Disclaimer: Anything recognisable does not belong to me. Story is based on the books by JKR and inspired by other writers of this genre.
Warning! There are scenes of graphic violence and torture about half-way through!
THAT WHICH IS DESERVED
A week later, Lucius seemed out of sorts the entire morning and Hermione was greatly tempted to ask what had crawled into his tea and died. But after they were done with lunch, he cleared his throat sounding suspiciously nervous.
"It has come to my attention that your birthday was on the 19th and I want to apologise for letting it pass unmarked."
"You have nothing to apologise for," she smiled at him reassuringly, "I have not told you after all."
"Yes, well, I took the liberty to procure a little something for you anyway. If you would accompany me," he rose and offered her his arm.
She beamed at him brilliantly taking it and allowing him to lead her through the backdoor into the gardens. They took the right hand path and rounded the topiary filled shrubbery, coming out at the flowing meadows surrounding his estate. Hermione was darn curious what it could possibly be that he had to bring her out here. They rounded another corner and she stopped dead staring open-mouthed for several long moments. Then, she squealed in delight (though she would deny it until her dying day) and threw herself at him, nearly knocking them both over, before snogging the life out of him.
They found themselves in front of rather impressive looking stables and bound to the paddock was the most beautiful English black mare, she had ever seen. How he had found out that she absolutely LOVED horses was beyond her. She had never told anyone in the wizarding world, if she remembered correctly, not even Harry.
A loud clearing of the throat startled them both and she quickly let go of Lucius and turned around, blushing slightly when she realised that they were not alone. An elderly man dressed in something like a combination of riding habit and sturdy working robes stood at the entrance to the stables smiling from ear to ear. His face was age and weather roughened, yet open and friendly, framed by greying sandy hair. His blue eyes were twinkling in amusement.
Lucius was showing signs of embarrassment as well to her surprise, but regained his usual composure soon enough.
"Hermione, may I present you Linus Hall, my equerry. He has been tending to the Malfoy family stables as long as I can remember. Linus, this is my bride, Ms. Hermione Granger."
"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Hall," Hermione curtsied and gave him her hand.
"Just Linus, my Lady, and the pleasure's all mine," he bowed and took her hand into both of his giving it a friendly squeeze, before letting go.
"Then just Hermione, please," she smiled at him openly. He was one of those people, whose warmth and good-nature made them familiar to you almost instantly. You just could not help yourself but like them.
"You have a liking for horses then," he grinned winking smartly.
Hermione blushed again, but did not let it bother her anymore. "Well, it's not every day that one is gifted to you after all," she turned towards Lucius and gave him a chaste peck on the lips this time. "Thank you, she is a gorgeous animal."
"I am pleased that you like her, my dear."
They went over and Hermione buried her hands in her flowing mane stroking the silky coat of her neck and head, smiling the entire time. So beautiful and all hers! Lucius would be treated to her peach-coloured, lacy, see-through little something tonight. That much was for sure.
"What's her name?"
"The goddess of the night? How fitting," she kissed her nose earning herself a snort and laughed stroking her long face. "Will, you ride out with me, my Nyx? Of course you will," she cooed ignoring Lucius' indulgent smile. How she talked to her new best friend was her own business and she was not ashamed of it at all.
"Will you ride out with us too, my Lucius," she cooed at him batting her lashes, so that he did not feel left out.
"I would not be averse to it."
Linus hid his snicker in a cough and went away to bring out Lucius' horse and saddles she assumed. He was barely out of sight when she pounced on Lucius again to make sure that he knew just how much she appreciated his gift. If not for the man in the stables, they would be rolling in the hay already. Alas, that would have to wait until they were back in the house to change into their riding attire. As if hearing her thoughts, Lucius all but dragged her away and back the way they had come. Needless to say, they did not even make it to the house, much less to the bed, though the lawn and his cushioned cloak were comfortable enough.
