Banking on Her
A/N Back in February I celebrated posting a million words on FFN by starting the story 'No Hurry at All'. I finished this story in August yet, in only nine months since posting the first of nineteen chapters, it has just passed the million hits mark. This is a phenomenal number for something of this size and especially in that timescale, I really can't thank everyone enough. I know this has kinda become my mantra but I really do mean it every time I write it – thanks for reading. Without people reading our stories, we're all just wasting our time here.
Hermione was up, showered and dressed before her two dorm mates had stirred, the common room was also empty this early as she headed for Harry's rooms. There she found her betrothed not only awake, but sitting sipping tea with Tonks. By the time he'd kissed her in greeting, there was another cup on the table for her.
"How did it go last night?"
"Oh, about how we expected. I'm sure we'll be the main subject of gossip this morning but then again, what else's new. At least the basilisk should shut the doubters up."
Harry groaned at Hermione's answer, he had actually hoped they were wrong. "Does anyone else fancy having Dobby serve all our meals in here today?"
Tonks was trying not to chuckle at their obvious discomfort. She didn't know many other famous people but was willing to bet none of them hated their fame as much as Harry did. "The longer we leave this, the worse it's going to get. Finish your tea and then we'll all traipse down to the great hall for breakfast. You're as we'll to get all the gawking out of the way today before classes start tomorrow."
Hermione had to fill the auror in on a vital piece of information she was missing. "They will still gawk tomorrow Tonks, and the next bloody day too. For one reason or another, they've been gawking at my Harry since he set foot in the castle."
Harry let out a sigh, knowing both of them were right. "If we hole up in here, they will just think we have something to hide. Merlin only knows what the rumour mill would come up with then. I would probably be the next dark lord, with you two as my dark ladies, by the weekend."
This earned him a gentle cuff round the ear from Tonks. "In your dreams Potter."
"Hey, I thought you were supposed to protect me?"
"Not even in your dreams. You even think of taking another lady and you'll need Tonks to protect you, from me!"
Hermione couldn't maintain the stern look she was going for and soon the three of them were laughing. They were now ready to face the day.
Harry though was faced with the unusual sight of Cedric Diggory seeking him out before he made it to the great hall. "Can I have a word Harry, in private?"
Cedric obviously didn't want the two witches to hear what he had to say, Harry though had to disappoint him. "Sorry Cedric, nothing against you but Auror Tonks here won't leave me alone with anyone but Hermione. Even then, only for a few minutes."
Harry thought it would be best to play the current situation off with a few jokes, and both witches had agreed to see the funny side of this. Thankfully, so did Cedric.
"Well then Harry, I'd like to thank you for your quiet word about the first task and am offering you the same help for the second. Have you solved your egg yet?"
"No worries Cedric, I've had that egg beaten for ages."
Cedric went away quite happy at that news while Hermione and Tonks were trying to contain their laughter. "What? I wasn't lying, I did beat the egg. I just never mentioned that I used a hammer to do it."
This earned him a kiss from his betrothed, Hermione then took him by the arm as they headed off to breakfast. Both teens drawing comfort from the contact. Tonks followed on, her eyes missing nothing.
The great hall was now busy as the trio made their way toward the couple's usual spot at the Gryffindor table where Harry found himself bracketed by Hermione and Tonks. They were prepared for a lot of questions being shouted at them, and could have handled that. The silence their presence caused was creeping both the teens out. They were actually relieved when Dean broke the awkwardness.
"Harry Potter, I have a bone to pick with you. How could you let Ron and Neville's snoring deprive Seamus and me of this lovely young witch's company? We could easily have made room for her in our dorm, have you seen the size of my bed?"
Tonks had no intention of letting that remark pass. In a matter of seconds, her features had transformed into a passable copy of McGonagall's. "Oh now there's an offer I can't refuse. I might just stop by tonight sonny and cuddle in."
Hearing a sultry voice emanating from McGonagall's features creeped more than Dean out. When Tonks suggestively winked at the young Gryffindor, his courage departed for the hills on a Firebolt. Dean shot to his feet and attempted to back away. Unfortunately he'd forgotten about the bench he had been sitting on mere moments ago. He tumbled right back with his legs in the air. By the time Dean had regained his feet, the beautiful pink haired auror was casually sitting eating her breakfast while the rest of Gryffindor were laughing their arses off at him. Dean though wasn't Ron and could definitely see the funny side, he just joined in the laughter. "Oh this year is going to be great."
