Title: Wizard’s Folly
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry/Hermione, Draco Malfoy/Daphne Greengrass
Word Count: 9,388
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.
Thaddeus Banner was smoking a pipe. Harry scrunched up his nose as he sat down on a log next to the man. “Stop stinking up my forest.”
Banner grinned but put out the pipe. He tucked it away and stretched his legs. “Where is your snake?”
“Atlas is about seven hundred meters to the north of us,” Harry said. “He’s considering a spot of hunting.”
Banner nodded. “The tether spell is working well then?”
“Yes, different from my familiar bonds but still very informative. I’m not getting the emotional content that I get from Rowena and Godric.”
“How is it different—the emotional content you get from your snakes versus your owl?”
“Hedwig is all sweet infatuation,” Harry admitted. “I was young enough when I bonded with her that she sort of considers me her child. Rowena and Godric feel different and wild. They differ between them on a level I didn’t anticipate. Godric is strong and dominant magically. I feel like I could take him to war.”
“But not your Rowena?”
“No, she’s more like the Fates to be honest—she’d make a very capable spy for me. Her nature is sly and deliberate.”
“It’s not a testament to your magic that you’ve created three familiar bonds,” Banner said. “Granted, it takes a lot of magical power to maintain them as you do but it’s more about your own nature and your ability to find creatures that compliment that.”
“That’s kind of disconcerting considering two of my familiars are female,” Harry said.
Banner laughed. “You obviously adore women. It makes sense that you’d find comfort in female creatures.”
He took a deep breath. “You’re worried about something?”
“Beyond Voldemort’s pet running around your little forest?” Banner questioned.
“You tell me,” Harry said evenly. “If this is about my relationship…”
Banner snorted. “Ah, lad, where you put your cock is your own business.”
Harry glared at him briefly then cleared his throat. “Then what?”
“He’s quite upset to be displaced from the inner circle, I take it,” Harry said.
“You could say that but that isn’t my pressing concern.”
“What is your pressing concern?”
“His extremely inappropriate interest in your witch.” Banner grabbed Harry’s arm when he started to stand. “Hold on, I know exactly where he is and he’s nowhere near her. I swear it on my magic.”
Harry blinked in shock as the oath settled between them. He nodded and Thaddeus released him. “What sort of interest? Her animagus form?”
“Oh, certainly. Don’t turn your back on him, Harry.”
“Should I expel him from the conclave?”
“No, keep him close. I don’t recommend bringing him back into your inner circle—it would cause dissent among us. Many believe he was rightly expelled for his behavior that night. He aired our private business in front of the Rowan Circle and that was bloody unacceptable. I’m not alone in my hope that we’ll continue to have a deep and magical relationship with Rowan.”
“Is that about Hermione as well?”
“A coven lead by a witch of her magical potential is a very attractive thing to consider. Surely you realize that.”
Harry sighed. “Yeah, I do. But what you all need to remember is that she’s Muggle-born. It could be a decade or more before she’s ready to lead the Rowan Circle in ritual. She has great magical instincts but there is a hesitation in her.”
“Many Muggle-born are set apart, disconnected from their own magic. You grew up understanding and embracing the stir of your power in your magical soul. Many in your witch’s place are afraid of their magic. It doesn’t help her, honestly, that her magical maturity has been so chaotic.”
“How do you know that?” Harry asked.
“Beyond what I’ve heard at the Ministry about her, no one missed the fact that she’s wearing Gryffindor’s Tear. You don’t put such an artifact on a woman as a token of affection.”
Harry nodded and looked out into the darkness of the woods surrounding them. A unicorn came to the edge of the clearing, stared at them for several seconds then darted back into the shadows.
“Emmie, Marco.” The two elves appeared at the same time, side by side. “Emmie where is Hermione at this exact moment?”
“She be in your private quarters at Hogwarts working on her homework,” Emmie said.
“I want a twenty-four/seven security detail on her until I say otherwise. Unless she’s with me, a Potter elf will be with her at all times. Develop a schedule with Star and have it delivered it to me within the hour. I want to know who is on duty at any given time.”
“Yes, Master Harry.” Emmie popped away.
“Marco, do you know the man named Wilhelm Humphries?”
“Snake man in yous conclave,” Marco said.
“Yes,” Harry agreed and turned to Banner. “I want you to follow Wilhelm. Get your brothers to help you. I want to know everything about him. I want copies of his correspondence as well. Make an inventory of his home, gather magical signatures on all of his snakes, and make a detailed blueprint of his warding scheme on his home and any other structure he uses regularly. Speak with Razel; I want a list of known associates and enemies.”
Marco nodded. “I begin immediately.” He popped away and Banner snorted.
Thaddeus sighed. “Most people consider you a threat because of your magical ability and social capital. They aren’t wrong about how dangerous you are in that regard.”
“But?” Harry prodded.
“Most magical people don’t understand or respect the power of a house elf. How many more do you think you can support?”
“Another fifty or so,” Harry admitted and shrugged when Banner’s mouth dropped open. “Hermione will be able to support a similar number in the future.”
“That makes the House of Potter very dangerous, you know,” Banner said and laughed when Harry shrugged. “Do you think you could take over the Ministry of Magic?”
“I’d never stage a coup while my Dad was Minister,” Harry proclaimed with a grin. “But yeah, with all of my elves in play and a third of the snakes I have at Serpent’s Lair? Thirty minutes if I didn’t have to take hostages. They’re like sheep, you know. But honestly, Thaddeus, I could buy the Ministry of Magic. There are a few people in place that are above such things but they could be moved out of the way—one way or another. That’s where Riddle got it wrong, you know.”
“He got a lot wrong,” Banner muttered.
“Yes, of course, he was an insane monster but he tried to take the government by force. He had access to so much money through his followers that he could have bought his ideas into fruition. People wouldn’t have realized until it was too late what he planned, if he were actually as cunning as he always claimed to be.”
