Welcome to the crackfic. This contains so many tropes, it's not even funny. I will get round to answering PMs / reviews for my stories eventually as I work my way back into writing fanfiction.
Warnings: Dark!Super!Hermione, Weasley!Bashing, MOF!Dumbledore, Veela?Draco, EWE, Everybody Lives! (Except Voldemort), Fem!Slash!Kinda!Maybe, Friendly?Goblins, Love!Potions, Contracts!, ReasonablyPricedCake! and a Distinct Lack Of Morality.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and the cake may or may not be a lie.
Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto You
Monday, Ministry Atrium
11:43 Saturday Morning
Two months, Six days, Three hours till Operation M
"We'll get you next time, mudblood. Dosing yourself up like some common whore." The auror snarled into her ear as he pushed her out of the DMLE offices. The brown haired girl turned around, pulling a pen out of pocket as he hastily pulled his wand.
"Can I quote you on that?" She asked sweetly, a piece of parchment seemingly conjuring itself out of thin-air. "And put that wand away, you might hurt someone. Then again, I could just put you down as drawing your wand on poor innocent members of the public, couldn't I Dawlish?"
"That's Auror Dawlish, now get out of here." He yelled as the others in the office started paying attention.
"Of course. Be sure to read the next edition of the Prophet, you might find it very enlightening." Allowing herself a small smirk, Hermione Granger, War-Heroine, Smartest-Witch-of-the-Century, and Apprentice Reporter under Rita Skeeter turned and strode away having bested charges of Line-Theft, Theft, Fraud and several other irritating crimes the purebloods were trying to use to get her out of the way. The smug feeling stopped the moment she saw Him. Her heart almost stopped and her stomach twisted.
"Shit." She swore under-her-breath as her emotions flip-flopped. "Harry, what are you doing here?" He fidgeted nervously, looking everywhere but at her as he shrugged.
"I don't actually now, I just received a summons from Marriage Department just before I was going to take Ginny to lunch." He looked away, back at the doors with a puzzled expression on his face. "I was going to propose to her as well, it was going to be wonderful." Hermione's breath hitched in her throat. Abnormal Behaviour, Blind Devotion, the list checked itself off in her head.
"Well, why don't we go and see what they want, I need to talk to you after this anyway." She said nervously. "Then again, so do the goblins... someone's been stealing from your vaults."
"I have more than one vault?" He asked in confusion as they stepped into the elevator.
"I thought you knew..." Hermione trailed off as both failed to find something to say.
~ O ~
"Harry, my boy, how good of you to join us." Dumbledore said jovially before his face fell into a troubled frown. "Ms. Granger, I thought..." He seemed to collect himself. "This is a private matter, there's no need for you to be involved; none of us are at Hogwarts anymore."
"If this is a private matter, why is the Minister for Magic and the Malfoys here?" She asked with a smile to the records clerk whilst trying to ignore the way Draco was staring longingly at Harry. "More importantly what are you doing here? You're not the head of the Wizengamot, Mister Dumbledore."
"I think you'll find he is." Scrimgeour stated firmly.
"He's suspended due to criminal proceedings, Minister, I'm sure you know how these things go." She turned to Harry. "Besides, Harry invited me along."
"If we could get on with things?" The harried looking clerk asked to break the silence. "Mister Potter, you've been asked here today to ask when you wish to set the date of your wedding? As you undoubtedly know it's required within a week by the Bonding Creature's Protection Act that passed two days ago."
"My wedding?" Harry asked. "What Protection Act?"
"Your wedding to young Draco of course." The clerk said as though it was simply a fact of reality.
"Harry my boy," Dumbledore said with a smile as the young man in question's brain shut down. "I'm sure you heard that Draco came into his Veela inheritance recently and I think that it's frankly wonderful that he's chosen you as his mate. Think of all the wonderful times you'll have..."
"Yes Harry, I know that I had to pretend that I hated you at Hogwarts, but we're meant to be together." Draco said soppily. "I can't wait till-"
"NO!" Harry yelled at them all. "Not just no. Hell no!"
"But... but-" Draco collapsed in on himself, seeming to fall apart at the seams. "I..."
"I'm afraid, my boy, that you have no choice in the matter." Dumbledore continued as though this was perfectly normal. "Without you by his side the boy will simply die. Neither of us want that on our conscience."
"Are you stating your refusal to marry, Mister Potter? If you do the penalty clauses in the law will be activated as you've condemned Mister Malfoy to a loveless life." The clerk asked. Hermione's hand on his arm stopped his protests before they'd formed.
"Just let me speak to the lad." Dumbledore said with a pleasant smile as he headed towards him. "I'm sure I can convince him to see sense."
Harry looked at the adults in the room with a mixture of shock and horror. Less than an hour ago he was nervous, edgy and planning to propose to the girl he loved more than any others. Now they were telling him that because of something Malfoy said he was supposed to be gay and marry the brat? He turned to the one person who normally got him out of these situations. "Hermione, this isn't real, is it? I'm having a nightmare and I'll wake up just as-" He cut of with a yelp as she pinched his arm.
"Unfortunately Harry, it is." She said, casually crushing his hopes. "What I'm more interested in is why you're ignoring amendment four of the act?" An eyebrow was raised in Scrimgeour's direction as he recognised the tone she'd used earlier in the courtroom.
"Assume that we've forgotten. Ms. Granger, do enlighten us?" He asked a little nervously, though the man would never admit it.
"Why, it states that, should a magical creature's proven mate, you did pass the tests did you not?" She took Lucius' nod as an affirmative over Draco's not quite there expression. "Then, should the mate prove unwilling to bond with his or her counterpart she is to be checked immediately at public expense for any controlling substance or factor that could be keeping them apart." She smirked as hope blossomed in Draco's eyes. "I do believe he's shown to be unwilling."
"Rufus, I'll need to use your floo, I need to talk to our families healer immediately." Lucius stated, turning quickly to leave.
"Public." Hermione said softly, causing everyone to freeze. "The law said public. You wouldn't want to give the goblins any reason to dispute the marriage now, would you?"
"Saint Mungo's then?" The elder blond asked in a pained voice.
"Saint Mungo's" Dumbledore replied firmly. "I'm sure they'll be able to sort this out."
Harry shot her a look of betrayal as he was pulled towards the floo. Trust me. She mouthed before turning away and his expression morphed into one of confusion.
~ O ~
Daily Prophet Offices
17:22 Saturday Afternoon
Two months, Five days, Twenty-one hours till Operation M
"Rita, how's the book going?" Hermione asked as she looked up from her last edit of the article which would be on the front page of tomorrow's paper.
"It's almost done." The journalist replied. "I've edited the first half and... is this another set of notes on things you've found out? Merlin..." She almost whispered. "I need to speak to the goblins... Do you have an article for me to put my name on?" Hermione handed her the article, playing up the part of assistant who'd had to blackmail her way into the paper.
Rita's eyes stopped at the title. 'Medical Malpractice' The article got better and better from there, the political landmine of the century. "You have proof of this?" She asked in astonishment, darting between the article and the unassuming young witch sitting at her desk.
"I will by the time people read it." Hermione said with a smile, relaxing back into her chair. "You might want to hurry with your editing, The Life of Lies of Albus Dumbledore will be extremely topical in a week or two."
Rita swallowed. "When you made me... I mean, when we made our deal I didn't appreciate how brilliant you were. I mean. If you don't want me to claim your best articles I won't."
Hermione laughed, the callous chuckle sounding so foreign coming out of her mouth as she stood up. "Oh Rita, haven't you worked out that that's precisely what I wanted? The word of Hermione Granger means nothing, but the word of Rita Skeeter?" She cocked her head to the side as Rita's mouth went dry. "Just remember who wrote the article that won you the Quill of the Year." She nodded slowly as Hermione went to leave. "If you need me, I'll be in the legal section of the Ministry, I have an errand to run."
Rita gulped at her tone.
~ O ~
Special Treatment Ward, St. Mungo's
00:05 Sunday Morning
Two months, Five days, Fifteen hours till Operation M
Hermione's finger ran down the spells on Harry's bed before slipping the syringe into her bag. The notes on his bedside where most informative. The appointed healer had found something. A tragic childhood block that hadn't been removed, perfectly justifiable and easily blamed on the dead. That was it. How utterly worthless. "Yes Hannah?" She asked without looking up.
"Hermione?" The young healer trainee asked nervously. "What are you doing in the restricted wing, my Lady?"
"I am not doing anything." Hermione said with a smile. "And I am not here. Since, of course, the wards would stop me. Who's treating Harry?"
"Healer Miller, he's-" She cut off as a frown crossed Hermione's face as she stood.
"One of Dumbeldore's old friends, I was wondering who they'd roped in for this part. Your mentor is on call for the night shit, correct?" Hannah nodded as Hermione appeared lost in her own little world.
"He is. I, err, can't thank you enough for getting him to apprentice me." Hermione gave her a smile as she shifted from foot to foot. "But, Lady Ashworth? He thinks you're some reclusive genius!"
Hermione shrugged. "Well, it's not like I had any academic contemporaries at Hogwarts. I merely told him I knew someone who was thinking of going into Healing and that I'd taught her myself." Hannah blushed and looked down. "I look after my own, remember." She said with sad look to Harry. "We can talk another time, this ward's about to get busy."
"It is?" Hannah asked herself as she walked off.
Less than a minute later the alarm wards on Harry's bed blared as his vitals lowered for some unknown reason.
~ O ~
Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts
19:43 Monday Evening
Two months, Four days, Eighteen hours till Operation M
Dumbledore's trembling hand made the note barely legible to his old eyes. Healer... no, Mister Miller. He had to get that right, the man had been forced out in disgrace after all, was reporting that a Healer had examined him last night and they had found... His eyes skated over the list once more. They had found, well, everything. His avenue to feeding the boy a love potion keyed to Malfoy was gone as well. Mister Potter might well resist his marriage... Though with the amount of love potions plan A, or the Weasleys, had been feeding him, he could just jump into it to get away from them. Dumbledore honestly had no idea what was happening. This was the second of his schemes foiled in so many days.
Speaking of the 'Granger' problem, he did need to know how she'd weaseled her way out of the mess he'd made for her. Rufus' missive was short, but he'd also sent along two vials of memories, labelled appropriately. He'd had the unfortunate problem of ensuring young Draco's verification and hadn't been able to attend her trial but now he'd be able to see just what went wrong as the pensieve slid onto his desk.
He landed in the middle of the courtroom, just in front of the Minister's seat as Madam Bones cleared her throat. Dumbledore nodded with approval as he strode around the pit. Ms. Granger was chained to the seat, it was also a closed session, as matters of this delicacy often were, and the members he wanted were all in attendance. Alas, there was nothing he could do about the judge.
A gavel thumped down. "Order!" Amelia yelled. "The court is in session, Miss Hermione Granger is called up on charges of Theft, Fraud, Line Theft, and practice of Magic Moste Foul." The Gavel banged down. "Order in the court. Now, to the charge of Theft from the Ancient and Most Noble House of Potter. How do you plead?"
Leaning back against the stone slabs of the chair as though the chains holding her down were but a minor inconvenience, she smirked. "Under subsection four, clause ten of the last goblin treaty I demand goblin justice for this crime." Dumbledore blinked, as did the rest of the court. Books were hastily opened, whispered comments were passed back and forth, he himself read over the shoulder of the person who'd donated this memory as the pureblood elite smiled with glee.
He would have too, had he not know how this was going to end. "Are you sure you wish to do this?" Amelia asked as she walked down to talk to the suspect. "Susan speaks very highly of you."
The girl smirked saying something in a voice Rufus hadn't been able to hear. Dumbledore frowned, rewound the memory and read her lips. 'If you don't grant this, the treaty is broken. Trust me.' He read and she leant back. Two minutes later they resumed.
Amelia looked a little pale as the court went silent. "Granted." The mallet slammed down. "Court will resume if she is found innocent by the goblins." The judge said sternly and the girl was taken off in chains. "The goblin punishment for theft being death." She repeated for the slow witted in the session. Smiles and congratulations broke out around the room that brought a sick feeling to his stomach. Didn't they see this was wrong? He asked the walls as he fell back into his office. It was what he'd been aiming for, but it was still wrong.
Miss Granger was turning into a problem, she had, for want of a better phrase 'broken the mould' he'd put her into. The respecting bookworm replaced by some sassy wrench in his plans. It was better she died as one of the Light before she turned to Darkness. Just like he had to turn the others back to the light, before it was too late for their souls. The second vial poured into his pensieve and the courtroom returned.
An ashen-faced Madam Bones led Hermione to the chair in the center of the room, taking care to disable the chains before returning to her station. The silence could have been cut by a knife. "Lady..." She paused, swallowed and looked down at her records. "Granger. Has been found innocent of the charges of Thievery, Fraud and dabbling in Magic Most Foul after examinations of her wand. We move onto our final charge of Line Theft against the House of Weasley. How do you plead?"
Hermione looked up at the court. "Innocent, due to mitigating circumstances." Dumbledore frowned as the remaining purebloods chatted amongst themselves.
"That's hardly a defence!" Lord Malfoy stated loudly as he shot to his feet.
"It's the one you used." Hermione shot back calmly, her voice somehow carrying across the room as everyone fell silent. "If you'll look in the belongings you confiscated you'll find an official report from Saint Mungo's dated yesterday. For the last three and a half years I have been under the influence of amortentia keyed to one Ronald Weasley who I am certain is incapable of brewing it. Who brought these charges to the court?" The girl leaned back with a lazy smile, as though she were a queen in her throne. Silence. "I'm waiting."
"Molly Weasley." Amelia announced with a trembling voice.
"Really?" Hermione asked, rising to her feet. "And what evidence did the Weasley Matriarch provide?" She said sarcastically. "The court does know that only the Head of a House is allowed to bring charges of Line Theft, don't you?" Her eyes met Amelia's as the silence continued. "I want to press charges. Be sure to search the Burrow for evidence. I have better things to do than attend this farce of a court, like perhaps write an article on it." She said sarcastically before walking out the room completely unimpeded.
The wizarding elite burst into frantic, unproductive chaos as the doors closed on her rather fine arse.
Dumbledore stood stock still. Failing to believe what he was seeing as a eighteen year old girl walked out of a room that should have condemned her to death, or Azkaban at the least. He watched it again. And again. And again.
He'd lost count by the time he found what he was looking for, a quick gesture and a muttered word. He might have been imagining things, because she certainly wasn't powerful enough for such a feat of wandless magic, but it was possible if not plausible. Hermione Granger was up to something. He would deal with that quickly and efficiently. Starting tomorrow.
~ O ~
9:59 Tuesday Morning
Two months, Four days, Five hours till Operation M
Marble floor shuffled beneath him as he frowned at the paper in his hands. 'Medical Malpractice!' was strewn across the front page, a picture of a pale Harry Potter lay still in his hospital bed as medical worked around him in a hurried frenzy. It was poignant and... put its point across even if it exaggerated. Mister Potter's life was never at risk from his actions. Others' actions perhaps, after all, he'd only suggested that Molly consider love potions just as he'd only suggested that a children's block was the cause of his problems. Twice the safe dosage of amortentia...
Oh dear, they'd found a way to determine the target of loyalty potions and my was that severus' contribution? Then it got onto the magical effects that had been done to the boy, and the physical problems... "Merlin." He whispered.
"Isn't here." The goblin at the desk stated irritably. "State your business or move on."
"Oh, yes." Dumbledore put the paper away hastily. "I'm here to see Manager Grimlock." The goblin's pen froze and it looked up at him with a look of astonishment before blinking.
"Of course." The busy little creature said, flicking its sign to closed. "He's in an important meeting at the moment, but I'll take you to his office and he'll see you as soon as he can." Dumbledore nodded agreeably as he was taken to one of the better waiting rooms and the small thing darted off elsewhere.
Filling his time with reading the rest of the paper and making a note to talk to Skeeter about her articles later the manager, his manager, came to the door. "Apologies for taking so long. The clan's have been in uproar over some inconsistencies noted yesterday."
"It is to be expected." Dumbledore stated calmly. "I'm more interested to know how she managed to get out of that one, all the paperwork was in order, wasn't it?"
"It was, fortunately, or they might have traced it back to us." The goblin said nervously. "Tea?" He said, pouring himself and the old man a cup.
"Thank you. So what exactly happened yesterday?" He asked as he took a sip.
"Well, the paperwork was in order, the deposits matched exactly and it all looked as though one Hermione Granger was siphoning money from the Potter Trust Vault for her own nefarious purposes." The goblin started slowly, taking a drink from his own cup. "Things went downhill from there. When you first came to us with this proposition, our records didn't show any Hermione Granger, Jane or otherwise, so we took the liberty of opening an account for her and stashing the galleons in there, with frequent withdrawals to make the account look active you understand."
