Because they had been busy with their own projects, even Draco had missed that certain people had been conspiring. The first either he or Harry knew about it was when Hermione and Ron came to visit them on Sunday evening.
Harry had insisted on working on the Transferers all afternoon and, since his time limit was up, Draco had gone along with it. They were making up the blanks that Fred and George would work on. The plan was, Harry would put the foundation of the spell matrix into the devices, Fred and George would add their security measures and Harry would add the final piece of his part of the spell just before they were allocated to the individuals who would use them.
It was the safest way they could think to go about things.
Then of course they would have to teach people to use them. According to Ron it would take practice to do what Draco and Harry found completely natural.
"We missed you at dinner," Hermione said after the initial greetings.
"We were running late so we nipped into the kitchen," Harry replied. "There weren't any earth shattering announcements were there?"
"Only a missing toad," Ron replied, "and no, it's not Trevor."
"You do realise that everyone has noticed you two are up to something again," Hermione went on.
"Of course," Draco replied, "the Hufflepuff are running a betting pool on what miracle Harry's going to pull off next."
"Isn't that more of a Slytherin thing to do?" Harry asked.
"Everyone trusts Hufflepuffs to be impartial," Draco said and grinned, "and not to run off with their money. I also started a rumour about true love spells and another one about universal healing. It should keep everyone guessing."
"Universal healing?" Harry sounded confused.
"It's one of those Holy Grail type goals," Hermione chipped in. "Healers have been trying to reproduce the effect of Phoenix tears for generations and sounds like just the kind of thing you'd try and do, especially after raising the dead."
"I didn't ..." Harry started to say and then sighed instead. "I get it," he added.
Draco patted him fondly on the arm as Hermione placed a piece of parchment on the table.
"What's this?" Harry asked, looking down.
Scanning it quickly, Draco realised it was a list of names, quite a few very familiar ones.
"All the people who want to take the Hecatemae bond oath, Mate," Ron said very plainly.
Draco was shocked, but realised immediately that he shouldn't have been. He looked at the list again and a large number of the names were Gryffindors and it was a terribly Gryffindor thing to do. Some of the names, however, he had not expected to see.
"That's only for mentors," Harry said and Draco could feel his soulmate's confusion.
"But it protected you and it protected Hilde," Hermione said in a perfectly reasonable tone. "All of us know things about you and Draco and what you're doing, things that could be useful to the Death Eaters. None of us have been targeted yet, but it's only a matter of time. If we take the oath we become useless to them."
Harry opened his mouth and then closed it again, staring down at the list. It was clear he had no idea what to say.
"We don't expect an answer tonight," Ron added, "but think about it okay, Harry?"
"We'll discuss it," Draco said, all too aware Harry was working himself up to completely appalled by the idea.
Draco could see what their friends were getting at, but he wasn't so sure either.
"We'd never force you into anything," Hermione said, "but everyone on the list thinks it's a good idea."
"Thank you," Draco said. "It's a lot to think about."
Hermione gave him a smile and a nod, even as Harry scanned the parchment for the fifth or sixth time.
"Well I have essays to mark," Ron said before the whole situation could become too awkward. "Let us know what you decide when you do."
"See you in the morning," Hermione agreed.
And that was that. As they left Draco waited for the fallout.
* * *
"I am not doing it," Harry said the moment they were alone. "I do not want a personal army. So it might save them from being a target for interrogation, but that won't stop Death Eaters just killing them. It'll make Death Eaters more likely to kill them, in fact, because they will be irrevocably connected to me. No ... just no."
Draco waited for Harry to run out of words.
"I agree," he said and he couldn't help but feel the shock that ran through his soulmate at that.
Harry really was adorable when he was confused.
"Yes," Draco replied, "although only for part of the same reasons as you. We definitely do not want anyone suggesting you are setting yourself up as some sort of ruler even though that's not what this oath does. People will equate it with the Dark Mark and that would be terrible for morale. No matter how ridiculous it is, you have to remain the spotless hero."
It was completely obvious that Harry had not even considered it from that angle.
"But," he continued, "I do happen to think it might save some lives."
"I didn't say I thought you should do it," Draco interrupted before Harry could start ranting again. "I don't think the idea is completely flawed, however. We need to consider our options."
"There are no options," Harry said, green eyes mutinous.
"Not as it stands, no," Draco agreed to appease his soulmate, "but I know of several Wizarding oaths that were timed. For example it was once common place for warriors to swear oaths of allegiance to the Lords with whom they fought for a year at a time. The Hecatemae oath was designed to be lifelong, but it might be possible to change it. If we could alter it so the parameters included a yearlong agreement would you consider it?"
For a moment Harry just looked at him. The little frown and twist to Harry's lips rather gave away Harry's uncertainty.
"That really might be possible?" Harry asked.
