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A/N: This story is H/Hr. If that is not the ship you sail, abandon ship and find another captain. Also, I don't particularly like Ron or Mrs. Weasley and this story reflects that. There is slight bashing, but mostly comeuppance. All readers should note that this is a Hermione centric story.
Timeline: The story begins at the end of book six, Harry has just met with all the professors in the headmaster's/mistresses' office and with the announcement that the Minster is on his way.
Chapter - 1
"He's coming," said Professor McGonagall suddenly, gazing down into the grounds. "The Minister...and by the looks of it, he's brought a delegation..."
"Can I leave, Professor?" said Harry at once.
He had no desire at all to see, or be interrogated by, Rufus Scrimgeour tonight.
"You may," said McGonagall. "And quickly, but I want you to see Madam Pomfrey before you return to Gryffindor tower tonight." Seeing he was about to protest she said, "I don't know where you were or what you were doing, but you were on the tower when the headmaster was killed, and you dueled with Snape and several other Death Eaters. Hagrid watched you hit with the Cruciatus Curse, Potter. She needs to check for spell damage, now hurry or you will be seen."
Realizing that there was no getting out of it and she was probably sending a message along to the nurse with one of the portraits he sped down the spiral staircase and into the deserted corridor.
Harry entered the hospital wing to see Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, Remus, and Fleur still huddled around Bill's bed. The twins, Ron, Ginny, and Hermione must have gone off to talk about the night's events. He waved to the contention and walked to Pomfrey's office. "Come in, Potter. Professor McGonagall sent me a message saying that she had asked you to come by. Step behind the screen."
"Yes, ma'am." Harry obediently stepped behind the screen and sat on the bed. He waited for her and several minutes later she appeared looking weary and forlorn.
"Other than a quick fix of your head for the injury sustained during a Quidditch game, I haven't seen you as a patient this year, Potter. I'm hoping that I can give you a clean report and send you on your way."
"I hope so too."
"Please tell me what curses you were subjected to and if you ingested any poisons to your knowledge."
"Cruciatus Curse and I don't think I've been poisoned," just the headmaster, finished Harry to himself.
"It would be prudent to do a complete scan then," Pomfrey stated. It was five minutes later when she finished her examination and she was wearing a frown. "Stay here, Potter. I'll be back in about ten minutes."
He listened to the hushed conversations going on in the ward by the Weasleys and felt guilty to not doing something more to keep Draco out of the school or convince everyone of Snape's true intentions. Eventually, Pomfrey returned and she had a pinched sad look on her face. "Please follow me into my office, Potter. We should talk privately."
Harry swallowed hard. He didn't think that he could take any more bad news tonight. Still, he stood and followed her into her office. He watched as she silenced the door and then sat him in one of her chairs. "Is something wrong, Madam Pomfrey?"
"I'm sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, Potter, but you show long term exposure to potion use." Harry looked at her confused. "Specifically Amortentia. It appears for the last year you have been, for the most part, given a continual dose of the potion."
Harry shook his head. He didn't believe what she was saying. "No, Romilda Vane tried and she got Ron by mistake."
"I ran the test twice to make sure. The length might be a bit off, but it's been about a year, give or take a month, maybe two. Is there anyone in the last year that you suddenly had a change of feelings for?"
He knew where she was going with this and he could not believe that Ginny would do that to him, after all, Ginny loved him. "No, I've liked Ginny since..." and that was when it occurred to him that he started being interested in Ginny last summer. Before that he had realized, especially after that whole Valentine's Day disaster with Cho, that Hermione was more than a friend. That he did care about her as more than his friend. Watching her cursed and thinking he'd lost her at the Ministry was the final straw. When she finally woke up and he was able to talk to her in the hospital wing they had even both hinted that once they were back together over the summer they might want to give something more a try and then neither of them brought it up. Hermione was interested in Ron and he was thinking about Ginny. Still, none of the Weasleys would do that to him. "I don't understand."
"It's going to be all right, dear boy." She handed him a potion. "This will break down any of the potion still in your system and then in a half hour you will need to take a flushing draft."
Just over a half hour later Harry watched as red iridescent vapor was expelled from his mouth and nose. He turned to the school nurse wide eyed and said, "I think Hermione might need to be seen too."
The older woman closed her eyes and said, "Bring her in tomorrow and I'll check her. We will need to have a conversation with the... with Professor McGonagall about the situation, but I see no reason to not wait until tomorrow to do so. I would like to monitor you until it is time for you to leave, Potter. I don't know how exactly Miss Weasley is getting you the potion, but it is something that should be watched. Molly is just outside the door waiting for you. Step lightly."
