The Pre-Veil Saga
by Rihaan Shimomura
Beta-ed by Alix33

Rating: T

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The Pre-Veil Saga, Chapter Two – The Setup

Chapter dedicated to Morgan Patrick Sullivan, Alexander Simpson, Matthew Morrison, AtomicStryker, Alex Mathews, and my newest Patron, Jeffrey Lin. Thank you all for your generous support.


Harry Potter felt incomplete – pun maybe unintended.

His new Nimbus 2000 kept him afloat, cracking through the air akin to the symbol that made him famous, and even as he pushed himself to unholy speeds, he was distracted.

Hermione would not have approved, and that stray thought alone made him feel a smidgen better. He stretched his legs out, abusing the freedom he had without his pads, feeling the powerful breeze rush against him. It was the closest thing he had to apparition, which as he had quickly figured out, he couldn’t do.

Still, the broom proved useful for that conundrum. He could fly off the campus anytime he wanted, heading into Hogsmeade and hiding in plain sight amongst the other witches and wizards due to his disguises. At first he was worried about a ward or tracking charm, but there didn’t seem to be any – not that he could feel, anyway.

His wand was absolutely poisoned with spells and curses, and he couldn’t tell between which made the wand work, and which were supposed to make him weak. It mattered little – it was left in his dorm, locked in his special trunk. He considered simply conjuring a stick to wave around in public as a replacement, but he had a feeling that Dumbledore would know – if there was a tracking charm, he can’t exactly have the caster thinking he was in his dorm room all day, every day. He would need to learn to transfer the spell.

It may not have been Dumbledore, they had both theorized, but rather a number of people. The safest establishment in Wizarding Britain had a number of suspects. McGonagall, Severus Snape, Quirinus Quirrell – it could be some kind of test from Flitwick, for all they knew.

Hermione didn’t like it, but lately, Hermione didn’t like a lot of things.

It was cute, how she used to be. Her loyalty to authority had lessened considerably, especially with a rebellious friend in Harry, and she had learned to stand up for herself. She and Harry received nothing but praises when they helped their friends around the classroom. Her confidence had gone from a timid naivety to assured in her knowledge and skills. She was confident, and positive, and in Harry’s humble opinion, very forgiving.

It was the only excuse Harry had for why he wasn’t a complete orphan.

It was a different Hermione that woke up that afternoon a month ago. It was a girl that had lived the life of Harry Potter, a boy that she had already adored, according to her, and respected the things he had done in his life to make his own way.

She was as much a part of him as he was a part of her. And half of him was now in her.

His life of travelling had been difficult, but not nearly as difficult as being under the care of the Dursleys. He was a very private person, and Hermione knew and, begrudgingly, respected his privacy. That choice was taken away from him, and her, when he made one stupid mistake in killing the Troll.

He had learned of the Prophesy’s contents from his parents, so long ago, and honestly, he didn’t pay it much mind. He had every intention of killing the Dark Lord that took his parents away – who might encounter who first was a non-factor.

Now, it was the only thing she could think about, and thus, it was the only thing he could think about.

He had never seen Hermione so tired – so desperate to find an answer to not only the death of Voldemort, but how to make her best friend whole again.

Their lives were forever mingled together at this point, and the two, even at their young age, understood everything that came with that. Still, when Hermione thought too much about the entire situation, she couldn’t help but feel queasy at the idea of owning half a soul, lingering in her head, and violently ill at the idea of Voldemort’s soul living in her best friend’s head.

And whenever she felt that utterly sickly feeling, it ran through the back of his mind.

He needed a distraction. Which was how he found himself in the skies, gliding over the pitch. He had no desire to sneak away; not today, not anytime soon.

Things were changing, he realized; things that weren’t supposed to be falling apart and coming together, things that weren’t supposed to be happening. The unexpected was becoming even more uncertain.

And perhaps it was the chaotic part of him, the part that put him on his Nimbus to calm his nerves as he performed a Wronski Feint, or maybe it was the self-assured part of the both of them combined, but he was actually looking forward to it.

Or maybe he was looking forward to the aftermath; a future with Hermione. And that was the uncertainty that scared him.

At this point, he half-expected the voice in his head to tell him that he was not alone, but those three days were over – his head was once again his own.

Something told him to look down, and he did.

Hermione stood there, a distant smile on her lips, clutching a small stack of papers. Her eyes followed him until he finished the loop, and landed gracefully in front of her. “Unfortunately, Harry…” she began, breathing deeply, “… I don’t think your head will ever be your own again.”

Harry blinked. “Well, at least I won’t be lonely.”

“Harry, be serious, here – and don’t you dare make that joke! You have actual voices in your head! I won’t use it, but if Voldemort ever comes back, then you’ll have an insane murderer talking to you anytime he pleases.”

“If he knows about the soul piece, you mean.” He dismounted his broom. “You feel my presence. I’ve never felt his. I feel some twitches in my scar, but you saw him. That thing in my head isn’t a threat, if anything it’s a tiny piece. I feel like a lot more of me left my body that night.”

“That may be true, but it’s disconcerting.” Even through the gloomy topic, she managed a small smile. “If we ever want our… future together, as you so put it, I don’t want to read every thought that runs through your head. It’s an invasion of privacy in the highest sense, and I don’t think boys would like that.”

Harry tilted his head. “Huh. Didn’t think about that.”

“I suggest you try not to.”

“So you can read my every thought? Have I been a good boy?”

Harry!

“Come on, Mine. There’s a very obvious reason that boys wouldn’t like it. I’m sure you’ve seen some reasons already.”

She huffed and crossed her arms. “I’d say you take far too many liberties in your dreams with my body, but I’d have to say you are incredibly accurate.”

“Well, our minds are partially connected, now. You’ve edited those dreams since.”

“I never want to know what I used to look like.” It only took a few seconds of silence for the image to appear, unbidden into her mind. “Oh, that’s just disproportionate.”

“Give it a few years. You’re not the only one that reads trashy novels.”

“I read it for the entertainment. You read it to fuel your nightly exercises.”

Harry made a face. “How long have you spent in my head?”

“Enough to feel jaded at pretty much everything you do. I practically lived your life, Harry. Looking through your eyes makes it difficult to turn away. So I’m only going to say this, One More Time, for the rest of our lives. No more secrets.”

If anything, the silver lining was that Hermione was indeed independent of her own thoughts, and his presence in her mind didn’t alter her personality at all. Because if it did, he certainly wouldn’t have had her ask for such a promise, and would have done everything in his power to persuade her from such a request. Still, she deserved to know everything, now that she had seen everything else. “No more secrets,” he swore.

She softened. “We all have our own personal woes, you more than most. But I think we’ve crossed that line together. If anything’s bothering you – nightmares about your aunt and uncle, memories of your parents, Voldemort, anything – I’m here for you. You know that. And I’ll do the same.”

He nodded. “Deal. So how should we go about that… the last problem you said?”

“Training. Studying. The usual. We’re getting that thing out of your head. Not much use taking care of a baby that only exists in your mind. If we could get it out here, that’d be perfect, but it’d still be a baby Dark Lord. Do you think it could be a risk we’d take together?”

“I’m… not sure. It certainly feels calmer, less headaches than I recall. Even when Quirrell looks at me.”

“So, this Tom Riddle he seems to be attached to; could he be a servant? A Death Eater, they called them?”

“It’s possible. Or it could be the Dark Lord himself. Not sure how likely that is.”

“I’ll do some research on the name. You can go back trying to kill yourself on that broom.”

He tilted his head. “Actually, I think I’ll join you. There can’t be that much information on Tom, is there?”

