AN: Standard disclaimer as per usual

AN2: A dash of lemon in this chapter, you've been warned.

-:-

Chapter Thirteen: Three curses: Silver, red and green.

The first week back whipped by with disturbing speed, the only thing that really seemed to stick was the first DADA lesson of the term. When the class settled into their seats Moody once again gestured Harry to the front of the class. His usually grim features were set in an almost granite like expression however and Harry knew that the day's demonstration wasn't going to be 'fun'.

Moody's harsh growling voice filled the room
"Can anyone tell me what the unforgivable curses are?"
The class was dead silent, two hands were raised and Moody stared them down for a full minute before pointing at Hermione.

"The Unforgivable curses, so named because the unauthorized casting of any one of them will earn a life sentence in Azkaban, are the Cruciatus, the Imperious, and the Avada Kedavra." Harry noted that Hermione shuddered upon saying the last name and caught him with an apologetic look

Moody's harsh voice filled the room once more.
"Take five for Gryffindor Miss Granger. You're exactly right, these three curses;" He waved his wand and a blackboard materializes with the names on them, superseded by the word 'Unforgivables'
"These three curses are the pinnacle of the dark wizard's art. The first, is the torture curse, it causes unimaginable pain in the target, often described as being like a thousand white hot knifes constantly slicing and stabbing the flesh of the victim. It is not pleasant."

He flicked his wand and the board wrote a new word next to 'Cruciatus'; Torture
"The second curse, the Imperious curse, otherwise known as the Curse of Control or the Subjugation Curse allows the caster to gain complete control of their target. Instructing them to do anything they wish, it is insidious and nigh unstoppable. I don't think I need to explain the implications of having total control over someone's body. Note however that the control does not extend past the body; their mind and magic remain their own." He flicked his wand once more at the board and next to the Imperious, appears the word: Subjugation.

He turns back to the room at large and speaks with his usual growl
"The last curse the Avada Kedavra, also known as the killing curse, is rather straight forward, and its purpose is in the name, it's a way of killing instantly and painlessly. Only one person has ever known to have survived it, and he's standing right next to me"

Harry lost the train of thought as he heard those words, was that how his parents died too, a simple painless death? He wasn't going to pretend that wasn't comforting, for years he had wondered if they had been tortured before they were killed, or if they had died in pain. This at least was a hope that they had known no agony.

When next he looked up Moody had already placed the word 'Killing' next to the words 'Avada Kedavra', he glanced up to see Hermione looking at him with a concerned expression, to reassure her he shot her his lopsided grin before focussing back on Moody, promising her silently with a brush of his thoughts to explain more later.

"We will be spending some time in the next few weeks learning how to identify and protect against these curses. The ministry has given Dumbledore full licence to authorize these curses for teaching purposes. Please note that only the Imperious will be offered for resistance practice and only voluntarily, we won't force any of you to take part."

Turning back towards Harry he continued
"But before we get into identification and characteristics we've got something to talk about beforehand, how many of you watched Potter's duel against Miss Delacour a month ago?" To Harry's amusement everyone raised their hand enthusiastically

"Right then, can anyone tell me a characteristic of their duel that so far has been absent of our practices: Something that would make duelling both easier and harder?"
When no one raised their hand for a while Moody raised his eyebrow and said calmly
"How about the fact that Mr Potter's and Miss Delacour's sorcels were creating trails of flame as they passed through the air? Did I not say that as a rule sorcels were invisible some months ago?"

The class all nodded their heads at this, finally on point with what Moody wanted to bring their attention to.
"Can anyone tell me why their sorcery was creating such an effect? Miss Granger?"
Hermione, predictably had gotten her hand up first
"Sir, the amount of power Harry and Fleur were putting into their sorcels to increase their effectiveness and speed was somewhat overcharged, this meant that excess magical energy leaked from the sorcels mid-flight and because of the speed the sorcels were moving caused friction in the air which created enough heat for brief ignition."

Moody nodded, his crooked smile firmly hitched in place
"Very good Miss Granger, take five points, and the follow up assumption that can be made from this?"
To Harry's very great surprise Hermione lowered her hand looking disheartened, he hadn't talked to her about this but he was well aware of the secondary point to be made.
"Sir, if I may?"

Moody looked at him shrewdly and nodded
"Go ahead Potter"
"Sir, the secondary assumption that can be made is that because the spells were able to interact using the laws of natural physics with the air around them, that is friction, then Magic, or more specifically, magical energy, must be natural in nature, and not supernatural as is often assumed."

Moody nodded once,
"A little more detail Potter?"
"Sir, the inference being that magical energy is simply another derivation of mass, that being the idea that all mass is simply energy in a solid form. Burn a piece of wood, mass, and you are converting that mass into light and heat energy. Magic is simply an extension of this, another form of energy if you will."

Looking like Christmas had come early Moody nodded again
"A bit further Potter you're almost there"
Harry had to think hard for a few seconds but eventually it came to him
"When we cast sorcels with enough speed sir, they catch aflame, this indicates that they are causing friction in the air as previously stated, friction comes from mass. Thus we are converting our magical energy into mass when we cast, this proves the theory that Magic is simply a different state of matter."

Moody clapped his gnarled hands together in appreciation for a few seconds, Hermione joined in but the Purebloods and Half Bloods in the room looked stumped.
"Take forty points to Gryffindor, what Potter has just discussed is the underlying principle of sorcery, the idea being that our magic is simply an extension of everything that you see around you, it is based in Muggle science and only those of you taking Arithmancy will cover the topic in greater depth later, most likely in your newt class. For the moment all we need to take away from it is this:"

He waved his wand clearing the blackboard and waving his wand as he writes, etching words into the surface:
"Goret's three laws of sorcery:
1: All sorcery is magical energy made manifest
2: No sorcery can become more than the sum of its parts, that being that only the energy put into a sorcery can fuel the sorcery.
3: All matter, be it solid liquid or gas, is sorcery by another name. And can be manipulated using the principles and tenets of sorcery."

After stopping and turning to look at the class he growls out a single question
"What then, is the implication for sorcerers if all matter is magical energy by another name?"
Tentatively harry watched Neville raising his hand into the air
"Longbottom?"
"Sir, all matter can be converted to magical energy"
"Exactly right Longbottom, five more points. This is the last and most powerful, application of hexwork, the concept of drawing the very matter of an object, and converting it into magical energy to fuel your sorcery, spellcasting, even your own body if you're competent enough to reconstitute that energy into food or drink that you can then sustain yourself with."