Despite being busy with wedding preparations, lessons, independent study, research, keeping her house in order, her parents in the dark and her man satisfied, the following month saw her almost daily at the stables. The warm weather held thankfully, which was not surprising really with it being the south here. Up there in Scotland they would have frost at night already. Lucius joined her often and they would ride along the woodland paths and open meadows of his estate and beyond. He showed her all the best spots and his favourite haunts smiling and laughing often when they exchanged anecdotes about the misdeeds of their childhood, and that of Draco's. She was happy that he had opened up to her so quickly, showing her sides of him that she would have never imagined he could possibly have only two months ago. He never spoke of his former wife though, not even in passing.
She had assumed that he was simply being tactful at first, but then it caught her eye that there was nothing even remotely reminding of the presence of another woman anywhere in the house, not even in the decoration of the rooms. Or at least nothing recent, there were some touches reminding of his female ancestors of course. Curiosity aside, it was giving her an uneasy feeling in the depths of her gut, thus she began discretely digging around.
The portraits were surprisingly polite, if somewhat stiff, to her ever since her arrival, yet suspiciously tight-lipped on anything pertaining to the former mistress of the house, no matter how covertly she made her inquiries. Damn Malfoys and their inborn Slytherinness! She supposed that the elves would be just as unhelpful for a change, but at least them she could trick into revealing information the roundabout way, even if it would make her feel guilty afterwards.
Sure enough, Leni turned out to be a true gold mine, as long as one avoided asking direct questions. Apparently, the former Mistress had been a bad woman, a bad mother and a bad wife, and she had done something terrible the last time the evil Dark Lord visited and they all were happy that she was now gone. Master had sold every single one of her possessions that were not bound to blood, gave those that were back to the Black family and redecorated the entire house and the gardens from top to bottom, making it all as it were before she moved in. Both Master and young Master had been very unhappy for many, many years, but not anymore, not since Mistress came. Mistress was good and very nice, and she was making Master happy, and they all loved her.
Her memory added all the anomalies in Lucius' behaviour, while her imagination filled out the gaps, and the picture that came together in the end was far from pretty. Gods, she could barely grasp the full extent of what the man must have suffered for nearly two decades. And though she admired him for his strength and resilience, the stranger was his readiness to enter another marriage so soon. If she were in his place, she would have stayed away from any sort of relationships for a quite long while. To give herself time to heal and recover her sense of self, as well as her wishes and expectations, if for no other reason. Why on earth had he bound himself to her without much thought mere two months after finally regaining his freedom? To her of all people too, a muggleborn, a girl his son's age, a complete stranger. It made no sense whatsoever.
The answer to that question came from the only other human resident of the manor. Linus Hall was the near Squib son of the former equerry and had been working for the Malfoys ever since he was a boy, taking over after his father's retirement. He had known Lucius since birth and had witnessed the consequences of his marriage to Narcissa Black firsthand, even though only from a distance being just a trusted employee.
"He simply stopped to care," she was grooming Nyx, while he was mending some equipment in the yard. "He's tried so hard the first couple of years, lavished her with attentions and tokens of affection, only to get cold demeanour and spoiled indifference in return. Nothing he did was ever good enough for her. After a while he simply gave up and stopped caring. He's been miserable for so long that he got used to it, lass. And when you came along he had no expectations whatsoever, not caring if anything would come out of it or not, only seeing the purely material benefits he would gain out of this union. Well, I'd say you've taught him better by now, eh?"
He winked and chuckled good-naturedly making her blush. Yes, she supposed she had. She was glad she had actually. The man certainly deserved better than what that woman had done to him.
"It's a longstanding Malfoy family tradition to give the best mare in the stables to the Lady of the house," he gestured towards Nyx.
Well, that explained how he had known she would like it. He had not. That was why he had been so nervous that entire morning.
"He's never given her a horse. Said that she didn't deserve it. That he gave one to you, lass, tells me in just how high estimation he holds you."
