Heirs of the Founders
Well, here we are again; with another long chapter, which fought tooth and nail against my editing attempts and won. Not wanting to add to the word count unnecessarily, I'll keep this to a simple 'thanks for your time and interest'.
Obligatory blah blah blah:
I do not now, nor have I ever and only will if I'm the last person on Earth (at which point the whole concept of rights, royalties and responsibility, etc. . . becomes moot, to say the least) own Harry Potter or the characters therein, they belong to J. K. Rowling; I'm just playing with them.
Harry and Hermione waited in the Entry Hall for Griphook to arrive for their November meeting, which had been deferred by a week. Only a half-hour was allotted to their monthly review, while the remainder of Sunday afternoon would be a 'meet and greet' and introduce their Hogwarts allies. They would've preferred meeting elsewhere but until they could arrange an accessible portrait for the Founders, only the Chamber allowed face to face meetings.
"Ah, Harry my lad and Miss Granger," came an unwelcome voice, "I hear you've had to postpone your meeting. I hope such a delay was not due to anything untoward."
The manner Dumbledore had said 'untoward' rose Harry and Hermione's hackles and both knew 'untoward' was exactly what the Chief Warlock would've liked to see; it was obvious by his behind the scenes maneuvering. So far, his efforts had been fruitless but Albus was—if nothing else—persistent and rumors of him speaking to members of the Hogwarts' Board, influential in the Ministry and Wizengamot, were too persistent to ignore.
Harry fought not to roll his eyes, like Hermione did, and replied, "No Headmaster, nothing untoward, just a scheduling conflict. The end of the year is approaching and you know how things pop up. I'm sure you must experience it; aren't the Hogwarts' budget meetings this month too?"
Surprised, Dumbledore replied cagily, "Ah yes, the bane of being the Headmaster; one can't focus all their attention and energy on educating young minds. I suppose it's an evil that can't be put off: someone must face the jackals and that someone is me. I'm sure you'll understand when your older and must directly oversee matters of your House. I do hope you have good regents and advisors; it's such a shame when a boy can't be just a boy. I'm sure, I can find time to provide some assistance; it's a lot of responsibility and for all Miss Granger is very bright, she's only a first year. Two eleven-year-olds should leave such things to those both wiser and more competent. Thankfully, there's a Regent and House Administration bill being introduce this January. If all goes well, the Wizengamot will relieve children from such adult obligations; children should be children after all."
"You have a point," Hermione replied (fighting a scowl that would've made Professor Snape proud) to Dumbledore's dismay; he disliked how involved the muggle-born witch was in matters related to House Potter. In a measured tone, she added, "But alas—as you say—matters shouldn't be deferred until they fall into a comfortable schedule. I know it's not my place to ask—being an ignorant muggle-born and only eleven—but how are your Budget Meetings going, Headmaster?"
Caught off guard by her tone and sly smile, he answered carefully, "As well as can be expected, I suppose. There's always the battle for funds between Academia and Operations but most of the Board want to see Hogwarts prosper financially. At least it's a familiar battle; I've been through it more times than I care to count. It's a heavy burden but I need to ensure that the 'Greater Good' is maintained; it's my duty as the Guardian of the Future."
Harry shivered inside when he heard 'the Greater Good'; it reminded him what his dream mum originally said and had been repeated by his parents' 'Outside'. He didn't like that 'the Guardian of the Future' bit either—he could hear the capitals—but successfully controlled his frown. He glanced at his witch; she looked uncomfortable too: Albus' 'Greater Good' was only Albus' greater good and didn't account for what had been lost or sacrificed to attain or maintain. For all, his purported intelligence, Hermione had come to realize he was exceedingly blind and really quite dumb; 'Educated Idiot' came to the forefront of her mind. She snickered inwardly, having intentionally weakened her shields for those two words; the look on the Headmaster's face was classic but he couldn't say or do anything; even passive Legilimency on the Vassal of a Noble House was—in the very least—rude and only marginally legal.
"Well, Headmaster my man," Harry began facetiously but Dumbledore was 'too bright' to notice, "We shan't be a burden on your time since you have so much on your plate; perhaps we can meet one day to discuss the rigors of responsibility but I am awaiting my Gringotts' Representative. Since I pay for his time, I want to get down to business when he arrives."
"Yes . . . yes, Harry my boy; we mustn't keep our underlings waiting: especially our well-paid underlings," Dumbledore said dismissively, "let's us hope we can relieve you of such an annoying burden come the New Year. Remember my offer though; I'd gladly help guide you in matters that two eleven-year-old are aren't ready to assume or understand."
Harry, fighting not to make a biting remark, was rescued when Hermione choked out, "Why thank you Headmaster, we shall keep your offer under advisement and I'm sure this Regent and House Administration bill will receive the fate it deserves. I'm sure I'm speaking for both Harry and myself when I say that having such things not distracting us would be most welcome; by us and quite a few others I'm sure."
"Ah, Miss Granger; so young yet so wise," Dumbledore said oily, "truly a credit to your house and Hogwarts as a whole. If only others saw the potential in our muggle-born and guide them to their proper place. I am so glad young Harry has a witch who knows her place in our noble society. If more muggle-born were like you, I'm sure even the most conservative would welcome your type into their homes and manors in appropriate capacities. Such positions would so strengthen and renew some of our waning families and see them propelled back to their proper places."
"Yes, Headmaster; I'm certain Miss Granger would excel in such a capacity," Harry said with a near growl, Albus didn't notice. He didn't notice that Hermione was seething but she was very good at controlling herself. He continued, evasively, "I'm sure many weakened families would benefit from Hermione's strength and intelligence and the strength and intelligence of many others, my mother being a prime-example. It's a pity so few recognize ability beyond blood status; Wizarding Society is far weaker for its lack of vision. Let's hope we can correct such shortcomings and relegate their proponents to the past and ignominy, where they truly belong. We really must discuss this matter another time, Headmaster; I believe Griphook is here."
"Yes, yes it's always a pleasure to chat with one who understands, my boy," Albus cooed, "I shall take my leave. Still, if you'd like privacy, I'd gladly lend you my office; I have some paperwork and what not but wouldn't be adverse to the company as I work. Perhaps my insight might prove . . . insightful; I'm sure I can spare a few minutes to help guide you for the Greater Good."
"I believe we'll be fine, Headmaster," the young wizard said as Griphook entered, "and if I feel your insight might be 'insightful', I'll seek you out."
Harry was thankful when he heard Professor Snape's voice, "Albus, I know you're busy with budgets but can we talk about ventilation; my classrooms—especially those used by my NEWT students—are growing increasingly worse at exhausting noxious fumes from the work stations. I lost two seventh-years to Madame Pomfrey this week. While they were dunderheaded Hufflepuffs, who didn't follow clearly written directions, losing students reflects bad on me. I'm especially worried because two of my Slytherins were working at a nearby station. The cost of improved ventilation is meager compared to the cost of injuring students from illustrious families. I have the school's reputation to think about, too."
Albus Dumbledore wanted to dismiss his Potions' Master, he had bigger fish to fry as the muggles say, but he was aware of the incident. The two Hufflepuff seventh years had been injured when an unpredictable reaction, between commonly unstable ingredients, caused their cauldron to spew caustic fumes. Thankfully, both were from minor families but the father of one of the Slytherins sat in the Wizengamot; Albus really didn't want to explain such things to a Lord allied with Lucius Malfoy. Especially after his recent meeting with Lord Greengrass, too many questions threatened the 'Greater Good'.
"Yes, yes, most unfortunate, Severus," Dumbledore replied, "let's retire to my office; such matters need not be aired before those without responsibilities towards Hogwarts' safety. Please excuse us, Harry my lad . . . and Miss Granger too; remember my boy, my door is always open and I'm here if you require assistance in matters of House, which I'm sure would bore Miss Granger and her muggle-reared background. The youngest Weasley—Ronald I believe his name is—is from an old family and Mrs. Weasley is very astute too; you really must spend some time with the lad, he has so much in common with you. I'm sure it would be beneficial and you, Harry my boy, need a chance to relax and have fun; you and this witch always seem so serious when we speak."
Harry, his anger nearly reaching Hermione's frequency, managed to reply without sounding too scathing, "Thank you, Professor; perhaps some levity would be good for me and Ronald definitely has a very relaxed attitude but there are things I need to attend too. I have discovered that my House was not adequately managed for about ten years. I really must speak to my former regent and magical guardian; they've left things in an awful state. If I didn't know better, I'd say someone wanted a weak Nobel and Most Ancient House of Potter but I'm sure it's my imagination. I don't doubt there are reasons why my House has floundered; not having an active head I'm sure lead to a lot of it. You wouldn't happen to know, Professor, who oversaw the Potter accounts and votes since my Grandfather died? I know my father was—for some reason—prevented from taking up the family's mantle. Regardless, I have questions demanding answers and I'd really like to hear them; it's as if no one managed the Potter estate or votes and let them drift on whatever popular breeze blew their way."
Dumbledore felt very uncomfortable; reminded again that Harry knew more than he rightfully should. Undoubtedly, the uncooperative goblins had filled the young heir's head with slanderous nonsense. Albus now had a knowledgeable Potter Heir and that was not in his contingency plans. Thankfully, he doubted any provable connections could lead to him.
"Yes, Harry my boy, most unfortunate that your House has suffered; I will look into it myself," he said, "as Chief Warlock I should've paid greater attention to the condition of such an illustrious House, for that I apologize. I will see what I can do but I doubt I'll be able to offer any useful information until the opening of the Vernal Session of the Wizengamot, when I can present new business. Anyways, my lad, we both have things to attend to and must go our separate ways. Come Severus; let's see if we can figure out how to present your concerns to the Board in a manner that finds an agreeable solution."
Albus turned as Griphook neared and began walking away. As the Potions' Master neared to whispered earshot Harry said, "Thank you Professor Snape, I'm glad I didn't have to exercise my authority; it would've made things unwelcomely awkward. I would like to hear about your ventilation issues too; students should not be taking unnecessary risks to serve their education. Perhaps we can work out something that neither the Headmaster nor the school's esteemed board could take offense to."
"Your welcome, Mr. Potter and thank you," Severus said quietly.
As he passed, he once again noticed Lady Granger's magical pull had grown inexplicably stronger in the past week or so and his magic was acknowledging her in a manner that left him very uncomfortable: she was only twelve, for Merlin's sake. He had similar feelings for Narcissa but she was an adult; having such feelings for a student—especially a first-year—was something new and kind of creepy he had to admit to himself. On top of that, it often felt as if he was dealing with the Headmaster when he spoke to her and he couldn't understand why and, over the course of the last week, he'd grown reasonably sure that the new chair at his House's table was hers. He wondered how others would feel once she actually sat in it. It was going to be amusing, he was sure; but Granger had already proven she could handle her detractors—his godson being a prime and embarrassing example—and had grown beyond needing her Lord's support. He'd also noticed a change in the Greengrass heiress and her closeness to the first-year Gryffindor spoke volumes about things that need not be aired. With his thoughts churning but safely ensconced behind his Occlumency shields, Severus Snape followed Albus Dumbledore.
"Why that misogynist conniving old goat," Hermione exclaimed, "bah! Know my proper place; I'll show him proper place! I'd kill myself before lying on my back and producing a litter of good little obedient half-bloods to be traded amongst the older houses for favors! I won't do it for that ancient codger's 'Greater Good' either! And if that hoary fool thinks I didn't know he was thinking 'mudblood' when he said muggle-born; then he's seriously misjudging my intelligence! Once upon a time, I automatically respected authority figures but Dumbledore is so wanking on his reputation that he has excrement coming out the wrong hole! Aaurgh, I want to strangle that antediluvian goat with his own beard!"
"From hearing Lady Hermione's rather loud and colorful rant; I take it I just missed the Headmaster being wholly Albus Dumbledore," Griphook said with a goblin smirk. "I'd love to offer you that chance to strangle the old goat with his beard, Hermione; unfortunately there are a lot of people in line ahead of you, Harry being one and likely more than a few places ahead of you. I doubt they'll be much left by the time your turn comes: Dumbledore has caused great harm and many have suffered for his 'Greater Good'. Such unpleasantness aside, well met my Lord and Lady; let us hope the afternoon will be far more pleasurable and substantially more profitable."
