- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- Dark Themes
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Rape
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
“Are you sure about this?” Sirius asked.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Harry murmured. “I need to know. I…” Harry took a deep, calming breath. “I realize it’s going to be difficult and painful but frankly I’ve suffered far worse and you know it.”
“I do know it,” Sirius agreed. He carded a hand through Harry’s hair and sighed. “All right then. I’ve asked Poppy to provide a muscle relaxer and we’ve a special pain relief potion for afterward. We can’t give you either until after the animagus potion has worked through your system. Thank you for agreeing to do this in the infirmary.”
Harry glanced towards the door where Bill and Zale were stationed. “And Hermione is in Hogsmeade with Piper?”
“Yes,” Thaddeus said. “Though you’re going to pay a rather steep price personally for keeping her out of this particular situation.”
Harry took the steaming potion from Sirius’ hand and frowned. “I can handle a lecture, Thaddeus but watching this would make her cry. Also, I’m afraid she’d ask for the potion as well and I’m not going to buy it for her. She couldn’t afford to purchase it on her own due to the rules of her trust fund and her parents won’t buy it for her. A few of the ingredients are extremely expensive—so she’s unlikely to gather them to brew her own version without funds from me. This is just for the best. It’s high-handed and arrogant, I think to make this decision for her but she’s often so invested in the academics that real-world consequences are sometimes abstract.”
“Give me an example,” Sirius said as Harry settled down on a thin mattress they’d put on the floor in the private healing room.
“In our first year, she told me and Ron that she considered getting expelled a fate worse than her actual death,” Harry said wryly. “In her second year, she used a time-turner to take every single class she possibly could, including Muggle Studies. By Yule, she was exhausted and sleeping less than five hours a day. Let’s not even discuss her reaction to finding out about house elves. She’s convinced they’re slaves and nothing anyone said to her has had any sort of impact on her beliefs. I’ve resorted to buying books on the subject and donating to the library in the hopes she’ll find them in her research quest. I adore her, truly, but if Hermione Granger has a god—it’s knowledge and her altar is shaped like a book.”
“Right then.” Thaddeus joined Sirius kneeling on the floor and drew his wand. “I’m going to cast a charm on you to keep you from swallowing or biting your tongue.”
Harry nodded and stayed still as Thaddeus cast the charm with a few deft movements of his wand. What he liked most about his senior vassal was the man’s confidence in his magic and his own ability. He figured that it was something that Neville admired as well because he’d mentioned it. Harry studied the still steaming goblet of potion and took a deep breath. “Okay, then.”
He tossed back the potion with another word and handed the goblet to his godfather.
“You’re such a Gryffindor,” Zale complained and shrugged when he got glares from everyone in the room.
Harry relaxed back on the mattress and flexed his bare feet. He was wearing a pair of loose cotton trousers. Sirius settled down beside him and poked his trim waistline where he was just starting to get a little bit of definition.
“Putting on a bit of muscle weight.”
“Thaddeus is a sadist,” Harry complained. “No where in his vow did it say he had the right to torture me.” He shivered and curled his toes. “It’s…hmmm. Wow.”
“Starting to hurt?” Sirius questioned.
“Yes, as a matter of a fact,” Harry murmured. “Quite a lot actually.” He shifted on the mattress. “But not quite as much as being bitten by a basilisk so that’s something.”
“Where would you rate it?”
“Well above a broken bone,” Harry decided. He plucked his glasses off his face and passed them to Sirius. “Oh…oh. Holy…” He hissed and closed his eyes.
Harry fisted his hands around the edge of the mattress as he fought to stay still.
“No, don’t stiffen up,” Sirius murmured. “It’ll only make it hurt worse. Try to relax as much as possible.”
Harry made a face. He literally had no clue about how to go about relaxing with his nerves on fire. His feet curled against the pain and he couldn’t help but roll onto his side, curling in himself. “Thaddeus.”
“I’m here, lad.”
“I think…I think I’m going to be dangerous.”
“Dangerous?” Thaddeus questioned.
“Predatory,” Harry hissed. “Oh!”
His body jerked against his will and he bowed up off the mattress. Magic streamed off of him and they all scrambled away from him as lightning cracked on his skin, current flowed over him and the door opened abruptly. Dumbledore who had been content to wait out in the infirmary strode in, wand drawn. He stared in horror at Harry and pulled the door shut behind him. Harry levitated off the mattress and magic snapped around him as his body shifted. In a swirl of magic he went from wizard to a large bird of prey in an instant.
“Oh.” Sirius relaxed. “That’s not bad at all, lad. Golden eagle?” He asked with a raised an eyebrow towards Thaddeus.
“No,” Thaddeus murmured. “I don’t think so.” He turned to Dumbledore who had yet to put his wand away. “Headmaster?”
“Thunderbird,” Dumbledore said shortly. “Most will mistake him for a Golden Eagle. That’s certainly how we’ll register him. Very few people will ever suspect differently considering such a form is to be considered impossible in the modern age.” He opened the door. “Minerva.”
McGonagall entered the room and walked to wear Harry was sitting on the mattress. “Well, then, let’s get a look at you lad.” She held out a hand and Harry gamely hopped onto it. She walked to a chair so he could perch on the back of it then drew her wand and cast a charm. “Thirteen pounds four ounces, his wingspan is eight feet. Black and brown feathers with a just enough gold mixed in. He’ll pass for a Golden Eagle so that’s how we’ll register him.”
“What’s giving him away?” Bill asked. “And can we mask it?”
“His magical signature and no we can’t mask it. Only four percent of the magical population of Britain has mage sight and most wouldn’t make a connection between his signature and a magical animagus form. I assumed he’d have a magical creature form,” Minerva admitted. “Which means he’ll eventually be able to assume other bird shapes.” She turned to Sirius. “How many dog forms do you have?”
Sirius flushed. “Three. Recently I’ve been working on a small dog—Jack Russell Terrier but my primary form is the Grim.”
“Then this is probably your fault,” Thaddeus said as he stared at Harry. “There hasn’t been a magical animagus in the Potter line in recorded history—not Gryffindor or Pendragon either. Godric Gryffindor was a lion and so was Pendragon. Even birds of prey are somewhat rare in the line. Your blood adoption took place when he was very young, right?”
“He was five days old,” Sirius admitted. “We wanted him as entrenched in the Black family magic as he could be so we did it as soon as Poppy said it was safe.” He touched Harry’s feathers hesitantly and the bird ruffled his wings but leaned into his touch. “You were right, of course, this is a very useful form. And honestly, there is absolutely no way I’m not going to call you Zeus.”
Zale laughed. “Yes, I agree that it’s fitting.”
Harry chuffed and tried to hit his godfather with a wing.
“Ouch,” Sirius huffed as static crackled over his fingers. “You’re just like your mother.”
– – – –
The red dress was basically sleeveless, except for transparent straps that cupped her shoulders. The empire waist was flattering and made her look taller than she was which she liked. She was easily the shortest girl of their year and Harry had gained several inches in height over the past few months. “I’d like a small heel—nothing that would make me as tall or taller than Harry.”
“He’s easily five inches taller than you at this point so no, I agree nothing that high,” Piper said. She glanced towards Hannah Granger who was nursing a cup of tea. The woman hadn’t done well on the Knight Bus. Piper figured they’d try side-along-apparition for the return trip to Crawford. “Hannah?”
“It’s a lovely dress—modest but flattering,” Hannah murmured. She turned to the shop keeper. “And you have a waistcoat to match the dress?”
“I’ll be able to charm the waistcoat to match the exact shade of her dress, yes. Lord Potter’s vassal came by with his robes so they could match in color and style. He’s gone with a modern cut which is acceptable for his age and station. Let me show you. I have the robes as they required a slight bit of alteration. Mr. Wright purchased them in Paris.” She left and returned with the robes which she put on a form.
Hermione stepped down off the platform she was on and went to stand next to the robes. “Okay, yes, I’ll take the dress.” She picked up the sleeve of crisp white shirt. “His cufflinks are rather plain.” She frowned as she fingered them.
“Zale said that he would be retrieving accessories for you both the night of the Yule ball. Pieces from the Potter ancestral vault. I think with that dress—he’ll probably bring you the Pendragon rubies. It’ll be so lovely.” Piper set aside the magazine she’d been browsing and stood. “Deidre, we’ll take the dress. Let’s talk shoes, please. Something with a moderate heel, comfort and balance charms built in. I think in black since the dress will cover them anyway and while every woman needs a pair of red shoes—she’ll be able to wear them with other dresses if we keep the color neutral.”
“Open or closed toe, Miss Granger?”
“Closed,” Hermione said. “Something with a strap, please. I tend to walk out of my shoes otherwise. Three inch heel?”
“I have several options including a lovely pair from Madelien Drake—the best magical designer. They have built in color runes—so they can be charmed easily.” She put a box on the counter and opened it. “A bit old fashioned in design actually—I remember wearing a pair similar to this when I was your age, dear.”
“They remind me of Mary Janes that I used to wear myself,” Hannah said with a smile. “How do the runes work?”
Deidre picked up one of the shoes and turned it over to display a rune. “You just press the rune, push a little of magic into it, and then hold the shoe to the color you wish to match.” She did so and touched the top of the shoe to Hermione’s dress. Both shoes turned red to match the dress. She did it again and touched her yellow blouse. The shoe went yellow. “Very easy. They’re a bit more expensive but they’re comfortable, durable, and very versatile.”
“And plain,” Hermione admitted. “I mean I like them but they aren’t much different than what I wear to class except for the heel.”
“True,” Piper said.
“This is where accessories come into play,” Deidre said. She picked up another box and opened it. “For instance, for the ball you could clip these lovely bows to them.”
Hermione picked up the little red bow, the center was adorned with a heart made of clear rhinestones. “Yes, I see.”
“It’s not as flashy as some girls will be true,” Deidre said. “But…” She paused and flushed when they all three looked at her. “Your wizard is your best accessory, dear.”
Hermione laughed. “That’s terrible.”
“He’s an attractive lad,” Deidre admitted with a grin. “Very shiny galleon, that one. He’ll cut quite a figure in those robes. Besides, you’re pretty little thing yourself and don’t need to complicate yourself to stand out.”
“I don’t like complicated,” Hermione agreed. She put the bow back in the box and set it with the shoes. “Will Zale think to supply combs for my hair? I was going to wear it up.”
“I’ll make sure,” Piper said. “I haven’t seen a catalog of the jewelry in the vault but he’ll know exactly what you need. Lord Potter has had all three of his vassals in the vaults updating the catalog and making sure everything is in order. I don’t know the details—it’s not for me to know.”
“Does that bother you?” Hermione asked.
Piper shrugged. “Men keep their secrets and Lord Potter will have many with his vassals. Thaddeus knows things and will do things he will be unable to discuss with me because that is the role he plays in Lord Potter’s life. It’s his job, his honor, and most certainly his duty to serve. My son will one day serve as well. I knew all of this before I even married Thaddeus so it would be terrible of me to take offense now.”
Hermione nodded but made a face. It bothered her a lot that Harry had secrets from her but complaining about it would only make her look like an idiot. “I don’t need to be more…I don’t know less me?”
“Less you?” Deidre asked and scoffed. “He’s with you every day isn’t he? Seen you at your worst?”
“Yes, but I’d like him to see me at my best,” Hermione admitted with a small frown. “I’d just like him to be really proud to be with me. There are prettier girls at Hogwarts…I just…” She huffed and crossed her arms over her breasts. “I barely have a chest, I have no hips, my hair is a fright…”
“Oh, honey,” Hannah said. “You’re beautiful and I know Harry thinks so.”
“Your hair is a bit frizzy but less so than it was since we’ve been working with it,” Piper said. “We can buy you a special brush to take care of the rest. A brush is better than a potion—less stress on your hair.”
“You could also buy a hair wrap,” Deidre interjected. “They sell them next door. You just wrap your hair up in it at night. I use one—it keeps my hair soft and very manageable. I have natural curls myself, you see.”
“We’ll get the wrap,” Hannah decided. “What about a bit of make-up?”
“We can buy a small collection—a natural enhancement set,” Piper said.
“Can I have red lipstick?” Hermione questioned. “Just to match the dress.”
Hannah nodded. “Yes, how about nail polish as well? Is there a place to get you a manicure? It’s a week until the ball, so maybe it’s too soon to get one.”
“Magical manicures last a month or more unless you use a spell to remove them,” Piper explained. “There is a parlor just down the street.”
– – – –
Harry curled under a blanket on the bed in his private room and said nothing while Thaddeus built up the fire and Sirius was putting away the clothes he’d worn from the infirmary back to the dorm. His godfather brought another blanket to the bed and put it on him. “I’m really cold.”
“Side effect of the transformation,” Sirius explained. “It’ll go away over time as your body becomes accustomed to the gain and loss of body mass. Going from a mammal to bird was quite a dramatic change for your physiology. The energy used to do it is also impacting your body temperature. Still hurting?”
“No, the potion worked,” Harry yawned. “It was better than I normally get in the infirmary.”
“Albus made it personally,” Sirius murmured. “A variant of the normal pain potion that is used in the infirmary and at St. Mungo’s as it’s been tailored to your magical signature.”
“Cool. I didn’t know you could do that,” Harry murmured.
“I shudder to consider your potion’s education,” Sirius said. “I’ll tutor you over the summer so you’ll be better prepared for your O.W.L. year.”
Harry made a face. “I’d rather hoped we’d have a bit of a holiday for the summer—something fun.”
“We can do that, too,” Sirius promised. He tucked the covers in close around Harry and drew his wand. “I’m going to cast a warming charm on the bed. It’ll last about ten hours.”
“Okay,” Harry said. “Can we…go to a beach? I’d like that. I’ve never really been, you see.”
“And it would be a stellar opportunity to see your girlfriend in a bathing suit,” Sirius pointed out.
Harry laughed. “I can’t deny that but she’d probably enjoy it, too. She said she liked the ocean.”
“Well, you’re in a bit of luck. I happen to own an island.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “A whole island?”
“A whole island,” Sirius said with a laugh. “It’s on the smaller side but there is a villa and a lovely stretch of beach. It’s unplottable and warded—you could fly everyday.”
“Sounds fantastic. I could handle potion lessons on private island.”
“Well who couldn’t?” Thaddeus asked with a laugh. “I doubt you’ll be up for a meal but Dobby will be on hand to bring you a tray from the vassal house should you wake and get hungry. I’ll tell Hermione that we wore you out with training—which is sure to get me a lecture.”
“It’s your duty to protect me,” Harry said around another yawn. “I think that means you have to endure her lectures at least until I marry her.”
His eyes flickered shut with that leaving Thaddeus and Sirius staring at him.
“Well.” Sirius stood and holstered his wand. “Don’t suppose he’s ever said it so boldly before.”
“Potters tend to find love early and never let it ago,” Thaddeus said. “James certainly did.”
“Charlus told Dorea Black he was going to marry her at the end of their first year,” Sirius said. He pulled Harry’s glasses from his pocket and placed them on the table. “He didn’t even ask for them.”
“Birds have superior eye sight, especially birds of prey,” Thaddeus said. “You had physiological changes after your transformation?”
“Yes, quite a few,” Sirius admitted. “Better eye sight—I was well on my way to needing glasses before the change. My sense of smell was enhanced as well. It took me weeks to get control of it—I lost a stone because the smell of food was overwhelming.” He turned to Thaddeus. “So, what’s your form Master Banner?”
Thaddeus paused and inclined his head in concession. “Magical pit viper. I registered the morning I swore my oath to avoid any legal issues for Lord Potter. Zale did the same.”
“He’s a cat—a big one. Shadow panther to be specific. He achieved his transformation when he was young—just fifteen. It is the duty of the vassal houses to be as magically trained as possible. I started mediating for my form when I was a first year and Zale did the same.”
Sirius nodded. “His skipping the meditation phase—did I do the right thing in buying him the potion?”
Thaddeus sat down in a chair near the fire and Sirius joined him, sitting opposite. “He’s my Lord, Sirius. Had he asked me to purchase it—I would’ve gone to the nearest potion’s master and watched it brewed personally. He entrusted you with that decision for reasons we could both guess.”
“He called me…” Sirius took a deep breath. “During the curse breaking when the family magics were hammering on him—he called me Daddy. It was heartbreaking.”
“For more than one reason, I assume,” Thaddeus said.
“When James offered to share his son with me—it was a lovely little dream. I imagined that I would be the favored uncle, I suppose. The one to teach him terrible things and bad words. I lost more than James and Lily that night, you know. I let anger take the place of grief and in doing so I lost my boy, too. I lost him and the life he lived because I was a fool is unspeakable. I saw the way he lived with those Muggles, when I first escaped Azkaban. I watched him in that terrible little house with those small-minded bigots. I’d have killed them both if I’d had a wand, you should know that. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind and to see Harry so…small and obviously mistreated was more than I could fathom. I tried to stay away from Hogwarts because I knew they’d send the Dementors there and I didn’t want to put Harry at risk. Then they stationed those bloody things around the school anyway. Who in their right mind would assume such creatures were the right sort to guard children?”
“Fudge didn’t do that to protect Harry,” Thaddeus said. “He was almost kissed twice, Sirius. When is the last time a person was kissed without ministry approval? The dementors have been enslaved for five hundred years. I’ve already sent word to Croaker—he’s removed the Dementor protocol stone from the Office of the Minister and made it’s location an official secret. It’s the only way to control those things which means someone in the Minister’s office tried to murder Hermione Granger’s parents. You can guess as to why.”
“To attempt to make her the ward of the Ministry,” Sirius said. “Control the one he loves most, control him. At least that’s what they think. But her inclusion into the House of Potter was complete and it is magically robust enough that she can handle the Potter Grimoire. I’ve seen her with it several times. She could probably hold and use items entailed to his estate. Even I, as his legal regent, can’t do that.”
“But in the short term, they could have muddied the waters and even taken physical custody of her. Of course, they don’t know she’s wearing a war ward that has the power to level the entire ministry building in her defense. It looks innocent—sitting there in the hollow of her throat but it really is the ultimate girl’s best friend and it has nothing to do with it being a diamond. Her entrenchment in the Potter family magic has seen to that.” Thaddeus looked towards Harry, not surprised by the boy’s sprawl across the bed. He often slept like a starfish.
“The bracelet. It’s not a family heirloom.”
Thaddeus hummed under his breath. “Well, it certainly is now but no, I agree. It was not in the Lord’s vault to begin with. I don’t know if it’s the same bracelet that Godric Gryffindor wore or a very good replica.”
“He’s definitely a Potter,” Thaddeus said. “At first—the first time I saw him I mistook him for Charlus Potter but we both know he’s not.”
“No, but you’re right—the resemblance is uncanny.”
“The avatar doesn’t wear the Lord’s ring,” Thaddeus said. “So whoever he was—he was never the Earl of Gryffindor. If he’d died wearing it, I’d think he would still be wearing a version of it considering the avatar itself was made with portrait magic.”
“Should we work to separate Harry from the bracelet?” Sirius asked quietly.
“No.” Thaddeus shook his head. “Keeping his trust is of the utmost importance and while I’m not thrilled with the influence the bracelet has over the Earl, I don’t consider it a dark influence.”
“No, Ragnok said it was the lightest magical object he’s seen in five hundred years. Phoenix is obviously very invested in Harry and his well-being. Harry certainly seems to have no secrets from the avatar which means it is entrenched in the kid’s mind. It would worry me more if the thing wasn’t entailed.” He paused at that. “Do you think that Harry could perform an entailment spell?”
Thaddeus considered that. “I…no, not yet. He has the power certainly but not the experience. An entailment spell can only be done in ritual and the bracelet? The bracelet is as powerful as any wand ever made. It would require a deft and very experienced hand to subdue it in order to place the entailment spell.”
“So it was done by a different Potter who was experienced magically enough to do the entailment ritual.”
“I imagine Phoenix himself entailed the bracelet,” Thaddeus said. “The question really becomes—how did Harry get it and why did he put it on in the first place?”
“Desperation perhaps,” Sirius murmured. “He’s been isolated even in the magical world—mostly due to how he was cursed I think. His emotional and mental investment in Hermione Granger speaks to that. I’ve seen the memory of him speaking in front of the entire school—when he put that pendant on her. Until he claimed his title, she was the only person he had in his life he could depend on fully. The night I was captured by the Ministry and they were going to have me kissed, it was Hermione Granger who helped Harry save me despite the risk of being arrested or killed herself. She didn’t even hesitate.”
“No, she’s quite invested in him and his happiness,” Thaddeus murmured. “I understand his worry—about her self-esteem in personal matters. I’ve had Piper keeping a weather-eye on that situation.” He paused when Harry made a noise in his sleep.
They both turned to look at the bed and Harry twisting in his covers, struggling in his sleep. The bracelet started to glow and Phoenix flowed out of it. The avatar said nothing for a long moment but then turned to them. “Tom Riddle is trying to breach his mental defenses.”
