Title: Gryffindor’s Promise
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta: Chris King
Series: Harry Potter & the Soulmate Bond
Fandom: Harry Potter
Word Count: 9,212
Warnings: Off-screen child abuse, discussion of child abuse and violence against a child
Author’s Note: You know I hate Ron and Ginny Weasley, right? See Series page for further author notes, warnings, and ratings.
* * * *
Harry slipped from the bed, careful to tuck the covers around Hermione who hadn’t bothered with clothes after they’d cleaned up. He felt physically and magically sated in a way he never had before. Her words, spoken more like a confession than a declaration, had left him pleased and relieved.
What he couldn’t figure out, really, was why he hadn’t immediately said it back. He loved her and what he felt was nothing like the gentle infatuation he’d carried for her since he’d kissed her in the Chamber of Secrets. The bond between them was humming with contentment and almost completely matured. Even now, hours later the sweet honesty of her love left him a little breathless.
He pulled on the robe he’d abandoned earlier and left the bedroom in favor of his office space. Lighting the fireplace chased the slight chill from the room. He sat down in the chair that Hermione favored and summoned his mirror from the bracelet on his wrist. “Sirius Black.”
His father’s face filled the mirror after just a few seconds. “Hey, Pup, something wrong?”
“Sorry to wake you.” He saw Castius in the background as the Frenchmen left the bed.
“It’s all right, I’m due to get up in thirty minutes anyway,” Sirius admitted and yawned. “You look a little pale. Are you sick?”
“I… I’m having a bit of a personal crisis actually.”
Sirius frowned and shrugged into the robe his lover tossed his way. “Well, that’s a change. Lately you’ve been content to make international messes for me to clean up.”
Harry laughed and slouched back in the chair. “Dad.”
“Okay, spill it.”
“Hermione told me she loves me.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow. “Since when does that qualify as a personal crisis?”
“I didn’t say it back,” Harry confessed.
“Ah.” Sirius cleared his throat. “Right. That’s… I don’t even know what to say to that, Harry. It’s obvious you do love her.”
“Yes, I mean, of course, I do.” Harry rubbed his face with trembling fingers. “And I don’t know why I didn’t say it back. I just didn’t… it just… I didn’t say it and then the moment was gone.”
“Did she get upset?”
“Not at all that I can tell,” Harry admitted. “She even stayed the night with me. She’s asleep right now and I’m an idiot.”
Sirius laughed. “Yes, I’d have to agree. Well, tell me this… did you have something planned?”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked with a frown.
“I know you, lad. You make plans in order to have time to make more plans. You’re the most conniving Gryffindor I’ve ever met in my life and that’s saying something. Did you have a situation or event planned that would involve the discussion of your feelings?”
Harry flushed and averted his gaze. “Maybe.”
Sirius grinned. “Ah, Pup, I adore you. So here’s the thing—she preempted you and set you off your stride. Whatever else is going on in your head, you’re not hesitant about how you feel. She just ruined your plans and you’ve never handled that well at all.”
“Merlin, can we avoid the discussion about your 30th birthday party? I was nine and very excitable,” Harry pleaded.
Sirius laughed. “You picked out the ring, right?”
“Have one of your elves bring it to you, lad. You’re going to need bring your ‘A’ game for the next conversation you have with that pretty little witch of yours.”
“She’s not a game of chess,” Harry protested. “I just don’t want to fuck it up and I feel like I did.”
“If you’d fucked it up, you’d have definitely spent the rest of the night alone,” Sirius assured. “Have your elves prepare a meal in your quarters so you don’t have to combat the breakfast crowd this morning. Just be honest with her and everything will be fine.”
“Right.” A subtle shift in the wards in his quarters told him she’d left the bedroom. “I gotta go. She’s up.” His father signed off with a little smirk and Harry flicked the mirror back into his bracelet as the door to his office opened. She was already dressed, much to his disappointment. “Good morning.”
“You look out of sorts,” Hermione said as she crossed the room. She slid confidently into his lap and ran her fingers through his hair. “Did you get some bad news?”
“Not at all,” Harry promised. “Want to have breakfast in here this morning?”
“I can’t,” Hermione admitted. “I promised Fay I’d read over her Potions essay so she can make any corrections at lunch.”
“Right.” Harry frowned and took a deep breath.
“Lunch then,” she suggested.
“Lunch,” Harry agreed. “Any preferences?”
“Something we don’t normally get a chance to eat would be nice,” Hermione suggested.
“I’ll speak with Star about it,” Harry murmured and touched her face with careful fingers. “Do you feel it?”
“Our bond?” Hermione asked.
“Yes,” Harry said. “It’s so strong now. I worry that I’ve pushed you into this before you were ready. Part of me thinks I should’ve stayed away from you until after you left Hogwarts.”
“No, don’t think that. Just coming here you’ve changed everything for the better.” Hermione took a deep breath as she continued, “I don’t even want to think about how things would be if you weren’t here.”
“That’s probably the bond talking,” Harry murmured.
“I wasn’t happy before… I mean, a part of me was always more content when I was in the magical world but I wasn’t happy the way I am now. Just meeting you gave me the courage to stand for myself in a way I never have before.”
“You used to spend a lot of your summer with the Weasley family. I know that some of that was just to get away from your parents but… now that relationship has soured for you because of me.” Harry watched her frown at that.
“Because of Ron and Ginny,” Hermione corrected. “I thought they were my friends.” Her bottom lip quivered and she looked away from him. “I trusted them, you know. I thought I was practically like family to them all but that’s not true. Now that I think about it, I think even Molly half believed I’d end up married to Ron. She made a few comments through the years about it.”