Dumbledore glared at the creature over his glasses as he swallowed another mouthful, feeling slightly faint all of a sudden. "Really?" He asked, blinking. "But the girl was mail ordering books, she had to have had an account here."
"She did." The goblin said as the cup met his lips again. Dumbledore blinked as the world swam slightly. "Under an entirely different name." His heart tried to beat faster as the cup fell from shaking fingers. "A very impressive young women, don't you think? She even tricked the Wizengamot into granting us jurisdiction over the theft of gold from the Potter Vaults instead of just her trial, an excellent use of wording, don't you agree?" It paused as it bared its teeth. "Tell me, do you know what we do to thieves?"
"You're not... Manager... Grimlock..." He got out as he stumbled from his chair, wand flying from his fingers as the poison coursed through his veins.
"Polyjuice is a wonderful thing, Mister Dumbledore." The goblin informed him with a smile as it pulled a dagger from one of the drawers of its desk. "So are muggle neurotoxins and human politeness. Goodbye, Thief."
That disturbed little thing's smirk was the last thing the self-proclaimed Leader of the Light ever saw.
~ O ~
Harry's eyes opened slowly, the white tiles on the ceiling doing nothing to assuage his feeling of unease. There was the wrong pattern of blemishes on the ceiling for one thing, no desk holding his wand, and his clothes were far more covering than the ones Madame Pomfrey provided which meant...
His legs gave way beneath him, as he failed to stand, hands barely stopping his head from slamming into the floor. Breathing heavily, he struggled to get back up again, if only he... The chair on the other side of the room slid across the room, reality shifting slightly as he felt a little lighter? Pulling himself up, a very, very confused Harry looked around the room. He wasn't wearing glasses either.
Someone knocked at the door. "It's Hannah, are you awake in there?"
"I think so..." Harry said, his voice hoarse and raspy. "What's going on? What's happened to me?"
"Shit, you're actually awake?" Harry blinked, as he processed the disbelief in her voice. "Okay, just stay calm and I'll come in and explain things."
"Calm?" Harry asked, his heart speeding up. "Why do I need to stay calm?" He asked as the door opened slowly.
"Because whilst the walls are magic resistant, I'm not." She said as she poked her head around the door a little nervously. "Hey, at least the furniture isn't floating around this time." She stated a little pensively.
Harry looked up at the young witch he'd helped train as part of the DA as she entered the room in a nurses uniform, a small enchanted box held beside her. "Start at the beginning." He demanded.
"Okay, short answer. You were admitted by Dumbledore, who had his pet Healer look at you, put down a basic check-up then stunned you as far as we can tell. Let's just say he's now in Azkaban and leave it at that." Hannah started as she straightened out some of the haphazard furniture. "Do you want me to get you back on the bed? You'll want to be sitting down for this."
"I'll just..." The chair he was pointing too slid towards him. "Let's just pretend that didn't happen." Harry muttered to himself as he pulled himself up into a sitting position. "The last thing I remember is being told that I needed to be unconscious for some of the tests he was going to do."
"That would have been true, if he'd actually bothered to actually perform the examination spells. Instead, he merely cast a spell based on the old bastard's diagnosis and left you there." Hannah gave a wry smile and looked towards the wall. "Fortunately for you, there was an unknown complication which triggered the wards automated alarms that night. The Healer I'm apprenticing under, one of the most experienced in the world used every detection charm, trinket and ritual he could think of to try and find out what was causing every muscle in your body to relax. We couldn't find it, what we did find, though, was a whole host of other things wrong with you. Enough to have killed an ordinary wizard several times over." She explained, crossing her fingers under the box.
Harry blinked, a table in the corner of the room exploded, and she flinched. "Didn't I kill Voldemort?" He groaned.
"Yes..." Hannah said a little uncertainly backing towards the door.
"Then why is all this crazy shit still happening to me?" Harry's nervous question caused the blond young women to blink, before giggling. Or maybe that was just at the utterly stumped expression on his face as he buried his head in his hands, recent events slowly catching up with him.
"Harry." Hannah said as she pulled a seat up opposite him, resting the box she'd been carrying on the bed. "You're a Nexus." He blinked at her. Nothing exploded this time. "It's like being a Metamorphmagus, it's something you're born with and nigh-impossible to get rid of. Essentially events and people of great importance are naturally attracted to you. The best example of this is our Hogwarts year, since it had the children of four of the five Hogwarts governors, Hermione and the Heirs of a large number of important Houses whilst two years either side of us had very few people of any interest. I bet you can't even remember the names of most of them."
"So you're saying that fate hates me?" Harry, shaking his head. "I don't believe this, I've never even heard of someone being a Nexus." Hannah sighed.
"Had you heard of Metamorphs before you met Tonks?" She asked a little rhetorically. "Nexi don't have any obvious physical traits, and until we observed some esoteric interactions with the Felix Felicitas we took to ensure you survived the operations, we had no real proof you were either. The only other speculated Nexi was Dumbledore and he's... a little dead right now." She hurried over quickly. "Fate doesn't hate you, as such, it's more that you're going to lead a very interesting life." She said firmly. "Whether you want to or not."
Harry groaned again, holding up a hand as she went to carry on explaining her newest research topic. "Just..." He paused a dawning suspicion lingering in the back of his mind as the thought of Ginny popped into his head without the usual fanfare. "What exactly was wrong with me?"
"Right. Well," Hannah shifted nervously, "in layman's terms?" Harry nodded and she sighed. "Pretty much everything. Most of its reversing on its own now your magic is free though. It really helped when the caster of the blood based power syphon died. You've basically been patching yourself up since, with a little bit of help from us."
Harry snorted as he connected the dots. "So, Dumbledore did it then. Who killed him?"
"One of the goblins." She said a little relieved that he seemed to be taking it so well. "It was all over the papers, the Wizengamot was stupid enough allow the theft from your vaults to be investigated by them and they executed him. You're taking this rather calmly..."
"I had my suspicions." He said with a snort. "I just never seemed to act on them. It seems rather silly now, I hid so many other things..."
"That was probably the loyalty potions they were feeding you, speaking of which." She opened the box, revealing a rack of different coloured potions. "These are the potions you're going to have to take for the next month. Well, this one needs to be taken for that long." She said pulling out a golden coloured vial. "You've been dosed with amortentia for the last three years, it's seeped into your bone marrow. Until you're off of it, this suppresses most sexual urges and feelings whilst helping to cleanse the potion from your system. It's important, very fucking important, that you don't miss a dose or you might not want to take it again." She held the vial up for him to take.
"It also tastes awful." She said as he downed it and started coughing. "But you knew that, right? The others in here are slightly less important and less reliant on timing." She sighed. "On the bright side, you won't be cleared for the 'bonding' with Malfoy till you've finished them."
Harry's eyes shot up to meet hers. "Fuck, I had hoped that was a nightmare. Hermione had better have a bloody good plan." He muttered under his breath.
Hannah smiled and looked away. "I don't think you have to worry about that." She looked offended at his sigh. "Hermione looks after her own, when was the last time you heard of goblins getting to try a wizard?"
"Never." Harry stated, letting out a soft whistle as he relaxed. "Brilliant, but scary." He said with a hint of nostalgia.
"Try bloody terrifying." Hannah said with the air of personal experience. "Now, onto the physical problems we found and are curing and then you can read the pile of newspapers, cards, gifts and other things that we've been waiting to give you. Merlin alone know how Pomphrey missed these but that's for the inquiry to work out."
"Pile of newspapers? How long have I been unconscious for?" He asked irritably.
"A month, Harry, and boy have things gotten interesting..."
~ O ~
Private Room, Saint Mungo's
14:58 Wednesday Afternoon
One month, Three days till Operation M
"Harry, you have a visitor." Hannah's voice snapped him from his trance and the table skittered back a bit before he regained control. Leaning back he glared at the door.
"I thought I wasn't allowed visitors?" He asked even as the door started to click open.
"Not officially, no." A voice he recognised said cheekily. "But when's that ever stopped me?" Sleek brown tresses came into view before his eyes fixed upon the warm gold of hers. Her next words died in her throat as she took in the view. Gone was the stunted growth, the eternal baby-ish look and the complete lack of facial hair. In its place was a very attractive young man. From the intellectual side of things. "Bloody love potions." She muttered, getting a taste of his unbound magic. It was like the feeling of warm wood, and fire laced with a playful protectiveness that sliced through the air. That was before the wicked little grin appeared on his face.
Hermione reacted as any self-trained sorceress would when flung into the air without so much as a by your leave from a couple of magical tendrils. Her own aura flared, blasting his magic away and causing her path to become parabolic, landing straight ontop of one Harry James Potter. Momentum was thus conserved, the chair toppled over and the most noble male specimen of wizarding kind find himself pinning his best friend, the smartest female specimen of wizarding kind, to the floor.
In a hospital room.
With their magic spilling all over the other.
"Owww." Hermione moaned as she opened her eyes. "Normally people just say hello. You do know that right?" The pair of emeralds she was looking into failed to react, or even dilate slightly and she started giggling. Then her magic flared out and knocked his arms out from underneath him, a hand reached up and she was on top. "You looked like a rabbit in the headlights." With a slightly smug grin she relaxed into his chest.
Harry's arms came up around her as his mind frantically tried to work out just what the hell was going on. That, and how he hadn't notice when his best friend had developed, well, those because her figure was definitely better than Ginny's. "So, are you going to get up any time soon?" He asked a little nervously.
"And why, Mister Potter, would I want to do that?" She said smarmily, making it clear that this was payback for his earlier lapse in control.
Someone cleared their throat, his magic, reacted, her magic reacted and Hermione let out an eep as his completely swamped hers. "Shit!" Hannah swore, before hammering on the door. "I left you alone for half a bloody moment and then you throw me out? If I didn't know what potions you were both on... Well, the Prophet would be getting a new front page story."
The door opened as they clambered to their feet. One slightly irked former Hufflepuff glared at them with a wand in one hand, box of potions in the other. "Sorry about that, Harry here had a little control problem." Hermione cxdxcsaid with a smirk as she gracefully settled into a chair.
"Becoming a reporter is the worst thing that's ever happened to you." Hannah commented idly as she unpacked the box. "Make sure you drink it this time." A second gold-coloured vial was slapped down into Hermione's waiting palm.
"When did you become a reporter?" Harry asked nervously. "And isn't that for me?"
Hermione just looked at him with an amused expression. "I became a reporter three days after we left Hogwarts when I blackmailed Rita, I did tell you but I think that was when Ginny had just upped the dose to past the fatal level." She downed the golden liquid with an expression of disgust. "I knew Ron was doing the same thing but... who really wants to fall out of love?" She asked a little wistfully. "Still, the court case came up and the bastard's now rotting in Azkaban."
"Right... and you're not mad at me for basically ignoring you for the last six months?" He asked a little nervously. "And are you sure you should be admitting to that in front of..." His eyes flicked nervously to his nurse.
"Hannah's not going to tell anyone. She did give me the medical records that let me see just why I shouldn't be mad at you." She gestured at the blushing girl and a chair swirled across the room. "Take a seat by the way. And you," Her gaze snapped to Harry's open mouth, "had better drink that bloody potion." He gulped, uncorked it and swallowed the damn thing in one go. "And the others." She stated firmly as Hannah held out the box with a smile on her face. "How are you feeling, anyway?" She asked as he downed the last one.
His expression was anything other than enthusiastic. "I feel like everything after our fifth year was done by someone else and it's all a little splotchy." He frowned. "Unsettled is probably the best way of putting. Physically, I'm still a little weak from having all my bones regrown and all the other things, mentally I'm more aware than I have been for years and this place is crying out for some good reading material. Emotionally... I'm a train wreck." He admitted reluctantly. "You're about the only person I trust. No offence." He said, as Hannah looked away, shrugging.
"Well, that's better than the 'I'm fine' I was expecting." Hermione chuckled. "I've got some reading material for you as well, and you can trust Hannah." Harry raised an eyebrow, but she didn't budge on why.
"So... what reading material did you bring me?" A flick of her wand summoned a bag from where it had fallen earlier.
"How would you like to learn an entirely different branch of magic that doesn't require a wand? No, it's not potions." She commented with her new and slightly crooked smile.
"When I said reading material, this wasn't what I had in mind." He stated, running a hand through his lengthening mop a little nervously.
"You said you were bored." Hermione countered. "Besides, it'll help with your control. It certainly helped mine." Harry raised an eyebrow. She gave him a frank look. He laughed. Hannah felt like a spectator in a Tennis match as their expressions went back and forth.
"Finally tired of playing the good girl?" He asked teasingly. "And thanks for the sedatives." She humphed cutely, crossing her arms across her chest and glaring at him.
"Finally tired of being Mister Average?" She asked sarcastically. "When did you figure it out?"
"Second year." Harry replied, leaning back with a smile. "You knew exactly where to find the recipe for polyjuice right down to the shelf of a book in a Restricted section that takes up half a floor of the castle. When did you work it out?"
"End of first year. You were a little too cocky and managed to get the exact same percentage on every end of year exam." Hermione stated, leaning forward. "Well, apart from Defence, since you believed that was what your parents had been good at and thus what you should excel at to avoid suspicion. That and your potions never exploded despite some of the more exotic attempts at sabotage." She reached into the bag and pulled out a book for him to look at. "What do you think."
Harry's expression softened as looked it over. The Fundamentals of Sorcery, translation from German. "Krum?" He asked as he opened the cover to flick through the pages. Hermione nodded. "Interesting..." He muttered as the conversation drifted off.
"What just happened?" Hannah asked nervously after a moment or two.
Hermione sighed. "We both admitted that, due to slightly poor childhoods we spent almost our entire time at Hogwarts hiding large aspects of ourselves from everyone, if not from habit than from the fear that the people we cared about wouldn't like us as we actually were. Harry likes to pretend to be average, before going and teaching a class on the NEWT level of a subject he's never had a teacher in." He snorted at her reference to the DA.
"But..." Hannah cut off as Hermione gave her a look.
"I like to pretend that I'm a good, authority respecting person. Like I hadn't spent the first ten years of my life constantly being told to try harder and that 'I wasn't good enough' before I realised that normal kids aren't expected to ace thirteen GCSEs at the age of eleven and don't have personalised IQ tests." She took a deep breath. "After all, no one really suspects the adorable teacher's pet of, being... someone like me." Hannah looked at her worriedly as Hermione leant back and looked at the ceiling.
"He also thanked me for using some of the drugs used in dentistry to trigger the ward alerts on his bed, knowing that a muggle poison would be the very last thing you looked for, if you looked for it at all." Hannah had the good grace to look embarrassed at that. "As for his last comment, well, Hogwarts is merely a school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Durmstrung teaches a lot more than just those two disciplines even if it doesn't teach to the same depth as our ignoble institution. Vicktor was never my boyfriend. He was, however, a passable teacher and the best the school had to offer."
The room lapsed into silence.
"I should probably go and check on my other patients." Hannah said after a while. "Try not to kill each other."And with that she left.
"This is very interesting." Harry said as the door closed behind her. "Especially some of your notes. I never realised you were having problems with control." He slipped it carefully into the bag.
"I didn't expect the ritual I used to have that much of an effect, as it was I had to sneak off to Diagon Alley to get a new wand over the holidays." She smiled faintly. "I suppose it's possible that it also broke through a couple of bindings on my own powers but I can't be certain of that. I was originally planning on performing it on you after I'd tested it, but with the side effects it wasn't worth it."
"I thought all power boosting rituals were dark?" Harry asked and she shrugged.
"You wouldn't have remembered it." He raised an eyebrow. "Sleeping potions, Harry, sleeping potions... Dobby would have given you one if he thought it would help." She mused. "Anyhow, enough about me." She said quickly, trying not to pay attention . "I did come here to do something other than hand you some books."
"The Malfoys." Harry said as he leaned in. "Please tell me you have a plan?"
The smirk that worked its way onto her face was positively gleeful. "Oh yes. They're going to pay for crossing us." He raised an eyebrow. "I mean you. Crossing you. Erm, anyway. As I see it, you have three options as the law is ironclad and has far too much support. Fortunately Dumbledore's dead so they can't revoke the amendment we're using to postpone the wedding without appointing a new Chief Warlock and they're all still squabbling over that."
Harry raised an eyebrow, "It has that much support?"
"Harry, the law is designed to legalise old purebloods drugging up young nubile non-humans and forcing them to become their mistresses. 'Bonding' is something made up by wizard fiction writers and the 'Protection Act' only offers two forms of protection to a magical creature. The first is that if the non-creature isn't married it gets to be taken as a wife instead of just a mistress and the second is that if the non-creature is a member of Ancient or Noble house, it is entitled to be checked for mental or emotional control if and only if its family requests it." Hermione sighed. "The amendment that got you here was designed to help prevent and I quote 'those uppity veela whores' from using the law to snare heirs and take over the government."