“In a library book? Not likely. We need a more current source. Something credible.”


“Oh, ruddy – I shouldn’t ‘ave said tha’. I should not ‘ave said that.”

Harry smiled innocently. Sometimes, it very well could be that easy. “That’s okay, Hagrid. We won’t tell anyone. Can you tell us anything else?”


“What am I thinking right now?”

“Besides thinking if I can read your thoughts or not? You’re bloody frustrated that there aren’t many books on soul bonds.”

“That was a guess, wasn’t it? Because you’re spot on.”

“I could try to buy Madam Pince’s secrecy for access to the restricted books.”

“No, don’t bother – there are probably compulsion charms and detection spells. She’s Dumbledore’s greatest resource and weakness. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how most Dark Lords got their start – through dangerous books.”

“You think Voldemort got to these books as a kid?”

Before Hermione could respond, their friends let out a ‘yip’ in fear, and a loud bang against the table. “Sorry.”

Padma rubbed her sensitive knee, that almost upended the table. “Every time,” she complained. “I barely even hear you two talking when I’m absorbed in my reading. But every time, I hear that word, and it’s all I can hear.”

Harry wordlessly ran a hand over her knee, healing it. “We should probably have a code word. You bring up a good point. If anyone hears us saying his name, their ears would perk.”

“You’re right,” Hermione admitted, closing her tome. “So, if not Vold- well, that, then what do we call him by not making him obvious?”

“Tom.”

“Not too obvious?”

“Better than You-Know-Who. You’re not getting me to call him that.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to. Tom seems so… respectful.”

“Considering he changed his name, I’d think he hates it,” Padma piped up, embarrassed from her earlier outburst.

“It’s an anagram,” Hermione explained. “All very uninspired, really. ‘I am Lord…’ well, you know. An anagram. Tom Morvolo Riddle.”

Padma worked out the puzzle in her head. “Huh. A literal riddle. That takes the magic out of his name a bit.”

“TMR?” Harry pondered allowed, testing the name on his tongue. “Tommy? At this point, I can just call him – ”

“Voldemort!” Susan blurted, before slapping her hand over her mouth.

Daphne blinked in surprise. “Didn’t know you had it in you.”

The strawberry-blonde blushed. “Me neither,” she squeaked. Harry found it adorable.

Hermione only found it somewhat cute. She was beginning to feel the effects of this new relationship they shared. She didn’t know if she was okay with it, or if Harry was okay with it, and she was only having mirror feelings about it all.

“I just wanted to force it out,” Susan muttered, worried about some unknown, unseen force around her. Her eyes shifted around the room – the makeshift study room they were in, the Hufflepuff Common Room. “To see if I could.”

Padma’s lip trembled. “I don’t think I’m ready for that. Or any of our parents, for that matter.”

“Voldemort,” Daphne said aloud. “It’s not like it hurts to say it. It’s just a word. The taboo had been taken off when he died.”

Taboo?” both Harry and Hermione asked. They weren’t in any of the readings they’d perused.

“A tracker word. When said aloud, the Ministry is alerted to your location.”

“Or, in that case,” Susan continued, “his Death Eaters hear his name pronounced aloud. And that’s how names like ‘You-Know-Who’ and ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’ began.”

“I suppose that’s something very confusing to those not in our world.” She looked pointedly at Hermione. “It’s very strange. You seem to hold no fears. Fletchley, Thomas, Lavender, Dunbar – they fear the name. Yet they didn’t grow up with the legend, to fear it.”

The small group pondered the logic, and the potentially invasive ramifications of such a seemingly unfitting – and at least, magical – truth.

“Someone’s messing with our heads,” Hermione muttered. “And… the only reason I’m not affected is someone got to mine, first.”

At their friends’ looks of confusion, Harry and Hermione shared a glance – a more innocent look that had been shared over the years, that had now taken on a far more meaningful gesture.

The silencing ward, always in place during their ‘study sessions’, held up well, as they began to explain, well… everything.


Harry and Hermione were both relatively reclusive people. In fact, had they never crossed paths, they likely would have never wanted to cross paths with anyone in their lives. In fact, while it was once discussed in a joking matter, they would have been content in being alone, together.

But from that day forward, they began to see the positives in working in numbers. And, as cheesy as it sounded, the power of friendship. It was as genuine as any other magic Harry had seen so far in Hogwarts.

It was shocking how many eleven year-olds were willing to help him kill a Dark Lord. Really, it was even more shocking how many of them believed him. Hermione, aloud, supposed that it was his charm. The others jokingly agreed, not fully joking, almost serious.

He was Harry Potter, after all. A reputation came with the name.

Hermione, Daphne, Padma, Parvati, Susan, Cho, and most recently, Hannah and Tonks, helped him as friends, not knowing that one day, they’d become part of the legend.


It was by Christmas Eve, when Tonks bought him, and the rest of her new young friends, a set of Chocolate Frog cards, that Nicholas Flamel came up in conversation.

Harry winked at himself in the mirror (or rather, from the mirror), and dropped the stone in his pocket, on Christmas Day. Best present ever, if you had asked him.

“What do we even do with this?” Hermione pondered, panic edging into her voice. “We can’t tell a professor about it. Do we give it back to Flamel? He obviously made a poor judgement call to give the stone to Dumbledore.”

Daphne crossed her arms. “Well, think about this. At the moment, we’re the most powerful children in the world. Most powerful wizards and witches ever, once we figure out how to use the stone. So, suffice it to say, we can do whatever we want. And I’m not saying any of us could figure out how to replicate the stone in some way, but if we did, then we don’t need to ever tell anyone how powerful we are, or, well, could be. So I don’t think a professor, or even Flamel, should have to know.”

Harry thought back to the potion riddle – the last test before the fiery door – that he and Hermione solved in a matter of seconds. “There’s someone we can trust,” he tentatively began, “but I need to test our relationship a little more. Or, better yet, the limits of what could be called a relationship.”

Hermione grimaced. Sure, she didn’t like the man much, but he watched over her for three days, and despite the hard exterior, and the forced servitude, he seemed willing to help them, if only to further his own agenda of being free from Riddle’s reign, and gain riches in the process.

And, of course, there was the fact that he was helping the son of Lily. It would take a long time before she gained his respect, however.

But if there was anyone that they could trust with such an important item, in the field of alchemy, Severus Snape was their best bet.

It was time for them to stop holding back from their friends. Harry agreed.

“Well,” Daphne breathed after she was told of the life oath owed to James Potter, which transferred to Harry after Snape had directly led to his murder. “Now I know why he hasn’t yelled at me for spending so much time in other Common Rooms.”

“Now I know why he hasn’t yelled at me at all,” Tonks muttered. “He still voids the punishments I hand out to his snakes, but at least he doesn’t spin them back on me, like my predecessors.” She let out an evil chuckle. “This should be interesting…”

There was a snort under the table they were sitting at.

Perhaps, in hindsight, Snape had already proven his loyalty, providing the necessary nutrition potions for Harry’s Godfather, sans poison.

“Padfoot likes the way you think,” Harry chuckled, reaching down to stroke the grim’s fur. “But I don’t think we should antagonize the man who’s handing out potential immortality.”

“Fair point,” she conceded. “Maybe after.”

“That being settled,” Hermione tried to redirect the conversation back to topic. “While we can all take an accurate guess as to why the stone is here, considering this school has an unwanted guest, we can only speculate as to what Dumbledore is expecting to happen.”

“Me,” Harry said easily. “He expects me to happen. My parents ‘thrice defied’ him, why not me? We know what the mirror of Erised does, but we’re not supposed to. The charms on the invisibility cloak only proves that I was ‘required’ to take the stone from his grasp. He’s weak right now. He’s merely a parasite.”

