Author: Keira Marcos
Series: The Eternal Knight
Series Order: 1
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry Potter/Hermione Granger
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Revenant AU
Warnings: Character Bashing, Explicit Language, Grammarly Beta
Word Count: 16,794
Author Note: I used a movie quote over the book version. Shrug. See the series page for more information about the Revenant concept and casting information image.
Summary: During an inquiry regarding the dementor incident on Privet Drive, Harry Potter is offered a place in the magical world so steeped in tradition and honor that everyone is left breathless with shock. He says yes.
“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.
It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.”
—William Jennings Bryan
* * * *
Within the magical world, there were many different kinds of death, and life itself was often defined in the most interesting of ways. One of Harry’s primary teachers had been an anchor candidate, someone on the list of volunteers willing to blend with and tether a Revenant, an eternal spirit, to the physical plane. He’d been fascinated and even more so when the man had returned from Yule having anchored. There wasn’t much of a difference except, of course, that the man glowed every once in a while. The spiritual energy of a Revenant was visible to everyone when it presented—Muggle and magical a like.
In the magical world, Harry had been a little startled to learn that the Revenant process was very different. There wasn’t a list for a start, and magical Revenants could communicate easily without being tethered. Plus, some just chose to hang around the place to act as if they were ghosts. But the eternal energy of a Revenant wasn’t the same as the tragic circumstances that created a genuine ghost.
Ghosts existed in the Muggle world, of course, but they were rare and treated with a great deal of care as such a condition was nearly always a result of extreme trauma. There was an entire worldwide organization dedicated to helping ghosts crossover in the Muggle world. He was startled to find that in the magical world, ghosts were just allowed, and sometimes clearly encouraged, to hang around and suffer.
He found it deeply disconcerting and sad, but he’d learned to keep those opinions to himself. It had taken Hermione Granger a little bit longer to get the hint on that front, but she’d settled down by Easter of their first year. Though Harry was still very much convinced that she was the reason that Professor Binns crossed over. Everyone had been quite startled when the teacher had unceremoniously quit his job and went into the light right in the middle of supper one night near the end of the second term of Harry’s first year. Well, everyone but Hermione, who had been quite chuffed by the development and hadn’t pretended otherwise. Binns had been a terrible teacher.
Going on five years in the magical world, and Harry had only met one anchor, and that was Professor Minerva McGonagall. It had been the first thing she’d disclosed to all the first years sorting into her house. He didn’t know much about the Revenant that Professor McGonagall anchored, but she was clearly special and moved in the magical world in such a way that practically no one could ignore her. She often outshined even Dumbledore when they were in the same room together, which Harry thought probably irritated the headmaster.
As Harry was guided through the ministry toward courtroom number ten by Professor McGonagall, he was more curious than ever about her magical circumstances and the way various ways the human soul had evolved in the magical world. His newest encounter with dementors hadn’t changed his opinion about the foul creatures. The fact that magical people allowed creatures to exist that ate human souls was such an obscenity that it made him sick. The situation had turned into a bit of a mess since he’d sort of on purpose killed the dementors that had tried to attack him and Dudley. Aurors had shown up due to the magical tidal wave that had caused, so at least he hadn’t been charged with underage magic. There had been a question regarding the Statute of Secrecy, but that had been cleared up on the scene by Director Bones as well.
It was interesting that of all the events that had taken place over the years that only now was Harry being asked to answer any questions in any sort of inquiry situation. Not even the so-called resurrection of Voldemort had warranted a conversation with the DMLE. The Tom Riddle situation was another horrific thing about the magical world as they were so damned ignorant that no one had bothered to learn that the ability to be a Revenant was a genetic quirk of human evolution and not some mystical process. Thus, not even magic could make one. Tom Riddle had damaged his soul, clearly, trying to accomplish the impossible.
“Everything will be okay, Mr. Potter.”
Harry nodded and glanced briefly at his head of house. “Thanks for coming with me today.”
“I was surprised when Albus asked me to escort you at your request,” she admitted and looked around the Wizengamot. “I’ll be in the audience if you need me. I’m considered your guardian ad litem for this event—a distinction that Amelia Bones requested.”
“I asked for you because…I trust you,” Harry said and just shrugged when the older woman blinked at him in surprise. It was the most overt statement he’d ever made about not trusting Dumbledore in his head of house’s presence.
She stared for a moment but then nodded. “The auror at the bottom of the stairs will escort you to the place where you will sit until it’s your turn to speak. Try to avoid making any noise during the proceedings and keep your attention focused on Madam Bones. There are reporters here, but they’ve already been told they cannot speak with you.”
Harry sat down where he was told to sit and watched as Amelia Bones opened the inquiry. She was clearly in charge of the whole thing, and that was interesting because several people at Grimmauld Place had told him to expect Minister Fudge to be involved and make a big deal of the situation in his bid to discredit Harry. The minister had been working really hard to convince everyone that Harry and Cedric both were liars.
Harry knew that Amos Diggory had threatened to sue the minister and the ministry if they didn’t stop disparaging his traumatized son, who had been maimed for life by a miscast Killing Curse. He’d also heard more than one person at the school say they’d rather die than have their magic damaged as Cedric’s has been. The healers weren’t sure if his magical core would ever repair itself, and while Harry felt terrible about that, he was glad that Cedric had survived.
“Mr. Potter, if you could please come forward and sit in the witness box?” Director Bones asked and gestured toward the sectioned-off chair to her left.
Harry nodded and went to the box. He settled down in the wooden chair and tried not to stiffen as various spells drifted over him. Harry grimaced and curled his wand hand around the arm of the chair.
“The chair is spelled to discern the truth, Mr. Potter. While you can refuse to answer a question—it will be obvious if you attempt to lie.”
Harry nodded. “I understand.” He looked around the room and let his gaze settle on Dumbledore just once. The man hadn’t even bothered to escort him and Professor McGonagall to the process. That action had pretty much answered the last of the questions he had concerning Albus Dumbledore.
“Mr. Potter, did you know that a fire-making charm would destroy a dementor?”
“No, I was led to believe years ago that they were incorporeal and that the only viable defense is the patronus charm,” Harry said. “I was relieved it worked. So, I did it to the second dementor before it could get away to hurt someone else.”
“See!” Fudge shouted. “He intentionally destroyed a dementor!”
“Minister,” Bones said sternly. “You were warned.”
Fudge glared at her, red-faced, and crossed his arms over his chest.
Harry focused on Madam Bones as she adjusted several pieces of parchment in front of her.
“Mr. Potter, why were you worried that the dementor might hurt someone else?” Bones questioned.
Harry shrugged. “They were clearly out of control, and the Muggles in the area wouldn’t have been able to defend themselves. I didn’t know it was illegal to destroy a dementor, so…sorry?”
Bones’ widened briefly, and she pressed her lips together before clearing her throat noisily. “It’s not illegal to destroy a dementor, Mr. Potter. It’s just believed to be impossible.”
“Oh. Is that why they still exist?” Harry questioned. “I’ve been trying to figure that out since my third year. I really don’t understand how they’re allowed to be here or to be around people. The human soul is precious, and you lot just let unnatural creatures like dementors happen that eat souls run around the country. I don’t understand why it’s not a crime against magic for them to exist. It surely is a crime against humanity.”
“Many believe that there are crimes that only the destruction of the soul is an appropriate punishment.”
“Oh.” Harry made a face. “Isn’t that for Hekate to decide?” He looked around and found most of the adults staring at him in shock. “I’d never presume to think my judgment could or should supersede the Lady.” His gaze flicked to Dumbledore, and the older man shook his head just a little. Harry decided to ignore him because fuck that old bastard. “But that’s just me. I suppose as I get older, I’ll have to make a decision about what I can tolerate in the country I live in. Do all countries use dementors in that fashion?”
“No, in fact, Britain and the United States are the only member-countries of the ICW who currently employ dementors in that fashion. Their existence is illegal in most of Europe and Asia—those countries have systems in place to control their population. Your success at destroying them will gain international attention as a result.”
“Maybe I’ll live in Italy. Rome looks really cool. Or France. I took French in primary school. I should probably start figuring out which one is the most civilized about things so I can learn the right language.” He smiled when Bones laughed briefly as people in the audience started to talk amongst themselves. “Plus, Minister Fudge has been really mean to me, and I’m just fifteen. I can’t believe there aren’t laws protecting minors from being verbally and emotionally abused by adults in the media, like the Prophet, in the magical world. I’m not sure I want to raise kids in Britain, as a result.”
Fudge huffed dramatically as witches all over the room started to glare openly at him.
“If you lot decide you want to be decent about the whole dementor thing—just let me know I can go help you get rid of them.”
Harry sat back in his chair and focused on Bones, who was smiling at him. He was kind of relieved as he’d worried that she couldn’t smile at all. She’d been really dour the whole time she’d been on Privet Drive.
“Mr. Potter, due to the destruction of the two dementors who attacked you and your cousin on Privet Drive, we’ve been unable to determine why they left Azkaban and traveled to your neighborhood,” Madam Bones explained. “The investigation is ongoing, and this inquiry is part of that investigation.”
“Dementors can just leave the prison?” Harry questioned. “They don’t need permission? That’s probably…not a good thing, right? I mean, you guys just shouldn’t let soul-eating dark creatures run about the place without some sort of security. What if they just decide to go rogue and leave the prison all at once?”
He looked around and shook his head at the shock he saw. Hermione was right—magical Britain was genuinely bereft of common sense. Harry huffed a little under his breath and glanced around the witness box. “Is there a spell on this thing that makes people especially chatty? Because I normally try to keep my mouth shut. I learned early on that adults really don’t like being told the truth.”
An older witch burst out laughing.
Bones huffed. “Madam Longbottom!”
“My apologies, Amelia,” the woman said and shifted her hat on her head as she sat in her little box on Harry’s left. “I just adore this boy.” She focused on Harry. “Tell me, lad, did you watch the resurrection of Tom Riddle in May?” She held up a hand when Fudge stood. “Shut up, Cornelius. You’ve already been told repeatedly that you are not a member of the Wizengamot and have no voice in this proceeding.”
“Are you Neville’s grandmother?” Harry asked.