“Well, I can’t say I blame her for that,” Harry said. “What mother wouldn’t want a beautiful and magically gifted witch for their son? My mother would be utterly thrilled with you.”
“You think so?” Hermione asked. “I don’t know… I’m bossy and something of a know-it-all.”
“Apparently so was my mother,” Harry said with a little laugh. He caught one of her hands and kissed her palm as she huffed. “No, seriously, you’re brilliant and lovely all at once. Any wizard would count himself lucky to bring you home to meet his parents.”
“You’re the catch around this place.”
“That’s all bullshite, you know,” Harry said plainly. “It’s just money and familial power.”
“You’re pretty fit without the money and title,” Hermione said and smirked when he laughed. “Of course, all of that stuff makes it easier to overlook your faults.”
“Faults?” He asked with an amused lift of one eyebrow. “Are you about to besmirch my character?”
“Well, you’re a bit territorial and you toss your socks off in any direction when you take them off. You also steal the covers and you treat me like your personal teddy bear whenever I sleep with you.”
“You say that last part like you mind,” Harry said with a grin.
“Hmmm, well you did get up and leave me all alone in your bed without resetting the warming charm. It expired and woke me up a good half hour before I set my alarm spell for.”
“I’m a terrible boyfriend.” He shook his head. “I don’t know how you put up with me.”
“It’s a trial honestly but you’re really pretty.”
“Thank Merlin for genetics.” He grinned when she laughed. He watched her touch Gryffindor’s Tear for a few seconds before her hand drifted away. “Tell me something.”
“Why do you keep touching the Tear? You did it several times last night as well and when I woke up, you were clutching it in one hand.”
Hermione flushed. “I… Ginny commented about it. She said it was… basically I’m pathetic because I need the Tear to control my magic for me.”
“You know that’s not true.”
“I know but… well I guess it’s made me self-conscious about it. That’s all.” She shrugged. “I’ll get over it.”
He really didn’t think she would and part of him couldn’t blame her. He’d hated wearing the Tear himself and he’d only had to wear it seven months, as he’d taken it off just a week shy of his fifteenth birthday. “Well, you should trot off and put on a uniform if you’re going to make me endure breakfast in the Hall.”
* * * *
“If one more witch looks at my crotch instead of my face when they see me I’m going to do something mean,” Harry declared as he reached for the basket of scones.
Neville snorted. “Well, you’re the one that got naked in a ritual.”
“You kind of brought it on yourself,” Colin said with a nod. “When a bloke puts his junk out there…” He flushed when Harry pointed at him with the knife in his hand. “I just mean…”
“There are quite a few very young ears listening to this conversation, Colin,” Harry said and shook his head. “The whole lot of you need an entire course on ritual magic to be perfectly frank.” He swirled the knife around. “This reaction just makes that more clear to me and it also explains the decline of coven and conclave activities in Britain.”
“Half-bloods and Muggle-borns,” Neville said and shrugged when Hermione glared at him. “Don’t look at me like that, Hermione, I don’t mean anything ugly about it. Look, pure-bloods teach their children about ritual magic at home. It’s a very traditional thing to do and many half-bloods miss out because of issues between their parents—real or imagined. Additionally, it’s true that many of the more established groups don’t bother to try to recruit Muggle-borns or half-bloods that haven’t been educated in the subject. It’s considered a waste of time.”
Hermione sighed. “Would a class at Hogwarts fix that? Most of the things I’ve been learning about ritual magic and covens certainly don’t lend themselves to a classroom setting. And considering how much sex and nudity comes into play, it would be inappropriate to have those classes taught to anyone under a fifth year.”
“No, you’re right about that part but magical theory courses could start covering the basics of ritual magic and membership to a coven or conclave as early as first year,” Harry said. “That class could gradually morph into a ritual magic class for NEWT studies. It’s doable but it would take a lot of work and we’d have to start with first or second years. I doubt many of the older students currently enrolled could be tossed into the deep end of a ritual magic course and come out with even an Acceptable. Beyond that, it wouldn’t be fair to make them try. They don’t have the foundation for it.”
“Maybe they don’t need to learn it,” Ron said and shrugged at the glares he earned. “I’m just saying that some things shouldn’t be… well, conclaves and covens are high magical arts and they should be reserved for those who really deserve it.”
“You mean pure-bloods,” Hermione said. “The biggest coven in Britain is led by my mother, Ronald, and she’s a half-blood. Only a third of her entire coven are actually pure-blood, you know.”
Ron shrugged. “She at least grew up knowing what magic was. I mean, sure you’re smart and magical, Hermione but you grew up with Muggles. I heard you were McGonagall’s heir for her coven but I think that’s a pipe dream for you both. You’ll never be comfortable enough with your magic to accomplish that.” He frowned. “I mean, come on, you have to wear Potter’s little trinket to keep control over your magic.”
Harry put a hand on her arm to keep her from responding. He knew it was the second time a Weasley had goaded her about Gryffindor’s Tear and when that was combined with the conversation he’d with Mallory in the Forbidden Forest, it put him on edge.
“I fail to see how my little trinket is any of your business, Weasley.”
Ron just frowned at him and averted his gaze. “Whatever, Potter. Flaunt your money all you want.”
“Your permission to conduct my life as I see fit is quite a relief,” Harry said and grinned when Hermione laughed abruptly. “As to the Tear, Hermione won’t have to wear it forever and in fact should probably be able to remove it by Yule. I wore it for seven months but then my maturation was very rough.”
