Dolores Umbridge was sitting in her office polishing her wand, waiting to hear the good news from Cornelius. Their plan was to try to minimize any fear mongering and prevent the public from acknowledging the resurrection of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Mostly the children in Hogwarts so they would still adhere to what the Ministry said instead of that uppity mudblood. They had to have it so the public would see the Ministry's word was better than what the muggles claimed were royalty. The public had to see that their government was more important, even if the royal family wasn't allowed as much control as they once had.
It would have been easier to discredit Potter and the mudblood with simple claims of over-excited imaginations, attention-seeking, and straight out lying under the impression that it was just something the two children would do. However with Peter Pettigrew confirming such incidents and admitting to have assisted with the act, thus being sentenced to being kissed, it was moot point. That was all the evidence the public needed. All they could do now was try to minimize fear mongering and stopping an all-out war without doing much about it, despite Cornelius wanting to claim Voldemort wasn't back at all.
With a wizard, a pureblood wizard, being kissed after being questioned under the truth serum… There really wasn't much they could do about that. Thankfully the press showed more interest in Black's trial than Pettigrew's. Apparently that quack paper, The Quibbler, was the only one that covered it accurately. Unfortunately for them, the following article was about another creature that didn't exist.
If it weren't for Potter coming back with that mudblood and that dirty rat things would have gone fine! He would be silenced instead of being given political clout and power that was sure to rise. Power that could potentially overthrow the Ministry. He was The-Boy-Who-Lived, the one who ended the war last time, so surely he would do so again. That wasn't even mentioning that he was blood-bonded with that uppity mudblood. Muggle royal family be damned.
It was unfortunate that Skeeter couldn't be reached at the moment. There was a witch who earned her gold!
There was rumor that she had to lay low after gathering some specific information. It wouldn't be the first time she had to do so. So no one was worried about her recent disappearance. Journalism was dangerous business, only because information could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Umbridge however felt that the Daily Prophet was a good controlled source of information since they were controlled by the Ministry.
They didn't want to publicly discredit Potter as a savior, yet. After the courtroom incident following her failed attempt at silencing the Potter brat went horribly, she decided to have a more proactive approach. It was common knowledge that Hogwarts was almost always in need of a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, and what better than a Ministry trained official?
It would give her power over those brats and she could punish them herself. Then she could slowly take over the school to control information from inside and get any and all dirt on them that she could to discredit them at a later time. Preferably after she left the post so she had a whole year's worth of damaging information on them. After all, how unseemly it would be that The Boy Who Lived and the 'brightest magic thief' failed their Defense class and then their defense OWLs?
Any real pureblood would be able to practice magic at home under parental supervision and then retake their OWLs for a fee at the Ministry. There would be no lasting harm done to anyone… important. Then if she was nice, but most certainly firm, it would get back to the parents who worked at the Ministry and she would be in further good graces with the right people in the right departments. It was perfect.
It didn't help that the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black's Lord was actually innocent of previous charges from the first war, they had a close friend in the auror department. There were a few other loose ends from the first war that needed to be trimmed properly before they could clip the brats' vocal cords. Children were meant to be seen, not heard. She would see to it that she did all she could to help Cornelius.
Besides even if You-Know-Who was back and decided to pick up where he left off, there wouldn't be much harm. Granted there was the loss of a few magical upstanding families… While she didn't agree with his methods, cleansing the wizarding world was something they needed. If they were going to be blood-traitors they were a weak link in their society that needed to be pruned anyways. Mudbloods didn't belong, those dirty magic thieves should be arrested and their stolen wands snapped. Good wands that should have gone to those poor squibs who had their magic stolen as babies. Muggles were worse and filthier than cattle. What happened to them didn't matter to her as long as their community was safe from outsiders. Safe and pure. Muggles and muggle royalty be damned. They had their own aristocrats, why bow to some muggle who couldn't do anything besides try to hunt them?
A memo flew from under her office door and hovered in front of her until she tapped it lightly with her wand.
