Author's notes: The Rotten Writer here again, folks. I understand it's been a long while but life has really started beating me over the head. Several deaths in my family, relationship changes, and I'm going back to school to work on a Fire Sciences certificate. So on top of school starting next month I've also got almost daily trips to the gym going on. Need to get into significantly better shape while going through the certificate classes.
So for this chapter, it's much shorter than I would have liked but I was feeling written into a corner. Next chapter will start with a time skip bringing us closer to the beginning of the Tournament and things will move forward from there. So apologies for the shorter chapter but don't worry, more is coming and no this story has not been abandoned.
Disclaimer: I still own no part of the Harry Potter franchise or any related characters.
So with no further ado, here is Chapter 51 of Soul Scars.
Soul Scars Part Four
"Can't we just ignore her?" Harry asked. "I mean, we'll be polite and courteous, but nothing more, nothing that could be seen as encouragement?"
"Who can say that would work?" Susan countered.
"That girl has obviously developed a crush, or at minimum, a serious case of hero-worship on the two of you," Hermione added. "We need to make it clear to her that you two are off limits."
"Not that we blame her, you two were amazing, and you did save her and her sister's lives. It's no wonder that she has a crush on you. Still…"
"Harry they're right. Fleur needs to understand how things are and that there's no place for her with us outside of friendship, for her own safety as much as ours."
"I'm a little surprised that you're not arguing some leniency here," Harry muttered.
Daphne rolled her eyes. "I'm a girl, Harry. We have our own way of doing things, especially when other girls are involved."
"You're not going to threaten her or something, right?" he asked with a long sigh. "I can't say I understand this mindset of yours, and I agree that she needs to know she has no chance with any of us, but I just think it's not exactly her fault."
Smiling Daphne reached out and patted Harry's cheek.
"We have no intention of being threatening at all," Susan said. "And it's okay that you don't understand. You might understand the three of us more than you do most women since you live partly inside our heads, but you're still a boy. You will never really understand women."
Harry snorted a laugh. "You know, I said something like that to Neville back in second year right after Hermione saw one of my nightmares for the first time.
"Which just makes you smarter than the average boy," Hermione stated primly, causing Susan and Daphne to laugh quietly for a moment.
"Like we already said, considering the circumstances, we can't really blame her for a bit of hero-worship. We can however, gently discourage her from pursuing anything more than friendship."
"'Gently' is the key word, that's all I ask," Harry said, standing and pulling Hermione into a loose embrace.
"You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say that you had a crush on her, the way you're leaping to her defense," Hermione muttered though she was smiling softly as she said it.
Harry leaned back slightly to look down at her, his eyes narrowed slightly. "Then it's a good thing that you do know better, isn't it?" He tilted his head to give her a gentle peck on the lips. "I don't have any interest in Fleur. Why would I when I have you three in my life? I don't want or need anyone else."
Which reminded him…
"Speaking of, we need to talk about that letter I got yesterday from Sharpshard. It's not anything bad, just needs to be discussed.
The girls exchanged a look, Hermione turning around in the loose circle of Harry's arms until her back was to his chest so she could see the other girls better before all three turned back to him.
"You know," Daphne began in a dry, deadpan tone of voice, "you saying that it's nothing bad, while we can feel that you're nervous about the whole thing, doesn't exactly fill us with confidence."
Harry blew out a frustrated breath. "I know," he said, absently running one hand up and down Hermione's back as his arms tightened around her. "I know, but it really isn't something bad. Important and something all four of us need to have a voice in deciding, but not bad."
"Okay," Susan said as she pushed herself to her feet and drew Daphne off of the sofa with her. "We have a plan, and there's another discussion waiting for us. That'll have to wait until later, after the tour we're supposed to give this morning."
With a bit of prodding, Susan managed to get Harry and Hermione moving and the four of them headed for the Great Hall, intent on a decent breakfast before they needed to play tour guide to a group of older, foreign students.
"I'm not so sure that agreeing to do this was the brightest idea we've ever had," Harry muttered under his breath to Hermione an hour and a half later.
"It will be fine, Harry," she attempted to assure him, but there was no way for her to hide her own apprehension from him, or the other girls.
Breakfast had ended ten minutes earlier and the four of them were standing at the front of the Great Hall as the last of the resident students filtered their way out of the room. While that was happening, the visiting students moved forward, taking seats at the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables so as to be as close to the front as possible. To Harry, it looked as though every last one of their guests had decided to avail themselves of the offered tour of the school.
