Title: The Choosing
Series: The Hexator Chronicles
Series Order: 1
Fandom: Harry Potter
Genre: Alternate Universe; Post-War
Relationship(s): Harry Potter/Hermione Granger; Draco Malfoy
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Character bashing; ancient rituals; Arthurian tie-in
Summary: Hogwarts re-opens after the war to some changes, students both new and old, and the return of an ancient courting rite.
Hermione frowned down at her desk and the box sitting on the corner. She was a little unsure about this final gift. It was the last one before Stage two began. She had been undecided about what to do. Should she get something that built on the previous gifts or should she focus on something that would give a more blatant clue to her identity?
She wasn’t confident that Harry had figured it out yet. What if he didn’t realize who was courting him and didn’t participate in Stage Two? Or worse, if he got a gift that could have been meant for any girl and not specifically for her? She didn’t know if she could take that kind of disappointment.
She didn’t want to cheat and make it obvious or shoot herself in the proverbial foot and make it obscure, but there was a lot riding on whether or not the Sumo would continue past this one gift. She wondered if Daphne was worried as well. Did Pansy know who was courting her? For that matter did Draco know that Neville had figured it out? If not, then Draco was probably panicking, though in that subtle Malfoy way.
Hermione smiled. She had gotten to know the ice prince of Slytherin a little since the War had ended. She had been helping Harry and Draco with their research into Professor Snape’s cure and she knew that it was only a matter of time before they were successful. She wasn’t as invested in the outcome as the two boys, but she had enjoyed the research immensely.
The time she had spent with Draco made her a lot less worried about Neville’s future than she would have probably been without those long hours spent together. Regardless, Neville knew his own mind. That was a lesson that she had also learned in the past several months. The last year of the war had changed them all, in different ways.
Neville had found an inner strength that was clear to see. Knowing both young Lords as she had come to know them both, she realized she shouldn’t have been surprised by Neville’s revelation. She had seen with her own eyes how Harry, Draco, and Neville came together, using their families historical power to make changes in the wake of the War.
Draco had been faced with opposition, at first, but as he was backed by Harry, and had followed through on the agreement made, his opposers had reminded silent. With all three young Lords voting together on many items, it was very difficult for others to get things passed.
Hermione wasn’t complaining because some of the other Lord’s voting blocks were trying to pass ridiculous laws. Some people were too extreme in either one camp or another. It was like there was no moderation.
She sighed and brought her attention back to the box. It was specially made to retain specific temperatures for live animals. This one was designed specifically for reptiles. Neville had recommended a quality breeder, and she had gone to look at the snakes herself. She knew that whichever one she chose had to be compatible with Harry’s magic, as well as her own, and it it would be a familiar to Harry, something he would bond with, and use in his Parselmagic.
There were some beautiful breeds there, some that were unusual. The breeder had told her that she had hybrids, some that were only to create unusual color combinations. Others were to incorporate special magics. The one she had eventually settled one was a beauty. A pale blue pit viper, originally from Indonesia. She had chosen it not because of the unusual color, or because of what type of magic it may eventually grow into, but because something about the snake had called to her, and she knew, that this was the snake Harry would bond with.
“You’re staring pretty hard at that box. Is it likely to bite?” Daphne asked as she set her bag down on her bed.
Hermione startled and turned to the other girl. The two had become friends since Neville’s impromptu meeting. She smiled wryly. “It might.”
“Oh?” Daphne was intrigued by that response.
Hermione nodded and moved to open the box carefully. The snake was in a status spell until Harry woke it, but she was still cautious.
Daphne looked inside and her eyes widened. “Is that the final gift for Stage One?”
“I hope so. I wasn’t sure if I should get something that would more clearly identify me as the Compare´.”
Daphne shook her head. “No. Your other gifts were all about his Forging ability or about the Parselmagic. The Second Stage is all about how they have understood our offerings, and for them to make one of their own. You can’t make it too easy for them.”
Hermione sighed. She knew that was true, but she didn’t want Harry to think some random person had been responsible. She knew that the Forging ability was something he himself hadn’t even realized until she had given him that first gift. He had talked to her about it, all bewildered about the items in the trunk.
She also knew that Parselmagic wasn’t a known practice, at least not anymore. She believed that once, there had been many Parselmouths. Perhaps in other cultures there still were. Those gifts didn’t necessarily point to her either because it wasn’t a secret Harry was a Parselmouth. Anyone who didn’t automatically think the ability to talk to snakes was a dark gift could easily have thought of those gifts, the same as Hermione had. They may not have had her inside knowledge of his abilities or affinity for it, but they could have taken a chance.
Still, she hoped he would know it was her.
“What did you choose for your final declaration?” Hermione asked, trying to get her mind off of her own worry.
“A Bakery. Well, rather, I found several locations that would suit and compiled all the information, reports, neighborhood, foundation, you know the kind of thing you would look into if you were going to buy a building to convert it for commercial use for food service. Once she chooses which one, I’ll buy it and pay for the remodel.”
“Wow.” Hermione nodded. “Do you know what Draco’s doing?”
Daphne shook her head. “No, but if I know him it’s something insanely extravagant and completely over the top.”
Hermione frowned. Draco had already gotten two extremely original gifts. What else could he possibly do that would surpass that?
Neville was working in his greenhouse replanting some trees that had grown too big for their previous pots. He had been out in the greenhouse for several hours, but he hadn’t noticed the time passing. That was usually how it happened when he was in the greenhouses or otherwise engaged in some other herbology task.
“Mr. Longbottom.” Pamona Sprout called from the door to the greenhouse.
He looked up, started at the noise.
“It looks like you have a delivery.” She motioned towards the bird that was sitting on the table just outside the greenhouse.
“Thank you, Professor Spout.” He turned towards the tree and took a moment to finish what he was doing and then stood so he could see what Draco had sent him now.
It was time for the final Declaration, but the Falcon was only carrying a single parchment. Maybe it was like the invitation to choose a Bowtruckle and an explanation or instructions and not the gift itself.
He washed and dried his hands and then sat down at the table. As soon as he did, the bird let go of the parchment and then flew away. Clearly, it wasn’t waiting for a response.
Neville hesitated before he opened the parchment, almost afraid of what he would find inside. All of Draco’s gifts so far had been extravagant. Not so much because they were expensive, but because they were personal, and they showed how much though Draco had put into them, and how Much Draco clearly understood about Neville. He knew that was the whole point of the Sumo, but it was still very overwhelming.
Taking a deep breath he unrolled the parchment and began to read. Then he stopped and read it again, not sure he understood what he was reading. It was a proposal. For an ancient and complicated magical ritual wherein the kin of a witch or wizard could reverse magic done, if they had the wand that was used originally, if the caster was dead, and it was truly their intent.
Neville lay his head down on the table and closed his eyes, not wanting to believe it was possible. Even if they could do this ritual, so much time had passed, would it even work?
It didn’t matter. He had to try.
Ginevra Weasley was sitting in a corner of the library with two of her dorm-mates, and two eighth-year girls, Lavender Brown and Rina Paveau. Technically they were studying for a theoretical transfiguration exam. Their new Transfiguration professor was even more strict than Headmistress McGonagall. In actuality, Ginny was using the time away from most of the Eighth Year students to complain about the lecture she had received from her Head of House, her father’s older brother, Bilius. He had been livid about whatever Draco Malfoy had told him. She didn’t know what the big deal was. It wasn’t as if anyone was really going to marry that cow, Parkinson. She wasn’t really Malfoy’s sister!
“You need to stop,” Lavender whispered urgently, looking around the room swiftly. Ginny had been complaining for five minutes about her uncle.
Ginny frowned at her. She knew Lavender and Rina were Eighth Year students but Lavender was dating Ron again, so she figured she was safe enough, and Rina had kept mostly to herself since school started, only being part of a group for meals or study sessions.
“What’s the problem?” Ginny asked, lowering her own voice, though she didn’t know why.
“Lord Malfoy is not kidding around, Ginny. If he made it official with your Head of House…” she paused waiting for Ginny to grasp the seriousness but the redhead didn’t seem to catch on. “He will escalate it if anything else happens.”
“I don’t understand why everyone is making such a big deal out of this. Parkinson is the bitch of Slytherin. She’s always been a bitch. She’s probably a slut too. That’s the only way someone would want to Court her. I bet it’s another one of those Foul Snakes just wanting to get back in her knickers, only for free this time.”
A loud thunk startled all five girls. They turned to see Hermione Granger standing at the table behind theirs, closer to the Ancient Runes section of the library. Her wand was out and aiming at the other students before they could even move.
She moved her wand towards the two seventh-years who hadn’t said anything yet, and then towards Lavender and Rina. “A Vow, from all of you, that you will not repeat a single foul word of what Ginevra has just said, on your magic.” She stared at them seriously and when they didn’t move fast enough she snapped “Now. I will obliviate you if I have to.”
Lavender spoke her vow first, then Rina. The two seventh years were quick to follow after that.
Hermione waved them away. “Off with you.”
