"You have a lot of animosity toward your father." Mind Healer Agnes stated.
Hari shrugged. "He was a bully."
"How do you know that? He died when you were a toddler."
"I've seen someone's memories. I've heard the 'funny stories' from my godfather about their pranks."
"These memories were from his school years? When he was still a child?"
"A teen. My age."
"What does that mean?" Hari bristled angrily.
It was the mind healer's turn to shrug. "Tell me about your father after graduation. After he fell in love, got married, had you."
Hari just stared at her. She finally looked away. "He died for us."
Agnes exhaled in frustration. "That's it? That's all anyone has told you of James Potter outside of his Hogwarts years?"
"I see." The healer rubbed her forehead. "People aren't one dimensional, Lady Slytherin. Are you the same person you were two years ago? Will you be the same two years from now? Will being a mother change you?"
"You're saying he may not have remained a bigoted bully."
"Yes. I am also saying that that wasn't all that he was in school. He had friends, doubts, desires. Did he have trouble in classes? What did he want to do after school? What was his home life like? How was he raised? I want you to ask people who knew him for stories that don't include pranking or bullying. Your godfathers, some of the older staff who taught him. Find out other people who knew him and write them. If you aren't comfortable saying you want the stories, say you are compiling a book of stories for your child who will never have another way to know his grandfather."
Hari scowled a moment then nodded. "I suppose I could be being too harsh on him. He was an auror. He loved Lily and me enough to stand between Voldemort and us."
Lily and me. She disconnects from her parents. "Yes, and that is an excellent example of how people aren't always the way we perceived them to be." She shivered slightly. "You might do the same for your mother."
Hari nodded absently noting the shiver. They had tied their mind healers down tight under heavy secrecy vows. They were having the dubious honor of delving into Voldemort's childhood issues. The man visibly quivered once he realized who he was counseling. And Merlin, Tom was going to be an absolute horror to deal with after having to talk about being a defenseless boy in that orphanage. He wouldn't even tell her the details just – childhood trauma.
"I'm not sure where to start." Mind Healer Eubrilis stammered.
"Where would you start if I weren't the dark lord?"
The mind healer swallowed hard and forced himself into professional mode. "I would ask what your earliest memory was and what your reaction to it was."
Tom nodded though he was scowling fiercely. "I was four perhaps five, it was my birthday. We never received much what with the war going on – a small cake, a single present. Sometimes it was clothing or a coat, sometimes a toy or a book. My birthday was in the winter. I got a nice heavy coat. Used, of course, but still in very good condition. Bradley Botts was seven. He had only gotten new trousers for his birthday. He took my coat and cut it up with a knife from the kitchens."
Tom trailed off, staring into the past, his face twisted with hate.
Eubrilis quaked. He cleared his throat softly. "M…m…my lord?"
Tom blinked. "It was the first time I did something freakish. I was angry…so full of the need to retaliate. I could feel my body heat up and…expand it felt like then there was this rush of something leaving me. Every article of clothing belonging to Bradley Botts was shredded into confetti. That's when they began looking at me differently. That's when the matrons began looking the other way when I was pushed around or beat on."
"And though it may seem obvious I need you to actually say it…how did it make you feel?"
Tom glared at the man. His eyes red. He smirked when they man paled near to passing out. "Angry, resentful. Determined. They would push me, punch me, trip me. I would retaliate in ways that it was clearly a direct response but in no way able to be connected to me directly."
"Wh…what…e…else did you feel? When larger kids were ganging up on you and the…the adults who were supposed to…to…defend you…didn't?" Eubrilis quaked and stuttered out the questions.
Tom glared in silence.
The mind healer was visibly shaking but somehow managing to hold his ground.
"Helpless," Tom finally spat then rose to his feet and stormed from the room.
Eubrilis drew out a large handkerchief and mopped his sweating face and neck with a hand that shook like he had palsy.
That night in bed the sex was rough and Tom was definitely in charge. He didn't allow Hari to move from the position he put her in as he slowly and methodically drove her out of her mind with pleasure.
She swore in the darkness she would never mention the way he trembled in his sleep or the soft, quiet pleading voice begging unknown assailants to stop, to leave him be. She just wrapped her arms around him and stroked his sweaty hair until he settled into a more peaceful sleep.