Sirius shot up out of the chair and drew a wand. “What? Why?”
“The boy is mentally and magically exhausted due to the little experiment you allowed him to indulge in this afternoon,” Phoenix said shortly. “While I can do a lot to shield his conscious mind, the protection of his subconscious is done almost entirely by his own magic.” He started to say more but then bedroom door was thrown open.
Hermione Granger rushed to the bed, right through the avatar to reach Harry. “Harry.” She crawled into the bed and pulled him half into her lap. His struggles stopped immediately. “His scar’s bleeding.” She scowled at Sirius and Thaddeus. “What did you let him do?”
Thaddeus opened his mouth and closed it.
“If you think for a single moment I’m going to let you hide behind that Lord’s secrets crap, Thaddeus Banner, you’re out of your bleeding mind,” Hermione hissed. “What did he do? Because it broke the barrier we made.”
“Barrier?” Sirius questioned.
Hermione glared at him but focused on Harry. “Dobby.” The popped into place. “Get a wet cloth, Harry’s scar is bleeding.” The elf left and reappeared in the space of a few seconds. She took the cloth and wiped the blood oozing out of the scar away. “During his first year, when Voldemort was possessing Quirrell, Harry could barely function in the man’s class. We didn’t know why. I stupidly assumed it was something to do with the curse on the Defense teacher’s position. We learned a few spells for curse breaking and detection. Sometimes we’d sneak into the classroom searching for the object as we assumed that Voldemort had cursed something in the school to keep the position in limbo. It certainly ensured that the defense education of practically every adult in Britain was uneven at best.
“Nothing worked so I refocused on my research efforts. Since I couldn’t find and destroy what was hurting Harry, I started to look for a way to defend him from it.” She looked up as Piper entered with Zale and Bill. “He had terrible nightmares, too, and he eventually confessed that, too. He’s had nightmares his whole life about the murder of his mother. Riddle feeds them to him, you see. Torturing Harry is something of a hobby for him.” She wiped at the blood again. “I found a spell.”
“What kind of spell?” Thaddeus demanded.
“A dream catcher,” Hermione said shortly. “We anchored it in Harry’s magical core.” She paused when Thaddeus paled. “Harry is a great wizard—he always has been. Magic has always met his every single need, he only has to ask, you see.”
“He didn’t cast that spell on himself,” Piper interjected. “Where did you find it?”
“In a book called Healing at Home,” Hermione murmured. “And, no I cast it for him. I’ve cast it for him three times—once just before Yule our first year. Before we went home that year because he was magically exhausted after what happened with Quirrell. Then again at the end of his third year because of the dementors.” She focused on Phoenix. “It seems they aren’t going to tell me what was done while I was being distracted in Hogsmeade. Tell me.”
Phoenix averted his gaze. “It’s a secret.”
“You promised you’d never lie to me,” Hermione said evenly.
The avatar’s head jerked up and he looked at her in shock. “You know…”
“Of course,” Hermione said impatiently. “And I have questions—I have so many questions but that can wait. What was done?”
Phoenix sighed. “He took the animagus potion.”
Her mouth thinned into a flat line. “Yes, because he’s not been tortured enough in his life—let’s just throw forced animagus transformation on top of it.”
“I tried to talk him out of it,” Phoenix said.
“Useful,” Hermione admitted. She drew her wand as she handed Dobby the washcloth. “Okay, Dobby after I cast this—I always pass out due to magical exhaustion. So I’m going to do it and you’re going to pop me to my dorm and Piper will follow you to put on my nightclothes.”
“Yes, Miss Mione.”
She glared at the elf. “You promised me you’d keep me informed if he planned to do something stupid.”
Dobby pulled on his ear. “Harry Potter order me not to tell you.”
“He must have given you a very explicit set of instructions since you used to regularly disobey Lucius Malfoy.” Hermione huffed and Dobby shrugged. “Right.” She drew her wand, took a deep breath, swept it over Harry’s face and intoned, “Somnium defensor.” She barely holstered her wand before she fainted.
“I’ve never…” Thaddeus sighed when Hermione Granger disappeared with a pop of house elf magic. “Piper.”
“Let me check to make sure the spell is settled properly though I don’t doubt her work. She’ll be a force to reckoned with once she matures.” Piper performed a quick diagnostic, sighed, and straightened up the blankets. “I doubt I could’ve placed this charm, by the way. It’s normally a charm placed on a child by his mother so it requires a great deal of trust and emotional investment on the part of the caster.”
“That’s telling,” Sirius murmured. He focused on Phoenix who hadn’t moved from the spot where he stood. “What did she mean, old man, about having questions for you.”
Phoenix glanced at him briefly. “The brightest witch of the age would have many questions for practically every adult within her reach.”
“But she has specific questions for you,” Thaddeus said.
“So she does,” Phoenix admitted. “But I cannot say. It would be a violation of my security protocol.” The avatar disappeared into the bracelet.
“Son of a bitch,” Thaddeus muttered.
“It’s frustrating,” Sirius said as he straightened Harry’s covers.
Harry reached out in his sleep, his fingers curled into the blanket and he murmured, “Mi.”
“She’s fine, lad,” Sirius murmured.
Dobby returned at that moment with a pillow. He said nothing as he tucked it against Harry. Harry wrapped an arm around it, inhaled deeply, and relaxed.
“I take it that’s from Hermione Granger’s bed,” Sirius asked the elf.
The elf paused and bit down on his bottom lip. “My Harry Potter sleeps better this way.”
“How long have you been putting pillows with her scent on them in his bed?” Thaddeus questioned.
“Since Dementors,” Dobby admitted.
“Over a year then,” Sirius said. “Right.” He turned to Thaddeus. “He’s been checked for love and attraction potions, correct?”
“Of course, but surely you don’t think she’d…”
“No, but I have to ask and make sure,” Sirius said. “It’s our duty to keep his mind and heart clear from such influence.” He glanced down at Dobby and found the elf glaring at him. “What?”
“Miss Mione never do bad thing to Harry Potter. They checks each other for potions monthly. Miss Mione catch witch giving Harry Potter bad candy last year and she hexed her.” Dobby crossed his arms. “McLaggen boy talk ugly about Miss Mione and Harry Potter used glue charm to seal his mouth shut—it lasted six whole hours.”
“Right,” Sirius sighed. “But I do have to ask, Dobby. It’s my job.”
The elf nodded. “I watch, too. I mess someone up if they be using bad stuff on Harry Potter or Miss Mione.” The elf popped away without another word.
Sirius shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at his godson. “She’s…pretty much the only source of comfort he has in this world.”
“I’m beginning to realize that,” Thaddeus murmured. “I’m going to have a very long conversation with Dumbledore about the second task.”
– – – –
The only good part about getting the silent treatment from his girlfriend was that she hadn’t berated him, yet. She’d glared at him whenever he’d tried to speak with her at breakfast so he’s just kept his mouth shut all through classes, lunch, and well past dinner. He’d done his homework with her at the table she preferred in the library, bid her goodnight and joined Thaddeus in the training room Dumbledore had set aside for his vassal’s use.
“She still not speaking to you?” Zale questioned as Harry stripped out of his robe, jumper, tie, and shirt.
Harry untucked his t-shirt and huffed. “No, she’s not speaking to me. Not one single word the entire day.”
“Did you apologize for what you did?”
“No.” Harry frowned. “I don’t owe her an apology for that, Zale. I thanked her for coming to help me and replacing the charm. I also apologized for her having to magically exhaust herself to cast it. But I don’t owe her an apology for using the animagus potion. It was a personal choice that had nothing to do with her. I have no intention of including her in the business of my fate so I can’t explain to her why it was important that I skip the initial meditation period.”
He took the two sticks Thaddeus handed him. “What are these?”
“The practice version of these,” Thaddeus said as he drew two twelve inch blades. “I know you can call the sword when you need it but we need to tailor your weapons training to the size you currently are. That means that shorter and lighter weapons will serve you better.” He holstered his blades on his back. “This is a form of martial arts. Just one of the forms I’ll be instructing you in. Your wand is a powerful weapon but you mustn’t ever depend solely on magic to protect you and those you love. Understand?”
“Yes.” Harry nodded.
Thaddeus picked up a pair of sticks similar to ones he’d given Harry. “We’ll work on forms with these and when you’ve mastered the techniques, we’ll approach a weapons maker to have a custom set made for you.”
Two hours later, Hermione showed up. Harry was matching his vassal blow for blow, the sharp snap of the wood rods was kind of comforting but he figured she wouldn’t agree. She just stared for a few minutes and huffed when he didn’t stop what he was doing.
“I have to warn you,” Harry began as he managed to land a blow on Thaddeus. “I was prepared to listen to a lecture this morning but you ignored me all day and now I’m kind of pissed off.” He hissed when Thaddeus caught him lightly in the side. The older man had been picking up speed steadily since they’d begun—showing the same pattern of blows over and over again until Harry could match him.
“What would you like?” Harry asked and stepped back out of the exercise circle. He turned to her. “Should I offer you the same disrespect you dished out to me the entire day? Ignore you? Refuse to even look at you? Because I have to say what I did on Sunday wasn’t reckless or stupid or whatever you might think. I needed to know what my form was before I invested myself in that training. I don’t have time to waste, Hermione. I did it in the infirmary with the Headmaster and Professor McGonagall on hand. It isn’t like I snuck off and did it by myself.”
“The book said it was tortuous!” Hermione shouted.
“I’ve had worse,” Harry returned. “And it was worth it. Frankly, I can’t say that for things I’ve suffered in the past. Be angry with me if you want but treating me like you did today was bullshite. I’d never do that to you.” He shook his head when she started to speak. “I have another thirty minutes of training and I’d rather not keep Thaddeus from his wife and son longer than necessary. It’s not fair to him or them. We can argue later.” He stepped into the ring and assumed the position he’d been taught.
She slammed the door behind her.
“Ah, lad, that’s…” Thaddeus shook his head and started the exercise again.
“What? Am I supposed to let her run all over me?” Harry demanded. “To allow her disrespect me because she’s in a temper and not say anything? Respect is a two-way street, right?”
“It is but it would be in your best interest to remember that she cares about you a great deal and it hurt her to see you in the state you were in last night,” Thaddeus told him.
“She ignored me when I apologized to her,” Harry said shortly. “She doesn’t even bloody ignore Draco Malfoy!”
– – – –
Hermione threw herself on the sofa in front of the fireplace and stared at it moodily. Harry had never spoken to her that way and the most irritating part of it was that he was right. She’d been terribly unkind to him all day by ignoring him and his obviously sincere apology.
Neville sat down beside her and cleared his throat.
“Did you need something?” Hermione asked.
“Just wondering…if I could help you. You’ve been out of sorts all day and you ignored Harry.” Neville paused when she turned to look at him. “When you turned your head and refused to even look at him this morning at breakfast—he looked gutted.”
“He…” She scowled and looked at the fire.
“What could he have done to deserve that?” Neville asked. “Because I can’t think of anything that Harry would ever do to deserve it. Did he tell you a lie?”
“Did you catch him in a broom closet with another witch or something?”
“Of course not,” Hermione exclaimed, shocked. “Harry would never do something like that.”
“Did he insult your intelligence? Demean you because of your gender or blood status?”
“Neville, of course not,” Hermione snapped. “Why would you ask these kinds of questions?”
“Because you’re treating Harry like you treated Ron Weasley and I can’t figure out why.”
Her mouth dropped open and tears welled. “I am not…”
“You are,” Neville insisted. “You always ignored Ron when he hurt you. I can’t blame you for that but I just can’t figure out what Harry could’ve done wrong when every single thing he’s done since he claimed his title has been for you.”
She burst into tears and after a few seconds, lurched off the couch and darted up the stairs to her dorm. Neville sighed and stood. He went off in search of his godbrother so he could confess to reducing Hermione to tears before some git told on him.
– – – –
Hermione unfolded the note that Dobby had brought her and wiped her face with her sleeve as she stared at Harry’s tidy little writing.
Will you come downstairs?
He’s stayed out of the dorm until his extended curfew. She knew why—he had a full schedule with his vassals. It was irritating that he hadn’t stopped what he was doing to speak with her but she acknowledged that she wasn’t being fair. He’d spent the entire day with her and she’d ignored him at every single turn. Hermione slipped off her bed and pushed her feet back into her shoes. She hadn’t bothered to get dressed for bed because she’d hoped he’d return sooner.
He was on the rug in front of the fire, sitting in the lotus position like their meditation book instructed. He had a book on the floor in front of him—the Potter Grimoire to be exact.
Hermione crossed the common room and sat down across from him. “Find anything interesting?”
“My Great Uncle Marcus was a terrible womanizer and the progenitor of several variations of the Cheering Charm most of which he used on his wife to make her feel better about his compulsive infidelity.” Harry closed the book. “So we’ve had a difficult day.”
Hermione watched the grimoire flash and disappear as it returned to the bracelet. “I…I know who Phoenix is.”
Harry’s gaze widened as he stared at her. “How?”
She huffed. “I know you. You don’t honestly think that I wouldn’t recognize you no matter your age, right?”
Harry flushed but sighed. “Right. We can’t discuss any of that here so it’ll have to wait a bit but you’re not wrong as I’m sure you know.” He fiddled with the bracelet. “Neville told me that he upset you.”
“I just didn’t appreciate the picture he painted for me,” Hermione murmured. “I didn’t…I was very angry and hurt. I didn’t handle it well.”
“I can’t say I handle anger well either but we need to make some sort of plan so we don’t do this to each other. It’s kind of like the sex thing—we need to have boundaries and develop a more intimate trust with each other.”
“It boils down to that, doesn’t it?” Hermione murmured and clenched her fingers around his when he took her hand. “Do you trust me?”
“You know that I do.”
“But you keep secrets.”
“Sure, I do. Everyone has secrets,” Harry chided. “You have secrets from me, I’m sure. I tell you everything that I possibly can.” He trailed his fingers over the top of her hand. “Some things I simply cannot say. There are enchantments on the bracelet designed to keep the secrets of its origins. I haven’t tried to violate them but I don’t think they’re punitive. If I know the creator at all, I figure I’ll pass right out if I try.”
“Yes, I agree,” Hermione said. She touched the bracelet with her free hand but refocused on Harry’s face. “Why did you keep it from me? What you were going to do on Sunday?”
“There are two answers to that question—the first being that you rarely attach real world consequences to your academic knowledge. The second being far more selfish. You’d have wanted to watch and it would’ve probably made you cry. I absolutely hate to see you cry.”
“Of course I understand consequences,” Hermione protested.
“No, love, you don’t,” Harry said with a sigh. “How many books on house elves did you read?”
“Thirty-six,” Hermione answered immediately.
“And did you once even consider asking the house elves in the castle why they stay here or why they avoid your little knitted objects?” He waited for her to answer and she merely frowned at him. “Right. Every single one of those books outlined the history of house elves, right? They told you how the bond system was developed to save them from themselves.”
“Yes, but…” Hermione frowned.
“And you still try to free them from what you consider slavery.”
Hermione’s shoulders slumped. “It is slavery, Harry.”
“That is the perspective we both came into that situation in but I adapted, Hermione. I listened to Dobby talk about the issue and how it worked—then I asked him the consequences of him not having a bond. I asked him why he bonded with me without my permission. Yes, the bond system is being abused but destroying that system would be an outrageous abuse of power as well. You’re so focused on freeing them that you haven’t considered how you’ll keep them safe, sane, and alive after freeing them.”
He watched her absorb that and said nothing while her fingers clenched against his in little bursts of anxiety.
“Consequences,” Hermione murmured.
“You’d have insisted on taking the potion with me,” Harry said. “And we would have had a terrible row about it because I have to tell you that I will never supply you with that potion. I also won’t be responsible for buying the ingredients you’d need to brew it yourself.”
“I’m strong and I could handle it.”
“I’m not saying you couldn’t but I am telling you that I’d never be responsible for causing you that sort of pain if I could help it. I’m not making a decision for you. I made a decision for myself and I’ll accept it if you’re angry about it.”
“I won’t ask you to buy it for me,” Hermione said.
“And I won’t interfere if you’re able to procure it on your own,” Harry said.
“But you’ll hold my hand and comfort me if I get it,” Hermione said.
Harry laughed. “Yes, I will.” He pressed a kiss to her palm. “But I am sorry about the dream catcher barrier and for what you had to do with absolutely no warning. You look exhausted this morning.”
“I’m sorry I ignored you. It was very disrespectful and you’re right—you’d never treat me that way. Even when you were angry over that stupid broom, you didn’t ignore me.” She looked down at their hands. “Part of it, I guess, was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to discuss it with you in public without shouting. I’d never want to cause a scene like that between us in front of a lot of people. You’re more than just my boyfriend and I get that.”
“The Earl of Gryffindor,” Harry said wryly. “I honestly hope that’s the last thing I am to you.”
“Plain old Harry Potter,” Hermione said and grinned when he laughed. “Thunderbird, huh?”
“It’s pretty cool. I can sort of feel it—under my skin. I’ve never wanted to fly so badly in my entire life but I knew they weren’t going to let me out of the room to try out my wings.”
“It certainly explains your broom talent,” Hermione said. “You’re not going to go unregistered, right?”
“Already sent the paperwork in. Officially, I’m a Golden Eagle. I look enough like one to pass and most people won’t know the difference. Because I’ve a magical animagus spirit—I should have at least two bird shapes. I will be working on the Golden Eagle after I master the transformation so I can use it as my primary. Sirius registered as a Scottish wolf hound.”
Hermione nodded. “I hurt you today. I’m sorry for that as well.”
“We’re going to hurt each other—can’t get around that really because we’re both emotionally attached. We just need to have a better grasp on communicating with each other when we’re angry. I was out of line, dismissing you like that when you came to the training room. I should’ve ended what I was doing and sent him home. I knew it even when I was being a git but…it’s just out of all the people in my life you’re the only one I’ve always been able to count on.” He cleared his throat and looked at the dwindling fire.
“You can count on me just like I know I can count on you. I know you’ve got my back, Harry. Even when we were arguing—I never doubted that and I wouldn’t want you to either.”
“I don’t.” Harry frowned. “It’s just you’ve never intentionally hurt me before.” He looked at her then and found her pale. “You need to own your actions, love.”
“Consequences,” Hermione murmured. “I wanted you to feel the way I did and that is terrible.”
“Keeping a secret isn’t always a betrayal,” Harry said finally. “I’m not entitled to your secrets any more than you are mine. Yes, it’s always my preference to confide in you but there are some things that are just for me alone.”
“You don’t just mean Lord’s secrets,” Hermione said with a frown.
“No, not just.”
Hermione considered that. “Can I have an example?”
“I don’t know…” Harry shrugged. “Do you think you need to know how often I masturbate?”
Hermione laughed and blushed. “No, that’s your private business.” Her shoulders relaxed. “Right.”
“I expect some things in your life to be private—beyond my right to know. I don’t think I could be in a relationship with someone who insisted on knowing every single thing I did or thought.”
“No, it sounds oppressive,” Hermione admitted. “Neville didn’t tell me what that final argument with Ron was really about—he said you argued and it was nasty but he didn’t give me specifics.”
“We argued about you,” Harry said plainly. “Ron told me I had no right to bring you into my magical house. He said you didn’t have the right to tell him no and that basically once he was an adult he’d do what he wanted with you since he decided he was going to marry you last year. What you want or might want in the future means absolutely nothing to him.”
Hermione frowned. “Last year, when we went to Hogsmeade without you—before you showed up—he told me that one day he would be rewarded for putting up with me. I thought he was joking but he wasn’t.” Her bottom lip trembled and tears welled. “Harry, what does that even mean?”
“It means that Ron is an ignorant, entitled prat who actually believes that he’s better than both of us because of the blood in his veins. The fact that he has a third of your magical power hasn’t even crossed his mind. He has a right to magic and wealth without working for either which is why he’s never bothered to apply himself here at Hogwarts. A lot of pure-bloods apparently believe that the rest of us should be lucky they even associate with them and I don’t mean the dark ones. Ron’s mother has taught him that a witch’s purpose is take care of him, provide for him. She’s encouraged him to seek out a talented Muggle-born to marry because he’ll be able to control her entirely—her ability to have a job, have children, or even own property. A pure-blood wizard would own a Muggle-born wife.”
“And Ron meant to do that to me—subjugate me in a magical marriage,” Hermione took a deep breath. “Harry is that what happened?” She glanced down at the bracelet. “Is that why Phoenix exists?” She touched her pendant. “Oh, Harry, what did you do?”
“Technically, it wasn’t me,” Harry defended. “But.” He took up both her hands in his. “There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do to keep you safe.”
She stared at him for a long moment, eyes wet with tears. Hermione leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss against his mouth then pressed her forehead to his. “I’ve got your back.”
“Look out magical Britain,” Harry said wryly and grinned when she laughed. “Tomorrow, we’ll go somewhere special and we can talk about the bracelet.”