“I can’t disagree,” Thaddeus admitted. “Status on Atlas?”
“Half a kilometer to the west,” Harry murmured after a few seconds. “He’s… no, never mind. He’s just eating which, by the way, gross. I’ve never felt one of my familiars eating.”
Banner grimaced then laughed. “Let’s hope you don’t taste it.”
Harry’s eyes went wide with horror then he relaxed. “No, but I can sort of feel his body moving and shifting while he’s swallowing which is creepy.”
“You did order him not to mate with her, right?”
“He knows she’s insane,” Harry said. “I did let him know I wouldn’t appreciate it if let his baser instincts get the better of him. But despite his age and eagerness to mate as often as possible, he’s not stupid.”
Banner stood and stretched. “Well, hell, we can’t blame him for that.”
“No,” Harry agreed with a laugh. He checked the time, frowned the stood. “I guess it was too much to hope that she would make an appearance tonight.”
“She’s smart,” Thaddeus allowed. “But she’s also goal oriented as such creatures are. Her insanity will make her unpredictable. Her thirst for his magic will drive her right to you, Harry.”
“Then you do believe she’s here for me?”
“I think she came here because she felt her master’s magic stirring in you when you disrupted Malfoy’s ritual. Perhaps Lucius brought her with him that night.”
“Lucius wasn’t his favorite,” Harry said. “Despite her ambitions, neither was Bellatrix Lestrange. The Carrow twins were… well, he regularly fucked them both. Which, frankly, I don’t understand. For all of Bellatrix’s mania, she was once a very beautiful woman and Alecto Carrow is practically a troll.”
Banner’s face shifted briefly into something like anger and Harry inclined his head.
“So you think Nagini was with the Carrow twins all this time?”
“Not the whole time, no, Dad had various entities keeping an eye on them for more than a decade. I think they brought her back to Britain and I don’t know why. It’s worrisome.” Harry rubbed his breastbone, fury stirring in his gut. “I don’t know… I mean they can’t possibly think they could retrieve his soul, could they?”
“They might believe you have more than just his magic in you,” Thaddeus said. “What’s the percentage on your magical power? How much is Riddle’s?”
“At one time, fifty percent,” Harry admitted roughly. “But it started to shift after he was finally gone. I was allowed to surpass him, I guess, as we were no longer linked by Fate to be equals. By the time I matured last summer, less than ten percent. It’s hovering there and I think it will remain that way.”
“You banished his soul,” Banner said. “Could you retrieve it? Could you bring him back, Harry?”
“No, he’s gone. His soul was shredded completely. The final fragment of his soul was torn into thousands of pieces. You could spend ten lifetimes doing one ritual after another and still not gather up enough of him to make a ghost much less what he’d need to be for resurrection.” Harry turned then and his blackwood wand flicked into his hand. “Tell me something.”
“Sure, kid,” Thaddeus said.
“Is he dead?” Harry raised an eyebrow. “Did you kill him?”
“The face you’re wearing, you vicious twat,” Harry leveled his wand at the man. “You did very well, you know. I’d have never guessed but in all the years that Thaddeus Banner has been my teacher, comrade in arms, and eventually my vassal, he’s never in his life called me Harry.”
The man stood and held out his hands in supplication. “It’s okay, lad, we were just a spot curious about you is all. Banner is fine.”
“Who was curious about me?” Harry demanded.
“I can’t tell you who I work for.”
“Then you’re an Unspeakable,” Harry said. “Right. Is Banner in custody?”
The man winced. “We had to magically subdue to keep him contained.”
“You sorry motherfuckers,” Harry hissed and apparated without another word.
He landed in the Atrium of the Ministry roughly forty-five seconds later, magical aura flaring, and eyes shifting purple as he stalked towards the Department of Mysteries. The lack of security was appalling but it worked in his favor. By the time he reached the Head of the Unspeakables office, people were flowing out of several floos in the department. Harry shoved open the door to Croaker’s office and Tobias Savage stood up face masked by a disruptive magical field.
“You stupid son of a bitch,” Harry hissed. “Where is he?”
“I…” Savage gasped as black scales flicked out of Harry’s skin along the sides of his neck.
“Thaddeus Banner,” Harry said. “Show me where he is, Savage.” His skin started to shift, taking on a progressively darker tone as black spread out from his scales like blood.
Savage nodded numbly and hurried around his desk. “How did you… my identity is supposed to be a secret.”
“I’ve known who you were since I was eleven years old,” Harry ground out through clenched teeth. “Banner. Right now.”
Savage led him down a short hallway and into a carved stone ritual room. Banner was in magical suppression restraints on a large altar, naked as the day he was born. Harry huffed.
“He’s going to be really bloody unhappy with you lot,” Harry said conversationally. “Not as unhappy as I am but certainly unhappy enough to cheerfully murder half a dozen of you.” Three more Unspeakables came into the room; one was in a traditional hood that was normally reserved for public appearances. “You, release him from this altar immediately.”
The man looked towards Croaker for guidance.
“Do as he says,” Croaked said roughly. “Let’s just get this over with.”
“Oh, old man,” Harry began coolly, “I haven’t even gotten started.”
Banner heaved in a big breath and rolled right off the altar, in a crouch he surveyed the room then slowly stood as he soon as his gaze met Harry’s. “My Lord.”
Harry untied his cloak and slipped it off. “Thaddeus.” He handed the man the garment, flicked his holly wand out of his bracelet, and offered it to the man handle first.
“They set me up,” Banner said roughly. “Told me my wife was hurt.” He turned and focused on Croaker. “That’s not true, right?”
“No, it’s not true.”
Harry took a deep breath through his nose and a black forked tongue flicked out between graying lips. “How long have you had him?”
Another hooded man rushed into the room at the point and slumped when he caught sight of the occupants. “Sir, my apologies, he saw… right through me.”