“Yet he still expects you to take him on?”

“He’d expect me to have the cloak on me. I’m willing to bet that after I face Riddle, Dumbledore will just… be there, ready to save me.”

“A safe bet, really. Quite a gamble, however. Could we be sure that’s the real stone?”

“I’d think Riddle could tell the difference,” Susan chimed in. “He can’t afford to take a gamble. He really knows how to endanger everyone in this school when he puts his mind to it.”

Dumbledore probably really wouldn’t like the fact that they were turning their circle of friends against him, but they honestly couldn’t care if this plot were true.

And they had almost doubt in their minds that it was.

“Is it useful to be doing all of this in secret?” Susan continued. “I mean, my aunt is doing all she can under wraps, but she’d be able to exonerate your godfather much faster if she did it through the proper channels.”

“There are a surprising number of people still in the ministry that were there when he didn’t get a trial,” Daphne tried to explain, though even she couldn’t make sense of it all. “We don’t know who to trust. Your aunt Amelia is a lock, but we don’t know who might make a call. Dumbledore has eyes and ears everywhere. If he really did know who was the secret keeper, then we need to keep this as quiet as possible. Not to mention the actual Death Eaters in the ministry, or paying them off to make a few ‘errors’ along the process.”

“Can never be too careful,” Harry agreed. “I never would’ve been sent to the Dursleys if Padfoot was a free, er, dog.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Harry, code words don’t work that way.”

He rubbed the back of his head. “If Padfoot was never sent to the pound, those first few years wouldn’t have been so lonely. How’s that?”

“Better. I think.”

“Speaking of which; how’s our rat problem, Susan?”

“As well as could be. Holding cell, with all the right charms equipped. No foreseen consequences.”

“As one would hope for. I just hope a Dementor is guarding him.”

A soft bark of agreement could be heard from under the table.


“Oh, a tale of a boy and his mutt. Would be a shame if he went the way of Old Yeller.”

“Boy, do you know how to hold a grudge, Snivellus.”

“Then again, Yeller was actually missed.” He looked towards the ‘owner’. Technically, I don’t have to help him at all. He was the sole reason the life debt began.”

“You killed the man you owed a life debt to. That goes above everything. Don’t try to catch me in a loophole.”

Sirius stretched his far underused human limbs. “Damn, if feels good to be back. Don’t worry about that ponce, Harry. See, your father was a Transfiguration nut, and your mother had Charms. I, the ever loyal and capable best friend of a werewolf, had Potions. I just need my own little play set.”

“No problem. I have one in the trunk.” Harry pulled out a matchbox and tossed it to the ground. “Go nuts, I have plenty of stock in some of those rooms.”

“I swear, I don’t know how you raised yourself to be such an amazing kid. Sod all that being James’s son; you’re every bit of your mother, clear and through.”

“Hardly,” Severus muttered.

“Once you learn how to behave, Snape, you get access to the goodies. I have some ingredients in here, that’ll make Knockturn Alley look like Madame Pomfrey’s closet.”

“Yes, you’ve threatened that before.”

“Just reiterating how epic the collection is.”

Before he stepped into the suitcase, Sirius paused. “Severus; just so you know. I owe my Godson a life debt as well. He broke me out of Azkaban. So when you wake up in the morning without a very sizeable chunk of you missing, or your boy bits, it’s out of courtesy to Harry. But know this, you slimy piece of human filth; when the time comes, a blood feud can’t even interfere with a life debt, and if you cross that line, I will not hesitate to cross mine.”

Without waiting for a response, he walked on.

“I expected more.”

Harry looked at him closely. Legilimency could hide a lot of emotions, fear being one of them, but his stance had tensed noticeably. “I know you did; That’s all I would have allowed him to say. I don’t have to remind you that I can let him off the leash, so to speak, any time. But you don’t have to worry about that, I just wanted to let him say that to get it off his chest.”

“Are you expecting a plea for mercy?”

“Considering how angry he was when he found out the truth? You practically owe me another life debt.”

Sirius had already taken the stairs into the enlarged briefcase, eyeing the mansion inside with awe. “Bloody hell, it’s almost as big as Potter Palace!”

“It’s the same size,” Harry confirmed, following inside. “In fact, it’s the same building. You just stepped into a portal. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”

He took another look around, looking embarrassed. “Sorry. Been a while since I could see in colour.”

“I hope my animagus isn’t a dog. I’d like to keep my newly acquired perfect vision.”

“Yeah, seeing is fun, isn’t it?”

“So, have you given any thought about what you were going to say to Lupin?”

“Yeah. I’ll start with the matters of your custody. And why the fuck he doesn’t have it.”

“I do believe that problem started when you handed me over to Hagrid.”

“I need to have a talk with that giant.”

“Half-giant.”

“Wait, how d’you – ?”

“The man knows how to talk. Do you really think you can ‘have a talk’ with Hagrid?”

His godfather grimaced. “Alright. Maybe I’ll talk to Fang.”

“One thing at a time, brave soul. First deal with the werewolf, then deal with the half-giant’s dog.”

“You have a funny way of putting things in perspective. Must be the James part.”

“Oddly enough, I think it’s the Hermione part. The part of me with common sense.”


“Potter!”

Even Daphne groaned with the rest of the group as they collectively turned to the nuisance.

Harry and Hermione, well, they long since learned to detect when they were being followed, and silently agreed to teach their friends some useful techniques, Occlumency being near the top of the list.

But first – the nuisance.

“What do you want, Draco?” It was Hermione, this time. They liked to alternate.

He narrowed his eyes. “No one was talking to you.” It seemed as if he wanted to continue that statement. Fortunately for him, he liked his bladder control. “We settle this. Midnight. Crabbe is my first. Granger is yours. Sound fair?”

“I don’t want you to be outnumbered, Draco. So I’ll tell you what, I’ll be Harry’s first. But only if Goyle’s your second, and Nott’s your third. That should even it up a bit.”

Draco scoffed. “As if you could stand a chance against me alone, Mudblood.”

Apparently, Draco had a great health plan.

“On second thought,” Harry said, in a manner so calm that everyone in the hallway, including Hermione, took a step away, “we don’t need to wait. I’ve got a free period. Let’s do this right now.”

He scowled. “You can’t change the rules, Potter! It’s already agreed upon!”

“I haven’t promised anything, you daft little shit,” he growled, tightening his fist. “I don’t even have to sanction anything. Why don’t we have a proper wizard’s duel, and I just make the next six years at this school a little bit less annoying by killing you.

If Draco could look at Harry Potter’s green eyes, he would have seen a kid who lived for five years on the street, a boy who scraped for the things he got, a boy who killed a beast just three months prior.

Even then, arguably, he knew he couldn’t have backed down either way. “You can’t challenge to a proper wizard’s duel until you’re seventeen. Shows how much you know about my world.”

“Oh, I know enough. I know that when you challenge for an underage duel, you have to put something on the line. Fifty thousand galleons.”

If anyone had been otherwise distracted in the hallway, their attention had been firmly grabbed now.

The blond took a step back. “Y-you’re lying, Potter! You can’t come up with that money!”

“Oh, you’re right. My apologies; maybe I should ask my parents for the money.”

Draco stuttered, while the rest of the gathered audience realized what he was getting at – he must have emancipated himself to get beyond the Potter’s trust account.

“You should be thankful for my dead parents, Draco,” Harry said mockingly. “It’s about time they did something useful for you. A hundred thousand, on the table. Take it or leave it.”

