The end of the school year dawns at Hogwarts and Dumbledore casts his lot in the upcoming conflict.
“Fred, George, can you wait a second before you two head back up?” Harry asked politely.
Hermione had a suspicion about what Harry was about to do so she deftly steered Ginny and Neville back up to Gryffindor Tower. Looking back over her shoulder, she smiled at Harry and mouthed silently, ‘I love you.’
Harry returned the gesture then turned his attention to the curious but smiling twins. Gathering his thoughts, he asked them in a formal tone, “Are you two still serious about opening a joke shop?”
The twins turned to face each other, an entire silent conversation taking place between them in the span of a couple of seconds, before Fred finally spoke up, with a hint of curiosity in his voice when he said, “We do. At first we are probably going to have to be a mail order catalogue until we can save up enough gold to rent a shop in Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade.”
“How much do you think that you two will need to get started?” Harry asked them.
After cocking his head to the side slightly while he did some quick math in his head, George said, “Umm…somewhere around five hundred galleons give or take a hundred. That should allow us to rent a place for a year and still have enough to buy supplies to make our products.”
Harry knew that the twins were brilliant; they just hid it behind their facades as pranksters. Looking at each one in turn, he said seriously, “I want in. I’ll invest nine hundred galleons in your business providing that you make me an equal partner. Deal?”
Two identical grins broke out on the twin’s faces as they chirped in unison, “It’s a deal!”
Fred added, “We’ll draw something up to make it official and get it to you as soon as possible.”
Seriously, George said, “Thank you, Harry. This means a lot to us.”
In a quiet whisper, Harry said, “I know what it’s like to have dreams and I’m glad I can help.”
Fred clapped a hand on Harry’s shoulder in a gesture of friendship and understanding while George and Harry shook hands.
Turning as one, the three teens headed back up to the Gryffindor Tower with smiles on their faces and thoughts of the new joke shop running through their heads.
Upon stepping into the Gryffindor Common Room, the hue of red on the furniture and carpets caused Hermione to have a flashback to the carnage in the Great Hall.
Desperately trying to keep her composure, Hermione retreated to the Girl’s dormitory to wash off the nonexistent blood. Even though she had used a spell to remove the dried blood and had scrubbed her hands and arms, it still felt like she couldn’t get it off her.
Practically ripping off her jumper, she stepped into the shower stall, turned on the water, and grabbed a bar of soap and began frantically washing her arms. After scrubbing for five minutes, her arms and hands were an angry shade of red but she still didn’t feel like the blood had been washed away.
Sinking to the floor of the shower stall, she hugged her knees to her chest and wept silently as she let the scalding hot water rain down on her head and shoulders.
Harry was just entering the Gryffindor Common Room when he felt Hermione’s despair flooding their bond. Looking up in the direction of where he knew she was, a frown marred his face before he quickly strode over to the steps to the Girl’s Dormitories.
Remembering that the stairs would turn into a slide if he tried to walk up them, Harry whipped out his wand, silently conjured a set of wooden stairs. He made sure that they didn’t touch the stone steps before vaulting up them to find Hermione.
Using their bond to guide him, Harry quietly slipped into the fourth year girl’s dorm and headed towards the showers and his distraught wife.
Fred and George stood there, slack jawed, when Harry conjured a wooden set of stairs and practically ran all the way up. Thankfully, no one else was in the Common Room but them when Harry pulled his little trick. With a nod to each other, they vanished the set of stairs before anyone saw them and could think to duplicate the feat.
George leaned over and whispered in awe, “I can’t believe that we never thought of that. The alarm didn’t go off either.”
Fred nodded before replying slowly, “Yeah. Me neither. I wonder what Harry was so concerned about? Did you see his face?”
“I did.” George replied softly while looking back up the steps. “Keep a watch in case a professor shows up. I’m going to send him a note.”
While Fred moved over to guard the entrance to the Gryffindor Tower, George hastily scribbled a note to Harry and tapped it with his wand while muttering an incantation. The piece of parchment folded itself into a paper airplane and headed off towards Harry.
Rejoining his twin, Fred said, “I’m glad that we learned that spell from dad. Do you think that we should keep an eye out for a professor until he gets back?”
Furrowing his brow, George said, “Yeah. We probably should. You want to hit the showers first?”
“Nah.” said Fred as he flopped down into the couch that faced the portrait hole. “I’ll keep watch.”
Giving his twin a nod, George hurried off to get cleaned up before the Leaving Feast.
Just as Harry was about to push open the door to the girl’s showers, George’s memo hit him in the back of the head. Leaning down, he picked up the note and quickly read through it before placing it in his pocket.