"I don't see why not," he said. "It might take Hermione and I a little while to work out the details, but rituals like the one we used are often open to alteration without damaging the intent."
Harry hugged himself and turned away, at least not rejecting the idea outright.
"But it will make them huge targets," Harry said eventually. "Voldemort will hate that anyone has dared give their loyalty to me."
"They already are targets." Draco was not about the shy away from the truth on this. "They already have given their loyalty to the light and to you. This will protect them from one aspect of the danger they are already in."
Harry scowled at that, but it quickly switched to worry.
"It will also give you a group of people you can implicitly trust," Draco added. "Nothing can circumvent this oath, not Imperio, not blackmail. Yes it's possible He might go after them and their families, but it's also possible he might leave their families alone because it's not worth the effort. The Death Eaters wasted a lot of resources trying to get to Hilde and one is in St Mungo's. In war it's foolish to waste too many resources on futile endeavours."
* * *
Of course Hermione and Draco had found a way to alter the oath spell so it was limited to one year without affecting it's efficacy, at which point Harry had run out of reasons to object. They'd even pre-registered the spell with the Hecatemae department in the Ministry so that there would be no surprises when the records of it having taken place were sent in. Hilde had said her colleagues were actually quite interested in its use with members of their department in the future.
The Transfiguration classroom felt crowded even though all of the desks were stacked to one side. And yet, on Harry's side of the room, he felt rather alone. Only Dumbledore stood behind him at a corner to the ritual. Snape was to his left with Hilde, opposite Draco, Professor McGonagall was on the far side of the room, and on the other side of the one desk left out were all those wishing to take the oath.
It was hard to believe this many people wanted to swear allegiance to him. There had been more, but it had been decided that it would be better for members of the Order not directly associated with Harry to remain in the shadows.
Those present were Ron and Hermione, no shock there, but Bill, Charlie, Fred and George were. Neville looked nervous, but resolute, as did Seamus and Dean. No one had bothered to ask how Dean had found out, everyone just assumed Seamus had told him when he had shown up out of the blue. Arthur and Molly were there as well, as were Sirius, Remus, Justin, Susan and Terry.
Of course the biggest shock looked equal parts resolute and unsure, depending on the given moment. Harry had known since Dumbledore had offered her a job that Pansy was on their side, but he had never realised she was willing to go this far. She had asked that her oath not be registered, for her family's sake, but she was still willing to take it.
"Are we all ready?" Draco asked and everyone nodded.
When Draco looked to him Harry held out his hand; he knew how this bit went. The pin was so sharp, that when it stabbed into his finger he barely felt it, however, having the blood flow increased by magic was not the most pleasant experience. The little bowl with the sage and moss was exactly the same as it had been last time with Hilde and his blood quickly soaked in. He tried to concentrate on the feel of Draco's magic to avoid dwelling on anything else.
"Witness the blood of the Liege Lord," Draco intoned.
"We witness," Dumbledore, Snape, Hilde and McGonagall replied.
Then, one by one all the others stepped forward to allow their blood to be dripped into the bowl. As Draco came to Pansy she almost hesitated, but Harry saw her resolve harden and she offered her hand.
"Witness the blood of the Vassals," Draco said, voice deep with concentration.
"We witness," the four on the outside responded again.
"Blood of the Lord, blood of the Vassals freely given," Draco said, bringing his wand so it hovered about the bow, "bound together now until one year and one day."
The Latin of the main spell was beautiful as it flowed from Draco's lips and the little shower of sparks was all but intoxicating. Harry stared at the blood soaked moss and sage burst into a beautiful blue flame and he felt the pulling on his magic as his awareness expanded.
Then everything went black.
"Harry, come on," someone was patting his face and his dopey mind finally cottoned on to the fact it was Draco.
He managed to open his eyes to find that he was lying on the floor with someone's robe under his head and Draco was leaning over him.
"Hey," Draco said, voice and features full of relief, "how are you feeling."
"Um," he said, "that was ... um ... wow."
There was a residual feeling in the back of his brain, similar to what he had felt after completing the oath ceremony with Hilde, but this felt bigger.
"I think he's fine," Draco said and Harry realised they were surrounded on all sides, but no one was too close.
Nothing sensible came into Harry's head as a comeback to that, so he kept his mouth shut.
"You look like a House Elf on Butterbeer, Mate," Ron said, less than helpfully.
Harry thought he probably felt like a House Elf on Butterbeer, if he was honest, but he didn't say so. Luckily Draco was there to deal with everything so he didn't have to.
"We should have expected this," Draco said; "Harry was a little dazed after performing the ceremony with Hilde, with so many more people, of course it's going to have an effect."
"Maybe we should have done it one at a time," Hermione observed.
"That would have taken days," Harry managed to say as Draco helped him sit up.
Even his words were slurred, he was never living this down.
"Well at least it wasn't me who fainted this time," Hilde said and smiled brightly at him.