Releasing the tension had also opened the floodgates as the expected questions now poured over them, it was good to be back.
They took Tonks to the unused classroom they had been using for training and she instantly approved. After discovering what they had been working on, she asked for a demonstration to get some idea of their abilities. The auror had to admit, these two were way ahead of where she was at the same age. There were some definite areas that needed tweaking though so she gave them the benefit of her training and experience. "What you're working on here is great and probably puts you well ahead of your peers."
Both teens were pleased to hear that though could sense the 'but' coming, they weren't disappointed.
"The problem I see is that your training is all focused on one on one duels, that's fine up to a point. We all know that when our Harry here gets into trouble, all hell breaks loose and there's rarely a referee to control the action. What I want to do is teach you how to fight."
Hermione didn't understand what the auror was getting at. "I thought that's what we were doing, what's the difference?"
By way of an answer, Tonks wand shot into her hand and she stunned Hermione. The auror swung around to do the same to Harry when her world went black. She regained consciousness to find her head was pounding and there were now two wands covering her. "Merlin's beard Harry, I've never seen anyone with reactions like that. You're faster than me and I was top of my auror class."
Harry though was not in the mood to listen, or forgive. "What the hell was that all about?"
"I was attempting to demonstrate the difference between a duel and a fight, and got my arse handed to me. Help me up a minute, you've got my wand." As Harry was helping Tonks up, her hand slipped down to her boot and came up empty.
"Looking for this?" Hermione had her wand trained on the auror while twiddling Tonks' spare wand in her other hand. The wide smile that greeted this revelation left both of them confused.
"Just what I thought, a couple of quick learners. A fight won't always be one to one and you certainly won't be counted into it. When you put someone down, make sure they're harmless before letting them back up. Always remember the golden rule, there are no rules. The only unfair advantage is the one the other guys have. Do you get it now?"
Tonks barely had time to groan as a wicked smile played on Hermione's lips, right before she stunned her.
They had eaten lunch in Harry's rooms, rather than face the great hall again. Things had been getting back to normal at breakfast until the Daily Prophet was delivered and silence once more broke over the hall. The three had left at that point.
One thing that'd had pleased them when they later read the paper, Rita Skeeter had been charged. Tonks assured them the reporter had far too many enemies inside the ministry to escape Azkaban. Being an unregistered animagus was bad enough, using that ability to snoop on the wrong people meant she was going down hard.
The knock at the portrait surprised them and Tonks went to see who was calling, she returned with Ron in tow. "Eh, hi guys. I just called to say congratulations on the betrothal, and to return Harry's dress robes."
This was a shock to the pair. They had tried to predict and prepare for how certain people would react on their return to the castle, neither of them had expected this type of approach from Ron. Harry was first to recover and offered their friend a seat, while trying to keep the conversation going. "Thanks Ron, we really appreciate that. How was the ball? Who did you ask?"
Ron was now that particular shade of red that the Weasley family appeared to have the patent for. "You mean you haven't heard? I was sure someone would have told you by now. Parvati and Lavender at least."
"Sorry Ron, Harry's been keeping a low profile while those two were far too busy trying to get information out of me last night, they never mentioned you at all so it can't be that bad surely?"
"Oh just probably the worst night of my life, and with some of the stuff we've faced that's really saying something."
"Ok, now you've got to tell us. Who did you ask?"
Ron knew when Hermione was in this mood there was no denying her thirst for information. It wasn't as if it was a secret though, the entire bloody castle knew. "Well I asked Cho Chang..."
Harry interrupted right away. "Why did you ask Cho, didn't you know she was going out with Cedric?"
"Well she's hot and plays quidditch, so I thought we would at least have something to talk about."
Both Harry and Hermione were surprised at Ron even thinking that far ahead.
"Anyway, she told me she was going out with Diggory but her friend still didn't have a date. Turned out there were quite a few girls holding out because they thought a certain fourth champion would have needed a partner for the ball."
