Title: Gryffindor’s Circle
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 12,346
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse, discussion of sexually abusive situations, explicit language, and ritual magic.
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
This chapter contains group nudity, public sexual intercourse, ritual sex magic, a near ritual sacrifice, graphic imagery, emotional trauma, and the deaths of multiple canon but not major characters (no one you love will die–probably–I mean, unless you’re fond of unrepentant Death Eaters).
Harry exited the portrait hole just as Hermione was returning from rounds. He caught her hand with a little smirk in Neville’s direction and tugged her down the hall away from the tower. She huffed but didn’t verbally protest the fact that he was out of the tower past curfew. Though she wasn’t honestly convinced that the curfew applied to him—he had a lot of leeway when it came to moving about the castle and even leaving the grounds.
He led her through one of the more obvious not-so secret passages in the castle and straight down a narrow hall and into a broom closet she’d never noticed before. She laughed a little as he shut the door and backed her up against the wall.
“What are you doing?”
“Checking off a box on my bucket list,” Harry said with a little laugh. “It’s a family tradition to snog in a Hogwart’s broom closet.”
She let her hands fall to his jean clad hips and she hummed under her breath. “I just spent the last hour kicking people out of closets.” Despite her protest, she wrapped her legs around his waist when he hitched her upward.
“You can take points,” Harry murmured as he nuzzled her throat. “Or perhaps give me some private detention. You can be the professor and I’ll be the very naughty school boy.” He pressed his cock against her.
“You’re horrible,” Hermione gasped with a little laugh. “What if I just made you write lines?”
“Hmmm, would you be naked while I was doing that?” Harry asked. “Lines would be tolerable if that were the case.”
“Maybe I’d make you get on your knees and eat me instead,” Hermione said as he slid one hand up her shirt to cup her breast. He thumbed the already hard nipple. “Harry.”
“I’d get on my knees for you every day of the week,” Harry murmured against her lips then kissed her. She opened for the sweep of his tongue easily.
Her hands clenched on his shoulders. She shuddered as he pulled on her nipple firmly. Hermione gasped as he released her mouth. “God.”
Harry lowered his head to Hermione’s shoulder as she burst out laughing. He turned his head slightly and found Dobby standing there with both hands over his face. “Oh, your reason better be so important or I’m going to make you sit on the time out stool.” He set Hermione on her feet and took a deep breath as Dobby slowly uncovered his face.
“Miss Luna missing,” Dobby said. “Not find her anywhere on the map.”
Harry frowned. “Luna Lovegood? Doesn’t Emmie have a tracking charm on her things so people can’t steal them?”
“Yes, that why we be worried,” Dobby explained. “Emmie can’t be finding her. Miss Chang not be in her dorm either.”
“Right.” Hermione took a deep breath. “Harry, you go find Roger Davies and Sullivan Fawley. I’ll go get my mum and the Headmaster. Dobby you go find that useless twat Cho Chang and inform her that one of her fifth years isn’t in bed like they’re supposed to be.”
Harry pulled Godric off his neck. “Get Sullivan.” The snake flashed away in an instant. He left the closet and headed straight towards the Ravenclaw tower. He ignored the riddle and instead hit the notification rune. He wasn’t at all surprised when Davies was the one appeared, obviously already gone to bed. The boy belted a robe on as he opened the door as Sullivan appeared in a flash of fire beside Harry.
“I was about to get laid,” Fawley complained. He handed Godric back to Harry casually. He’d warned them all that if Godric ever came for them it would be an emergency.
“Luna Lovegood is missing,” Harry said without preamble and raised an eyebrow at Davies who immediately turned on his heel and stalked back into his dorm. Harry and Sullivan followed.
They watched silently as Davies cancelled the gender restriction on a set of stairs and darted up them. He returned grim faced and transfiguring his clothes as he hurried down the steps. “No, she’s not in her bed. Chang isn’t here either.”
Harry nodded. “Right. Either one of you have a clue about Luna’s status? She’s just fifteen, right? So, I’d suspect she probably is a virgin. I heard there was one among the fifth years. Hermione has been surveying them.”
Roger paled. “Harry, no, that’s…”
Harry grimaced. “Emmie!”
Emmie appeared instantly. “Yes, Master Harry?”
“Have you searched the grounds of the castle and the forest?”
“The castle, yes, but not the forest, mean horse people don’t like elves going in there,” Emmie explained.
Harry’s jaw tightened with fury. “This is all my land, Emmie. You go where you want and defend yourself as needed from any threat, are we clear?”
“Yes, Master Harry.”
“Go to the forest, call the others. Find Luna. Godric, retrieve Draco Malfoy,” Harry hissed as they all left the common room of Ravenclaw. “Dobby! Bring me Isis and Hathor.” The elf appeared in just a few seconds with the two black, white, and grey vipers. Harry took the snakes as they met the Headmaster and Minerva at the bottom of the stairs.
“She’s not in the castle,” Dumbledore said without preamble. “I have all of the elves searching for her on the grounds and in Hogsmeade in case she snuck out of the school to go there.”
Harry closed his eyes briefly before he focused on the vipers in his hands. He dropped down to one knee and pooled them on the floor. Both rose off the floor, weaving and intent on him. “Can you find Luna?”
“We try. Follow her lovely chaotic magic,” Isis proclaimed.
Harry cast a series of charms on them and stood as they slithered towards the doors. He opened the front doors wandlessly and they exited into the night. Hermione came down the stairs.
“I couldn’t find Cho in any of her favored… closets,” Hermione admitted in a rush. “Luna and Cho were at dinner but neither were in the library afterwards that Fay can remember. That’s at least three hours, Harry, since anyone has seen Luna. How long… how long would it take?”
Harry took a deep breath. “They would’ve prepared the ritual space and any potions required before they took her. There are several but the most likely to be used in Britain takes six hours and twenty-two minutes to complete by a moderate sized conclave. The bigger the group, the more power the High Warlock has available, the shorter the turn around on nearly any ritual.”
“Moderate sized being how many members?” Hermione asked.
“Twenty but you only need seven to create a conclave,” Harry said. He turned to Minerva just as Godric flashed into the foyer of the castle with Malfoy and Snape. Filius Flitwick was heading down the stairs towards them. “Her mother was part of your coven?”
“Yes, Celeste was our potions mistress for many years,” Minerva said. “I should’ve… I should’ve paid more attention to her.”
“Wouldn’t change our circumstances now,” Harry said as gently as he could. He turned to Draco. “How dark is Xian Chang?”
“He’s an unmarked Death Eater,” Draco said honestly. “He’s risen high in the ranks since my father’s retreat into a bottle of Ogden’s finest. He stands as my father’s second in command.”
“Twenty-three that I know of,” Draco said. “I forwarded a list to your father a week ago when I overheard him talk about how Chang has been working to ingratiate himself in the Ministry.”
Harry nodded. “Twenty-three, maybe. Excluding or including your father?”
“Including,” Draco admitted. “They’d have him with them if they are… attempting a ritual. He is very gifted with ritual magic and no one else would act as High Warlock if he’s available.”
“I need your blood,” Harry said abruptly.
Draco blinked but offered his hand, palm up. Potter slashed across his hand with his black wand. The cut healed quickly leaving smooth skin behind.
“Lord Malfoy, let me be the first to offer my condolences on the death of your Patriarch,” Harry said quietly as he left the castle. The sword of Gryffindor shimmered into his hand. He went to the center of the courtyard, slammed the sword into the ground, and magic washed over the entire castle—sweeping out over the grounds like a tsunami.