'Everything is going well. He only has a few weeks to find a replacement he won't find. Start making those lesson plans and looking for appropriate books. I suggest you try to retake your Defense OWL and then NEWT or you won't be allowed to teach practical magic. But they'll be your students, so do whatever you feel is best. You have my support.
Dolores grinned darkly at the memo.
'Whatever I feel is best? Then why bother wasting my time taking that test or even bother with the NEWT? The only thing they'll learn is that it's best to trust the Ministry. I'll pick some of the older, Ministry approved, books for the homeschooled. Why learn how to defend against the dark arts? That's what aurors are for! If everyone knew then we wouldn't need that department, it's simply smart business. I'll have the youth eating out of the palm of my hand. Young minds are so impressionable.'
Hermione woke up the next morning after a small lie in. She was meeting her master later in the day, around noon London time. Stretching and getting out of bed she padded over to her bathroom for her morning routine.
Once she finished and made to get dressed for the day Thimi popped in front of her Mistress, surprising Hermione.
"Mistress, Master Harry would like to see you before you meet with your Master for the day. He is in the kitchen."
"Okay. Thank you, Thimi."
Hermione quickly put on a comfortable set of muggle clothes, jeans, a t-shirt, and a fresh pair of socks. She frowned as she was putting her wand in her waistband, before heading towards the kitchen.
'There's gotta be an easier way to carry your wand when you're wearing a t-shirt and muggle pants,' she thought to herself.
Making her way into the kitchen she saw her brother flash her a small smile, and smiled back.
"What's up, Harry? Thimi said you wanted to meet with me before I meet with Master Snape for lessons," she said, sliding into the chair next to him.
Harry frowned momentarily before nodding to himself, "Hermione, I love you, but I have to know, Snape isn't doing anything bad to you is he? You're okay with your apprenticeship and everything? He's not my favorite person in the world, but I'll try to get along with him as long as he doesn't make you miserable. Just… I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it," He said quietly.
The witch stared at her brother, before folding her hands under her chin, thinking about her response carefully.
"I love you too, Harry and no. I enjoy my apprenticeship, he even had me take my potions OWL the other day. I got an O," she smiled at him, "He's extremely different outside of Hogwarts than in, but from a professional perspective if you were teaching young witches and wizards who didn't know a ladle from a cauldron? I'd be strict too. Potions can be very volatile, we both know that. There have been quite a few cauldron explosions," she sighed, leaning on her hands now, "As much as I don't like being on the receiving end of his… classroom persona, we should say, I understand it. Neville would probably do better if Master Snape taught him differently, but if he didn't command the classroom the way he does, can you imagine what would happen if Ron decided to be more careless than usual? Just him fiddling with a potion ingredient throwing it and catching it, carelessly. Even the smallest ingredients can do harm if they're entered at the wrong time. A porcupine quill? It could cause an explosion if it's put in the cauldron too soon. Ron would fiddle with it, it'd slip out of his reach and land in someone's cauldron, and if they weren't paying attention because they were preparing their next ingredient they would get hit with a nasty cauldron explosion. Neville freaks out with anxiety Master Snape causes him, and everyone knows he's Neville's greatest fear. So that's something else entirely."
Harry nodded understanding entirely what she was saying. Ron goofed off in almost every class that he could for as long as he'd known him. History of Magic was 'the perfect class for a kip'. Granted Harry was guilty of passing out in that class as well, he didn't go in thinking he was just going to go straight to sleep. If Ron could goof off in potions, given Hermione's scenario? Ron was his friend, but even he knew Ron had competitive issues. If Crabbe or Goyle were doing better than him, flicking beetle eyes into their cauldrons while they weren't looking would be bad.
Mulling it over carefully, Harry had to be honest with himself, if Ron wasn't friends with Hermione her cauldron would probably be one of those he would try to sabotage.
"What about when he's not in the classroom?" Harry asked.