Harry had his arm around Hermione and kissed her cheek. "Oh I had a partner for the ball, the most beautiful girl there."
Ron gave an involuntary grimace at the kiss before thinking of something. "Does that mean you had to buy new dress robes?"
"It was a muggle ball Ron, I had to wear a tux. I'll show you the pictures sometime. So you went to the ball with a friend of Cho's?"
"Yeah, Marietta, very nice. She absolutely hates my guts now."
"Oh Ron, I'm sure it couldn't be that bad?"
Ron couldn't even look at Hermione as he answered, he suddenly found something riveting on the floor to stare at. "I spent the afternoon drinking firewhisky and then threw up all over her at the dinner. It really was that bad, and then it got worse."
Hermione couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. "How the bloody hell could it get worse than that?"
Ron again kept his eyes down as he answered. They would hear about it soon enough anyway, it was better that they heard it from him. "McGonagall dragged me away and put me onto my bed, I woke up later and went down to the common room, Neville and Ginny were there kissing..."
Ron didn't really have to say anymore, both Harry and Hermione could make an accurate guess to what followed his discovery.
"Just how bad did it get?" Harry was almost afraid to hear the answer.
"Oh, you know me. There was shouting, punches were thrown and then the wands came out. The big debate in the house is whether McGonagall was angrier that night with you standing up to her or am I the new record holder. I don't really know what the final decision was since no one in the house is talking to me. I'm certainly the new record holder for detentions, and howlers. Mum had sent one because of the drinking before she heard about me getting into a fight. I hope you two had a good Christmas because mine was really crap."
It was easy to see he was hurting so Hermione tried to help. "Do you have a problem with Ginny dating, or is it something about Neville?"
"I hadn't really thought about that, I just saw my little sister kissing a boy and went nuts."
Harry also tried to help. "Would you rather it was Seamus or Dean? What about Draco?"
This saw a shudder run through Ron. "Well that answers Hermione's question. If not Harry, then I reckon Neville would be the best of the bunch. At least we know he would never treat Ginny the way Dean talks about some of his girlfriends."
Hermione understood what Ron meant so didn't get upset about that comment. Next to Harry, Neville was probably the biggest gentleman in Gryffindor. "Ron, Ginny isn't a little girl anymore. You do understand that by standing so firmly against this, you will just push her more into Neville's arms. Harry, that Malfoy remark was uncalled for. Ginny has far better taste than that."
Ron was shaking his head though. "No Hermione, that was exactly what I needed to see this situation isn't nearly as bad as I'm making it. I also think you're right about pushing them together but I haven't a clue what to do next."
"What did the twins do about it?"
"Oh they had a quiet word in his ear about what would happen if he ever hurt Ginny."
Hermione was now smiling at Ron as she led him to the answer. "And what was Ginny's reaction to that?"
It was easy to read Ron's face as the revelation finally dawned on him. "She didn't seem to mind. That's what I should have done in the first place, not go charging in like an idiot with a hangover. I was an idiot with a hangover. How do I fix this?"
"The only thing I see having any chance of helping is an apology, to both of them. Even then it might take some time before they forgive you."
Harry got up and headed into his room, returning with a brightly coloured tin. "We all know what a sweet tooth Ginny has, this might help things along. It's a muggle sweet called Turkish Delight and it's for Ginny, I better not find out you opened it and ate half." The last bit was said only partly in jest. If Ron opened the tin, he would eat the lot.
The young wizard in question was studying the beautifully decorated hexagonal tin that said Harrods on the front while trying to figure out what to say next. "Thanks Harry, and sorry I've been such a prat this year. I know things will be different now with you two being betrothed but I hope we can still be friends?"
By way of an answer he got a hug from Hermione and a slap on the back from Harry. "I'll go and give this to her now, and apologise too."
"Wouldn't you be better waiting until after dinner?"
"Naw, got detention with McGonagall right after dinner. Every night until she tells me otherwise. I've been eating most of my meals down in the kitchen but, if this works, I might see you at breakfast?"
After receiving a couple of nods in answer, he headed off to find Ginny.
"That was a nice thing you did there Harry."
"Hermione I know what it's like to have the entire school against you, and Ron doesn't have my secret weapon."