"As do we, Majordomo," Hermione replied; thankfully, her temper fell as quick as it rose. "We hope your travels have not been onerous or costly and we respect your efforts on our behalf."
"Well said, Milady," Griphook said with a polite nod of his head, "and I believe my travels have been profitable for both The Nation and yourselves. I've arranged what you asked but I'm not sure how to proceed without the meddlesome old fool becoming aware of us."
Harry smiled and said, "We've made arrangements. Please follow, Griphook; we've a place prepared for us."
"Lead on, Lord Potter; Lady Granger," the goblin replied.
Hermione and Harry led Griphook through Hogwarts and into Moaning Myrtle's loo, since it was rare to find anyone within; Hermione noted Myrtle's absence too. She placed her hand on the mirror and said, "Slytherin."
The reflection blurred and became a posh looking bedchamber. Hermione took Griphook's hand and said, "This way."
She stepped through the mirror, pulling the puzzled goblin behind her. Harry followed.
"Welcome, Griphook," Hermione said, stepping into the room, "these are my private chambers since Halloween. I don't use them frequently—at least not yet—but they do allow for a discreet means of getting around Hogwarts; without prying eyes or questions. We'll explain everything once our other guests arrive but first allow me to welcome you to the Patrons and Founders' Chambers; let us retire to a place not as intimate as my boudoir: the congress this room might see is not on today's agenda."
The bushy-haired witch's comments caught Griphook by surprise, she wasn't usually this forward, like her two mothers frequently were, in his experience. Harry, on the other hand, was growing accustomed to his witch's playful side. He enjoyed her flirting and the greater amount of skin she'd been showing recently. Daphne, who tended to spend at least a little time in the Patrons and Founders' Chambers, each day, remained reserved when the green-eyed wizard was about but Harry was certain she was enjoying some private time with the hazel-eyed Gryffindor but Harry knew a witch needs her 'witch time'.
Hermione led Griphook from Slytherin's bedroom and through the Chamber. The goblin followed her down some stairs, which led to a library with luxurious and comfortable looking furniture, and then to a set of open double doors. Beyond the doors, he entered a five-sided room furnished with a pentagonal table and ten chairs. He also noticed the portraits of four unrecognized witches or wizards on the walls and above the entrance was an image of Hogwarts itself.
"Take a seat, Griphook," Harry invited, "We've a lot to tell you, The Nation and our families; I'm sure the portkeys have been arranged as we requested."
"Of course, Lord Potter," he replied, "Shall I summon the others? I assume they'll be able to traverse the portkey wards."
"Hermione controls the wards," Harry said to Griphook's surprise, "at least at the moment. She could allow our guests to apparate or floo in but floo travel is monitored and Dumbledore would feel an Apparation. We'd prefer to not leave any records or alert the Headmaster to our presence; I'm sure you understand."
"Of course Lord Potter," the goblin stated matter-of-factually, "allow me to contact the Lady Granger-Black and the Lady Regent Granger; I hope Lord Greengrass was hospitable and hasn't changed his mind. I take it you have guests to invite too, so please summon them as well . . . Granger-Black," The last said to an open compact case.
"Griphook," they heard a woman's voice reply, "Shall we proceed?"
"Yes, M'ladies," Griphook said, "I've unlocked my beacon and you have clear passage; the area is clear enough for three."
"Thank you Griphook," said a second woman's voice, not quite as loud, "We're coming through. Hiram was surprised, he recognized me; we occasionally lunched with him at Hereford. He mentioned his daughter too—poor thing—but was better with Cissy, considering her former husband was, than I would've been if it had been Hermione. I should've made the Great Lord Lucius Lowlife into a eunuch, as painfully as possible, when we met in September; it's too bad he'd already bred. Is there a way to go back in time and elimin . . ."
Emma's voice cut out and then three people appeared in the Chamber. Thankfully, Hiram Greengrass caught Mrs. Granger as she stumbled on arrival; Hermione's mother looked a little green too.
"We're going to have to work on that, luv," Narcissa said and smiled at her wife's rather ungainly arrival, "Thank you Hiram, you're as gentlemanly as always and I'm glad that we might meet beyond the shadow of my former husband and his schemes. I still feel very bad about that, although Lucius never kept me abreast of his conniving; all I have to do is think about Danielle or Hermione and my blood starts boiling. I'm sure Emma feels the same but since Lucius is not on today's agenda; I suppose we should get this 'show on the road' as the non-magicals say."
Emma smiled, she still looked a little queasy but she had displayed a generous portion of fortitude for her first port-key experience.
"My Ladies and Lord please take a seat," Harry said, "none are assigned today; I've asked Fiona to retrieve Heiress Greengrass and my Witch Protectorate Davis."
"'Witch Protectorate'? It's been a long time since there was a Witch or Wizard Protectorate, Lord Potter; it is a term and concept that has fallen into disuse for all its usefulness: it conveys something less than vassalage but more than friendship," Narcissa commented.
"Yes, Hermione came upon it and I like how it describes the relations between Tracey Davis and House Potter," he replied, as Hermione hugged her mothers in welcome.
"So, mums," Hermione asked as they waited for the others, "what are dad, Dani and Luna doing?"
"Your dad is taking them to see that new Beauty and the Beast movie; I want to see it too," Emma replied, "perhaps Cissy and I will sneak off and see it ourselves. It could be a date; we've not been out with each other for a while."
This casual conversation went no further when they heard a great deal of commotion outside of the meeting room.
"Wh-where by Merlin are we!" they heard a young witch exclaim. Hiram Greengrass smiled, he'd always liked how—much like her father—the young witch spoke her mind and cut to the chase of a situation. It provided a level of retrospect, which often got lost amongst the rhetoric and grand stratagems Slytherins were famous for. The young witch continued, "And how did we even get here? No one ever told me that loo mirrors were . . . were doors. Let me tell you, I find that highly . . . unnerving. Can Dumbledore use them? Do I have to worry about an old man popping up in the loo when I'm using it? I'm sure that dirty-old-goat gets a twinge in his crotch, just thinking about young witches amidst ablutions and we both know what happens in washrooms when no one is looking. And what about the little wizard's loos . . . ugh; I don't even want to think about that."
Tracey's voice grew louder—Narcissa, Emma and Hiram smirked as they listened—and then her words came to a sudden halt. After a very brief pause, they heard a very respectful, "Lord Greengrass; Lady Malfoy," from the young witch who hastily genuflected. "I wasn't expecting to see you. Please forgive my impudence, I know such opinions are best left unspoken but I was rather surprised by my sudden arrival here . . . wherever here is."
"Witch Tracey Davis," Harry began, pushing a little magic at his Witch Protectorate, "please come in, Daphne insisted that we invite you but please know that you are welcome. This is a matter of House prerogative, I'm sorry but I must enforce such articles but what is before us and what is to be spoken of is extremely important and equally confidential. I value your unique . . . insight and Daphne is indebted to you. Regardless, in this, you must defer to your custodian's House; as its Lord, I call upon your fealty. If such things offend you, I will release you later but I believe you'll fully accept what was offered at the beginning of term. Our Daphne told us you know some of what is happening; you are about to learn a whole lot more and I would like to count you as an ally. A storm is brewing and none shall be spared its fury. Now rise, today is not a day for such formal nonsense."
Overwhelmed, Tracey looked at the people before her and rose. She, of course, knew Hiram Greengrass and had a passing familiarity with the Lady Malfoy but the other witch in the room she did not recognize, until it hit her. The woman wasn't a witch, she was Granger's mother. Their similarities could not be denied but a muggle's presence—here in Hogwarts—was disturbing to say the least; she shouldn't be able to be here: Hermione wasn't the only witch to read 'Hogwarts: a History'. The presence of a goblin also made things seem surreal, almost as surreal as seeing the Lady Malfoy with her arm around Granger's mother.
That sight, though, wasn't nearly as weird as seeing Draco's mum wearing tight muggle jeans—which could only be tighter if they were painted on—and a blouse nearly as tight. (That the older witch looked as good as she did—dressed is such a manner and with that plunging neckline—made Tracey feel a touch envious: Lady Malfoy was hot for a witch who was a housemate's mother). Tracey remembered Daphne had mentioned a relationship between the know-it-all and the Lady of House Black descent but that had been academic until now. Seeing it in person was an entirely different matter. The closeness between Lady Malfoy and a muggle wasn't just unnerving her but Lord Greengrass and Daphne as well. For Hiram, it had begun when two extremely attractive and confident women (garbed in a manner that couldn't be good for his heart) appeared in his floo this morning. That one of these women was once Lady Malfoy had generated two very conflicting images in his head, one of which would likely annoy his wife—an attractive witch in her own right—a great deal.
In the end, all Tracey could say on recovery was, "By your will my Lord, I had not expected a meeting with such illustrious personage this Sunday and I was caught unprepared. Please forgive me Lord Greengrass and Lady Malfoy and you as well Mrs. Granger; your daughter Hermione has obviously learned to carry herself from you."
"Miss Davis," Narcissa said formally, "Mrs. Granger is also the Lady Regent Granger; she shall assume the Lady Matriarch's proxy when our Houses are presented to the Wizengamot. Do not—as many might—disparage her because of her non-magical heritage, she is well able to stand before us. You need only ask my former husband. The Lady Regent, without magic, trounced a well-known and powerful member of the Wizengamot and went as far as to break his wand: do not make the same mistake as he. Either way, even if the Lady Regent does not act, her family's Patron might. Lord Potter—for all his youth—is not someone to be on the bad side of. He is exceptionally powerful and reminiscent of a Lord of old and does not surround himself with any weakness.
"For all, he's just recently returned to our world," she continued, "he's learned his lessons well. I need only direct your attention to my other daughter, Hermione; her family might not have any years behind them but she is already of a class few adults can equal and her knowledge and power are growing. I'd be a proud mother if Draco showed even a margin of such aplomb; thankfully Danielle does. Let go of what you know or have been told; it is all wrong and the consequences of such errors will be dire, if not altogether deadly for those who think, they can avoid what's coming through guile or deceit. I understand that Heiress Greengrass has petitioned the Lord Potter on your behalf; do not allow your bonded companion to regret that decision."
Tracey bowed her head and said respectfully, "I-I'm sorry Lady Malfoy . . ."
". . . it's Granger-Black, dear; I'd rather not be reminded of my former associations," Narcissa said supportively.
"I-I understand, please forgive my ignorance, My Ladies," the young witch said.
"Oh pish-posh, Tracey; can I call you Tracey? Call me Emma or Mrs. Granger if that makes you more comfortable: like Harry does," Emma said, still not enamored with the formal rigmarole; she thought it all rather pointless. Still, she understood the importance of adhering; new arrivals shouldn't rock the boat, especially right on disembarkation.
Mrs. Granger continued with a smirk that had Hermione hearing alarm bells, "I believe, from reading between the lines of Hermione's most recent letter; that you, me and Cissy share a number of common traits. I'd much rather embrace and accept those than deny the women that we are. I'm certain Hermione is of the same mind. I can sense our daughter's closeness to Daphne just as I sense Daphne's closeness to you; we are more sisters than our ages might suggest and I'd love to get to know you better."
"Mum!" Hermione exclaimed; her, Daphne and Tracey were blushing at Emma's less than subtle inferences.
Smiling, Narcissa shook her head at Emma's risqué tone and words; she knew how impish Emma could be and since September, her lover had embraced it all in its frowned upon glory. Nevertheless, it did break a lot of formal ice; much like a nuclear powered icebreaker might and Hiram Greengrass was obviously surprised. Emma's Lolita fetish—on the other hand—was a bit of a revelation and had Narcissa wondering if an investment in some polyjuice or a powerful de-aging potion might prove educational, not to mention fun. Of course Griphook—like any goblin—looked impassive but Harry's face was classic; there was no way today's get-together was going to remain stuffy or stodgy now. Informal was what this day was about and informal it would stay: Emma had assured it.
