermione admitted and glared venomously at Lavender Brown when she burst out laughing.
Harry glanced at Neville who appeared just as weirded out as he was. He could say that he didn’t know Hermione well but he did not know that she wasn’t so normally weird and she probably didn’t make it a habit to ignore the Headmaster when he was speaking.
He pulled his holly wand and cast a privacy charm around them. “What is going on?”
Hermione huffed at his display of magic. “Sometimes I really resent all of your private instruction. I don’t even know what I don’t know, yet.”
“You have all the time in the world to learn everything you want to learn,” Harry said. “Now, what is going on with you? Your tie is crooked, you didn’t put up your hair like you’ve been doing every school day that I’ve known you, you didn’t notice the Headmaster speaking with a sonorous charm, and your socks don’t match.”
“My socks don’t match?”
“Same color but not the same style,” Harry said with a little laugh.
“I’m kind of worried,” Harry admitted. “Do you need to go see Madam Pomfrey?”
She put her hand on his arm. “Nothing is wrong, I promise. It’s just that Parvati has this book and we spent half the night looking at it.”
“A book,” Harry said skeptically and glanced at Lavender Brown who, he noted, was almost asleep in her porridge. “You were all up half the night looking at a book? What was it?”
She blushed blood red. “An illustrated copy of the Magical Kama Sutra.”
“Oh.” Harry laughed and dispelled the privacy charm. “I have that book.”
Lavender blushed. “Hermione!”
“Was I supposed to lie?” Hermione asked hotly. “He thought I was ill.”
“It’s a great book,” Parvati said. “I received it for my birthday. Very informative.”
“Yours is written in Hindi, I take it,” Harry said. “Translation charm?”
“I just read aloud to them,” Parvati admitted and blushed prettily. “We didn’t think of a translation charm.”
Harry started to respond to that but the tables cleared suddenly and the Headmaster stood up from his place at the head table and activated a sonorous charm. He noticed that Hermione was staring resolutely at Dumbledore, and almost laughed at the ploy.
“First, I am pleased to welcome Professor William Weasley to the staff. He’ll be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts this year—Gringotts was quite helpful in letting us borrow him. Professor Weasley has dual masteries in Defense and Curse Breaking. He is also in the middle of his mastery in Warding and will be writing his thesis in his spare time here at Hogwarts. Hopefully, Miss McGonagall can refrain from stunning him unconscious.” He smiled while Gryffindor welcomed the return of one of their own quite boisterously. “Second, as many of you realized yesterday, the Ministry has lost oversight over Hogwarts due the unfortunate acts of Minister Fudge. As such, per the Hogwarts Charter the school has returned to a privately run and operated entity. What does that mean for you? Not much, though your parents will be pleased with the lowered tuition starting in January.
“Lord Potter wanted me to let you know that beyond kicking ministry officials out of his castle—he has no say in how the school’s business is conducted. In fact, his father, Lord Sirius Black, handles all Hogwarts business, as he will as long as Lord Potter is enrolled here.” Dumbledore looked at them all over the rims of his glasses. “This means that you cannot ask him to get you out of detention.”
He smiled at the laughs he received. “Now, this also means that I am free to adjust the class schedules and add a required class. All students first through sixth year will now be required to take at least two years of Social Ethics. In this class, you will be taught magical law and social protocols. You will learn the ethics of using magic responsibly. The textbook for this course arrived this morning and you’ll all receive a copy shortly—courtesy this year of the Lily Potter Foundation. Those of you who are in your seventh year will take the course this year but will not be penalized for not taking the second required year.
“We’ve had a six period day for nearly one hundred years but most of the teaching staff has lobbied for a change for many years. That change has been implemented as of today. You’ll shortly receive new schedules. Breakfast will begin at six each day, the first period will start promptly at eight and the final period of the day will begin at four pm. There will be eight periods. You will receive your new schedules shortly and they are effective immediately.” He smiled even as the majority of his students groaned. “On the new schedule—first, second, and third years would normally have Defense today. However, we’re allowing Professor Weasley to settle in so those classes will be cancelled today.”
Hermione stood as her mother approached with a trunk hovering behind her and a handful of parchment in hand. Hermione accepted the schedules when Professor McGonagall offered them and started passing them out, books flying out of the trunk and nimbly caught by the students.
