Title: Fay’s Decision
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 11,160
Rating: NC-17 (sex and language)
Warnings: Sexual content, off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse and violence against a child, bigotry, passing mention of rape, sexual harassment, and explicit language
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
Harry reviewed the letter he’d received from Armand Dearing. The older wizard had refused to take a communication mirror and as a result, Harry had to send the man letters, many letters. Armand was the public face of their conclave as he most often led them in their magic, especially in the UK. That would slowly change now that Harry was making his home in Godric’s Hollow. He glanced over at Hermione who was curled up in a chair in the corner of his office reading.
As Mondays went, the day had been decent and uneventful. He set the letter aside and considered the needs of his conclave. They had practiced magic in the bank out of necessity in the past. Moving between the Paris and London branches had been easy for them. Harry also had a very good relationship with the Chieftain. The dverger had been instrumental in the destruction of Tom Riddle. They’d also really enjoyed eating the basilisk Harry had killed when he was twelve. In fact, they were still eating that great big bloody snake at formal dinners.
He stood, walked to large book shelf Dobby had set up for him and pulled out a magical atlas. There was an unused ritual circle on a nexus of ley lines in the Dark Forest. The land belonged to Harry as it was part of the Gryffindor estate. Not many people knew that Hogwarts had originally been the Gryffindor ancestral seat. It was assumed and widely accepted that the castle had been built to house the school. Of course, the castle hadn’t been as big as it was in modern times.
He opened the atlas and spread the map of Gryffindor lands out to review. The ritual circle was roughly twenty kilometers into the forest from Hogwarts. The distance was good as he wouldn’t want to perform some rituals close to the children in the school. Especially sex rituals. There was a spike in the dverger birth rate every time his conclave performed sex magic in the bank.
Per treaty, the centaur had the right to live in the Dark Forest but they’d exercised an unprecedented domain over the land since the death of his grandfather, Charlus. James Potter hadn’t had the time or the inclination to push that point as he’d had a war to fight and a family to protect. Harry didn’t blame him for that. He glanced at his witch and found her staring at him curiously.
“My conclave wants me to claim the Gryffindor ritual circle.”
“That’s a problem?”
“It’s right in the middle of the Dark Forest,” Harry explained.
“The centaur’s land?” Hermione asked.
“No, it’s all my land. After my grandfather, Charlus, died the centaurs got militant about the land because my father let the situation go due to the war. He had bigger things to worry about and we hadn’t used the land for anything in years anyway. The centaurs do have a treaty with the Gryffindor family guaranteeing them living rights on the land and that is it. Their village is forty kilometers west of the ritual circle and the circle is twenty kilometers south of Hogwarts.”
Hermione nodded. “A man doesn’t ask permission to have what is his. You own it and they know it. Claim your circle. If they interfere, they’ll violate the very treaty that grants them sanctuary on Gryffindor land.”
Harry smirked at her and walked around his desk. “Are you mine to have?”
“Maybe,” Hermione said playfully. “What do you plan to do to me if I am?”
“Something filthy,” Harry admitted. “It probably isn’t even legal in this country.” He sighed when a charm sounded.
The small notification portrait in his office activated and Niall Gryffindor appeared in it. “My Lord, you have a visitor.”
Harry nodded. “Alright then, let her in.” He went to the doorway of his office and waited for Fay to come through the portrait hole then motioned her forward. “Fay, is something wrong?”
“No,” Fay said with a shake of her head. She followed Harry into the office and sat down in one of the chairs in front of his desk. “I…”
“Should I go?” Hermione asked. “I should go.” She started to gather her stuff.
“No, it’s okay, Hermione.” Fay twisted her hands into her lap. “Please stay.”
“Are you nervous or are you worked up about something?” Harry asked. “I never can tell with you.”
She huffed at him. “I’m not nervous. You’ve never made me nervous. Worked up? Not really. You said I had to make a decision about my opening and I’ve done so. It’s just proving difficult to get it out of my mouth all of a sudden.”
“It’s a big decision,” Harry said as Hermione quietly regained her seat. “That’s why I gave you six months to make it, Fay.”
“I’ve received seven invitations to the Ministry’s Yule Ball,” Fay said. “I’ve purposefully isolated myself for years to… stay safe I guess. I come to Hogwarts. I return to Potter Redoubt. The only trips I take are the ones you take us all on. I never stray far from you or Lord Black when we’re on those trips. I’ve been… speaking to the other girls in our year, Harry, and I’m the only sixth year virgin witch at Hogwarts. In fact, all the fifth year except for two have been opened. It’s horrifying. I don’t know the state of the other schools in Europe but I have to think that… the statistic would hold true to the other schools.”
“You have a portkey and a house elf that watches you like a very hungry bird of prey,” Harry said. “I’ve done everything I can think of short of locking you in a room to keep you safe, Fay.”
“I’m not… Harry, I’m not criticizing the lengths you’ve gone to protect me. The fact is that you’ve done more to keep me safe than my own father ever did. He didn’t even write a bloody will,” Fay said. “I just… I’m scared. I saw the papers from France and the US over the summer.”
“You’re right to be scared,” Harry allowed. “But I had no idea you were this… upset, actually. Had I known I would have offered to open you before I claimed my ring and came to Hogwarts.”
Fay flushed. “I… came close to asking Lord Black to see if you would before I became your ward but it felt weird. You are sort of like a brother to me in my head.”
“Tell me your decision and I’ll make the arrangements.”
“I’d prefer Neville Longbottom but if he says no… then my second choice is Draco Malfoy. I’ve heard excellent things about them both so I trust them not to hurt me. I just know Neville better than I know Draco so he is my first choice. Susan Bones opened with Neville and she said it was good. He was very kind to her afterward as well. Draco isn’t in an exclusive relationship with Daphne Greengrass and has opened several witches in Slytherin and Ravenclaw. I’ve heard he’s very considerate and doesn’t speak out of turn about his partners.”
Harry nodded. “Alright, do you want a formal ritual?”
“No, something private and I don’t think I can wait until the Yule. I’ve started having nightmares about it. So I was thinking that this weekend something could be arranged. I know the house in Hogsmeade is ready for occupation.”
“You realize I’m going to have to reveal to both Neville and his father that you are a resident of Potter Redoubt?”
“I trust they’ll both keep my status to themselves,” Fay said. “I don’t have much of a choice. I can’t see… seducing him on my own, that’s why I’m in here. He’s very proper, you see, and getting him in a broom closet has proven rather difficult. He hasn’t taken any of my hints and only managed to ask me to Hogsmeade on Saturday. It’s probably my fault. I refused his every offer in the past.”
