There was nothing in the frozen darkness, no light, no air, not even her own body. She wished she had arms to wrap around herself, or legs to pull up so she could curl up into a tight warm ball, even some chattering teeth might have provided a pleasant counterpoint to the constant rushing of wind and crashing of waves. But no, the was just the dark, the cold, and the feeling of near hopelessness, the feeling that most of the happiness had been sucked out of the world. Incorporeal, she floated, the waves crashing against an unseen shore as the cold sunk deeper and deeper into her.
Hermione’s eyes shot open, and she wrapped her arms around herself even as her teeth chattered. After a few moments of shivering, as she blinked the sleep out of her eyes, she picked her wand up from where it lay on her bedside table and cast two warming charms. Warming charms were one of the first spells she’d learned to cast after coming to Hogwarts. That first evening in the Library, even as she’d noted innumerable books she couldn’t wait to read, she’d passed them all by, scanning the titles until one caught her eye. Kelmiav’s Everyday Charms, had been exactly what she’d been looking for, and, before she went to be that night, she’d learned how to cast the warming charm.
In the two years since that night, she’d found the charm made a fantastic addition to her morning routine. Before she’d come to Hogwarts, she’d started every morning by slapping at her electric kettle until it came to life, then huddling up in a ball under her blankets until the whistle of steam singled it was time to emerge and enjoy a cup of hot tea and a book. That line in Hogwarts: A History about technology not working had almost made her panic, wondering how she’d make it through the mornings without her trusty kettle, but she’d comforted herself with the thought that, some witch or wizard, somewhere, must have invented a warming charm. Now her mornings started with one warming charm cast on herself, then another, charged with quite a bit more magic, cast on the mug of water sitting at her bedside.
Sipping gently from her mug of tea, she skimmed her Ancient Runes textbooks as she planned her day. Once she’d gotten cleaned up, she’d have a quick snack before going to Ancient Runes. When that was over, she could jump back a few hours, meet the boys in the common room, then have a real breakfast before double potions. After lunch was Defense Against the Dark Arts, and that was the class that truly concerned her.
Both of the previous defense professors had tried to hurt Harry, and despite how nice the new one had seemed to be on the train, she couldn’t help being suspicious. Harry was the little brother she’d always wanted, and she was determined to keep him safe. A part of her knew she was being paranoid. That ever-analytical voice in the back of her head whispered that she was simply being overprotective because she felt guilty about not being able to get him away from his aunt and uncle over the summer.
It had been a mistake; she’d known it the moment Professor McGonagall’s face had started to darken. She’d stayed after class to talk about the courses she wanted to take, and ask if there was a way to fit them all in. It was just after they’d finally agreed that she was responsible enough to use a time turner that everything had gone wrong.
“I hope you’ll spend at least some of your summer relaxing. While you’ll need to prepare for all your classes, you’ll have almost no time to relax once the new year starts.”
“Oh, don’t worry professor, I’ll be spending the summer in my family’s home in France. I’m planning to ask Harry to spend most of the summer with us. With him there I’ll be able to make sure he gets his summer homework done while having someone who’ll drag me away from my books every now and then.”
She’d watched as emotions played, one after another, over her head of house’s face, sorrow, guilt, anger, and something she couldn’t quite identify before it settled on resignation.
“I’m sorry Hermione, after what happened in the chamber, I talked with the headmaster about having Harry spend the summer with people he’d be able to talk to. I even offered to let him spend the summer with me and suggested that a few appointments with a mind healer might be good for him after what’s happened these last two years. Albus was very insistent that he return to his aunt and uncle for the summer.”
“But professor, those people-“
“I know Hermione, but there’s nothing we can do, Albus is his magical guardian and he’s made it clear, Harry has to spend this summer with his relatives.”
Even now, Hermione wasn’t sure if McGonagall had really been suggesting what she thought she’d been suggesting, but it didn’t matter, the seed had been planted, and she now had a plan for this coming summer. She wasn’t going to tell anyone other than her parents that Harry would be spending the summer with them, she wasn’t even planning on asking Harry until they were safely away on the Hogwarts express. Within twenty-four hours of getting of the train, they’d all be in France, and Harry would be getting to truly enjoy a summer for the first time. She knew her plan skirted, and maybe even bent the rules, but as long as she didn’t give anyone the opportunity to expressly forbid it, then it wasn’t truly break them.
Refocusing on the present, she pulled the last of her things together and made for the baths. Still, as she slipped through the dorm, that little, overprotective part of her whispered that, after Lockhart and Quirrel, it would be just like Dumbledore to hire a Polyjuiced Sirius Black to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts.
As she sat, quills and parchment resting on her desk, and waited for the Lupin to arrive, she wondered if she should count this as a point for or against their professor being up to something. Surely an imposter, or someone who had taken the job just to get at Harry, would try to act as professionally as possible to avoid attracting attention. Then again, based on the last two professors, maybe a professional and competent DADA teacher would actually draw more attention, and the ragged clothes she’d seen him in on the train and this tardiness were and act, designed to throw off-
Her musings were cut off as Professor Lupin finally arrived.
“Good afternoon, would you please put all your books back in your bags. Today will be a practical lesson. You will need only your wands.”
As Hermione cleared her desk and picked up her bag, her concern grew. How easy would it be for an accident to happen in a practical lesson they hadn’t been given the time to study and prepare for. She’d already read the entire textbook, of course, but having been stuck for most of the summer with his horrible relatives, she doubted Harry had had the time to do the same. Shaking her head, she stood and walked over to him, whatever was going to happen, would happen, she just needed to make sure she was close enough to her best friend that if something actually did go wrong, she’d be able to do something about it.
“Right then, if you’ll follow me.”
A few moments later Hermione blinked in surprise, of all the places they could have gone for a practical lesson, one of the staff rooms was just had not been what she was expecting.