This thought sent harry reeling, the idea that, using hexwork, he could absorb the very fabric of the world around him to fuel his body was mind boggling. He nearly didn't hear Seamus's question
"What would happen if you absorbed another being sir? Like a rabbit?"
Moody swung around to look at the teen and fixed him with a harsh gaze
"Or a person do you mean Mr Finnegan? You will never, ever, attempt to absorb the energy of a human being, or any other creature. The process is extremely dangerous, not to mention illegal worldwide. To dissuade you further, consider this; the penalty for casting one of the unforgivable curses is life in Azkaban. The penalty for absorbing the energy from a living being without consent is death by shroud."

Seamus' face lost all of its colour and he hastily dropped his hand, looking abashed. Moody stared around the room
"It is for that very reason that we will not be covering the process of how to do such a thing in this year group. Chances are you'll not even see the theory again until sixth year when you begin practising vanishing charms. Class dismissed."

Harry shared a look with Hermione as they walked out of the classroom, a phrase came to mind that Ron often had used; "Brilliant, but scary."

-:-

The rest of the week was mostly a blur, the new trio stayed close, Harry and Hermione keeping up their usual relationship and loving every minute of it, sharing a bed nightly and frequently exploring each other's bodies at night under the warm blankets. But Harry and Fleur were sharing affections as well, ones that were having unforeseen consequences.

It wasn't anything overt, nothing even beyond platonic. Although only just barely. Harry was aware of how much it helped Fleur so he would often exchange hugs with her, or kisses on the cheek, small touches or even snuggling in front of the fire at night before bed. It came to a head that Wednesday when Harry was saying a brief goodbye to Hermione who was returning to the Gryffindor dorm to help her dorm mates with their potions assignments before the two soul mates met up in bed together.

Hermione gave him a passionate kiss and as usual Harry's knees nearly buckled at the force of emotion behind it as their tongues battled for dominance, hands roving over each other and their bodies pressed flush against the other. Eventually they broke apart, panting hard and staring into each other's eyes. Harry had his witch cradled in his arms and She was leaning back into them comfortably with her own arms around his neck.

All of a sudden though, and much to Harry's horror, Hermione burst into tears and clutched at his chest, crying into his robes.
"I'm sorry Harry! I know it'll hurt her but you have to stop!"
Harry smoothed back her hair, somewhat bemused and gently asked her
"Stop what love?"

She looked up at him then, tears streaming from her eyes and a mournful look piercing his soul
"With Fleur, the affection you two have been sharing, I know it's horrid but you have to stop."
Harry was taken aback a little but swept over her mind with his own, melding their personalities so that he could get an idea of her pain. Understanding hit him like the proverbial bludger and he realized his mistake.

"You're in pain? How?"
Hermione's lips didn't even open as she replied to him, Harry simply, knew, what she was trying to tell him, that it was their bond, the same thing that was happening to Fleur, was happening to Hermione. She thought that she could handle it, that being with him would neuter the effects, but it had only gotten worse. Harry cried out in shock as he realized he'd been causing her pain and they sank against the wall of the corridor to the cold floor, Hermione wrapped up in his arms and with her face buried into his neck.

When their personalities were merged to this degree they barely needed to talk, and when they did it was rarely with any sense of individuality, it was not 'her' or 'him' it was 'they', 'we', 'us'. So it was in that cold gloomy corridor on the seventh floor of the castle that something extremely rare happened; Harry Potter wept. Hermione was, much to her eternal annoyance, an extremely emotional woman, and the last months had been exceedingly taxing on her. She was strong, yes, but the sheer emotional torture that she had been put through, sympathy for Harry's past, Ron's death, terror at Harry's near death, Ginny's betrayal, Harry's involvement in the tournament, the dragon, the guilt over Fleur's accidental bonding to Harry, all of t was too much at some point or other and she had been crying much more than usual.

Harry however, while not so much made of sterner stuff, was somewhat less of a 'crying person' rather he would get angry, he would hit something or head into the forbidden forest for an hour and throw over charged sorcels around. He was an active emotional and the concept of him crying was so rare as to be almost non-existent.

So it was then that as they wept together, as one being, in that corridor that harry felt every smidgen of pain that Hermione had gone through over the last few days and his heart broke over and over again at the pain he had caused her, him who had promised never to do so. Eventually they split into distinct individuals again and they simply held each other, taking comfort in each other's presence.

Harry was, frankly, scared. He had done more in the last three days to cause harm to Hermione than he had anyone else in his life. His heart leapt with renewed hope however that she would not hate him as her lips pressed against his again, softly, begging comfort and release into each other's hearts. He kissed her back warmly and slowly, their lips brushing against each other for mere moments before they split apart to look in each other's puffy eyes, before moving together for another heartfelt kiss.

"Never again my love. I'll fix this."
"Thank you Harry. My man, my wizard, I love you."
"I love you too Hermione, my lady, my witch, see you soon?"
"Later, I still have this accursed essay to help the girls with."
"Later then, I'll be waiting."

-:-

The door shut behind Harry with a snap and he turned to see Fleur's shining eyes looking at him from across the room, her lustrous hair splayed out across the couch cushions and a warm woollen blanket tucked around her waist against the cold, even with the fire the room was still bitterly cold in the dead of winter. Harry's heart tore a little as he saw the eager, almost pained look on her face, he knew what Hermione meant, when she quietly told him that she hated what she was asking him to do. This was going to suck.

Carefully he picked his way across the dimly lit room and with a brave expression sat down next to Fleur. Harry opened his mouth to speak, looking into the slightly roaring fire but no sound came out. Fleur's hand brushed against his arm and he shivered at the contact. Opening his mouth once more he tried again.
"Fleur… Hermione… Our bond… She's been in pain lately."

Fleur was silent, clearly confused and expecting Harry to go on, he winced, they knew each other so well.
"When she sees us, cuddling, exchanging hugs, whatever, the bond between us, it spikes against her, causing her pain. Much like yours does with you when Hermione and I are close… just… more."
"Oh Mon Dieu"

Harry relaxed his neck muscles and let his head fall forwards, his knees were slightly spread and he had his forearms braced against his knees.
"I'm so sorry Fleur; I know how much this hurts you, I… I can't imagine how much you have to go through on a daily basis despite what you've told me… But I can't keep doing this if it's going to hurt her. She is everything to me Fleur."