Harry nodded and opened up the office door. "Harry, dear, I was worried. You've been in with Madam Pomfrey for quite a bit of time."
"McGonagall sent me here for a dreamless sleep potion." He reached down and grabbed the remainder of the flushing draft he had not needed, "but before I took it... I just needed someone to talk to for a bit."
"Oh, Harry!" She pulled him into a smothering hug and it was all he could do not to flinch and step away. "You should have come to me. You are just like family and now that you and Ginny are finally together you will be soon enough."
"You needed to be with Bill. Well I should be off to Gryffindor tower." He looked back at the nurse who had done more for him in the last half hour than he could ever thank her for. He was silently thanking McGonagall for insisting that he be seen by the nurse. "Thank you for the potion, ma'am." While it looked like he slipped it into the pocket of his robes, he hugged her and slipped it into hers. Once he finished he waved at both women and hurried out of the room.
The whole way back to the tower he didn't know how he was supposed to react to Ron. Was his best friend part of the scheme or was he innocent too? Maybe poor Ron really had liked Lavender and at Christmas someone decided to help his and Hermione's relationship along by giving Ron potions too and then what about Ginny? Someone had to be giving it to him and someone had to be making it, purchasing the ingredients. Ginny, while bright, was not the greatest student and she had no interest in Potions and Ron was abysmal. He doubted the twins would be involved in something like that. This was a puzzle for Hermione. If he could, he would just slip up to his dorm room and pull the hangings on his bed. If necessary he would fill Ron in a bit about tonight then head to bed. Realizing that he had left his cloak at the top of the tower he took a deep breath and crept up the stairs. Luckily it was waiting for him behind the door.
When Harry returned he found the common room jam-packed. The silence that followed him in was deafening. He turned immediately and headed to the boys' stairs. Ron was sitting waiting for him, on his bed.
"What took you so long?"
"McGonagall wanted me to get a dreamless sleep potion from Pomfrey. Said she didn't want me to have nightmares about it tonight and if Voldemort gets happy because the deed is done, then we don't really need to know."
"Did you get one?"
Harry just shook his head. Until he figured out what Ron's true colors were, he was not going there. Blind trust cost Dumbledore his life. Harry was not going to go that same route.
"You didn't get one? It was for nothing?"
"It was just a lead on one. Look Ron, I'm sorry, but I'd really like to get to bed."
"What?" Ron looked at him then nodded. "Right mate. I'll turn in too."
The next morning at breakfast was difficult. Ginny was trying to hold his hand and constantly attemptied to gain his attention. He just told her that he was in a bit of shock from Dumbledore's death and needed a bit of space. She seemed to accept it, but not well. He was however careful not to eat in her presence.
He signaled for Hermione to follow him. Once he was sure they were out of sight of anyone, he threw the cloak over both of them and headed up to the hospital wing. "Where are we going, Harry?" Hermione whispered.
"Please trust me. I need to talk to Madam Pomfrey for a bit and I needed someone to go with me. Please." He could tell that she was annoyed, but after what happened last night, she was giving him a bit of leeway.
"You didn't want Ginny with you?" she asked surprised.
"No. I'll tell you why in a bit." Harry was thankful that Bill had been transferred to St. Mungo's that morning and therefore Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were no longer in the hospital wing. Once he deemed the coast clear, Harry pulled off the cloak and knocked in the office door.
"Ah, Mr. Potter. I'm glad to see that you brought Miss Granger with you."
"What about Ron and Ginny? Maybe it wasn't one of them, but..."
The nurse looked at him with something akin to pity and said, "Both Mr. and Miss Weasley were in this morning. Thinking along those same lines, I suggested to Mrs. Weasley, since they were targeted with spellfire last night, that they should be checked to make sure that something was not overlooked. Nothing was detectable in either case." Harry just nodded.
"What's going on, Harry?" said Hermione a bit put out.
Without realizing she was being led, Harry walked Hermione behind the curtain and as he spoke, Madam Pomfrey began her examination. "McGonagall was a bit concerned that I had suffered spell damage last night so she insisted that I see Madam Pomfrey after I left her office. I didn't," he answered quickly seeing the look on her face. "She did detect something else though. Hermione... For the last year, since last summer, someone has been giving me love potions. Amortentia."
She gasped and put her hand to her mouth. "No, no one we know would do that, Harry."
"I took a flushing draft last night, Hermione, and my perspective has changed quite a bit."