"In Hogwarts he's still Master Snape. If you caught him smiling at a group of first years for being funny, some people would think they had a chance of getting off easy in class if they managed to make him smile or laugh in general. I mean, Professor McGonagall teaches the same way."
"Yeah, just she doesn't spit out acid when she talks," Harry mumbled.
Hermione pursed her lips.
"Come on, Hermione," Harry whined, "You're the only one that I know of that he hasn't called a dunderhead. Instead you're a 'know-it-all'."
Hermione smiled softly, "I know."
Harry's eyes widened at the smile on his sister's face. He'd seen that smile before on other witches' faces at the dance. Those who were dating their dance partners or fancied them. Hermione didn't have that smile then. So why now?
"Are you… do you…?"
The witch tilted her head and an eyebrow at her brother questioningly.
"Do you fancy Snape?" he whispered.
The witch blushed furiously, her face falling, but not denying it.
Harry waited for the words that never came.
"Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Hermione, tell me you don't fancy Snape," he begged.
"I would if I could without lying to you," she mumbled, looking away.
"Hermione what do you see in him?" Harry whispered.
"He's intelligent, skilled, clever, witty, and he's got a wicked sense of humor," she grinned.
"So are the twins! Why don't you like them?" he beseeched her.
"They create brilliant pieces of magic, but they're not mature enough for my tastes," she said looking up, "and don't you ever tell them I said that," she glared at him from the corner of her eye.
"What about Cedric? He's mature," Harry tried again, "Or even Viktor!"
"Harry, I haven't had a single conversation with Cedric. And… I broke things off with Viktor. Honestly what I liked in Viktor… I also see in Master Snape. Except Master Snape's voice is… exceptional and he's more experienced. But my apprenticeship comes first and foremost. Besides, what is this sudden interest in who I like and such?"
"Your face. The way you smiled."
Her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"You looked happy, but… in a deeper way. I don't know how to explain it. Like all the stress from class and school and even Voldemort, it was gone. All of it was gone. You… looked like you were glowing with happiness without actually glowing. Just because I brought up that he only calls you a know-it-all."
"Being a know-it-all got me the apprenticeship. I wouldn't change a single thing about it," she smiled.
Harry smiled back.
"Did you get started on reading any of your new books?"
Harry blushed and nodded, "Yeah. The Defense one is pretty good. I was going to start with the meditation one since it's smaller, but I thought it would be better to do it with you or mum."
"You should do it with Dad, he taught me. Mum knows how, but since she married into the Family, she was taught later in life and is bad at explaining it. Dad was taught as a kid so he'll be able to teach it to you easier," she replied decisively.
Harry nodded understanding the pragmatic thinking, "Okay."
'How could it have all gone wrong? They're not even in fifth year yet! They haven't even passed their OWLs! I have to think of something before it goes any further. Then I have to wait for Hagrid to get back to me with news from the giants,' Albus thought.
Sitting in his chair, Albus laced his fingers together as he further pondered the current situation. It was imperative that he get access of the Potter vaults. The contract between Harry and Ginevra was also important to his future plans, but not as pressing at the moment.
Having found out through his contacts at the Ministry, Hermione Granger was Harry's blood bonded sister. They were closer than he thought, but at the same time they weren't romantically interested in one another so that boded well for him at least. Considering she was also part of the royal family it would give Harry some extra clout that he could use to his benefit.
Being Albus Dumbledore had gotten Harry out of (and in) a few sticky situations and even let him get away with a few illegal things on the side simply because of who he was and how powerful people knew he was. He was respected by most of the community, those who were considered light families also tended to listen to his private requests or words before they believed the Ministry or the Prophet.
With Voldemort having gained a new body however meant that he had access to his magic… While he was disembodied he was less of a threat, even with his great mind, because he had no access to his own magic. The other wizard was admittedly strong and well versed in magic.