Arthur looked around the large table where the heads of all the ministry departments were gathered. "The way the Ministry is run is changing. The changes are going to be felt from the top to the bottom. Not all…not many of the changes are going to popular especially to those currently employed. From this day forward your family, your blood status is not a factor in your employment. You can either do your job and remain employed or you don't do your job and you are fired."
"You can't fire us!"
"I can. I am about to in fact." Arthur took a breath. "I have reviewed all the files on the department heads and their assistants. If there is a red folder in front of you, you are fired for either gross incompetence or for taking bribes or both."
Six department heads glared at the red folders and jerked to their feet.
"Now see here!"
"You can't fire me!
"My family has held position in the Ministry for seven generations!"
"I'll have you removed from office!"
A loud bang shocked them to silence. Madame Bones stepped forward with three aurors. "You are fired. Please return to your offices, pack your belongings and leave. The security desk has been informed that you no longer work here."
After a few more minutes of spluttering and threats the six men and women left. Arthur took a breath and willed his hands to quit trembling. "Now, if you were an assistant and you have a blue folder, congratulations on your promotion. You are now head of your department as soon as you sign the contract within the folder. In fact if everyone would open their folders and review the contract within. Bribes and backroom deals are no longer the order of business in the Ministry of Magic. You will swear to uphold the rules of your department to the best of your ability. You will swear not to discriminate against anyone due to their blood status, affinity or creature inheritance within your job constraints. You will swear not to take allegiance against the Ministry unless it is proven that the Ministry is violating its own sworn purpose to govern the people fairly. If you can't make this oath, you are fired."
It took two hours to get the outrage under control, the protestations dealt with and to get everyone to sign.
Arthur rubbed his forehead, sipped his ice water and wearily eyed his new set of department heads and assistants. "During the next few weeks everyone except those in this room will undergo review to see if they are qualified for their job. If not, they will be fired. Positions available and their requirements will be posted in the Daily Prophet."
The room exploded into chaos again. People shouting that they couldn't fire their nephew, niece, grandchild. That purebloods never got reviewed. They were above that sort of thing. You couldn't just hire people off the street. Etc., etc., etc.
Arthur set off several bangs from his wand before order was restored. "Finally, over the next few weeks there will be people going through the purpose of each department, the rules governing the department and how efficiently they are adhered to. They will note changes they would make in order to make each department run more efficiently and to make it fairer to everyone. I will review their suggestions before they are implemented."
"You can't do that. Things have been done the same way for ages."
"Who do you think you are coming in and changing everything?"
"Power already going to your head, Weasley?"
"That would be the oath you just took, Mortense." Arthur glared at them all. "Let me be clear. The days of pureblood favoritism, bigotry, greed, despotism are over with. The days of using your position to get a check you didn't earn are over. The days of using your position in the Ministry to degrade others and keep other beings downtrodden are over. I have the backing of the DMLE and the majority of the Wizengamot."
"And how is your friend Lord Malfoy going to take these changes, Weasley?" Havershan of the department of Literary Accruement asked snidely. "We have seen him in your office twice already."
Arthur nodded. "Yes, Lucius Malfoy is my friend. No, he is not happy about these changes. I have never hid my stance on pureblood supremacy. He was quite aware of it before he voted for me. We have had several debates on the issue. He has convinced me that many of the old traditions need to be returned. I have convinced him that muggleborn need educated not rebuffed. We still disagree over muggles. I offered Madame Bones and my assistants, Mrs. Preston, Miss Arnette, and Mr. Weasley my oath that I was not taking bribes. I offer it now to all of you if you wish me to take it before you."
They all gaped at him. Who would dare take such an oath? Bribes were essential to the running of the ministry. Everyone took them. Except they had just signed a contract not to.
"Yes." Havershan muttered. "Yes, I'd like to have it."
"Very well." Arthur stood and pressed his wand to his chest. "I, Arthur Septimus Weasley, do hereby swear that I will not knowingly take a bribe from anyone in regards to my duties as Minister of Magic. So I swear it."
Magic flashed about him.
The room was silent. An un-bribable minister. It was unheard of.