Hermione did not say anything to that continuing to brush Nyx's back and flank. What could she have said in the first place? Though, the warmth spreading through her made her smile. If they continued that way, there might be a chance for them to find themselves in love one day for real. On her part, she would hardly mind and she could only hope that Lucius thought the same.
Carefully rummaging around the box of potions and leafing through the instructions sent with it Harry reminded himself time and again to never get on the bad side of Hermione. Ever! The revenge she had cooked up would be of epic proportions by the looks of it. Complete and utter humiliation could not even describe it adequately. He shuddered and felt a smidgen of pity for his former best mate despite himself. But, well, he had brought it upon himself, thus he deserved everything he would get. He should have known better than trying anything of that sort with her, after having known her and what she was capable of for four years.
Cringing slightly he put on his dragon hide protective gloves and cast a searching spell for Ron's wanking lube, finding a vial of it in the pocked of the pants lying wadded under his bed. Holding it as far from his person as possible, he uncapped it and added the designated potion, shaking it carefully until the two substances had mixed completely. He put the cap back on and the vial where he had found it, then removed his gloves and buried the box with the other potions deeply in his trunk, feeling his prick and balls seek refuge deeper in his crotch at the mere thought of the effect that particular potion would have. Ron had his honest condolences.
That very evening, the usual noise of the crowded common room was pierced by a rather high-pitched scream coming from the boys' dormitories. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their heads towards the source and back to their neighbours, exchanging either confused or curious glances. The male sixth and seventh year prefects stood up and told everyone to stay where they were, before going up the narrow spiral staircase to investigate. Five minutes later a snickering sixth year prefect hurried down and through the room towards the entrance, waving away questions with the promises of later. Another five minutes and he was back with a very unimpressed looking Professor McGonagall in tow, who ordered the Weasley twins to follow her without further comment. They all went up the stairs leaving the common room lively abuzz with speculation.
Harry was employing all his willpower and feeble Occlumency shields to maintain a straight, if lightly curious, expression on his face. Poor Ron, to have to show and explain THAT to the male prefects must have been bad enough. But to do the same for McGonagall and his brothers, and later Madam Pomfrey, and even his parents at some point, his mother in particular, must be the pinnacle of humiliation of his young life. He did feel bad for Fred and George though, since they would probably take the fall for this, despite their protestations.
Another ten minutes passed. Then, McGonagall finally appeared with a strangely walking and puce-faced Ron all but hiding behind her flowing robes. They crossed the room and left through the portrait hole, apparently heading for the hospital wing. The prefects and his twin brothers stayed behind barely containing their grins. Not a minute since the portrait had closed behind their Head of house and they, both the twins and the prefects, finally cracked hugging each other and howling in laughter until the tears began to flow, watched curiously by the entire Gryffindor house.
After they got themselves together at last, they went over to their friends and began recounting the incident in hushed voices, to spare the little firsties' sensibilities. Soon though, there was not a dry eye left in the entire common room. By the time lunch arrived the following day, the rest of the school knew that Ronald Weasley had acquired a painful rash you-know-where while wanking with a lube that had apparently gone off sometime last century. Hermione's brilliance was really of a rather scary quality. Harry had to remind himself yet again to never get on the bad side of her. And the best of it all, no one really suspected foul play, thus he could proceed with stage two unconcerned about being found out too early in the game.
It took three days until the rash went down enough for Ron to be able to attend classes again and another three for him to actually show his face in public, probably forced out of hiding by their Head of house with nothing less than threats of expulsion from Hogwarts. The only thing keeping the gloating comments from coming his way was his prefect status and the ability to take points, though the looks and barely hidden snickers he was receiving were more than enough to send him slinking from classroom to classroom with his tail between his legs. He had yet to dare and eat in the Great Hall. So much for wanting to be the centre of everyone's attention, Harry smirked with relish to himself.
Oh, man, if he only knew what was yet to come! That was only the beginning. Ron would wish that he had been expelled before the end.