Harry was relieved to note that his time with Flitwick hadn’t been sacrificed for the new schedule and in fact, it would stay the same time and day. Being that it was Thursday, his first class was Charms.
Dumbledore approached the table. “Lord Potter, if you would stay? Professor Flitwick has excused you from his class this morning.”
“Of course, sir,” Harry said as he settled back at the table.
“Miss McGonagall, you’ve been excused as well. Your mother insisted that you’d be very interested in attending this meeting of minds. We have a full curse breaking team from Gringotts with us today.”
Hermione smiled. “Brilliant.”
* * * *
Harry took Hermione’s hand as they entered the foyer of the castle and found the new Defense teacher meeting with a mixed group of wizards and dverger. He quickly surveyed the group as students darted in and around the newcomers, and realized he knew several of them quite well.
“Bill.” He held out his free hand in greeting.
“Harry, good to see you,” Bill said. “Hermione, you look lovely. I see the Ross legacy settled on you well.”
“Thanks,” Hermione paused. “Professor.”
Bill sighed. “Right, I don’t know what I was thinking letting Dad talk me into this nonsense. He hopes I can shape Ron up by proximity and a well placed daily hex.”
Harry grimaced. “Lucky you.”
Bill nodded grimly. “Hermione, I want you to know that my parents are mortified by his behavior and how he’s treated you this year. I’m personally very sorry for any hurt he caused you and I hope you know that if he bothers you again that you can come to me. I won’t be as lenient as my parents have been.”
“He hasn’t spoken to me since Harry stunned him,” Hermione admitted. “Neither has Ginny, come to think of it.”
“That’s just as well,” Bill said. “Harry, my Dad informed me of the situation my sister created by being overly familiar with you… and what she asked… well, frankly, it’s caused something of a rift in our family. It seems that Percy may have encouraged her to make that request of you. He works for the Ministry.”
Harry nodded. “Fudge is overly invested in me and my personal life. We should probably search your sister’s things for behavioral modification potions.” He held up a hand when Bill started to protest. “Fudge has tried it before and your sister is young—impressionable and frighteningly easy to lead astray. He attempted to dose my Dad on six different occasions with an obedience potion. Fortunately for my father and Fudge the Black ring warned him. My own ring is spelled similarly.”
Bill sighed. “I’ll check her for potions this evening. It wouldn’t surprise me if Percy dosed her as well, if he thought she needed encouragement to go through with his plan.”
“Fantastic,” Hermione muttered. “So, what are you guys doing?”
“Voldemort cursed the Defense Against the Dark Arts position when he was refused employment here,” Albus said as he joined them. “As he was a Founder’s Heir he had unprecedented access to the castle in modern times… at least until Harry arrived. We are hoping that his status as Heir and his abilities as a parselmouth will allow us to locate and break the curse.”
Her eyes went wide. “Is that why our Professors keep… dying or going crazy?”
Albus laughed. “Well, not all of them. I did manage to keep one for nearly five years but Moody is so paranoid that it would take quite a powerful curse to get the best of him.”
“He was already crazy when you hired him,” Harry said dryly.
“Harry, my boy, you should forgive him. It was an honest mistake.”
“He stunned me,” Harry said.
“Well, you were traipsing about the Ministry in an invisibility cloak,” Albus said with a grin.
“I was eight,” Harry returned. “My Dad snatched me up and I woke up during an international portkey trip. I was sick for two days afterward.”
* * * *
“You’ll need to remove all magical objects save your wand,” Bill reminded as Harry pulled his wand. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Harry said. He shrugged out his robe then removed the second wand holster that held his holly wand. He put both on the desk where he and Hermione were standing. With only a brief hesitation, he pulled a mithril chain over his head. It became visible the moment he touched it. A medallion with the Black coat of arms hung on it—gleaming with magic.
“What is that?” Hermione asked.
“A portkey to our home in Paris,” Harry admitted as he brought the chain over her head and settled it on her. “I’ve worn it since I was three years old.”
“Ritual magic doesn’t require you to remove these things?”
“No, but curse breaking is another matter. They don’t want me to have anything on that might interfere with their ability to see the magic of the curse.” Harry looked down at his ring and huffed. “Wow.” He pulled it from his finger and shivered at the loss. “I’d like you to hold this. Don’t put it down for any reason.”