"Oh and what might that be? I thought there weren't going to be any secrets between us?"
"You're my secret weapon. As long as I have you, I can cope with anything."
Since they had forgotten all about her, Tonks quietly made her way into her room. She reckoned they could do with some alone time before dinner. The Weasley situation had resolved itself far better than any of them had hoped, Tonks doubted if the rest of the potential conflicts would go as well.
They sat down to dinner and found Ginny and Neville seated across from them. "Thanks guys for whatever you said to Ron, and also for the sweets. They looked too good to eat, until I tasted one."
Neville agreed with his girlfriend. "You two aren't back twenty four hours yet there is a big improvement in Ron's behaviour, makes me wonder why he ever argues with you? I can't remember a time he was actually right."
"We can't take all the credit. Ron did most of it himself, once Hermione gave him a gentle nudge."
"I've heard of Hermione's gentle nudges, did she hit him as hard as she slapped Malfoy? Speaking of that prat, he's heading over here."
Neither Harry nor Hermione bothered to turn around. This confrontation was a certainty and they had a stratagem in place to deal with it.
"So scarhead, front page picture with the minister and then you go and ruin all that good work by getting betrothed to the mudblood."
"Cousin, you have just insulted the betrothed of a head of a Noble and Ancient Family. I think you should write home to Uncle Lucy and he'll tell you why that's such a bad idea."
"How dare you insinuate you're related to me, my father will be contacting the ministry over this."
"Your mother and my mother are sisters, therefore we are first cousins. I joined the auror corps to try and balance off against the evil side of the family, I'm taking no responsibility for the stupid members though."
Draco now realised who she was. "You are no relation of mine, your mother was cast out the Black family because she married a mudblood. Fair punishment and good riddance I say."
The disturbance had of course drawn the attention of Snape. "You causing trouble already Potter?"
"Actually professor, I was just having a family discussion with my little cousin Dracie here. Mr Potter hasn't said a word."
"Never call me that, you are no relation of mine. I will also never set foot in any part of a hospital named after a mudblood."
This was way over any line that Harry had drawn, he shot to his feet only to find Snape was quicker.
"Detention Malfoy, with me every night this week and your Hogsmead privileges for next weekend have just been revoked." The fury on Snape's face was there for all to see. Harry nodded his acceptance of the decision and sat back down, Draco though had more to say.
"What? You can't do that."
"I can and I just did. The next words out of your mouth better be 'yes professor' otherwise you will be vying with Weasley for the most detentions in fourth year."
Draco managed to say it with as much sarcasm as he thought he could get away with before heading out the hall, all thought of food forgotten. Snape strode purposely toward the staff table leaving a bunch of bemused Gryffindor's behind.
It was Ginny who asked the obvious question, "What the hell was that all about?" Unfortunately, no one had an answer. No one was looking forward to potions class this week now, not that any Gryffindor ever did anyway.
Harry was mulling something over in his mind and would need to have a quick chat with Dobby tonight. The little guy was staying out of sight but keeping them in touch with everyone. Hermione intended to send Hedwig with a letter to her parents every week but this was mainly just to avoid suspicion, Dobby handled most of the communications between them now.
Harry had one more thing to accomplish before that though and, when he saw the person moving, he headed to intercept. He caught up with them just outside the great hall. "Susan, can I have a few words please? Hannah's more than welcome to stay too if she wants."
This saw the girl relax, it wasn't every day Harry Potter ran after you and she felt more comfortable with her friend beside her.
"I wanted to say thanks for letting your aunt know what was going on. I don't know if she told you but Dumbledore was waiting at Kings Cross to bring me back to Hogwarts. If she hadn't been there, well let's just say I'm glad she was."
Hermione removed their planned gifts for the girl from her bag. Susan was delighted with the tin of Turkish Delight but overwhelmed by the gold lightning bolt pendant, and that was before Harry told her what its function was.
"This is charmed to help you throw of the Imperius curse. It deflects most of the curse's power away and makes it easier for your will to overrule the commands being given. Hermione and I both saw how determined, and then disappointed you were when Professor Moody cast it on us in his defence class. Hermione has a necklace that does the same."
"Harry, thank you so much. Does Aunt Amelia know about these things? I can imagine she would want them for her aurors."