He felt her handgrip his and he turned his head to look at her, it was strange, with the way he was talking you would think they had been doing much more than just being close, but he guessed that with more powerful love came more powerful heartbreak.
"I can't keep hurting her Flower."

Finally she spoke
"I… did not know that this could happen, I thought it would have had to have been at least kissing, snogging, yes? But… I had no idea."
Harry nodded grimly but before he could speak she continued.
"I would never dream of hurting her intentionally Harry, I can bear this burden, it is likely that she is feeling more acute pain because your bond is stronger, older, I cannot keep hurting her, just as you cannot, she is my friend too."

Harry let his head droop again, she was being so understanding, so helpful, but he caught the tone of pain in her voice. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, his best friend, his lover, his soul mate, was in pain, and yet to ease her pain was to cause pain in the woman who might as well have been the closest platonic friend he could have. The decision was not a complicated one for Harry, he knew what he had to do. He knew what he wanted to do, but that did not make it any easier.
"I'm so sorry Fleur, but, I can't keep returning this affection, hugs, maybe, the odd kiss on the cheek? Probably pushing it, but we can't keep up the little touches, the snuggling in front of the fire at night, it has to stop."

He felt her entire body begin to shudder with tears and he swept her up into a hug, knowing instinctively that comforting her would not set off the pain Hermione was feeling. Now that he was aware of it he could almost feel it, like a taut cord between them that, when pulled one way or the other, wrenched on the heart of the receiving end.

For the second time in as many minutes harry held a weeping girl in his arms for a long time, letting her get the emotions out of her system. He couldn't claim totally dry eyes himself, he knew what he was condemning her too. It didn't sound like much on the surface, but he was well aware that the affection they had been exchanging was taking a very, very sharp edge off of Fleur's pain and this would bring it back tenfold.

"I'm so sorry Fleur."

-:- Lemon below -:-

That night as Harry and Hermione held each other close under the covers of the large comfortable bed in his Champion's quarters Harry felt absolutely rotten. The look of dejection and pain on Fleur's face as she had closed the door to her room has broken his heart. He had no idea that heartache had such a real life equivalent till now but the pain that he had caused both young women was forefront in his mind. Fleur, thankfully, had told him in no uncertain terms that this wouldn't affect their friendships. She still held both younger teens in high regard and was counting on them to one day find a cure for the bond, or at least a way to free her from it.

Harry was wrenched from his thoughts as Hermione's soft lips pressed above his collar bone, her arms were curled up between them and his own arm was draped around her shoulders, the other behind his head as he lay on his back with her cuddled up to him. Harry's breath hitched as her lips started traveling to his throat and all thoughts of Fleur fled from his mind. Instinctively he reached out to Hermione's mind with his own and with a loving embrace meshed their personalities together, not enough to lose their identities in each other, but enough to share thoughts and feelings through the bond.

He groaned involuntarily as her lips suckled on his neck, leaving a small mark, it seemed an age ago when they had held each other that morning before the funeral and Hermione had first shown him pleasure. Since then she had gently tutored him, explaining some of the concepts of making love, giving him a personalized version of 'The talk' which was much more comfortable between the two of them. They could share everything with each other.

Hermione for her part had done her best to build a framework of equality between them, no 'roles' as such in the bedroom beyond their sexes. They both gave each other pleasure unrestrainedly and Harry was marked as hers just as often as she was marked as his. She smiled sinfully into his neck as she snaked her tongue out to lap at his slightly sweaty skin, the salty taste was delicious and she eagerly laved licks and kisses down his throat and to his chest.

She wasn't shy about kissing his chest, sucking on his tiny masculine nipples and admiring his wiry chest and abdomen. The build up to winter had added a bit of weight to his middle and she ran her hands down his stomach, revelling in the feel of his taut fluttering abs beneath the thin layer of winter fat. Hermione loved this, the relaxed intimacy, the utter trust and surrender he gave her. Never was Harry Potter more vulnerable than when he gave himself over totally to her without even a second thought.

She felt honoured every time they were intimate, it was breath-taking how beautiful he was in the soft candlelight of the dimly lit room, his strong arms and chest, his thick thighs and powerful, but gentle hands that so tenderly stroked her hair and upper arms, respectfully staying away from her chest for the time being. It was sweet to her, how even now Harry needed to ask permission, even silently, to touch her intimately. She felt utterly safe with him, and the fact that never once did he shy away from her, or make her feel unwanted, gave her a self-confidence she never thought she could possess.

They had learned together, haltingly sometimes as one made a mistake or the other faltered in their confidence; exploring each other's bodies just as she was doing now. She had lost count of the number of times they had surrendered to each other, her wrapped in his arms as he drove her over the edge of orgasm again and again until she could do little but mewl in pleasure against his throat, or when he had gripped the headboard behind him in an obvious show of trust as she took his gorgeous length deep into her mouth.

And yet despite all their explorations, all of the teasing and the orgasms, all of the intimacy, never once had he pushed her, never once had he tried to take the final step. She had been scared the first time she had assumed he was going to and had shied away. But when he simply was confused and held her close desperately trying to understand what was wrong she had cried in his arms, thanking him and kissing him, overwhelmed by the respect he gave her every time they made love. They were both still virgins in the strictest sense, but despite that they still considered their activities making love, what else could be as emotionally charged and intimate? Tonight was different through, Hermione could feel it, harry was guilty over what had happened and she knew he needed to release some of his stress. She could do that for him.

She moved lower, spreading his legs gently with her hands on his thighs. Nestling in between them she stroked his bare cock in the candlelight, admiring the way the flickering shadows highlighted different planes of his masculine length. Tenderly she took him in her hand and locked their eyes together. Her heart melted at the tender expression of love and devotion on Harry's face as he pointedly meshed his fingers together, arms looped through the slats in the headboard. He trusted her tonight, letting her do what she wanted without urging her at all.

Firmly she began pumping his iron hard length in her hand, she only used one for now, knowing how Harry loved to watch her little hands pumping on his cock one at a time, it was one of the few ego boosts he let himself have and she was more than happy to give it to him. She set into an easy rhythm, her hand gliding down with a sharp down-stroke before tightening slightly on the upstroke, milking his thick cock with her hand. She loved doing this, watching the muscles in his abdomen flutter as he fought to stay in control and not buck into her hand.