Giving things a few moments to settle, Hermione monitored the room's cadence. Almost feeling confident about her place in this meeting, she took a deep breath, steeled her nerves and steadied her voice. Clearing her throat, she began, "Welcome, everyone to my little swaray and I apologize in advance if my manners as a hostess are lacking; this is my debut—you might say—and Lord Potter was rather insistent that this was my 'gig', as he put it. I'm hoping we can use this time to get to know one another in a casual environment first and hope either Harry or I will be able to handle your questions. First off, allow me to welcome you to the Patrons and Founders' Chambers and briefly explain this place."
She took another breath and resumed, "These chambers were once the Founders' private quarters but also contain boudoirs for the Hogwarts' Patrons, when they were in residence; the Kernel of Hogwarts is also located here but that is a matter for another day. All of this, of course, reaches back to the very beginnings of our beloved Hogwarts, back to the days when four very gifted witches and wizards sought to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation. I'm speaking of the Founders Four of course and would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to their soul copies. I'm sure you can recognize them based on the clothes but since these four are the only known 'true' images of them their appearances have all but been but forgotten and reduced to descriptions . . ."
". . . Hermione," Narcissa surprisingly interrupted, "that isn't entirely true; most young witches are familiar with an old tale called 'The Witch and the Fae'; if any have ever seen an early copy of the story, they'd recognize one of the images in this room."
"Very astute, Lady Granger-Black," said the image alluded to; she was wearing gold trimmed blue clothes of an ancient yet surprisingly revealing style, "you are correct, I am—or was I suppose—Rowena Ravenclaw and I was the witch from that tale. Thank you and you too Lady Regent Granger; I've come to learn that my great, great—and then some—granddaughter is regularly in your care and prospering from it."
Hiram Greengrass, Daphne and Tracey exchanged glances; it was thought that none remained of the Founder's lines: even Narcissa and Emma were surprised, since neither Luna nor Dani had mentioned such an illustrious lineage. Still, they had begun keeping secrets lately but girls will be girls and sharing secrets was natural. That notwithstanding, any living descendant of a Founder would be either revered or feared, the magicals thought in surprising unity as Lord Greengrass, his daughter and Tracey asked themselves: Who is the heir?
"I appreciate that you have accepted Luna into your home and with open arms," Rowena continued, "even with her rather unique perspective and remergent heritage; I'm glad she can unfurl her wings in a manner that is proud and able to strengthen them."
"Luna is a dear, Lady Ravenclaw," Narcissa stated, "She brings color into our lives and keeps our thoughts quick. Emma and I have done our best to be surrogates mothers; while doing our best to keep the memories of Pandora alive in her heart and memories. She has become so much part of our lives that it's hard to imagine my Danielle without Luna by her side, or vice-versa."
"And it's Emma, by the way, Miss Ravenclaw," Mrs. Granger added.
"As you wish Emma, I'm Rowena," the portrait replied, "Your daughter, Hermione, is very much your daughter; I can tell. Considering my granddaughter's eccentricities in both body and mind; I'm glad she's found a refuge where she can be herself."
"Excuse me," interjected Tracey, "Daphne and I—if this Luna is Luna Lovegood—are both somewhat familiar with her. We've met a few times when her father and Lord Greengrass have met. She is not on the 'circuit'—as it's called—like most children from the older families, so we don't know her very well. I admit she is a little odd but you speak as if she's . . . she's something; something not a witch."
Hermione began, "Luna is . . . well . . . atavistic . . ."
". . . what's atavistic?" Daphne asked.
"Um . . . bearing traits more akin to one's ancestors than to their modern heritage . . ." Hermione tried to explain.
Daphne, Tracey and Hiram Greengrass stared blankly.
"Oh for Merlin's sake!" Rowena exclaimed, "My great granddaughter has wings and she's more True-Faerie than witch, now let's get on with things."
"Well spoken, Rowena," the image wearing silver and green said, "Welcome my friends, I am Salazar Slytherin and this little gathering is at my behest and realized though my Avatar, the Duchess of Slytherin; who is also my Voice. Please continue Hermione, there is much to make mention of and not near enough time to go into all the details."
"Thank you, Founder Slytherin," Hermione replied, "Allow me to continue . . ."
"The pleasure is mine Hermione," the wizard in green and silver said.
The bushy-haired witch glanced about and noted that the room's attention had returned to her, "Thank you. I obviously need not introduce Founders Ravenclaw or Slytherin now but let me introduce the remainder for all they are obvious. Godric Gryffindor is the wizard in the red and gold; Helga Hufflepuff is the witch in yellow and black. As Founder Slytherin already said, I am his Avatar and the Duchess of Slytherin."
Narcissa looked at their daughter and said, "Hermione, what does that mean; Avatar and the Duchess of Slytherin?"
"After Hogwarts was founded and the Founders themselves were advancing in age, they decided that they needed voices to ensure that their school and vision stayed the course," said the Gryffindor witch clad in silver and green, "To that end, the four created the offices of Avatar. Those selected for these offices would be the Heirs of a Founder, in matters regarding Hogwarts; specifically towards her students and are entrusted to ensure that Hogwarts' remains a place of education first. The Founders created their Soul Copies and charged them with selecting the best candidates for each House. They were to ensure that each Avatar was the true embodiment of a Founder's spirit.
"At some point, following the inception of the Office of Avatar, the Crown—yes that Crown to which we still must answer to—elevated the sitting Avatars to Dukes and Duchesses of the Houses they represented. It ceremonially places each Avatar over a quarter of Wizarding England and they became voices to the Crown. Nearly all in Magical England have forgotten the Office of Avatar and even references to the Offices have seemingly vanished; none can be found in Hogwarts' Library, which suggests an active suppression of history and knowledge. I am the first Avatar and Duchess of a Hogwarts' House for over two-hundred years. This means, until joined by my fellow Avatars; I am—for all intents—the Master of Hogwarts and Harry is my Patron."
"What!" Narcissa Granger-Black and Emma Granger exclaimed; their little girl had suddenly grown up and had become near-royalty. Tracey Davis was just as stunned but silent; Griphook looked thoughtful, he had a major report for the Overlord, now.
I guess that explains the very elegant Slytherin-like robes being worn by a young Gryffindor, Narcissa thought.
"Okay, I think we get that—big surprise mind you," Tracey said, her outspoken nature coming to the forefront and once more reminding Hiram Greengrass of the importance of having such a voice in your ear; it made you stop and consider your actions. She continued, "You have mentioned Patrons a few time, Miss . . . Lady . . . Duchess: Morgana's cauldron, how should I address you?"
"I'm fine with Hermione, unless it's formal I guess," the hazel-eyed witch replied with a smile.
"Fine, Hermione then," said the Davis witch, "you've mentioned that Lord Potter is your Patron; how does that relate to Hogwarts? I know how it works in the Wizengamot."
"We're back to the pre-Founders' era," Hermione answered, "Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Godric Gryffindor were educators and researchers first; politicians and financiers second. They approached a number of witches and wizards about this idea of 'Hogwarts'; only the Bones, the Longbottoms, the Blacks and the Potters expressed an interest in a place of learning and protection for young magicals. They were also willing to help fund such a grand project. The reward for their vision—aside from having a say at Hogwarts—came when the Crown separated Magical and Mundane England; it granted some extremely executive, not to mention rather arbitrary powers to the Heads of those four Houses.
"Though rarely mentioned or exercised these days," the bushy-haired witch continued, "the Four Families still hold an enormous amount of power, which many believe was rescinded; if they even ever knew about it. Myself, the Lady Matriarch of House Granger, and the Lady Matriarch of House Granger-Black are products of that power, which has remained undiminished and—as I said—unexercised. Thanks to the way things were worded, none can now challenge our Houses except through a direct appeal to Her Majesty the Queen. For those who do not know; the Crown has not forgotten about Her magical citizens; for all most of Her magical citizens have forgotten about Her. Lord Harry James of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Potter is acting on the Queen's authority."
Griphook, Harry and Hermione passively watched the commotion that followed; Narcissa and Emma were surprised that Hermione had even been allowed to make that statement but it definitely had the desired effect; those just introduced to Harry and Hermione's inner orbit seemed unable to form a cognizant response and appeared stunned.
Tracey recovered first—again—and asked, "Why am I here? I understand our esteemed Ladies and Lord Greengrass' presence but I'm—at best—just a Protectorate of House Potter and the daughter of a Vassal House to Greengrass."
"Tracey," Harry began firmly, "what is to come will need more than those in this room to achieve. We will always need allies, should we not solicit our allies from those we already known, first? Your closeness to Daphne and obvious willingness to protect her, at some risk I might add, considering your status within your house suggests you're not averse to risk for a worthwhile cause. Even if you're no more than an ear for Daphne, when she needs to vent from time to time, you'll serve a position that is more valuable than you might think. Not only are you our Daphne's friend, you are the person most likely to wonder where she is and start asking questions. Such questions would reach Dumbledore's ears and we'd rather not have him asking questions or investigating why a first-year student can't be found in any common area of the school; so it protects us as well. That aside, do not underestimate your significance and few know our Daphne as well as you; the bond between you will sustain you when thing grow difficult and difficult they will become first here and then beyond these hallowed halls of Hogwarts . . . Sorry, Hermione, I stole some of your thunder just now."
Hermione smiled, he might've stolen some of her thunder but what he said was well-spoken; she cleared her throat to draw attention and said, "I agree with Harry, Tracey; don't underrate your importance besides, I'd like to get to know you too."
Tracey blushed; there was no way any in this room could not see beyond the Gryffindor's words or implications, it was implicit in her tone.
After Hermione had—not so subtly—hit on her, she noticed her year mate looked different than when she wore her normal Hogwarts' robes; easily a year or two older and growing well into her form.
"Anyways," she resumed, "today is not about plans and grand schemes but about getting to know one another. Allow me to introduce a few more of our—perhaps not allies—but helpers, none the less: Peeves, Fiona please show yourselves."
At Hermione's request, the Prince and Princess—as the house-elves called them—of Hogwarts faded into the room both in their nondescript forms as sixth-year students; their robes displayed no House affiliations but bore Hogwarts' heraldry. Narcissa remembered witch, who—as she remembered—taught certain arts behind closed doors. Many young witches had learned the joys of witch-love at her talented fingers and Narcissa wasn't the only Black sister to receive such tutoring. Bellatrix had clearly developed a preference towards a witches touch thanks to her—albeit of a rougher sort—but had been forced to marry Rodolphus Lestrange. Narcissa shivered as she thought about that; Lucius might be a pompous ass but the Lestrange brothers were in a class all their own and only Fenrir Greyback was worse, in her opinion.
As Narcissa contemplated Fiona, Hiram Greengrass kind of remembered the sixth-year wizard but didn't know that he was 'Peeves the Poltergeist'. All the same, Peeves had been good for amusing diversions, especially welcome when facing the rigors of fifth and seventh years. A chuckle went a long way towards relieving OWL and NEWT stress.
"Thank you, our esteemed guests," Fiona began, "and it's very nice seeing you again Narcissa and I'd love to see more of you. We really must get together and reminisce sometime; bring your pretty playmate, too. It's good to see you've given up that Black family mania against associating with squibs or non-magicals. So, which of our illustrious families abandoned such a luscious child to the non-magical world?"
"I'm not exactly a squib in the traditional sense of the word," Emma said with a playful leer, "but I do have a taste for pretty magical girls; I've been infected with magic, you might say, and Cissy is definitely a magical girl with more than just her wand."
"I'm sorry?" Hiram Greengrass said uncomfortably; it was going to take him a long time to get used to such forward witches and women, "What do you mean, 'not exactly a squib'?"
"Lady Hermione's parents have got The Nation's scholars in a bit of a tizzy," Griphook replied, "If I may Lady Regent?"
"Feel free," Mrs. Granger replied.
