- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- Dark Themes
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Rape
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
Come to find out having a girlfriend came with some responsibilities that Harry was totally unaware of and that Phoenix neglected to mention. Returning to Hogwarts on Sunday after spending most of Saturday hanging out with Sirius getting an explanation on exactly what the goblin ritual had entailed had been funny and interesting. Enduring the lecture from his girlfriend about disappearing into the wild blue yonder with Dumbledore had not been fun at all but it had been interesting. Hermione was especially pretty when she was worked up.
“And I want to know who put that horrible curse on you!” Hermione waved her hands as she spoke. “And you’ve been keeping secrets from me for weeks! Don’t think I didn’t notice!”
It hadn’t been weeks but to cover up Phoenix’s activities it would have to seem that way. “Sorry? It was a little overwhelming, really. And I was upset that no one had ever mentioned it to me so I had to process all of that anger before I could even deal with it.” He felt good about the small honesty in that and anger stirred in his gut for Ron Weasley and the horror he caused in a future that would now never happen. “Hagrid wants me to meet him tonight after curfew. I think he’s going to show me what the first task is. Did you want to come with me?”
“Yes, of course,” Hermione agreed. “We’ll need your cloak.”
Harry quirked an eyebrow at her. “What? No lecture about rules?”
“Well, we need to know about the first task and they can all go rot for I care. Their rules are stupid. They should’ve never made you participate to begin with. So you should take every single advantage you possibly can.”
Six hours later, they were on a sofa in front of fire place shocked silent. Phoenix had told him that the first task was going to involve dragons. He’d even shown him a memory of what had happened in the first timeline. Still, it was horrifying to see them and Hermione was a nervous wreck. She was still sheet white and practically mute. Her fingers were chilled and trembling in his. The floo flared open and Harry gave her hand a squeeze before he went to kneel in front of the fire.
“Pardon me?” Sirius demanded.
“The first tasks involves dragons. Nesting mothers, Sirius. These people are out of their bloody minds. I sent a note to Thaddeus. I also sent notes to all the other champions using Dobby to warn them. What is wrong with the Ministry? They have a Chinese Fireball here—that’s an endangered species, Sirius. There are only like two hundred left in the world and they have nesting mother here! It’s obscene.”
“And stupidly dangerous,” Sirius said with a frown. “Whoever put you in this tournament seems pretty intent on seeing you dead, pup.”
Hermione burst into tears.
Harry glared at godfather before getting up and going back to sofa. He wrapped an arm around her and she buried her face against the side of his neck.
“Sorry, sweetheart, Harry will be fine. He has stupid amount of luck around dangerous creatures.”
Hermione huffed and rubbed her face briskly as she separated from Harry. “I’m going to ruin someone’s life! You just watch! I’m going to figure out who put his name in that stupid goblet and they’re really going to be really sorry!”
“Let me know if you need supplies,” Sirius said. “Or a place to hide a body.”
“I can a hide a body all by myself,” Hermione said crossly. “I’m excellent at transfiguration and there is a whole colony of giant spiders in the Forbidden Forest.”
Sirius grinned which looked kind of odd and creepy in the floo. “Never make this girl really mad at you, Harry.”
“I’m not an idiot,” Harry said with a laugh.
Noise on the stairs caught their attention and Sirius disappeared from the fire abruptly. Harry sighed and just glared at Ron as he dragged himself down the stairs and threw himself into a chair near them. Ron, for his part, glared right back.
“You think you’re so special that you can just break all kinds of rules, huh? Even talking to criminals on the floo in the middle of the night,” Ron said lowly.
“You know Sirius is innocent,” Hermione protested. “And since when do you even care about the rules, Ron? You broke ten different ones your first month at Hogwarts!”
Harry turned to her with a grin. “You actually counted?”
“Of course I did,” Hermione said indignantly. “And I made up excuses for each of them just in case you two got caught.” She huffed when he laughed and sighed when Ron just continued to glare. “What’s your problem, Ron? Seriously? Harry proved he wasn’t a liar.”
“He should’ve warned me in advance,” Ron said. “He should’ve taken that oath for me first.”
“You should’ve believed him without one!” Hermione shouted and flushed when Harry shushed her. “I did.”
“It’s easy to see why, now,” Ron said snidely. “He’s got a lot of money and you’re just a gold digging whore.”
Hermione paled. “You’re a terrible person.” She pressed a kiss against Harry’s mouth and stood. “For the record, I’m very wealthy in my own right, Ron Weasley. While I can’t claim the family magic because it’s dissipated due to time—I’m the great granddaughter of Hector Dagworth-Granger. Last year, after my birthday I inherited his entire estate—including the biggest potions commercial distributor in the magical world.”
She turned on her heel and stalked off leaving Ron Weasley in a state of shock and renewed fury burning in Harry’s gut. The bracelet warmed on his wrist, a signal that told Harry that Phoenix wanted him to go to the Room of Requirement for privacy reasons.
“If you ever speak to her that way again, Ron, I’m going to take great personal pleasure in breaking most of the bones in your body.” Harry stood and started towards the portrait door.
“It’s after curfew,” Ron protested.
“Go to hell!” Harry snapped in response, flicked out his cloak, threw it over his body and left the dorm before he gave into the urge to kill Ron Weasley.
By the time he got to the room he was practically hyperventilating with fury. He stomped back and forth in front of the tapestry, jerked open the door as soon as it appeared and slammed it shut behind him.
Phoenix flowed out of the bracelet as Harry removed the cloak.
“He did it for her money?” Harry demanded. “He married and drove her to suicide for money?”
“Yes, but our Hermione was always a very bright girl, Harry. Two days before Ron filed for divorce she moved all of her assets, except for a single sickle into a vault with my name on it. She also put several million in pounds into a Muggle account in her maiden name that the magical courts never even bothered to look for. I bought Serpent Lair’s Potions for twenty-nine sickles which were put in the vault. The stupid bastard never even realized the significance of thirty pieces of silver in the vault. He was awarded the vault, contents unknown due to the stringent terms of the Dagworth-Granger estate.
“By the time they realized all of the money and assets were gone—their own curse prevented them from approaching her in any way. They couldn’t question her about the money or were it went. Though they did try to force me to give him the potions lab but the goblins are vicious when their contract terms are violated. So, eventually the Ministry backed off me because I had no intention of ever selling it or giving it back to Ron. I used her money to build an organization whose whole purpose was to lobby for the equal rights of everyone. Fifteen years after she died, they succeeded in changing the divorce laws that ruined her.”
“By taking her into my House—I’ve prevented them from using that law against her right? They can’t take her magic from her?”
“She is magically and legally protected by an Ancient and Noble House. The Wizengamot is not going to dare change anything that would make such protections weak—for their own purposes of course. But to be honest, lad, if you fuck up and she marries someone else…”
“It won’t be Ron,” Harry promised. “I’ll kill him first.”
“But I’ll still be able to protect her?”
“You’re her Lord. She can’t even get married without your permission unless she denounces you and I think you and I both know she’ll never do that. You’d never give her reason to,” Phoenix explained. “But her husband would maintain domain over her after a marriage was in place. They couldn’t take her magic, no, but he’d have more rights to her than you ever would and if he hurt her—your only recourse for ending the marriage would be killing him.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem since the very idea of some other wizard even kissing her has me homicidal,” Harry admitted.
Phoenix grinned. “Want to watch the memory of the first task again? Then you can ask Hermione to teach you the summoning charm.”
– – – –
An hour later he returned to the common room to find Minerva McGonagall sitting on the couch by the fire. He pulled off his cloak with a frown. “Ma’am.”
“One point for being out past curfew,” Minerva said. She patted the couch beside her and Harry sat down with her. “Mr. Weasley is a tattletale. He told McLaggen.”
The fifth year Prefect, Harry thought with a frown. “He’s real pain in my bum.”
Minerva snorted. “Would you like to tell me about your friendship with him and why it’s fallen to this?”
“He resents me,” Harry said quietly. “He’s jealous and petty. He called Hermione a whore tonight. I had to leave the dorm or I was going to hurt him.” He looked down at his hands. “I have a lot of power at my disposal, especially since the curse was lifted and my family magics were allowed to settle properly. I could probably kill him without even really trying and I didn’t trust myself not to draw my wand on him if he kept saying foul things about her.”
“I take it you and Miss Granger are together?”
“I asked her to be my girlfriend and she agreed,” Harry flushed. “I’ve always liked her, you know.”
“The staff took notice of your preoccupation with her when she was petrified second year,” Minerva said. “Only an idiot would’ve missed it.”
“I think Ron has a crush on her, too,” Harry admitted. “But his feelings aren’t my responsibility, you know. He doesn’t deserve to even be her friend. He can’t even have a five minute conversation without insulting her at least once. He berates her for studying, complains when she won’t do his homework for him, and makes fun of her regularly for her work ethic. I was a really poor friend to her as well because I never said anything in the past when he did those things. He’s lazy and dumb. Hermione is brilliant. How could he possibly think she’d be interested in him?”
Minerva snorted. “I noticed you’ve been speaking your mind more.”
“I figured I might as well. People are going to love or hate me based on stuff I can’t even control anyways so I might as well tell them what I really think. Keeping it to myself was wearing me out.” He frowned. “I suppose he told you about the floo call from Sirius?”
“He did,” Minerva agreed. “But I already knew about it. I have charms on the floo that tell me about incoming calls. I told him to mind his own business on that issue. If I had a problem with incoming calls, I wouldn’t allow them to happen at all. All of the magical parents are given a password if they have to call for an emergency or whatever. Most are just content with letters especially since the fireplace is in the center of the common room and not very private.”
“But if you remind him, you’ll find that your godfather might have something better to use for communication. I remember him and your father using a pair of enchanted mirrors when they were here.”
“Cool. I’ll send a letter about them,” Harry said. “I’m sorry you were woken up for my wandering. It won’t happen again. At least, if someone wakes you up it won’t be because of me.”
“I’ve already made it clear to McLaggen that a wandering student doesn’t qualify as an emergency and that he should send the Fat Lady out to investigate before waking me up. The portraits told me where you were before I even got here. It’s been a while since a student found the Room of Requirement. Not even your father and his friends found it while they were here. Do be a dear and don’t anything stupid in it, Potter.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“Albus told me that you know the prophecy.”
Minerva nodded. “I’d be honored to help you in any way I can.”
“I’ve considered searching out my animagus form,” Harry admitted. “It’s a gift in the Potter family but I’ve been afraid…I was afraid I’d be some sort of snake and it freaked me out.”
“I’d like to go ahead and start meditating,” Harry admitted. “If I meet my form and change my mind…will that be okay?”
“Yes and not even that uncommon. Many people upon meeting their form, find no value in learning the magic as some forms have little to no use to the average magical person. If it’s not impressive or useful then some just choose to let it go.”
“I have a feeling that mine will be useful,” Harry admitted. “Though honestly, any advantage I can get over Voldemort must be explored. Both of my vassals are moving to Hogsmeade to assist me—to offer me the training I need to survive this stupid tournament and whatever the Dark Git has planned for me. I may need… well, I’ve never asked for special treatment really but I think I need to be exempt from curfew for the duration of the tournament at least.”
“How about an extended curfew?” McGonagall negotiated. “I’d like you to get some regular sleep, Lord Potter.”
“Eleven?” Harry questioned.
“Yes, I’ll inform the Head Boy and Girl along with the Headmaster. It will be passed on to prefects through the Heads.” Minerva stood. “I want you to know that…I’d have never left you with those people if I’d known that they were going to hurt you…Harry.” She focused on him, tears welling in her eyes. “I’d have taken on Dumbledore and anyone else who stood in my way if I’d known. Please know that.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you first year,” Harry said honestly. “I mean that. I should’ve trusted you with it and it’s no fault of yours. I’ve never told anyone.”
She nodded briskly. “Go to bed, young man.”
Hermione was on the other end of the Quidditch pitch, his Firebolt on the ground at her feet. She also had a variety of other items—large and small. They’d practiced summoning first then she’d taken to banishing items him which had been startling at first but he’d learned to dart out of the way quickly enough.