October had passed into November and the new moon would rise tomorrow morning. And while Hermione and Malfoy would begin only their first series of bonding rituals, Harry and Snape would be on their third already. Unlike his best friend and her intended, they had hit it off almost instantly against all odds. Hermione and Malfoy had simply needed their time to adjust to each other.
The reason why engaged couples were not allowed at Hogwarts was mainly because of the enormous effort going into the bonding rituals. There was no such thing as a divorce in the wizarding world for a reason. Once completed, the bonds could never be undone, thus it was literally 'till death do us part'. There were no less than five series of rituals and the various ceremonies of each one needed to be observed at very specific times of the lunar circle for one, which would disrupt the daily routine of students for about five months. Also, the magical energy expenditure would leave them tired and unable to give their best in class, or worse during examinations. Thus, in the middle of the eighteenth century the Hogwarts Board of Governors had decided to exclude the individuals in question for the sake of the welfare of everyone. The Ministry had supported that decision, since it would also encourage the students (and their parents) to concern themselves with marriage only after they had finished their education.
Both Harry and Snape were rather powerful wizards and as such the strain on their magical cores was manageable. To make time in their very busy schedules for the rituals, without drawing unwanted attention, was the real difficulty in their undertaking. Luck had been on their side so far and Harry could only hope that it would remain that way.
He went to bed early, since he would have to get up at half past three to join Snape in his quarters for the ritual. Thankfully, tomorrow was Friday and he had only double Charms in the morning and nothing more. It seemed like he had just drifted off when a sudden pull on his magic jolted him awake. He sat up and looked around struggling with sleepy disorientation. His bed curtains were closed and his perimeter wards untouched, as far as he could judge, and the only thing permeating the darkness was Ron's snores from the bed next over, which was also telling him that it was probably in the middle of the night.
Another pull nearly propelled him forward physically, leaving an ache in his chest that went deeper than anything he had experienced before. The bonds! It could only be the marriage bonds already formed and by the feel of it they were on the verge of breaking.
Seized with cold dread he grabbed his wand and shot out of his bed, down to the common room and out into the corridors of the castle, casting silencing and disillusionment charms as he went, not bothering with anything else. There were only two things that could damage the bonds at this point. One was instant death and the other sexual infidelity, and since he sincerely doubted Snape would ever cheat on him, much less in the middle of their engagement, it could mean only one thing...
Running along the empty corridors and down the many stairs as fast he could, not heading the cold bite of the stone floors against his bare feet, he let the bonds' pull guide him, working himself up to a state of towering rage with every passing minute. How dare they lay their filthy hands on what was his! Whoever they were, they would wish they were never born! He would rip them apart with his bare hands, if he had to! They wouldn't make it out of here alive, the fucking bastards!
He skidded to a halt in front of a closed door somewhere in an unused part of the castle. He had not the slightest idea where he was and could have given a shit at the moment. Blasting it open with an overpowered Confringo that took parts of the wall out with it, he stormed inside casting Expelliarmus at anything human-shaped in sight. Two wands flew towards him, which he deftly caught with his left hand thanks to his Seeker reflexes and dived behind the nearest cover, while casting a Full Body-Bind Curse at the figure he saw struggling to get up against the opposite wall. Shielding himself he peeked out to assess the situation and find the owner of the second wand, and any others that he might have missed.
To his surprise, there seemed to be no one else beside the one he had already caught. He took a look at the wands in his hand and recognised the other to be Snape's. Speaking of whom... He leaned further out from behind the old, dusty shelf and saw him chained to the wall naked and covered in bruises and bleeding lacerations. He was squinting slightly in his direction, as if trying to identify him, which reminded him that he still had the Disillusionment Charm on and promptly cancelled it. Then, he cast an Incarcerous at the frozen assailant for good measure and hastened over to get Snape out of the chains. They turned out to be the magic suppressing sort, thus he had to break them open with conjured and magically reinforced pliers, before wrapping Snape in conjured blankets and healing him as much as he was able to.