Stepping into the showers, he could hear the water running in the stall furthest from the door. Checking the room to make sure that they were alone, he strode over to her stall and called out softly, “Hermione?” When she didn’t reply, he tried again, his voice full of concern, “Hermione, I’m coming in.”
Opening up the shower stall, the sight that greeted him broke his heart. She was curled up in the corner of the stall, water from the shower splashing down on her head, rocking back and forth. Her arms from the elbows down were an angry red.
Ignoring the fact that she was topless, he shrugged off his robes and sat down on the floor right next to her. Slowly, he put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her into his chest as the warm water soaked into his clothes.
Hermione’s reaction to Harry’s loving embrace was immediate. She clung to him as if her life depended upon his touch and began crying harder. Her sobs echoed throughout the showers as she tried to rid herself of the image of her bloody hands and the carnage that she had seen in the Great Hall.
Returning her embrace just as tightly, Harry used his free hand to put up a Silencing Spell on the shower stall before wrapping both of his arms around her. It wouldn’t do if any of her nosey roommates decided to come in only to discover Harry in their showers.
He didn’t know how long they sat their together under the water from the shower, nor did he care. Hermione’s well being came first and he was perfectly willing to sit there all night if need be. He knew what she was going through; he went through something similar after his first and second years at Hogwarts but he didn’t have anyone to help him through it at the time so he suffered in silence.
Her sobs had finally subsided but she was still clinging desperately to Harry. Looking up into his eyes, she could see the concern and love in them. Slowly, she reached up, cupped his cheek in her palm, and whispered, “Thank you. I love you.”
Giving her a soft smile, he said warmly, “I love you too.” Squeezing her tighter, he asked, “Feeling better?” He noticed that her eyes didn’t seem as haunted right now but he knew that it would be a while before the images faded.
“A bit.” Hermione whispered as she traced patterns with her fingers on his soaked shirt. She desperately wanted to forget the horrible events that happened earlier and she began to unbutton his shirt while placing light kisses on his neck and shoulders.
Harry started slightly when Hermione nipped the base of his neck lightly with her teeth. He was a bit confused by her sudden change in demeanor. As her kisses became hungrier, his body began to respond through his confusion and a soft moan escaped his lips as she suckled on his throat.
When Hermione heard Harry moan, it drove her need to be close to him even higher. With an animalistic growl, she ripped his shirt open and began trailing kisses down his chest.
Thoroughly confused, Harry didn’t know what to do. One minute he was consoling Hermione and the next, she was ripping his clothes off and doing her best to drive him crazy. Another moan escaped his lips before he pulled Hermione into his lap and began kissing her with the same desperate hunger that seemed to engulf her.
When her hands began fumbling with the front of his trousers, it was like a splash of cold water for him and he realized what they were about to do if he didn’t stop her soon. Gently, he removed her hands and pulled her against his chest in a hug while saying in a husky voice full of love and desire, “Hermione, I want to just as much as you do, but I want our first time to be special and in our bed. Especially while we are in the girl’s showers while you’re trying to push aside the events from earlier today.”
Harry’s words crashed through her emotional, and hormonal, haze like a bucket of ice-cold water. Slowly, her mind began to clear and she realized where they were and what they were doing. Hermione turned a brilliant shade of scarlet, as she finally comprehended that she was topless and sitting on her obviously excited husband.
Before she could apologize, Harry placed a single finger on her lips, looked into her bright cinnamon colored eyes, and practically purred, “Don’t apologize. I promise that when we are both ready, we can pick up right where we left off.” Nuzzling her nose with his own, he whispered, “I love you, Hermione Potter.”
“And I you, my husband.” Hermione replied softly as she wrapped her arms around Harry’s back in a bear hug as his words fanned her desires.
After a few minutes, he turned his head slightly and whispered into her ear, “Are you ready to get dried off yet?”
Hermione buried her face in Harry’s shoulder in response to his question. She wasn’t quite ready to leave the comfort of his embrace so she held on tighter. After a few moments, she murmured in his ear, “I don’t want to go to the Leaving Feast…I don’t think that I’m ready to go back in there.”
Rubbing his hands softly up and down her bare back as she clung to him, Harry whispered back, “That’s fine. I don’t really want to go either.” The Great Hall was about the last place that he wanted to be as well because he knew that seeing it again was going to be very difficult the first time they did.
Summoning his soaked cloak, Harry wrapped it around Hermione’s back and clipped it just above her shoulders before pulling it completely closed to protect her modesty. He reached up with his hand and fumbled for a second before finding the shut off valve for the water. Carefully, he helped her to her feet and called out, “Winky!”