He blinked. "No one realises that they're just after my money? Or that Draco's a guy?"
"They do." Hermione sighed as she met his eyes. "Alas, Dumbledore was for it, so the Light side support it, the Dark side knows what this is really about so support it and the neutrals are far too small to matter. Everyone's all up in the air about how wonderful it all is and how hateful the Weasley's are from keeping you from 'Your perfect loving, partner.'." She quoted sarcastically. "It makes me want to kill someone." She stated.
"You could always kill Draco." Harry stated idly. "It would solve my problems and make you feel better."
"I thought you were against killing?" Hermione asked with an odd look.
"I'm against killing people without a good reason to. Messing with me or my friends is normally a good reason and nobody seemed to mind when I dealt with Voldemort and his assorted attempts on my life." Harry pointed out reasonably. "I'm more of a do unto others before they do unto you kind of person. Besides I care about you more than I care about the rest of the world." Hermione's eyes softened as she gazed at him.
"You really mean that?" She asked hesitantly.
"Of course." Harry said, wondering why he needed to repeat something so obvious as all the tension seemed to drain out the young woman opposite him and the most brilliant smile brightened his day. "So does this mean Draco has less than a month to live?"
"Hmmm, it's tempting." She admitted, curling up in her chair. "But Draco's not the problem here, the elder Malfoy's are and you don't have the influence to get away with murder. Look at it this way, why would they go through the hassle of bribing a doctor to declare their only child and Heir a non-human when he's not? Then factor in that Draco's support of the pureblood doctrine is almost non-existent since third year and that Narcissa is pregnant..." She trailed off with a lazy smile.
"Without someone like you at Hogwarts their new Heir would be much more likely to believe in pureblood supremacy and their claim to my estate would be that much greater if they'd also lost family in the attack that killed me." Harry filled in. "Assuming they don't just potion me up to spout whatever nonsense they want me to. Not that it matters, if I'm married to a male then I can't have a legal heir so they'll eventually inherit the estate regardless."
"True." Hermione agreed. "But there's one little thing about Veela, Harry." He looked up at her. "They're the descendants of women under an infernal version of the greek Harpy curse. A male one is a magical impossibility." Her eyes glittered as she waited for him to acknowledge her plan.
Harry's mouth fell open. "You know the rit-" He shook his head. "Who am I talking to, of course you know the rituals. It still has the problem of me marrying a Malfoy."
"Unless..." Hermione trailed off as though this one of her informal tests.
It suddenly clicked. "Unless I use the laws as originally intended... Damn you're good." Harry stated as they looked into each others eyes, mere inches apart from where they were both sitting on the edge of their seats.
Hermione grinned at the praise. "It's what I do best. Now, I should probably leave before an orderly I don't control turns up." She said as Harry rose at the same time as her, pulling her into a hug.
"Where would I be without you." He muttered into her ear, breathing in the scent of her hair. "Make sure you visit often." They broke apart reluctantly and he chuckled at the questioning look in her eyes. "I want to know the real you better." She nodded, and left.
~ O ~
Lobby, Saint Mungo's
10:03 Monday Morning
Twenty-Two days, Five hours till Operation M
"Checking out, Mister Potter?" The receptionist asked with a hopeful smile. "Does that mean the wedding will be soon?" He bit back his response and merely settled for a glare. Whilst he could have done, many, many things most of them would end with him locked back up in a secure room till he dealt with his 'dangerously uncontrolled' magic. Yes, if you were an infant it was accidental and got a pat on the head, but if you were an adult it was dangerously uncontrolled and you got a room with no key.
"I will be coming back, but I've had urgent business with the goblins waiting for over a month." He explained. "Since I am now cleared to leave my room it won't wait any longer and I've got an appointment in about twenty minutes." She sighed and handed him the logbook.
"If you insist, I don't suppose I could get an invitation to the wedding, could I?" She asked a little hopefully. "It's just... the two of you look so good together." Harry's mouth hung upon as his legs processed the order to get him as far away from the crazy as possible. They'd hated each other for years for Merlin's sake, been on opposite sides of the war and tried to kill each other more than once. That was ignoring the fact that little more than a month ago, his relationship with Ginny had been all over the papers and that Malfoy was a guy. It just wasn't possible for anyone to really believe this, was it?
The witches of Diagon Alley shattered that delusion with a disturbing amount of glee. The men nodded stoically and went in the opposite direction. Thus when Mister Potter found himself in Senior Manager Itz-Frazum's office he was slightly shell-shocked and more than a little volatile.
"Let me get this straight." He started after the goblin finished speaking. "Dumbledore has been stealing from my family since my parent's died, the Black family estate is currently unavailable to anyone because he forcibly stopped me from attending the will, allowing the Malfoy's to challenge it and tie it up in paperwork..." The goblin had the decency to look abashed and scuttled back a little in his chair. "Then you tell me that the Potter's don't actually own any property since their previous holdings were either destroyed or seized by the ministry so I don't even have a place to live?"
"Yes." It got out quickly, trying to ignore the suffocating amount of magic boiling off the wizard in front of him. "And we-"
"Tell me the imbeciles responsible for this are dead." Harry stated coldly and the goblin slowly worked a semblance of a smile on its face as his magic calmed.
"The clan responsible is dead, and Grand Manager Ragnok killed Dumbledore himself... it was all over the papers." It said as a slightly shaky hand reached for some of the papers on its desk. "In the month you've been unavailable we've managed to recover all your lost assets apart from twelve Godric's Hollow, the ministry refuses to hand over the deeds." It frowned. "There's also the matter of compensation..." It railed off.
"Go on." Harry stated calmly.
"The assets of the clan who acted against you are now yours, as per goblin law, with a minor executors fee charged by the clan that bloodied their axes, you understand." It seemed to relax a little as Harry nodded. "However when it comes to the matter of Albus Dumbledore's affairs, what's left of it, we're in a bit of a conundrum." The goblin admitted warily. "Most of what's left are old books, artefacts, strange experiments that sort of thing. Their monetary value is debatable, which is the problem." It frowned. "How much do you know about the events leading up to his death?"
"Not as much as I thought I did apparently, though I think Hermione had something to do with it." Harry admitted.
"Ah yes. Her." The goblin said almost reverently. "I will always remember the day when she walked in, pinned myself and the guards to the walls before throwing lightning at the Grand Manger... if only she were a goblin..." It smiled, staring off into the distance and sounding almost wistful. Harry felt a sudden urge to stab the wrinkled little creature. "We wouldn't be suffering this gods be damned mess."
It sighed. "Frankly, when she appeared in chains with the head of your 'Law Enforcement' we were quite happy to watch her make complete idiots out of them. We weren't quite so happy when she slapped a permission form from the wizengamot that demanded goblin justice for the theft from your accounts when it was the first we'd actually heard of it." The goblin deadpanned. "She then politely informed us that she'd be quite put out if she had to deal with Dumbledore herself. Thus she has as much claim to the contents of his vaults as you do." It checked it's clock. "Hence why she's meeting us at the vault in about fifteen minutes for the two of you to agree between you on the distribution. That is agreeable, correct?" It asked a little nervously.
"Of course." He said firmly and the goblin. "And I need to make a will as well."
"First, if you could just sign these document, and then this statement that the compensation we've agreed upon is acceptable and that don't the bank responsible for the actions of some of its members." Reading through them all carefully, he signed the documents with a flourish, raising his eyebrows at the amounts of muggle currency involved. "Right, thank you very much for that Lord Potter." The goblin said respectfully. "If you give us an outline of the will you want, one of our solicitors can draft it up for you though most wizards get a human lawyer to create theirs."
"I honestly don't care, as long the accounts get transferred to the correct person." He fixed the goblin with a look. "Make it watertight, and make it so that if anything happens to me, only Hermione Granger can act in my stead and is to inherit anything when I pass on."
The goblin frowned. "We can do that, but I'm afraid that no Hermione Granger banks here since the fake account Dumbledore opened in that name was closed." It announced a little solemnly. "We do, however, have accounts for one Hermione Lillian Ravenclaw who goes by that name in public. If that's the person you're referring to?" It asked hopefully.
Harry nodded. "How easy is it for someone to change their name?" He asked. "More importantly why did she change it?" He asked more for himself than anyone else.
"It involves some sort of ritual." The goblin replied. "That's about all we know, and using the time your name changed as a guideline she changed hers in fourth year probably as an attempt to avoid things like that tournament fiasco." It continued. Harry blinked.
"I changed my name?" He asked a little uncertainly. The goblin nodded.
"Either that or someone performed the ritual on you. Your recorded name changed from Harry James Potter to Hadrian Daniel Potter, thus ensuring that anything addressed to Harry Potter would still reach you and preclude any contracts being formed by the name James Potter. Unfortunately the Goblet's contract had already been formed by that point." The goblin stood up. "You wouldn't believe the number of magically binding documents we found in Dumbledore's vault that got your name completely wrong. Speaking of which, we're running late."
A very confused and newly elevated Lord Potter was led to a rather fast minecart.
~ O ~
Dumbledore Vault, Gringott's
11:03 Monday Morning
Twenty-Two days, Four hours till Operation M
"So that's what Dumbledore was playing at." Hermione mused as Harry made his way past the goblin managers and assembled guards standing outside the vault. "You're late by the way." She commented idly and handed him a piece of paper. "And would you like one magically binding marriage certificate between Harry James Potter and Ginevra Molly Weasley signed two days before that stupid law was passed?" She held the offending piece of legal parchment for him to take. "Thus your fortune would have ended up with the Weasley's and not the Malfoy's as we were expecting."
"You changed my name." He said almost petulantly. Hermione snorted. "You could have told me, why Daniel anyway?"
"There's nothing wrong with the name Daniel." Hermione defended whilst flicking through the stacks of papers. "It's my fathers name and I thought that if I was taking your mothers name you might as well take my father's as an exchange. Even if you're more of an O'neil than a Jackson." She finished under her breath.
"Fine." Harry muttered. "What did you manage to get me out of anyway." He asked quietly, accepting that, as usual, she'd gone behind his back for his own good. After all, if he didn't know his name he couldn't accidentally enter into anything stupid without consulting her first.
"Take a look at some of these." Hermione handed over the stack. "The old bastard really didn't like either of us, what I am curious to though is what sort of artefact he used to make the bindings so powerful." She mused with a frown, starting to eye over the various oddments in the vault.
"Marriage contract between one Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley." Harry read aloud before tossing it away and looking at the next one. "Some sort of bizarre Hippocratic oath thing that requires me to not kill anyone and forgive anyone who asks for it?" Harry blinked at that. "What the hell?"
"Every time I learn something new about the old bastard I wonder just why I had him die such a quick death." She took a small ornate circlet set with seven pitch black gems from a shelf. "Then I remember that he was bloody dangerous because this looks like it might be the Crown of Dominion."
"I take it that's bad?" Harry asked as he looked around the mass of bookcases and chests.
"You do remember that before the twentieth century most wars were fought using a large number of exceedingly powerful magical artefacts and sympathetic contracts?" Harry tilted his head from side to side.
"Not really." He admitted after a while. "I was more concerned with modern history."
"Well, near as I can tell, every magical artefact rumoured to have been around Europe in the last century has made its way into this vault. The Crown is merely the most powerful of them, and this is definitely it." She muttered under her breath. "I've never seen runes this complex before..."
"They're probably in some of these books." Harry remarked, pulling one from the shelf and opening it up. "Or not." He muttered after opening the cover. "Property of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." He read aloud. "It's the library stamp. I didn't think these were supposed to be removed from the school?"
"They're not." Hermione paused in her examination and wandered over in his direction, a thoughtful look on her face. "He's seen three or so changes of Librarian since he became headmaster, I would guess these books disappeared from the registries during the transition periods." She sighed. "This is going to be a nightmare to split between us. There's just so much here..."
"I have an idea." Harry started after a moment. "Why don't you take the offensive artefacts and I'll take the defensive ones. You can have the books as a fee for telling me how they all work."
She frowned, thinking it over. "Are you sure you don't want more than that? There's probably at least few of the defensive items that won't fit you..." She trailed off with a slight smirk as she picked up a corset made of shimmering metal.
"I'm sure I'll find some use for them." Harry said with a shrug, already planning on giving her at least one or two for her next birthday. "And it makes things easier for us."
"That it does." She muttered, withdrawing her wand. "Well, I guess you'd better start packing if we're going to get all this down to my vault." She caught his questioning look with a smirk as she tapped the Crown with her wand. "What's missing here?" She held up her length of vine.
"His personal effects and wand..." Harry nodded with sudden understanding, turning to the goblins at the entrance their eyes glimmering with greed as the guards pointed spears in their direction.
"Ragnok." Hermione's voice taunted as she put the Crown on her head. "I thought we were still being polite?" Her voice rolled through the caverns as greed washed from the creatures faces. "閃" The syllable echoed in reality, a prepared spell sparking into existence.
Harry blinked the burning from his eyes and, as the ringing faded, he could just about make out the guard's screams as it plummeted from the cliff face the vault was tunneled into. Hermione reached out a hand as sparks of energy danced along her fingers. "Remember what happened the last time we did this?" She asked callously, walking forwards as the goblins parted before her. "His personal effects?"
"Right here Mistress." The trembling goblin in quite possibly the most gaudy suit Harry had ever seen as it pulled a pair of wands and a cigarette lighter from somewhere. "These were the only magical items he had on him, I swear."
"They had better be." Hermione stated as she took them, turning back to face Harry. "What?" She asked after a moment of silence before gesturing to the creatures behind her. "Goblins are a demonic servant race that have been in this realm long enough to derive sustenance from things other than pain and suffering. Their idea of a polite negotiation is one where no one dies, personally I dislike having weapons pointed at me." She shrugged, flicking one of Dumbledore's wands.
The entire contents of the vault shimmied, shifted and twisted into a conjured box labelled 'this way up'.
"That was impressive." Harry stated as she stared agape at the ten inches of wood in her palm with a slightly disturbed expression.
"Harry, this wand is made of elder..." You could almost hear the gulp of the Goblin Nation in the silence that followed.
~ O ~
Florean Fortescue's, Diagon Alley
14:11 Monday Afternoon
Twenty-Two days, One hour till Operation M
"Are you sure that annoying the goblins was a good idea?" Harry asked as he gave up on his Bloody Mary Sundae. Florean had apparently got the idea from a muggle drink, but the crushed blood pops made it something of an acquired taste. He'd been hoping for alcohol.
Hermione shrugged as she licked her spoon clean. "It's more aggressively negotiating than annoying, besides they can't access the Ravenclaw vault as it's a legacy vault set up when the first Gringott was bound to the bank by Helga, who was a warlock scarily enough. Also, I have three Atlantean weapons outside their control, including the Ravenclaw Bow. They're greedy little imps with an appetite for destruction and treachery, not idiocy. If anything killing a couple of them makes them much more cooperative." She shrugged. "Certainly helped when I became a Ravenclaw."
"I've been meaning to ask that, how did you become Head of House Ravenclaw?" Harry asked with a puzzled look. "Your parents are dentists, right?"
"They are, and yes, I am a muggleborn. I'm certainly not a descendant of Rowena." The spoon clattered into the glass as a wand twirled, privacy wards establishing themselves with an audible hum. "I do like this wand." She muttered to herself. "And I should stop talking to myself, it's almost announcing to the world that I'm a megalomaniac. Regardless, I guess it comes down to my own hubris. Fourth year was the first time I actually needed a Gringotts account, so I could owl in books from Europe, I'd also decided to change my name after the goblet forced you to compete."
"It was partly arrogance and partly Malfoy's annoying insults that made me decide to take a pureblood name and then decide that I might as well go all the way and call myself Ravenclaw." She gave a slight self-deprecating smile. "Unfortunately Gringotts requires you to use your real name and they took me all the way down to the Ravenclaw vault, complete with Huginn and Muninn, my names for the annoying animated ravens that guard it." She glared off into the distance. "I think that particular goblin took me there as a joke, because, well, offending me wouldn't have any consequences." She looked up at him with a huff. "They learned that was a mistake fairly quickly."
"You see Rowena was quite possibly the smartest which to have ever lived in these isles. She beat an inbred, male dominated society at its own game. You noticed that the founders vaults are completely different to the others?"
Harry snorted. "How could I not the way the snakes on Slytherin's vault kept leering at you? I almost wanted to know what they were talking about."
Hermione blushed slightly. "Yes, well, since the ravens and snakes were making noises it followed that there should be some way to speak with them, probably hidden in Hogwarts. I didn't really have anything else to do as the goblins refused to open a new vault for me, other than help you with the tournament that is..." She trailed off with a frown.