"I don't know. I don't know what to do or what to think. Not that I wanted to think that Mrs. Weasley had masterminded this whole thing, but if Ginny was under the potion then, at least, I would know that..."
"That she wasn't involved in giving it to you." That was when Hermione noticed that Madam Pomfrey was looking at her with a frown. "Why am I here, Harry?"
"How do you feel about Ron, Hermione?"
She frowned and said, "I don't know. One minute I want to snog him and the next minute I wonder why I even bother being friends with him." She shook her head and chuckled mirthlessly. "My mother gave me a book over Christmas about how to identify emotionally abusive relationships."
"Why are you friends with Ron?"
She shrugged and said, "He's your best friend and you're mine so to be with you, I have to be with Ron. I care about him though."
Harry just looked at Madam Pomfrey who sat across from Hermione and took her hand in her own. "Miss Granger, I'm sorry. I would estimate that your exposure to the Amortentia began about the same time as Mr. Potter's. I'll be right back." She returned with a goblet and handed it to Hermione. As soon as she drank it the nurse said, "I'll have a flushing draft ready for you in a half hour's time, I have however contacted your head of house, she is on her way down."
"What are we going to do Harry?" said Hermione as she wiped a tear from her eye.
"I don't know." He pulled her to him and held her close. Holding Hermione was nothing like he felt when he would hold Ginny. That was exciting, this was soothing. He felt whole, more complete. The two of them just sat in companionable silence.
"Poppy, Wilhelmina said you needed to speak with me, that it was urgent." McGonagall looked over at Harry and Hermione and then back at the nurse.
"We have a bit of a situation, Minerva. As acting headmistress and their head of house, I thought you should be notified." Madam Pomfrey began to explain the current situation.
McGonagall's look was horrified. "Miss Granger, I need you to tell me if anything physical happened between you and Mr. Weasley."
"No, we've never... I was thinking about just giving in and kissing him, but other than a hug here and there..."
She visibly relaxed. "Mr. Potter?"
"We've snogged, but nothing more. Not that she wasn't willing or hadn't with... well that doesn't matter. No."
In a hushed tone Pomfrey said to the professor, "With as much as I detected in their systems, I don't see how they fought it for so long."
McGonagall looked at the teens in front of her sadly and said, "There is something that the two of you should know, but it must wait until we can go somewhere private." She looked around the ward. Harry appreciated her discretion, he was sure that Ron and Ginny were looking for them by now. Thankfully he had the map with him.
At the end of her half hour Hermione was handed a flushing draft and Harry watched as iridescent red vapor escaped from her nose, and mouth. As soon as it did she looked at Harry with tears in her eyes and said, "Oh, Harry."
"I know, Hermione. I know." He pulled her into a hug and held her for a bit.
"Poppy, do you need Mr. Potter or Miss Granger for anything else?" McGonagall said standing and indicating that Harry and Hermione should follow her.
"I would like to monitor the situation until they leave the castle."
"Very well." As soon as the nurse had gone back to her office she added, "Potter, if you would follow me and it would be best if the two of you were not seen." He nodded and they left the hospital wing. Harry watched as tears were cascading down Hermione's cheeks. He understood. He honestly didn't know what to do either.
They stopped inside the Transfiguration professor's office and she gestured for the two of them to have a seat. Before McGonagall began Hermione said, "Ginny's been in love with The Boy-Who-Lived for years, but I thought... last summer she said she was over him and... it was an act. She couldn't have made that potion by herself though. It's above N.E.W.T. level and the ingredients are too expensive. Mrs. Weasley was always dropping not so subtle hints about how perfect it would be if I was with Ron and Harry with Ginny, but last summer Harry and I... We even talked about it before I was released from the hospital wing. There was a screen, but Ron was in the next bed and Mrs. Weasley was there. One of them might have heard."
McGonagall pulled out a file and set it on her desk. "Career counseling Professor?" asked Harry.
"Not quite, Potter. I have something that I would like to show the two of you. Normally the persons involved are not notified until they are both of age, but I believe that with only six weeks left until Mr. Potter's birthday, a bit of an exception can be made. It is relevant to your situation and might be something you want to take into consideration as we are deciding how we want to proceed. After your time at your mother's sister's, I was hoping that you would be able to spend the remainder of your summer holidays at the Burrow," seeing the look on the two teens faces she hastened to say, "obviously that is no longer an option."
The two students looked up at her and Hermione said, "What do you have to tell us, Professor?"