Tonks actually giggled at how uncomfortable Harry was with that comment and decided to help out. "Your aunt knows all about protection jewelry Susan. What this shining knight here isn't telling you is how much these things cost, the auror department simply can't afford them."
The now embarrassed young witch attempted to return the necklace. "Harry, I can't possibly accept this."
Hermione then attempted to reassure Susan it really was ok. "Without you sending that owl to your aunt, I wouldn't have got to spend my holiday with Harry. My parents wouldn't have been able to fall in love with him and sign the betrothal contract. That necklace really is only a small token of what you did for us. If you ever need anything, you only have to ask."
With his betrothed now saying that she should accept the gift, Susan relented and Hannah fastened it around her neck. "I really can't thank you enough for this. There are so many horror stories of what that curse did in the last war, even the thought of anyone using it to control my actions makes me want to puke."
Hermione actually gave the girl a comforting hug. "I know exactly what you mean and we can't all be Harry Potter, able to shrug the Imperius off."
"I just refuse to let anyone control me, I've had enough of that in my life. Hermione's right though, House Potter still considers itself in your debt and my door will always be open to you."
Susan gave a shy smile at this and nodded to Harry, they started making their way back to their respective dorms. Hermione headed for Harry's rooms so they could say goodnight in private before Harry walked her back to the fat lady's portrait. Classes started again tomorrow and who knew what would happen then.
Hermione was once again up early and heading for Harry's room, trying not to be self conscious about her new robes. Harry spotted this at once and held her tight.
"I thought we agreed love that we would beat the purebloods at their own game? This gives you protection too."
"I know Harry, and I'm proud to wear the Potter crest on my robes. It's just people's reactions to it that I'm worried about."
"We've read all we could find on this and probably know more about it than Malfoy, we'll be fine."
Tonks had the final word on the matter. "Besides, I'm here to make sure that you are."
When Ron sat across from them for breakfast the Gryffindors sensed a change in the wind, especially when Neville and Ginny then took the seats beside the house pariah. A garbled 'Nice robes guys' from Ron while attacking bacon and eggs was the only comment on them at the table. Things though proved a lot more interesting when the post arrived and Tonks got an owl from Gringotts.
The auror read it twice, then read it again before erecting a privacy ward around the three of them. "Would you care to explain how I'm suddenly back in the Black family Harry? Not only am I back, I've been appointed regent until you turn seventeen or Sirius gets his freedom."
"I may have mentioned one or two things to Sirius, he must have used Dobby to arrange it with Gringotts."
Tonks had a strange look in her eyes. "This means I'm getting paid twice for looking out for you."
"Surely that's a good thing? I hope you don't mind me going behind your back and arranging this? Fair's fair after all, you did it to me first."
She just growled back. "We'll talk about this later."
Tonks had no sooner dispelled the silencing ward when they heard the shout from across the hall, everyone heard Malfoy's shout.
"Potter, this is your fault. I know you had a hand in this." He rushed over with another Gringotts letter in his hand, a letter that obviously didn't contain good news.
"My mother has been cast out the Black family, disinheriting me too! This is your doing."
"On what are you basing these wild allegations Malfoy?"
"We argued over this yesterday, and today I get this? Of course you had something to do with this. I just can't figure out how you did it with that criminal Black on the run?"
"Is this the same Sirius Black who escaped from Azkaban? Then he broke into Hogwarts and even made it out of a tower Dumbledore had sealed him in. When you look at it like that, he really could be anywhere and do anything. Personally I agree with his decision. Marrying a Malfoy is a lot worse than marrying a muggleborn so your mother deserves to be cast out the family. Good riddance I say. Did you know Tonks and her mother have been reinstated?"
Draco was glaring at his 'cousin' and appeared ready to explode before Tonks cold voice returned a glimmer of sense to the raging Slytherin. "I can guarantee it would be a serious mistake to draw your wand on an auror, especially this one. I advise you to return to your house table and think this over. I would also advise you to ask your father the question I posed yesterday when you write to him whining about the unfairness of it all."
