- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- Dark Themes
- Discussion - Child Abuse
- Discussion - Rape
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
“That is honestly the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” Harry said and merely raised an eyebrow when the man in front of him huffed dramatically. “Now, I have to discern whether or not you just lied to me or if you’re just genuinely that ignorant about Muggles.” He sat back in his chair and scrunched up his nose in thought. “No, really, are you completely unaware of the fact that there are over five billion people on this planet of which the magical population is but a tiny fraction?”
“Five billion,” Nigel Connelly said and slowly paled. “But…the magical population is just over a million worldwide.”
“Exactly.” Harry sighed. “Look, I’m sure you’re very good at magical business management but I want to diversify my investments and I’m going to need someone who is really connected with the Muggle world and understands the financial markets. There is money to be made in the Muggle world and I want my share.”
“Traditionally, peers refrain from such behavior,” Connelly explained stiffly.
“I have plans,” Harry said simply. “And those plans require money. They require influence and political weight. I have plenty of all that at present but I also plan to have a family. I have three vassals. I have to think about their welfare as well, Mr. Connelly. I have a responsibility to them and their families—to the children they have fathered or may one day father. I appreciate your honesty and your interest in handling my investments outside the bank but you’re just not a fit for the House of Potter.”
“My firm has represented the House of Potter since the 1800s,” Connelly exclaimed.
“Do you have a Muggle-born in your firm who could handle my account then?” Harry asked patiently.
Connelly frowned. “No, Lord Potter, certainly not. The firm of Connelly, Wilbanks, and Green has a long, proud pure-blood tradition.”
Harry’s gaze narrowed. “We’re done.” He took a deep breath and turned to Bill who’d agreed to take him to the bank for the meetings. “Bill.”
Bill stood. “Allow me to get the door for you, Mr. Connelly.”
“My mother was Muggle-born,” Harry snapped. He’d known advance how that particular meeting would go. Phoenix had warned him that Connelly was a blood purist. He turned to Sharprock. “Let’s keep intolerant twats to a minimum in the future.”
Sharprock grinned at him and shrugged when Bill stared at Harry in thinly disguised horror. “Very well, Lord Potter. Shall we discuss your options?”
“Let’s discuss what I’d prefer first then we can talk about my options,” Harry suggested. He pulled a scroll from his bracelet and unrolled it. “I’d prefer a Muggle-born or a half-blood with extensive knowledge of the Muggle financial world. I should think that even a Muggle education in such matters would be beneficial. He or she should be comfortable working within the confines of Gringotts, respectful of your traditions, and prepared to make both magical and Muggle investments. I want someone who is aggressive but not someone who would take stupid risks with my money. They need to be able to move around both worlds with ease and be savvy enough not to be misled or taken advantage of by the machinations of people in both situations.”
Sharprock eyed the parchment. “Miss Granger?”
“It pays to have a very smart girlfriend,” Harry agreed. He passed the parchment to Sharprock. “Alternatively, if we can’t find this kind of asset, I’d be more than willing to sponsor the training and education of someone who could be taught to meet these needs.”
“I have someone in mind,” Sharprock murmured. “He used to work for us but was accepted to Cambridge three years ago. I believe he’s due to get his degree sometime in the next six months in economics. I will contact him and ask about his plans after he leaves university. I believe your reasons for investing in the Muggle world are sound. I imagine the very idea of gaining a peer as his primary client would be enough to ensure he sets up a firm in the magical world. Or perhaps one that straddles both worlds. He’d be in an ideal situation to do so and many of the ancient families will follow your lead in this particular circumstances, especially when you start making money.”
Harry nodded. “Sounds good. Now are the solicitors for the Black account here?”
“Oh, yes,” Sharprock said with a grin. He brushed his fingers over a rune and a door near the back of the room opened. Three men entered.
The three men sat down directly across the table from Harry and he stared at them for a long moment before he pulled a slim jade green book from his bracelet. He opened it and flicked out a quill. “First, I’d like you all three to know that until which time my godfather is officially exonerated by the Ministry that I am the Heir Regent to the House of Black.” He paused as they absorbed that information. “Second, I don’t consider myself to be an unreasonable person.”
“That’s good to know, Lord Potter. My name is Miles Jacoby, and these are my partners Michael Jeffries, and Chadwick Fawley.”
Harry nodded and frowned. “Which one of you is directly responsible for the House of Black’s legal matters?”
“I am,” Miles Jacoby said.
“And you are legally bound to see to the best interests of the Lord Black?” Harry questioned.
“I see.” Harry made a note in his journal, taking his time not to make a mess since Hermione would want to review it later. “And you’ve been on retainer for the Black family since 1972 at the behest of Arcturus Black?”
Harry nodded again. “And that retainer would be?”
“Three thousand galleons a year.”
“And Walburga Black used your services until her death in 1985?” Harry questioned as he wrote. He looked up when no answer was immediately forthcoming. “Mr. Jacoby?”
Jacoby took a deep breath. “Yes, sir. The Dowager Black used my services until her death. My final act on her behalf was the execution of her will.”
“Why didn’t you petition the Wizengamot on the Lord Black’s behalf when you realized he never had a trial?” Harry raised an eyebrow when the man broke out in an actual sweat. “Did you need a glass of water?”
“No, my Lord, I’m fine,” Jacoby murmured and wiped his face with a handkerchief he hastily retrieved from a robe pocket. “I was told by Walburga Black not to.”
“And yet your legal duty was to see to the best interests of the Earl of Blackmoor,” Harry murmured and put aside his quill. “This is the part where I’m going to practice being reasonable, Mr. Jacoby. Explain to me why you followed her direction on such a thing and moreover why you continued to follow it in the near decade after her death.”
“She informed me he was guilty and that I needn’t bother,” Jacoby said quietly. “She was a formidable woman, Lord Potter.”
“And you’re a coward,” Harry said. He held up a hand. “Pardon me, that wasn’t reasonable of me to say.” He paused to consider his words. “No, I’m going to have to go with coward.” He picked up a scroll. “But you’re actually much more than that. You’re a liar. Narcissa Malfoy has been paying you a yearly retainer of her own and has done so since the death of her Aunt Walburga. I assume she thought that if my godfather died in Azkaban that her son would inherit the Black title and money.” He unrolled the parchment, put it down in front of him and drew a gleaming black wand. “Panis de pactum.” The contract turned red and Jacoby paled. “Per the agreement you made with the House of Black, Mr. Jacoby, you are in breach of contract. You’ve acted in bad faith and defrauded the Black Trust. As such, all monies paid to you during the course of this contract are to be returned to the House of Black. You have twenty-four hours to comply, thereafter a ten percent interest fee will be applied to the balance owed quarterly until which time the debt is paid.”
“That’s sixty-six thousand galleons,” Jacoby protested. “I don’t have that kind of…”
“Then you’ll arrange a payment plan with Sharprock,” Harry said and smiled. “See, here I am being reasonable again.”
“You can’t just…” Jacoby trailed off when Sharprock cleared his throat.
“Lord Potter has been very reasonable, Mr. Jacoby. Your cowardice and greed allowed his Patriarch to languish in Azkaban for more than a decade. Your inaction could’ve seen to the extinction of the House of Black. Declaring you in breach of your contract was the least of his options. You should go now and make an appointment to discuss the payment plan for next week.” Sharprock inclined his head towards the door.
Harry turned to the goblin. “Is that ritual beheading still available?” Jacoby jerked up from his seat and his two ever silent partners all but ran from the room in his wake. He laughed as the door briefly hung open before a guard closed it. He offered his fist to Sharprock and the goblin dutifully bumped it. “Ian McBain is here as well then?”
“Yes, if you are certain,” Sharprock paused. “Mr. McBain has a small practice, Lord Potter, and only received his Mastery last year in magical law.”
“I’m certain. I’ve done my homework,” Harry said. “His intelligence is well known so I’m sure he knows his job very well. He worked as an apprentice for a much larger firm for nearly a decade while he pursued his Mastery with night classes and study. I appreciate both his work ethic and his social politics. Thaddeus investigated him on my behalf for the last week and found him to be a Light wizard who is diligent and very dedicated to his wife and two children. That’s what I want—a family man who understands hard work and values the right things.”
Sharprock nodded. “Very well.” He activated another rune and after a minute, a man in his early thirties entered in the room in a neat but not terribly fashionable suit and robe. “Mr. McBain, may I present the Earl of Gryffindor.”
Harry stood and accepted the older man’s hand. “Good afternoon, thank you for your patience today.”
McBain nodded nervously and shook Harry’s hand in wide-eyed shock. “Yes, well, I honestly have no idea why I’m here.”
“Dowager Longbottom informed me that people tend to show up when the Lord of an Ancient and Noble house requests it.” Harry sat and McBain settled nervously into a chair across from him.
“Yes, they do.” McBain folded his hands in front of him on the table and took a deep breath.
Harry turned several pages in his book and cleared his throat. “I need to ask a series of questions and I made notes about them so if you’ll bear with me.”
“Of course, my Lord,” McBain assured.
“I’ve reviewed your case activity before the Wizengamot,” Harry began and watched McBain process that. “You’ve handled criminal and civil trials in the year since you gained your Mastery and worked as an assistant in both situations for the decade where you were a law clerk for Greengrass, Nott, and Jameson.”
“Why aren’t you working for that firm now?”
“I knew I had no chance of ever making partner or handling interesting cases due to my blood status,” McBain admitted.
“Your father is Muggle-born,” Harry said. “And your mother a half-blood.”
Harry nodded. “How well do you function in the Muggle world?”
“I went to Muggle primary and my parents insisted that I be able to blend in and function as a Muggle. During the blood war, they gave up magic entirely and lived as Muggles to protect me and my sister.”
“And your sister?”
“Is currently getting her law degree at a Muggle university,” Ian said proudly. “She’ll be joining me in my practice when she finishes her degree. My practice has a foot in the Muggle world, you see.”
“That’s great,” Harry murmured and made a note in his journal. “How would you like to be solicitor of record for the House of Black and the House of Potter?” He looked up and found McBain pale.
“Are you serious?” McBain asked hoarsely.
Harry smirked. “That’s my godfather but if you’re a Puddlemere United fan you can call me Harry.”
“Falmouth Falcons,” McBain admitted.
“Then it must be Lord Potter, you hooligan,” Harry lamented. “As to your question, yes I’m totally serious. I just fired the firm representing the House of Black which is, of course, lousy timing as I’m planning to sue the Ministry of Magic for a whole list of things.” He pulled a parchment out of his bracelet and placed it on the table between them. “My proposed suit against the Ministry. Just the notification, mind you.”
McBain picked it up with a steady hand, unrolled it and read it in silence. He put it on the table, spread out the parchment and read it again. “I…frankly, Lord Potter, why do you need me? The person who wrote this brief for you appears to be more than capable of handling your legal affairs.”
Harry grinned at him. “I’ll be sure to tell her you said so. My girlfriend wrote that brief, Mr. McBain. She currently doesn’t have time to berate the Wizengamot on my behalf so she looked you up then we had you investigated. I hope that doesn’t make you uncomfortable.”
“You’re placing the fate of your remaining parent in my hands, Lord Potter,” McBain said quietly. “I’d be horrified if you hadn’t had me investigated.” He folded his hands on the parchment. “Would you like me to file any sort of legal protest regarding your forced participation in the Triwizard Tournament?”
“I considered it but in the end it would be a waste of time. The goblins have researched the matter thoroughly and there are no legal maneuvers I could make to extract myself from the tournament. I’m magically bound to participate.”
“You did well in the first task,” McBain said. “Made my wife a nervous wreck, mind you, but it was pretty exciting.”
“Hermione has berated me ten times in the last week for it,” Harry said. “Every single time someone mentions it in front of her I get a lecture about dragons and Quidditch. It shouldn’t be nearly as charming as it is. Sharprock has the contract so if you’re comfortable accepting today we can go over a few matters that I find pressing then I have…another duty to perform today.”
“I’d like to see the contract,” McBain said.
– – – –
They had lunch at the vassal house, were Sirius had also come to live. Harry sat down at the head of the table, despite how uncomfortable the placement made him. In another situation he might have tried to give it to Sirius but he knew that would not be well received by anyone, including his godfather. Phoenix had been extremely blunt about his place in the world and the magical legacy he would have to embrace to keep Hermione safe.
Dobby served a light lunch not unlike what he might find at Hogwarts and he ate as much as he could before pushing aside his plate and pulling out the Potter grimoire. He pulled out his personal journal next then a self-inking quill. He found he quite liked them despite their expense and had ordered a set for Hermione for Christmas—hers were phoenix feathers and he figured they would be well received. He pulled out his father’s letter next and placed it on the table in front of him while the conversation between Sirius and Bill Weasley continued.
Finally, they all finished their meals and Dobby cleared the table. Thaddeus sealed the room magically and Harry put aside his quill. “I have a few things—let’s talk business first.” He focused on Remus Lupin. “I don’t want you involved in the Headmaster’s nonsense.”
Lupin gaped at him. “Pardon me?”
“I know you believe you owe Dumbledore a great debt because he allowed you to come to Hogwarts and learn but frankly it’s actually his responsibility as an educator to teach children and to reach out to the unfortunate in their time of need. That doesn’t mean he gets to use you for cannon fodder, Remus. Voldemort is going to come back—I know it and so does Albus Dumbledore. He chooses to act behind the scenes and manipulate people and events to suit his version of the greater good. That’s all good and fine but if he’d been more honest and less inclined to keeping secrets, my parents could be alive today. I’m not saying Dumbledore is dark but I’m not going to allow him to manipulate and control the people around me so that he can attempt to shape me into what he wants. He’s been doing that for years, you see, guiding me down the garden path straight into a fight I am utterly ill-prepared for.”
Remus frowned and stared at his tea for a minute before speaking. “What fight?”
“If I told you that I was fated to fight Voldemort to the death and that it was foretold before I was even born, what would you say?”
Remus paled and closed his eyes. “I would beg you to tell me otherwise.”
“If I told you that Albus Dumbledore witnessed this true prophecy and told my parents of it shortly after I was born?”
“It would explain why James took you into hiding,” Remus said sadly.
“Knowing all of that would you have left me in the Muggle world ignorant of magic and my legacy as a peer? Would you left me enslaved to a couple of Muggles who found it the height of entertainment to let their over indulged and obese child hit me until I could hardly stand?”
Remus’ eyes flashed gold briefly and Thaddeus stood. He drew his wand.
Remus rubbed his face with both hands. “I asked him repeatedly through the years how you were and he told me you were fine.”
“What he meant to say is that he had a monitoring charm on me that proved I was still breathing but little else. He also put a squib in the neighborhood I lived in to keep an eye on things but she never even saw the inside of the Dursley’s house. I spent ten years living in a boot cupboard. I don’t know why he never checked on me—perhaps arrogance or disbelief that family would be so cruel. I can’t speak to his motivations but the fact remains he did. We all know I was cursed the first night I was at Hogwarts so he can be excused from not meeting his duty to me as a guardian after that fact. Perhaps he wanted me to have a normal childhood but considering I’m supposed to fight and kill the darkest wizard to be born in five hundred years—isn’t that a bit naïve? I could’ve learned a lot before I ever came to Hogwarts.” Harry frowned and sat back in his chair. “Regardless, I consider you family Remus and I don’t want you under his thumb running little errands for him or trying to court the werewolf packs as we approach the next conflict with Riddle.”
Remus sighed. “He’s already asked me to put out a few feelers in the community—to gauge the reactions concerning Umbridge and her werewolf regulations.”
“I’d thought as much,” Harry admitted. “I’d like you to remove yourself from that situation. The Ministry has all but insured that any werewolf with a dark leaning is going to side with Voldemort. Those like you aren’t going to be accepted by most of the Light so asking them to fight Death Eaters would be the height of hypocrisy.”
“I trust you have some task for me?” Remus asked wryly.
“I do actually. It is the tradition of the Earl of Gryffindor to create an endowment to the betterment of society. This tradition has created many institutions in Britain that people take for granted—Hogwarts, St. Mungo’s, the villages of Godric’s Hollow and Hogsmeade, the magical reserve that is now called the Forbidden Forest, the Magical Advocacy Center, and most recently the acquirement of the Hogwarts Express. My grandfather Charles was working to create a charity foundation but it was set aside due to war and later illness. My father wasn’t in a position to do anything substantial due to the same. I’m going to take my grandfather’s task as my own and the endowment will be the beginning of the Lily Potter Foundation.” He paused at the small smile that slipped over Remus’ face. “I want you to run it.”
“You can’t…be…” Remus took a deep breath. “Harry, I’m a werewolf.”
“Oh, I know,” Harry said dryly. “I met Moony, Remus. I’m not ever going to forget that you’ve been cursed with lycanthropy. That being said, you’d be the boss and if you want to take a few days off every single full moon there would be no one there to get upset about it.”
“But people might be angry…”
“Those people can sod right off,” Harry said crossly. “Look, Remus, you can have a pity party later. Right now, in this moment, I am asking you to help me honor my mother. She died for me and this is the least of what I can do to preserve her legacy. She was a brilliant witch with a bright future and it was taken from her. Working in her name, I’d like to bring a little light and charity into the world. Anyone who has a problem with you running it, doesn’t deserve my money to begin with.”
Remus poured himself some more tea. “The first time I saw you—on the train to Hogwarts your third year I couldn’t get over how much you looked like James but it was your eyes that…frankly broke my heart. I’d only ever saw you at a distance before that. I was very good friends with James and Sirius but Lily was my best friend in school. We took all the same classes, did projects together, and planned extremely elaborate pranks that we never got caught at.” He paused when Sirius laughed. “She was as much as a Marauder as anyone else to be honest. She just refused to get caught. I think if she’d been a pure-blood she would’ve sorted into Slytherin—she was very cunning and quite capable of holding a grudge.” He smiled then. “You do realize that she’s the one that cursed Severus Snape with greasy hair, right?”
Harry grinned. “Really?”
“Really. Granted it was greasy sometimes because of all of his potions work but he could wash it clean with no problems. Now, there isn’t enough soap on the planet to get the grease out of his hair.” Remus sighed. “Okay, cub, what do I do?”
“First,” Harry said seriously as he could muster. “You’re going to have to start calling me Lord Potter.” He waited until Remus’ mouth dropped open before he laughed. He pulled a red ledger from his bracelet. “The charter for the foundation is complete, the building for our headquarters has been purchased, and the goblins have begun compiling a list of wizards and witches that you’ll be able to employ.”
He passed the ledger to Remus. “Your first mandate is to contract with a potions lab and set up free distribution of Wolfsbane. Thereafter, you will arrange charity potion donations to St. Mungo’s. Be prepared to also do it for Hogwarts as Snape won’t be in the position to serve as Potion’s Master for the school much longer. After you’ve gotten that squared away, I’d like to investigate magical properties for sale and find one that would serve well as a children’s home. There is no sanctuary for magical children like me and there needs to be one. If I’d had a single place to go after my first year, I would’ve gone there instead of returning to the Muggle world. While you’re doing that, Sirius will be using his position and his new found fame to push through legislation designed to protect and shelter muggle-born or muggle-raised children in the Wizengamot. They’re going to be so cowed and prepared to keep him happy after we sue them, that they’ll be thrilled to help him protect children from harm.”