“Yes, Augusta Longbottom at your service, Mr. Potter,” she said and waved a hand. “Go ahead and answer the question most of the people in this room showed up to actually hear the answer to.”
“Oh, right, well.” Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes, I was used in a creepy ritual to resurrect Tom Riddle or the wizard who calls himself Lord Voldemort. A wizard named Peter Pettigrew performed the ritual, and he also tried to kill Cedric Diggory. I thought the curse was successful, at first, so I was really surprised to find out that he was alive but petrified when I went to get his body so I could escape that terrible cemetery.”
“Peter Pettigrew is believed to be dead,” Amelia Bones pointed out in the silence that followed.
“Yes, Minister Fudge told me at the end of my third year when I told him that I’d seen Pettigrew. I also told the minister that my godfather, Sirius Black, was innocent and had been put in Azkaban without a trial, and he ignored me. Minister Fudge is really invested in ignoring anything that makes him do real work, or maybe he’s just a coward. I can’t decide, and it’s an ongoing debate at Hogwarts. Which is not great for him because all of those kids, that he terrorized by dementors for a whole year, are going to be voters in just a few years.
“He’s really short-sighted. Plus, I have a whole lot of money and I’m going to invest myself in supporting his opposition as much as I can in every single election I can until one of us dies.” He paused. “Even if I live abroad. I’ll come back just to disapprove of him financially and in whatever public fashion I can as much as I possibly can. I have a brilliant best friend, and she’s already made a plan. There are charts and to-do lists and a whole color-coded election schedule spanning the next four decades.” He stared at Fudge and watched the minister’s face pale in shock. “Justice takes many forms, you see.”
“I won’t be threatened by you!” Fudge shouted.
“I’m not threatening you,” Harry said and smiled, which caused Fudge to rear back a little. “I’m informing you of my plans which probably isn’t a great strategy, but it’s been my experience that men like you tend to ignore whatever makes them unhappy. I imagine you’ll have decided this conversation didn’t even take place by the end of next week.” He looked around the box again. “I’m gonna have Hermione research this whole witness box thing because I don’t want to get anywhere near this magic again.”
“The older you get, the better able you will be situated to ignore the desire to be exceedingly honest,” Bones said wryly. “It’s part and parcel to magical maturity.” She moved her parchments around again. “It’s been reported to the DMLE that you have a corporeal patronus, Mr. Potter. Why didn’t you use it to send the dementors away?”
“I couldn’t…cast it,” Harry admitted and flushed. “I’ve had a difficult time since the third task. That whole thing was…horrible, and I’ve been having nightmares. At least I stopped getting muscle cramps from the crucio damage I suffered, but I’m just really tired from lack of sleep. Plus, the healing potions I got from Madam Pomfrey have been leaving me a little exhausted magically, which she warned me about. She didn’t think it’d be a big deal since I’m not supposed to use magic over the summer. The fire-making charm was the one thing I was pretty sure I could cast. I figured they might run from fire. I mean, most intelligent creatures will run from it. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. I reacted the best I could and hoped it would work.” He shrugged. “I really didn’t have much of a choice.”
“Crucio damage?” Bones demanded. “You were…tortured the night Riddle was resurrected?”
“Yes, he crucioed me twice.” Harry paused. “Maybe three times? The memory gets a little fuzzy at that point. Mostly I remember screaming and knowing it was me screaming. I just…didn’t know it was possible to hurt like that. Madam Pomfrey helped me, though. It’s fine.”
“Lad.” Bones stared at him, shocked and clearly upset. “It’s…not fine. That curse is an Unforgiveable for a reason.”
“Well, it’s the least of his crimes, right?” Harry questioned, and Bones’ eyes widened in shock. “I mean, he is a dark wizard, and he tried to murder me when I was just a baby. A man that would try to murder a child isn’t exactly the sort you can trust to be anything less than a monster.”
“You’re right, of course,” she said quietly and briefly glared at Fudge when he huffed. “He’s fifteen! He’s a boy, and you….” She took a deep breath. “He’s right, Minister Fudge. You have abused him horribly in the press, and not a single person has been prepared to tell you about yourself. It’s clear from this proceeding that he is neither a liar nor an attention-seeking brat or anything else you might have said in interviews over the last few weeks.”
“This isn’t a laughing matter, young man,” Bones said hotly.
“It’s just that whole attention-seeking thing is really funny. I mean, I’m already the most famous magical person alive.” He shrugged when her mouth dropped open. “How could I possibly get more famous? How could I get more attention than I already get? Minister Fudge has been accusing me of that because that’s just…the only point of view he has. It’s the reason he would lie. So, he tells himself I’m a liar and, of course, I’m doing it for the same reason he would do it—to get fame, power, money, and attention. But what he doesn’t understand is that I already have that, and I don’t want it.” He paused. “Well, I’m quite happy about the money, but the rest is…just not important.”
A shimmer of magic shifted through the room, and a Revenant appeared in the center of the open floor space. Silence descended upon the entire audience between one breath and the next. Harry’s mind raced as the man stared pointedly at him. There wasn’t a volunteer list for Revenant anchors in the magical world. No one was prepared with classes regarding the mental and emotional organization most believed to be needed to be a good anchor. The Muggle world had a much better process in Harry’s mind. He’d taken a single class in primary that had focused on the mechanics of anchoring a Revenant spirit, the history of how Revenants came to be, and how the anchoring process had evolved over thousands of years.
“I am Gawain, son of Lot.”
“Yes, sir, I know.” Harry took a deep breath. “You’re one of the oldest Revenants in the magical world. They teach us about you at Hogwarts. You were once anchored with Godric Gryffindor.”
Gawain inclined his head in agreement and looked around the room. “Your honesty and integrity is compelling.”
Harry averted his gaze as his cheeks heated. “Thank you.”
“You carry an immense burden, lad,” Gawain said quietly. “And the burden will not lesson as the years past—there are matters in play that have not been explained to you. It is clear, as you sit there, that you’ve been left to fend for yourself since your parents were murdered. Those that should be ashamed of themselves will never acknowledge the wrongs that have been done to you.”
“Most people don’t like to admit their mistakes.”
“That’s certainly true,” Gawain said. “I’ve lingered in the Wizengamot for hundreds of years—watched as Magic herself was disrespected, and the legacy of Avalon discarded as a meaningless piece of history. I find myself deeply relieved by the knowledge that my king does not linger in the afterlife to see what became of his beloved Britain.”
“Muggle Revenants have never mentioned a connection to the afterlife. Is that just something that magicals can do?”
“Life after one departs their physical body is a matter of perception,” Gawain said. “Those who are embraced by Hekate enjoy a different set of circumstances than those who have no magic in their soul. Magic changes things on a fundamental level. It’s unfortunate that magical theory isn’t offered to all years at Hogwarts. It would serve you all to have a thorough education on such matters.”
Harry nodded. “I’ll…read some books or something.”
Gawain grinned at him. “That would certainly help. A thorough education is your best defense, Mr. Potter.”
“You can call me Harry,” Harry said.
“Harry,” Gawain agreed and moved closer until they were less than a foot apart. “Your mother was a lovely young woman, Harry. I grieved when I learned of her passing, but I was not at all surprised to know what she’d done to protect you. The love she had for you couldn’t be contained in her own body—it radiated out around her in such an awe-inspiring fashion. I used to chat with her often in her office as she worked through various tasks for the Department of Mysteries.” He leaned forward. “I also used to chat with you as well. But you probably don’t remember it. I taught you your first swear word.”
Harry took a deep breath even as several people around them laughed. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t remember it.” He paused. “What was my first curse word?”
“The f word,” Gawain said proudly. “Your mother banned me from her office for a whole month, but then she had to leave her job and go into hiding with you, so I never had a chance to see either of you again. Until today.” He reached out brushed Harry’s hair away from his scar, and Harry barely refrained from flinching at the Revenant’s warm touch. “Will you anchor me, Harry James Potter, son of James and Lily?”
Harry’s mouth dropped open. The room erupted into chaos around them, but he couldn’t make sense of what anyone was shouting.
“Enough!” Amelia Bones shouted with a sonorous charm.
“Harry!” Dumbledore shouted. “You cannot anchor the Eternal Knight! I forbid it!”
“If you want to anchor, Sir Gawain, we can find you a proper wizard—an adult,” Fudge said urgently. “This boy is the wrong choice!”
Gawain’s gaze didn’t leave Harry’s. “The only person in this room who can say no, Harry, is you. Their opinions don’t matter, their ambitions don’t serve you or me for that matter, and I think you know that.”
“Harry,” Dumbledore said and stepped down out of the gallery. “You are too young for this! Sir Gawain, you mustn’t attach yourself to this boy!”
Wards sprung up around them, and Harry’s gaze jerked around as the magical defenses of the Wizengamot pushed Dumbledore back into the audience.
“Did you do that?” Harry asked.
“The magic of the Wizengamot is sentient,” Gawain said. “And she will not tolerate anyone’s interference in this matter. This conversation is not their concern.”
“Do you know why Tom Riddle wants to kill me?” Harry questioned quietly.
“Yes,” Gawain said simply. “Your mother discussed…several matters concerning him, and I was helping her do some research.”
“You said my life is full of burden. Are you sure you want to take that walk with me?”
“It would be my great honor, Harry, to walk all the paths you must take in your life,” Gawain said gravely.
Harry nodded, and his gaze settled on Dumbledore, who was shouting, but there was no noise coming from him. The Wizengamot must have launched silencing protocols as well. He looked at Amelia Bones, who was still seated at the bench next to him.
“This decision is yours alone, Mr. Potter,” she said gently. “But know that I support you, and I will do everything in my power to help you going forward. You have my deepest apologies for allowing Minister Fudge to go unchecked for so long. I’m ashamed to say that I believed him largely harmless. Moreover, my first order of business once I leave this room is figuring out how Sirius Black went to prison without a trial.”
Harry nodded and wished that Hermione was with him. They hadn’t let him bring her for the inquiry even though he’d asked more than once. He’d really needed someone in the room that was there just for him, and it was infuriating that it hadn’t been allowed. Dumbledore was no longer trying to shout at him but instead was staring pointedly as if he could penetrate the magic of the Wizengamot and influence the situation through pure strength of will. Harry frowned and focused on Gawain.