Toward the back of the group, Madame Maxime stood near Fleur, occasionally placing one massive hand on the teen's shoulder, as if to hold the girl in place. The large Head of the French school did not appear to be happy, keeping a wary eye moving between her student and Daphne where she stood on Susan's left side at the front of the room.
Not so sure that Maxime is going to let the girls anywhere near Fleur for that discussion they wanted, he thought, idly.
Finally, the last Hogwarts student left the Great Hall and Harry hid a grimace of distaste as he took a step forward to address their audience.
"Good morning," he began. "Can everyone hear me okay?"
A quiet mutter swept through them and he noted several of the students at the back of the group nodding their heads. He took that to mean that volume wasn't going to be an issue and pushed on.
"I know it's already been said, but let me once again welcome you all to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I am Harry Potter-" He cut off when a louder murmur suddenly swept through the group. "Yes, I'm that Harry Potter. I'd like to introduce Hermione Granger, Daphne Greengrass, and Susan Bones. They'll be helping me with our tour today and are probably far more interesting than I am." As he introduced each of his girls they stepped up beside him, offering a small wave or a nod to the small crowd.
"The general plan for this morning is to show you all the primary points of importance at our school. The library for those looking for extra reading or resource material. Our Quidditch pitch, the Hospital Wing, and so on. If any of you have any questions during the tour, please, feel free to ask and we'll do our best to answer whatever we can. Please keep in mind that we aren't experts by any means, so we don't know everything, but we will try."
"We will also be doing our best to keep this as engaging as possible," Hermione added after Harry finished speaking. "We don't want to bore you but we do have a certain amount of information to get across so we'll attempt to keep it as interesting as we can throughout."
"Everyone on the same page?" Harry asked. When another series of nods were visible amongst the crowd he smiled. "Excellent. If everyone could follow me, then, we'll start at the top and work our way down."
"Admit it, it wasn't nearly as terrible an ordeal as you expected it to be," Susan teased, a smile playing around the edges of her lips.
Harry grunted but refused to say anything from his spot slumped in the armchair by the fireplace in the Room of Requirement. Privately he could admit that she was right and the tour of the castle hadn't been nearly as trying as he'd expected. The one downside was that, like he'd expected, his girls hadn't been able to get anywhere near Fleur and at the end of the tour the girl had been almost physically dragged away by Madame Maxime. On the positive side of things, the visiting students had clearly been curious about him, but they hadn't gone out of their way to question him.
I guess they were making a greater effort to be polite since they're guests here, he thought. Or my three gorgeous girls deterred them just by being there with me. Probably wouldn't have gone so well if I'd done that tour on my own.
He moved the arm that he had flung across his face and opened his eyes to find his girls blushing slightly where they sat on their usual sofa.
"What?" he asked.
Hermione frowned at him, though she didn't really seem all that upset. "I very much doubt that our looks would have stopped them from questioning you if they wanted to," she muttered, he cheeks a brighter red than either Daphne's or Susan's.
"Of course it would. Most of the guys were probably too distracted looking at you three to really pay much attention to me and the girls were probably trying to puzzle out what level of threat you represented if they were to try to approach me," he replied easily. "Why do you mention it though?"
Susan rolled her eyes. "We didn't," she said, "you did."
He blinked a couple of times and sat up in his seat, lowering his arm as a confused frown furrowed his brow.
"I did? I don't remember saying anyth-"
He cut off mid-sentence as he realized that, while he hadn't actually said anything, he had thought it.
"Now might be a good time to have that discussion that we didn't get to yesterday," he muttered and the girls straightened up in their seats, leaning forward slightly with looks of curiosity etched onto their faces. This left Harry with trying to figure out the best way to point out that they were hearing each other's thoughts.
His head tilted back and forth, as if weighing his options for a moment before his eyes focused fully on Hermione, who leaned back slightly at his sudden scrutiny. "'It's impossible to Apparate inside the Hogwarts grounds. Honestly!'" he said, quoting Hermione's thoughts from the night before.
The girls exchanged a confused look between the three of them before turning their gazes back to him.
"What does that mean?" Daphne asked.
"You thought that last night, didn't you?" he asked Hermione. "When Ron was talking about how the other schools were going to get here?"
Slowly she nodded her head. "I did, actually. How did you know that?"
Smiling, Harry lifted one hand. "I heard you," he said as he tapped his temple with his forefinger. "Also, I didn't actually say anything a minute ago about how gorgeous the three of you are, but I was thinking it."