As they filled in, she saw Snape stand up from an armchair, his customary sneer firmly in place. Just as he opened his mouth to make some, no doubt snide comment, he was interrupted by a call from the doorway.
“Severus, could I have a moment of your time?” Hermione turned at the question to see Madam Pomfrey poking her head into the room.
“Of course. I have no interest being caught up in this, disaster.”
As Snape stalked out, followed by the healer, a few of the older Witch's words drifted into the room.
“Severus, Hagrid has just been talking to me about the creatures he’ll be introducing the students to and there were a few potions I was hoping you could-"
As the voices faded, Hermione bit her lip. She knew Hagrid had a heart of gold, unfortunately he seemed to be under the impression every dangerous creature that crossed his path had one as well. She could just see him putting a pair of giant sunglasses on a Basilisk before explaining to a class how the huge snake was just misunderstood. She’d have to think about using a turn of her glass to scout out the creatures he was going to be showing them before classes.
Half the class flinched as the wardrobe Lupin had just reached started to bang against the wall.
“Nothing to worry about,” Lupin gave the class a reassuring smile. “There’s just a boggart in there. Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces, wardrobes, the gap beneath beds, the cupboards under sinks – I once met one that had lodged itself in a grandfather clock. This one moved in yesterday afternoon, and I asked the headmaster if the staff would leave it to give my third years some practice.
“So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, what is a boggart.”
Hermione’s hand shot up as she felt the familiar small thrill of knowing the answer to one of her professors’ questions.
“It’s a shape-shifter, it can take the shape of whatever it thinks will frighten us most.”
Her eyes widened slightly as the implications of what she’d just said sunk in. Their Professor was about to have students reveal what their greatest fear was, in a group that included students from rival houses. Even if this lesson ended safely, she had no doubt it would cause problems in the coming weeks.
“Couldn’t have put it better myself. So the boggart sitting in the darkness within has yet not yet assumed a form. He does not yet know what will frighten the person on the other side of the door. Nobody knows what a boggart looks like when he is alone, but when I let him out, he will immediately become whatever each of us most fears.
“This means that we have a huge advantage over the boggart before we begin. Have you spotted it, Harry?”
“Er-because there are so many of us, it won’t know what shape it should be?”
“Precisely. It’s always best to have company when you’re dealing with a boggart. He becomes confused. Which should he become, a headless corpse or a flesh-eating slug? I once saw that very mistake – tried to frighten two people at once and turned himself into half a slug. Not even remotely frightening.
“The charm that repels a boggart is simple, yet it requires force of mind. You see, the thing that really finishes a boggart is laughter. What you need to do is force it to assume a shape that you find amusing.
“We will practice the charm without wands first. After me, please… Riddikulus!”
Even as she chanted the spell with the rest of the students, and the professor began to explain about the intent that was needed to make the spell work, her mind was racing, cataloging fears. She hoped that, as long as it was something she truly feared, then focusing on a particular fear would allow her to decide what the boggart became. Images played through her head. The corpses of parents, lying on the floor in front of her. Harry, body mangled almost beyond recognition. Her library, flames consuming the books she’d spent her life collecting. Each thought terrified her enough she had no doubt she could get the boggart to recreate it, but she had no idea how to make any of them funny. Then another thought played through her head, along with inspiration on just how to make it amusing. Even as her plan formed, she felt a smile play across her lips, as the best part occurred to her. This fear was metaphorical enough that nobody besides her should truly understand what it was. Plan in place, she focused back on the Professors words.
“Right, Parvati. First things first: what would you say is the thing that frightens you the most in the world?”
Parvati shook slightly as she muttered something too softly for anyone.
“Didn’t catch that, Parvati, sorry.”
“Mummies sir. When I was six, dad brought my sister and I to a recently discovered tomb in Egypt. The curse breaker who cleared it had missed something.”
Lupin winced in sympathy. “I see, mummies. Well, how about this, can you imagine the mummy’s bandages coming louse and tripping it, so it falls flat on its face?”
Parvati chuckled, a weak smile returning to her face. “Yes professor, I think that would work.”
“When the boggart bursts out of this wardrobe, Parvati, and sees you, it will assume the form of a mummy, and you will raise your wand – thus – and cry ‘Riddikulus’ – and concentrate hard on the mummy tripping on a loose bandage.
“If Parvati is successful, the boggart is likely to shift his attention to each of us in turn. I would like all of you to take a moment now to think of the thing that scares you most, and imagine how you might force it to look comical…”
Hermione moved to the side slightly, she wanted to be able to pay at least as much attention to her classmates as the boggart. If anyone seemed too interested in a particular fear, a warning or stern talking to might just be in order.
“Everyone ready? Parvati, we’re going to back away, let you have a clear field, all right? I’ll call the next person forward…. Everyone back, now, so Parvati can get a clear shot. On the count of three, Parvati. One – Two – Three – Now.
As the wardrobe doors opened and a mummy stepped out, Hermione saw Parvati shiver and shut her eyes briefly, before determinedly raising her wand and casting the spell. The sight of the mummy tripping on its own bandage caused most of the class to giggle and the boggart paused, clearly confused. As the Professor began to call up other students, one after another, she glanced only briefly at whatever shape new boggart took before scanning the faces of her classmates. Nott and Malfoy seemed to be paying more attention then she’d have liked to everybody’s fears, but at least none of the ones she’d seen so far would be easy to duplicate.
At the sound of her name, she twitched, almost having forgotten that she’d have to participate too. The moment she stood before the boggart, it changed, morphing into a bookshelf, its contents being consumed by flames. For the briefest of moments, she considered doing nothing, curious what would happen to the creature if it burnt away the entirety of its substance. Shaking her head, she focused on the mental image she’d come up with.
As her spell took effect, the fire shifted direction, returning the books to a pristine condition as it moved away from them. Then the flames spread, burning the air on either side of the bookshelf until it new books and shelves started to form. Hearing her classmates laughing, she took a step back then turned to and started back to where she had been standing. Sure, most of the laughter had probably been directed at her, but it had worked, and with any luck, nobody had noticed that all the books on the shelves were books of rules and laws.