The Revenant seemed to understand what he needed or wanted in that moment. “In your most difficult moments, what words from her gave you the greatest comfort?”
“You’ll be okay, Harry. You’re a great wizard. You really are.”
Her words swirled around his mind like a benediction. At twelve, Hermione Granger had more faith in him than anyone else ever had or probably ever would, Harry thought.
“I go to school with a bunch of twats,” Harry said plainly. “You might regret this.”
Gawain grinned. “Honestly, lad, they can’t be any worse than the members of the Wizengamot or the entire Department of Creature Regulation.”
“Okay,” Harry nodded. “Yes, I will anchor you.” He paused. “For as long as I live, you are welcome to share my mortal body.”
Gawain held out a hand, and Harry took it with no hesitation. Magic spun around them, and a dark blue light sank into him as Gawain disappeared. His magic heaved, and for a moment, his scar stung in the most horrible fashion. His vision darkened, and the last thing he heard was Amelia Bones shouting for a healer.
* * * *
Harry woke, and his wand was in his hand before he realized he wanted it. He shoved the tip up against the chin of the wizard hovering over him even as several people in the room started talking at once.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
The wizard held up both hands, one held a wand, and took a step back from the bed. “My name is Zale Wright, and I’m a healer here at St. Mungo’s, Lord Gryffindor.”
Harry slowly lowered his wand. Lord Gryffindor. He’d kind of forgotten about that part. The whole noble title attached to the Eternal Knight had been heavily featured in the history of the Revenant. Harry holstered his wand and sank back into the pillow. “Where’s Madam Pomfrey?”
“I’m here, lad,” Poppy Pomfrey came to the cot and sat down on the edge as she often did at Hogwarts when he was a guest.
“Anchoring a Revenant isn’t supposed to hurt,” Harry said and focused on her. “And I don’t feel him—did something horrible happen?”
“Sir Gawain is fully anchored in your body,” Poppy said quietly. “But he’s magically exhausted. During the anchoring process, he encountered a piece of dark magic attached to your core that I’ve never noticed before, not in any scan I’ve ever done. Healer Wright has been reviewing your records. We had to perform a ritual on you to reveal the full extent of spell work performed on your person over the course of your life. A healer named Armand Deering handled that ritual, and he’s still here.” She motioned across the room where a group of men stood. “Healer Wright is also part of Master Deering’s conclave.”
“Okay,” Harry said and took a deep breath. “Why is Gawain magically exhausted?”
“He exhausted himself keeping you alive as the dark magic was expelled,” Poppy explained. “He will recover but felt that sleeping, for now, was the best for you both.”
“I’m surprised the headmaster isn’t here.”
Poppy raised an eyebrow. “Sir Gawain threw him from the room and requested that I come here to St. Mungo’s. I don’t know the full extent of the Revenant’s ire regarding Headmaster Dumbledore, but he was completely intolerant of his presence while you were unconscious.”
“Professor Dumbledore is…manipulative,” Harry said. “I find it very offensive. Perhaps the Revenant is responding to that.”
“Certainly,” Poppy said quietly and stood. “Healer Wright needs to finish the full evaluation spell. Please keep your wand holstered, lad. The man hardly deserved to be on the receiving end of an archmagus’ wand.”
Harry flushed and glanced toward the healer. “Sorry. Your magic felt unfamiliar.”
“It’s fine, Lord Gryffindor; you’ve had a very stressful day…week…year.”
“Life,” Harry corrected and just smiled a bit when the healer blinked. “But it’s fine.”
“As Madam Bones already told you—it’s most certainly not fine.”
Healer Wright drew his wand and cast a charm that Harry had never seen before. A cloud of magic appeared above him, and he watched the results spin out. He understood more of it than he expected to and wondered if Gawain was responsible for that. He didn’t think they’d share memories when one of them was unconscious, or maybe he’d picked up a lot more from Poppy than he’d suspected over the years. He stared at the results, taking it apart as much as he could.
He turned and focused on the mediwitch. “Where’s Hermione?”
“I’m uncertain,” Poppy admitted. “Is she staying in the same place as you for the rest of the summer?”
“I’ll have her retrieved then,” Poppy said and left the room.
“Your girlfriend?” Healer Wright questioned.
“Best friend,” Harry corrected, but he felt himself blushing as he took in the looks he’d earned himself. Maybe there was more going on for him on that front, but Hermione had never expressed any sort of interest in him that way, and he was dealing with it. “What’s the verdict?”
“Your magic is rebounding, and the small core fracture you sustained during the event is repaired. Madam Pomfrey has documented your rapid healing extensively, so this isn’t a surprise.”
“That’s the parselmagic, right?” Harry questioned and raised an eyebrow when Wright paused in his work. “Something we have in common.” He glanced toward the charm work and realized why he’d understood more than normal. It was parseltongue. He glanced toward the small group of wizards in the corner. “The Glain Neidr, right?”
“Indeed, Lord Gryffindor,” an older man said quietly as he stepped forward. “I am Armand Deering. From my left—Jacob Dyson, Carter Meyers, Thaddeus Banner, and my nephews, Quintin and Walker Deadmarsh.”
Harry’s gaze flicked from each wizard as he got a nod for each name said. He nodded and focused on Healer Wright, who had ended the charm. “Were you called in specifically because I’m a parselmouth?”
“Sir Gawain demanded our attention personally,” Master Deering said. “And when the Eternal Knight makes a request, it is wise to take great heed. He was not wrong—I’m not sure you’d have survived in the care of a normal healer. Healer Wright is the most gifted of his entire generation in the healing arts.”
Harry nodded. “I didn’t realize the Revenant would be able to control my body while I was unconscious.”
“He couldn’t,” Zale said. “But he was able to project a voice magically. In order to exert physical control, he would’ve had to merge his soul energy with yours, and he would never do such a thing without permission. Sir Gawain is, at heart, a very gentle soul despite his history and the men he has anchored with in the past. You should both avoid taxing magical circumstances until he’s fully settled and you’ve recovered from the dark magic being expelled from your body and core.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed, and he focused on Master Deering. “What was it?”
“A soul fragment.”
“A soul fragment?” Harry asked. He swallowed hard around his horror, and his stomach clenched. “Did Riddle do it on purpose?”
“I think he’s done it on purpose in the past, but the fragment in you was accidental—probably when he was disembodied in 1981 as it appeared to lodge in your magic shortly after you were struck with the Killing Curse. I’ll be investigating the situation personally, and I’ve joined the task force being set up by Madam Bones to deal with the Riddle situation. The ICW has demanded action regarding Riddle’s resurrection and the corruption of his eternal soul. Breaking your soul with magic is considered a crime against magic.” He paused. “Incidentally, the ICW also considers the existence of a dementor to be a crime against magic—Britain and the US grandfathered their right to keep them into the agreement allowed their entry into the current rendition of the international body.”
“I’m going to make a hobby of destroying them,” Harry confessed. “Since it’s not illegal and probably even if they make it illegal.” He shrugged when Deering laughed.
The door opened, and Poppy Pomfrey entered with Hermione Granger in hand. She pulled the door shut behind her. Harry only got a small glimpse of Dumbledore on the opposite side of a shining silver privacy ward. He realized the ward was on the doorway itself and had sprung up automatically behind Poppy. She released Hermione’s hand, and the girl rushed across the room.
“Harry, are you okay? The wireless stopped broadcasting the moment the Eternal Knight appeared.” She grabbed his hand when he offered it and only spared Healer Wright a single glance before focusing entirely on him. “Why are you here? Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t tell me anything.”
He winced. “Hmmm. Well, as it turns out, my sorting was actually super accurate after all.”
Hermione huffed. “Harry James Potter.” She sat down in a chair that slid into place under the hand of Armand Deering. Harry didn’t even think she’d noticed that there wasn’t a chair under her when she’d started to sit. “You’re transparent as glass. I don’t know why that fool hat thought for a minute you’d fit Slytherin.” She rolled her eyes when he laughed. “What happened?”
“Sir Gawain asked me to anchor him, and I said…yes.”
Her mouth dropped open, and it said something that even gaping at him, she was still very pretty. A swirl of amusement drifted over his mind, and he realized that Gawain was awake. Then tears welled in her eyes.
“Oh, hey, it’s fine.” Harry tried to sit up, but she pushed him back down with a huff. “I’m fine.”
“You’re literally the worst,” Hermione complained and wiped her face with her free hand while the other clenched around his fingers tightly. “Like you didn’t have enough to worry about? You had to take on a magical title, too?”
“Honestly, I kind of forgot about that part,” Harry admitted. “I mean…is that really the most important element to it?”
“To some people, it will be the only element that matters,” Hermione said tartly. “And you bloody well know it. No wonder Dumbledore is in a strope—you went and emancipated yourself. Now you don’t even have to pretend to do what he wants.”
“If you’re trying to frame that as a downside, you’re failing miserably to do so,” Harry responded and sighed when she glared at him.
“It’s not part of the plan,” she said evenly. “Now I have to start all over again!” She waved her free hand. “Plus, Riddle is going to take this as a personal affront since he apparently tried to get Sir Gawain to anchor with him six different times when he was a young man.”
“Personally, I’d like to point out that no man should have to endure this level of lecture from a person he’s not even dating,” Armand Deering said dryly.
Hermione blushed furiously. “Who are all these people, Harry?”
“Oh, well, that’s Armand Deering, and the rest are the inner circle of the Glain Neidr. They had to come in and…save me because the anchoring process broke some sort of dark magic in my scar.”
“Some sort of dark magic,” Hermione repeated. “Would you care to be more specific?”
“I wouldn’t, actually, because you’re already in a bit of a state, and I can’t imagine it improving if you get explicit details. Wouldn’t it be better just to move on? I’m all healed up now and everything.”
Her gaze narrowed. “If you ever expect to get promoted from bestfriend, you will be excessively honest immediately.”
“Riddle broke his soul, and part of it ended up in my scar when he tried to kill me in 1981. Sir Gawain knocked it loose from my magic when he anchored and fractured my core a little. The Glain Neidr came in, at his request, to clean up my magic and handle healing the core fracture. That’s all I know. I promise.” He focused on Armand Deering. “Could you repair Cedric Diggory’s core in ritual?”