There was a small pop signaling the arrival of the diminutive elf. She took one look at Harry and Hermione’s appearances and her gaze softened before she kindly said, “I will be right back with fresh clothes for you both.” With a snap of her fingers, she dried the soaked teens before popping back to the house to gather some clean clothes for them.
A moment later, there were two distinct pops and both of the Potter House-elves were standing in the shower stall with a bundle of clean clothes for their masters.
Dobby stepped forward and said, “Master Harry, I will take you to the boy’s dormitories so you can change. Winky will see to Miss Hermione, sir.”
Harry looked over at Hermione and when she gave him a small nod, he held out his hand to Dobby and they were vanished without a noise only to reappear silently in the fourth year boy’s showers.
Dobby steered Harry into a stall and handed him the fresh clothes as he said, “Just leave you clothes in there and Dobby will take care of them, sir.”
Amused at being handled so expertly by his little friend, Harry chuckled and said, “Right away, sir.”
Dobby blushed and gave Harry a final push into the stall before closing the door. While he was waiting for his master to change, he busied himself with tidying up the rest of the bathroom.
Winky was helping her normally talkative mistress into fresh clothes with an increasing amount of worry. Something must have happened to cause such a drastic change in her behavior. Tentatively, she asked, “Miss, do you need anything or do you want me to give a message to your parents?”
Hermione had been on autopilot as Winky helped her with her robes and it took her a couple of seconds to process the question before she could answer, “Yes, would you tell my parents what happened, I don’t think that I’m ready for that yet.”
“Of course, Miss.” Winky said, hiding her concern. “Do you need me for anything else?” When Hermione nodded, no, Winky said, “Just call when you are ready to return home, Miss.” After a small bow, she popped off to the kitchens to get some answers about why her mistress was unhappy.
Harry had finished dressing while Hermione was still getting ready. After saying goodbye to Dobby, he headed down to the Common Room to wait for her to come down.
When Harry stepped into the Common Room, Fred and George were staring, open mouthed, at him. Confused, he asked, “What?”
“Blimey!” Fred cried in shock.
George looked just as stupefied before he found his voice and blurted, “How did you do that?”
Thoroughly confused, Harry asked, “Do what?”
Fred and George got up from their spots on the sofas and hurried over towards Harry. Urgently, Fred whispered, “First you silently conjure a set of stairs up to the girl’s dormitories and then you come down the boys stairs when we know that you didn’t come back down the steps to get to your dorm.”
“So, spill it! How did you do that?” George asked with a tone of awe mixed with curiosity in his voice.
Harry ran his hand through his hair, messing it up even more than usual, before he answered with a smirk on his face, “Now that would be telling. Thanks for the note though.”
Sensing Hermione’s presence, he looked over towards the steps to the Girl’s Dormitories and gave her a small smile. Keeping his eyes fixed on Hermione, he said to Fred and George, “Excuse me.”
Fred and George watched in silence as Harry walked over to Hermione and pulled her into a hug that she heartily returned. They could see the pained expression on her face and deciding not to impose; they quietly slipped from the Common Room and headed down towards the Great Hall quietly discussing the very big puzzle that was Harry Potter.
After watching Fred and George leave, Harry quietly asked Hermione, “Are you hungry?”
Nodding yes to his question, Hermione leaned back a touch and looked into his compassion filled eyes. Giving him a small smile in return, she said, “Would you be terribly upset if we ate with my parents?”
Harry understood what she wanted and he was thankful that Hermione’s parents were still around to provide a level of support that up until this year, he had been lacking and didn’t believe existed. Squeezing her slightly to let her know he was okay with her request, he called out, “Dobby!”
When their faithful house-elf appeared with a pop and a smile, Harry asked him, “Would you please take us home?”
Seeing the tired look in their eyes, Dobby squeaked happily, “I would be delighted!” He reached out, grasped each of their hands, and vanished from Gryffindor Tower.
Albus Dumbledore was sitting in his usual high backed throne in the Great Hall as he surveyed the student’s in front of him. The chatter was subdued, probably due to the day’s events, but nothing that he hadn’t expected. What did surprise him was that Harry Potter and Hermione Granger were missing in addition to the injured students.
Carefully, he scanned the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables to make sure that he hadn’t missed them sitting somewhere unusual. Sighing into his napkin as he wiped his mouth, Dumbledore realized that he had been letting too many things slip through his fingers for the past few weeks.
The biggest of those things were The-Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter, and the disappearances of Alastor Moody and Igor Karkaroff. He was sure that they were somehow connected and he silently vowed to find the underlying cause of this particular mystery.