The girl the Room of Requirement had created to teach Harry to dance disappeared with a little pop when there was a short knock on the door. He was relieved that the room responded so quickly to his desires. He’d rather not admit he’d had to resort to such to learn to dance. There were plenty of things he wasn’t exactly comfortable admitting he couldn’t do. His education before Hogwarts had been dismal by anyone’s standards. He opened the door as the room behind him shifted from an open space and into a smaller version of the Gryffindor common room.
Hermione stared at him in shock. “You really did find the Room of Requirement.”
“I told you I did,” Harry said amused and held out a hand for her. She allowed herself to be pulled in and he closed the door. “You didn’t think I lied, right?”
“No, I figured you really had just found a special room. The Room of Requirement was supposedly lost five hundred years ago.”
He led her to the rug by the fireplace and they got comfortable on it. “So.”
Hermione glanced at his bare wrist. “Where’s the bracelet?”
Harry removed it from his pocket and put it on the rug between them. “We need to reach an agreement about what you can know, Mi.”
She frowned at him. “Is this your decision or mine?”
“I think the decision on what you should know will be his,” Harry motioned towards the bracelet. “Phoenix is sentient, as you already know.”
“He’s you,” Hermione stressed.
“No, he’s not me,” Harry denied. “He’s a version of me that existed once in a different time and place. I won’t be the man he became, Hermione. I’ll never be him.”
“Because he sent his consciousness back in time in a ritual that does not exist in the magical record,” Hermione said. “I’ve been researching time travel rituals for a bit now, Harry, since I saw Phoenix the first time and there is nothing in any book that I could get my hands on that spoke of what he did. He’s impacting his own past—it’s the stuff of nightmares for magical theorists all over the planet. The goblins have a theoretical ritual but it is agreed that in order to send a soul back in time with it would cost the entire Horde their lives—they’d have to sacrifice every scrap of magic they have to accomplish it.”
“The Potter family has a special relationship with time travel and the magics used to accomplish it,” Harry said. “My ancestor invented the first time turner as you know and she based that device on a different ancestor who could turn time…without a device of any kind. He could shift forward and backward in time with the use of his own innate magic. I believe you’ve read books about him.”
“Merlin,” Hermione said quietly. “You’re talking about Merlin.”
“He’s called Myrddin Emrys in the Potter Grimoire but the Muggle history books got most of his true history wrong.”
“What’s his true history?” Hermione asked, her eyes shining with excitement.
“He was the consort of King Arthur and from their children sprung the Gryffindor line.”
“Holy sh…wait. You mean wizards can make babies together?”
“Apparently Merlin carried six children for Arthur,” Harry said. “The specifics weren’t written down as it appeared to be quite common place at the time. I figured I might research it more if I can find any journals in the vault. If that magic has been lost to us then it would be a boon to our society to find it and restore that knowledge.”
“Agreed,” Hermione said with a nod. “Right. I agree that Phoenix can tell me as little or as much he wants about his…life. I won’t get mad at either of you if he refuses to answer a question.”
Harry nodded and picked up the bracelet. He put it on and Phoenix flowed out of it. The avatar sat down with them but Phoenix didn’t look at her, he focused on the rug in front of him for several long minutes.
Hermione reached out and put her hand on the avatar’s where it rested on his knee. “Harry.”
Phoenix looked up then, focused on her with vivid green eyes she knew so well. “Call me Phoenix. It’s easier that way.”
“Okay,” Hermione agreed. She squeezed his hand. “Will you tell me why you killed yourself to create the bracelet and send it back in time?”
“I was dying—cursed.”
“And I didn’t try to stop you?” Hermione questioned. “I don’t believe I didn’t have a lot to bloody say about it.”
“You…you were already dead,” Phoenix admitted. “I’d rather not talk about that.”
“Okay,” Hermione nodded. “But I’m sorry. I’d have never left you on purpose.”
“I know…I know you wouldn’t,” Phoenix murmured. “I came back in time for you.”
“I…” Hermione took a deep breath and lifted her hand from his. “So I take it I didn’t die of natural causes.”
“No, you didn’t.” Phoenix focused on the fire in front of them. “I was lonely, overwhelmed with grief near the end of my life and the curse was destroying my physical body. I invested my magic in the bracelet to keep it safe from the curse.”
Hermione nodded. “Are you the reason Harry is so different? Are you influencing his behavior through the bracelet while he wears it?”
“Yes and no. Yes, I’m the reason he’s different but I’m not directly influencing his behavior,” Phoenix answered.
“He just opened my eyes,” Harry said quietly. “I’ve spent so much of my life trying to make everyone else happy that it was suffocating me and I didn’t even know it. I saw the consequences of continuing on that road and it was terrible so I’m making a new path.”
Hermione nodded and returned her attention to Phoenix. “Why did you come back to this point? Why not when he was younger or older? Why not third year so we could’ve caught Pettigrew and freed Sirius from that stupid situation sooner?”
“I had to pick a time that would give me the best perspective and allow Harry to make the best decisions he could about his title, Tom Riddle, and you. He couldn’t have claimed his title before his fourteenth birthday. He couldn’t have protected you and there is no telling what might have been done to you before he claimed his title if things had come to a head before that. Molly Weasley is an evil cu…she’s a very dark witch.”
“So she cursed or potioned us in the future,” Hermione speculated. “That’s the only thing that really makes sense because I don’t find Ron attractive at all. Even before this recent situation—he’s just not my type. He’s lazy and boring.”
Harry laughed and held up a hand for peace when Hermione glared at him. “It’s just…I realized recently that I’ve never had a conversation with him that didn’t involve Quidditch or chess.”
Hermione made a face. “And he’s dumb. Why would I want a dumb wizard? I’m really smart.”
“I always assumed you’d been potioned but I didn’t get the chance to check,” Phoenix said. “But that situation is not going to happen this time so there is no need to dwell on it.”
Hermione nodded. “When does Riddle get resurrected?”
“Originally? At the end of fourth year,” Phoenix said. “But we’re working towards making sure he never gets the chance.”
“We?” Hermione’s gaze narrowed and she focused on Harry. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing personally,” Harry assured her. “Thaddeus is working with Dumbledore and Dobby is doing some spying for them. I’ve been extremely lucky all the times I’ve had to deal with Riddle and I know it. It wasn’t skill—just pure dumb luck. I’ve got plans for the future and they don’t include getting murdered because I was stupid enough to assume that I’m any sort of match for a wizard old enough to be my grandfather.”
Hermione nodded. “Right.” She picked at the rug as she thought. “I…whatever you’ve done, Phoenix, it wasn’t worth it just to prevent me from dying before my time. You’ve altered the fate of millions. There is no telling how your changes will ripple out from here.”
“I didn’t do what I did just for you,” Phoenix said. “Yes, you were my first consideration but there were others.”
“I was never able to claim my title,” Phoenix said. “Snape’s curse destroyed the magical house of Potter—destroyed a legacy that stretches all the way back to Arthur Pendragon. The second Blood War raged until I was forty—I faced a resurrected version of Tom Riddle in combat six times before I finally defeated him. The Death Eaters turned into a terrorist organization and each time I drove Riddle from a body—they lashed out. They killed tens of thousands of Muggles all over the world. They very nearly incited a third world war during his final resurrection. I never had children and most of our peers from Hogwarts were dead by the time I was thirty-five. My godfather was murdered when I was just fifteen. I lost Dumbledore during our sixth year and Minerva McGonagall when I was twenty-five when Riddle came back the second time. I lost you, of course, and I can’t…don’t make me discuss how that happened.”
“The magical world celebrated and reviled me in turns—blamed me for the war and the death that followed in Tom Riddle’s wake. Cheered for me and draped me in medals every single time I killed him. They betrayed me when it suited them and kissed my arse when they needed another pound of flesh. They cut the very heart out of me and were surprised when I protested.” Phoenix grew quiet and shook his head. “So, yes I started working on the time travel ritual shortly after you died but by the time I was ready to do it – I had a thousand reasons and every single one of them was righteous.”
“Your vassals don’t know.”
“No,” Harry said. “I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell you without Phoenix’s cooperation but we both agreed that lying to you or denying what you suspected would be wrong.” Harry reached out and took her hand. “This is our secret, Hermione, and we have to carry it the rest of our lives. If anyone found out they would try to destroy Phoenix. It’s the duty of the House of Potter to protect him and the sacrifice he’s made. A sacrifice he made to make sure you and I had a better life than what he experienced.”
“I understand,” Hermione murmured. “And I agree—we can never allow the Ministry to know about him. If they didn’t seek to destroy the bracelet they might try to charge you with crimes against magic. You should make the bracelet a secret—something that neither one of us can violate even by accident.”
Harry stared at her for a long moment. “Are you sure?”
“It’s not just about protecting the bracelet, Harry. It’s about protecting you and the Pendragon legacy. It’s about protecting our house and our…” Hermione blushed. “Our children.”
“Oh.” Harry exhaled sharply and he wasn’t surprised when Phoenix offered them a small, sad smile and slipped back into the bracelet with a swish of magic. “Hermione.”
“Ever light,” Hermione said.
“Every loyal,” Harry murmured in response. He leaned forward and pressed his mouth against hers—urgent and overwhelmed. Finally when he could really take no more of the sweet press of her lips against his, he lifted his mouth and rested her forehead against his. “I, Harry James Potter, declare the origin of the Phoenix bracelet to be Secret. No member of my Family shall discuss the origin of the bracelet with anyone outside the embrace of my Family Magic. This is the will of the Earl of Gryffindor. So mote it be.”
Magic spun out around them and Hermione’s hands clenched in his as their eyes met. “Your will be done, Lord Potter.”
Magic surged around them filling the room with white and blue light. Voices whispered in the white and blue light. They were so caught up in it they didn’t notice the door to the room swinging open and his vassals entering at a near run followed closely by Dumbledore and McGonagall. The magic shifted and thickened and figures started to appear in front of them. Harry stood and pulled Hermione to her feet. He tucked her behind him and drew his wand.
Two men stepped forward and Harry took a deep breath because he recognized the sword the blond wore. The other was dark headed, slender, dressed in black, and his eyes sparkled with magic. The blond smiled and shared a grin with the other. The one in black rolled his eyes.
“There will be no living with you now.”
“Just look at him,” the blond said with a broad grin. “The spell is going to work, Myrddin. Though I’m kind of horrified that the hair has been passed down through so many generations.”
Myrddin frowned at him and touched his short hair. “I’m starting to regret our bonding and of course the spell is going to work. I’m a great wizard!” He turned to Harry. “Your will be done, Lord Potter.” He disappeared with a rush of magic.
Arthur tucked his hands behind his back and stared. “We’re trying to get pregnant.”
Harry nodded. “I sort of figured. I read about you and your family in the grimoire.”
Arthur nodded. “Myrddin decided the family needed one so I’m glad it still exists. Your will be done, Lord Potter.” He bowed and disappeared.
Voices…thousands…surrounded them then some speaking words that were almost foreign as they accepted his decree. Harry realized with some shock that it was his family past and future moving around them in his Family magic. A man appeared then, the sword strapped to his back. He regarded Harry with a wide grin. He rocked back on his heels.
“You pack a punch, lad,” Godric Gryffindor said with a grin. “I’m proud to see my line still so strong and in Lady Magic’s good graces. The gift of time magic is obviously at your disposal—I’ve never known anyone to successfully hand down a decree to his entire Family past, present, and future before. Did you get my letter?”
“Yes, sir, I opened the Lord’s Vault just a few months ago.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry agreed. “But my circumstances are unusual.”
Godric nodded and bowed deeply. “Your will be done, Lord Potter.”
“Thank you,” Harry said and started to say more but a pair of children appeared before them, playing a board game on the floor and Godric disappeared. The boy looked up and Harry found himself staring into his own eyes. “Hi.”
The boy grinned. “Mummy said this would happen any day now.” He nudged the girl. “You owe me a sickle. It happened on our fifth birthday, just like I guessed.”
Harry’s eyes went wide and Hermione’s fingers clinched around his wrist. “I…thank you.”
“I’m Imogen Potter,” she said in a bossy little tone Harry knew so well he almost laughed. “This is my twin brother Willoughby. We’re the youngest.”
“The youngest,” Harry said faintly.
The girl smiled at him. “Your will be done, Daddy.”
The boy rolled a pair of dice on the board. ““Your will be done, sir.”
They disappeared with a sweep of magic and Hermione leaned against him as an older boy appeared, easily Harry’s own age. The boy shoved his hands into his pockets and stared at them both in bemusement. “Merlin’s pants, I don’t know what’s more amazing—seeing the two of you like this or the fact that you managed to catch me in a broom closet with Bess Mosby again. Your sense of timing will never cease to be epic and terrible all at once.”
Harry frowned. “Again?”
“Relax, Dad, you raised a gentleman but it’s a crying shame when a wizard can’t even get a proper snog in a broom closet,” the boy exclaimed. “Caden Potter at your service.” He bowed. “Your will be done, sir.”
The boy disappeared and Harry turned to Hermione. “Bess Mosby.”
“Don’t worry, I’m totally writing that down,” Hermione said with a huff.
The magic darkened until it was swelling and moving around him like an ocean. A young man appeared, his hair and Hermione’s whiskey brown eyes. He was in a Hogwarts uniform. Harry sighed and turned to Hermione. “Ravenclaw.”
“Don’t look at me like that Harry James, I sorted properly. You were the one that was a hat stall!” Hermione huffed at him.
“Yeah, but that was because the Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin.” He turned to the boy. “Meet a pretty little girl on the train you couldn’t part with and she sorted into Ravenclaw before you?”
The young man laughed. “Yes, sir, as a matter of a fact, I did. Hadrian Potter at your service.” He bowed formally and tucked his hands behind his back as he straightened. “Your oldest and the Heir of the House of Potter. Don’t worry as soon as I return I’ll go drag Caden out of that broom closet. Mum warned me in advance.”
“Thank you,” Harry said with a sigh.
“As to the matter of my being yanked out of my body and cast through time in the most interesting use of ancestral magic to date in our family…as always…it is my great honor and a privilege to see your will done.” He offered them Hermione’s smile and disappeared in a flash of magic.
The magic thickened again and Harry stumbled backward against Hermione as James and Lily Potter appeared. His father stared at him for a long moment in shocked silence and Harry noticed with some alarm that his mother was very pregnant.
“Fascinating,” Lily murmured. “He has your wretched hair, James. I ought to curse you into the next decade.”
Harry ran a hand through his hair and noticed with amusement that James did the same. “Hi.”
“Don’t try to tell us anything,” James said. “Even Myrddin couldn’t impact events using this particular part of our Family magic. He suffered for trying. What is to come for us—is to come. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” Harry said. He looked at the ring on his father’s hand and understood. He’d never have had the power to invoke the Family magic to make this decree if James Potter lived. Phoenix would’ve never tapped into the legacy of Myrddin and time would…unravel around them. He was suddenly grateful that Phoenix had already told him that he’d rather never share the ritual he did with him. It was a weird circle that could give him a headache.
“This is Hermione.” He noticed for the first time that his vassals were in the room along with Dumbledore and McGonagall. “You remember Thaddeus and Zale. This is Bill Weasley. They’re my vassals.”
James nodded, his gaze drifting over them until he settled on Thaddeus. “Take care of my boy, Thaddeus.”
“With my life, sir,” Thaddeus said gravely.
James nodded and focused on Harry. “The Family magic has been stirred up for months—I thought it was responding to your impending birth but now I’m not so sure. One day, we’ll have a conversation about what you did and why. But I can’t leave my wife’s unconscious body unprotected any longer.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry agreed. “I understand.”
“Your will be done,” James said finally and with a snap of magic he disappeared leaving his wife behind.
“I wish I could ask you why you’re so sad.” Lily stepped forward, cupped Harry’s face and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “May Lady Magic bless you, darling.”
“Mum,” Harry whispered.
“Your will be done,” Lily whispered and magic swept through her as she disappeared.
Harry turned his back on everyone as the magic faded and disappeared. He rubbed at his sternum as he fought to control his emotions and the magic still shifting and rolling inside him. He wondered if all of his ancestors were experiencing the upheaval in their Family magic as his father had mentioned—he also wondered why not a single one of them had documented it in the family grimoire. Perhaps the personal journals of his family would reveal more information. The grimoire was more a collection of magical knowledge than anything else.
“I’m fine,” he whispered and was pleased to see that at least his voice was steady.
“My Lord are you willing to discuss what you did to incite this magical event?” Thaddeus questioned.
Harry flinched at his vassal’s formal tone and he turned to face them. He glanced towards Dumbledore who was staring at him. “I made a piece of information a Family Secret. In my eagerness to protect that information, I invoked a part of my ancestral magic that can influence time and I placed the secret on my entire line—past, present, and future.”
Thaddeus’ mouth dropped open. “I see.” He clenched his jaw and nodded. “Very well. How do you feel? Do you need a pepper-up potion?”
“That’s all your going to ask him?” Dumbledore questioned.
“I don’t have the right to question the specifics of my Lord’s Family magic or how he uses it,” Thaddeus pointed out with a hard look. “And neither do you. While he might have pinged the school wards there was no damage whatsoever to the room, to the school, or the wards.”
Dumbledore started to speak then frowned.
Harry watched the exchange and cleared his throat. “I’m fine and I don’t need a pepper-up potion. The magic you saw wasn’t mine, exactly, and more to the point it is Family magic that has been building for months. I think what I did tonight was a bit of destiny.”
“Your father seemed to think so,” Thaddeus said.
“It was about the bracelet then, the one you found in the Lord’s Vault,” Dumbledore guessed.
Harry sighed. “Sir.”
Dumbledore huffed. “I really…”
“Hate not knowing something?” Harry guessed. “Can’t stand to be in the dark? It must be terrible to be told that knowledge you think you’re entitled to is actually none of your business. Yes, it’s quite a vexing experience to be sure.”
The old man had the grace to look uncomfortable at that. “Revenge is petty, young man.”
“But also quite satisfying,” Harry admitted. He held out a hand for Hermione and she took it. “Well, we should return to the tower. It’s almost time for curfew and I don’t want Hermione to get detention. She’d never let me hear the end of it and also I did promise her that I would limit myself to one feat of ridiculously powerful magic a week. So that’s my limit—spent—and it’s only Tuesday.”
Zale snorted. “Right. I’ll walk you back then, shall I?”
“Always a gentleman, Zale, you set a fine example,” Harry decided and Hermione just rolled her eyes.
“Harry,” Dumbledore began and sighed when Potter just looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “You’re a very young man and you’re making decisions for circumstances far beyond your years.”
“Perhaps that is true but my father is dead and isn’t here to make these decisions for me,” he said evenly. “These are our circumstances, sir, and needs must. There is no else, you see. Not even my godfather can stand in my father’s place when it comes to the Potter Family magic. Had my parents been properly hidden, I imagine our circumstances would be vastly different.”
“The Fidelius…” Dumbledore began but trailed off when Harry raised a hand.
“Hermione what happens to a Fidelius Charm when the Secret Keeper is killed?” Harry questioned.
Hermione paused, obviously surprised to be included in the conversation. “In the event the Secret Keeper is killed—everyone who knows the secret becomes a Secret Keeper and can pass along the information to anyone they wish.”
“Exactly,” Harry said evenly. “Tell me, Headmaster, how many people knew the Secret?”
“I…” Dumbledore took a deep breath. “The entire Order of the Phoenix which numbered seventy-six the day the Fidelius Charm was cast. We were all given the secret so that we could come to their defense if they were attacked.”
“We know that Pettigrew was the real Secret Keeper. How did my parents hide that fact?”
“Sirius passed out the note to each member of the Order. I assume Pettigrew wrote that note.”
“So even the note could’ve been passed by someone other than the Secret Keeper,” Harry said exasperated. “Exactly how is that any sort of magical security? They didn’t even have proper defense wards! Just this flimsy secrecy charm that is easily circumvented. Pettigrew wasn’t even required to take an Unbreakable Vow to not tell Voldemort the secret. The lack of common sense is a real problem.” He huffed and opened the door. “I’m tired. Doing epic and foolish things wear me out.”
– – – –
Harry woke the day of Yule Ball a little excited and nervous all at the same time. So he’d spent most of the day reading just to keep his mind off the ball, Hermione, and whatever might happen that night. Finally, he gathered up his toiletries which he’d strewn all over his desk last night looking for his skin lotion and piled it back into the bag he used for the showers. Though he had private quarters, he used the common showers. When he returned to his quarters, Zale was waiting for him.
“Did you send her the jewelry pieces from the vault?”
“Yes, Piper has them,” Zale set a wood box on the bed with the formal robes. “I’ve matched your cuff links to what I picked out for her. I kept the look simple—tear drop ear rings, a bracelet cuff, hair combs, and a short backdrop of rubies to add to her necklace.”
“What’s a backdrop?” Harry asked as he pulled on the trousers first.