All around him wizards appeared, magic heaved with each arrival as they pushed through the wards called by the relentless wave of Harry’s magic. Hiro Ito came last, appearing silently beside his apprentice. Harry drew Nocturne and the men of his conclave shifted around him—startled and excited as he cast a shining, silver rune in the air above them.
Harry dripped the blood he’d gathered from the Malfoy heir on the sword. It swung up into the air and every member of his conclave cast a tracking charm on it. The sword disappeared in a bang of forced apparition and everyone in the Glain Neidr went with it.
“Oh my god,” Hermione whispered. “We need to find his dad.”
“His father’s partner is a member of the conclave. I’m sure Sirius has already been informed…” Dumbledore trailed off as Sirius Black entered the courtyard in his animagus form at a dead run. He gained his feet as the Minister for Magic as he reached them. A few dozen Aurors at his back. “Ah, Lord Black.”
“Where is my son?” Sirius demanded only to have the night sky over the Dark Forest light up with a swell of magic that looked like a bomb being detonated. “Never mind.”
“Master Ito is with him,” Hermione said hurriedly. She looked out in the direction of the magic. “He’s going to be bloody furious.”
“He was already bloody furious,” Roger pointed out.
“Those dark bastards were using the Gryffindor Circle,” Hermione said quietly. She cleared her throat. “Emmie!”
The elf appeared immediately. “Master Harry be so angry,” Emmie exclaimed. “He be in his dragon form! Miss Luna be on a altar. I can’t get her free!”
“Go get the map book from Harry’s quarters,” Hermione ordered. “I need to show the Minister and the DMLE where they are exactly.”
Emmie popped away and returned with the book.
“Wait,” Amelia Bones said as soon as she saw it. “You can’t open that book. It’s a Potter legacy book. It’ll injure you if you try.”
Hermione glanced briefly at the woman and opened the book with no problems. “I am in all ways but one the Lady Potter, Madam Bones,” Hermione said as she thumbed through the book. She found the map and expanded it out. “Here.”
Dumbledore pulled out a piece of parchment from his pocket, enlarged it and made a portkey in seconds. More than one person started to protest when Hermione put her hand on it first but said nothing as Minerva’s hand defiantly joined her daughter’s. Hermione handed the map book back to Emmie shortly before the portkey activated.
The scene was something of a nightmare. Bodies were strewn across the ritual space like a war zone. Lucius Malfoy lay at the center of it impaled with the sword of Gryffindor. Draco Malfoy walked to his father’s remains, jaw tight. Kneeling down, he removed the family ring from his father’s hand and with a deep breath slipped it onto his own finger. Then he stood calmly and without a word removed the sword. He cleaned the blade with his robe and offered it hilt first to Harry who took it carefully.
“The Earl of Gryffindor extends his hand in friendship.” Harry offered his right hand after shifting the sword to his left.
“The Earl of Lavoy accepts,” Draco murmured and took the hand he was offered. “May we know peace and friendship during our time.”
“So mote it be,” Harry said by way of agreement. He released Draco’s hand and cleared his throat. “Armand, remove the remains of these dark wizards from our sacred circle. They have no place here.”
Draco’s gaze went to Luna Lovegood, who was still on the altar where she lay naked. “Is it too late?”
“No, but I’m going to have to do something… that Hermione might truly never accept,” Harry admitted. “The ritual is too far gone to stop completely. We can alter it but…”
“Ritual opening,” Draco murmured. “I could… I can do it.”
“You aren’t a member of my conclave,” Harry said neutrally. “All of the other members of my circle are so much older than her that it would be obscene to allow it. Even this is… the most base thing I’ll ever do. She has no say, no choice, no fucking voice because I’m not sure we can wake her up.”
“She asked me…” Draco sighed. “On the train, she asked me if I would open her over the Yule break. She explained that her father is basically crazy and she couldn’t trust him to make arrangements on her behalf. I spoke with Daphne about it and we agreed that I would do it. Luna’s mother was Daphne’s aunt—their mothers were sisters. It’s not consent at this very moment but she won’t hold it against us.”
“I’m not sure your magic could handle being in a conclave full of parselmouths but the last thing I want is to damage my relationship with Hermione,” Harry murmured. “She’d understand it intellectually but she’s here and she’d watch despite what I’d prefer. I don’t know that she’d accept it on an emotional level.”
“Potter, you know I’m a latent parselmouth,” Draco said. “Can you wake my gifts first?”
“Yes, but it’s not how we prefer to do it,” Harry said. “You’ll suffer for it and your training will be harsh.”
“I don’t care.”
“Exit the circle and prepare yourself,” Harry murmured. “I’ll call you when I’m ready for you. The circumstances aren’t ideal—if you need a potion for performance tell me now.”
“I think I can… manage. I’ll manage.” Draco left the circle taking off his robe.
Harry placed the sword in the center of the ritual circle in a small dais designed specifically for the Sword of Gryffindor. Runes all over the circle lit up with sharp bangs, echoing through the forest around them. He felt more than heard the approach of the centaurs but he didn’t stop what he was doing. If he’d fucking claimed the circle when he’d first come to Hogwarts like Armand had wanted… no. It was better this way. If they hadn’t had a circle as powerful as this one they’d have taken her beyond the borders of the UK. She’d have never been found.
The senior members of his conclave gathered around him. “Draco Malfoy is going to handle the opening. He’s a latent parselmouth. I’m going to have to wake his parselmagic and I need one of you to take him on as a student.”
“I will,” Thaddeus Banner said. “I’ve been keeping an eye on him for some time. He’s careful with his magic, brilliant academically, and has expressed no interest in the healing arts. I’m easily the best fit to mentor him.”
“I thank you on his behalf, Master Banner,” Harry said shortly. “Castius, is there any chance we can wake her and tell her what is going to happen?”
“I can try,” Castius said. “But… don’t hold out for a full conversation. We’ll have to be brief, Harry.”
“I need to speak to Minerva McGonagall and Master Ito. You work on reviving her while I do that,” Harry said shortly. He called for Dobby as he crossed the circle. “Get my ritual robe please.”
“The special one?”
“Yes,” Harry said quietly. “Bring all the vipers to me. Isis and Hathor are more than half way here already. Have all of the elves come—we’ll need help cleansing for the ritual. Tell them that we have the conclave and a full coven on site.” Dobby popped away as Harry came to stand in front of Minerva. “I need you to call your coven, Aunt Min. We’re going to need all the witches you can muster to cast an aperta mulieris around the entirety of my conclave and ritual circle. We can’t remove her from this circle until the ritual is completed one way or another.”
“You’re going to open her,” Minerva said bluntly. “I see. Is there no other choice?”
“Our only other is to kill her and absorb her power,” Harry said. “They were almost finished with the ritual. Lucius Malfoy was disgustingly talented and powerful in this particular ritual. I have to wonder how often he’d completed it in the past.” He took a deep breath and looked at Hermione who looked equal parts worried and sick at heart. “Mi.”
“It’s the business of being magical,” Hermione said. “Do whatever you have to do to save her, Harry. You have to know I won’t hold it against you.”
“I’m not going to do it,” Harry corrected gently. “Draco is. She’s chosen him already to attend her opening over the Yule holiday. We’re going to try to wake her and let her know what is happening. None of us are thrilled with the conditions of this and her lack of a say in what is going to happen. This is going to be a very… intense experience.”
“I can handle it,” Hermione said firmly. “And I could handle it if you were required to open her yourself. I’d never… want you to hesitate to do what you must to save someone’s life. So if you wake her and she prefers you for whatever reason—know that there is nothing to forgive, okay?”