The understanding being that if his hips bucked then he would be controlling, at least even slightly, the pace of their lovemaking; that wasn't what tonight was about, and they both knew it. Hermione kept eye contact with him, her lips opening slightly as she let herself pant over her exertions, knowing it would increase his arousal. Indeed she felt his length twitch in her hand rhythmically as she fractionally increased the speed of her own rhythm in his cock.

She kept that eye contact as she lowered her head so that her lips were aligned with the head of his penis and she lightly blew across him, grinning as his eyes started to roll back in his head before they snapped back to hers. Slowly, and taking care not to rush, she extended her tongue and began lovingly caressing his velvety skin and flesh with long luxurious licks. Careful not to touch him with her teeth she slowly took his head into her mouth and suckled briefly, tonging his slit with a loving caress before wrapping her lips around his length from the side and stoking up and down his shaft, her hand caressing his head tenderly.

Her other hand moved down between his thighs and cupped his balls lightly, rolling them between her fingers as she hummed pleasurably into his cock. Slowly she moved back to the top of his length, sucking and licking as she went before taking his cock deep into her mouth. She slowly engulfed his entire length. It had taken her a few months to figure out how to do this but if she slowly took him deeper bit by bit she could supress her gag reflex without having to stop. Soon her nose was nestled in Harry's thatch of silky pubic hair, her eyes still locked on his and his cock lodged deep in her throat. She had a little game where she would try and stay there as long as possible so as to prolong his pleasure as she swallowed rhythmically around his velvety length.

After a few moments where she tried to supress the need to breathe in, she eventually, and still slowly, pulled back from his length. The actual sensation of having his penis that deep in her throat was, while nice, nothing compared to the feelings of arousal and pleasure washing across to her from Harry's side of their emotional link. That alone was worth the slight cough she involuntarily gave as she breathed in for the first time in nearly a minute. Something that she loved intensely was the moans Harry gave her. The whole time she had been down on him he had been softly groaning and telling her he loved her with a tender reverence in his voice that made her heart swell with happiness and pride.

She loved that she could make him this happy, could give him this pleasure, it made her feel powerful and sexy to elicit such sounds from him, to have such unwavering trust and respect from the love of her life. Still harry had not moved his hands from their linked position, she moved one hand over his stomach as she caught her breath, his abs were still fluttering as he continued to fight for control to thrust into the hand she had returned to his length to keep stroking him.

She wanted to try something tonight, but she was nervous, Harry was rarely rough with her, really only when she asked him to be. But she wanted that tonight, she wanted him to work off some stress. Carefully she stroked him and moved back up his body to nestle back into the crook of his neck. Whispering against his skin she said
"Give me your hands Harry. I want you to work off some of that guilt."

Dutifully Harry's hands came around from the headboard and, releasing his length completely for the first time in several minutes she took them and moved back down his body, tugging him with her. Harry got the message and shuffled backwards against the headboard so that he was still reclining but was now sitting up. Taking a deep breath she once again sank down onto his cock and put his hands on her head and wrapped her own around his waist. The bond was helpful in times like this as she sent him a mental image of what she wanted.

Tentatively at first Harry held her head in place, throat relaxed and with her lips around his head, and began thrusting his hips up into her, driving his cock deep into her throat. The feeling was delicious, so often Harry would give himself over to her, trusting her completely with his safety, she understood now why, it was intoxicating to know that he held her safety literally in his hands now as he began to become more confident, building up a rhythm and thrusting into her mouth.

She felt her throat being stretched by his cock with each thrust and she moaned happily around him, her eyes still locked on his as she breathed through her nose when she could. True to form he continued to whisper and murmur words of devotion and love, actually taking the time to say them out loud when it would have been so much easier for him to just grunt and moan whilst sharing his feelings over the bond. She loved it, every second of it as he somewhat roughly fucked her throat, his words of endearment making her heart swell in happiness and the feelings of utter pleasure washing across the bond reinforced her feelings of happiness and love.

Harry still didn't have the best stamina in the world and it was amazing he had lasted this long but it wasn't much longer after he truly set into his rhythm that he was announcing the approach of his release. Not that he really needed to, she was familiar with the pulsing his velvety length made as he approached orgasm. With one last feral cry, eyes still locked to hers, he thrust hard into her throat and spilled himself deep into her belly, groaning her name over and over again as his cum filled her tummy with a familiar warmth that she loved. Even as his length pulsed in her throat she felt the pleasure of his release gill her up and her own body reacted gently shuddering and she mewled around his cock as her pussy gushed over her thighs and down the sheets.

As was almost ritual between them Harry waited till she was clear of his penis before tugging her close for a heartfelt tender kiss. He had never been bothered by the taste of his sperm on her tongue, as even now some of it had still spilled into her mouth as she retreated from him. Privately Hermione thought that he found it arousing to taste him on her and have even more evidence of what she had done for him. They stayed like that for several minutes as Harry held her close, cradling her in his arms.

-:- End of Lemon -:-

It was tender, and sweet, they didn't speak, just kissed each other and clung to one another as if their worlds depended on it. Not long into the embrace Hermione reached out and threaded their minds together, obliterating any differences between them until they were simply one. Sometime into the night they began to talk, sometimes with Harry's mouth, sometimes with Hermione's, but it was them talking, not him, or her, them.

Nothing important was said for a long time, they simply thanked each other, for their love, devotion, respect. They spoke about their days, drawing on memories from both sides of their existence. All too soon though they had to draw apart, they still could not hold the sensation for greatly extended periods of time before their reflected emotions began to overwhelm them. When Hermione's eyes fluttered and she let go of the presence that was her soul mate she looked into his eyes and saw the deepest happiness she could ever comprehend reflected back at her, this was them, their life, and despite all the troubles around them they would hold it together.

They held each other long into the night, caressing each other and lightly kissing, talking in hushed voices as the endless, smokeless candles never burned down. Sometime in the night Harry reached between them to pleasure her in return but she gently held him still
"No love tonight is to remind you that I'm still yours, that nothing will ever change that. I wanted to remind you that no matter what, no matter what we go through, I will always want to be yours. I wanted to relieve your stress, to let you release some of that pent up frustration and guilt, you know I found my release in the depths of yours."

Her eyes remained on his and she saw the confusion there, the need to pleasure her, grinning she pushed her memories of the event across their bond and felt his acceptance and love wash back. It was so easy to love him, so easy to get lost in his devotion to her, so easy to let herself go and simply be with him. The two drifted to sleep buried in each other's happiness and love, armoured now, against the coming trials.