“A string of jewels or sometimes pearls on a fine chain that attaches to the back of a necklace and lays on the center of a woman’s back. It’s a lovely and sophisticated look. Piper said that her dress would allow for a short one and we’re having to work around her necklace ward. I’ve commissioned some pieces with the loose jewels you have in the vault that can be added to the ward—both in the front and the back as occasions call for it. Though there may be events where we may ask you to disillusion the ward altogether. Right now, however, it is important that it be displayed prominently.”
“When would that position change?” Harry questioned as he pulled on the thin undershirt then the crisp black button down on top of it.
“After you marry her, it will no longer be necessary for her to display the necklace as proof of her membership in your house,” Zale explained. He picked up the box with the cuff links in it and opened it. “These belonged to your grandfather, your grandmother purchased them for their wedding.”
Harry reached out and touched the platinum cuff links with trembling fingers. The Potter crest was engraved into them. “Wow.”
“Some times, it’s the smallest things that connects us to those who have left us,” Zale said. He pulled one from the box when Harry offered his wrist up. He attached the cuff link in silence then did the other when Harry switched arms. “This is a terrible time to ask, and I already feel like an idiot for not asking before, but you can dance, correct?”
Harry laughed. “Fortunately, Phoenix did think of it. I had the Room of Requirement conjure me a teacher. Please don’t ever tell her but I’m pretty sure Hogwarts fashioned my instructor after Professor McGonagall when she was a student because the resemblance was startling.”
“Lucky you,” Thaddeus said from the door way. “Minerva McGonagall was absolutely breathtaking in her day and still quite enchanting at her age.”
Harry finished buttoning his shirt and tucked it into his slacks before picking up the belt. “I’ll need one of you to escort Hermione back to her parent’s house after the ball. She wants to spend Yule with them and there is no reason for her to wait for tomorrow’s train if you can take her.”
“I’ll handle it,” Thaddeus said. “I want to check their wards at any rate and make sure everything settled as it should.” He put a box down on the bed. “I had your waist coat lined with dragonhide.”
Harry sighed and Zale made a face. “Seriously?”
“No one will even notice,” Thaddeus assured. “It’s reversible now and you might appreciate that Zale.”
Zale immediately opened the box and made a soft pleased sound. “Chinese Fireball.”
“Humanely harvested,” Thaddeus assured. “Dragons shed four times a year though this was quite expensive. Your godfather paid for that, Harry, so be sure to say thank you.”
“I will.” Harry waited until Zale offered him the waist coat and wasn’t surprised when it was presented with the new dragonhide out. He trailed his fingers over the dark red skin and found the scales smooth. “Do I put her in danger?”
“What do you mean?” Zale questioned as Harry put on the waist coat and buttoned it slowly. “Harry?”
“It’s just…someone at the Ministry tried to kill her parents in order to gain some control over me. They’d have failed, ultimately, but they tried and…” He took a deep breath. “If she were to come to harm because of me, I’m just not sure how I’d respond. I’m really worried about the second task. I know they’re going to take her and put her in the lake. Accidents happened all the time in past tournaments but what if it isn’t an accident I have to worry about? What if someone used the tournament as a cover for taking or killing her?” He focused on Thaddeus as he finished speaking. “I feel like I can’t protect her from it and it makes me furious.”
“I know,” Thaddeus said. “I’ve spoken with the headmaster about her participation in the tournament and I made it clear that I would have stringent health charms placed on her before the event. If she so much as breaks a nail, Harry, I will know. I made sure that all the judges understood that allowing her to be harmed would make them enemies of your magical house and frankly lad only one person in a century has picked a fight directly with the House of Potter and that was Tom Riddle.”
“And he almost won,” Harry said. He smoothed down the front of the waist coat and said nothing while Zale arranged the black silk cravat around his neck and straightened up everything. He touched silk to check the style of knot his vassal had chosen when the man stepped back. “Cascade?”
“Yes,” Zale said with an amused grin.
“Don’t look surprised, you made me practice tying one of these things for two hours last week,” Harry said and rolled his eyes when the man laughed. The door opened and his godfather entered.
Thaddeus and Zale left without a word and Harry frowned at the departing backs then focused on Sirius.
“Oh, god, please don’t give me a sex talk. I will take a vow of chastity until I get married if you’ll refrain.”
Sirius laughed and pulled a wrapped package from his cloak. “Just thought you might like one of your presents early.”
Harry took the package with a grin and dropped down on his bed. “You know, anyone reasonable would say that the Firebolt you sent me was enough present for at least the next five years.”
“Well, I always ignore reasonable people when they speak,” Sirius admitted. “They’re absolutely no fun at all.”
Harry cleared his throat and rubbed his thumb over the magical paper. It glittered in response. “I’m messed up, you know.”
“I know,” Sirius said. He sat down on the bed beside him and took a deep breath. “I suppose Privet Drive was really no different than Azkaban.”
“My Uncle is the most Dementor-like person I know,” Harry said by way of agreement. “I really resent Dumbledore for not noticing you never had a trial or for ignoring it altogether. I also resent the fact that even if you had been free he would’ve tried to make you leave me with the Dursleys. He’s reasons were sound, I guess, but I can’t help but think that I would be in a much better place emotionally and magically today if he’d taken a little more care with me.
“I’m not ready to face Riddle, again, Sirius or maybe ever. But he’s out there—plotting and planning something. He’s the reason I’m in this stupid tournament and I feel like he and I are on some kind of collision course. Every time I think about the prophecy I want to throw up. I don’t know how to tell Hermione about it—I don’t want her to know at all but I also don’t think it’s the kind of secret I can keep from her.” Harry bit down on his bottom lip and worked his thumb under the edge of a fold of paper. The charm holding it together fell away and the box unwrapped itself. “Magic is lovely.”
“It can be.”
Harry put aside the paper and flipped open the velvet covered box.
“It’s a customary—to give a wizard a watch when he comes of age,” Sirius explained. “You’ve claimed your title so…”
“It’s very nice.” Harry took a deep breath. “Thank you—for the waist coat as well. Thaddeus said you purchased it.”
“I got press-ganged into funding his dragonhide habit,” Sirius said with a laugh. “What’s wrong, Harry?”
“I don’t know how…” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “I don’t know how to act when someone gives me a present.” He looked at Sirius then. “I get stuff at Christmas—a sweater from Mrs. Weasley, candy sometimes, or a book from Hermione. The first present I ever remember getting is Hedwig. Hagrid bought her for me.” He glanced towards the owl perch where the bird was sleeping then laughed. “He just sort of shoved her at me, cage and all, and told me happy birthday. It was just one more overwhelming thing for me to wrap my head around. The best gift I’ve ever gotten was the Firebolt because I didn’t have to wonder how to act about it.”
Sirius nodded. “I’m going to murder your Muggle relatives.”
“You’ll go back to Azkaban.”
Sirius sighed and plucked the watch from Harry’s hand. He removed the watch from the box and tossed the box aside. “I brought you this early so you could wear it tonight. A proper wizard always wears a watch. Arm.”
Harry offered him his left arm with a smile and said nothing while his godfather fastened the expensive looking watch on his wrist. “Why is this a tradition?”
“I don’t know,” Sirius said honestly. “It just is. Your grandfather, Charles, gave me my watch when I turned seventeen. I was so surprised and proud to receive it—I’d already been disowned by my parents so I wasn’t expecting to get one at all. I might have even cried a little when James wasn’t looking. It’s water proof and has a bunch of charms on it for various things—there is a booklet in the box.”
“I do like it a lot,” Harry confessed. “It’s exactly the kind I would’ve picked out for myself.” He adjusted it so it was just the way he preferred. “Thank you.” He huffed. “It’s just I’m all messed up on the inside and I’m worried that I already have too much baggage. What if she…” He cleared his throat and blinked back tears. “What if Hermione can’t handle it? The prophecy?”
“She’s a strong young woman,” Sirius said. “Strong and very loyal. She darted around the Forbidden Forest with you with a werewolf on the loose to save me from being kissed. And besides didn’t you meet your children?”
“I’m sorry you missed it,” Harry said. “If I’d known they would all show up I’d have waited for you.”
“I saw Thaddeus memory of it. I remember that day you know—I came over to the house and James was putting your mother on the sofa when I walked in. She was just three weeks away from delivering you so I was instantly worried something had happened. James said there had been an event in his Family magic he couldn’t discuss and that the two of them had fainted. I really didn’t think much of it until Thaddeus told me what he’d witnessed in the ROR.”
“Time magic is really weird,” Harry said.
“The Gryffindor line has always had a bizarre relationship with time and magic.” Sirius stood. “Well, it’s time to meet your witch. You wouldn’t want to be late.”
They left Harry’s suite and he wasn’t all that surprised to find all three of his vassals in the common room plus Piper Banner who had a camera. He frowned at the camera.
“I told her parents I would get pictures,” Piper told him and grinned when he sighed. “You look great—hardly pretentious at all.”
“Hardly,” Harry repeated. “Which means a little?”
“No one can wear a cravat without looking a little pretentious,” Hermione said from the stairs.
Harry exhaled sharply. “You look amazing.” He paused and frowned. “Is that all of your dress?”
She grinned and shrugged practically bare shoulders. “My mother approved it.” She laughed. “Merlin, Harry, don’t be that sort of wizard.”
“It’s too late—I’m totally that sort,” Harry confessed as she finished coming down the stairs and came to him. “I’m going to talk to your Dad. I know he’ll agree that we should probably chaperone future shopping trips.”
“Keep it up,” Hermione warned and turned to display her back. “Did I get the backdrop in the center?”
The dress was cut to the middle of her back. Harry frowned deeply at Piper who just smirked. The fall of rubies fell down the center of her back and which only drew attention to her bum.
“It looks fine.” Harry cleared his throat.
“Here, let me apply a sticking charm,” Piper stepped forward and handed her camera to her husband. “Not a strong one—just enough to keep it in the center of your back. Did you activate the charms in the dress to keep from having a slip?”
“Yes, and the support charm, too,” Hermione turned back around as Piper holstered her wand. “Lavender showed me how.”
“Support what?” Harry asked in confusion.
“You’d be better off not knowing,” Sirius told him.
Hermione waved at the top of her dress. “It keeps everything in place with the dress so if I bend over I don’t spill out the top of it.”
“I really wish you’d stop answering my questions,” Harry told her. “I’m not old enough for a conversation about your stuff spilling out of things.”
Hermione laughed. “Let’s get the pictures done so this lot will go away.”
After twenty minutes, they had to go downstairs for the opening of the ball so they escaped the picture situation though Piper had hurried downstairs ahead of them so she could take a few more pictures of them going down the stairs and entering the ball. They lined up with the other champions, he really didn’t think he could hate anything more than Triwizard Tournament. As he was in the lead of the ridiculous thing, they were put in the front and had to enter the hall first.
There was a little murmur of conversation among the students as they were announced. Cedric and Cho were directly behind them so Harry was relieved when the attention was claimed by the older boy. As they moved to the center of the room, Harry decided that he really should’ve danced with Hermione before the ball because he had no idea how to do this with her. He felt like an idiot but she moved into his space like they’d done it a thousand times and she was a little shorter than the girl the Room of Requirement. He adjusted just a little and put his hand on her waist and she smiled. They moved into the waltz with just a little hesitation and by the second turn he relaxed.
– – – –
Hannah Granger sat back with a glass of wine as her husband used the pensieve to view the memory Piper Banner had brought them—the first dance of the Yule Ball their daughter was attending. It was a truly enchanting memory and the glimpse she’d seen of Hogwarts had been great. She’d never really thought about the fact that her daughter went to school in an actual castle.
Ryan lifted away from the pensieve and picked up his own wine. He sighed and shared a look with Thaddeus Banner. “The Countess of Gryffindor, huh?”
“Certainly,” Thaddeus said. “We could pretend otherwise if it would make you feel better but I’ve seen something I’m not allowed to share that confirms it. They are quite enamored with each other at this point and there is a magical connection between them that is both lovely and utterly chaste. I know their physical relationship has been a concern.”
“It was,” Hannah murmured. “But he was very…honest about his intentions and his desire for a magical marriage. I don’t quite understand what it is but he was obviously sincere.”
“A magical marriage is considered a sacred endeavor among our people,” Piper said. She reached out and touched her husband. “I’m going to push my magic against my husband’s. You’ll be able to see the manifestation of our marriage bond.” She did so and they glowed—white and gold streams of magic swirled around them.
Hannah took a deep breath and tossed back her wine. “That’s…amazing actually. Is it common?”
“No, not really,” Thaddeus admitted. “Maybe one in a hundred marriages in Britain are magical these days as it is no longer popular and considered quite old-fashioned. That being said, the Gryffindor line is quite known for waiting for marriage. The last Earl to not have that privilege was potioned—a lust potion to be specific. The woman who did it was imprisoned but the damage was done.”
“She used a potion to rape him,” Ryan said.
“Yes, that was several hundred years ago before the Gryffindor and Potter family joined—it destroyed his life as the woman he was to marry ended their arrangement and he gave the title to a younger brother. Thereafter the Earl’s ring was spelled to protect them from such situations. Harry can’t be potioned against his will,” Thaddeus said. “He put that same protection on the diamond that Hermione wears. His father, James, was also very dedicated to the idea of a magical marriage. It is likely the betrayal that Adrian Gryffindor suffered is still resonating in the family magic.”
“Did he ever marry?”
“No, in fact, he grew quite bitter and isolated himself in many ways. History tells us that he died in his forties but the method was never written down.”
“He killed himself,” Ryan said.
“Perhaps, that isn’t the sort of situation that would’ve been mentioned in polite society during that time,” Piper said. “Also, his trauma would’ve been greatly ignored. Even now there are many in the magical world who don’t believe that lust or love potions are a crime—even if sex happens.”
“That’s infuriating,” Hannah murmured. “I appreciate Harry’s dedication to Hermione’s safety in that regard. But I am concerned that a boy his age is concerned about that sort of thing. He’s very adult sometimes—it’s like he had no childhood to speak of.”
“I think that’s a pretty accurate take on Lord Potter,” Piper said. “But we’re aren’t allowed to discuss that. His circumstances aren’t ideal for someone his age but I believe he handles his duties as well as we can expect for a fourteen year old.”
“I don’t disagree and it’s not a complaint,” Hannah said. “I appreciate his emotional maturity because he was right about Hermione—she’s a bit naïve at times when it comes to relationships and the motivations of others. She was probably genuinely shocked when he told her liked her.”
– – – –
Hermione sat down on the bench and glanced down the path where Zale Wright was standing—his back to them. She turned to Harry when he sat down with her. “You did tell them they can’t come on our honeymoon, right?”
Harry laughed. “I did. I think they’re more militant because I’m underage but we’ll have to indulge them on the matter of security since they are magically invested in our safety. I’d never want them to come close to violating their vows because I was unreasonable.”
“You dance very well.”
Harry flushed. “Well, I had lessons in the ROR.”
“I’d assumed,” Hermione admitted. “It would’ve been fun to do that with you.”
“I was…sort of embarrassed actually.”
“I know the Dursleys weren’t really invested in you and as a result you weren’t allowed any sort of enrichment activities, Harry. You don’t have to be ashamed of their neglect. You did nothing wrong and certainly didn’t deserve. They’re just…arseholes.”
Harry laughed. “Language, Hermione Jane.”
She flushed and shrugged. “It’s the truth and kind of a relief to say.” Hermione shivered a little.
“See, you should’ve wore more dress,” Harry said and pulled off his robe. He put it around her with a huff. “I’m talking to your dad, you know.”
“You’re so silly,” Hermione murmured and settled against him as he wrapped an arm around her. “Also, you’re supposed to be on my side against my parents.”
“I’m always on your side,” Harry exclaimed. “I was surprised to see Ron here.”
“Me, too,” Hermione agreed. “I’d heard he couldn’t get a date but his mother insisted he come to the Ball to keep an eye on Ginny and her date not that Neville would get out of line with a girl but Molly’s protective.” She bit down on her lip. “Do you regret what you did to him?”
“No, I don’t. He’s a foul git and I know what he’s capable of, Hermione.” He averted his gaze.
“Will you tell me?” She asked in a whisper against his jaw.
She had a right to know but Harry knew that Phoenix would never be able to say it. He turned to her. “Yes, but not tonight. After Yule would be best. Can you wait that long?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Zale is going to take you home after the Ball—so you don’t have to wait for the train.”
“Piper said,” Hermione murmured. “Are you still going to the vassal house in Hogsmeade for Yule?”
“Yes.” Harry took a deep breath. “Remus and Sirius are both living there so it’ll be nice. They’ll bring me to London on the second of January and we can do some shopping on the Alley before we come back to school on the third.”
“You don’t have to ride the train with me, I’ll be fine.”
“Actually, I do have to ride the train. It’s required of all students returning to the school. The ministry made it a law when some pure-bloods fussed about their kids riding in a muggle-vehicle. But I’d want to ride with you anyway.”
She turned and pressed a soft kiss against his mouth. “Thank you.”
“Being you, I guess.” She shrugged and smiled when he laughed.
Zale turned then, wand raised and shot a spell down the path. There was a thud and Harry turned to find Rita Skeeter sprawled in a snow bank. He frowned and turned to Zale.
“That was the spell to make animagus turn back into a person,” Hermione said.
“Yes,” Zale said as he walked past her. “I’m going to need Dumbledore, I believe.”
“Right,” Harry sighed. “We’ll go upstairs so Hermione can get her bag to go home.”
“Give me about thirty minutes and I’ll meet you both in the front foyer.”
An hour later, Hermione was gone and Rita had been arrested for being an unregistered animagus and criminal trespassing. He packed a small bag for the break and met his godfather in the foyer to leave. Sirius was speaking with McGonagall when he finished coming down the stairs.
“Minerva was telling me that Zale caught Rita spying on you and Hermione.”
“Yes, apparently she’s a beetle animagus,” Harry said. “Did you register?”
“Of course,” Sirius said and took the bag. “No need to give those people a reason to arrest me again.”
The professor walked with them to the door and wished them a happy holiday. It was kind of weird to be leaving the school and looking forward to doing so. But then for the first time his destination wasn’t going to be the Dursley’s house. Zale arrived shortly after they did and Harry let himself relax.
Harry shuddered as his magic shifted inside him and hissed in shock as his shirt tore. His wings sprung from his back and Sirius huffed in shock. “Ouch.”
“I bet,” Sirius said. He stood up and walked around. “No blood. If this were on purpose I’d be impressed—the transfiguration is very smooth. Can you move them?”
Harry imagined his wings moving and they did so. He shivered. “It’s weird actually because they feel like my arms but I still have my arms.” He flexed his wand arm and his right wing trembled. “So bloody weird.”
Sirius laughed. “I bet. Okay, put them away, kiddo.”
He straightened his shoulders and closed his eyes as he imagined his wings were gone. That didn’t work at all, so he took a deep breath and pressed down with his magic which didn’t even make sense physically but it worked because his wings disappeared with a swoosh of smoky white magic.
“Now, try it again. Imagine your arm is a wing.”
His fingers grew feathers. Harry huffed. “This is not fun.”
Sirius laughed. “Who said it would be?” He reached out and thumped Harry’s nose. “But you’re doing well—at least we didn’t have to floo McGonagall for help. You wouldn’t believe the story we told her when James sprouted antlers and couldn’t get them to go away.”
Harry grinned. “She saw right through you.”
“Of course, but she’s always been great about pretending otherwise. I don’t think I realized that until I was an adult so you’re further along than we were.”
“Maybe as she’s gotten older she’s gotten less concerned about pretending to be oblivious,” Harry said and yawned. He shook his hand and the feathers disappeared. “Did I do the right thing about Ron?”
“You took a strong stance but he was entirely out of line.” Sirius sat down in front of him. “Here’s the thing—you saw something cruel and unforgiveable in him. Ronald presented himself to be a threat against your Lady and your response was far more civilized than he deserved.”
“Was…” Harry bit down on his bottom lip. “Never mind.”
“Go ahead, lad, you can ask me anything. I can’t promise you an answer but I’ll never get angry that you asked the question.”
“Okay,” Harry said and took a deep breath. “Was there someone before you went to prison?”
“You mean romantically?” Sirius sighed. “No, not really. I mean went straight from Hogwarts and into the Auror Academy. Then there was the war. I had lovers—I won’t pretend otherwise but I never really thought I’d marry because I didn’t want my own children and I preferred men beyond that.”
Harry frowned. “But you adopted me.”
“My brother was dead and I needed an heir for the Black title. Your dad knew I had no intention of having my own children and it was such an honor when he offered to share his son with me.”
“Why no kids?” Harry questioned. “You don’t like them?”
“Oh, I love kids and I especially loved you from the moment you were born. I grew up in a terrible household and I didn’t trust myself to be a parent. I still, frankly, don’t trust myself to be a parent. I second-guess myself constantly where you’re concerned. I’ve already made a terrible mistake that we both paid a vicious price for. I’m sure your parents are going to lecture me for eternity for my stupidity.”