“In theory, yes,” Armand said. “But the Diggorys do not have the gold to fund such an expensive ritual. Preparing the ritual space alone would cost thousands of galleons in rune work, plus the potions.”
“Would a thousand galleons cover it?” Harry questioned because he’d won that in the tournament and hadn’t touched the sack since it’d been given to him. “Or would you need more?”
“That would more than cover it,” Armand Deering murmured. “Are you asking to hire the Glain Neidr to heal Cedric Diggory?”
“Yes—will his father say no? Because of the parselmagic?”
“Cedric Diggory is an only child, lad,” Armand said. “If his father has a prejudice against parselmouths, he would certainly keep it to himself if it meant his son being healed and returned to the wizard he should be.”
Hermione’s fingers tightened against his briefly, so he focused on her.
“Is this the wrong move?”
“No, of course, not. Cedric didn’t deserve to be injured so,” she said. “Let me think about the consequences for a moment.”
He nodded and watched her think through it. Harry noted that no one seemed prepared to fill the silence, and he was grateful for it. Not everyone respected Hermione’s need for quiet when she worked through a problem. Ron was the worst about it, and it was always frustrating to try to have a serious conversation when he was around as a result.
“It would be best if no one knew you paid for it,” she eventually said. “It could be seen as some sort of moral or financial debt for the Diggorys, and that’s a negative not a positive in my book. If it’s seen as an anonymous gift of sorts—they’ll be grateful and relieved. They’ll, hopefully, focus their gratitude on the Glain Neidr. That’s good across the board, providing a positive story for both the conclave and parselmouths in general, which dovetails well with our long-term goals regarding changing the public perception regarding parselmagic as a whole.”
“Master Deering, can it be done without the family knowing that I paid for it?” Harry questioned.
“We will keep any secret you ask of us, Lord Gryffindor.” Deering glanced briefly at Hermione before continuing. “We’ll leave you in Healer Wright’s hands. Feel free to owl me if you have questions or concerns. I’ll contact your account manager regarding the gold.”
“I don’t have an account manager,” Harry said. “I was told I couldn’t request one until I turned seventeen because Dumbledore froze my parent’s estate rather than read their will.”
Deering stared pointedly. “You’re a grown man, Lord Gryffindor. Magic has deemed it so. Don’t allow Albus Dumbledore to tell you what to do with your financial or magical legacy.”
Harry watched them leave and glanced at Pomfrey, who’d taken a seat across the room at a desk and was writing in what he knew to be his medical records based on the look of the book she had spread out in front of her. Each student at Hogwarts had one, and it would be just one of many things they left with once they finished schooling.
“I need to share some results with Madam Pomfrey,” Healer Wright said. “I’ll be with her should you need me. Visiting hours will end in an hour. You’ll be staying overnight, Lord Gryffindor. Madam Pomfrey will be staying as well, she insisted.”
Harry focused on Hermione as Healer Wright walked away and found her staring at their hands. “I didn’t even know I had an opportunity for any sort of promotion.”
She blushed. “I…” Tears welled again. “I was so worried about you, Harry, and Dumbledore wouldn’t tell us anything once he returned to the house. I overheard him tell Sirius that you’d been admitted to St. Mungo’s and that he hadn’t been allowed to stay. And I realized that I hadn’t been honest with you about my feelings and if something…you almost died in May and… now this.” Hermione frowned. “You’re so frustrating.”
“Sorry, I’d promise to do better, but circumstances are often beyond my control.” Harry sighed and looked across the room where Healer Wright and Madam Pomfrey were. “Meeting Master Deering changes things as well—we didn’t have that planned for years. Should we go ahead and start the correspondence in order to get me into a position to ask to be his apprentice, then?”
“I’ll think about how to approach that,” Hermione said and pursed her lips. Her fingers flexed in his hand. “He was friendly with you—his tone was warm and respectful. He used your new, mostly unclaimed title. I mean, that’s just a formality with the bank, but some will make a distinction until you’re wearing the ring. What does Sir Gawain think?”
“He’s still very tired,” Harry said. “And not talking to me. I don’t know how that will work. We didn’t get a lot of real information about the magical Revenants and what we learned at Hogwarts was mostly fanciful and not particularly concrete.”
Hermione made a face. “Magic does change things across the board. He has magic of his own, and now that magic is nesting in your core. You’re already stupidly powerful, and now you have access to an immense amount of knowledge through him. Once you start to interact with him mentally and magically…things will be very different for you. Your goals and desires might change.”
Gawain stirred inside him and urged Harry to reassure Hermione. It was an interesting feeling. He didn’t feel required to do it, but he agreed that it should be done.
“Listen, Mi, I can’t pretend things will be the same. I’ve got a 1500-year-old Revenant anchored in my body. But when Gawain asked to anchor with me, he promised to walk my path. Maybe our plans will change, but I think just for the better. We have more power than we anticipated having. So, we’ll leverage all of it to make way for us to be safe just like we have planned.”
“Safe.” She nodded and cleared her throat. “Okay. I don’t know much about noble protocols in magical society. It just didn’t cross my mind that it would be a possibility. Several of your ancestors were knighted over the years, but no title was ever granted. The title is part of Sir Gawain’s heritage—since it was conferred on Godric Gryffindor, one of his previous anchors. I’ll need resources on the Wizengamot and the function of the House of Lords within it. They’re part of the high court, which is only convened once a quarter unless there is a high profile case.” She frowned. “I’ll work on it. There might be books on it in the library at Grimmauld Place.”
“Sirius can probably help with that,” Harry said. “Make sure to talk to him when you get back. I doubt Dumbledore will have told him a single thing. Tell him I’m okay, and I’ll be back as soon as Madam Pomfrey allows me to escape.”
Hermione nodded. “Okay.” She wet her lips and cleared her throat. “Just keep an eye out and don’t let anyone take your wand from you.”
“They didn’t remove it during the healing, so I think the security charm you designed is working as it should.” He flexed his wrist a little. “It doesn’t feel as if anyone has messed with it.”
“No, in fact, we gave it a wide berth.”
Harry looked up and found Healer Wright standing at the end of the bed. “What?”
“I did consider removing the holster from your wrist, but when I touched it, I realized that it would be a very dangerous thing for me to attempt. The security magic is robust, to say the least. Master Deering made a note to ask you about it at some point since we’ve never seen anything like it before.”
“Hermione designed it,” Harry said and smiled when she blushed. “It’s part of the reason I survived the third task. Pettigrew couldn’t take my wand from me, and I was able to escape the incarceration charm he used to tie me to that headstone.” He frowned when Hermione’s fingers started to chill against his. She always pulled her magic in when she was upset to avoid having an incident of accidental magic. “It’s fine, Mi. Like I said—it saved me. You kept me safe when we were hundreds of kilometers apart.”
Hermione nodded and cleared her throat. “Right.” She focused on Healer Wright. “I’ll be pleased to share the charm with Master Deering—he only need ask. I have the spell craft written down so I can file a patent on it when I turn seventeen. I’ve dated it magically so I can prove it’s my work.”
“Very good idea,” Healer Wright said. “We’ve heard good things about you, Miss Granger, for a while now. It’s good to know that the information regarding your intelligence and potential has not been exaggerated.” He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Visiting hours are officially over. Madam Pomfrey is ready to take you home.”
Hermione nodded, and Harry reluctantly released her hand. His magic flared briefly inside of him but quieted as he gently pressed against it mentally. Harry pulled the blanket up as Hermione stood. She just waved a bit as Madam Pomfrey led her away. The mediwitch knew from experience that was the only real way of getting Hermione to leave Harry in a hospital cot. Soon enough, he was alone with Healer Wright. The man just sent him a look and retrieved his medical record book from the table in the back of the room.
Harry watched the healer sit down in the chair Hermione had been using. “Is there a problem?”
“My best friend at Hogwarts was a witch,” Wright said. “She’s living in Paris now—determined to avoid marriage and wizards in equal measure. Not that I blame her, wizards are the worst thing a witch can allow herself to tangle up with.”
Harry laughed a little. “You must miss her a lot.”
“I do,” Wright murmured. “But I am happy in her contentment. Besides, we have the same taste in wizards, and frankly, I don’t need that kind of competition.” He focused on the book in front of him. “Madam Pomfrey has been giving you nutrient potions to correct some deficiencies in your care as a child. I asked her about that, and she said you still live with the same guardians who apparently barely bothered to feed you.”
“Dumbledore insisted,” Harry said. “But I think after today, he’s not going to get much of a say going forward. Sir Gawain can’t stand him.” He considered that. “In fact, he can’t stand a lot of people. It’s very interesting.”
“The Eternal Knight has never been all that fussed to keep his opinions to himself,” Wright said. “Today was very surprising for a lot of people, and I suspect that many would have questions for you since Sir Gawain has not asked to anchor in several hundred years. I know you already know that you don’t owe anyone answers or explanations. Dumbledore’s the type to interrogate the shite out of someone given the opportunity.”
“He’s been ignoring me for the last few days,” Harry said. “Maybe he regrets that now.”
“It was clear his opinion didn’t matter to you in the least, and Sir Gawain was intolerant of his presence while you were unconscious,” Wright said. “The rules regarding interacting with Revenants, anchored or not, forced us to magically bar Dumbledore from the room while Gawain fully anchored and during the healing process. I can lift the ward now if you wish.”
“I don’t wish,” Harry said. “I’d like to get some actual sleep, and he’d probably try to take me out of here if you let him in no matter what you or Madam Pomfrey might think. He believes himself basically in charge of everything and everyone in his life. I’m no exception. In fact, I’m probably the central person he thinks he’s in charge of.”
“I took note of it,” Wright said. “I’m sure that little witch of yours as a plan for that.”
“It takes up 103 pages in her journal,” Harry admitted. ‘There are pie charts.”
Wright laughed. “Get some sleep, lad. You’ll have a very long day tomorrow. Madam Bones promised to return to get a detailed statement regarding that mess with Riddle.”