Lavender hesitated a moment but then just sighed, defeated. She knew in her bones that Ginny was not getting out of this with a simple apology.
Hermione waited until she was certain the girls had left before turning to face Ginny again. “Do you have any idea what you have just done?”
Ginny looked at her blankly. Hermione sighed, angry and weary. “Draco will have you removed from school for this, at least. Maybe…I don’t know, but he has the upper hand, Ginny.”
“He can’t…I mean…” Ginny paled. “He can’t have me expelled, can he?”
“Not expelled, no, but he can have you removed from Hogwarts while he and Pansy are here,” Hermione told her honestly.
“But…she’s an orphan.” She sputtered. “She has no family, no standing…”
Hermione stood up. “Harry is an orphan too.” She pointed out.
“Yeah, but he’s Harry Potter,” Ginny said as if that meant something, and maybe to the masses, and to people like Ginny Weasley it did. It never had to Hermione. “Sirius Black is his Godfather!” Ginny said triumphantly as if this too held weight.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “And Pansy’s Godparent’s are Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy.” She knew that wasn’t common knowledge, but it wasn’t hard to find out either if you knew where to look.
Ginny paled further then took a deep breath. “Well, no one has to know about this.”
“Excuse me?” Hermione asked.
“You made the others take a vow, so they can’t tell anyone, and…I won’t tell anyone, so, it’s great. It’s a secret.” Ginny sighed in relief.
“No, it’s not great. It’s not a secret.” She narrowed her eyes on the redhead. “You forgot one person in your secrecy pact. Me.” She turned back towards her books and hefted them up again, walking out of the library. She needed to find Draco.
Neville made his way across the hall to the next dorm, the letter Draco had provided still clutched in his hand. He took a deep breath and knocked on the side of the door. He’d borrowed Harry’s map to ensure that both Pansy and Ian were out, but that Draco was in.
He really didn’t want an audience for this, and he was pretty sure when all was said and done, neither would Draco.
Draco opened the door and looked at Neville for a moment before stepping backwards and letting him inside. It wasn’t exactly unusual for them to talk or have dealings with one another, at least not since the end of the war, but since the beginning of the Sumo, that had really only been around each other when in class or in groups.
“Is something wrong?” Draco asked cautiously. He noticed Neville was clutching a piece of parchment, and Harry was usually the one who Neville confided in.
“Wrong? No. But…is this really possible?” Neville asked. He stopped. “Wait, don’t answer that. I’m doing this all wrong.” He opened his robes and pulled out a rolled parchment, whistled once, the note coming out sharp and clear.
The Cooper’s Hawk came flying in Draco’s window and sat on the perch left there for Socrates and allowed Neville to attach the parchment.
Neville rubbed one finger along the Hawk’s head. “Take this to my Compare´.”
The Hawk stared at him for a moment then turned his stare to Draco and looked back at Neville, as if to ask if he was sure.
“Yes, go on.”
The Hawk twitched but then flew the short distance to Draco and lifted his leg out for the other boy to take the parchment.
Draco stared at the bird in bemusement but did as he bid. The bird then looked from one wizard to the other before shaking his head at them both and flying out the window.
He raised an eyebrow at Neville. “You want me to open this now, or…” He motioned towards the parchment Neville was still clutching.
“If you don’t mind? I…it’s not that I don’t believe you, I just…could it really work?” Neville asked plaintively.
Draco smiled sadly. “I believe it will. I found the ritual in my cousin’s library.”
“Luna?” Neville frowned. It didn’t seem like the kind of thing Luna would have in any of her libraries. Though her mother was a Malfoy, so it was possible.
“Sirius Black. Well, he told me where to look in the Black libraries.” Draco admitted.
Neville nodded. That made more sense. The Blacks were a Noble and Ancient family, whose history definitely lingered in the dark and the grey.
“Your letter said that blood kin could do the spell, using the same wand. Do you have the wand?” Neville asked.
Draco nodded. “It was given to my mother after the battle.”
“And you can act as the Blood Kin?” Neville asked again.
“I can, and I will, but the connection will be stronger if you allow my mother to do it. Her connection is closer. Bellatrix was her sister.” Draco reminded softly.
Neville nodded, accepting the truth of that. “Will she? I mean, as you say she was her sister, and…” he shook the parchment again, where Draco had given Neville a breakdown of the ritual so he could decide whether he wanted to make the attempt. “This indicates that part of the spell involves a form of legilimency and searching for the memories of the…assault. I’m sure it’s pretty chaotic in there. And legilimency isn’t exactly an easy craft under the best of circumstances, and these won’t be.”
“My mother is an accomplished legilimens. She was trained as a mind healer before my grandfather made her give it up.” Draco told him. “She offered. Bella wasn’t the sister she remembered since before her marriage to my father.”
Neville nodded, feeling much better. “You can open that now…if you want.” He smiled a little nervously. “It’s actually a couple of things.”
Draco was about to do just that when there was a knock at the door. He was going to ignore it in favor of his Declaration. But whoever was on the other side was pretty insistent.
Neville frowned and moved towards the door. He opened it without asking and stared for a moment. “Hermione?”
The girl stared in shock for a moment. “Neville? Is uh…Draco here? I really need to talk to him.”
Neville moved aside and let her in.
”What’s wrong?” Draco asked in concern. It was clear the former Gryffindor was upset about something.
“I just overheard a conversation between Ginny Weasley and four other girls. Two seventh-years and two eighth-years. It was about Pansy.”
Both boys stiffened. “What exactly was said?” Draco asked, his voice a few degrees cooler than it had been.
Hermione opened her mouth but then shut it. While she had every intention of sharing everything Ginny said with Draco, she wasn’t thrilled with having to repeat it word-for-word.
“Draco, you have a pensieve, don’t you?” Neville asked, seeing Hermione’s reluctance.
“Yes, of course.” He answered moving towards a large wardrobe chest he had against one wall. There was another one in the other corner that probably belonged to Pansy. Draco returned with the pensieve and set it on his desk and motioned towards Hermione.
Once she had extracted the memories and placed them in the bowl, Neville and Draco entered. They both watched the entire memory unfold silently.
Draco’s fists clenched as Ginny implied his sister was a whore as well as a slut. This could not stand. They were in a public place anyone could have overheard her. What if the person who was courting her heard that and believed it, or doubted Pansy’s honor or fidelity?
No. This would end now.
Neville put a hand around Draco’s wrist and squeezed.
“I thank you for your quick actions, Hermione,” Draco said as soon as they had returned from the pensieve.
“I don’t think anyone else was nearby to hear her, but I can’t be sure,” Hermione said.
“I know what needs to be done now,” Draco stated.
“You are going to insist she leaves Hogwarts, right?” Hermione asked.
“She is Probrum.” Neville hissed, outraged on Pansy’s behalf. His grandmother would have never stood for such inappropriate behavior. “Without Honor.”
Draco and Neville looked at each other, each weighing the others resolve. Finally, they both nodded.
“We’ll need to go to Gringotts have it validated. I’ll send my mother a letter so she can prepare to respond to any owls we may receive.” Draco said with weariness. He looked sadly at his letter. “I guess I will have to find out about your mystery present later.”
Narcissa Malfoy folded the letter and set it on the table in front of her. She looked across the table at her husband. His face was drawn, but she could read the concern in his eyes. After all these years, he couldn’t hide his worry from her.
“Well?” Lucius asked. He knew that Draco’s future hinged on the outcome of the Sumo.
He may not have chosen this path for his son, but he didn’t doubt his son’s faith in Lady Magic or in the Path he had set himself on. He knew that it was his own actions, and that of his father that set their family onto the course that had nearly destroyed their family. It had only been Draco’s strength at the end that had saved their Legacy from falling to ruin.
“Draco and Heir Weasley have come to a compromise regarding Ginevra.” Narcissa began, knowing it was not what Lucius really wanted to know, but it was important information.
Lucius opened his mouth to ask what he really wanted to know but then closed it. Narcissa was stalling as her own lesson in patience, but it was true that the matter with the Weasley’s was important as well. He may not have understood why Draco chose to seek an end to the mutual animosity, but it was probably best that he had.
“What was this compromise?” He asked instead.
Narcissa smiled slyly. “Ginevra has returned home. Headmistress McGonagall has made arrangements with the girls’ parents for her to have a home study for the courses that are practical. Her mother has agreed to oversee her instruction.” She looked across at her husband. “This was the most expedient solution for her education because Draco declared her Probrum to House Malfoy.”
Lucius sucked in a sharp breath. Even when the original disagreement between the Weasley’s and the Malfoys occurred did the Malfoys name the Weasley’s Without Honor. “That’s extreme. Has something else happened? Since the two instances we were informed about?”
Narcissa pursed her lips, her fingers tightening on the table briefly. “Miss Weasley apparently had a semi-public discussion with four other girls regarding the situation after her Head of House spoke to her. She had some…unpleasant and highly inflammatory things to say about Pansy and her place in our family and in proper society.” Narcissa’s voice was like ice as she spoke.