Wide eyed, the three of them looked at each other again.
"The Quidditch match!" Daphne suddenly blurted out.
"Dobby's rogue bludger!" Susan added.
"I haven't even thought about that in forever," Hermione mused thoughtfully in a quiet counterpoint to the other girl's loud exclamations.
"Would one of you fill me in?" Harry cut in. "I've no idea what you're talking about."
"In second year, during that Quidditch game where Dobby charmed the bludger to target you," Susan started.
"We heard you right after the bludger broke your arm," Hermione picked up the tale without missing a beat. "We were scared and it hurt so much that we couldn't help reaching out to you through the bond."
"We heard your voice in our heads," Daphne finished. "You said 'not now' and that you needed to focus."
Harry was frowning again, his eyes directed up toward the ceiling above them as he tried to think back to that chaotic night. "I vaguely remember thinking that," he mumbled. "I was trying to stay on my broom and end that damn game and you three were making so much noise in my head I couldn't concentrate." He blinked a couple of times, returning to the present from his trip down memory lane and lowered his head, glowing green eyes focusing on them again. "Why didn't you mention it in the Hospital Wing that night, or the next day even?"
"Well, things were a little crazy right after. We weren't positive that we'd actually heard you as we thought we had until we compared notes on the way to dinner that night," Daphne said. "I had some other things on my mind that I'd needed to talk to you about when I got back to sit with you after dinner so it just didn't occur to me at the time."
"The next day we were a little busy, too, with Hermione pouting about not getting to make polyjuice potion and Blaise with his heavy handed attempt at blackmail," Susan pointed out.
"I still say the potion would have worked," Hermione insisted, "and I was not pouting."
"Of course you weren't, dear," Daphne said, patting Hermione's arm sympathetically.
"Making polyjuice really wouldn't have been much use though," Susan pointed out. "Remember, Malfoy didn't actually know anything."
Hermione scowled and waved one hand dismissively. "Who cares about Malfoy? I'm talking about the polyjuice. I'm positive that I could have brewed it correctly."
Harry could feel that she was still quite put out about that and he leaned forward in his seat. "Hermione? Would it make you feel better to go ahead and brew up a batch? Just to prove that you can do it?"
She considered that for a moment, an eager gleam in her eye before she sighed and her shoulders slumped dejectedly.
"No, there's no point anymore," she muttered.
Harry, Daphne, and Susan stared at her and as the silence stretched, Hermione began to fidget more and more in her spot between the other two girls.
"The youngest person to ever successfully brew polyjuice potion was fourteen-years-old, okay?" she suddenly blurted out. "In our second year I was only thirteen, I could have set a new record for potions brewing!"
As Daphne and Susan burst out laughing, Harry leaned back in his seat, staring at the flushed and mortified brunette. Hermione had her arms crossed over her chest and he could feel embarrassment and defiance flowing through their bond.
"Wait," he said. "Wait, are you telling us that the whole reason you wanted to brew the polyjuice… was to prove a point?"
"Not just to prove a point!" Hermione insisted.
"You wanted to prove to the bigots that being muggleborn didn't make you any less than those purebloods that think themselves superior just because of their birth," Harry said.
As Hermione sheepishly nodded her head Harry stood and reached out, taking her hand, drawing her from her seat and around the coffee table between them. Once she was standing in front of him, he sat and lowered her gently into his lap.
Glowing green irises regarded her carefully for several long moments, then he laid a soft kiss on her lips.
"You know that you don't have anything to prove to anyone, right?" he asked. "We love you just as you are. Our friends and our families love you just as you are. No one else really matters, do they?"
Sighing softly, her arms came up and wrapped around his neck as she laid her head on his shoulder, her body relaxing against him.
"I know," she muttered. "It'd just be nice to do something that could shut up those idiots."
"It wouldn't work," Daphne pointed out. "They'd find something to bitch and complain about no matter what you did or how good you are. You already beat all those pureblood children from the 'upstanding' members of wizarding society that were imperiused to work with Voldemort during the last war and that doesn't matter one whit to any of them."
Hermione shrugged, burrowing closer to Harry in the process but she said nothing else.
It was Susan that got them back on track.
"So, we can project thoughts now? Actually speaking mentally to each other?"
Harry shrugged his free shoulder.
"Apparently," he said. "That's how it appeared to me at least and we should experiment with that… but that wasn't actually the main reason that I wanted to talk. That only came up just before dinner last night. I wanted to talk to the three of you about that letter that I got from Gringotts."