“You were in a bad place emotionally and we both should’ve been able to trust the system to take care of us. They didn’t just fail you; they failed me. Honestly, the system failed Tom Riddle, too. I wonder, sometimes, if there are kids like him at Hogwarts who are slowly but surely going dark because of what they suffer at home. Was Snape always dark?”
“No,” Sirius admitted reluctantly. “But he grew up in a terrible situation and frankly Hogwarts wasn’t much better. He was a half-blood sorted into Slytherin during the middle of a blood war. I can’t pretend I wasn’t a bully and that he was often a target. I grew up in a dark family and I hated seeing those kids in Slytherin willingly and sometimes gleefully going down a dark path. We all acted like vicious little jerks, Snape included.”
“He never outgrew it.”
“I’m not sure I would’ve if I hadn’t gone to Azkaban,” Sirius said. “I was a wild young man—prone to drinking too much and I treated sex like a game. I’m not ashamed of my past because I treated my partners honestly and I took consent very seriously but I’m glad you’ve made a personal commitment to be different.”
Harry leaned back on his hands and glanced around the room. Zale was sitting in a chair by the fire and Remus was at the desk in the room writing. He returned his attention to Sirius. “The thought of being with anyone but Hermione sort of makes my skin crawl. It’s felt like that for…well since I kissed her.” He felt his face heat as his godfather’s mouth dropped open.
“We definitely need to go see the Book of Souls at some point,” Zale murmured and turned the page in the book he was reading. “Perhaps over the summer so she can go as well.”
Harry nodded and stood with a yawn. “I should go to bed. We have an appointment at the bank and I’d like to shop for owls before we meet Hermione and her parents.”
“Is something wrong with Hedwig?” Sirius questioned.
“No, but she’s very distinctive so I thought I might get another owl that doesn’t stand out so much for security purposes.”
“If we’re not careful he’ll be as paranoid as Thaddeus,” Zale said dryly.
– – – –
They were eating at an outdoor café snug in an environmental charm not far from the bank. The barn owl he’d purchased and named Emree was sleeping in a cage near him. The bird had flown to him the moment he’d entered the shop and Harry hadn’t been all that surprised to look up and find Hedwig on the perch the bird had been on. He figured it was best to go with her choice to avoid fighting so he’d bought the bird. Hedwig had flown off after her bidding was done.
He wondered how Hermione had liked the gift he’d sent to her. They’d agreed not to buy anything outlandish for each other, especially in the wake of the diamond she was wearing and her parent’s reaction to it. So he’d bought her a small library trunk which would allow her to keep several hundred books in it and a box of candy. She’d replaced his quidditch armor and given him a book on the seeker techniques. He’d gotten more clothes from Sirius and a nice wallet from Remus. On Phoenix’s advice, he’d bought Sirius, Remus, Thaddeus, and Zale dimensional store bracelets which had been well-received. He’d paid for an appointment with a popular and exclusive dress designer for Thaddeus’ wife. He’d been hugged by Piper every single time she saw him since.
Thaddeus stood from the table as his four year old darted ahead of his wife towards him. Harry had been looking forward to meeting the kid and finding out if he’d liked the animated dragon he’d sent him. There was a glimmer of magic to his left and a dark green bolt of light shot right past him. Harry apparated right out of his chair with a thunderous boom and into the path of the spell. He snatched the kid up and disappeared just seconds before the spell hit, the stones on the street disintegrated. He reappeared on the steps of Flourish and Blotts, Jamie was clinging to him and crying. Thaddeus, Zale and Sirius had turned on the man who had cast the spell. Piper ran to him and pushed him and her son into the bookstore.
“Merlin, you moved so fast I didn’t even see you reappear,” Piper said and took her boy. “Thank you so much.”
“Well, that’s certainly what we’re going to tell the bloody ministry.” She pulled him close with her free arm and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”
“Who was that?” Harry questioned.
“I.” Piper flushed. “He was a healer but his license pulled and his mastery was revoked by the ICW with prejudice. He let a Muggle-born woman die in childbirth and I couldn’t prove he did it on purpose but she…” She huffed. “She bled to death, Harry. That’s just not something that happens in the magical world. So either he’s an evil git or an incompetent fool. Either way he shouldn’t be licensed to heal. He tried to sue me but the Wizengamot threw the case out because I just reported the malpractice. I didn’t make any decisions about his career.”
“When did this happen?”
“A week ago,” Piper bit down on her lip. “I’m pretty sure Thaddeus’ status as your senior vassal is the reason I was taken seriously.”
“You feel free to use my name to ruin evil people all day long,” Harry said.
Harry focused on the boy. “Hey kiddo, did you like your dragon?”
“He’s guarding my room,” Jamie said proudly.
“It was his favorite gift,” Piper said wryly. “I forgive you.”
Harry laughed but focused on Jamie. “Do you read yet?”
“Yes! I can read four hundred different words.”
“He can read anything labeled up to age eight,” Piper said and just took a deep breath as Jamie reached out for Harry. “You two stay in this store.”
“Of course,” Harry agreed and took the kid. “How about we go find a book on dragons?”
Piper watched them go and exchanged a look with Mr. Flourish who only nodded and patted the wand he had on his counter in front of him. She stepped out onto the street and looked for her husband. Her heart was still in her throat but she squared her shoulders. A pair of aurors were with him. In fact, the scene was drowning in ministry employees—four Unspeakables, seven aurors, and Amelia Bones herself. Gilroy Dippet, the man that had tried to kill her son was on the ground. She watched an auror put a sheet over him with a frown.
She reached her husband and Thaddeus offered her his hand.
“Is he okay?” Thaddeus asked, cutting off the auror who had been in the middle of asking him a question.
“Lord Potter is buying him a book,” Piper murmured. “They are none the worse for wear. But I’ll do a check on them both after we’re done here.”
“My apologies,” Thaddeus said as he focused on the man who had been questioning him, “Auror Shacklebolt, my wife spent a decade drilling manners into me and yet often I fail to be a gentleman.”
Shacklebolt glanced toward the body. “You’ve had a startling morning, Mr. Banner. I was just going to ask you if you saw the curse before Lord Potter apparated?”
“He couldn’t have,” another auror said as he joined them. “It was cast from an Unspeakable grade wand, Kingsley. And you know spells from those wands are obscured through enchantment. How he got a hold of a restricted wand is anyone’s guess. For the record, it was a Killing Curse.”
Piper’s knees went weak and Thaddeus pulled her to him. A shudder went through him and she turned her face into his shoulder. He pressed a kiss against her brow.
“I don’t know which one of us killed him,” Thaddeus said. “Lord Potter apparated into the street, took my son, and the curse hit the ground. His godfather, myself, and Mr. Wright returned spell fire. We all three cast cutting curses. It happened in seconds.”
“He was hit with three cutting curses,” the second auror agreed. “And a reductor, and two bludgeoning curses.” He waved a hand at the other people being questioned. “Apparently pointing a wand in Harry Potter’s general direction is a dumb thing to do.”
She turned and found Hermione Granger hurrying up the street. The girl reached them quickly. “He’s fine.”
She huffed. “Merlin, it’s being reported up and down the street that someone tried to kill him.”
“No, he was aiming for my son,” Thaddeus said. “Lord Potter must have sensed something because the spell was invisible due to it being cast by an Unspeakable’s wand.”
Hermione’s eyes went wide and she paled. “So it was a Killing Curse?”
“Yes.” Shacklebolt closed the notebook he’d been writing in. “I was just going to go question Lord Potter.”
Hermione frowned at him. “Who are you?”
“The Head Auror.” Hermione pulled off her gloves as her parents finally caught up with her. “I hope you hadn’t intended on questioning the Earl of Gryffindor without a proper chaperone. He may have claimed his title but he’s still a minor per British magical law.”
Shacklebolt stared at her. “I…” He pursed his lips. “I hadn’t considered that.”
“I hadn’t thought so,” Hermione’s gaze narrowed. “It’s fortunate for you that I did consider it. Let me extract his guardian from Madam Bones’ custody and he’ll arrange for you to speak with the Earl.”
Piper watched her stalk off towards Amelia Bones and laughed briefly.
Shacklebolt huffed. “Merlin.”
“Yes,” Thaddeus agreed. “Do mind your manners when you speak to Lord Potter or you’ll have her to answer to. I don’t recommend it.”
“Well, that’s pretty much par for the Potter family course,” Kingsley said. “Remember Dorea’s dressing down of the entire Wizengamot because they called an emergency session while Charlus had dragon pox? I was an intern in the minister’s office. The Chief Warlock, at the time, retired just to escape her.”
– – – –
Harry sat down at the large table in the conference room the goblins had provided. Hermione sat down beside him with a piece of parchment and quill she’d gotten from a clerk in the front of the bank. Her parents were seated with everyone else at one end of the table while Sirius was on his left. Amelia Bones, Minister Fudge, and Kingsley Shacklebolt were on the opposite side of the table.
“Harry,” Fudge began.
Hermione pointed her quill at him.
Fudge blushed a dull red. “Lord Potter, thank you for agreeing to speak with us.”
Harry frowned. “I agreed to speak with the DMLE regarding the incident in the alley. I’m not sure, exactly, Minister Fudge what role you play in this matter. While I consider the situation a deeply troubling one, for several reasons, I believe the investigation should be conducted by those qualified to do it.” He turned to Shacklebolt. “Now, you had questions for me?”
Shacklebolt glanced at Fudge who just waved a hand in frustration.
“You reacted before anyone else and from all reports you chain apparated so fast that you were a blur once you left the patio of the café.” Shacklebolt put down the quill he’d been writing with and focused on Harry. “Why did you apparate in the first place?”
“I saw…no.” He frowned. “I felt magic moving behind me—like a wave in the air. Does that make any sense at all?”
“There are those who can sense magical currents and if they work on that ability they can learn to discern magical intent as well. What did it feel like?”
“Like I was being pushed but it wasn’t a hard feeling, just a nudge so to speak.” He bit down on his lip. “Then I saw magic out of the corner of my eye and the spell left the man’s wand. I apparated. I don’t know why I thought Jamie was the target except to say that the magical push didn’t happen until he appeared on the street and called for his father. His father is a bound vassal to my house so I do have a magical connection to Thaddeus and in turn both his wife and child. Maybe I felt his intent? I don’t know. I’ve only ever felt it once before.”
“When?” Amelia Bones questioned and sent Shacklebolt a look of apology.
“I.” Harry sighed. “Okay, near the end of my second year, I tricked Lucius Malfoy into freeing his house elf out of general spite and the desire to free the poor creature from what I considered an abusive situation. He was furious and he drew his wand on me. The house elf interfered but he managed to say one word before Dobby reacted.”
“And what was that word?” Sirius demanded.
Harry glanced at Hermione, whose expression was tight. “Avada.”
“Lucius Malfoy almost used the Killing Curse on you?” Sirius demanded. “How…why am I just hearing about this now?”
“I guess I kind of forgot about it. I mean he isn’t even the last person to try to kill me.” Harry winced when Sirius’ mouth dropped open. “Can we save this conversation for later?”
“You are entirely too much like your mother.”” Sirius slouched down in his chair.
Harry shrugged and returned his attention to Shacklebolt. “So I apparated without any sort of intent to be honest. I just moved, perhaps out of instinct? I do have an intimate knowledge of that curse after all. I don’t know how fast it happened or why I seemed to blur to the people who witnessed it. I’m not saying it was accidental magic but I barely had time to recognize my intent before I was standing in front of Flourish and Blotts.”
Hermione made a note on her parchment. Harry noted that the first thing on her list was ‘Ruin Lucius Malfoy’s life’. “It’s not the first time his magic has acted in his defense or frankly in the defense of others.”
“Could you explain that Lady…Miss Granger?” Bones asked with a flushed face.
“Well, in Harry’s first year when that no-good-stuttering fool Quirrell willingly let Voldemort possess him—Harry’s magic lashed out at the professor and the professor didn’t survive it.”
“In my defense, Quirrellmort was trying to kill me.”
Sirius snorted. “Merlin, that shouldn’t be funny at all.”
“In third year, when the ministry tried to murder Harry and his godfather, Harry produced a patronus strong enough to drive away over a hundred of dementors. It was, in fact, corporeal and he’d been casting mist before that night. His magic has always provided for him when the need was great.” Hermione twirled her quill as she spoke. “Come to think of it, you’ve never apologized for your terrible and dark behavior that night, Minister Fudge. I find that…distressing.”
“I find it upsetting as well,” Harry agreed. He turn to Chieftain Ragnok. “We should probably start thinking about my demands for compensation. The ministry has no defense in this matter since they threw my only living parent in prison without even an interview much less a trial. They violated a host of international laws but I’m sure the ICW will be handling that.”
“Agreed, several people will certainly end up in front of the World Court explaining their lack of ethics,” Ragnok agreed. “It’s considered a crime against magic to jail a person without a trial. The fact that he proved to be innocent adds another layer of horror to the situation. Perhaps Miss Granger could make a list.”
Hermione inclined her head in thought and nodded. “I have a few things in mind already. I’ll need to consult the representative the ICW sends to Britain.”
“I can arrange that, Miss Granger,” Ragnok said.
“I’d like to arrange for the Department of Mysteries to investigate your magical sensitivity to the Killing Curse,” Fudge said abruptly. “You’re the only person to survive the curse, of course, and that’s never been studied.”
“No.” Harry turned to Amelia Bones. “Can I go? I’ve had a difficult day. If I may be frank, today is the second time I’ve seen the Killing Curse cast—the first time was when Voldemort murdered my mother. The person who did it is thankfully dead, neither Jamie nor I were injured. Unless you plan to file charges against the six people who cursed the offender? Or maybe you’d just like to arrest my godfather, again, and throw him in Azkaban without a trial, again, so you can torture him with dementors?”
“Lord Potter, I have no interest in arresting anyone for today’s events and of course, you can go.” Bones glared at Fudge when he started to speak. “Thank you for the time you’ve given us and thank you for your quick action. There are few things in my job I hate more than investigating the murder of a child.”
– – – –
Everyone, including the Grangers, traveled to the vassal house through the floo. Harry took off his robe as he left the kitchen where the main floo was and tossed it in a chair in his office. The waist coat and tie followed. He threw himself into the bay window in the back of the room and said nothing when Hermione joined him. She curled up against him and he turned his head so he could bury his face against her neck. Magic shimmered around them and he closed his eyes against it.
Sirius watched from the doorway of the office and sighed. He moved out of the doorway and leaned against the wall. He focused on Thaddeus. “How is your lad?”
“Excited about his book and completely unfazed by the day,” Thaddeus murmured. “Harry didn’t let him see what happened after they apparated away from the curse.” He rubbed his face with a shaking hand. “I need a very large drink.”
“Why are they glowing?” Ryan Granger asked. He was leaning on the wall just across from the library.
“I’m not sure,” Sirius said. “There are a few situations that create such a state but…” He frowned.
“It’s really none of our business,” Sirius said. “It’s a magical bond of some kind—it could be just her inclusion in his house or it could be something far more serious. But I don’t have the right to ask him such a question, his guardian or not.”
“Because of his title?” Ryan questioned.
“Yes.” Zale handed Thaddeus a half glass of bourbon. “There are somethings that he can’t discuss due to the established rules of his ancestral house. They are what we call Lord’s secrets. These secrets were created by others in his line and recorded in the family grimoire. There are other things—entailed items, vaults only he or his wedded spouse can enter, and the ancestral property which has been closed since his grandfather died because James never went to it.”
“Where is the ancestral property?”
“We don’t know,” Thaddeus admitted. “He knows and I imagine we’ll all see it over the summer. I went once as a child—the land has been in his family for many generations. The Potter family replaced the keep that was the ancestral seat in the 1700s with a manor house. I don’t remember the details as I was very young but there were four floors that I had access to. It’s a beautiful estate.”
“They’re asleep,” Ryan murmured.
Sirius shifted and glanced into the room. “I could take him to his room if it bothers you—them napping together.”
“No, I trust him. He’s the last one I’d worry about taking advantage of or misusing my daughter. “
They moved into the kitchen and found Piper sitting at the table with Hannah Granger. They had a pot of tea and a plate of sandwiches between them.
“How are they?” Piper asked.
“Glowing,” Sirius reported. “And asleep.”
She nodded. “I’ve asked her about the reactive magic between them. For the record, they don’t know for certain why they glow sometimes. It’s been happening off and on since their first year though they were careful to keep it a secret. He rarely touches her skin in public as a result. In fact, she bought gloves for the Yule Ball so they wouldn’t have to worry about it happening while they were dancing. Hermione reports it happens when their emotions are high—good or bad. I’d scan them but he has an hyper active response to magic being cast around him in his sleep. Poppy said he nearly stunned her twice last year when she had him in the infirmary. After that, he gave her his wand any time he had to see her.”
“He was abused,” Hannah blurted out. “In his aunt’s home, right?”
Thaddeus exhaled sharply. “We’re not allowed to discuss it.”
“But if it happened, you can rest assured that the two adults would be thoroughly punished.” Zale put some more plates of sandwiches on the table. “Dobby keeps food on hand for us in preservation charms. Very handy little guy.”
“And very loyal,” Sirius murmured. “He saved Harry’s life that day it seems.”
“What are you going to do about that Malfoy guy?” Ryan questioned.
“I’m going to…” Sirius’ gaze narrowed as Zale prodded a plate closer to him. He sighed and picked up a sandwich. “I’m going to disown his wife, who is my cousin, and their son. Magically, it will sever her relationship with the House of Black and our family magic. Financially, it will cost them roughly a hundred thousand galleons a year which is what they’ve earned from the Black Trust annually since they married. On behalf of the House of Potter, I’m going to demand compensation for his intent to end the last surviving house of Avalon. I’ll let the kids figure out what they want in compensation.”
“On board with that, are you?” Ryan questioned.
Sirius shrugged and pulled a basket of crisps closer to him. “Your daughter saved my life, Ryan. She’s brilliant, loyal, and courageous. I can’t imagine he’d ever find a better witch to make a life with. But even if I didn’t approve, the choice isn’t mine and I won’t pretend it is. My guardianship of him is largely ceremonial. He is as much the Earl of Gryffindor as I am the Earl of Blackmoor. I can’t undermine his authority in his own magical house.”
Hermione entered at that point, twisting her hair up on top of her head. She used her wand to transfigure a braid and tucked it into a bun. “Dobby.”
The house elf appeared immediately. “Miss Hermione. You not nap long.”
“I didn’t go to sleep at all,” Hermione admitted. “When he wakes up—he’ll need something more substantial than sandwiches. Can you make that chicken pasta dish that Hogwarts serves?”
“It be his favorite,” Dobby nodded. “I make it and have it ready when he wakes.”
“Thank you.” Hermione sat down next to her mother and snagged an empty tea cup. She focused on Piper. “His dream catcher spell is rapidly deteriorating.”
Piper summoned a small bag from the sofa where her son was tucked away asleep then pulled a book out of it which she resized. “You said it normally it requires that he be magically exhausted before that happens.”
“He is magically exhausted. I don’t know how he made it through that meeting with the DMLE to be honest.” She added milk and sugar to the tea her mother poured her. “It’s odd.”
“Not so odd,” Thaddeus said. “He didn’t apparate today. He moved so quickly that I only saw an after image of him taking Jamie. He did it twice, whatever it was.”
“Thunderbirds are capable of teleportation,” Hermione said and she shrugged when Piper appeared shocked then focused on Sirius. “You’re a magical animagus. Do you have any crossover abilities?”
“I have the ability to draw lightening down out of the sky no matter the weather conditions. I can throw ball lightening with my bare hands,” Sirius murmured. “I can travel over lightening in my animagus form but not as a wizard though honestly I’ve never tried and wouldn’t. Doing it in my form is disorienting and taxing.”
“I can walk in shadows,” Zale said. “In my form and as a wizard. My range is more limited as a wizard but I can cross the world in shadows in my form.”
“What’s an animagus?”
“A magical person who can turn into an animal,” Piper said. “Some have magical forms.”
“You just turn into an animal?” Hannah raised an eyebrow and focused on Sirius.
He laughed. “I’m going to indulge this but if you come across another of us—please know that asking an animagus to transform for entertainment is considered rude.”
“Of course,” Hannah agreed.
Sirius’ body blurred and smoky grey magic enveloped him leaving the hulking grim in his wake. Hannah squeaked and blushed furiously at the laughs that earned her. He shifted and regained his human form.
“What kind of animal walks in shadows?” Hermione questioned and focused on Zale. “I haven’t had much chance to read about magical species outside our text book for Care of Magical Creatures.”
Zale shared a look with Sirius and stood. “There are two magical creatures who can walk in shadows—vampires and the shadow panther.” He shifted into an inky black cat, twice the size of Sirius’ own form. He changed back abruptly. “Don’t ask to see Thaddeus form—Jamie’s afraid of snakes.”
Thaddeus sighed and glanced towards his child. “I scared the hell out of him the only time I transformed in front of him. We suppressed the memory because he had nightmares that a snake ate me.”
“What kind of snake are you?”