Anger flared in Lucius’ eyes as he listened to his wife. Pansy had been a member of their family since she was born. They were her Godparents and had a magical tie to her. When her parents were killed when she was only nine months old, they had taken her in and adopted her in blood and magic. She was just as much their child as Draco was.
“These girls that she spoke to, are they going to repeat this nonsense?” He asked in a clipped tone.
“I do not believe so.” Narcissa shook her head, tapping her finger against the letter. “The conversation was overheard by Miss Granger and she impressed upon the four students that they would be better served by keeping better company.”
Lucius raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t aware Miss Granger was that close with either Draco or Pansy.”
Narcissa tapped the letter again. “She’s quite close to Lords Longbottom and Potter.” Narcissa took a second letter from an inner pocket and lay it on the table beside the first. “Luna has also informed me that the Houses of Potter and Longbottom have been joined in Alliance and blessed by Lady Magic.”
Lucius sat back in surprise. It wasn’t so much the fact that Potter and Longbottom were Allied that shocked him. They were both significant Lords and wielded their Seats in the Wizengamot with Authority, but if Draco’s suit was successful, then that power would also be joined to the Malfoy family through Draco’s magical union with Lord Longbottom. He had witnessed the results of their combined will on local matters as they pressed their own agenda and subverted the more extreme of the opposing members of the Wizengamot.
“Continue,” Lucius said, more calmly, knowing that if the compromise was not resolved to Narcissa’s satisfaction, she would not be sitting idly by.
Narcissa nodded. “Ginevra’s choices were limited. She could not remain at Hogwarts, as Draco’s proclamation was witnessed and validated by Gringotts as appropriate and just for her transgressions. Beauxbatons would not take her in, considering her situation. Though late in the year, there is a chance she could have transferred to the Americas or another Magical School, however, I doubt Molly Weasley would allow any of her children so far away.”
Lucius snorted indelicately but said nothing.
“Regardless, she will not be a bother to either of our children any further.” Narcissa smiled. Her son had taken care of this matter swiftly, just as she had known he would.
“Perhaps.” Lucius hesitated. “Is she, or any of the Weasleys for that matter, aware of the full measure of such a sanction? This not only affects her schooling. She cannot approach a Malfoy, or Malfoy-aligned person, home or business. She cannot seek aid or counsel, regardless of circumstance. She may not have any dealings with us, or our allies, for any reason, directly or indirectly, In Magical Britain or outside of it. This sanction is permanent, immutable until her Magic has left her and rejoined with her Family’s Ancestral pool after she passes on.”
“The Goblins would have notified her Head of House of all the restrictions when the Sanction was validated, to include any allied Houses,” Narcissa said.
“Hmm.” He took a drink of his tea to give him a moment to ponder the situation. On the surface, it would seem as though Draco had acted rashly, however, the details to Pansy’s place within the Malfoy family had never been common knowledge. It was known she lived with the Malfoys, and most people assumed she was some sort of Ward if they ever gave her place any thought at all. Pansy’s mother had been one of Narcissa’s second cousins so it hadn’t been unusual for them to take her in. However, they had kept their adoption of her quiet. The circumstances of her parent’s death was unusual, and never quite resolved. Lucius had felt, at the time, it was best to handle the matter privately.
Perhaps their strict adherence to privacy and pureblood protocols might have given the wrong impression of Pansy’s place in their family. That didn’t mean that it was okay for someone to disrespect Pansy, her birth parents, or what it meant to be a woman of character. No. Though the punishment was severe, it was fair. Ginevra Weasley was not prevented from getting an education or having a career or a husband, she just couldn’t seek any of those things from the Malfoys or their Allies.
“What of Stage Two?” Lucius asked, satisfied that the earlier matter was dealt with sufficiently.
“Draco’s gift is even now in the lake, attempting to draw Ceto’s favor. I have no doubt when Draco is informed, he will be pleased.”
“Hmm.” Lucius murmured, slightly surprised. This Rite had surprised him at several turns but he could agree that both of his children seemed to be doing well for themselves. “Pansy?”
“Has arranged specialized lessons in using different mediums and the differences between magical works and muggle,” Narcissa smiled. It took Pansy’s eye for detail to figure out the ideal gift.
“Daphne won’t want to be separated for a long period, especially if Lady Magic blesses them.” Lucius pointed out.
“Pansy considered that. The art school is the same one she was looking at that offers the advanced baking and pastry making program.”
“Excellent. Now, about this spell,” Lucius peered at his wife. “It’s dangerous, Narcissa. These kinds of mind magics require finesse and precision.”
“Do not lecture me on the art of legilimency, Lucius Abraxus Malfoy.” Narcissa snapped cooly. “I am the best suited. I am the closest blood relative, aside from Andie, and I spent more time with Bella.”
“Cissa.” Lucius looked at his wife. “You’ll have to navigate through the Longbottom’s fractured minds and locate the memories of what your sister did to them. You’ll have to relive that memory in order to piece back what Bella destroyed.”
“I know,” Narcissa whispered. She placed her hand across his on the table. “Would you rather our Dragon make the attempt instead? He is good, Luce, but, he hasn’t the experience.”
“Seeing Neville’s parents in such a state will be hard for him.” Lucius agreed. “Very well, but we will not rush this.”
Narcissa smiled at her husband. “Of course not.” She stood up. “Let’s go see if Ceta is still playing hard to get.”
Lucius chuckled and followed his wife out.
Hermione was trying to study one of the books Harry had let her borrow, but for the first time in, well ever, she just couldn’t concentrate. There was this sense of tension just out of reach. She felt like it was just outside of her awareness, but close enough she could sense something off.
She wondered if it was anything to do with what had happened earlier in the day. The vows she’d made those girls take. They’d resonated in her core in an odd way like she was holding them, but not for herself.
It made sense. She had made them on Pansy’s behalf. On behalf of House Malfoy, which, if she understood the interaction earlier was well on its way to being forever tied to House Longbottom. House Longbottom was already aligned with Houses Potter and Black. She felt herself a part of that as well. She wasn’t sure how, or even when it had changed or altered, or why it was she could recognize the difference when just a few days ago she couldn’t. But now, she could feel the power of Harry’s legacy as it joined with her own magic.
She assumed that meant that Harry did recognize the gifts as being from her, and had accepted her Declaration, even though she hadn’t seen an official response yet.
She could wait.
Harry Potter frowned as he looked inside the box. “Is it safe in there?”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Yes. It’s heat regulated, just like for a reptile. You can put a status spell on it after you close it, so it won’t hatch. I would do it, but it would be better if only your magical signature was recognized.”
“How do you know what it’ll look like once hatched? I mean, the color?” Harry asked. He personally didn’t care, but Hermione had been so drawn to the birds when they had come over the summer to research Severus’ cure. She still wasn’t very comfortable around either of Draco’s parents but had spent some time outside around their habitat, when she could. He didn’t want Hermione to be disappointed in this one, even though, according to Narcissa, it had practically chosen Hermione.
“My mother has been breeding Magical Merak’s longer than I have been alive,” Draco reassured.
Harry nodded. “Okay. Thank you.” He closed the lid and fastened it tightly before drawing out his other wand and sealing it in a powerful stasis spell.
Draco raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
Harry lifted the box and began to move towards the door. He hesitated for a second. “Draco? I know it’s not necessary, but I want you to know that I agree and support the sanction.”
Draco smiled slightly. “Thank you.” He watched as Harry took his gift and walked away. He wondered, if only for a moment, what their world would look like by the time their own children were ready for school.
Ron found Hermione in the Great Hall. She was standing in front of that creepy tapestry of Merlin and the dragon. There was something about that tapestry that disturbed him.
“I’ve been looking for you,” Ron said as he got closer. They were alone in the Hall, but he didn’t want to make a scene, just in case there was some student out wandering around like they used to do. This conversation really should be as private as he could make it.
He really should ask Hermione to go somewhere else, but, he felt comfortable here. No matter how different the Great Hall looked now, with its new round tables and its strange tapestries, he could still remember all those meals shared with Harry and Hermione and his other Gryffindor housemates. The years at Hogwarts may have been littered with frequent terror, but there had been good times too. Now, his sister had turned this last year into an embarrassment.
“You found me,” Hermione said as she turned around. She watched Ron for a long moment. Her old friend was obviously thinking deep thoughts, but for once she wasn’t sure what exactly had his focus.
“This tapestry is kind of creepy,” Ron said, not for the first time. “It feels like the dragon is watching me.”
Hermione smiled to herself, not surprised by Ron’s confession. He had always been a little uncomfortable around Harry when the subject of his Parseltongue was mentioned. Considering what Hermione had learned about the origins of Parselmagic in the book Harry had given her from the Peverell library for one of her restoration projects, she was not at all surprised that Ron was bothered by the tapestry of Merlin and Kilgharrah.
“My sister’s has been called home.” Ron finally said, moving to sit at a nearby table.
Hermione nodded. “I had a feeling that might happen. I warned Ginny it was a possibility.”