“You wore the Tear?” Lavender asked. “Why? I mean…” She blushed. “Sorry, Hermione, I just assumed you were wearing the Tear because you were Muggle-born and didn’t have the skills to correct your magic yourself.”
“Hermione’s mental discipline is so refined that she’s achieved the animagus transformation in just a few months, Lavender,” Harry said patiently. “Not a single person in this room, myself and the Headmaster included, could control the amount of power she’s embracing as we speak.” He buttered his toast as he considered what else to say. “I put the Tear on a few weeks after the Yule Ball your fourth year. I was having a difficult time controlling my emotional state and as a result, my magic was lashing out in horrific ways. I put sixteen members of the Glain Neidr in St. Joan’s in Paris before it was decided they couldn’t manage my maturation for me. None of you should think that her inability to control these outbursts is a weakness. In fact, it’s so far from the truth that it’s laughable. Hermione is easily the most powerful witch in this castle.”
“That’s just nonsense, Potter,” Parkinson said as she appeared at the end of the table near the first years. “She’s barely magical—a mudblood.”
“Don’t use dirty, hateful words in front of us!” Astoria exclaimed in an affronted tone. “You should be ashamed of your rude and dirty mouth! I’m telling my mum!”
Harry started to speak but Hermione had stood. He stood with her, out of habit and a desire to prevent a physical altercation. Though a part of him would pay a fair amount of gold to watch Hermione beat some sense into Parkinson he wouldn’t risk her getting hurt in the process.
“Barely magical?” Hermione demanded. “You took home three OWLS, Parkinson. You’re barely qualified for the NEWT classes you’re taking and that’s with private instruction every summer since you turned ten. You’re an incompetent, thoughtless, backbiting, foul little girl. You don’t respect yourself, Magic, or even your familial House. Tell me, honestly, just how mortified was your father when he opened up your OWL results? Everyone knows you’re here on academic probation and will be sent home at Yule if you don’t at least make an Acceptable in the three classes you were allowed to take.” She held up a hand when Pansy started to respond. “And that will be ten points for your foul language!”
“Whatever, Granger,” Parkinson sneered. “You can read all the books you want—it’s never going to make you as powerful as you pretend to be.”
Harry’s wand slipped into his and half the Gryffindors still seated stood. “Let’s just have a little test, Parkinson and resolve this matter once and for all.” He turned and pointed his wand at the wall. With a flick of his wand, he conjured a shining silver shield then turned to Dumbledore who had approached them with Minerva McGonagall. “For a baseline, sir, if you would cast your strongest stunner at that shield?”
“Ah, Merlin’s Shield—the less famous but quite legal version of the Orb charm.” Dumbledore pulled his wand from his sleeve and people backed up. He hit the charmed shield with a dark red stunner that made the whole wall vibrate. The numbers 1509 appeared above the shield in gold.
“For those of you who are unfamiliar with Myrddin Scale,” Minerva McGonagall began, “the Headmaster just cast at a Mage level. The levels are as follows—200 to 650 is the normal range for a witch or wizard. Between 650 and 1000, a magical person would be referred to as a Sorcerer or Sorceress respectively. Those who range between 1000 and 1500 would be considered a Warlock or an Enchantress. Above 1500 is Mage level. There is an additional special category for those above 2000 and that is Archmagus.” She pulled her own wand and hit the shield with a sharply worded stunner. The shield clanged loudly and displayed 1489.
Snape took her place. “Your magic will continue to increase as you age. In my twenties, I rarely managed anything over 600 on this instrument.” He cast a stunner and scored 998. “If I live to see the Headmaster’s age I’ll drift over a thousand at that point.”
Flitwick brandished his wand. “My goblin heritage forced my magic to mature faster than most.” He cast and the shield clanged. He scored 1115. “I score much lower without a wand.” He put his wand away and cast again with a palm thrust forward. He scored 700. “Full blooded goblins cast over a thousand with or without a magical focus. There is no discernible power difference among them, by the way. They are all equally gifted in magic. Though like all magical beings—their level of intelligence differs from individual to individual.”
Sprout took his place. “Always a teacher, Filius. I am in my fifties for anyone impertinent enough to want to know.” She cast and registered a very respectable 1203. “I’ve been at an Enchantress level since shortly before my 30th birthday. I expect I will not change much as I grow older.” She put her wand. “Now, Miss McGonagall, perhaps you can show Miss Parkinson exactly how magical you are.”
Hermione wet her bottom lip and flicked her wand out of its holster. She tossed her braid over her shoulder, leveled her wand at the target and with a twist of her wrist hit the target with a silent stunner. The shield clanged loudly and the wall seemed to cave in briefly around it. 1793. The silence in the hall was deafening. She put her wand away and focused on Harry. “Show me what you got, Potter.”
Harry grinned at her and took her place. “You realize my father is going to send me a howler for this right? I’m not supposed to show off.”
“What do you call that business with you flying around the castle as a dragon then?” Snape asked dryly.
“Practice,” Harry exclaimed as he took up a dueler’s position. “I don’t think anyone in this castle realizes how difficult it is to land without leaving a crater when you weigh a metric ton.” He cast a stunner and the castle shuddered. A few of the more excitable students screamed in alarm. 1901. He frowned and looked at his wand. He flicked the holly wand into the bracelet and pulled out the African blackwood instead. He cast again. Magic flowed off the target and the shield, which had been just on the wall with a sticking charm, embedded itself in the rock. It vibrated for nearly a full minute before offering a score of 2341. Harry considered that and flicked his wand back into the bracelet. His staff appeared in his hand.
“Merlin’s pants,” Dumbledore exclaimed. “Is that wise?”
Harry laughed. “Scared, sir?”