“Okay,” Harry said. “Good. You keep that in mind for the next hour or so. And also? You’re about to see a bunch of men of various ages get quite naked. Try not to freak out too much.” He kissed her quickly and stalked off even as her eyes went wide.
Harry drew his staff as he left them and cast faery light charms around the area as he went—lighting up the entire clearing with brilliant white orbs that hung in the air as he cast. When he was done—he felt the magic of the area shift and knew that Minerva was calling her coven.
The leader of the Centaurs came out of the woods, bow at the ready but pointed towards the ground. “Speak wizard.”
“I am Harry James Potter, the Earl of Gryffindor. I claim domain over all of these lands. Do you protest this?”
“You know very well that I cannot,” Magorian said icily.
“Do not act as if I’m claiming something that has ever belonged to your people. Godric Gryffindor planted the Dark Forest and nurtured it with his own magic for decades. He invited the unicorn, the centaur, and many other creatures to dwell within it out of a kindness. If you wish to leave my lands, you are free to do so.”
Magorian snorted and stomped his feet in ire. “We have no wish to leave your lands, Earl of Gryffindor.”
“Then you have no business here. This circle is far from your village, far from your established hunting grounds, and beyond your purview. It is my ritual space and so it shall remain as long as I draw breath. Horrible dark magic has been done in this place this evening and probably not for the first time. I’m sure you’re aware of this and you made no effort to contact me so that I could deal with it. As far as I’m concerned, your stewardship over the Dark Forest has come to an end due to a horrific lack of care. I will hire a wizard to take on this role, someone I can trust to protect the sanctity of this ancient and revered wood. Neither you nor your people will interfere with him. If you fail to keep Bane in check, Magorian, I will banish him. Hagrid has told me how poorly he behaves. Are we clear?”
“I understand. Your wizard forest keeper will meet no resistance as long as he does not seek to harm us or our children,” Magorian said quietly.
“I would never bring such a wizard within a day’s run of your younglings. Go now, take your people with you. The magic I must do this evening might make many of your kind uncomfortable.” He paused. “And try to lead the unicorns away. Their offer of purity is appreciated but we must take a different path to save this young witch’s life.”
Harry activated the ritual cleansing protocols. Stone cisterns appeared all over the clearing and filled with pure shining water. He placed his staff across the edge of the pool on one side. Then he shoved off his shoes and removed his socks as his father approached him. “Hey.”
“You sure about this?”
“What choice do we have?” Harry demanded roughly. “The ritual is too far gone. I can’t let… I just can’t let this end with her death.” He pulled his jumper and t-shirt over his head. He dropped both articles on the ground and unbuttoned his jeans.
“How does Hermione feel about this?” Sirius asked.
“Oh,” Harry said with a little laugh. “Draco is going to do the opening part, Dad, not me.”
Sirius relaxed. “Okay, good, that’s better… your bond… soulmate magic is so fragile in the first stage, Harry. Any sort of perceived betrayal could destroy it.”
“I guard our bond every minute of every day,” Harry said. “I feed it with my magic whenever possible and we both make a real effort to not even argue at this point.” He shucked his jeans and boxers as well then stepped into the water.
Hermione appeared by Sirius side at that point and cleared her throat. “Lord Black, I’m about to take off all of my clothes and join him in this water. Could you… go elsewhere?”
Sirius grinned. “I’ve got a wizard to look after myself.” He tugged on one of her braids and walked off in favor of Castius.
Harry said nothing as she quickly undressed. He was rather relieved when she demonstrated very little body shame even with the group of people surrounding them. He offered her a hand and she stepped down into the cistern with him. “I don’t think you’re prepared for this.”
“I don’t know much about ritual magic. I’ve attended one ritual with mum’s coven and that was my adoption. She invited me to a renewal last summer but I declined. I regret it now.” Hermione shivered a little as the water started to mist around them.
“I cast a temporary impotence charm on myself,” Harry murmured. “So don’t be unduly offended with the lack of a response. The only wizard in the circle who has any business getting hard is Draco so… every wizard has done this.”
“Oh.” Her eyes widened. “Do you do that for all sex rituals?”
“Yes, it isn’t appropriate to derive sexual pleasure as a practitioner in the circle unless you’re the one providing the sex magic.”
Hermione nodded. “Mum is naked in one of these things with Master Ito. I feel a sincere desire to give him a severe talking to about it.”
Harry summoned his blackwood wand as he hid his smile. “I think your mother is quite capable of taking care of herself. We should probably warn her not to hurt his feelings instead.” He stirred the water with his magic and it started to spread up their bodies in a fine, cleansing mist. “Did Emmie ask you about ritual robes?”
“I have one at Hogwarts. Emmie said she would have it ready by the time I leave the cleansing,” Hermione explained.
“You’re all I’ll ever need,” Harry said lowly. He cupped her face with one hand. “Know that and never, ever doubt it.”
“I won’t. I’m so angry, Harry, but not at you. Cho did this—she kidnapped Luna out of Hogwarts for her father and this foul, disgusting ritual. It’s such a horrific betrayal, such a violation of the covenant she’s supposed to have with other witches.”
“This is really bloody horrible in every way,” Harry said. “Luna’s just… fifteen.”
“Sixteen,” Hermione corrected. “Her birthday was yesterday. She’s basically like me—born too late to be with her proper year group at Hogwarts.”
“I wonder why she didn’t have her opening arranged last year.”
“She’s one of only two witches in the castle in the right age group and still a virgin. You said they prefer fifteen to seventeen year old witches for this ritual.”
“The fifteenth birthday marks the opening of magical channels in both wizards and witches. It’s when almost all of us start to mature magically unless an event in our lives forces that to come to pass sooner.”
“Like dominating your magical core,” Hermione guessed.
“Yes, exactly,” Harry admitted.
The cleansing waters retreated and he stepped out of the cistern. He offered Hermione a hand out just as Dobby and Emmie both appeared with their robes. It was a single garment ankle length garment that was thin enough to be transparent in any decent amount of lighting. Hers was a vivid white… it sparkled with magic like stars had been captured and woven into the material. His was the dark red of the House of Potter. The rest of his conclave wore black.
Hermione touched his arm after he finished tying the six little ties that kept his robe closed. “Do what you must, Harry.”
“You as well,” Harry said quietly. “Tomorrow we’ll have time for questions and answers if necessary.”
She walked across the grass and joined her mother with a group of witches that Harry didn’t know by face but could probably guess the names of if pressed. The hierarchy of the Rowan Coven was well-known. Master Ito, Dumbledore, Snape, and Bill Weasley approached him at that point.
“What do you wish of me, Harry?” Hiro questioned.
“Sir, it would be my honor if you’d join me in my circle this evening.”
Hiro nodded. “As you will.”
Harry reached out and summoned his staff, which still lay across the edge of the cistern he and Hermione had used. He turned to Dumbledore. “The power exchange is going to be immense, sir. Without a very strong ward to contain it—we’re going to hit Hogwarts and Hogsmeade with—a fairly intense amount of sex magic as I don’t have the time to activate the protocols to shield the circle.”
Albus nodded. “Right. I’ve already taken the liberty waking the other professors. Each dorm has a chaperone, just in case. I will cast my ward well past Minerva’s circle. Professor Weasley is going to assist me unless you have another need for him. Filius is already preparing rune stones.”
Harry plucked Rowena from his neck and she appeared in his hand. He offered the snake to the Headmaster and had to give the old man credit, he barely hesitated to accept her. “She’ll help maintain your ward. She’s not mature enough to work in either my or Aunt Min’s circle for this event.”