Harry sighed. “I’d really hope you wouldn’t grow so desperate that you’d settle for a broom closet for your first time, Fay. I’ll make the arrangements and it’ll be handled as quickly and as discreetly as possible.” He paused and flushed. “I think this is the part where I ask if you have any sex questions.”
Fay bit down on her lip. “Well, I read Parvati’s book three times since she showed it to us. I need your permission for Madam Pomfrey to place an annual contraception charm on me.” She pulled a piece of parchment from her pocket and put it on the desk between them.
“There are six offers for betrothals on the table for you, by the way,” Harry said. “I haven’t reviewed them but if your interest in Neville is serious… you should know that his father has offered for you on his behalf. I received it Sunday afternoon. The other five I received this morning.”
Fay relaxed in chair. “Really?”
“Really,” Harry said. “Let’s look at them, then?” He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a leather envelope. He opened it and it expanded out in front of him revealing several rolled documents. He opened the first and grimaced. “Aren’t you first cousins with Jon Christopher?”
Fay shuddered. “Our mothers were sisters—identical twins. They’re just still trying to claim my money. He’s also ten years older than me.”
“Right.” Harry set that offer to his left. “They won’t make the mistake of offering again.”
“Can I ask a question?” Hermione asked.
Fay and Harry exchanged an amused look. The girl half-turned in her chair. “You wouldn’t be our Hermione if you didn’t.”
Hermione laughed. “How do these families know where to send the offers? If your situation is a secret?”
“Since my guardianship is sealed by the French courts, they have to send offers to the Paris branch of Gringotts where my account manager there acts as Harry’s proxy,” Fay explained. “No one will know that I’m a member of Potter Redoubt until a marriage contract is announced. All the other kids are spelled to keep the secret—much like we did in Gryffindor when I stupidly guessed you were Harry’s soulmate.”
“That situation is my fault,” Harry said firmly. “I’m the one that lost my temper with that little chit.” He picked up another scroll. “Roger Davies?”
Fay frowned. “He’s actually in love with Marietta Edgecomb. I mean, like seriously gone on her.”
Harry put the scroll in the no pile without a word and picked up the next one. “Unless you can give me twenty-five outstanding reasons why Cormac McLaggen deserves to even kiss your feet, this is getting my veto.”
Fay blinked in surprise. “Well, he’s rather attractive. I had no idea he was really interested in me.” She blushed prettily and Harry huffed. “What?”
“Do you trust me?” Harry asked.
“Of course, my Lord.”
Harry put the McLaggen offer in the no pile. “Stay away from him. He’s inferior. And he’s one bad act from meeting me on a dueling field.”
Fay paled but nodded. “I understand.”
“Good,” Harry said and picked up the next document. “Sullivan Fawley.”
Fay half frowned. “I… well.” She sat back in her chair. “He’s attractive but…”
“I realize you’re friendly with him,” Fay began.
“That’s a non-issue,” Harry assured. “Speak your mind.”
“He’s a great person and very attractive but he’s been real promiscuous. I don’t want to be in that drama to be honest. Anyone getting in a relationship with him is going to have to deal with his unrepentant inability to keep his prick to himself.”
“The last two are significant to you—Neville Longbottom and Draco Malfoy.”
“The Malfoy one—that came from Lucius, right?”
“Right. Torak contacted me via mirror to let me know that he a received a letter from Draco this afternoon. He’s forwarded it to me but I haven’t received it. I’m to assume that Draco has gone behind his father’s back to dissuade your guardian from taking the offer.” He opened the Malfoy contract and sighed. “And the reason why is horrifyingly obvious. There is a virginity clause that if you can’t meet would require the forfeiture of your entire fortune as compensation.”
Fay grimaced. “Someone should do something about that guy. Lucius, I mean. Draco is decent and rather infatuated with Daphne Greengrass from what I heard. I also heard she told her father that she wanted him and it was his job to get Lucius out of the way so she could have him. Which is probably why your father got made Minister against his will. Gerald Greengrass put someone in the office who has the biggest grudge possible against Lucius so his Daphne can snag the Malfoy Heir when his Daddy ends up in a cell.”
Harry nodded and put the Malfoy scroll in a spot separate from the others. “Right.”
“What pile is that?”
“The first pile is the ‘polite no thanks’ pile.” He pointed at the Malfoy scroll. “That is the ‘go fuck yourself pile’.”
“That’s a great pile,” Fay said. “You should put the McLaggen and Christopher ones in that pile, too.”
Harry promptly did so. “Let’s see what Frank Longbottom has to say.” He opened the document package and read through it silently despite the attention of his audience. “Honestly, I don’t see how you haven’t gotten this boy in a broom closet. He’s absolutely besotted with you.”
“Really?” Fay asked, her eyes dampened with tears.
“I’d never play with you that way,” Harry said gently. “The first letter is actually from Neville. He talks about taking classes with you and the date in Hogsmeade. He’s offering you a courting period, Fay.” He handed the letter to her and noticed that her fingers were trembling. He focused on the second letter. “His father is in agreement with the courting period or a formal betrothal contract if that is your preference. They’ve enclosed an offer.” He handed her the second letter and set about reviewing the contract.
“The terms?” Fay asked quietly.
“Extremely generous and in your favor. You’d maintain dominion over your own money and properties though if you wanted you could ask Neville to act as regent over them until a second son is old enough to claim the Dunbar title—Neville is willing to shoulder that responsibility for as long as required. The only thing they haven’t offered is for him to take your name. Obviously, that’s not possible—he’s Frank’s only son. But the fact that Neville is willing to insure an heir for the Dunbar title is a very honorable compromise.”
“I’m very torn,” Fay admitted. “I want the romance of a courting period.”
“But you want the security of the contract,” Harry said.
“What happens if someone finds out she’s a ward of Potter Redoubt before she’s of age?” Hermione asked.
“We’d be back in court fighting over her,” Harry said. “Not only would we have to fight off distant family but we’d also have to fight off would-be adoptive parents and wife hunters. The press would eat me a live and probably accuse me of holding the Dunbar heiress hostage for use as a second wife or consort.”
“You can take two wives?” Hermione demanded.
“Titled nobles can have two legal spouses,” Harry reminded. “But, no, I have a feeling I couldn’t actually take two wives and survive it.”
Fay burst out laughing.
“Why can’t you have both, Fay?” Hermione asked. “The contract itself is private family business. Neville probably finds the whole courting process rather romantic himself. You could have your courting period and if it comes out that you’re a resident of Potter Redoubt—Harry can immediately announce that you are betrothed to Neville. Is there an out clause in the contract?”