No matter what, they would endure.

-:-

The next week however, brought something of a shock for Harry and Hermione. A stern looking horned owl swooped down on the Gryffindor table Monday morning at breakfast with a letter clutched in its beak. Harry relieved the bird of its letter and waited patiently for it to fly off before slitting open the envelope and unfolding it. Written on the inside of the parchment and folded was a letter of summons to the hearing of Ginevra Molly Weasley to be held on the twelfth of January, barely three days away, at 10Am. Glancing sideways at Hermione he saw her eyes turn flinty as she read the missive.

"Bury her Harry. I want her in prison for the rest of her natural life for what she did, and what she nearly did."
Grinning despite himself he slid an arm around her waist
"Surely mental hospital would be better love? She needs help."
Harry was mildly startled as he felt Hermione's gaze lock on his and the distress in her eyes was obvious. Her voice wavered slightly but remained strong
"She. Nearly. Killed. You." Each word was punctuated by a tap of her nail against the Gryffindor table
"I don't want her to ever have the chance to hurt you, or anyone else, again. She can rot in Azkaban for all I care, she's earned that right."

Harry was, slightly, taken aback, gently he brushed her hair away from her eyes where it had fallen forwards and said quietly
"You know what those… things, will do to her. Does she really deserve that?"
Hermione seemed to collect herself and after a moment spoke with the same hard tone
"When I saw you there, completely limp and choking on your own spit with nothing I could do my heart broke in two Harry Potter. If Fred and George hadn't heard me screaming bloody murder you would have died. We would not be here to have this discussion, she would have been executed dementors be damned, and our bond…"

She broke off eyes threatening tears
"Our bond would have been broken and I would have lived the rest of my life pining for you. Do you understand how… Close I came to completely losing you that day?"
Harry pulled her close and hugged her, finally understanding; this wasn't just about Harry, this was about her as well. Ginny had not only nearly killed him but nearly condemned Hermione to a life of misery, heartache and pain, that alone was enough to make him want to throw the red head in jail.

A thought struck him then which, despite the timing, he felt like he needed to voice
"Love… what about that magic you were talking about, that contract our bond essentially is that stops me from dying? I don't remember exactly what you said but shouldn't that have kept me alive? Is that perhaps why I'm still here?"
He felt her head shake against his chest
"No, no you don't understand, our bond wasn't even complete back then, don't you remember? It was just at the stage where things were starting to solidify, where we had some of what we could become but not all, it wasn't until that first night we touched each other's minds, nearly three weeks later, that it was finalized, and that contract we talked about was formed. You were still very vulnerable."

Little did they know Fleur had sat down opposite them and was listening into the conversation, her look of curiosity soon morphed into distaste and then outright horror as she understood the full implications of what Hermione was saying.
"He… nearly… Mon Dieu!"

Harry turned around sharply at the sound of her voice and his eyes softened in sadness, she flicked him an equally unhappy gaze before turning to Hermione
"So Harry is… immortal?"
Hermione, much to Harry's amusement, huffed grumpily
"No he isn't immortal, one day, some many, many years from now, he and I will die a natural death together, but anything can happen between then and now, he could be crippled or driven mad. He isn't immortal, and he isn't invincible, he still, has, to, be, careful!"

Her last words were spoken very pointedly in his direction
"But he will not, cannot, die from violent causes, it's… I don't even understand the mechanics behind the magic here, maybe in a century I might begin to understand it, but I don't have the information I need."

Fleur nodded her magnificent head and dug into her breakfast, dropping the conversation, there was nothing more to be said. Meanwhile Harry was penning a quick rsvp to inform the DMLE that he would be attending the hearing. Sliding it across to Hermione he said offhandedly
"How's that do you reckon love?"

"Well apart from the fact that you're writing this on used parchment it looks formal enough, do you want me to get Hedwig to send it for you later?"
Harry shook his head, taking the letter back he said with a smile
"That's okay love, I can handle it, I know we've got that Arithmancy test coming up that you want to study for."

Hermione, much to Harry's amusement, chuckled wryly
"That test is over a month away Harry."
He sent her a sly grin before saying
"We're a month late for study then don't you think?"
"Oh you!"

-:-

The three days passed quickly but, as usual, the strongest highlight was DADA, Astronomy and potions were simply, there, these days, Arithmancy and Runes were coming along nicely, but Harry barely had to try in Arithmancy at the moment and in Runes they were covering extended rune clusters which was simply tedious. Care of magical creatures, while interesting, was a class Harry was rapidly coming disenfranchised with, he loved Hagrid, he really did, but he rather thought the half giant was beginning to lose his marbles. In charms and transfiguration they were covering household objects to animals and advanced levitation respectively. But DADA always provided something engaging for Harry to wrap his brain around, especially with Alastor Moody teaching the class.

-:-

"Today, we will be resisting the Imperious curse!"
Those words snapped all six of the students to attention; they had been waiting for this day all last week
"We have to start with this one, while the Cruciatus is usually seen as the 'first' unforgiveable. The imperious is, for obvious reasons the only one we can study safely, today, I'll be putting each of you under the curse so that you can examine its effects and learn to identify when it has been cast on you. I hope that some of you" here he looks pointedly at Harry and Hermione,
"will be able to throw this curse off entirely or have a natural immunity to it."

Harry watches with rapt attention as Moody moves around the room, his other leg clunking heavily on its step.
"Before we begin I want to delve a little into the reasons why, while we cannot block this curse, it can be resisted or thrown off entirely. Finnegan!"
Seamus, who a few months ago would have to snap to attention and concentrate harder, was now already there and ready to answer the question
"Yes sir?"
"Recite to me the reasons why both the 'Protego' shield spell and the sorcery duellists' shield function as they do."

Seamus seemed to collect himself for a second before speaking
"Sir, the Protego charm is a barrier made of magical energy forced into the shape of solid invisible particles that, with enough energy, can stop most any curse or physical object."
"And the duellists' shield?"
"Sir, the duellists' shield, and all variations on the theme, use a controlled cloud of free magic to nullify any magic that enters its purview, the stronger the shield the stronger the curse it can block."
Moody nodded once, pleased, before answering another question
"Longbottom, why do both the Protego shield spell and the Duellists' shield block spells?"