Griphook looked thoughtful for a moment and then began, "Lady Hermione's parents, Daniel and Emma Granger, were both born with no innate magical abilities. Even the weakest of squibs can perceive at least some magic and some even have an innate gift for potions and runes, although they need someone to charge their runic arrays and potions. Even theoretical Arithmacy has seen some startling work done by squibs. When Lady Granger-Black reported that her 'friends' were squibs, Gringotts sought to link them to one of our lost families.
"With Emma and Daniel's consent," he continued, "we traced their lineage; nowhere in their family trees did we find a magical ancestor, on either side. A statistical anomaly too, you might say, considering wizards—historically—have had trouble keeping their privates in their robes; more so in the past than now and twenty generations represents a significant chunk of time. Now, we're all familiar with the phenomena of spontaneous emergence; Lady Hermione being an obvious example but for all theories have suggested spontaneous emergence as Magic's way of cleansing bloodlines; the spontaneous emergence of a squib is a phenomenon that has been neither observed nor documented. Regardless, an argument for such an occurrence cannot be made for the Grangers anyways. Neither represent the spontaneous emergence of squibs since they were wholly non-magical when the relationship between Lady Narcissa, Lady Regent Emma and the Lord Emeritus Daniel began; well prior to Lady Hermione's birth. If you would, Lady Narcissa . . ."
". . . Ostendo Aurora," Narcissa evoked; a bright blue glow—nearly blinding around Harry and Hermione—enveloped everyone in the room but for Emma Granger who glowed a rather bright purple, instead. Aura aside, all could see the glowing golden tendrils that reached for and connected to Narcissa, who's own aura had similar reaching tendrils. The bond, suggested by their auras and tendrils, was between the two at the level of their very souls; soul-bonds were very rare but this was unprecedented. Of those in the meeting room, though, only the Founders' images, Fiona and Peeves could perceive beyond the brilliance of Hermione and Harry's aura and see the nascent golden shoots between them and the young witch known as Daphne Greengrass and other tendrils reaching for an unseen horizon.
"How?" Lord Greengrass asked.
"That's the question, isn't it, Lord Greengrass," Griphook replied, "and I doubt you think that Lady Narcissa—who's family is very old, gifted and well-endowed magically—would make a mistake casting such a simple spell or misinterpret it's results. Results, of course, that—as I said—have our scholars in a tizzy. By all rights, what we see should not exist but the Lady Regent is as solid as her husband—who leans more to the red spectrum—and Lady Emma stands before us now. Once, Lady Emma, glibly suggested that magic is like something non-magicals call radioactivity. Radioactivity is accumulative in a body over the course of exposure and does not dissipate. If that is true—and it's the best theory to date—there was a lot of exposure between the three and Lady Regent Emma carried a witch—of prodigious power—in her womb for nine months on top of it."
"Thank you, Griphook," Hermione interjected firmly, "but our light get together is becoming too serious at the moment."
Griphook bowed his head but a smidge and said, "My apologies, Lady Matriarch; your parents' case is extraordinary and I got carried away."
"Fine, fine my friend," the hazel-eyed witch teased in a manner that would see a knife in most magicals, "it fascinates me too but I'm ready for some refreshments, which brings us to the final two I wish to introduce. Floozy; Notti."
Two she-elves appeared and bowed their heads, one acknowledging her mistress and the other acknowledging her desired mistress.
"Allow me to introduce Floozy and Notti," Hermione said, "Floozy was a gift to me—from Hogwarts—on my birthday and Hogwarts appears intent on gifting Notti to Daphne, not that they have fully bonded yet."
"Excuse me," Tracey, finding her voice, said, "why would 'Hogwarts' gift a she-elf to you Her-Hermione and why is a castle trying to gift one to Daphne?"
The bushy-haired witch smiled and replied, succinctly, "Floozy was Hogwarts' attempt to bribe me; Notti is her attempt to bribe Daphne."
Daphne's dorm-mate frowned, tilted her head in confusion and asked, "Why is a castle—magical castle I suppose—trying to bribe two first-year witches."
"As I said, there've been no Avatars in Hogwarts for over two-hundred years," Hermione replied, "and Hogwarts—being sentient in her own right and way—is aware of what is happening and wants to encourage positive change. Positive change is best accomplished by reaching the youth of society; who, upon attaining adulthood, take those ideas with them as they establish their places in that society. Hogwarts is taking the long road to change but there's not enough time to realize it; ten years at best estimate. She knows that but she still wants a voice and a presence; after all, in many ways she is the mother to all in Magical Britain and wants to see her children excel. Having the Offices of Avatar filled gives her voice as she tries to protect and advance the Founders'—who are, for all intents, her parents'—vision."
Hiram Greengrass said a little sharply, "And Hogwarts wants my Daughter? Has she not been through enough already? And which Founder seeks my daughter as their voice? The Lady Matriarch Granger is Slytherin's and she's not even in his house. Just where do they think my daughter belongs; if the Founder of her own House does not want her!"
"I want Daphne as my Avatar," Helga Hufflepuff nearly growled, as the occupants in the room discovered that just because she was a portrait didn't mean the Founder didn't still have an intimidating presence, "Logistics and welfare were my secondary jobs as a Founder of Hogwarts. We each had those. Salazar was intelligence and security; Rowena was research and development; and Godric was protection and countermeasures. My magic always leaned towards support and healing and the one thing I've learned over the centuries is it takes someone who has suffered, overcome and understood adversity to help others do the same. I see two witches, in this room, who truly understand this and I'd gladly see either serve as my Avatar. Since—for all I hate it—this is a political game; your daughter is a marginally better choice than Miss Davis, Lord Greengrass, for that reason alone. If I had no such concerns, I'd embrace Miss Davis wholeheartedly if I had not met Daphne first; she has shown the lengths she'll go to, to help another. If that's not the embodiment of Hufflepuff then what is? Even if Daphne accepts the Office as my Avatar; I'd insist Tracey remain by her side and—should Daphne choose otherwise—Tracey would not be a second rate second choice and I'd still want Daphne as part of things."
"I see," Lord Greengrass said and looked at his daughter and her aide, "and how do you feel about this Daphne?"
"I-I've yet to decide; what do you think father?"
"I think—in this—you must make your own choice," he said in understanding, "but no matter your decision, I'm certain the place you've found yourself in now is the place you should remain; for our Family and yourself: whether as Helga Hufflepuff's Avatar or as Tracey's aide should she accept such a position. Either way, your mother and I will support your decision; unless you decide to completely walk away from what's being offered. In that case, your mother and I would be disappointed—I'll not deny that—but you'd still be our daughter and we'll still love you; as will Astoria."
"Th-Thank you, father," Daphne said as Tracey stated, "Thank you Lord Greengrass."
"Ahem," Hermione said, "as I was saying. Floozy and Notti have recently come into our service but that does not mean we think of them as less than our allies. House-elves have served wizards for generations but they still have their own unique insights that should not be ignored. They are people too and what's coming will affect them as much as any other, their opinions should not be disregarded because they are not human. I know they need magicals but they don't deserve to be mistreated because of it and I bet a lot of wizarding households could not function without them."
"Mistress Hermione is embarrassing us," Floozy said in deference, "Notti and I serve and that's what we are; we've no place in the grand plans of great witches and wizards."
"No place!" the brunette exclaimed, "if you do nothing more than bring me ice-cream during bouts of teenaged angst, which I'm sure I'll experience from time to time; then you're doing more than just being a servant. Don't belittle yourselves, this is your world as much as anyone else's; you deserve a say in it too."
Floozy, looking uncomfortable in the midst of such eminent folk, looked at the floor and said, "Mistress is too kind to Floozy, thinking about her she-elf's welfare, but it's embarrassing. May Floozy and Notti serve the tea now?"
"Off course Floozy; I'm sorry if I made you or Notti uncomfortable," Hermione—to her she-elf's further discomfort—apologized as the unique dynamics between house-elf and master came into play, "I'm sure you've prepared a wonderful tea."
Silently and still unfamiliar with even a modicum of reverence directed towards them, Floozy and Notti snapped their fingers and served the tea.
"Thank you, Floozy," Hermione said as Daphne parroted, "Thank you, Notti," before she added, "It is a wonderful tea and the sandwiches, finger-cakes and tarts look mouthwateringly wonderful too. I see you've found a few 'adult' drinks too; I'm sure your efforts—on that account—will be appreciated."
Notti looked at the floor and said, "Notti liberated the firewhiskey, veelavino and dwarven-ale from the Founders' stores; Notti was very surprised to find such things and wouldn't have if Lady Hogwarts hadn't directed Notti."
"Well then, thank Lady Hogwarts for us then, Notti," Daphne said, "you and Floozy have done an excellent job for us: a truly wonderful and memorable tea."
"Th-thank you, Mis-mistress," Notti said. Still, unable to look directly into Daphne's eyes.
"Daphne, you really must bind such a wonderful elf," Narcissa said, "and I can tell she really likes you; I'd almost think she was a Lady's Chamber-elf of old. The last true Lady's Chamber-elf—though Floozy might be one too—belonged to my grandmother. Grandmother Black always raved about how a she-elf like her Exstacey was what every witch needed in her boudoir; a proper Lady's Chamber-elf knows what her Lady needs and has the skills to fulfill them. Has Notti been trained?"
Daphne and Hermione blushed and neither Notti nor Floozy could meet Lady Granger-Black's eyes. Such things were between a Lady and her elf and not talked about, especially when wizards were present; since a Lady's elf provided the type of support a wizard could not or would not. Hermione had not needed such skills but Daphne had become thankful for them; since her 'purity' was no longer an issue. Thanks to her horrific ordeal, she could indulge her hunger without fear of devaluing—for all she hated that word—herself further. Notti had been quite creative, actually; she used Daphne's imposed proclivities in a manner that fulfilled her Lady's needs as dictated by her condition. Lady Granger-Black is right, Daphne thought, I should properly bind Notti. I'm sure Tracey will understand and I'm sure Notti will gladly help her too. Daphne had been too blind to see what Lady Granger-Black had suggested, she admitted, but she was still young, after all. Daphne also worried about how her 'helper' or others might feel about what a Lady's Chamber-elf does for her mistresses; Daphne's last History of Magic class was a prime example. She had stayed awake for the whole period, thanks to an invisible Notti; she hadn't learned anything but she hadn't fallen asleep either.
Following the awkward silence that trailed Lady Narcissa's observations, Lord Greengrass asked, "Why are these two she-elves wearing blouses and skirts, I thought clothes freed an elf."
"Floozy and Notti, at our request, have made what they wear themselves," Hermione said, "I think forcing sentient creatures to wear demeaning things, such as tea-towels and pillow-cases, encourages relationships built upon a hierarchy of power and dependence. I prefer relationships based on respect and freedom. Many house-elves give far more of themselves than they receive in return for the magic they use, which is usually symbiotically ambient anyways. Floozy only takes my magic directly when she needs a significantly greater amount of magic to perform a significantly greater task. So far, the only time Floozy has ever drawn directly upon my magic was during elf-portation . . ."
". . . Elf-portation, that's kinda cute," Tracey giggled before hastily adding, "Sorry, I interrupted didn't I?"
Hermione smiled and continued, "There's virtually nothing written about house-elves, which is accurate; I found one of Helga Hufflepuff's old journals. Inside, Helga wrote about how Rowena and she had saved the last few 'feral' elves. To the end of her life, Hufflepuff hated having to bind her friends but never discovered the means, which would allow them to transmute Ignoble into Noble Magic once more. She wrote, near the end of that account, that by their third generation, the elves had even lost their atrophied means of magic transmutation.
"Many prejudicial concepts, like our bias views about house-elves, crept into our society in the decades that followed the deaths of the Four Founders. Unfortunately, since lines of communication were slow and easily suborned, by the time the Founders' Avatars learned the full extent of things, young witches and wizards were arriving at Hogwarts with many preconceived opinions and chauvinisms. Since horses and brooms were the only forms of transportation faster than walking, the time needed to travel from Hogwarts to Londinium, meet with an early inception of a usually hostile Wizengamot and then return was prohibitive to say the least. It also left the school's defenses diminished by a quarter. Such weakening of defenses were unwelcome since there were a number of rogue witches and wizards who saw Hogwarts as a major prize.