“A little,” Albus admitted with a laugh. “Go ahead, young Lord. If you break the castle you have to spend your Saturday fixing it.”
“I don’t think you’re going to get the reaction you expect,” Harry said. He held the staff in front of him and magic jolted out of the jewel on top. “The staff is more refined than either wand. It’s the difference between a fencing blade and a broad sword.” He cast and the shield rung like a bell—clear and sharp. Magic rippled over the shield. 2690. “More power, obviously, but different.”
“Interesting.” Albus stepped up. “Do you think she’d let me cast with her?”
“Worth a shot,” Harry agreed. He proffered the staff and Nocturne seemed to tremble briefly in the Headmaster’s hand before the emerald on top flashed. “How’d that feel?”
“Once, as a very curious young man, I touched a live wire. I had no idea what electricity was, you see. That’s what it felt like.” People shifted away from the both as the elderly wizard took up his position. “I feel like I should cast vocally—that’s a first for me in nearly twenty years. I mean I often do so but I’ve long surpassed the need to. Your Nocturne is very loyal to you.” He braced one foot, held the staff in front of him, and cast, “stupefy!” 1456.
“Why did you score lower?” Colin Creevy asked with a frown. “The staff is a more powerful magical focus.”
“The staff is first and foremost loyal to Lord Potter,” Albus explained. “It was still quite a thrill to cast with her.” He passed the staff back to Harry who shrank and stored it with ease.
Harry turned to look at Pansy Parkinson who was red faced but staring at Hermione with dark, furious eyes. “I’ll ruin your whole family if you ever raise your wand in her direction.”
People stilled around them and Pansy paled. “What?”
“I mean it,” Harry said. “Every single person in your family will suffer for any action you take against her—no matter the outcome. I will make your grandfather bitterly regret the spawning of your father. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, Lord Potter,” Pansy whispered. “I understand.”
“Good.” He returned his gaze to the shield. “I believe… the shield has made itself quite at home on the wall, sir.”
“Yes,” Albus said in agreement. “Well, it’ll be something for people to talk about and perhaps even sneak in and try when others are not looking.”
“Why is Merlin’s Shield legal while the Orb is not?” Hermione asked.
“Because the Orb can be cast on someone against their will,” Minerva answered. “The shield requires your active and willing participation. It can also be manipulated to show a lower result if you don’t want anyone to know your true power rating.” She drew her wand and fired a low-level stunner at the shield. It dinged and displayed 567. She stowed her wands and looked around. “Well, you lot have five minutes until the first class. Better cram as much food as you can in before then.”
* * * *
“Lord Potter, is there a problem?”
Harry’s head jerked up and flushed. “My apologies Aunt Min, I’m… distracted.” He cancelled the transfiguration he’d cocked-up and started again. He winced because he’d never called her that in class before.
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Do you intend to melt a hole into your desk then?”
He looked down at the rock and found it melting—the wood steaming. “Oh for the love of Merlin.” He cancelled it again and slouched back in his chair. “I’m useless today.”
“Yes, it appears so,” Minerva said with a small laugh. “You do realize you have your staff in your hand, right?”
He looked at his hand and found he did, in fact, have his staff in hand—it was just reduced to wand size. He flicked it back into his bracelet and withdrew his holly wand. He transfigured the rock into the animated bird that he’d been assigned and scowled at her when she laughed. “It takes some mental organization to manage the dimensional properties of the trunk bracelet.”
“So it seems,” McGonagall agreed. “I don’t know what you did to him, Hermione, but perhaps you could try to allow him to maintain a veneer of intelligence in public.”
Hermione’s mouth dropped open and Harry groaned as McGonagall left them to cross the room and pick on Daphne and Draco.
Hermione poked him and he poked her back. “Don’t start something you can’t handle, McGonagall.”
“I can handle you, Potter,” Hermione informed him primly.
He grinned at her. “You wanna take this outside?”
“You could take me on a picnic,” Hermione decided. “I’d like that.”
And just like that, he thought, his plans were changed again. He flicked a quill and a piece of parchment out of his bracelet, wrote a quick note, and folded it in half. With a little push of his magic, he called out to Dobby silently and the note popped away. A deceptively small picnic basket appeared in front of them both just as class ended.
They managed to sneak out of the castle without anyone inviting themselves along which was something of a miracle. Hermione was popular in her own right though Harry realized that his girlfriend considered that popularity a byproduct of being involved with him. He wasn’t so sure about that but he kept it to himself. He had no frame of reference at any rate.
They plowed through sandwiches, butter beer, and a large bowl of crisps before she focused on him. “Okay, spill it.”
“Spill what?” Harry asked as he repacked the picnic basket with a flick of his wand. He stowed the holly wand and took a deep breath. “I mean, there are a lot of things on my mind at present.” He looked out over the lake and the giant squid offered him a friendly wave, which made Hermione laugh.
“If you’re uncomfortable with what I said…” Hermione trailed off when Harry took her hand. She flushed. “I meant it. It’s not just something… I mean… I wouldn’t want you to think that I got caught up in what we were doing and said something I didn’t mean. I really do love you.”
“I don’t think that at all and I believed you when you said it. I’m also not uncomfortable at all with your admission, how you did it, or how you feel. You have to know that I feel the same way.”
“Of course you do,” Hermione said, her eyes light with humor and affection. “You say it a hundred times a day without ever saying a word. It’s amazing being so loved by you. Amazing and decadent. I don’t always believe that I deserve it but I accept it, Harry. I’ve accepted my place in your life whole-heartedly.”