Harry was somewhat proud of Neville, after the first task he had tentatively asked Harry for help with his sorcery so that he could have a bit more confidence in himself, Harry had agreed and for the next month or so tutored Neville to really improve his sorcery. Now he was a powerful fighter, although not a hugely imaginative one. What it had done was turn the somewhat timid boy into a confident young man.
"Sir, the Protego charm and the Duellists' shield both block spells because they are made of magical energy that has a contrary purpose to whatever spell is cast at them, thus reflecting and absorbing spells respectively."

Moody nodded once before turning to Harry
"Good! Potter, with those definitions in mind why then is the Imperious curse able to pas straight through both the Duellists' shield and the Protego charm?"
Harry thought for a moment before answering
"If both the charm and the sorcel reflect or absorb spells because of the differing nature of the energy, then initially we can rule out the idea that somehow the Imperious curse 'changes' to pass through, as it would remove its core purpose and simply feed energy into the shield it struck. We can also rule out the idea of some kind of magical sheath around the spell that allows it to pass through as there is no simple 'hole' made in that situation, the magical energy sort of flows around itself and the spells mesh together before coming distinct again."

He took a short breath, gathering himself for the second half of his answer
"That being said the major thing we know about the Imperious curse is it's deceptively high energy requirements, and the fact that it is shaped something like a lance or a spear, very thin, very 'sharp'. I can only hypothesise that the spell has so much force behind it that it simply overwhelms any shield put in its way or flows around the Protego charm unhindered. It's spear like shape allowing more of its considerable power to be focused on a small point causing breaches in poorly cast shields."

Moody growled in appreciation, the class had heard the noise before it was somewhere between a chuckle and an approving snort just… add more 'Moody'.
"Well done Potter, you've just dissected a conundrum it took the Ministry eight years to figure out in the war, what does this mean in practical terms though? For the case of the Protego shield it's fairly straight forward, the curse never actually touches the shield, just flows around it, Mr Potter talked about how the curse was shaped, which as you know is difficult to determine as the curse is invisible, the long thin nature of it allows it to quickly shape it's way around the shield and the 'Charmer's seam' in the defence.

For the duellists shield of course what we witness is an overwhelming magical force slamming into a shield that can only produce a certain amount of energy every moment to defend with, it's why duellists shields break, they cannot keep up with the power requirements. This is why, conventionally, it is accepted that the Imperious curse, the Cruciatus curse, and the Avada Kedavra, are unblockable. They are curses which means they draw all of the energy they need from the caster and the surrounding environment and are s singular force, whereas to block them you would need to be able to force more energy into your duellists' shield than the curse can draw from its surroundings. Theoretically speaking if someone had enough raw power they could easily block the curses much in the same way that any one of you can block a stunner. It's all a matter of power."

With those final words Moody stepped back somewhat and called up to them.
"Anyone who wants to experience the curse and try to resist it form a line in front of me."
Harry looked sideways at Hermione and meshed their minds together for a moment, trading ideas. Eventually Harry raised his hand
"Sir? Are we going to have multiple attempts to throw the curse off?"
Moody raised an eyebrow at him and said
"If you show any promise at all, then yes."

Nodding to himself Harry got up and headed down to where Seamus and Neville were standing, Hermione close on his heels. Apparently Parvarti and lavender didn't want the experience. Neville much to Harry's amusement, seemed to be performing well, moody cast the curse at him several times, each time Neville would spend greater and greater amounts of time standing there twitching before finally moving off and doing some silly activity. Eventually Moody moved him on saying that he didn't quite have the ability, but he could resist.

Seamus was even more amusing, as for whatever reason, he showed absolutely no aptitude for resisting the curse and spent a hilarious minute trying frantically to stand on his head. Harry was next, he stepped forward and Moody flicked his wand, growling the incantation. All of a sudden Harry felt his hand moving up against his will, it was nothing more than a twitch but as soon as he was aware of it, he shut it down completely. Again, he felt a leg attempt to move but with nary a thought, reigned himself in. He understood now why Neville had remained in place twitching.

Harry realised that this was only resisting the curse, if he wanted to throw it off he was going to have to figure out how they were linked. Reaching out with his magic he probed the area around him until he felt, rather than saw, a thin tenuous connection between himself and the professor. With a heavy motion of his mind he bore down on it, forcing his magic around the connection, before snapping it.

He was fully cognizant of his surroundings whilst this was happening and watched Moody's face change from concentration, to annoyance, then appreciation, then pride. Finally the professor staggered back a bit, as if the connection between them had been a physical entity and he was leaning back into it before it snapped.
"You see that? He beat it, now Potter tell us what you felt."
Harry explained how at first he had only felt the ghost like movements of his body as it did things he didn't tell it to, before realising that he needed to go deeper to find the connection. He explained how he had pushed out with his magic and found the connection before breaking it. Moody gave him an appreciative smile that seemed to butcher his face even more.

"Well done Mr Potter, 5 points to Gryffindor" He turned to the room at large and raised his voice
"What Mr Potter just described was one of two ways to break this curse from within yourself, it is the simplest, but not everyone can achieve it. Firstly you need to be able to have the mental strength to shut down whatever movements the caster of the curse tries to instruct you to perform. I think all of you will agree with me that Mr Potter has that in spades. Mr Longbottom would you describe your ability to resist the curse in a similar fashion?"

Neville spoke with a touch of wonder in his voice
"Similar sir, but not on the same level, I had to struggle to shut down each attempt, the way Harry was talking about it makes it sound like as soon as he was aware of them, the attempts simply, ceased."
Harry nodded at Neville and then turned back to Moody with a slight blush as the professor kept explaining
"Exactly Mr Longbottom, incredible mental discipline, and then Mr Potter did something that I don't think most of you even know you can do, he shaped his magic into a probe and explored the ether around him for other magic, which he then bore down on and broke by forcing it to bend around his power until it could do so no longer, and then it snapped. A show of hands please, aside from Mr Potter how many of you have manipulated your magic in such a way.

Predictably Hermione raised her hand and so did, much to Harry's interest, Parvarti. At Harry's interested look she explained in a rush
"My family practises meditation and I've done so for the last eight years. Understanding your magic is just one aspect of that."
Moody seemed to take the information in stride and turned instead to Hermione and Harry
"What about you two? How did you learn the skill?"
Hermione ducked her head and Harry squeezed her shoulder supportively, the information was going to get out eventually
"We've been mixing our magic together for a few months now sir, the process involved us at the beginning reaching out blindly into the darkness, we became aware of our magic then."