Even before she’d made it back, an idea started to form. She’d read that boggarts had a shadow of the power of the creatures they turned into. If she was able to focus on a fear of the destruction of rare books, could she freeze and dissect the boggart, copying whatever was inside the books? She doubted a single boggart could become a complete book, but if she caught and dissected enough of them, then maybe-
The entire world seemed to shrink, focusing in as she turned around and saw the new form the boggart had just taken. Neville was standing in front of the class, a look of absolute terror on his face, but that didn’t matter. The look of horror on the professor’s face didn’t matter either, the only thing in the world that mattered was the gorgeous black-haired woman who was now standing in front of the class, crocked wand in hand and a wide grin on her face. The woman was saying something to Neville, something about finishing what she’d started, but she couldn’t focus on the words. Just seeing and being near her resonated with something deep with her. It felt like finding something she’d been missing her whole life, and like listening to the most perfect piece of music ever composed, but at the same time it didn’t, it was like the music was being played entirely by out of tune instruments. She had no idea how something could feel so right and so wrong at the same time. Suddenly the feelings vanished and she saw Professor Lupin standing in front of Neville, a glowing silver orb floating in front of him. She wasn’t able to focus on anything for the rest of the class, barely even noticing when the professor restrained Harry from facing the boggart. The only thing she was able to think of, besides what had happened when Neville’s boggart appeared, was how grateful she was that she’d already had her turn. Because she had no idea how she’d explain that her new greatest fear was seeing the nameless women dying on the floor and being unable to help.
When the class eventually ended, she stayed back, watching everyone leave until it was just her, the professor, and Harry. Gesturing for Harry to go first, she took a few steps and waited, barely paying any attention to the conversation the two were having, though the fact that Harry would be learning how to defend himself from the monsters that surrounded the school did come as a relief. As Harry left, she took a deep breath and tried to focus. What was she going to say? ‘Professor, could you tell me who that woman who terrified you and Neville was, and how I can find her? Why, because while I can’t bring myself to care why the two of you are so scared of her, there’s nothing I want more than to meet her, to get to know her and to get her to smile at me.’ No, definitely not, which meant-
Professor, I was hoping to ask you about Neville’s boggart. You see, he’s my friend, and he still seemed really upset when class ended. I don’t want to make him talk about something that’s clearly very painful for him, but I thought if I understood what was wrong, I might be able to help him, and it looked like you recognized the woman as well.”
Lupin seemed to think a moment, before shaking his head. “I’m sorry Hermione, but that really is Neville’s story, and if he hasn’t shared it, then it’s not my place to do so. The only thing I will say is that you’re right, she’s connected to something very painful from his past, and if he doesn’t say anything about it after this class, then I have to ask you not to ask him about it.”
Hermione felt like screaming, like grabbing the professor by the collar of his tatty suit and demanding answers. But the same self-preservation instincts that had demanded that she start looking around corners with a mirror the moment she realized what was in the chamber of secrets were kicking in again, urging her to conceal that she had any connection to the woman until she’d figured who she was, why everyone was scared of her, and most importantly, what connected them. Forcing her need for answers down, she smiled at the Professor.
“Thanks for the warning, while I wish I could help him, the last thing I want is to hurt him anymore.” Nodding to the politely, she left the classroom.
Half an hour later, she was hidden under Harry’s Invisibility cloak, peering through the partially open door as Neville walked to the front of the class. As the boggart shifted, she let herself simply bask in the feeling the woman generated in her. The disharmony was certainly jarring, but even with it, it was the most wonderful and right thing she’d felt in her entire life. She simply stared, smiling under the cloak, until lupin stepped in front of Neville, and his strange silver ball appeared.
An hour later, she was sitting in the branches of a tree, quill in one hand, parchment in the other, looking through a window into the room where Neville was walking forward. As the woman appeared again, she forced herself to focus on taking notes. Finishing a brief description of the woman’s appearance, she scrunched her eyes shut for a moment, desperately trying to focus on what she should write next. The instant her eyes closed, the feeling vanished.
‘The feeling only happens when I can see her, is this because the boggart is a creature that relies heavily on visual input, or will it hold true when I meet her? The off tone remains constant whenever I look at her, is it the result of this merely being an illusion of the woman created by the boggart, or is it a sign that the link is both a good thing and a bad thing? If the latter, it feels like the good vastly outweighs the bad, this may be a clue to the type of link it is.’
Looking up from her hastily scrawled notes, she barely resisted the urge to swear as the woman vanished. She didn’t dare use her time turner again with three of her in such close proximity. Still, before she continued with the list of things to research when she went to the library that evening, she flipped her parchment and wrote one separate question. ‘why is professor Lupin afraid of the moon?’
Bellatrix Black lay in the corner of her cell and closed her eyes, welcoming sleep's immanent embrace. For most, the ancient dream wards that had been put up throughout the prison made sleep just one more torment, but for some reason, this had never been the case for her. While her dreams were filled with emptiness and near-complete despair, it was only near complete. Every day, she looked forward to the night when she would feel that small bit of hope, that little trickle of joy. While she didn’t understand where it came from, she wouldn’t trade it for anything short of freedom.
Blinking, she looked around. She knew she’d just been lying in the corner of her cell, waiting to fall asleep, so logically this was a dream, but it certainly wasn’t the normal dream. No, rather than the emptiness, she was sitting on a sofa in what appeared to be a giant wardrobe, looking out through a cracked open door at a room full of students and a professor, and there was a witch lying across the sofa, head resting in her lap. And instead of despair, everything felt perfect, and like everything was right with the world. She didn’t know how long she sat there, looking at the young witch and running her fingers through beautiful brunette hair, that was almost as full of energy as her own, before the dream started to fade. Just before it completely dissolved, the girl’s eyes seemed to truly focus as she spoke for the first time.