Remus nodded and folded his hands over the ledger. “Okay, Harry, you win.”
“On both issues?” Harry prodded.
“You can’t expect me not to fight Riddle if he resurrects himself.”
“No, I just expect you to be on my side,” Harry said evenly.
“And you’re saying that you and Dumbledore might not be on the same side?”
“We shall see,” Harry said. “As I said, I don’t think he’s dark. I just think he has an agenda and that agenda might not be in my best interest.”
“I won’t play in war games with Dumbledore,” Remus said. “I won’t rejoin the Order of the Phoenix if he requests it. Should he ask, I’ll tell him the truth—my first duty is and always has been to the House of Potter.”
Harry felt his magic stir in a very familiar way and fury pooled in his gut. He stood and his magic rushed on his skin. He turned to glare at Banner. “You said there was one surviving vassal house besides yourself!”
Banner winced. “The House of Lupin did at one time serve as vassals to the Earl of Gryffindor but their heir and only child was attacked by a werewolf, that legacy ended. He can’t take the vows, Harry, he’s tainted with dark magic due to his curse.”
“You don’t keep things from me!” Harry snapped. “I get enough of that shite from Dumbledore!”
“You have my deepest apologies,” Thaddeus said. “I didn’t tell you for no other reason to spare you disappointment.”
“I’m used to being disappointed!” Harry said roughly. He prodded his bracelet and prodded it again when it just warmed on his wrist. Phoenix came out and huffed dramatically. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t know,” Phoenix admitted. “I’ve not been worn for many hundreds of years, Harry, and the last Earl of Gryffindor I can remember serving had six vassals—Banner, Wright, Bertrand, Pierce, and Longbottom. As you know, the Longbottom family gained the status of a Noble family so they can longer serve. You also haven’t finished reading the grimoire so I haven’t been updated on what I missed in the meantime.”
“The British branch of the Bertrand family ended during the war with Grindelwald,” Harry said. “And Pierce?”
“The line fell to squibs and moved to the colonies in the 1700s. If they have a wizard born to their line, he will eventually be compelled to seek you out upon reaching his adulthood,” Banner explained. “There are too many magical schools in that part of the world for me to check but I could send an investigator through the bank if you’re curious. If there is an heir to the Pierce family, he should be in training.”
“Who was the last Earl you served before Harry?” Sirius asked curiously.
“I cannot say, Lord Black, it is a secret bound to family magic,” Phoenix said.
“Can you tell us when you were created?” Thaddeus asked.
“No,” Phoenix said wryly and rocked back on his heels. “And Harry is bound through family magic not to share that information with anyone.”
“There is a portrait of Godric Gryffindor in the Hall of Mages at the Ministry,” Zale said. “He was wearing the bracelet, Thaddeus.”
“Well, that makes sense. He was a parselmouth,” Harry said. Privately, he was going to have a very long talk with his conniving future self. He turned to stare pointedly at Thaddeus. “I don’t need to be coddled. Is there anything else you’ve decided to spare me?”
Thaddeus considered that. He reached out and stole Bill’s herbals and lit one. “Are you sure you want to know?”
“Yes!” Harry snapped and dropped down in his chair.
“Severus Snape was and probably still is in love with your mother.”
“I already knew about Snape’s boner for my mum as for loving her? I don’t think he’s capable of it,” Harry said crossly. “And?”
“I slept with your godfather,” Zale blurted out and shrugged when Sirius huffed. “At Hogwarts during my sixth year, not recently but I’m not opposed to doing it again at all.”
Harry stared at him for a minute and focused on Thaddeus.
Thaddeus drew on the herbal and blew out a series of circles. “I’ve been contemplating murdering Snape, I’ve planted surveillance charms on the houses of every single known Death Eater I could find, and I snuck into the Muggle prison currently housing Vernon Dursley and put a Dementor cuff on him.”
“What does a Dementor cuff do?”
“It mimics the effect of a Dementor,” Thaddeus said coolly. “He beat you, my Lord, you couldn’t possibly think having him thrown in a Muggle prison for financial crimes was all that he would suffer for his transgressions against you.”
Harry nodded and called for Dobby. “I’d like some biscuits and a hot chocolate please.” It appeared almost immediately. He nibbled on a chocolate covered biscuit for nearly a minute before speaking again. “There is a large colony of Acromantula in the Forbidden Forest.” He paused. “You know, for body disposal.”
“Your suggestion in improving my homicidal endeavors warms my soul,” Banner poured himself some more tea. “How did your magic tell you about Lupin?”
“There was a shift in my core, like when I met you and Zale,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t recognize it at first but now that I’ve felt it multiple times when Remus declared his loyalty to my house…my magic shifted inside me like it was making room for his oath.” He focused on the werewolf then. “So, while I can’t accept you as a vassal, I believe if you were to have a son that the House of Lupin could return to the status of vassal house upon his coming of age.”
“I can’t risk having a child, Harry. I might pass the curse.”
“Who told you that nonsense?” Thaddeus asked. “Your genetic contribution to a child would not in any way carry the traits of your curse, Remus. Curses can’t be passed onto offspring in that manner. Yes, you could infect him with a bite and most werewolves do—they bite their children in infancy to protect them.”
“I don’t understand,” Remus admitted.
“Packs honor their wolf, accept it as a gift not a curse,” Thaddeus said. “They gift their children as soon as they can to protect them from being murdered by other members of the pack during the full moon. You don’t belong to a pack and I assume would never marry a female werewolf—you have nothing to worry about.”
“Was it well known that the House of Lupin were vassals to the Potters?” Harry asked as he stared moodily at his hot chocolate.
“Yes,” Remus murmured.
“So it was done it on purpose,” Harry surmised. “Do you know who?”
“Fenrir Greyback. He prefers to bite children—takes them into his pack if he can and that is often as many parents disown or abandon werewolf children. He has a very large pack. They’ve all been conditioned to hate practically everything and everyone. Though I can’t prove it, I think he killed my parents when I was still in Hogwarts because he assumed I would have no choice but to retreat to his pack for support. He was very angry when your grandparents took me in.”
“He must have been fairly excited by the idea of taking the vassal heir of a noble house,” Harry said. “If the chance presents itself, I’m not all opposed to one of you killing him.” He turned to Thaddeus. “Perhaps you could practice on him.”
“I hardly need the practice,” Thaddeus assured. “But a brisk walk might do me some good.”
Harry nodded. “Very well, Bill I’ve been told you have something horrifying to share with me.” He focused on Sirius. “I’d prefer you not lose your temper.”
Sirius huffed. “I already did. I was stunned and trussed up like a goose for three hours.”
“Some of us learn better if we’re allowed to sit and contemplate our inappropriate responses to information,” Zale said. “I couldn’t have you running off and murdering a mother of seven. The press would’ve been horrific.”
“My mother has spent more than a decade feeding my sister fairytale stories about marrying you. Ginny believes she is your soulmate and from what I can tell is so currently convinced of this that she doesn’t care what sort of dalliance you might indulge in with any other witch. Eventually, she will be your wife and you really, from her point of view, don’t have a say in the matter. My mother visited the Book of Souls shortly after Ginny was born so she knows for a fact that this whole soulmate thing is a load of dragonshite. Her eventual plan was to convince Ginny that Voldemort’s cursing you destroyed your ability to bond with her as magic intends and at that point my sister would’ve been in a position and a mindset to potion you.”
“Is it the money, the fame, or the title?” Harry asked. “All three?”
“Money mostly,” Bill admitted. “Your fame might attract Ginny but the money is all my mother is interested in.” He sat back and sighed. “So it’s like this—my mother is a very gifted potion’s brewer. She was well on her way to achieving a mastery when she was caught giving a love potion to a man named Barty Crouch while they were at Hogwarts. My grandfather, Algernon Prewett, was furious. Well, he was furious she got caught. The Crouch family is wealthy and at the time had a lot of political power. They aren’t doing well now since their scion was put in Azkaban for being a Death Eater. Regardless, he was so furious she got caught—he went through all of the betrothal offers for her and picked the poorest family he could find. He made sure it was a light family, of course, because no daughter of his was going to end up married to a dark wizard.”
“So he punished your mother by forcing her marriage to Arthur Weasley, a light but poor wizard,” Harry said with a frown. “I thought…well, they seem so happy together. I thought they loved each other.”
“They have a true magical marriage,” Bill explained. “Such marriage bonds will nourish and encourage not only romantic love but loyalty.”
“That sounds—I mean is that any better than a love potion?”
“It doesn’t force love and those with a magical marriage can end up hating each other in the right conditions which will corrupt and destroy their magical bond. That is a very ugly business,” Thaddeus explained.
“So they set me up,” Harry said. “From the beginning? Was Ron’s friendship ever genuine?”
Bill winced. “I think you know the answer to that.”
Harry frowned. He did know and he hated it. “And Ginny? She’s already on board with the whole plan, right?”
“At this point, she’s unaware of our mother’s intentions to potion you. Percy, the twins, and Charlie all know due to our mother’s confession.” Bill paused. “And Ron knew all along. Ron’s known since the summer before his first year. His job was to befriend you, isolate you to prevent you from making too many influential or intelligent friends who might question your actions if they had to resort to using a potion. They decided, when he couldn’t drive Hermione away from you the way he tried—that he would simply neutralize her another way.”
“Potions for her as well, I assume.”
“Yes, and a sham marriage until she was no longer useful or you were fully invested your marriage to Ginny magically.” Bill paused. “I think…you need to check the Book of Souls.”
Phoenix trembled on his wrist and he looked at the avatar who had wandered around the room to stare out a window. He looked as solid as he often did in the Room of Requirement. “Phoenix?”
“There was a time in our family—the Gryffindor line specifically when the men of your position were gifted by fate in such a way,” Phoenix murmured. “By the time I was able to check the book for a match—my soulmate was dead. Her name nothing but a black smudge in the book. I could make out just one letter. I think I knew all along what I would find in the book so I put off looking at it until just a month before I died. I feared what I might do…and at that point I was fully invested in the enchantment of the bracelet. Nearly all of my magic was dedicated to the endeavor. I didn’t have enough left to wreck the havoc my grief and anger could’ve driven me to.”
Harry nodded. He didn’t begrudge Phoenix this particular secret. “I apologize for asking. Your grief is your own and I’d never wish to intrude on that.”
Phoenix focused on him. “I know very little of soulmate magic. You’ll need to retrieve research material for us to review.”
Harry nodded. “Bill? If you would? I believe the goblins would also be willing to include any information they might have on the subject.”
“Of course, sir,” Bill agreed. “My father was not part of my mother’s plan for you and he has given her strict orders and sealed them with family magic to leave you alone. Ginny will be brought home during the Yule break and told the truth.”
“You should have a mind healer on hand,” Harry said. “It might be…well. After what she went through her first year, we can’t guarantee what such a shock might do to her. The diary could’ve damaged her far more than we can say at this point.” He pulled a scroll from his bracelet. “I would ask a few more things of you.”
Bill nodded. “I’m listening.”
“First, I’d like you continue to work for Gringotts. Ragnok has agreed that you will work in Britain for the time being with small assignments out of the country on an emergency basis. He knows your first loyalty must be to my House. Second, I’d like you to locate and purchase on behalf of the House of Potter an adder stone. Phoenix is teaching me ritual magic and he believes that I’ll find my center better for such magics if I have an adder stone as a focal point in meditation. Eventually, I’d like to build my ritual space with this stone so it should be of some substantial size.” Harry paused as Bill pulled out a small notebook and started to take notes with a Muggle ink pen. “Its origin is not super important but my family is deeply rooted in Wales. I believe magically that I would be served best with one from that area of the world.”
“I agree,” Bill said. “They aren’t particularly expensive as their magical qualities to non-parselmouths is limited. I will procure several so you can choose the best fit for you magic. The rest can be set aside and utilized to build the ward for your ritual space. Perhaps, a personal sized stone for your magical focus and a larger one for the ritual space? If you’re going to use it for meditation, you’d want something you could carry with you easily—it’ll bond to your magic that way.”
“Yes, that sounds good,” Harry said. “The older the better, I assume?”
“Yes, as long as they haven’t been tainted with dark magic,” Bill said offhand as he made a few more notes. “I wasn’t aware of the bracelet until today. Does it have any other properties we need to be aware of? Is it warded to prevent intrusion? Can the avatar be corrupted?”
Harry inclined his head as he considered how to answer that question and remain as honest as he could be. “It has a full set of magical defenses and can protect itself and myself from everything short of the Imperius but I’ve already proven I can fight that off myself. As for physical attacks? I don’t know how indestructible it is and I’d rather not test it. I consider the avatar a valuable part of my family’s history.”
“If it once rested on the arm of Godric Gryffindor then I have to agree with that,” Bill said. He glanced towards the scroll. “Would you like a snake?”
“I would adore one,” Harry confided. “I have a whole book on magical snakes but I haven’t made a selection yet. At first, I was going to try to ignore it but frankly I’m tired of people trying to make me feel ashamed of a gift I was born with. So anyone who has a problem with it can kiss my bum.”
Bill grinned and Zale sighed.
Harry picked up the scroll and placed it in front of Bill. “This is a letter that my father left me in the Lord’s Vault. Thaddeus and Zale have read it. Due to its contents—which are explosive—I’ve not shared it with anyone not magically bound to my House. This protects the secret—nothing can take my secrets from your mind as you well know due to the vows you’ve taken.” He glanced briefly at Sirius he knew there was a prophecy but not the exact wording. It wasn’t safe for him to know at present.
Bill opened the scroll and took a deep, harsh breath as he read. Finally, he put it down and sat back in his chair. “Is Dumbledore…insane?”
The question caught Harry so off guard that for a moment he just gaped at Bill. The Weasley family was very pro-Dumbledore so he was surprised by the older man’s turn. Harry frowned and focused on his hot chocolate. There wasn’t much he could reveal that wouldn’t lead to a discussion he didn’t want to have about the bracelet and a future he shouldn’t know anything about.
“I don’t follow,” Remus said.
Bill huffed. “He’s known all along that there was a prophecy correct?”
“Yes, it was made in front of him,” Harry explained.
“And he left you unprotected in the Muggle world with only a set of blood wards between you and at least forty at-large Death Eaters? He allowed Dementors on the school property and as a result you were nearly murdered three different times by them. And now? Now he’s letting you compete in a tournament you’re not old enough for when any decent wizard would’ve cancelled the damn thing and removed you from it entirely. So is he insane?”
“I believe…” Harry began and trailed off when they all focused intently on him. Having all of their attention and knowing that his will would be done was a bit unnerving. “I believe we would best served with assuming he has an agenda and his resolutions regarding that agenda may not serve the House of Potter. Do I think he’s a dark wizard? No, as I already said and that’s mostly because of Fawkes and the relationship he has with Dumbledore. I can’t say I expect him to act in my best interests but then it really isn’t his job to do so.”
“No, I would agree,” Phoenix said pointedly. “Dumbledore serves the light but he does not serve the House of Potter. Perhaps the prophecy and the bigger picture has merely blinded him to the plight of the individual. I don’t consider him a direct threat to Harry.”
“But indirectly?” Sirius asked.
“He plays political games—tries to avoid getting his hands dirty. Had he really wanted, he could have gone around Fudge to get you a trial,” Thaddeus said. “He didn’t. He played political games instead because he wants to control Fudge and certainly doesn’t want him replaced with someone like Amelia Bones which he has no hope of stringing along.”
“Well, that had nothing to do with Sirius and everything to do with me,” Harry said as he set aside his empty cup. “Controlling Sirius’ amount of freedom also exerted control over me as he was acting as my guardian and until it was revealed to him how the Dursley’s treated me—Dumbledore was very invested in keeping me in my Aunt’s home when I’m not at Hogwarts. He put a lot of faith in those blood wards and that’s probably because of what happened during my first year.”
“What happened?” Bill asked.
“That…how about we use the pensieve?” Harry questioned.
Twenty minutes later, his vassals, Sirius, and Remus were staring at him horrified and Dobby was very carefully pouring each of them a very small a bit of firewhiskey as it was quite too early to get drunk. They accepted the small amount of relief they were going to be granted by the elf and Harry just shrugged.
“So Dumbledore thinks that your mother’s sacrifice is still…at work.”
“He said as much when he pulled the ward stone from Privet Drive and put it in the bracelet,” Sirius murmured. He focused on the avatar. “Is that true?”
“Sacrificial magic is special but it certainly wouldn’t protect someone from the Killing Curse,” Phoenix said neutrally. “There are magical theories, of course, that would offer us some options. Chief among them the fact that Harry has a magical syphon and such things are known to react differently offensive magic. Combine that syphon which has likely been active since his birth and the runic magic involved in a ritual sacrifice—then we must accept that there are parts of Harry’s magical legacy that are beyond our current level of understanding.”
Sirius nodded. “Lily found the syphon shortly after we came home from St. Mungo’s with him. He was summoning toys and bottles by the time he was six months old. We had to put sticking charms on the furniture—sometimes all of us would end up placing a charm on the bigger items—just to keep him from moving them around.”
“He summoned Lily once,” Remus said suddenly. “One minute she was standing at the sink complaining because James had left a cleaning rune running and it had rubbed a hole in her favorite teapot then suddenly she was just floating away.”
Harry flushed and laughed. “That’s not normal, right?”
“Not at all,” Remus admitted. “Which is why we were so careful to make sure no one outside of us knew about it.”
“Pettigrew,” Harry murmured. “Pettigrew knew.” He stood up and walked away from the table. “When I heard the prophecy, I thought he’d picked me as his equal because of my blood status. I’m a half-blood and so is he. I figured that was the link he’d latched onto but that’s not…that’s not what made him choose me. There’s Peter—sniveling, cowardly, little Peter telling his Dark Lord about the power he sees in a toddler. Neville and I weren’t the only ones that fit the prophecy. There would’ve been others—born before us and after us in the years after the prophecy was made. Hundreds of people repeatedly denied that bastard when he tried to get them to join him. It could have been any number of children born during or after the war but he picked me. He decided that I was his equal. Not because of my blood status but out of his own arrogance and perhaps fear. He couldn’t risk that I would grow up and be a genuine threat so the coward decided to kill me when I was a baby.”
“Arrogance?” Phoenix questioned. “Are you certain?”
“Oh.” Harry took a deep breath and paled. “Oh, I see.” He bit down on his bottom lip. “The prophecy will make him my equal—the magic that will insure we meet time and time again until the damn thing is resolved. He wanted my power—he saw the prophecy as another way of increasing himself. That’s really why he didn’t die that night. We weren’t yet equals because he hadn’t marked me before trying to kill me. Now he’s marked me…and the magic of the prophecy will endeavor to make us equal.”
“Okay,” Phoenix agreed. “Follow that through. What comes next?”
“Core maturation comes in stages,” Harry said as he paced, ignoring their silent and horrified audience. “Eleven, fourteen, and sixteen on average. That’s why we start school at eleven, take our OWLs at fifteen and our NEWTs at seventeen. That’s why classes involving practical use of magic get progressively more difficult as we get older and why McGonagall was so shocked to learn that I was performing seventh year charms already.” He pointed at Remus. “And why you weren’t optimistic about teaching the Patronus Charm when I was thirteen.”