“I’m sure young Rowena and I will get along fine,” Albus said.
Harry turned to Snape and accepted the two potions he was offered. “Thank you.”
“Take the pepper up first otherwise the strengthening potion will be next to useless,” Severus said gravely. “I will join Albus’ endeavor unless you have some other need of me.”
“Where are the Aurors that Dad brought with him?”
“They are cleaning up and preparing the bodies of the… offenders. They’ve moved them as far from the ritual as they can to lessen the taint of their magic on your purposes. Did you need something from them or the bodies?”
“No,” Harry shook his head. “The truth is that I’m not sure if we got all of their members. I need you to guard the Headmaster’s back. If he loses control over the ward and someone broke through one of the circles at the right time they could kill Luna and Lord Malfoy.”
“I will take care of it,” Severus said.
Harry entered the inner circle and runes around the stone structure lit in response to his presence. He walked to the altar that he had already resolved to replace as soon as possible. He couldn’t allow it remain in his ritual space knowing it had probably been used more than once to sacrifice a witch.
Minerva turned to him. “I took care of her cleansing and put her in a ritual robe of my coven. Magically, the most I can do without her active participation is make her acolyte of my coven, which is what I’ve done. I was able to speak with her briefly. She knows what happened, knows she’s been rescued but her situation is dire. She said Draco’s name when I told her that in order to extract her fully from this ritual, she’d have to be opened.”
Harry nodded. It was good to get confirmation of the agreement. “Dumbledore is going to cast a ward around us. Once he’s done, you’ll cast your circle and when I feel yours is sufficiently settled—I will cast mine. Did you get potions from Professor Snape?”
“Yes, I’ve already taken mine,” Minerva said and raised an eyebrow. He sighed and took his one at a time under her watchful gaze. “I haven’t had a chance to fully educate my daughter on what she’s about to bear witness to.”
“I didn’t expect that you had,” Harry admitted. “We’ll just have to… make the best of it, I guess. I can’t imagine how this would’ve went if Malfoy wasn’t…” He shook his head. “Let’s get started. Luna doesn’t deserve to linger under this dark magic any longer.”
* * * *
The magic of the ritual circles and Dumbledore’s ward was stunning to watch even from distance Sirius had placed himself at.
“How long has he been the High Warlock of the Glain Neidr conclave,” Kingsley Shacklebolt asked as he joined Sirius on the tree branch he’d enlarged to a stupid degree so he could sit on it.
“He was inducted into the conclave when he was very young,” Sirius said as Amelia Bones and the rest of the Aurors they’d brought with him to Hogwarts joined them. “He became High Warlock a year ago. As far as I know he’s the youngest High Warlock in…. thousands of years.”
“Do you know the chances that they’ll be successful?” Amelia asked.
“Castius seemed pretty confident that they could pull the young lady out of the ritual without damaging her mind or magic,” Sirius said. “Their intervention was very timely. Another thirty minutes and it would’ve been too late to do anything but… put her out of her misery.” He cleared his throat. “How many bodies? And how many of them do we know?”
“I have names for them all,” Amelia said. “Twenty. Xian Chang, Lucius Malfoy, Walden McNair, Jeffrey Nott, Goyle, Sr, Christopher Avery, and Fenrir Greyback are the biggest names. Every man in the pile was on the list you gave me.”
“There are twenty-three on the list,” Sirius said.
“Yes, Amycus Carrow, Antonin Dolohov are the only two men missing from the list we’d expect to see here. Alecto Carrow was the only witch listed and she wouldn’t have been part of this ritual.”
“No, but she might have been on site to guard her brother’s back,” Kingsley said. “Those two are unnaturally close if you get my meaning.”
Sirius grimaced. “I do.” His gaze went back to the ritual. Malfoy had been brought into the inner circle and had shed his robe for the final act. “Her father?”
“We can’t find him,” Amelia admitted. “He’s not at home. This time of the year he’s usually off on one of his expeditions. If he took a Ministry portkey, we’ll be able to track to him at least his landing point. I have a team of Aurors at the Ministry working through the portkey records to see if that is what happened.”
Sirius turned and found the Chieftain of the Goblin Horde standing on the side of the hill. “Chieftain Ragnok.”
The goblin king stepped forward as they all stood. “The Glain Neidr protocols activated for a ritual.” His gaze travelled to the ritual space. “This is the first time the entire conclave has cast outside the bank since their inception. Naturally, I became curious.”
“Harry has claimed Gryffindor’s Circle,” Sirius said and offered the goblin a seat beside him on the log. He grinned briefly when the smaller being nimbly hopped up on the log. He sat down himself. He made quick work of explaining what happened.
“The dead men… their estates will be accessed for reparations for this young woman.”
“All but the Malfoy estate,” Black agreed. “The son of Lucius is participating in this ritual, expending his magic and waking a part of him long dormant to save her life. I believe Miss Lovegood would consider any debt owed to her by the Malfoy family satisfied this evening.”
Ragnok nodded his agreement. “Has young Draco claimed the ring?”
Sirius snorted. “Pulled it off his dead sire’s hand then rather shrewdly retrieved Harry’s sword from his father’s chest and immediately aligned his family with the House of Potter.”
“He’s a bright young man,” Ragnok said. “I will investigate his situation at the bank and make sure he has a superior account manager to help him with his estate. Will you act as Regent for him?”
“I believe Britain will see the return of Narcissa very soon,” Sirius said. “She has missed her home and her son for long enough.”
“Agreed, I will see to their transportation back to Britain,” Ragnok said. “Would you have me contact her now?”
Ragnok hopped off the branch and stared resolutely down into the valley where the ritual was ending. “Your son… is the most magical of people, Lord Black. Your pride in him is appropriate.”
“My thanks,” Sirius murmured.
“His actions were just here this evening,” Ragnok said then. “The Horde would be disappointed if someone were take issue with him over such.” He focused on Bones he spoke. “There are older laws—debts to magic that must be met—and often men such as Lord Potter must shoulder the burden of that debt.”
Amelia cleared her throat. “I agree.”
“Perhaps a public inquiry, however, wouldn’t be out of place,” Ragnok continued. “So that a lesson can be learned by those who might be tempted by such dark magic in the future.”
Sirius smirked and Amelia gave him an abrupt nod.
* * * *
Harry said nothing as the circle closed. He watched as Draco slipped from the altar, pulled on his robe, then carefully saw that Luna’s robe was put back in place. He swept the petite blonde from the altar and strode from the circle without a backward glance. Once he breached the wards, Dobby appeared at his side and popped the pair of them away.
The ritual closed around them, his vipers gathered at his sword as he pulled his magic back. One by one, the members of his conclave did the same. He felt more than saw Minerva do the same as she closed out her own circle and the members of her coven withdrew. The coven, including Hermione, were gone just a few seconds later. Dumbledore’s ward held true through all of it. He turned to look at the older man and all hell broke loose.
The words of the Killing Curse echoed through the valley in a near scream, Dumbledore apparated and Harry barely had time to catch his breath before the older man whipped him around and green light surrounded them only to be drowned out by a burst of Phoenix fire. Fawkes’ song was cut short as the curse hit.
Harry stumbled as Dumbledore did but they both gained their balance just in time to turn and see the man who unleashed the curse cut down under a hail of curses from every single member of the Glain Neidr. He took a deep breath and then another as his father apparated into the ritual space. He was beyond words as his father clutched at him, whispering his name over and over again.