The audience gasped, hearing the number so casually doubled. “I… I accept your bet, Potter.”

“No, you don’t. Not yet. You can’t get that much by tonight. I can. So I’ll need collateral.”

“You just worry about yourself, Potter. You can’t even leave the school! So how will you – ?” he paused as Harry pulled out his mokeskin pouch – the blood red pouch marked with brown runic engravings.

“Goblin-modified. You were saying?”

“I- I need time to gather the money. Give me a few days! It’s not like we all have no family and no one to share our money with, and bloody responsibility, for Merlin’s sake!”

“That reminds me.” Hermione, in her wisdom, always liked thinking ahead. “The heir to the Black fortune. Put it on the line.” She wasn’t completely sure if Sirius had the authority to transfer the heirdom, being both the last remaining Black male and stricken from the family tree tapestry, and she wasn’t sure if the family magic recognized that titbit yet, but if this was on the line, it wouldn’t go to Draco. That would be ensured.

If they thought it was impossible for the blond to pale even further, he achieved the impossible. “You’re crazy! I’d never – ”

“You already accepted my bet,” Harry reminded him, twisting his words back on him. “And I need what you have on hand, or the duel is forfeited. You know what the punishment is to that, don’t you, Draco? This is, after all, your world.”

Of course, Draco knew what the forfeit would consist of – Public admittance of defeat, the handing over of his wand, and everything in his own trust.

It was then that Daphne stepped forward. “Allow me to add on to this ponce’s bad luck.” She grinned evilly, and the people around them swore it was almost as terrifying as Harry’s own grin. “Let’s talk marriage contracts. Mine, Pansy’s and Astoria’s. Total value of a hundred and fifty thousand. I’ll even throw fifty into the pot. If Goyle and Crabbe are in this fight, I see no reason why they can’t put something up.”

His wand almost slipped out of his tight grip, his hands were so sweaty. “You’re all crazy!”

“I’ll take that bet,” Harry pulled his wand. “Shall we begin?”

“There will be no spell casting in these halls, Mister Potter.”

Harry sighed. He was going to destroy whatever portrait reported them. “Hello, Headmaster. The fight has already been made official. As headmaster, the only thing you can do if find us a good duelling platform.”

“Harry, my boy, I must insist that you stop this – ”

“I’m sorry, Headmaster, but the only thing you could insist on is that the Great Hall be cleared out. I could do it myself, if you insist any further.”

“Mister Potter, there is no chance of a duel taking place without an officiator. I’m sorry, but this barbarism stops now.”

Draco had probably never been so relieved to see the Lord of the Light in his entire life. He breathed a sigh of relief, looking ready to hug Dumbledore.

“Hold on,” Hermione frowned. “Nott was your third. It seems all a bit unfair that he doesn’t have anything on the line.” She didn’t even seem aware of the entire exchange that took place. Her eyes shifted towards the taller of the foursome. “What’s your worth?” When he said nothing or rather, stumbled over his words, she turned back towards her friend. “Daphne?”

“One Tracey Davis, if I recall.”

Hermione looked towards the gathered group. “Will Tracey Davis please step forward?”

A meek, dark red-haired girl stumbled out of the group, looking utterly lost at this series of events, not expecting to be involved at all. Still, she smiled shyly at Harry, and Harry smiled back encouragingly.

Hermione clapped her hands together. “Great! Now we just need someone to be a willing officiator!”

“This has gone on long enough, Miss Granger.” Dumbledore made his way between the two groups, acting as the divider. “And you showed such promise as a student, here. Your parents will be hearing about this.”

“I want the Mudblood.”

Everyone turned, as one, to the source of such a statement, and it could have been only one person to have said it in front of Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Hermione spoke first. “Excuse me, vermin?”

“You have no right to call me by anything other than Master by the time we’re done here. After I take out you and your little boyfriend, you’ll be forced to sign a slave contract.”

Contrary to what everyone was expecting, Hermione snorted. “The little inexperienced Draco wants a little practice? Why not borrow a chicken from Hagrid?”

“Because Crabbe and Goyle are too stupid to know what one looks like to get one for him,” Harry explained. “And he obviously doesn’t know how to choke a chicken himself. Besides, story of his life, they might end up taking a cock for him.”

ENOUGH!” Albus yelled, wand at his throat as he amplified his voice amongst the laughter. “I will personally see to it that all of you are suspended if this nonsense proceeds further. This charade has gone too far, and you will all be severely punished after your suspension.”

“You continue this duel or I will transfer.”

He merely raised an eyebrow at Harry. “I beg your pardon?”

“Officiate this duel. Or I will leave Hogwarts. You will hold no authority over me, and Draco and I can start this duel in the Summer. God knows Lucius holds enough authority over this school to allow this fight within a few weeks, and take out the front page of the prophet to advertise it, but if you don’t let this fight happen right now, I have a few headmasters to call. Your choice, Headmaster.”

The wizened old man chuckled. “As your legal magical guardian, Harry, I simply cannot allow that.”

“Emancipated children don’t have legal guardians. And if you threaten to overturn it, I swear I will transfer to another school, in another country.”

Green eyes met blue, and for once, there was no pain in the back of his mind. Not only did he stand a chance against his probe now, it was nothing. Hermione’s help, and a very powerful time dilation ward, did wonders for his psyche.

The man was about six feet tall, Harry being almost five feet, and yet he stood in the gaze of the headmaster unflinchingly. The lucky boys and girls that have gathered made witness to the Boy-Who-Lived and the Leader of the Light, the killers of the most well-known Dark Lords in a millennium, stuck in more than a mere disagreement, but caught in the midst of a threat.

They waited with bated breath at who would make the next move, like watching a chess game.

Harry didn’t expect to make the next move, but his knight took the leap forward.

“Enough of this.”

Billowing robes swept past the students, and a path was knowingly or unknowingly made as they parted for the professor. “Students, you know the rules. Once you agree to the terms put on the table, the duel will begin after my count, and not a moment sooner. That would lead to an immediate forfeit and handing over all items bet. You will have seven days to bring forth all wagered items, or you will face interest at the winner’s description. Place your terms.”

“Severus, that’s enough!”

Draco gathered himself, while his mates stepped forward, their swagger almost matching that of their leader. “The marriage contracts of Daphne and Astoria Greengrass, Pansy Parkinson, and Tracey Davis.”

It really helped his confidence that Severus Snape was officiating. If he only knew the rules to his own game, he’d know that if the head of his house showed favouritism, he’d be forced to give an equivalent of the wagers and split it amongst the two.

Harry was careful to not show his hand. “Two hundred thousand galleons and a slave contract, willingly signed by Hermione Granger.”

“The wager is uneven. The average pureblood contract is fifty-thousand. Mister Malfoy must put forward something else.”

He sneered. “Fine, then. I’ll put ten more knuts on the table. That should even it up nicely.”

“How about you put your own nuts on the table,” she kindly offered, “so I can make sure the Malfoy family never spawns again?”

“Fifty thousand galleon equivalent,” Snape continued, seemingly unconcerned. “Suffice it to say, Miss Granger, that the bloodline of the Malfoy family is worth far more.”

“How much is the inheritance to an ancient House?” Harry wondered – already knowing the answer.

“The Bloodline itself can never be bet on by the head of the family. The inheritance to the family ring, however, can be wagered.”

Fine, the Black family heir’s inheritance, let’s get it over with!” Draco snarled, looking murderous.

He already knew he couldn’t lose. This was all just a formality.

Everyone was distracted – yet again – by a loud bang.

Dumbledore lowered his wand. “Children,” he began gravely, “it is not your place to alter marriage contracts. It is solely up to your parents. I heavily advise that you all walk away and think about what you have done, and the foolishness you started. I am ending all of this now.”