“Even with your core harvesting wild magic, I wasn’t certain you were mature enough to master it,” Remus agreed. “But you did.”
“I did,” Harry agreed. “I’d have probably mastered it faster if I hadn’t been bombarded by Dementors and recovering from what happened in the Chamber of Secrets.” He glanced towards the pensieve. “Let’s save that memory for after dinner—that way Dobby will let you have all the firewhiskey you can handle.” He checked his watch. “Do we have time to set the wards for the Granger’s house?”
– – – –
Harry frowned at the house.
“You should probably avoid looking at her parents like that,” Thaddeus murmured.
“I just realized I should’ve told her what I intended to do but it was…just on a list of things I needed to do today and I forgot. That’s bad, right? I’m a terrible boyfriend.” Harry huffed. “What if he hates my guts?”
“Fathers are…” Thaddeus shrugged. “Piper’s Dad is a terror truth be known. He thinks I’m an arsehole.”
“You are an arsehole,” Zale pointed out. “And he did give you his blessing, remember?”
“Yes, but he couched it with the opinion that while she could certainly do better but that he’d have her do no worse than me so I’d have to do.”
Harry laughed and shrugged when Thaddeus glared at him. He turned to Bill. “Your thoughts?”
“The property has a solid foundation and no crawl space. The neighbors are far enough away that I can set a standard package without intruding on other properties. Now we just need their permission.”
“Well, she’s not staying here for a single night without wards,” Harry said and bit down on his lip. “I should definitely not say that.”
“No, I’d think not,” Zale murmured. “Let’s get it over with. You said you’d met them before?”
“Briefly,” Harry said. “They should recognize me. I don’t know what Hermione has told them so I’m not going to mention our personal relationship. I think that should definitely come from her.” He’d removed his robe before leaving the bank but was still dressed in black slacks, a dark grey shirt, and a red waist coat. “I probably should’ve changed into something a little more casual.”
“The Lord Potter does not dress casual unless he’s at home,” Zale explained. “Or perhaps at school.”
“The Lord Potter thinks he looks pretentious,” Harry snarked back and they all flinched at the startled female laughter. He turned and found Hannah Granger standing at the corner of her house with a basket of flowers. “Good afternoon, Dr. Granger.”
She offered him the same smile he saw on Hermione’s face a few hundred times a day and he sort of fell in love. Whiskey brown eyes glanced him over. “I think the Lord Potter looks quite nice and not at all pretentious.”
“You should’ve seen the tie and the day robe that went with it,” Harry said. He stepped forward and offered to take her basket. “I apologize for showing up unannounced, I didn’t know if I’d have time to come personally or not.” She let him have the basket. “Is your husband home as well?”
“Yes, he’s in the backyard. We’re considering planting another tree.” She motioned them around the house. “Ryan! We have guests!”
“I’m not going to spend my bleeding Saturday being testified to by a bunch of people I don’t even…” He trailed off and grinned. “Harry.” He stood up from the flower bed he was weeding and dusted himself. “I listened to your performance in the tournament on the wireless. Would’ve loved to have seen it firsthand.”
“Hermione lectures me three times a day for it,” Harry said as he put the basket down on the table. “As for seeing it, we might be able to show it to you.” He turned to Zale. “Dr. Granger is technically a squib, could he use a pensieve?”
“As long as someone else activated it for him, yes,” Zale checked his watch. “Would you like me to retrieve it?”
“Sure, I mean, how long are you going to need Bill?”
“At least three hours, sir.”
“Then we certainly have time,” Thaddeus agreed.
“Oh, I should introduce you. These are the vassals of the House of Potter—Thaddeus Banner, Zale Wright, and William Weasley. Dr. Ryan Granger and Dr. Hannah Granger—they’re both dentists.” He paused when Zale raised an eyebrow. “That’s a Muggle teeth healer.”
Zale inclined his head towards Harry and apparated.
“We’ll find the pensieve easier to use if we’re seated,” Thaddeus explained and pulled out a chair for Harry. He raised an eyebrow when Harry stared at him. “Don’t be difficult, my Lord, it’s unseemly.”
Harry sat down. “Sometimes I’m utterly convinced you do stuff just to mess with me. I’m going to get a book on this nonsense. You watch.”
“You should get two,” Hannah said. “Otherwise, you’ll have to share with Hermione and that never goes over well.”
“You’re telling me,” Harry lamented. “I bought a book on the history of the Triwizard Tournament and haven’t seen since the day it came via owl. Thankfully, Hermione regularly debriefs me on what she’s read so by the time she’s done—I won’t even have to read it myself.” He settled in the chair and looked them both over. “So you have a wireless?”
“And we get the Prophet,” Ryan Granger said dryly. “Hermione hasn’t brought it up in her letters but I’m not sure how I feel about the rather extravagant present you gave her, lad. The Prophet said it was probably worth ten thousand galleons. That’s a ridiculous amount of money regardless but to put it on a fifteen year old girl is rather silly.”
“Hermione said the cost of it might be a concern,” Harry admitted. “But I didn’t buy it. It’s been in my family for generations and my mother wore it during the war.” He bit down on his bottom lip. “Do you mind if I call my elf? He could bring tea for us. Come to find out chain apparition makes me hungry.”
“Yes, that would be fine.”
Harry called for Dobby and he appeared in a little pop. He frowned deeply at Harry. “Master Harry never be staying in one place like a proper wizard.” He poked his arm. “Why aren’t you at Vassal House?”
“I had business.”
He scoffed. “Business.”
“Business,” Harry assured. “Could you bring tea for us? Zale is on his way back as well. Maybe some of that lemon cake. I quite like it.”
“Dumbledore ate the last piece,” Dobby confided.
“He’s a terrible old man,” Harry said solemnly. “Why are you letting him eat my cake?”
“He be visiting Master Lupin at Vassal House,” Dobby tattled. “I have chocolate silk pie.”
“That sounds good,” Harry agreed and refocused on Ryan Granger. “In an effort to be completely honest, the pendant has been appraised at twenty thousand galleons. It has a series of security wards on it, she can’t lose it or drop it. In fact, only the two of us can even remove it. The chain it hangs on is mithril, which is included in the appraisal. It has charms on it to prevent someone grabbing it and using it to choke her.” He paused when Hannah’s mouth dropped open. “It has been heavily spelled to protect her from behavioral modification potions—love and lust specifically but it will tell her if she’s ingesting any potion. It has tracking charms on it so I’ll be able to find her if we were separated for some reason. It connects her with my family magic and in turn the ring of the Earl of Gryffindor.” He pause and took a deep breath. “And finally it has a discretion ward on it.” He flushed when Bill’s mouth dropped open. “I added it two days ago.”
“What is a discretion ward?” Hannah questioned.
“A ward is defensive magic,” Thaddeus began when Harry hesitated. Both Dobby and Zale returned in that moment. Zale set the pensive in the center of the table and sat as Dobby distributed tea and pie with a wave of his hand. “The discretion ward, specifically, is a derivative of a war ward. It is designed to defend a witch’s virtue and honor. They are difficult and magically expensive to cast. Because they must be placed on a jewel of a significant size, they are very rarely placed in this day and age.”
“It’s an anti-rape ward,” Ryan Granger said.
“Yes,” Harry agreed.
“Why?” Ryan asked focused entirely on him.
“Because it’s not illegal in magical Britain for a pure-blood wizard to rape a Muggle-born witch. In fact, in some extreme circumstances Muggle-born witches have been put on trial for line theft because of a rape resulting in a pregnancy. Women’s rights in magical Britain are…an atrocity to be perfectly honest. Without the protection of a noble house, Hermione would be vulnerable to a great many ugly and abusive situations. If she married a pure-blood, she wouldn’t have the right to own property, claim her own money or sue for divorce. In fact, she would be considered a marital asset.” He grimaced when Hannah paled dramatically. “So that’s why I took her into my House as a protected member. I used the pendant because I knew I could put protections on it to keep her safe from potioned into loving someone or abused sexually. I added the discretion ward recently because…” He frowned and looked towards Thaddeus for guidance.
“There is a student from different school at Hogwarts for the tournament,” Thaddeus said. “He’s expressed an overt and inappropriate interest in your daughter. He’ll be eighteen in a few weeks and is quite famous.”
“Viktor Krum?” Ryan questioned, he shrugged when Harry looked shocked. “The Daily Prophet had a profile on him. He’s in second place in the tournament. Is he not aware that you and Hermione are dating?”
“He’s unaware or doesn’t care,” Harry said. “I think if he didn’t know before—he’s found out. He tried to intimidate me into instructing Hermione to date him, you see, because I’m from a magical perspective her Lord.”
“Could you order her to date or not date someone?” Hannah asked.
“In theory, yes,” Harry said. “But in practice, no. Hermione would rip me limb from limb then dance the dance of her people on my grave.” He grinned when Zale couldn’t help but laugh. Dobby appeared at his side and huffed. “Hey.”
“Master Harry…yous not tell me this be a secret.” He crossed his arms in ire. “I be accidently telling Miss Hermione that you be in Crawford with her parents having tea and she’s be pacing and carrying on in empty classroom. I offer her chocolate pie and she said no because it would make her fat!”
“That is a dire situation,” Harry said with some amusement. “Tell her that I’m here about the warding for her house for when she’s home and that I have an escort so she needn’t worry that I’m darting about the country side by myself. Oh, and take her a piece of pie and remind her that she burns three thousand calories a day just walking around being magical. Tell her eating disorders are terribly unhealthy. She’s so crazy but don’t tell her that part.”
“All females be crazy,” Dobby exclaimed and popped away.
“We’ve seen a picture of the pendant in a picture of Hermione from the first Task. She was in the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly,” Hannah said. “I appreciate the magical protections it has on it, Harry, but it’s entirely too expensive. Could the protections be moved to something else?”
Harry set aside his fork and considered that. The bracelet was pretty adamant in saying no. He touched it to calm Phoenix down. “Not all of it and not easily. They’d have be spread out over several pieces and the end result would be just as expensive. She’d lose the discretion ward which I oppose completely. I guess what concerns me most about your request is…that you’ve placed your own comfort above Hermione’s happiness.” He paused when Zale cleared his throat. He glanced towards his vassal and raised an eyebrow at him before focusing on Hannah. “You shouldn’t think that the expense of the pendant is important to Hermione. It is a token of my magical intent and I gave it to her in front of several hundred witnesses. If she suddenly stopped wearing it, many would assume she’d changed her mind about accepting the shelter of my magical House which would be an immense insult for her to deliver on an Ancient and Noble house. She could’ve refused me in that moment with no repercussions for either of us. If she did it now she would be basically telling our peers and the magical world at large that she’d lost faith in me or alternatively, many might believe I withdrew my protection from her which would be a stain on her reputation she’d probably never live down.”
“Don’t have a problem saying what you think, do you lad?” Ryan asked with reluctant amusement.
“If the magical world has taught me in anything is that most people are fickle and self-centered,” Harry said. “I might as well do and say what I want—so no one builds up any unrealistic expectations of me. It’s not really the expense, right? It’s the implications of the pendant itself that concern you?” He focused on Hannah Granger as he spoke. “It’s not some form of payment, you know.”
Hannah flushed and frowned. “A lot of young men your age would consider such a gift…an all access pass.”
“I’m sure,” Harry agreed. “I have quite a few peers who certainly think and feel that way. But then most of them are intolerable gits. Hermione asked me to put a charm on the pendant so you wouldn’t notice it.” He paused when he got looks of shock from around the table. “I thought she wanted it avoid a hassle and perhaps so she wouldn’t have to answer questions about it if members of your extended family saw it. Except she only asked for a Muggle notice-me-not charm which would’ve had no impact on her father.” He sat back in his chair and pushed aside the pie he hadn’t bothered to touch. “I’ve brought my vassals here today because I want to have this house warded against magical intrusion to protect Hermione when she’s at home. Her physical and emotional safety are extremely important to me and the magical responsibility of my Ancient and Noble House. Bill and Thaddeus both worked as warders and curse breakers in the past. With your permission, they’ll get started on that project. They can also ward you against pests and fire.”
“I’d be fine with that, lad,” Ryan agreed.
Harry waited until Thaddeus and Bill were gone and considered asking Zale to step back but he figured he had very few secrets from the man so he shouldn’t bother to keep more than necessary. So he focused on Hermione’s mother and dived right in. “Have I done something personally to offend you, Dr. Granger, or do you just assume the worst of people automatically?”
“Every letter my daughter has sent me since her first year at Hogwarts has been full to the brim with you and that Weasley boy,” Hannah said.
“If I had a mother she could probably say the same in reverse. Hermione is the one person at Hogwarts I’ve always been able to depend on—she’s brilliant and very loyal. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be sitting here if she weren’t both. If I’d gone into the Chamber of Secrets with no idea what was down there—that basilisk would’ve killed me.”
“She said in her last letter that she’s no longer friends with Ron. Is that your doing?”
“Not directly no. Ron chose not to believe me about the tournament and we argued. Hermione never doubted me and that caused problems. He grew extremely irate when Hermione and I started dating and during an argument—he hit her. That’s why they aren’t friends anymore. He’s been punished officially by the Headmaster for his conduct and his father put a magical seal on him that will prevent him from causing her further harm. If he tries to hurt her again—he’ll render himself a squib. Though in retrospect I wish I’d asked Arthur Weasley to send his son to a different school. Every time Hermione sees him, she gets all pale and bright-eyed like she might cry. He betrayed her trust and hurt her a great deal with what he did.”
“She didn’t mention any of that in her letter,” Ryan said.
“I can’t offer an explanation as to why. Perhaps she’s trying to figure out how to tell you about it or maybe it’s too upsetting for her to deal with currently in any form. I don’t know.” Harry took a deep breath and returned his attention to Hannah. “I really wish you’d speak plainly. Hermione always tells me exactly what she’s thinking. It’s a relief. I never have to figure out what I’ve done to make her mad because she just lets me know immediately—complete with hand waving and dire threats upon my head. Last year, I forgot to do a charms essay during Yule break. When she came back to school, she lectured me for two solid hours and threatened to never help me study ever again as long I lived if I didn’t start it immediately and finish it before the first day of the term. I make every effort to be as forthright with her as she is with me.”
Hannah stared at him for a few seconds then shook her head. “I’m beginning to see why she finds you so charming and that’s annoying.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Harry decided and pulled his pie back toward him. “Is this a sex thing? We had a very open and honest talk about personal boundaries and sex when we first started dating. She had some misconceptions about what…well, I’m famous.”
“Yes, lad, we know,” Ryan said with a sigh.
“It’s really horrible, you know,” Harry confided. “To be famous for not dying as expected. They might as well call me the Boy-Who-Didn’t-Get-Murdered and I’ll be stuck with it or some variation of it my entire life. Every single time I hear someone call me the Boy-Who-Lived all I can really think about is the fact that my parents were murdered.” He waved a hand when they all three looked at him, horrified. “But about Hermione and our conversation. She was pretty convinced that in order to keep my attention that she had to give me that all access pass you mentioned earlier. It was terrible but thinking back on it I’m not all that surprised. She’s always had self-esteem issues and from what she’s told me about Muggle school that’s pretty understandable. I didn’t have a great time myself in that regard. Hermione and I have a lot in common—we were both essentially friendless before we went to Hogwarts. We were both raised in the Muggle world and that’s looked down on by practically everyone at Hogwarts—even the people who aren’t blood purist consider it a handicap to be raised outside of a magical household.
“The problem is that Hermione is really smart and normally that’s not a bad thing at all. Except, you made assumptions about her emotional intelligence that were false. You just gave her book on sex and a permission slip for a contraceptive charm.”
Hannah’s mouth dropped open. “She told you that?”
“I’m her best friend—she tells me everything and I tell her everything I’m allowed. I have magical duties to my title and House that leave her frustrated lately but we’re muddling through that together. She doesn’t have any female friends, really, at Hogwarts though I think she’s trying to correct that. I know a full dozen hair charms for braiding because she couldn’t cast them on herself. I went with her to the infirmary during our second year when she got her period and freaked right out after Potions and tried to hide in a girl’s bathroom for the rest of the year. I even learned a few pain relief charms from Madam Pomfrey to help with that because Hermione can’t cast them on herself. I think I might have been her girlfriend before she was ever mine.”
Hannah laughed before she could help herself.
“Right, so we had a talk about boundaries and she had a really long talk with Madam Pomfrey about sex between magicals that was due. A witch and wizard often share magic when they have sex, you see, and Hermione wasn’t aware of that. Sexual intercourse is twice as intimate as a result for magical people. I told her plainly that my erection is not and never would be her responsibility. And that I didn’t have the right to sex no more than she had the obligation to provide it. I think we’re on the same page now but she’s a year older than me and I’m very much not ready for much more than kissing. I’m a virgin and magically it’s important to me that I remain so until which I time I marry. I want a magical marriage, you see and that requires chastity for both the witch and the wizard entering into the ritual marriage. I believe that’s a beautiful thing to have and my parents had a true magical marriage. In fact, per the Potter grimoire, the last ten Earls of Gryffindor entered into marriage chaste and were able to create a marriage bond in ritual.” He paused and looked towards Zale. “Was I too blunt?”
“You often are, my Lord,” Zale said dryly as he glanced over Ryan and Hannah Granger whom were staring at Harry, clearly flabbergasted. “I think, however, you made your point as succinctly as possible.”
Hannah laughed weakly. “Yes, you have. I had no idea you felt that way about…well. Honestly, I had no idea about any of that. Hermione’s never discussed magical marriages with us.”
“Well, we’re young yet which is another reason why it would be inappropriate for us to engage in that sort of thing—sharing your magic with someone is a very intimate experience and either one of us might decide in the future that we’d prefer to just be friends. If we had that much intimacy in our friendship it might make it difficult to remain friends once we were married to other people. I’d rather not ever know a single day when Hermione isn’t my very best friend.”
“We won’t say anything about the pendant though if you could make it less noticeable to Muggles I’d appreciate it,” Hannah said. “I’d hate for someone to try to steal it off of her on the street.”
“The protections on the pendant are punitive but I’ll take care of it when I return to Hogwarts.”
“The first offense is a gentle shove off so to speak but if someone advanced on her more than once to try to take it off of her—it would break bones and eventually maim for life. If someone tried to sexually assault her—it’ll kill.” He paused when Hannah blanched. “The only good rapist is a dead one.” He cleared his throat. “She also can’t give consent if she’s been influenced—alcohol, spell, or potion. It would be difficult to get a potion past her but it could happen. If she’s under the influence the pendant would protect her from any sort of public exposure or penetration whether she appeared willing or not. The discretion ward is lethal as it was designed that way originally and never altered. An attacker would be warned off but it would respond with deadly force if the situation escalated.” He checked his watch. “I’m not exempt from this ward. It would repel me as well. Her body. Her rules. Her choice. That’s how the ward is designed to function. I should probably go. She’ll be pacing a hole in the floor otherwise.”
“Oh,” Hannah said and stood. “You can take the catalog to Hermione. She asked me to pick her one up for the Yule Ball. She said the dress she originally purchased won’t be appropriate because she should wear your House colors.”
“Oh.” He turned to Zale. “Is that a thing?”