Moody shot them a strange look as the girls in the class crooned in happiness and the boys looked on in surprise. Moody looked Harry dead in the eye and growled out
"Congratulations you two, now tell me, can you do that at will?"
Harry nodded sharply
"Yes sir"
Moody raised an eyebrow
"Would you like the chance to try resisting the curse as a merged pair? I don't feel that I would have any more success against Miss Granger on her own, but experiencing the curse together might give you some interesting insights."

Harry glanced at Hermione to see her firm gaze meet his, a thread of unspoken understanding passed between them and he nodded
"Yes sir we would like the chance."
Moody had them stand side by side
"Merge together, when you're ready just wave a hand"

-:-

Hermione felt Harry's magic wash over hers and then mesh comfortingly, with practised ease they obliterated the boundaries between their two minds and revelled in the feelings of being one. They flicked their hand at the professor and suddenly they felt a force attach itself to them. They saw the professor's wand move after the fact and then an even more powerful tendril snapped forwards, latching itself to their combined being. Almost contemptuously they snapped it before it had truly taken hold, a mere flex of their magic decimating the curse's connection.

Moody staggered back as usual and they turned one of their heads around slightly to watch their classmates while they kept the other head locked on Moody as he began speaking.
"You see that? The moment I cast the spell they see it, identify it, and destroy it. The power of their minds together is stronger, much, much stronger than any one person could achieve. Miss Patil, have you merged your magic with your twin at any time?"

Parvarti nodded looking taken aback, Moody paid her no mind
"The Weasley twins were much the same as these two were, well aware of each other they merged their minds to play a prank on me by obliterating my attack much in the same way as these two just did. The bond between twins, and soul mates, is nigh untouchable by the power of the imperious curse. That's all for today, class dismissed."

-:-

As they were leaving the class Harry turned to Hermione, their minds unlinked now, and said quietly
"Thank you"
Harry's words startled her a bit and she asked
"Why exactly?"
She watched his tender smile spread on his face and she couldn't help going up on tip toes to kiss him gently, she watched him smile even wider as she went back down on the flats of her feet.
"For giving me the amazing gift of your love, every day we discover something new that this bond does for us, it changes the way we act and even interact with magic. And it's all possible because of you sweetheart. I love you."

Hermione's heart melted and she stepped forwards into his arms, her won looping around his neck to kiss him softly before snuggling into his chest and enjoying the feel of his arms fitting snugly around her back, his soft words brought a silly grin to her face and she couldn't help but reply
"I love you too sweetheart. Now…"

Hermione was interrupted as a harsh sneering voice filtered through the halls
"Oh stuff it you two, we don't need to hear that drivel from a filthy mudblood and a blood traitor son of a mudblood."

Hermione closed her eyes desperately trying to hold herself in check from obliterating the boy with her wand. Draco fucking Malfoy couldn't give them a moment of happiness could he? Harry's voice came from above her with his strong masculine tones
"Hermione look, this isn't something you get to see every day; it's the rare albino ferret, almost extinct because of their extreme stupidity."

She couldn't help but giggle into his chest as Harry effortlessly shrugged off the blond ponce's insults and made her feel better, she looked up into his eyes with a hint of mischief, they were thinking the same thing and he nodded subtly. She raised her voice
"I've heard they're extremely filthy and incestuous, often mating with their mothers because they're so incapable of attracting a female of the species due to their ugly features."

She grinned up at Harry as she heard Malfoy splutter from the side, they were both enjoying taunting the bastard who had nearly raped Fleur, they couldn't do much more to him right now, but they both knew that the next time something happened, Lucius Malfoy be damned, Harry would use his fame to get the arrogant pureblood locked up. Harry responded to her with a taunt towards the ferret of his own, cutting off Draco as he tried to say something
"You see the two he's flanked by? They're chosen for their extreme stupidity so as to be unable to disagree with their nearly as stupid master. Apparently these ones are actually smarter than this particular albino ferret because the ferret's father couldn't find anyone more idiotic than his own son."

They walked past Draco and the goons laughing together completely ignoring them as the ponce opened and closed his mouth in a rough approximation of a goldfish, what was funnier though was Crabbe and Goyle who didn't know whether to be insulted that they were called stupid or complimented that they were called smarter than Draco, the looks of oafish confusion on their faces were priceless.

-:-

The dawning of the day of the trial was a nervous one for Harry, he and Hermione would be travelling to the Ministry of Magic with an Auror for the trial, up until the morning they got the summons neither of them were even aware that there was even going to be a trial. He just thought that Dumbledore had quashed the charges and forced an expulsion.

Neville had been the one to inform them that his Gran had actually petitioned the Wizengamot for a full trial against her for her actions against one of the scions of one of the richer wizarding families, the sheer wealth that the Potters possessed granted them a nobility that reached well before the Norman invasion of Britain right back to the time of Arthur, the tail of inheritance stopped there but only because that was where the records began, there was no telling how old the Potter line was. This had led to a long discussion where Hermione had admitted that she had known of Harry's wealth but was aware that he didn't care about it and hadn't brought it up, fully intending to do so over the summer where they could get everything in line.

Harry had been a little shocked to hear that he would be Lord Potter upon his seventeenth birthday and had questioned Neville about the apparent Ten Million Pounds that he had stashed away in his vaults somewhere. At this point Neville had laughed uproariously, explaining how that was the stipend that the scions of the more ancient houses were given and had access to until their seventeenth birthdays at which point, by law, they took over the reins of the household regardless of their father's age or status.

Apparently Harry's true wealth would be closer to the region of a hundred million or even several hundred million pounds; he had promptly fainted at this and had woken a few minutes later to Hermione's concerned but amused smile. The long and short of it being that Harry was one of the wealthiest land owners in Britain, or would be upon attaining his majority, and apparently drugging him with Gabbling's Draught was a near capital offense that carried the penalty of time in Azkaban at a minimum of fifteen years, Ginny would have been in Azkaban longer than Sirius Black had been, all because of her overblown sense of entitlement.

And that was the minimum, there was every chance that she would be in Azkaban for the rest of her life, or executed by shroud. To say the least Harry was a little nervous about the proceedings and what would happen. As it turned out he had little to worry about.