Albus decided he had to limit his interactions with the boy in case the dark wizard was able to control the horcrux that was in the boy. He wasn't sure if it was possible, but if it was it wouldn't bode well for him if it was. Imagine Voldemort being able to use legilimency through the horcux! Sure he had his own occlumency shields, but then he'd be in a battle of wills with the man from a distance. Then if he was able to do that, what if he was able to get into the boy's mind! He would be able to pick apart anything and everything that was said to Harry. He couldn't be around potential information. Even a slip of something innocent that wasn't controlled could tilt the scales.
Still… even with his limited interactions they had to be important enough that Harry understood the importance of being firmly on his side! He needed those funds! He needed to marry the youngest Weasley!
Maybe it was time to convince Molly brew again. All of her children were at Hogwarts or out of the nest so to speak… Her cooking was exceptional, and she could easily slip some of that love potion to Harry that she slipped to Arthur when she was still in school.
While Molly was admittedly pretty when she was younger, and she attracted a fair amount of attention, she wanted the best to be her first. When she bragged about it to those who would listen another student, who he thought was jealous, had sent an owl to her father. Mister Prewett was so angry he demanded to speak with his daughter immediately. It was in his office that it was discovered that Molly had slipped Arthur a love potion so her plan was guaranteed.
She claimed she didn't want the embarrassment of being rejected so came up with a fool-proof plan to get what she wanted. It wasn't uncommon for students to have little rendezvous in the castle, or even at the Three Broomsticks on Hogsmead weekends. Rooms could be rented there as easily as they could be rented at the Leaky Cauldron. What she didn't know though was that her father had planned on raising her bride price because she was a virgin and her plan ruined his.
However even a week after having been slipped the potion, Arthur was still sweet on Molly. After a few more doses Arthur believed that he was really in love with her. When she stopped dosing him, a few months later, his body was in such a habit of being around her that he continued to do so of his own free will. Her love potion was so potent, so subtle, that the potion lasted about 2 weeks after a dosage.
If they could slip that to Harry, he would most likely want to marry the girl of his own free will. It would be easier to do so if he convinced her to send him, and her kids to prevent suspicion, a few "home care" packages. More than the usual special occasion packages.
After all it was his OWL year and the twin's NEWT year, which was simply a wonderful happenstance in this occasion.
'Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll send Molly an owl and have her meet me in a few days to discuss a few things. Just a quick note, we can talk in person. I know she'll be amendable,' he thought to himself, as he dipped his quill in ink.
Severus was in Minerva's living room, refusing to call it a parlor since it was not a place where she typically invited people over. It was for her and her few friends to sit and talk, read, and occasionally take a cat nap. Hooch was sitting beside her, sprawled out on her couch.
"You're actually inviting us over?" Minerva asked, "Why over your house and not your quarters as usual? You hate your house," she stated.
Severus made a face, pursing his lips and arching an eyebrow. It was a face that only they had been able to see since Lily.
"I would like to spend time with you in a private setting. I will be having other company and I don't want to have to bring them to the castle."
Hooch's eyes shimmered knowing who the company was.
"Company? Who?" Minerva asked, extremely curious.
Severus willed himself to be calm and to not blush, "My apprentice."
The elder witch blinked not having expected that answer.
"You have an apprentice? Why didn't you tell us you were considering taking one, Severus? You know we would have supported you," she said gently.
The dark wizard nodded, "I did bring it up with Hooch. But only after I already completed the bond."
Minerva's eyebrows furrowed, "I know you like your privacy, especially what you do during the summers, but wouldn't you have told us both?"
Hooch comfortingly toed Minerva from her spot, "He wanted to, Minnie, just something came up that he wanted to talk to me privately about."
Minerva pursed her lips knowing that usually their private conversations dealt with sex or their general attraction to witches in general. He would never call it girl talk, or even guy talk, but she knew it was healthy to speak about those things with a close friend. Sometimes she wished he would talk to her about those things, but also knew from when he was a student that he had certain tastes that she admittedly would find embarrassing talking about.
"Who is it?" she asked.
Hooch grinned in response.
"Hermione," he said, "Hermione Granger is my apprentice."