“Who are you?”
Bellatrix was pacing from one side of her cell to the other, putting together the pieces of a puzzle she hadn’t even realized existed until before this morning. She’d been thinking about this new discovery almost constantly since she’d woken, with just a few breaks for arithmancy. So many things made perfect sense now, and she wanted to kick herself for not seeing it before. Almost two years before her lords discorporation, she’d felt something change. Her dreams, which in the past had almost always been filled with the thrill of fighting and killing her enemies, mixed in with the occasional nightmare about her childhood, had become shapeless things, filled with an undefined mixture of colors and feelings. As time went on, the dreams had started to take on shape, but the process hadn’t been complete before she was thrown in Azkaban.
Two other things had happened at the same time. The first had been odd, it had felt like something had changed inside her, almost like something new had wrapped itself around her, keeping her from ever feeling truly alone. If things hadn’t been so busy, and if she hadn’t been sure that the feelings wouldn’t interfere with her duty, she would have talked to her lord about it, but by the time things slowed down enough that she felt that she could take up some of his time with a non-life-threatening question, the feeling had become so much a part of her that she didn’t even think of asking about it. The other thing that had happened concerned her relationship with Alecto. The younger Death Eater had been on the team Bellatrix lead almost since the day she’d joined their lords ranks, and they had soon fallen into the habit of sharing a bed after every mission where they saw combat. They had never been in a relationship exactly, they’d never even truly put what they were to each other into words. While Bella knew she hadn’t loved the younger death eater, she certainly had, and still did, care about her. Besides the physical aspects of their relationship, they had been close in so many other ways, Alecto had been the only person, other than her sisters, she’d ever confided her hopes and fears to. When she’d stopped joining the younger witch in bed, she’d feared it would destroy what the two of them had. Luckily, while she could tell the younger woman was hurt and confused about why that part of their relationship had ended, she hadn’t pushed for an explanation and hadn’t pulled away from her in any other way. It was one of the things about the other woman she’d always appreciated, the ability to tell when she truly wasn’t ready to talk about something and to leave it alone. And after all, what would she have said, ‘I’m sorry, Alecto, but the very thought of fucking you leaves me, quite literally, feeling sick to my stomach, nothing personal you understand.’ No, it had been better to say nothing and rely on the trust the two shared.
Now, finally, it made sense, her soulmate had been born and their bond had formed the moment the newborn witch had taken her first breath. She’d known who the young witch had to be the moment she’d woken up, though figuring out how it was possible had taken slightly longer. Over time, a few very powerful families had manifested unique powers, Slytherin had Parseltongue, her own Black family had gifted the magical world with Metamorphmaguses. As a rule, such a family simply took it as a sign of their greatness and left their family traditions mostly unchanged and married other witches and wizards just as they always had, thus spreading this new recessive talent far and wide. The exception had been the Noctis family, with their ability to walk through the dreaming. They had taken extreme steps to make sure that not only did the talent stay in the family, but that every Noctis was able to use it.
The moment she’d realized it hadn’t been her dream alone the night before, she’d known the girl had to be a Noctis, but that posed its own problem, the last member of the Noctis family had been a member of her lord's inner circle and had died in those last few hectic months. The answer had come to her when she remembered a certain offhanded remark Avelin had made about having a younger brother who had died as a child. Everyone knew pureblood families never produced squibs. Of course, they did have a slightly higher mortality rate among their children than other families.
Bellatrix ground her teeth at the thought. It was such a waste. Because of blind ignorance about what squibs truly were, so much potential had been wasted. They had been one of the things she’d researched during her time as an unspeakable, but even then, the only person who’d seemed truly interested in her findings had been her lord. Yet one more instance of his vision eclipsing that of the rest of the wizarding world.
Pulling her thoughts back to the matter at hand, she resumed putting the pieces together. Her little witch’s father was a squib, but what about her mother. It was unlikely she was a witch, but it was conceivably possible. Marriages between witches and muggles were exceeding rare. After all, magic called to magic and someone with it was rarely truly comfortable with someone without. But it was this very fact that gave her hope, she’d always believed that the only way those marriages could work was if the muggles were, in fact, squibs. Another possibility, and one she found far more plausible, was that, with his ability to feel all the minds connected to the dreaming, her witch’s father had unknowingly felt and tracked down the faint traces of magic another squib had possessed.
Then again, it didn’t truly matter that much, even if the mother turned out to be a muggle. She’d enjoy tearing apart anyone who dared to insult or slight her witch. But at the same time, she feared how many such hurtful things the girl would have to hear before she managed to get the message across. That was for the future though, what mattered now was helping her witch to master her powers. It was clear she was unconsciously using their bound as a guide for her Dreamwalking. And she’ll hate me because of that, I’ve forced her to experience countless nights of-
She shook her head violently and glared out between the bars of her door at the dementor that had just stopped it’s gliding patrol in front of her cell.
“Merlin cursed fucking emotivores.”
She hissed the words as viciously as she could, before throwing her entire focus into an arithmetic problem shed spent the last few days working on. There were no emotions involved in arithmancy, simply logic. An indefinable amount of time later, after she’d reached a point she was sure she could remember and pick back up from later, she looked up and saw the hall in front of her empty. Good.
The trick of focusing completely on something emotionless whenever a dementor neared was one her lord’s followers had learned during the war, when some of them had suffered brief imprisonments. It didn’t work long term, she’d been told, because the hopeless that came at night eventually broke the will to fight during the day. Of course, her wonderful little witch had saved her from that, letting her stay sane.
She paused as a mental image of her little sister, one eyebrow raised, intruded in her thoughts. ‘ok Cissy, it’s letting me stay as sane as I was when I was thrown in here.’