"I started looking in the Ravenclaw common room, trawling through the library in that tower of theirs. The clues led all over the bloody castle. It took me a whole month to find the bloody ritual she'd hidden. A month! Then it took me about two weeks to improve it, round up a raven, snake and kneazle to sacrifice and voila, I'm a Ravenspeaker, Parseltongue and I can tell when people are lying." She glared at a piece of imaginary dust on his collar. "It was supposed to let me talk to Crookshanks. Anyhow, I went back to the vault and talked to the ravens." She shrugged. "Apparently Rowena was very good at planning ahead, and put a clause in the charter that if the ring isn't worn for three hundred years any raven speaker that passed the tests can become the Head of House." She shrugged. "Come to think of it, Sal would probably let you into the Slytherin vault if you asked nicely."
"Sal?" Harry asked with a hint of disbelief. "He didn't turn his vault door into a Horcrux did he?"
"He did." Hermione replied with a grin. "His soul is stuck in that door forever, poor fool, I seriously doubt anyone's going to be willing to resurrect him using it." They both had a good chuckle over that as the conversation lapsed into a comfortable silence.
"Hermione?" Harry asked after a few moments of stirring blood pop gloop. "Where are you living at the moment?"
"My parents old house." Hermione said with a shrug. "They're still in Australia." Harry raised an eyebrow, the war had been over for more almost two years. "Why do you ask, have a manor you want to stash me in?" She asked playfully.
"The opposite actually. Apparently I don't even own Grimmauld Place at the moment, so I don't have anywhere to stay..." He trailed off nervously.
"I'll have to put a bed back in my bedroom, but sure you can stay round mine."
"You're a lifesaver, you know that right?" Hermione just smiled at him.
~ O ~
Healer Redgrave's Office, Saint Mugo's
15:26 Friday Afternoon
Eighteen days till Operation M
"You'll be happy to know that last night was your last night here." His healer with a large smile, looking through the results of his scans. "I will admit when I first found out everything that was wrong with you, I was hesitant of my ability to heal you completely but as usual Lord Potter, you take great pleasure in showing us the idiocy of applying rules to magic."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I don't have to take the potions anymore?"
The doctor looked a little uncomfortable at that. "Not... exactly. You still have another two weeks left of the amortentia antidote, officially, but in about a week you might be able to start easing up on the dosage. Other than that, you're in better health than most of us that work here." He said plainly. "There's certainly no reason for you to continue taking up a bed, you haven't had an accidental magic outburst in days." The healer smiled faintly. "I suppose you're studies with wandless magic helped?" He asked hopefully. "I'd like to at least some reason you exceeded our expectations with that. I could help other cases in future?" He asked wistfully.
"The basic control exercises of sorcery help a lot, you could get a couple of books from the continent." Harry informed the man, who just shrugged in response.
"I doubt our budget would stretch to that." He muttered. "Never mind. Here's the paperwork you need to fill in." He passed over the forms for Harry to fill in and sign. "And your remaining potion regime." An all too familiar box was placed on the table. "Hannah, I don't suppose you'd be willing to escort Lord Potter to reception and file everything when he's done, would you, Lady Ashworth sent me another book last night on physiology written by muggles of all people, it's absolutely revolutionary." He seemed astounded by the very thought.
"Sure." Hannah said from her cubby hole outside as she bustled her way inside. "The only one of these you might have to worry about is the last one." She said with a smile, passing a note written in Hermione's handwriting. "That should make sure the bill goes to the Ministry in accordance to that law." He raised an eyebrow at the sum listed. "What? We could have refurbished an entire floor form the cost of those potion ingredients."
"The Ministry is not going to be happy about this." Harry remarked blandly as he checked the legalise, signed in the correct places and filled in the legalities.
Hannah shrugged. "It's their fault for passing such an idiotic law in the first place. Shall we get you out of here?"
~ O ~
"Harry, I can call you Harry, can't I?" Narcissa said as she caught up to him in the lobby. "After all we're practically family. You can't believe how horrified I was when I heard the things they'd done to you, why you were practically a slave!" She looked positively aghast at the very idea of it all. There were reporters to be entertained, after all. "Since the Wea-," She paused for dramatic effect, ignoring the unimpressed scowl flittering across his face. "Since recent events have deprived you of your former residence and I heard you were checking out today, I came to see if I could offer you assistance."
Harry blinked. This was reminding him of something and not in a good way. "I'm afraid I've already made arrangements." He replied. No sir, I don't want to go and live with the Dursleys. This was something he was familiar with from Dumbledore. Narcissa blinked at not getting her way.
Tactic One: The Demand. "Why, you must come and live with us at the manor, it's the least we could do with the upcoming wedding." She turned around as if expecting him to fold in behind him. "Well?" She asked after a moment.
"Well, it would be rude of me to drop them on such sure notice, besides I'm sure it's not proper for the two of us to live in such close proximity before the marriage." Harry spouted out reasons as they came to mind.
Tactic Two: The Guilt Trip. "But Draco's in such a poor state without his bonded, you wouldn't want him to fade away without you, would you?"
"I'm sure he could come and visit me tomorrow, now if you'll excuse me, I still haven't fully recovered and I would like a nice quiet day of rest." Harry explained, starting to walk off as Hannah trailed behind him. Tactic Three was normally kidnapping. "I have no idea where Hermione's house is." He muttered once they were safely out of earshot.
"Luckily for you." Hannah whispered as she took his arm. "I do."
- CRACK -
They appeared in front of a reasonably large two story house with a picket white fence and slightly overgrown garden. Hannah turned to him with a smile. "This is it. I need to go and file that paperwork, so I'll talk to you later. Make sure you take the potions, okay?" He nodded and she apparated away.
The front door unlocked at his touch, swinging silently open. "Hello?" He called out.
"Hey Harry!" Susan Bones cheerily yelled out to greet him. "We're in the meeting room."
"Meeting room?" Harry yelled back, walking along the corridor.
She poked her head out of a door and smiled at him. "Well it's what we're calling the room that's safe to enter this week. Long time no see by the way, they set me up with Snyder as my training partner, Snyder!" She threw her hand up in disgust. "The guy couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag."
Harry couldn't stop himself chuckling as they embraced. "Well, at least you're getting through easily enough. Where's Hermione anyway?"
"I'd get through anyway. Nepotism is such a wonderful thing." She pointed out, sarcastically. "The Boss Lady's in the back." She tilted her head into the room, before leaning into his ear. "Frankly, I think you're good for her. Everyone likes a bit of chaos in their lives right?" She said a little louder, the trademark Hufflepuff Grin of Doom flickering across her face.
"I heard that." Hermione yelled as they went round the corner into a room composed of a large circular table littered with notes, books and tea stains as well as floating bookshelves, tea trays and other strange creations arrayed haphazardly in midair. "Harry, are you planning on going back into Auror training or not?"
"No, I'm not." Harry said with a puzzle as she quickly made a series of corrections to the papers in front of her. "Why?"
"Thank you." She muttered half to herself and half to the page in front of her as she sucked on her pen. "That makes this a lot clearer..." She blinked before looking up at Harry with a startled expression. "You're here already?" She blushed and flustered, staring at the pen in her hand. Harry couldn't help but smile at the sight as Susan looked on knowingly. "I'm really sorry, I completely lost track of time, I meant to be there to meet you at the hospital, everything pointed to at least one of the Malfoy's being there, but I was never quite sure which." Her notes went quickly onto the table.
"It's fine." Harry brushed away her concern as she rounded the table. "They were just trying to force me to live at their Manor. What are you working on anyway?"
"Just... altering my Arithmancy projections. It's like weather forecasting for reality, but with magic." She shrugged. "That you're not going to rejoin the Auror's removes the astronomical chunk of uncertainty that seems to follow you around, and it's now almost certain that there's going to be a war between the modern and conservative european magical blocks within the next five years. But that's just going by Susan's reports and the few nuggets I've managed to tease out of Fleur, so it could be sooner." She looked troubled by the thought.
"War?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrows. "You think that it'll come to that?"
"Unfortunately, yes. Bulgaria and Eastern Germany still have large numbers of militant purebloods, with Dumbledore now dead, Grindelwald's old supporters are rising again. It's only a matter of time before they eliminate their opposition and move onto the more liberal countries like France." She looked regretfully back at the papers. "I'm not sure if I'm going to be in a position to offer support or not, but with you out the picture England is unlikely to get involved on the purebloods side since they won't be able to influence your decision that way..." She frowned cutely in though for a few moments. "But enough about that, how are you? Did you bring anything with you? I don't see a bag." She peered around him looking worried.
Harry couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him. "Hermione, you do remember that I was living at the Burrow before being dumped in the hospital? After what happened the place is either a crime scene, or destroyed."
She blinked. "Oh, of course. Well, why don't you- no. How about I show you to your room, so you can suggest any changes that you want made and then Susan can take you shopping. If that's okay with you?"
~ O ~
Earls Street, London
16:11 Friday Afternoon
Seventeen days, Twenty-three hours till Operation M
Susan burst out laughing the moment they appeared out of thin-air. "Merlin that was hilarious. You're both completely oblivious, falling over each other to make sure the other's comfortable. She even gave you the Master bedroom with that nice, large bed." She said with a raised eyebrow and devilish grin.
Harry blinked. "Well, she did say that she'd tidy a room up for me."
Susan rolled her eyes as they walked out onto the street. "No, she tidied up the room next door, she blew something up in there a few months ago and only opened it up again last week." He opened his mouth to say something before shutting it at her expression. "Clueless. Utterly clueless." She repeated with that annoying little smirk of hers.
"There's nothing going on between us." Harry replied evenly. "We're just friends." Susan, stopped, ignoring the irritated looks thrown at her.
"Harry." She said seriously. "You do realise she was asking us for recommendations as to who might be suitable to be Lady Potter, right?" Susan said, giving him a bemused look. "After a few months of training together, we both know I'm not her, but I'm her first choice, which is flattering and all, but she's terrible at matchmaking..." Susan trailed off, before sighing at the look on Harry's face.
"I probably should have expected this." She muttered after a moment. "Merlin knows neither of you are particularly emotional or socially adjusted for that matter. But I guess being in a war will do that too you." She shook her head with a far-off look. "Look, Harry. I had a plan, I was going to point things out to you that would make at least one of you stop hiding from the other but I can't bring myself to do it. So, I guess what I'm going to say is this." She looked him in the eyes with the same look on her face that the criminals they'd brought in saw.
"I used to think you were our societies only hope, but you're not. Break her and I'll kill you, understood?" Harry nodded breathlessly and her mood did a complete one-eighty. "Good, now lets go and get you some clothes to look good in, shall we?"
Harry was far too busy thinking to worry about something so pedestrian as choosing his clothes so it was somewhat fortunate that Susan had good taste and knew what Hermione would like.
~ O ~
Granger Residence, Crawley
10:07 Saturday Morning
Seventeen days, Five hours till Operation M
"Long night?" Harry asked as Hermione made her way downstairs, catching sight of her damp ebon hair plastered round bleary eyes before the sizzling grabbed his attention back to the cooker. "Sorry if I kept you up. I had a lot to think about last night. Did you know there there wasn't any food in the house? Hermione?" He asked, about to turn round before a pair of petite arms circled round his waist.
"Smells nice." She mumbled into his shoulder before making some coffee on autopilot, substituting milk and sugar for a choice of the potions she had on a rack. Downing half a mug of the steaming concoction she smiled as if in heaven. "Mmmm."
Harry chuckled, flipping the hash browns onto a pair of plates before sorting out the bacon and beans. "Breakfast?" She took the plate, looked at it for a bit and asked the first thing that came into her head.
"Did you clean the kitchen?" Her head cocked to the side, a little like Luna's used to when she was trying to figure him out.
"Yes, did something explode in here or something, it was quite messy?" He smiled, brushing past her. "Now, I think I put the knives and forks away in here somewhere."
"Potions experiment that went wrong and lots of takeaways." She answered honestly. "I can make potions most of the time, but cook?" She shrugged. "Not one of my strongest points, even when I follow the instructions perfectly. I haven't had time to clean this place either."
"It shows." Harry said, as he started pushing her into the habitable room. "I'll clean what I can and don't worry about cooking tonight either, I'll pick some stuff up from the shops after I visit the Malfoy's..."
"You will?" She asked with an expression he couldn't quite place.
"Yeah, I've got to thank you somehow." She blinked and looked down as he held her seat out for her and placed cutlery in front of her. "If that's okay with you?" Hermione nodded mutely as she tucked in. Harry just watched her eat for a moment before tucking in himself.
"This is really good." Hermione informed him after she'd finished wolfing it down, taking a quick drink from her super-coffee. "You don't have to do this you know, it's my mess."
"I don't have anything else to do." Harry replied, pausing in his own breakfast. "What time did you go to bed last night?"
"About five this morning, Draco's potion was being awkward." Hermione muttered, spearing the last bit of his bacon, before deciding to change the topic. "I like the new look, I guess Susan chose it?"
"She said you'd like it." Harry said as he pushed his plate towards her for her to finish it off. "Are you doing anything tomorrow evening?"
"I'm sneaking into a ball to talk with some of my people and try and find something to write an article on, but I can get out of it if you need me." She replied, absently shuffling a couple of notes with a frown.
"It's not that important, I just wanted to take you out for a meal and talk about things." He asked, looking away.
"I'm not doing anything Monday afternoon. So, lunch?" Hermione asked, intrigued.
"Lunch sounds good, and I should probably get going. Oh, and you look good too." Harry said with a smile as he went to leave, leaving her to twist one damp lock of hair around her finger in puzzlement.
~ O ~
11:23 Saturday Morning
Seventeen days, Four hours till Operation M
"I'm sure this won't get back to the Lady Ravenclaw, will it?" Harry informed his account manager, putting the rings back into his pocket. The goblin in question tried to nod from where it was pinned to the wall by its own sword. Harry smiled, thanked it and walked out. He really needed that thank Hermione for her advice on how to deal with goblins. That and apologise for using her ritual circle to prepare a spell without asking her first. She'd gone all out on the one in her basement, it was really quite impressive.
Now, he merely had to sort out the rest of his life, well that and the Malfoys. He looked down at his balance sheet with a frown. It was a fairly large number and the bit that he could estimate the actual physical value of (the non magical currencies) was in the millions. Since he still had two hours before his appointment, perhaps he should brainstorm a few ideas. Come to think of it, Fred & George's shop sill appeared to be going strong, though they did appear to have changed the name.
Harry almost idly wondered if they were still selling love potions. The irony probably hadn't been lost on the wizarding public but you could never be sure where they were concerned.
~ O ~
Subdepartment of Family Affairs, Department of Records, Ministry of Magic
13:00 Saturday Afternoon
Seventeen days, Two hours till Operation M
"I believe that should be everything." Harry muttered as he finished reading the last document, intentionally signing it under the name 'Harry James Potter' before handing it back to the clerk. It would trivial to replace it later, when it was properly filed away. "Is there anything else that I need to do?"
The young woman shook her head, eyes fixed to the date recorded on the legal parchment. "Not at all Lord Potter, not at all..." Nodding at her, he turned to leave.
A platinum blonde leant on his cane by the Ministry statue, the minister himself chatting away idly as they spared the occasional glance towards the front door. "Looking for someone?" Harry asked somewhat rhetorically as the pair jumped.
"Ah, Mr. Potter, we heard you had an appointment today." Scrimgeour said as he recovered from the brief shock, Harry laughed.
"The Minister himself is waiting for me now?" He asked with a smile. "I didn't think I was quite that important. Ah, Lucius, just the person I wanted to talk too," He steamrolled right over whatever they were planning on talking to him about. "I want to see Draco, but I'd imagine the Healer's at Saint Mungo's wouldn't let me in without a member of his family present..." They'd already started gathering a crowd. "Since we're not legally family yet."
"I'm sure they would have made an exception in your case, it's the least we could do for you." Scrimgeour blustered self-importantly.
"I'm afraid, Mister Potter, that you've been misinformed." Lucius stated, trying to reconcile his expectation of an angry frustrated child with the confident man in front of him. An uneasy feeling settled in the pit of his stomach, things were going far too well. "Draco's currently at the Manor, we were expecting you yesterday..." He trailed off.
"The Manor." Harry exclaimed, trying his best to look shocked. "But Narcissa told me that he suffering from being without me surely..." Harry paused as his mind raced. "Surely you want him to have the best medical treatment available? Why isn't he at Saint Mungo's? Surely money isn't the issue..." The crowd, which now included noticeable members of the press, leaned in.
"We expected you to be there, Harry. My wife was quite put out when you refused our hospitality." Lucius shot back, tongue stumbling over his first name.
"I hardly think it would be proper for me to live with Draco before the wedding." Harry stated in shock. "Besides, it would have been exceedingly rude of me to turn down an old friend's offer of help. You should thank her, actually, she was the one that pointed out how lucky I am to have a bond like this with someone." His eyes never left Lucius' throughout his performance, which reassured the older man. It appeared that his prey was concerned about the bait but still suspicious of him, good. Lucius nodded to himself.