“Twenty-two feet of magical pit viper,” Piper said. “One of the more dangerous snakes on the planet and one of the few class XXXXX creatures that can be bred legally.”
“What are the classes?” Hannah asked.
“X, boring. XX, harmless. XXX, competent wizards should cope. XXXX, dangerous and requires skilled knowledge. XXXXX, known wizard killer. Examples of XXXXX creatures besides Thaddeus’ form include dragons, acromantulas, manticores, and basilisks.”
“Where does the thunderbird rate?” Sirius asked as he stood from the table and retrieved a butter beer from the cooling cabinet.
“They don’t have a classification because the natural species has been extinct for more years than the system has existed,” Hermione said. “I looked it up when Harry told me his form.”
“Do you have a form, Hermione?” Ryan questioned and raised an eyebrow when she blushed. “Something wrong?”
“It’s a bird,” Hermione huffed when Sirius burst out laughing. “Not funny.”
“Oh, very funny,” Sirius promised. “Which bird?”
“A brown falcon. I met her meditation a week ago but I haven’t told Harry because he’ll be just as amused as you.”
“Why is it funny?” Piper questioned.
“Because I can’t fly a broom to save my life,” Hermione complained. “And I sort of hate flying at all to be honest. I thought I was going to faint right off that silly hippogriff when we broke Sirius out of Hogwarts.”
“What’s a hippogriff?” Ryan asked.
“It’s a magical creature that is half giant eagle and half horse,” Harry said from the doorway. “If you’d like to see one—Buckbeak, the one we rode, is in the backyard.”
“Oh, Buckbeak’s here?” Hermione jumped right up and opened the French doors leading out to the patio.
Harry joined her and stepped out onto the patio. Buckbeak crossed the yard and onto the patio. “Hey boy.” The animal came to them and rubbed his head against Harry’s shoulder. “Maybe you can teach Hermione to fly.”
“You heard,” she huffed and poked him in the side.
He laughed. “Yeah. It’s pretty funny. Maybe once you can transform you’ll stop being afraid of brooms.” He focused on the hippogriff. “Sirius, has he lost weight?”
“A little when we were hiding but I’ve been feeding him a steady and horrifying diet of ferrets,” Sirius said. “I asked him if he wanted to go to the sanctuary in Greece but he declined.”
“He can speak?” Hannah questioned. She was leaning back in her chair to look at the animal.
“Not at all but he’s very intelligent and he understands us. In fact, his species is quite known for being intolerant of rude behavior, including insulting language. When he wants to fly, he’ll come to the door and tap it with his beak so we can disillusion him. Shortly before the charm wears off, he comes back to the house.”
Dobby popped into the kitchen with a large container of food. “Master Harry, I bring dinner.”
“Thanks, Dobby,” Harry said and patted Buckbeak on the side of the neck. “How about you come back later and we’ll go flying?”
Buckbeak nodded his agreement and trotted off. Hermione pulled the doors shut and prodded Harry toward the table where Sirius had set a place for him. He sat down and turned to Dobby. “You have my mail?”
“Master Harry want it here or on his desk?”
“Here is fine. My desk is overflowing with account ledgers at present.” He sighed when Sirius filled up his plate. “Whoa, I don’t eat that much.”
“You should,” Piper interjected. “Try at least.”
“All right,” he muttered when Hermione glared at him so he turned to Ryan. “Did you see that dress your wife let her buy?”
Ryan snorted. “Oh, lad.”
“Harry Potter, don’t get on my bad side,” Hermione warned and pointed at him with her sandwich.
Harry just laughed as everyone else helped themselves to some of the pasta Dobby brought. “Where’s Remus?”
“In France, he’s securing a potions lab for the foundation,” Sirius explained. “None of the ones in Britain were willing to work with the foundation regarding the creation of Wolfsbane so he found one that was for sale and went to inspect it.”
“Good,” Harry murmured. “I’m glad he’s settling into the job then.” Dobby reappeared with a small stack of parchments. “Thanks Dobby. Did you eat?”
Dobby nodded. “Winky fix dinner for me. We’re courting.”
Harry set aside the parchment and focused on Dobby. “Well, then. That’s exciting. How does that work?”
“Winky cook Dobby food and Dobby try not to be a git and bring Winky flowers,” Dobby said. “And we test our magic. If our magic works together then maybe we bond if it be pleasant. Then we have babies.”
Harry bit down on his lip. “Good luck in not being a git.”
“Dobby thanks Harry Potter,” the house elf said earnestly and popped away.
Harry turned to Piper. “Is that normal?”
“Yes, they actually have very complicated courting rituals. If they gotten far enough into it to exchange food and flowers then they are bonding emotionally. They don’t love exactly the same way we do but they do form intimate pair bonds and they mate for life. It’s quite lovely but often the protocols that help them survive interfere with their courting traditions,” Piper said. “This pasta is amazing. I don’t remember Hogwarts food being this good when I was there.”
“No, it wasn’t bad but not this good.” Sirius agreed.
Harry picked up the first parchment opened, scanned the contents and put it down beside Hermione who picked it up to read as she munched her sandwich.
She frowned a little as she read. “What does Phoenix think?”
Magic simmered over the bracelet and Phoenix appeared beside Harry. The avatar walked across the room to stand by the doors. Both teenagers watched him and Sirius wondered, yet again, what they’d done that day in the Room of Requirement when Harry had invoked his power as the Earl of Gryffindor place a secret on his entire line.
“I think it’s dangerous to know but perhaps more dangerous to not know for certain,” Phoenix said. He turned to them. “You also run the risk of seeing a name you don’t expect to see.” They both frowned at him. “I know but it must be said. The Book of Souls is a very powerful magical object and the ministry monitors it carefully. You can’t hide that you’ve visited it. Assumptions, wrong or right will be made, and it could be dangerous.”
“For her,” Harry said.
“Of course,” Phoenix agreed. “Individually, you’ll both be attractive on the marriage market. Her inheritance, magical power, intelligence, and physical beauty will attract suitors if she’s unattached.” He raised an eyebrow when Hermione blushed and averted her gaze. “Are you familiar with the golden ratio, Miss Granger?”
“Yes,” Hermione said. “But…”
“Math doesn’t lie, young lady. Your face is perfect. If I were your father, I’d have started stock piling weapons shortly after puberty hit.”
Ryan snorted. “Don’t think I haven’t.”
Hermione put some pasta on her plate and waved a hand at him. “So about the letter?”
“It’s surely been reported, as we suspected it would be, that Lord Potter requested a verification of the fact that he has a record.”
Hermione passed the letter to Sirius when he made grabby hand motion at it. “So tell me why it’s a problem.”
“Once it becomes known that he has a soulmate, all the ancient and noble families in Britain will realize that there won’t be a second wife,” Phoenix explained patiently. “There are plenty of families that would be more than willing to eliminate his soulmate to make sure he’s available to them in that regard.”
“A second wife?” Hannah said in shock. “What?”
“Or a husband,” Harry said. “Well, a wizard would be considered a Consort not a husband in the magical world. I have two titles, really, as I’m Sirius’ heir due to blood and magical adoption. That circumstance would allow me a second spouse legally and magically. But a marriage bond with a soulmate would make that impossible unless…” He trailed off.
“Unless he has two soulmates,” Hermione said. “Triads are formed in that case as they are often all soulmates.”
“There are two Trinities in the Potter line,” Thaddeus pointed out. “So there is precedence for it. Is that an issue?”
Hermione grimaced and Harry shook his head.
“Thankfully, I think most of our peers are…annoying,” Hermione said.
“And rather like sheep.” Harry pushed aside his empty plate and opened the next letter. “Well, it’s something to think about. I could go by myself but that doesn’t seem fair considering what we suspect.”
“But if you went alone we could hide the results.”
“Not really,” Ryan interjected. “Because if he goes to the Book of Souls but your relationship continues any logical person would draw an accurate conclusion.”
“Fortunately for us most magicals are completely without a rational thought in their head,” Harry said absently as he read the letter in his hand. “This is the most insulting thing I’ve ever read concerning myself.” He stood and walked over to the fireplace, tossed a handful of floo powder in it. “McBain & Associates, Cornwall House.”
The fire place lit green and a wizard’s head appeared in the flames. “Lord Potter, I’m surprised to hear from you during the holiday. I hope your Yule celebration went well.”
“It was great and yours?”
“Very good. We appreciated the gift basket your house elf brought. I admit to eating all the sugar cookies by myself.”
Harry laughed. “I ate a dozen while he baked them. I hate to disturb you during your holiday—I was just going to leave a message.”
“Oh, no, that’s fine. I came in to the office to avoid my wife’s parents. They’re a complete nightmare. How can I help you?”
Harry said. “I just received a letter from Lord Savage.”
“It would best not do business with a man like Tobias Savage, Lord Potter. He’s not only a dark wizard but an arsehole on top of it.”
“I certainly don’t wish to do business with such a person,” Harry agreed. “The problem is that the letter is not a business offer. It’s a personal one. I thought we’d registered with the Department of Contracts and Marriage and that I had declined to receive offers like this.” He waved the letter.
“What’s the offer?” McBain asked.
“Apparently his granddaughter is for sale and I can have her for ten thousand galleons.” He waved the letter again.
McBain sorted. “So betrothal and attached bride price.”
“Reads more like he’s offering me a sex slave,” Harry complained. “I don’t even think I’m old enough to get a letter like this, McBain. It actually says she’s been trained in a sexual techniques in France!”
“Can I step through?”
“Yes, please do.” Harry glanced towards Phoenix and the avatar faded away with a brief nod. He stepped back and the floo flared and ejected the lawyer. “We’re having pasta for an early dinner if you’re hungry.”
“Dobby already brought me some,” Ian admitted with a laugh. “He retrieved a contract I finished and offered me dinner. I gratefully accepted. Anything to escape my mother-in-law.” He held out a hand for the letter and Harry handed it over.
McBain sighed. “Merlin’s pants.”
“I know.” Harry waved a hand in frustration, walked across the room and threw himself in an arm chair near the sofa where Jamie still slept. “I wish I could still take naps like this.”
“Agreed,” Zale said and sat down in the chair opposite from him.
“For the love of…” McBain sighed. “I’m going to send this creep a howler. It’s like they forget you’re fourteen.”
“What did that tantric thing mean?” Harry asked.
“Never you mind,” Sirius said sternly and stood. “Let me see this.” He held out his hand and McBain handed it over. His face went ruddy with temper almost immediately and his magic drifted over his skin briefly before he exhaled sharply. “Well that is…I don’t even…”
“The tantric sex principals are mostly concerned with the idea that sexual intercourse and orgasm can bring you closer spiritually to a higher power,” Hermione said.
Harry stared at her for a few seconds. “I’m too young for this conversation.”
She laughed and shrugged. “I have a book.”
“You have a what?” Ryan Granger demanded. “Hannah.” He turned to his wife.
“You said if she was old enough to ask a question she was old enough to get a thorough and honest answer,” Hannah said primly. “Knowledge is power.”
Piper Banner burst out laughing.
“This is outrageous,” Sirius said and waved the letter.
Hermione stood abruptly from the table. “Right. We’re going to the Book of Souls. Harry get your coat.”
She glared at him. “Right now, Harry James. I’m not going to tolerate creepy dark wizards offering you sex slaves.” She marched off. “Coats!”
– – – –
In the end, Sirius, Ryan Granger, and Thaddeus went with them to the ministry. As a Muggle, Hannah would’ve never made it through the visitor’s booth but Ryan was a squib so he had no problems moving through the entry process with the rest of them. The keeper of the book had shown them all into the room and shut the door after behind them. Harry wondered how many people had run to Fudge already.
He gave Hermione’s hand a little squeeze as they stopped in front of the podium. He started to touch it but she took a shaky breath.
“What?” Harry questioned. He let his hand drop.
“What if it doesn’t say what we expect it to?”
“How could it not?” Harry questioned in confusion.
She bit down on her lip and shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“This was your idea.”
She huffed and shrugged. “What if we’re a triad?”
“Think about that for a minute,” Harry advised. “Because the idea of it makes me absolutely furious and sort of sick to my stomach so I doubt that’s in our future.”
“But what if…”
“For the love of Merlin, Hermione, we met our kids! All four of them!”
“What?” Ryan Granger demanded.
They turned to stare at her father.
“Oh, I sort of forgot we weren’t alone,” Harry said. “If we promise to be excessively honest about that whole thing after we do this, can that answer wait until we return to my house?”
Ryan snorted. “Yes, it can wait.”
They reached out at the same time and touched the book. It opened with a wispy flutter of magic and they were enveloped in a gold light.
“What does it say?” Sirius questioned.
“Forever shall it be accepted by all that the Lord of Magic has blessed that to interfere in the bond of true magical soulmates is an unforgiveable crime. Let it be known that Harry James Potter and Hermione Jane Granger are fated soulmates.” Harry cleared his throat and took a deep breath as the book closed and a parchment appeared on top of it. “Well.”
“Fated,” Thaddeus repeated.
“What does that mean?” Ryan questioned.
“It means we’re reincarnated,” Hermione said. “But I think I already knew that.”
“Yeah, I have a lot of…sometimes it’s like we’re having a conversation that we’ve had a dozen times before but I don’t remember them.”
“Exactly that.” Hermione reached out and picked up the parchment. “We should take this to bank then we can go home and show my parents their grandkids.”
“I need a whole bottle of whatever you drank earlier,” Ryan told Thaddeus.
– – – – –
Piper and Sirius joined the older Grangers in the pensieve to watch the memory. Hermione had started it just as he finished the order. It was odd watching such a life-changing moment from the outside. It also allowed him to really look at the children he would one day have with Hermione. They looked happy, healthy and comfortable with him. He hoped he was a good dad.
They were all thrown out of the memory Hermione provided shortly after his mother disappeared. Harry left the floor and took a deep breath before looking at Hermione’s parents. Ryan looked startled and Hannah Granger had tears on her face which was kind of startling.
“Are you okay, Mrs. Granger?”
“They’re just…beautiful.” She smiled brightly. “I can’t wait to meet them.”
“But we will wait,” Ryan said quickly and everyone laughed.
“We haven’t got away of figuring out the date the order impacted them but I think the twins fifth birthday is significant,” Hermione explained. “Our cores solidify on or shortly before our fifth birthday so that was the youngest they could be an accept an order from the patriarch of their magical house.”
“What about the voices?” Ryan questioned. “There must have been thousands.”
“I set down an order that impacted my magical house—past, present, and future. So those voices were my family. I had no control who appeared and who didn’t,” Harry murmured. “It was a startling experience and when we decided to make the secret, I really didn’t intend for it to resonate through my entire line. It was kind of a mistake as it has been nearly five hundred years since a member of my family was truly gifted with time magic.”
“What is time magic?” Hannah asked.
Harry walked over to her and sat down beside her. He called the time turner from the bracelet and held it up. It spun gently, magic radiated around them. “This is a time turner. It was created by an ancestor of mine named Sojourn Potter who also had time magic. She was actually the last in the line until I was born with time magic. Time turners allow you to turn back time—you can go back one hour at a time. This one is unique in that it can go back as much as twenty-four hours. The ones that were created for the public can only turn back a total of six hours at any one time. It is protected magic so only members of my family can create them and the method is in the family grimoire. As an adult, governments all over the world will approach me and contract the creation of them.”
“How much is each one worth?” Hannah asked.
“This one is priceless due to its age but my grandfather charged five hundred galleons for each one he created. He only made twenty in his life time and they were all for the International Confederation of Wizards. The time turner is a handy device for training and education purposes. In fact, I use this one on weekends to add about five hours to my day for study and training. But we can’t change events we know to be true and many believe that you must work very hard to hide from yourself because there is an urban legend where a wizard using a time turner killed himself because he was startled. But I’ve had conversations with myself and I often duel with myself.”
“How do you do that?” Hannah asked.
“The future me turns back time to my training time. For instance, I’ve just decided that in one hour I will use the time turner.” He turned his head slightly and another version of him appeared by the fire. “We’ll both exist for the next hour when I turn back time and the other version of me is left to continue forward.”
Hannah huffed. “That has fun potential.”
Piper Banner laughed. “Exactly.”
Harry blushed and Hermione gaped at her mother.
“Mum!” Hermione groaned and covered her face.
The Harry who had appeared by the fire just shrugged. “I’ll go start the essay for transfiguration.” He walked out of the room.
“It’s odd, though,” Harry said once his twin was gone. “But handy both for the tournament and for learning all the stuff I have to learn for my estate.”
“Can you take someone with you?” Hannah questioned.
“My godbrother, Neville, often turns with me on Saturdays when we train with Thaddeus. Sometimes Hermione goes with us so she can have more time in the library.” Harry put the time turner away. “It can be dangerous so we take great care when we turn and also while we might see each other, we don’t let anyone else see us in one place because obviously we can’t predict out they might respond to a duplicate.”
It was annoying that he had to ride the train back to Hogwarts but he’d allowed himself to be apparated to Diagon Alley where he were going to meet Hermione and her parents for breakfast. The magical shopping district was a little crowded so he hardly glared at Thaddeus at all when his vassal cupped his elbow and acted as a buffer all the way to the café Hermione had chosen. Banner released him as they entered the fenced off patio.
“I think it’s probably against the rules to manhandle me,” Harry told him.
Banner grinned. “If you were taller I wouldn’t have to.”
“Ha,” Harry muttered but he wasn’t honestly offended. They entered the café building and the conversation muted briefly. Harry averted his gaze and cleared his throat. People stopped staring and returned to their meals. “That reporter followed us.”
“I’ll let him know he’s not welcome in the restaurant.”
Harry nodded and left his vassal at the door while he walked across the room and joined the Grangers.
“That must get really old, kid,” Ryan Granger said as Harry got seated.
“It’s just something to get used to. The truth is that most of magical Britain have never seen me outside of a rare quidditch game at Hogwarts. I have to think the ministry made no effort to get me out of that stupid tournament because it would increase attendance for the events.”
“Hermione ordered for you but you can still change it,” Hannah Granger explained as the food started to arrive.
“He always eats the same thing—every morning,” Hermione said. “Porridge, bacon, two eggs, toast.”
Harry laughed. “I do. I don’t like my food to surprise me.”
– – – –
They were back at Hogwarts for almost two days before Hermione brought up her request to know what had happened to the other version of her. They were tucked into the Room of Requirement which was configured into a copy of the Gryffindor common room. Harry didn’t know how to start the conversation.
“Where’s the bracelet?”
“I left it in my quarters,” Harry admitted. “It was for the best because this conversation would be very difficult for Phoenix and I owe him so much. The last thing I want to do is hurt him more than he’s already been hurt.”
“It’s bad then.”
“It’s honestly the worst thing I can think of it and it’s even worse now that I know you’re my soulmate.” Harry took a deep breath. “First, he was potioned into a marriage with Ginny Weasley.”
“What?” Hermione demanded. “Harry…” Her eyes went wet with tears. “Oh, God.”
Harry nodded. “She married Ron—either through manipulation or potions. Phoenix doesn’t know for certain. Ron married her for the money and honestly probably to ensure she wasn’t in Ginny’s way.”
“Me. I married Ron.”
“No,” Harry frowned. “She married Ron. You’re never going to be her, Hermione. Please don’t make me think of you in her place.”
“Okay,” Hermione whispered.
“Ron grew tired of her and used magical law to ruin her—they destroyed her wand, cursed her so she could not use her magic any more, and banished her to the Muggle world. Further, they cursed her so that no other magical person could talk to her. I imagine Ron demanded that so Phoenix was completely cut off from her. She…with her magic suppressed she fell into a deep depression and hung herself.” He flinched when Hermione’s gasped. “Phoenix did everything in his power to destroy the Weasley family. He couldn’t divorce Ginny because she was a pure-blood so he forced her to live in isolation and forbade her any contact with anyone but him and he apparently ignored her until she killed herself.”
“I know,” Harry said. “That’s in me, you know, the ability to do that. Ron was eventually killed in a broom accident. Phoenix told me that he didn’t get the money because she saw the divorce coming—she transferred most of the money into Black vault and some into a Muggle bank. Phoenix purchased all of her assets. Ron only got thirty sickles.”
“It’s all that he deserved,” Hermione said quietly. “They raped him.”
“Yes.” Harry nodded. “He was killed by a child that probably won’t exist in this timeline. Apparently, Ron fathered a child with Lavender who was twisted up and corrupted by Molly. That child cursed Phoenix and he invested himself in the creation of the bracelet and the avatar so he could basically violate all the laws of magic and science to send himself back in time.”
“He violated the hell out of all of that,” she agreed. “You realize that when he came back—the moment he appeared here that he destroyed the time line he came from?”
“Yes, I’d thought so,” Harry said. “It’s what feels right—the other theory that he created a different time line just doesn’t make sense to me magically. I don’t know the Muggle science.”
“Well, you have an intuitive understanding of time magic that doesn’t have an explanation,” Hermione said quietly. “I…” She took a deep breath. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“You can tell me anything,” Harry promised.