“He’s an idiot,” Harry said coolly. He turned to Banner. “They used Polyjuice to impersonate you.”
Banner moved across the ritual space in a rush and shoved the newcomer against the wall. He ripped off the hood and tossed it away. “Did you put your hands on my wife?”
The man paled. “I…”
Banner shook him roughly. “Did you fuck my wife?”
“No, I swear it. We sent her note; she thinks you’re running an errand for Potter in France.”
Thaddeus let him go. “I want my things and if I find out you’ve touched my wife, Mallory, there will be more than hell to pay.”
“I swear on my magic,” the man said in a rush. “I swear I have never laid a hand on Piper Banner. I never even saw her while I was pretending to be you.”
Banner glared at him as the oath settled. “You’re all going to really fucking regret every minute of the last three days before I’m done.” He turned to Croaker. “I want my things. Now.”
* * * *
“I came to you in good faith!” Harry shouted. “I spoke with you at length about Voldemort and the situation with his familiar!” He paced back and forth as he continued, his magic lashing out around him repeatedly.
“Lord Potter,” Savage began and glanced nervously at Sirius Black who was watching the conversation with a cool-eyed anger that was worse than what Potter was displaying, “you are fascinating… magically speaking. Magus are so rare, you see. It’s our job to explore such mysteries.”
“I’m a person not a goddamned artifact,” Harry hissed. “You kidnapped a vassal of my magical House! You used my trust in him against me and violated my privacy and his.”
“That was not our intention,” Savage said hurriedly. “We had no idea he was your sworn vassal. How can I make amends?”
“You can’t,” Harry said coldly. “This is why, you know.” He looked around the room taking in the shocked faces of Amelia Bones and several other department heads that had been roused from sleep by his father. “This is why I never wanted to come here to begin with. In other countries, I’m relatively free to be just a wizard. I can’t even take my witch on a date without a fucking security escort in Britain. I can blame Fudge for a lot of it but the rest of you were no help either. You let the people of this country build up this ideal version of me and now… now I’m just this living myth to you. A mystery that you need solving.”
“Lord Potter…” Savage trailed off when Harry glared at him.
“The men in my conclave aren’t safe from you, obviously,” Harry said. “Tell me, are you a threat to my Lady as well?”
“No, of course not, Miss McGonagall is off-limits,” Savage hurriedly. “I’d rather not see one of my people challenged and killed in a duel. I swear we’ve never approached her in any form.”
“See that you don’t,” Harry said quietly. “Because it won’t be your people who suffer for it.”
Sirius shifted away from the wall, walked to the door and opened it. “Castius, he’s done here. Take him back to Hogwarts and speak with Dumbledore about his schedule for the day. Thanks to this lot, he’s been up all bleeding night.”
Harry said nothing else. He merely nodded at his father and left.
Sirius took a seat at the head of the large conference table and the mood of the room shifted. “It should go without saying that you’re fired.”
“Lord Black, mistakes were made—“
“No,” Sirius interrupted. “There is no excuse I’d accept from you. You broke faith with my son, abused my trust, and kidnapped a man I happen to hold in very high regard. I told my son that it was okay to speak with you about Riddle and his concerns. I told him he could trust you. You made me a liar, you arsehole, and I’ve never once lied to my own child. You are fired and everyone involved in this little scheme to spy on my boy will be disciplined. Thaddeus Banner may or may not bring charges against you for unlawful incarceration. I’ll let him know, Bones, that you’re available to him for that if he wishes.”
“Of course, Lord Black,” Amelia said quietly.
“Shacklebolt, you’re aware of Croaker’s identity, are you not?”
“I am,” Kingsley said.
“Good, escort him back to his office and allow him to gather his personal possessions. He’s no longer in our employ.”
Savage stood with a growl, pulled off his hood in a fit, and tossed it on the table. “You’ll regret this.”
“I regret leaving your department to fuck about like this and I assure you in the wake of your departure that drastic changes will take place. First and foremost, my sixteen-year-old son apparated into the fucking atrium and walked right to your office without a single person even asking him what he was about! It’s bloody ridiculous! The fucking Veil of Death is down there—a perfect way to get rid of an inconvenient body or two without a single person knowing and thanks to this, I found out that we don’t have it under guard!” Sirius glared at them all as they shifted in their chairs and averted their gazes. “Get him out of here Kingsley before I lose my temper.” He stood and walked to stand in front of a set of double windows. London spread out in front of him—busy, urban, and all at once lovely. “My son may very well come to hate the country of his birth because of shite like this. He takes betrayal as personally as I do—he’s never going to forgive Tobias Savage for what he’s done here. The man’s ridiculous actions have gained him an enemy for life.”
“That’s going to make things entertaining in the Wizengamot for decades to come,” Mafalda Hopkirk said and shrugged when several people looked her way. “I hate Tobias. I’d have never given Croaker biscuits for Yule every year if I’d known he was Savage.”
“He certainly doesn’t deserve any of your biscuits,” Sirius said and frowned. He went to the floo, threw in powder. “Dunmoor Keep, Jonah McGregor.”
A face appeared in the fire after a full minute of silence. “Merlin, Black, has Voldemort crawled out of hell? Grindelwald escape?”
Sirius huffed. “Of course not.”
McGregor scowled. “Then why the bloody fuck are you floo calling me at four in the morning?”
“I need you at the Ministry.”
“Fudge fired me in 1983, the fucking twat.”
“Well, you’re unfired. Bring your arse here immediately.” Sirius shut off the floo before the man could say anything else. “Amelia, send someone down to escort Lord McGregor up when he arrives.” He pulled a stack of parchment off a shelf and grabbed a quill. “We’re going to reorganize this entire fucking mess. I’m tired of all this shite. Star!”