Sirius Black fisted his hands into the back of his son’s robe, tears sliding down his cheeks. He looked toward Albus Dumbledore who had knelt to carefully extract his phoenix from the ashes. Fawkes chirped cheerfully in the silent clearing as Albus cradled him in one hand with a fond smile.
“Albus,” Sirius said. “I…”
“Don’t,” Dumbledore said gently. “Take him from this place, Sirius, and see that he rests. He’s had quite an eventful day.”
Harry cleared his throat and lifted his head. He turned to look at the body of the wizard who had tried to kill him. “Who is it? Armand? Do you know?”
Armand Dearing crossed the clearing from his place beside the man’s remains. “Radko Krum.”
* * * *
Hermione and Daphne Greengrass were sitting side by side on an infirmary bed staring at the still form of Luna Lovegood. She’d been asleep since Draco had brought her to the castle.
“Does it bother you?” Hermione asked.
“No,” Daphne murmured. “Draco and I aren’t… well. We know what we want for the future but we aren’t currently in an exclusive arrangement like you and Harry. I adore him and I adore having sex with him but we just aren’t ready for that sort of commitment. I had no problems with him agreeing to open Luna.”
“He falls in love with her?” Daphne asked. “Well, I’d wish my cousin well in her match. If he falls in love with another witch that means he really wasn’t meant for me.”
Hermione nodded. “Do you think she’ll be okay?”
“I can’t imagine it was a pleasant experience being kidnapped and all that rot but she would’ve been unconscious for most of it. They couldn’t subdue her magic and they couldn’t afford to risk her lashing out at them accidentally. I know that Draco is a very good lover so I’m not worried that he hurt her.”
“No,” Hermione admitted with a blush. “That part seemed to go quite well actually.”
Daphne smirked. “Potter must be fantastic… I mean he’s so fit and intense.”
Hermione bit down on her lip. “Honestly.”
“Oh, you don’t gotta say,” Daphne said. “I’ve got a great imagination.”
“Hermione,” Minerva called as she rushed into the infirmary. “Come with me. Come now.” She took her daughter’s hand as Hermione approached and pulled her out of the infirmary a bit roughly.
“What’s happened?” Hermione demanded as her mother dragged her through the hall and up the stairs toward Gryffindor’s tower. “Mum! What’s happened?”
Minerva didn’t pause until they reached the portrait hole. She pulled her into the common room silently. “First, he’s one hundred percent fine.”
Hermione took a deep breath and everyone in the common room grew quiet. “What… what… the ritual was over? The circles closed. What was left? What happened?”
“There was a dark wizard who escaped when the first ritual was disrupted. No one is sure how he remained hidden as long as he did but Aurors are investigating.”
“Harry’s not hurt is he?”
“No, he’s fine as I said.” Minerva took a deep breath. “The dark wizard tried to… he used the Killing Curse but Harry wasn’t hit.”
Hermione went weak in the knees. Neville barely got there in time to keep her from hitting the floor. Pale and a little shaken himself, he put Hermione in a chair.
“Who’s dead?” She asked, her voice tinged with horror.
“No one is dead from the Killing Curse,” Minerva said firmly. “The Headmaster moved to intercept the curse and his phoenix took the curse for him. Harry is very upset but he’s fine. Fawkes had a burning in response to being struck.”
Hermione took several, deep ragged breaths. “Okay. Who? What’s the dark wizard’s name? You’re avoiding saying it so it’s probably going to upset me.”
“I wish,” Minerva began. “Sometimes, I really wish you weren’t so bright. Radko Krum.”
Tears welled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She covered her mouth with trembled fingers. “I…” Hermione took a deep breath. “I should’ve killed that horrible bastard when I had the chance.” She stood and cleared her throat. “Where is he?”
“He’s with his father,” Minerva said carefully. “Lord Black took him to Hogsmeade, to their townhouse there. Harry is magically exhausted.”
“Did she return to the school?”
“Yes, tucked away in her dorm like she was never gone,” Minerva confirmed. “It will be handled in the morning.”
“I want to see him. Will you take me there? Please.”
“Of course,” Minerva said.
Just a few minutes later, her mother was pulling her through the floo and into a room over run with wizards. Most of the Glain Neidr were still in their ritual robes but she barely paid them a single glance as Minerva lead her from the room, down a hall, and up a flight of stairs. The first room in the suite was in much the same condition as the room she’d entered first downstairs—overrun with members of his conclave.
Castius Arnou emerged from another room with Sirius Black and they both turned to look at the two women.
“Hey, kiddo,” Sirius said hoarsely. He took her hand when she came forward. “He’s fine.”
“I…” She took a deep breath. “Please, can I see him?”
“Of course, you can see him,” Castius said and took her hand from Sirius’. “He’s magically sedated but he’s fine.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
She took a deep breath as he drew her into the room and shut the door behind them. “He’s so still.”
“The sedation is heavy,” Castius said as he released her hand. “He wouldn’t be opposed to you staying with him.”
“Okay,” she whispered and slipped off her jumper. She draped it on the end of the bed and toed off her shoes.
Castius paused when she slipped under the covers and divested of herself of the uniform skirt she wearing. He snorted when she tossed it aside and curled up beside Harry. “Good night then.”
He started to reply but Harry moved in his sleep, shifting unbelievably onto his side. Arnou watched in shocked silence as he pulled Hermione McGonagall close and buried his face in her hair. “Right.”
He left the room in a state of shock and closed the door firmly behind him. “She’s going to stay with him.”
Minerva nodded and started to respond before one of the men from the conclave made a noise of complaint.
“Arnou, you can’t just leave this girl with him while he’s helpless,” the older man frowned at him. “I realize the boy is gone on this witch but…” He huffed when Minerva outright glared at him. “Don’t look at me like that, McGonagall, I mean no offence to your daughter.”
“Minerva, they are for the most part utterly unaware of your daughter’s role in Harry’s life,” Arnou said quietly. “Concern is not misplaced.” He inclined his head. “What was your daughter’s reaction when she found who tried to kill Harry tonight.”
“She expressed regret that she hadn’t killed Radko Krum when she had the chance,” Minerva said coolly. “I’m in agreement. If I’d know what sort of trouble those two were going to cause, I’d have gone to Bulgaria and killed them both the day Viktor Krum’s first letter arrived.” She turned to Sirius. “You have an unoccupied guest room?”
Sirius started to say yes but then shook his head. “No, Hiro Ito took it.”
Minerva shrugged. “I’ve taken a bath with the man; I can share a room with him.”
Sirius had the grace to flush. “Right. Don’t tell Hermione I let you stay the night with a four thousand year old womanizer—she’d have my head.” He motioned her out of the room ahead of him. “He’s already retired to his rooms but I doubt he’s asleep.”
Castius said nothing until Sirius had left with the elder McGonagall before he turned to Armand. “He moved.”
“Pardon me?” Armand Dearing demanded. “We have the heaviest sedation spell possible on him.”
“The moment she touched him, he rolled over on his side and wrapped his arms around her,” Castius said. “I think he could break the sedation spell without our intervention. I’ve set it to expire shortly before dawn but at this point I have to think he’s merely allowing it.”
“She didn’t do it? She’s a rather powerful witch in her own right.”
Castius huffed. “So you’re saying that she has the ability to wandlessly and wordlessly disrupt a parselmagic sedation spell without waking him up entirely? He’s dominated his magical core, Armand, you know this. No one is capable of making his magic do anything.”
“And now you’re saying that we can’t even reliably sedate him?” Armand huffed. “What the fuck are we going to do if he takes a major injury? Regrowing a limb could drive him to insanity if we can’t even sedate him for that!”