"For the better part of her first three-hundred years," Hermione continued in lecture mode, "Hogwarts and the Hogsvale were under siege no less than nineteen times, by numerous factions for various durations; the longest exceeding seven months. Only twice did she ever receive outside aid. The only thing that saved the castle and the valley was that the residents of Hogsmeade once farmed the grounds; the lake held copious amounts of fish and fresh water; and the forest was filled with wild game. For all she is a school and a repository of knowledge first; Hogwarts is also a full-fledged war-castle with layers of defensive and offensive capabilities that are mere whispers in the memoirs of former Headmasters. I command a quarter of the keys, which unlock the magics protecting the school and the vale; once my fellow Avatars are installed and take up their keys the Hogsvale will be nearly a sovereign state from which change can be affected and a safe fallback location when things get to ugly."
"Where did you get your information, Hermione," Tracey asked skeptically, "I've read 'Hogwarts: A History' which is the only credible and authorized source of information about the school and, except where alluded to, most of what you told us is not mentioned."
"Tracey," Daphne said in a manner both firm and proud, to Hiram Greengrass' joy, "look around you; we are in the midst of 'Hogwarts: A History'—unabridged, unadulterated and unauthorized—and not some second-hand retelling by witches and wizards with their own agendas. Our society has become complacent and our system has remained unopposed; we've not faced true and needed challenge for decades. You-Know-Who wasn't a revolutionary he just wanted to run things; none of the Death Eater rhetoric was about change, it was about protecting the status quo for those who neither earned nor deserved the power and wealth they inherited."
"Ouch, my own daughter's words wound me," Lord Greengrass said with a smile, "but her point is valid. House Greengrass was the first Noble House to earn its rank through effort and commerce and that only happened because we became wealthier than many of the older Houses.
"Historically, the members of the Wizengamot believed power equaled wealth until the first Lord Greengrass proved that wealth equaled power," he stated. "As my family amassed its fortune, we employed many but unlike other families we treated our employees well and rewarded their efforts. We even invested in other families, without being heavy-handed in gaining our returns. Eventually, the older Houses grew wary of our wealth and our bloc of wealthy allies who were controlling more and more galleons through trade rather than through rents. At some point, members of the Wizengamot got the idea that if they offered Everett Greengrass a vacant seat, made so by a family's extinction; he would be unconditionally loyal to those who granted him the position, since that was how it had always worked in the past. Those nobles didn't understand that Everett didn't need that seat for the nobility it granted; he'd already earned something more noble, he'd earned the respect of his peers. He was a leader that people wanted to follow. The only reason he took the seat was to give voice to those like him, witches and wizards who believed in reward by one's own effort.
"As a member of the Wizengamot, he worked towards repealing laws whose sole purpose was to protect those who enacted them. Such legislation was commonly at the expense of those like himself, through restrictive regulation and excessive taxation that made successful congress difficult. Everett was the first of a new breed of Wizengamot member and many empty seats were reassigned to families who had earned their wealth and prestige in the same manner. Unfortunately, subsequent generations—usually by the third or fourth—of the 'New Lords' had forgotten how their family had earned their seats. They became like the 'Old Lords' and that's where we are now; graft and corruption runs the show. Since vacant seats in the Wizengamot are once again rare, new voices won't be heard until the current Lord Potter and his patronage takes their seats. Of course, I'd council against creating more seats just so he can stack the Wizengamot; we need reform more than a bloated chamber.
Harry blushed and said, "I've been far more careful how I word things of late, Lord Greengrass, and I agree. Sure, I can 'bloat' the chamber but eventually things will regress to what we have now but with more fingers in the pie. Still, personally, I'd like to see heirs vetted before they're allowed to assume their seats; such laws are on the books but rarely exercised. Noblesse Oblige, considering what even an average witch or wizard can do, is what the foundation the Wizengamot should be built upon. We are different from non-magicals and power will always be a deciding factor in a way that mundane society can never truly comprehend; this is one of the reasons why the Statute of Secrecy was enacted, to protect non-magicals from power they could not oppose. It is why the Clause of Magic Interdiction exists and why the Four Families somehow wove it into magic itself; when the Crown granted them extraordinary powers over Magical England."
"Just a moment," Tracey interjected, "if I heard you correctly, Lord Potter; did you just say you can . . . um . . . turn off magic?"
"Yes, he can," Narcissa replied for Harry, "Lucius and I experienced it when we first met Lord Potter; it is very very humbling. Be thankful that Lord Harry is neither vindictive nor petty and that he doesn't seek to place himself over others. Be also thankful that he seeks reform and not dominance; since—other than the Crown—only two others can fully stand against him and only once the Heirs of the Bones and the Longbottoms take their oaths. Have you spoken to either, yet, about this, Harry?"
"Not as of yet, Aunt Cissy," Harry replied; his 'Aunt Cissy' surprising many, "Neville remains too much in his grandmother's shadow and while I know Susan, I do not know her aunt Amelia. If I'm going to give the keys to Magical England—you might say—to either; I need to know more about their closest and active relations. I'm glad Hermione is my 'voice of reason' and has kept me from acting as arbitrary as I could; I'm glad Daphne and Tracey can provide the insight I did not have when my authority was first granted. I will seek council before acting unless I have no choice. I also want Susan and Neville to assume their mantels as Patrons and their places as one of the Four Families; that each would have executive powers over me adds an extra level of oversight. I have far too much power for one eleven year old wizard; I suppose we should all thank the Dursleys that I never developed 'attitude'; I could've been a monster but I suppose the Nation wouldn't have tutored me if I was."
Griphook smiled his toothy grin and said, "You are correct Harry; a monster is not something The Nation would've put their faith or support in. That you are not a monster, considering your power and background, speaks volumes about your honor and character. Now, let us properly enjoy this wonderful tea that our friends have provided for us."
"Here, here," Godric Gryffindor said from the portrait he was now sharing with Helga Hufflepuff; it looked like he had a mug of ale in his hand, "We risk souring our palettes with such heavy talk and that would be a waste."
Between Griphook and Godric, the heavy mood in the chamber broke. Hermione said, "I agree with our Esteemed Founder; today's purpose was to get to know one another. Floozy and Notti went to a lot a work for us; we should enjoy their efforts and I hardly ate any lunch because I was nervous. This hostess thing is all very new to me but I'm told I need to get used to it, considering how many things are regularly decided in informal atmospheres."
Following Hermione's words, the meeting room broke into social groupings as each nibbled the provided food or sipped at the provided drinks. Hiram Greengrass moved to his House Founder's image and began speaking to him; there was so much to learn that had been lost and forgotten. That his Founder had chosen a muggle-born witch as Avatar even jabbed at some of Hiram's youthful prejudices and was a real revelation; thankfully, he was never a 'traditionalist' and recognized value in the manner his family's Patriarch had. Meanwhile, Daphne and Tracey cornered Fiona and Peeves and thanked them for their efforts on their behalf against members of a house that had lost much of its original meaning: ambition and cunning were not synonymous with prejudice and entitlement. As their guests enjoyed themselves, Harry and Hermione insisted that Floozy and Notti take tea with them; the two had put the effort in and deserved a reward for their efforts. In the end, Hermione needed to order the two she-elves to relax but she hadn't enjoyed doing so; hopefully they'd learn eventually that they were people too and deserved to be treated respectfully. With a glass of wine and a few finger-sandwiches on a plate, Emma had maneuvered Narcissa away from the main group; she had forgotten that magical portraits—especially when they are Soul Copies—are not the same as the paintings she'd grown up with.
Standing by Rowena's image, Emma asked Narcissa, "While I followed most of the conversation, considering my non-magical background; I need to check if an assumption is correct."
"Which assumption?" Narcissa replied.
Emma, actually looking a little awkward, asked, "Other than the obvious, what does a Lady's Chamber-elf do?"
They heard a giggle and Rowena replied, "Think living; breathing sex-toy wholly lacking in inhibition as it relates to her mistress."
The Founder in blue and gold continued, "Since, the consequences for a wizard's indiscretion is far less than a witch's; a Lady's Chamber-elf provides a similar type of anonymous relief as found in a brothel. Historically, especially amongst the oldest and most powerful Houses, marriages were political affairs and usually the only mandatory expectation was that an heir be produced. If the witch and wizard in the union were not compatible, the wizard had avenues of relief not available to the witch and—contractually—likely even impossible for a witch to pursue if such were available. A Lady's Chamber-elf—as house-elves are neither witch nor wizard—bypass restrictions that prevent a witch from taking a wizard to be her lover, though having a witch as a lover might be possible depending on the contract's wordings. What was rarely noted—but commonly known—was that relationships between a witch and her Chamber-elf tended to become reciprocal. Since a Lady's Chamber-elf is utterly devoted and revels in her mistress' praise and pleasure; imagine how they respond when their mistress does more than verbally praise them in reward."
Emma became a bit flushed; she knew how she felt when Dan played with her and Cissy in a similar manner and house-elves were physically and mentally wired to please their masters in a way she was not. Just being praised tended to make even the most stable house-elf near ecstatic; it was hard to imagine what a more somatic reward might do.
"Um . . . are you suggesting," Emma stammered.
Rowena snickered, "Probably. Not only that but in a well-developed reciprocal bond, a witch feels what her Chamber-elf feels and a Chamber-elf feels what her witch feels. Such relationships have been known to become addictive to both Lady and Lady's Chamber-elf; making wizards feel less than adequate when it comes to their witches."
Narcissa balked before asking, "Are . . . well . . . Floozy and Notti truly Lady's Chamber-elves?"
"Floozy received such training, nearly formally; much to her family's distress," Helga replied, entering the portrait, "and everyone was surprised by it but then Hogwarts is at least marginally precognitive. That Floozy opted to practice such skills, as imparted by Fiona and Peeves, with Notti suggests at least subtle manipulation by Hogwarts, since Notti has—for all intents—entered into Daphne's service and has the skills that Heiress Greengrass needs. Between Notti, Hermione and Tracey, Daphne's circumstances are well addressed by those with the knowledge and talents needed to adequately sate them: that is why Lord Greengrass looks so happy, his daughter and heir may be a slave to her body but her future is now free."
"But I believe that's Daphne's story, Emma," Narcissa interjected, "and while I'm somewhat at least somewhat knowledgeable, I don't know the whole story. Suffice to say, my former husband is not the most honorable of men and tended to resort to reprehensible means to achieve his goals. Perhaps we should invite Daphne to stay with us for at least some of the Yule Break. Between you, me, Hermione and of course Luna who is nothing but persistent in her own quirky but somehow always non-offensive manner; she'd likely open up to us and discover another place where she fits. I'm certain our Hermione and Harry know at least some of her story but neither would speak without her permission. We've taught our eldest daughter well and Harry's manners are impeccable, considering what we've learned about the Dursleys. By the way, has Ted gotten back to us about that yet?
"The paper work is done; it just needs to be signed," Emma replied, "Dan was planning to do that when we pick up Hermione and Harry at King's Cross for the Christmas break. It will make a wonderful early present for him and there is little time for interference by certain parties until all is said and done."
"If you'd have gone to Hogwarts, you and Dan would certainly be Slytherins; in the traditional sense of my old House," Narcissa said and gave Emma a quick peck on her lips; an act that caught Hiram Greengrass by surprise.
Seeing the former Narcissa Black, his housemate of a few years, so openly affectionate—especially with another woman—was going to take a while to grow accustomed to. Sure, he had also casually known Emma and Dan during their Hereford days but would never have expected them to become so involved with the former Lady Malfoy.
By Merlin, he thought, life can take unexpected twists from time to time..
The meeting on the second Sunday of November had not been about official alliances but Helga did provide Tracey with the Hufflepuff 'key' after getting to know the young Slytherin. Afterwards, she regularly joined Daphne and the others in the Patrons and Founders' chambers; thankful that any full-height mirror in the castle—the one in their shared washroom being no different—provided convenient doorways away from curious eyes. She could also use the Chamber's primary entrance but Tracey—as did Daphne—preferred the mirrors and the unsupervised movement they provided throughout Hogwarts. The trick with the mirrors was learning destination names for each mirror and House boundaries or affiliations had no bearing, since the Founders had implemented mirror-passage for their own convenience.