"Back in your second year, when you were petrified, Miss Granger, Mr. Potter would sneak into the hospital wing and sit at your bedside for hours on end. Acting on a hunch, Professor Dumbledore sent an inquiry to the Ministry, to the Magical Registry specifically. He was correct. Harry, Hermione, the two of you are fated for each other. You are registered in the Book of Souls." She slid a piece of parchment across the desk to them and both teens looked at it dumbfounded.
"I don't understand," said Harry.
Hermione took a deep breath and said, "We're soul mates Harry. That's why the potion didn't really work, why it took almost a year to even begin to move things along. You and Ginny just a few weeks ago and Ron and me not quite there. If we got along better it might have been sooner, who knows."
"Why didn't someone tell us sooner, like when I was starting to date Ginny?"
"Ministry policy is when both parties are of age," explained McGonagall. "That is the procedure. I believe that Albus was going to sit down with both of you before you left for the summer, however. He usually liked to explain things to students before they are blindsided by a letter."
Harry nodded. "How long have you known, Professor?" asked Harry.
"Albus came to me when he suspected and again once it was confirmed. He wanted to make sure I didn't chase you out of the hospital wing."
Harry nodded again. It seemed logical. "Hermione and I have some things to talk about and planning to do. Um, I do have a couple questions though. Um, I know that Professor Dumbledore was, basically, my financial guardian. Who does that fall to now?"
"That responsibly falls to me, Potter. He came to me several months ago and asked me to take care of things in the event of his death. I've already been to Gringotts. It can still be challenged, but does buy us a bit of time."
"Good. Um, is this record of fated people public, I mean is it hard to find out?"
"It will be public information once you turn seventeen." She stood and said, "I need to get back, but you may stay in here and talk privately if you wish. The door will automatically lock once you leave. If asked your location by Mr. Weasley or Miss Weasley I will inform them that you are working on something for me." She smiled at them sadly and left the room.
Harry took a deep breath and said, "I need you to tell me exactly what this means. Please don't try to dance around the topic or anything uncomfortable, just tell me."
"I've not really read up on it, I thought the whole subject to be fairly farfetched. It only really applies to people who are fated and since I had no reason to believe that I fell into that category...," she shrugged. "I just did a bit of light reading on it a bit back." She had a serious expression on her face and said, "Actually, Professor Dumbledore advised me to read about it. I asked him a bit about the protection that is at your aunt's house and he suggested that I study up on all the different types of bonds. He even gave me a book."
"When was this?"
"A few months back. I was concerned about what happened once you turned seventeen." She shrugged then said, "I guess I should have taken it for the hint that it was. Still, I can give you an overview and we can see what is in the library." He nodded to her to indicate that she should get on with it. "It means what I said, Harry. You and I are soul mates. Destiny or Fate or God or whatever decided once you were born the two of us were to be together. Maybe even before, I don't know. We are not capable of truly loving someone else."
"So we have to get married?"
She tried not to wince at his question or read more into it. "No, there is nothing that says that you and I have to be together, but if you do marry someone else, it will probably fall apart. Some people chose to live alone, if their soul mate has died or if they just don't truly like each other. Imagine if it had been Pansy."
"I'd live alone." He ran his fingers though his hair and looked at his bushy haired best friend. "Our kids are going to have horrible hair, Hermione."
Her head jerked up and she looked at him. "I don't want you to feel obligated, Harry, and I'm sorry I'm not pretty."
"I wish you would stop saying that. I don't know why you think that you aren't. You are pretty. The thing of it is, Hermione, you don't usually care and it's better that way. Lavender and Parvati are always looking at themselves in the mirror, fixing their make-up."
"Yes, but Cho is prettier than me and so is Ginny."
He couldn't believe how easily he was excepting this. His mind was racing thinking about the implications, but right now Hermione need reassurances and then he'd deal with the rest. Harry sighed. "I don't really understand what this is about. Yes, I went on a date to Hogsmeade with Cho, but it was horrible. We had nothing to talk about and the silence was awkward and Ginny had to get me interested in her by using love potions. Beauty fades, Hermione, and then what are you left with? Sirius told me that he wasn't my dad's best friend, my mum was. Isn't that how it's supposed to be? Besides, I'm no prize either. If it wasn't for you I'd have flunked out of school and then there is the prophesy. You might end up widowed before we're even married."
She looked at him in the eye and said with a determined voice, "You aren't going to die, Harry." She reached over and took his hand in hers. The two of them stayed that way for a while. "What are we going to do, Harry? This isn't going to be resolved anytime soon. It's going to take time to find what we need to find. It might be years. Ron said you didn't even get one last night."