Mind Healer Eubrilis shifted in his chair, took a deep breath and started. "Last week we…touched on how helpless," he squeaked at the heavy flare of magic.
"Apologies," Tom ground out dragging his magic under control. Salazar! He had cried. Cried! He was thankful Hari hadn't mentioned it, but still…and now he had to talk about it more…dredge up more memories of that horrible time.
Eubrilis nodded. "H…helpless you felt and the retaliation made by your accidental magic. Did the incidents continue?"
"They got worse." He snapped.
The healer waited patiently.
Tom growled, ground his teeth. "One time, three older kids put me down an old dry well. I was there three days before I found."
Eubrilis stared at him in horror. Who would have ever thought the Dark Lord had been tortured, abused as a child. "What happened when you were found?"
"I told the matrons who did it. They denied it. Of course the freak was lying. As soon as I was recovered, I was punished for lying about such nice young boys. Over the next three weeks one tripped and fell down the stairs breaking his neck, one began having nightmares every night and one…the one who shoved me down the well…he disappeared. I began collecting trophies. Little mementoes so I could remember that I was the stronger one, that wrongs would be revenged, that I would always come out on top. Eventually they learned and began to leave me alone."
Eubrilis swallowed. Merlin! No wonder the boy went dark and began hating muggles! "And do you still see violence as the appropriate response to those who would bully you?"
"No one bullies me." Tom sneered.
Eubrilis blanched and ducked his head shaking like a leaf.
Tom watched darkly amused. He may have to bare his soul and face his childhood demons for Hari and his child, but he would not be seen as a weak, sniveling wizard.
The mind healer took a deep breath and exhaled. "Not as the Dark Lord, but he is dead now correct? As Tom Riddle you will have detractors, people who say or do harsh things to you."
Tom growled and glared out the window. Would he still react with such hateful violence? Did he still want to crush others beneath his feet? Was that what he wanted his child to see his father as? "No." He finally murmured. "No, I reacted so strongly to protect myself; to project the image of superior strength and determination. Power. I had to show them who had the power. Now…now I know I have the power. I know they can't hurt me. I have learned other, more politic, ways to respond. I want my children to learn to be strong and to stand up for themselves, but I don't want them to feel that burning vengefulness. I never want them to feel so alone and dark and…ugly as I did. I don't want to feel that way again myself."
"Well said, Lord Slytherin. Well said."
"The Dursleys refused to give you your own space, your own clothes or even your own name."
"They refused to see you as a person, as a being of worth."
Hari's jaw jumped. "Your point?" She hissed.
Agnes flinched slightly. Goodness, what had she and Eubrilis gotten themselves into? Mind healing the Dark Lord and his Dark Lady who were masquerading as the Dark Lord's grandson and the Savior. She cleared her throat. "Did you see yourself as a non-entity as well?"
Hari glared daggers at her. Hating even thinking of that time. Shoved into a boot cupboard. Her very existence denied. The things in the room began vibrating. Hedwig glided over from her perch to settle on her bonded's lap chirring comfortingly until the room stopped shaking.
Hari buried her fingers into Hedwig's soft white plumage. "Yes," she whispered, tears streaking down her face. "Freak, worthless, useless…your parents died to get away from you. No one loves you. No one wants you. Earn your keep or we'll toss you out in the alley like yesterday's trash."
Agnes stared in horror at the whispered rendition. She was certain the girl wasn't even aware of her at the moment, lost in the past as she was…hearing the hateful words.
"I'm nothing. No one. No one sees me. No one cares enough to even see me. I could die in this dark small cupboard and no one would notice, no one would shed a tear."
Hari bent her head to Hedwig as tears fell. She hated this! Hated remembering. Hated talking about it. It was for her child. To ensure she never hurt her child like Vernon and Petunia hurt her. She inhaled raggedly and straightened letting her head rest on the back of the chair. "I know now they were afraid of me. Of what I could do. They had to beat me down, ingrain in me that I was helpless against them so I would never rise up against them."
"And did you, Lady Slytherin? Did you finally retaliate?"
Emerald eyes held hers. A cruel, satisfied smirk touched her lips. "I never laid a hand on them."
Agnes stared then dropped her gaze. She was quite certain suddenly that the Dark Lord had been behind the Dursleys deaths. "Ah…um…well…" She took a breath, looked through her notes. "Do you still feel invisible, worthless?"