Ron stared at the table for a moment before looking up at her. “Lavender told me that Ginny did something else. She didn’t say what.” He clarified when Hermione frowned. “She told me she took a vow not to discuss it…that you made her and some other girls take a vow…” He trailed off, confused.
Hermione sighed. “Ron, I know your family doesn’t practice the Old ways, and we’ve never really talked about it, what with the war and everything, but the Sumo is based in some pretty ancient magic. Pansy being courted the way she is, it’s serious. I read about the tradition. What Ginny said to her was more than rude or inappropriate.” She paused a second. “In ancient times, a Lord from an Ancient House could duel someone for besmirching his sister’s honor in such a way. Since Ginny is a girl and not quite of age, that means someone else would have to duel in her place. Ordinarily that someone could be Bill because he is the Heir. However, as the incidents occurred at school, you, as her older brother, and an adult, are basically responsible for her, while she is away from the Family’s protection, it would then fall to you.”
“But, that isn’t done anymore, right?” Ron asked, sort of appalled. He and Draco were the same age, but he was not kidding himself that he could win in a duel, even if he had Harry helping him.
“No, but it’s still legal,” Hermione admitted. “Draco has worked hard to end the enmity between your families, Ron. He isn’t happy about this. I hope you know that.”
Ron nodded. He did know that. He couldn’t say he liked Malfoy any more now than he had before, but he did recognize that Draco was not his father, and Draco had made efforts, since the end of the war, to change the way his family were seen, or not so much how others saw them, as how they used their power. Because they still had power. Malfoys had been a part of British Wizarding society as long as there’d been a British Wizarding society. They’d helped to shape some things, for both good and ill. Just because the last few generations had made some bad decisions, didn’t undo what contributions the family had made to the Wizarding world at large.
“I know. I warned Ginny too. But she just…” He hesitated a second, not sure if he should tell Hermione this part. “This courting thing really got to her, I think.”
Hermione frowned. “Oh? She didn’t seem upset when the Headmistress made the announcement at the welcoming feast.”
“I know. I think she just, well. She never said anything, but I think maybe she was hoping…maybe Harry.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Harry told me that he told her that it wasn’t going to happen.”
“Yeah, but I think the whole romanticism of the Courting ritual got to her. And Mom was telling her, before we left for school, that men don’t know what they want so he could still change his mind.”
Hermione groaned. She liked Molly, she did, but sometimes she made things more difficult for her children than they needed to be. “So she wanted to court Harry?”
Ron shook his head. “No, I think she was hoping he would court her, but then, your first gift arrived, and she realized someone else was courting him.”
Hermione nodded. “According to the rules, Harry couldn’t court anyone while he was being courted.” She paused. “Wait, you knew that was from me?”
Ron rolled his eyes this time. “I may be thick, but you guys are my best friends. Who else knows Harry so well? Knows him better than himself even?”
Hermione smiled to herself. “You don’t mind?”
Ron shook his head. “No, it makes sense, really. You guys just fit. And it’s because of that, that I really came to ask about the vow you made Lavender and the others take.”
Hermione thought for a long minute, wondering if she would be revealing any confidences if she told him. “I can tell you, but part of it isn’t my story, so you’ll have to take a vow yourself.” she cautioned him.
Ron thought about that for a moment. Did he really want to know more than he already did? Was he curious? Yes, but more than that, he wanted to have some kind of footing at the Weasley family meeting. Even if he couldn’t reveal any specific information he gained, at least he could have a firmer understanding of how things ended up how and where they did.
“Okay.” He took his vow and watched as Hermione cast a strong silencing spell around their table. “Harry and Neville have aligned their magical Houses.” Hermione started.
Ron nodded. This wasn’t news. It wasn’t exactly public knowledge either, but he didn’t think too many people who had seen them in action at the Wizengamot would be surprised either. “Harry told me about that.”
“Right, well what Harry probably didn’t tell you was that through Neville, he is now aligned with House Malfoy, or soon will be. As will I. It was for this reason, I acted on Pansy’s behalf. She is a Malfoy.”
Ron frowned. “Okay, now you lost me. How did Harry and Neville’s alliance involve the Malfoy’s?”
Hermione stared at him for a second but then just shook her head. “Draco is courting Neville, and as of earlier today, Neville returned the interest. It is inevitable that they will be matched, probably blessed by Lady Magic as well.”
Ron’s eyes widened. Ooh boy, when his sister screwed up, she did it right. “So, you made the girls take a vow, to protect Pansy. Because you knew that you’re all aligned, or you will be. Potter-Black, Longbottom, Malfoy, and whoever it is that’s chosen Pansy.” he held up a hand, that was one piece of information he didn’t need to know. “No, I don’t need to know. And unlike my sister, I realize that her Compare´ is just as serious as you and…Draco, apparently.” He shook his head, trying to wrap his head around Draco being the one behind all of Neville’s gifts. That was…actually not that surprising now that he thought about it.
“Can you tell me what to expect at this meeting my Uncle has called?” Ron asked finally.
Hermione thought about the moment earlier when Neville declared Ginny Probrum. “I will say that the consequences may seem extreme, however, they are just, given her actions. Also, they affect her only, not the rest of the family.”
Ron grunted, wishing she had given him more, but understood, now more than he had earlier, that she was in a complicated situation. “Okay. Thanks. I’ll probably stay home for the weekend and come back to school on Monday.”
Hermione nodded and reached across to give him a hug. She watched him as he left the room and she hoped that the rest of the family took the news as well.
Harry looked at the final piece of his gift. He wasn’t sure if he had gotten the right things. He had tried to speak to who Hermione was as a person as well as a witch. He wanted to get something that would be compatible with her interests. He had also read that there was a tradition when receiving a gift of a familiar or other magical creature, that it should be reciprocated in kind.
The pit viper Hermione had found for him was exotic and of singular intelligence. He wanted to find her something she would find just as interesting. She may not be able to communicate with the Merak, but Harry was sure she would be pleased, nonetheless.
He also had to appeal to her academic soul and after some thought, and some research of his own, Harry believed he had found something that would please her. Hermione had an interest in restoring old books, caring for the pages and bindings. This had not surprised Harry at all when she had asked him if she could work on some of the older tombs in one of his libraries and she explained why. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world for someone as well read as Hermione to become interested in.
Harry had learned that the techniques for restoring such books in the muggle world and the wizarding world were somewhat different, though there was some crossover. He had found an introductory course into the art of bookbinding and restoring in the wizarding world that he thought Hermione would be interested in.
He also used some of the raw materials she had provided in that first gift to create something special for her, to match that hair clip. Maybe now that her secret was out she’d actually wear it.
Harry hoped his gifts showed her that he understood what she had been trying to show him and that he accepted and was ready to move forward.
Now he just had to wait for whatever happened next.
Neville watched as Draco formed his part of the circle, Air, and Water. He then sat and waited while Neville completed his part, calling forth Earth and Fire. Their magic wove its way through the circle, combining and joining in ways it hadn’t before when kept separate.
Neville sat in the circle, facing his Compare´´. He placed his hands gently on top of Draco’s, his finger’s grasping Draco’s slender wrist as the former Slytherin did the same to him. Neville could sense Nanto circling the space in an uneven fashion, using the rough mineral stones he had placed around the circle, to represent earth, as stepping stones for his movement, hopping from one to the next.
Gaia also moved silently around them, though in a more cautious manner. Neville knew she was due to drop her eggs soon, so he was almost surprised to see her, but she had been with them during this Rite the whole time, so it was only fitting.
Draco squeezed his wrist once to draw Neville’s attention and then said. “Lady Magic, we summon you forth, on tonight of all nights, so you may witness our pledge and our offering.”
“Earth,” Neville said solemnly settling some bark and Kavew root in the center of the circle between the two of them.
“Air.” Draco set a crystal bell into their circle, a slight breeze moving through the air.
“Fire.” Neville set a candle between them and watched as it flickered.
“Water.” Draco set a stone bowl filled will clear water next to Neville’s candle.
“Spirit.” Both intoned together. Their hands twisted around each other’s wrists until their hands were palm to palm. The magic thrummed between them.
“Child of Earth and Fire, do you accept the Tarrah, as your Compare´ has created for you?” A voice whispered in the air.
“I do,” Neville stated clearly, his eyes locked on Draco’s.
“Do you believe in the promises he has made you, by showing you who he is and how well he understands who you are?”
“I do.” He repeated.
“And do you, Child of Water and Air accept the Ra’at that your Compare´´ has bestowed upon you and your House?”
“I do,” Draco answered, his tone clear and crisp.
“Your vow is true.” the voice said from everywhere at once. “Your match is true.”
Neville and Draco looked at one another as the wind began to move fast, strong enough to blow out the candle and cause the crystal bell to chime. The earth beneath them trembled slightly before all was silent. They heard one last whisper on the wind before they were truly alone.
“So mote it be.”
Pansy shuddered slightly as she felt the change in her family magic. She looked across the clearing to where Daphne was meditating. She could see her fingers twitch and she knew she had felt the shift as well. Daphne had only been part of the Malfoy family for an hour so she probably couldn’t recognize the shift for exactly what it was; the addition of a new magic. Strong, elemental magic.