"This would be that important, but not bad, discussion you wanted to have?" Daphne asked to which he nodded his head.
The girls exchanged another look, Hermione actually lifting her head from his shoulder in order to turn her face toward Susan and Daphne.
"Well… what about it?" Susan finally asked when Harry didn't immediately begin speaking.
Harry hummed quietly, searching for the right words as the girls waited patiently, Hermione gently rubbing the back of his neck with one hand.
"What do the three of you think about marriage?" he suddenly blurted out, shocking all three of them for a moment. "I mean, have you thought about it? Would you even want to get married one day? To me, I mean…"
He trailed off, flushing brightly as the girls recovered from their surprise enough to grin at each other.
"We knew after the troll in our first year that we were going to marry you someday, Harry Potter," Hermione told him. She ignored the surprised look on his face and leaned in to kiss his cheek. "Why do you ask?"
"W-well-" Harry shook his head, forcing himself to focus and tried again. "Okay, the letter from Sharpshard had two major points. First, he wrote to congratulate us on completing our bond. Second, he said that their records showed that I had not yet, and this is his wording, not mine, 'claimed' the three of you as… as my wives."
All three girls let out a snort at that, in perfect unison.
"You certainly do have a claim to us, Harry," Daphne assured him. "Just as we have a claim to you. But I'd imagine this is more legal in nature?"
"From what I understand, yes."
"Hermione, why don't you come sit with us, love, and let Harry explain all this?" Susan suggested. "I get the feeling he's got a lot more to say."
Reluctantly, Hermione slid off of Harry's lap and moved back to sit between the other two girls again.
"Okay, why don't you start at the beginning, Harry?"
He nodded to Susan and leaned forward in his seat to rest his elbows on his knees as he started to talk.
"Back in first year, when I met Sharpshard for the first time, he told me that, because of our bond, Gringotts and magic itself considered us betrothed."
"Why didn't you tell us about this back then?" Daphne asked with no trace of accusation in her voice or her emotions as they bled to him through their bond.
"I was freaking out about it," he admitted. "We had only just met a few months before and I still didn't know what to think of the bond or you girls. Hell, I was eleven! The idea of marriage was so far over the horizon for me that it was kind of ridiculous. I mean, what did I know back then about marriage or relationships or any of that?"
The girls nodded at that, easily seeing how Harry would have struggled with that information back then.
"Anyway, Sharpshard told me that after we completed the bond all I would have to do is publicly state that you were my wives and that would be it. We would be legally and magically married."
Once again the girls looked to each other, communicating in that silent way that had nothing to do with their newly found ability to exchange thoughts. He was reasonably certain they weren't doing that either, it was purely down to how well the three of them knew each other that let them communicate volumes of information with a single glance.
"What did you decide to do back then?" Hermione finally asked as they turned back toward him.
"I talked to your aunt about it," he said, looking directly at Susan, "and she recommended that I ignore the whole situation, basically. Again, I was eleven and we'd only barely known each other. There was no way I, or you girls, were really ready to have a serious discussion on that kind of subject. She suggested that I just take the time to be a kid, get to know the three of you, and not worry about the rest right away.
"The only other time us being betrothed was brought up was when she offered to be my permanent guardian before second year. Since that day it's never been mentioned again and I actually kind of forgot all about it." He shrugged, rather helplessly at that, watching carefully as his girls absorbed and considered what he'd said in silence.
Hermione suddenly frowned. "Wait… does that mean that we could have used that pre-existing betrothal against Daphne's dad last year?"
Harry stared blankly at her for several moments, then his hand came up, making a loud 'smack' as it connected with his forehead. Before he could start cursing up a storm however, Daphne started laughing quietly.
"That wouldn't have done any good. Not really," she said between chuckles.
"Remember, Hermione, that my father didn't really believe in the bond. He wouldn't have cared that Gringotts considered us betrothed. Plus, betrothed isn't the same as an engagement. I would imagine that there was no documentation? No actual contracts made up between our Houses?"
Hesitantly, Harry shook his head. "Sharpshard never mentioned any contracts."
"Contracts serve multiple purposes," Susan informed them, picking up on Daphne's thread with ease. "Part of that being a statement of exclusivity, if it's expected. Without a written, and signed, contract stating that we could not be entered into any other contracts, Daphne's dad could still have done what he tried to do."
"So… what do we do now?" Hermione asked a minute later. "That's the point of this discussion, right? To decide how we intend to move forward?"
Harry nodded again. "I talked to Sirius and he actually had some good advice."