Star popped into place beside him and scowled. “You let him stay up all night and now he’s all fit up and won’t go to sleep!”
Sirius stared at her. “You realize he’s a grown man, right?”
“He be much more manageable when he be small. Letting him grow up big, huge mistake!” Star said huffily and threw her arms wide to demonstrate.
“You’re not telling me anything I don’t know,” Sirius said wryly. “Keep an eye on him and let me know if he needs me.”
* * * *
She found him sitting on the railing of a balcony between the Gryffindor and Astronomy towers. Hermione wrapped her hands around the railing and sighed. “Classes are pretty boring without you around to be all hot, brilliant and distracting.”
Harry laughed abruptly. “Wow, I bet no one would ever guess that coming out of your mouth.”
“I can be just as shallow as the next witch,” Hermione said flippantly and hitched herself up beside him. She threw one leg over and settled so she was facing him. “I don’t know what to do here. I feel like you’re really upset about something but it’s not about me or whatever so I have to wonder if it’s any of my business.” He looked at her wide-eyed. “Let me finish, please.”
He nodded. “Okay.”
“Right, well, I never really figured out how to be someone’s friend much less someone’s girlfriend and frankly I could’ve used some practice in that particular area before you came along.” She grinned when he briefly glared at her. “I’m serious, you know. This whole thing is complicated and weird and I don’t know what to say or do most of the time but I want to be your partner and friend beyond everything else. I want to be someone you can turn to for… whatever… I need you to know that while you have a virtual army of wizards and house elves that would make war for you that you can trust me to have your back.”
Harry picked up her hand and cradled it in both of his, trailing his fingers along her palm gently. “I grew up in the company of adults. While I was eventually socialized with other children in the network of teachers and tutors that my Dad created with a few other families in Rome and Paris, I didn’t develop very deep connections in that set.”
“Except for Janelle.”
Harry hummed under his breath at her tone. “What about her bothers you the most?”
She shrugged and averted her gaze.
“You were lovers,” Hermione said helplessly. “She writes you once a month—very long letters that Dobby delivers directly to you that you never read in front of me. She’s beautiful and brilliant and you chose to be with her. I mean… it isn’t exactly like you had any say in who your soulmate was going to be.”
“Oh, baby, really?” Harry sighed and shifted around so they were face to face. “Okay, listen carefully because you’re so completely crazy and I don’t want you to miss this.”
She laughed abruptly. “Okay.”
“Right. If I didn’t want you, I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t be courting you. I wouldn’t be building a house here in Britain for us. After your second year, when we met so briefly in the Chamber you were all I could think about pretty much non-stop.” He took a deep breath. “It wasn’t until I was nearly kidnapped off the street by a dark wizard that I agreed to an opening that didn’t include you. I was prepared to wait for you—to risk remaining a virgin until we could meet and see if we were compatible as I’ve always believed we would be. But my Dad lost his mind over that kidnapping attempt and he had nightmares and frankly, I wasn’t much better. I was hit with four different charms to check my chastity in the month that followed that kidnapping attempt.”
“Oh my god, Harry.” Her fingers tightened against his hand. “I don’t hold either one of them against you, you know that.”
He nodded. “Well, I agreed to try with my friend Natalie who wanted a private situation as well. I wasn’t even sure I could… I mean… I didn’t want her that way. We were casual friends and I’d never even thought about kissing her. We were both nervous wrecks and all we had between us with a lot of book knowledge and a few spells for pain relief and contraception.”
She bit down on her bottom lip. “That must have been… well.”
“It wasn’t a total nightmare but we were both in a very precarious situation. One of her cousins was taken a few months before and her parents were considering hiring a professional to open her. Natalie found that kind of horrifying and I don’t blame her. She didn’t want a stranger any more than I did so we went to bed together and made it as good as we could for each other which in retrospect wasn’t all that great. I should probably send her an apology or something. Maybe flowers or a new broom.”
Hermione snorted. “A new broom?”
“She’s better on a broom than I am,” Harry admitted. “She could kick my arse as a Seeker.”
“Flowers and a new broom,” Hermione said with a laugh.
Harry laughed with her then leaned in. He pressed a soft kiss against her mouth to take the sting out of what he had to say next. “Janelle.”
“Janelle,” she repeated. “We’ve talked about her before.”
“Yeah, we have,” Harry agreed. “But this doubt lingers in your mind. Why?”
“There was a half-Veela girl here for the tournament.”
“Fleur Delacour,” Harry said. “Janelle’s second cousin and she’s actually just a quarter-Veela. Her grandmother on her father’s side was a Veela but she married a wizard, which was quite a scandal at the time. Fleur’s control over her allure is less than precise because of her diluted bloodline. She tends to leak all over wizards and witches alike, despite her stellar mental control.”
Hermione nodded. “Boys were stupid over her the entire time she was here. It was… disconcerting and many witches resented her for it.”
“It’s not a surprise. Her family had her educated at Beauxbatons because it’s primarily female. Very few wizards are admitted and frankly on the average they aren’t straight.”
Her mouth dropped open. “That’s the school you wanted me to go to!” She poked him in the stomach when he laughed.
“What?” Harry caught her finger when she poked him again. “Beauxbatons is beautiful and the location is an Official Secret. You’d have been safe there. That’s what I wanted for you—a safe, beautiful place where you could learn magic and grow up near me. While I’ve never been a residential student at Beauxbatons, officially, I took seminars and private tuition from professors there regularly as a non-resident.” He cleared his throat. “But that’s water under the bridge. Did you resent Fleur?”
“No, but she was terrible to me,” Hermione admitted. “She took Viktor’s interest in me personally and her friends would call me a whore under their breaths when they passed me in the halls. She never involved herself in that but she didn’t stop it either. Sometimes she’d look at me and would appear just furious. I never understood what I did to her to make her dislike me so much.”