Harry picked it up again and read through it. “Yes, for both parties. Either can end it without penalty if they find they aren’t compatible.” He put it down. “Why don’t you two go somewhere and talk about something… and I’ll meet with Neville.” He picked up the piece of parchment that Fay had put on the desk, read it quickly, and signed it. “I trust you to take care of yourself when it comes to sex, Fay. I’m sorry for the backward and sexist laws in this country that make my permission required for this. I only ask you… if anyone gets out of hand with you, I expect you to come to me immediately. I don’t care who it is. You can trust that I’ll make them regret it.”
Fay took the slip and nodded. “Yes, my Lord.”
Harry set back in his chair and stared at the contracts after they left. He threw all the ones that were a no back in the drawer and called Dobby. The elf popped into place in front of his desk. “Find Neville for me, please? I need to speak with him.”
It took about five minutes for Neville to make an appearance. The other boy smelled like earth and pollen. Harry had moved out into his common area and arranged tea for them.
“Tell me about your interest in Fay,” Harry said with preamble. He laid the two letters and the contract on the little round table between them.
Neville’s mouth dropped open. “Oh.” He took a deep breath. “Merlin’s pants, Harry a little warning would’ve been nice. I’d have at least showered. I’ve spent the evening in the greenhouse.”
Harry grinned. “Just relax and tell me why I received this on Sunday.”
“On Saturday, when you and Hermione were in London, Fay was in the common room and I talked her into going to Hogsmeade with me. I’ve liked her rather a long time but she’s been standoffish with me the last few years—with practically all the wizards in the house actually. I asked her out twice last year and she said no. She wasn’t mean about it but she said no so I tried to… get over it.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No, I didn’t. She’s been more open this year—talkative, so I took a chance and asked her out again. She agreed.” He fiddled with his cup. “I think… she’s scared, right? I know her guardianship is sealed. If someone found out she was at Potter Redoubt—the fallout would be huge. Her money, her father’s title—all of it would be up for grabs to the highest bidder if she ended up in front of the Wizengamot.”
“That’s how she sees it,” Harry agreed. “What she doesn’t realize is that I would simply remove her from the country and dare one of those bastards to make me bring her back. My father has been hiding Narcissa Malfoy for years and has been before the ICW twice over it. My give a fuck is just as broken as his, I assure you.” He relaxed back in his chair. “We have two matters before us, actually.”
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“Fay adores the idea of being courted formally but she requires the security of a betrothal contract. Additionally, she came to me with the request to arrange her opening. She opted for a private experience and you are her first choice. Not her only choice because she’s a practical sort of girl but you are the one she prefers. Apparently, Susan Bones told every witch in this place that you’re a great lay which is saying something since she’s a lesbian.”
Neville blushed furiously. “Merlin, you just never know what witches are going to talk about.”
“The sixth year girls have an illustrated copy of the Magical Kama Sutra,” Harry admitted.
“Great book,” Neville agrees. “As to Susan… well, I knew going in that she preferred witches so I read everything I could on oral sex. I figured that my satisfaction was pretty much a guarantee but hers was going to be a problem. Come to find out, putting your head between a witch’s legs tends to work out great for everyone involved.”
Harry laughed. “It’s like we were separated at birth.”
“So… what do we do?” Neville asked. “I mean, I know what to do about the opening. Does she have a date in mind?”
“Next weekend,” Harry said. “She’s a little freaked out. There was another incident in the US over the summer and she read about it in a French paper. Two witches at Salem were sacrificed. They were fourteen.”
“Merlin. It’s… like Tom Riddle tore open a hole in magic and all of this darkness spilled out.”
“People are good and bad,” Harry murmured. “Some hardly even need an excuse to be as fucked up as possible. I have a house in Hogsmeade. I’m going to arrange for you and Fay to spend Saturday night there. This is not… permission to…” He trailed off and considered his words. “I trust you, Neville, I want you to know that.”
“I’m going to sign this contract to protect her but I expect you to honor your offer of a courting period as well. If her status at Potter Redoubt is revealed, then I will announce the betrothal formally before anyone can even make their way to the Ministry to file any sort of suit. I also expect you to respect her choice on the matter of when you can expect sex from her after the opening.”
Neville’s mouth dropped open. “Oh.” He blushed. “Harry. I understand that opening her is not a free pass to… I understand completely.”
“Good. As I said, I trust you to treat her with respect but it had to be said. She’s… my ward and my magical responsibility to her is frankly more than I expected.”
“Darius Edwards is your ward,” Neville surmised. “That’s why you lost your shite on McLaggen and basically tortured him?”
“Yes.” Harry studied his teacup. “You should know you aren’t the only wizard at Hogwarts who has offered for Fay. McLaggen, Fawley, Davies, and Malfoy all have contracts on the table. I’ll be refusing them all shortly. Malfoy’s offer came from his father and I have a letter from Draco coming probably begging me to not sign that contract which had some fairly horrible conditions attached to it. The Davies offer is purely politics. He was here when my Dad was discussing the best marriage options currently up for contract. Fawley, I think he’s the same.”
“I’m not surprised McLaggen offered for her. He asked her out a few times. Even Ron asked her out last year. Fay was rather boyish until last year. I didn’t care about any of that. She and I have been partners off and on in Herbology since first year. She’s smart, well situated magically, and kind. That she took a pretty turn was…” Neville sighed. “Is it rude to admit that I wished, at first, that she’d stayed a bit boyish? The others started chasing around after her at that point and she just withdrew from everyone but Lavender and Parvati. It was rather like losing a friend because I got lumped in that group of people she no longer seemed to trust. That’s why I offered the courting period to begin with. I wanted her to know that her choices are important to me.”
“Well you and your dad did it exactly the right way,” Harry said. “No one else gave her any options. Even the Fawley contract was rather… sexist. The offer to provide for an heir for her father’s title was well received. The other houses merely wanted to absorb the Dunbar title entirely which is rather unseemly as far as I’m concerned.”
“Is that why you’re not Potter-Black?”
Harry hesitated to answer but finally cleared his throat. “The thing is that…you need to know that this is between us, Neville. It’s not be repeated.”
“My mother didn’t know which of her lovers fathered me until after I was born and they performed a paternity charm,” Harry said bluntly. “I was magically and blood adopted by my parents’ consort shortly after my birth.”
“They had a triad?” Neville huffed in surprise. “That certainly never made the history books.”
“Sirius wasn’t supposed to have the Black title. His younger brother was chosen but he was eventually murdered by Voldemort. Not that it mattered, because the three of them were lovers before they left Hogwarts.”
“But your parents were soulmates,” Neville said.
“And they both fell in love with Sirius Black,” Harry said. “I don’t expect any of them anticipated that either but James and Lily were of the same mind on that subject. They both loved him. They both wanted him. They saw no reason why they shouldn’t have him. They married as a triad but it was kept a secret due to the war. It became more complicated after Regulus was killed then it became a non issue because James and Lily were murdered.”