"Of course, have you thought of setting a date yet?" He asked firmly.
"Yes." Harry said giving them the date. "It's only a few days after I'm off the potions. It should be long enough to recover my sex drive without having to restrain myself for too long. Love potions are hell, but the detox is worse." He commented for the assembled press. "Now, why don't you get Draco to Saint Mungo's and I'll meet you there, we want to make sure that he'll recover fully don't we?"
Lucius really didn't have any choice in the matter. "Of course, I'll make sure that he has the best possible care." Harry nodded. As another species, Veela and Wizarding Healing were entirely different fields and Lucius' man would be the only person 'qualified' to work on Draco, as shunned as he would be. After all, as far as the upper echelons were concerned he was little more than a glorified vet.
~ O ~
20:58 Saturday Evening
Sixteen days, Eighteen hours till Operation M
"How long?" Narcissa asked as Lucius slipped into the room behind her, not even turning round to face him.
"Less than a month till the mourning will be over and we can go back to running the world." Lucius sighed, swirling the wine round his glass. "Damn Dumbledore and his incompetence." He shrugged. "Damn Voldemort too, whilst we're at it, he is the reason we're in this mess."
"You were the one that supported him." Narcissa spat, turning round to face him. "He is the reason Draco is such a..." She trailed off in frustration.
"Spoiled brat?" Lucius suggested. "I think you had as much to do with that as anything. Not that I didn't make my own mistakes, I thought my father a fool for using the cane. After all, I killed him for it, but now..." He snorted. "I will not waste another heir, you have no need to worry about that."
"I was going to say catamite." Narcissa bit out. "But yes, your other points are just as valid, we've already been over this."
"You are sure he's gay?" Lucius asked sadly.
"I looked up the effect of love potions on those already in love with the target." Narcissa said irritably. "You were quite right, the hyperactivity, overexcitability and constant spouting of how brilliant his love is, isn't normal. You remember, don't you, how he was all Potter this and Potter that?" Her knuckles turned white as her nails dug into the back of the couch. "With the potions he might as well be his slave, but we can't risk taking him off them on the chance he reverts back to pretending he hates the boy." She shot a dirty glance in her husband's direction. "This was only supposed to take a month. At most."
"This was before Dumbledore and that mudblood got involved." Lucius spat. "Even if she's so in love with the law that she's managed to convince Potter this is the best thing that has ever happened to him."
"I don't care." Narcissa pushed back. "Madame Bones refuses to hear a word against her and the goblins all seem to think she's the second coming. Personally, I'm more concerned that I haven't had a dinner invite in a month. Are you sure the others know that this is merely a charade." She glared at him. "It would have been much simpler to just kill him before he'd left a will."
Lucius sighed as his wife finally got on to the topic that had been bothering her. "I've dropped hints, there has never been a male veela recorded before, after all." He smirked. "It is quite curious why they're still attracted to males... They're joking about it behind our backs, but the Parkinsons have been less than discreet about the ingredients we're purchasing from them... They know, and after we pull this off they'll have no choice but to respect us." Lucius smiled, placing a tender hand over her belly. "We will not make the same mistakes with Anthony that we did with his brother."
"On the bright side." Lucius said after a brief moment of intimacy. "The brat won't be here or awake till Tuesday at the earliest. Perhaps we should enjoy ourselves?"
~ O ~
The Fox & Hound, Surrey
13:13 Monday Afternoon
Fifteen days, Two hours till Operation M
Hermione hummed appreciatively as she shuffled into his side. "That was really good." She commented idly after finishing off the last of his spotted dick and erecting their privacy wards. "What made you think of bringing me to a pub anyway?" She asked idly.
"With the amount of takeaways you've been eating Indian or Chinese was out, and I don't know any expensive restaurants." His arm sneaked round her back. "Also, these seats are wonderful."
She hummed her agreement before suddenly tensing just as he fingered the ring in his pocket. "Harry, you did take your potion, didn't you?" She asked a little nervously.
He sighed, running his hand along her back in an attempt to calm her down. "Yes, yes I did." Hermione pulled away from him with a puzzled frown on her face as she inspected him with tender eyes. "But I wish I wasn't." He finished absently.
"Why?" She asked, eyes fixing on his. "What's wrong?"
"I..." Words deserted him as he closed his eyes and tried to work out what to say. His fingers clenched around the rings that had been burning in his pocket for days. The wine he'd had with his meal, much to Hermione's amusement hadn't done anything to help his courage, or any else as far as he could tell.
Those lovely chocolate eyes stared into his with puzzled incomprehension. "It's not... Ginny is it?" She asked nervously. "The thing you wanted to talk about..." Harry blinked and she relaxed at his completely astounded expression. "Good because I was worried for a moment then that I'd have to get her out of prison or something and... say something, please?" She asked hesitantly as her rambling trailed off.
"I- I'm terrible at this." Harry admitted, looking away whilst fighting the urge to pull her closer. "It's supposed to be romantic or expensive or something and I didn't really have anyone I could ask for advice. Well, except for you, but that would kinda ruin the whole point of it." Hermione looked at him with confusion. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with and I can't even consider anyone else, so, err... Marry me?" He asked hesitantly as pulled the rings from his pocket.
Hermione stared at the plain gold bands held in trembling, sweaty, palms a part of her mind absently noting the mass of runes etched into their surface before it riveted on those pleading eyes. Her heart was hammering, never in a million years had she imagined that he'd ask her. She hadn't accounted for it, hadn't prepared for it and whilst everything she was wanted to say yes she couldn't. For his sake. "I..." He flinched seeing the decision in her eyes before she spoke. It broke what little empathy she had.
Her eyes watering, forcing her to take deep breaths. "Before I say yes." She felt a little soulless at the happiness that lit up his eyes. "You need to know some things about me. I haven't exactly been entirely truthful about things and I know you hate that so just let me explain and then if you still want me after that..." The sinking feeling in her stomach sat there like a stone at the happiness dancing in her eyes.
Harry held the ring up to her hand with a silly smile on his face. "You know I'm just going to ignore whatever you're going to say, so you might as well put this on anyway?"
Hermione eyed it nervously. "Just... hear me out, please?" Harry leaned back before sighing and nodding. "I..." She licked her lips hesitantly. "I'm not sure I'm capable of love." She admitted with trepidation thinking back to the time before this mess. "What I felt whilst under the potion was more intense than anything I've felt in my entire life." She paled. "I mean, I feel something for you, I know that... I can't bring myself to hurt you and I've killed for you. I'm not normal Harry. I know you want to be normal but I can't be."
"Everyone seems to have this intrinsic morality I just can't grasp." She looked away. "I can't see the difference between hurting or enslaving animals and hurting or enslaving humans, that's the only reason I made such a fuss about House Elves by the time I'd realised my mistake it was too late..." She trailed off as she fidgeted uncertainly "It's why rules are so important to me, they're the only way I have of telling what's socially acceptable and what's not." She paused. "I can't even be certain that what I feel for you is real. I don't care about what happens to anyone else. Well, I do, but it's..." She growled, glaring at the empty dishes in front of her. "It's really hard to verbalise."
"You love me." Harry stated plainly. Hermione looked away, unwilling to deny it.
"What is love?" She asked softly. "Is it obsession, devotion caused by the Debt I owe you, or a facet of my own twisted psyche? Some desire for control or safety?" She asked rhetorically. "It doesn't feel like the bottled kind."
"Does it have to?" Harry asked. "I know that I love you, and I know that the love I have for you is far, far different than what I was made to feel for her." His eyes met Hermione's. "I'm not perfect either, I'm very possessive for one thing." He smiled faintly. "Now I know what you mean to me I want to make you mine and never let you go. I don't want anyone else." He held the ring up.
"There's one other thing." Hermione said quickly. "I'm trying to take over the world."
"Well, mostly just the magical bits of Europe, but the world if I have to." Hermione carried on nervously. "And possibly not just the magical bits either once I've got enough money."
"I don't see how this is a problem." Harry stated Hermione just looked at him. "Are you going to try and slaughter magical creatures or commit genocide?" She shook her head slowly. "Okay, why don't you put this on and fill me in?"
Hermione looked at the ring, debating with herself as Harry slipped some bills onto the table and dismissed the wards. The gold band slipped onto her finger snugly as Harry's arms wrapped around her, their emotions mingling through the enchantment. "Mine." He said smugly as they apparated away.
~ O ~
Granger Residance, Surrey
14:01 Monday Afternoon
Fifteen days, One hour till Operation M
Hermione purred in contentment as her friend, confident and fiancee massaged her shoulders before moving down a bit and- "Eeep!" She let out as he pinched her sides, arms holding her tight against his chest as she tried to turn round and glare at him. "You'll pay for that." She stated with mock hurt.
"Maybe." Harry drawled from behind her, still sounding far too smug for his own good. "But I'll still have the best witch for generations in my arms." When he put it like that, she couldn't really argue with him so she settled for hummphing and using him as a pillow. "What made you decide to take over the world anyway?" He asked eventually.
"Well, you know how we lost the last two wars?" He didn't respond. "Honestly Harry, did you pay any attention in History?"
"I might have missed the lesson where defeating Voldemort lost us the last two wars because I certainly remember the victory party for the last one." He admitted reluctantly.
"Think of it like this: Who came out of both wars smelling like roses? Who leads the current government, and is seen as the spiritual successor to Dumbledore?" Hermione asked as she closed her eyes. "Then ask yourself this: what is Lucius Malfoy's attitude towards muggleborns and half-bloods?"
"Shit." Harry swore in realisation.
"Precisely." Hermione countered drolly. "He had enough power in our second year to force Dumbledore out of Hogwarts and that was before his 'actions' led directly to the demise of Voldemort. Turns out that whilst a bit of fear was good for their cause, outright slaughter and mayhem was just hurting the purebloods' image and agenda. So he and his buddies had Riddle's soul anchors removed just in time for you to finish him off." She sighed. "Someone's got to stop him before the magical world reverts to feudalism and muggleborn are plucked from their homes at birth and taught to be servants in a medieval world."
"You really think it would come to that?" Harry asked.
"It's either happening or has already happened across most of the continent. Well, apart from France, but most of their purebloods sided with the old monarchy so there's hardly anyone there that isn't a halfblood, muggleborn or part creature." She said with bemusement before turning serious. "He's already trying to pass laws and get a course into Hogwarts that would emphasis 'the duty of the nobility to their lessers'" She recited with a sigh. "So someone has to do something, and since I was planning on taking control of things so the Ministry wouldn't bother you or me, I figured I was the best person for the job."
"If you need help just say, I'm thinking of starting a few businesses and seeing if I can drag the magical world kicking and screaming into the new millenium." Harry said confidently. "You aren't doing this alone are you?"
"Of course not." She said with a faint smile. "Just like you started training your army in fifth year, I started training my followers too. I wouldn't be much of a Dark Lady without them would I?" She frowned. "I half expected you to know since Luna was always adamant that I was training her to be your Chief Minioness but she'd follow me until until you realised you needed her."
"I never really understood her either." Harry commented idly. "When can I meet them?" Hermione blinked and straddled him so she could look him in the eye.
"You're okay with this?" She asked in amazement.
"Of course I am, I gave up on being normal when Hannah told me I was a Nexus, if you bear that in mind it makes sense that person closest to me would be trying to take over the world, or tame dragons or something crazy. I do though, need to know who they are so I don't poach them for my own nefarious schemes." She giggled at that and leant down across his chest.
"Harry, you couldn't come up with a nefarious scheme if your life depended on it. But yes, you can meet them at the meeting this week." She said happily as he started running fingers through her hair. "I really should finish checking that ritual." She mumbled.
"Nefarious schemes are what I have you for." He muttered contentedly. "And what ritual do you need to check?"
"Just a cleansing rite that might get us off the antidotes a week early." She admitted. "But I'm comfortable here, and I should probably start work on faking that soul bond first, so we can use that law and..."
"Can I help?" Harry asked hopefully. Hermione smiled from where she was snuggled into his chest. "It's not like I have anything better to do."
"Of course you can, and if you want a laugh you can look at the potions Lucius is using on Draco. Only the best and most expensive controlling potions for a Malfoy, after all..." She trailed off. "You have to let me up first though."
"And why?" Harry remarked as his fingers darted to her ticklish sides. "Would I want to do that?"
~ O ~
Private Ward, St. Mungo's
09:13 Wednesday Morning
Thirteen days, Six hours till Operation M
Draco blinked as the off-white tiles swam into focus as he tried to swallow the carpet that had grown on his tongue. The faint rustling of a page and a muttered 'interesting' slowly brought his attention to the left.
"Apologies Lord Potter, but our charm said that Mister Malfoy has woken up?" A soft female voice asked from somewhere as Draco frowned. The ache inside his bones was familiar, very familiar and Harry shouldn't be here he'd-
"Oh, apologies, I'd just reached a very interesting chapter and didn't notice." That was definitely his voice but- Draco's thoughts were cut off as cold water lapped at his lips and he tried to drink in the heavenly liquid. The cup fell back as he struggled to get upright.
"How long..." Draco struggled to get out, not daring to look anywhere near those green eyes.
"You'll have to ask your parents that one." Harry replied evenly. "They only had you admitted here after I refused to live at the manor. Straight into my old room, somedays it feels like I'm never going to escape it." He stated wryly. "You look like shit by the way."
"I Feel like it." Draco replied, grabbing the offered cup. "Leave us." He ordered the nurse, glaring at her.
"Your mother said-" She tried to protest.
"I don't give a shit what my mother said." Draco spat out. "Neither of us are in a state to do anything." Harry nodded at her and she retreated warily. "Good." He muttered warily whilst finishing off the second cup. "Now put up some privacy wards, I need to tell you something."
The wards sprung up with a twist of his wand. "What is it you want to say?" Draco couldn't help but smirk at the hostility in that voice, the way it accented the muscles and soul of this new and vastly improved Harry Potter.
"You need to leave the country or kill me and my parents." He said steadily. "Or they'll kill you." Harry blinked. "I'm not a Veela Harry, as much as I'd like to be, hell, I'd accepted that I was never going to have you in sixth year." He caught his tongue. "Fucking amortentia. Did they really have to dose me with it again?" He almost cried.
"You knew?" Harry asked nervously.
"I worked it out the day after the meeting. I'm studying for a potions mastery, it's not what I'm best at, but you can't pursue a career in drawing and- garh. I hate that side effect. I'm just going to spill my soul and keep talking and-" Harry's hand covered his mouth, his eyes going wide at the touch.
"Don't worry," Harry said with that dashing smile, "I have a plan." Draco suddenly had that sinking feeling.
"You have a plan?" He asked a little hesitantly. "Did you come up with this plan? Or was it Hermione? Because I hope it was Hermione, the last plan you made I had to clean up your mess, replace half the potions because you'd brewed wrong, bribe the House-Elves to make sure they didn't notice and all the while hide the fact I was stalking you... I just said that aloud."
"That was you?" Harry asked with a frown, remembering that particularly hap-hazard prank in seventh year and how he'd believed Dobby had been helping him along. "And you let yourself get hit by that why?"
"It made you smile and you didn't do much of that that year." Draco replied honestly and blinked. "The interaction between Draught of the Living Death and Amortentia shouldn't produce something that compels me to tell the truth..." He trailed off. "Bloody cheapskates, you'd think with how much you were worth, not to mention how attractive you are they'd have kept me on it the whole time."
"How did you know you were dosed with the Draught?" Harry asked with a frown.
"After a month, it leaves an aching feeling in the bone as the body builds immunity to it." Slate grey eyes bored into jade green. "Tell me Hermione concocted this plan of yours?" Harry nodded and he relaxed. "Good. Now go back to your book and I'll try not to bother you with my incessant babbling. Merlin knows how difficult it must be to be in the same room as me."
"You're not that bad, Draco." Harry said as they lapsed back into silence. The blonde tried to ignore the feeling of ecstasy his comment gave him. After all, as far as he was concerned he only had a week or two left to live any other outcome was simply unthinkable.
~ O ~
Granger Residence, Crawley
14:15 Thursday Afternoon
Twelve days, One hour till Operation M
Hermione looked up from her notes with a frown. The last few days had been nothing short of amazing- the house was clean(ish), she'd been eating at least three times a day, Harry was brilliant and she'd never felt better. She didn't want it to end, but this might just do it. She compared the three sketches with a frown. None of them had lightning bolts on, so she couldn't eliminate any based on that. Maybe she should just ask him?
"Harry, can I ask your opinion on something please? The door's open..." She yelled out into the corridor.
"You want me to enter your sanctum?" He asked nervously from the threshold.