The man clung to him forcefully, trembling all over and breathing heavily, but did not make a sound otherwise, even though he was clearly in pain. Harry embraced him comfortingly and looked around for Snape's clothes. He would have some potions stashed away in his robes for emergencies surely. He found them bloody and torn on the floor a couple of feet away and summoned them, cleaning and mending them a bit, before placing them in the man's hands together with his wand. Snape clutched them to his chest, as if they were a lifeline, uttering a noise that sounded suspiciously like a strangled sob, and the rage raving in Harry on the way here returned full force. The bonds were still in place, which was telling him that he had prevented the worst, but to see this strong, proud man reduced to that was also telling him that he had not been fast enough.
Harry rose and went over to the bound man on the other side of the room, with his blood pounding in his ears in time with his heartbeat. Nicos Nevar, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. Why was he surprised? It had always been the new DADA Prof after all, had it not? He cut the left sleeve of his robes open with a flick of his wand. The man had no Dark Mark, it did not mean that he was not a supporter though. And even if he were not, he was still guilty of torture and attempted rape of his fiancé, which was unforgivable in Harry's eyes. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly as his hand tightened around his wand. Together with the bloodthirsty glow in his eyes it was giving him a somewhat demented look. The bastard was going to hell tonight, not a cushy cell at the Ministry, and his way down would be neither easy nor fast.
Judged by the frightened look in Nevar's eyes, he must have realised that as well. Harry cancelled the Petrificus Totalus and cast Tormentos, putting as much power into it as possible, making him scream and convulse in pain for almost five minutes. It might be nowhere near as painful as Crucio, but was bad enough in its own right. After he had lifted it, the scum curled up in his own waste whimpering pathetically. Harry's lips curved in disgust. Whatever that man had done to Snape, he sincerely doubted that the Potions Master had shown even a fraction of the weakness on display.
He cast strong cleaning spells for the sake of his poor nose, not out of courtesy towards the fellow. The bastard seemed to have found his jittery little voice at that though.
"What are you doing, lad? Let me go... You can't do this to me... you have no right... I'll have you arrested..."
Harry sneered and cast another Tormentos for good measure.
"You fucking scum have the gall to threaten me!"
He kicked him hard in the stomach making him roll into the corner from the sheer force of it.
"I have no right, eh?" He pulled the sleeve of his pyjama top up revealing the engagement bracelet. "Do you see this? Do you know what it means? You have dared to harm the intended of a Lord, arsehole! Your life is forfeit, no matter what!"
He levitated the worm squirming in his ropes and slammed him on one of the old student desks standing against the wall, turning him over to lie on his stomach with his lower body hanging off the edge.
"You wanted to fuck him, eh?"
He vanished Nevar's clothes and picked up a broken off leg of a stool lying at his feet.
"I'll give you a fuck!"
He rammed the blunt piece of wood into his anus. Ignoring the man's shrieks and the blood running down the wood and over his hands and arms, he pulled it out and rammed it into him again, deeper.
"What, scum? Doesn't it feel good? Aren't you enjoying yourself?"
The voice was barely audible above Nevar's sobbing and pleading and yet, the intensity of it made a shudder run down his spine. He let go of the wooden leg, leaving it to stick out of Nevar's arse and turned around. Snape was standing in front of him with his robes and hair meticulously impeccable. His posture and face had regained their rigid glory, though had also a sight coil to them, like a snake ready to strike. The air around him was all but churning with his tightly controlled fury and the darkness in his eyes had the heat and depths of the pits of hell.
Harry shuddered again and carefully stepped around him, handing over Nevar's wand on the way out. He reapplied the silencing and disillusionment charms and hurried out of the room without looking back. He really did not envy Nicos Nevar his lot, not for all the gold at Gringotts.
A quick tempus told him that it was almost one in the morning. The new moon would rise in three hours, thus he decided to go down to Snape's quarters and wait for him there, instead of returning to his dormitory. He would simply ask Dobby to bring him his school bag and robes, and a set of fresh clothes to change into.