“I’ve gone over what I wanted to say in this moment a hundred times,” Harry murmured. “It’s only been a few months and I feel as if I’ve known you my whole life. That night in the Chamber of Secrets—the first time we touched you filled a place inside that I didn’t even know was empty. I deeply regret keeping that memory from you for so long.”
“It’s okay,” Hermione said. “I’ve… well. Despite the trauma of being basically kidnapped and nearly being used in a resurrection ritual for Voldemort, I find it be a very sweet memory.”
“Yeah, despite all that dark stuff,” Harry agreed. “It was definitely the best first kiss in the history of the world.”
She laughed and leaned in. She pressed a kiss to his mouth and smirked. “Absolutely. I’d duel anyone who disagreed.”
Harry flicked a red velvet covered box out of his bracelet and took a deep breath. “There is a ring in my family; it’s about nine hundred years old.” He rubbed his thumb over the top of the small box. “It hasn’t been worn in a very long time. My mother couldn’t wear it because of the fidelity ward on it.”
“I don’t understand.”
“A fidelity ward doesn’t allow for a triad,” Harry explained. “Moreover, once this ring is on your finger the only way it leaves is with your death.”
“That’s pretty stringent for a promise ring.”
He opened the box to reveal a solitary princess cut ruby set in a mithril band much like his own ring. “It’s not a promise ring,” Harry explained. “It is the first part of the ring of the Lady Gryffindor. The second part would be placed during our bonding ceremony. They will merge together and become one again for the first time in three hundred years.” He hazarded a glance at her face and relaxed when she didn’t look overly distressed or freaked out. “I love you. I promise I will love you the rest of my magical existence. Will you marry me?”
The moment settled between them and Harry plucked the ring out of the bed of velvet with trembling fingers. He slid it onto her finger and magic rushed around them as the ring settled on her hand where it would stay as long as she drew breath. Harry pulled her into his lap and claimed her mouth. She wrapped her legs around his waist and her arms around his shoulders. He idly wondered how many points Hagrid would take from them for skipping his class then he decided he really didn’t care.
* * * * –
He sent Hagrid a very large bottle of firewhiskey as an apology and beat a hasty retreat after Herbology when the girls in the dorm swarmed around Hermione to check out the ring. He wasn’t particularly proud of it, but his father did teach him the value of a well-timed retreat. Harry could hear the gushing and giggling from his place at the piano. He was not at all surprised when Minerva McGonagall showed up at his door. He allowed her entry but continued to play. She sat down on the bench beside him, her quiet presence nothing like Hermione, who even in her silence seemed to be bursting with questions.
“Leave it to you,” Minerva said dryly. “That looks nothing like a promise ring, lad.”
Harry flushed and barely refrained from pointing out that Hermione started it. She was the one that had thrown the L word out there without a single care to how he’d react. “Yeah, I skipped a bit ahead with that and I had a perfectly lovely promise ring all picked out, too.”
“I bet you did.” Minerva sighed. “Well, you know I don’t have a single thing to say against it. How could I? Magic has given you both a precious and priceless gift. I’m honored to know you both.”
“It never felt like my place to say this but thank you,” Harry said as he carefully plucked out a simple tune. “Thank you for giving her a family and a magical legacy that has nothing to do with me. You gave her the foundation she needed to stand on her own two feet in a world that will never fully accept her. You’ll never know what that means to me.”
“She is… I never thought I would adopt a child for my legacy. As you know, your mother was to take my place when the time came. When we lost Lily… it just… I never thought to pick another successor. It was a difficult loss for me magically.”
“I can’t even imagine it,” Harry said. “I don’t hate my Aunt Petunia, you know, but I can’t forgive her. I can never forgive her because her actions eventually robbed me of the few memories I should’ve had of my mother. What I have now are… wispy, idealized pensieve memories that my Dad has shown me of Lily and James.”
“I can’t say your aunt would be alive for you to forgive if I’d been the one to find you that day. Albus rarely ever speaks of it but his loss of control became something of an urban legend. Apparently half that Muggle neighborhood suffered structural damage.”
“About two million pounds in damages I was told,” Harry said. “Power like his and mine… comes with a duty to the public. I hope I never… have another episode like I did when I was fourteen.”
“Will you speak of it with me?” Minerva asked.
Harry took a deep breath. “My elves… most of them showed up here that night of the Yule Ball so they could see her in her dress. They were so excited because she was wearing something from the Shoppe collection. A half dozen of them came to show me their memories of her—on the stairs and in the ball dancing with that arsehole. She looked so happy and sweet and for the lack of a better word enthralled. I was amused and pleased for her, you know. Dad was really surprised that I wasn’t jealous but I just wasn’t. Seeing her happy and having a good time was nice. I didn’t know what he was. Dad’s involvement in the British Ministry was minimal at the time. He managed our seats and voted when necessary but he kept out of internal politics. I wouldn’t hear about the rape at the World Cup until after the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament.
“There had been an incident where someone had tried to slip Hermione a love potion. Emmie didn’t know who it could’ve been and even now, I don’t think it was Krum. He never cared about consent—not even potion-induced consent. At any rate, after Emmie stopped him and made sure Hermione was safe in her dorm she called another elf to Hogwarts to watch her and she came to Paris to tell me and my father what almost happened.”
Harry took a deep breath to calm himself down. “I’d never felt so utterly helpless to be honest. To realize that could’ve happened to her while I was tucked away in Paris hiding from Fudge and the Ministry. Fortunately, my human anger was so intense that my animagus form only half surfaced. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened if I’d completely shifted. I would’ve murdered him if I hadn’t bounced off the wards.” He glanced around the room. “I think Hogwarts was protecting me from myself that night. As an Heir, even my ill intent shouldn’t have been enough to keep me out. I think if I’d already claimed my title that the wards would’ve been unable to deny me.”