“It most certainly is a thing,” Zale said with a sigh. “She shouldn’t wear a dress made by a Muggle designer either—people would be highly offended.” He shrugged when Hannah sat down with a huff. “My apologies but it’s true. She is a member of his magical house and many presume her to be the future Countess of Gryffindor.” He paused when Hannah’s mouth dropped open. “That’s not unlike a princess in magical Britain. The House of Potter is the last surviving house of Avalon and you have the living embodiment of Arthur Pendragon sitting in your garden, madam.”
Harry blushed and frowned. “Zale, don’t tell people that.” He huffed when all three adults laughed. “Seriously. Don’t go around saying that—it’s…”
“True?” Zale questioned. “I got news for you, it’s no secret and you’d might as well get used to it.”
Harry started to respond but tilted his head instead. “There…what…” He stood and Zale stood with him. A chill, familiar one drifted over his skin and sunk into his bones. “That’s…Zale?”
“What?” Zale stepped closer to him. “Are you sensing the placement of the wards? Some magicals are more sensitive to that than others.”
“No, I mean, yes I feel that. I feel them at Hogwarts, too. But this is something else. You need to get Thaddeus and Bill. Right now.”
Harry drew his wand and shifted slowly around the table to stand near Hermione’s mother. Both Grangers stood as his vassals returned. Harry shuddered and exhaled sharply. “It feels like a Dementor.” He bit down on his lip. “No, it feels like many Dementors. Can they be disillusioned?”
“Yes,” Thaddeus said quietly. “In fact, many in Azkaban have been disillusioned for decades. It makes escape less likely—when you can’t even trust thin air not to eat your soul.” He drew his own wand. “How many?”
“I felt this once before—last year,” Harry admitted. “There were at least a hundred that night. You can all three cast a Patronus, correct?”
“Yes,” Thaddeus said shortly. “I made sure. Your experiences with Dementors make them an enemy of the House of Potter, sir.”
“We need a powerful magical focus,” Bill said. “Something goblin made is preferred.”
Harry considered that and took a deep breath. Call the Sword of Gryffindor. It’ll come to you, Phoenix urged in his head. “I think I can provide something…why?”
“We can reveal them all at once by using a containment ward to capture them. The last thing we want to do is divide a pack of Dementors in a Muggle neighborhood. Their leader would lose control over them and there is no telling how many people would be kissed.”
Harry grimaced and glanced towards the Grangers. “I’m sorry. I should’ve taken more care in coming here.”
“Oh, they aren’t here for you,” Zale said grimly. “They’re here for them. Dementors don’t travel fast, my Lord and they can’t be transported with portkeys. They were probably set on this mission days ago.”
“Those…bastards,” Harry hissed. He broke away from the group and before any of his vassals could respond, held out a hand. The Sword of Gryffindor slapped into his hand with a crack of magic and forced apparition. He slammed it into the ground. “Bill?”
“Yeah, that’ll do,” Bill said quickly.
Harry drew both wands and focused on Thaddeus.
“Your Patronus is going to be the most powerful weapon we have that we can use long term. You’ll need to cast it outside the ward to use as a sentry in case they try to break free of it. The containment ward is designed to suck a target into it.” Thaddeus moved slowly until he was standing next to Harry. “I need you to know that you’re our priority. If this situation becomes untenable. I will forcefully remove you from this place.”
“If her parents are kissed, she’ll never forgive me,” he said it plainly. “Protect my life all you want, Thaddeus, but you remember that the very heart of me is currently at Hogwarts doing her best to pace a hole in the castle floor because she’s not here to be in charge of what her parents and I say to each other.”
Thaddeus nodded and turned to Zale. “Once we have them contained, apparate to the nearest floo and contact the DMLE. Request Amelia Bones to come herself. The British Ministry of Magic has just committed an act of war against the House of Potter.” He turned to Harry. “I need you to put a seal on this House. One that marks it as part of your magical domain. Do you understand?”
“Not entirely but I’ll do whatever you think is best.” He paused and prodded the bracelet. Phoenix flowed out and stood in front of him.
“You’ll need one of the ward stones they were using to build the warding system on,” Phoenix said. “The best way to place an estate seal on a dwelling is to draw it into your magical domain.”
“Do I have time to do that?” Harry asked. “Because these things are close—and closing in really fast. I feel like one could reach out and touch me right now.”
“You’re overly sensitive to Dementors,” Phoenix said. “Close your eyes and center your mind. Let your magic investigate what your instincts are telling you. Remember what I taught you about judging distance with your senses. How close are they really?”
Harry took a deep breath and centered himself as instructed. His magic surfaced on his skin—flowing out around him in a brilliant silver mist. Both of his wands started to glow gently at the tip. “Half a kilometer but there are a few who are closer, advanced scout or they’re moving into flank the targets to prevent anyone from escaping the main group. They aren’t hesitating in their pace. Unafraid or unaware that they’re about to meet magical resistance. Can they sense magic?”
“Not as far as anyone knows,” Thaddeus said as Harry opened his eyes and stowed his wands with a flash of magic.
Harry glanced towards Zale and Bill. “The ward stone?”
Bill removed a shrunken trunk from his pocket, expanded it, and lifted the lid. “Can he use the heart of the ward? It would create a far superior foundation to build the warding package on.”
“Yes,” Phoenix and Thaddeus said at the same time. Phoenix offered Banner a grin when the younger man scowled at him. “Don’t get your back up, Banner, I’m a harmless old man.”
“There is nothing harmless about you,” Thaddeus said. “No matter your age.”
Harry took the glowing white ward stone from Bill and turned to Thaddeus. “You’re not actually going to pick a fight with the avatar, right? He’s been dead a while, it would be weird.” He walked to the place where Phoenix was in the center of the patio.
“Put the stone down here. You’re going to have to use blood magic to do this,” Phoenix said. “It’s going to be quick and dirty but it must be complete otherwise the Ministry might protest your claim. You have legal standing due to you having drawn their daughter into your magical House. Most believe her the future Countess of Gryffindor and that works in our favor. As long as we have the property sealed before a single Dementor crosses the ownership boundary then they’ll pay dearly for this. They won’t be able to sweep it under the rug or deny it happened no matter how much Fudge might try.”
Harry knelt and put the ward stone down. He drew an athame from his bracelet and took a deep breath. “The first rune is Odal for my magical estate, correct?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Thaddeus said quietly. “Do you need the wording?”
“The bracelet has already provided it,” Harry admitted. He carved the first rune into his palm, on the plump base of his thumb. “Eihwaz for strength. Algiz for defense.” He carved them carefully with more confidence than he felt, ignoring the way his magic surged inside him as blood fell from his hand and onto the stone. “I am nauthiz for endurance and tiwaz for honor.” He took a deep breath and pushed the pain aside. “Hermione is ehwaz for her loyalty and mannaz for her intelligence.” He stored the athame in his bracelet and lowered his hand to the stone. He placed his hand palm down and the stone darkened with blood and magic. “I, Harry James Potter, the Earl of Gryffindor and Regent of Pendragon, do lay claim to this land and declare it in all ways known to magic to be part of my magical domain. Rebus magicis.” He lifted his hand as magic seeped out of the stone and bled out in all directions from him like a swift river. He stood, blood trailing down his fingers and focused on Bill who was a dramatic shade of pale. “Your turn.”
“Right,” Bill murmured. He cast the containment ward with a few deft movements of his wand and nodded.
Zale moved across to stand beside Harry. He turned so they were back to back and drew his wand.
“There,” Harry murmured. “They’re here.”
“The moment they cross the boundary of the seal they’ll be drawn into Bill’s ward,” Thaddeus explained quietly. “Be ready, my Lord.”
Harry drew his wand, the black wand eagerly soaked up the blood of his freely bleeding wounds but he ignored it. It couldn’t be more binding due to the magic they’d already done on it so it didn’t matter. Phoenix walked across the expanse of the patio and disappeared back into the bracelet. “Please do not speak of the avatar to the ministry people. It is the private business of my magical house.”
“Of course,” Hannah whispered as her husband pulled her closer. “Would we be safer in the house?”
“No, we’re safer where we’re visible to the people with wands,” Ryan said quietly.
The ward field snapped like a twig and the screaming started. It took just seconds for the first Dementor appear inside the ward. Dozens appeared thereafter, screaming and rushing at the ward repeatedly. Harry felt the change when the last of them was contained, why they hadn’t turned and ran rather than cross the ward was a mystery. He raised his wand and cast his Patronus. Prongs burst out, hooves clattering on the patio stones. The stag pranced to the ward and huffed at the crowd of Dementors. He prodded the ward with his antlers then turned to Harry.
“Just don’t let any of them escape,” Harry said.
The stag lifted one leg and bowed elegantly at the instruction.
“Your Patronus is sentient?” Bill demanded.
“That’s not even the most interesting thing about him magically,” Thaddeus said dryly. He glanced towards the Sword of Gryffindor which was projecting the containment ward. “Zale.”
Wright nodded and disappeared without a sound.
“I thought Muggles couldn’t see a Dementor,” Hannah said in shock.
“The ward is making them visible to you, ma’am. Are you alright?” Bill asked as he grabbed her elbow to steady her. He led her to a chair and helped her sit.
“I’m fine,” Hannah said weakly. “This is what…this is what tried to kill you last year, Harry?”
She scowled at the Dementors then. “Hermione said they were horrible. They actually had these things at the school? This is an outrage! They’re monsters!”
“Soul eating monsters no less,” Harry said.
Ryan Granger moved across the patio and stopped to stare at the sword in his grass. “Before those bastards from the Ministry arrive,” he began and turned to Harry, “could you confirm what I suspect?”
Harry grinned. “Yeah, it’s exactly what you think it is.”
“Can I touch it?”
“Not at this very moment but after the Ministry retrieve their little monsters, you can hold it. It won’t hurt you.”
“What?” Hannah asked.
Ryan huffed. “It’s Excalibur, Hannah.”
There was a noisy little pop from the front yard and Albus Dumbledore came around the house at a near run. “Harry!”
“Here, sir,” Harry said and waved. “Look what we caught.”
Albus huffed and stared at the ward bubble full of Dementors. “Son of a bitch.”
“That’s about right,” Harry agreed.
“You’re bleeding,” Dumbledore exclaimed and came forward.
“Oh, we need to heal this before Bones and that arsehat Fudge gets here,” Harry turned to Thaddeus and offered his palm up.
Thaddeus drew his wand. “Bill clean up his blood. Leave no trace of it behind that can be retrieved or accessed.” He cleaned Harry’s hand as he spoke and healed the wounds with a low hiss. He turned to Dumbledore. “How did you know?”
“Fawkes told me. He had a burning day so he couldn’t come himself. But the sword was in my office. It’s highly magical and I took the time to learn the signature in case I needed to track it.”
Harry frowned at him.
Dumbledore raised a placating hand. “I’ll share that information with no one, I swear it on my magic.”
Harry watched the oath settle, shocked and relieved at the same time. He nodded and glanced towards Prongs who was picking on the Dementors. “Stop being a bully, Prongs.” The stag snorted and stomped one foot in ire but stopped prodding the wards with his antlers. “And don’t tear up Dr. Granger’s lawn.” He grinned when the stag snorted again and glared at him. “Yeah, your life is so hard. See if I let you out to run around the Forbidden Forest again.”
“What’s an arsehat?” Dumbledore asked in the silence that followed.
Harry winced. “Did I say that out loud?”
He nodded. “It means that Fudge’s head is so far up his own bum that he’s wearing it for a hat.”
Dumbledore stared at him briefly before bursting out into delighted laughter which set the rest of the adults off. And that’s how Amelia Bones and half a dozen Aurors found them—laughing like a bunch of loons in a yard full of pissed off Dementors.
“What is going on?” Bones demanded as Fudge came around the corner of the house with a pack of Ministry officials.
Harry glared at him. “Minister Fudge, who has authority over the Dementors?”
Fudge pulled off his hat. “Well, Harry, that’s…”
“Lord Potter,” Thaddeus corrected. “You are to address the Earl of Gryffindor properly, Minister Fudge. The ministry has insulted him quite enough for one day.”
Fudge flushed with anger and huffed dramatically. “The Dementors are controlled by the Warden of Azkaban officially. They can and often are put under the authority of the DMLE or the Office of the Minister as needed, Lord Potter.”
Harry nodded. “Like when you lot tried to hunt down and murder my innocent godfather.” He looked towards the Dementors. “Whose orders are they under right now, I wonder? Who would send them to a Muggle neighborhood? Specifically, to the house of my girlfriend.” He focused on Amelia Bones. “Had we not been here today, they’d have been kissed.”
She paled at his obvious fury. “I will, of course, investigate the matter thoroughly.”
“Well, there is no need for that,” Fudge exclaimed. “This is obviously some misunderstanding…” He trailed off when Harry glared at him. “Lord Potter surely you don’t expect the DMLE to waste resources investigating this. They’re Muggles.”
Harry inclined his head and his gaze narrowed. “You’re a real bastard, Fudge.” He just shrugged when most of the adults in the yard stared at him in shock. “Dobby,” he said quietly and elf popped into place beside him. “Tell Chieftain Ragnok that I need to speak with him. It is very important.” The elf disappeared. Harry turned and stared at the adults in the garden. “It crosses my mind that there hasn’t been a day since the night my parents were murdered that I could trust the Ministry of Magic to act in my best interests. You demand the unspeakable of me on a near daily basis and you can’t even be bothered to respect me, my magical house, or my legacy.” He held up a hand when more than one adult started to speak. “There is nothing you could say that would make me less angry about this obscene situation.”
Ragnok appeared in a flush of magic. “Lord Potter, are you all right?”
“I’ve made my decision,” Harry said plainly.
Ragnok inclined his head. “I see. And your choice?”
“The Earl of Gryffindor is both honored and humbled to accept the position as Patron of the Goblin Horde.” He held out his hands and the goblin took them. Harry knelt. “My magical House shall serve with honor, Chieftain.”
“The Horde welcomes the Earl of Gryffindor to the Board,” Ragnok said gravely. “May we prosper in the years to come both in times of peace and war. Let it be known to our Lady Magic that Lord Harry James Potter has the most righteous of paths and that the Horde shall stand with him in times of peace and war.”
Magic rushed between them and when it settled, Harry stood and released the elderly goblin’s hands.
“The Ministry of Magic let loose a bunch of Dementors sometime in the last week and sent them here to this house.”
“A house that is obviously part of your magical domain,” Ragnok said. “That’s certainly untoward.”
“Yes, most certainly. As far as I’m concerned they attempted to murder the Grangers.”
“And this house belongs to the parents of your future Countess?” Ragnok asked.
Harry just inclined his head. “Perhaps that is the case. Though if her parents had been kissed today I have to think she would’ve ultimately blamed me for it. Even our friendship wouldn’t have survived that which makes this not only an attack on my magical house but on a relationship I hold quite precious.”
“No, I agree.” Ragnok rocked back on his heels. “As you have domain over this land through magical claim and these dark creatures have invaded—you can consider them a hostile force and as such the Ministry of Magic has declared war on your magical house. The Horde will, of course, follow you into war. We haven’t had a good rebellion in generations.”
Fudge made a horrified choking sound as the goblin clapped his hands in relish.
“Minister Fudge has made it clear he sees no reason to investigate this incident to determine how it happened,” Harry explained.
“Then we must assume the worse,” Ragnok decided. “In the absence of information, Lord Potter, it can only be assumed that the Ministry acted officially on this day against your Ancient and Noble House.”
“They are obviously a rogue element,” Fudge exclaimed. “Outside of our control.”
“If that is so then you may punish all responsible as you will, Lord Potter,” Ragnok said slyly. “Per the Dark Creature Act of 1658, the Lord of an Ancient and Noble House, such as yourself, may defend his magical domain in the manner he sees fit in the event of an invasion by dark creatures.”
He strode across the yard, his Patronus fading as he drew his wand. He shoved the gleaming black wand right into the ward. “Expecto Patronum!” Prongs appeared inside the ward, twice as big and glowing bright like a star. “Kill them. Kill them all.” He pulled his wand free and took a deep breath as the Dementors started to scream. The Patronus charged into them repeatedly, ripping them the shreds with his antlers, stomping the ones he put down on the ground until nothing was left but ashes.
Harry walked to the sword and touched it. The ward faded and Prongs snorted in amusement. “You’re welcome.” The Patronus faded from view and Harry turned to face Fudge who was pale and trembling with horror. “I suggest you find out who ordered those Dementors here, Minister Fudge. In the absence of a target, I’m going to assume that every single person who works at the ministry is my enemy. You have twenty-four hours to resolve this matter to my satisfaction. Should you fail, I’ll have no choice but to contact the Queen and declare the Ministry of Magic unfit to manage Avalon. That’s just one of my magical rights as the Regent of the Pendragon legacy.”
He pulled the sword from the ground and magic rushed around him. It danced along the blade and more than one person took a step back. The sword disappeared with a little turn of his wrist. “Chieftain Ragnok, I’d originally tasked Bill and Thaddeus with warding this house and land. With their help, how many goblins would you need here to erect war wards? I’ll also want their work place protected.” He turned to Ryan Granger. “You own the building your surgery is in, correct?”
“Yes, lad, we do,” Ryan said. “I’ve three other dentists on site and a support staff of ten. No one on my staff is aware of magic.”
“We can handle the warding while you’re closed and only someone magical would notice them. The wards on your business will be intent based,” Bill explained.
“You’ll need four warders,” Ragnok said. “I’ll send them along in a few moments. You’ll want to clear off the riff raff, Lord Potter. The team won’t be able to start building the ward with those you distrust on the property.” He disappeared with a flush of portkey magic.
Harry turned to Fudge. “He meant you, if that wasn’t clear, so go away.”
“What is this Patron business?” Fudge demanded.
“Go ask someone who is required to answer to you,” Harry snapped.
“Minister, you should leave,” Amelia Bones said. “This property is part of Lord Potter’s magical domain and he’s made it clear you’re no longer welcome here. Without an order from the Wizengamot, you are violating the Noble Protocols. No matter his age, you must remember that he is the Regent of Pendragon and ranks above all other Ancient and Noble houses.”
Fudge huffed, turned on his heel, and stalked off. Bones waited until the Minister and the people he’d brought with him left before she turned to of her Aurors. “Kingsley, go to the DOM and report this situation to Croaker. Tonks, clean up the Lord Potter’s mess. There is no need to leave Dementor ashes all over Dr. Granger’s lawn. Dawlish, go to Azkaban and get a Dementor head count. Get the visitor log, I want to know who from the ministry visited the prison in the last six weeks. Find out when these Dementors left Azkaban and confiscate any records the warden might have regarding chain of custody regarding Dementor use off site. As far as I know, only Fudge and Umbridge regularly call those foul bastards from the island.”
The sound of apparition in the back of the garden caught all of their attention. Hermione released Minerva McGonagall’s hand and hurried up the path towards him. “Harry James!”
Harry scrunched up his nose in thought. “Dobby told on me?”
“Yes,” Hermione exclaimed exasperated. “Dementors really?” She hugged him as soon as she could. “Did you hear it again?”
“Yeah,” he admitted and took a deep breath when she frowned. “It’s fine.”
“It is not,” Hermione said crossly. She turned to Amelia Bones with a glare, the air stirred around her and caught her hair. “What are you doing about this nonsense?”