“You’re not saying anything I’m not thinking,” Arnou snapped. “You weren’t there when we regrew two bones in his arm.”
“What is she to him?”
Arnou huffed and averted his gaze. “I can’t discuss it without his permission, Banner, but be assured that she is not and never will be a threat to him. Don’t intrude on this matter—he’d bathe in your blood if you said a cross word to her.”
“And what? We’re his inner circle. If he doesn’t trust us…” Banner trailed off and flinched under the outraged glare he received.
“I only know because of my relationship with his father,” Castius said icily. “When he is ready to tell you the details of his personal life, he will bloody well do so. Mind yourself, Master Banner, before I lose my temper with you.”
“So we must take it on faith that this girl is to be trusted?” Armand asked pointedly.
Armand frowned and pulled his wand. He expanded the couch next to him and got comfortable. “I’m sleeping here tonight. The rest of you go home.”
* * * *
Harry was waking even as the last of the sedation spell wore off. He’d have loved nothing more to stay where he was, wrapped around his witch but there was someone else in his suite and the gentle stir of the wards made him curious. He slipped from the bed, pulled on a robe and exited the bedroom.
Armand Dearing was at a table enjoying a large breakfast. Harry sat down in front of the man and said nothing when a plate appeared in front of him. He picked up the coffee with a relieved sigh.
“Do you trust me?”
“More than I trust most and less than I trust my father,” Harry said simply. “I’ve known you most of my life and believe you to be one of the most wise and honorable men I’ve ever met.”
Armand inclined his head. “This little witch of yours.”
“Ah.” Harry sat back in his chair. “I did wonder why she was with me this morning. I was surprised to wake up with her.”
“Far less surprised, I think, than the rest of us were when Castius refused to discuss why we should trust her with you in such vulnerable state,” Armand said.
“She’s my soulmate,” Harry said quietly.
“Bloody buggering fuck,” Armand hissed. “And you… you just… you little bastard! How dare you not tell us!”
Harry sighed. “Armand.”
“Are you already bonding?”
Armand threw his fork on the plate and shoved it forward in disgust. “And how exactly do you justify not telling your inner circle? This impacts your magic. It impacts your life in the most magical of ways and we had a right to bloody know!”
“I’ve held the secret of her since I was eight years old,” Harry said. “And I was going to speak of it then the crap with Hutchinson happened and it’s honestly made me doubt how much I can trust everyone in the conclave. My inner circle was chosen for me not by me. Some appointments I agree with and others I do not. I accept what is done for the benefit of our circle and our ability to practice together but I don’t trust them all the same. Castius knows because he is like a second father to me. Dyson knows because he found out the depth of Hermione’s ability to handle my familiars when he was called in as a healer at Hogwarts. I trust you. Now you know. The others will have to wait and honestly I’d prefer that some not know until there is no choice in the matter.”
“If you are unhappy with the makeup of the inner circle, change it,” Armand said sharply. “You accepted our placement without discussion when you became High Warlock but you have the right to make changes that suit you best, both magically and emotionally. It has been discussed more than once amongst us and most are surprised you haven’t altered the placement of most of the conclave to suit you.”
“Some places suit me magically but not emotionally,” Harry said. “And others suit me emotionally but not magically. It is a difficult situation.”
“You’ve never feared conflict.”
“I don’t fear the changes,” Harry retorted. “I… I’ve not practiced amongst you as High Warlock enough to truly make the best decisions possible for the future as yet. Last night was helpful but the work we did after the duel was even more so. Still, both circumstances were unplanned and in some ways rushed. I need a few planned and deliberate rituals under my belt before I can make the final choices on rearranging the conclave.”
Armand nodded. “Very well.”
“You should eat,” Harry said and pointed towards the elderly man’s plate. “Getting your back up and not eating isn’t good for your disposition.”
“Fuck you,” Armand said but pulled his plate close. “I’ve been taking care of myself for eighty years. I don’t need some child telling me how to do it.”
“Seems you might,” Harry said with a wry grin.
Armand huffed. “At least she’s magically talented.”
“She’ll be my peer in magic before everything is said in done,” Harry clarified. “And Minerva’s heir within the Rowan Circle. I do believe, Master Armand, that the relationship between the Glain Neidr and the Rowan Circle will be… quite spectacular in the years to come.”
Armand huffed. “I’d still be more excited if she were a parselmouth.”
“You’re a terrible old man and very difficult to please,” Harry said crossly. “As to Hermione, I’m not sure when I will be able to adjust enough to trust the rest of the conclave with her. She is mine and that is all many of them ever need know.”
Armand inclined his head. “As you will, High Warlock.”
* * * *
He found his dad on a sofa in the library. Harry dropped down beside him and said nothing as he was gathered close.
“I have spent the last two hours screaming at people on the floo and threatening war with Bulgaria.”
Harry laughed before he could help himself. “Dad.”
Sirius tightened his grip on his son briefly and sighed. “There will be a hearing regarding the events last night—something to clear the air and get the facts out ahead of rumors. I want to know everything your conclave can tell us about the ritual space and how often those dark bastards have used it over the years. I sent Dumbledore to talk to the centaurs. Why they didn’t report the matter to anyone is fucking beyond me.”
“I’m not thrilled on that point myself,” Harry admitted. “It’s obscene and I think we’ll find that the circle has been used quite often. I’ll set Armand and a few others on the investigation as soon as they’re all up and about. I imagine most of them will return to the townhouse within the next hour or so. I’d like to get Hermione back to Hogwarts before that happens.”
Sirius nodded. “Keeping her exposure to your conclave to a minimum? Castius said there were some pointed questions last night.”
“She doesn’t need or deserve their scrutiny,” Harry said. “Between the duel and the ritual last night, she’s been exposed to parts of my nature I wasn’t quite ready to show her.”
“She didn’t appear to be put off by it,” Sirius said.
“No, but I wasn’t… she hasn’t been exposed to enough magical theory to truly understand what she saw last night. She handled it extremely well and for that I’m grateful but practicing the full measure of my magical craft in front of her was daunting. I don’t know what she knows, what assumptions she’d made based on that knowledge, and moreover I’m really uncomfortable with the level of magic I’ve performed in front of her so far.”
“You don’t want her to be intimidated.”
“Intimidated, worried, afraid, etc etc,” Harry muttered. “She’s led a very sheltered magical life at Hogwarts and she throws herself in books at every single turn. I watch her in class, you know. She drowns herself in theory and hesitates in practical. Granted, she gets it far faster than most of her peers at Hogwarts but she still hesitates. I don’t know what that is.”
“It’s the ramifications of being a Muggle-born,” Sirius said. “You grew up surrounded by magic. You trust it and in turn you trust your own magic to an untold, instinctual degree. You enjoy a very spiritual connection with the power that flows through our world and in that you’ll always perform at a higher level than most of your peers. You are truly one of the most magical people I’ve ever known.” He kissed Harry’s forehead. “Don’t fret so. She won’t turn from you because of this.”
“I don’t think that,” Harry said. “I just want… I’m just afraid that I’ll push her too much, too fast and we won’t be all that we could be.”
“Your mother would have told you not to borrow trouble,” Sirius murmured. He ran his fingers through Harry’s short hair. “I miss the hair, kid.”
Harry groaned. “I keep telling myself that I adore her but, geez, Dad. My hair. Why did it have to be my hair?”
* * * *
“Oh, but why can’t I come with you?” Hermione asked as Harry led her towards the floo where her mother was already waiting.