“I didn’t know his reputation either,” Minerva admitted. “I’d have never allowed him as much freedom as he had in the school if I’d known. After the Yule Ball, I assigned a pair of house elves to watch him whenever he was on the school grounds. Though oddly enough, Ron Weasley proved to be a much better protector of Hermione than I did after the Ball. He was extremely jealous of Krum and rarely if ever allowed the man to get anywhere near Hermione without throwing some sort of fit. At the time, his friendship was important to her for reasons I still can’t fathom and she always went after him to calm him down.”
Harry nodded. “Right well, it took several of my elves to subdue me. My international, unlicensed chain-apparition caught the attention of the ICW. I couldn’t tell them the truth, well at least not the whole truth. There are many members of the ICW who would like to see me… in jail or at least subjugated in some way because of my magical power. There are some, like Fudge, who will never trust me because of who I was raised by. A lot of people still think him guilty of mass murder, you know, even though he had a trial that proved him innocent eventually.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“It’s one thing in Britain’s favor,” Harry said. “Most of the public accepted the fact that he was wrongly imprisoned even if they did come to resent him for isolating me from the country I was born in. People here think they have some claim on me… like I’m property. I’m not saying everyone feels that way but I’ve encountered those that feel I should’ve been forced back to Britain as a child because I’m a national icon.”
“You know, Albus told me once that forcing you to return to Britain against your will would lead to a civil war. I don’t think any of those pure-bloods in the Wizengamot ever really understood how important you are to the common wizard or witch. Yes, there are those who think of you as some sort of commodity but there are so many here consider you a gift. A child of magic who deserves respect and love.”
“Mr. Blotts said something similar,” Harry murmured. “I wish I had your faith in people.” He cleared his throat. “I won’t let anyone hurt her. May Magic herself have mercy on the person who’d try because I won’t.”
“You are every inch your mother’s son,” Minerva said fondly. “I thought Parkinson was going to faint right there in the Hall.”
Harry huffed. “That vicious, inbred little…” He trailed off and flushed. “She’s not even fit to breathe the same air as Hermione as far as I’m concerned.”
“We’re in agreement on that. I’d have her expelled if I had a single reason. Some people don’t deserve the gift of magic.”
* * * *
Harry figured most of the witches in the castle had taken a peek at the ring before dinner was even half finished. He knew, for a fact, that she wasn’t the only witch in the castle to wear a betrothal ring but he figured it was part and parcel of the special consideration most magicals gave the idea of being the Lady Potter. Though, honestly, he was somewhat annoyed. He’d been sure his intentions towards Hermione were very well known yet some seemed to be genuinely surprised by the ring—as if they’d expected their courting period to yield nothing. Or maybe, he thought meanly, they were hoping it would yield nothing.
Minerva McGonagall approached the table about half way through the meal with a scroll. Everyone made room when she made it clear she intended to sit between Harry and Hermione. She opened offered the scroll to Harry before grabbing a piece of cake. Harry already knew what it was but he unrolled the parchment and read it regardless.
The House of Ross is proud and honored to announce the betrothal of Hermione Isobel McGonagall to Lord Harry James Potter, the Earl of Gryffindor.
Below that were details concerning their magical Houses, bride price, and lineage. It was a very traditional and formal announcement, which he appreciated. He passed the parchment to her who then passed it to Hermione. Hermione read it with a small frown she turned to her mother with a little huff.
Minerva held up a hand as she polished off the piece of red velvet cake she’d taken. “Now, lass, it’s tradition.”
“I’m not a piece of land,” Hermione protested.
Harry turned his head and took a deep drink of his milk. He wasn’t going to be involved in this discussion at all if he could help it. They hadn’t discussed the bride price but he figured Minerva had gotten the number from his father. It was accurate but he knew it would also cause quite a shite-storm all on its own considering his personal wealth.
“We’re expected to adhere to the process, Hermione. It’s nothing to concern yourself with.”
“A hundred thousand galleons is tradition?” Hermione demanded. “That’s a ridiculous amount!”
Harry exhaled sharply and shared a glance with Neville who was shaking his head in sympathy. Harry considered kicking the boy just for his own amusement. “A bride price is determined by the wealth of the groom. It’s ten percent of my Trust fund, which was established by my parents the day I was born. I’ve been managing and investing it since I was eleven.”
Hermione carefully rolled up the parchment and handed it back to her mother. “That’s…” She trailed off. “If our marriage contract bears even the slightest resemblance to a deed, Harry James, I’m going to make your life miserable!”
He couldn’t help but grin at her because the old-fashioned marriage contract, one he’d never sign in a million years, did, in fact, look a great like the deed to his house in Hogsmeade. She pointed her fork at him and he laughed.
“Relax Hermione, I fully intend to donate the entire amount to the Lily Potter Foundation,” Minerva said with a laugh. She stood and tucked the parchment into her robe pocket. “Maybe we’ll even earmark it for that Witch’s Rights Council Miranda Lupin is putting together.”
Hermione stabbed at a piece of pie and frowned intensely before nodding her agreement. “Yes, fine, we’ll do that.” She pointed at Harry again when he scooted back into place beside her.
“Don’t be mean to me, Mi,” Harry said and nudged her when she huffed. “Just ignore it. Social protocols are ridiculous but the ramifications of not following them would damage my House politically.”
“All right, fine but I want it on record that this ring doesn’t mean you own me.” Harry couldn’t help but smirk at her. She blushed and eyes went wide. “Harry.”