“Your magical power can be off-putting to those sensitive to such things,” Harry allowed. “Or maybe she was jealous. You’re a very attractive girl on several levels and you don’t need magic to get a man’s attention. She’s probably rarely known a wizard who was immune to her allure.”
“You wanted Janelle. You slept with her because you wanted her,” Hermione finally said. “More than once—like multiple times. You did things with her you haven’t done with me. You were inside her.”
Harry blushed and averted his gaze. “Well. Yes, I mean. Geez, Mi, I don’t want to talk about the actual sex.”
“You put on this sophisticated Earl of Gryffindor act all the time, act all aloof like nothing gets to you and blush like a schoolboy when I bring up you having intercourse with another woman,” Hermione said amused. “Mum said communication is important.”
Harry frowned. “I hate to say this but maybe she needs to be checked out by Madam Pomfrey. She’s quite elderly and at her age mental acuity can start to suffer…” He trailed off with a laugh when Hermione huffed at him. “Please don’t ever tell her I said that.”
“I make no promises,” Hermione said primly. “Communication.” She pointed at herself and then him. “Me and you. I’m uncomfortable about your continued relationship with Janelle.”
“Ten points for excellent communication,” Harry said and grinned when she pouted. “Okay, why? Are you worried that I’m having some sort of emotional affair with her?”
“No, I mean, what? That’s just bizarre. I don’t think anything of the sort.”
“I don’t open those letters in front of you because you’ve demonstrated a bit of jealousy in regards to Janelle. Yes, they’re personal but they aren’t romantic or intimate. She respects my choices and decisions. I ended the sexual part of our relationship and… well, she accepted that.”
“You paused too long there,” Hermione said shrewdly.
Harry nodded. “I really need to work on that. It’s a terribly obvious tell.” He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “Okay, so it was like this. I told her that I thought it best that we stop sleeping together because we were only distracting each other with a very shallow physical attraction. She agreed but said that she wouldn’t be opposed to rekindling that sexual relationship at a later date.”
“She offered to be your mistress,” Hermione said flatly.
“No, she’s a pure-blood Veela. They aren’t amendable to such relationships. More like friends with benefits if we both single when she returned to Britain after her apprenticeship. She’d consider the offer of being my mistress extremely insulting and base.”
“So, yes, I slept with her because I wanted her and because I was nervous about coming here and distracted myself with a pretty girl who was open to putting all that of book knowledge we had to use.” He wet his bottom lip nervously. “It’s just you know, I wanted her in that moment but I want… I want you for the rest of my life.”
“That was slick,” Hermione said.
Harry grinned. “The best part is that I totally mean it.”
He slid an arm around her waist and pulled her close. She hitched her legs over his and wrapped them around his waist as she settled. Hermione pressed her mouth to his and they exchanged a series of soft, sweet kisses. Finally, he rested his forehead against her.
“I can ask her to stop writing.”
“No,” Hermione said with a huff. “I don’t want to be that girl. I’m mad at myself for being stupid about this.”
“If that Muggle kid was sending you letters, I’d be put out,” Harry admitted. “I mean I’d try to ignore it and be a man about it but I wouldn’t be thrilled. So I understand your point of view and I’d never want to disrespect you.”
“That’s not how it feels,” Hermione denied. “It feels… I feel left out. That’s all.” She ran her fingers through his hair. “Now, what has you all wild and angry? Last night, you woke me from a dead sleep—I felt your magic surging through our bond.”
“Sorry, I didn’t realize we were that far a long,” Harry admitted. “If I’d known, I’d have sent one of the elves to you to let you know…”
“Emmie told me you were fine,” Hermione interrupted. “Just tell me what happened. I don’t need an apology, I promise.”
“Right.” He nodded.
He explained about the Unspeakables and Banner. Hermione grew quiet and paled dramatically as he outlined the situation in full. She slipped out of his arms and off the railing, hands shaking. “I want to speak to your Dad, Harry. Can we go now? I want to speak with him in person right now.”
Harry stared at her startled by the strain on her face and the fury she couldn’t hide. “All right. Let’s get your Mum.”
* * * *
Kingsley Shacklebolt was waiting for them at the security checkpoint. They got through the wand check station quickly and Harry tried to ignore the way Gryffindor’s Tear was trembling slightly against the hollow of Hermione’s throat as they entered the lift.
“Calm down before you render yourself unconscious,” Minerva snapped. “Telling a wizard off is bloody difficult if you faint halfway through.”
Hermione nodded and took several calming breaths. Her skin, which had started to glow slowly, returned to normal and the Tear stilled. “Right.”
The exited the lift on the administrative floor and Kingsley lead the three of them to the Minister’s office. Sirius opened the door as they approached. He raised an eyebrow at his son and Harry just shrugged.
“I want to speak with this man who took Thaddeus Banner’s place,” Hermione said without preamble. “I want to speak with him right now.”
“Master Banner pressed charges for kidnapping and unlawful impersonation so the man in question, David Mallory, is in custody,” Sirius said. “I… can I ask why?”
“I want to ask him a question,” Hermione said. “Actually, I want to ask him two questions and I might want to transfigure him into a rat and feed him to Inari afterward.” She reached up, plucked the dragon-snake from her shoulder, and petted her. Inari rumbled and hissed her agreement at her mistress’ plan.
Sirius grinned at her. “You’re so adorable.”
Five minutes later, Hermione sat down a table in front of David Mallory.
Mallory glanced at the Minister and the people he’d brought with him before focusing on the girl in front of him. “I don’t understand what’s going on here.”
“It’s hardly my place to educate you,” Hermione said and stared at him. “You know my name.”
She nodded. “Are you a parselmouth?”
“No.” Mallory grimaced. “Of course not.”
Hermione’s gaze narrowed. “Harry related to me the entire conversation he had with you in the forest—he rambled on for quite a bit actually talking about the way you moved and your facial expressions. He said you only made a few mistakes—slipped up in your act just enough to get caught. He said you demonstrated knowledge of his conclave’s inner workings and questioned the motivations of one of the members in regards to me.”