“It’s…” Harry turned to her after a glance in Minerva’s direction. “Your presence last night in my ritual space is not a common place event. You might not see the Gryffindor Circle again for years, Mi. Once I activate the proper protocols, the space will be sheltered from anyone not in my conclave without an explicit invitation. I’ve known your mother since I was eleven and I’ve yet to see the ritual space of the Rowan Circle.”
“But you haven’t claimed it, yet.”
“I will claim it today and it is a matter for my conclave,” Harry said firmly.
“And none of my business?” She asked in a small voice.
“I’m pretty sure all of my business is your business,” Harry said dryly. “Don’t be that way. It’s not a matter of me not wanting you there because this is going to be a pretty big magical moment in my life. Reclaiming the Gryffindor Circle is huge.”
“I know. That’s why I want to watch,” Hermione said stubbornly.
“Tell me how my magic feels,” Harry prodded abruptly.
Hermione blushed. “I… I don’t know what you mean.”
“You understand perfectly what I mean. You’ve been exposed to my magic repeatedly. Tell me how it feels to you.”
She took a deep breath and nodded. “Okay, it’s sophisticated and fluid. There is an effortlessness about your craft that belies your age but it’s also quite feral. It’s… warm. Your magic is very warm.”
“Your magic on the other hand is my polar opposite,” Harry said bluntly. “You run hot and cold depending on your mood. I’ve seen the air bend around you when you cast which is frankly so unique a phenomenon that I’ve had one of my elves researching it since the second day of school. Where I am wild, you are controlled. Your core brims with magic and yet unless you’re under stress, your magical aura does not shift at all.”
“Okay, but what does that have to do with my watching you today?”
“The differences between your magic and mine are not unique to us. It is the nature of wizards and witches. I am chaos and you are order as far as magic is concerned. Such differences bring balance to the magical world but it is yet another reason why we practice our craft in covens and conclaves on a regular basis.”
“My magic would interfere with what you plan for the circle?” Hermione surmised.
“To an untold and detrimental degree. The circle is already damaged and ill-prepared for my claiming. I can’t allow someone so incompatible with the magic of my conclave nearby when we perform the ritual to reclaim the space. It could leave fractures in my wards which would weaken our ability to function as a conclave in the space. Yes, there are many rituals we could perform together but this is not one of them.”
“I feel like I don’t know enough,” Hermione complained. “And I don’t have time to learn it.”
“You have all the time in the world,” Harry corrected. “Now, trot off to Hogwarts and find a book on ritual spaces and magical theory. I’ll quiz you later.”
She huffed at him. “That’s not funny.”
“Who’s laughing?” Harry asked and grinned when Minerva did actually laugh. “Sorry. That was trite. I get your frustration but I’m not in a position to…”
“Placate me,” she said evenly.
“That’s an extremely unfair assumption on your part,” Harry argued. “I have never had any interest in placating you. Last night was difficult all around but our personal issues with what happened last night and what will happen today literally pales in comparison to what Luna Lovegood suffered. And Draco Malfoy has yet to pay the price he must pay for what he did last night. Waking someone’s parselmagic abruptly is dangerous. We should’ve spent weeks preparing his mind and his magical core for it but we couldn’t.”
“I’m being petty and unreasonable.”
“You’re not,” Harry said with a sigh. “I get it, you know. Someone tried to murder me last night. If the situation were reversed, I’d have to be physically and magically restrained to endure being separated from you.”
Her eyes dampened and her mouth trembled even as she looked away from him. “It’s my fault.”
“It is not.”
“Radko Krum tried to kill you because of me,” Hermione whispered.
“No, Hermione, Radko tried to kill me because he knew that I killed his son on purpose,” Harry snapped. “He knew that I went into that duel intent on killing his son and that is exactly what I did.” He ignored the fact that his father and mentor had entered the room behind him. “Viktor Krum has been a walking dead man since your fourth year at Hogwarts. He put his hands on you. He intended to rape you! I’d have killed his father that day if you hadn’t responded the way you did to his attack. You have reflexes like a bleeding snake. It’s frustrating as hell.”
“Seriously, thirty seconds. Thirty seconds would have been all I needed to turn and blast that motherfucker half way to Hogsmeade. He’d have never survived it.” Harry huffed when Minerva tutted at his language. “Sorry.”
Hermione took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m going to the library so I can practice being mature about this.” She waved a hand around as she spoke. “Will you be back for dinner at least?”
“I can’t promise that but I’ll try.”
She pressed a fleeting kiss to the corner of his mouth and disappeared through the floo without another word. Harry ran his fingers through his hair and frowned at Minerva McGonagall.
“I know, lad.”
“I realize things have moved very fast,” Harry said. “And her entire educational focus at Hogwarts has been about her OWLs and now her NEWTs but there has to be some give in this situation. It won’t be long before she starts to resent me for the knowledge she lacks. It could make things very difficult for us on the bond front.”
Minerva started to protest but then she nodded. “You’re right. Information has always been her method of soothing and protecting herself and just being around you is exposing her to length and breadth of her ignorance on magical life. Many Muggle-borns don’t even bother to immerse themselves in our cultural and magical traditions because the divide is so extreme. They mistake our traditions for old-fashioned and outdated. They regard our conclaves and covens as nothing more than little clubs that they don’t have the magical knowledge to join.”
It was intolerable but in some ways he only had himself to blame. He was the one that held their secret from her until now. He was the one that made no effort to meet her before coming to Hogwarts. Things could’ve been different. He could’ve put a bee in Minerva McGonagall’s bonnet years ago about Hermione and her home situation. It wouldn’t have taken much for the witch to take a real notice and find out what had been happening in the Granger household for years.
“Had I found some way to make you curious about her home life, you could’ve adopted her years ago,” Harry said evenly. “As soon as her first year at Hogwarts, in fact. There are a hundred different bloody things we could’ve done to make things better for her but instead I was so focused on protecting the secret that I let her be mentally and emotionally abused to a disgusting degree by her Muggle parents and Ron Weasley.”
“She could’ve come to me,” Minerva snapped. “I spoke with that girl privately three times a year for five years! She never said a word to me. Even after the blow up in the common room, she retreated the library to find her own way rather than confide in me. If anyone in this room failed her, Harry Potter, it was me. It never even crossed her mind that I would help her! She nearly killed herself over the summer without once considering that I would come for her! When I retrieved her for the conversation regarding her guardianship, she actually thought I pulled her from breakfast to punish her!”
“Are you two arguing or merely taking turns taking the blame for someone else’s actions at a high volume?” Hiro asked dryly.
Harry and Minerva both sent the man a mild glare.
Hiro sighed. “Harry, did you not send a house elf to guard your soulmate? Has she not had the best magical protection you could realistically provide since the day you found out where she was?”
“I… yes. That’s true but I could’ve done more.”
“What?” Hiro asked. “What could you have done that wouldn’t have put her at risk? Wards would’ve alerted the Ministry here in Britain and you made it clear that Fudge would’ve used her against you. Coming here yourself would’ve risked both of your lives, your own freedom, the legacy of your magical house, and the life of your father.”
“Had I known about her home life in her first year…” Minerva began.
“Really?” Hiro asked. “Would you’ve offered to adopt a child you barely knew or would you’ve merely reported her circumstances to the Ministry? What would they have done with a Muggle-born whose parents hated magic? Wouldn’t her parents have been so grateful to see their freak child’s magic bound so she would be normal?”
Harry took a calming breath. “You’re going to make me lose my temper.”