Thaddeus and his wife were sitting in a pair conjured lawn chairs watching them. Harry figured that his vassal was making notes about where he’d need to start work while Piper Banner was content to offer Hermione suggestions from the sidelines—cheerful and painful suggestions to be honest.
“Can you conjure fire?” Piper called out.
“Yes, well, I can conjure a ball of flame,” Hermione responded and inclined her head. “Oh, I see.”
Harry frowned at the two of them but took the position that Hermione pointed to with a sigh. Phoenix was radiating amusement and curiosity. “What sort of shield can block fire?”
“A particularly strong protego can,” Thaddeus said, looking up from his journal to stare at the two of them. “Miss Granger, do be careful and moderate when you’re throwing fire at the Earl of Gryffindor.”
Hermione’s mouth twitched into a small smile. “You know, I’ve known him since he was just plain old Harry Potter.”
“Plain?” Harry asked in mock offense.
She raised an eyebrow at him. “I’ve never really believed in all that Boy-Who-Lived tripe. If you want a fan for a girlfriend, I can make a list of viable options.”
Harry laughed. “How about you throw some soft stuff at me first so I can learn the shield before you go throwing actual fire at me.”
Piper helpfully drew her wand and transfigured a couple of pebbles into pillows. “Good idea. Burns are terrible to heal and those clothes are new. Zale would pitch such a fit if you caught those trousers on fire.”
Harry didn’t actually doubt that at all. Zale had gone through his clothes choices like a hurricane and only returned to the bank with a third of what he’d originally ordered from Madam Malkin’s. A second owl order had come from the woman the next day and most it had been altered or changed from what Harry had originally ordered. He really didn’t care as long as stuff fit but he knew Zale cared a lot so he’d followed the man’s instructions to the letter regarding his new clothes and daily sartorial choices.
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him and he drew his wand. He cast the shield charm but it dissipated almost immediately. Phoenix shifted on his wrist and told him to settle his mind before casting. He cast it again and glowing blue shield appeared in front of him. Hermione banished the pillows at him repeatedly but the shield held.
“I feel like I should do everything I can to break that shield,” Hermione admitted conversationally and took a few steps back from him. “You ready?”
“Show me what you got,” Harry said and braced himself.
Hermione threw out a series of stinging hexes, a rather powerful stunning spell, then conjured a ball of fire which she banished at him with a dainty little flick of her wrist. The ball hissed against the shield and dissipated. She sent another, then another.
“Let me, lass,” Thaddeus said and stood. He put away his journal and drew his own wand. “Lord Potter, can you extend the shield around your entire person?”
“How…no never mind,” Harry said as he pulled at his magic. The shield poured over him like water and he looked to his vassal. “Like this?”
“Exactly like that.” Thaddeus took Hermione’s place. “Piper, love, cast a dueling ward to protect you and Miss Granger.” He waited while his wife pulled her wand and placed the ward before focusing on Harry. “Let me know when to stop, sir.”
“Harry. Call me Harry,” Harry said.
Thaddeus nodded. “If you insist.” He raised his wand, waited for Harry’s nod and cast, “flagellum de igne.”
Harry’s mouth dropped open at the use of parseltongue but he managed to maintain the spell as fire poured out of Banner’s wand, flung itself out like a whip, and wrapped around him. The heat was intense and he could feel the pull on his magic almost immediately.
“Hold the spell as long as you can,” Banner advised. “I’ll do the same. This temperature is an approximate match to the fire of a dragon but the average dragon, even the Chinese Fireball can only hold a consistent flame for two minutes before their fire banks and they have to build it again.”
Harry nodded and tried to relax. “This is pretty magically expensive, right?”
“Yes, but in a life or death situation you may have to make such a sacrifice to come out of it alive. Even border-line magically exhausted, most people have the ability to apparate at least a kilometer in any direction. That’s more than enough space to get away from most threats.”
“I have permission from the Ministry to learn to apparate. Will you teach me?” Harry asked.
“Yes, I applied for your license already. That’s why they sent you a letter with permission for lessons,” Thaddeus answered. “How does it feel?”
“Hot enough to be nauseating,” Harry admitted.
“Counting the time he spent with it activated for Hermione, he’s been holding that shield for five minutes,” Piper said. “He must have a lot of power to burn.”
“He has a corporeal Patronus,” Hermione said. “He drove away over fifty Dementors with it last year when they tried to kiss him.”
Thaddeus huffed. “I should really invest myself in ruining Fudge’s life.”
“It can be a team sport,” Piper said and laughed when her husband shot her a knowing grin.
“Let’s start with Rita Skeeter,” Hermione said. “We’ll send her a note accusing Fudge of having a torrid sexual affair with a centaur.”
“The Prophet isn’t allowed to publish lies anymore,” Harry said. “I told the editor I’d fire him so hard his great grandparents would wake up in the family crypt demanding an explanation if he did.”
Hermione huffed. “Well, there’s always the Magical Times but they don’t have half the readership of the Prophet.”
“Don’t get huffy with me,” Harry admonished. “She said horrible things about you in that paper and would’ve continued to do so if I hadn’t bought it and had her fired. Besides, wouldn’t you rather have an honest paper then an avenue for petty revenge?”
“I don’t know why I can’t have both!” Hermione said defiantly and Piper laughed.
“How about we hire someone to investigate him?” Harry suggested. “He’s a corrupt git. There is no way he doesn’t have a half dozen skeletons in his closet.”
“Oh,” Hermione practically cooed. “Really? We can hire one?”
“Absolutely,” Harry said. “I can send a letter to my account manager at Gringotts. We can ruin him politically, socially, and I’m considering suing him for endangering my life and the lives other students last year with Dementors. At the very least, he menaced all of us.”
Thaddeus huffed suddenly and ended the fire spell. “For the love of…you realize you aren’t even concentrating on holding that shield spell, right?”
Harry frowned. “But it’s not…I mean the spell is working fine.”
“That’s the point,” Thaddeus said. “You’re not having to concentrate and your shield has been active for nearly ten minutes at this point. It’s still as strong as it was when you first cast it.”
“So this isn’t a problem?”
“No, it’s just improbable,” Thaddeus grumbled. “I’m going to throw some fire balls at you similar to what Miss Granger was using. They’ll be stronger—hotter. Hotter than what a dragon is capable of. Ready?”
“Yes, and I’ll pay attention,” Harry promised.
Thaddeus took about ten steps back, took up dueling stance, and threw out a series of glowing red fire balls four times bigger than Hermione had used. Harry took the first three without a problem, the last one knocked him on his arse but his shield continued to glow. He scrambled to his feet and nodded.
Thaddeus cast again. Harry stumbled under the power of the spell but kept his feet this time.
“Right.” Banner frowned. “I’m going to send my most powerful stunner your way. Think you can handle it?”
“Probably not but we should know my limits, right?”
Banner nodded. “Agreed.”
Harry braced himself but when the stunning spell hit his shield, he was knocked off his feet. He landed about ten meters down the pitch and his shield slowly dissipated around him. He stood and took a deep breath. “That was actually sort of fun.”
Banner laughed. “Hurt anywhere?”
“Not at all, I think the shield’s final act was to cushion my fall so to speak or the fall was the final straw on me maintaining it,” Harry said.
“I’m going to cast a diagnostic on you to check your magical levels,” Piper said as she ended the ward around her and Hermione. “You should have expelled more than half of your magical reserve doing that.”
Harry stood still while Piper cast the charm and exchanged a look with Hermione who was very enamored with the older witch. He figured she might be Hermione’s first case of hero-worship.
“Well that’s…” Piper trailed off with a frown and turned to her husband. “It’s like…he cast nothing.”
“I saw,” Thaddeus said. “Check his magic channels and specifically look for a syphon.”
“That’s…there hasn’t been…that’s a myth, Thaddeus.”
“Pip, it would explain how he survived the Killing Curse and how he drove away that many Dementors when most adults would have a problem driving off a single one of those foul bastards.”
Piper nodded and cast again. Hermione exhaled sharply at the results of the charm and Harry didn’t have to wonder, really, if they’d figured out what Phoenix had already explained to him in depth.
“His core is overflowing with wild magic,” Piper said. “His channels are blown wide-open across the board and he has a fully developed magical syphon. He’s harvesting magic twenty-four/seven from the air around him. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he’s harvesting magic more quickly than he can actually use it.” She ended the charm and turned to Hermione. “Can you show us a memory of the Dementors and the charm he cast?”
Hermione bit down on her bottom lip. “That depends, are the two of you bound to keep his secrets?”
“My husband is and I’m bound in my marriage vows to protect the honor and magic of my husband with my life if necessary. We have a true magical marriage.”
Hermione nodded. “It’s just that we broke two international laws that night involving the use of a time-turner, helped an escaped convict get away, and directly defied the Ministry of Magic on not one but two different legal matters. Also, and though no one has ever asked either one of us—Harry didn’t just drive off those Dementors. His Patronus killed half a dozen or more of them.”
“I’ll retrieve a pensieve and have it at the vassal house,” Thaddeus said quietly. “We’ll all review the memory and any others you two would like to share at Yule.”
Banner spent the last hour of their session teaching Harry short distance, precise apparition. He could tell that Hermione was very envious of the lessons but he tried to keep her distracted with questions about his options concerning the task and how to disable a dragon without killing it.
“There are reasons to be silent but it’s also very handy to be as loud as possible,” Thaddeus said. “In a battle in can be a distraction and can cause disorientation in your opponents.”
“I understand,” Harry said. “Leave loud, arrive silent?”
“Exactly,” Thaddeus said. “Unless arriving with a sound-barrier breaking crack would be enough to give you the upper hand. Don’t be afraid of it. Psychological warfare is a survival tool.” He inclined his head slightly. “Isn’t that right, Headmaster Dumbledore? Professor McGonagall?”
Harry turned and watched both professors appear in a flash of magic. He turned to Thaddeus. “Can you teach me the disillusionment charm?”
“Yes, it might come in handy for next week,” Thaddeus said.
“That’s a seventh year charm,” McGonagall protested.
“I take it you haven’t been here long,” Piper said with a small grin.
“No, just the last few minutes,” Minerva admitted. “The apparition on the pitch pinged the wards. We were in London so it took us a bit to get here.”
“Ah,” Thaddeus said. “My apologies. I should’ve warned you. We have permission from the Ministry to teach him apparition as he’s emancipated.”
Dumbledore nodded. “I thought as much but we were required to make sure. How far along are his lessons?”
“Show them what you got, my Lord,” Thaddeus said. He used his wand to throw out a series of rings around the pitch. “Mix it up a little on the noise level.”
Harry disappeared in a rush of apparition and very small pop. He appeared in a boom of thunder in the middle of the first ring at the opposite end of the pitch. McGonagall watched in shocked silence as he apparated from ring to ring around the pitch in a matter of seconds. He returned to the place he began without a sound and took a deep breath.
“Oh.” Minerva nodded. “Right.” She pulled a book out of her robe. “I purchased this for you.”
Harry took the book from her and nodded. “Thank you. Did the registration process have any snags?”
Minerva glared. “I hold an internationally accredited Mastery in Transfiguration, Potter. No, that snotty little bureaucrat at the ministry didn’t give me any problems registering you or Miss Granger for animagus lessons.”
“Really?” Hermione said wide-eyed and made grabby hands as soon as Minerva pulled out another book.
“As if Potter would’ve gotten away with private instruction without you, Miss Granger,” Minerva said fondly.
Hermione smiled brilliantly and hugged the book to her chest. “Fantastic.” She rocked on her heels and turned to Banner. “I want to learn the disillusionment charm and that fire whip spell, too. Can you cast it in Latin?”
Thaddeus inclined his head. “Of course.”
– – – –
She hated it but Hermione knew there were parts of Harry’s new situation that were none of her business so she reluctantly left Banner and Harry in favor of the dorm when the older man indicated that he wanted to speak to Harry in private. She played with the diamond a bit as she gave the password and entered the dorm. She had no idea how she was going to explain it to her parents but she’d taken Harry’s wishes to heart. She wasn’t taking it off at all unless there was a really good reason.