She had never considered it before, but Neville was probably stronger in the elements that her brother was weakest in. Together they would probably be quite the powerhouse. If father had needed any convincing, that shift in family magic probably would have done the job for Draco. However, the one area that Lucius had not disappointed was in how he approached the art of acquiring a spouse, and Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, did consider finding a suitable mate an art form, and the criteria did not necessarily have anything to do with one’s blood status nor bank vault. The Wizarding world would probably be quite shocked by what Lucius found important when choosing a spouse.
Pansy let her eyes watch her own mate and smiled softly. The Greengrasses were an old family, but not as old as the Malfoys. However, it was Daphne’s own sensitivity to ambient magic and her daily meditation regimen that made her more attuned to her magical core. It’s what made her able to focus on her art in a way that Pansy found captivating. That ability had the side effect of making her inclusion into the family magic a little rougher than she had expected.
Daphne released a deep breath suddenly and opened her eyes. She looked around and focused on Pansy. “What was that?”
“That power burst running through the family magic?” Pansy asked with a quirk of her lips. “That was Draco and Neville.”
Daphne’s eyes widened. “Wow. That was intense.” She stood up and walked toward Pansy. “That definitely felt like they were Blessed by the Lady.”
“You think?” Pansy grinned. “My brother definitely chose well.”
“You didn’t do too bad yourself,” Daphne said softly taking Pansy’s hand. “I can’t wait to get you into my studio.
Hermione took a deep breath as she set the supplies out in front of her. She wasn’t sure why she was so nervous. She had read about the ritual so many times she could probably recite the words verbatim, but she didn’t want to mess this up somehow.
“You okay?” Harry asked softly, watching her closely.
Hermione nodded and was about to say something when she felt something rush through her. It felt odd. Like power and electricity. She could smell earth and water, even feel heat, as if a bonfire were burning in front of her, but she couldn’t pinpoint where any of it was coming from. Then as suddenly as it had come, it had settled.
Harry smiled. “That’s fantastic.”
Hermione smiled back, though her brow quirked a little as she asked. “What was that, exactly?”
Harry looked at Hermione in surprise. “Did you feel it too?” He had been rehearsing the ritual words in his head so he didn’t forget something important.
Hermione nodded. “I felt something strange once before, but this was different, stronger.”
Harry nodded. “Family magic is a living thing.” He said softly as he picked up her hand. “It gets stronger with each generation. Families with specific magical traits will find that as the years pass those traits get stronger in the later generations because of the well of family magic. Our situation is unique.” Harry said softly, using his other hand to motion between the two of them.
“How so?” Hermione asked. She set the bowl of rock salt in front of her, next to the feather she had brought. She thought it was a bit of irony that she had chosen to use a feather from one of the Malfoy birds before Harry had delivered his gift to her. Now it’s seemed fitting.
“Neville and I are connected, magically. Now that he is connected to House Malfoy, I am as well, through Neville. However, even without Neville, Draco is already a part of my family magic because he is a Black by blood. Our connections are woven even tighter, and given the way things have turned out, I think it’s as it’s meant to be. At least that’s what Luna would say.
Hermione smiled. She didn’t have much patience for divination or destiny, but she didn’t doubt Luna’s gifts. She had seen them too often yield results.
Harry let her hand go and turned to his portion of the elements. He placed a candle and a small chalice filled halfway with water into the circle.
The couple looked nervously at each other and began to speak the ritual words.
“Lady Magic, we summon you to witness this night, our pledge to you and an offering.” Hermione began.
“Earth,” Harry said quietly, as he set a piece of stone into the circle.
“Air.” Hermione intoned as she set a single feather down. A slight breeze wafted around them.
“Fire.” Harry placed a candle between them and watched the flame as it flickered.
“Water.” Hermine placed a curved dish made of seashell into the space between them.
“Spirit.” They spoke together, their voices rising together, their hands coming together and intertwining. Magic thrummed between them like a living thing.
“Master of Death, do you accept the Tarrah as your Compare´ has created for you?” a voice a clear as crystal sang through the trees.
Harry paused at the title but then nodded. “I do.
“Do you have faith in the promises she has made you by showing you how much she understands about who and what you are?”
“I do,” Harry said again, voice slightly stronger this time.
“And do you, Mistress of the lost art of the knowledge seekers, do you accept the gift your Compare´ has bestowed upon you?”
Hermione frowned in confusion for a moment but then squeezed Harry’s hands. “I do.”
“Your vow is true.” The crystal voice said, a sound like a bell ringing. “Your match is true.”
The wind picked up as Hermione and Harry stared at one another and the candle winked out.
“So mote it be.”
Sirius Black felt the shift in the family magic and stopped mid-sentence. Mason Delviny blinked at him, nonplussed. His solicitor had been listening attentively for the last fifteen minutes as Sirius explained what he wanted done with several of the Muggle businesses he owned. Sirius shook off the feeling of the family magic shifting and expanding and returned to his explanation.
“We’ve begun the process to close down these two properties per your request. The property in Wiltshire should be ready for warding by the end of the week.” Delviny said as soon as Sirius was finished.
Sirius nodded as he reviewed the document the wizard handed him. Before the other man could begin discussing the next matter on his agenda the door to his left was opened and a young wizard entered with a stack of parchment. He spoke to Delviny quietly for a moment before handing the stack off and leaving again.
Delviny took a look through the stack before turning back to Sirius. “These were just delivered by special messenger. It seems congratulations are in order, Lord Black.”
Sirius raised an eyebrow.
“Your heir has entered into a magical marriage, blessed by the Lady. I’m sure you’re no doubt aware that the British Ministry of Magic tries to ignore such matters, however, they are quite legal, and as such are recognized by the International Confederation of Wizards, as well as the Welsh Ministry.”
Sirius nodded. “I was aware Harry was in a courting period. He was participating in the Sumo ritual.
Delviny looked back at the parchment. “Yes. Their match was blessed by the Lady.” He pulled out another piece of parchment and slid it across the table. “Were you aware that your heir had entered into a Hexator Alliance?”
Sirius leaned back in his chair. “I was aware he aligned our Houses with House Longbottom,” Sirius said slowly.
Delviny nodded. “Yes. His marriage also aligns him with his wife’s House.”
Sirius frowned. “He was being courted by Hermione Granger, wasn’t he? At least that’s what I thought.”
“But she’s a muggleborn. She doesn’t have a House.”
Delviny tapped a finger on the parchment. “No. Her lineage is masked. She would have to go to the Bank and do a heredity test, but she does have magical ancestors. From the strength of the Hexator, it’s most likely an old line, perhaps one thought extinct.”
Sirius let out a breath. “Okay. What are the other Houses?”
“Malfoy and Greengrass,” Delviny said handing the document over which showed a diagram of the Hexator.
Sirius stared at the diagram for a long minute before making a decision. “Make arrangements with the ICW. Tell them I’ve changed my mind and have decided to take their assignment after all.”
William Weasley arrived at his uncle’s house an hour before the meeting was due to start. He had spent several hours the day before discussing the situation with his uncle so they were clear on the situation and the various options open to them, which admittedly were few before they had the family meeting. Bill knew that his parents were not going to be happy with Draco’s judgment, and what it meant for Ginevra’s options. However she had been warned, and she chose not to listen.
“Am I late?”
Bill looked up as his brother Charlie entered the parlor of his uncle’s house. He looked slightly frazzled but better dressed than usual. Considering he spent most of his time around fire-breathing dragons, that made sense. He clearly came prepared for the business at hand.
“No. We have an hour before the rest of the family arrives.”
Charlie nodded and set down on Bill’s right. Bill handed him half the stalk of parchment he’d received from Gringotts. Charlie began reading through it quickly. He’d been given an overview of the situation by Floo, but he hadn’t gotten any of the specific details.
“Ah, Charles, you’ve arrived. Excellent.” Bilius smiled tiredly at his younger brothers oldest sons as he came into the room. It took him longer than he’d like to make his way around and to the head of the table. He sank into the seat at William’s left and breathed heavily. His personal elf popped in and handed over two potions, which he took without issue. “It won’t be long now, my boys.” He whispered roughly once he could breathe and speak at the same time.
Charlie raised an eyebrow at Bill, clearly surprised to see their uncle’s condition worsened to this degree. He had known that Bilius was ill. When Bill had been named his heir, he’d named Charlie a secondary should something happen to Bill. He knew that Bill was going to keep him as heir until he had his own children, but he wasn’t aware that their uncle was so close to death.
Bill shook his head at his brother’s raised eyebrow. “Do have any questions?”
Charlie returned his gaze to the parchment and sighed. “If I understood this correctly. Ginny insulted Pansy Parkinson, who is by all counts a member of the Malfoy family, in blood and magic, on two separate occasions, in front of witnesses, including her brother, the Lord of the House, and her Compare´ in the Sumo ritual?” He looked up at his brother and then his eyes moved to Uncle Bilius who just looked weighted down by grief and weary by life. His eyes moved back to Bill.