“During our first year, I was so lonely and if it wasn’t Malfoy it was Ron—constantly insulting me and bullying me. I didn’t want to tell my parents how miserable I was because they’d bring me home and I didn’t want to give up magic. I also didn’t want to go to France or the US for school. I felt trapped, really.” She closed her eyes. “Please don’t be angry with me.”
“Just say it, love. I promise I won’t lose my temper with you.”
“I had a chance to run from the troll,” she blurted out. “But more—I knew the stunning spell and the banishing spell. I could’ve…”
“Saved yourself,” Harry said quietly. “But you weren’t going to.”
“No, I wasn’t.” Tears fell and she wiped at them with trembling hands. “I’m so sorry, Harry.”
“You don’t owe me an apology.” Harry picked up her hand and gently pulled. She shifted around on the sofa and cuddled up against him. “I’m sorry I didn’t say something to Ron. I was bullied mercilessly in primary by Dudley and his friends. I saw what Ron was doing to you but…”
“You didn’t want him to do it to you,” Hermione whispered. “My last year in Muggle school, a new girl started in our year. Brooke Perry had been bullying me since we’d started primary. She hated me because I got good grades and I wouldn’t let her cheat off my tests. She hit me as often as she could get away with. Well, this new girl started and Brooke pretty much immediately hated the new girl on sight. Her name was Harlow Parks. In fact, she was so focused on making Harlow miserable that she ignored me for weeks. I was so relieved. It was terrible to feel that way so I understand why you were reluctant to speak up.”
“I hate him,” Harry whispered against her temple. “I’ve dreamed more than once about killing him. If he touches you—I don’t know that I would be able to keep from killing him. Every single day, I hate him a little more. Maybe it’s Phoenix’s influence because he’s on board the Murder-Ron-Train.”
“I don’t hate him but every day I come closer to that.” She shifted so she could meet his gaze. “I’d never do it, Harry. I’d never leave you on purpose.”
His fingers trailed along her jaw line. “He is right about one thing—your face is perfect.”
She blushed. “Harry.”
He pressed his mouth to hers and she moved closer.
– – – –
Harry was furious. Phoenix was watching him pace around his quarters, in a snit. They hadn’t really argued since his future self had planted himself right down in the middle of his life but this was just the most fucked-up thing he could imagine. He turned and glared at the older version of himself.
“I shouldn’t have told you.”
“You should’ve told me immediately!” Harry snapped and huffed when Phoenix just raised an eyebrow at him. “Don’t give me that look. This is dragonshite and you know it. We can’t just let a bloody Death Eater run around the school! What if he hurts Hermione?”
“He didn’t in the previous timeline.”
“You mean the timeline where you were a git and didn’t take her to the Yule Ball?” Harry questioned. “Because I’ve painted a giant target on her back this time around!”
Phoenix frowned and he started to pace, too. “I hadn’t considered that.”
“You said he’s pretending to be Moody and that he turned the trophy into a portkey in your third task? What’s to stop him from hurting or killing Hermione during the second task? Dumbledore trusts Moody.”
“I’m an idiot,” Phoenix murmured. “Barty Crouch, Jr is insane—he’d definitely hurt her given the chance if it meant hurting you. The Dark Mark makes Riddle’s followers hate you, you know. They hate you like he hates you because he taints them with his feelings. Snape would’ve hated you regardless because of our mother but…I think it was worse because of the Dark Mark.”
“What do we do? I’m no match for him, you know.”
Phoenix exhaled sharply. “Right, this is…oh, Dobby.”
Harry nodded. “Dobby!” The house elf appeared immediately. “Phoenix thinks something is wrong with Professor Moody, Dobby, and that he’s dangerous to me. Can you investigate, without getting caught, and figure out what is wrong with him?”
Dobby turned to Phoenix. “Moody bad?”
“Dangerous and he shouldn’t be because Dumbledore trusts him. Whatever is going on with Moody—it’s best if Harry not be associated with it. He doesn’t need any more attention. If you find something is wrong—go to Dumbledore directly and tell him but don’t mention that Harry asked you to check.”
Dobby nodded and popped away.
Harry turned and focused on Phoenix. “For which part, you tosser?”
“For treating you the way other adults have always treated you. If you can trust anyone on this whole planet, it should be yourself and I’ve abused that trust by not being as honest as I could’ve been.”
“I understand the need to maintain some of the timeline,” Harry said quietly. “How else are we to prepare for what is to come? But I have to wonder when it became acceptable for you, for me, to allow a man to be held captive and essentially tortured by a Death Eater for the better part of a year. What made you so hard, Phoenix? Was it just the loss of her? The constant war? What was your tipping point?”
“I don’t think there was a specific moment,” the avatar admitted roughly. “Though the day her parents buried her broke something in me that never healed. I stood outside the church during the funeral, stayed invisible by the grave as they lowered the coffin into the ground. When everyone left and only her parents remained, her mother spoke to me and I realized she suspected I’d been there the whole time.”
“What did she say?”
Phoenix cleared his throat. “She loved you so much, Harry. That’s what she bloody said and it was like getting stabbed in the gut. I hated everything and everyone in that moment. I spent the next two decades of my life seeking revenge—the Weasley family, everyone involved in the court process, and the researcher in the DOM who spelled her. They all paid—one way or another. Ginny wasn’t the only one I drove to suicide. I ruined the lives of fifty-three people, destroyed their careers, and left many of them penniless. I was ruthless, heartless, and I left no one responsible untouched. I even found the asshole who created the law in the 1960’s. By the time I was done, his wife left him and his children could barely stand to be in the same room with him.
“Every single year on her birthday, I posted an editorial in the Daily Prophet outlining Hermione’s accomplishments, the way the ministry cursed her, and her death. I talked about the magical advancements she might have made had she lived, the lives she could’ve changed, and how her magic was stolen from her. Then I listed every single one of their names. I never let them forget what they’d done.”
“They deserved no less,” Harry said. “They abused her and essentially murdered her for nothing less than bigotry. They took your soulmate from you.”
“Had I known that for certain, I would’ve probably made Voldemort look like a first year Hufflepuff.”
Harry snorted then started to laugh.
“I just had this image pop into my head of a first year Tom Riddle being sorted into Hufflepuff instead of Slytherin.” Harry slouched down on the sofa in his quarters. “So, anything else horrible you’re keeping from me?”
“Loads,” Phoenix admitted. “The world is a fucked up place and I know a lot more about it than I ever wanted. I worked for the ICW for decades as a consultant. I saw things I’d wish on no one. I’ve already sent several anonymous letters about some truly evil people out there that need to be watched by their governments. There’s a wizard in the US that is twice as dark as Tom Riddle ever wished to be. He just turned twenty and fifteen years from now, if left unchecked, he’ll murder two hundred people in a sacrificial ritual to harvest their magic for himself.”
“Dark git,” Harry muttered. “Well, keep track of that stuff and we’ll go around cleaning up those messes before they start when I leave Hogwarts.”
“Yeah?” Phoenix questioned.
“We can’t leave terrible people like that out there in the world—what if one of them gets the idea in their head to challenge me or something and they hurt Hermione? Or one of our kids?”
“True, we can’t have that. We’ll get you a job with the ICW—it’ll drive your vassals insane, of course, but it’ll give you immunity and means to make the world a better place for our family.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry murmured.
“For what?” Phoenix questioned.
“That you never had a family—that you lost her and the babies you’d have made together.” Harry exhaled sharply. “And thank you—for the sacrifice you made to help our family have a better future. I’m going to kick Riddle’s arse.”
“Damn right you are,” Phoenix said fondly. “Go to bed, lad. I’m sure tomorrow will be a complete shite storm.”
– – – –
Shite storm turned out to be something of an understatement as far as Harry was concerned. Barty Crouch, Jr’s presence in Hogwarts turned into an international brouhaha in about thirty minutes. Come to find out, at the time of his arrest seven other countries in Europe had begun to suspect him guilty of various crimes—including murder. His unknown escape from Azkaban sometime in 1981 had people equal parts furious and stunned. Barty Crouch, Sr had been arrested for harboring his Death Eater son. The ICW had come in and taken both of them from the Ministry of Magic and Fudge’s complaints had fallen on deaf ears.
The ICW questioned Barty, Jr live on the international wireless. Harry had sat in the Great Hall stunned as it was revealed that Crouch had taken Moody’s place in the school to ensure that Harry as in the tournament and to facilitate his kidnapping for Voldemort who had been resurrected temporarily into some sort of magical construct. The ritual needed to complete the resurrection had been revealed in horrific detail. Hermione had stayed close to him during the entire thing—her hand clenched in his.
Harry realized immediately that it had messed up the timeline a lot and now Phoenix really had only his knowledge of people around Harry to guide him. It was scary but he didn’t regret having Dobby rescue Moody—it had been the right choice if it had made things all the more difficult in the long run. Shortly after breakfast, he was essentially herded into a empty classroom by his vassals and godfather.
He sat down in a desk and waited for one of them to stop staring at him in horror.
Sirius walked over, put both hands on the desk in front of him and leaned down so they were eye to eye. “You sent your house elf to rescue Moody.”
Harry considered lying. “Phoenix told me something was wrong with Moody so I had Dobby investigate.”
Sirius’ gaze narrowed. “And why didn’t you come to me or one of your vassals with his suspicions?”
Harry averted his gaze and twisted his ring on his finger. The truth would hurt his godfather—it would probably hurt them all. He glanced briefly at Thaddeus who was staring at him then to Zale who was standing by the window. Bill had hopped up on the teacher’s desk and his head was bowed.
“During my first year, I told an adult something was going on with the stone. I was dismissed. During my second year, I tried to get an adult to help us rescue Ginny from the Chamber and he tried to memory charm me and nearly got me killed. During my third year, adults all around me lied to me repeatedly about you and about Pettigrew. The result? I was nearly kissed by Dementors. I don’t have a lot of practice in trusting adults, you see, but I’m trying. Now I’m a tournament, against my will, forced to participate due to actions of adults. Dumbledore, Crouch, Sr, and even Fudge—they made no real effort to get me out of the tournament. I imagine my fame makes the events all the more successful and popular.”
Sirius had paled as he spoke and Harry wondered if he should’ve just lied and made something up. The lies were starting to eat at him but in the end it was for Hermione and he’d have to deal with the impact of his duplicity the best he knew how.
“Harry.” Sirius took a deep breath and walked away from. “Merlin, what a mess.”
“But now it’s worse, right? Because now everyone is going to want to know why Voldemort is so focused on me. They’re going to want to know why, out of all the people in the world, that I’m his enemy. What other fourteen year old kid has a vicious Dark Lord for a nemesis?” Harry pulled his father’s letter from his bracelet and put it on the desk in front of him. “Come read this, Sirius.”
Sirius returned to him, picked up the letter, and sat down in a desk near by. He unrolled it carefully and read it silently. Harry noted that his hands were shaking as he gently rolled the parchment back up.
“No.” Sirius placed the letter back in front of him. “Absolutely not. Prophecy is a load of dragonshite and you will not take it seriously.”
“What choice do I have?” Harry demanded. “Riddle takes it so seriously he tried to murder me when I was fifteen months old! Do you think he’s just going to go away if I refuse to participate in this obscene situation? He certainly didn’t give a damn if I wanted this fight when I was a baby!” He slouched back in his chair and Phoenix flowed out of the bracelet.
“Are you encouraging this shite?” Sirius demanded. “Isn’t it your bloody job to protect him?”
Phoenix stared at him. “You have every right to be angry, Sirius, and to worry about what is to come. But you and I both know that a man like Tom Riddle isn’t going to stop. It no longer matters if any of us believe that the prophecy is genuine because Riddle believes it. And Riddle will seek to destroy Harry until one of them is dead, permanently. We don’t have the luxury of believing otherwise. Leaving him unprepared for what is to come would be irresponsible and he’d not survive it. It’s my duty to protect him and the future he deserves.”
Phoenix retreated into the bracelet then and Harry took a deep breath. He was at a loss as to how to navigate the situation but he knew it wasn’t fair to make Phoenix do all the heavy lifting when it came to difficult situations—most especially when they involved Sirius. The avatar wasn’t comfortable with their godfather and Harry wasn’t entirely certain why. They’d only briefly discussed Sirius’ death in the previous timeline.
– – – –
“How did it go with Sirius?” Hermione questioned as Harry joined her at the small table she was using in the library. She bit down on her lip, glanced around, drew her wand then cast a privacy charm. “He looked really upset with you.”
“He’s upset by the situation and he figured that I knew it advance that something was wrong with Moody. Phoenix fessed up to sending Dobby to investigate but they all wanted to know why I didn’t…come to them with the problem. I admitted that I have a bit of a problem trusting adults.” Harry took a deep breath and shrugged. “I mean, I’m trying really hard to work with them.”
“They’ll have to be patient with you,” Hermione said primly. “I mean they haven’t been here all along have they?”
“No, but that’s no fault of theirs.” Harry blew air out between his lips. “I just don’t know how to deal with them and their expectations plus Phoenix’s agenda which I can’t share with them.”
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Hermione said. “I don’t know how to fix that, I guess.”
“You don’t have to fix anything, Hermione. It’s just what it is and I’ll have to deal with it the best I can. Phoenix was really clear about the path I would have to take to make things better. It’s not just about Riddle and that dumb prophecy. I just knew from the start it wasn’t going to easy but in the end, you’re with me and we’re going to have a family together.”
Hermione flushed. “They were all so beautiful and I liked how…comfortable they were with us. I think we’re going to be good parents.”
“I hope so,” Harry murmured. “I didn’t have a great example growing up. Vernon was terrible to me and he honestly isn’t a great father to Dudley. I’ll be surprised if my cousin doesn’t end up in prison. How do I handle Sirius and the others?”
“Be as honest as you can and just try to…avoid lying,” Hermione sighed when Harry groaned. “I know it’ll be hard but it’s the best you can do. Protecting Phoenix must be a priority for a variety of reasons, all of which you know very well.” She chewed on her bottom lip then frowned. “It’s…the world is so dangerous, Harry, and the ritual that Barty Crouch, Jr talked about is horrible. Phoenix went through that, didn’t he? Were you going to do that? Were you going to let that happen?”
“No,” Harry said with a shake of his head. “I mean…” He flushed.
“I ought to curse you silly,” Hermione said flatly. “You’re just a complete git, Harry Potter.”
He touched her wrist hesitantly and relaxed when she didn’t jerk free of him. “I have to make the best decisions I can. There are things I can’t…talk about yet and maybe I can never talk about and I know that’s not fair to you.”
“It’s not fair to you,” Hermione retorted. “And I know I haven’t been great on that front and I can’t promise to be perfect about it in the future. I’m going to try though because I don’t want to be another point of pressure for you.”
It was a relief to hear her say that but he knew there were things coming in the future that would test that resolve. He just had to stay focused and if he reminded himself daily that his oldest son had Hermione’s smile then that was his business.
– – – –
“Just when I think there couldn’t be a bigger secret hidden inside of that kid, he surprises me,” Thaddeus murmured. “The bracelet…the more I think about it the more dangerous I think it is.”
“We can’t do a damn thing about it,” Sirius said. “And if we tried he would react very poorly. It would destroy his trust in all of us. His emotional attachment to Phoenix is quite ardent and I don’t understand it.”
“Jealous?” Zale questioned. “He trusts that arsehole more than all of us combined.”
Thaddeus cleared his throat and took a sip of his drink. “I’m not jealous of the bracelet. We have to accept that Phoenix is a permanent part of his life and move on from it because Sirius is right—it would be a terrible breach of trust to interfere with those circumstances. We could make demands on him, yes, insist on some separation from the bracelet but he would resent it.”
“We just deal with it then?” Bill asked.
“Yes, because it’s part of his family magic and no matter how confounding that is—it’s the truth. We’ve seen the evidence of it and he’s claimed it as such,” Thaddeus said roughly and downed the rest of his drink. “We have no choice.”
Sirius ran a hand through his hair. “That’s really annoying. I’m really not on board with all of this independence he has. It makes me feel powerless and moreover like a complete fool because every single bad decision I made led us here. He doesn’t trust adults.”
“He’s rarely had reason to,” Thaddeus murmured. “And now we’re all hovering around him and I thought he was dealing with it okay but he obviously isn’t. Harry’s just in the habit of handling everything on his own. He has his little witch whom he depends on more than anyone else. It is telling that his very first act as the Earl of Gryffindor was to take Hermione Granger into his magical house as a protected member. If I were told he claimed his title for the sole purpose of protecting her—I would believe it.”
“The second task is a looming problem,” Zale said. “There is no telling what Crouch, Jr managed to accomplish for his Dark Lord before he was revealed.”
“Voldemort is…out there,” Sirius said with a wave of his hand. “And he’s so convinced of the validity of the prophecy that he sought to murder a toddler. He certainly won’t stop until one of them is dead.”
“Dumbledore hasn’t disclosed the information Harry requested of him,” Thaddeus said. “I’ll be applying more pressure on that front because that old man is keeping something big from us and we can’t tolerate it.”
“Then Lord Potter was right,” Bill murmured. “He said…that Dumbledore’s agenda didn’t serve the House of Potter.”
“The problem is,” Zale began, “that Dumbledore has had over a decade to work toward whatever his goal is. He’s a complicated and manipulative old man with a world view skewed by the death of his sister and Gellert Grindelwald. He’s not a blood purist but I do wonder if he’s still anti-Muggle. After all, he was raised by a man who hated Muggles and Adrianna Dumbledore was…destroyed as a child by Muggles.”
“Dumbledore has never much involved himself in the Muggle world,” Banner said. “He’s knows less than most purebloods and that’s saying something. He worked hard to separate himself from his father’s crimes but then fell under Gellert’s influence. Why? What did Grindelwald offer him?”
“Perhaps it was lust at first,” Zale suggested. “Lust and young love can rip the choices right out of you in a way. You think you’re making rational decisions but you’re just letting your emotions and your dick lead you down a fool’s path. Considering Grindelwald’s politics, it wasn’t just lust but I think it played a part. Dumbledore was willing to overlook things he disagreed with when it came to Grindelwald’s version of the greater good because he loved him.”
Thaddeus grimaced. “Please don’t talk about Dumbledore’s lust ever again.”
Harry forced himself to drink his juice but eating was beyond him. The lack of Hermione at his side an overwhelming reminder that she as currently in the bottom of the Black Lake. Her roommates had reported her missing as soon as he’d entered the common room. It felt like he’d had hours instead of weeks to prepare for the second task. Cedric Diggory had thrown something of a fit over the fact that Cho had been taken for his task. Harry had thought everyone understand that they would have a hostage but from the looks of the other champions, he was the only one who had prepared for that.
The other champions were in such a temper that the crowd was subdued as they all walked down to the lake. Harry allowed himself to be separated slightly by his vassals and he focused on Thaddeus.
Thaddeus displayed a bracelet with a ruby in the center of it. The stone was pulsing with magic. “That’s her heart beat. I’ve told Dumbledore and the rest of the tournament officials that if her heart stops for even a second that I will take her from the lake no matter the rules they have in place. They agreed but to be perfectly honest, both Fudge and Karkaroff complained about my interference in the tournament proceedings.”
Harry sent the headmaster of Durmstrang a dark look from his place on the dock. “That old git better watch it.”
The judges approached him at that moment and he focused on Dumbledore so he could at least pretend he wasn’t completely furious. “Headmaster.”
“Lord Potter, with apologies, we realized that the pendant Miss Granger is wearing directly connects with your house ring.” He cleared his throat.
“Are you actually asking me to remove my ring?” Harry demanded.
“I’ve explained to the other judges that to ask such a thing would be considered inappropriate but to avoid any accusation of cheating…”
“I don’t need the ring to find her,” Harry snapped. “Because I’m not an idiot and I realized the moment I heard the clue who you’d take from me. I put a tracking charm on her last night before she went to sleep. I looked up the rules so I know it’s not illegal. I also put charms on my godfather, all three vassals, and my bloody owl just in case the lot of you tried to be smart about it.”
“But you’ve given yourself an unfair advantage,” Karkaroff protested.
“It’s not my problem if the others did didn’t pay attention to the clue they were given and plan accordingly,” Harry said evenly and checked his watch. “Let’s get this ridiculous show on the road and for the record, if Hermione suffers so much as a bruise during this foolishness I’m going to sue all of you. My solicitor already has the paperwork prepared just in case.”
Zale laughed softly in amusement and the judges all left in the shocked silence that followed.
Harry turned to the other champions. “Look, let’s just agree that this situation is too stupid and too dangerous to compete against each other. My girlfriend’s life is not worth points and I assume your hostages mean more to you than that.”
“Agreed,” Fleur said immediately. Her hands were shaking. “They took my baby sister, she’s twelve. I can’t…” Her mouth trembled as the horns sounded and Fudge started to speak. “What do we do?”’