She almost managed to smile as she imagined the playful smirk that her little sister would have worn. Still, this wasn’t the time to think about such things. However her little witch had managed to break through the wards, it clearly hadn’t been deliberate, and she couldn’t count on it lasting for long. She’d have to tell her exactly what she needed to do tonight; in case it was the last night they have together before the young Noctis mastered her family’s power. Which meant, she needed a plan before she went to sleep. The basics were obvious, have the young witch meet Cissy, and convince her of who and what she was. After that, she had no doubt her little sister would protect her and take her to Starwatch so she could learn her family's magic. After that, she’d have no trouble breaking through Azkaban’s dream wards, and then they’d be able to talk freely.
The first thing she’d need to do was to get the two together. Luckily, she was almost certain the blond boy she’d seen was her nephew, so it should be easy for her little witch to recognize and follow him the next time he went home for the holidays. With how much her sister valued family, there was no way she wouldn’t be waiting on the platform to greet her son. Yes, it should work, the only thing that worried her was that her nephew wasn’t the only person she’d recognized, she was almost certain the professor had been her cousin’s pet wolf. She didn’t want to believe it, no sane person would risk a school full of children by putting a werewolf in their midst, but still.
Wincing, she shook her head. No, she could just see that senile bastard hiring him as part of one plot or another, the only question was, what was he plotting. It could be as simple as the fact that the wolf was loyal to him, and he wanted one of his followers to be the DADA teacher for some reason, but it could also be that he’d decided that werewolves were a threat and needed to be exterminated for the greater good. She could just see him sacrificing one of his followers and a group of children to set an anti-werewolf crusade into motion, telling himself all the while that their sacrifice would save a greater number of children from werewolf attacks in the future, so it was perfectly alright.
She gritted her teeth; it was just one more thing she’d have to warn her little witch about. Her grimace suddenly turned to a small smile. Actually, if her second idea truly was what that manipulative bastard was planning, it could work in their favor. Anyone bitten by a werewolf would suddenly have to choose between living in the shadows, hiding from a ministry that wanted them dead, or joining her lord and helping to change the world. So long as she could convince her witch to stay somewhere safe during the full moon and keep a werewolf bite potion on hand, she almost hoped that truly was his plan, not only would it be a boon to recruitment, it would be one more crime drag him down with when the time came.
But that too was for the future, right now she needed to figure out how to convince Cissy her little witch truly was who she would claim to be. She spent the rest of the evening going over childhood memories, with the occasional break for arithmancy, hunting for stories and anecdotes only she and her youngest sister would understand, things Cissy would know could only have been shared by her. That night she went to sleep feeling more hopeful then she had since being thrown in Azkaban, she had a plan to share, a warning to give, and knew exactly what to have her little witch say to her sister to convince her of her identity, it would even have the added benefit of leaving Cissy horribly embarrassed. As sleep claimed her, she entered a world filled with emptiness and near-total despair.
Well, that was the prologue, I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love it if you'd leave a comment so I know what you thought. This was it for year three, year four should only take three to five chapters, then we'll be getting into the real meat of the story in year five and six. I'm hoping I'll be able to introduce the other two relationships that will be followed before I finish the next chapter. One of them will play a large role in the story while the other, while important, will mostly be background. The only hints I'll be giving about the next chapter or the relationships is that Hermione's going to be meeting someone will be able to help her understand her and Bella's bond, and the the background will be Het with Harry as the male half while the other relationship the story will focus on will also be Femslash. Oh, and most chapters won't have nearly so many lines that come directly from the books, but since Lupin's lesson was where the changes truly begin, I felt it helped drive them home.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1. Mates, Soulmates, and Icebacked sklivers
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Hermione smiled as she looked at the boy in the seat next to hers. Harry sat; nose pressed against the airplane’s window as they rose through the clouds for their flight back to England, a position he’d maintained for almost the entire flight earlier summer. He’d been shocked when she told him about her plan on the Hogwarts express, but with how frustrated he’d been at Dumbledore’s refusal to stand up to Fudge, and with the opportunity to completely avoid the Dursleys, he’d been more than willing to make the attempt. While her parents had clearly had some reservations when she’d mentioned she was planning to invite a boy to spend the summer with them, she’d managed to convince them before returning to Hogwarts the previous September. Any reservations they might have still held vanished when they met the Dursleys. Telling Harry that he was thoughtless and ungrateful for wasting their time might simply have been written off understandable irritation, but what followed had sealed the deal.
“Well, at least we won’t have to deal with you and your freakishness. Stay with your freak of a friend and let’s see how long her freakish family is willing to put up with you.”
After that, her parents hadn’t even teased her about Harry secretly being her boyfriend. She wondered if it was the fact that both of her parents were orphans that made it so easy for them to except that that it wasn’t blood that made a family and that she thought of Harry as a brother. Whatever the reason, they’d quickly taken Harry under their wing, and what had followed had probably been the best summer of her life. Harry had been a bit disappointed when he’d gotten the owl from Ron about tickets to the World Cup and realized he wouldn’t be able to go, but both of them had breathed a deep sigh of relief when the news of the Death Eater attack had broken, neither one of them having any illusion that he would have been able to remain uninvolved had he attended. The summers crowning achievement, however, had been when she convinced him to drop divination for ancient runes. They’d both had to work hard for most of the summer to get him caught up to where the rest of the fourth years were, but she had no doubt it would be worth it. As much as she hated divination, she couldn’t help hoping that the world cup had been a sigh, that Harry might be able to avoid trouble this year.
Even as Harry’s face fell with the announcement that there would be no quidditch this year, Hermione’s spirits soared. While she’d never try to stop him from doing something he loved as much as he did that crazy sport, she couldn’t bring herself to regret that it would be over a year before he’d got back on his broom to spend an afternoon speeding around a hundred feet in the air, being chased by murder-balls. Her relief was short-lived, however. The moment Dumbledore mentioned the Tri-wizard tournament, her stomach dropped. She’d seen the casualty statics of the tournament in Hogwarts, A History, and she just knew that, somehow, it was going to put Harry in danger. She didn’t know if one of the creatures that were often brought in for the champions to face off against was going to break free and go rampaging directly towards him, or if the organizers were going to decide that a duel against the boy who defeated Voldemort would be a good challenge, but something was going to happen. And it was probably time to make sure one possibility was taken right off the table.