Dumbledore had already set up a rotating schedule of guards to keep a watch on Harry this summer at his relative’s house without the boy being aware. Having him guarded would solve a couple of potential problems. First, it would give him the ability to keep Harry isolated from the magical world for another summer, especially once he forbid everyone to contact him because the Owl Post was no longer secure. Secondly, when he allowed Harry to visit the Weasleys, or his godfather, later in the summer, it would help put him back in the boy’s good graces.
Turning his thoughts back to his missing friend, Dumbledore’s eyes tightened as he came to the realization that Alastor was probably dead already. His desire to keep the potential imposter close was a strategic gamble that had probably backfired. To make matters worse, he didn’t know who had been impersonating Moody for the past ten months. Meaning, if it was a Death Eater, they were now running free. His regret over Moody was one of the few times that he prayed that he was wrong.
However, Dumbledore had no regrets about Igor Karkaroff. He knew that Igor was a dead man walking the instant the Voldemort was reborn. Karkaroff had betrayed his fellow Death Eaters in open court for a pardon. If Voldemort didn’t kill him, then one of his Death Eaters would.
The house-elves were just sending dessert up to the house tables and the appearance of a multitude of sweets distracted him momentarily. He reached out and served himself a generous portion of pumpkin pie with a large dollop of cream on top. Sweets were one of Dumbledore’s guilty pleasures. He had other vices, but none that brought him as much pleasure as a good sweet.
When the talisman around his neck remained cool against his skin, he lifted the forkful of pie to his mouth and began eating. It wouldn’t do anything good for morale if he were to be seen checking all of his food and drink for poisons. People would think him just as crazy as Mad-Eye Moody if he started doing that. In order to maintain his façade, he had created the amulet to pulse if there was a foreign substance in his food or drink. It had even saved his life on a couple of instances.
Finishing off the last of his pie, Dumbledore surveyed the hall in front of him. The students from Durmstrang and Beauxbatons had already returned to their respective schools so the hall seemed much larger now.
The house-elves had removed the extra sections from the house tables, leaving the students clustered closer together, which was part of the reason that Mr. Malfoy’s spell had been so devastating. With so many students in close quarters, he knew that it was really dumb luck that no one had died.
About the only good thing that happened during the day was when Narcissa Malfoy sent one of their elves to pick up Draco’s belongings after he had informed her of her son’s expulsion and subsequent arrest. He had no doubt that he was going to have a long week at the Wizengamot dealing with the aftermath of Draco’s disaster.
Slowly getting to his feet, he strode over to the podium at the edge of the raised dais where the head table sat. The students all noticed the headmaster and fell silent in anticipation of his upcoming speech.
Plastering a kind smile on his face, his voice easily carried the length of the entire hall when he finally spoke, “Another school year has gone by, faster for some and slower for others, I’m sure.” Dumbledore paused to look at each of the house tables before continuing in a much more serious tone, “Many of you have no doubt heard the rumors that Voldemort has returned.”
There were numerous shrieks at the mention of the Dark Lord’s name and a few of the younger students were sniffling in fear. Ignoring the whimpers, Dumbledore held his hands up for quiet. His voice held an edge of command in it when he resumed speaking, “I assure you that it was just a rumor. However, that does not mean that you should not be, as your defense professor was fond of saying, constantly vigilant.”
Giving the students another warm, grandfatherly smile, he said happily, “As a treat, there will be a late night snack in the Great Hall this evening at ten and curfew for the fourth years and up will be midnight.” Listening to the students cheers, he gave them all another smile before saying, “Now, I suggest that you get your packing done this evening so you may enjoy the rest of your time at Hogwarts.”
Dumbledore stepped down from the raised dais and strode out of the Great Hall listening to the now happier chatter coming from his students. He had originally intended to confirm that Voldemort was back but he realized that Cornelius would do everything in his power to discredit him if he did. Therefore, he felt that it was in the best interests of the war effort if he retained his positions of power within the ministry where he would be able to better combat the Death Eaters that operated in the political arena.
Albus’ biggest fear about the upcoming war was that the government would fold without any resistance if he were to be pushed out of power. Fudge was a parrot that spouted the views of whoever was paying him the most that week. Unfortunately, that meant that it was Lucius Malfoy doing the whispering in Fudge’s ear and that was never a good thing. Now that Voldemort had a body again, it was going to get a lot worse rapidly.
The fact that he had just undermined Harry Potter’s word in the castle was a bonus. It would make influencing his wayward charge that much easier during the next school year.