“They’re probably all together,” Cedric said. “So to be honest I’m following Harry. We need to make sure he gets there so we need to watch our backs and most especially his since his magic will guide him to the hostages.”
“Agreed,” Krum said roughly. He glared briefly at the judge’s stand as they were ordered into the water. “My elderly father is in his lake. He’s one hundred years old.”
Harry frowned deeply at that and took a deep breath. “Right. My lawyer is available to all of you.” He checked his holster, pushed off his trainers, cast the bubble head charm and dived into the water.
He felt more than saw the others join him. Krum had transfigured half of his body into a shark. He circled around the group of them as Harry activated the spell that would lead him to Hermione. Phoenix had told him that the task had been difficult as hell the first time around but they were moving quickly due to the location charm he had on Hermione. Fleur and Cedric swam sentry beside him, casting spells occasionally as different creatures in the lake tried to move in on them. But in truth, Viktor was doing a lot of the heavy fending off by his sheer size.
Harry figured he was no more than fifty meters away from the village when there was a sudden burst of light ahead of them. The water churned around them and they fought against the current for several minutes before they were able to get to a place where they could see the merpeople’s village. Several merpeople were lingering around three hostages. Hermione was missing but he knew that already. He’d felt her leave the lake but he’d needed to confirm it.
Harry started up immediately while the others went for their hostages. When he was far enough away from the others, he shot a stream of magic straight down. Shifting into his animagus form was effortless as he left the water. Lightening crackled around him as he flew toward the docks. He landed on two feet much to the shock of the crowd, his magical aura flaring around him.
“She was portkeyed out of the lake!” He turned on the judges who had hurried across the dock to him. “Which one of you charmed them to sleep?”
“We used devices,” Fudge said hurriedly. “To ensure they were completely safe. Each was given a stasis bracelet. It’s perfectly safe.”
“And who made these stasis bracelets?” Thaddeus questioned lowly.
Harry’s stomach tightened in agony. “Crouch, Sr?” He watched them all come to the realization but he focused on Dumbledore. “If he kills her—I’ll let him burn this entire country to the ground.” The headmaster blanched in shock. “If he uses her in that disgusting ritual to resurrect himself, I’m going to destroy every single one of you.”
He turned on his heel then and started toward the ward boundary of the school. None of his vassals spoke as they followed. Sirius wrapped his hand around his wrist as they hurried toward the gates. Harry figured that he wasn’t going anywhere without his godfather so he didn’t bother to try.
“Is the tracking charm still working?”
“I can’t tell because of the wards.” They passed through the gates and ignored Dumbledore who’d apparently shook loose his shock and was hurrying after them.
Harry took a deep breath and ignored four different tracking charms that hit his body. “Disillusion yourselves. He wants me—he thinks I’m hot headed enough to come by myself. Let’s let him think I have.”
“You can’t stop me, Dad, and if you try—I’d probably hurt you.” Harry turned to stare at Sirius. “Don’t make me chose between you and her.”
Sirius drew his wand and disillusioned himself but he kept a firm grip on Harry’s arm. He gathered his magic and focused on his ring’s connection with her pendant. The fact that she wasn’t hurt calmed him down considerably. He apparated, taking his godfather with him. He’d expected a grave yard but instead found himself at the ward boundary of a large estate. There were three distinct pops then a fourth. He figured the headmaster had followed as well but like the others, he was invisible.
“Malfoy Manor,” Sirius murmured. “The wards are down—they didn’t want anything to stop you from entering.”
“He has at least three followers inside,” Thaddeus offered. “Pettigrew and the two Malfoys. There could be more—not all marked Death Eaters went to Azkaban as you know.”
“Greyback,” Dumbledore’s voice interjected. “He’s certainly here.”
“Dobby,” Harry said and the house elf appeared in an instant.
Dobby’s ears trembled. “Why Harry Potter be at terrible place.”
Harry knelt down so he could look Dobby in the eye. “Dobby, Hermione is in there. Can you tell me where she is?”
Dobby’s mouth pursed in displeasure. “Old Master take Miss Hermione? Dobby burn down his house!”
Harry grabbed his arm. “You can most certainly burn down his whole house at a later date. But first we need to get to Hermione. Dobby, Voldemort is in that house right now—in some kind of weird magical construct. I’d never ask you to put yourself at risk if I had a choice, you know that, right?”
“Dobby know. Harry Potter is Dobby’s friend,” the elf said earnestly. “Friends takes care of friends.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “You’re my very good friend. Can you tell me where Hermione is?”
Dobby closed his eyes and magic drifted visibly on his skin. Harry ignored the surprised intakes of breath that several of his companions couldn’t suppress.
“Miss Hermione be in basement.” Dobby frowned. “It be dark and terrible down there. She’ll be so scared.”
“Could you take her from there?” Harry asked. “Pop her away with elf magic?”
“Not from under house,” Dobby admitted. “Master do dark magic down there to prevent it.”
“But you could go there and keep her safe?” Harry prodded.
“Yes, Dobby go.”
The elf disappeared with a small pop and Harry stood. He stared at Malfoy Manor for a moment then cleared his throat. “If we kill him today will it be over?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” Dumbledore murmured.
“And you know why?” Harry asked.
“When this is over, you’ll tell us all why,” Harry said and frowned at the negative sound the headmaster made. “Albus, you’ll swear on your magic right now that you’ll tell us everything you know about Voldemort or I will leave Britain with Hermione and you’ll never see me again.”
Dumbledore took a deep breath. “I swear on my magic that I will tell Harry Potter everything I know about Tom Riddle the next time he requests that information, so mote it be.” A flash of magic over the elderly wizard’s invisible form confirmed the oath. “But I caution you, Harry, to not ask until you’re fully prepared to hear the answers.”
“I know some of you might have other priorities here today but getting her out of this house is my only purpose. Capture whomever you’d like but Hermione is the priority.”
“We’re on the same page, lad,” Sirius said. “If I hadn’t already seen your children, I’d knock you unconscious. Just so you know.”
Harry took a deep breath and nodded. “It is a comfort.”
Harry crossed the dormant ward boundary.
“How many children?” Dumbledore asked curiously.
“Four,” Harry said.
“Cheerful number,” Albus said in an amused tone. “I hope they’re just like you.”
“That’s a terrible thing to do to me,” Harry muttered.
The front door opened and a woman appeared. The woman looked like she was living a nightmare. Her skin was pale, there was a bruise across the left side of her face. She stared at him with dark, wet eyes and her mouth trembled.
“They’re waiting for you in the library.”
“Quite civilized of them,” Harry said neutrally. He started forward but she grabbed his arm.
“Please, run.” Tears streamed down her face. “How dare you come here alone, you silly little boy.” Her fingernails bit into his arm.
Harry covered her hand with his. “I’m not silly, Mrs. Malfoy.”
She looked around rapidly and seemed to realize what he meant because she dropped her hand and backed slowly into the foyer.
“Go upstairs and find a place to hide, Cissa,” Sirius murmured.
Her breath caught then she turned and hurried up the stairs.
“The library is down the right hall and on the left,” Sirius explained.
Harry took a deep breath Phoenix stirred on his wrist. “They need me alive for the ritual so everyone keep their heads about them. If I have to bury one of you before your time—I’m going to be really pissed off.” He stepped forward and took a deep breath then another.
He’d seen the memories of the several resurrections—each one more horrific and darker than the last. Since they weren’t in the cemetery, he didn’t know what Riddle and Malfoy, Sr had planned. Maybe it didn’t matter but what he did know was that he hadn’t yet worked free of the magical connection he shared with Riddle. The dark bastard was attached to the magical syphon Harry had deep in his core. The horcruxes were a problem but in the end they hadn’t been the worst of it as far as Phoenix had told him.
Harry hated the idea of Riddle being so intimately connected with his magic and life. It was hard to describe how horrible it felt. Fortunately, Phoenix understood completely and didn’t pressure him to talk about it. The avatar didn’t give him a break on many topics but that was one. All too soon he stood in the archway of the library. A hand touched the small of his back, a shift in his magic told him it was Thaddeus. The room was large and had very little furniture in it. Near the back was a single wingback chair and Riddle was propped up in it like some obscene doll.
Lucius Malfoy stood on the creature’s left and Pettigrew on the right. Harry wondered if Greyback was in the house—the thought of that twisted thing being unaccounted for was unnerving but he trusted that Dobby would defend Hermione. Phoenix had told him that the elf was profoundly loyal.
“Not exactly a step up, Riddle,” Harry said and raised an eyebrow when Malfoy shifted forward slightly. “I mean—creepy baby body is an odd choice but it’s really not better than hanging out under Quirrell’s turban for a year. You look utterly ridiculous. I don’t know how the these two are taking you seriously. Fortunately for you their both cowards or one them would’ve already drowned you.”
Voldemort hissed at him.
“You were a fool to come here alone,” Riddle said and waved a little arm. “Wormtail.”
Pettigrew drew his wand and Harry did the same.
“You owe me a life debt, Peter,” Harry said and smirked when Wormtail squeaked in alarm. “Didn’t tell your Dark Lord that, did you?”
“I…” Peter stepped forward and raised his wand. “I must do as my master wishes, Harry. You’ll understand that one day.”
“No, I won’t, you corrupt little rat because I’ll never be that thing’s slave.”
“You’ll submit or your little pet mudblood will die at the hands of the most vicious werewolves in Britain,” Malfoy said smoothly. “The full moon is but an hour away, Potter.”
“Submit?” Harry repeated then he grinned. “Okay, I willing give Tom Riddle my blood for his dumb ritual.”
Malfoy’s eyes widened in shock and Riddle screamed in fury.
“No! No! It is to be forcibly taken!” Riddle shouted. “You fool! You idiot.” The wand clutched, suddenly, in the tiny hand was almost comical.
“Careful,” Harry cautioned. “Is it wise to act against me again when you don’t know the full prophecy?” Riddle’s red eyes focused on him. “The magic of a true prophecy is insidious and impossible to circumvent. Has it not crossed your mind that in attempting to kill me you violated the events the prophecy has already determined to be our fate? Who are you, Tom Riddle, to defy the hand of Fate?”
“Tell me!” Riddle shouted. “Lucius! Make him tell me.”
In the distance, Harry heard Hermione scream. He turned and stunning spells hit Riddle, Malfoy, and Pettigrew at the same time. “Dumbledore—you’d better call the DMLE.”
There was a howl—pain or fury—Harry couldn’t tell. He ran toward the sound only to be jerked back by Thaddeus as a door was swung open. A large man stumbled out, magical fire clinging to him. He was hit with several shield charms as the man flailed around then he fell on the polished floor of the foyer and shuddered.
He turned and found Hermione standing in the still open doorway. “Mi. Are you all right?” His vassals and godfather appeared around him and Thaddeus released him. “Did they hurt you?”
Hermione frowned. “No.” She waved a hand toward the body. “But that one was using his magic to partially shift into a werewolf. I didn’t know they could do that.”
“Particularly powerful werewolves can,” Zale said. “Did you set him on fire?”
“He told me he was having me for dinner,” Hermione said tartly. “I wasn’t all that interested in being food. Dobby brought me my wand.” She took a deep breath and took Harry’s hand when he offered it. “Am I going to get into trouble?”
“That’s Greyback,” Thaddeus said shortly. “He’s been wanted dead or alive since 1963 in fifteen different countries. No lass, you aren’t in trouble. In fact, you’ll probably receive several monetary rewards.”
“I don’t want money for…” Hermione trailed off and turned to Harry. “I could use it to fund a witch’s right initiative through the foundation.”
Harry nodded. “Whatever you want. Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to have to deal with Fudge…” He trailed off and sighed as he heard the man’s voice. “For the love of Merlin.”
– – – –
Harry had refused to stay at the scene or go to the ministry so eventually the people from the ministry had let Thaddeus take Hermione and him back to Hogwarts. They’d been able to clean up and have a small meal before Amelia Bones, Fudge, and a man he’d never met before showed up at the school. He was starting to hate being summoned to the headmaster’s office. He’d sent Dobby to retrieve his solicitor so Ian McBain was standing with his vassals and godfather when they entered.
Harry focused on the Minister as he sat and everyone got settled around him. “So, your very good friend Lucius Malfoy was hosting three wanted felons and apparently holding his wife hostage under some kind of compulsion.” Fudge flushed a dull red. “Did you want to compare notes on which one of us has had a more difficult day?”
“You know more about You-Know-Who than you’ve said,” Fudge accused.
“I know his name is really Tom Riddle,” Harry said. “So if you don’t have the courage to call him by his ridiculous made up name then you could at least refer to him in that manner. What do you think I know that you don’t?”
“Pettigrew said there was a prophecy.”
“Ah, yes, there is and no I won’t share the content of it with you.”
“There’s a copy in the Department of Mysteries,” Fudge said pompously.
“Yes, and it only be listened to by me or Riddle,” Harry said. “If you show the prophecy to Riddle then you will give him exactly the information he wants and perhaps even the power to circumvent the whole thing so I don’t recommend it. And I refuse to show it to you or anyone else.”
“We’ve brought it,” Fudge said. “And I order you to play it for us all to hear.”
The man who hadn’t been introduced stepped forward and placed a box on the table in front of Fudge. He lifted the lid off the box and the sides fell open revealing the prophecy orb. He’d seen Phoenix’s memories of the orb.
“I’m the Minister for Magic!” Fudge shouted. “I’m tired of your attitude and your arrogance! Play the fucking prophecy or I will have you arrested!”
McBain stepped in front of Harry before any of his vassals could. “Minister Fudge, you are violating several laws regarding prophecies both local and international. You cannot force Lord Potter to activate this orb and you can’t arrest him for refusing to share it with you.”
The orb shattered and smoky magic swirled around the glass remains then disappeared. They all turned to stare at Sirius who holstered his wand with a precise flick of his wrist and straightened his sleeves. “If you’d like to arrest me for that Fudge, feel free to try. I’d love to take some more ministry money.”
Fudge’s face was a startling shade of purple. “How dare you, Black!”
“It’s not illegal to destroy an orb either,” McBain said dryly and returned to his chair next to Harry. “It’s just considered quite rude.”
“It’s treasonous in these circumstances,” Amelia Bones said mildly. “If that orb held the secret to defeating Voldemort permanently…” She trailed off and took a deep breath.
“It didn’t,” Harry said and the woman focused on him. “It merely said that one would be born in the seventh month with the power to defeat Riddle. It was determined the night he murdered my parents that I was that person. Fate chose me to stand against him—it’s that simple and that complicated. He tried to circumvent the prophecy by killing me as a toddler and he paid for that by being disembodied.”
“Well, then it was a false prophecy since we’ve already decided to throw that baby thing through the Veil,” Fudge declared. “Then it will be over.”
“If you really believed that then you wouldn’t have been so adamant that I play the prophecy for you. In fact, the only other person I’ve ever met who was that passionate about knowing the contents was Riddle himself.” Harry turned to Amelia Bones. “So you should probably have Minister Fudge checked for the Imperius or whatever sort of manipulative magic that Lucius Malfoy might be capable of. The Minister’s been in that Death Eater’s pocket probably since before he was elected. In fact, perhaps that is why he was elected just in time for me to enter the magical world. The headmaster successfully hid me in the Muggle world since 1981 but they all knew I’d eventually show up to Hogwarts.
“I doubt it was a coincidence that Riddle chose that year to seek the Philosopher Stone and to possess a teacher from the school. They were preparing for my return because as much as Riddle wants to kill me—he fears the prophecy and my role in it. He doesn’t understand how he ended up in the condition he’s in and he blames me for it. He told me so during my first year—he showed me what I’d reduced him to. I was shocked by that but then I remember that Riddle was a magical person and I’ve rarely met one that wasn’t allergic to responsibility. Very few of you accept the consequences of your own actions.
“For instance, Minister Fudge, you probably think I treat you very unfairly and it hasn’t crossed your mind that I have every single right to resent you since you ordered my godfather’s murder when you knew he hadn’t had a trial.” He stood and offered Hermione his hand. She was staring at the remains of the orb with dark, wet eyes. “I’m sure you’ve interviewed everyone else involved in this mess so I don’t know why you need to talk to us.”
“Your little girlfriend set a man on fire,” Fudge snapped.
“Actually, Hermione set a wanted felon and rabid werewolf on fire,” Harry returned. “And we’ve both been assured that she can’t be charged any sort of crime for defending herself against him. If you intend to find someway to circumvent that in order to control me then I advise you to reconsider. I’ve not made any effort to undermine your authority as minister but that can change. I have money, fame, and resources to burn, Minister Fudge. It wouldn’t bother me at all to ruin you so thoroughly that your misery follows you into afterlife.”
“Fine. Go,” Fudge said tightly.
– – – –
She was shaking by the time he led her into the Room of Requirement so he removed his father’s letter from the bracelet and offered it to her.
Hermione took the parchment. “How long have you known about the prophecy?”
“Since I claimed my title.”
Her mouth pressed into a thin line and her hand clenched around the parchment briefly then she held out to him. “No.”
“Hermione?” His stomach lurched.
“I can’t protect the information,” Hermione said hoarsely. “My mental defenses are…no.” She thrust the letter toward him again and Harry took it. “And that’s why you didn’t share it from the start.”’
“In part, yes,” Harry said. “I just…I didn’t want you to worry about something you can’t control and can’t stop.”
“Allowing the ministry to capture Riddle today was a mistake,” Hermione said. “It’s changed a hundred things that Phoenix can’t predict.”
“Yes, well, that ship has sailed. In Phoenix’s timeline, I was kidnapped during the third task,” Harry said quietly and sighed when the door opened. He openly glared at Dumbledore as he swept in behind his vassals. “Can’t a bloke have a sort-of argument with his girlfriend in peace?”
“We’re not arguing,” Hermione protested.
“We were about to,” Harry assured her. “Because you said something utterly ridiculous. Of course, we had to let the ministry capture Riddle. If we’d extracted you from a very public kidnapping without taking any sort of hostage the scandal would’ve been outrageous and Fudge would probably have accused me of being in league with the Dark Wanker. If we’d just captured Malfoy or Pettigrew one of them would’ve told Fudge and Bones that we let Riddle escape.”
“I was taking care of myself,” Hermione pointed out. “I didn’t need you all to rush to my rescue.”
“Really?” Harry questioned. “How did you get your wand?”
She flushed. “Shut up.” Hermione scuffed her shoe against the floor and huffed. “Dobby brought it to me but I handled Greyback, didn’t I?”
“You certainly did,” Thaddeus said cheerfully. “Excellent use of the fire whip curse.”
Harry sent his vassal a dark look. “Greyback was arrogant and confident he had you at his mercy but you allowed him to escape the basement which meant that both Malfoy and Pettigrew would’ve been far more prepared to deal with you than an old, feral werewolf. Instead of coming up the stairs, you should’ve asked Dobby to take you out of the manor the moment he could.”
She pointed at a finger at him then huffed. “Shut up.”
“Ha, you shut up,” Harry retorted. “You know I’m right. You know what your problem is?”
“No, but I’ve got a feeling you’re going to tell me,” Hermione snapped.
“You’re so smart that you assume that most people are too dumb to get one over on you.”
Her mouth dropped open. “I…”
“And the truth is that you’re certainly right that the average Death Eater is as dumb as a box of rocks. Pettigrew—the only way he’d get the drop on you would be if you didn’t see him coming. But there is nothing average about Lucius Malfoy. That bastard nearly used the Killing Curse on me in the middle of Hogwarts. He’s powerful, doesn’t believe the rules apply to him, and has never ever faced a single consequence for his obscene loyalty to Tom Riddle until today. And to be entirely truthful about it, he’s probably already half convinced Fudge that he was under the Imperius, again, and can’t be held responsible for his actions. I doubt he’ll spend more than a week in ministry custody unless Fudge is replaced.”
She glared at him.
“Thaddeus, tell her how the average Death Eater earned their place at Riddle’s side during the first war.”
Banner cleared his throat. “My Lord are you certain…”
“Tell her!” Harry snapped.
“The rape and murder of a Muggle-born or half-blood witch,” Thaddeus said quietly.
Hermione’s eyes darkened and fat tears slid down her cheeks but to the shock of them all she focused on Albus Dumbledore. “How could you?”
“I don’t understand, Miss Granger…”
“Severus Snape!” Hermione screamed, “Was a marked Death Eater! You had him in this school! You let him teach us! You let him strut around this school bullying and taunting anyone who wasn’t in Slytherin when you knew exactly what he was! So what if he changed his mind because he had a boner for Lily Potter! That makes it even worse actually because there is no telling what perverse and disgusting purpose he had for her you terrible, thoughtless old git!” She turned her back on them at that point. “Get away from me, Headmaster, and I’d rather you not ever speak to me again as long as you live.”
“You’ve already demonstrated that you don’t respect me or any other female in this school—forcing us to interact day in and day out with a known rapist—the least you can do now is go away and leave me alone,” Hermione ground out through clenched teeth.
Harry exhaled sharply and averted his gaze when Dumbledore looked to him for help. “Sir, please just go.”