The tense silence that followed, was one for the books. There was a little bit of everyone that stood in the hallway, that Hogwarts itself had expanded whenever it felt a bit crowded – the Gryffindors, Slytherins, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs stood together, not in defiance, or absolution, but confusion. Confusion as to what to do next.

Finally, it was Harry that spoke. And the people got what they never knew they wanted. “I put my magic on the line. If I concede or forfeit after this statement, I give it up as a freebie. So mote it be.”

A powerful glow erupted in the hallway, a huge contrast to the soft, calming glow that would usually come with any magical bet.

Severus cleared his throat. “Per the rules of a duel, Mister Malfoy must present something of equal value, which can only be the magic of himself or someone else.”

“I don’t want his magic. I want an oath. The contents of which will be divulged after the duel, at my discretion and convenience.”

“Acceptable,” Snape droned, knowing that the young Malfoy had nothing else to wager. “Are those terms acceptable to you, Mister Malfoy?”

“You’re crazy, Potter.” He was smiling as he said it. “You lose your magic, you’ll never be able to step foot here again. The second I hit you with the finishing blow and take your wand, all you’ll see is an old ruin. A decrepit old building. No magic, no girlfriend, no friends, and since you can’t come back to my world again, no money.” His smile only got wider, and in all honestly, it made it harder for him to talk, but he couldn’t help it. “Of course I accept.”

Dumbledore, the entire time, was trying to think of a way to stop this entire duel from happening, and have Harry keep his magic, but he knew it to be a fruitless effort. He had no idea how things could have escalated so drastically, and how he had lost so much control so utterly, in front of so many students. He could only frown at all of them – the only thing he really could do – and took his leave, his head held high, but not before mustering the most powerfully sad grandfatherly look he could at Harry.

It wasn’t that he didn’t think Harry could win – in fact, he was absolutely sure the boy could not fail, according to the magical energy that had burst from him, all of his magical blocks destroyed as it was put on the line, defending itself and its host. Or so he thought.

He was more concerned about the ramifications of this day – the contracts broken, the power base that was growing under young Harry Potter and the knowledge he seemed to have absorbed, and while it all seemed so innocent now, according to their weekly meetings, what Harry could be in seven years, or even five, was something he could see growing out of control very quickly.

The boy had so much more to fight for, more than Harry could have possibly imagined. And that, according to his plans, didn’t bode well for any type of Greater Good.

He didn’t have long – he needed to change his plans. Drastically.

Flitwick, unnoticed by all but Harry, Hermione, and Severus, stepped forward into the centre of the controlled chaos. “Severus, I see you have things under control, but after that impressive display of magic, I fear we need someone to maintain the shield while you officiate.”

Draco looked aghast. “What? What display? He didn’t do anything!”

“Oh! Oh my,” he giggled. “This should be rather interesting.”

Severus, doing his best not to shake his head, raised his wand and the floor raised the two groups and the professors up. “All non-participants leave the platform.”

Harry’s mouth twisted into a frown. He had wanted the fight to be in the Great Hall. Still, beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, he had a feeling this would only be the first duel of many, after defeating the scion of the Malfoy family.

Susan glanced towards Hermione. After her nod, she stepped up to Harry, and after getting his attention, kissed him on the cheek. “Good luck,” she whispered with a smile, and jumped off the platform.

His face began to burn, and it only got redder as Padma and Parvati followed in her footsteps simultaneously. Hannah and Daphne were left, and Harry could see the nervousness on her own face. “Don’t, er, don’t feel like you have to show them up.”

She shook her head, and leaped forward to kiss him on the lips.

Hermione giggled as he stumbled, and even Hannah needed help stepping off the platform. Daphne stepped up to him, and tilted her head at him. “You’re about to have my marriage contract,” she reminded him. “I don’t think a kiss anywhere would show how grateful I am.”

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “You can’t even flirt with anyone else as long as the contract is active, right?”

She nodded in confirmation. “So no kiss. Until after.”

Harry smiled. “I look forward to it.”

Hermione hid her smile. “I think I am, too.”

Daphne eyed the both of them. “Me three.”

Snape grimaced. The things he would say if he had his free will… “The duel will begin in twenty seconds. There are still classes to be had.”

Daphne hopped off the platform, while Harry stared forward at the scowling blond. “Then get ready to go to classes in twenty-five seconds.”

“Heh,” Draco pointed his wand up – the customary pose for starting a duel. “You’re really that confident in yourself. What spells have you learned in the past eight months?”

“None.”

“Ready your wands. No lethal spells.”

“Pathetic, Potter. As expected. Your false bravado will lose you everything.”

A golden dome surrounded them. “Ten seconds!” the squeaky voice of Professor Flitwick announced.

“On the contrary, Draco. I didn’t learn anything, because there was nothing left to learn here.”

“Three, two, one!

Sparks shot into the sky. “Begin!

“…W-what?”

Titillando!

Draco was hit square in the chest by the violet spell – but he didn’t lose grip of his wand, nor did he fall. Purple, tendril-like ribbons began to wrap themselves around him and he let out a squeak. Then another.

Harry began to step forward, and when Theodore Nott stepped in the way, Hermione wordlessly shot past Harry and stunned him, and he fell to the ground. He picked up the wand, never losing his stride, and tossed it back to his best friend, who deftly caught it.

Crabbe and Goyle, rather predictably, ignored their wands in favor of running forward, and Harry simply raised his wand to sweep an invisible wind into them, knocking them down.

Draco began to laugh maniacally, the veins popping out in his forehead, his voice going hoarse, as the ribbons mercilessly tickled his skin. Yet, he did not fall, or drop his wand. That may have had something to do with the sticking charms Hermione had strategically placed on Draco’s person, knowing Harry would want a few seconds alone with him, even without their mental link.

Draco laughed in Harry’s face as the Boy-Who-Lived eyed him carefully, inches away from his nose. He could still see the fear in the boy’s blue eyes.

Never had he seen a boy laugh so much, in so much pain, consumed by so much fear.

After a few more seconds of his very forced laughter, he cast a wordless spell that he had been working on. Draco froze, mid laugh, mid breath, as the ribbons retreated to – somewhere. “When you fall,” he breathed, almost touching noses, “when you lose. I won’t even add to the contract that you’re forbidden from calling my girlfriend, or anyone else, a Mudblood.” He removed his fake glasses and dropped them to the floor. “Rather, I dare you. You want the full Potter? You want me to show off my ‘bravado’? Fine. You get to see what Harry Fucking Potter is like. You’re just a Malfoy. I’m just a Dark Lord Slayer. So woe is me when you lose today.”

He heard two heavy thumps behind him, and he knew that Crabbe and Goyle were taken out of commission for a longer period. “I drop the façade, today. For you, Draco. You should feel honoured.”

“And we’ll take far more than your pride and things your daddy got for you,” Hermione calmly explained, having heard everything from the link. “If you ever feel the need to insult me, or Harry’s parents, or our friends, again. Well… prepare for the worst. And prepare your will – to give to us. All you need is to ask for another duel.” She reached up and gripped his chin, stiff as stone. She gave a disdainful sniff. “I want to see that pure blood cleanse these dirty floors.”

She waved her wand to deactivate the spell, and tipped him over by his nose, and it was fitting that his back hit Harry’s glasses as he thumped on the ground. Harry picked up the unused wand that rolled towards his feet. He handed it over to Hermione, and she added it to her growing collection.

The glasses didn’t crush – the frame bent, and they cracked – but it didn’t make it any less of a symbol of what happened today.