“Merlin,” Neville said. “How the hell did he survive that? Both of his bonded spouses murdered, his child basically stolen from him, and he was thrown in prison and bloody left there.”
“He has his moments even today,” Harry admitted. “No one that spends even a day in Azkaban as a prisoner is ever the same. The Dementors make sure of that.”
“We should take a day trip over there and you could wipe out the rest of them,” Neville suggested.
Harry sent him a sly look. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m going to get the rest of them one way or another. As to the reason I’m not Potter-Black, Sirius is a Potter, he took James’ name without a second thought when they married. When he was removed from Azkaban and finally given a trial—he needed the power of being the Earl of Blackmoor if he had any hope of seeing me again before I turned eleven years old. He took his family name publicly and legally. Magically, he is still Sirius Orion Potter. It is something he keeps to himself for his own reasons and I see no reason to stick my nose in it. When the time comes, he’ll chose an heir for the Black title. It’ll either be my second son or perhaps, if it’s more appropriate, Draco Malfoy’s second son.”
Neville snorted. “He swore himself in as Minister as Sirius Orion Black.”
Harry grinned. “Well, that’s how he was nominated and how he was elected.”
“That’s pretty funny actually but they all kind of deserve whatever he does to them. Even if he does a jig on the ashes once he’s finished roasting them all over an open flame. Gran’s been bitching for years about the Wizengamot and the government and Death Eaters that were never punished. Lucius Malfoy is her favorite target for obvious reasons. She’s pretty convinced he was there the night Death Eaters attacked my parents. My mum never quite made it back and the attack… my dad’s life span has basically been cut in half. I’ll be lucky if he gets see his grandchildren.”
“The healers can’t do anything for him?” Harry asked.
Neville exhaled sharply. “Gran… never forgave the healers at St. Mungo’s when they couldn’t save my mum the way they did my dad. She blamed the parselmouth who woke them both up for it but it wasn’t his fault. My mum was an Auror, yes, but she hadn’t been trained the way my dad was. My dad was a Hit Wizard and when the Death Eaters attacked him, he fortified his mind and retreated into a full mindscape. Mum had no hope of doing that. Bellatrix Lastrange drove her insane. When she finally did regain herself—so many years had passed that she couldn’t reconcile that her baby was gone. She often asked me to help search for her baby. It was really heartbreaking to watch when she’d realize I was her son. It happened several times a day until the end.”
“She killed herself,” Harry said.
“Yes,” Neville admitted. “But the Auror that investigated put it down as a natural death to spare my Gran. Even to this day, my Gran refuses to believe that she potioned herself to death. As far as Gran is concerned—my mum went to sleep one night and never woke up.”
“That’s for the best, I think,” Harry said. “If she can’t make herself realize it then maybe the knowledge is simply too much for her to bear.” He paused and considered his words. “Neville, I’m the High Warlock of a conclave of parselmouths. Together we have the combined experience of three thousand years of curse breaking, healing magic, and ritual casting. If you want, I will take your dad into my circle to see if we can do anything for him. Your grandmother needn’t ever know.”
“I’ll tell him,” Neville said. “Perhaps we can visit you and Lord Black this summer. A father/son holiday sort of thing.”
“I’ll set it up,” Harry agreed. “You can tell our witches.” He picked up the quill and signed the contract without another word. Three copies appeared in front of Harry immediately—two popped away with a flash of magic. “I’ve always wondered how any wizard can sign a dverger made contract and still doubt how truly magical their species is.” He rolled up his copy of the contract and set it aside. “I’ll announce your courting period in Witch Weekly through the Paris proxy. It is our intention to keep her status as a resident of Potter Redoubt a secret as long as possible. I need you to get on your mirror and tell your father that.”
Neville pulled his mirror out of his pocket and murmured the pass phrase that connected him with his dad. “Hey.”
“I was just about to contact you. The Dunbar contract appeared on my desk. I trust you are with Lord Potter?”
“Yes, Fay is a resident of Potter Redoubt but it’s a secret. We’re going to go with a formal courting period and only announce our contract if someone finds out about her status.”
“Sounds good,” Frank said. “I won’t discuss the contract with your Gran. She’ll be informed of your courting period and we’ll expect to see Fay over Yule break at some point. She’ll insist. You’ll need dress robes for the Ministry Ball so make sure to invite her soon so she’ll be kitted out properly.”
“I’ll have Stevie from the Shoppe in Paris come and handle you both. I’ll get Fay’s bill and you’ll get your own,” Harry said.
“Sounds good, Lord Potter,” Frank said cheerfully from the mirror. “Anything else, lads?”
Neville flushed. “Yes, sir, I need you to contact Professor McGonagall so that I can be excused from Hogwarts for Saturday evening. I should be set to return Sunday afternoon.”
“Lord Potter has informed me that Fay has requested a private opening,” Neville said formally as he could. Harry noted the boy still blushed a dull red. “And I’ve been given use of his house in Hogsmeade to attend to the matter.”
“Ah, I see,” Frank said. “I’ll contact Minerva. It shouldn’t be a problem. I trust Lord Potter will handle permissions for his ward?”
“He will,” Neville said.
“Nev, as far as I’m concerned, Fay Dunbar is the future Lady Longbottom. I trust you will treat her with all the respect she is due in every circumstance.”
“I won’t disappoint you, sir.”
“I can’t see how you would,” Frank said warmly.
* * * *
Neville was gone for nearly a half hour before Hermione returned. Harry paused briefly as she entered through the portrait hole and continued to play as she slid onto the bench beside him.
“Have a good talk?” Harry asked.
“She had some sex questions,” Hermione blurted out. “I took her to Mum.”
“Well, thank Merlin for that,” Harry said wryly. “He’s fancied her since her first year. She kind of broke his heart when she went through puberty and started treating every male in this castle like lepers. I think I’m a little mad at her about it.”
“If I didn’t know how much you adore me, I’d be worried about your man-crush on Neville,” Hermione said.
He pretended to scowl at her. “Don’t besmirch our bromance with your dirty little fantasies.”
She burst out laughing and leaned against him as he played. “That’s beautiful.”
“Thanks,” Harry said. “I started taking music lessons at seven. It was a part of my therapy, I guess. Even now, the act of just sitting here playing is very stress relieving. I’m glad that I had Dad buy it. I really miss my unicorn though. I sort of grew up with that piano. I took voice lessons, too. Excellent for breath control. Dad was a little pissed when my voice broke when I was just eleven years old. I had a soprano before that.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “Magic isn’t… magic changes and learns. Parselmagic is both a part of that great well of wild magic but in some ways it is separate. It’s perhaps more like a child—a needy and demanding child. I don’t regret embracing it when I did because it gave me the strength to defeat Tom Riddle as soon as I physically could withstand the ritual to drive him from this world. But sometimes I wonder if I could’ve been one of those who let it go.”