A soft smile flitted about her mouth now. "No. My Tom makes sure I understand how valuable I am. He loves me, Healer Agnes. Tells me so every day. How could such a powerful, charismatic, wonderful man love me if I were worthless? He looks at me and doesn't see the Savior or the Girl Who Survived or the Potter Heir. He doesn't see my vaults or the seats on the Wizengamot. Tom looks at me and sees. He sees me like no one ever has. Sees, understands because he has went through similar. Sees and promises daily with every look, every touch that I will never be invisible or relegated to a tool again."
Tom rolled over and instead of his arm wrapping around his lovely wife his arm landed on empty bed sheets. He opened his eyes and glanced around. He saw her sitting in the window seat looking out over the bright moon filled night.
"Couldn't sleep. Backache. Now I'm watching Moony and Padfoot test the werewolf run. There's a young werewolf with them." Hari murmured her voice full of curiosity.
Tom slid from their bed and moved to join her. He stared out over the moonlit grounds while gently rubbing her lower back. He pressed a kiss to her temple when she leaned against him with a soft moan. Her back had been aching a little for the past week. He was getting very good at easing the tense muscles. He looked out the window and his eyes widened a bit as he watched a large werewolf gamboling about with a large black dog and a young gangly werewolf. He had never actually seen a werewolf fully transformed before. Even from this distance there was something so instinctively dangerous to them that he shivered. "That must be the young boy, Remus and Severus have taken to mentoring."
"What? Who?" Hari turned to look at him, confused.
"Didn't I tell you?" Tom asked absently watching them test the wards containing them.
"No. You didn't."
Tom stilled as the sense of danger even closer at hand struck him. He shifted to look at the narrowed eyes of his love. "The woman who helped renovate Grimmauld. Her brother is a werewolf. They were locking him up in their shed on full moons. They didn't even know about wolfsbane. Remus talked Severus into making it for him. I believe this is his second month on it."
"And – mentoring?"
"He couldn't attend school as a werewolf. Severus and Remus have been going over on Saturdays to tutor him. I am given to understand the boy is quite bright and is soaking up theory and is a dab hand on the practical side as well."
"The second assistant he needed to talk to us about and never did." Hari's eyes narrowed further. "He did! He talked to you and you said no because he's a werewolf! Tom!"
"I didn't say no. I said he had to be on wolfsbane for a few months first."
"Of all the…"
"He's young, been locked into a small dark shed and has no pack to center on. I won't have a near feral werewolf around you right now."
"And why didn't you tell me about him?" She hissed.
"Because I knew you'd be mad at me." Tom answered honestly. "I won't apologize for protecting you and our child." He stated firmly.
She wanted to be angry…furious even, but the mind healing sessions were actually helping. His intense need for family and the fanatical protection of things he considered 'his' was rooted in the loss of his mother and abandonment by his father. Having Dumbledore discover his hoard of trophies and being forced to give them back had strengthened that 'mine' attitude. Her fury at not being told things rooted in a childhood of helplessness and Dumbledore and the Order planning her life without giving her any information or allowing any input.
She took a deep breath and exhaled. "I understand your need to keep us safe. You need to understand my need to be told things."
"I'll tell you next time." He eyed her warily. "You aren't going to yell at me?"
"I'm not consigned to the couch?"
She huffed. "No." She looked out at the young werewolf. "You are going to tell Severus to hire his second assistant even if all the boy does right now is continue with his studies, cuts up ingredients and cleans the classroom."
"Hari, we still don't know…"
"Trust them, Tom. Trust Remus and Severus' judgment. Remus sees me as his cub. He won't bring danger around me. Being around Remus will help the boy. I'll stay safely in the castle during full moons. It is only safe to be out with them as an animagus so until I learn that I wouldn't go outside during full moons anyway."
Tom exhaled heavily. "Alright."
She leaned into him. "Thank you."
His hand slid down to the now obvious little bump of belly. "Come back to bed."
She grinned and followed him back to bed.
He pressed a kiss to the small swell that was their child. His lips slid across her silky skin to her hip. He nipped the thin skin then smoothed it with a kiss. He trailed kisses down her thigh and over to the sensitive inner thigh.