Harry Potter and Hermione Granger stood victorious, and the stunned crowd, having witnessed and heard the entire minute long duel (of which there was about ten seconds of duelling) watched as Daphne, unashamed in her actions, hopped onto the platform after the dome disappeared and kissed Harry, full on the lips.

They were almost as stunned when she turned around and did the same to Hermione.

Hermione responded to the kiss as well as Harry, wrapping her arms around the girl, and when she released her, she grinned smugly.

Harry, having both Susan and Hannah on his arms, looked down at his unconscious opponent, and the surrounding victims. He then looked over to the stunned professors. “So, who won?”


“Do you think we went too far?”

Hermione considered the question. “No. I don’t think so. The funny thing is, Dumbledore thought he lost today. We revealed a lot of secrets today, thanks to that little stain.”

They were situated in one of the many unused classrooms in the school, a rendezvous point in between classes when they didn’t have time to meet on the seventh floor, in the Room of Requirement. Tonks and Cho, being in different years, only shook their heads as their friends explained to them what they missed. “Bloody hell, Harry. I need to stick around more. I knew that being around you was gonna be interesting.”

“It comes with the name, Tonks.”

“No, I think you cause that chaos all on your own, Potter. Do you expect a kiss from me, too?”

Even the memory of that moment that Hermione volunteered to share, made Harry struggle to hide his blush. “No, I don’t expect one. Since I’m in the business of freeing girls from contracts, are there any unsuitable suitors you’re scheduled for?”

“Nah, I’m a free woman. But since you’re scheduled to take the inheritance to the throne now, and Padfoot can’t do anything at the moment, could you do me a favor?”

“I’ll put you and your mother back in the family, Tonks. No problem.”

She kissed him on both cheeks. “That’s all you’re getting ’til you’re older.”

“You may not have to wait long,” Hermione muttered, figuring she should leave it a surprise to Tonks that Harry was a metamorphmagus as well.

Cho shook her head in disbelief. “I was right; it’s always an adventure with you. I’m still trying to discern whether that’s a good thing or not.”

“It’s not,” Harry freely admitted. “We’re just making the best of it.”

She shook her head with a grin, then leaned over to kiss Harry on the cheek. “Then I might as well, too.”

“That’s the spirit,” Tonks cheered, leaning down to wrap her arms around her friends. She looked down at herself, at her hunched over form. “You know, there’s something I’ve never done before. Your birthday’s still the thirty-first of July, right?”

Harry nodded. “So I’ve been told. Orphan and all.”

“Just corroborating.” She slowly released them. “I think I know what to get you for your birthday this year. Don’t worry, it’s kid-friendly. Literally.”

Harry and Hermione both rolled their eyes, having already figured it out. “Just don’t overwork yourself, Tonks.”

“… He told you, didn’t he? I’m going to kill that mangy mutt of yours.”


Harry, true to the strangeness of his everyday life, walked into the Room of Requirement, meeting the girls of the study group, nodding to each of them, including the newest members, Tracey Davis and Lavender Brown, whose grades were merely average, and upon Parvati’s advice, joined their little group, and took warmly to it.

Harry walking into the room wasn’t the strangest thing all day. What really fascinated them was the purple scarf wrapped around his shoulders.

“Um, forgive me for being new,” Lavender spoke up, never afraid to speak her mind, “but what’s with the fashion faux-pas? Why a scarf in April?”

Harry looked offended. “I’ll have you know, Miss fashion princess, that this is not a scarf.”

Hermione sighed. “It’s a turban, isn’t it? No wonder I sensed you getting a head-ache.”

“A turban?” Susan wondered. “Oh! Is that Quirrell’s?”

Harry nodded, making a show of flinging the cloth around his neck. “He might not have any taste, according to Lavender, but damn if it isn’t comfy!”

Only Lavender was left in the dark at the magnitude of what happened that they missed, and the rest of the girls showed it, sans Hermione.

She picked up on it pretty quickly. “Hermione, did I just hear you say you ‘sensed’ his headache?”

The couple sighed. They really needed an introductory pamphlet at this point.

“Okay, Harry,” Hermione crossed her arms. “Start from the beginning. Remember our promise.”

“Not much to tell, honestly. He wanted to kidnap me, because he didn’t know how to get to the stone. Since the hallways detect spellcasting, he tried to grab me. That didn’t work out as well as he hoped.” Harry looked thoughtful. “When I locked you out to spare you from the pain, it still got through to you as a headache? Interesting.”

“Interesting and terrifying. That means I can feel your pain. I wonder if that works for other extreme emotions? Or is it only because he triggered the Horcrux?”

“…What the hell is going on?” Lavender finally chose to speak up. “I feel like I’m missing out on something.”

“Not much,” Susan admitted. “He killed one of Voldemort’s many forms. He had been possessing Quirrell. How’s the one in your head, Harry? Did it react?”

“…”

“Susan, you have to stop doing that. Luckily, this one was sitting down.”


“Well, let me start with the good news,” Tonks announced on the train home, resting her hands on crossed legs in the compartment. “The good news, you get your present early.”

Harry nodded sleepily, not feeling the best as of late, since his meeting with Voldemort. Hermione and Daphne, at his sides, held him up as he listened to the pink-haired girl. “The bad?”

“The bad is I hope you don’t have any expensive antiques at your manor, because I’m bound to knock it over.”

Harry blinked a few times. “What?”

“Perhaps I should start over. Pettigrew escaped.”

WHAT?!

“Calm down, calm down,” she tried to placate the entire room, her ears ringing. “That’s the official story. Unofficially, Fudge found out, and he sent out Dementors to handle the little problem. So Madame Bones relocated him, and told everyone he escaped. Meanwhile, now everyone knows he was in custody to begin with, so of course, Fudge is the one looking incompetent. He’s got to be seen doing something. What better way than by helping, well, you. Thanks to your little beat down of the Malfoy heir, daddy Malfoy tried to choose an Auror himself, but thankfully, Fudge saw the error in making a former Death Eater, no matter how reclaimed they are, your bodyguard. So Madame Bones got to choose. Guess who?”

Hermione looked perplexed. “You?”

“Good guess. No. Hestia Jones. I got to request to being the understudy. Helps that I’m the cousin of an innocent man, your Godfather, and protecting you is a nice little piece on my resume, in lieu of Academy training. It’s also a bonus that I sent in Pettigrew to begin with. Thanks for that boon, by the way. So… as said before, please bubble-wrap all your items. Actually, now that I think about it, I could use some training.”

“Done,” Harry muttered, shaking his head free of any cobwebs. “I prefer my bodyguards as good as me. Now, what’s the present?”

“Oh, erm… hold on, I need to go change. I don’t need these school robes anymore, so I could transfigure these. Be back.”

She made her way through the packed room, and when she closed the door, Susan turned to all of her friends. “I’ll miss you guys.”

There were similar mutters of agreement and sentiment, before Harry pulled out a mokeskin pouch – a normal brown one, this time. “Speaking of surprises,” Harry said cheerily, “if I’m in the need for two bodyguards, then all of us might need each other. That’s my shameless excuse, and I think I’ll stick to it.” He pulled out some empty matchboxes, and threw then to each of his friends. “Hold on to it, and it will activate to you and you alone. It’s part expanded living area, part portal that will take you straight to Potter Manor, depending on which latch you release first. Time distillation runes are available in a majority of the rooms, so your parents will never know you’re gone. Hermione and I have spent years in these rooms. Giant library, great kitchen, perfect places for practical homework. The Trace doesn’t work here. Keep this on you at all times. You can make it disappear anytime you want, so only you can see it. I suggest tapping it now, so you won’t be sensed doing it at home.”