It was only after the guardian statue had closed behind him and he cancelled the spells again and saw the blood drying on his hands and clothes, that the reality of what he had just done finally hit him. His knees gave away and he fell down on them retching hard. When there was nothing left to spit out he huddled against the wall and vanished the mess he had made on the carpeting. He did not bother with doing the same with the blood on himself, knowing without doubt that no matter how hard he scrubbed or cast no water, no soap and no spells in the world would ever be able to wash it away.
Snape returned to his quarters about two hours later. Harry was sitting curled up on the couch, well washed and freshly changed, with a blanket and at tray of tea under a stasis charm. Snape nodded at him once and left for the bathroom where he stayed a very long time. Harry could understand only too well as to why.
When he finally came out, a cup of tea prepared just like he liked it was already waiting for him. Harry put his feet down and shared his blanked, letting him drink his tea in silence for a couple of minutes.
"Nevar was apparently a new recruit who was tasked with making an example out of me as a part of his initiation. I must apologise that this situation has arisen at all. I have allowed myself to let my guard down too much lately and we both have paid for it dearly. I have cleaned up the scene of the incident and made sure no suspicion would ever come over either of us. They will never find his body either. It has never happened as far as I am concerned and I would be thankful, if you never bring it up again."
Harry bit his tongue and suppressed the urge to fuss over him. The man was two decades his senior, a former Death Eater and had lived through a war fighting on both sides by turns. Who was Harry to lecture him about how to handle a torture and near rape situation properly? The man surely must have lived through and witnessed worse, probably even committed some of it himself a mere hour ago.
There was something he could do for him though. He could make him forget the disgusting sensation of that bastard's hands on him, even if only for a while. He moved the blanket aside and the coffee table out of the way magically, before sliding off the couch and kneeling down between Snape's spread legs. The man had forgone his robes making his task easier.
He ran his hands over his strong thighs massaging them slightly, before unbuttoning his fly and pushing his trousers and underwear down to his ankles. Snape did not say anything, did not discourage him either though. He relaxed and made himself comfortable, leaning deeper into the cushions. Harry took him in his mouth sucking forcefully and massaging the base, gratified to feel him swell and harden under his ministrations. It was only the second time that he was doing this and if he was honest, he did not like the taste all that much, but could put up with it from time to time he supposed, knowing from experience just how pleasurable it was for the receiving party.
Snape's breathing quickened and he slid his hands into Harry's hair, tugging at it slightly, while he ran his tongue up and down the now fully hard shaft, teasing the slit and the vein under it periodically. He took the entire head in, careful to touch it with his lips, tongue and the insides of his cheeks only. The man did not like teeth at all, he had learned the first time around. He continued to lick, suck and wank him alternately for some time, massaging his balls and pulling gasps and moans of pleasure from him despite his best efforts to keep them in. It did not take too long though, until he felt the hands in his hair tighten and the body under him tense up. Knowing what to expect now, he quickly wrapped both hands around the long shaft, leaving only the top of the head in his mouth, sucking on it hard. And just like the last time, Snape thrust his hips up hard and came with a strangled shout, spurting long ropes of come into his mouth. Harry swallowed everything quickly, congratulating himself on managing to avoid being choked to death this time.
He let go of the softening cock and licked his lips clean, while looking up into a very satisfied face, smiling down at him slightly. To see that genuine smile and enjoy the affectionate caressing of Snape's hands was definitely compensation enough for any discomfort during the performance. Because this was Severus Snape at his core, stripped of all his masks, looking at him and touching him with unaffected love shining through every fibre of his being. It made Harry feel truly cherished every time he was allowed to witness it, which was not often unfortunately. The more precious were such moments to him.
A low chime sounded through the room startling them both slightly. Only ten minutes left until the rise of the full moon. Harry sighed and stood up allowing Snape to clean and dress himself, masks back in place again. He cast a mouth cleaning and breath freshening charm very glad to be rid of the aftertaste, and straightened his clothes, willing his own arousal away.