Hermione accepted the ring with trembling fingers—trying to ignore the looks of shock they were receiving from most of the people in the room, especially the dverger. “Harry.”
“Relax, it won’t hurt you,” Harry murmured and brushed a kiss against her forehead. He pulled the hair clasp from his hair, ebony and jade in a carving of intertwined snakes then his watch. He put it down the desk next to his robe.
Hermione huffed as his hair fell across just short of his shoulders in a silky wave of black but didn’t say anything as she watched him remove a black dagger from one of his boots and an athame from his belt. Neither item was visible until they were in his hand. He also removed an empty holster from his right arm. He used both the holly wand and the blackwood wand interchangeably, so she had no idea which hand was his dominant wand hand. He seemed to write exclusively with his right though she’d seen him twirling a quill with his left once or twice.
“Come here, sweetheart,” Harry hissed lowly and offered his fingers to Rowena who was wrapped around Hermione’s neck, disillusioned.
Rowena appeared, elemental fire dancing on her scales as she poured off of Hermione and into the palm of Harry’s hand. “We make magic.”
“Yes, we shall,” Harry agreed.
Two of the men in the back of the room were having a conversation in parseltongue so low that it was more like white noise than what she normally heard when Harry spoke the language in her presense and glancing her at repeatedly. It wasn’t as unnerving as it might have been in the past. Hermione let the Headmaster draw her away from Harry briefly before she shook her head and retrieved his holly wand from the desk. It seemed wrong to leave it out for others to touch. She leaned back against the wall next to the Headmaster and focused on Harry as a ward was erected between her and the rest of the room.
“You’re fortunate, many non-speakers are extremely uncomfortable with our nature and our affinity for snakes.”
Harry looked at the older parselmouth and inclined his head. “I am blessed in this life with a true magical partner, Armand Dearing.”
The American parselmouth appeared startled when Harry took the center of the circle they’d all formed. “We’re going to let the boy lead us in this ritual? Is he not just the conduit of our search?”
Harry didn’t respond.
”Lord Potter is the High Warlock of our conclave,” Armand Dearing hissed. “And this boy, as you call him, has been practicing parselmagic for ten years. Compared to the three you have. He has studied under Castius Arnou and Hiro Ito for more than half of his life. You’d do well to pay attention—he does not often join us in our magic due to his age and schooling. This is a rare learning experience for you.”
Harry let Rowena slide down his fingers. She grew until she reached the floor and encircled him in a six foot ring of red and black fire. “Let us begin. May magic bless and protect us in our endeavors.”
He let his magic flow out of him, the air grew thick as his he let loose his magic and lowered his head against the heavy wave of it. Rowena’s fire grew until it flicked around him knee high. The dverger began chanting and the wizards followed. The other two parselmouths in the room remained silent in the wake of his magic and would not speak until he did.
“There,” he whispered.
”Yes,” Armand agreed.
“Wait!” One of the dverger called out. “Lord Potter!”
“Not a curse,” Harry said in English.
“Horcrux,” Armand offered.
”No, his spirit is gone from this plane. You know that as well as I do. But… similar. Very similar.” Harry tilted his head. “Enchantment.”
“Agreed,” Bill agreed. “Parselmagic enchantment. We’d have never found it on our own.”
“No, agreed,” the dverger agreed.
“Cliffclimber, you’re going to have withdraw your people,” Harry ordered. “He’s got a ward on the enchantment—designed especially with your kind in mind.”
“We see it,” Cliffclimber said. “I’m an old dverger, Lord Potter, but I can handle it.”
“Arrogance is only appropriate when it won’t get you killed,” Harry retorted. “Get your decrepit arse behind the ward.”
All six dverger retreated from the ritual and walked through the ward to safety. The remaining wizards shifted until the circle around Harry was evenly distributed.
“Watch your back, Harry, this thing is… intelligent,” Bill Weasley advised.
“Very intelligent, he must have interacted with it when he was here in Quirrell’s body,” Harry agreed. “I don’t know… quite…no, that’s wrong.” He drew a series of runes in the air around him, each lighting with Rowena’s fire as he finished them. “How? We know it’s not a genuine piece of his soul.”
He turned and found Hermione standing right at the edge of the ward. “Mi, get back from the ward.”