“I had research,” Mallory said nervously.
“Yes, but not quite enough. Just enough actually. Just enough to be dangerous and stupid and get caught. Do you know what my animagus form is?”
“Croaker told me your form is a magical snake of some kind but the record is sealed beyond that.”
Hermione nodded. “Magical snakes are dangerous. You should remember that.” She stood and turned to Sirius. “You realize, of course, that this fool almost got your son killed last night. He sat out in the Forbidden Forest like so much bait for Nagini and Harry didn’t know it for hours. They weren’t privy to the whole plan so he didn’t know about Atlas until he got there. It’s interesting isn’t it? That he picked last night to get close to Harry? He asked all of those pointed questions about Voldemort and resurrecting him. He asked about how much of Riddle’s magic Harry carries in him.” She watched them all catch on. “Yes, you let Harry vent himself on that arsehole Croaker, then you sent him back to school like a boy without even questioning him.”
Sirius flushed. “I… right.”
“And Harry was so brassed off about the whole situation that he didn’t even consider the ramifications of this man’s,” she pointed at Mallory, “utter lack of parselmagic. How in the hell did he pass himself off as one of the most learned and gifted parselmouths in Britain for three whole days?”
“He wasn’t the only one pretending to be Banner,” Harry realized. “Banner was at Gryffindor Circle yesterday performing cleansing rites half the bloody day—who else?”
Mallory shook his head and lowered his gaze.
“Harry,” Sirius said quietly. “Go with Amelia and give her a statement regarding your conversation with this man. Then provide her a copy of the memory as fully as you can. After that, son, it would be a favor to me if you’d get some bloody sleep.”
“No, lad, in this respect you are definitely your father’s son. I spent the whole day cursing people out.” Sirius inclined his head towards Hermione. “I guess we need level headed witches around more often.”
“Don’t give her a big head, she’ll be unbearable,” Harry said and grinned when Hermione rolled her eyes at him. “Come on then, you can boss me around while I give Director Bones a statement.”
Hermione turned to Dawlish who was tucked into the corner of the room. “Which one of those gits in the hallway gives you most grief about me?”
“Rufus Scrimgeour. Red hair, looks like a lion. You really can’t miss him.”
Hermione nodded and let Harry lead her from the room. Her mother and Amelia Bones leaving just ahead of them. Halfway down the hall, she turned, whipped out her wand and stunned four of the five men in the hallway. She stared pointedly at Rufus Scrimgeour. “Congratulations, Auror Scrimgeour, your entire team is incapacitated and you haven’t even drawn your wand. Were I a bad witch, you’d be standing amidst a pile of dead bodies.”
John Dawlish calmly stepped over one of the Aurors blocking the doorway to follow them. “Miss McGonagall, how would you like to visit the Department of Misuse of Muggle Artifacts? They have a set of biting tea cups down there.”
Rufus turned to Shacklebolt. “I didn’t even see her wand in her hand until she was done.”
“I know,” Shacklebolt said. “It’s a damn shame, really, that she’s not going to be interested in working for us. We don’t have a single chance of competing against Harry Bleeding Potter.”
Sirius snorted. “Watch it.”
“You know what I mean,” Kingsley complained. “Two literal powerhouse magicals and neither one is going to be remotely interested in Ministry service. We’ll be lucky to keep them in the country.” He drew his wand and started to wake up his Aurors. “You lot just got stunned by a sixth year witch. I ought to send you all five back to the academy. I’m definitely telling Mad-Eye about this.”
* * * *
“It’s different, right?” Hermione asked. “I mean, now that he has this huge life outside of Hogwarts that you have no say in?”
Daphne shrugged. “I’m not saying it’s not but it isn’t like I have the right to get in his business.” She flushed when Hermione frowned at her. “What? What should I do? Tell my father to offer him a contract?”
“Would that work?”
“Hell if I know,” Daphne complained. “He has special permission to leave the school now to study with his mentor so he hasn’t been in the common room much and he’s only come to my bed once since he joined Harry’s conclave. It was great, you know, but he was gone by morning like he has to be because of the rules. Prefect or not, he’d get in a lot of trouble if he was caught coming out of my room after curfew.”
“Harry said that he’s doing well with the training and all of that.”
“Draco’s smart so of course he’s doing well,” Daphne plucked at the hem of her skirt. “I understand why he doesn’t have a lot of time for me, really, but it’s made me realize how silly I’ve been with him. And I think his mother doesn’t like me at all.”
“Why do you say that?” Hermione asked.
“She came to the dorm yesterday and he introduced us. She was polite and all but quite… I don’t know… reserved. His sister is adorable though.”
“When she left Draco was a little kid and now he’s basically a grown man,” Hermione offered. “Maybe she just wasn’t prepared to be introduced to you. It could’ve brought home exactly how much she’s missed from his life.”
“Maybe. I hope that’s the case because if she hates me I could never marry him. I’d not want to come between them in any way. He missed her so much while she was away.” Daphne pulled her wand and reapplied her warming charm. “We should probably head back. It’s only ten minutes to curfew.”
Hermione nodded her agreement and stood. She stretched and looked out over the grounds. “You’ll remember to ask your mother for the title of that book on protocols?”
“Yeah, I’ll write her tomorrow but you shouldn’t worry so much about it, Hermione.”
“I just don’t want to ever be an embarrassment to him,” Hermione said quietly. “I don’t have the first clue how to be the wife of a Peer.”
“We’ll figure that out together,” Daphne said. “And you can help me figure out how to make his mum love me.”
* * * *
Hermione barely refrained from groaning at the sight of Ron Weasley pacing back and forth in the common room, obviously agitated about something. It was even worse to realize that he was alone in the large room. She barely refrained from sighing as the portrait door closed behind her.