He relayed his conversation with Sirius, explaining the concerns that he'd had and his godfather's answers to those concerns, falling silent when he finished and letting the girls think without interruption.
"That's surprisingly good advice," Susan said, to which Daphne and Hermione both nodded.
"We really have been dating for years now, haven't we?" came Hermione's comment.
"But Harry isn't wrong," Daphne added. "It would be nice to go on some official dates now and again."
"Right, and even though we know now that he really does plan to propose one day, that doesn't do anything to ruin the moment, right?" Hermione asked. "I'm sure that he'll do his best to make it a memory we'll cherish in the future."
"If one of us doesn't beat him to it," Susan pointed out in response. At the blank look the others gave her she rolled her eyes.
"When we're married, yes, when, Harry," she said as a broad smile spread over his face, "what is our relationship going to be like?"
"How do you mean?"
"We're not building a harem for Harry here, are we?" she asked rhetorically. "I'm not going to be married to Harry and then think of the two of you as… sister-wives or some crap. One day, Harry will be my husband and you," Susan leaned over and gently pressed a kiss to Hermione's lips, "will be my wife. You, too, Daphne. We're all equal parts of a whole, right? So, if Harry takes too long, I swear I'll propose to the two of you myself."
"That won't hold up, legally speaking," Daphne pointed out. "But I agree entirely with the sentiment. Us girls would have no legal authority as each others wives while Harry would retain a great deal of legal control over us as our husband."
"And we know that you would never try to control us like that, Harry," Susan added as he opened his mouth to protest. "The point is that the law won't match up to how we view our relationship. One day I'll have a husband and two wives and that's how we see things even if legally speaking it'll be us girls married to you with the law giving no consideration to our relationship with each other."
"Then that's one of those things that we'll work on changing. Us and our friends. When we can take our seats on the Wizengamot, those will be some of the first changes we start working toward," Harry stated firmly, a determined set to his jaw.
"That's all well and good, but what should we do right now?" Hermione asked, putting them back on track, though she was now leaning against Susan as the red head wrapped one arm around her.
"I can't believe that I'm about to say this, but I agree with Sirius," Daphne said with a pained expression on her face. "If we don't have to do anything about being married right now then we can wait on it."
"What about the rest of it?" Harry asked. "Dates, proposal, and everything else?"
"I like it," Hermione offered from her spot cuddled against their girlfriend. "We might have technically been 'dating' all this time to a degree, but you're right in that we've never gone on an 'official' date and that could be really nice."
"I've been thinking a bit on how to go about that," Harry admitted.
"There isn't a trick to it, my love," Susan said, grinning impishly at Harry as he stood and started walking slowly around the coffee table.
"Not entirely true, Susan," he replied. "We could, all four of us, go on a date easily enough. But we don't always have to do everything together, do we? I mean… I'd be happy to, don't get me wrong, but wouldn't it be nice to have some one-on-one time now and then as well?"
He'd stopped walking and was standing across the coffee table from them, shifting nervously in place and reasonably certain he was going to inadvertently insult or offend them with his idea.
"Harry, just explain what you're thinking of doing," Hermione told him, "and we'll work things out together."
He took a deep breath, nodding his head and absently stroked the scar behind his jaw with his right hand. "Right," he muttered, blowing out his breath. "Okay, I was thinking that I could take each one of you girls out on a date, just the two of us. I'm happy for all of us to spend time together, but I was thinking that it would be nice to pair off now and again, give us a little more personal time with each other without having to split our focus during a date between three different people. I'd like to take you each out for a date, and then have all four of us do something special together as well."
"That's not a bad idea at all," Susan mused thoughtfully. "Say you take Hermione to Hogsmeade next weekend, Daphne and I could have a little date of our own easily enough. You're right that it might be nice to have a little more focused time now and then."
Daphne and Hermione quickly agreed as well and Harry let out a relieved sigh, something that sent all three girls giggling at him for his nerves.
"So, and keep in mind, Harry, there really is no wrong answer here, who did you want to go on a date with first?" Susan finally asked after they stopped laughing at him.
"I was thinking Daphne, actually," he admitted, turning his attention to the surprised blond sitting on the end of the sofa.
"Me? Why me?"
"A few reasons, actually. First, I considered going in the order that we met, that way I'm not picking someone and looking as if I'm playing favorites or something."
"We get that you don't love one of us more than the others," Daphne commented.