Being an Avatar, Hermione could enter any dorm within any House while Tracey and Daphne remained restricted to only the Chamber, their dorms or common areas like washrooms. They had visited the first-year's Gryffindor dorms once with Hermione but their presence would have led to awkward questions if they had been seen; Hermione, on the other hand, was a common visitor to the Slytherin dorms since Daphne and Tracey had a room to themselves. As it was, none visited either the Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw dorms since—technically—they should not be able to enter those without a House escort. As for Harry, he could access either the Potter or Black suites but could couldn't directly access any of the Founders' boudoirs, neither could he access the suites that would eventually be Susan Bones' (whose family, unexpectedly, was the Ravenclaw Patron for all the decades the family had been Hufflepuffs) nor the Longbottom chambers. Neither Daphne nor Tracey, not that they cared, could bring anyone but themselves into the Chambers although—like Harry—Hermione could now grant such access.
Through November, things settled into a pattern; for all it took Tracey awhile to grow used to Daphne's openness before Harry and Hermione. Nonetheless, to see her friend smiling freely again was worth the discomfort that came with seeing Hermione clad in just her bra and panties, even when Harry was present and less when he wasn't. At one point, Floozy or Notti—she wasn't completely sure which—began providing rather casual, if not downrightly revealing, clothing for them to wear; it soon became the Chamber's uniform of sorts. The very short and tight bottoms only covered but didn't hide that Daphne and her were witches and while not an issue yet, the tight shirts—made from the same strange stretchy cloth—would clearly display their assets once they had assets to display. The only negative thing about these clothes was that wearing underthings made them unflattering, not to mention uncomfortable; in the end, it hadn't taken long to just abandon the panties and such while in the Chamber. Tracey was okay with this too but she wished the crotches wouldn't darken so noticeably as often as they did but she couldn't help herself; Daphne and especially Hermione were both very attractive witches and the bond she shared with the Greengrass Heiress had leaned her orientation towards the fairer sex. It didn't help that Harry would pass the odd comment about it and only Hermione was immune to the bouts of embarrassment that followed his observations.
As for Harry, it had taken him until near the end of the month before he had stopped noticing that the witches surrounding him, who—while in the Chambers—wore clothes they'd unlikely wear anywhere else in Hogwarts or anywhere public for that matter. Still, during November, Harry's manner of dress had grown more relaxed too since Hogwarts subtly kept increasing the Chamber's ambient temperatures. All her plans depended on a Lord Potter who was comfortable amidst a coven of witches, regardless of how they might or might not be clad, and comfortable with his body during the rites the Founders would eventually begin teaching.
That month, Hermione also began sitting with Su Li (a shy and petite oriental girl) if they were in the library at the same time. Their early attempts at conversation had been especially awkward because of the first-year Ravenclaw's very thick accent, even though her knowledge of English was as good as or better than most students within Hogwarts. Still, Cantonese was Su's first language (she was fluent in Mandarin and Japanese too) and until they had developed an ear for the other's manner of speech, conversations tended to be time consuming. Eventually, Hermione discovered that Su Li's father was an Ambassador to Magical England and that she had a brother and sister who were two years younger. If they were still in England in a couple of years, they'd be attending Hogwarts as well.
Having a younger sister opened some common ground between Su and Daphne and—by extension—Tracey and soon the four witches had formed a bond, which saw them able to speak comfortably with each other. Other than Harry, no one else could follow their casual banter thanks to an obscure charm Hermione had discovered. Although not a translation charm, per se, it did allow 'understanding' between targets. Rapidly, various words and concepts from Japanese, Mandarin and Cantonese had crept into their conversations along with the odd bit of French courtesy of a semi-fluent Hermione. This made it even harder for other witches and wizards to understand their casual tête-à-têtes and rendered Dumbledore's listening charms—scattered about the castle—next to useless. Eventually, Su Li joined her friends in their morning training but not always on the same mornings due to their schedules. The addition of the Slytherins and then a Ravenclaw added to the rumors floating around Hogwarts and the relationship mystified many; Albus Dumbledore not in the least.
Hermione introduced Su Li to the Chamber and the concept of Avatar on the last weekend of November; it added a new level adaptation for Tracey and Harry but Daphne seemed to accept her as a matter of course. As for Su, she liked the Chamber's 'uniform' and was as open as Hermione about some things. Tracey had asked her about it once. Su explained that where she was born, Eroticana was still commonly practiced and that a witch—especially any witch of rank—was expected to know such things. Considering her background and adjacent attitudes, Su Li and Rowena Ravenclaw quickly grew quite close and soon the Founder gave her new 'acolyte' the 'key' to the Chamber. Rowena also told the young Ravenclaw that if her great granddaughter had not been attending in January; she'd have gladly offered her Avatarship to Su; Su Li, as humble as ever, replied that it was 'likely for the best' since Magical England didn't seem to like anyone but the old families. She bluntly stated that she would've been viewed as 'that chink with no business in a position, which rightfully belongs to a proper English wizard'.
As for the Headmaster; Albus Dumbledore, was at a loss to explain the strange relationship between two Gryffindors, two Slytherins and a first-year witch from Ravenclaw with a diplomatically important father and it didn't fit any of his plans. That the Head of Ravenclaw was involved suggested Gringotts was involved too and the Headmaster definitely didn't like that either. It wasn't just Professor Flitwick, though; he had seen those five talking with Severus Snape—outside of class—and while uncommon, it wasn't rare either. This rapport—above any other—worried Dumbledore but Severus remained as closed as ever and Filius Flitwick remained inscrutable. He had tried to speak to his deputy but Professor McGonagall had become distant since late September and now tended to avoid being alone with him. She also told Albus that even as their 'Head of House' she had no business or interest in interfering with a students' choice of friends or associates. It didn't help the Headmaster that, as an animagus, she was a poor target for Legilimency since her inner cat shifted her mind's frequency slightly away from the average witch's. Overall, frustration was common for Dumbledore and as November drew to a close, for all his efforts to discover whom it belonged to, Sytherin's throne remained unclaimed and taunting. It wasn't just that damnable chair causing him grief either; his ineffectual attempts to influence Harry Potter—on top of it all—saw new bottles of firewhisky appearing in his chambers far more frequently than they once did.
It was on the last Saturday when Daphne approached Hermione and the Founders about being Hufflepuffs' Avatar. Unlike Hermione, Daphne had a better grounding in politics and understood the concept of 'chosen' in a way that had taken the bushy-haired Gryffindor nearly two months to truly understand and internalize. It was a rather damning statement, about Magical England, that saw a young witch—of noble descent—accept without question that her future was not decided by her but by her family. Not even her direct family, necessarily, when political or financial expedience was the primary concern for a union: the romantic desires of either notwithstanding. Hermione had been—as expected—incensed but Daphne sat the muggle-born down and explained the facts of a witch's life within Wizarding Britain. The Greengrass heiress told Hermione that she had been given a choice that many of her year mates would not be given and it wasn't just her fellow Slytherins necessarily; plenty of the non-Slytherin families followed the 'old' ways too. After rolling her eyes and nibbling her bottom lip, the young Gryffindor finally settled down. Together, they vowed to ensure that their children—if they ever had daughters—would not be subject to such demeaning practices, which viewed them as mere commodities by certain circles still prevalent within Magical Society.
Placing issues of misogyny aside, until they could actually do something about it, they made plans for Daphne's ascension. The first thing to decide was when and 'sooner rather than later' was best for all concerned. In the end, they chose to meet in the Patrons and Founders' Chamber just before midnight on the first Friday in December. After deciding the 'when', there followed a discussion of who would attend. Considering Daphne was the star of this 'show' and considering her history; Harry opted to spend the Ascension Ritual reading in the Founders' library, out of respect for the Slytherin witch's difficulties with wizards. She had grown more comfortable with Harry during November but she still occasionally withdrew when he was present; especially if she was having an off day: the days prior to the rite being a case in point, all had been 'off' for her. Thankful for Harry's voluntary withdrawal from a ritual he had every right to attend; Hermione and Daphne then asked if Tracey and Su could attend. They knew both witches were technically outsiders but the Founders told them that a 'bridesmaid' or a 'groomsman'—as Peeves teasingly referred to them—were welcome to witness the ritual.
The week before Daphne's ritual sped by—end-of-term homework adding to that general feeling of 'no time'—and Friday evening arrived as if without warning. With simulacrums tucked snugly into their beds, the five first-years mirror-passed into the Chamber and met in the lower vestibule. Daphne re-avowed her decision and Helga's image smiled in relief. With their part in things done, Harry and Peeves left the four witches in Fiona's care. Harry headed to the Founders' library while Peeves opted to head out and see if he could annoy Hogwarts' resident caretaker who seemed to fulfill a rather superfluous role in castle care.
"Everyone ready," Fiona asked and received a series of nervous nods or smiles. She shucked her robe and stood proudly naked; Hermione and Su followed immediately as if it were nothing and waited—casually—for Daphne and Tracey.
The two Slytherins smiled shyly at each other and their hands touched in joint reassurance. Each took a calming breath, slipped their peignoirs from their shoulders and then from their arms. Each burned bright red for a moment and shyly glanced at their companions. Fiona, Hermione and Su smile encouragingly and since their young Ravenclaw friend—at this point in her life—had even less of to display than either Tracey or Daphne did, they were able to ignore her body but Hermione's 'not so' twelve-year-old figure was very hard not to notice. With all the witches in all their glory, Fiona crossed the lower antechamber and knocked on the Kernel's doors three times. Fiona and Su Li—standing in for Peeves—opened the doors and as they did, the luminescent fog of visible magic rolled across the floor and swirled about their ankles.
"What is this glowing mist containing dancing multi-colored flecks suspended within it?" Su Li asked as the fog bathed their ankles, "it doesn't feel damp and only a little cool."
"It's magic, which is so dense it has become visible," Hermione replied, "The Kernel is centered over the terminations points of five ley lines; this room is the only 'real' room in all of Hogwarts. The rest of the school grows from the magic radiating from here, the ultimate example of form following function. Hogwarts took her shape from the needs of her users and changes to keep abreast of those needs. It's still happening and if either Daphne or Tracey's parents visited today and wandered around, they'd find a few unfamiliar things even though they spent seven years within her walls. Thankfully, change is generational; can you imagine having to relearn Hogwarts every year? Still, from what we've been told, if something happens she can change much quicker if the need arises."
"Sumimasen," Su interjected in nervous Japanese before asking, "are you telling me that Hogwarts is—wǒ bù zhīdào—a long lasting conjuration or something?"
Hermione smiled and replied, "I understand how you feel; I felt the same. I had a few unpleasant dreams about Hogwarts 'blinking' out while I was inside her; it's all rather unnerving when you think about it."
"Wǒ huì jǐnliàng bù qù xiǎng tā," their Ravenclaw friend muttered.
"Sorry?" Tracey asked.
"I'll try not to think about it," Su repeated in English.
"N-neither will I," Daphne added, sounding rather nervous herself.
"This is not the time for that; so, shall we get on with it," A series of nods answered her question before she said, "Good, the sooner we're done the sooner the four of you can go to bed . . . and sleep."
As they spoke, a women's voice—proud and majestic—issued from the chamber and said, "Enter my child; come before us and be known. Bring forth your willingness and desire to serve. You will be our voice and our face, our shield and our sword. Present your being to us and be renewed."
As instructed, Daphne entered and stepped to the center of the room; she bowed to the other Founders and then faced Hufflepuff. Hermione followed and then Fiona and Su Li entered; they closed the doors behind them. The bushy-haired witch stepped to the image of Salazar Slytherin, turned and faced the center of the room as Daphne genuflected before her Founder.
A familiar voice resonated, as Helga asked, "Who presents this child before me?"
"We do," Fiona and Hermione, replied in unison.
"And how be this child named?"