"Honestly, Harry I did ask you to." She said, rolling her eyes and holding up the three tribal tattoo designs she'd commissioned. "Now, which of these do you think looks best?" His eyes looked between them before settling on the swirling pattern of a raven with emerald eyes.
"I quite like this one, but what are you going to use it for?" He asked, taking them from her hands and taking a closer look. "None of them are something I'd put on the wall."
"I was thinking of maybe using one of them for a tattoo to give my followers." She half stated, half asked him. "This is the magic I was thinking of weaving into it." She held up the scribbled list of effects and the spells she'd eventually decided upon.
"Hermione." Harry stated with complete and utter amazement. "Are you seriously asking me for my opinion on your Dark Mark?"
"Maybe?" She replied nervously as he read through it.
"Have you considered adding the animation charm used on portraits to it?" He asked after looking through the list. She blinked. "And asking them which one they'd prefer? They are going to be the ones stuck with it on their skin so they should probably have a say in the matter."
"Harry, you're a genius." Hermione states firmly, making a bunch of quick annotations. "That vastly simplifies the entire equation..." She trailed off searching through piles of paper as Harry looked round the book-addled room.
"Thanks, I think." he said a little nervously.
"Now where did I put those notes..." She muttered, uncovering a box. "These aren't... didn't I give you these?" She asked herself rhetorically, handing the box to him. "These are the artefacts I've managed to identify so far, the most famous ones."
Harry looked down into the bottomless box and the mass of post-it note infected artefacts and sighed before his eyes caught onto one near the top. Did he dare? Tenderly lifting it from the box he read through the note she'd left on it. For such a small thing it had a lot of very interesting and nasty properties, especially that last one. Will anchor the soul to the body as long as it remains powered. Letting out a low whistle, he started feeding his magic into the bronze and gold strands, filling the ancient celtic work with life as the metal responded to his desire. Gold, silver and bronze hues filled the air as the olde artefact powered up. Now he just needed too... with a flick of a wand and a cheeky grin he silently incanted 'wingardium leviosa'.
Hermione stared at the equation she was resolving her math checked out but she couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right. Bringing the tip of the pen to her lips she frowned and looked up as something warm settled round her neck like a collar. "Harry," she found herself asking as reality had apparently taken a leave of absence with a flash of gold and a tingling feeling, "why is my hair flying?"
"It would have gotten in the way of your present." He said smugly as she sighed, reaching up to find what he'd just shoved round her neck only to stop as one of her books turned into a mirror. "Harry you'd better..." Her voice failed as she caught sight of her reflection, his hands resting on her shoulder as the magic visibly arced between them and the growing gold torc around her neck as the heads formed ornate wings spreading up and wrapping round her neck.
"Sorry I wanted you to see this, but couldn't remember the spell to conjure a mirror, but transfiguration is a lot easier." He trailed off as she didn't react. "You look like a queen." He muttered with a yawn as her hair fell back down around her shoulders.
Hermione struggled with herself for a moment before accepting what this meant and relaxing back into it. "It is a royal torc." She commented idly as she spotted the post-it note on the side of her desk. "Like an ancient version of a crown. You did read both sides of this, right?" She asked a little nervously.
"There was stuff on the other side?" Harry asked cluelessly, reaching to pull it from her hands as she crumpled it into a ball before he could get.
"Yes Harry, there was." She answered with a smile, turning to face him. Maybe it was for the best this way because for as long as it was around her neck she was his. "Do make sure you read it for the other ones before you try to use them on someone, you don't want to hurt someone on accident."
Harry pulled her closer as she snuggled up against him. "So what was on the opposite side of this one?"
"Just a few points on how its protection could be broken." She answered, saying nothing of the various loyalty runes etched deep inside its power for that might tempt him to release her, which certainly wasn't best for him. Or her. "It draws on your power to restore its energies when you're near or we're intimate, so if we're separated for any length of time it can be worn down and removed and if that happens, it will rip the soul from my body." There was silence for a moment as they leant into each other. "There's always a price for these sort of things."
"Well then," He said softly, "you're sleeping in my bed tonight." Her head jerked up at him in surprise.
"You just wanted an excuse didn't you?" She broke the mood forcefully, incineration the post-it behind her back as a grin crept onto his face.
~ O ~
Bones Manor, Uplottable
19:33 Friday Evening
Eleven days, Nineteen hours till Operation M
"You look fine Harry." She informed him for the third time as they walked up the path from the ward boundary. "Stop fidgeting and remember, it's just Susan's house."
"It's bloody huge." Harry exclaimed, "I feel like I should be wearing a suit and tie or... dress robes or something."
Hermione sighed as she fiddled with the straps on her backpack. "Honestly Harry you have more than five times as much money as the Bones family and when our plan concludes... Malfoy Manor is a larger than this one. Besides, we're here to have an informal meeting, party and engagement celebration with people who follow us, it's not like we're meeting the Queen or anything."
"Our money," Harry reminded her as he knocked on the door, "you have as much right to it as I do now, remember?" She nodded sheepishly as wizened weary form of Susan's aunt opened the door.
"No masks?" Madame Bones asked with equal amounts of human and exasperation. "Where are my manners, it's a pleasure to meet you again Lady Ravenclaw, Lord Potter I hope the young Malfoy will not be attending?" Their expressions were the only answer she needed. "Thank Merlin for that. Now then, I've..."
"Auntie was that the door?" Susan's voice yelled down the corridor.
"Yes, dear. They'll be along in a second." Amelia explained patiently, merely raising her voice. "I did the best I could by her you understand..." She trailed off and sighed. "I forget how young you are sometimes, I have been called many things in my years but never have I been called a fool. I remember how Dumbledore started, I remember how Voldemort started and I know just how many types of people are meeting under my roof today even if my niece insists on this idea of mask party." She sighed. "Treat Susan well, Lady Ravenclaw or I will show you just why Voldemort was hesitant to cross wands with me."
"Why wouldn't I treat her well?" Hermione mumbled with a frown. "Followers are the most important part, you have to train them, equip them and make sure they're happy because otherwise you don't have anyone to delegate to. You can't take over anything by yourself." She stated most self-righteously. "The mathematics of it just doesn't work."
Harry sighed and held her closer as Madame Bones had the grace to look flabbergasted. "Neither Dumbledore or Riddle where the best examples when it came to this sort of thing." He stated, trying to appease them both. "Now, where is the party?"
"Right down here." Susan stated as she stalked into the entrance hall. "I do hope you haven't been interrogating my guests of honour, have you Auntie?"
"Of course not," The ancient women stated smoothly, "thank you for satisfying my curiosity." Susan's glare followed her up the stairs and out of their sight.
"What took you so long?" She asked slightly bitterly, leading the pair down into the manor proper. "I was expecting you half an hour ago and I hate playing hostess."
"Sorry, bottling the potion took longer than we thought." Hermione answered with a shrug as they started making small talk.
~ O ~
The grand oak doors swung open as they approached, an enchanted gramophone playing rambunctious music over the chattering of voices. Ancient mahogany tables and chairs lined the sides with snacks, butterbeer juice and wine, leaving the center free for dancing or expression. The assembled crowd of about twenty people chattered, danced and joked behind their raven masks, they turned as group to see the newest . "May I present." Susan yelled from their side, the somber statement ruined slightly by her smirk. "Out guests of honour for the evening, our dutifully wedded overlords!"
A raucous cheer went up through the crowd as they turned on the pair. "You go mingle," Susan whispered to them, "and I'll go set up the security wards."
"Traitor." Hermione muttered under her breath before cutting off Harry's chuckle with an elbow.
"They're your minions." He muttered back, "Scary, scary Hufflepuff minions..."
"Followers, Harry, followers and I've got some Slytherin and Ravenclaw followers too." He gave her an odd look and she rolled her eyes. "Minions are disposable, followers can actually be given responsibility, hence the normal removal of Gryffindors from their ranks."
Harry's reply was cut off as a hyperactive blond chose to jump into the conversation. "Hello my Lord, I told Hermione you'd return eventually but she didn't believe me. She trained me very, very well for you, though I've only managed to acquire two other minionessess in your absence so if you want to appoint one of them as your Chief Minioness I won't mind." She smiled happily up at him from underneath her mask.
Harry blinked as Hermione was pulled away by a mask wearing Hannah. "Luna?" He asked with a frown. "Shouldn't you be in Hogwarts at the moment? Why are you my minion anyway?"
"This is an important party, so of course I'm here instead of Hogwarts, and I'm your Cheif Minioness because I could see that Hermione was your follower and I'm not quite at her level but you can't take over the world with just one follower and her followers. That makes them your minions by the laws of Evil Overlordship, by the way. So I decided that instead of going though Hermione, I'd be your minioness directly and since I got there first, that makes me the Chief Minioness. Or maybe the comic relief." She paused with a thoughtful frown before cocking her head to the side. "I'm not entirely sure which. Anyhow, it's good to have you back after you went away for a year or two." Harry blinked.
"If you knew I wasn't there, why didn't you bring me back?" Harry asked a little nervously.
Luna grimaced and looked towards the flaw. "Well, you see it's like this: I'm only allowed to break the fourth wall, it's Hermione that's the plot device. Besides I'm a minion, we're only supposed to do things when we've been ordered to. Maybe you liked being away? Taking over the world isn't for everyone inside your head."
"Right..." Harry drawled out.
"We're secure." Susan yelled out, breaking up the awkward moment. "Masks off everyone and we can get down to business before getting the party started properly." There was a half hearted cheer as half-feathered masks were thrown in the air.
Harry lost track of the ensuing chaos after Hermione's announcements preferring instead to marvel at the diversity of her little group. Admittedly it was a mostly female group. Neville was hiding in a corner along with MacMillan and what Harry thought was a former Ravenclaw, a slightly younger clone of Cedric had been procured by Hannah's crowd to be their token boy. As for the rest... well. If this had been the DA, he'd have called it the Girl Defense League. Daphne rather smugly pulled out how she'd managed to alter the last set of laws her boss asked her to file whilst simultaneously asking for help with a way to avoid his advances. He had to snicker at Neville's attempts to hide at that point.
Come to think of it, pretty much every non-sycophantic Slytherin female to graduate in the last two years was in the room. That was scary.
"Lastly." Hermione called out over the crowd as copies of the drawings were passed round. "I've designed a rather interesting spell I'd like to use, it's partly inspired by the dark mark Voldemort used and the crystal tear pendants Dumbledore used for his followers. Basically it's a tattoo that's sort of alive, and should let you communicate with anyone else wearing one from the same batch of ink." She shrugged. "That's the basis of it anyway, I've woven in a number of other enhancements that should help, I've got a list somewhere. So, err, anyone want one?"
"Dibs." Hannah claimed, happily putting herself forward before stopping in front of her. "Err, which bit of me are you going to tattoo? And I'll take a green eyed raven."
"On the back of the neck." Hermione replied faintly, as confused as Harry was that she was basically walking up and asking for such a thing. Hannah carried on smiling as she spun a chair round and sat in front of her, pulling her hair back for Hermione to get a clear look at her target.
"Right, this might feel a little uncomfortable." Hermione informed as she started the spell. The Elder Wand was swirled around in a mystically prepared potion before being pressed firmly against the young healer's neck as Hermione's chant crescendoed. There was no thunderclap, no sparks, no obligatory slaughter of the innocents. Just Hannah's frozen look of wonder.
Then she giggled. "Was that it?" She managed to asked as Hermione started panicking behind her.
"It should have been." Hermione said frantically as her eyes darted all over the girl. "But it's... disappeared!"
"No it hasn't." Hannah said with a grin. "Nice panties Susan." Everyone turned to her as the redhead look down and screamed. There on the floor was a tiny, ink-black raven made of shadows. Susan's sensible shoe squished it quite firmly, only to see the shape fly across the floor, up Hannah's leg and onto the back of her hand before reforming so she could pet it. "Hermione, you're a genius."
"I think I used the wrong wand..." Was her only reply.
"Well I don't care." The affronted Susan stated firmly. "I'm next." She said, dropping firmly into the seat whilst glaring daggers at the blonde. Hannah just smiled and began the explanations.
"It feels like what I always believed having a familiar would feel like, cute, flying, lets me see through his eyes and isn't a bother when I don't need him." She trailed off dreamily. "It's like having an extra pair of senses to fly a -Eep." She jumped reaching down to the hem of her skirt to grasp something as tiny raven flew away cawing happily as Susan stalked towards her. "You complete and utter-" Whatever she was going to say was cut out when Susan seized her jaw and dragged her into a toe-curling kiss. "Glorious lady?" Hannah said after being released as the rest of the crowd cheered with a few muttering 'finally' in the background.
Hermione just looked confused.
The last of her followers slinked away to join the throng, allowing her to relax into her intended's arms. "What have we learnt today?" He asked her as she turned to let him rub soothing circles into her back.
"Not to use ancient superweapons for basic charmwork?" She muttered. "Oh, and using them for long periods is rather tiring. You're going to have to do me." She held out the Elder wand for him to take." She could almost feel him raise an eyebrow behind her back. "A communication system isn't exactly efficient if the leader isn't on the network."
"Fine, but if I mess this up, it's your own fault." He muttered in irritation, reaching for her notes. "I should have realised this was going to happen when you had me read over and check everything." Dipping the wand in the last of the ink he started chanting with a smirk on his face.
The caw of the large inky raven with adorable brown eyes and a gold torc round it's neck made everyone in the hall look up to watch it. Hannah, with one of Susan's arms firmly round her waist, smirked at the chance to cause mischief and hoisted her glass into the air. "For the Raven Queen!" She yelled.
"For the Raven Queen!" The cry echoed around the hall, settling the new Dark Ladies' name for all concerned. It was a name that would send the governments of the magical world insane for decades to come.
"Now business has concluded," Susan yelled as the voices died down to an acceptable din. "It's time to get round to the real reason for this meeting; the engagement party for our King and Queen!"
Harry and Hermione managed to share one terrified glance before their 'minions' descended upon them bearing alcohol and gifts.
~ O ~
Granger Residence, Crawley
?:? Saturday Something
Elevenish days till Operation M
Hermione groaned and shifted as her arm pawed at warm mattress. That her cuddly thing was gone slowly filtered through her headache and aches. She hadn't felt like this since... since her medical check up a few months ago. "How much did I drink last night?" She asked as a thin streak of light stretched into the room.
"Not much, but Hannah got you to drink a shot or two as part of a dare with Susan." Harry whispered, laying a tray down beside the bed, the smell of caffeine both alluring and revolting. "Then when we came back here, you decided it would be a brilliant idea to do a purification ritual to get it out of your system. I tried to make sure you didn't make any mistakes but then, well, you dragged me into the circle. I'm not sure what it was supposed to purify, but it didn't get rid of the alcohol." Hermione blushed as snippets of the morning filtered through from her subconscious.
"Oh." She said softly, slowly rising as it twigged just why she was aching down there. "Somehow, I don't think that was my intention at the time." She blushed.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I half guessed that after you mentioned it being after midnight and therefore according to schedule right before you pounced on me." He smiled wistfully. "I found a hangover potion in that rack of potions you keep, it's in the coffee."
"You are a lifesaver." Hermione muttered as she took the Beverage of Kings and proceeded to consume it. "That means we only have one ritual to do today and then nothing for the entire weekend."
"Would that be the arabic one you had a bunch of notes on down there?"
"Yep, I've been doing the preparation for it in my own time. It should forge something close enough to a soulbond that whoever's checking it shouldn't be able to tell the difference." Hermione explained. "Not that there's ever been a recorded soulbond that hasn't been exceedingly dubious."
"But I thought most arabic rituals of this kind involved large numbers of women?" Harry speculated from what little he could remember (most of which was mixed in with muggle fiction references).
"They do." Hermione said as she let the sheet slowly slide down her body as she looked for clothes and he lost all track of the conversation. "But after it's finished we can get on with other things. The ministry won't open till Monday, after-" She cut off as a fluffy green light hit her from Harry's wand. "What was that?" She asked as the aches and pains slowly faded.
"Healing charm Hannah taught me." He said with a smirk as another flick banished her clothes across the room and advanced across the room towards her. "We have time, right?"
~ Censored ~
Department of Records, Ministry of Magic
14:53 Tuesday Afternoon
Seven days, Twenty-three hours till Operation M
"Application for License to Sell Proprietary Family Secrets?" Susan asked with a raised eyebrow as the clerks of the entire department frantically fell over themselves in an attempt to fulfill Harry's abnormal requests. It was the most exciting thing that had happened all year as far as they were concerned, the Man-Who-One licensing his secrets for resale!
"A patent by any other name, but I figure that if the Diggory family can get away with patenting and selling elevators, then I can get away with patenting and selling pens and paper." Harry replied seriously. "I've already got quite a few ideas on enchants to be put on them as well. Origami, paper airplanes, anti-cheating, reusable homework scrolls or books, that sort of thing. That's ignoring the mint I can make from printed books instead of charm copied ones."