Harry had no interest in doing that, really. It had been a horrible experience, and he didn’t want to go over it again in the sort of detail a law enforcement professional would require. Gawain stirred inside him then and suggested that perhaps a copy of the memory could be offered to Amelia Bones. Harry didn’t know how to do that but figured someone could walk him through it. The knowledge of how to do it bloomed in his mind, and he huffed a little.
“Sir Gawain just taught me how to copy one of my own memories to show Madam Bones,” Harry admitted. “Just popped it right into my head. Very weird experience.”
Wright grinned at him. “Go to sleep, lad.”
* * * *
Remus Lupin met them in the lobby of St. Mungo’s and took him to a nearby floo so he could be returned to Grimmauld Place. Sir Gawain stirred gently inside him as the floo activated and they were expelled. He landed on his feet despite previous experiences and sent the Revenant a silent thanks. Lupin guided him into the kitchen without discussion, which wasn’t a surprise. The older man rarely had time for him and hadn’t since he’d left Hogwarts after third year.
Hermione was under the impression that Lupin didn’t trust Harry, but Harry thought it was more about Sirius. He didn’t know the specific but knew that Lupin and Sirius had argued more than once during the tournament because Sirius had wanted to make a stink about proving his innocence so he could take over Harry’s legal guardianship.
Harry sat down at the table and grimaced at the group of people gathered. Gawain didn’t know them all, so he silently supplied names and basic details before focusing on Dumbledore, who was seated at the head of the table like he owned the place. It was, frankly, irritating as fuck, but he knew that particular fight wasn’t his to take on, and Sirius didn’t seem to care.
“Harry, you made a reckless and clearly dangerous choice yesterday,” Dumbledore said gravely. “I won’t pretend to understand your motivations, but the situation is untenable. I must insist you ask Sir Gawain unmoor and leave your body.”
“No?” Dumbledore repeated. “It wasn’t a request.”
“No one has the authority to order me to do such a thing,” Harry said mildly. “It isn’t against the school rules for a student to anchor a Revenant, it’s not against the law for an anchor to be under the age of seventeen in the magical world, and I simply do not want to do it. So, I won’t, and I don’t care who asks, orders, or demands. Sir Gawain will stay with me as long as he wishes and not a single day less.”
Dumbledore’s magic flared dramatically, much like it had the night that Harry’s name came out of the goblet. The display amused Gawain and Harry relaxed in the Revenant’s lack of care in the situation. It was just an act, after all. Dumbledore’s power in the situation was merely an illusion the older man was projecting. No magic on Earth could force a Revenant to leave an anchor.
Dumbledore stood. “You will quickly discover that you’re not prepared to deal with the consequences of this foolhardy decision. I won’t be available to help you with it.”
“Well, that’s not really any different than any other circumstance I’ve endured since my mother sacrificed herself to protect me,” Harry said evenly, and Sirius made a choked sound. He put a hand on Sirius’ forearm, and the older man took a deep breath.
Dumbledore stormed from the room without another word. Molly Weasley tutted under her breath but didn’t say anything. That was for the best as she and Sirius had already tangled up twice since Harry’s arrival. Sirius really wasn’t on board with Molly trying to mother Harry. He’d never really paid much attention to the woman—her behavior was transparent, and she’d been unkind to Hermione during fourth year, and that was a non-starter for Harry. Hermione had forgiven Molly for that foul letter, but Harry resented the hell out of the older woman for her ugly behavior.
“Come with me, lad,” Sirius said quietly.
Harry nodded and stood from the table to follow his godfather from the kitchen. They went up three flights of stairs to the floor of the house to the area that Sirius had warded off as their personal area. Dumbledore hadn’t been thrilled with it and even less so when he’d found out that Hermione was allowed up, but none of the Weasleys. Harry dropped down on the sofa across from the desk where Hermione sat with several opening books.
“Is the anchoring complete?” Sirius asked.
“Yes,” Harry said and rubbed his sternum. “He’s fully settled in my magic and mind.”
“Good,” Sirius said and slouched down in the chair across from Harry. “Tell me what happened in the Wizengamot that left you in St. Mungo’s overnight.” He glanced briefly at Hermione as he spoke. “Hermione told me that you had foreign soul magic in your core?”
“A soul fragment from Riddle,” Harry said. “Master Deering believes that Riddle has broken his soul multiple times but did so by accident the night he tried to kill me as a baby. They’re investigating with the DMLE, which I’m sure will put Dumbledore’s back up a bit once he realizes he’s lost control of that whole situation. He does strive to be in control of everything.”
“Fear drives such control,” Sirius murmured. “The more a person has to fear, the more control they will seek to exert over their circumstances. At least, a person like Dumbledore who used to having the power and influence to do as he wishes. But you know that already. You’ve clearly been maneuvering around him for years.” He glanced at Hermione, who was now writing in her journal. “Does Sir Gawain further your goals? Change them?”
“A little of both,” Harry decided. “The title will allow for more overt actions in some situations and will advance several goals. In fact, I met someone last night that we didn’t expect to meet for at least five years.” He rubbed his knee. “It’s getting more difficult to remain neutral to Dumbledore in person. I think Gawain might help on that front going forward, despite how furious the old git is about my anchoring a Revenant.”
Hermione hummed under her breath as she wrote but then put down her quill. “The headmaster let his façade slip severely yesterday during the Wizengamot inquiry. The Daily Prophet gave an explicit account of the event—at least what it could. Apparently, the security wards didn’t allow the audience to hear the entire exchange between you and Sir Gawain. What did he say?”
“He spoke of my mother and meeting me when I was a baby,” Harry said. “He didn’t offer a genuine explanation for his request, but I was left believing he thought I would need the power he could provide. Moreover, I think he probably intended to request it from me from the very beginning. Had my mother lived, I’d probably have spoken with Gawain, son of Lot many times over the years.”
There was more to say, but unfortunately, they couldn’t trust Sirius. It was no fault of the older man’s. His circumstances weren’t ideal, and he was under Dumbledore’s direct control due to his status as a wanted man. Moreover, Harry wasn’t certain that Sirius wasn’t suffering under any sort of compulsions to report their conversations. He couldn’t put it past Dumbledore. The only reason he wasn’t personally worried about being controlled by the headmaster was that Hermione had put mental wards on them both shortly before the end of their third year.
A task she’d undertaken because she’d found a loyalty charm on Harry cast by Dumbledore. Harry figured the older man had no clue that the charm was not active or that Hermione had the ability to even look for such a thing. Many regarded her intellectualism as more of a matter of theory over practical application. Dumbledore certainly didn’t see her as a threat. Harry hoped it stayed it that way, but he also looked forward to the day the manipulative old fool realized that Hermione Granger had been running circles around practically every magical adult in their lives since the day she realized the traps hiding the Philosopher’s Stone were so easy that three first years got through them.
* * * *
Harry relaxed on the bed as Gawain heaved inside him like the ocean. The Revenant’s anchoring hadn’t gone the way he’d expected, and more over it concerned him that none of the healing work done on him in the past had taken note of the dark magic in his body. Madam Pomfrey was a mediwitch and didn’t do advanced medical work, but she had scanned his core regularly due to his magical development. Hermione had investigated various magical detection systems and medical scans, which they’d both learned. They rarely went a week without testing each other for curses and potions while school was in session.
His bedroom door opened, and Hermione slipped into the room. She shut the door and locked it behind her. Then rushed across the carpet to crawl up on the end of the large four-poster bed Sirius had so proudly presented Harry with.
“How are you?” Hermione demanded.
Harry sat up and shifted his covers around so he could fold his legs together. “I’m good. But also, kind of weird. They talk about the duality of anchoring a Revenant, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet despite the full anchoring. He’s a very sophisticated presence in my head and hasn’t shared a lot with me. I think probably he’s keeping himself to himself because of my age.”
“It’s the proper thing to do,” Hermione said. “That way he doesn’t unduly influence your mental and emotional development. Your brain won’t even finish developing for another ten years or maybe even fifteen because of magic. I haven’t really read about that. I’ll add it to my research agenda.” She folded her hands together in her lap. “Riddle broke his soul.”
“Multiple times,” Harry said. “That’s how he…achieved his wraith status.”
Gawain drifted, and Harry’s skin started to glow. Magic drifted between them, and Harry felt his core flex gently. Gawain’s voice was gentle as he spoke of broken souls and containers that could be created to hold the fragments. Harry’s mind drifted to the diary, and the spectral form of a very young Tom Riddle and Gawain took in that whole incident with a careful tug. It felt like they were exchanging memories, much like when he’d copied the memory of the third task for Amelia Bones.
“Oh?” Hermione questioned. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Harry assured. “Gawain says that Riddle created horcruxes—he broke his soul into pieces and tethered those pieces to objects.”
“Like a soul jar,” Hermione said. “Those are mythology, Harry.”
“Mythology in the Muggle world but quite real in the magical world,” Harry corrected gently. “Gawain has encountered them more than once in various anchors. The last time was when he was anchored in Godric Gryffindor. It was during that time period that soul jars were declared illegal by the ICW. It was declared that any time such a device was discovered, that it is to be destroyed on sight. The dverger have an intricate process to ensure full destruction.”
“He couldn’t become a Revenant, so he tried to achieve an immortal state in a different way,” Hermione said. “And in turn, managed to utterly corrupt his own eternal soul.” She made a disgusted face. “We knew he was…evil, but that just takes the cake.”
Harry laughed a little and tossed her pillow as he grabbed one for himself. He rolled onto his side, and she did the same after adjusting her dressing gown to keep from getting tangled up in the heavy crème silk. He’d bought it for her the previous Yule, so it was nice to see her wearing it, finally. She hadn’t worn it at Hogwarts, and he’d been worried that she hadn’t liked it.
“You didn’t wear it before,” he blurted out and felt his cheeks flush with heat when she blinked in surprise. “I was worried I made a mistake with it.”
“No, it’s perfect,” she said and plucked at the belt. “You gave it to me in private, and I figured that meant you didn’t want anyone to know you’d given me something so expensive and…intimate.”