“Yeah, I think that’s about how you said my name at the time,” he agreed and laughed when Neville snorted across the table from them. He was thankful for the thoroughly confused looks they got from the younger years.
He pushed aside his half-finished pie when she made it clear she was finished and stood. She took the hand he offered with a little smile that promised him many things—retribution was probably very high on that list. Harry rather hoped that getting naked was also high on the list. They were almost to the door when he felt the magic in the room shift. From Dumbledore’s sudden shout, he wasn’t the only one to notice. Harry turned just as the spell was let loose. He turned Hermione abruptly and took the dark red curse in the back. They stumbled and Hermione screamed. The pain was dizzying and horrifying. He took a deep shuddering breath and passed out.
“Harry, oh my God, what…” Hermione sank to her knees with him. She looked back to the table to find Ginny Weasley struggling to get free of Neville. “What did you do? What was that spell?”
“It was for you,” Ginny hissed. “You betrayed me! We were friends! You had no right to him, you whore!”
“What did you cast?” Dumbledore demanded, his aura flaring wide open in fury.
Ginny stilled against Neville and paled. “Magicis Iudicium Puritas.”
The shock and fear that swept through the room was a nightmare. Hermione focused on her mother. “What does it do?”
“It judges purity and should he be found lacking, it will kill him. It is very dark magic,” Minerva whispered.
“Magical purity or blood purity?” Hermione demanded and was horrified when more than one person appeared startled. “You don’t know, do you?” Clutching at Harry’s rapidly cooling fingers, she called for Star. The head house elf of the Potter family appeared immediately. “Star… get his father and Healer Arnou. Tell them… tell them he’s been cursed and it’s bad.”
* * * *
Harry woke at King’s Cross. Naked. He glanced around the empty train station with a frown. His favored dark green ritual robe appeared out of thin air so he grabbed it and slipped it on. Then James Potter appeared and Harry went weak in the knees. James leapt forward and caught him before he fell.
“Easy there, lad.”
“Dad,” Harry whispered, tears burning in his eyes. “No, I’m not ready… I have… I asked Hermione to marry me just hours ago.”
“You’re not dead, yet, lad,” James whispered against his hair as he held his son for the first time in over fourteen years. “You’re balanced on the edge between here and there.”
“Will I die?” Harry asked his voice breaking. “I tried so hard to live… to be worthy of the sacrifice you and Mum made for me.”
“You are worthy,” James whispered. “I’m so proud of you, Harry. You’ve been so brave and strong. It’s such an honor to know you carry our legacy.”
“I don’t want to die,” Harry said. “I can’t… I’ll take her with me, Dad. She’ll be lucky to live a year without me. Our bond is too strong! I should’ve never allowed it! It was selfish and stupid. I’m so…” He took a deep breath. “How could I do that to her? I was supposed to protect her.”
“You took this curse for her,” James said. “It was a brave thing you did—a true sacrifice for your Lady.”
Harry blinked rapidly to get rid of the tears he refused to shed and exhaled deeply to settle himself. “Where’s Mum?”
“She’ll be along in a minute. You were bare-arsed when you arrived so we figured it might be embarrassing for her to see you that way… you got dressed faster than she expected.”
Harry laughed despite the situation. “Okay.”
His mother shimmered into place just then and Harry found himself transferred from one parent to another. It was one of the most surreal moments of his life. His hands clenched in the material of her dress. Out of all the things he thought he might ask them the one thing he’d never dared ask Sirius came out of his mouth.
“How did… why was your bond broken?”
Lily ran her fingers through his hair and sighed. “Oh, Harry.”
“It was broken,” Harry insisted. “I know it was because… how could’ve Dad planned to be the sacrifice and leave you behind? If you were bonded, you’d have died, too.”
Lily stepped back and touched his cheek with trembling fingers. “Merlin, look at you. You’re beautiful.”
Harry blushed. “People say I look like my Dad.” He glanced towards James. “I think that makes you a bit biased.”
Lily laughed. “Your Hermione thinks so, too. I heard her tell Minerva the night you arrived at Hogwarts.” She took up his hand and led him to a long bench.
Harry found himself sitting between his biological parents. “You don’t watch me all the time, right? Because there is definitely stuff I’d rather you didn’t see.”
James grinned. “No, we don’t watch all the time. We love you, kid, but sometimes the Harry Show is kind of boring.”
“Right,” Harry said and nodded. “I bet. Did you see me kick Voldemort’s arse?”
“I’m surprised you didn’t hear the celebration,” Lily said wryly. “We had quite a party that day.”
“About your bond,” Harry prodded. “I never asked Dad because frankly discussing the two of you with him has always been a path to tears and heart break. It doesn’t help that he spent all that time in Azkaban after you were both killed. It’s all mixed up together for him and over a decade of mind healing hasn’t really healed all those wounds.”
“We broke our ability to bond before we ever knew were soulmates,” Lily murmured. “We were so different, Harry, and stubborn. We fought constantly and I… was a great deal like your Hermione at first. When we went to the Ministry and saw our record, it said… it said we had a great destiny together. Fate brought us together for a purpose and we chose to see that fate through to the end despite the fact that we’d never have a soulbond in that life.”
“For me?” Harry questioned. “For that stupid prophecy?”
“I think so, yes,” Lily admitted. “Neither of us regret it, darling. How could we? You saved the world from Voldemort—he was so dark and corrupt that given a chance he would’ve destroyed everything and everyone eventually. He’d have not been content to only rule magicals nor would’ve he been satisfied with Britain. His war would have seen to the end of Magic had you not been there to stop to him.”