She put her bag on the table she preferred to use for study in the common room and pulled out the new book Professor McGonagall had given her. Your Inner Spirit and the Magical Ramifications of the Animagus Transformation by Elizabeth Flamel. Even so many years later, just seeing the name Flamel reminded her of the stone and Harry’s near death at the hands of Voldemort. Harry had rarely discussed what had happened on the other side of the fire. She wondered if he would share the memory of it with the Banners.
She was so lost in thought, she didn’t see Ginny Weasley coming until the girl was seated at the table in front of her. Hermione put down the book and turned to the girl she’d once thought might be a potential friend. It had been made abundantly clear to her, however, that Ginny just saw her as a path to Harry.
“Ron says you’re dating Harry.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow at the girl’s directness. “Yes. He asked me to be his girlfriend and I agreed.”
“Just like that?” Ginny asked. “I thought you didn’t want to be with him like that.”
Hermione frowned at her. “No, that was your assumption and I let you believe that because I didn’t want to argue with you. What girl in my year or yours wouldn’t want to date Harry?”
Ginny huffed and crossed her arms. “Right.”
“Are you mad?”
“No.” She frowned. “At least, I’m not mad at you. He obviously cares a lot about you and no one has the right to tell him how he should feel.”
Hermione agreed with that. “He’s special, Ginny. I get it, you know? I get why you like him but he’s more than his title. He’s more than the Boy-Who-Lived. He’s a person, with fears and faults and foolish dreams about professional Quidditch.”
“There is nothing foolish about professional Quidditch,” Ginny protested and laughed at the face Hermione made. “Ron’s really upset.”
“Ron has no right to be upset,” Hermione protested. “Harry has never lied to him, Ginny. Ron has done nothing but mistreat Harry for weeks.”
“You’re not saying anything I don’t know,” Ginny reminded. “My brother is a stubborn jerk and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Harry will have to be the one to mend fences.”
“Then their friendship, such as it was, is over,” Hermione said quietly. “Harry isn’t going to reach out to him again. He’s not going to ask Ron for anything, Ginny. He’s not going to mend fences. Frankly, I don’t think he would even if Ron apologized and meant it. He’s quite…finished with that whole thing.”
Ginny nodded. “I thought so but Ron seems to think that Harry’s going to come crawling back begging to be his friend. You, too. He says you like him and you’re using Harry to make him jealous.”
Hermione huffed. “He has horrible grades and he’s lazy. What could he possibly think we have in common?”
Ginny burst out laughing then sobered. “Wait, you mean that, don’t you?”
“Of course, I mean it. Good grades are important. I can barely hold a conversation with Ron about anything important to me. All he wants to talk about is Quidditch and chess. Ron’s boring and he has terrible table manners. He’s judgmental, foul tempered, and mean.”
Ginny’s eyes widened in shock. “You think Ron is boring.”
Hermione shrugged. “He is boring and rude. What could we possibly talk about? Don’t you want to date someone who will really listen to you and understand what you have to say? Who wants to spend every single conversation talking about Quidditch?”
Fay Dunbar sat down at the table. “That’s an excellent point but I like Quidditch.”
“And that’s fine,” Hermione agreed. “But just imagine every single conversation you ever have with a boy evolving around it. If he doesn’t care about other things or isn’t interested in anything you’re interested in—what is left but what he wants to talk about?”
Ginny made a face. “You’re right.” She huffed. “You know—the only things I have in common with Harry is Quidditch and my brother and you.”
Hermione quirked an eyebrow at that. “Well, I’m pretty great.”
“Yeah, you are,” Ginny agreed with a genuine smile. She unpacked her book bag. “Would you look at my transfiguration questions? We had six to answer.”
– – – –
Harry was doing his very best to sit still under the weight of the spell work Piper Banner was doing but it was difficult. Poppy Pomfrey was standing to the left of the Healer watching the process in silence along with Dumbledore, McGonagall, Zale, and Chieftain Ragnok who had come through the floo at Banner’s request.
“Why did you make it seem like I asked to do this without Miss Granger?” Thaddeus questioned.
Harry huffed. “Do you know what sort of conversation I’d have to endure if she knew the Dursleys regularly withheld meals from me as a child? I’d have to talk about my stupid feelings for hours, Thaddeus.”
All three women in the room glared at him.
“Keeping it a secret is only going to make her upset,” Piper said as she worked. “Besides you’re going to need nutrient potions for weeks to correct the issues that the malnutrition caused. I’m surprised that the bone in your arm is the only thing you’ve had regrown since coming to Hogwarts. Your bones are quite fragile—more like someone who is a hundred rather than just fourteen.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Poppy demanded. “I would’ve brought in a Healer for you!”
Harry sighed. “Don’t be mad at me. I didn’t tell anyone else either.”
“I’m going to send that wretched Aunt of yours another cursed letter,” Poppy decided and marched off before anyone could respond.
Harry just relaxed on the bed and said nothing. He wasn’t going to get in the way of Poppy Pomfrey when she was mad—he knew better.
“I’m going to go help,” Minerva said and glanced at Zale.
“I’ve already taken the time to ruin their lives,” he admitted. “Vernon Dursley is currently in jail for financial crimes. Since Lord Potter didn’t want his circumstances revealed to the world at large—I took a different path in punishing them. Petunia has developed a case of kleptomania. In a matter of weeks, she’s going to get caught and when they investigate the Muggle police are going to find at least a hundred thousand pounds in stolen goods. Right now, the charm work is letting her get away with it—but that part will wear off and she’ll get caught. It’s going to be amazing.”
Minerva grinned at him. “You were always one of my favorites even if you were in Ravenclaw.”
“Where did you sort, Thaddeus?” Harry questioned.
“Gryffindor but I only completed my OWL year at Hogwarts before I was sent abroad by my parents,” Banner said quietly. “Piper was a Slytherin.”
Harry nodded. “The Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin but I talked it into Gryffindor. I honestly didn’t think I’d be safe in that house.”
“No, I agree,” Piper said as she worked. “While some are certainly innocent there are plenty who quite ardently follow in their parents footsteps. Of course, you shouldn’t think that Dark Lord only recruited Slytherins to his cause.”
“No, I met a Death Eater from Gryffindor,” Harry said with a frown. “I understand, really, that House sorting means nothing. You can be a loyal Death Eater. Even then, the Sorting Hat picks a dominant trait. It’s not like he’s sitting on the head’s of eleven year olds and proclaiming – oh, hey, this one’s going to be a real dark git.”
Piper snorted and lowered her want. “Don’t make me laugh while I’m casting on you—you’ll end up with some unfortunate hair color. My diagnostic charm always turns towards hair charms when I get amused.”
Harry started to respond but his ring heated up his finger. He frowned down at it but then Phoenix started to vibrate. “I have…oh…” He jerked free of the diagnostic charm, eyes wide. “Something’s wrong with Hermione.”
By the time he made it to the Fat Lady, the Headmaster had joined them. The portrait swung open immediately and what greeted them was so shocking for a few seconds they were all still. Hermione looked a little worse for wear—her uniform shirt torn, her mouth bleeding but she had Ron Weasley bound up and stuck to a wall. Her wand was glowing at the tip as she paced and berated him in front of a good portion of their house.
“And I’ll have you know, Ron Weasley, that I’m the brightest witch of the bleeding age and I deserve better than you! Your mummy might have convinced you that your blood status was enough to get you by in the world but I got news for you, you vicious spiteful bully, it’s not a witch’s job to take care of you! It’s not my job to do your homework! It’s not my job to make sure you get to class on time! And you don’t get to boss me around because you’re a pure-blood and if you ever in your life hit me again– I’m going to break all the bones in your body!” She jabbed her wand in his direction and Weasley whimpered. “And for the record, you thoughtless, dishonorable jerk—I don’t need Harry to fight my battles for me. I’m more than capable of kicking your pathetic bum all on my own!” Her wand started to glow at the tip and Harry darted forward and grabbed her wrist. He lowered it to the floor.
“No matter how much you might enjoy it—do you really want your first detention at Hogwarts to be because you maimed Ron for life?” Harry asked.
“Yes!” Hermione exclaimed. “Do you think I’d only get detention for it?”
“Miss Granger, I would be grateful if you would explain what happened here,” Dumbledore said gravely. “No…” He looked around the room. “Mr. Longbottom, you seem to be a cool-headed lad, could you explain please?”
Neville cleared his throat. “Hermione and Fay were at that table.” He pointed at a table that had been overturned. “And Ron came up to them and tried to order Fay to leave so he could talk to Hermione but Fay told him to…” He glanced towards the girl, who had her wand out as well, and she shrugged. “Bugger off.” He flushed when Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. “And Ron started shouting at Hermione—calling her a…”
He huffed. “He called her a whore and a mudblood. She tried to leave the room and he grabbed her. Then he tried to take the pendant Harry gave Hermione—but he’s stupid because it’s obviously warded so that only Harry or Hermione can actually remove it. It lashed out with a stinging hex—a really mild one. Just a warning, really. And Ron backhanded her across the face and busted her mouth. He demanded she take it off and started to shake her. But before any of us could interfere, she…” He waved a hand at Ron, still stuck on the wall. “Incapacitated him and started telling him off. She was just defending herself, sir, and I think I speak for all of Gryffindor when I say that we’d all have a real problem with her being punished in any way for this.” He frowned at the Headmaster. “I certainly would—as the Scion of the House of Longbottom. Ron has committed a grave offense against the House of Potter by physically and verbally abusing a protected member. Blood feuds have been built on less.”
The mood in the room shifted.
Dumbledore’s gaze drifted from Longbottom to Harry who was glaring at his former friend with the kind of fury that wouldn’t be misplaced on a battle field. He drew his wand and cancelled the charms on Weasley. The boy hit the floor with a little thud. He turned to the Weasley twins and found them to be glaring at their younger brother. “George, Fred—remind me—which one of you is oldest.”
“I am,” Fred admitted.
“Very well, then it falls upon you to contact your father and relate to him the actions of his youngest son. We will adjourn to my office so that you may take care of your part of this matter. George, bring your brother along.”
George Weasley hauled Ron up from the floor and dragged him out of the common room in the Headmaster’s wake. Fred took a deep breath and cleared his throat. “Lord Potter, on behalf of the House of Weasley, I offer my sincere and unreserved apologies for the insult done to your magical House this evening.” He turned to Hermione who had stopped being angry enough to start crying. “Ron will be punished for this, Hermione. You have my word on the matter.”
Piper Banner came forward and took Hermione’s hand. “Thaddeus, I believe you have a duty here.”
Harry barely had time to blink before his vassal separated him from Hermione and all but dragged him out of the Gryffindor tower and into an empty classroom. He huffed as he was released. “Are you sure you’re supposed to drag me about like that?”
Banner shut the door with his wand and turned to focus on Harry. “You can’t afford to lose your temper the way you were about to, my Lord. You are honor bound to represent your magical House with as much dignity and self-control as you can muster in all circumstances. I don’t believe your anger is misplaced at all but you have a great deal of magic to burn and accidental magic outbursts would be dangerous to both yourself and those around you. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Harry frowned. “I’m…how could they just let it get that far? The entire tower just stood by and let him hit her!”
“We can both assume that it happened very fast,” Thaddeus said. “And the behavior is out of the norm for him, correct? Did you think he would hit her before tonight?”
“No,” Harry huffed and his shoulders slumped. “No, I didn’t and I should’ve.” He touched the bracelet and found Phoenix radiating just as much anger as he felt. “He’s an abusive little shite and I should’ve realized he’d get physical with her.”
“He’s the reason you took her into your House.”
Harry nodded. There was no reason to lie. “She’s…brilliant, Thaddeus. Brilliant and amazing and the magical world is corrupt. Ron’s just an example really—lazy, corrupt, stupid little git that he is.” He waved a hand as the door opened behind him, admitting Minerva McGonagall, Piper and Hermione. “Hermione doesn’t get it, really. She thinks magic is beautiful. It’s like she ignores the bigotry and the slurs that fall out of these people’s mouths like air. Right now, Ron’s a pure-blood kid with a chip on his shoulder. Ten years from now he’ll be a pure-blood adult and he’ll have twice as many rights as Hermione because of his blood status and his gender. He’ll still be ignorant, abusive, and ugly on the inside.