“It’s intimate?” Harry questioned. “You’d just fussed a bit after Halloween about your dressing gown being too short, and I saw it in the catalog that Madam Malkin sent me when I ordered dress robes for the Yule Ball. I was already thinking about you since I was listing your colors on my form to make sure we matched like you wanted.” He shrugged when she nodded. “And it was just there—the pajamas and dressing gown. I just added it to my order because of the dressing gown part. I figured extra pajamas wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Oh, well, Harry.” She laughed a little. “It’s really intimate to buy a girl lingerie.”
“I thought lingerie had to have lace and ribbons and stuff.”
“You spent fifty galleons on Mulberry silk pajamas and a matching dressing gown. It was a five-piece set, by the way.” She shook her head when he shrugged. “Regardless, I tucked it away so I could pretend I bought it over the summer. I love the whole collection.”
“What are the pieces?” Harry asked in confusion. “When I get a pajama set for myself—I get a top and bottoms.”
“Well, there’s the dressing gown, a night dress, a top, shorts, and trousers,” Hermione said. “You did a great job, so don’t worry about it.”
“Okay,” Harry agreed. “Just let me know if I overstep or anything. I don’t really know much about normal relationships or friendship, for that matter. You’ve always been more than my friend—since the very start. That’s why I stopped speaking to Ron for weeks during first year because he kept being rude to you.”
“He still complains about you picking me over him,” Hermione said and curled up against the pillow. “He’s really mad that I get to sleep up here on the family floor, and he has to stay downstairs on the second floor. He says his mother is being unbearable and not letting him have any fun at all.”
“Well, he’s a lazy git,” Harry muttered. “He probably hasn’t done any of his homework. We should talk about it at breakfast in the morning to remind her, so she’ll focus on that. It’ll keep him busy and out of our hair as much as possible until school starts.”
He paused when she yawned. Harry considered sending her off to bed, but he knew from experience that she wasn’t going to do anything less than exactly what she had planned.
“I wish you’d been with me in the Wizengamot,” Harry said. “I mean, I know I have to make my own decisions and live with the consequences. But you’re better at seeing all the ramifications of the choices we make and the people we allow close to us.”
“Had I been there, I would’ve told you to say yes,” Hermione admitted. “It was a startling development, but the benefits deeply outweigh any issues that may arise. You didn’t make a choice we can’t live with, you know. It’s an amazing opportunity, overall, even if it does put a spotlight on you in a way that we haven’t planned for.” She huffed a little. “A different sort of spotlight than anything you’ve dealt with so far, but at least Sir Gawain has a lot of experience with anchoring and with helping his anchors adjust to their new circumstances.”
The door knob rattled, and Harry looked up just in time to see it light up as an unlocking spell hit it. Sirius entered and shot them both a look.
Hermione just grinned and slipped off the bed. “Goodnight, Harry.”
“Don’t stay up all night reading; I want to do some research tomorrow on how magical anchoring works, and you’re better at picking out which books provide the most accurate information.”
Sirius said nothing until Hermione pulled the door shut behind her. He cleared his throat. “I don’t mind if you spend time alone together, but I must insist you not lock the door.”
“Well, if she wanted to keep that door locked, you’d have never gotten past it,” Harry pointed out reasonably. “We just have a habit of locking a door to give us a head’s up if we’re about to be walked in on. We have a lot of conversations we’d rather no one else be privy to.”
Sirius leaned against the end of the bed. “You told me that the two of you were just friends.”
“We are, but recently I’ve learned I might be in line for a promotion.” He grinned when Sirius laughed. “Regardless, we weren’t doing anything and wouldn’t. Hermione wants a magical marriage, so she wears a discretion ward designed to defend her chastity zealously. We had it commissioned at the bank the summer before third year. I have one, too. Mine is just about ensuring my consent.”
“You don’t want a magical marriage?” Sirius questioned.
“It would be nice, but I don’t consider it a requirement or anything,” Harry said. “If my promotion works out and Hermione plans the whole marriage thing, then I will certainly go along with whatever she wants.”
“Your mother was like that—a planner. She had a schedule for everything and even had a twenty-year plan for her education after Hogwarts. She found me exceedingly difficult because I didn’t even plan what I was going to do from one day to the next. She had James all sorted and organized for life by the time we left Hogwarts. She’s certainly the reason he made it through the auror training. Do you have feelings for Hermione?”
“Yes, but…” Harry paused. “It didn’t seem like she returned them, and I wasn’t going to pressure her. I’m really her only true friend at Hogwarts, and it would be cruel to damage that by making her responsible for my feelings.”
“You took her to the ball last year,” Sirius pointed out.
“Yeah, well, that’s because Viktor Krum was following her around and being a twat. She told him no several times, and he ignored her. We talked to Professor McGonagall about it, and she warned him off officially. After that, I made sure to be with Hermione as much as possible, and I took her to the Yule Ball just to make sure he kept his distance.
“One of the first things I realized about the magical world is that pure-blood wizards make the assumption that what they want is more important than what any single witch wants. Hermione’s blood status makes it even more of an issue, honestly. I know that magical law affords her very little legal protection. Hell, a pure-blood wizard can’t even be charged with a crime for any sort of sexual abuse of a Muggle-born witch or wizard. It’s obscene. At any rate, we’ve done the best we could to protect her from the world we live in. It’s something I promised myself after that troll incident in first year—when Ron upset her so much that she hid in the loo, and I just…let her. I figured the space was what she wanted but what she really needed was for me to have her back.”
“You’re a good man,” Sirius said. “I wish I had something to do with it.” He sighed and dropped down on the end of the bed. “You two have more going on that you’ve talked with me about.”
“Can I be really honest with you?”
“Absolutely,” Sirius said and seemed to brace himself.
“You have zero control over your own circumstances, and I don’t trust Dumbledore,” Harry said, and his godfather winced. “I don’t know if he’s using magic against you, and I don’t if you could fight him off if he decided to interrogate you. We haven’t checked you for compulsions or charms or whatever. Hermione and I have been talking about doing it but didn’t know how to do it. We also didn’t know how you’d respond.”
“I’m only allowing Dumbledore and his lot in this house under the stipulation that I can see you, Harry,” Sirius said. “He didn’t want to bring you here at all for the summer, but I made it clear I’d throw the Order out if he didn’t bring you here after the dementor incident.”
“Right, well, thanks for that. I didn’t like Hermione being somewhere I couldn’t find if she needed me.” He frowned. “And honestly, I was getting ready to ask her to take a room on Diagon Alley for the month of August. Especially after I found out that Dumbledore had tried to refuse to let her write me, and she circumvented that whole situation by using the Muggle post.”
“He said you needed space to deal with your trauma.”
“Dumbledore has zero emotional intelligence,” Harry muttered. “Hermione thinks he’s a sociopath, so he just doesn’t know how to deal with other people’s emotions. Also, have you ever noticed how over the top all of his emotions are? Like he’s not really sure how he should act, and he just—overreacts sometimes?”
“He’s always been that way—he has a big persona, but it’s a projection of sorts. Most people believe he’s just that way because he’s brilliant and powerful.” Sirius shrugged. “I’ve always found him difficult to be around for long periods of time. Fortunately, he doesn’t spend a lot of time in the house.”
“You should know that I gave Madam Bones several memories—about Riddle, but also she’s seen Pettigrew confessing to being my parent’s secret keeper and to blowing up the street. She also has a memory of Fudge refusing to take me seriously regarding your lack of a trial. She’s promised to ruin his whole life.” Harry shrugged when Sirius gaped at him. “Dumbledore has no clue. There never was a trial or a conviction, so—you can’t be pardoned or whatever. But I think she’ll probably announce your innocence within the week. Then, I think we should go to the bank and make a spectacle of ourselves for Hermione’s amusement.”
“We’ll catch hell leaving the house.”
“Nah, we can up on the roof and use brooms, disillusion ourselves, and leave on brooms.” Harry shrugged when Sirius huffed. “I mean, what’s the point of having brooms if we only ever use them to play quidditch?”
“Right. I don’t actually have one of my own.” Sirius dropped down on the bed and stared at the canopy.
“I have two,” Harry confessed. “One is for Hermione, but she’s not great on it, so you can fly that one, and she can ride with me. It’s a Nimbus 2000; I bought it in Hogsmeade last year as a backup. I realized that if I had to use a broom for another task that I didn’t want to risk my Firebolt.”
“Well, that’s not something anyone knows,” Sirius said. “Because I can’t imagine Ron Weasley not bitching about that incessantly if he knew you had two brooms.”
“Nah, he knows precious little about anything, really. We figured out early on that he can’t keep a secret to save his life, and his jealousy is actually crippling. I do wish that he was more dependable, but it is what it is. I wouldn’t trust him to breathe if his body didn’t do it automatically. If he finds out about it, we’ve already decided to tell him that Hermione’s parents bought it for her, and I keep it in my trunk because she has too many books in hers.”
“Right, well, go to sleep. I suspect tomorrow will be a very long day once Dumbledore realizes what you’ve done with Madam Bones. He’s in a right state over the whole Revenant issue, and his inability to do a damn thing about it has driven him around the twist.”
Harry just nodded and stayed where he was until his godfather left and pulled the door shut behind him.
“My apologies, lad, I didn’t realize it would be dangerous for you to anchor me.”
Harry considered that and left the bed. He snatched up his dressing gown, pulled it on, and crawled into the large bay window. “It’s okay, Gawain. Who the hell would’ve considered such a thing a possibility?” He touched his scar, and magic shimmered around them. Gawain appeared in front of him, and Harry stared in shock. “Did you just unanchor?”
“Of course not,” Gawain said and smiled when Harry huffed a little. “You’d feel it, and I can’t say it would be pleasant. Revenants can and often do unmoor from an anchor before death occurs. The magus lives a very long time, and often as they age, it becomes a burden magically to anchor a Revenant so we move on when we must.”
“What sort of burden?” Harry asked curiously.
“Emotionally, magically, physically,” Gawain listed. “It’s all individual. I unmoored from my last anchor because his wife died, and he was devastated. He felt as if he could no longer properly stimulate me. I was prepared to stay with him until his very last moment—to give him whatever comfort I could, but that would’ve been stressful for him since he was convinced I would suffer in such a situation.”
Harry nodded. “Does it shorten an anchor’s lifespan if you unmoor? I know that anchors in the Muggle world can live decades longer than normal.”