“Hermione.” He focused on her immediately. “We need to talk.”
“No, we don’t,” Hermione said plainly. “It’s late, Ron, and I’m tired.”
“This can’t wait,” Ron said. “Just sit down, okay? We need to have a really serious talk about this whole thing you’re doing with Potter.”
Hermione slouched down in a chair near the fire and glared at her former friend. “I don’t actually care what you have to say about Harry, Ron. Your opinion of him is completely irrelevant to both of us.”
“Did you know he could take a second wife?” Ron asked.
“Of course, I do,” Hermione said. “If he takes his father’s title, and he’s not sure he will, he could take a second wife for that title. He won’t but he could.”
“You don’t have any say in whether or not he does, Hermione. You’d basically be chattel in marriage to a Peer. How can you think that’s a good idea? So what if he says you’re his soulmate. You haven’t seen the Book of Souls yourself, have you?”
Hermione frowned at him. “We have a bond, Ron. I don’t need to see the book.”
“Magical bonds can be created in all sorts of circumstances. He could have cursed you for all that we know.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Hermione said coldly. “I haven’t been cursed or potioned, Ron. I just don’t want you. How hard is that for you to understand? Even if Harry weren’t here, I’d have never considered dating or getting involved with you. I’m tired of having the same conversation repeatedly with you. If you don’t stop, I’m going to have to talk to my mother about it. Harassment is against the rules, you know.”
Ron glared at her. “You shouldn’t think that adoption really changed anything for you. You’re still a Muggle-born as far as most purebloods are concerned.”
“I don’t care. I never did, you see. I was perfectly okay with being a Muggle-born and if that’s how people want to see me then fine. I’d rather be measured by my intelligence and my success as a witch but whatever. If people want to discount and underestimate me because my birth parents are Muggles then that is their loss and I’m not at all concerned about it.” She stood and he did, too. “Just leave me alone, Ron. It’ll be better for everyone.”
“Everyone knows he’s using you for sex,” Ron hissed. “You’re just his whore.”
“I’d rather be his whore then be anything to you.”
He backhanded her. Hermione stumbled and a Potter house elf she’d never seen before popped into place between them.
“You be stupid wizard,” the elf said and waved a hand. Ron flew across the common room and hit the wall near the portrait door with a dull, ugly thud.
“Wait,” Hermione snagged the elf’s little cloak as he started to move towards Ron. “You’ll get in trouble.”
“He hit you, Lady Potter,” the elf protested.
Star popped into the room at that moment and surveyed the situation. “Howie, you go, I take care of this.”
The elf nodded and with a shy look in Hermione’s direction popped away. Hermione took a deep breath but said nothing when Star merely raised an eyebrow at her.
“This be problem,” Star said shrewdly. “Howie short-tempered. I tells Emmie he’s not proper elf for guard duty.”
“Ron hit me.”
Star nodded. “I know. Howie told me.” She touched her temple. “Elves talk to each other in our heads, you know.”
“I didn’t know,” Hermione admitted with a blush. She looked towards Ron who was stirring. “Well, at least he’s not dead.”
Star nodded her agreement. “For the moment, but Master Harry not be liking this.” She glanced towards Hermione. “Don’t be asking me not to say anything, I can’t be promising you that.”
“No, it’s okay.” Hermione sighed. “Could you get my mum? I think we need her help on this one.” She pulled her wand and stunned Ron before he could fully wake and Star popped away.
The elf returned with Minerva in just a few seconds and Hermione winced at the fury on her mother’s face. This was not going to be good at all but Ron had brought it on himself.
“I’m going to…” Minerva glared at Ron’s still form.
“Do what?” Hermione asked tiredly. “You gave me points when I punched him in the face.” She touched her face with trembling fingers. “I’m going to bruise.”
“I certainly hope the three of you weren’t intending on keeping this a secret from me,” Harry said dryly from the doorway of the hall leading to his quarters. Howie was tucked at his side looking defiant.
“I’d hoped to,” Minerva admitted. “He’s a foul tempered boy and nothing like Viktor Krum. If you call him out and kill him in a duel—people will think you a dark wizard.”
“True enough,” Harry agreed. His blackwood wand flicked into his hand as he approached them. He started a diagnostic on Ron and sighed as he reviewed the results. “Well, he’s going to need Skele-Gro at the very least. Two of his ribs are broken, and the arm I broke earlier in the year is fractured. He also has a moderate concussion.” He glanced towards Howie and the elf blushed furiously. “Oh, don’t worry Howie, I’m not at all angry with you. You can go and don’t worry about this. He’ll never remember you were here at all.” The elf nodded and popped away.
“You’re going to memory charm him,” Minerva said and nodded. “Blame it on Hermione.”
Hermione nodded. “Yes, I’ll be happy to take credit for stunning him into a wall.”
“I can do it,” Harry said. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve stunned him for being a git.”
“No, it’s best if Hermione does it,” Minerva said. “You can construct a memory of her doing it, correct? If not I can call in Hiro.”
“No, I can do it,” Harry said with a sigh. “Mi, run ahead and wake Madam Pomfrey. I’m not going to waste my magic healing him that’s for certain so he’ll need her for the breaks.” She left with a little nod and Harry turned to Minerva. “You can’t possibly believe I’m going to let him get away with this.”
“You think that bruise on her face and that fear in her eyes was missed by me?” Minerva demanded.
“No.” Harry rubbed his face and ended the diagnostic with a flick of his wand. “Let me fix the bastard’s memory first then you can decide how to handle him.”
“Shouldn’t we involve Hermione?”
Harry frowned. “She stuns Dawlish at the drop of a hat but lets Ron get close enough to back hand her. How is that? What is that? She’s blind to Ron as a threat and she’d probably consider his injuries punishment enough. Ron verbally and emotionally abused Hermione for years and she just took it from him like she took it from her father when she was little. Why didn’t she ever have any accidental outbursts? Did she fear him so much that it subjugated her magic?”