“A man like that could and certainly would destroy someone like Hermione—who has no interest in assuming the role that the magical world would prefer she have. Men like him will see her as a challenge—someone they have the right to break a part and put her in the place they want her to have. It’s disgusting how backward and ignorant the average wizard is. Women’s rights in magical Britain are right out of the bleeding dark ages. You know that a witch can’t even sue for divorce in this country! Worse? A muggle-born or half-blood witch could be summarily stripped of her magic and tossed into the Muggle world if her ex-husband wants. It’s disgusting. So yes, Ron and wizards like him are exactly why I offered Hermione the protection of my magical house. Let one of them come at her—I’ll make Voldemort look like a Hufflepuff.”
Thaddeus snorted. “It is, as always, the honor of my family to make war with the Earl of Gryffindor.”
Minerva cleared her throat. “Lord Potter, Arthur Weasley is in the Headmaster’s office. Your attendance is required.”
Harry frowned and looked at Hermione who was pale, and bright eyed with renewed temper. “Are you all right?”
“Piper fixed my lip,” Hermione said. “I didn’t know…about that stuff. How do you know?”
Harry waved the wrist that had his bracelet on it. “My mother was a Muggle-born, Hermione, and not the first to marry into the Potter family. There is a lot stuff about in my family grimoire as well. My grandfather authored six different laws regarding witch’s rights in the UK. Every single one of them was voted down by those lazy, vicious, old gits on the Wizengamot.” He huffed. “I figure I’m famous enough that I could try getting them passed again.” He focused on Thaddeus when all three witches smiled brilliantly at him. “So what do I tell Arthur Weasley?”
“It greatly depends on how you wish to position yourself with the House of Weasley in the future,” Thaddeus said. “They aren’t and never have been allied with the House of Potter. However, Arthur Weasley has five other sons—anyone of which could make amends on behalf of their family by swearing themselves as your vassal.”
“Bill,” the bracelet immediately suggested.
“Is that what I should offer them?” Harry asked with a frown as he stared at Thaddeus.
“You can give them an honorable path to make amends or the entire family will fall into disgrace due to the actions of a fourteen year old boy. Situations such as this have reaching magical ramifications. The oldest son, William, works for the bank. It could ruin his career. They take matters of family honor very seriously.”
Harry nodded and walked away from them. He sat down at a desk and took a deep breath to settle his mind. A part of him wanted to destroy the entire Weasley family for something that hadn’t even happened yet. He mentally prodded the bracelet. Phoenix flowed out of it. They both ignored the gasps of surprise and the decisive click of the door shutting.
“The Weasleys are an ancient family,” Phoenix began, “allowing them the opportunity to make amends for the actions of Ronald would be the most well-received path you could take. There are, however, ramifications.”
“If you take the oldest son as your vassal, provided he would volunteer, you’d be involving yet another ancient family in the business of your house,” Phoenix said.
“And that would be a mistake?” Harry questioned. “You said I could trust the magic that binds a vassal to my house to always act in my best interests.”
“And so you can,” Phoenix agreed. “Do you remember what it felt like when Banner knelt before you?”
“You mean magically? Because intellectually it sort of freaked me out but magically it was kind of amazing, you know?”
Phoenix laughed. “I do know. I felt it with you through the bracelet. Banner has a rich family magic but he’s the last adult male of his line.”
“And the Weasley magic would be different,” Harry surmised. “Because there are so many.” He frowned. “Thaddeus’ magic was content but Zale’s was kind of lonely.” He considered that silently for a minute. “Banner’s marriage bond had impact on his vassal oath, right?”
“Excellent,” Phoenix praised. “Though we should buy a few more books on magical theory for you.”
“It’s a risk then,” Harry said. “Taking a vassal—the wrong sort could influence my magic in a bad way which would have impact on my family magic. Will you be able to tell if I can trust his magic? Like you did with Thaddeus and Zale?”
“Yes,” Phoenix said and nodded. “More so now since your mother’s ward stone was integrated into the bracelet. Your mother’s magic is extremely protective of you. It’s changed me in a way I didn’t anticipate.”
“Good or bad?”
“Both honestly,” Phoenix admitted. “I’m more susceptible to your emotions which could make me unreliable in stressful situations but I’m more powerful than ever.” He reached out and nudged the desk, the metal scraped across the castle stones and Harry’s mouth dropped open. “I’m not exactly corporeal but I could probably take a curse for you or another if the situation called for it.” His gaze drifted to Hermione who was staring at the pair of them in curious shock. “It might come in handy in a fight. We’ll have to practice it.”
Harry nodded. “Especially if the curse you took might impact the bracelet. I’m wearing it on my wand arm after all.” Phoenix inclined his head in agreement and dissipated without another word. Magic swirled around Harry and swooshed back into the bracelet.
“What was that?” Banner demanded before anyone else could.
“He likes to be called Phoenix,” Harry said. “He was created with family magic and is part of the dimensional store I found in the Lord’s Vault.” He held up his hand to make the bracelet more visible. “He is a repository of family knowledge and magic, I guess is the best way to put it. He can absorb anything I read in order to help me through matters of my estate and the like. His knowledge of family history is extensive so I’ve learned about my legacy going back as far as Pendragon.”
“How old is he?” Banner asked neutrally.
“He said he was seventy-one when he died but I don’t know how old the bracelet is. I know I’m the first to wear it in a really long time and that’s probably because I’m a parselmouth. Phoenix was one, too.” He held out his arm. “Go ahead. You can touch it. Just don’t try to remove it.”
Banner wrapped his hand around Harry’s wrist and relaxed. “It’s very Light.”
“The goblins said as much when they met him. He came out when they lifted the curse on me, you see. Phoenix helped the Headmaster and my godfather keep me alive while I received my family magics.” Harry turned to Hermione. “What’s your preference?”
She made a face. “I can’t see making the entire family pay for what Ron did. It wouldn’t even just the Weasleys we know—there are cousins, aunts, uncles. Ginny said over a hundred people attended their last family reunion, Harry. That would be…a terrible thing to do to people we haven’t even met.” She bit down briefly on her newly healed lip. “But Ron doesn’t understand consequences so he should be taught a lesson.” She touched the diamond. “He said…that the pendant might as well be a collar and he called me your pet mudblood.”
Harry exhaled sharply and shared a look with Thaddeus. “It is nothing like a collar, Hermione.”
“Then what’s it like?” Hermione asked.
“At most in all seriousness, it might be considered an informal betrothal gift by a very few old fashioned people, Miss Granger,” Minerva said. She checked her watch. “We should go now, Lord Potter.”
– – – –
Arthur had brought his oldest sons with him. Harry hesitated and Thaddeus put one calming hand on his shoulder. He let the older man lead him to a chair and he sat. He spared Ron a small glance and found his former friend sullen and obviously furious. Harry focused on Arthur Weasley and found the normally jovial man very upset.
“Sir,” Harry took a deep breath. “Please call me Harry. We have a difficult enough situation without adding such formal language to the situation.” He glanced briefly at Bill Weasley then Percy. The twins were by the fire, exchanging a series of looks that told Harry that they already had big, horrible plans for Ron. “I am disappointed in Ron’s behavior but not entirely surprised by it. In retrospect, he’s made a habit of such abusive and ugly behavior since practically from the beginning. It seems like he thinks the world and practically everyone around him—owes him something. Having met the majority of your children, I have to believe it has nothing to do with how he was raised but just a flaw he managed to develop all on his own. He’s quite terrible when he doesn’t get his way.” He focused on the man the bracelet was telling him was Charlie.
“Pardon me,” Arthur said. “Harry, you’ve met Bill but not Charlie, he is my second oldest. When I realized the severity of the situation I decided that they should be present at this conversation.”
Harry nodded and looked at Charles. “You’re the one that works with dragons, right? I can’t believe you lot brought a Chinese Fireball here when they’re endangered. I really hope she doesn’t get hurt in the tournament.”
“Unfortunately, all of her eggs are…dead, Lord Potter. The Ministry paid us a lot of money to bring dragons here for the tournament—money we’ll use for our conservation programs on the reserve. None of the dragons we have here are actually reproductive. They keep laying eggs regardless.”
Harry frowned. “It’s ugly isn’t? How little value some people give such amazing and magical creatures. I hope the money does good things for the reserve.” He twisted his ring on his finger as he considered that. “It doesn’t seem enough, honestly, to risk their lives and any comfort they have merely for the entertainment of others.”
“I don’t disagree with you at all,” Charlie admitted. “But it’s not my job to make such decisions.”
Harry nodded and focused on Bill. “You work at the bank as a curse breaker, right?”
“I did,” Bill said quietly. “I don’t honestly expect my career at Gringotts to survive this, Lord Potter. You’re the Earl of Gryffindor and a member of my family physically assaulted the witch you obviously mean to make your wife.”
Harry felt his face heat up and he glanced briefly at Molly Weasley when she made a little huffy sound. “Yes, well, Hermione is my very good friend and she did recently agree to date me provided that I got better grades.” He grinned when Bill laughed briefly. “But we’re both a bit young to be making such decisions.” He noted that Molly relaxed at that which he found infuriating. “Though in my father’s final instructions, which he left in the Lord’s Vault, he did order me to find and marry the smartest witch I could so there’s that to consider.” He rubbed his hands on his trousers. “There was a letter from Godric Gryffindor in my vault, too.” He inclined his head. “Have you ever seen a Lord’s Vault?”
“Yes, sir, I’ve worked in the creation of such vaults in the past but I haven’t seen one as old as yours.”
“Godric had it commissioned, he said so in his letter,” Harry admitted. “It was a pretty interesting letter—he spoke of his own lineage and how his people came from Avalon.” He watched that information settle on the oldest son of the Weasley family.
“Your lineage is no secret to me, Lord Potter,” Bill said gravely. “You have a proud, royal legacy. You’ve more than proved yourself worthy of it—having stood against Voldemort three times in your lifetime. It is the mark of a good, honest wizard—to stand against such darkness and to do so alone was both brave and incredibly reckless.”
“Needs must,” Harry said and sighed. “I, too, believe your job at the bank will suffer due to this situation if it is handled badly.” He focused on Arthur. “It isn’t my intention to see your whole family in ruin due the actions of one and that’s what could happen if we don’t find a path we can…navigate together with as much dignity as possible.”
“Careful, they might offer you Ginny.”
Harry touched the bracelet and hoped he kept his horror off his face. “First, I’d like to make it clear that I’m not interested in being offered a marriage contract of some sort as an apology.” The men relaxed but Molly frowned. “It’s got nothing to do with Ginny personally, of course. She’s a fun person—smart and quite lovely. It wouldn’t be fair or just to take her choices away from her in such a way. She has the right to figure out who she is and what sort of wizard she would want at her own pace. The way women are treated in the magical world—as sexual property—is deeply offensive to me. I’d never want to participate in such a thing.”
“That’s a very honorable stand to take,” Percy said. “I do agree with you that witch’s rights in our society are sorely lacking.”
“He’s a liar but a savvy one. He fought us every single step in the way when it came creation of new laws to protect witches. His own wife was one of the first to use the divorce protocols to end her marriage. Physical abuse was chief among her complaints.”
Harry vowed in that very moment to have a long discussion with Phoenix about his ability to keep a neutral expression in the face of such unwelcome and horrible information. He took a deep breath. “My apologies, I neglected to introduce my vassal, Master Thaddeus Banner. Thaddeus this is Arthur and Molly Weasley—and their sons—William, Charles, Percy, George, Fred and Ronald.”
“I would like to say it is a pleasure but that would be misleading,” Thaddeus murmured. “Our circumstances here this evening are quite irritating. It is my duty as the Earl of Gryffindor’s vassal to see to the protection of him and all members of his house. It is quite alarming to know that Miss Granger is not safe in this school.”
“I didn’t hurt her,” Ron protested.
“Really?” Harry demanded. “So you didn’t backhand her and bust her mouth open?” He held up a hand when Ron started to speak. “No, we both know that happened and you don’t have an excuse for it. There is absolutely no excuse for hitting her that I would accept. Why did you try to take the pendant I gave her off? Do you even realize the insult of that? I used that pendant as the token of my magical intent when I brought her into the House of Potter as a protected member.”
“You had no business doing that to begin with, Harry! You knew I liked her and you didn’t care.”