“You could live upwards of 300 years and not be unduly impacted by physical age until your late 200s,” Gawain said. “So, yes, anchoring just short of doubles the life of a magus. The unmooring does take away those extra years as the Revenant is no longer there to slow the aging process down with the magic inherent to the Revenant state.”
“Why are you just now appearing to me? Muggle Revenants can’t do this…can they?”
“They can’t,” Gawain said. “They are dependent entirely on their anchor for communication. As for the astral projection—we haven’t discussed how much of our mutual state will be revealed to the people in your life. I have no interest in interacting with Albus Dumbledore, but I’ll do what is necessary to defend us both from his machinations.”
“He’s a problem,” Harry said. “Right? A bigger problem than we’ve even suspected.”
“He’s not what anyone would consider a dark wizard in a traditional sense, but we can’t trust him. He’s never had your best interest at heart, and your parents didn’t have the chance to truly realize the ramifications of that.”
“Why does Riddle want me dead?” Harry questioned.
“Before you were born, a prophecy was made declaring that a chosen one would come with the power to defeat a dark lord. That dark lord was determined to be Lord Voldemort. He discovered a portion of the prophecy and came to believe you were his enemy.”
“Do you know the wording of the prophecy because Hermione will want it,” Harry said and took a deep breath. “Does Sirius know about this?”
“I do know the exact wording, and no, Sirius doesn’t know,” Gawain said gently. “In time, Dumbledore, who witnessed the prophecy, only told your parents and the parents of the other child that might have been the chosen one.”
Harry let that sink in. His mind raced a bit as he considered his peers and the events that he knew to have taken place after his parents were murdered. “Neville Longbottom.”
“Yes, but Voldemort did not make a mistake. In attacking you, he tipped his hand in more than one way, and his real identity was revealed in the aftermath of Godric’s Hollow. I can tell you that Dumbledore did not wish for anyone to know Voldemort’s true identity.”
“Why?” Harry asked curiously.
“He didn’t think that the general populace could handle Riddle’s true magical circumstances. Albus Dumbledore is of the belief that most people don’t need to know the details. His version of the greater good is entirely dependent upon ignorance. He creates his so-called greatness by encouraging mediocrity in those around him.”
“Wow.” Harry laughed a little and focused on the street in front of the house. He watched shadows for a bit, picking out the members of the Order of the Phoenix doing exterior security. When he’d first realized they were guarding the house, he’d felt guilty—assuming they’d been given the duty to protect him. “They’re not there to protect me.”
“No,” Gawain agreed. “This house is a prison for you and your godfather, and that’s not a circumstance we can allow to continue, Harry. It’ll be the death of him, and he’s suffered quite enough.”
Harry focused on the Revenant. “What are our options?”
Gawain grinned. “Did you know that the moment I anchored with you, you became my heir?”
“That’s for the title, right?”
“The title was bestowed upon Godric, son of Mal while I was anchored to him,” Gawain said. “Which is why I’ve never allowed anyone to personally call me Lord Gryffindor. He knew he would die without issue. So, near the end of his life, we chose to merge our soul energy, and when I anchor, the title settles on whoever I’ve created a duality with. Magically, you are now part of my line and all of my material assets, which have grown in an obscene fashion over the years, are now yours. Each anchor has blended their own family wealth into mine. It is a choice you’ll make when the time comes. I would like…I believe that going forward, Harry, that I will stay with your family.”
“You won’t return to the Wizengamot after I die,” Harry said.
“I would prefer to anchor with one of your heirs—a child or grandchild. Whoever is most suited to the process, magically and emotionally. There is a unique peace in your family magic I’ve not known since I anchored with Cadmus Peverell.”
“He’s my ancestor. I found his name in a book in the library at Hogwarts.”
“Yes, he is. I sense his influence in you, and I always have—the Peverell magic stirs in your core in a very unique and interesting fashion despite how distant the relation is. Perhaps that comes down to your mother and the choices she made the night she died.”
“You know how she did it, right? How she protected me from Riddle?”
“I helped her create the sacrificial ward,” Gawain said. “It was Lily’s research that revealed who Voldemort was and what his goals were. I made sure that information fell into the right hands after she perished. She called upon ancient family magic—Potter and Peverell to create a living, sentient ward inside your body. And she fueled that ward with her own magic by sacrificing her life. I didn’t witness it, but I can assume she made a bargain with Riddle that he did not understand.”
“She begged him to take her instead of me,” Harry said. “I remembered it—the night my mum died—the first time I encountered a dementor.”
“I haven’t touched your memories that you haven’t actively shared with me,” Gawain said. “And I won’t without permission.”
“I figured I wouldn’t have any secrets,” Harry admitted. “So, yeah, it’s fine. Hermione will certainly find your perspective invaluable going forward, which we won’t get unless you fully understand my circumstances.”
“Then I’ll…start my review while you sleep,” Gawain said. “It will be less stressful for you that way, and you shouldn’t dream of it.” He looked around the room but then focused on Harry intently. “Sirius Black is in a very vulnerable position, Harry. As his heir and only real family, it is your duty to do what you can to mitigate the danger to him. He cannot stay in his current circumstances. Dumbledore will use him to control you for his own benefit, which could see your godfather outright killed in some circumstances.”
“And you say Dumbledore isn’t a dark wizard,” Harry muttered.
“One of the first things I will teach you, Harry Potter, is what it means to be a good man—a thing that has nothing to do with light or dark magic.”
Harry considered that then nodded. “I look forward to learning all I can from you, sir.”
“Go to sleep, lad. Your witch will be up bright and early.”
Harry flushed. “I hope you can give me advice on that front, too. I don’t have any sort of clue what to do on this theoretical promotion, and I have a feeling Sirius wouldn’t be much of a help.”
Gawain inclined his head. “You might find my views on such things restrictive, lad. I know how the modern man treats women, and it’s deeply offensive to me.”
“Hermione deserves to be treated with the utmost care,” Harry said and left the bay window. “And wants a magical marriage, as I’m sure you heard me tell Sirius. I respect that wish and won’t allow anyone to interfere with it, not even me.” He crawled up onto the bed. “As for interacting with others—let’s restrict that to Hermione for the present. Sirius probably has enough going on at this point, and you’re a lot. Tomorrow, you can explain our new resources to Hermione so she can start adjusting the plan.” He waved at his face. “Which you can learn about while I sleep.”
* * * *
Ron sent Harry a dirty look from his place at the kitchen table. The little git was shoveling food into his face, per usual, so Harry focused on the plate put down in front of him and frowned when the ward embedded in his holster twinged with alarm. He glanced over the food, flicked his gaze toward Molly Weasley, and frowned. Sirius was seated across the table from Harry and was reading the paper with a cup of tea near him.
Harry drew his wand and cast a detection spell on his plate. Sirius dropped his paper the moment the spell left Harry’s mouth, and he stared pointedly at the plate as it started to glow. The cup of porridge was glowing pink, and the eggs had an ugly grey hue that he knew well enough. When he was younger, he’d often mixed his nutrient potion into his food because it made it easier to handle. But the pink glow was certainly not a nutrient or vitamin potion. He holstered his wand sat back as Sirius cleared his throat.
“Molly, what have you added to Harry’s food?”
“Just nutrient potions,” she lied.
“I take a full regimen of potions directly prescribed by Madam Pomfrey. Potions you have no clue of, so you have no business trying to supplement them,” Harry said coldly and stood. “And the potion in the porridge is most certainly not a nutrient potion. That’s a behavioral modification draught, Mrs. Weasley.” He glared at her when she blanched. “It might interest you to know that dosing a peer is considered felony assault. Even the nutrient potions are a crime since you didn’t ask me first.”
“That’s nonsense,” Molly snapped. “You aren’t a peer, and that’s just a vitamin potion. I’ve given it to all of my children.”
His skin started to glow with magic despite his best efforts, and people backed up. “I am the Earl of Gryffindor, and I’m not your child. And if you’re giving that shite to all of the children you birthed, then they all need to be taken to St. Mungo’s.” His magical aura shifted, and Gawain heaved in him like a storm. “It’s also a crime to attempt to control an anchor with a potion or spell. You’ve attempted to violate my emotional and magical autonomy, which means you’ve also infringed on Sir Gawain’s rights.” He focused on Tonks, whose hair had fallen flat in a shade of black he’d never seen her have, and her mouth was set in a grim line. “Isn’t that right, Auror Tonks?”
Tonks wet her lips. “Yes, that is exactly right. The detection spell he used was auror grade, and he cast it perfectly. The potion in the porridge is at least a Class IV behavioral modification draught.”
She drew her own wand and cast a spell on the plate, which pushed Harry’s own spell work away. A stasis field fell into place first, then Tonks cast a series of forensic spells that were vaguely familiar to Harry. Probably because Hermione had a whole host of spells she wanted them both to study. The results spun around in the air in front of her and stilled as the diagnostic finished.
“Bloody hell!” Sirius hissed. “Molly! What the fuck is wrong with you?” He walked around the table, grabbed Harry’s arm, and pulled him entirely from the table.
“What is it?” Harry asked even as Gawain filled his head with the appropriate information. He turned to Molly. “Sexuality suppression? Gawain says it’s called Aphroditus and suppresses homosexuality. What’s wrong with you?”
Molly’s cheeks darkened. “Sir Gawain has a history of anchoring with gay wizards. I couldn’t let him taint you with that disgusting behavior.”
“Get out of my house,” Sirius demanded coldly.
“Wait,” Harry said. “She said she’d given it to all of her children, Sirius.”
“And that can be addressed at a later date,” Sirius said. “They certainly have the right to know that their mother has done to this them.” He focused on Molly, who was glaring at him. “Your ignorance and prejudice makes you as dark as a Death Eater, Molly. As the Earl of Blackmoor, I declare you persona non grata. You are not to have any contact with my godson, Harry James Potter, for as long as you live.”
“You can’t make that decision!”
“He is the heir of the House of Black!” Sirius shouted. “It is done! Get the fuck out of my house!”
Harry focused on Ron, who was standing in the corner of the kitchen, face pale, hands trembling. “What’s wrong, Ron?”