“Then you’re missing the point,” Sirius said. “None of us can say that the choices we made were the right ones but we also cannot say with any certainty that making different choices would’ve created a better outcome. What if Minerva had adopted Hermione during her first year? Hermione would’ve returned to Hogwarts for her second year with the Heiress of a fortune and a coveted magical legacy. Yes, she’d have been better prepared to deal with who you are right now, Harry, but there is every chance that one of those wizards at Hogwarts would’ve made the right moves, the right connections, and she could’ve fallen in love with him.”
The very idea made Harry homicidal but he couldn’t deny that it was a possibility.
“Or maybe, at eleven she would’ve been willing to give up her magic in order to gain her parents’ love,” Minerva said quietly. “She said as much the day I took her to them to secure her guardianship. She said she would’ve given up magic if she’d thought it would make the slightest difference in how they felt about her. At eleven? She wouldn’t have hesitated.”
And that made him want to throw up.
“She also needs a mind healer,” Ito said shortly. “If she went so far over the summer to attempt to take her own life she needs to be evaluated by a third party.”
“I’m not an idiot, Hiro,” Minerva hissed. “I’ve had her thoroughly examined by a mind healer and I have charmed her so thoroughly that I know if she so much as stubs her toe!”
Emmie popped into the room abruptly. “Miss Hermione be waiting for you, Professor Kitty.”
Minerva rubbed her forehead in frustration. “She probably has questions.”
Ito sighed. “Harry, do you need me today?”
Harry paused and considered that. In honesty, he didn’t need his mentor for the event but part of him wanted the man there. Hiro Ito was a big part of his magical life and he’d barely seen the man over the last three years. “I take it you want to go back to Hogwarts with Aunt Min and speak with Hermione?”
“I’m certainly in a very good position to answer her questions about conclaves, rituals, and specifically parselmagic,” Hiro said dryly. “Questions she might not ask you out of fear that she would hurt your feelings or damage your relationship.”
Harry nodded. “I’d like you to be with me but that is an emotional need not a magical one. I think we’d all be better served if you made yourself available to Hermione today. It would be a much needed distraction for her and provide her with a source of information that she’d be hard pressed to ignore in favor of whatever temper or pout she’s working herself into at present.” He held up a hand when Minerva started to protest. “That’s unfair, I know. But I pout when I don’t get my way and she is absolutely no different. Her faults are no more a mystery to me than my own.”
* * * *
Harry appeared in the center of the Gryffindor circle in a wave of magic and in absolute silence. Learning to apparate silently was a matter of pride among his conclave and once he’d mastered the skill, he’d been taught the finer magical points of apparition by the former High Warlock of the Glain Neidr. It was those lessons that caused him so much amusement whenever his conclave all but thundered into a situation. He called his staff from the bracelet and it grew to its full length in his hand. The shining ruby in the mouth of the snake glinted in the afternoon sun. The Sword of Gryffindor still stood in the dais in front of him, gleaming with protective magic. It had shielded the circle in Harry’s absence.
He lowered Nocturne, until the staff rested on the ground and called his conclave. Magic spread out around him in a heavy wave as they began to arrive. Each came silent, a sign of respect as they needed no dramatics in the moment. The claiming of the ritual space was old magic. The oldest known to wizards as far as Harry was aware. It was also one of the few rituals for group magic that could not be performed in parseltongue. It made him wonder about the magic of the Rowan Circle and what would happen during the renewal of Minerva’s ritual.
“May Magic bless our unified purpose,” Harry said.
He called the forth the runes from his staff and they spread out around him, shining brilliantly even in the height of the afternoon sun. He pushed them out, creating a protective ward around his space that spread out for a kilometer in every direction. One by one, the men of the Glain Neidr surrendered to his call, pushing their magic towards the runes as they submitted to his purposes.
“I call upon the four elements—earth, wind, fire, and water to bless our circle and accept the gift of our magic.” The runes started to throw off light like lightning strikes as the ritual space started to respond.
“I seek the knowledge to avenge the wrongs done here.” Wind stirred around them, spinning the runes in a rush of magic. “Show me.”
And the Gryffindor Circle woke.
* * * *
Harry fell to his knees his stomach roiling. He dry heaved a half dozen times but he had nothing left to throw up. He’d done that as he’d stumbled free of the Gryffindor Circle, leaving his entire conclave shaking with fury. The altar crumbled in the wake of their anger and Harry’s unspeakable grief.
He turned into his father’s embrace as Sirius slid to the floor beside him and gathered him close. “Merlin, Dad, I’ve never…” He shuddered and dry heaved again. “Those horrible dark sons of bitches.”
“Come with me,” Sirius said hoarsely. “I have a calming draught ready for you.”
A half hour later, Sirius Black entered the large meeting room in the basement of the townhouse and found the Glain Neidr waiting for him. He said nothing at first, staring pointedly at Castius until the man flushed with shame and averted his gaze. He cleared his throat.
“I’ve never regretted allowing Harry to take his place as High Warlock of this conclave until today.”
“It had to be done,” Armand protested.
“He’s sixteen bloody years old!” Sirius shouted.
“He’s not a child,” Thaddeus Banner said. “He knew exactly what the ritual would entail.”
“He’s my child,” Sirius snapped. “I’d have you all bloody well remember that! His magical and financial maturity aside, Harry is still a very young man. What he witnessed in that ritual is beyond the bloody pale!”
“You’re not saying anything we don’t know,” Castius ground out. “You didn’t see it! You don’t have a bloody clue how horrible it was. They sacrificed hundreds and they’ve been using that space since the war! Voldemort was there on numerous occasions, before his banishment, defiling Gryffindor’s Circle. Defiling your son’s magical legacy with his obscene nature.”
Sirius took a deep breath. “What?”
“You heard me.”
“Voldemort…” Sirius barely made it to a chair to sit down. “You know, when I found out that Dumbledore actually allowed Harry to destroy one of Riddle’s soul leeches in the bloody school, I wanted to march right up there, withdraw him and tell the entire country to fuck right off.”
“I was there,” Armand said abruptly. “I realize your faith in me has been shaken by today’s events but you must know that I would’ve never allowed Lord Potter to come to harm. He is more than my High Warlock.”
“Your presence is the only reason I didn’t curse Albus Dumbledore into the next century,” Sirius said tiredly. “You mustn’t think… if I didn’t trust you with him, I’d have never allowed him to join the conclave to begin with. It’s not that. He’s just so damned young and despite all that he’s been through, there is a tenderness in him that I don’t want destroyed. Do you understand that?”
“Of course we do,” Castius said. “He is the best of us, Sirius. He has been since he joined the conclave. Master Bardon feared that some in the conclave might turn towards darker paths—the dark arts are so alluring to men like us.”
“Are you saying that Harry keeps you in the Light?” Sirius asked.
“The vows I made to Hiro Ito keep me personally in the Light,” Castius said baldly. “But I can’t say that knowing Harry hasn’t changed me. I’d do nothing to lose his respect or his love. His craft is beautiful and Light and yes, there are many in the Glain Neidr who benefit from that in the most magical of ways.” He glanced around the room. “There are those who stay in the Light because of Harry’s place in our conclave. He is a good man and an amazing wizard. I think we can all agree that you should take credit for that.”
Sirius shook his head. “No, he came out of the womb amazing and only got better. We should give his mother the credit. Lily Potter absolutely rocked in the baby making department.”
“You did your share,” Armand said. “Power such as his can be corrupted and damaged beyond redemption. We only have to look as far as Tom Riddle to see what a poor childhood can do to a wizard. But yes, it’s agreed that Lily Potter excelled at baby making.”