“Tom Riddle. He studied abroad after he left Hogwarts—Romania, Albania, and Austria specifically.”
“His spirit hid in Albania,” Harry said and inclined his head.
Hermione nodded. “Yes, I remember reading about that in the Prophet. But Austria—Harry—Austria is known for what?”
“Magical portraits,” Harry answered immediately and he grinned. “Smartest witch of the age.”
She inclined her head. “What most people don’t know about portrait magic is that the painting part is done after the personality is gathered and imbued in the canvas. The paint is enchanted, of course, but it’s not the important part. It’s just window dressing.”
“A portrait can’t interact with the real world environment,” Bill Weasley interjected.
“No, agreed,” Harry said. “But… Austria. What… oh, oh.”
“Exactly,” Hermione said and let the Headmaster pull her back.
“The first magical portraits weren’t enchanted with a copy of a person’s personality,” Harry said. “They were soul imprints—a connection of sorts either to a living magical or to the realm beyond the Veil. They were outlawed in the 1100s and the imprints were dispelled. Eventually the process was refined to the one that we used today. I’ll have to send a letter to my History of Magic tutor and let him know all that crap he made me learn that wasn’t on the NEWT was actually useful.”
“Like a soul leech,” Bill asked hoarsely. “Voldemort’s soul leech is in this room?”
“Yes,” Harry said distractedly. “Relax, Bill, I’ve made a hobby of kicking that bastard’s dark arse.” He slashed his wand through the runes he’d drawn—dispelling them before beginning again. “Hermione, how big would the object have to be?”
“The original portraits had a crystal embedded in the back of the frame. So something the size of my fist or bigger.” She held up her fist in reference. “Magical material would be required… something dverger made probably work best since they work exclusively with magical metals. If not metal, then a jewel—twenty karats minimum. Of course, it could be transfigured so it could literally be anything in this room.”
“Agreed,” Cliffclimber said as he paced back and forth on the other side of the ward. “Your little witch is quite smart.”
Harry sent the dverger a wry grin. “Brave, even for a dverger, to turn his back on a woman and call her a little witch.”
Cliffclimber snorted. “She’s no taller than me. Makes her little for a witch because I am tall for a dverger.” He sent Hermione a toothy grin.
Harry only shook his head. Truth was, Hermione was on the short side. He easily had six inches of height on her when she was in her socked feet. Though he noted she often wore at least two to three inch heels every day. “Headmaster, if you would call for Professor Snape? I realize he must have class right now but we’re going to have something special for him.”
He didn’t wait for a response, continuing to draw runes all around him in the air. Rowena’s fire was comforting and encompassing—surging as he worked with their combined magic. Six objects slowly started to glow around the room. Harry summoned a portrait of a werewolf off the wall first but discarded it after a few moments. He banished it back to its place on the wall, dispelling the decoy magic on it with a huff.
“Sometimes, I forget how brilliant he was,” Harry murmured. “It’s a shame he used his potential for such evil. He could’ve been a great wizard.”
He summoned a small wooden shield but it fell to dust the moment it entered his fire ward. He banished the dust and debris and continued. An antique dverger-made sword, a few hundred years old but it was a common man’s sword. Not enough show for Tom Riddle. He cleansed the magic from it and returned it to the wall. When only two objects remained—he picked the one that felt fake first—cleaning the beautiful, jewel encrusted athame and the wooden plaque it was on before returning it to the wall.
Finally, he focused on the large seal at the back of the classroom. The coat of arms of Godric Gryffindor was still shining with sickly yellow magic. He summoned it and drew it into the circle.
“Rowena, go to Hermione. Protect her.”
Rowena’s fire dissipated and she left the circle without protest. With a burst of speed she crossed the room and headed straight toward her master’s mate. Hermione McGonagall picked her up and shared a look with the Headmaster as Severus Snape joined them.
Harry let the seal rotate in the air around him as the runes he’d used to locate it slowly faded.
“Treat it like a horcux,” Dearing suggested.
“I’d assumed Fiendfyre,” Harry admitted.
“What?” The American parselmouth shouted.
“Hush,” Harry snapped. “You’re awfully excitable for a Yank, you know. Haven’t you been taught to handle magical fire?”
“No, Lord Potter, not as yet.”
“Then consider this a lesson,” Harry said coolly. “Try not to piss yourself.”