Bones blinked in shock. “We’re…investigating, of course, and the person or persons responsible will be prosecuted accordingly for whatever charges we can file, Lady…Miss Granger.”
“Well do be sure to include torture!” Hermione snapped. She rummaged through her pocket of her jacket and pulled out a chocolate bar which she shoved at Harry. “Thaddeus Banner! How could you let him stay here?” She glared at the man in question.
“I’m actually the boss of them,” Harry pointed out dryly as he unwrapped the chocolate but took a hurried bite when she turned her glare on him. “Don’t look at me like that, Mi, I’ve had a terrible afternoon. Fudge was here and you know I hate that git. And there were like sixty Dementors. Also, your mother thinks I’m a terrible person who is trying to buy your affection and perhaps sexual favors with diamonds.”
“I do not,” Hannah protested and raised an eyebrow when Hermione turned to glare at her. “We’re fine if you’re at all concerned, Hermione.”
Hermione huffed. “Of course you are, Harry would never let anything happen to you if he could stop it.” She turned back to Harry. “We should get you a dreamless potion for tonight and I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were coming here.”
“I’m just endeavoring to take care of my magical responsibilities like you said to do,” Harry protested. “I made a list. Remember?”
“Well, I didn’t read it which was obviously mistake. I’ll review it when we return to school,” Hermione said with a frown. She turned to Bones again. “The Earl of Gryffindor relives the murder of his mother repeatedly in the presence of a Dementor. What happened here today was nothing short of psychological abuse!” She paused as adults all over the garden paled at her words and four goblins appeared on the patio. “Oh. You did it.”
“Of course I did,” Harry said. “Look at what that terrible, no-good, foul git did!” He waved a hand as if to encompass the entire situation. “I’ll have nightmares for weeks thanks to this dragonsh—.” Her hand clamped over his mouth.
“Do not curse in front of my mother,” Hermione hissed. She lifted her hand when he huffed.
“Go tell Bill, Thaddeus and the goblins what sort of protocols you want on the wards. Make them as lethal as you’d like. Tell the goblins I’ll pay for a portkey ward as well.” He paused when she released his hand and marched off towards his vassals. “And don’t be mean to them.”
“If they can’t handle me they had no business swearing themselves to our house,” Hermione decided.
Harry turned to face his head of house. “Ma’am.”
“I’ll let Poppy know you’ll need the dreamless potion,” Minerva said shortly. “Finish your chocolate like a good lad.”
Harry frowned and took another bite of chocolate then turned to Ryan Granger. “Wanna see me out fly a dragon?”
“Yes, I do,” Ryan said.
Hermione huffed at them both. “Do not encourage his nonsense, Daddy!”
“Witch Weekly said my efforts in the first task were valiant!” Harry called after her.
“They meant foolish and dangerous!” Hermione returned over her shoulder as she followed Banner around the corner of the house.
Harry turned to Zale. “I’m pretty sure they meant heroic and hot.”
Zale grinned and offered Harry his fist. They exchanged a fist bump much to Ryan Granger’s amusement.
Monday morning he found himself in the Headmaster’s office with the rest of the Champions listening to Headmaster Karkaroff complain about Harry’s vassals. Thaddeus was leaning on a wall near the floo practicing his bored expression. Dumbledore was listening patiently as Karkaroff hadn’t allowed anyone to say a word since he’d gotten started nearly fifteen minutes before.
Crouch looked confused and Fudge was there for some reason that Harry didn’t particularly understand. Ludo Bagman appeared to be a nervous wreck. Madame Maxime appeared more interested in staring at Thaddeus than actually paying attention to Karkaroff.
“And he’s in violation of the tournament rules by seeking help with the tasks!”
“Oh.” Harry leaned forward and grinned. “Does that mean I’m going to be disqualified? Because that would be fantastic.”
Dumbledore sighed. “No, Harry, I’d have to cancel the entire tournament if that were the case. All of the Champions have received outside help. Cheating is practically a tradition in the tournament.”
“Ah, too bad,” Harry slouched down in his chair.
“Have you no honor?” Karkaroff demanded.
“Don’t talk to me about honor,” Harry said lowly. “You’re a coward and a Death Eater. What could you possibly know about honor? You raped, murdered, and pillaged your way through Europe while enslaved to a half-blood psychopath with daddy issues. Honestly, I don’t how you even live with yourself.” He stood and focused on Dumbledore. “For all of his complaints, as varied and paranoid as they were, Headmaster Karkaroff didn’t point out a single rule I’m in violation of that the rest of the Champions aren’t in violation of as well. But moreover my training as a peer supersedes any preparation that I’ve done for the tournament and that is beyond the purview of anyone in this room. I don’t want to be in this stupid tournament. I don’t want to win this stupid tournament. It’s a waste of my time and dangerous. Frankly, being me is dangerous enough without the manufactured danger of the tournament. He’s accused Thaddeus of threatening his Champion and that’s true—he did. But not for tournament matters. Viktor decided that he wanted to date my girlfriend, you see, so he tried to order me to force Hermione date him.”
He paused when the Headmaster’s mouth dropped open. “I told him no and he attempted to physically intimidate me. Thaddeus interfered as he is magically bound to do as he is a sworn vassal of my Ancient and Noble house. It is his duty to protect both myself and Hermione Granger due to her status as a protected member of the House of Potter. The fact is that Viktor is a grown man and he has no business whatsoever expressing romantic interest in underage witches in this school. Hermione made it clear to me that she wasn’t interested in spending time with Viktor. She also made that clear to him. He doesn’t seem to care which makes him a predator as far as I’m concerned.”
Dumbledore turned to glare openly at Krum for the first time since the conversation began and the Bulgarian flinched. “You will mind yourself in this school, young man. If you hurt a young woman in my care there won’t be enough left of you to bury properly.”
“Oh, come on, Dumbledore, Viktor would never hurt a witch,” Karkaroff exclaimed.
“While I can’t protect the rest of the witches in this school directly, Headmaster,” Harry began. “I have taken steps to protect Hermione Granger.” He turned and focused on Karkaroff. “So, if your champion puts his hands on my witch—he won’t live long enough to regret it.” He raised an eyebrow when the Bulgarian started to scoff. “She’s wearing a war ward and it is heavily fortified in a variety of ways to protect the honor of the House of Potter. As far as I’m concerned, the protection of Hermione Granger is the primary concern of my magical house. Therefore any and all threats to her person, her freedom, her magic, and/or her general happiness are to be considered intolerable.”
“You’re nothing but a boy,” Karkaroff sneered and reached for his wand.
“He’s young,” Thaddeus Banner murmured. “But he’s three times the wizard you are and he’s just fourteen. The problem becomes Karkaroff that he’s going to grow up and he’ll grow up faster than any of you are prepared for. The Earl of Gryffindor might have spent the last thirteen years without the support he deserved but that is no longer the case. If you draw your wand on him, I will cut off your head.” He smirked when everyone in the room focused on him. “I can’t abide a Death Eater so I won’t need much of an excuse.”
“Dumbledore, I insist you bar this man from the castle!” Karkaroff snapped.
“I’m afraid, Headmaster Karkaroff, that I cannot order a sworn vassal of the Earl of Gryffindor from the castle.” Dumbledore offered him an eye twinkle. “You see, Hogwarts is part of the Gryffindor Trust. To refuse a vassal of his House is to refuse the support of the Earl himself and that would result in the closing of my fine and beautiful institution. If you don’t want Master Banner’s attention—I suggest you and your students behave.”
– – – –
“So, Gryffindor?” Harry asked.
Phoenix smirked. “I saw the bracelet on his portrait in the Ministry every day for decades while I worked there. Duplicating it wasn’t exactly difficult, you know. Mithril doesn’t age so I didn’t have to worry about it appearing to be too new or too old. The portrait was very helpful in showing me all the angles. It is an exact duplicate of the one he wore, right down to the spaces between the runes. No one would ever guess it’s not the one he wore. I figured having some sort of historical record of the device I used to store myself in would only be to my benefit.”
“But if he’s asked, won’t he say that it was just a bracelet?” Harry asked.
“There’s nothing to say that I wasn’t put into the bracelet sometime after Gryffindor’s death. Besides the portrait refused to discuss the origin of the bracelet when I asked him,” Phoenix said. “I’ve been purposefully vague regarding the age of the bracelet and you’re not allowed to say so it’ll work out just fine.”
“What was the smudged name in the Book of Souls?”
“Only part of the first letter was left—an H. I assumed it to be Hermione as there was no other man or woman in my life that I came close to loving with a name that began with the letter H.”
“Man?” Harry asked curiously.
“Oh, lad, I’m not sure you want to know.”
“I really do,” Harry said with a little laugh.
“I was lonely—I had lovers of a variety you might say. Gender wasn’t all that important.”
“Oh.” Harry flushed. “Zale. That’s why you were so happy to see him…wow. He’s really good looking.”
The avatar flushed and averted his gaze. “We met shortly after I was free of my marriage to Ginny Weasley. He was with me for many years but it wasn’t any sort of grand love for either of us. It was…we were just very good friends who had sex. The man that cursed me—killed me slowly. He took Zale out first.”
“And you killed that git, right?”
“Yeah, I sure did, kid,” Phoenix assured.
“Will you tell me who it was?” Harry asked.
“Ron cheated on Hermione practically from the day they got married. He fathered a child. That boy, Joseph Brown, grew up hating me. His mother twisted him up—made him believe I was responsible for his father’s death. I wasn’t but not for my lack of planning. It was no secret to anyone that Lavender Brown had Ron’s bastard child. I found it wasn’t even a secret to Hermione. It’s why she refused to have children with him. Between Lavender and Molly—they corrupted that boy so much that he was immersed in the dark arts before he ever left Hogwarts.”
“Do you think the changes that we’ve already made will prevent his birth?” Harry asked.
“The likelihood that they’ll have a relationship and create exactly the same child again is exceedingly unlikely,” Phoenix murmured. “But they had a romance of sorts sixth year. I don’t know how his behavior will impact that. A lot of witches would shy away from a wizard who’s known to hit women. Lavender’s never had a self-esteem problem so I can’t see her trying to have a relationship with him after that.” Phoenix motioned to the floor. “Let’s review the runes one more time then you can attempt the spell.”
“If I fail?”
“We’ll keep working on it. It’s not super important that you master this now but it can’t hurt to continue working on drawing your ritual circle. Ritual magic often takes place in prepared, permanent spaces but you must be prepared to draw your circle anywhere at any time in case of emergencies.” They both paused when there was a sharp knock on the door. Well, it would probably look like a wall to the person on the other side. Phoenix disappeared with a flush of magic.
Harry went to the door and opened it. He wasn’t at all surprised to find all three of his vassals, Remus, and Padfoot standing there. Remus had a piece of parchment in his hand. “How did you get that?”
“Sirius had a copy in his vault,” Remus explained. He folded the map and passed it to Thaddeus who was openly glaring at Harry.
Harry scrunched up his nose and stared pointedly at Thaddeus. “I have an extended curfew, you know. I don’t have to be in the Gryffindor dorm until eleven. It’s just nine-thirty.”
“When I checked your location charm—you were showing up unplottable, my Lord. Your safety is my job.”
“He always falls back on my title when he’s pissed at me but is trying to remind himself he probably isn’t allowed to spank me,” Harry told Remus in confidence. “Come on in then. This is the Room of Requirement. I don’t have private space at Hogwarts, you know, and there are some things that I need to do and practice that no one needs to see.”
Sirius changed as soon as the door shut. “We searched for this room for seven years. How did you find it? Even the map just showed it as nothing—which was weird seeing your name in what looked like a wall.”
“You should’ve asked the elves about the Come and Go Room,” Harry offered. “It can be anything you want it to be at any given time. I can probably even practice for the second task in here but at the moment, I’m going to try my first ritual.”
“If it’s not a problem, we’d like to stay,” Zale said.
“Sure, fine,” Harry said with a small sigh. “Just so you blokes know that none of you are invited on my honeymoon with me.”
“There are some firsts a man should be allowed to have …you know with just the other person involved.” Harry waved a hand and went to the cistern that was practically glowing with magical waters. He shed the ritual robe that Dobby had procured for him and set it aside.
“Trying ritual magic by yourself is not…safe,” Thaddeus began and sighed when the mists of the cistern stirred and rose up around Harry. “This room is very handy.”
“Yes, it is and I’m not actually alone. I wasn’t before you came either. The bracelet is capable of calling Dobby if there is a problem and Hogwarts is watching over me as well. She’s very concerned about my well-being and I’m entirely sure the Headmaster knows exactly where I am. The castle doesn’t keep secrets from him that way. He doesn’t know the substance of my activity in this room but he knows my physical location.” He stepped out of the cistern. “This is my first time calling forth my ritual circle so it would be great if I could have silence while I try. I more than welcome your commentary after the fact. I learn better with feedback.” He got nods from each man and he stepped into the rune matrix he’d drawn on the floor with his magic.
Naked, Harry knelt in the center, drew the Blackwood wand and took a deep breath. “Quoniam mirificavit praecantatio.”
He drew a single rune in the air in front of him and there was a low thud as magic settled heavily on him. The air shifted, thick with it and magic heaved around him gently—pulsing at the rhythm of his heart. It was startling because he’d gotten it right on the first shot. Magical communion was the first step for many practitioners but he worried that he’d not accomplish it as quickly as Phoenix indicated he would. He held the spell as long as he could, allow wild magic to sweep in and out of his body as he communed with the source of his power. The magic treated him gently, as if he were a favored child just as Phoenix said it would. He ended the spell with a slash of his wand through the rune that had stayed in the air in front of him and magic swooshed around him briefly before disappearing.
Harry inclined his head and lifted one dark eyebrow in Bill’s direction. “Really?”
“Really,” Bill assured.
Harry pulled on the robe and fastened it with steady fingers. It had felt right—powerful but not so powerful as to look completely insane. “Phoenix tells me I should embrace my power—explore the magic I’ve been gifted with instead of ignoring it unless I need it. He says magic is a gift, not a tool.”
“I don’t disagree,” Thaddeus said quietly.
“But you’re concerned,” Harry said. He used his wand to dispel the ritual circle he’d painstakingly created and focused on his senior vassal. “The influence of the bracelet bothers you.”
“I can’t say it doesn’t,” Thaddeus said. “You listen to it—first. You take its advice more seriously than you do anyone else’s. You capitulate to its wants.”
“Now, that last part is completely untrue,” Harry declared. “If I did that, I’d be in Azkaban awaiting a farce of a trial regarding the murders of a half-dozen people—among them Severus Snape and my Muggle relatives. His first priority is to the safety of the House of Potter and he considers Snape an imminent threat. I don’t disagree. Phoenix thinks I should kill him, and I’d like to, but honestly I doubt I’d get away with it.”
The room provided a couch a few chairs. Harry dropped down in one of them and everyone else followed. “So, anyone else concerned about the bracelet?” He focused on Sirius.
“Without its knowledge, you’d have died during the settling of your magical legacy,” Sirius said bluntly. “If you had survived without its influence, you’d have been rendered an insane squib. That being said, I’ve not seen you without it since you claimed your ring. Can you take the bracelet off, Harry?”
“Yes,” Harry murmured and easily pulled the bracelet off. He placed it on the arm of his chair. “But no one should try to take it from me. It is entailed to the Potter estate with the same spell as my Lord’s ring and would react accordingly.” He left the bracelet on the arm of the chair and focused on Remus. “What about you?”
“Out of everyone here, I’ve spent the most time with you,” Remus said. “I don’t see any dramatic changes to your personality or magical power. You were a powerful baby as well. Academically, in my class you were well above average but I’d heard from other professors you were a bit uninspired by the class work.”
“Lazy,” Harry corrected. “But…and I’m not offering excuses here, I learned early on in life that success would just come back to hurt me. Vernon Dursley took great pains to remind me that a freak wasn’t better than his normal, perfect son. The first and only time I brought home better marks than Dudley—he beat me unconscious and I didn’t eat for three days.” He averted his gaze at the fury none of them could hide. He rubbed his knee nervously. “I…by the time I got to Hogwarts, I was very used to underperforming. It’s not that I don’t know the material, you see, I just didn’t perform well in class to avoid standing out, being noticed more than I already am. Sometimes, I’m not very good at holding back. I have a difficult time especially in transfiguration so I try to make sure Hermione finishes a project before I do. It’s…I’m working on it. Phoenix helped point it out to me actually as he reviewed my memories so we could refocus my educational efforts for the tournament and beyond.”
Remus nodded. “It’s teaching you, right? You’re more refined and it’s not altogether the clothes.”
“Some but that’s mostly Zale. Phoenix is more interested in boring me out of my skull with history lessons and Wizengamot law. He’s making me read a book on courtroom etiquette at present. He’s also keen on ritual magic and magical theory—both of which are what he calls Legacy Magics for the House of Gryffindor.” Harry frowned. “And everyone—please stop calling him “it”. Phoenix is a person—he lived once. His life was full of betrayal and heartbreak, you know. It eventually led to his murder. He sacrificed his magical essence and soul to create the bracelet so that those that came after him would be better prepared for the world. He is extremely loyal and dedicated to the survival of the House of Potter.”
“I trusted you, Thaddeus, because Phoenix told me I could,” Harry said plainly. “That’s true for every single person in this room. The fact is that I don’t have a lot of experience with adults I can truly trust. He’s part of my family magic and if I can’t trust my own family magic then I have to wonder…if I can trust anything or anyone in this world.”
Bill leaned forward and took a deep breath. “Right. Is there anything particular you’d like to explore in ritual magic that the room can’t provide?”
“Well, it can’t give me a real adder stone which is why I asked you to buy one. I’ve been interacting with a very good representation of one for practice so I’m looking forward to that. The room has also let me play and chat with a variety of snakes though none of them are quite the real thing so I can’t get a feel for the species I’d prefer to have. I do know I want a magical one–one I can use in ritual magic. Some of the higher parselmagic arts will be unavailable to me without a snake.” He scrunched up his nose and focused on his godfather. “How painful is the animagus potion?”
Sirius sighed. “It’s honestly nothing you couldn’t handle, lad. But I’d rather you didn’t do it. There is no need to suffer like that for an accomplishment you can earn on your own with hard work and good mental discipline. I know you’re capable of it on your own.”
“I don’t disagree with that but…I also have to accept the knowledge that time is a luxury for me. If my form is useful as far as the tournament goes or could be helpful in defending my life then going about it the long way wouldn’t be to my benefit.”
Sirius stared at him for a minute. “If I say no—will you have your girlfriend brew it anyway?”
“No, I’d probably pout a lot and bring it up often until I get my way. I would eventually because you have a guilt complex and think I’ve been deprived all of my life.”
Sirius snorted. “Merlin, this honesty thing you’ve got going on is more entertaining than it should be. Why not have Hermione brew it in secret? She brewed polyjuice as a second year—I know she could handle it.”
“She’d insist on being there when I take it,” Harry said. “Then she’d probably blame herself for the pain it caused and she’d get mad at me. There is no need to cock block myself before I’m even old enough to get laid.”
“I can’t disagree with that at all,” Sirius said and frowned. “Do you need the sex talk?”