"I know that you can feel how much you all mean to me," he said. "But it still feels to me as if it might appear that I'm playing favorites and I never want to give even the impression of that. If I go with the order we met though, that puts you last, Daphne. Just like the night I gave you the hearts for your charm bracelets. Going that route, you'd always be last, and none of you could ever be 'last' in my eyes, if that makes sense?"
Silently, the three girls nodded, their eyes filled with affection as they watched him.
"So, I thought I'd go with you first partly for that reason, and also partly because I know that you're still the least comfortable with me. You said it yourself the other day when we discussed the scars. You love me, Daphne, I can feel that clearly now, and I know you said that you want, and you're even looking forward to, us being more intimate in the future, but you also said that the idea still scares you a bit.
"I thought it would be a good idea to give you some more individual time with me, hopefully so you can be more comfortable and we can move forward at whatever pace works for you."
Daphne studied him calmly for a moment before a smirk turned up her lips.
"That's an interesting technique, don't you think, ladies?"
"Very much so," Hermione said, smirking just as much as Daphne was.
"Damn if it isn't working for him though," Susan offered, grinning broadly.
"What are you talking about?" Harry interjected, thoroughly confused by their comments.
"I doubt very many men have told their date, before she even accepts the date, by the way, that part of the reason is expressly to work on getting her more comfortable with the idea of him getting in her knickers."
If Harry had been drinking something at that moment he would absolutely have spewed it across the room. As it was he broke out into near panicked spluttering as all three girls burst out into riotous laughter at his reaction.
At the stricken look on his face, Susan managed to choke out past her laughter, "It's fine, Harry. We know you don't really mean it that way, but it was still funny."
Harry let out a huff and crossed his arms over his chest, glaring at the three girls. "A fine time for the three of you to start channeling the Marauders," he muttered.
"Hey," Daphne blurted out, her face flushed and eyes watering. "I'd like to think that we have a much more refined sense of humor than that degenerate, Black," she stated, to which even Harry cracked a small grin.
"Harry, I would love to go on a date with you next weekend," Daphne finally said as they got their laughter under control. "I'm sorry that we poked a bit of fun at you, but I really would love the chance to spend some time together, just us. I think you and I have actually spent the least time alone together out of all of us, come to think of it. This would be a good opportunity, as you said."
The smile that spread across his lips alone would have told the girls just how pleased he was that Daphne accepted his offer, they didn't even need to be able to feel his emotions for that.
Susan turned to Hermione and took one of the burnett's hands in her own again.
"How about you?" she asked, smiling softly at the other girl. "How would you like to join me for a date of our own while these two are down in Hogsmeade?"
Hermione was practically beaming when Susan finished and she nodded rapidly. "I would love to go on a date with one of my future wives," she answered, leaning forward to press a kiss to Susan's lips.
Harry, Hermione, Daphne, and Susan sat before the large desk in the Headmaster's office on Wednesday afternoon. Their classes were done for the day and they'd received a message that the aged wizard wished to speak with them. As they'd been expecting, the meeting was in regards to their Occlumency shields, and Dumbledore had been unable to find any trace that they already knew the prophecy he'd been holding back about.
In fact, he was sitting behind his desk nursing a severe headache while he waited for a pain remedy from Madam Pomfrey.
This, they decided, was a good thing. He couldn't get past their shields. He no longer had any excuse not to tell them the exact wording of the prophecy and if he still attempted to evade, or worse, lie to them about it, that would have a significant impact on how they dealt with the man going forward.
Behind them, the door to the office opened and Madam Pomfrey walked in, a potion vial held in one hand and her wand in the other.
"You are getting too old for this kind of thing, Albus," she muttered as she waved her wand through a series of diagnostic charms. "Attempting to test the mental shields of a quartet of bonded magicals? You knew there was a distinct possibility that their minds would help protect each other's, since their bond finalized. You weren't attacking one set of shields but four overlapping shields!"
"I know we discussed the possibility, Poppy, but such a thing has never been confirmed before."
"So you decided to confirm it by bashing your brain against a brick wall?" she snapped. "You are just as reckless and foolhardy a Gryffindor as this one over here," she burst out while pointing at Harry with the hand that still clutched the potion she'd yet to give over to the Headmaster.
A part of Harry wanted to protest that declaration, but the fierce sensation of agreement coming from all three of his girls convinced him to hold his tongue at the last moment.
"'Discretion is the better part of valor'," the aged wizard said with a tired sigh as Madam Pomfrey finally handed over the potion in her hand. "I am aware, Poppy. However some things one simply must verify for oneself." Pulling the cork from the vial he tipped it back and swallowed down the concoction with barely a grimace or shudder.