Back in London, Harry and Hermione were sitting down to dinner with her parents, Sirius, Remus, and Andromeda. Ted and Dora were still at work but they would everyone as soon as their shifts were over.
John and Annabelle had been surprised when Winky had arrived with quite the tale about the events from earlier in the day before going off to inform Sirius and Remus per Annabelle’s request. They were extremely grateful that the curse had missed Harry after Sirius explained what that particular spell would do if it hit someone directly.
When the teens had arrived home with Dobby, the adults were already in the kitchen waiting for them. Hermione launched herself into her parent’s arms as soon as she saw them. Sometimes you just needed the reassurance from an adult. It had been Hermione’s first experience with how destructive magic could be. She had heard, and read, about horrific things before, but there is no experience like living through something yourself. Unfortunately, she knew that today’s events would not be an isolated incident with the coming conflict.
Harry was mildly surprised when Hermione’s parents drew him into a hug once Sirius and Remus released him. Having a loving family was a concept that he was still adjusting to.
When everyone was settled, Annabelle asked the teens, “Are you two going to be okay?”
Harry looked over at Hermione and squeezed her hand under the table before gazing up at the adults seated at the table and said softly, “Eventually. It’s just going to take some time.” Hanging his head down slightly, he said in an even quieter tone, “Part of what happened today was my fault, I goaded Malfoy.”
That was a bit of a surprise for the adults and it plainly showed on their faces. It was Sirius that spoke up first, his voice was firm but not angry, “Harry, look at me please.” When he had Harry’s attention, he continued, “Did you tell Malfoy which spell to use?”
Harry shook his head in the negative, but did not speak.
“You are not responsible for Malfoy’s bad choices. What would you have done if it he had cast a Stinging Hex at you?” Sirius replied while looking into Harry’s eyes.
Taking a moment to think things through, Harry said, “I probably would have shielded so he would have been in trouble for attempting to hex me.”
Giving Harry a small smile as his explanation proved his point, Sirius said, “You did the right thing, Harry. That curse would have killed you if your shield faltered or you didn’t get one up in time.”
“But…” Harry started to say before Remus cut him off stepping into the conversation.
“Let me reiterate, you are not responsible for Malfoy’s mistake.” Remus said in a soothing tone of voice. He let Harry chew on that for a few seconds before he continued, “Sirius is right, Harry. You need to let go of your guilt over Malfoy’s actions. You are not him.”
Harry looked at the adults seated around the table and noticed that they all had the same expression of understanding on their faces. Turning to face Hermione, he gazed into her warm cinnamon colored eyes and found what he was looking for.
Her gaze wasn’t reproachful, it was grateful. Surprised, he asked her in a small voice, “You…you don’t blame me for what happened today?” Harry knew that she had been affected far worse than he had by the aftermath of Draco’s spell and it was her forgiveness that he needed most.
Hermione looked into his bright green eyes that were full of guilt before quietly replying, “No, Harry.” She reached up, cupped his cheek, and continued, “I’m glad that you had the presence of mind to put your friends out of harm’s way and then how you kept your cool afterwards.”
Sagging with relief, Harry gave her a tiny smile and mumbled, “Thanks.”
Everyone seemed to relax a bit once Harry let go of some of his guilt and dinner proceeded with the accompaniment of pleasant conversation. Just as dessert was being served, a very anxious looking Tonks stepped into the kitchen, her hair cycling through various colors.
Unceremoniously, she plunked herself down in the seat next to Harry and with a grunt pulled the plate of food that Dobby silently slid in front of her and began eating with gusto.
Harry and Hermione were trying not to snicker at Dora’s eating habits. They were startlingly similar to Ron’s preferred method of eating, lean over the plate and shovel in as much as possible and as quickly as possibly, table manners be damned. Giving it up as a bad job, Harry lost it and began snickering into his napkin while Hermione hung her head and let her long hair muffle her laughter.
Looking over at the two teens, Dora asked with a mouth full of food, “Mwhat?”
“Nymphadora!” Andromeda snapped at her daughter. When Dora’s hair cycled to a blushing pink, she continued ranting, “We taught you better manners than that! Now sit up straight and eat like a proper young lady instead of like some Neanderthal!”
Dora cringed at her mother’s tone and tried to ignore the snickers coming from everyone else. She quickly sat up straight and resumed eating at a much more dignified pace.
When she was finished, she wiped her mouth and took a sip of water before saying seriously, “I caught Macnair this evening.” There were a few raised eyebrows and a smile from Remus at her announcement. “He’s in the cell at headquarters.” She said before anyone could interrupt her.
Harry and Hermione shared a curious look and mouthed, ‘Headquarters?’