Harry nodded. He hated it but he understood. In the end, he knew he would’ve died to defeat Tom Riddle. More than once, he’d thought it would come to that.
“Did you see me cursed?” Harry asked. “Do you know who did it and what it was?”
“Ginny Weasley cursed you,” James said. “Magicis Iudicium Puritas.”
“How charmingly dark of her,” Harry muttered. “I didn’t take her seriously as a threat and that was pretty foolish of me.”
“You rightly assumed that her brother Ron was a bigger threat to Hermione,” Lily said. “And that’s true enough. He doesn’t know whether he hates her or loves her from one minute to the next. He’d rather she be dead than be with anyone but him. Fortunately, he’s petrified of you and that curse you put on him was a work of art, darling.”
“Thanks,” Harry said with a grin. “I put a lot of thought into it.” He cleared his throat. “So can you tell what is going on?”
“They’ve moved you to the ritual room at Gringotts,” James said. “Your conclave is trying to break the curse on you. Master Ito is leading them.”
“That’s not going to work,” Harry said. “Surely they know that.”
“I think they probably do know that but they’ve stabilized you at the very least and now they’ll have time to prepare Hermione for what she must do.”
“She’s not ready for such magic,” Harry murmured. “That’s too much to ask of her.”
“I believe she’s more than capable of meeting the challenge put before her,” Lily exclaimed. “You and Minerva both need to put a little more faith in her, Harry.”
“It’s not a matter of my faith,” Harry protested. “It’s a matter of… her own. Even if you don’t watch every minute of every day you have to have noticed how she drowns herself in theory.”
“I did the same,” Lily admitted. “But I came into my own, Harry, and Hermione has all the motivation she needs to do the same.”
“Neither my magic nor my blood is pure,” Harry said. “What Riddle left me with was cleansed the best we could but I sacrificed his soul in a ritual, mum. I’m not pure. This curse is going to be the death of us both.”
“It was better you take it than Hermione,” James said. “With your power, you had more of a chance of fighting against it. Her magical adoption aside—the curse is dark for a reason. She’d have been dead before she hit the floor because neither of her parents were pure-blood.”
Harry took a deep breath then another. “If we survive this, the political ramifications for the Weasley family are going to be devastating. I don’t know that I can protect them all from the results of Ginny’s actions.”
“I have an idea about that,” Lily admitted and smiled when both Harry and James offered her the same raised eyebrow in question. “Merlin, that’s ridiculous. Look at the two of you.”
* * * *
“This looks like necromancy,” Hermione whispered as she reviewed the spell work involved in the ritual the Glain Neidr wanted to her to perform.
“It’s as close as I’d ever have a witch of your caliber come to such magic,” Ragnok said plainly. “Lord Potter is within Death’s reach, Miss McGonagall, and you’re going to have use the bond you have with him to draw his soul back into the realm of the living. We can keep his body alive for weeks but without his soul… his magic will start to fade and when that happens we’ve all come to believe that he’ll take you with him.”
Hermione nodded. “I’m already experiencing some… it’s not quite pain but I doubt I’d survive him by more than a few minutes. Some of the books say that a person can live upwards of five years before they are drawn into death by the loss of their soulmate. I would be surprised to survive five minutes.” She used her hands to smooth out the parchment in front of her. “Is this illegal?”
“Soul and blood magic are grey,” Minerva said in the silence that followed her daughter’s question. “Such ritual magic is legal but only because old pure-blood families like the Blacks and the Malfoys have kept it so. Those who would oppose such magics don’t have the votes in the Wizengamot to impact the laws regarding rituals.”
Hermione nodded. “I just wanted to be prepared in case it was.” She turned to her mother. “I figure between the two of us—we could render seventy-five percent of the current Auror force unconscious within a half hour.”
“I agree,” Minerva said and just shrugged when Amelia Bones exhaled sharply from across the table. “Cats are quite quick as well, you know.”
“Your war record is no secret to me, Minerva,” Amelia said. “Regardless of its legality, Miss McGonagall, no one in Great Britain is going to get in your way. In fact, you could probably sacrifice that Weasley chit in the middle of the Alley and only her family would have anything to say about it.”
Hermione frowned and looked away. It had been nearly ten hours since Harry had been cursed. She played with her ring and closed her eyes. “Where is she, anyway?”
“A secured room at St. Mungo’s. The girl is not quite right,” Dawlish explained. “During questioning, she spun this whole fantasy where she was actually Lord Potter’s soulmate and you cursed them both to take her place. The Minister told us she’d been hexed with parselmagic to tell the truth so we came to realize she genuinely believed the nonsense she was spouting. By the time she told us you were really a Death Eater… well, we all agreed she needed to be evaluated by a mind healer.”
Hermione nodded. “If this curse had hit me instead… she’d have killed us both, right?”
“Lord Potter’s magical power, his having at least one pure-blood biological parent, his magical adoption by Lord Black, and the fact that he’s fully matured allowed him to stand a chance in fighting the curse,” Ragnok said when no one else proved capable of speaking. “In your current state when combined with the fact that you’re wearing Gryffindor’s Tear—your magic would’ve tried to lash out to fight the curse but would’ve been subdued by the ward and yes, you would’ve died. As you’ve already said, you don’t feel as if you’d last more than a few minutes. I imagine that Lord Potter would be in much the same danger.”
“Soulmate bonds can be as bad as a curse it seems,” Dawlish said.
“No.” Hermione looked up and met the man’s gaze. “A soulmate bond is a precious and awe inspiring gift. I was blessed by Magic. And if I die, Harry will be waiting for me and we’ll be together in whatever comes next. I’m not alone in this world and I won’t be alone in the next.”