"This child's is named Daphne Rose of the Noble House of Greengrass," Fiona replied formally.
"Has Daphne Rose been vetted and shown to be neither an agent of evil nor an enemy of Hogwarts?"
"She has," Hermione replied.
"Has Daphne Rose come before us aware of the office she seeks?"
"She has," Fiona and Hermione replied.
"Does Daphne Rose present herself or has she a Patron?"
"Heiress Greengrass—since the Heir of Longbottom has yet to declare himself—has no Patron and is presented by the Lady Matriarch Hermione Jean of the Noble House of Granger; the Avatar and Duchess of Slytherin," Fiona replied.
"Avatar of Slytherin present yourself," Helga commanded.
"I am the Lady Matriarch Hermione Jean of the Noble House of Granger, Avatar and Duchess of Slytherin," Hermione formally replied.
"Avatar and Duchess of Slytherin, have you presented my candidate of your own freewill?"
"I have," replied the Gryffindor witch.
"Daphne Rose of the Noble House of Greengrass, look upon me," Hufflepuff's soul copy commanded.
Daphne nervously raised her head and faced her Founder's image.
"Daphne Rose of the Noble House of Greengrass, do you come before us of your own free will and unhindered by any form of coercion, known or unknown?"
"I do," she replied steadily.
"Are you prepared to be tested for substances or magics intended to subvert your will or being?"
Brilliant light, without a direct or observable source but somehow focused on Daphne, began filling the Ritual Chamber and as it grew brighter, Hermione and Tracey found themselves needing to avert and shield their eyes from the glare; Fiona was not affected. Moments later the light faded; Tracey and Hermione blinked away the annoying case of spots the light left in its wake.
"The supplicant is free of controlling substances but is bound by a curse," reported Ravenclaw's image, "she also has a tendril of 'connection' leading to the Avatar of Slytherin and an 'imposed reciprocal bind' to Tracey of House Davis, currently present as Daphne Rose's bridesmaid. There was a third but Magic says that it was transferred to Slytherin's Avatar recently."
"Have these tendrils been willing gifted to the Avatar of Slytherin and your bridesmaid, my postulant?" Hufflepuff asked.
The Founder's question made Daphne think. Glancing towards Tracey and then Hermione she thought about the question and replied, "It is my gift and given freely to Tracey as Tracey gave freely unto me. My link to Avatar Hermione was levied but had I been asked; that too I could give freely, regardless of my imposed Life Debt to her."
The image of Hufflepuff nodded and then asked, "Rowena, will you verify Daphne Rose's reply?"
"I will," said the raven-haired founder.
Again, the chamber filled with eye-stinging light, which diminished rapidly. The image of Ravenclaw said, "It is as Daphne Rose says; she holds two connections to the witches of note and the one imposed has subtly evolved from its original nature."
"Could any of these connections disrupt the duty-bond between Daphne Rose and Hogwarts?" she asked.
"I think not," Rowena replied.
"Very well then, I see no reason not to continue with Daphne Rose's induction to the Office of Avatar. Do we all agree?" Helga asked her associates; they nodded."
Helga smiled before asking, "Heiress Daphne Rose of the Nobel House of Greengrass; do you understand the history, conditions and responsibilities that come with the office of Founder's Avatar?"
"I do," Daphne replied.
"Will you openly protect Hogwarts and her students?"
"Will you openly promote academic achievement before political gain?"
"Will you openly be the voice of the voiceless and the persecuted within these hallowed halls?"
"Will you openly promote all students of all houses equally, showing neither favor nor bias to any who might come before you?"
Daphne frowned, this question forced her think before answering; she had more than a few unpleasant memories of Draco Malfoy appear in the forefront of her mind. After a moment of self-reflection, she replied as honestly as she could, not knowing Hermione had faced the same dilemma and provided the same answer, "I will do my best."
Helga Hufflepuff, after Daphne had answered, seemed to peer into her mind and for a moment, the young Slytherin thought that this would prevent her from becoming an Avatar. The images of the Founders seemed to converse amongst themselves for a few seconds before Helga said, "That your thoughts fell to the same wizard, which Avatar Hermione noted on her ascension, does not bode well for the Malfoy family but the Malfoy family is not our concern this day; a fair, benign and equitable Hogwarts is. Therefore, the weaknesses of humanity notwithstanding, we will not deny your petition; in exchange, we ask that you remain as objective as your nature permits. Should that not be possible, you will defer such matters to an impartial Avatar and abide by their decision."
"I will," Daphne answered with obvious relief.
Helga Hufflepuff smiled and began, "When the Office of Avatar was instituted it was the embodiment of all that the Founders thought to be vital for the world's magical children. It was created to give voice to our students and, to a lesser extent, give voice to Hogwarts' teaching faculty to ensure that our children receive an impartial and inclusive education in an environment that promotes harmony and respect. We also created Hogwarts created to protect young magicals from the hostile non-magical majority, which viewed witches and wizards as agents of evil working towards non-magical society's collapse or subjugation. Furthermore, we intended Hogwarts to be a seat for non-bias research, a non-bias archive and a place where adults might come to renew, refresh or learn new things in an environment conducive to such endeavors.
"Moreover, Hogwarts is a sanctuary for witches, wizards and magical creatures facing prejudice or unjust persecution." the Founder continued. "As an Avatar, Daphne Rose of the Noble House of Greengrass, you may be called upon to adjudicate such matters and then openly protect those who have sought for and then subsequently granted asylum to the best of your abilities. To this end, Hogwarts has never fallen under the auspices of the Wizengamot or the body that has come to be known as the Ministry for Magic, although most have forgotten this. Hogwarts' charter—forged in the fires of magics both ancient and pure—establishes, maintains and guarantees independence from any who might seek to impose their will through legislation, interference or coercion of any type.
"Principally, Hogwarts is sovereign territory and need only answer to the Crown, which conferred upon the school's Avatars certain but primary ceremonial offices that legitimize our actions. As such, the school's charter allows for the raising and support of a Hogwarts' Militia, tasked with the defense—and only the defense—of the school, Hogsmeade, the students or faculty from forces that threaten it; whether mundane or magical. Daphne Rose of the Noble House Greengrass, do you understand and accept the duties and responsibilities that assuming the office of Avatar entails?"
"I do," Daphne replied proudly; her manner and tone of answer made Tracey smile.
"Very well then," Helga said regally, "as I and my fellow Founders see no basis to bar your ascension to the Office of Avatar, we do present unto you the Mantle of Hufflepuff; are you prepared to accept, Daphne Rose of the Noble House of Greengrass?"
"I am," came her firm reply.
"Henceforth, Heiress Daphne Rose of the Noble House of Greengrass," Hufflepuff proclaimed, "you shall be known as Daphne Rose the Duchess and Avatar of Hufflpuff."
With that, Hermione thought—from her experience—the scrutineering was complete until Founder Gryffindor commanded, "Attendant Tracey Joanne of House Davis step to the center of the chamber, face Founder Hufflepuff and kneel beside her Avatar Elect."
Confused, Tracey glanced at Fiona and Hermione but both looked as confused as she felt.
"Fear not, Witch Davis," Godric said majestically, "you've nothing to fear and much to gain; we wish to bestow upon you an office unused for nigh on eight-hundred years."
Fiona smiled encouragingly as understanding came to her; Hermione looked perplexed. Hesitantly, Tracey stepped forward and knelt beside Daphne.
"Present thyself, young witchling, to ye Founder before thou," Gryffindor enjoined; thankfully, his smile was nonthreatening.
"I-I'm Tracy J-Joanne of . . . of House D-Davis, Founder H-Hufflepuff," she stuttered nervously in reply as she studied the floor and the magical mist swirling around her knees.
"Look upon me child and fear not," Helga stated, "as Founder Gryffindor stated, nothing untoward will happen to you."
Tracey looked to Founder Hufflepuff's face.
"During the early days of the Avatars' Accord; we discovered that a sole witch or wizard was—at times—insufficient to handle the demands made unto their person," Helga said. "Such issues generally arose during times of strife, when our Avatars were focused more on the defense of Hogwarts than the operation of the school. To ensure that our students still had an active voice, we inaugurated the position of the Avatar's Consort to oversee internal matters. Given unto the office of the Consort were many non-executive matters dealing with day-to-day operations, general logistics and disciplinary matters that affected staff and students. The Founders' Consorts became only second to the Avatars when it came to appeals and decisions that affected the internal operations and logistics of Hogwarts, the Hogsvale or Hogsmeade.
"The Consorts were further charged and expected to stand-in for their Avatar," the Founder continued, "during rites that required four participants; if their Avatar was absent or otherwise indisposed. They were also expected to partake in rituals that worked better with more than four celebrants, such as Beltane and Lughnasadh; this is why we called them Consorts and not Aides or Secretaries. This is also why—like our Avatars—we prefer our postulants to be of first or second-year, since they need to be comfortable with the idea and practice of polyamory. For both Avatars and Consorts, we've come to realize that females adapt better to the Offices since they tend not to be as hung up on their sexuality the way many wizards, even those of similar age or background, tend to be. This wasn't always the case but the advancement of Christianity brought concepts and beliefs, which—over time—filtered into Magical Society and supplanted many of our older ways and celebrations. Furthermore, we found that many older postulants had developed non-conducive inhibitions that were very hard to break and interfered with Life based rituals, since most Life rituals end in participant joint climaxes. Overall, we prefer pansexual polyamorous abettors to properly evoke the Magics we call upon but such adepts have become harder to find over the decades. Do you understand Tracey Joanne of House Davis?"
"I-I think I understand, Founder Hufflepuff," Tracey replied, "and I see why you want'em young; certain prejudices are acquired rather early, depending on predominate and/or paternal attitudes towards rearing. Offhandedly, I imagine orphans to be better candidates and I wonder why there are no 'Founders' Wards'. Such a system might've maintained a pool of suitable Avatar and/or Consort candidates to call upon; it may even have prevented the Office of Avatar or Consort from falling into disuse. Even if these 'Wards' were not tapped, these witches and wizards would've entered Magical Society with very open attitudes. Even if their mindsets only resulted in greater tolerance, our community would've benefited I'm sure."
Tracey noticed that her words had stunned Helga; it had stunned the other Founders too but she wasn't looking at them. Hermione and Fiona were and both wondered why such a simple solution wasn't in place; it would've solved a lot of problems before they ever arose.
Founder Hufflepuff, with a hint of surprise, replied, "Even after all these years; a simple solution can arise unexpectedly. I have no idea why we, or any of our former Avatars and Consorts, failed to consider such an elegant and simple resolution. True, we backed away from the operations of Hogwarts of our own accord—thinking ourselves relics of a bygone era—but maintaining a voice might've seen things like the 'Grand House Divide' not becoming the infuriating and acrimonious issue it has become. Should you choose to accept the Office of Hufflepuff's Consort, I will charge you with investigating how feasible your simple solution might be. Which—of course—leads to my next question: Tracey Joanne of House Davis, are you willing and able to become an Avatar's Consort; knowing full well that by accepting this Office you shall forever forfeit what most might call a 'normal' life?"
"I abandoned the idea of 'normal' the day I accepted being bonded to Daphne as her enabler," she replied, "and even if that had not been the case; my association with Patron Potter would've seen my abandonment of what is 'normal'. Trolls, Lords and macro-politics are not part of an everyday student's life."
"You've not answered, Tracey Joanne," Helga stated and then repeated, "Are you willing and able to become an Avatar's Consort; knowing full well that by accepting this Office you forfeit the right to live what most might call a 'normal' life?"
"I am," the young Slytherin replied firmly and without hesitating, having made her mind known.
The Founder smiled and asked, "Are you willing and able to be bound to your Avatar, her fellow Avatars and your fellow Consorts—if any—knowing full well the intimate nature such relationships entail?"
"I am and I do," she answered and then added cheekily, "besides, Hermione—I mean Avatar Slytherin—looks pretty tasty; I'd be a fool giving up an opportunity to have a piece of that and I'm certain her sister Danielle will look just as good in similar attire, for all she is younger."