“Harry, I swear to all that’s magical, if you get within fifty feet of a tournament entry form, I’m going to stun you, then tie you to my bed so none of your friends can rescue you.”
Harry actually laughed as she glared at him.
“Trust me Mione, entering that tournament is the last thing I’m planning. You know I already have more fame then I’ve ever wanted, and if what Snuffle’s said in that letter about the Potter family vault is correct, then in a few years I will have more galleons then I could ever spend.”
She lets her scowl fade, chuckling softly, “Good. And just so we're clear, the same threat holds true if someone asks you to be a part of one of the tasks. When, and I have this horrible feeling it won’t be a matter of if, you’re asked to participate in some way, just remember exactly how embarrassing it will be for you to explain just why you didn’t show up.”
She let herself grin as Harry started laughing again and threw his hand up. “Ok, ok, I get it. I promise I won’t participate in any way. Happy?”
Her grin faded, worry returning. “No Harry, I’ll be happy when the tournament is over and you’ve managed to keep that promise.”
His grin faded in turn a hurt look starting to replace it. “Hermione, I thought- “
“I do trust you.” She interrupted quickly “The problem is I’ve been right beside you these last three years and I’ve seen the sort of problems your luck gets in into. I don’t think you’ll deliberately break your word, but as I said, I won’t be able to truly relax until this tournament is over.”
As she watched, worry spread across Harry’s face “You’re right. And I should have been in the middle of that disaster at the world cup, the karma for managing to avoid that’s probably going to catch up to me at the worst moment.”
Reaching out, she squeezed his arm softly. “Harry, if karma truly exists, then avoiding world cup is just its first down payment on the hell you’ve gone through for most of your life. And whatever happens this year, we’ll get through it together.”
Harry glanced over to where Ron was obliviously munching his way through the feast before looking back at her and smiled. “Together.”
Sitting at her desk and watching professor Moody make the spider on his desk perform cartwheels, Hermione was feeling far better than she had been at the same time last year. She could see now that it had just been stress over her course load, combined with guilt over how Harry had been forced to spend his summer, that had made her paranoid. She almost laughed, remembering her suspicions about Polyjuice and Sirius Black, even as Moody made the spider jump back into the jar and removed another.
She watched as spell hit the spider and it writhed on the desk. As she watched, she couldn’t help imagining how it would feel to cast a spell like that, to see someone, Harry’s bloated whale of an uncle for instance, on the ground writhing in front of her, unable to beg, unable to think, unable to do anything but scream until she chose to let him.
Her eyes suddenly widened as she realized what she was thinking. She’d known she wasn’t exactly a good person for a long time, that incident with Thomas Johnson back in primary had proven that to her, but she hadn’t had the fact flung so completely in her face for a long time. She prayed Harry hadn’t noticed anything off about her. He’d seen her when she let go of her carefully memorized rules before, when she’d set a teacher on fire, when she’d stolen from one to make a highly restricted potion, when she’d ambushed and held captive a trio of students, he supported her those times, in fact he’d supported her every time she’d let herself go, but she really didn’t want to put things to the test by admitting just how much one of the unforgivable fascinated her. She couldn’t let herself watch any longer, which made it childishly easy to put a note of desperate pleading in her voice.
“Please Sir, please stop.”
As the professor withdrew another spider and efficiently killed it, then started calling students forward to see if they could throw off the imperious, she focused on centering herself. By the time Harry was called, she had managed to slip back into her normal, calm and analytical, mindset. A wide smile spread across her face as she saw Harry slow, then stop halfway through his order, and she couldn’t help cheering as he clearly managed to throw it off altogether.
“Very good mister potter, fifteen points to Gryffindor. You next miss Granger.”
As she walked forward, she braced herself, she’d taken pride in her mind above all other things, and she was determined to defend it.
“Ok Miss Granger, I believe a rendition of I’m a little teapot would do nicely. Imperio.”
Bellatrix Black was sitting in the corner of her cell, dragging the point of her thumbnail through the flesh of her arm, just as she did every day. Her Lord's mark was darkening by the day, and that meant it wouldn’t be long until she was free once more. Looking at her scarred arm, she almost smiled, on that day, when she was free once more, she would find her little witch, and the details, from appearance to probable age and year, were right there, carved into her flesh. That first morning, after she’d woken up from not dreaming about her mate, she’d cried, cried for the first time in the horrible prison she was stuck in, for the first time since her lord had been discorporated. Once she’d managed to pull herself back together, she’d realized what she had to do. She couldn’t afford to forget a single detail if she wanted to be able to find her soulmate once she was free, so she’d begun writing on the only thing that couldn’t be taken away from her. She couldn’t fit many full words, but abbreviations and numbers worked, and each day, as she carved, she focused on the features she was describing.