“Yes. It was not known, at that time that her Compare´ was present, as the first incident was during the initial delivery of the Tarrah, but it was probable.”
“For the love of Kilgharrah!” Charlie hissed.
Bill’s lips twitched, but he didn’t say anything further. Charlie returned his eyes to the parchment. “There was a third incident.”
Bill sighed. “Lord Malfoy was not present for that one. However, the future Lady Potter was. She took matters into her own hands and made everyone present take a vow not to repeat what Ginevra said and then went to inform Lord Malfoy.”
“And this…what the Goblins have written here, this is what Ginevra said?” Charlie asked incredulously. You don’t call a peer of the realm a whore, or imply it in any way.
Bill grimaced. “Unfortunately, yes.”
Charlie took a deep breath. “Okay. I agree. The probrum is just and fair.” He sighed. “Mom and dad won’t see it that way.”
“Your parents have no say,” Bilius said. His voice was weakened but there was a line of steel running through it which reminded both young men of the man he was in his youth. “I understand that they will wish to find a way around this. I understand that you will both be put in the unenviable position of having to both stand for our House, and face your parents and siblings, but this must be done.”
“We understand.” Both brothers agreed after sharing a look.
“Good. Now, the family should be here soon. Take a moment to prepare. We must present a united front.” Bilius looked at them both. His blue eyes showing how serious he was, no matter his weakened condition.
Hogwarts resumed as usual after the eventful weekend. Ron Weasley returned to school and found himself back in classes and for the first time in a long while he was thinking before speaking. The family meeting had been as unpleasant as he had thought it might be, given what Hermione had warned him about. He had a better understanding of the situation than his own parents, but he was bound by Hermione’s vow not to speak of it. They knew what Ginny had done, and what Draco’s response was, but they weren’t informed for some of the specific details of the events themselves such as who had witnessed each incident, and who had told the Malfoys, for any incident they were not present for. The alliance between the houses was not common knowledge at the present time, nor was it something the Goblins would have divulged. Neither was the matches that resulted from the Sumo ritual, successfully completed. Therefore, Ron’s parents were hoping to get Harry’s aid and influence with the Malfoys in overturning the decision regarding Ginny’s future.
Ron knew that wasn’t likely to happen, but he wasn’t in a position to explain that to his parents. He could, however to the next best thing, prepare his friends for the siege that would no doubt be coming.
He took a deep breath and knocked on Harry and Neville’s door.
The door was opened by Draco, who raised a blond eyebrow at him but stepped back to let him enter.
Ron wasn’t thrilled to see Malfoy there, but it was probably best to get it out to everyone at once. “Is your sister here too? She might want to hear what I have to say as well.”
Draco raised an eyebrow and then turned to Harry.
“Hermione is in the library.” He pulled out a piece of parchment and wrote a quick note and handed it off to Draco. Draco handed it to Socrates, who was perched on the branch on Neville’s tree. Harry had learned pretty quickly that Socrates was a very particular bird. He flew out the window and disappeared from sight. Harry turned back to Ron. “What’s this about?”
“It’s about my parents, and…well the thing with Ginny,” Ron admitted.
Harry exchanged a look with Neville and then with Draco before they all turned to look at Ron.
“We’ll wait for the girls,” Neville said firmly, moving towards his plants.
They didn’t have to wait long. Draco had barely ordered afternoon tea for everyone when the door opened and Pansy, Hermione, and Daphne Greengrass entered.
Ron’s eyes widened slightly at the sight of the third girl. He wasn’t sure why he was surprised. The Greengrasses were an old pureblood family. It made sense that they would want to align themselves to the Malfoys.
“What’s going on, Draco?” Daphne asked when she saw Ron.
“Let’s sit,” Hermione said moving towards the small table in the room. It could fit five so Daphne and Pansy remained standing.
Draco raised an eyebrow at the redhead. “The floor is yours, Weasley.”
“Uh, thanks.” He turned to the girls. Greengrass was frowning at him, but Parkinson just looked impassive. “Uh, I wanted to apologize for my sister’s behavior.”
Pansy blinked at him and then pursed her lips. “Her actions are her own. You are not responsible for them. But, thank you.” She nodded once and stepped back.
Ron nodded, feeling slightly relieved and sat at the table. “Our family had a meeting yesterday, about Ginny’s situation, being declared probrum, and what it means for her future.” He looked down at the table and cleared his throat and then looked back at his year mates. “My older brothers and our Head of House explained the restrictions to us, so my parents, and my sister are aware of the stipulations.”
“But?” Neville asked leaning forward.
“My parents want a chance to see if they can change your mind.” He looked at Draco when he said it, his fingers drumming lightly on the tabletop.
“How do they expect to do that?” Draco drawled.
Ron’s gaze went to Harry and then back to the table.
“I see.” Draco raised an eyebrow at Neville.
“Are they aware of the alliances between our Houses?” Neville asked softly.
“No,” Ron admitted. “They don’t follow the Old Ways. It is unlikely they would be able to sense the resonance between you. As no formal announcements have been made, they haven’t learned of it in a more traditional way.”
Draco smirked. “A more traditional way? What is more traditional than to follow the path of the Lady?”
Ron flushed. “I just wanted you…all of you, to be aware of what might happen next.”
Neville looked to Harry and then to Draco before nodding to each in turn. “We appreciate you bringing this to our attention, Ron. If your parents do seek a way around Ginevra’s sanction, we will clarify the situation for them.”
Ron blinked. There had been a weight to Neville’s words he hadn’t expected. Abruptly he nodded and stood up. “Thanks.” Suddenly he wanted out of that room. He was more than a little relieved that no one in his family was likely to marry into that combined seat of power, nor would he be likely to have to deal with them in any political way, since Bill was his uncle’s heir.
Maybe being just an Auror was perfectly okay.
The eighth-year students who had become part of Hermione’s study group were installed in a couple of library tables towards the back, near where the arithromancy books were kept. They had been working for several hours on various assignments, books being shared between them and help freely offered when needed.
McGonagall hated to interrupt, but she’d had word of an emergency session of the Wizengamot, and three of the sitting members were at the table. She stepped closer and waited. It only took a moment for someone to notice her.
“Headmistress.” Rina Paveau squeaked.
Several of the other students stopped what they were doing and looked up at her. Minerva smiled fondly when she noted both Hermione and lan Flagherty continued writing notes. Daphne Greengrass nudged Hermione slightly under the table while Blaise Zabini gently took the quill from lan’s fingers.
“Now, that I have your attention,” Minerva nodded to everyone. I wanted to tell you how pleased I am that so many of you return to school this year, despite other responsibilities.” Her eyes focused on those students who had responsibilities outside of Hogwarts. “Lords Longbottom, Malfoy, and Potter, if you’d come with me please.”
Hermione took Harry’s books while Pansy took Neville and Draco’s as the three boys left the table and followed the headmistress.
“I wonder what that’s about,” Susan asked absently as she returned to her book.
“They’ve called an emergency session of the Wizengamot.” Ian Flagherty offered as he took his quill back from Blaise. “My grandmother warned me last night it was a possibility.” He went back to his note-taking.
Hannah frowned. “Why would she warn you?” She looked at Susan for help. Susan always understood a lot more about the politics in their society than Hannah ever did. She knew Ian’s grandmother was the Chief Witch of the Wizengamot, but that didn’t really explain why she would warn Ian about a meeting. Ian didn’t hold any Seats, that she knew of. Though he was being courted, so maybe his Compare´ did, whoever that had been?
“What happens here in Britain can affect the wider world, Ms. Abbot. Therefore, the rulings of the Wizengamot can affect the business of the International Confederation of Wizards. Everyone should pay attention, but especially those who have a vested interest in the ICW, as do my family. We represent the Italian ministry there.”
Hannah blinked. “Uh, why are you going to school here if your family is based in Italy?”
Blaise rolled his eyes. “My father was Armand Shafiq. It was his wish that I attend school here, at Hogwarts. My mother acquiesced.”
Ian continued his notes but placed his free hand on Blaise’s arm to calm his ire. Blaise didn’t speak of his father often, certainly not among mixed company. He looked up at the former Hufflepuff. “Have you decided what’s next after Hogwarts?”
Hannah looked down before smiling tentatively. “I’m going to study magical watches and clocks abroad. My father has gotten an apprenticeship for me if I do well on my international NEWTS.”
Ian smiled. “Fantastic. Congratulations.” He turned to the others at the table. “What about the rest of you?”
As the rest of the year-mates began to share their future plans, Blaise relaxed. He knew he was a little twitchy about his parents. He always had been, but no one but his closest friends knew the truth about what had happened to his father. His mother’s reputation as a Black Widow was something that had been unplanned but served her, so she let it continue. She was no killer, not in the way people believed. Still, he would be happy to return home.
“This two-thousandth, three-hundred and twelfth session of the Wizengamot is now in session.” Catrine Cornwall-Flagherty stated as she looked out at the assembled Lords and Ladies. She turned to her left. “I realize this session was called for specific business but is there anything from the last session that should be addressed first?”