“Shouldn’t you recall your familiar to contain it if you lose control of it?”
Harry shot the man pointed look. “Rowena is doing exactly what I want her to do. Now, do shut up.”
He took a deep breath and settled down his core to center his mind and release the small bit of ire the other man had caused. Perhaps he was impatient with the man but he honestly wasn’t used to being questioned in such situations.
“Fiendfyre!” Magical fire poured out of his wand. Vicious and consuming—a dragon roared in the air and enveloped the seal. A parselmouth was the only magical being on Earth who could cast Fiendfyre without using dark magic and intent to create it, but it still looked like a nightmare.
Harry huffed in shock as he came face to face with another spectral form of Tom Riddle. Older than the diary, surely, but still long before he turned himself to a monstrous caricature of a snake.
“Tom Riddle.” Harry inclined his head. “The real you is dead, you know.” He shifted around in the circle, shaking back his hair. “I took you out when I was thirteen.”
”Liar,” Riddle hissed.
“No, really, I did. You screamed like a girl, begged like a fool, and died like the monster you were,” Harry taunted, keeping one eye on the magical fire as he did so.
“I am immortal!” Riddle screamed. “You will never be rid of me Harry Potter!” The seal started to wither into ashes, drifting down to the floor in the still air of the magical circle.
“You are nothing but a bad memory, Tom,” Harry said. “In another ten years, you’ll be just another scary story that children tell each other in the dark. No man is immortal, no glory is eternal. In a hundred years, you’ll be a footnote in history—unlamented and in the end unremarkable. As dark and as twisted as you were—there were and will be others just as dark and just as twisted to take your place.”
“I’m glad I found you today,” Harry said conversationally as the fire whipped itself into a frenzy. “This is actually quite cathartic for me. I don’t think I was old enough to really appreciate kicking your arse the last time I did it.”
“I will return. I will rule you all! You will suffer, Potter. You will suffer the most! I swear it!”
“You’re off script,” Harry chastised. “This is usually the part where you promise me power and wealth in return for following you. Then I tell you to fuck off and you start to beg and plead.” He drew a single rune with his wand. It glowed gently with magic unaided by Rowena’s fire.
“I am Lord Voldemort! I will not beg! I will torture you, Harry Potter. I will kill everything and everyone you love! You will suffer so much,” Riddle shouted even as his spectral form went entirely transparent.
“I totally see why they banned the creation of soul imprints,” Harry said dryly. “You’re rather insufferable like this.”
Riddle screamed and the fire sparked and crackled with power as the shield was finally consumed. Magic swooshed around him and the spectre snapped out of existence. The fire raged for a few more seconds then Harry slowly coaxed it into the rune and lowered it slowly to the floor in front of him.
“Professor Snape, you can enter now.”
Severus pulled a vial from his pocket and enlarged it. “I haven’t had fresh Ashwinder eggs produced from Fiendfyre in over a decade. Thank you, Lord Potter.” He paused. “You realize these will be worth ten thousand galleons each on the open market?”
“Keep what you want, sell the rest for the school’s scholarship fund. I trust you to do so,” Harry said shortly.
The ashwinder emerged and Harry slowly coaxed it into laying its eggs as it diminished and then fell to ash. He cast a freezing charm on them as Snape levitated them one by one into the container.
Snape pulled out another vial and gathered the ashes as Bill Weasley worked with the ashes of the seal just a few feet from him. “Those will have to be destroyed.”
Bill nodded. “Yes, they’ll take them back to the bank and dispose of them in ritual.” He sealed the container in his hand and stood. “That was excellent work, Harry.”
“Yes, quite,” Severus said lowly. He stood and left with the Ashwinder eggs.
Harry’s gaze connected with Hermione’s then. Tears spilled down her cheeks. “Mi?”
She shook her head. “I…” She closed her eyes and her mouth trembled. “I’m sorry.” She rubbed at her face with the back of her hand.
“Don’t be,” Harry said as the ward was dispelled. He went to her. “Wizards and witches four times your age ran in fear of him. It’s okay to be upset.”
“He’s gone, right?” Hermione asked. “Please, Harry, tell me he’s really gone.”