Hermione blushed and looked anywhere but at Tracey; she wasn't sure if she should be glowing or glowering over the auburn haired and amethyst-eyed witch's flattering comments, which would've warranted a slap if uttered by most wizards. Fiona and Rowena giggled (So much for this being a somber ceremony, the bushy-haired Gryffindor thought frivolously) and Godric exhaled a loud guffaw; Salazar kept his response to a mere smirk.
"You are wonderfully irreverent, my dear," Gryffindor said, "and levity lifts the pall off many a dire circumstance; it allows one to pause and then take a fresh look at a situation."
"Ahem," said Helga—not sounding upset—before continuing, "Do you, Tracey Joanne, come before us of your own free will and volition; un-coerced and knowingly free of substances or magics intended to limit or subvert your being?"
"I . . . I think so," Tracey replied and what followed was obviously cut from the same cloth as the Avatar Ascension Ritual.
After vetting Tracey; the image of Hufflepuff stated, "As none have challenged your ascension and since you are a witch of the right proclivity; I freely accept you as my Avatar Elect's Consort and the honor you will bring to the Office we have revived."
As Helga's words faded to silence, ethereal chains shot from the ceiling. The chains sought for and found Daphne's and Tracey's wrists, about which shackles appeared. Bound, their arms were drawn over their heads and both young witches found themselves lifted from the chamber's floor. An unseen hand turned them towards one another as a second æthereall chain appeared. A second chain coiled about their bodies and bound the two young Slytherins together; it forced their legs to interlace, thrusting the top of their legs against stimulating areas. The sight excited Hermione in a manner she'd not publicly admit and made her thankful that Harry was not present and as her mind spun carnal caprices, featuring Harry as the Master of Chains, she was also thankful that uncomfortably sodden panties would not be a concern. Unbeknownst to Slytherin'a Avatar, Su Li was embracing the sight in much the same fashion but for its featured participants. For Su, her thoughts turned to images and imaginings of a not 'twelve-year-old' looking Gryffindor witch, trussed against her and—together—exploring mature possibilities. Realizing what her feelings suggested, the young Ravenclaw knew she'd have to write to her grandmother and mother about her such things; she'd also have to speak to Hermione. Su hoped the hazel-eyed witch's relationship with Harry had room for her, just as it seemed to have room for Daphne and apparently Tracey as well.
As the young witness witches contemplated their feelings, a third set of spectral manacles appeared and cinched about Tracey and Daphne's ankles. Suspended from the taunt upper chains, the additional lower chains virtually immobilized the Slytherins but for their heaving bosoms. Helpless and hanging, in the absolute center of the Kernel, the two young witches felt an arcane wind rise and swirl about the chamber and begin buffeting them. Magic, heard before being seen, manifested about their bodies and as the energy crackled across their bare skin, an ozone-like scent filled the room. Daphne threw back her head, opened her mouth and moaned; Tracey wasn't as verbally expressive but her head hung limply and her eyes had rolled back, it was obvious that she was in a state similar to her friend's.
Even over the crackle of the magical maelstrom, which danced and arced chaotically across the flesh of the bound witches, Hermione, Fiona and Su Li heard the rapturous whimpers that emanated from the two Slytherins. That sound and the scent of magical ozone triggered vivid memories for the young Gryffindor who keenly remembered her time suspended in the Kernel and felt herself growing increasing moist as she imagined how much more intense it would've been had she shared her experience. With her heart palpitating and her breath growing ragged; Hermione, from firsthand experience, knew pretty well what her friends were undergoing and even here on the on the periphery of the Ascension Rite she felt a powerful echo of stimulation coursing through her body.
Slowly the magics began to dissipate, the tempest weakened and the sorcerous manacles faded; leaving Daphne and Tracey unsupported and likely as unconscious as Hermione had been following her Ascension. Together, they crumpled slowly to the floor. Hermione and Su advanced and, after a cursory glance, they found that both witches were well within Morpheus' grip and—from experience—Hermione felt certain they'd remain asleep well into Saturday morning, perhaps even until lunchtime and maybe beyond.
"Xīnkǔ," Su Li muttered, "and I was just a witness. Was it as intense as it looked?"
"At least," Hermione replied, "My memory is foggy—to say the least—but Harry and I didn't wake until mid-day following my Ascension; if that's an indicator and I can't imagine that Daphne or Tracey will either. Watching them, I think they were feeding off each other during their rite—you know how they're linked, Su—I'm sure that made everything much more intense. I doubt we'll see them before tomorrow's—I mean tonight's—dinner. Thankfully, Notti will take care of them once they wake. For now, I think we need to get both into bed; Fiona can you give us a hand, I don't think Daphne would appreciate either Harry or Peeves helping us, especially in their current state."
Out of respect for their modesty—especially Daphne's—Fiona conjured rather gossamer sleepwear for them; yellow with black trim for the Slytherins, blue with gold trim for Su and green with silver trim for Hermione.
"That is so handy," Hermione commented offhandedly, "when do we learn Conjuration?"
"Early in the fourth year usually," Fiona replied as she clad herself in a basic Hogwarts' student robe, "that's the soonest that most students' magical core can support Conjuration; it takes a lot more power than simple Transfiguration since the material used in conjuration comes from the environment, instead of the target object: like matchsticks to needles. Of course, that's just a rule-of-thumb. I'm sure that you, Hermione, could likely summon a simple and small conjuration already and I'm fairly certain Su could as well, since I imagine she's been using magic longer; for all that you're both in first-year.
"It's a fairly common, amongst wizarding families, to teach their children simple magic before starting Hogwarts; it's a practice, which contributes to the fantasy that muggle-borns are weaker than the pure-born. Many have forgotten that and while all magicals have an upper limit; if one doesn't exercise their magical-core it can't be properly utilized. By third-year—usually—those of non-magical descent have exercised their cores enough to be at least equal to—if not exceeding—many of their pureblooded classmates, a conveniently forgotten statistic if you ask me. While it's true that knowledge equals power; it doesn't necessarily follow that ignorance equals weakness; I hope Draco Malfoy—by this point—can attest to that and I'm sure his father is being a little more weary these days. Both suffered humiliation at the hands of those they thought, according to their prejudices, were weaker. That aside, let's get Daphne and Tracey into bed; they'll be awfully stiff if we leave them on the floor overnight."
Hermione huffed over yet another social disparity between herself and her classmates of magical descent, at least some. She felt reasonably certain that Ronald Weasley never lifted a wand prior to boarding the Hogwarts Express, it was obvious in his results, and for all he had the same red hair and familial traits; his personality was glaringly different from his brothers. Fred and George were jokers and didn't take their studies seriously but there was more to abilities than just marks (a concept Hermione would've found hard to accept a few months ago); their effort showed in the pranks they performed. As for a Percy, he was still a self-righteous, self-promoting and self-congratulating stick-in-the-mud, in whom Hermione could see too much of her old self, but he was the embodiment of effort, discipline and academics. Had she not met Harry on the train; her focus and need for an authority figure would've been centered on Hogwarts faculty and the Headmaster in particular. She would've likely become another Percy Weasley but in a witch's body and in the misogynist nature of current Magical Britain she would be expected to become a good little toy, when she was young, and a baby-machine and housewife when she got older; it made her shiver. Hermione wanted a life like her mother's or how Cissy-mum's would've been had she been with daddy from the beginning. In public, she wanted to be dominant and in control; in private, she wanted to be submissive and controlled, when the mood struck her. That made her shiver too but for a different reason.
"Hermione," Su Li's voice penetrated the shell of self-reflection surrounding the bushy-haired witch, "are you coming?"
With a shake of her head, the Gryffindor—clad in silver and green—cleared her thoughts and noticed Fiona had levitated the two sleeping Slytherins; floating them towards to the door. She replied, "Sorry Su, I guess I'm more tired than I thought and my mind was wandering. Let's get Daph and Trace to bed and then I'm going to collapse myself; do you want join me? The Founders' beds are too big for just one and I feel nearly agoraphobic when I'm in mine; that's why I prefer the dorm."
The Ravenclaw witch said, "Wǒ tóngyì, these beds are huge; I can't imagine sleeping in one alone, I'm afraid I'd be lost by morning . . . Are you sure you want to sleep with me? I'm told I move around a lot."
"I'm sure as long as you don't mind my sleep habits? I'm told I'm a cuddler," Hermione replied and followed Fiona from the Kernel; Su followed on the hazel-eyed witch's heels.
Crossing the lower antechamber, the princess of Hogwarts hovered the sleeping witches to the stairs and then guided them up. They passed through the Founders' Library and Hermione saw Harry sitting before a bright fire set upon the hearth's grate.
"Harry," Hermione called to her wizard; he didn't respond.
The cute Asian witch glanced towards the wizard and observed, "I think he is asleep."
"I think you're right," Fiona agreed and then added, "Let's get Daphne and Tracey tucked in first and then we'll deal with Harry."
The faux sixth-year didn't wait for a reply and levitated the slumbering Slytherins upstairs to the Founders' corridor. The young Ravenclaw noted the Gryffindor's brief covetous gaze at the green-eyed wizard as she followed Fiona, Hermione trailing at her heels. Fiona carefully maneuvered the floating witches to Hufflepuff's suite, into the Founder's boudoir and settled both onto the large bed with its intricately carved gambolling badgers and other playful forest creatures. For Su and Hermione, the sight of Tracey and Daphne completely nestled snuggly into bed inspired a gaping round of yawns.
Fiona smiled and said, "I want you two off to bed . . . now scoot; I'll deal with Harry."
With two nods and a couple of yawns as their answer, the two witches exited Helga's suite and made their way to Hermione's private room. As usual, Slytherin's chamber felt tropical and even the diaphanous nightwear provided by Fiona would've been sodden by sweat within an hour at most.
"Rè," the Asian witch said as she tried to fan herself, "how do you sleep in here?"
"I know what you mean, Su; it's always hot but for some reason it doesn't really bother me. Of course, the heat makes it pretty much a clothing optional room and the few times that I have slept here have seen me in the buff within minutes of lying down; I don't even bother with sleep-wear anymore. Even naked it's still hot but there is an unfelt magical-breeze—or something—that keeps me from feeling like I'm drowning in sweat. I suppose I should have mentioned that before suggesting you sleep with me."
"We both girls; even though you more girl than me, Hermione," Su said, her thicker than usual accent and poor diction indicating how tired she was and, without hesitation, cast off the conjured sleepwear.
Hermione shed hers with as little hesitation. After each had used the washroom, they crawled into bed on opposite sides and fell asleep as soon as their heads touched the pillows; neither woke when Fiona arrived with Harry. She settled the green-eyed wizard between the witches and whisper called for Floozy.
"Yes, Princess Hogwarts," Floozy aske as she quietly popped in.
"Floozy, please allow the young master and the mistresses to sleep themselves out," she said."
"Thank you Princess," the elf replied, "I will watch over my mistress, her wizard and their friend."
"And thank you, Floozy," Fiona said before fading to her spectral form and passing from the room.
The she-elf glanced at the bed and noted Harry was still in his robes; she whispered to herself, "Master Harry can't sleep in his robes; they'll be messy and wrinkled come morning. Besides, he'll be too hot to sleep well.
With a snap of her fingers, Harry's clothes vanished but for his underpants and almost as soon as his clothes disappeared a sleeping Hermione seemed to be aware of him and cuddled herself into his side. Floozy smiled, when she noted the Su Li seemed to snuggle immediately into his other side.
"Master Harry will be very surprised when he wakes," Floozy muttered, "I'll leave a calming draught by the bed for him."
Summoning a vial, the she-elf set it on the bedside table and quietly popped away to the Elf-cupboard she now shared with Notti. Vanishing the shirt and skirt her mistress wanted her to wear she settled onto the bed beside the only other Lady's Chamber-elf in the castle; Notti wasn't sleeping and Floozy wasn't tired so they decided to spend some time in Chamber-elf practice. For all Floozy's mistress hadn't needed her skills yet, Notti was already performing for hers; nevertheless, it never hurt to hone her skills, Floozy knew; besides, practice felt good.