Remus was watching the two teens and he decided to tell them the basics about what was going on, “We have another house under the Fidelius Charm that we are using for headquarters. If we capture a Death Eater, we have a cell set up for their use.”
“Oh.” Harry and Hermione echoed in response to the information.
Reaching into his cloak, Remus pulled out a worn looking book and slid it across the table to them while saying in a lighter tone, “I think this book will give you some information about Harry’s Animagus form. I think he is some variant of a Coatl, but I’m not exactly positive.”
Eagerly, Hermione snatched the book up and began looking at the pages Remus had tabbed for them.
Harry smiled at her antics and said warmly, “Thanks, Remus.” He knew that Hermione was using the book as a distraction from the day’s events but he did have some more questions about changing the dark ritual Voldemort used and what was going to happen now that the school year had ended.
Looking at the rest of the adults around the table, Harry asked, “What did you find out about the ritual that I changed and how is that going to effect me?”
Hermione had stopped reading when he asked his question and she was now eagerly looking at the adults for an answer as well.
Squirming slightly, Remus looked over at Sirius for permission to tell the tale. When he received permission, he quietly said, “That ritual was supposed to create a new body for Voldemort. When you gave your blood willingly it altered the intent of the ritual.”
Remus paused to gather his thoughts on how to explain everything in a manner that Harry would understand before continuing, “You must understand that this is all speculation, but we believe that it is the correct assumption about why Voldemort survived that fateful night when you defeated him.”
Thinking about the parts of the ritual that he remembered, Harry asked, “By giving my blood freely I broke my connection to Voldemort, didn’t I?” He was pretty sure that was true because of his improved connection with Hermione, but it never hurt to have something confirmed to ease ones fears.
“Yes…” Remus said hesitantly as he processed Harry’s question. After a few moments, he said, “Your scar was probably a Horcrux and when you gave your blood willingly it changed the intent of the ritual. Not only did it create a new body for Voldemort, we think it reunited him with the piece of his soul that was in your scar.”
Andromeda had gone pale during the discussion. She knew the basics, but this was new information to her and it was very disturbing. Horrified, she whispered, “How many Horcruxes do you think that the Dark Lord made?” Being a Black, she knew the general terms of what a Horcux was.
It was Harry that answered her question, with a bombshell of his own, when he said, “I think Voldemort made at least three of them. The diary that I destroyed in my second year was one, my scar, and what ever other item that was keeping him alive until he got his body back.”
The magical adults all had horrified expressions on their faces as they looked at each other and then back to Harry.
It was Hermione’s leap in logic that conveyed just how far down the path to madness Voldemort had really traveled when she said, “Why just three? Seven is the most magical number in Arithmancy.”
Shocked, Harry croaked softly, “Sweet Merlin, seven of them?” The answer to his question blossomed in his mind and he slumped in his chair at the implications. Looking up at the adults, he could see the despair reflected in their faces as they realized how large of an undertaking finding the remaining four vessels that contained the pieces of Voldemort’s soul was going to be.
Deciding that a change of scenery would help ease the tension, Annabelle announced, “Let’s head to the library for some tea and biscuits.”
Everyone followed her in a daze, lost in his or her thoughts. When they arrived, the elves had already placed a tea service with a plate of biscuits on the table. Grabbing a cup of tea, Annabelle settled down into the loveseat with her husband and curled her legs underneath so she was sitting on her feet.
A small smile played across Harry’s lips as he looked at Annabelle sitting on the loveseat just as Hermione did when she sat on the couch in the Gryffindor Common Room. He sat down next to Hermione and put his arm around her as she tucked her feet beneath her legs and got comfortable.
The conversation was light because everyone was trying to distract themselves from the daunting task that lay in front of them.
Hermione had resumed reading up on Coatl’s with Harry reading over her shoulder.
Remus, Sirius, John, and the recently arrived Ted, were arguing about the merits of Quidditch versus Football and which sport was better.
Andromeda, Annabelle, and Dora were talking quietly about Quidditch and Football but with an entirely different slant. They were going on about how fit the male athletes were much to the annoyance of the men. Their occasional giggles caused everyone else to look up in surprise in some cases and exasperation in others.
Unable to stand the incessant giggling any longer, especially from her mum, Hermione asked, “What’s so funny?”
Annabelle and Andromeda were blushing lightly but remained steadfastly silent, refusing to answer Hermione’s question. Dora, however, smirked and said, “We were talking about how fit the athletes were that played Quidditch and Football.”
Dora was expecting Hermione to stammer out a reply, so when Hermione simply said, “Oh. Okay then.” and went back to reading, she was a bit disappointed.