“I don’t know. I checked her records, you know, she had one incident of accidental magic before your eighth birthday. She apparently set fire to her own birthday cake when she was six trying to blow out the candles.”
“He didn’t hit her in a temper like she hit him. He hit her to intimidate her. It’s dominance and if that escalates into something sexual, he’ll get himself killed. The ward on her will kill him, Aunt Min. You shouldn’t doubt it’s power in the least. I don’t know how she would handle that.”
Harry drew his wand and went to work on the memory charm. It was only about fifteen seconds of memory and Weasley had no mental defenses to speak of. His mind was subdued because he was stunned and such magic didn’t allow for dreaming. He removed the memory of Howie popping into place and replaced it with one of Hermione drawing her wand. Harry had plenty of those memories so that was easy to accomplish. It helped that she’d still been wearing her school uniform. He withdrew his magic just as Poppy and Hermione were returning.
“I left him unconscious since he’ll be in a great deal of pain when he wakes,” Harry said. “He has two broken ribs, a fractured ulna, and a concussion.”
Poppy sighed and pulled a folded stretcher from her pocket. It expanded and hovered in front of her after she released it. “Levitate him for me, lad. Gently, though I know he hardly deserves it.”
Harry did as instructed and stowed his wand.
Poppy pulled a sleeping draught from her pocket and proffered it. “Don’t think I’m not aware of the fact that you’ve barely slept at all in the past twenty-four hours. Go back to bed, young man.”
Harry took the vial and glanced briefly at Minerva before clearing his throat. “Right, well, I’ll leave you ladies to this. You’ll let me know what you expect from me, Aunt Min?”
“Yes, I will,” Minerva said.
* * * *
Bill waited until his brother ordered his third plate from the kitchen before he entered the infirmary. He grabbed a chair and put it down as carefully as he could by the cot Ron was ensconced in. Ron glanced at him but continued to shovel food into his mouth.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” Bill asked coolly.
“Hermione and I argued,” Ron said with a shrug.
“You argued with Hermione.” Bill leaned forward. “Is that what you call hitting a woman? An argument.”
Ron shrugged. “She hit me before. Don’t see how it’s different. She’s mouthy and she doesn’t know her place. Hermione’s let Potter’s interest in her go to her head.”
“You’ve been harassing the daughter of the Deputy Headmistress and back handed her across the face,” Bill said. “That’s what happened, Ronald.”
“Yes, well, I’m the one in the infirmary getting my bones fixed.”
“And that justifies your actions?”
Ron shrugged again. “She’s full of herself. Someone needs to give her some reality.”
Bill’s fingers tightened into a fist and he took a long, deep breath to calm himself down. “And you think you have the right to instruct her? To put her in her place?”
“Like I said someone needs to.” He shoveled some more eggs in his mouth. “Potter isn’t going to. He’s too busy fucking her.”
Bill stood. “I came in here to get your side of things so that I could advocate on your behalf but I couldn’t take your side in this mess without dishonoring myself. You’re on your own.”
Ron’s mouth dropped open. “Bill, you don’t mean that and what mess? Hermione broke my arm! She should be in trouble, not me.”
“You started an argument with her and struck her when she didn’t bow down to your wishes and agree with you. You’re an abusive little prick and whatever you get—you have it coming. Don’t expect Dad to interfere like he did last time.”
“What’s that mean? What did he do last time?”
“He kept Potter from calling you out for insulting the honor and integrity of Hermione McGonagall by calling her a whore in front half your bloody house, you idiot.”
“I’m a minor and he’s legally an adult. Dad should’ve filed charges against him for assaulting me,” Ron said. “I’m going to tell him I want to file charges.”
“Dad refused a wergild already for that event, Ron, and legally Lord Potter was well within his rights to discipline you for your treatment of his soulmate and you bloody well know it.”
“Dad had no right to refuse!” Ron shouted. “Potter should pay for hurting me!”
“Dad had every right because as you said, you’re a minor. It’s probably the only reason you aren’t already reading Potter’s terms. I suggest you learn some discipline and stay away from Hermione, Ronald. You turn seventeen in the spring and you’ll be fair game at that point.”
Minerva entered at that moment, Severus Snape strolling along in her wake and Ron paled.
* * * *
“You see it’s a double standard. She hits me and gets away with it. I hit her and I get detention with Snape for the next two weeks.”
“You treated her like a piece of sexual property and tried to tell every wizard in the castle not to date her,” Seamus said. “You had to know if she ever found out she’d clean your clock. You’re just a dumb arse, Ron. I’m looking forward to seeing what Potter does to you.”
“He should just mind his own business,” Ron said hotly. “He never should’ve come here to begin with! We were fine before he came and ruined everything. Hermione would’ve been right where I wanted her by seventh year and I would’ve married her after school.”
“It’s like he’s broken,” Dean whispered loudly to Neville. “Like a Muggle record. Maybe he needs a mental evaluation.”
“He definitely needs a mind healer,” Neville agreed without even bothering to whisper. “He’s going to keep provoking Potter until there’s nothing left of him but a few red hairs and a pile of ash.”
Seamus grinned. “Beautiful imagery, mate, you should think about creative writing.”
Neville snorted and Ron huffed loudly. “Oh, fuck off, Weasley. You can’t possibly think we care if you’re mad at us, right? No, never mind, you’ve already proven you don’t think at all.”
“Hermione is going to regret all of this,” Ron said. “She’s going to regret embarrassing me and turning on me for that bastard. You watch.”
Seamus shared a wide-eyed look with Neville and they both focused on the red head. Ron was rummaging through his trunk and muttering to himself.
Seamus made a swirling motion next to his temple and Dean burst out laughing.