As she got ready to start on her little witch’s hair, she felt a pressure against her mind, a soft voice urging her to sing a ridicules children’s song. It had been well over a decade since she’d felt the effects of the imperious curse, but old instincts kicked in instantly, and she slammed into the intruder with a mental roar. The attack shattered almost instantly, leaving her confused. She would have thought that that had been an imperious curse, except it had been far too weak to have been a properly cast one, only maybe half as strong as the one’s-
Her thoughts cut of and she laughed, of course it was only half as strong, it was trying to effect to inextricably connected minds. Someone had clearly tried to imperious her little witch, and the only reason she wasn’t panicking was because she knew exactly what they’d been trying to make her do. Imperiusing someone to sing was exactly the sort of thing some of the softer instructors she’d known would have done when teaching someone to resist the curse. That just raised more questions though, from what she knew, her witch was either an older fourth year or younger fifth year. So, who in the Dark Lord's forbidden name, had the crazy basted hired this time? Learning to Resist the imperious and recover from the Cruciatus were post-N.E.W.T. specialty courses taught by the ministry, not something for pre-O.W.L. students. Even as she thought that, worry started to gnaw at her. Surely, even whatever madman that senile headmaster had hired wouldn’t dare try and teach students how to recover from the Cruciatus, would they. Bearing her teeth, she let out a low snarl. she probably wouldn’t feel it if it did happen with how weak their link was at the moment, but finding out whether or not she had been subjected to that curse would be one of the first things she was going to do once she found her. And if she had been, well the crazy professor had better hope the curse her lord had put on the DADA position had killed him before she found him, otherwise it would take him months to die. As she sat back against the wall of her cell, and imagined just how she would torture anyone who dared to harm her witch, one more question niggled at the back of her mind. Why had that presence felt somehow familiar?
Hermione focused her entire will on keeping her mouth shut, then cautiously diverted some of her will to try and push against the foreign presence. She was sure she was making progress, when something else slammed into the into the intruder. She was certain she’d never felt this new presence before, but at the same time it was somehow wonderful, and like it always had been there, at the back of her mind, waiting until she’d needed it. But before she’d had time to truly explore the feeling, both presences were gone.
Blinking she stared at her professor, who was staring right back at her, mouth agape, before his scarred face suddenly spread into an enormous smile.
“Amazing Miss Granger, you resisted even more completely than mister Potter. Twenty-five points for Gryffindor.”
Sitting back, she watched as one student after another embarrassed themselves and wondered about what had just happened to her. ‘but you know already.’ A little voice at the back of her head whispered. ‘It was the link, the link you share with Her. The only time you felt anything remotely as right as that presence in your mind was when you were looking at Her.’
She couldn’t really deny it, but she also couldn’t deny that the thought worried her slightly. And the fact that it only worried her slightly was one more thing that she knew, intellectually, should worry her. With all her classes, she’d had very little time to research the year before, and she had so far come up blank on the link. Still, that didn’t mean she’d learned nothing. The feeling when the dementors had gotten to close, the research she’d done about Azkaban itself after she’d found someone who supposedly had wanted to kill Harry had escaped it, and a brief reference to horrible dream wards in one of Sirius's letters, combined with the way Neville and Lupin had reacted to the woman, had left her with a dreadful certainty that she knew exactly where the woman was. She’d been so tempted to track down a list of Azkaban inmates, to see if she could find a picture of the woman and learn something about her, but in the end, she’d decided against it. As insane and misguided as it probably was, she wanted the woman to have the opportunity to explain her side of the story before she saw what everybody else was saying about her.
And that woman, that woman who’s imprisoned in Azkaban for merlin only knows what reason, can apparently slip into my mind, and I can’t even convince myself to be scared about that fact. Heck, a part of me’s hoping that Moody will want to try and Imperious me again, just so I can feel her do it again. She only realized how caught up in her own thoughts she was when Harry taped her on the shoulder and pointed out that class had just ended.
“Miss Granger, Mister Potter, a word if you please.”
Once the rest of the students had left, the professor gestured at them both to sit.
“The ability to gather both the will and the magic to throw off the imperious curse is an impressive feat all on its own. To do so without training.” The scarred Auror paused and shook his head. “That’s not something even I managed. I was hoping you both might be willing to let me test your skills, and perhaps give you some advanced lessons later in the year.”
Pausing for a moment, she bit at her lip. She knew it hadn’t been raw ability that let her throw off the curse so effectively, but thinking of what she and Harry had gone through the last few years, advanced defense lessons seemed like a very good idea, even if she didn’t exactly deserve the opportunity.
“Of course professor.”
A moment later, as Harry nodded his own agreement, Moody gave them a twisted smile. “Excellent. Miss Granger, do you have a class you need to go to?”
“Good, then we can begin immediately. Mister Potter, I’ll see you after dinner tomorrow.”
Hermione felt her eyebrows rise. “Sir, you’re not going to test us both at the same time?”
“Certainly not. The only way to accurately gauge your ability is with a practical test, and I can’t keep be sure I can keep an observer safe when the spells start flying.”
Once she’d said goodbye to Harry, she took a deep breath and turned back the professor. She was quickly getting more and more nervous about the upcoming test, but at least he seemed more worried about safety than many of the professors. She watched as, with a flick of his wand, the desks were pushed to the sides of the room.
“Ok, Miss Granger, you’re going to attack me. Don’t hold anything back, I’ve been capturing dark Wizards since before you were born, I can handle anything a fourth year can throw at me. I will start by simply blocking, then once I get a feel for your casting, I will start firing spells at you that you will need to avoid.”
She simply stared at the scared professor for a moment, imagining all the ways this could go wrong, before suddenly whipping her wand up and firing a body binding jinx. Even as his wand came up and deflected the spell, a smile spread across his face.
“Good. Always try and cease the element of surprise. There’s nothing better than a fight where you’ve disabled your opponent before they even realize they're in a one.”
Even as he spoke, she began throwing more jinxes at him, A jelly legs, another body bind, vomiting slugs, then, somewhat nervously, a cutting charm at his legs.
“Faster miss Granger, and bloody well stop holding back when you use the dangerous ones.”
Seeming to emphasize his words, he shot a bolt of, something, at her. Leaping to the side, she fired off two jinxes as fast as she could, followed by another cutting charm, this one aimed at his chest.
“Better, but you still need to be faster, and you’re thinking too much, try and feel the rhythm of the spells”
It wasn’t until he began regularly firing spells at her that she started to understand what he meant. As she spun out of the way of a spell, throwing her arms out for balance, she realized her wand was in the perfect position to begin the motions of an aquamenti spell. Pausing the motion of her wand just long enough to shoot the jet of water at her professor's face, she slashed her wand down across his body in a cutting charm, before swishing it up and flicking it at him, sending a desk flying at him.