“If you truly cared about her then you would be pleased to see Hermione protected by the House of Potter. She’s been given more magical and legal protection than she’d ever have on her own but maybe that’s your problem.” The bracelet shifted in warning on his wrist. “But it doesn’t really matter and your feelings are not my responsibility. We aren’t friends, Ron, and after today we never will be again. I have no desire to be friends with someone like you.”
“Someone like me?” Ron demanded.
“You have no honor, Ron. You don’t hit girls, you vicious git.” Harry looked away from him and focused on Arthur Weasley. “Obviously this isn’t a situation where I feel I can accept an apology from Ron as enough for the insult he’s done my family. I doubt he would be sincere and more over he doesn’t really understand the ramifications of his actions.”
“No, I agree,” Arthur said quietly.
“Hermione is not your family!” Ron shouted and huffed when his brother, Charlie, settled a heavy hand on his shoulder. “She’s not! She’s not his family. He had no right doing what he did. She’s a Muggle-born and doesn’t deserve to be part of a Noble house.”
It took a lot but Harry ignored him and remained focused on Arthur. He took a few seconds to settle his mind and frowned as he considered his next words carefully. But, more and more he didn’t want to prevent the Weasley family from suffering for Ron’s actions. It was only Hermione’s words that stilled him and made him inclined to treat them with more respect than they ever had her. He stood abruptly and his vassal stood with him. “I need…privacy.” He focused on Thaddeus.
“Of course, my Lord.” Thaddeus led him across the room to a small empty balcony area. The windows were stained glass—a phoenix and a unicorn in a forest scene. “I’m going to cast a privacy ward and step outside of it. No one but me will be able to see through it and I will turn my back. You will be able to step through it when you’re finished.”
“Thank you.” The ward settled on him and the entire area like a blanket. He couldn’t see the rest of the Headmaster’s office through it. Phoenix shifted on his wrist and magic flowed out of it briefly, surrounding him in a golden glow then the older version of himself appeared. “You were less than forthcoming about it, you know.”
Phoenix sighed and made a show of resting against the window sill. “I’m not proud of myself to be honest, Harry.”
Harry looked around. “Is the privacy charm going to hold?”
“The bracelet has a privacy ward built into it which I activated before I came out. No one hears or sees me without my permission, lad. I put a great deal of thought into the creation of the bracelet and how I would interact with those who wore it.”
“Why the suit?” Harry asked suddenly taking the elegant made suit the avatar wore with interest.
“Oh, it was my favorite,” Phoenix said and straightened his waistcoat. “As to the Weasley family. I’m didn’t go into detail about them because I’m ashamed of what happened. I’m ashamed of my own part in it. I took Hermione’s death very hard and while only Ron and in part Percy were responsible for what happened to her in court I took it out on the entire family. Molly was vicious, yes, in court and afterward. She said I had no right to be upset about what happened to Hermione because she was no longer family—no longer my concern.”
“And the potions?” Harry asked.
“Ginny and her mother were responsible for that. Molly saw nothing wrong with it and didn’t care that I hated Ginny for it. Though she quickly learned to regret that. I couldn’t divorce Ginny because she was a pure-blood. Arthur and the others never forgave me for what I did to Ginny and I didn’t care. I never did care. I honestly don’t care now which is shameful.”
“You’re entitled to be angry about it,” Harry said. “They…it’s rape what they did to you. I don’t find Ginny attractive—I can’t see that changing. You’d have never been with her of your own free will. It makes it rape. They messed with your mind and your heart. They abused you physically and magically. It makes me furious and didn’t even happen to me. Well, it didn’t happen to this version of me.” He paced around a bit. “It makes me furious and it hurts. I trusted them. You trusted them. Hermione trusted him and this is how he repays her? This isn’t some future thing that won’t happen again. This happened now. He hit her.”
“He’s a bastard, no doubt,” Phoenix agreed. “The fact is that I would have no problem with you refusing the apology in any form but I come from a very emotional place on this issue. I will tell you that destroying them did not make me feel better. Nothing made me feel better to be honest. I died a bitter, lonely old man. I don’t want that for you.”
Harry nodded. “I can’t say it’s a future I want. I also…don’t want to be a disappointment to Hermione. She would be upset if I refused their apology because of how broad the impact would be.” He huffed. “It’s kind of infuriating. I honestly wish she were a little more vengeful.”
Phoenix laughed. “No, you don’t.”
“No, I guess I don’t,” Harry admitted. “When it comes down to it—her approval means more to me than anyone else’s.”
“Then that’s decided then.”
“Can I trust him?”
“Bill? Yes. Percy is a bastard and always will be. The twins are…what they are to be honest. All they want out of life is a good time and enough money to play. Charlie is self-involved to the point that it’s kind of ugly. He only wants what he wants and he has little to no concern about what his parents might want for him. It’s selfish but not dark. He has no interest in marrying, making a family, or serving his magical house.”
Harry nodded. “That’s…well, I guess he’s entitled to his own life, right?”
“It’s not exactly common among magicals, especially not the sons of ancient families. It says a lot about the Weasleys family dynamics. Molly has too much power in the family and Arthur’s sons resent it. Some handle it better than others—Ron embraced it, obviously. Percy is an entirely different animal and in the right circumstances would’ve been a very talented, dedicated Death Eater.”
Harry grimaced. “Right, well, I’ve talked to myself enough.” He waved a hand and Phoenix laughed. He disappeared back into the bracelet and magic briefly shifted around Harry. He watched the privacy charm that Phoenix had activated end then he stepped through Thaddeus’ ward. “Thank you, Thaddeus.” He raised an eyebrow at the sight of Zale Wright. “Zale.”
“My Lord,” Zale said neutrally.
“I trust you’ve been informed of the situation.”
“I have been,” Zale assured. He moved to stand next to the chair that Thaddeus guided Harry back to.
“Why do you have two vassals?” Ron demanded.
“None of your business,” Harry said sharply and took a deep breath. He focused on Arthur. “It seems that I’m going to be incapable of interacting with your youngest son without losing my temper. I don’t see that situation improving in the least in the days to come. I find his behavior and his attitude contemptible.”
“You find me contemptible?” Ron asked. “You’re the one showing off your title and acting like you’re better than everyone else.”
“I’m not going to apologize for being my father’s son,” Harry said. “I’m not going to apologize for the gold in my vault—I only have it because every single Potter before me is dead. I’m not going to apologize for surviving and being famous for it. I want nothing to do with it but I’m stuck with it. I’d be a fool to ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening. That would just open me up to being used and abused for someone else’s gain. I don’t even know what you want from me, Ron. All I’ve ever done since we met is try to do the right thing but it’s never been enough for you.”
“The right thing,” Ron repeated with a frown. “Right. Harry, I’m sure that’s the way you see it.”
Harry started to respond but instead focused on Arthur. “Thaddeus assures me that if I accept your oldest son into my magical house as a vassal that we can resolve this situation without in doing any damage to your family socially or professionally.”
Arthur relaxed and exchanged a look with his oldest son that told Harry they’d both hoped for such an offer. “Yes, thank you. Bill and I have discussed this option in what little time we had and he’s agreed to take the oath on behalf of our family.”
“It should be Percy,” Molly interrupted.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “For all of his intelligence and ambition, Percy isn’t a fit for the House of Potter. While I’m sure the relationship would benefit him greatly socially and politically, it would do nothing for me. Bill has a mastery in Curse Management and is well on his way to another in Warding. Moreover, he has experience in the world. Percy is just six months out of Hogwarts himself and his work for the Ministry might be respectable in your mind but I find it quite distressing. I don’t know who I find more irredeemable—Fudge or Crouch. It is Bill or I won’t accept this method of apology at all.”
“And it’s all about you?” Ron asked.
Harry ignored him.
“Shut up, Ronald,” Bill finally said. “This is your doing. Your arrogance has put us in this position—we’re fortunate to be offered this. You could’ve cost everyone but Charlie their jobs because you have no respect for anyone—not even yourself. And be assured that you and I will have a very long, painful conversation about what you’ve done this evening. How dare you hit a witch—any witch—much less one who has gone out of her way to help you as your former friend did.”
Ron slouched down in his chair and glared at Harry.
“It’s not my intention to give you instructions on how to deal with your children,” Zale began, “but Arthur it would be in your best interest to take your youngest in hand before this situation becomes untenable. Every word out of his mouth is more hostile than the next and he’s already physically assaulted the presumed future Countess of Gryffindor. Whether it happens or not—it’s assumed. He assumes it. All of their peers assume it and he still struck her. Were they but a year older, your son could’ve found himself on a dueling platform defending his life. If he acts against her or Lord Potter after William takes his place with Thaddeus and myself—the ramifications would be catastrophic for your family magics.”
“I’ll take care of Ron in private after this meeting,” Arthur said and put a hand on his wife’s arm when she started to speak. “Hush, Molly, you know it must be done.”
At Thaddeus’ gentle prodding, Harry stood and left the grouping of chairs. Bill Weasley followed. Harry stilled him with one hand when the older man made move to kneel immediately. “You said you understand my lineage but I need you to be very certain.”
Bill studied his face for a long moment. “I know very well you are the Pendragon heir, Lord Potter. Does the legacy stir in you?”
“Like a storm,” Zale murmured. “I can make no comparison but I think he’s the first Potter in a very long time to be so entrenched in the Pendragon legacy. Perhaps it is because he’s a parselmouth and that is a gift that comes directly from Arthur Pendragon himself.”
Bill nodded and knelt.
Dumbledore cleared his throat and for the first time inserted himself in the situation. “There will be a bit of a light show, Arthur, but it is nothing to be concerned about. Harry has a vast magical legacy that spans more than a thousand years.”
“I, William Arthur Weasley, do solemnly swear on my magic that I will be faithful to the Earl of Gryffindor, never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in times of war and peace. So mote it be.”
Harry took Bill’s hands as his magic stirred and swept out around them. It was a bit different but then it could be a response to the fact that Bill was the first Weasley to ever bind himself to the House of Potter. “The Earl of Gryffindor welcomes you, William, to the House of Potter. I am both honored and humbled by your service to my family.” The magic brewed around them, sparking like lightning before it settled. Bill exhaled sharply as Harry released him.
“What was that?” Ron demanded.
“Shut your mouth,” Bill said grimly as he stood. “Do not speak another word, Ronald.” He turned to glare at his brother then before focusing on his father. “Did you know we owe Lord Potter a life debt?”
Arthur paled. “No…I mean…what…” He closed his eyes. “The Chamber of Secrets.” He rubbed his face with one shaking hand. “Albus?”
“I thought they were too young for a debt to settle,” Dumbledore admitted. “Surely, she was too young but perhaps magic settled the debt on the adults of your House instead.”
“Not perhaps,” Bill snapped. “It is certain.” He rubbed his breast bone and took a deep unsteady breath and focused on his father. “You’re going to have to put a seal on the entire family. The amount of ill intent I feel stirring in our family magic will probably cost me my life inside the next year.” He glared pointedly at Ron. “He’s a jealous little git, that’s for certain, but he isn’t even the biggest problem.” He turned to Harry. “With your permission, sir, I need to speak with my father privately and at length.”
Harry nodded. “Of course. Zale will wait for you and show you the Vassal House in Hogsmeade. I need to meet with you as well to brief you on my magical circumstances and discuss your employment with Gringotts.”
“I do know that Master Banner tendered his resignation an hour after he took his oath,” Bill said. “It spread like wild fire in the bank. Should I be prepared to do the same?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said. “It’s something the four of us can discuss at a later date. Set your family to rights, Bill. I’d like to go find Hermione and make sure she’s not plotting Ron’s murder.”
He found her sitting on the sofa in the common room with Piper Banner. Thaddeus merely held out a hand for his wife and they left without a word. Harry figured that his vassal didn’t want to stick around to see him get berated by Hermione. He sat down beside her and said nothing when her fingers trailed over the bracelet.
“Piper says that you’re entitled to have secrets,” Hermione said in a small voice. “She says that there are parts of your magical house that must remain secret—Lord’s secrets—she called them. Is that what the bracelet is?”