Hari moaned as she let Tom love her. She loved these moments – just her and him – moments of solitude in the midst of their hectic lives.
His tongue stroked over her slit and she shivered and moaned. He applied himself – licking sucking probing with his tongue and fingers until she came with a soft cry.
Sliding up her sweat slicked body he kissed her deeply before thrusting into her. He moaned against her mouth as her hot flesh gripped his shaft.
"Tom," she whimpered wrapping her legs about his waist.
"My Hari," he growled as he claimed her body, thrusting in and out while she matched his rhythm using her legs to take him deeper as she arched up into him.
"Yes. Yours. Love me," she cried out as their magic swirled and entwined about them.
"Always. Forever," he murmured against her neck as their pleasure reached its peak and flung them over the edge.
At breakfast the next morning, Hari gave Tom a sharp look then flicked a glance at Severus before standing up and addressing the school. She tapped her staff on the floor sending a bell-like chime out. Everyone quieted. She grinned at them. "Don't forget that this weekend parents will be visiting. Next week we will be taking students by year to Gringotts to have the heritage test performed. It will tell you who your ancestors were and whether they were magical or not. You will also discover if there is any associated inheritance that you have the right to claim. The goblins have agreed to give you a copy of your ancestral tree to keep."
She laughed lightly at the excited cheers. She let them chatter excitedly a minute before holding up her hand for silence. "Wizarding Culture class will cover Samhain as it is quickly approaching. We will be having the traditional bonfires and you will be allowed to make a food offering to your ancestors if you so wish. There will also be traditional dances if you wish to participate. Anticipating the nervousness of those that hasn't had the opportunity to participate before and that includes me," she chuckled, "there will be dance lessons scheduled over the next two weeks to give us a chance to not make utter fools of ourselves. That's all."
She sat down and the room erupted in conversations.
Tom leaned over and told Snape, "I have been told to tell you to hire your second apprentice even if all he does is continue his studies, cuts up ingredients and cleans the classroom."
Snape's eyes widened fractionally then a smirk touched his lips. "Saw him last night, did she?"
Hari stood. "I am heading to the infirmary to check on Remus and the boy."
Snape and Tom both stood as well. "We'll join you."
She huffed and glared at their protectiveness before stalking out of the room. She strode down the hall toward the infirmary angry that they thought she was so defenseless she couldn't ward off a young boy.
She glared when Tom reached her and wrapped an arm about her waist but she didn't step away from him. Instead, she leaned into his solid warmth. Grateful that he loved her enough to drive her to distraction with his protective nature.
Emily greeted them warmly when they entered. "Good morning, Lord and Lady Slytherin, Professor Snape. Here to check on Professor Lupin and young Johnny?"
"Yes, Emily. How are they?" Hari asked.
"Tired, but otherwise doing well. Young Johnny is a bit bewildered at how different the night went and a little subdued to be here, but he's recovering well."
"May we see them?"
"Of course." Emily led them to the back of the infirmary.
Hari wasn't surprised to see Sirius already there. "Remus," she murmured as she hurried over to hug the gentle werewolf.
Remus encircled her carefully. "Cub."
A soft gasp had attention turning to the young boy in the next bed.
"You must be Johnny." Hari smiled at him as she straightened up.
"Yes, my lady."
"Pssh, none of that. I just shove my titles down snobs' throats. Remus and Severus like you that's good enough for me. Call me Hari."
Tom sighed. He waved his hand at Severus.
Severus smirked as he moved to stand next to the teenaged werewolf. "Johnny, you are officially being offered the position as my assistant. At the moment that will involve mostly you continuing your studying, but will also involve you helping me with prepping ingredients and as your knowledge of potions grows, grading homework."
"I…" Johnny glanced at Lord Slytherin who looked unhappy. Lady Slytherin who was beaming in encouragement and then over at Remus and his friend. Remus nodded slightly. Johnny glanced back at the headmaster before looking at Professor Snape. "Thank you, sir, but I'm not certain I'm really wanted here."
Hari whirled to glare at Tom. "Tom," she growled warningly.
"I can't help worrying about you!"
"He isn't dangerous except the full moon. What are you going to do next year or are you retracting the offer already?!"