Curious, Dora blurted, “That’s it?”
Hermione gazed up from her book and the grin that graced her face was almost predatory in its intensity, “I know perfectly well how good Quidditch is for the male physique, thank you.”
No amount of Occlumency was able to keep the blush from creeping up Harry’s neck, especially when he felt Hermione’s emotions humming through their bond. Wishing he could just melt into the couch, Harry settled for keeping his eyes glued to the book in front of him.
Annabelle, Andromeda, and Dora all turned a bit pink at Hermione’s innuendo while John just stared at his daughter in shock. Sirius, Remus, and Ted were failing miserably in their attempts to hold back their snickering.
Unable to stand the tension any longer, Harry blurted, “Can we please change the subject!” His outburst set everyone into fits of laughter at his expense and he was blushing so badly that his face felt like it could light up a dark room.
It was getting late and Remus was anguishing over the fact that Harry had pseudo Horcrux and how was he going to tell him about it.
Sirius could see the conflict in his friend’s eyes and decided that it should be his responsibility to tell Harry. Speaking loudly enough to be heard over the light chatter, Sirius said, “Harry, there is something else that we need to talk to you about before you two head off to bed.”
The tone of Sirius’ voice brought all conversation in the room to a screeching halt. Harry leaned slightly forward in his seat while unconsciously tightening his grip on Hermione’s shoulder.
Seeing that he had everyone’s undivided attention, Sirius continued in a solemn voice, “We think that something else happened when you modified the ritual. There is a very good chance that you now have an anchor to this plane because Voldemort used your blood to construct a new body.”
Harry was putting the pieces together and when he finished the thought, his blood ran cold. When he finally spoke, his voice was borderline hysteric, ‘You…you mean that I have my own Horcrux?”
Hermione could feel the panic coming from Harry. It was so palpable that she was sure that even if they weren’t bonded that she would have been able to feel it. Wrapping her arms around him, she whispered into his ear, “It’s okay, Harry. You’re not evil; this is just a byproduct of the modified ritual.”
He shuddered at the thought of having his own version of a Horcrux. As he thought about Hermione’s words, he understood that there was absolutely nothing that he could do about it right now but it still bothered him tremendously. Squeezing her a little tighter, he whispered back, “Thanks.”
After he untangled himself from Hermione, Harry stood up and announced, “I’m going to go to bed. I’ll see everyone in the morning and we can talk about this some more then. I’m…I’m not ready to talk about this yet.” Turning to face his wife, he leaned down, gave her a chaste kiss on the cheek, and said, “Do you want to stay down here for a while or are you coming up?”
Silently, Hermione stood up and laced her fingers in Harrys. She waved goodnight to the adults and they left the library together for the privacy of their room.
The adults watched them leave the room in silence, respecting Harry’s wishes for postponing the discussion. None of them wanted to delve too deeply into that particular topic now anyway.
Finishing off her tea, Dora finally broke the melancholy silence that had descended upon the library when she asked, “Should we go have a little chat with Macnair or do you want to wait until tomorrow?”
“Why don’t we let him worry for the evening? We can talk to him tomorrow when we’re rested and he’s nervous.” Sirius said after looking at the tired faces of everyone.
Hermione silenced and locked their door while Harry went into the bathroom to get ready for bed. She could still feel his distress pouring through their bond and it left her at a bit of a loss. This wasn’t something that she could just make go away.
Harry’s prior connection to Voldemort was an insidious one that allowed Voldemort too much access to Harry’s mind. This new connection would have to be explored carefully. Hermione’s best guess was that Harry now had the greater degree of control. The one million-galleon question now was, ‘Would Harry be able to keep Voldemort from recognizing the connection and from getting glimpses of Harry’s emotions and thoughts?’
Silently, Harry padded out of the bathroom, ran a hand tenderly across Hermione’s shoulders, and climbed into bed. His thoughts were a jumble and his emotions a mess as he tried to wrap his mind around this new development. He placed his wand on the nightstand next to the bed and slipped under the covers before removing his t-shirt and tossing it on the floor.
Hermione walked out of their bathroom just as Harry dropped his shirt on the floor next to the bed. She was wearing a light pink baby doll and the matching pair of knickers that Winky must have left in the bathroom for her. Stepping into Harry’s field of vision, she watched as his eyes widened comically and he gave an involuntary gulp. Smiling widely, she pirouetted to show him the entire outfit before slinking her way over to the bed.