Snape had converted his guest room into a ritual chamber for the time being. They entered there taking their places in the circle drawn on the floor, ready to join their magic again, to give themselves over to each other without restraint, to be joined for the rest of their natural lives. And Harry could not help thinking, as he called his magic to the surface again, that 'in good times as in bad' was definitely no longer an empty phrase for them as of today. They were now closer to being one unit than ever before, no matter how horrible the experience leading them there had been.
As expected, the DADA Professor's disappearance had not stayed unnoticed for long. The students had been confined to their dormitories for an entire day while the Aurors conducted their search and investigation. They had not found anything leading to the man's possible whereabouts anywhere. The man seemed to have just disappeared overnight. Speculation was running wild among the student body. Nevar must have established a new record, seeing as he had not even made it to the end of the first term. The Ministry had been kind enough to provide a replacement in form of no less than four retired Aurors. Probably, to appease the parents and make a public gesture of concern towards the school's safety.
It was a good thing of course, though the tighter security also meant that he and Snape had to be doubly careful when meeting for their tête-à-têtes. As a matter of fact, the only times they could be alone were during detentions as of late. That or when Snape got frustrated enough to hold him back after class and fuck him bent over his desk right in the classroom, while the next group was waiting in the corridor outside. Honestly, one would think that he was the horny teenager here.
On the socio-political front things were going well. The winter session of the Wizengamot would start on the 16th of this month and he had every intention to push the freedom of faith through. Politics aside, such a basic human right should not be missing in the constitution of any country of the civilised world. It was simply outrageous that it was still denied in a supposedly modern and enlightened society such as Wizarding Britain, the more so, because the rest of Wizarding Europe had already followed their muggle counterparts on that front after the war with Grindelwald. But, well, that was politics at their shittiest for you.
Snape had conveyed his message as he had been asked to, but was keeping quiet about any decisions made in the Dark circles pertaining to it. And yet, it was almost palpable in the atmosphere here at Hogwarts and the society in general that the old pureblood traditionalists had taken a collective step back from their usual doctrines, and Voldemort by association. But not more than that one step, still wary of both him and the Dark Lord's wrath. Though, their actions had confirmed Harry's suspicion that they were clinging to the blood purism so uncompromisingly, because it was just about the last bastion of the old ways they still had left at this point. They had barricaded themselves in it ready to hold it until the last man. To get them out of it, he had to simply give them their ground back. Reason, sound mind and the necessity to adapt would do the rest.
Harry did not really know how well Voldemort was doing at the moment in his attempts to regain his former power and influence, not to mention his army. However, he could guess that financially there would be no problems, since he still must have his old war funds, even with the support of the old Dark families being in the process of changing hands. He might have been their champion once, but since the end of the seventies they had suffered under his insane rule enough to no longer want to have anything to do with him. Besides, with the Boy-Who-Lived winking and waving their way they had far better options now to forward their political goals.
No longer having their support would also mean that they would no longer supply him with properly trained warriors. He would have to recruit his men and women from the streets. And while with the current state of economy there would be no shortage of mercenaries and opportunists, their fighting skills would leave a lot to be desired. To train them would take time, time that he did not have, thus he would have to compensate quality with quantity, if he wanted to keep up with the DMLE. His Inner Circle was currently unavailable too. And while the Dementors would probably let him take his marked followers out of Azkaban, they would not do anything more than that. Fudge had been a gullible worm, Bones however would not bat an eyelash signing an order to their total extermination and they knew that well.
As far as other creatures were concerned, he had Greyback's pack and the giants as well, judged from the state Hagrid had returned in from his 'secret' mission. No vampires. He had all but pulled them over the barrel the last time and they surely would not fall for it again. The goblins would keep their neutrality, as they had before, unless he attacked them directly. His major trump card would be the Inferi yet again then.