"That sounds suspiciously muggle." Susan noted as she watched the chaos outside their silencing charm.
"It is." Harry stated firmly, "But so are elevators and trains. They were just stolen by enterprising purebloods and sold for profit, don't worry though the results will be purely magical and fulfill the law to the letter."
"The law is an unreasonable, conservative piece of crap that'll make it illegal for anyone else to even think of selling something similar to you. You'll also be putting the parchment makers out of business, which will piss off the tanners, and the farmers who can no longer sell the hide and..." She trailed off with worried expression. "Well, a lot of people."
"Yes." Harry replied evenly. "But they have neither the money nor the influence to do anything about it and-" One of the clerks broke through the silencing bubble with a faltering smile.
"Here are the files on the Wizarding Wireless you requested, Lord Potter, as well as the similar applications. I've always wondered about the name, I mean why would it need wires anyway?" She seemed positively bemused by the very idea. "Forgive me I don't normally get to meet anyone so important but, third daughter you see, but is it true that your family had a spell to construct parchment out of wood?" She seemed almost incredulous.
"Something like that." Harry replied as he felt an invisible hand slip some other pieces of parchment under the pile he'd just been given. "Thank you." He dismissed her with a curt nod before at the papers he'd been slipped.
"What am I a piece of chopped liver?" Susan asked with a huff. "Ignoring a- why are you signing those?" She asked nervously as Harry finished off an elegant Hadrian Daniel Potter on what looked to be a concubine registration form for one Draconica Malfoy. "That's..." Harry slid the paper to the side and it vanished.
"Anything else?" He asked with a sardonic smile in Susan's direction as she gaped at him.
"Yeah, make sure you apply for shop space in Diagon, that can take several months to go through." Hermione whispered from the space behind him before giving him a hug from behind.
"The laws just say they have to be filed in the department don't they?" Susan said with a sudden flash of understanding. "They never mention who has to do the filing and since everyone here is paid to report on things... damn." She muttered under her breath. "You're not even doing anything illegal."
"That's the best bit." Harry said as he sorted through the rest of the files. "This is looking good, very good..." He muttered "Well, not good for current society but good for us, the main decider in the licensing appears to be blood status as opposed to viability or usefulness. The wireless for instance was applied for twelve times by muggleborn before it was finally granted to a pureblood in fifty-eight. Now, have you managed to find anymore loopholes in those laws yet or do we need to find someone else half-trained in law to go through them?"
Susan sighed and looked down at the business laws she was supposed to be scrutinising. "It's just so very dry..." She muttered and carried on looking for ways they could set up a front organisation or at the very least a shell company. Personally she thought it would be easier to undermine the treaty enshrining Gringott's as the sole bank, but since none of the other Ravens had legal training she was stuck with it.
~ O ~
Malfoy Manor Grounds
10:13 Saturday Morning
Three days, Four hours till Operation M
"You'd think they were glad to be rid of me." Draco's dry wit summed up the last ten minutes rather well as they stalked down the Malfoy gardens to the front gate. "I apologise profusely for the snubbing and barely concealed dislike, the finer points of subtlety appear to have been lost to my parents of late."
Harry snorted. "Well they were Slytherins. Everyone knows that Hufflepuff is the House of the subtle." He paused to admire the view. "This is a very nice manor though, ignoring the pretentious bits."
"The giant crest over the doors is a bit much, yes." Draco admitted. "Where are we heading off to today, oh noble custodian of my heart?"
"Well, since we've only got what, four days until the ceremony?" Draco nodded, not really appreciating the reminder as they cleared the wards. "I figured I'd show you where I'm living right now."
- CRACK -
"And, of course introduce you to my wife." Draco's mouth was hanging open.
"This is very... muggle looking." He trailed off absently as his mind caught up with the sudden apparition. "Wait, did you say wife?"
"Hey Harry, why didn't you-" Hermione said as she poked her head out of the door. "Oh, of course, the wards would have fired him. Why don't you get back to starting up the business and I'll take care of our little problem here."
"Little problem?" Draco asked nervously as Harry disappeared from his side after one last look of pity.
"Well, you're the one that would know. Now, I'm going to need some blood to key you into the wards." She said steamrolling over his objection as she acquired some sort of glass tube with a thin bit of metal sticking out the end. "When are you expected back at the manor?"
"Evening at the earliest, but after my parents are abed if I can manage it... What the hell is going on?" Hermione threw him a patronizing look and sighed.
"He didn't tell you did he? You know that plan he mentioned?" Draco nodded slowly. "We're doing that." She stated firmly.
"The trouble is that he hasn't told me what the plan is, now since the only one I can think of that doesn't involve my death is getting someone pregnant and I'm not sure I like the idea of err, doing that with someone you, of all people, have chosen. Even if it is for Harry's sake." Draco muttered nervously.
Hermione blinked, then raised an eyebrow. "You think I'd conspire to get you pregnant?" She looked at him astounded.
"Well, it would be the logical option." Draco explained in a drawl. He might have been in love with Harry, but now it was just her he was steadily getting his cool back. "Please tell me it's not you." There was the glint in her eyes as she strode up to him, raised her hand and-
"I'm married." She said firmly as his world went black. "And you're still an arrogant dick, no matter what Harry says." She muttered, lowering her hand whilst the other placed a notice-me-not ward around the body. She had preparations to make.
~ O ~
Hermione's Ritual Room & Dungeon, Crawley
19:31 Saturday Evening
Sixty-Seven Hours till Operation M
"I thought I wouldn't enjoy this." Hermione said as she ran a hand through the blonde's hair. "Turns out the Arabians are a lot better at ritual design than I gave them credit for, I'm rather looking forward to tomorrow now." Her eyes trailed downward and as Malfoy struggled against the magical bonds holding her down as a nipple was tweaked, a dark gleeful smile filling her face. "It looks like you are too."
"Mmm-Mhmm Mumph." Draco tried to get out through the gag. "MMMMMmm-mp!" The last bit added as there was a faint knock on the door.
"Are you okay in there?" His would be saviour asked, the dulcet tones doing things to his new body that Draco really didn't want to think about right now. "You missed lunch, and dinner. I know you don't want me in there till everything's done... but I'm worried about you."
"I'm fine Harry, just finishing up for the day." Hermione yelled back as Draco tried to get anything at all out through the gag. "I just got a little distracted, I did have some food down here already that I heated up and ate whilst some of the changes went through."
"By food you mean microwave meals don't you?" Harry's tone was accusatory. "I know we've had this conversation before but they're not good for you. I could have made something for you know how much I enjoy cooking for you..." He trailed off.
"Just give me a minute and you can scold me all you like. Well, more like an hour." She added as an afterthought before that little glint entered her eyes that made Malfoy still from underneath her. "With the way this is going I'm going to be exceedingly hot and sweaty and every so slightly horny, so maybe we could have our little conversation in the shower?"
"Tease." Harry shot back, amused.
"You're the one that interrupted me." She shot back and the hope in Draco's eyes died as the laughter trailed off down the corridor. "Don't worry little one." She whispered softly. "It'll stop feeling so wrong soon. I hope." Hermione took the last vial of blood she'd 'recovered' from Harry last night and daubed a rune on Draco's forehead from where her newly-female form was staked and bound inside the ritual circle.
With the careless ease of half a years practice, a cage on the other side of the room opened a bunny was summoned into Hermione's waiting palm. "Runes & circle, check, wards," A faint hum sprung up around the circle. "Yeah, they're working, vessel," Her eyes darted down to Draco. "Properly prepared... I've got the sacrifice here..." The bunny gulped. "What am I forgetting?" She frowned. It was rather cute, even if he was currently terrified out of his wits. "Oh yeah, the Crown." Hermione reached out to her pile of stuff before placing a silver tiara onto her head. "Let's do this."
"Il-N'gum N'gash, Nil'thelum I'cn. Da'vi Mi'cun E'ton De'cu-" And that was about as far into the chant as Draco got before he became more concerned about the heat, smell of brimstone and the fact that he was inside the bloody circle. Not to mention that Ms Goody Two-Shoes could apparently speak fluent demonic.
Conscious returned slowly and sensually, like every little nerve was on fire but what she focused on, really, really focused on, was the feeling of something stroking against her firm and hard- "Bad tail." A quick jab of pain disabused her of the idea that she still had a penis and Nic'milon'Thel-as Malfoy opened her eyes to the world. There was also this cute rubber gag in her mouth.
Rubber and latex really had to be her favourite invention of the last- She frowned. Everything was all jumbled in her head and she was definitely mortal. How strange. "Huh, never seen a Succubus frown before so I guess it's you in there 'Nica?" Hermione asked and she nodded before remembering that she was still mad at her for, well, turning her into a (very attractive thank you very much) young women and then sticking succubus inside her soul. Or something. "And now you're glaring at me. Well, you see, the Malfoy's claimed you were a Veela, and they are exceedingly difficult to make, it takes at least a generation or two of breeding so I figured I'd go for the next best thing. Succubae can look like any female they want to and- would you control your bloody tail? That thing is friskier than Harry when he's drunk, seriously." Now she could see her blood gorged spade of a tail she let it drop and sweep round so that it would come up under- "Umbridge." The offending appendage went limp as Draconica's eyes diluted in terror.
Hermione rolled her eyes as the young part-demoness whimpered in terror and let up on the Crown's curse. "As I was saying, Succubae can look like any female they choose, including a Veela and also have the allure. But we still needed you to be you for the legal side of our plans and so I came up with this. The control rituals I used are still working and we can hold off oon fully binding you until the next sunset..." Hermione mused to herself. "I need to take you shopping first since first impressions are everything and I still haven't brewed that lust potion to give to Harry..." Hermione's hands started working on releasing her from her containment as she thought.
"You will not fight me, nor will you tell anyone what happened here. As far as the rest of the world is concerned you are still Draco Malfoy and you will keep everyone convinced of this. You will believe I'm working in Harry's best interest." Hermione rattled off, enforcing the orders through the Crown. It wasn't permanent, or the imperious curse, but it would last until the wedding at least. She could have hoped that the love potions would be enough, but love made people irrational and desperate, hopefully that set of commands would prevent the more harmful actions she could take.
An idle flick of her wrist summoned the Pendant of Illusion she'd crafted with Malfoy's blood. Her current blood would be similar enough that she registered as a Malfoy for all intents and purposes... which was good. The necklace slipped round Nica's neck and fastened with a click. A very male Malfoy was suddenly standing in front of her even as the air was cut by her tail. "How can I help?" Her voice was sultry, lustful and so very feminine.
"I'll just fix that." Hermione said, muttering a quick spell under her breath with the elder wand. "Say something?"
"I, err," She sounded like a him and it was... wrong, on so many levels. "I don't want Him to see me like this." She said nervously, arms crossing over herself to make sure that she was still herself.
"Well, I'll go and distract Harry whilst you sneak out. Make sure you're back here at about ten tomorrow morning, once I've gotten you some clothes I'll present you to him. Okay?" Nica nodded nervously.
Hermione sighed and started heading upstairs. She was horny, tired, covered in sweat and blood and she really needed to relax. Well, judging by the way her husband's worry trailed off as she left her clothes across the landing the cleaning might take somem time.
~ O ~
Victoria's Secret, Guildford
11:22 Sunday Afternoon
Fifty-One Hours till Operation M
"You lucky bitch." Susan said under her breath as 'Nica slinked her way back into the changing room, tail swaying provocatively as her skin shimmered back to it's natural copper scales. "It's fully prehensile?"
"I believe so." Hermione muttered, looking through the pile of clothes Susan had thrust in her direction. "Do I really need to try these on?"
"Of course you do." Susan said aloud before carrying on under her breath. "What do you mean you don't know? It's bigger than most of mine and Hannah's toys."
"I can't believe we're talking about my- my-" Hermione trailed off, trying to think of just what the half-demon girl was to her. She'd been all set to hate her but with the personality adjustments from having most of a demoness inside her and they rituals they'd both undergone whilst doused in Harry's blood it was hard not to get hard in her presence.
"Concubine." Susan supplied. "Well, technically she's Harry's concubine but I'm sure he'll get you two to play with each other, I would." She said slightly huskily.
"Can we not talk about her tail in public." Hermione said sullenly, looking back down at the slinky things that had started this arguement. "This is supposed to be a nice trip to get her some clothes that'll stop Harry thinking 'that's Malfoy in there', when did I start having to try things on?"
"Think of it as a bonding exercise." Susan rolled her eyes. "Like I said, if you're going to do this, you need to match. That means coordinating underwear as well as overwear and-" Her eyes narrowed. "Something just occured to me." She carried on as she drew her wand.
"What are you doing?" Hermione raised a hand, ready to defend herself there was a small caw from the floor. "Did you just try to look up this blasted skirt?" Unfortunately that moment of indignation was enough of a distraction for Susan to get off one very nasty charm that made her gasp.
"Like I said, you have to match." Susan went on as her Lady stammered in indignation. "Now get in there and try that little black lace set on, you can thank me later." She said, before shoving brunette into the other changing room. Her raven chirped a question as it flew back up her skin. "Of course I'm putting this in the pensive." She muttered under her breath. "You think I wouldn't show Hannah this? Besides, it's brilliant blackmail material." It chirped it's agreement before settling back into place as unmoving ink. "You do have to love hair vanishing charms..." She said to herself as the pair emerged, one protesting a lot more than the other.
Maybe she could get them to pose? Hmm. The raven slipped down her arm and disappeared to form on her lovers' many miles away, Hannah really needed to get here as soon as possible.
~ O ~
"Is this really necessary?" Harry asked as Hermione pressed herself against him with a satisfied hmmm, the thin cloth of her little black dress running silkily across his bare chest. She'd banished him from his-, he crushed that thought with difficulty as his lower parts clenched at her... straying fingers. How hard was it to tie a bloody blindfold?
Okay, well, she'd banished him from her old room to make some adjustments before coming out wearing, well, had there been any other male in the house he'd have maimed them on general principle. He shivered as her hands ran up a down the silken pajamas she'd asked him to wear for this. "All done." She said smugly, pulling him sharply forwards as the door creaked open.
It was like falling into a sauna, warm, most and the scent of some heady incense filled everything as his love spun him round and threw him back onto the bed with a giggle, immediately pinning him down as someone closed the door. There was a faint rustling of cloth and the women on top of him mewed as she ground against him, her mouth pressing against his for a moment before he bucked up and to the side, forcing their faces apart. A second pair of legs dropped down to pin his as he reached up to pull the blindfold from his face to see something he'd never have imagined.
The girl who had been trying to kiss him was writhing and whimpering as Hermione caressed her from behind, the dull light playing off the black lace and ruby collar round her neck even as it played off the gold of Hermione's torc. Blonde and brown hair mixed as they collapsed to either side of him, their matching sets of lingerie doing things that a pair of hands didn't help. Part of his mind registered the tail, the horns and slight shifting of the other girls features as the rest focused on Hermione nibbling on his ear. "Like my present?" She whispered with a smug need as his hand came up her back. His magic answered it for her. "Tonight we're yours. Whatever you want, just ask." She breathed out, eyes darting downards, "And we'll do it."
Harry struggled to think as the two very attractive women started making out with barely concealed glances in his direction. "What's in the incense?" He struggled to ask. Hermione's answer was lost as the blonde pulled his pajamas down with her teeth.
- CENSORED -
Large Bed, Granger Residence, Crawley
?:? Monday Morning
Nica smiled as she buried into her Master's side, eighteen dull mortal years mixed with the experiences of an emotional construct called forth in the name of lust and perversion. She was whole, with sentience and vitality and... it was a glorious feeling. She could feel it so clearly, the bonds holding her to her Mistress and the one holding her Mistress to her Master, so close to freedom and yet... she no longer wanted it. If it hadn't been for the lust potion in the candle she'd have been able to sneak away whilst they were occupied but, well, that tail of hers really, really liked Mistress.
She blushed at the memory, it had almost been like... The mostly demonic girl sat bolt upright, looking between the 'mortal' wizard who she'd really, really enjoyed serving and the slow steady smile of her Mistress. A Torc was a form of crown and if the loyalty bond she could sense was correct, it had been given. There had been a bow somewhere in that ritual room too, an old bow from times when the world was young. All that was missing was the white horse, but horse was somewhat subjective and her natural hair colour was blond and...
The demi-succubus blushed. Nope. That sure as hell wasn't it, she wasn't a form of transport, even if she'd been ridden all night. Shit. She was supposed to be pretending to be some kind of male. Well, childish spoiled rich brat if she was being honest with herself and her mortal self rarely had. But she couldn't really complain, having access to human magic would make correcting this mistake a lot easier. Right after she'd done her duties for the day.