“It’s just….” Ron took a shuddery breath. “I had a crush on Dean my first year, but the summer before second year, it just went away. I thought it was because I hadn’t seen him a while, and when I went back to school…there was just nothing there.” He turned to look at his mother. “You…why would you do that to me? How could you…do that to your own children?”
“I’ll go get Bill—he’s at the bank,” Tonks said quietly. “Go upstairs, Ron, and try to stay calm. Class IV draughts can make the magical core fragile if they aren’t cleansed properly from the body after use.”
“They also can create severe mental disorders,” Sirius snapped.
Ron left the kitchen quickly, eyes wet with tears, and Harry felt like he might be sick. Gawain was raging inside him, and as a result, his own magical aura was flaring dramatically beyond his control.
“Harry,” Molly began but trailed off when he glared at her.
“The Earl of Blackmoor ordered you out of his house. Your lack of respect for the wishes of others is genuinely disgusting to witness, and it always has been.”
He summoned a napkin from the table wandlessly, ignored the gasps of shock. His hand glowed with magic as he hissed, “Portus.” He banished the napkin across the room, and it smacked against Molly’s chest. She popped away in the wake of portkey magic.
“What…” Tonks snorted. “Where did you send her?”
“The Burrow—I’m not an arsehole or a dark wizard,” Harry said shortly. “Before you get Bill, get Moody and let him know that the Order of the Phoenix is no longer welcome in the ancestral seat of the house of Black. You lot have one goddamned hour to get out of this house.” He grabbed Sirius’ arm and tugged him from the kitchen. “Kreacher! Keep an eye on them, and don’t hesitate to toss them all out on their arses if they stay a single minute longer than the hour they’ve been given. The Weasley kids can stay, if they want, for the moment.”
* * * *
Harry lingered in the doorway of Ron’s bedroom. After he’d explained to Hermione what had happened in the kitchen, she’d darted right off to check on Ron. The boy was still on the bed, shoulders shaking gently while his face was buried in his pillow. Hermione was perched on the side of the bed, gently patting his back. Harry didn’t know if it was helping at all, but she looked determined, so he’d decided not to say anything.
Harry shifted out of the way as Bill Weasley came running down the hall. Bill sort of barreled into the room, and Hermione shot up out of the way as the older man hauled his baby brother into a fierce hug. Harry winced when Ron started to cry in earnest. He’d never, ever heard grief like that in his life, and he didn’t know what to do with it. Hermione grabbed his hand and pulled him from the room—shutting the door behind them.
“Where are the twins?” Hermione questioned.
“In the library looking up the potion,” Harry said. “I’m going to write a letter to Armand Deering. If anyone knows anything about healing that kind of thing, I think it would have to be him. The twins say they never really thought about anything but girls but figured their mom dosed them as a just-in-case sort of situation. I wonder if she dosed them all that same summer as Ron when she realized he was gay.”
“Let’s join Fred and George in the library, and we’ll draft the letter to Armand Deering at the same time. If Arthur Weasley agreed with this dragonshite…I’m gonna….” Hermione took a deep breath. “Do you remember how he was first year? After he calmed down? Then everything started to sour inside him, and I just thought it was because he was jealous of you.” Her mouth trembled. “Behavioral modification draughts like the one she gave him can be mentally…damaging, Harry. He might not ever be the wizard he could’ve been. And there’s no telling how it’s impacted the rest of them.”
When they entered the library, they found Fred and George at a large table with dozens of books piled up around them. Ginny was curled up in a chair by the fireplace staring into the ashes of a long-dead fire. Hermione joined the twins, and Harry found himself walking across the room to sit in front of Ginny. She hadn’t had much to do with him since they’d fought over the Chamber of Secrets at the beginning of her second year. He’d been furious with her because of the attack on Hermione, and he’d made sure the girl knew it. Any chance Ginny had ever had of being even his friend had died the day the girl had led that basilisk in Hermione’s direction.
Ginny looked at him briefly, tucked a lock of flame-red hair behind her ear, and took a deep breath. “I tried…Ron was inconsolable.”
“Mum asked me once—if I thought I might like witches,” Ginny said. “I told her no, of course, then spent a whole hour talking about marrying the Boy-Who-Lived. I’d never even met you. She encouraged that, by the way. Sometimes, it was like that was the only goal I was allowed to have.”
Harry didn’t have to tell Ginny it was never going to happen. He couldn’t hardly stand to be around her because of the diary and how she’d willingly allowed it to use her magic for over a year. There was a lingering taint in Ginny’s magic that would never go away, and it was disgusting to Harry. The thought of touching her made him want to throw up, and it had since he’d pulled her from the Chamber of Secrets.
“But she dosed me anyway; the twins verified it,” Ginny said. “Probably the summer before my first year.” She took a deep breath. “Fred said that the potion can cause mental side effects. Do you think it made me more vulnerable to the diary?”
“I can’t see how it wouldn’t have,” Harry said grimly. “You were already young and vulnerable. The potion probably opened you up mentally in ways that we’ll never understand—especially at that age. She said she’d given it to all of her kids.”
“We’d have probably never known if she hadn’t tried to dose you,” Ginny said. “I don’t know what we’ll do if Daddy knew about it.”
“Bill, Charlie, and Percy are adults—the four of you will have a place to live, and I don’t think Sirius would kick you out either,” Harry said and looked around the room. “I mean, this is a terrible old house, so here’s hoping we can get it cleaned up in some fashion with magic now that your mum isn’t around to berate us for taking advantage of the unplottable location.”
“I hate her for what she’s done to Ron,” Ginny said quietly. “Is that dark?”
“It’s reasonable,” Harry said roughly. “You’re allowed to…have your own emotions, and they’re valid. Your mother has betrayed you all in the basest way possible. I can’t imagine it. She’s supposed to protect you from people who would hurt you.”
He couldn’t really imagine it, and Gawain stirred as if to comfort him, but Harry wasn’t the one that Molly Weasley had betrayed. He’d already known he couldn’t trust the overbearing witch. He’d known since the summer of second year when she’d ignored his circumstances on Privet Drive after Ron and the twins had told her about the lack of food and the bars on the window. He just thought she cared more about her own children.
Kreacher popped into place in front of him. “Master Harry, Lord Black says you retreat!”
Harry stood immediately, and Hermione jumped up from the table even as he held out a hand for her. He jerked her close and activated the portkey he was wearing just as the door opened and Moody entered the library. They landed gently, safe in the magic of a dverger made portkey, in a secure room deep in Gringotts, and two guards appeared briefly in the door before they both darted away.
Harry held Hermione close as she was shaking already from the cool air. He’d never expected Sirius to order him to use the portkey he’d had made after the third task. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath against her hair. Harry wasn’t sure if he should’ve brought her, but he couldn’t have fathomed leaving her behind in Grimmauld Place if Sirius had declared the house unsafe for him.
Harry looked up and found the chieftain of the Horde standing in the doorway. “Chieftain Ragnok, I apologize for the abrupt arrival.”
“Your portkey was designed for just such a circumstance,” Ragnok said gravely. “Come, we’ve been preparing for your arrival since you anchored Sir Gawain.”
“We’re pleased to see you again,” Harry said and paused because that felt true and weird at the same time. The duality of his circumstances kept sneaking up on him. “I have a couple of issues, but mostly I’m worried about the fact that my godfather ordered my retreat from the ancestral seat of the House of Black.”
“His own portkey delivered him into a secure cell just a few moments ago,” Ragnok said as he motioned them both to follow him.
“A cell?” Harry demanded. “Why would you….”
“Harry.” Hermione squeezed his hand. “The treaty between the Horde and Britain would demand it. I’m sure he’s perfectly safe.”
“I’ve notified Madam Bones and the recently appointed Minister for Magic, Lord Jonah McGregor, that Lord Black has surrendered himself to the bank,” Ragnok said as they walked. “They can’t take him from us without a trial process through the ICW. Your godfather planned this, Lord Gryffindor.”
“Please, call me Harry,” he urged.
“In private,” Ragnok agreed. “I’ve taken the liberty of assigning your accounts to my son-in-law, Tyr Warhide. Normally, I would’ve given them over to my son, but he’s currently in his sixth month of gestation and is quite short-tempered as a result. I’d rather not have to have another rebellion because my son lost his temper with some dumb old wizard. As a result, I’ve confined him to Agharti.”
“Your first grandchild?” Hermione questioned.
“Yes, my wife is beside herself,” Ragnok said.
“Congratulations, sir,” Harry said. “May the child have the constitution of a dragon.”
Ragnok grinned. “I can see Sir Gawain’s already being a good influence.” He led them through a series of halls and into a large suite of rooms. “You’ll stay here, and tomorrow, we will start to untangle the mess and contact the ICW. Be at ease, please, as you are both quite safe in my care.”
Harry gave Hermione a quick nod when she looked his way.
“Thank you, sir.”
Kreacher appeared briefly, dropped two trunks in front of them with little care, then snapped his fingers. He disappeared, and Hedwig appeared in her cage. Crookshanks followed shortly. Hermione let go of his hand and picked up her cat.
Ragnok gave them a nod and shut the door.
“I guess Moody didn’t like getting kicked out of Grimmauld Place,” Harry said mildly.
Hermione took a deep breath. “You know what this means?”
“Dumbledore doesn’t have a single damn problem with what Molly did,” Harry said grimly. “And that’s disgusting considering we both know he’s gay, himself. It just highlights how much the desires of others mean absolutely nothing to him. I hope Bill can handle his parents.”
“I think his parents have no clue what Bill is capable of,” Hermione said. “Plus, he has the twins, and frankly, they’re vicious in the right circumstances. They’re both furious with their mother. I don’t think Molly or Dumbledore is really prepared to deal with a whole bunch of furious Weasleys.”
Harry dropped down on the sofa and, for the first time since he anchored Sir Gawain, purposely sought out the Revenant. His mind was enveloped gently, and his magic settled in a deep, comforting way. He closed his eyes and distantly took note of the fact that Hermione slipped a blanket over him.
“We don’t regret it.”
“You have nothing to regret, Harry,” Hermione murmured and pressed a soft kiss against his forehead. “Just relax here. I’ll find something to read.”