The elder witch froze for all of 10 seconds letting the implications pass through her brilliant mind.
"Neither of you are betrothed. Neither of you are in a solid, fortified, or binding relationship aside from to each other."
Severus blushed, "I know. Hooch told me afterwards. I… spoke with Hermione about it yesterday. I admitted I didn't know, but that I wasn't unhappy with it."
"How did she take it?" Minerva pressed.
"She said that she was shocked, but not unhappy or forlorn about it and she doesn't want to rush into anything. She also said she would need a bit of time for the idea to settle."
"Severus, that's excellent! I'm so happy for you!" She exclaimed.
"Thank you," he said his eyes shone with happiness.
He took a quick breath before plowing through, "Since she's my apprentice and will be in my life for the foreseeable future I want you to get to know her in a personal setting instead of a professional one. You're both important to me, and I don't want there to be changes between our friendship. I did offer her the spare room in my quarters for when she wanted it, so you may see her when you guys pop in."
They both nodded, agreeing with the sound logic.
"Now that I know she's your apprentice though you've given me a bit of extra work," she looked at him with a hint of distaste.
"And what do you mean by that?" he asked with his typical eyebrow raised.
"I was going to have Miss Granger –"
"Hermione. In a private setting I think it would be better if we called her Hermione," he cut her off softly.
Minerva nodded with her eyes softening for a moment with understanding, "As I was saying, I was going to have Hermione be a prefect this year. With her being your apprentice she outranks a prefect, even if she won't be able to give or take away points, she can assign detentions."
The dark haired wizard looked down nodding, not having thought of that. He should have expected Minerva to pick her favorite cub as a prefect, but the thought slipped his mind. He should have anticipated the opportunities that wouldn't be applicable to her because of her new status.
"I think she will be disappointed, but I also think you should tell her. I think she would like that," he said.
Minerva 'hm'ed in agreement.
"I'm expecting her around noon London time. If we leave now we can have half an hour to settle before she shows up."
"Good, let's go," Hooch said, swinging herself off the couch and leading the way.
Meanwhile Leeroy had been around the corner of the kitchen doorway when he heard his children talking. He knew Harry had a personal issue with Hermione's master, despite his good feeling about the other man. Hearing his daughter talk about him in a romantic fashion, while still pointing out that her education was still first, actually set him at ease. It wasn't a response he was ready for, but his intuition hadn't steered him wrong yet.
He had a good feeling about the man, and Hermione liked him too. That was good enough for him. He knew with her intelligence that she would probably be like her mother and end up with an older man anyways. They had expected it when she was about six or seven. She was emotionally on track for her age, but intellectually she was far beyond. As much as she would probably get along with people her age, on an emotional level, intellectually she would be bored or eventually unhappy with someone her age unless they were mentally up to par with her.
Thankfully the other man didn't give off the 'lady-killer' vibe, which probably made him like the other man more. Unlike Harry's godfather. Severus respected his daughter, even when he caught him looking at her legs a little too long.
The attraction was mutual and having done his own reading he knew they would most likely end up bonded rather than not. Abagail looked at the logistics, he however looked deeper since he was given more clearance than she was.
He heard Hermione suggest that the boy ask him for the mental help rather than his wife, knowing she was speaking from experience. He agreed from beside the wall that would probably be for the best whereas he knew Abby wanted to work with Harry on his people and crowd control skills. Hermione was considered bossy, but he knew if she was a boy it would be considered assertive instead. Something that was admired in a man rather than a woman. So it would work out for the kid.
He chose that moment to enter the kitchen.
Out in a field near her house Luna Lovegood was laying on her back, watching the clouds. She couldn't wait to go back to school and have a real friend. She had missed Crookshanks and Thimi, which also meant that she missed Hermione. With that article burned she felt a relief at finally being able to do something for Hermione like she had done for her.
'I can't wait for the school year to start. Even if she doesn't talk to me in public this year at least I know I have a friend at Hogwarts,' she smiled at her thoughts.