“Let it go?” Hermione asked.
“Parselmagic will fade if it isn’t used properly,” Harry said as he drifted into another melody. “It must be treated with the utmost care. There was some worry, when I was first identified as a parselmouth, that my abilities were already damaged beyond repair.”
“Because of your Muggle relatives?”
“Partly but also because I witnessed the murder of my mother,” Harry said carefully. He focused on the keys and cleared his throat. “I had no emotional connection to my aunt and uncle so their treatment of me while extremely physically painful… I can’t say that I wasn’t hurt emotionally by the abuse because I was. It was just that there was never betrayal mixed in that for me. Petunia never gave me the chance to feel anything for her so when she mistreated me—it wasn’t like it broke me. I expected her cruelty. I expected her husband’s physical abuse. They rarely ever surprised me. I don’t remember it now but I have journals that I wrote about the events I suffered in the Dursley home. I made a very careful record of it all before I had Castius seal those memories for me.”
“Do you regret that?” Hermione asked.
“Not at all,” Harry said. “I couldn’t… I’m a better man for letting those memories go.”
“Alright,” Hermione murmured. “It’s past curfew.”
Harry smirked at her. “Look at you breaking the rules.”
“I just came to kiss you goodnight.”
“That’s rather charming,” Harry said and lifted his hands from the keys. “Want me to walk you over to your stairs like a proper wizard?”
“No, because I want a really improper kiss.”
“I am all over that,” Harry said as he slid off the bench, picked her up and took her to their favorite place to snog.
* * * *
Harry watched Minerva McGonagall move around the room as she spoke about human transfiguration. Hermione was, as always, taking very detailed notes. She wasn’t the only one—most of the students in the room were very serious about their NEWT and it showed.
“Lord Potter are you willing to share your experience with the animagus transformation?” Minerva asked as she came to a stop in front of the room.
“You mean the memory or a verbal account?” Harry asked.
Minerva inclined her head. “You’d share the memory?”
“Of the first time I did it on purpose? Yes.”
Minerva nodded and went to a cabinet to the front of the room to remove a projection pensieve. All of the teachers at Hogwarts had them but they weren’t used often. Harry stood and drew his black wand as she set the stone bowl down on her desk.
“I’ll need a minute to organize myself on this,” Harry admitted.
She pulled out her chair and motioned him to sit. “I should’ve asked you in advance. It just crossed my mind that I’m not the only one in the school anymore.”
“It’s quite alright,” Harry said. He put his wand down on the desk and Godric lit up around his neck as he closed his eyes. Centering himself was quick work—he isolated two memories and picked up his wand without opening in his eyes. He drew them out as copies in long silvery strings and his eyes flickered open. “Right. I’ve pulled two.”
“Meeting my form in meditation. I’m pretty sure I was able to pull the entire experience out. The second is my first successful transformation.” He dropped both memories into the bowl. “I should warn you that… the first time I transformed on purpose that it was quite painful. Most parselmouths are snakes if they have a form of some kind. I’m rather rare among my kind and my parselmagic fought the initial acceptance of my animagus form tooth and claw so to speak.”
Minerva nodded. “It’s a good experience to show then. For some the process is extremely painful and anyone attempting this form of transfiguration should know that up front.” She looked right at Neville Longbottom as she spoke. “Mr. Longbottom, I trust you will pay careful attention. Your animagus potion arrived this morning and I am available to you when are ready to attempt your first transformation.”
Hermione put down her quill as her mother activated the pensieve. The room shifted as they were all enveloped in Harry’s memory, more to the point—taken into Harry’s mental landscape. She stood and walked to where the older Harry was now standing. “How old were you?”
“This is me about six months after the Chamber of Secrets, so a little over thirteen,” Harry murmured.
Hermione nodded and watched the younger version of her wizard as he walked down a narrow path that lead to a large open mouthed cave. The interior of the cave was pitch black and she found herself relieved when young Harry just sat down in front of the cave instead of attempting to enter it. He folded himself into the lotus position and waited.
“Merlin,” Draco Malfoy muttered.
Hermione’s gaze jerked to the cave and she could see… something moving around in the shadows. She shifted closer to Harry even as the younger version of himself remained absolutely still at the front of the cave. “How many times did you do this before…”
“The first time ten times I got this far—I freaked out so much that I threw myself out of my meditative state,” Harry admitted dryly. “I knew, intellectually, what I was. I’d had three incidents of accidental magic where I’d turned into my form. Though at this point it had been almost three years since it had happened.”
Hermione flinched when the dragon drifted out of the shadows, growling low and dangerous. She noted that young Harry stayed where he was, staring right at his form without moving a single muscle as the dragon approached. The animal scraped its claws against the ground, tearing up the earth as it did so. It moved within a foot of the boy and roared.
Lavender screamed and Fay burst out laughing at their friend.
Young Harry merely raised an eyebrow at the dragon and crooked his finger at him. The dragon expelled smoke at him and slowly walked forward until they were eye to eye. Hermione flinched when the thirteen year old Harry ran his fingers over the dragon’s face. Then he laughed. The dragon reared its head and flame burst from his mouth as he roared.
“We are going to have so much fun,” the thirteen year old declared and the dragon snorted his agreement.
The memory ended and Hermione took a deep breath. “How long did it take you to get there?”
“Three years but I was reluctant,” Harry admitted. “My Dad pretty much gave me no choice after my last bout of accidental transformation. I couldn’t return to my human form for over a week and they came close to having force me back into my rightful body. After that, he stopped accepting my excuses and forced me to start work on it. Even then, I admit, I often gave in too easily because I wasn’t sure I even wanted it.”
“Why wouldn’t you want it?” Ron Weasley asked with a sincere frown.
Harry was rather surprised because the question hadn’t been phrased sarcastically at all. “All three times I’d transformed were during bouts of rather traumatic accidental magic. I’d come to associate my animagus form with being physically or emotionally hurt to an untold degree. I also knew it advance that my first intentional transformation would hurt like hell.”
“But your accidental incidents didn’t hurt?” Daphne Greengrass asked. “I’ve had two myself—and they didn’t hurt.”
“No, they didn’t hurt for that. I was already injured—in one case so severely that I passed out shortly after I transformed. When I transitioned for the first time on purpose, I had to force my parselmagic to submit. All parselmouths eventually have to dominate their own magical core if they want to master the full breadth of their magic. Some never do it and others wait until they’re much older. Most of the adult parselmouths I know have yet to accomplish it. In fact, there are only three parselmouths in my conclave who have dominated their core—the other two are over a hundred. I dominated mine at thirteen.”