“It was in the Lord’s Vault,” Harry said. “It was created and placed in the vault for the sole use of the Earl of Gryffindor. It has protective properties but mostly it’s an advisor of sorts. An advisor and a teacher. I can’t share it with you which is why I haven’t brought it up. I mean it may be able to interact with you in certain situations but it can’t be worn by anyone else but me. It’s not a matter of not having the desire to tell you everything but I literally cannot speak of some the things I learned from the vault. I can’t speak of the details of the Potter Grimoire with anyone who isn’t a Potter at least in magic if not blood.” He called the time-turner out of the bracelet and she gasped. “This is the first time turner ever created.” He put it in her trembling hand. “My ancestor, Sojourn Potter, made it and the creation of them is a family secret. It is a family heirloom and outside the restrictions the ICW places on the devices.”
“We can use it to help you train,” Hermione murmured. “It’s beautiful—the one I had was rather…plain but this is like a piece of art.” She gave it back to him and watched intently as he returned it to the bracelet. “I’m sorry for the mess Ron caused. I don’t know what his problem is.”
“He wants you,” Harry said plainly and was relieved at the look of disgust she offered him. “I don’t know if it’s some romantic notion of his or just the idea that he has the right to own you because you’re Muggle-born. He told me I didn’t have the right to claim you as a protected member. A lot of wizards who might want you in the future will have a problem with it. I’m your Lord—magically that elevates me in your life in such a way that I could forbid wizards from speaking to you. I could decline marriage offers on your behalf and even forbid you from marrying someone I found disagreeable. You’d have to renounce me to get around it.” He glanced at the pendant that sparkled in the hollow of her throat. “But I want to believe that if at some point in the future, we are nothing more than good friends that I would always want the very best for you.”
“I trust you,” Hermione murmured. “I’m not all worried about it Harry.” She shifted and hummed a little when he wrapped an arm around her. “What else do you have in the bracelet?”
“My photo album, the Potter Grimoire, the cloak, a bag of biscuits Piper gave me.” He retrieved the bag when she made a little pleased sound. She opened it up and pulled out a ginger snap for them both. “They’re very good biscuits.”
She nodded and nibbled hers in thought. “I…Viktor Krum has sat with me a few times in the library. I think he’s interested in me but it’s kind of creepy because he thought I’m fourteen and he’s a grown man, Harry. I mean he’ll be eighteen at Yule.” She grimaced. “I told him I turned fifteen in September and he actually looked disappointed.”
“That’s bizarre,” Harry admitted. “Should we tell McGonagall?”
“Maybe, I don’t know.” Hermione fished out another biscuit and handed the bag to him. He closed it and put it back in the bracelet. “I’m worried about the first task.”
“I know but I’ll be fine.”
“You’ll be really careful, right?”
– – – –
Zale and Thaddeus watched their newest member pace around the kitchen of the vassal house in a genuine snit. The Weasley temper was something of a legend among pure-blood circles so it was something else to see it in practice. Finally, Bill threw himself into a chair and accepted the glass of firewhiskey he’d been offered from the start.
“My mother…” Bill shook his head. “She’s the reason Ron is so bent out of shape about Harry’s relationship with Hermione. She convinced Ron that Hermione was the perfect solution to his problems—she’s talented, highly magical, and smart—the perfect wife for a little git who isn’t interested in working a day in his life. He recently found out she’s the great granddaughter of Hector Dagworth-Granger which you know left a fortune behind for any future magical relations he might have. I guess he knew about Hermione before he died. Ron is furious that he’s going to miss out on all that money because even if he did manage to marry her—she’s protected by the House of Potter and he’d never get away with stealing from her the way he wants. Moreover, my mother has been trying to convince my sister the only way to win Harry’s regard is through love potions.”
Zale exhaled sharply. “That’s…what have you done to correct this?”
“I insisted my father put a magical seal on the entire family—every single adult cousin, uncle, aunt, and anything in between is strictly prohibiting them from acting against the House of Potter in any single way for as long as they live. We had to tailor special ones for the ones under age. I also forced my father to step into the role of family Patriarch which he’d been too grief stricken to do when his father passed. Our family is ancient but there is no title to fight over so we allowed the role to languish these last ten years.” Bill rubbed his face in frustration. “My mother is furious with me—she tried to get my father to disown me after I made my demands. He suggested that if she was so unhappy with living a moral and just life that he would consider a divorce.”
Thaddeus whistled in shock and sat back with his drink. “Well then.”
“Yes. I had no idea my father had that in him to be honest. He’s always been rather content with his job and his place in the world—a world that my mother basically ruled with an iron fist. She’s going to have quite a bit to adjust to in the coming months. Ron was ordered through family magic to leave both Harry and Hermione alone. If he attempts to hurt either one of them physically or with magic—he’ll lose his magic.”
“It’s for the best,” Zale said. “He really doesn’t understand what he did or what he attempted to do. If he’d successfully removed that pendant from her—nothing could’ve saved you all from ruin. He’s a selfish boy. You can only hope he’ll outgrow it.”
“I doubt he’ll make it to adulthood with his magic intact,” Bill said bluntly. “My father has the same…expectations. My brother Charlie honestly couldn’t care less about the entire mess. He’d be back in Romania if he weren’t on a job here for the tournament. Percy is married to his ambition. I think leaving home was the worst thing I could’ve done. I didn’t pay attention to what was going on. I didn’t ask questions. I can only be lucky that the twins have always had each other. They’re a united front against practically everyone so my mother never had a chance of influencing them.” He tossed back the whiskey with a shudder. “I don’t know how to help my father through this.”
“Now you have us,” Zale said. “We’ll help you. It’s our duty to each other and to our Lord to see your family safe from even themselves.”
“Lord.” Bill took a deep breath. “Tell me I wasn’t the only one who felt like they were kneeling in front of a king.”
“It was like getting punched in the chest,” Thaddeus confided. “You should see how the goblins defer to him. I’ve never seen the like. They were never that way with his grandfather or his father before him. They treat him like a favored child and I have to think it has nothing to do with his age and everything to do with his magic.”
“Can you tell me why you left Gringotts?” Bill asked.
“I was…the duty to the House of Potter is an overwhelming one, Bill. He is more than just the Boy-Who-Lived. He is the living embodiment of Arthur Pendragon as you well know. This year he faces situations and circumstances beyond his education and years. But more so he has an unspeakable fate that he will discuss with you when he deems appropriate.”
Bill nodded and pulled out a pack of herbal cigarettes. He lit one and offered the pack to them both. Zale took one but Thaddeus shook his head. “What are you on schedule to teach him?”
“Apparition, summoning, and banishment were first. He has an outstanding shield charm that should help him get through the first task relatively unscathed. I’ll be teaching him the disillusionment charm but some dragons won’t be deterred by that. His luck he’ll get one who will see right through it one way or another. Zale is teaching him the matters of his estate, social protocol, and the like. Truth be known that’s going to be something of a trial for us all. Harry recently came to the conclusion that he should get to say whatever he’d like.”
Bill snorted. “Merlin, I can’t say I blame the kid. The public is so bloody fickle where he is concerned then there is that whole mess with Sirius Black.” He paused and blew out a few smoke circles. “Can I be briefed on that without Lord Potter?”
“He was thrown in jail without a trial and left to rot,” Thaddeus said. “It’s a bloody travesty. Harry…is very enamored and protective of Black who isn’t quite right mentally at this point but the goblins are working around the clock to set him to straight. Black…he loves the kid and would do anything for him.” A door opened and closed in the background. “Good time to tell you that Remus Lupin is staying here.”
The door swung open and the werewolf entered pulling off a cloak. He paused at the sight of Bill Weasley but put his cloak on the rack before speaking. “Looks like you’ve a story to tell me, Master Banner.”
Zale summoned another glass from the counter.
Harry held the tiny animated version of the Hungarian Horntail in his hand—watching it squirm in irritation at being confined. Phoenix was exuding calm and confidence on his wrist. Hermione’s perfume was clinging to his robes—armor—from when she’d snuck into the tent and hugged him like she’d never see him again. Thaddeus had commissioned the battle robes much to Zale’s ire. They’d had a difference of opinion on fashion and function. Thaddeus had won. The robes were cool though—deceptively light and easy to move in. Red and black—his house colors though he hadn’t known that until it had been pointed out to him.
The other champions left one by one—Harry listened to the crowd respond. He hated the spectacle and he wasn’t even in it, yet. He knew his spells, wasn’t worried about being burned—his shield would hold as long as he kept his head in the game. Game. It was foolish and irritating to know that his magic was bound up in a contract he wanted no part of and never would’ve agreed to do on his own. It was really irritating that Phoenix had refused to discuss who had entered him into the tournament. Keeping at least part of the timeline intact appeared to be necessary. He understood that and he trusted himself to know what needed to happen and what could be changed for the better.
His name was called and he walked to the exit of the tent. He entered the stadium and drew his wand. The moment he crossed over the line and into the game space, he cast the shield spell. Then he summoned his broom which he’d left on the roof of Hagrid’s cabin. He’d gotten the Hungarian Horntail so he didn’t bother to disillusion himself. It would’ve been a waste of concentration and magic—the dragon had a superior sense of smell and didn’t need sight to find prey. Harry wasn’t kidding himself, the moment he stepped into the arena he became a potential meal.
He glanced around the arena, hoped the wards protecting the audience were going to stay in place. Zale was sitting with Hermione higher up in the stands while Thaddeus and Bill had stationed themselves down on the first row nearest the dragon enclosure so they could come to Harry’s aid in the event that the situation took a fatal turn. They’d pretty much decided if Harry was near death that none of them gave a fuck if he were to be disqualified for his vassal’s interference.
The Horntail rounded on him, hissed, and he cast a second shield just as she blew fire at him. He pushed the shield out, throwing the fire back at the dragon which did little more than startle her. They were outside the school wards, so he shifted around the rocks, apparated silently to the other side of the arena and behind the dragon just as his Firebolt cleared the top of the stands. He caught the broom as it swooped down to him and threw a leg over. The dragon responded with more fire which brushed over his shield and the heat made him gag. Phoenix had warned him that leaving the arena was a very bad idea—in the arena he had back up and dragon handlers on hand to take care of the Horntail. Outside of the arena if she broke her chain again, he’d be on his own.
He heard the chain snap more than see it. He shot straight up in the air above the arena, ignored the screaming crowd and the dragon fast on his trail and followed the secondary plan. Dragons were big and not nearly as graceful in the sky as a bird. She couldn’t maneuver like Harry, didn’t have the precision he had thanks to his world-class broom. He shot under a vicious little burst of fire, not wanting to tax his shield any more than he had to. Then he turned and shot straight down—executing his first ever Wronski Feint. His broom started to shake as he pushed it to the limit. The crowd went dead silent in an instant and he didn’t even stop to consider why—he couldn’t afford to split his attention.
He turned abruptly just a foot from the ground, shot over the egg, caught it up, and the Horntail hit the ground behind him with an ominous thud. She screamed, hissed, and shot fire at him. He rolled on the broom, turned in mid-air just as the dragonhandlers descended on the arena and subdued her. Ignoring the crowd, he landed at the entrance where he’d entered and joined the other champions who were staring at him in shock.
“You just executed a perfect Wronski Feint at a hundred fifty miles per hour with a dragon breathing down your neck,” Cedric pointed out. “Pardon our…awe.” He winced when the Horntail roared again. “And you had the worst of the dragons.”
“I figured I might,” Harry admitted. “I have the worst luck.” He drew is wand and ended his shield charm as an afterthought then stored it and his broom in the bracelet.
“I wish I’d summoned my broom,” Viktor admitted.
Harry’s scores came through at that point—his combined total was forty-six.
“That puts you first,” Cedric pointed out.
Harry sighed. “Fantastic.”
“You do not wish to win?” Fleur demanded.
“You know very well I didn’t enter,” Harry said impatiently. “No, I don’t want to win. I’d like to do something to get disqualified but we’re concerned that it might damage my magic if I do something on purpose to circumvent the magical contract.” He stored the egg in his bracelet and unfastened the collar of his outer robe as he started towards the Champion’s Tent.
– – – –
Fleur, who was seated on the next cot, turned to him. “How did you learn to apparate, you are underage?”