“We bought one for each of you,” Hermione re-clarified, looking around at their group of friends, and potential allies, “because you’re our friends. Over the past year, that’s been made very clear. More importantly, it’s for your safety. The runes built into it, with Daphne’s help, require your magical signature to activate but not necessarily your magic. Just touch it, and it will do what you want. It could become a charm, or a thin silver rope to fit anywhere on you, from your wrist to your neck, or your foot. I suggest wearing it at all times. It can protect you, it can alert you of danger, and, thanks to Padfoot, they can be used for communication. We’ll be working on a little project this summer involving mirrors.”

Susan stared in awe at the tiny, unassuming box, as were the rest of their friends. “Why not give them to us as jewellery? If you don’t mind me asking?”

“It’s getting used to your magic. You’ll know it’s ready when it turns into a charm. When it’s a suitcase, put anything you want in there. Just throw it in, and it will organize itself. Great for emergency exits. It also makes a good Portkey. It… it really does a lot of things. I should have written them down.”

“I did,” Daphne quickly informed them, “but they’re in my trunk. I’ve actually been researching a spell that we can use on the trunk that summons anything we want if we think about it. Sort of like the Room of Requirement, except for things already in the trunk. Perhaps we could all work on it over the Summer?”

“Of course,” Hannah agreed with a noticeable smile, “I’d love to.” While she had gotten a very useful, seemingly very expensive tool, the best news she had gotten was that she wouldn’t be alone this Summer.

Padma and Parvati, from across the compartment, shared nervous glances. Hermione took notice. “Your parents would probably notice any strange, new jewellery, wouldn’t they?”

They nodded. “Father is very strict when it comes to tradition,” Padma explained. “Should anything come to pass, you should probably meet with him.”

“It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have you meet him now,” Parvati muttered, biting her lip. “We’re lucky no one took pictures of us kissing you so far, especially at the same time. Luckily, he doesn’t believe in Marriage contracts, but he makes up for it in other traditions, to ‘even it out’. He’ll be there to pick us up at the station. Perhaps you could say hello to him?”

“Of course,” Harry agreed quickly. “I’ve done some reading, actually. I’ve charmed yours specifically, to turn into… well, glasses. It was all I could think of at the time. And by the time I got to Padma’s, I thought of a beauty mark. Small, and discreet. Just stick it to your face, and it will find the right spot every time. Trust me, I’ll never mistake you two again after that whole episode last November, but I know you two are tired of never being told apart. You get your identities now. And the glasses actually will help you see better, Parvati.”

She tilted her head at the box, and her sister sighed. “Do you want to trade?”

She shook her head. “No. I don’t think so. You’re a Ravenclaw, already; I’m not turning you into a stereotype with some glasses. Besides. I want to pretend to be the brilliant one, until I actually get there.” She looked up at Harry. “You realize that wearing glasses is a sign of weakness in the magical world? Something to do with our cores. My father would, no pun intended, see right through this.”

“I wasn’t aiming to trick your father. Trying to get on his good side, and if anything were to happen down the road,” and he fully intended for a future with all of them, “I can’t start it with trickery. He’s the head of a house, still, and I’m sure he’s willing to negotiate. As for the weakness, you can turn it back into a necklace when we come back for the school year.”

“Hold on,” Tracey interrupted with a frown, “I know you said your dad doesn’t believe in marriage contracts. But it sounds to me like Harry is trying to claim them.”

The room turned to Harry, but it was Hermione that spoke. “That is precisely what he’s trying to do. In case he goes back on his word one day, your fathers own all of you. We know how customs work. One day, it may lead to that. If Voldemort – ” she paused awkwardly, and when no one in the cabin flinched, she tried to hide her smile. “If he were to ever come back, your families might find themselves in trouble, in every sense of the word, including financially. That’s how it is for girls under seventeen in the world. Arrangements need to be made to ensure the continuation of profit or bloodline, no matter how pure that blood may be.”

“With Harry buying my marriage contract,” Daphne continued, “and my sister’s, I now have my own fate. I decide who I want to sign it. Whenever I want.”

“That’s brilliant,” Susan slowly admitted, running the idea through her head. “Buying our contracts and giving them back to us.”

Harry nodded. “I can certainly afford to do it. That duel inspired me that it’s a great chance to help all of you. Tonks was only a free woman because she was banished from the Black family. But you all have contracts, I think. Muggleborns don’t.”

Hannah looked hopefully at Harry. “You’d really do that? Buy contracts and freely give them back to us?”

“I’d do it for my friends. Not random people. And by doing that, I’d be making you all targets. You’re all under my protection, so to speak. Hence the gifts.”

At that moment, in her balled hands, a flash erupted from Cho’s fist. She loosened her fingers, and a silver, lightning bolt-shaped charm dropped, impeded by the thin chain still held by her thumb. Everyone took a moment to stare at the glittery, simple charm, before they glanced back at Harry. “This looks… expensive,” she choked out, scared to even wear such a beautiful looking pendant.

“The pendant wasn’t the expensive part. It was the suitcase. The compartment was bloody pricey. But everything couldn’t be free, could it? I had to go out and buy something nice for my girls, couldn’t I?”

Daphne leaned her head on his shoulder. “Your girls, Harry?”

He wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “I can’t speak for the rest, but your heartbeat makes me assume otherwise.”

“I wasn’t countering your claim. I’m just pointing it out to the rest.”

“Oh, I’m sure most of us noticed.” Padma eyed the newly formed necklace in her hand. “And, hellishly expensive gifts notwithstanding, I’d love to be your girl. I’m not saying I’d sign a marriage contract over to you, but there’s no other boy I’d trust to hold in their possession. It’s why I – well, we – want you to meet father.”

“It’s been blatantly obvious that there are no other boys in this compartment,” Hannah whispered, placing her chain around her neck. “And I feel like this necklace is some kind of branding. Then again,” she took a glance around at her closest friends. “They all call us Potter’s Girls. Is it wrong for me to have accepted that name this whole time? To like it?”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” Lavender tried to defend. “I mean, I was accused of joining the ‘harem’, as Sheamus so subtly put it, when I did. And here I thought it was an all-girls study group, hosted by the cutest boy in the school.” She lifted her hair, and Parvati helped her hook on the necklace. “Not to sound vain, but whatever keeps that going, I’ll be part of your club.”

Cho’s eyes twitched back and forth, fumbling nervously. “Are we just going around the room confessing?”

Susan held up the lightning bolt in her palm, already adorning the pretty jewellery. “I think I’ll pass on trying to talk myself into it. I’m already in. I said I was in the night you let us all in on this.” She looked up at Harry with serious blue eyes. “As you all know, I might have my certain fascinations with your… training. You’re a very powerful wizard, Harry, and I know you’ll one day kill the murderer of my… m-my parents. And I want to help any way I can. I mean, I like you, a lot, but I don’t think I can make a decision like that. Not yet. But I’m leaning there. First things first, I’ve got my mind on far too many things.”

“I think we all do.” The room turned to Harry. “You’re all my girls. You’re all my friends. Whether you want to be more or not, is up to you. I won’t ask, unless you want me to. I won’t pressure you. We’re all just having fun, here. Hermione and I, we set out to make friends, and frankly, we have a lot of cute, smart, dependable friends. Why would I spend all my time around a bloke when I have all of you to spend time with? Why would I want to share my good fortune? I mean, I’m sure you all know a few blokes who could’ve joined us. You didn’t. Because you liked this arrangement. You’ve all decided on a certain level of trust with me. But this isn’t a harem or anything. We’re just a bunch of almost second years, an almost third year, and a graduate, looking to enter a war one day, and win a war promptly after that. Whatever happens between then and now, is your choice, completely. I can only promise to take care of you all the same, if you need it.”