“I’ll start the memory now,” Minerva paused. “Lord Potter is sharing something very personal with us. I trust you will treat this memory with the respect it is due. I will show you mine after we finish with his so you can see the difference. I had a very easy first transformation.”
Hermione slipped her hand into Harry’s as the memory enveloped them. She looked around. “Where are we?”
“Canada. My Uncle Remus’ wife is Canadian. They have a summer home here and I asked to visit so I could have some privacy for my transformation. Oh, Merlin. Stop the memory.” Minerva darted forward and did it before anyone could ask why.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “The thing is… I did this on a full moon, Aunt Min.”
“Oh,” Minerva huffed. “Merlin’s pants.” She ignored the students that snickered. “Is Remus in the memory?”
“Yes, I finished my transition roughly two minutes before moon rise. I can pull the memory again but the first ten minutes after the transformation are informative.”
“Right, of course,” she turned to the very confused class. “For those of you are unaware, Remus Lupin, Harry’s uncle and the Director of the Lily Potter Foundation, is a werewolf. He is in this memory so you’ll bear witness to his transformation. If you don’t want to witness this—you may exit the classroom and I’ll bring you back in after we are finished.” She paused and every one of her students looked back at her like she was crazy for suggesting they leave. “If you’re sure?”
“Are you kidding?” Theo Nott asked. “A chance to see a werewolf up close and personal without being in danger. How brilliant is that?”
“She must have us confused with the Hufflepuffs,” Seamus exclaimed. “Let’s get this party started!”
Minerva shook her head. “If you a single one of you has nightmares…” She reactivated the pensieve.
Sirius Black appeared in the woods in front of them wearing a pair of jeans, trainers, and blue jumper. “You ready, pup?”
Harry huffed as he stepped off the path and joined his father. “Yeah.”
“You don’t look sure.”
“I’m totally sure.”
“I don’t think you are,” Sirius returned. “We can go back to the cabin and play exploding snap if you’re going to be a pussy about it.”
Remus Lupin came down off the path and dropped a pair of trainers on the ground. “The two of you are ruining my sanctuary. Just so you know—I don’t need this kind of hostility.” He pointed a finger at Harry. “We’re ten minutes from moon rise and I don’t want you out here if you’re still on two legs.”
“You’re a werewolf,” father and son protested at the same time.
“Are you saying I’m hostile?” Remus demanded.
“Kind of.” Harry held up two fingers to demonstrate how much. “Just a little, really, a trifle.”
He separated himself from the two men physically, walking out into a small circle of grass surrounded by large trees. He inhaled deeply and released the breath. Magic flared around him as his aura surfaced. Purple magic heaved up in him and he screamed. He fell to his knees and his body arched of its own accord.
“No,” Remus Lupin shouted and grabbed Sirius. “Don’t. You know you can’t help him.”
Harry fell forward on his hands and his magic flared again. He screamed but the sound turned into a roar as he transitioned. The smallish dragon staggered and fell—chest heaving with exertion and pain. Sirius came to him then, kneeling near his head and stroking his son’s ridged, angular face.
“There you are,” Sirius said with a sigh. He pulled out a potion. “Just pain relief. Castius said you could have it.” The dragon let him pour it down his throat just as the moon rose.
Hermione took her eyes off the dragon form of Harry for the first time just in time to watch Remus Lupin go from the mild mannered man she’d met straight into werewolf in a near instant. The werewolf howled at the moon and she jumped when the dragon roared with him. She turned in time to see Sirius Black transition into Padfoot. She wondered if Harry had named his dragon form. The huge black dog they were all familiar with joined in—howling just as loudly as the werewolf had.
The memory rushed around them as Harry gained his feet and launched into the air with a burst of magic. She clutched her own Harry to keep from getting dizzy. “Merlin, how fast can you fly?”
“One hundred twenty kilometers an hour in short bursts,” Harry admitted.
“What was your biggest stumbling block this night?” Minerva asked.
“I hunted for food,” Harry admitted. “An hour after my transition, I ran a deer to ground and only my father kept me from killing and eating it. So, I’d say my prey drive was my biggest issue.”
“And your father was able to stop you? You’re huge compared to him,” Hermione asked.
“He’s still my dad,” Harry explained.
* * * *
“It makes me sick, you know.”
Harry looked up from his essay and actually sighed. He was, not to put too fine a point on it, going to curse the utter shite out of Ron Weasley if he didn’t go away forever. He tossed his quill down in a rare show of outright frustration.
“You and your… just everything.”
“Thank you for your articulate summary of my life,” Harry said dryly.
Ron huffed. “You don’t deserve what you have—not the title, not the money, not the magical power and most certainly not her.”
“I see,” Harry said. All of the girls in Gryffindor were upstairs having what he could only assume was a hair-braiding party, but he’d noticed that Ron tended to bait him when Hermione wasn’t around to interfere. He also noted that Seamus and Neville had moved closer to him. “And what? I should give everything I have away because you think I don’t deserve any of it? I mean, not that I can take your position seriously at all. You don’t have the first bloody clue what I do and don’t deserve. You’re a coddled, barely educated child, Weasley. You think the world owes you a living.”
“You said it yourself, Potter. You almost turned your back on one of the most profound magical gifts a wizard can be given.”
“Given?” Harry repeated. “You think I was given the animagus ability? I earned what I am, Weasley. I earned it with study, blood, sweat and as much pain as I’ve ever known in my entire life. Parselmouths have gone insane from the pain of dominating their magical core. Most of the men in my conclave will never even attempt it because the risk is so great. But you wouldn’t understand the work involved in such a magical discipline.” He turned to Neville. “How long have you been mediating on your form, Neville?”
“Since I was eight,” Neville said with a mild glare in Ron’s direction. “I met him a few years back actually but I’ve been putting off my first transformation because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to register with the Ministry. Now that Harry’s dad is Minister, I’m a lot more comfortable with the idea of registering my ability.”
“Whatever Neville, I don’t even believe you have a form,” Ron said crossly.
Harry bit down on his bottom lip to keep from laughing when Neville transformed in a blink of an eye and advanced on Ron Weasley as fourteen hundred pounds of bear. Weasley squeaked and backed away so fast he fell on his arse.
“Right. That’s sorted,” Harry said dryly.
Neville transformed back into a wizard and rolled his eyes at Weasley. “Don’t piss yourself again, Ronald. I wouldn’t take a bite out of you. You’re so bloody bitter in personality there is no way you’d be edible.” He threw himself in the chair across from Harry and glared at the red headed menace.
“It doesn’t change what I said,” Ron said as he shakily got to his feet. “He doesn’t deserve what he has. None of it.”
“It isn’t like you or anyone else has the power to take it from him,” Seamus said. “I imagine the only real threat to him in a duel in this castle is Dumbledore.”