“We have one matter that should be addressed from the last session. The matter of the re-warding schedule. There have been some issues that have come up regarding some of the stores. Also, it looks like St Mungos is going to take a few days longer than anticipated.”
Catrine reviewed the parchment in front of her with the schedule on it. “I see no issue with the proposed changes.” She set it aside and looked back around the room.
“Now, that that is settled, what is this new business that required the calling of an emergency session?” Catrine Cornwall-Flagherty peered down at the audience. “William Weasley.” She looked at the young man. “I understand your uncle left very explicit instructions regarding the Lordship for your House.”
William stood up. “Yes, ma’am. He was very clear on the line of succession. We have had everything validated through the Goblins.”
“Very well.” Catrine nodded. “Take your Seat among us.” She watched as William went to the long-dormant Seat of the House of Weasley and stood before the Seal, hand placed atop the raised symbol of the magical crest. There was a flair of magic and a <> of their family totem and then everything was still. Catrine smiled. It had been several years since the Weasley’s had taken their rightful place in the Wizengamot. The Lord of the House hadn’t had enough magical power to take the Seat, and he hadn’t designated someone else in the family as his proxy, who was magically powerful, so it had lain dormant for too long. “Welcome, Lord Weasley. Now, I don’t imagine your addition to the Wizengamot was the sole reason for this meeting.”
“No, Chief Witch. We wish to bring up the matter of a member of our House being named Probrum by another member of this Body.”
There was dead silence in the room. No one moved for a moment, as if afraid that acknowledging the statement would somehow make it visible and contagious.
“I see,” Catrine stated peering down at Lord Weasley. She leaned back in her chair. “Continue.”
“Ginevra Molly Weasley was named Probrum by House Malfoy. Gringotts has confirmed and validated the accusation as justified.”
The sound of a small bell drew Catrine’s attention, and she nodded. “Lord Longbottom. You have the floor.”
“House Longbottom joined Hose Malfoy in their accusation.”
“As did House Greengrass.” Stated Desmond Greengrass as his Seal lit up.
Catrine eyed Lord Greengrass and then Lord Longbottom before turning to Lord Malfoy. “Lord Malfoy, do you have anything to add?”
Lord Malfoy pursed his lips before speaking. “As Lord Weasley has stated, we took the matter to the Horde for validation. They ruled it justified. Lord Weasley agreed, as did Lord Bilius Weasley. We are satisfied and have no desire to have a return to the unpleasant relationship of the past with House Weasley.”
“Very well. This body will consider the matter settled.” Catrine looked around at the assembled Lords and Ladies.
Due to the nature of this session being an emergency meeting it was closed and there were no general audience members, no reporters. Only those that were required for the business at hand. She eyed the few Lords that she thought might have issue with the matter at hand. Lord Potter looked completely relaxed and not unhappy at all. She knew he was close to Lord Longbottom and had become closer with Lord Malfoy since the end of the war. It was doubtful that Lord Potter had been kept in the dark about the situation with Miss Weasley, whatever it had been.
“The second order of business is the transfer of Proxy for the House of Black.”
Catrine turned to Lord Potter who had held the Proxy for the House of Black since the end of the war. He smiled briefly and turned to his left, where the House of Black booth sat. The obscuring veil lifted and revealed Sirius Black sitting in the customary seat.
“Lord Black has returned to take up the mantle of Lord Black.” Lord Potter said unnecessarily as Sirius Black stood and placed his palm over the Seal with the Black Crest. His family totem roared as his magic was accepted and he sat down again.
“Welcome back, Lord Black.” Catrine nodded and then returned her attention to Ogden.
“The final order of business is the matter of our representation in the panel at the International Confederation of Wizards. They are requesting two representatives for the next session.”
Catrine immediately turned to Lord Black with a contemplative look.
“I nominate Lord Black.” Dominique Zabini said once she was recognized.
Catrine considered her grandson’s mother-in-law. She knew Lady Zabini was only the proxy for the Shafiq seats until her son took up the mantle. She was actually a representative of the Italian Ministry on the ICW.
“Seconded.” Desmond Greengrass said.
Catrine looked around the room, curious about who else they might send. “Lord Longbottom?”
“I nominate Lord Weasley.” Lord Longbottom stated firmly.
“Seconded.” Lord Malfoy added before anyone else could make a comment for or against.
“Very well. Motion carried. Lords Black and Weasley will represent the British Ministry at the ICW for the next term. Is there any further business that won’t wait until the next regularly scheduled session?”
When no one said anything, Catrine nodded. “That concludes the end of this session.”
Harry, Neville, and Draco separated from Sirius, who grinned at his godson and said he had an appointment before disappearing out a side door, leaving the three Hogwarts students to look at each other.
They waited for many of the other Lords to depart knowing there was probably going to be reporters out there wanting to know why there was an emergency meeting called.
Before they could make it to the door someone had pushed their way inside. An auror acting as security looked to them with a raised brow asking silently if they should remove them. Neville shook his head, whispering to Draco. “Better than at Hogwarts.”
“Agreed, but we’re to meet my parents after lunch. We asked Lady Cornwall-Flagherty to keep the meeting brief. Let’s not keep the healers waiting.”
As one, the three Lords met Molly Weasley. The witch had pushed her way into the room and had her eyes focused on Harry and was ignoring the other two as if they didn’t exist.
Harry frowned. “Mrs. Weasley.” He nodded at her, trying not to be rude. Things had been awkward since the end of the war. She hadn’t quite gotten over the fact that he and Ginny didn’t get back together, and she didn’t agree with a lot of the decisions he had made.
She didn’t like that he had spoken on the Malfoy’s behalf, or that he was working with Draco to find a cure for Severus. She really didn’t like the fact that he’d taken control of his Lordship and his seats in the Wizengamot as she felt he was too young for such responsibility.
Harry mostly ignored her advice and did what he thought should be done. He was long past doing what other people wanted.
“Harry.” Molly stepped closer to Harry. “I wanted to talk to you.” Her eyes flicked to Neville and Draco briefly before returning to Harry. “Alone.”
Harry turned to his friends for a second before nodding to them. “Go on. I’ll be fine. Good luck.”
Draco dipped his chin once and Neville looked at Harry a moment longer in concern before following his husband out of the chamber.
Harry turned back to Molly. “Follow me.” He moved towards a door in the back hidden behind the area where the Chief Witch sat. There was a small antechamber back there for small conferences. It would do for whatever Mrs. Weasley had to say.
Once Harry had led Mrs. Weasley inside and closed the door behind her, he took a seat at the small table. He stared at her for a moment, waiting for her to say something; when she didn’t speak right away, he sighed. “Mrs. Weasley, you wanted to speak to me?”
“Harry.” She began and then took a breath. “It’s about Ginny.” She paused again. “What happened? You were like one of my own, and then…after the war…I don’t know.”
Harry frowned. “Mrs. Weasley, Molly, if this is about Ginny and…I thought you understood that wasn’t meant to be. We never should have dated at all. I was confused, and Ginny was…star-struck. I told you we weren’t going to get back together, but Molly, that doesn’t have to mean an end to our friendship.”
Molly watched him for a long moment. She finally nodded. “I really wanted to talk to you about what happened at Hogwarts with Ginny, and what the Goblins told us. Can you speak to the Malfoy’s?”
Harry ignored the pursing of her lips as she said Malfoy but shook his head. “Molly. There is nothing I can do. The decision has been made. Neville and Draco made the decision together as is their right. Draco is the Head of House, and you must understand it is his duty to see to the protection of every member. Ginny was out of line in her treatment of Pansy. She was warned on multiple occasions and ignored the warnings. The Horde reviewed the matter and validated the judgment as justified.”
“It was just some silly insults. Nothing damaging. What they’ve done will ruin her life!” Molly shrieked.
“It wasn’t just some insults.” Harry protested. “It was potentially very damaging. Pansy was in the middle of a courting ritual. If her suitor had taken Ginny’s word’s seriously it would have had very serious repercussions.”
Molly rolled her eyes and Harry was tempted to walk away because it was clear she was taking the situation about a seriously as Ginny had.
“Courting ritual!” Molly sneered. “Ridiculous. That ancient rite was outlawed generations ago, and good riddance to such antiquated practices!”
Harry stood. He’d heard enough. “Mrs. Weasley. I understand that you and your husband to not follow the old ways. However, that doesn’t give you the right to disregard those of us that do. I think that I have said all I plan to regarding Ginny’s situation. I can’t help her. Even if I could, I’m not sure would. I stand with Lords Longbottom and Malfoy in this. Good day.”
Lord Longbottom led the small group to the private room his parents had been occupying for the past two years. He had convinced his grandmother that moving them from St. Mungo’s might be in his parents best interest. It hadn’t vastly improved their condition, but there had been some very minor improvements to their quality of life.