“I’m emancipated because I claimed my title. My vassal taught me to apparate with Ministry permission and I gained my license to do so just yesterday.” Harry checked is watch. “Madam Pomfrey, can I go?”
Poppy frowned at him. “You seem none the worse for wear. I’m shocked.” She waved a hand. “You can go.”
He exited the tent and found himself with an arm full of his girlfriend which honestly wasn’t that bad at all. She was trembling though and he didn’t think it was with excitement. He patted her back and blatantly ignored the glare he was getting from Minerva McGonagall. Zale, Thaddeus, Bill, and Remus were all offering him grins so he figured he wasn’t going to endure any lectures on that front. Hermione was chattering against his cheek about dragons, brooms, and stupid-dumb-reckless wizards all the while her hands clutched desperately at his robes.
Finally, she stepped back, grabbed his hand, and pointed one finger at their Head of House. “This! This is what happens when you put an eleven year old on a Quidditch team!” She tugged Harry towards the castle. “I’m going to go read all the rules about this stupid tournament again and we’re getting a solicitor to review that foolish, horrible, no-good contract, and I’m calling in the goblins to investigate that ridiculous goblet! And when I find out who put you in this idiotic tournament, I’m going to ruin them! I’m going to ruin their whole bleeding family!”
He figured she totally meant that so he let her lead him back to the castle without any sort of protest. The Banners just followed along behind them. They ended up in the Transfiguration classroom and Piper did her own medical scan with a frown in place. Satisfied that he wasn’t injured she turned on her husband. “Was that stupid plan yours?”
“Hey,” Harry began with a laugh. “It was my stupid plan and it worked. I don’t know why you two are so worked up. You both watched me practice summoning my broom for hours.”
“I didn’t know you were going to do that stupid Wonky Faint with it,” Hermione exclaimed and started waving her hands. “I should’ve put my foot down years ago about Quidditch! It’s a miracle you haven’t been hit in the head and gotten brain damage!”
Harry scooted up on a desk and watched her pace around a bit. Though he never went out of his way to get her upset, like Ron did, Hermione was particularly cute when she worked herself into a state. “Is this the part where I apologize for…what exactly? Being a Gryffindor?”
Thaddeus snorted and held up a hand in supplication when Hermione glared at him.
“Are you serious? Because if you think any part of that was…acceptable…then you have another think coming!”
“How about the part where I didn’t die?” Harry asked.
Hermione huffed. “Oh. You!” She crossed her arms. “I suppose that one part was okay. But the rest was ridiculous!”
“I wonder what Witch Weekly will say about it?” Harry asked.
“I’m just kidding, Hermione.” The egg materialized in his hands. He already knew what it said and what he would have to do but it had crossed his mind in the last few minutes that his hostage would be quite different then what Phoenix had related to him. “This has the clue for the next task in it.”
She frowned deeply at the egg. “After we get the clue out of it, we should use it as target practice. You need to practice your blasting curses, I think.”
“I appreciate your eagerness for destruction,” Harry admitted earnestly. “But this is probably enchanted to prevent that.”
“Then we should figure out how to break the enchantment first,” Hermione said decisively. “Open it up then.”
He nodded and twisted up open the egg. It started screeching immediately so he closed it as quickly as possible. “Fantastic. Anyone got a clue what that was?”
Thaddeus sighed. “Bloody mermish. Fantastic.” He eyed Harry. “You can swim, right?”
“Not on a bet,” Harry admitted and shrugged when all three of them looked at him like he was crazy. “It isn’t like the Dursleys went out of their way to include me on their vacations or really at all in their lives. So, no I’ve never had any sort of swimming lessons. I’ve only ever seen the ocean once and that was…when Uncle Vernon lost his mind and we ended up on a little island in a hut hiding from my Hogwarts letter which Hagrid delivered about a thousand times.”
“Swimming…the second task is February,” Hermione said. “You mean to tell me they’re going to make him swim in the lake in February? That’s insane!” She marched off towards the door.
Harry laughed. “Hey, come back here. Where are you going?”
“To the library! I need peace and quiet and information. And no dragons!”
“Right.” Harry nodded. “I could probably use some…spells for under water and maybe something to keep me warm?”
“Yes. Of course,” Hermione agreed and stalked out of the room.
Harry waited until the door swung shut behind her and turned to Thaddeus. “Girls are a lot of…work actually. I mean, that’s not to say she wasn’t a lot of work when she was just my best friend. You know she nearly got killed by a troll our first year?” He huffed. “Do you think I was entitled to a thank-Merlin-you-didn’t-die kiss or what? I feel cheated.”
Piper grinned at him. “You might have been, actually. There are quite a few broom closets between here and the library.”
Harry put the egg back in his bracelet. “That is excellent advice. I think you should be my vassal instead. Because you’re brilliant.”
Piper laughed as he all but darted from the room.
“Should you be encouraging broom closets?” Thaddeus questioned.
“Oh, relax, I put a contraceptive on him with his permission during his first exam.” Piper grinned when Thaddeus sighed. “A contraceptive isn’t permission to have sex—it’s just a protective measure for them both. Don’t even act like you weren’t chasing my arse around this castle like it was the best thing you’d ever seen our fourth year.”
“It was and still does remain the best thing I’ve ever seen,” he proclaimed. “Unless you’re facing me then I’m going to have to go with your gorgeous eyes.”
“You’re a terrible man,” Piper decided. “My breasts are my best feature from the front and I won’t have you say otherwise.”
– – – –
“You’re so silly and reckless,” Hermione whispered against his cheek. “I ought to never let you kiss me again.”
Harry laughed and pulled her closer. He relaxed against the wall and nuzzled against the soft skin of her neck. “You smell amazing. I’m sorry I scared you. But in my defense, you knew the plan and even help me come up with a back-up plan if the dragon got loose.”
She huffed. “I underestimated how terrible it would be for me.”
“You weren’t the one being chased by a dragon.” Harry settled his hands on her hips, kept them there through sheer strength of will. He wanted to touch her everywhere all at once but that would be greedy. “I really am sorry you were frightened but…you have to know that I felt so prepared for what happened with the task and that was all you. You considered the angles, made sure I had spells at my disposal to defend myself, and helped me come up with a plan that allowed me to use one of my best skills to my advantage.”
“So essentially, you’re blaming me.”
“Credit,” Harry corrected. “I’m giving you all the credit.” He brushed his lips along her jaw. “Can I kiss you now or were you serious about punishing me?”
She laughed and tilted her head a little. “Yeah, you can kiss me.”
He pressed his mouth to hers without another word, urgent but as gentle as he could be. She relaxed into him and kissed back. Her mouth was soft and sweet against his. Harry found her intoxicating. He sucked a little at her bottom lip and she made a little shocked sound that was nothing like discouragement. Her fingers clenched his hair and he slipped his tongue across her lips briefly. She returned the favor and they very carefully learned the way of that together.
“You taste good,” Harry murmured. “Perfect.”
“You can move your hands.”
“Can I?” Harry asked and slid his right hand from her hip up her back.
She pressed her mouth against his briefly. “I’ll let you know if you go too far—I trust you.”
“I trust you, too,” Harry said. “But I’d prefer some instruction on this issue.”
“Instruction?” Hermione asked amused.
“Yes, well, your body, your rules.” He touched her face, rubbed his thumb over her bottom lip. “Just some guidance because I don’t want to hurt you or upset you with this. I don’t want to ever be a source of…look, I can’t guarantee that I won’t ever make you mad but I don’t want to make you mad or upset over this. Let’s go back to the dorm—I’ll change out of these silly robes and we’ll find some place to have a real, honest talk about how this part of our relationship should work.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want.”
He frowned and put some distance between them. “I think I need to speak with Thaddeus actually. There’s…something…we both need to speak with Thaddeus.”
“Why?” Hermione questioned.
“Look…” Harry took a deep breath. He reached out and ran a hand up her rib cage. He stopped just short of touching her breast. “If I move my hand further—would you ask me to stop?”
Hermione flushed. “No.”
“Do you think our new relationship is at a stage where I should have this kind of access to your body?” Harry asked.
“Lots of girls want to be with you,” Hermione whispered. “I don’t…I just want you to be happy with me.”
“Oh.” He dropped his hand, very relieved to find that it wasn’t something to do with his inclusion of her in his House. “Sweetheart, that’s not…I’m not okay with that.” He took her hand. “We need to have a very long talk.”
“About body autonomy and boundaries and the fact that not a single witch in this whole school is competition for you. I don’t need or want to be placated with sex to stay with you.” Phoenix warmed with approval. “Where did you get that idea?”
“Well, I mean other girls talk and even the majority of pure-blood girls that remain a virgin until they marry…there are ways to keep a wizard happy and interested without vaginal intercourse.”
“Look, I can’t say that I’m not interested in stuff but only when we both truly want it. I don’t want a single thing from you that is the result of some sort of plan that involves keeping me interested. That’s just insane.”
She bit down on her bottom lip. “And if I’m not…I mean what if it’s like next year or more before I really want anything beyond kisses?”
“Then we wait,” Harry said. “Look, to put it bluntly, as I see I must, my erection is not your responsibility.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Harry.”
“I’m serious. Even if we kiss more or touch more and I have a response to that—what happens to my body isn’t your problem to resolve. I’m very happy to be with you as we are and there isn’t going to be a point where I look elsewhere because you’re not…putting out. Sex with you is not my right and it certainly isn’t your obligation.” He bit down on his lip. “Did your mum talk to you about sex? Because I got a very thorough talk against my will by Thaddeus.”
Hermione shrugged. “Mum gave me a book and offered to put me on birth control because I turned fifteen at my birthday. She sent me back to school with permission to get a spell and Madam Pomfrey applied a contraception charm.”
“Piper gave me one,” Harry admitted. “But that doesn’t…I mean we shouldn’t consider that a free pass on going further than we’re really prepared for emotionally. You’re older than me by a bit so maybe you’re ready for more than I am right now.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Hermione whispered, her cheeks stained with a blush. “I don’t want you to think I’m…I don’t know.” She turned her face as tears welled. “You’re the only boy I’ve ever even kissed.”
“I’ve upset you.”
“Not on purpose, you’re just looking out for me.” Hermione brushed tears from her face. “Like you do. Like you always have…I mean since the thing with a troll you’ve been looking out for me.”
He hesitantly pulled her into his arms. Harry pressed a brief kiss against her forehead. “Just…let’s be honest with each other as much as possible and remember you don’t owe me anything. We’re a team—you and me. So you decide your boundaries and I’ll respect them to the fullest measure of the word.”
“What about your boundaries?”
Harry considered that. “I…I’m not ready for sex. I’d be okay with some touching but probably not…mean I don’t think I’m ready for you to touch my…” He flushed. “Well, I don’t think I’d be comfortable with genital contact.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“I mean I can’t say I haven’t thought about it but that’s a big step, right? That’s a really intimate thing to do for another person. I’m curious, of course, and I can’t say that I wouldn’t be interested in pleasuring you…I like the idea of giving you that, making you feel good.”
She blushed. “I’ve thought about it…for well a while. I’ve had a crush on you since last year really.”
“Why didn’t you say something?” Harry asked.
“I didn’t want…it would’ve hurt a lot if you’d said no.” She bit down on her bottom lip as he hugged her close. “You’re so much braver than I am.”
“You’re very brave,” Harry said against her hair. “Coming into this world—learning magic when so many are hate you for things you can’t even control.”
“I never killed a basilisk.”
“You’d have conjured a rooster and owned Riddle’s arse,” Harry declared.
Hermione huffed a little. “A conjured rooster wouldn’t kill a basilisk. Thank Merlin you went with the sword.” She pressed a little kiss against his lips. “I’m not ready for sex either so don’t worry that I am or that I will ask for it. I’d be okay with more touching but not below the waist. I do trust you so I’m open to a little exploration and lots of kissing.”
“Lots of kissing,” Harry agreed.
– – – –
“I wish you’d let me apologize for what happened with Ron and Hermione.”
Harry swung the long wooden staff until it hit the dummy Thaddeus had set up in the classroom Dumbledore had quietly set aside for them. “If I accept you had some fault in Ron assaulting Hermione then I also have to assume fault myself.” He glanced at his godbrother and found the boy frowning at him. “What?”