“Flitwick could give me a run for my money,” Harry said. “Snape as well. They’re both world class duelers. But the only person in this castle I would actually surrender my wand to is Hermione.”
“Right.” Ron rolled his eyes. “Surrender to a girl?”
“I’d cut off my arm before I’d harm her,” Harry said evenly. “Of course, I’d surrender to her if we were at odds. Her safety and happiness means more to me than my own. That’s the real difference between you and I, Weasley. You don’t actually care what she wants. You don’t care if she’s happy. You think only of yourself and that is why you’ll never get anywhere in this life if you don’t grow up.”
“Whatever,” Ron said with a roll of his eyes. “You give away your money, you let your elves volunteer instead of getting paid for their services, and you don’t honestly think your ancestors would approve of you wasting their money on children that aren’t even yours, right? Do you think that little orphanage of yours is anything more than a stain on your magical house?”
Harry’s gaze narrowed but he wasn’t looking at Weasley. “Jonas, put away your wand.”
Jonas huffed but did as he was instructed with a glare in Ron’s direction that promised retribution. “Yes, sir.”
“I don’t need you fighting my battles,” Harry said shortly. “Don’t you have an essay in Transfiguration? You should go to the library before curfew and get what you need for it.” His gaze flicked to the other younger wizards in the room. “The rest of you, find somewhere else to be, please.”
Ron, the idiot, didn’t move while everyone fourth year and younger immediately left the common room. “What? Gonna torture me like you did McLaggen?”
Harry raised an eyebrow and turned to the seventh year in question. “Cormac, did I torture you?”
McLaggen cleared his throat. “No, Lord Potter, you merely saved me a trip to the infirmary.”
Ron snorted in disbelief.
“And I wouldn’t waste magic on you, Weasel. McLaggen is an arrogant, impetuous git but he can learn from his mistakes. You? You don’t have that ability. Your ignorance is only out matched by your greed and laziness. My title is not just an honorific. It is a magical duty and it is the responsibility of all Peers of the Realm to provide what they can to society. Potter Redoubt is not a stain on the magical legacy of my house. It is, frankly, the most honorable and worthy contribution the Earl of Gryffindor has made to magical society since Godric put forth the money to create Hogwarts.”
“You’re just wasting your time and money on someone else’s brats,” Ron said crossly. “It’s disgusting and I can’t believe Hermione would want to be a part of it.”
“Then you don’t know her at all,” Neville interrupted. “But that makes all kinds of sense, actually. You’re only baiting Harry’s temper on a bloody daily basis in the hopes that he’ll hurt you so much that Hermione will reconsider being with him.”
Harry figured that was true because Weasel’s face went white with shock. “He really has no clue that she’d help me hide his body.”
Neville grinned at him.
“You’re a dark wizard. I don’t care about all that propaganda your father put out. Parselmouths are dark.”
“It must be… so pleasant to live in your little black and white world,” Harry said evenly. “Coddled and spoiled by your mother to such a degree that you have the luxury of such thinking. How does it feel, Weasel? How does it feel to be safe?”
“Like you’re in danger,” Ron said crossly.
“There are eighty-seven Death Eaters at large in Britain,” Harry said evenly. “Known Death Eaters that is. The Ministry has no idea, really, how many he actually marked. Every truly dark wizard on this planet would like a crack at me. Killing the wizard who ended Tom Riddle would be quite a feather in their cap. Every home I’ve lived in since I was three years old has had active war wards. I’ve worn an emergency portkey since my father regained custody of me. There have been ten kidnapping attempts, not all of them at the hands of the British Ministry. There are a half-dozen so-called children in this castle right now with Death Eater parents that would curse me in the back if they had the chance to get away with it.”
“Then you shouldn’t have come here, that’s just stupid.”
“He’s here for Hermione.” Seamus huffed. “Honestly, it’s like talking to a bloody brick wall. We all know what she is to him! Of course, he came to Hogwarts as soon as he had the legal standing to protect her, you twit.”
“Sod off, Finnegan. What the hell do you know?”
“At least I’m not a burden and dishonor on my family,” Seamus said evenly. “You don’t see me slacking off in classes that my parents are paying for. You don’t see me, with no regard to my family, constantly insulting a Peer.”
“Don’t waste your time, Seamus,” Harry said. “It isn’t like he actually understands.” He picked up his quill and went back to his essay without another word.
Ron stood there and fumed for nearly a full minute before he pulled his wand. He was hit with four stunners, not a single one of which came from Harry, and slumped to the floor unconscious. McLaggen, one of the wizards to draw his own wand, stood with a sigh. “I’ll take him to the infirmary.”
Harry drew his own wand and cast a diagnostic on Ron. “He’s fine. Just throw him on his bed; he’ll be awake by morning. Let him suffer with the headache he earned himself.”
McLaggen nodded and shouldered Ron’s dead weight without another word.
Neville huffed and holstered his own wand. “If I’d known a little pain would set Cormac to rights I’d have taken him aside during my third year and kicked his face in.”
“He’s jealous, you know,” Colin Creevy said.
Harry considered the fifth year prefect’s words carefully before he spoke. “The part that concerns me most is that he isn’t even really sure what he envies. He’s focused all of this energy on my relationship with Hermione but he barely spared her a glance that first night. I realize he had some grand plan for her after Hogwarts but his pursuit of her was never earnest.”
“But now she’s rich and very desirable,” Neville said. “He wants what you have and maybe he figures she’s the only thing he has a chance of winning against you.”
“He’s never been the brightest lumos charm, has he?” Colin asked dryly.
* * * *
The next morning, Ron barely dragged himself into the boy’s showers as the rest of them were leaving for breakfast. Harry casually activated the pranks on the shower stall as they left and smirked when one of the first years offered him a high five. He knew he shouldn’t encourage them but if anyone deserved to spend the rest of the weekend with what amounted to a pelt it was Ron Weasley. He really hoped that Poppy didn’t cure him too soon.
Half way through breakfast, Astoria Greengrass came skipping into the Hall and did a victory dance at their table that rivaled anything they’d done at a Quidditch match ever. She wiggled onto the bench between Harry and Neville and leaned forward to whisper loudly, “operation Weaselwolf utterly accomplished!”
Hermione glanced up from her book as all of the first years burst into self-congratulatory applause and sighed. “What did they do?”
“Demonstrated an astounding amount of team work in mixing charms and potions,” Harry said seriously. He jerked his head towards the doors.
Hermione turned and stared at the mass of moving red hair. Her mouth dropped open and she turned to Harry with wide eyes. “Have you ever watched the Addams Family on the telly?”
“Cousin Itt,” Harry said with a grave nod.
She sputtered then giggled before bursting out in delighted, unrestrained laughter that alerted the rest of the hall to the arrival of Ron Weasley.