It was strange, slinking out of bed and away from her summoner. Then again she was more than a glorified sex toy this time round and her mortal side was full of knowledge of the roles she could and possibly should fill with a blush even as a smirk crept its way onto her face.
~ O ~
Granger Residence, Crawford
11:15 Monday Morning
Twenty-seven hours till Operation M
"Tease." Harry shot back as a bolt slid across the door to the bathroom, locking his positively glowing wife inside without him. Last night had easily been the best night of his life, even if she'd drugged him. He shook his head as he descended down the stairs. Somehow he'd make it up to her, right after he worked out just what he'd done to deserve such a wonderful person as his wife.
His face fell as he entered the dining room, plans to cook Hermione the best breakfast she'd ever had crashing and burning at the sight of the kitchen. Half-vanished splotches of fat warred with burnt bits of bacon, messes of half-cleaned frying pans and a few niggling bits of flour stuck to old potion spills that negated cleaning charms.
All his carefully laid plans. All his cleaning, up in some chaotic attempt by someone to do something. Harry twitched. The kitchen was his territory, dammit. Then he found the note. 'Nica, the other girl from last night had apparently gotten it into her head that, as a mistress, she should have a role in the household staff.
Alas, a lifetime of luxury does not prepare you for the duties of a maid, or the general problems with cleaning charms. Harry sighed, why did everyone assume that cooking potions were similar?
"Not a cooked breakfast?" Hermione teased as she slinked downstairs, trying to work out what the smell of lemons was. "After all I did for you last night?" Harry snorted and handed her the note.
"Unfortunately your little present decided to try and be a House Elf." He told her with a long suffering smile. "All those Masters and Mistresses." Hermione nodded as she read the note. "You should have seen the kitchen earlier. We'll just have to tell her tomorrow. Wait, that's tomorrow, isn't it?" Harry stated with a sigh as he sat down opposite her. "Everyone is still expecting it to be a wedding too, are you sure we shouldn't have changed anything?"
"We'll be fine." Hermione said with her darkest, self-satisfied smirk as her arms curled round his waist. "It's all accounted for in the plan. We are going to change the political landscape, alter the past and set it up for them to lose everything with a couple of words." She walked over to one of the cabinets, flicking through bits of parchment and paper with a focused expression. "Do unto others before they do unto you, use their plans and political power against them before they use it against you."
She held up the papers and presented them with no little amount of pride, just like she'd presented her assignments for all those years. 'Operation M' was written in neat elegant script followed by the most ingenious plan Harry had ever read.
~ O ~
Malfoy Manor Grounds
15:00 Tuesday Afternoon
It was the event of the century. Abraxans grazed along the edges of the pavillion as a who's who of the magical world looked on with bated breath. The Diggory's, the Browns and other families of the Light standing peacefully alongside the likes of the Bulstrodes and the Selwyns. Gathered for the first time in unity for a union of their two ideals. Harry smirked asDraco Malfoy, dressed in the crispest white tux anyone had the good fortune to lay eyes on finished his walk up the aisle to his side. The eyes of the crowd seemed drawn of their own accord to his gently swaying form.
The 'veela' gave him the shyest little smile even as the elder Malfoy's beamed on with smiles of victory and avarice. The press looked on with ill-disguised glee at their ability to be here. Rita, hovered nervously near the back, for once lacking her infamous Quick-Quotes-Quill. Even the technicians of the Wizarding Wireless were hurriedly fiddling with their spells to catch the saying of vows for posterity. Or at least for the squealing fangirls whose letters had been spread all over Witches Weekly.
Hermione gave him a nod as she slipped into the back of the throng and he relaxed, everything was arranged and 'Nica shifted under the illusion as his hand slipped down her silk covered back to rest firmly on her ass, tail hidden by the suppression bracelet round her wrist.
The organs faded, the clapping died out, and a paralysis charm hit the priest. It was time for Harry to do what he did best. Turning to the crowd, he smiled, discarded the speech he'd had written, and improvised.
"Before we begin." Harry said calmly, staring down at the seated onlookers. "I would like to say a few things. I know it's not traditional but anyone who knows me will know that I've never been much for tradition." That got a good few laughs, a couple more nervous than others.
"Before I am joined with the beautiful person before me." His lips quirked up in memory and 'Draco' blushed. "I wanted to clear the air. I'm sure you all have suspicions and the feeling that there is something not quite right here." Silence greeted his words. "And you would be correct." Behind him the Malfoy's paled, rumours broke out amongst the crowd. "Had I known what I know now, there is no way I would have snubbed Draco here the way I did, nor would I have defended the Weasley's so readily."
"It is a sad fact that as humans we tend to judge others by how they appear on the surface. Lucius here," He gestured behind him. "Spent years under the imperius curse, that changes someone, ten years out of Hogwarts and all he knew was aiding the Dark despite how much he knew it was wrong and would cost his family." Harry shook his head. "I have never felt more ashamed than when I realised just what happened. An old line with potent creature blood running in its veins was turned away from those who would normally help because they didn't agree with his friends or his business, ignoring that since he left Hogwarts he'd had no choice. Over twenty years of hiding can be laid purely at the Light sides doorstep. For once, they can't blame Dumbledore for it either."
Fear stole its way into their hearts. Lucius looked at Narcissa with a faint expression of confusion. The Light looked at each other in puzzlement, almost dying to race to their feet and claim he'd been cursed. But he held them in the palm of his hand. This was the Harry Potter the sorting hat had seen all those years ago. 'You could be great in Slytherin, you know...'
"These two people have sacrificed so much for our community, their information, their actions..." Harry shook his head, ignoring the pale silvered scar on his arm that would never heal, and the young girl whose mind had shattered under possession as the lies slipped from his tongue. "Did more to bring Voldemort to his ultimate demise than any other we know. For that I thank them."
"I would like to blame my youth for how I belittled and suspected them over the years." Harry stated with complete severity. "But I know myself better than that. Had fate not intervened, I too would have continued believing the worst of them. For that I apologise. Had I accepted Draco's hand that day, the world would be a vastly different place." The crowd looked on in shocked silence.
"I'm not finished." He said with a spark of humour, culling the conversations before they began. "I would like to thank the Houses of Crabbe and Goyle for their work in protecting Draco from what could have happened, though I imagine the allure made things... difficult, for their Heirs." Harry said with a crooked smile. "I apologise for any rumours I may or may not have spread about their sexual preferences."
"Oh Shit!" Tonks yelled from the back row, covering her mouth with her hands as her eyes went wide in realisation.
"I would also like to apologize to the other young men in my year, the year above and the year below, both for depriving you of Draco's delicious company, but also because that allure must have really confused those of you who aren't immune to it." He laughed, causing the young man next to him to giggle slightly.
"I'm almost done." Harry said with humour as the whispers started back and forth. "The last person I'd like to thank is perhaps the most important. Hermione, my soulmate and, on many occasions, my common sense. She has saved my life on more than one occasion and I can only grovel at her feet for how well she's accepted this." The world froze as the purebloods noticed her presence for the first time, the pair staring into each others eyes as the more observant broke through the notice-me-nots on their wedding rings. "For though I was initially against this entire thing, I will forever thank her for reminding me of one simple fact. There is no such thing as a male Veela. My dear, would you do the honours?"
Nica smiled up at him. Lucius's face was contorted into a look of dawning horror as his son pulled a wand through the fabric of his trousers and ruined their lives with one clear feminine command. "Finite."
A collective gasp went through the crowd as the illusions fell. "May I present to you," Harry started as she slipped her wand back into her pantyhose through the slit in her sleek white dress, "for the first time in public, Draconica Malfoy." The young women was radiant in her shape-shifted form, brilliant blue eyes and glorious blonde hair shimmering in the sunlight. There was not a man there who could take his eyes from the form she'd chosen and no one could have possibly doubted her heritage as a Veela.
The assembled purebloods looked as though someone had just killed their favourite House-Elf as he pulled her into glorious kiss.
They came up for air with a pair of smiles as Harry turned to the crowd. "Eyes off, she's mine. I got a little impatient and claimed her yesterday. Sorry about this." He nodded to the still frozen priest, jumped off the podium and watched the crowd descend into chaos as he walked down the aisle with his new mistress.
"What the hell were you thinking Potter and what have you done with Draco?" Lucius snarled as he caught up with them at the edge of the crowd.
"I'm thinking you fucked with the wrong person Lucius." Harry whispered back. "Do put a smile on your face, you're with the Light side now." He said sarcastically as Hermione put an arm round his back and appeared on the other side of him to Nica. A cool bit metal pressed itself against his back and his smirk was strictly predatory as Lucius backed away.
"Now," Harry's magically enhanced voice boomed across the crowd as the Minister started heading in his direction. "I've already waited over a month for this, so you'll have to forgive me if I start our honeymoon in France a little early. Goodbye."
And with that, they were gone, whisked away to the horseshoe turned portkey Hermione had pressed against his back.
~ O ~
Shingle Beach, Coast of France
18:33 Friday Evening
Three days after Operation M
An evening chill swept in as the sun descended slowly beneath the horizon, the two girls snuggling into his side as they enjoyed each others company. The last few days had been an eye opener as they tried to adapt to the new mechanics of their relationships. The waves pounded slowly against the shore.
"Are you sure it will be tonight?" Harry asked, reluctantly breaking the silence.
"With a ninety-percent probability, yes." Hermione stated sadly. "There's several key factors I don't know about but... it'll have taken them this long to get organised and sort out the truth." Her eyes closed as she rested her head on his chest. "You're ready?"
"As I'm going to be." Harry muttered to them both.
The waves washed in and out.
Footsteps approached them slowly, the shifting of shingle alerting them long before anyone was in spell range. Nica looked up slowly and frowned in confusion. "That's not a dark wizard." She muttered under her breath.
Hermione looked up and blinked. "Oh. Ah. Yes, well, I may have forgotten a variable." Harry groaned, he'd just managed to make his imprint on the shingle comfortable. Getting up really wasn't appealing.
The footsteps stopped. "Err..." The voice started with a french accent. "Harry? I really don't know how to say this but-"
"Fleur?" Harry asked, bolting upright and dislodging his two girls. "What the hell are you doing here?" He heard her nervous steps backwards as he tried to turn round.
- CRACK -
His mind registered the black robes and swirling wands before his mind engaged and he yelled:
Killing curse eyes darted around as he pointed his wand at the group of Death Eaters. No one else moved. No one else could, even as his heart pounded fast and his hair swayed back and forth allowing glimpses of a circlet to be seen. "This is bloody terrifying." He muttered to himself. "Fleur if you could wait here." Even without trying his will burnt at her mind. "We need to go and deal with our bigger problem." He told his girls, Hermione nodded and moved forwards to massage the knot in his shoulder blades as 'Nica retreated into his side. "Follow me."
- CRACK -
19:03 Friday Evening
Three days after Operation M
Today was the day that everything changed. Narcissa swirled the wine in her glass as the country's elite cycled round the ballroom, only an hour at most and she could be done with this farce and begin rebuilding the families reputation. To think that even their closest allies had had the nerve to question their allegiance, yes they'd betrayed the Dark Lord but he'd been leading them to ruin - anyone with any foresight could understand that!
She let out a deep breath and relaxed her grip on the glass. Now was not the time for a show of emotion; that was needed later, when the news came. Glass smashed in the distance and she put down her glass with an infuriated glare that boded ill for whoever was responsible. To deal with the Dark Families was one thing, to deal with these status obsessed obese... neutrals was quite another.
Narcissa opened her mouth as the chandelier fell from the ceiling and glass showered the room. "Death to the Blood Traitors!" Someone yelled. She caught of glimpse of white mask and black robe.
Had they been betrayed? Had Nott finished with Potter and then convinced the others to come after them as well? She drew her wand as Lucius casually slaughtered their closest assailant before catching a killing curse to the back. He seemed to fall in slow motion before everything went black.
~ O ~
Shingle Beach, Coast of France
19:20 Friday Evening
Three days after Operation M
"Come on Fluer, you really don't want to be here." The blonde muttered to the empty beach. "You know this is an important mission and you claimed you could do it alone, but right now you need to go back, report and get reinforcements." She considered taking a step away, considered it so very hard but just couldn't quite... motivate herself to do it. "You need to tell them that, Gah!" She yelled at the waves. "Shut up will you I'm trying to break a compulsion charm here!"
She fell, panting for breath onto the uncomfortable shingle as the waves came in and out. "Well, I guess I'm stuck here." She said nervously, leaning back to look at the stars. "It's probably only a matter of hours before I and every other veela I know become slaves." She sighed and relaxed as the waves rolled in... and out. "He seemed like such a nice boy as well."
She whirled round as multiple people apparated in, the beach being filled with lights for a moment as cloaked figures died almost as fast as they appeared. Fleur's mouth dropped open before her guts churned and dinner ended up all over the floor.
"Ombres gendarme." Hermione whispered as she walked up to the recovering Veela. "I hadn't heard you'd finished training, is Gabrielle still doing her Charms Mastery?" Fleur nodded as she tried to catch her breath, nothing they had could match the two before her - the magic they'd displayed...
"Oui." She replied to the question absently. "Que diable qui se passe ici?" Her eyes darting between charred corpses, sliced people and the flickers of flames as robes burned. Hermione looked her in the eyes.
"We were attacked by Death Eaters and defended ourselves. Officially, at least. After all, portkeys can be tracked and 'everyone' knows it's impossible to apparate between countries as the distance is too far." Hermione explained. "Fortunately for us, no one in the government has ever realised that the distance across the channel is less than that between London and Hogsmeade. We've just been attacked by the survivors of those that killed the rest of the Malfoy family... So very tragic." She stated coldly, gesturing at the cooling corpses on the shore. "Don't you agree?" Fleur nodded slowly. "Now, what are you doing here?"
"I was sent to asses what threat you possessed, if any to the French Nation after enslaving a native Veela from your homeland." She stated, swallowing nervously as her eyes darted to the two in the background. "I, erh..." She trailed off as Hermione rolled her eyes.
"I should have known it would be something like this, why do people believe everything they read in the paper, honestly?" Hermione sighed. "We have no intention of enslaving you, or anyone for that matter, willing servants are far, far better than mind controlled ones."
"I don't think that's going to reassure her." Harry said with a smile as he walked over from where he'd been inspecting the bodies. "The truth is, 'Nica isn't a Veela, she's a demi-succubae I think is the term?"
The girl in question shrugged, her skin shimmering to slightly glossy red as her tail wiggled free of her skirt and the cutest pair of horns grew on her forehead. "Sounds about right," she finished, before waiving at Fleur, "we're not a threat to you at all, not unless you try to kill us." She said happily. "So why don't we report the bodies and deal with the paperwork?" Fleur could only nod dumbly as cracks announced the arrival of other police wizards.
~ O ~
Three weeks after Operation M
'Nica smiled, making a few last adjustments to her maid's outfit as she looked out the window at her Mistress, who'd found the Abraxans in the stable an hour ago and was now flying round the house on one she'd never seen before in her life. The white horse was as tireless as it was graceful and her rider was a natural on her back. For Hermione's name was Conquest in the tongues of the soul and a part of her was looking for War to add to her husband's collection...
She would have only a few years to wait.
AN: That ends that clusterfuck of ideas. I do hope you've enjoyed it and hopefully my muse will let me get back to working on the first four years of TRL.
For those that were interested, ideas I had for how to continue this are below:
Chapter Two: War, the Second Rider wields the Black Blade of Azkaban and rides a red Dragon. Her name is Gabrielle Delacour. The pureblood movement in England smashed and burned, but the one on the continent has reached its climax. The magical creatures of Europe are bound together to oppose them...
Chapter Three: The Third Rider, Pestilence/Famine/Fear, goes by the name of Tina, rides a Nightmare and wields the Chalice of Despair (aka the Holy Grail).
When your soul is in that many pieces it tends to break away and stick to things. Like a baby you fail to murder, or the tool that channels part of your soul to cast magic. That's right, Lord Voldemort's wand was his second accidental horcrux and right now he's staying far far away from the magical world and has his sights set on big business instead. Unfortunatley he's found his way into the hands of a slightly-insane biochemist postgrad and he's slowly being absorbed into her. All that potions knowledge in the hands of a mad scientist... The world will never know what hit it.
Chapter Four: Death, an Atlantean Archmage, rides a Thestral, and Hades follows in her wake. Hades being a soul prison in the shape of a sword that houses the souls atlantean criminals after their execution to prevent their reincarnation. It also goes by the name Excalibur at times.
How do you deal with what does not die once she and her three friends Conquest, War and Fear, have condemned your civilisation? You imprison her of course, and make it so that even if the three fragments of her power are reunited, she cannot escape it. After all history repeats itself and the title 'Master of Death' is a little more BDSM than anyone expected.
If anyone wants to continue this, please do.