Harry sighed rubbing the back of his neck tiredly, sitting at an out of the way table in the library. He had that blasted Transfiguration essay to finish, so he should stop wool-gathering. Undermining evil Dark Lord's plans would have to wait. Resigned to his fate he pulled the open book in front of him closer, skimming the paragraph for any useful information.
Half an hour later, he was finally done and in the process of gathering his things when Madam Pince's indignant screeching rendered the tranquillity of the place. By the sound of it, she must have walked in on Malfoy and Nott engaged in indecent activities yet again. He could only shake his head on that. She was fighting a hopeless battle. Theodore Nott was actually in all seriousness negotiating a contract with Malfoy Sr. for Draco's hand. Poor Pansy Parkinson had nearly drowned herself in the showers when she had heard of it. Only three months ago, any such thing would have been utterly unthinkable, with both of them being the sole heirs to their Houses. Malfoy Jr. was not even trying to hide his slightly effeminate, submissive nature nowadays anymore. A first rate example as to all the constraints and pretences homosexuals in his position had to suffer their entire lives. No wonder that they were idolising him so much. To them he really was their saviour.
He put the books he had used into the return box that would place them back on their shelves automatically and headed out towards the loo. Why had no one done anything about it before? Thinking even further, why had Dumbledore never done anything about it before? He had heard certain rumours about him, with the topic being in fashion again. Unless it was just hogwash, he certainly must have had an interest in at least trying. It did not have to be blood adoption, for Merlin's sake. A simple thing like the legalisation of surrogacy would have done the trick as well.
He entered the loo and stopped taken aback by the sight of a girl with long dirty-blond hair washing her hands at the sink. Huh? He retreated and took another look at the sign on the door he had just come through. No, definitely the gents'. Shaking his bewilderment off, he entered again eyeing the girl curiously. Luna Lovegood, was it not? Ginny had introduced her on the train.
"Er, hi... Aren't you a bit wrong here?" How on earth did one make that sort of conversation anyway?
"No, Harry Potter," she dried her hands and turned towards him. "You are here after all. So, I am here right."
He became instantly wary, ready to draw his wand with a mere flick of his wrist.
"My daddy wants an interview with you to be published in The Quibbler, but Rita Skeeter does not answer his letters. Would you mind conducting one with me? I have done interviews for the magazine before."
Harry blinked once. Yes, that girl was indeed right here. She certainly did have balls.
"What topics would that interview cover, may I ask? No offence, but The Quibbler specialises in mythic zoology and unfounded conspiracy theories, as far as I'm informed. What could you possibly want to talk with me about?"
"Oh, there are many things. There are rumours that you are being blackmailed by the Dark faction of the Wizengamot for one. Then, there are witness reports about you having a plethora of secret affairs with daughters of powerful people. Just to name a few, the nice of the Minister of Magic, the daughter of the French ambassador, the heiress of the House Black, both twin daughters of the Indian ambassador and recently, the heiress of the House Greengrass. There is speculation that you are using said affairs to forward your political agendas. And then, there are theories about you being the next Dark Lord on the rise to power of course. I am sure that we will find plenty to talk about."
Harry blinked again. What the bloody hell?!
She smiled at him dreamily. "When would it be convenient for you?"
He gave it a moment of thought and got suddenly a very naughty idea. "How about this Saturday morning, an hour into breakfast, in the Great Hall?"
Her smile did not lose its dreaminess the entire time.
"That would be fine. I shall see you then. Good day."
With that she drifted out of the loo leaving him to the business that had led him into it in the first place. All strangeness aside, Loony Lovegood did have a pair of big, hairy ones for sure. That much he would give her.
On the other hand, if he did it right, this whole affair could be turned into a fine public propaganda platform for his reforms. He would definitely need to consult with Hermione on that though.
And last, but not least, it would be a tremendous fun to watch certain people's faces during it, no matter if anything would come out of it in the end or not.
He washed up and left the loo whistling merrily to himself. Saturday could not come fast enough.