Tom scowled. "I am not retracting anything. It doesn't make me happy about it right now."
"We'll make sure he takes the wolfsbane, Tom. Hari's right. There will be a wing of them next year."
"Next year she won't be pregnant!"
Magic lifted Hari's hair and made her clothes flutter as she lost her temper. "I am not a helpless pregnant female, Thomas Marvolo Riddle! I may carry your child but I could still swat the entire lot of you with little effort! You are allowed to love me and to worry about my health. You are not allowed to treat me as if I'm helpless!"
"I am not…"
"YOU ARE! YOU'RE BEING IRRATIONAL!"
Tom glared. Hari glared back.
"Have faith Tom. Have faith in those you have surrounded yourself with."
Tom sighed. "Very well, wife. I admit to being slightly irrational in your regard." He looked at the frightened young boy. "The position is yours if you wish it. My lovely wife is correct there will be werewolf and possibly vampire students next year."
Johnny's eyes were wide. He glanced at Professor Snape. He swallowed at his nod. "I'll take it."
Hari clapped her hands. Good mood restored. "Great! This is going to be so much fun watching Hogwarts grow and become something so much more than she's been allowed to be!" She moved to Johnny's bed and plopped herself down on it. "As you are Professor Snape's second or should we say Junior Assistant," she shot an amused smirk at the dour man, "you will get quarters near to his, the pay is fifty-five galleons a month."
"Fifty-five!" Johnny exclaimed.
She grinned. "Yes."
Johnny slumped. "I can pay him for the potion now."
"Yes, you can." She leaned forward. "The full cost is twenty-five."
"Hari!" Severus snapped.
"Pride, Severus. You are familiar with it, yes?"
Sirius and Remus snorted. There wasn't many more prideful than Severus Snape.
Hari ignored his glare. "Once you've progressed to actually helping in the classroom, the pay will go up to sixty-five. Your room, your meals and your assistant uniform comes with the position. We get with the other professors and work out a way to incorporate your studies so you can catch up to your peers." She pat his hand. "We'll leave you to recover. Emily will get you some parchment if you want to send out letters."
"Don't leave. I want to examine you." Emily said before going to her office to get the parchment and quill for the young boy.
She hopped from his bed, slid an arm through Tom's and tugged him into motion. "Have you heard how Items of Interest is doing? Have they got their inventory in? Do you think they'll be open this weekend?"
"Mrs. Britts and Mrs. Hooper have, with Fred and George's help, gotten the shop in order – shelves, counters, registers. They also dragged the two into muggle London to buy what they need to get open. They have contacted vendors and have set up a delivery address where a disguised house elf will take receipt of the merchandise."
"They are going to be a hit."
"You think so?"
Tom shrugged. "I think they are going to be ostracized by the town folks. I made sure everyone knew they were under our protection. The students…yes, I think they will enjoy the shop a lot. Even the purebloods will visit as it is a novelty to them."
Hari sighed and followed Emily to a private room with Tom. She settled on the bed and laid back. Emily cast several spells before humming and giving them a small smile. "You seem to be keeping hydrated and you've gained two pounds which is good progress at this stage." She paused and grinned at the young couple. "Now for something I believe will delight the two of you." She cast a spell and a fast swishy noise filled the room.
"What is that?" Tom asked curiously knowing it had something to do with the baby, but unable to identify it.
"That is your baby's heartbeat." Emily informed them softly.
"Heartbeat!" Hari slid a hand over her belly with a delighted laugh. Tom joined her sliding his hand over hers. Love shone in his eyes as he met hers.
"Should it be so…fast?"
"Yes, babies hearts beat extremely fast."
"Amazing," Tom murmured gazing at Hari's belly in awe.
Emily let the sound continue for another minute before cancelling the spell. "I'll see you for a checkup in four weeks." She said before leaving the two alone.
After a few minutes, Tom helped Hari off the exam bed. He pulled her close and kissed her gently. He had never thought he would end up married, in love, becoming a father. Now here he was. All three.
Hari sighed. "I have class."
Tom nodded and together they strolled out of the infirmary. "Forget class," he suddenly prodded her into an alcove. "I do believe my lady wife was whining the other day about lack of private time."
Hari had time to grin before his lips claimed hers.