“Merlin’s pants,” Dumbledore said quite loudly as he stood and Harry lost all ability not to laugh.
* * * *
Harry checked his watch as he parted ways with Hermione at the front entrance. He had four hours before the game, which was plenty of time to handle the small amount of business he had. The ten men who made up the inner circle of the Glain Neidr were all gathered around one of the stone tables in the castle’s courtyard. Harry took the seat they’d left for him and dropped his planner on the table in front of him. He pulled his wand and cast a privacy ward over the entire group.
“Good morning, gentlemen, thank you for coming to me.”
“I rarely miss a game,” Dyson admitted. “I think most of the conclave will be here to watch you play at any rate.”
“It should be fun.” He opened up his planner and focused on his second in command. “Armand, I’ve reviewed your proposal regarding the Gryffindor Circle.”
“It’s a hot button issue,” Harry said. “The land is mine and the centaurs would have no recourse if we claimed it for the conclave. But they would be extremely unhappy. We must also consider the dverger’s reaction. The Glain Neidr has been practicing within the confines of the bank for eighty-three years. Will they be unduly insulted by our move?”
“I’d think not,” Armand answered. “Especially if we continue to offer members of our conclave to both the London and Paris branches as we always have. Additionally, if we are available for their ritual needs, I believe they will be satisfied that our claiming of the Gryffindor Circle isn’t a reflection on their own facilities. Ragnok is fond of you, of course, and will accept your decisions on this topic as a matter of course.”
“True,” Harry sighed. “But I’d hate to taint or damage our position with the Horde. Master Bardon spent over a hundred years cultivating the conclave’s relationship with the dverger before his death.”
“Perhaps,” Castius began, “we can request their assistance in preparing the Gryffindor Circle for use and give them ritual access to the space when we are not using it.”
Harry paused and considered that. “I’m open to both situations on principal but I can’t guarantee how my familial magic will react once I’ve claimed the ritual space. There is every likelihood that it would refuse anyone but me complete access to the space.”
“We’ll just have to play that part by ear then,” Armand said. “It would be a waste not to claim the circle.”
“I don’t disagree,” Harry finally said. “But it’ll have to wait until the Yule break. I’d like to spend at least a week with the circle after I claim it and that’s not possible at the moment.”
“Right.” Harry opened his planner. “We have a renewal ceremony for the Rowan coven on October 26th. How are the potions, Castius?”
“I’ll have everything ready by the 15th,” Castius said as he made a notation in his own planner. “I’ll be in Germany from October 20th to the 24th. But just in case I’m unable to return home in time for the ritual, I’ve arranged for Armand to store the potions after they are complete.”
Harry nodded. “Okay, I’d really prefer that you be there if at all possible but we’ll make a plan if you aren’t. Dyson, report from St. Mungo’s?”
“Just one of my potential trainees has expressed interest in having his parselmagic awakened,” Dyson began. “He’s young and unsure but I think with careful mentorship he’ll be ready to embrace the gift by the end of the year. I’ve left myself open to his questions and spent several evenings with him over the last month showing him the benefits. There is still something of a stigma with the older generation here in Britain, especially those who haven’t been exposed to a parselmouth Healer but who have vivid memories of Tom Riddle.”
“That can’t be helped, I guess,” Harry said. “We’re fortunate to have come as far as we have. Even ten years ago, you couldn’t have gotten a license to practice as a Healer in this country if you were revealed to be a parselmouth.” He turned to Armand. “Has Ragnok agreed to open up testing for his human employees?”
“He’s very interested and quite put out to have never considered that they might have latents already in their employee,” Armand said. “He has requested that he receive a full report on the testing phase and that none of their employees are to be pressured to accept the gift.”
“It’s nearly always a mistake to pressure someone into accepting the gift,” Harry said. “They end up… intimidated or even afraid of their own magic and that’s a shame.”
“Worse is a parselmouth who fears snakes,” Armand said dryly. “There is one that works for the Ministry who is petrified of them. It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Harry shook his head. “Any news on the parselmouth who came to Hogwarts to attack my witch?”
Armand laughed, low and dry. “Oh, lad, he quit the Ministry, packed up his wife and child, and promptly moved to Australia. He was out of the country within fifteen hours of coming to Hogwarts. Word is that all seven parselmouths currently employed by the ministry have reported to their immediate supervisor that they absolutely refuse to involve themselves in any sort of conflict with the High Warlock of the Glain Neidr.”
“I haven’t spoken to my father about the rules regarding ministry employees practicing within covens or conclaves,” Harry said. “Should I?”
“No,” Thaddeus Banner said. “I think… that the divide is a good one and it prevents conflicts of interest. The Ministry and especially the DMLE places restrictions on their employees that would directly interfere with their ability to function within a ritual circle. Additionally, the oaths we require could damage a person’s ability to perform their job in such a situation. It’s best to keep things separate to avoid those issues all together.”
“Where is your Runespoor, lad?” Armand asked out of the blue and the rest of the men at the table stilled.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “The Fates? Why do you ask?”
“Just a curious old man,” Armand said wryly.
“The Fates are visiting Master Ito,” Harry explained. “You know they adore Japan.”
Dyson sighed, pulled a galleon out of his pocket and handed it to Armand. “Right.”
Harry watched the exchange with a raised eyebrow. “Betting on the location of my snakes?”
“Not at all,” Armand said. “Betting on your poker face. You should take that act to Monte Carlo.”
“I have plenty of money,” Harry said blithely. “Other business?”
“Rumor has it that Viktor Krum has an eye on your witch,” Armand said.
“I can confirm that and he’s made it clear to her that if she doesn’t agree to his suit that he’s willing to challenge my courting period.”
Dyson sighed. “You do know that he’s a rapist, right? I’d murder that man in his sleep before I’d allow him to be alone unsupervised with a woman. Though he tends to prefer his victims young.”
“I’m aware of what he is,” Harry said evenly. “He’s one reason why I placed the ward on her. I have faith she can take care of herself and Emmie is rarely far from her but I believed the ward would add a layer of much needed protection.”
“And she has no interest in him?”
“None at all that I know of and she’s aware of his history,” Harry said. “That being said, she has a great deal of personal wealth, the Krums are a very old-fashioned family, and they might labor under the impression that Minerva McGonagall can be forced to compel Hermione to marry Viktor.”
“Then neither of them have actually met the woman,” Armand muttered.
“Neither of them bothered to know her that is for certain,” Harry agreed. “Viktor’s letters to Hermione make it clear that he has no interest whatsoever in her opinion either. In his mind, he’s practically already her husband.”
“Too bad the Fates are in Japan,” Dyson said. “You could send them to visit that bastard.”
Harry nodded. “They did pick an unfortunate time to go on vacation but you know they can be so unreasonable once they make a decision.”