Harry found himself grimacing in sympathy, vividly remembering the awful taste of the pain relievers Madam Pomfrey supplied and simultaneously feeling just a touch impressed over how well the Headmaster masked any displeasure over the taste.
Replacing the cork, Dumbledore returned the vial to her and she let out an annoyed huff and swept back out of the room without another word, the door closing behind her.
Sighing again, he leaned back in his seat, tired blue eyes regarding the four of them carefully in silent contemplation.
"I believe it was the end of your second year when I made you four a promise. Well… Miss Granger was petrified at the time, but it was meant for her as well."
He paused, eyeing them each individually for a moment before he let out a long breath and leaned back in his chair. "Are you really sure that you wish to know?" he asked. "I hate to rest such a heavy burden on your shoulders, especially as you are still so young."
"Voldemort and his followers don't care how young we are, Professor," Harry countered firmly. "He tried to kill me when I was only fifteen months old. Like you said, he believes this prophecy to be true and he won't stop trying to kill me. Not until one of us is permanently dead. Not telling us isn't sparing us a burden, it's leaving us unprepared. Knowledge is power. The more we know, the more powerful we will be."
Dumbledore was nodding thoughtfully by the time Harry finished speaking. "Well, I can't exactly argue with that, now, can I?" he mused. Picking up his wand from where it sat on the desk in front of him, he waved it toward a large cabinet that sat at the far end of the room. Silently, the doors opened and the Headmaster's pensieve floated out of the cabinet and across the room to land in the center of his desk.
Placing the tip of his wand to his temple, he slowly withdrew the silvey strands of a memory and stirred them into the cloudy liquid already present in the bowl. Before activating the pensieve he raised his head and fixed them each with one last, intense look.
"I cannot stress enough how important it is that this information not be shared carelessly. I would prefer it if you told no one, but I do understand how unlikely that is. I only ask that you exercise extreme caution in regards to whom you share this with."
The four bonded nodded their heads, but said nothing and the Headmaster tapped a few of the runes etched into the stone bowl with his wand before he leaned back in his seat, his eyes closed. The misty image of Sybill Trelawney appeared above the bowl and recited, word for word, the same prophecy that they'd heard a month earlier in the Department of Mysteries. Once the image faded, Dumbledore opened his eyes, a deep sadness radiating from him.
"Thank you, Professor, for being honest with us," Harry started.
"We weren't entirely sure if you would tell us the truth or attempt to avoid it again," Susan added.
"We're very glad that you decided to prove that the trust we've begun to have in you again hasn't been unfounded," said Hermione. Daphne let out a derisive snort from beside Susan and Hermione rolled her eyes. "Most of us are glad," she corrected herself.
"I am pleased to hear that, though I confess I don't understand what prompted it," Dumbledore said, blinking owlishly at the four of them from behind his half-moon spectacles.
"We haven't been entirely honest with you," Harry admitted. "We actually met with Director Croaker over the summer and took the prophecy orb from the Department of Mysteries. We listened to it that day. We've known what the prophecy said for more than a month now and we were only waiting to see if you would keep your word of telling us once you were no longer able to get past our Occlumency shields, or if you would still keep quiet, 'for our own good'."
"To keep with the theme of honesty, it would not have been good for you if you had continued attempting to make decisions for Harry," Daphne added, her eyes narrowed angrily at the shocked looking Headmaster.
"Was that really necessary?" Hermione nearly demanded. "He's proven that he's trying."
"Which doesn't absolve him of any guilt for his past actions and th-"
"Girls," Harry cut in, an admonishing tone to his voice.
As both girls subsided, it was Dumbledore who leapt to their defense.
"The Lady Greengrass has every right to be upset with me, Mister Potter, and to express that feeling," said the aged wizard. "More, you all have every right to greatly distrust me for my past actions. I did not think, and my negligence caused you all pain that I may never be able to make amends for. Please, do not admonish her simply for being cautious."
Wincing at the gentle reprimand, Harry pushed an apologetic feeling toward Daphne and Hermione while the Headmaster appeared to be gathering his thoughts.
"Would your meeting with Director Croaker possibly have anything to do with Riddle's diary disappearing from my office a few weeks ago?" he asked, to which Harry gaped a moment in surprise.
"Uh… possibly?" he ventured to say after a few moments. "I mean… the Director and Deputy Director, Sable, both seemed very interested in it. They did say that they wanted to examine it. They apparently had some suspicions as to what it was but didn't want to say anything until they could confirm it."