“No, I do not,” Harry said immediately. “I’ve had it three times already. Granted the one I got from Uncle Vernon was sexist and terrible but Thaddeus filled me in on sex between magicals and all of that. Plus, Phoenix filled my head with a bunch of stuff I probably didn’t need to know at my age or maybe ever.” He rubbed his knee in thought. “I do want to talk about the second task though.”
“You’ve solved the clue?” Thaddeus asked.
“Yes, they’re going to take something or someone from me and I’ll have an hour to retrieve it. I have to assume there will be stringent safety measures in place for the hostages if they do take people. Traditionally, the second task is a hostage situation. Since it is in mermish, I think the hostages will be in the merpeople village in Black Lake. I’ve never been taught to swim but I have a few months to get a handle on that. I need to learn to cast underwater—the bubble head charm, a shield spell, a warming spell, and at least one offensive spell. There are a lot of things in the lake that aren’t going to take our invasion with any sort of grace.”
“You think they’ll take Hermione,” Lupin said.
“She’ll be the easiest person in my life to get to and if I know anything about wizards, it’s that they’re lazy.” He shrugged when they all glared at him. “Prove me wrong.”
Remus laughed. “No, you’re right. She’s probably the choice they’ll make—she’s your girlfriend and a protected member of your house. It makes her the ideal hostage for you in the second task.”
“I could try to forbid her inclusion,” Harry said. “But Phoenix is worried that it might be considered interference and that would risk my magic.” In tapped his fingers on the chair arm. “To that end, I’d like one of you to have a health monitoring charm on her—insist on it with the Headmaster. If her life becomes endangered during the task, you’ll retrieve her regardless of the rules.”
“I’ll speak with Dumbledore about it,” Thaddeus said. “It’s my duty to protect you both and he knows it. He also knows that allowing her to come to harm would go very badly for him.”
Harry nodded and focused on his godfather. Sirius sighed.
“I’ll get the potion but you can only take it once and you won’t do it alone. If your form proves useful, we can force your transformation with a spell after the potion runs its course. It’s how your father learned because he was impatient and frankly spoiled rotten. His mother sent him several doses of the potion without even asking him why. I learned through meditation. We eventually did the potion routine with Peter as it was obvious he was never going to learn. It took your father just a few months to master the transformation wandlessly using the potion and forced transfiguration.” Sirius frowned. “But being animagus is a huge magical responsibility, Harry. If your form is powerful or magical—you’ll be changed by it.”
“Like you were?”
“Yes, it changed me,” Sirius admitted. “I have a frankly horrific relationship with Death. And I mean that literally—Death, the actual guy. He chatted with me often when I was younger and helped me escape Azkaban. He’s a real snarky bastard. There have been times in the past, before I went to prison, that I acted as his harbinger.”
“That’s pretty cool actually.”
“Kids,” Sirius said with a sigh. “At any rate, if you have a powerful or highly magical form you will be at its mercy at times. Once you wake the animal in you, it won’t ever sleep again. With meditation, you can choose to let your form go but with the potion—it’s an instant awakening. There’s no going back.”
“Traditionally, the Potter and Gryffindor lines are avian or mammal,” Harry said. “I read it in the grimoire. Horses, stags, cats, hawks, eagles…etc. Even Godric Gryffindor, a parselmouth, was a lion. But if I’m a snake, I’ll deal with it. I’m going to embrace my magic, Sirius, and all that comes with it. It’s my duty to my family to survive and the more I learn the better prepared I’ll be to fight Tom Riddle. He’s not going to kill another Potter.”
Harry sat down with Hermione in his first potion’s class since he claimed his title and waited. He’d taken a full week off of school to deal with his title with the Headmaster’s approval and he’d been excused from all assignments. He figured Snape was furious and he wasn’t wrong. The man was glaring at him.
“Our celebrity returns,” Snape said icily. “I suppose I should call you Lord Potter.”
“Yes and thank you for asking,” Harry said and opening his book. He ignored Hermione’s intake of breath and waited for Snape to move on.
“Take off the bracelet, Lord Potter,” Snape ordered sharply. “I won’t have you cheating in my class.”
Harry gamely took Phoenix off and put it on the corner of the table he was sharing with Hermione. “It’s entailed to my estate, Professor.”
“Five points from Gryffindor for giving me information I don’t need,” Snape said lowly and walked away.
Hermione retrieved their ingredients for the pain relief potion they’d been assigned and he prepared them as carefully as he could. Cleaning his work area repeatedly as he worked. Their potion turned out fine which was nothing unusual with Hermione as his partner. She bottled four samples—two for Snape and two for her own records. She’d been doing it since her first year when the potion’s master had made the mistake of failing her on a potion. She’d protested the grade with the Headmaster and had been awarded an O. Snape had left her alone after that but she still kept samples of all of her assignments.
Snape drifted over to their station like a vicious little storm cloud and Harry was reminded of a story book Dudley had, had in primary school. He wondered if Snape had ever read Winnie the Pooh. He turned to Hermione to ask her if she’d read the books when Snape snatched the Phoenix bracelet off the desk.
The man screamed bloody murder as light and magic arced off the bracelet and his body. He passed out just as the door opened in the back of the room and Thaddeus Banner entered.
Harry sighed and stared down at Snape. “I guess it was information he did need.”
“What did you do, Potter?” Malfoy demanded.
Harry plucked the bracelet from Snape’s limp, blackened fingers, and put it on. “He tried to take an entailed family heirloom, Malfoy. I didn’t have to do anything. Surely, you understand how familial magic and entailment works.”
Draco flushed brightly and averted his gaze. “Shut up, Potter.”
“Watch your mouth, Scion Malfoy, or you father will have to be notified of your foolish and disrespectful behavior,” Banner ordered. He looked down at Snape and sighed. “This actually pisses me off. Is he dead?”
“No, but he sure will wish he was once he wakes up,” Harry said. “Poppy is probably going to have to amputate most of his wand arm.”
– – – –
“The brat had no business wearing it in class!” Snape shouted. “It’s dangerous. It shouldn’t even be in the school!”
“You can’t presume to tell the Earl of Gryffindor he can’t wear an object entailed to his magical house through familial blood magic,” Remus said evenly. “You were told it was entailed, Snape. You had no business whatsoever attempting to take it from Lord Potter. You’ve paid for your arrogance and this is just the beginning.”
“What do you mean?” Snape demanded.
“We had to bring in a goblin healer to prevent the curse from taking more than your arm,” Dumbledore said quietly and they both watched the color drain out of Snape’s face. “Severus…how could you be so foul as to curse an eleven year old boy with the intent to rob him of his magical legacy? The goblin recognized your magic immediately—they’ve been hunting for your signature since they lifted the curse from Harry.”
Remus glared at Snape, eyes sparking gold as he attempted to keep his temper in check. “I used to pity you, you know. I believed it when I heard you’d been forced to take the Mark by your mother. I believed you loved Lily—even when the two of you argued and you called her a mudblood. She forgave you almost immediately, you know. She played the part—to keep you safe. She considered you her friend until the very day she died. I wonder, Severus, what she must think of you now? You verbally abused and bullied her son and cursed him. You committed a gross act of magical abuse on the last scion of the House of Potter. Harry is the living embodiment of Arthur bloody Pendragon, you fool.”
“It’s his fault she’s dead,” Severus snapped. “If he hadn’t been born she would’ve lived.”
“Actually,” Albus said carefully. “It’s your fault Lily Potter is dead. You’re the one that ran to your Dark Lord and told him what you overheard of the prophecy, Severus. It’s your fault he targeted the Potters and the Longbottoms. All of these years, I had faith in you. I believed you when you said you sought redemption. I defended you against old, dear friends who told me you couldn’t be saved from yourself. I stood up for you when the Wizengamot wanted to put you on trial despite the fact that you’d acted as a spy for both myself and the Unspeakables during the war. And this is how you repay me?”
“No,” Dumbledore said. “I’ll hear no excuse from you, Severus. Did you curse anyone else? Have you cursed the staff? Other students? Or did you save that for Harry Potter? He told me, you know. He told me that you hated him and I didn’t believe him.” Dumbledore turned away from him. “Get him out of my school, Mr. Wright.”
Zale dropped a goblin made portkey on Snape and the potion’s master barely had time to blink before he disappeared. “He’ll be interrogated.”
“I’m sure the goblins will be thorough,” Albus said. “I trust you’ll inform Lord Potter of what the goblins have learned?”
“He won’t be surprised,” Zale said. “I think he let this play out instead of naming him immediately to the goblins to spare you, Headmaster. But I believe even you knew this was coming.”
“I didn’t want to believe it,” Dumbledore admitted. “I’m an old man, Mr. Wright. I’ve made mistakes.”
“I hope you don’t think I’m going to placate you, sir. Your crimes against the House of Potter are outrageous. He forgives you and frankly that is the only reason why you’re not in a shallow, unmarked grave in the Forbidden Forest. You should remember that in the months and years to come. You live by the grace of the Earl of Gryffindor. Any one of his vassals would cheerfully murder you and go to Azkaban for it—for the abuse he suffered at the hands of his Muggle relatives, for the fact that you left a Death Eater in this school who cursed our Lord and nearly destroyed his magical legacy. You allowed his Patriarch and legal parent to rot in prison without a trial. You allowed a teacher possessed by Tom Riddle to teach him. He was nearly killed by a basilisk, almost kissed by Dementors, and now this tournament? If this is how you endeavor to keep him safe, I’d be horrified to know what your version of neglect looks like.”
They all three turned and found Harry standing there. “My Lord,” Zale responded.
“That’ll be quite enough, I think,” Harry said. “There is need to rub salt in already festering wound.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Zale said and turned away from Dumbledore. “We’ve delivered Snape to the goblins via portkey.”
“How much of his wand arm did he lose?”
“Past the elbow,” Remus explained. “But frankly it matters little as he will not survive the day in the goblin’s justice system. His actions could’ve cost them a great deal of money.”
Harry nodded and sat down beside Dumbledore on the cot the elderly wizard had retreated to. “Do you wish me to intercede on his behalf?”
“You would?” Dumbledore questioned.
“I would try if you wanted,” Harry admitted. “I’m not sure, even as their Patron, what that would mean.”
“It speaks to your incredible character that you would offer,” Albus murmured. “But I wouldn’t ask such of you, Harry. The man has done great wrongs to your house. I should’ve seen it—his corruption.”
“What is worse, I wonder?” Harry asked. “The ability to believe in the redemption of another or the lack there of?”
“Do you think redemption impossible?”
“I think some actions are truly unforgivable,” Harry said finally. “I wonder how many of my peers will grow up to be Death Eaters because of their parents influence and decisions. I wonder how many of them can be turned from that harsh, ugly path full of death and destruction.”
“What do you wish of me Harry?” Albus asked.
“You’re keeping secrets.”
Harry nodded. “Secrets about me? About Riddle?”
“I have secrets, too,” Harry said. “Some are…quite terrible truth be known. The Gryffindor legacy isn’t as snowy white as some would like to believe. I have a duty to my magical House to keep those secrets. What is your duty?”
“To serve magic—the greater good.”
“Phoenix is fascinated by the diary from my second year—he’s reviewed my memories of my interactions with it quite thoroughly,” Harry watched Dumbledore pale. “He’d like you to know that if you think my scar is similar to that diary—that you’re mistaken. He understands why you might have thought so and believes that’s one of the reasons why’ve not confided in me on the matters of my own mortal enemy.”
Dumbledore closed his eyes and rubbed his face with one trembling hand. “I…is he sure?”
“Yes, we can have the goblins check as well if it concerns you. They’re quite adept at soul magic after all.” Harry settled his hand on Dumbledore’s. “I’m going to ask you to confide in Thaddeus. He is the most level headed of my vassals and isn’t likely to transfigure you into something ghastly and leave you like that for years.”
“I’m going to ask you not to lie to him or evade his questions,” Harry continued. “Can you agree to that?”
“Very well.” Harry stood and frowned. “Now, what are we going to do about a Potions professor?”
“I’ll teach until we can find a replacement,” Albus decided. “My third mastery was in Potions you know.”
“I do know. Hermione informed me that you have masteries in all of the core subjects taught at Hogwarts. It’s sort of crazy but I figure in between wars you had a bit of time on your hands.” Harry took a deep breath. “Though I can certainly handle my peers and their rabid disapproval, I would consider it a favor if you would announce that what has happened to Severus Snape is his own doing. I have quite enough to put up without having to worry about a bunch of Slytherins planning my murder more than normal anyways.”
Albus started to protest.
But Harry merely smiled at him. “Can you honestly say without a single doubt that there aren’t students in this school that would do me grievous harm if they could get away with it? I couldn’t, which is why Thaddeus is following me around the castle like a stalker.”
“I’ll make an announcement.” Dumbledore paused. “An honest announcement.”
Harry laughed and nodded. “Very well then.”
“Would you do me a favor?”
“If I can.”
“Could you have the goblins send your Lord’s Vault to you? Many of the students in the castle will never see one and perhaps seeing yours and seeing where the bracelet came from will help.”
“I have no problem with that,” Harry agreed. He turned to Zale. “If you would go to Gringotts and retrieve the vault I would appreciate it.”
– – – –
“Many of you over the last week have questioned why you never discussed Lord Potter’s place in our world with him. Some of you found his lack of knowledge concerning protocols frustrating but could not bring yourself to bring it up to him. There are those that perhaps even feel guilty for ignoring his nobility outright but you are not to blame. Before he was even Sorted, Lord Potter was cursed—a curse designed to destroy his family magic as well as his place among the noble houses. He circumvented the curse on his own—claiming a title that even I, as his magical guardian, could not speak of to him. I tried several times. I, four times during his second year, planned to address the student body to remind you all that he is the blood and magical heir of Godric Gryffindor himself but each time the curse he was laboring under dissuaded me. Even after he claimed his title, it was extremely difficult to discuss it with him and we sought out the goblins for their help. They were able to lift the curse but to be perfectly honest, it nearly killed him.”
Dumbledore paused in his narrative and took off his glasses. He cleaned them as he gathered his thoughts. “Frankly, he lives only by the grace of Magic herself. Lord Potter is uniquely gifted by our Lady Magic—both in magical power and in strength of character. None of us are perfect, of course, and he’s no exception. What he is, however, is forgiving and that is a rare thing in our world. In my ignorance, I’ve done him and his magical House harm. He has forgiven me though I shall tell you all that I do not deserve it.
“This morning during Potions class, Lord Potter was wearing a bracelet he found in his Lord’s Vault. It’s a dimensional store. It was created by a member of his family long ago and has been part of his magical legacy for many generations. In fact, the portrait of Godric Gryffindor wears the bracelet in question. I asked his portrait about the bracelet and he was…” Dumbledore smiled briefly. “Less than forthcoming about it. He told me it was a Lord’s Secret and he was not allowed to discuss it with anyone. The magical properties of the bracelet are not for us to know. Professor Snape asked Lord Potter to remove the bracelet and he did so. He also warned everyone in the room that the bracelet was entailed. Some of you raised in Muggle homes might not understand what that means—it means that that the object has been bound to a family with magic and blood. Professor Snape ignored this information and he took the bracelet from Lord Potter—and the bracelet defended itself from that theft. Some of you bore witness to this act and can attest to the fact that Severus Snape was warned and ignored that warning utterly. What he got for that arrogance was no less than what he deserved.
“Once we began treating him for his injuries, it became clear that we’d need outside help and Madam Pomfrey contacted the goblins who are most adept at dealing with such spell damage. During treatment, the goblin healer discovered a magical signature the goblins have been searching for…the magical signature of the person who cursed Lord Potter and nearly destroyed his magical house. As such, the Goblin Horde demanded that Professor Snape be turned over to them for trial. As many of you know, due to our treaties with their nation, I had no choice but to comply. As such, Professor Snape will not return to Hogwarts and his fate is the business of the Horde. Professor Sinestra will take over as Head of House for Slytherin and I will teach Potions until a suitable replacement can be found.
“Lord Potter has agreed to show you the Lord’s Vault for the House of Potter as I realize for many of you this is something you’d never see under normal circumstances.”
Harry stood from his place at the Gryffindor table as the Headmaster conjured a small table at the front of the room in front of the teacher’s table. He pulled the vault from his bracelet and placed it in the middle of the table. “I wasn’t able to open the vault until I claimed my ring. It was originally enchanted by Godric as the practice of having an inheritance vault became popular while he was the Earl of Gryffindor. There wasn’t a lot in it, to be honest. I sort of expected it to be packed full of interesting things but I’ve learned that the vault isn’t some kind of treasure box but more a repository of magical legacy. There is a letter from Godric Gryffindor in the vault. It’s charmed to remain with the vault for eternity.
“I found a letter from my own father with his final instructions should he not survive the war and I had to claim my title young. The Potter Grimoire was in the vault and is spelled to return to the vault if it leaves my possession for a certain period of time or in the event of my death. The bracelet works the same.” He drew a wand from the bracelet and displayed it. “This wand was in the vault but there is no information concerning where it came from or who carried it first. Godric Gryffindor didn’t carry it but some seven generations after his death, the first Lord Potter retrieved it from the vault and carried it. My grandfather used it but it never worked for my father. It’s not really a surprise. My great-grandfather, Charlus Potter, was a latent parselmouth and this wand is made of South American snakewood with a basilisk heart string for its core. The wand is entailed much like the bracelet and the Potter Grimoire and it will return to the vault in the event of my death.”
“Will you put anything in the vault?” Cedric Diggory asked from his place at the end of the Hufflepuff table.
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “It greatly depends on the life I lead and what I feel I should pass on to my son or grandson. It’s about preserving the legacy of my family—Pendragon, Gryffindor, Peverell, and Potter.” He put his hand on the vault and it opened with a swish of magic. “Even open—only I can see the contents. The magic you see stirring around it is a blood ward activated by my touch. When I close the vault, it will transport itself to Gringotts.”
“Why would you wear the bracelet when it has a dangerous spell on it?” Draco demanded.
“I don’t expect everyone to understand this,” Harry began and cleared his throat. “But I’m the last of my line and I’m alone in my family magic. I’ll be alone until I marry and have children. The grimoire, the wand, the bracelet, and other items I’ve inherited from my ancestors are tangible connections to people I’ll never know in this life. Entailment spells are dangerous and they are never applied to items without a great deal of thought and care. The bracelet is part of my magical legacy and I’m entitled to it.”
“And if hurts someone else?” Draco asked, stubbornly.
“It will defend itself from theft. If you don’t want to get hurt by it – don’t try to steal it. In fact, honestly, you should endeavor to not steal from anyone. It’s a terribly crass thing to do.”
Dumbledore snorted and offered Harry a wry grin when he looked towards the elderly wizard. “Did anyone else have any questions?” A few hands went up and Dumbledore looked them all over before making his choice. “Yes, Miss Bones?”
“Was there anything else interesting in the vault?”
Harry bit down on his lip in indecision but then decided it wasn’t a secret exactly. “Yes, the very first time turner. It was created by one of my ancestors and is the only one in existence outside the control of the ICW due to its heirloom status. My family grimoire also included the instructions on how to make more should I be asked to. It is a task I can refuse to do. The magic used to create time turners is patented and protected family spell.”
Her mouth firmed up. “And yet another thing Severus Snape would’ve stolen from our world if his curse had he succeeded in destroying your magical house.” She turned and glared at Draco Malfoy. “Stop trying to defend him, Malfoy. Snape attacked and nearly destroyed the only surviving noble house of Avalon! It’s a crime against magic—what he did.”