Harry pulled her close and ran his fingers through her hair as she shook against him. “He’s gone. I swear it. This might not be the last enchanted piece of him waiting to be found but Tom Riddle himself is dead. He’s never coming back. We destroyed all but one small piece of his soul and that piece was banished through the Veil. There isn’t enough left of him to be resurrected—not by any means.” He exhaled sharply. “I’m sorry—I should’ve asked you to leave. Except if I had we might still be trying to figure it out.”
She laughed weakly. “I’m quite smart.”
“And rather short,” he whispered as their audience had a little laugh.
Within just a few minutes, he found himself alone with her. He put his knife back first, then the athame he’d carried since he’d taken the position of High Warlock of the conclave he led at Gringotts. His holsters next. The African Blackwood wand slid into place on his right arm and Hermione offered the holly for the left when he was ready.
“It was a pretty big deal, you letting me hold your ring,” Hermione murmured.
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “But more so for what it represents than anything else. I’ve always carried links to the familial magic of the Potters in me. It lurked in my core—dormant and patient—while I grew up. Putting on the Potter signet ring made me a man in the eyes of magic and most especially in the eyes of the dverger. I accepted the moral obligations of my title that day and dverger are big on honor and duty. From their point of view, I literally placed my family’s honor in your hand when I asked you to hold my ring.”
She opened her hand to reveal it. “It’s beautiful. I noticed it the night you were sorted. You wear it well. I see others in the castle with their Heir rings on and they seem to almost show them off. You wear it like you were born wearing it. It’s just part of you—not some accessory or status symbol.”
He picked it up and carefully slid it back into place. “It is a status symbol of sorts but I can’t wear it without thinking about the men who wore it before me and the man that will wear it after me. Everything I do as the Earl of Gryffindor will impact the son or grandson that takes my place as the Head of the Family. I want him to be just as proud of me as I am of my father and grandfather and all the men that came before me.”
“Your son will be so proud of his legacy,” Hermione said without hesitation. “You’re an amazing wizard, Harry. When I first came here, I was literally awed by how natural magic appeared to be to the Headmaster. He was… like the most magical thing I’d ever seen, which isn’t saying a lot considering I hadn’t seen much magic at all. But the thing is that it stayed that way for years until… until the night of the sorting and you were standing there in the doorway with Astoria Greengrass. My first, second, and third thought were about how attractive you were.”
Harry laughed. “I gotta admit my first up close and personal look at you was pretty stellar.”
“I’d dreamt of you twice over the summer,” Hermione admitted. “Once after my parents tried… well, the exorcism thing. I dreamt you were sitting on a beach and the sun was set. The moon was lovely in the sky and you looked so much at peace that even after I woke up, it was like I’d been on that beach with you.”
“I was on Black Island. That must be Dobby’s memory because he was with me on the beach that night. I couldn’t sleep—I was so worried that I’d get here and you’d hate me. Or you’d find out about Emmie and think I was some crazed pervert who was stalking you since you were nine years old.” He exhaled. “Also, I felt kind of guilty about my affair with Janelle. The thing with Natalie earlier in the year was—just the business of being magical. I could compartmentalize it because it was just the once and it was awkward. For all that it was private and we tried to make it good for each other, it felt like duty.”
“But Janelle didn’t.”
“Well, having sex with her in the middle of her familial coven wasn’t intimate,” Harry began and flushed. “What came after it—she kept sneaking into my bed and I didn’t turn her away. Then suddenly we’re in Witch Weekly because I took her to a night club in Paris. And we were still having a stupid amount of sex.”
“I had sex three times with Joshua,” Hermione blurted out. “The first two times were painful and not very satisfying. The third time was decent but I freaked out because the condom broke.” She lifted his portkey off over her head and put it back on him with trembling fingers. “I was up all night with the others reading that book and looking at pictures because I… I don’t want to be a disappointment.”
“I won’t be disappointed,” Harry murmured. “I know what it is to drown yourself in a book because information feels like power.”
“Information is power.”
“It can be but not always. Information can empower but it can also be the destroyer of worlds.” He settled his hands on her waist and prodded her up onto the desk where his robe still lay abandoned. “Look, I’m not going to be disappointed because I fell a little in love with you the first time Emmie brought me a picture of you.” He blushed when her gaze connected with his in surprise. “I was so enamored with you for days after that… my Dad threatened to take the picture away from me because I was neglecting my studies.”