"Do you have any idea what Director Croaker might suspect it to be?" Susan asked.
"I believe… I believe that the good Director may suspect the diary of being the same thing that I fear it may be. I am also afraid to say that I agree; speaking of it without confirmation is not something I would choose to do lightly."
They'd expected an answer similar to that, but it didn't do much to make it easier to accept once they were finally presented with it. All four of them let out exasperated sighs but failed to react in any other way.
"So… what now?" Hermione asked. "Where do we go from here?"
"Now, I suggest that you continue training yourselves as you have been," Dumbledore offered. "I have heard some remarkable stories of your training sessions and would be happy to see that continue. In the meantime, continue living. Until Tom makes his next move I am afraid we are doing all that can reasonably be done. All that is left is to wait, and to be as prepared as possible."
Neville watched with a significant degree of amusement, Blaise standing beside him, as Harry paced restlessly back and forth in the entrance hall. He'd been at it for a solid ten minutes already and it hadn't lost one bit of entertainment value to the two boys.
"I don't know why you're so nervous," Neville finally commented after another five minutes passed them by wherein Harry had begun to mutter to himself under his breath, his entire posture and carriage showing loud and clear that he was well on the verge of panicking. "Those girls are so in love with you that it's kind of ridiculous. There's no way that Daphne would stand you up, you know that right?"
"It's not about if she doesn't show," Harry disagreed, spinning around so fast to face the two of them that he nearly lost his balance for a moment. "It's about making this a good date for her," he continued after catching himself. "I know how they feel about me, and how I feel about them, but that doesn't mean that I'm done… you know?"
Blaise and Neville exchanged a look for a moment, noting the look of confusion on the other's face before they turned back to Harry and shook their heads.
Harry sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment. "Look, it's like this. Just because we're together, that doesn't mean I stop telling them I think they're beautiful. It doesn't mean I stop letting them know how I feel about them. I don't stop treating them as something special just because I've already 'got' them, for lack of a better term. Do you understand?"
As looks of understanding bloomed on their faces another voice intruded on their discussion from behind Harry, causing him to spin around once again.
"And that is just one of the things that makes you smarter than the average boy, Harry," Daphne said, smiling softly between a giggling Susan and Hermione, the two girls bracketing her neatly as she gave their bond mate a fond look. "I hope you two were taking notes," she added in an aside to Neville and Blaise.
For his part, Harry just gaped blankly for several long moments and silently thanked every deity there had ever been that he'd chosen to dress nicely for their date since Daphne looked absolutely incredible. Instead of robes, she'd gone with a muggle outfit, a knee length skirt of a gauzy material that seemed to float about her legs and a fitted blouse with a low neckline that clung to her figure. Her hair was braided and tied back in an intricate weave that hung down her back and she wore minimal makeup that only seemed to enhance her aristocratic features.
A moment later Harry felt a sharp nudge as Neville stepped up beside him and dug his elbow into Harry's side, jolting him into motion.
"Wow," he blurted out, taking a cautious step toward the girls. "Daphne, you look amazing."
Her cheeks flushing a light pink at the compliment, Daphne cast an appraising eye over him for a moment before she unconsciously licked her lips.
"You're not looking bad yourself, Potter," purred in that sultry tone of voice that never failed to send a rush of heat through Harry's body. Stepping closer she reached up to brush some lint from the shoulder of his black robes, then let her hand drift down to rest on the Potter crest on his chest.
"Very dashing," she muttered.
"Yes, yes, you're both gorgeous, behave, you two."
Daphne rolled her eyes and turned around, pressing her back to Harry's chest even as she pulled his arms around her middle.
'But 'Mione," she whined in a plaintive tone, "that's so boring!"
Blaise, Neville, and Susan burst out laughing while Hermione fixed her bond mates with a stern glare.
"Be that as it may," she sniffed haughtily. She couldn't hold the disapproving look for long however, and eventually broke out into a grin. "Have a good time, but don't forget to be careful, okay?" The end of her sentence was said with a note of worry.
"We'll be fine, Hermione, I promise," Harry answered her. Saying their goodbyes, he turned and offered Daphne his arm. "Shall we?" he asked, smiling gently at her.
Her answering smile was broad and it lit up her entire face as she tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow. "We shall," she said.
Together, they left the entrance hall and descended the steps to climb into one of the thestral drawn carriages waiting to take the students to Hogsmeade.