– – – –
“I want to talk to you.”
Harry sighed and closed the book he was reading. Their dorm was empty except for him and Ron—Dean and Seamus were probably in a broom closet and Neville was in the showers. “About what?”
“It’s not fair what you’ve done, Harry!”
“What have I done?” Harry demanded. “That’s unfair to you?” He rolled off his bed and tossed the book aside.
“Hermione! You had no business making Hermione part of your magical house!”
“Why?” Harry asked. “Why are you so opposed to it, Ron? I didn’t do it to gain her romantic attention and would’ve accepted nothing more than her friendship the rest of her life if that’s what she wanted. I brought her into my House to protect her and how exactly is that unfair to you? It just keeps her safe!”
“Of course she’s going to want to be with you now,” Ron said snidely. “You have money and power—that’s what witches like.”
“It’s not about that and you know it,” Harry scoffed. “Hermione has her own money, Ron. She doesn’t need mine. She’s pretty girl and she’s going to be a beautiful woman. Any wizard would be lucky to have her time or attention. She doesn’t need to chase after a wizard to take care of her or provide for her. She can do that all on her own—that’s why she’s amazing. She doesn’t need anything I have and she thinks my fame is ridiculous. This tournament? She’s been researching for weeks trying to find some way to get me out of it without damaging my magic because she thinks it’s stupid, too. I brought Hermione into my house to protect her with no expectation of anything more than her friendship. I consider myself fortunate to be her friend.”
“She’s a Muggle-born!” Ron burst out. “And she’s mine! I decided last year to marry her after Hogwarts.”
Harry made a face. “Ron, Hermione thinks you’re a git. A lazy git. She’d never marry you given a choice. She’s so completely out of your league.”
“You’ve given her choices and protections she shouldn’t be allowed,” Ron said tightly. “I’m a pure-blood, Harry, and she’s mine. Right now, my father is interfering but he won’t always have the ability to make me do what he wants. When I turn seventeen, the spell he used on me will expire and then I’ll take her from you. She’s mine and I’ll do what I want with her. It’s my right and she doesn’t have a choice!”
Harry barely glanced Neville’s way when the door opened. “Ron, I’m going to say this once and you’ll never get another warning. If you ever try to hurt Hermione again, I’ll kill you. Your mother won’t be able to gather up enough of your parts to bury you properly and I’ll gladly go to Azkaban for it.” He held up a hand when Ron started to speak. “No, this conversation is over. Remember what I said because I mean it. I will bathe in your blood. It’s not a threat but a promise. You can complain about it if you want or run tell your mummy but in the end you won’t be any less dead if you do something stupid.”
Harry checked his watch and left the dorm without another word. He made it out of the common room without anyone stopping him and half way to the room of requirement, he called Dobby. The elf appeared beside and started walking. “I need to see Bill and Thaddeus. Tell them I’m in the Come and Go room.”
Fifteen minutes later, he wasn’t at all surprised when all three of his vassals, Sirius and Remus showed up.
Sirius flushed. “We can go if you really only want Thaddeus and Bill.”
“No, it’s fine,” Harry said as he paced around the pensieve the room had given him. “I put a memory in the pensieve.”
“Is it something you’d prefer only Bill and I see?” Thaddeus questioned.
“I don’t care. I just needed you both here because of the situation. You because you’re my senior vassal and Bill because it involves Ron.”
Thaddeus nodded and activated a series of runes on the pensieve. The memory spilled out and filled the room. He watched it dispassionately and didn’t bother to look contrite when Sirius looked at him shocked at the blatant murder threat. The memory ended and Harry considered what to say—to explain the fury in his gut and the way his magic was pushing at him.
Thaddeus grabbed him, cupped his head with one hand to hold him still. He stared long at his face. “Scale of one to ten, how close were you to killing him in that moment?”
“Eight,” Harry answered honestly. “It won’t take much, at all, for me to blow when it comes to him. He makes my magic hurt.” He ignored the intakes of breath. “I don’t understand.”
“You took a young, vulnerable witch into your family magic,” Thaddeus explained. “All of your magic is focused on her because it sees her as the future of your house—the mother of your children. In ancient family magics, like yours, it is very common for the senior most powerful witch in the house to become the focus of every wizard in family. It’s why sons are often so over protective of their mothers. It’s the leading cause of patricide in the magical world—the son coming to view his father as a threat to the Matriarch of the family. The entirety of your family magic is focused on Hermione Granger because as most might presume her to the future Countess of Gryffindor—your magic has claimed her so.”
“Yes, that sounds right,” Harry admitted. “What does that mean?”
“That means my little brother is going to get himself killed,” Bill murmured. “Your family magic could lash out at him if he becomes a threat to her placement in the House of Potter. Other wizards would be…just as vulnerable to such magics if they expressed sexual interest in her.”
Harry flushed. “That sounds like I’ve made some primitive claim on her for breeding rights.”
“You did,” Thaddeus said bluntly. “That is exactly what you did.”
Harry huffed and jerked free of Thaddeus. Phoenix flowed out of the bracelet and he glared at the avatar. “Explain yourself, immediately!”
The avatar blew air out between his lips. “It wasn’t my intention and that isn’t how the vow you did works, lad. You find her attractive—mentally, emotionally, and sexually.”
Harry flushed. “Yes, of course I do. Why wouldn’t I? But I don’t understand how that translates into this.”
“Harry,” Sirius sighed. “You’ve claimed your title and in doing so you woke up very ancient family magics that have slept since your father’s death. The title will make demands on you magically and personally—chief among them that you father an heir as soon as possible. There is a reason why James and Lily married immediately after Hogwarts and why you were born just ten months after that marriage ceremony. Family magic pushed him to father a son.”
Harry ran a shaking hand through his hair. “And in my first act as the Earl of Gryffindor, I claimed my best friend.”
“And I view Ron as a threat to my breeding rights?” Harry asked aghast.
“I think that your magic is telling you he is a very serious threat to Hermione,” Sirius said. “If it were just jealousy we could manage it. But it’s not that simple because you know she doesn’t want him. Which makes him an entirely different kind of threat.”
“My father needs to see this memory,” Bill said. “He needs to know exactly what my mother has made of Ron. He knows it’s bad and that Ron is a selfish little git. He has no idea, however, that it is this bad.”
Harry nodded. “Fine. But let’s keep that whole breeding rights thing among ourselves, okay? I’d rather Hermione didn’t know.”
“Oh, lad,” Phoenix sighed. “Don’t you think she’s already figured it out?”
Harry groaned, threw himself down on a sofa and covered his face. “Is that why she offered me sex?”
“She what?” Sirius asked, shocked.
Harry let his hands drop into his lap. “Not exactly sex but she was under the impression that it was basically what I was due and she was obligated to provide me as much sexual contact as I wanted. I didn’t even know what to do with that situation so I took her to Poppy.”
“Your girlfriend offered you sex and you took her to a mediwitch?” Sirius asked. “You’re a better man at this moment than I ever have been, lad. I mean that.”
Harry flushed. “Hermione has a lot of self-esteem issues, Sirius. She suffered a lot in Muggle school and never really made friends before Hogwarts. Being friends with me and Ron alienated her at Hogwarts and it doesn’t help that she’s smarter than all of our peers. The ones that don’t resent her for her friendship with me—resent her academic accomplishments or worse they don’t think she’s entitled to them because she’s Muggle-born. Taking what she was offering would’ve been abusive. I don’t know that she’s emotionally mature enough to even have the relationship we’re currently having much less add any sort of physical intimacy into the mix.” He shot the older man a look. “She was quite irritated to find that there were no books on the subject of boyfriends in the library. Last week I caught her with a year’s worth of Witch Weekly. She also recently had a very serious discussion with Lavender Brown regarding lip gloss charms. She took notes. I liked it much better when she didn’t much care that she was a girl.”
“You took a very mature stance on the issue,” Remus praised.
“Thanks,” Harry said and shrugged. “She’s my best friend, you know. I’d ruin anyone else who abused her trust. How can I hold myself to a lesser standard?” He focused on Thaddeus. “Though I guess there is some magic at play as well?”
Thaddeus grinned. “I suppose one must take into account the fact that she is your Lady and your family magic would never allow you to disrespect her in such way. Taking a witch’s virginity in a broom closet is crass as hell.”
Harry huffed. “I didn’t lie to the Grangers. I do want a magical marriage. I’m not going to lose my virginity in a broom closet either. I can be adult about this, you know. I have a hand, a really good lubrication charm, and an ancestral bracelet full of pornographic memories.” He waved Phoenix. The avatar just smirked when all the wizards glared at him in turn. Harry laughed when the avatar returned to the bracelet. “Relax, it isn’t like he’s shown me anything really deviant. Though I do have a really profane and sort of dirty question.”
“My favorite kind,” Sirius said with a laugh.
“It’s about anal sex,” Harry said.
“Oh, I should answer this one,” Zale decided.
“Does it hurt and if it does, why do you do it?” Harry asked in a rush and blushed when Zale’s eyes went a little wide. “It just looks like it hurts, that’s all.”
“The bracelet showed you gay sex?” Sirius asked, a little horrified. “It knows you’re straight, right?”
“I’m pretty sure I’m bisexual actually—considering how often I’ve wanked thinking about Oliver Wood since second year,” Harry said quite earnestly. “And I’m not honestly interested in anyone else but Hermione. I’m just curious.”
Zale sighed. “It’s…yes, it can hurt if you aren’t properly prepared. Even when you’re prepared for it—and there are charms for that—penetration can burn. Some men enjoy it and some men don’t. It’s all individual. Prostate stimulation is…”
“Fantastic,” Harry assured. “It isn’t like I’d need a partner to figure that out, Zale.”
Sirius covered both his face with both hands and slumped down on the couch. “God, James would kill me.”
Harry stared at his godfather for a long moment then turned to Remus. “I’d have never thought him a prude.”
“He’s a pure-blood,” Remus said dryly. “They’re taught from the cradle to never discuss sex—not even the sex they have.”
Harry laughed and shrugged when his godfather huffed at him. “I’m sorry. I just it sort of explains the incest, doesn’t it? I mean if you can’t even talk about sex without freaking out then I imagine no one has had that whole ‘hey, you guys should stop sleeping with your cousins’ talk.”
“What’s wrong with marrying a cousin?” Sirius asked.
Harry stared. “Muggles discovered quite a while back that having children with people you are closely related to will cause genetic mutations and conditions.”
“Magicals don’t mutate like that.”
“Squibs,” Harry said succinctly and watched his godfather’s mouth fall open. “Exactly. Pure-blood families are breeding themselves into extinction because they think Muggle science doesn’t apply to them. And of course, magicals mutate. Have you seen Vincent Crabbe? Or Marcus Flint? I think Flint’s parents must be brother and sister. He looks like a troll and I know from trolls.” He huffed. “I need to buy Hermione a present. A sorry-I-unwittingly-claimed-you-for-breeding in front of everyone present.”
“Honestly, lad,” Sirius said with sigh. “It’s not like you insulted her and don’t give anyone but especially a woman a gift when you feel guilty. Give her presents because you want her to have them but never because you feel you have atone for something. If you think you owe her an apology—then make one but don’t cheapen the words with a gift like you have to buy her forgiveness.”
“Okay,” Harry said with a frown. “I mean. I don’t want to buy her forgiveness but my Uncle Vernon always gave my Aunt Petunia flowers when he apologized or upset her.”
“I think we all agree that it is preferred that you not take a single lesson in being a man from Vernon Dursley,” Sirius said shortly.
Harry frowned and nodded. He looked away from them all. “He hit her once. I was pretty young—maybe five? The years before Hogwarts are starting to sort of blur for me. I think family magic is muting them or something. I don’t know how. Anyways, he hit her once and I remember thinking—good, now she knows how it feels. I felt terrible afterwards—like I was the worst person on Earth. Her face was bruised for days and he was gone from the house for a whole month. I hoped he’d stay away forever but she let him come back and made him apologize to her in front of me and Dudley. She said that a good man would never hit a woman and she wanted to make sure the two of us knew that.”
“And what did she say about him hitting you?” Remus asked.
“That I was a freak and I deserved it,” Harry shrugged. He started to say more but there was a brisk knock on the wall. He stayed where he was while Remus went to answer it.
Minerva McGonagall entered with a frown in place. “Did you threaten Mr. Weasley?”
“Yes,” Harry admitted. He waved towards the pensieve. “I was just showing the memory of the incident to Bill. Would you like to see it?”
Thaddeus activated the memory and McGonagall was still frowning when it ended. She paced around for a few minutes before focusing on Bill. “Is that true? The behavior spell your father put on him will fade?”
“Yes, he’s underage and family magic wouldn’t let us put anything permanent on him at this point. He doesn’t know it but when he turns seventeen, he’ll fall under the family seal my father placed regarding Harry. That seal does not currently include Hermione.”
She nodded and took a deep breath. “He’s dangerous to her—far more than I suspected. I thought he was just jealous of Harry, again. But this is more than that.” She turned to Harry. “That diamond you have on her. It’s large enough for a discretion ward. I want you to take it to the goblins and have it spelled with one.”
“She already has a discretion ward, Professor,” Harry said and watched her relax. “I take my responsibilities very seriously where Hermione is concerned.”
She nodded. “Elsie.” An elf appeared in front of her. “Get the Headmaster—tell him I need to see him right now and show him where I am if he’s forgotten again.” The elf disappeared before turning to them again. “Hogwarts encourages some people to forget the room exists. She’s…selective about the people who are allowed to use it.”
The Headmaster arrived rather quickly but was clearly dressed for bed. His evening clothes were even more outrageous than the stuff he normally wore in public. Harry watched the memory play again, anger pooled in his gut as Ron made his threat again. Every time he heard the arrogant little git claim Hermione he wanted to find him and take off his head.
Dumbledore stared at him for a long moment and sighed. “I commend you, Lord Potter, on not acting on your obvious fury. I trust you are in here and with your vassals to prevent acting against Mr. Weasley?”
Harry cleared his throat. “I have no other place in the school that is private so, yes, I came here so Ron wouldn’t find me and finish the argument. Apparently he went to tattle on me instead.” His gaze dropped to his lap and he unclenched his fists. “She’s wearing a discretion ward and I’ve told her not to take it off under any circumstances. I used my family wand—the one entailed to my estate to put the ward on her.” He paused when they all gaped at him. “Is that a problem or just another layer of medieval behavior on my part?”
“It’s pretty medieval,” Bill said with a wry grin. “But it’s smart. Entailed wands are rare because it takes a great deal of power to subdue a wand enough to place the entailment spell. Using it ensures that no one can alter or change the ward but you and you can only do it with the family wand.”
“Mr. Weasley’s interest in Miss Granger is unsettling,” Dumbledore murmured. “He doesn’t even see her as a person but as a thing that he already owns.”
“Moreover, he considers it his right,” Harry said quietly. “Is that just pure-blood entitlement or something else? He’s said more than once that she’s a Muggle-born and doesn’t deserve to be a part of a Noble house as a result.”
“Drawing her into your house was a savvy decision,” Dumbledore said. “She’s the brightest witch of the age and quite powerful. Many might have sought to use her for their own gain or to bolster their family magic. Traditionally pure-blood families sometimes take half-blood or Muggle-borns into their families enrich their family magics.”
“Doesn’t that taint their line?” Harry asked.
“Oh, lad,” Sirius said with a sigh. “It isn’t like they’d allow any children. My cousin Andromeda wasn’t disowned until she actually gave birth. If she’d just married him, his magical gifts would’ve been added to our legacy and not a single word would’ve been said but she got pregnant and gave birth to a half-blood child which was unforgiveable.”
Harry turned to Bill and glared at him. “Is that what your mother had planned for Hermione?”
He already knew that was truth of it but he wanted to hear it come out of Bill’s mouth.
“I have to think it was,” Bill said. “We didn’t question her much about Hermione after she revealed her plans for you. My father had to be given several calming potions during the conversation. Using a potion to subjugate a peer is…a high crime. She’d have ruined our whole family if she’d gotten caught. She’s not allowed to leave the house without supervision at this point and he’s considering a divorce but without a marriage bond he can’t use family magic to prevent her from acting out against you.”
Harry frowned. “I don’t want him to suffer in a marriage he doesn’t want just to protect me, Bill.”
“He considers it a matter of honor,” Bill said. “I’ve tried to discuss it with him, to develop more options but he’s not budging on it right now.” He glanced towards the pensieve. “This bullshite with Ron isn’t going to help at all.”
“I have an idea but it’s extreme by anyone’s measure of it,” Harry said.
“More extreme than the discretion ward she’s already wearing?” McGonagall questioned.
Harry shrugged. “That would just kill him. That might even be a relief compared to other punishments he could suffer for coveting my Lady.” He prodded the bracelet with his magic and the avatar appeared in front of him. “Well?”
Phoenix rocked on his heels as he made a show of thinking about the suggestion Harry had yet to verbalize. “It would reveal the depth of your contempt for Ron Weasley. There would certainly no going back from it—moreover you’d be telling everyone who witnessed it that you don’t trust Ron to act honorably with witches. It could destroy him socially and make other witches reluctant to trust him.”
Harry stood up abruptly from the couch and huffed. “He’s a half a step from being a rapist! What she wants doesn’t matter to him at all. His complete lack of respect for a woman’s choices makes me want to castrate him!”
“I’m not at all opposed to that,” Minerva McGonagall said and every wizard in the room turned to look at her. “Because I agree. He is a rapist in the making. Her desires, goals, and dreams don’t matter him in the least. If he would treat a young woman he’s been friends with since he was eleven this way—is a single witch in this castle safe from him in that regard?”
Bill’s gaze dropped to the floor and he took a deep breath but his magic flashed over his skin regardless. “We’d never get away with cursing him that way. Castrating a pure-blood wizard or even causing semi-permanent impotence is a life sentence in Azkaban. There are witches in that prison right now because they caused permanent injury to a wizard’s reproductive organs during an attack. It can’t even be done in self-defense.”
“Right.” He turned to Sirius. “What would you do?”
“I’d kill him,” Sirius said plainly. “But you’re not old enough, yet, to call him out and duel him properly. Moreover, you have twice his magical power so you’d look like a bully and a tyrant. Conservative pure-bloods would be outraged that you’d dare defend a Muggle-born witch in a formal duel.”
“They can all kiss my arse,” Harry said without hesitating and winced when McGonagall huffed at him. “Bum?”
“No, lad, only arse will do in that circumstance,” Minerva said with a sigh. “Lord Black is right—you’d suffer for it politically and socially the rest of your life. Which could damage your ability to protect your family in the future. I think you’re savvy enough already to know that you’ll have to play their games to protect the life you want in the future.”
Harry nodded. “Then I only have one option, really.”
“Yes,” Thaddeus said and Harry focused on him. “You have to be clear and concise. I’ll get Piper because what you have to say has impact on her. It’ll impact any witch Bill marries as well not that it really matters considering their familial relationship. Are you sure this is the route you want to go?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “He’s a threat and sees me as an enemy. He’d use her against me if he could. I don’t see that getting better with age.”
“It will impact his children as well,” Thaddeus cautioned.