As she climbed beneath the covers, Harry lifted his arm, and she curled up next to him while draping one of her legs across his and lay her head down on his shoulder. Leaning up, she placed a tender kiss on his cheek and said softly, “I love you and nothing is going to change that.” She was gently tracing circles on his other shoulder with her free hand while she gazed into his troubled eyes.
“Thanks.” Harry whispered. “It’s a lot to take in all at once, you know? Are you going to be okay?” he finished with a sigh.
Hermione continued tracing patterns on Harry’s chest with her fingers for a few moments before she answered in a barely audible voice, “Eventually. I know it was silly of me to never consider how destructive and dangerous magic could be, but today really made me see things differently.” She paused to gather her thoughts and to regain control of her emotions before continuing softly, “I guess that I better understand some of what you have been through over the years now.”
She perched herself up on his chest, looked directly into Harry’s eyes, and said, “I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you after what you went through your first three years.” When she finished speaking, Hermione had tears in her eyes.
“Hey, it’s okay.” Harry said while tenderly wiping away one her stray tears. “You have been more help to me over the years than I can possibly begin to explain. If it weren’t for your help, I don’t think that I would have been able to make it through some of the things that we’ve done.” he finished quietly while cupping Hermione’s cheek in his callused hand.
Hermione clung to Harry tightly as she snuggled as close as possible to his chest. Hearing Harry’s reassurances that she did help him cope made her feel a bit better about her actions from the past few years. Part of her worries were irrational, especially after witnessing first hand how he comforted her in her times of need even while he was dealing with the burdens of the Tournament.
Changing the subject, Hermione asked in a mock angry tone, “Now, when were you planning on telling me you were an Animagus?” Before he could answer her question, she lightly poked him in the ribs and said, “And why didn’t you let me help?”
Squirming from her poking and her question, Harry mumbled, “I wanted it to be a surprise but then I found out that I was a snake and I was worried that it would frighten you. Then my form felt different after my encounter with the dragon but I couldn’t figure out why.” Reaching up, Harry ran his hand through her hair while he gathered his thoughts.
Smiling at the memory of finding out he was an Animagus, Harry said happily, “I had just finished reading the journal for the fifth or sixth time and I was thinking about my dad and Sirius when I discovered my form. I had been imagining that I was with dad, Sirius, and Remus during one of their jaunts around the grounds. The next thing that I knew, I was seeing things from a very different perspective.”
Hermione noticed the wistful smile on Harry’s face and she could hear the emotion in his voice as he spoke. Deciding to save her questions for later, she settled for getting comfortable and repositioned her head on his shoulder and settled down to listen to the rest of his tale.
Harry felt Hermione shifting and gave her shoulder a light squeeze with his arm before continuing with a light chuckle in his voice, “Honestly, I discovered my form by complete accident. The hard part was changing into a snake again but with a conscious thought instead. The first transformation happened so fast that I didn’t really have time to concentrate on the magic. It’s also a good thing that I didn’t transform in the Great Hall or in front of a bunch of people the first time.”
Hermione could feel the blush on Harry’s chest and she couldn’t quite stifle a giggle. Curious, she asked, “What happened?” She almost laughed aloud when she felt his chest grow even warmer in embarrassment.
Giving up on controlling his blush, Harry finally blurted, “When I transformed my clothes didn’t change with me. So, when I turned back, I was completely starkers.”
Hermione lost it and started giggling when the image of a naked Harry looking for his clothes after his first transformation.
She felt a sudden surge of magical energy from Harry and seconds later, she was cuddling a nine-foot long Coatl instead of her blushing husband. Squashing her desire to scream, Hermione calmly reached up and rubbed the scales between his eyes and said playfully, “You know, you have the cutest shade of pink in your scales. Perhaps a nice bow and a few pictures are in order?”
There was another shudder of magic and Harry reappeared blushing and scowling at the same time. Indignantly, he quietly retorted, “I do not have pink in my scales!”
Hermione’s response was a single raised eyebrow, very reminiscent of Professor Snape.
“Okay, fine.” Harry huffed, “Perhaps there is a bit of pink under the right light.”
She patted his chest lovingly and cooed, “Aww, you make such a cute little snake too. Would you like for me to set up a nice aquarium with a heated rock?”
“No!” Harry quickly replied, and to his shame, his voice broke like a little child.
Still chuckling slightly, Hermione snuggled closer to Harry and whispered, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone about the pink in your scales. Let’s try to get some sleep, I’m really knackered from today, and I bet that tomorrow is going to be intriguing.”
Harry leaned down to kiss Hermione good night. As he pulled back, he said warmly, “I love you, good night.”
“Good night and I love you too.” Hermione replied as she settled into his embrace secure in the knowledge that whatever happened, they would face it together.