“I wish I’d known about you,” Hermione whispered. “I know why you didn’t tell me but there have been moments when knowing that you were going to be in my future would’ve been really bloody helpful.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
She huffed. “It’s not your fault, Harry. I’m going to start sending Fudge cursed letters, I swear. If I’d known he was cockblocking me all this time—he’d be bald, impotent and covered in purple hives.”
“Well, not the whole time,” Harry said with a laugh. He kissed her forehead. “Sex really didn’t start appealing to me until I was around thirteen or so.”
“I have a confession,” Hermione whispered.
“I have a picture of you.” She bit down on her lip. “Hagrid gave it to me. He said it was your 15th birthday party. You were on a yacht. I hadn’t paid attention to the stories about you in the Prophet… at least not the social items, and I’d never touched a Witch Weekly at that point. In fact, when I saw that picture when I was having tea with Hagrid—all I could think was, ‘oh, that’s the boy I dream about.’ I asked him who was in the picture and he told me. Then he said I could have the picture if I wanted it. I’ve kept it hidden in my copy of Hogwarts, a history ever since.”
“That’s sort of a relief,” Harry said dryly. “I keep your pictures in my journal. I like the magical ones the best because you’re moving and I could pretend I was there… which sounds sort of pathetic.”
“No.” Hermione shook her head. “I understand exactly what you mean. After I got that picture from Hagrid—I started looking for stories of you in the Prophet and Witch Weekly but then Ginny caught me looking at a story once and teased me so I stopped. If I hadn’t, I would’ve known about Janelle before I was told.”
“Emmie told on me,” Harry said with a laugh. “Well, it wasn’t a secret by anyone’s measure that’s for certain.” He checked the time as he picked up his watch and strapped it on. “We have about 30 minutes until Transfiguration.”
“I’m going to have to reorganize my entire planner because of the schedule changes,” she bitched as he picked up his robe and put it on. She leaned back on her hands and watched him. “Your hair looks good down—sexy.”
He ran his fingers through it before picking up the clasp. “I can’t use hair charms either, well not standard charms. I have to use parselmagic to make my hair even behave this much. It basically sticks up everywhere if I don’t wear it long.”
“Our poor kids,” Hermione said with a laugh.
Harry looked at her, startled. It felt like an acknowledgment—bigger than anything he’d gotten from her since he’d been forced to tell her what they were to each other. He hooked a hand around the back of her neck, slid his fingers through her hair as he cupped her head and tugged her close. The silly girl went languid and soft against him as he pressed his mouth to hers. He was in so much trouble. Her trust in him was intoxicating, a product he figured of the bonding magic starting to move between them. He promised himself to be very, very careful with her.
But he easily had twenty minutes to enjoy himself at the moment so he shifted between her legs, cupped one hip to pull her forward. She gasped softly into his mouth as he pressed up against her fully. She smelled like honeysuckle and lemongrass, tasted like strawberries, and he shuddered against her when slim fingers danced along the waistband of his slacks as she slid her arms around him.
He released her mouth and trailed soft kisses along her jaw as she curled into him with a needy little sound that was not helping his erection issues. “You’re so lovely.”
Harry leaned in to kiss her again and the door leading into the room banged open. He looked towards the door and found Ron Weasley standing there, red faced and breathing heavily. He was obviously furious. The Weasel started to speak but nothing came out. Bill appeared, grabbed his brother’s arm and pulled him from the room roughly.
Hermione sighed. “I forgot he’s still on in-house suspension. I guess the Headmaster passed him off to Bill today.”
He huffed. “I would be pretty irritated if you were ashamed of this—us—wanting me.”
She glared at him and poked him with one finger. “I’m not remotely ashamed. We can snog in the common room half the night for all I care.”
“I’d rather not but I accept your meaning,” Harry said as he helped her off the desk. “One good thing about his arrival, I won’t have to cast a cooling charm to walk properly. Total erection killer.”
“I’m going to send him cursed letters, too,” Hermione promised darkly.
He pulled out his wand. “One sec.” He cast a small, concentrated healing charm on her lips.
She touched her mouth. “What?”
“I’m not particularly interested in spending the next two hours in class with your mum when you’re looking like you’ve been kissed quite thoroughly.”
Episode 07: Godric’s Arrival