“I can’t imagine him raising a son I’d allow anywhere near a daughter of my house,” Harry said evenly. “Will it impact anyone else in the House of Weasley?”
“No, just Ron and anyone that descends directly from him,” Phoenix said. The avatar turned to Dumbledore. “He’s entitled to it but wasn’t going to ask. After he does this, he will require private quarters. Our family magic won’t allow him to sleep in the same room with this boy.”
Albus sighed. “Harry, my boy, call your elf.”
“Dobby.” The elf appeared immediately. He was dressed in a pair of combat boots and a miniature set of military fatigues.
“What…” Minerva started and turned to Harry.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Harry protested. “He’s on a mission and needed a proper uniform for it.”
“You should see his ninja outfit,” Zale confided. “It’s great.”
“Dobby be very stealthy ninja,” the elf declared.
“Dobby, Lord Potter will be moving into the private suite in Gryffindor. You’ll see to his things being moved and the rooms prepared for him?” Albus questioned.
“Yes, Dobby do it,” the elf popped away.
Harry turned to Bill. “You should get your father.”
– – – –
Hermione looked up as the Headmaster, her Head of House, Harry, all of his vassals, Arthur Weasley, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black entered the Common Room. Piper Banner entered last and gave her a brief nod. It was really the only heads up she was going to get she figured. The older woman had been instructing her on her role within Harry’s house and the future they both assumed to be hers. She touched her pendant and glanced at Neville who had told her about the ugly argument Harry and Ron had before he’d left the dorm. Ron was playing a game of chess with Seamus.
Harry came to her and offered her his hand. She took it immediately. He helped her stand and led her away from the rest of the people in the common room. Everyone was stopping what they were doing, it was kind of unnerving and scary but she trusted Harry so she said nothing. Harry released her hand and Piper came to stand beside her.
Harry focused entirely on her and his skin took on a faint glow. It was familiar—he’d had the same gentle glow on his skin the night he’d taken her into his house in front of the entire school. A small fear coiled in her belly but she refused to give in to it. Harry wasn’t going to throw her out of his house or anything like that.
“I, Harry James Potter, the Earl of Gryffindor declare Ronald Bilius Weasley an enemy of the House of Potter. He is to be considered undesirable and intolerable by every single magical person within the embrace of my family magic. He is not welcome among us in any way. No witch within my magical House will seek him or his direct descendants as a spouse, a lover, or a friend. I deem him unsafe and his company unsavory.”
“Your will be done, my Lord,” Piper said without hesitation.
Hermione took a deep breath as she came to terms with just how much of a threat Harry considered Ron to be. It was a terrible realization and it hurt. “Your will be done, my Lord.”
Harry gave her a nod before turning to Ron who was a rather dramatic shade of white. “You are now and forever shall you be my enemy. I will meet any threat from you against my family without hesitation and I will give you no quarter. This is your only warning, Ron. Every witch within my magical House is off-limits to you in every single way. You will not speak to Hermione. You will not touch Hermione. You will avoid even looking at her if you know what is good for you.”
Hermione noted that every single witch in the room was looking at Ron with something close to horror. Like they knew something she didn’t and that bothered her a lot. Piper’s hand slipped in hers as if the witch realized she was about to ask a question. She felt her face heat and Piper just squeezed gently.
“You can’t just…” Ron trailed off. “I’m a pure-blood. You can’t insult me like this!”
“Oh, he can,” Neville assured. “Let it be known that the House of Longbottom stands with the House of Potter on this matter.”
“So does the House of Black,” Sirius said. “As the Earl of Gryffindor’s regent, I will notify all of his allies of his position. Arthur, you can expect formal notifications thereof. You’ll inform your youngest son exactly what his obscene beliefs and ambitions have cost him this evening?”
“Yes, I will.”
Harry turned on his heel and walked away from Ron without another word. The new hallway that had appeared in the common room just a few minutes before made sense when he and his vassals disappeared down it.
“Come,” Piper murmured. “I’ll show you that braid charm like I promised.”
Hermione nodded and after gathering up her things let the older woman herd her upstairs to her dorm. She put her books down on her bed and turned to Piper. “What…”
But Lavender Brown interrupted. She rushed to Hermione’s side, grabbed her hand, as her eyes filled with tears. “He hasn’t hurt you has he?”
“Ron?” Hermione questioned, confused. “No, I mean you saw him hit me that night but that’s it. Why?”
Lavender bit down on her lip and looked towards Piper for guidance. “Oh, Hermione, I can’t even say it.” Then she hugged her tightly. “I’m going to tell everyone Ron hasn’t touched you, okay? So there won’t be any rumors about it.” She rushed off, taking Natalie Wood and Pavrati with her.
“Piper?” Hermione questioned. “What…what’s going on?”
“Unsavory, unsafe, undesirable, and intolerable,” Piper said. “Lord Potter appears to be under the impression that Ron Weasley is capable of forcing a witch or at the very least he’s capable of forcing himself on you.”
“Rape,” Hermione whispered. “Harry thinks Ron is capable of rape?” She touched her pendant. “Oh, is that why he gave me the discretion ward?”
“It is his duty to guard your virtue until you marry,” Piper said. “That’s what he agreed to do when he took you into his house. Protect, honor, and shield you from all harm if it is within his ability to do so. You said you understood what it meant when he took you into his house, Hermione, but I begin to wonder if you grasp the true magical meaning.”
“He gave me the protection of his magical house,” Hermione said and frowned when Piper raised an eyebrow. “From a legal perspective he is my magical guardian.”
“Hermione,” Fay Dunbar began as she came to stand beside Piper. “Harry told the entire magical world that he would go to war for you. He swore himself to you—swore to fight for your honor, defend you against all threats, and do everything within his power to ensure your happiness. He is more than just your magical guardian, more than just your boyfriend. He is your Lord. You said it that night so we all thought you understood what it meant.”
Hermione felt something shift inside her and it felt like relief. “I don’t think I really…I mean I read about it afterward. I can’t say I understood everything the night he did it but I’d have never denied him in front of everyone. He put so much faith in me how could I do differently?”
– – – –
“I need to speak to Viktor Krum,” Harry said quietly.
“I’ll retrieve him,” Zale stood and left front room of Harry’s suite. A door leading directly out into the castle had been made available to his vassals so they wouldn’t have to go through the common room of Gryffindor. Thaddeus and the Headmaster has set the password before they’d entered the tower.
Harry went to a large window and pushed open the glass panes, set up like a pair of French doors. Hedwig appeared in an instant and he offered her his hand. “Bill, I have her cage put away in my trunk. It has an open configuration. Can we set it up for a perch and use the owl spell on this window?”
“Yes, of course.” Bill went in search of the cage and Thaddeus walked over to Harry.
Harry watched in silence as his vassal spelled the window to allow Hedwig to leave and enter straight through it. He stroked his owl’s feathers and frowned slightly. “Sirius—the owls from the bank wear an amulet. What is it? Do you know?”
“I don’t actually,” Sirius admitted. “I’ve never seen a Gringotts owl without one though.”
“It is a warded and transfigured galleon,” Bill said as he resized the cage and activated a series of runes to change the transfiguration. The cage swooshed out of his hands with a rush of magic and dropped to the floor an elegant golden perch. “Nice.”
“I didn’t know it would do that until I did it by accident last year,” Harry admitted. “Hagrid bought Hedwig for me and she came in the cage. The cage cost more than she did. I tried to give him a bit of a lecture about it only to find out that the shop keeper had given him the cage for free when Hagrid had told the man the owl was for me. I tried to pay for the cage but Mr. Artimus told me straight off. So I make sure to buy all of my supplies there and the most expensive treats they have to make up for it.” He sat down in the window seat but kept Hedwig with him. She leaned against his chest and made a soft clicking sound with her beak. “The medallion…what does it do?”
“It has a ward to protect the owl from being interfered with while it is delivering mail. Putting one on Hedwig wouldn’t be a bad idea—we could put some additional protections on it protect her from larger birds.”
“I’d like that, yes,” Harry looked up as the door opened and Krum entered with Zale. He was surprised to find the Bulgarian had come without his headmaster. “Thank you for agreeing to see me, Mr. Krum.”
“I am a guest on your land, Lord Potter,” Krum said stiffly. “It would be a dishonor to my family to ignore a request for a simple visitation.”
“Please sit.” Harry motioned towards a chair near him but returned his attention to his owl. “It crosses my mind, Mr. Krum, that you and I have a communication problem. I’m not sure if it’s in relation to the language barrier or merely because you were raised in the magical world and I was not.”
“I have not approached Miss Granger,” Krum started but stopped when Harry focused on him.
“I know,” Harry said simply. “I wasn’t kidding about having her warded. I could provide you a list of wizards who have come within a meter of her in the last twenty-four hours. My ring keeps me informed as her safety and happiness is the concern of the House of Potter. I should think you’d understand that far better than I did, at first.”
“Yes, I made a mistake.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “I believe I did as well. There is a threat to her in this castle and I focused on you, much to my regret, because of your age and frankly your ill-considered attempt to intimidate me.”
Viktor flushed. “Yes, but I would swear to you on my magic that I would never lay hands on a woman in anger. I would never force one to have sex with me. It’s not how my father raised me to be.”
“Explain to me why you were…disappointed when she told you how old she was,” Harry said and lifted his hand. Hedwig flew to her perch and settled on it immediately.
“I missed her birthday and an opportunity to win her attention. If I’d known about it I could’ve invited her to Hogsmeade to celebrate. It was nothing more than that.” Viktor paused. “She thought differently?”
“Yes, she believes you were disappointed by the fact that she was older than you assumed. It upset her greatly and made her think very poorly of you as a result. I will explain to her what you’ve said regarding that. Your pursuit of her was quite awkward actually.”
“She is beautiful.”
“Yes,” Harry agreed. “I’ve always thought so.”
“She doesn’t care that I’m famous,” Viktor continued.
“She’s grown up with the most famous person in Britain at her side,” Bill said dryly. “It is no wonder that you’re transitory and largely ridiculous fame didn’t phase her. Also, she hates Quidditch.”
Harry nodded. “All true. She hates it with the passion of six or seven people actually. It’s easily her worst fault.” He focused on Viktor again. “I asked you to visit me so I could apologize. My family magic was responding to a threat that I couldn’t see and I focused on you for obvious reasons. I will let her know that we, the three of us, merely had a misunderstanding and she shouldn’t consider you any more of a threat than any other person three times her size who doesn’t think she’s entitled to the same rights as a wizard.”
Viktor looked ready to protest but then nodded. “No, you’re right. The laws in Britain offer one such as her very little protection.”
“But she has me,” Harry said mildly. “And I assure you that is more than enough.”
Viktor regarded him with a shrewd eye. “Yes, I imagine it is.” He stood. “I will take my leave, Lord Potter, and I’m grateful we have cleared the air. I will do my part to keep an eye on your witch from a distance. I fear that she won’t be comfortable with much more than that. She did let me know that my disrespect of you was beyond the pale as far as she was concerned.” He paused. “And she threatened to kill me if I harm you on purpose during the tournament. I should think she meant it.”
Harry laughed before he could help himself. “I don’t know what to say.”
Viktor shrugged. “You needn’t say anything.”
– – – –
“He can’t do this!” Ron shouted. “It’s crap, Dad! All of this for Hermione? She’s just a witch! A Muggle-born at that! No one should care what I do with her!”
Arthur stared at his youngest son, his stomach churning with no small amount of grief. He felt a fool—to have never noticed such corruption and darkness breeding in his own child. Ginny was sitting in the corner of McGonagall’s office staring at the fire, looking a bit bored. Molly was glaring at him. Not a surprise, she’d been doing little else since he’d taken on the role of patriarch at Bill’s insistence.
“She doesn’t even deserve to have magic to begin with!” Ron continued. “And the money! How dare she claim that money! Her father is a squib! How can she inherit a magical estate? I should have it and I would have if stupid, bloody Harry Bleeding Potter hadn’t interfered!”
“Shut up!” Bill snapped. “Are you insane? Hermione Granger is a person. A living breathing person not just some…some thing you think you’re entitled to. You were never a real friend to her. How could you possibly think she’d ever want you? You’re lazy and vicious. You have a terrible temper and a poor work ethic. What would any witch want with you much less the brightest of her age? Just a witch, you said? Just a witch! She’s brilliant and loyal. Any wizard would be the luckiest of men who win her heart.”
“She’s a know-it-all,” Ron ground out. “Someone should put her in her place—show her that she doesn’t belong here. She never did. But then Harry decided to be her friend like she deserved that—she was such a ugly little thing with her big teeth and stupid hair. Smart? So what if she’s smart—she’s not better than me.”
“Oh, she’s better than you,” Charlie said out of the blue. He stood up. “Ugly? Are you serious? That pretty little girl is going to be beautiful when she grows up. Her magical ability, worth ethic, and ambition mark the makings of an excellent partner. Your ignorant assumption that she’d ever consider you a potential husband is outrageous.”
“Well it’s not really for her to decide is it?” Ron asked snidely. “Muggle-born girls should count themselves lucky to marry a wizard at all.”
Fred leaned forward and rubbed his face with both hands. “This…Dad. Where did he hear this nonsense?”
“Your mother decided that Hermione Granger was in the way,” Arthur said dully. “The summer before Ron’s second year. Harry and Hermione apparently exchanged several letters while Harry was staying at the Burrow. Molly started to believe that a twelve year old girl was a threat, you see. A threat to her plans to see Ginny married to Harry Potter.”
“He’s my soulmate,” Ginny piped up from the corner. “Of course, we’re going to get married.”
“Ginny,” Arthur began and sighed. “Lord Potter is not your soulmate. I checked the Book of Souls personally and you don’t have a record at all much less share one with Harry Potter. As it stands, there are only twenty-two active soulmate records in Britain. If Harry Potter has one—that is his own business.”
“But Mum said…” Ginny frowned. “She lied to me then? All this time?”
Ginny pulled her legs up into the chair and hugged them. “That explains so much.”
“What do you mean?” Bill questioned.
“It’s just what Hermione was talking about the other day—about how she wouldn’t want to date a wizard she had nothing in common with. Harry and I don’t really have the same interests except for Quidditch. All we ever talk about is that or Ron or Hermione. That doesn’t much sound like he’d be my soulmate does it? I tried to talk to him about my essay for potions and bored him silly.” Ginny made a face. “If he’s not my soulmate, mum, what was your plan?”
Molly huffed and looked away from them.
“Potions,” Arthur said bluntly. “She intended to potion him to want you and love you.”
Ginny paled. “You’re…but…that’s insane. Long term love potions will make a wizard sterile. Everyone knows that.”
“We’re a pure-blood family,” Molly said. “I’d not ask you to have children with a half-blood.”
Ginny closed her eyes. “So you were going to trap me and Harry in marriage—a childless marriage where the only love I received was potion manufactured.”
“We could’ve absorbed his family magic—increased our power and influence,” Molly whispered. “His political power would’ve furthered your father’s career. Percy would’ve benefited as well. You’re the first daughter born in generations, Ginny but what worth do you really have beyond marrying well and providing your family the only way you can?”
Ginny stood up, tears streaming down her face. “You’re…you’re mad!”
“You have a duty to your family!” Molly shouted.
“Shut up, Molly, for the love of Merlin,” Arthur said. “Ginny you can return to your dorm. You don’t need to worry about any of this anymore.”
Ginny nodded and wiped her face with her sleeve. “Does Harry know what she had planned?”
“Yes, of course he does,” Bill said shortly. “I can’t keep secrets from him, Ginny. He’s my Lord.”
“Your Lord,” Ron scoffed. “He’s no better than a Muggle-born himself. He’s just famous because he’s a freak of nature or worse. I wonder what dark art his mother did to save him? Maybe that’s why he’s a parselmouth.”
“So what you’re saying is that Dumbledore is dark then,” Ginny said abruptly. “He’s the one that told the Wizengamot that Harry Potter survived the Killing Curse because his mother made a magical sacrifice for him. If you think that’s not true—then you think Dumbledore is a liar and that he’s hiding whatever dark thing you’re accusing Lily Potter of doing.”
Ron stared at her mouth, hanging open.
“Right.” Ginny huffed and left the office without another word.
“I feel as if I’ve aged decades in the past few weeks,” Arthur murmured. “I really only have myself to blame in the end. I allowed your mother to corrupt you. I just wasn’t paying attention, you see. After the war, I was just tired—tired of fighting, tired of making decisions, and most certainly tired of keeping up with your mother’s ridiculous plans. I thought…her harmless, you see. She didn’t work out of the home and most of her family avoids her like the plague. I didn’t make enough money for her to use in any of her silly little plots.”
“Silly?” Molly asked. “We could’ve had money and power!”
“Don’t you suppose, Molly, if I wanted such that I would work towards it?” Arthur demanded. “Money and power.” He huffed. “I told my father that offering your family a marriage contract was a mistake. But it is a mistake I must live with. I can only be thankful you didn’t manage to corrupt the entire lot of them. Though you certainly tried.”
“Corrupt?” Molly asked. “Ron and Percy are the only ones to know their worth in this family!”
“Percy is a petty, small-minded git,” Arthur said. “And Ron? Ron’s lazy, selfish, and doesn’t seem to realize that having a noble-born wizard of Harry Potter’s rank declaring him unfit for a witch’s company has destroyed his chances at a decent job here in Britain. He’ll never work for the Ministry or a reputable business—no one is going to want him serving the public. Marriage? Really bloody unlikely. No half-way intelligent woman is going to want him near her. We’ll be lucky to keep him in Hogwarts. The last wizard branded unfit while he was underage was only allowed to stay at Hogwarts because Headmaster Dippet put a chastity ward on him.”
“You’re saying Harry ruined my life,” Ron said. “He ruined my life.”
“You did this yourself,” Bill snapped. “I’ve seen the memory of what you said to him, Ron! You threatened Hermione. She is the only witch in the full embrace of his family magic, you foolish little…” He trailed off and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you so ignorant of how family magic works in an ancient and noble family? His self-control in this situation was nothing short of a legendary especially at his age. Lord Potter is shouldering an immense burden magically.”
“Ron’s lucky he hasn’t been struck dead,” Fred said. “The Pendragon legacy is rumored to be sentient. In fact, some magical theorists believe that it was the Pendragon family magics that Lily Potter invoked the night she died. George and I read about it after we met Harry because we were curious about it. If that is true then she woke a sleeping giant of sorts that night and all of it dwells in Harry Potter—the last of his line. The last of multiple ancient lines. Making him an enemy was foolish beyond anyone’s measure.”
“He ruined my life!” Ron shouted.
“No,” Arthur said. “He didn’t. He merely expressed his formal utter disapproval of you and he was entitled to do so. The ramifications of that disapproval are yours to deal with and not his problem or his responsibility. You brought this on yourself. Harry gave us a way for our family to recover from the insult you’d already done him and you…did this. I suggest you make good use of your years here at Hogwarts because the day you graduate—you’re on your own.” He stood. “Bill, I want to arrange for a mind healer to evaluate your sister.”
“Sir?” Bill asked with a frown.
“Ginny is smart,” Arthur said. “Let’s just make sure she’s being honest with us about her true feelings on this matter and not playing some game with the idea that she can get away with manipulating us and Harry into thinking she’s not a threat.”