Albus had been watching on in dismay. He had expected the boy being betrothed, having his own quarters and an auror guard to breed resentment within Gryffindor. At the very least he expected the youngest Weasley boy's jealousy to increase the rift between them. Instead Harry was proving to be the glue that was once more binding the house closer. It had also quickly come to the headmaster's attention the amazingly thoughtful gift Harry had given Amelia's niece.
Even the robes had been a surprise. He was drawn back to Minerva's comment that his moves were worthy of any pureblood, clearly Harry had gotten his hands on a few books. Albus didn't like this more confident and assured version of the boy, it was time to instill some doubt in the minds of the student population.
Albus had stared at the boy over his half moon glasses long enough to attract the attention of most of the hall, it was now time. "Mr Potter, you seem singularly well informed about someone who is the most wanted criminal in Britain. One might even think you were in contact with him?"
Harry didn't flinch, answering quickly and confidently. "That Sirius escaped Azkaban and was also inside Hogwarts last year is known to everyone in the castle. Sirius Black is my godfather and innocent of all the crimes he was thrown in Azkaban for, chucked in there to rot without a trial I have to add. I have spoken with the minister and the head of the DMLE over this and told them both what I know."
Albus could see Harry was being believed here but he didn't know he wasn't finished yet. "Hermione, Ron and I also told the head of the Wizengamot this too but I think his memory might be going a bit in his old age. As to what happened here this morning, Auror Tonks was just telling me about her Gringotts letter before Malfoy as usual went off half cocked."
The sniggering at the Gryffindor table escalated into laughter at Harry's last remark and Albus was forced to admit he'd underestimated the lad. Not only had he given Potter's confidence another boost, his popularity was also on the up.
He had Cedric Diggory and Susan Bones championing his cause in Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw would weigh the evidence and make their own minds up. Gryffindor was solidly behind their golden boy while Severus giving detention to that idiot Draco sent mixed messages to the house of the cunning. He even saw Viktor Krum congratulating the couple on their betrothal.
The basilisk affair was a publicity coup of unprecedented proportions, giving Harry the backing of not only the ministry but the entire wizarding public of Britain. The same wizarding public that were queuing the length of Diagon Alley to see the creature now displayed at Gringotts.
With the ministerial enquiry looming over the basilisk incident, Albus was going to have to tread carefully here. If, as Albus suspected, the lad intended to deliberately refuse to compete in the next task, Albus would be forced to take action. Whatever the fallout from anything he had to do, Albus would just have to grin and bear it. The consequences of doing nothing would be catastrophic.
Harry Potter would have to compete in the second task, the greater good demanded it.
Amelia and her friend from the unspeakables were currently drinking port while staring at the ruined book in front of them. Just looking at the thing left the head of the DMLE feeling dirty.
"You're sure? There can be no mistakes here."
"You think I don't know that Amelia? I wish for all our sakes I was wrong."
"Harry Potter's story of facing Voldemort in his first year at Hogwarts now makes a lot more sense. How does this tie-in with the death eaters and the dark mark appearing at the world cup? Isn't he gone now his anchor is destroyed?"
It was clear her friend didn't want to say the next bit, Amelia was left wishing he hadn't. "We're assuming he made only one, Voldermort was always more ambitious than that."
She had received an owl today from an excited Susan about Harry Potter, Amelia would be thanking the young wizard next chance she got. The thought that Harry had now finished off the dark bastard three times yet it still might not be enough had her reaching for the decanter. Her hand stopped just before it reached its destination as she thought out loud.
"Dumbledore knows all this, and more I'll bet. That's why he's so fixated on Harry Potter!"
Her friend could only nod in agreement. "There is a prophecy sphere down in the hall with Harry Potter and the dark lord's name on it. The initials A.P.W.B.D. are on there also. The only way to find out what it says is to get Harry to the ministry and let him listen to it, Dumbledore already knows what it contains."
Every auror instinct Amelia had relied on over all those years in the field were now screaming at her to take action, she had no intention of ignoring them. "Harry has the second task of that bloody tournament coming up soon. After that, we'll contact him about this prophecy. He has a right to know about it, whether he does anything about it will be up to him."
She refilled their glasses as both pondered what secrets the little glass ball held. Amelia was already certain they wouldn't be beneficial to Harry Potter's health, that young wizard just couldn't seem to catch a break.
A/N Thanks for reading