“I’m more than Harry’s girl,” Hermione spoke from next to him, crossing her arms as she smiled companionably at her friends. “I’m pretty sure he’s my bloody soul mate, at this point. Ethereal circumstances aside, I knew that before I stepped foot in Hogwarts. In any case. You’ve seen the choices presented to you as decent partners. Girls are usually more mature than boys, but Malfoy, his goon, the redhead; they’re all a different breed of idiot than we’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t have had much of a choice to begin with. You gravitate to Power, and that’s what we are. There’s going to be a massive change in the Wizarding world, and your logic, and magic, has accepted it. There will be more who will join us. We are all the ‘originals’, should we say. No one will go above you all in our little group, and when the time comes, We’ll never forget our first friends.”

“Thanks for making it sound like bribery,” Harry muttered, giving the room a sheepish smile. “Hermione likes to think ahead. But like I said, we’re just kids. I gave you those to be safe, because you’re friends with Harry Potter. You may find yourself having some trouble getting along with other people, especially Daphne and Tracey, and any other Slytherins that might join us, like maybe Pansy one day, because you’re associated with Harry Potter, and the politics are only going to get more segregated as the years go on. You can leave at any time. But I can’t tell you how long that mark might last. So keep the necklaces for your own safety. You all have a safe haven in Potter Manor. You’ll all be in very real danger when the time comes, and I’m not talking about just Voldemort’s return.”

“Of course,” Susan nodded. “Rogue Death Eaters, blood purists, people who are just obsessed with blood purity traditions, or angry fathers who want their daughter to be the sole beneficiary of your will… really, a lot of people might want you dead in the future, Harry.”

“Looking forward to it.”

“Droll tone aside, I’m sure part of you really is looking forward to it. We all care about you, Harry. Sooner or later, something may happen between all of us. Sometimes, our magic may guide us to the most enticing wizard that fits us. Powerful witches tend to go for powerful wizards, you and Hermione being the best example since your parents, so my aunt says. In whatever manner that may be.”

“Same here,” Tracey slowly agreed, finally putting on her necklace. “My disengagement from Nott won’t bode well for me in the future. I need protection. You’re the only one that can provide that, Harry.”

He knew he could. Severus’s compliance ensured that. “Of course, Tracey.”

“We’re all, in a way, Harry’s girls,” Parvati pointed out. “And I think I like that. Like some muggle spy organization or something. And we all care for him. And, elephant in the room, there’s a Dark Lord pending. He might not even need our help, but he needs our support. He’s our friend. You’re all my friends – sisters, even. I don’t see how this has turned into a debate.”

“I don’t think it is,” Lavender began to realize, glancing around the room, at everyone’s empty hands. “I think we just all agreed on the same point, here.”

Daphne looked smug. “I love it when a plan comes together. Or rather, a coven.”

Harry found his luck rather changing for the better as he squeezed her and Hermione’s shoulders. “So? Will you be my girls?”

It was Susan – surprisingly – who got up first and leaned over Harry. “I’ll be your girl,” she smiled encouragingly, and pecked him on the lips. “Or at least give you my first kiss. I think he’s earned that out of all of us.”

Cho came next. “Definitely.” She quickly ducked in and kissed the corner of his mouth. “This all feels very awkward,” she whispered into his ear.

“How do you think I feel?” came the response, before he untangled his arms and kissed her full on the mouth, gently reaching up to rest his hands on her waist. Her being older than the others, he felt she deserved more.

There were varying degrees of kisses shared, until Lavender came last. “I wanted to be first. But I figured, why not take my time…?”

“I’m always missing the party,” a somewhat familiar voice complained, and everyone turned to a pink-haired little girl, standing at the doorway. “Wotcher, Lav. Mind if I get a spin?”

The dark blonde, still sitting on Harry’s lap, squeaked and almost fell off the boy. “Tonks?!

“In the flesh. Half-off, same amount of fun!” Her pink eyes and hair, tied in a ponytail, was just as vibrant, but her body, in muggle clothing, had changed radically. She was a waif of a girl, with spindly legs and bony arms, and he was sure it would have been a perfect match for when she was naturally that age. “I think this is the best bodyguard disguise in the world. They couldn’t possibly reject this on their force. Sometimes, changing myself at will can be useful.”

“I’m going to be honest, Tonks,” Harry admitted, smiling at the cute preteen, “I can’t imagine a time where it’s not useful.”

“You say that until you try dating.” She wrinkled her cute little pixie nose. “Actually, you say that until you decide to date like big boys and girls do. Mum warned me not to be in a situation like that and go through something like it, and that’s given me nightmares enough to not even try. I’ve kept my metamorph abilities under wraps so long, and I haven’t tried dating, yet, for obvious reasons. But I’d like to start fresh with someone I trust.” She looked around the room, her eyes lingering on the only boy in the room. “I don’t know how long I may want to stay in this body, but I’m pretty comfy in this skin. Not a lot of people get the chance to relive their lives the right way, making the right choices. So… any takers? I’m not too picky.”

Harry’s hair flashed green, and the room around him took a sharp intake of breath. “You’ll always be Tonks to me. No one else.”

Harry had no idea what kind of effect that had on the new Tonks, but he got a hint of it as she almost tripped on the way to jumping on his lap, and entered her first snog session.

The other girls in the compartment didn’t know whether to watch in fascination as their hair cycled through a rainbow of colours, or to look away and give them privacy. Daphne merely shrugged and straddled her girlfriend’s lap, and Hermione obliged.

Susan had the sense to lock the compartment door and blacken the window, showing a hint of what she had learned over the year, before eyeing Hannah, her best friend, curiously.

“Is this what it’s going to be,” Lavender wondered, not quite as a question, looking at her seat mates study each other. “Just a bunch of us making out? With Harry? With each other?”

“I suppose,” Tracey guessed, usually being the quiet one of the group. “I mean, for now. I like all of you, you’re really great friends, and I owe Harry a lot.” She shrugged. “We’re young. I don’t know what I want. But faced with the reality of marrying Theodore Nott one day, I would choose any of you. Sorry if that sounded backhanded.”

Padma leaned over and kissed Tracey on her soft lips, and the girl squeaked in surprise, but didn’t back away. “Sorry,” she muttered once she parted, “just wanted to know what it felt like.”

“I think we all do,” Lavender joked, “but none of us actually tried it. So how was it?”

“Wonderful,” Tracey admitted, blushing. “Hermione and Daphne seem to be enjoying it, right?”

The girls silently agreed. Still, no one went for the bait again, willing to instead think about their choices, and their friends’ choices, knowing that they had the entire summer to discuss their future.

Of course, Harry was going to be involved, simply for the fact that he was Harry. Not only being a great friend, he was a great wizard – one of the most powerful, they knew.

And he, and the girls around them, were a much better choice than the inbred boys who were waiting to be contracted to them by their parents. They at least knew that Harry and Hermione could protect them.

And, being honest with themselves, they knew that they were at least attracted to Hermione. In the Wizarding world, power was a great aphrodisiac. Especially being young, attractive and powerful.

Still, what mattered was that Harry and Hermione were great friends, and they genuinely wanted to return the favour for their help.

They all began to eye each other. Co-existing together? Completely doable. Something more?

It was hard to say. But, as said before, they had all Summer, and beyond, to think about it.

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This story was archived at rihaansfics.com/handh/origin-02.htm on August 17, 2016 by Rihaan Shimomura.