Neville had been willing to accept any kind of increase to the quality of their lives. He hadn’t anticipated there was any cause to hope for more. Until Draco and his ridiculous, over-the-top gifts. Even now, knowing Mrs. Malfoy was going to try a complicated spell, he was trying not to hope, because that sort of pressure wasn’t fair to her and it wasn’t fair to Draco, and it wasn’t fair to himself either.
Neville paused in front of their door and turned to the Healer Fausten who had walked with them.
“I gave them the sleeping draught as we discussed. It’s a mild dose, so if they are in too much discomfort, they may wake.”
“It will not be painful for them.” Narcissa Malfoy assured.
The healer nodded. “Very well.” She left the room, closing the door softly behind her.
Narcissa set a satchel on a table and pulled out a box. She opened the box gingerly and stared inside a sorrowful look on her face. Taking a deep breath she took the wand inside out. There was a small breeze as Narcissa’s magic interacted with the wand’s core.
Narcissa turned away from her audience and faced Frank Longbottom. “To restore my sister’s honor.” She whispered as she began to cast.
Sirius Black walked through the Department of Magical Law Enforcement towards the head auror’s office and ignored the people he passed as they stopped and stared. He knew it must be a shock to see him in the flesh, as he hadn’t appeared in Brittan in several years, handling everything from Gringotts, and the Black residence in Wales.
He stepped up to where the office was located and passed several of the aurors desks. Some were empty, some had a few people going through books or parchment, or sending or receiving into-office messages. Most of them ignored him until he bypassed the desk in front of the head-aurors and went straight into the office.
“Excuse me! You can’t go in there!” A young man tried to stop him.
Sirius turned to face the man after he had entered the office. The man looked young, barely out of Hogwarts, and kind of weedy. He was tall and skinny, pale skin, a face full of freckles. He might have mistaken him for a Weasley except for the hazel eyes and the light blond hair. A Malfoy cousin maybe? Or some other distant relation. That hair was sort of unmistakable. Both Draco and Luna had it.
Sirius raised an eyebrow. “I can’t? Why not?”
The boy huffed. “That is the Head Auror’s office!” He snapped as if it was obvious.
Sirius grinned. “Oh, is that right? We’re in luck then, because I’m the new Head Auror.”
Narcissa stepped away from Alice and nearly collapsed. Lucius caught her and lead her to a chair. He handed her a glass of water and a vial of Pepper-Up before turning to his son and Neville. Neville was standing between his parent’s beds, with a hand reaching out to both, but not touching either of them.
“Draco,” Neville whispered.
“I know,” Draco said. “Let me get the healer so he can check them over.” He squeezed Neville’s wrist before letting go and slipping out into the hall.
After a moment Draco returned with the healer who nodded to the Malfoy’s and then approached Frank. He ran his wand over the still sleeping form and cast several diagnostic spells. He spent several moments scanning over his head but eventually, he stepped back and looked back to the elder Malfoys. He looked as if he was going to say something but then turned away and moved towards Alice.
The healer repeated his scans on Alice, lingering on her brain scans as well. Eventually, he took a step away from both beds. As far as I can tell they have recovered. I’ve never seen anything like it.” He turned to Lady Malfoy. “Would you be willing to share the spell? Perhaps we could use it on others.”
Narcissa and Lucius exchanged a glance and then looked to Draco. It was Draco who spoke. “You understand that the spell my mother performed was very difficult and required not only great magical strength but inner strength as well?” When the healer nodded he continued, “In addition, the spell must be cast using the same want that was used to curse the victim, and by a blood relative of the purse who did the cursing. Therefore, it won’t be something that could work for every case.”
“I understand, Lord Malfoy, but if it could reverse even one case, it would be worth it.” The healer said.
Draco nodded. “Very well. We will ensure the spell is made available.” He turned to look at the Longbottoms. “Now, as for your current patients.”
“They should wake from the draught within the next fifteen minutes. I would like to keep them here in the clinic a day or two, but if everything is going well, they can then be released. Though most of their condition was mental damage caused by the Cruciatus curse, it did limit their activity and their interaction with others, so I recommend that they ease into interacting with the world again. I am also going to recommend a mind healer. We have a few on staff that specialize in patients who have been in long-term convalesce, and therefore away from the world, or their families for long periods of time. Further, I recommend a short period of physical therapy to them used to physical activity again.”
Narcissa stood, having regained her strength. “Thank you. Please provide your recommendations Healer Fausten, so that we may ensure they are followed precisely. We will discuss the matter of the mind healer with Lord and Lady Longbottom when they are up to such discussions.”
Healer Fausten nodded and departed.
Neville was still standing there, between his parent’s beds, staring at them, like he was afraid if he looked away they would disappear, or this would turn out to be some horrible joke. He turned slowly to face Draco’s parents. His body was only partially turned so he could still keep a partial eye on his parents, but he focused on Narcissa.
“I, uh, I don’t know how to thank you. This is…everything. Even if it doesn’t work, or…” he stopped and blew out a breath. “Just, thank you.”
Narcissa smiled softly. “Neville. You are family. Our Dragon chose you, and he chose wisely. It was my honor to be able to bring some of what you lost back to you. Especially so because in doing so, I have restored a small fraction of the honor Bella too easily tossed aside with her madness.”
Neville swallowed thickly and nodded before turning back to face his parents fully. He noticed that they had begun to stir. His father started to open his eyes and look around in confusion, like he wasn’t sure where he was. He turned his head and spotted Alice. “Alice?”
Alice opened her eyes and turned towards the sound. She spotted Frank and started to smiled, but then she realized there were three four people in the room with her. Two of them she recognized, though they looked older than the last time she’d seen them.
“What? Where are we?” She asked, looking around the room.
“Mom? Dad?” Nevile asked tremulously, stepping forward.
Frank and Alice exchanged a look and blinked at the young man. There was something familiar about him. He looked…a little like Frank’s cousin Phillip, but his eyes were not the same. There were green like…her own. “Neville?”
Alice asked, feeling ridiculous. This young man couldn’t be her Neville he was just a baby, but she couldn’t deny those eyes.
The man took a couple of steps closer to her. He grasped her arm and gave her a partial hug and then just sort of sagged. Alice looked over his head and exchanged a look with Frank, who was watching with a bewildered but sad expression.
“We have a lot to talk about.” Lucius said softly.
Alice looked over at the man in confusion. Her eyes moved over to Narcissa and to the young man standing just at the foot of her bed. If this was truly her son, then that must be Draco. What had happened? They had apparently lost a lot of time.
“It appears we do, Lucius. Can you explain what has happened? Where we are and why we don’t remember anything?” Frank Longbottom looked from Alice to the Malfoys, his voice weak, but growing stronger.
“Where’s mother?” Alice asked, wondering where Frank’s mother was. She hoped nothing had happened to her.
The young man in her arms sat up slightly. “Gran is…I didn’t tell her what we were doing, just in case…well I didn’t want to get her hopes up.” He whispered.
“What exactly did you do, Neville?” Frank asked. He waited for the boy to look at him. “You are Neville, right? Our son? You were barely a boy of fifteen months the last time I remember seeing you, yet here you are…a man.” He took a closer look at his son. “You’ve taken on the Lordship and is that a bonding band?”
Neville turned to Draco, who held out his hand. “Mom, dad, this is Draco Malfoy. We completed the Sumo ritual and were blessed by Lady Magic.”
Alice sucked in a breath. She looked over at her husband and then to Narcissa, who was smiling.
“What is the last thing you remember?” Lucius asked as he brought a chair closer to Frank’s bed.
Hermione entered her new room and stopped just inside the door. There had been a bit of room swapping going on after the Beltane Festival and the official end to the Sumo. Pansy had moved into Hermione’s room with Daphne, while Hermione had taken Blaise’s spot in Harry’s room, technically. Blaise had moved into Ian’s room, and Neville and all his plants had moved into Draco’s room.
Harry and Hermione now shared their room with Theo Nott, which was fine with Hermione. He was quiet and spent far more time in the library than anyone who hadn’t been formerly part of Ravenclaw or Hermione herself.
Just now the room was empty, except for Harry, who was trying to meditate or reach a place where he could feel the magic in the air. He had tried to explain it to her, how he could almost sense the energies, and how they tied back to individual people and things. It helped him get a grasp on exactly what his forger ability was really doing.
She wasn’t convinced he truly understood it either, but she let him figure it out in his own way. She watched as the stones he had set in front of him started to levitate. Aithusa started to move around the room, her unusual scales glinting the dim lighting. Harry hissed something to his familiar, and she stopped for a moment and then hissed something back before continuing to circle, her tongue flicking out to taste the air.
There was a noise by the window and Hermione turned to see Ares looking around the room. His tail feathers were folded over his back but he was watching Aithusa circle the room like he was afraid she would get lost or injure herself, which Hermione found amusing.
Hermione smiled at their familiars. She felt at peace for the first time in a long time. The war was over, they were almost finished with the final year at Hogwarts, and while that was sad, they still had much in front of them. They still had much to do, and now they had the time to do it.
With their friends and allies, they would make the world a better place. Anyone who wasn’t ready for that, better either get ready or get over it because change was coming. She could feel it.