"No," he pulled out the fake and handed her the note.
"R.A.B.?" She read it again. "I don't know. Before we leave we could try to find the name of all past and present Death Eaters and see who this was. Sounds a bit familiar, but I'm not sure. You didn't tell Ron about the note."
"I don't know what to think about the Weasleys, Hermione. I'm pretty sure at this point that it was Ginny and Mrs. Weasley, with her 'you are as good as a member of the family and since you and Ginny are together you will be soon enough.' Someone had to give us the potion and Ginny started to sit with us more at meals this year."
"But you aren't excluding Ron."
"I don't see how I can. Even if he didn't do it, did he know about it?" Hermione was hugging him and he just held her. "If anything physical happened between the two of you it would have been rape, Hermione. That scares me." He didn't miss her shudder at his words. Harry leaned down and cupped her face. Slowly, giving her time to back away, he brought his lips to hers and the two of them kissed for the first time.
It was a sweet soft kiss, but for both of them, far more fulfilling than any they had before. They broke apart, but they stayed together foreheads touching. As Hermione opened her eyes and looked at Harry, she noticed a soft gold glow surrounding them. "Oh."
"What does it mean, Hermione?"
"I don't know. I need to go to the library."
Harry looked at her and nodded. What he felt for her came rushing back once the love potion had been cleared from his system. She was his best friend and he trusted her completely. He could see a future now, a slew of bushy black haired children with chocolate colored eyes. "Do you have one of your notebooks with you? Something you can charm to keep prying eyes out of?"
She frowned a bit then said, "I have something that I can make so Ginny or Ron won't be able to see, but if McGonagall really wanted a look I doubt that I would be able to keep her out."
"That will work. I have a few questions about all of this."
She nodded and pulled out a notebook. The two of them sat with Hermione curled into Harry's lap as they discussed their current situation and made a list of questions they needed answered. "It's lunch, Harry. We should head down and eat then get what we need from the library."
"Ron and Ginny will be waiting for us."
"I know, but kiss her on the cheek and say that you really need to finish this up and then you will be able to spend time with her."
"We tell him that I am researching the protections at your house in the library and you are needed elsewhere. Come on. Let's go."
The two of them emerged from McGonagall's office after Hermione had made a copy of the piece of parchment with their soul bonding information on it. As the two of them made their way down to the Great Hall they found Ron already eating. Harry sat down next to Ron with Hermione on his other side. "Where have the two of you been? Ginny and I have been looking for you all morning."
"McGonagall asked us to work on something for her," answered Harry.
"Why didn't she ask me?" he said in a much put out tone.
"I wasn't aware that you enjoyed spending hours at a time researching information in the library," snapped Hermione, "but if you would like to join us then that is fine."
Ron went a bit pale and said, "Harry doesn't either."
"Yes Ron," she replied tersely, "but as it is for Harry that it needs to be done then he can very well sit there and make notes. No one is exactly sure what protections Professor Dumbledore used at his aunt and uncle's and that needs to be looked into. We have a general idea, but-"
"No, I get it. I'll help Hagrid clean up his hut. Ginny'd probably help you. She was hoping to get some time with Harry alone."
Ginny walked over to the trio and looked annoyed at Hermione for sitting beside Harry, but as they did sit like that often she sat on the other side of the table just as Harry said, "Ginny didn't take Runes or Arithmancy and quite frankly Ron there are more important things to do right now than have a bit of a snog."
In an indignant tone Ginny said, "That is not what McGonagall said last night. Dumbledore would be happy to know that there is a bit more love in the world and you didn't take Runes or Arithmancy either."
"That is not what I am talking about, Ginny. Having time to snog someone is not related to how someone feels about another person and I am sure that Dumbledore, wherever he is, would be happy to know that I am finally in the relationship I was meant to be in all along. But the issue is that we need to find out specifically what was placed at my house and if my aunt, uncle, and cousin are in danger and just how long the protection will last."
"So just come home with us," said Ron.
"Yeah, that's a good idea. I know that Mum would love to have you," added Ginny.
Harry looked at her and said, "That doesn't really help me figure out about my aunt and uncle, does it."
Harry watched Ginny shrug as if the deaths of three people didn't concern her. Ron then said, "So what do you care? They're just a bunch of stupid Muggles."
Before Harry could respond Hermione stood and yelled, "Stupid Muggles? Stupid Muggles? My family is Muggle, Ron, and whether or not Harry likes his family, they are his family and he does not wish them dead." Harry watched her storm out of the Great Hall.