-:-

"All rise for the court! The trial of Ginevra Molly Weasley versus the court on the twelfth of January nineteen ninety five beginning at ten o'clock in the morning. Let it be known that the wards on the chamber compel truthful speech and falsehood cannot be propagated in these rooms. Bring in the defendant."

The crowd rose to their feet whilst the man in bronze coloured robes recited the information of the trial and Ginny's crimes as she was brought in, the list was longer than Harry had anticipated including; attempted murder of a scion of an ancient and noble house, attempted interference with the line of succession in an ancient and noble house, illicit possession of a restricted substance, intent to harm, intent to rape… the list went on.

Harry felt sick as Ginny entered, not because of what was about to happen but because the moment she saw him her mouth dropped open in a slight pant and then stretched wider as she yelled
"Harry! Sweetheart thank goodness you're here baby! Get me out of these chains would you love?"
Hermione put a comforting hand on his back as he turned away from her and abruptly Ginny's mood turned sour
"OH! So you turn to the mudblood whore instead! I'm…"
What Ginny was, would never be known as a silencing charm from the auror who was bringing her in became fed up with her screeching.

The trial proceeded much as anyone could have expected, Harry and Hermione gave their testimony, Ginny gave hers, a pair of Mind Healers from St Mungo's hospital for magical maladies gave their professional opinion of her mental health and without any further ado Ginny Weasley was sentenced to sixty five years in Azkaban.

When the sentence was doled out Harry felt his heart turn cold at the concept of spending sixty five years in the presence of the dementors, beside him he felt Hermione stiffen with the same feelings of horror. The worst thing was that if she survived the experience when she was released she would be sent immediately to the long term ward of St Mungo's mental corrections facility for the remainder of her natural life. Not something to look forward to and the sobbing of Molly Weasley over the crowd was drowned out by Ginny's screams of outrage.

-:-

As he and Hermione we leaving the courtroom Mr and Mrs Weasley caught them up and Harry surprised himself as he pulled Mrs Weasley into a hug
"I'm so sorry Mrs Weasley, I never meant for this to happen to her."
She sobbed for a few seconds before saying
"It was that… damn… diary, she was such a sweet girl before h…hic….he ruined her."
Harry felt terrible for Molly, she had to see her daughter, broken beyond her control, brining shame to herself, her family, and to Molly and Arthur directly, who had raised her.

He and Hermione did their best to comfort the Weasley's before they were taken back to school for afternoon classes and lunch. When they arrived they were greeted by a somewhat teary Fred and George who for the first time in memory hugged Harry before disappearing into the school to do whatever it was the twins did in their free time. Feeling utterly drained Harry and Hermione sat down at the Gryffindor table for lunch where they were comforted by a mournful Fleur after they described their morning.

Hermione was privately thankful that Ginny was finally out of their lives and where she belonged, but at what cost to those around her? She was once again thankful for Harry, he was hurting inside, she could see that, at what he had needed to do in the last weeks, Fleur, Ginny, both of them had their lives changed forever this week, but he was staying strong, mostly for her. And Hermione couldn't help but fall in love with him just a little more every day.

The horizon however, was not so bright.

-:-

AN3: There we have it folks chapter 13

AN4: Review Responses

Shukokage: I try, I try, that was the single largest piece of writing I ever just sat down and… typed. Glad to know it was well received.

ArtanisRose: Thanks, nice to know people agree with me, and yeah… Dumbledore to me is somewhat of an enigma, he wants to help Harry, but at the same time he sees certain things that just HAVE to happen because it's the only way forward, he has hard decisions to make, and sometimes he makes the wrong ones, does that mean he deserves bashing? Absolutely not.

RoninKeshin: Thanks, here's another

Independent angel of hearts: Well… I eliminated that concern, so hopefully you can continue to enjoy.

JHarry: No? Ah well I'll have to see if I have a leak somewhere, the Draco issue is one that I'm having trouble dealing with, to be frank I need him at the school, he's an excellent readymade rival for Harry especially later on, but at the same time he's an arsehole, he does what he wants and gets away with it because his dady has the entire upper stories of the ministry in his pocket, Part of me wants to throw him in jail, part of me wants him to just… persist, annoyingly, and part of me wants Harry to kill him at some point. Idk, it's an ongoing debate in my mind. As for the money, I know I screwed up and have fixed it here.

Darkow1: Your review gave me some ideas of how I can finally resolve the ongoing issues that I have with Draco's character, and hopefully I can finally put that to rest, thanks, you've broken some of my issues there.

Starboy: Well thanks!

Vukk: Shhhhhhhhh no one's supposed to know about that yet *shifty eyes* and yeah, money debate solved

Plotbunny: Fixed for your amusement, also Hermione does have flaws here, Idk if you've been paying attention but she has shown jealousy, possessiveness etc. She can be arrogant and overconfident as well.

Lightskiller: Welll….. darker moments will come about, sooner rather than later too. Although I'm glad you're enjoying things.

Anotherboarduser: Oh…. This is awkward, at the end of the day I felt that I had gone too far over the edge of what I found comfortable and other reviews helped me to that point, this is, at the crux of things a tragedy, and the idea of everyone getting their happy ever after isn't something I want to espouse.

Killamuff: Thanks!

Frustr8atedwriter: Fixed for your amusement.

Vegasman: The second task will certainly be an eye opener, not nearly as much as the third however… that is going to turn a lot of people from the story I feel, mostly because of some of the darker aspects, but I hope everyone stays with.

Annabel: Fixed for your amusement

Jamnaz79: RIP the ginger indeed, glad you're liking it

Rikodunaruto: I'll say this once, I'll say it a hundred times, don't post sodding spam in the reviews.

Casualreader: Yeah yeah I get it, I screwed up, fixed for your amusement

Beyondthesea: Being not sure how to feel is the ultimate goal of any tragedy writer, forcing the reader to choose between characters and take sides is nothing more than the best result I could have asked for. Fleur's eventual resolution is planned btw. Just wait and see.

Darkheart: Now there's an interesting thought, what would happen if Draco attacked one of the more popular pureblood scions? Interesting thought and something to take in mind, thanks. Also nothing in the lake specifically that did that to Harry, consider that it might have been the lake itself.

Tersios: Thanks!

Right, thanks everyone for reading and other shenanigans. As a side note as I'm writing this the story ticked over 80K views, which to me is a fabulous milestone and I can't help but be thankful to all of you who've stuck with me thus far, ROLL ON 10K!

Expect the next chapter: Cold Wet and Worried, to come soon.

LGreymark