“You weren’t even there, Harry.”
“No, but you can’t think Ron wasn’t part of the reason I brought Hermione into my house to begin with. He’s just an example of the sort of wizard she’ll be vulnerable to in now and in the future. A selfish git who would use her for her ambition and brilliance. Her money.” Harry swung again and hit the dummy. “So, I considered him a threat. I even asked you to hang out with her that first weekend after I claimed my title. Do you know that she’d be property if she married a pure-blood wizard?” He hit the dummy again. “I should’ve realized he’d be violent with her if he got frustrated. I didn’t. She didn’t see that coming either.” He pointed his stick at Neville. “You’re supposed to be practicing.”
Neville huffed and hit his own dummy. The magical dummy helpfully graded him on the blow. “Being your brother in magic is a lot of bleeding work.”
Harry laughed. “At least it’s not a dragon.”
“That’s just semantics,” Neville decided.
“That just goes to show that you’ve never had a one ton killing machine trying to eat you,” Harry said.
“We all have our part to play in the world at large and apparently you like to pretend that you’re food. I hope Hermione is aware of this little fetish of yours.”
Harry laughed and missed the dummy entirely. He stumbled as he hit nothing but air. “You suck.”
“Steady on, there my Lord,” Thaddeus said and drew his wand. He reset the target dummies and held out his hand for the wood staff Harry held. “You’ve both mastered hitting the target areas more often than not. Let’s work a bit on your speed and technique. Your goal is to be able to pick up an object in your environment and use it as a weapon. Most magicals don’t know how to respond to a physical attack—we’ll work on weapon transfiguration and conjuration.”
“Conjuration?” Neville asked. “Master Banner, I just don’t think I’d be able to do that.”
Thaddeus stared at him and frowned. “How is your new wand working out for you?”
“It’s fine,” Neville flushed and shrugged.
The older wizard conjured a gleaming shield on the wall. “Can you cast a stunner?”
“Yes,” Neville admitted.
“Take a moment—settle your mind and cast with all the power you can muster. Hit that shield with a stunning spell.”
Neville did so and the shield glowed very bright white in response. He holstered is wand. “What does that mean?”
“You’re casting at the lower end of the warlock range. The higher end is more silver than white which is probably where you will be an as adult, Mr. Longbottom. Any concerns about your magical ability are completely unfounded. Transfiguration, conjuration, and even the animagus transformation should be well within your wheel house with the sort of magical power you have at your disposal. Don’t compare yourself to Harry—his magical circumstances are beyond us both. Which is honestly quite good considering his penchant for acting like food, as you pointed out.”
Harry huffed at them both when they laughed. “You two can bugger right off.” He waved at the dummy in front of him. “Okay, Thaddeus, show us speed and technique.”
“Magical people don’t anticipate physical attacks—it makes them vulnerable to it and unprepared to deal with it in most normal circumstances. The body is weak and you can exploit tender areas to your advantage. The joints are especially important in the incapacitation of an attacker. Articulation points— breaking elbows, knees, ankles are excellent way to take control of a situation if you’re attacked. Move fast, hit hard, and mean it every single time. Broken bones can’t be healed on the spot like skin and muscle injuries. Even if the wizard or witch can cast a bone setting charm, casting such magic on yourself is so painful that many are incapacitated after the fact.”
“We’re supposed to hit witches?” Neville asked with a frown.
“If one attacks you and tries to kill you? Yes, I expect you to incapacitate her and get away. It is your duty to your magical house to survive and incidentally procreate,” Thaddeus raised an eyebrow at Neville. “Which means you should also endeavor to protect your reproductive future. A spell or a severe blow to the testicles can endanger your ability to father an heir. I’d like you both to keep that in mind. Using magic to subdue a female is preferred, I admit, because hitting a woman is offensive to me. But you have the right to survive and if someone assaults you, you have the right to defend yourself.”
“Sounds like learning to do a stunning spell wandless would be beneficial,” Harry admitted. “Like being able to stun someone with a touch.”
“I agree but that sort of magical intent is beyond the reach of the average magical person,” Thaddeus admitted. “I couldn’t do it and I am a warlock. Let me show you how to inflict the maximum amount of injury in the least amount of time. The faster you are—the stronger your response—the more likely you are to walk away from an attack. Don’t start a fight, but prepared to end one with as little fuss as possible.”
“As little fuss as possible,” Harry said amused.
“Anything else would be a waste of time,” Banner said and swung the wood staff around briefly before he broke the dummy that Harry had been poking at for an hour into pieces with a series of sharp, vicious blows.
Neville stared at the remains thoughtfully and nodded. “Right, no need to make a big fuss.”
“You’re not going to turn us into psychos, right?” Harry questioned. “I mean, I’m not strictly opposed because I’d rather live and be a bit crazy than die a virgin.”
“There’s totally no need to die a virgin,” Neville agreed earnestly. “Fast, accurate, and hard, right?”
– – – –
Viktor Krum was waiting for him outside of the classroom. He waved Neville on but didn’t bother to try to send Banner away. The older man leaned on a wall like he had all the time in the world.
“Is there a problem?” Harry asked.
“I wished to speak to you about Hermeenee.”
Harry frowned briefly while he worked through Viktor’s thick accent. “You realize that’s not how you say her name, right?” He raised an eyebrow when Viktor merely shrugged. He found the disrespect of that more than a little irritating. “What about Hermione?”
“I wish to see her socially.”
“What did she tell you when you asked her?” Harry asked.
“She said no.”
“And now you’re here, doing what exactly?” Harry demanded.
“You’ve taken her into your magical House as a protected member. You can instruct her to date a proper wizard.”
Harry exhaled at the arrogant tone. “Her answer stands. You need to go away, Viktor and for the record I find nothing proper about you.” He started to leave but Krum stepped in front of him.
“Do be careful, Mr. Krum,” Banner said coolly from his place down the hall. “He’s a fourteen year old kid and you’re a grown man. In this country, he’s what you call an emancipated minor. Which means he has the legal means to act within his Noble house in magical and legal matters. His second act within his magical house was to take a vassal, which would be me by the way. Laying a hand on him or Miss Granger would be the last inappropriate thing you ever do.” Banner eased off the wall, moved down the hall, tucked his hand around Harry’s elbow and guided him away from the Bulgarian. “Leave the children in this castle alone. You have no business trawling for romantic companionship amongst a bunch of little girls.”
Harry allowed Banner to lead him towards the Gryffindor tower. “You’re kind of scary, actually. I’m glad you’re on my side. Should I be offended that you interfered and assumed I couldn’t handle that?”
“No, my Lord, you should keep in mind that I am literally incapable of standing by and allowing someone or something to threaten you in most circumstances. I’m magically bound to defend your person and your life with my own. Zale and William are the same. I could never allow someone twice your size to do what that git attempted which was to intimidate and bully you into doing what he wanted.” Thaddeus released him as they approached the Fat Lady.
“Okay, so I won’t be offended.” He checked his watch. “I have an hour left before curfew but I have an essay to write in transfiguration. I’d like to meet with Bill soon if he’s ready.”
“He’s ready as he’s ever going to be for that discussion.”
“It’s not good, right?”
“It’s unpleasant,” Thaddeus agreed. “But most of it has been circumvented. It’s just going to be difficult to hear.” He glanced towards the portrait. “You should inform Miss Granger that Krum approached you so she won’t be caught unaware if he tries again.”
Harry sighed and trudged into the dorm. Hermione was at her table with a few books spread out in front of her. He sat down in front of her and took a deep breath.
“I’ve been looking up spells to use underwater. There’s the bubble head charm, of course, and this one book pointed out that gillyweed is a viable option for a long period of time under water. We don’t know how long the task will last but that’s something to consider. You can certainly learn and maintain a long term bubblehead charm. With the charm in place, you could verbalize spells but you can cast silently.”
“Hermione.” Harry watched her still and focus on him entirely. “When did Viktor ask you out?”
Hermione flushed. “In the library earlier, while you were doing the sword stuff with Neville and Master Banner. I said no.”
“Yes, he told me as much.” Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “He just asked me if he could you see socially under the mistaken impression that I would order you to date him.”
Her mouth dropped open.
“When I told him no, he tried to immediate me but Thaddeus interfered. He seems pretty interested in you.”
She scrunched up her nose in disgust and shook her head. “But I’m not interested in him at all. I mean, he’s just not someone I’d have anything in common with.” She scooted her books around on the table. “You aren’t worried about it, are you?”
“No, I mean…I’m not concerned that you’re interested in him but his arrogance is appalling and moreover he didn’t seem at all concerned about the idea of you being forced to date him.” He fidgeted with the bracelet and wondered if the pendant would protect her from Viktor.
No, I’m an idiot. Have her take it off and put it on the table between you.
“Would you put the pendant on the table so I can touch it?”
Hermione hesitantly touched the diamond. “I haven’t removed it since you put it on me.” She pulled gently and the chain lengthened so she could lift it over her head. “What are you going to do to it?”
“Phoenix wants to alter it a bit,” Harry admitted.
She glanced at the bracelet. “I was reading about the different ways that bracelet could’ve been enchanted. The wizard who created it probably died doing so—gave his life force and magic to create the enchantment.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “He said as much. Phoenix was cursed and there was no way to end or cure it. It took him a decade to enchant the bracelet itself and his last act on Earth was to spell himself into it and make sure it would be made available to the Earl of Gryffindor, always.”
“Draw your wand and place the tip on the diamond. Push gently with your magic, concentrate on protection, and say ‘at in ea prudentia’. This is an intent ward so there’s going to be a bit of a light show. We’ll do a diagnostic afterward to make sure it settled properly.”
“Phoenix is suggesting we put an intent ward on the diamond—it would protect you from unwanted physical contact. Sexual stuff.”
She paled a bit as she put the diamond on the table and moved her books completely out of the way. “I need that?”
“Viktor obviously doesn’t care about what you want,” Harry said. He called his wand from the bracelet and was startled when the black wand appeared in his hand. “This is…a family heirloom. I meant to call my regular wand.”
“Maybe your magic thinks you need the family wand,” Hermione said. “You should trust it—magical instincts are quite important.” She sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. “Can you put a notice-me-not charm on it geared towards Muggles? I tried but it rejected my magic.”
“Why?” Harry asked with a frown. “If you don’t like it…”
“I love it,” Hermione said in a rush. “Really. It’s beautiful and I’m honored that you’d give me something that your mother wore. I just don’t know how I’d explain it to my mother to be honest. The magical properties would be…abstract to her but the obvious expense of the diamond would not.”
“Oh.” Harry nodded. “Okay, do you know how to do the charm because I don’t.”
“I can show you.”
Harry placed the wand gently on the diamond, let his magic gather at Phoenix’s prodding. He wasn’t at all surprised when the bracelet lit on his wrist. “At in ea prudentia.” Magic swept around the pendant and sank into it with little show of sparks.
“Okay,” Hermione said. “Now, say ob eamque rem revelare and we can study the results to see what charms and spells are on it.”
“Ob eamque rem revelare,” he murmured and lifted his wand away as magic swirled out between them. “What is it?”
“Arithmancy,” Hermione said. “That’s how spells are studied and created.” The touched a series of symbols and numbers. “Your Dad really loved your mum a lot, you know. The charm work on the protective spells is heavy with romantic love.” She blushed. “I feel like we shouldn’t even be looking at this.”
“It’s fine, loving someone isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It’s nice to know my parents loved each other so much. He spoke of her in the letter he left me in the vault. What else do you see?”
“This is a spell to deflect an entire class of behavioral and mental intrusion spells. Your mum was brilliant so protecting her mind was obviously important to him.” She traced another sequence. “This is the intent ward you just placed. Thank you for that. I’m grateful you considered it. This is a spell that will tell me if I’m ingesting a potion of any sort. This is a potion defense spell—if I come near a poison of some kind—it will warn me quite vigorously. These last three are spells specifically designed to deflect and neutralize attraction and love potions.” She sat back and he ended spell with a little flick of the wand.
“Let’s work on the notice-me-not charm on some other stuff before we put it on the pendant.”
Hermione nodded her agreement. “Yes, that’s a good idea.” She picked up the pendant and put it back on.