As the desk was blasted back across the room, she stopped thinking about what she was doing, of what spell she should cast, and just let her body flow. Two steps to the left, cast, spin right, cast. As she spun again, she began to laugh. She’d never felt this exhilarated in her life, stretching her magic as far as it would go and holding nothing back. Still, even as she stopped laughing for a moment to call out another spell, that ever-analytical part of her pointed out that, as much fun as this was, if she kept going like this she was going to lose. ‘But what can I do. Not only does he undoubtedly know every spell I do, he probably knows ten times that many more spells that I don’t. Wait, spells!’
Continuing to dance out of the way of his spells, she began to get closer to him. She saw realization dawn in his eyes, just a moment too late as she lunged forward and brought her knee up between his legs. As she felt her knee connect, she began to bring her wand up into a stunning spell, before the world went black.
Blinking up at Moody’s scarred face from the chair she suddenly found herself sitting in, she watched as he lowered his wand.
“Very good miss Granger. You made only one mistake, do you know what it was?
She thought for a moment before responding. “Getting to close. I didn’t have time to respond to that last stunner.”
“No, you realized you were going to lose if things continued as they had been. You took a risk to give yourself the possibility of victory rather than the certainty of defeat. Your mistake was your target, most Aurors and dark wizards have been hit by the Cruciatus curse several times and have learned how to push through even the most intense pain, at least for a moment. If, instead of kneeing me in the crotch, you had elbowed me in the side of the head, you might well have won.”
She looked down briefly. It made sense she supposed, but she wasn’t happy. For one brief moment, when she’d felt her knee connect, she’d been sure she’d won. Still, it was far better to fail here, then the next time she and Harry found themselves in some life-threatening situation. Still, she hated failing at all. Shaking her head, she looked back up at the old Auror.
“Thank you professor.” Then, unable to resist asking. “So, did I pass?”
“With flying colors, girl. With flying colors. I’m afraid I’ll be too busy preparing for the tournament to start your lessons immediately, but if you’ll stay after class, let’s say, a week after the champions are selected, we can work out a schedule, and perhaps have our first lesson.”
“OK, thank you professor. With how often things go wrong around Harry, I’m truly grateful for these lessons.”
Grabbing her bag from the corner of the room, she nodded to the professor, then began to make her way back to the common room.
Barty crouch peered through the wall, following the girl’s progress until she reached the end of the corridor, then he let himself fall into the chair she’d recently occupied. That second presence that had thrown him out of the young witch’s head had been unmistakable. Even after all these years he could never mistake the feeling of Bellatrix Black’s will slamming into his own. Slumping back into the chair, he let his memories take him for a moment.
Bellatrix, recruiting him to the dark lords cause a couple weeks after he’d graduated Hogwarts. Bellatrix training him to fight as a Death Eater, the lesson on recovering from the disorientation of having his imperious curse broken was particularly vivid after what had just happened. Memories of her cackling as she fought beside him, that same wild cackle the young witch had been making.
Looking back, so many things made sense. He’d served the Dark Lord for three years, and a year after he’d joined, something about Bellatrix had changed. It hadn’t been anything obvious, well, except for the fact that she’d stopped vanishing with Alecto immediately after every mission, but he’d idealized the older witch as everything a Death Eater should be and he’d noticed a dozen small changes. Changes he was now certain aligned perfectly with the day the witch he’d just been testing had been born.
It hadn’t just been the been the dark lord he’d failed that night thirteen years ago, he’d failed her as well. She’d been the only one left who could have held the dark lord’s followers together, and because of his mistake, his failure, she’d been trapped in Azkaban for over a decade and his lord hadn’t had anyone he could rely on to help him get his body back.
Standing up, he rubbed at his good eye. He didn’t want to die. He’d been a child, at Hogwarts, or imprisoned under an invisibility cloak for all but three years of his life and he desperately wanted the chance to live, to experience the world his lord was trying to build. Still, even knowing he had barely a fifty-fifty chance of escaping with his freedom, or even his life, he’d accepted the task his lord had given without complaint, it was his penance. The only thing he’d truly regretted as he’d prepared for his mission was that, if things went wrong, he’d have no way to apologies to Bellatrix for the events of that night. Logically, he knew there was nothing he could do that would please the dark lords most faithful more than helping their lord regain his body, but emotionally, he’d wanted to be able to make amends to her personally. Now, as he stared at the door her soulmate had left through, he knew he had the chance to do just that. He began to smile as another thought occurred to him, he hadn’t been entirely certain how he’d help the Potter boy survive the tournament. After all, as a teacher he’d be unable to help him directly, but now. Well, there was no rule to stop him teaching Hermione whatever spells he wanted to, no matter how helpful they might prove in specific tasks, and there certainly was no rule that said a champion couldn’t receive help from other students.
As she exited the carriage directly behind the headmistress, Fleur Delacour looked at the place she’d be living for the next few months. Hogwarts had none of the grand artistic beauty of Beauxbatons, but she had to admit, privately at least, that it had severe elegance that was its own type of beauty. As she followed Madame Maxime towards the castle, she fought to keep her breathing regular and her pace perfectly in time with her schoolmates. It was difficult, despite all the practice she’d had. If she was right, tonight might well prove to be one of the most monumental nights of her life. Breath in, breath out. As they began to file into the castle’s great hall, she forced herself to stare at a point on the wall, and not to look at an of the students or professors, she would not risk something happening that might embarrass her whole school.
When she’d first seen a reference to the Triwizard tournament in a book in her second year, she’d thought it was ridiculous, who’s willingly risk their life for a mere thousand galleons and an hour in the limelight. She’d known, even then, that her perspective hadn’t been entirely fair. She was the Heir the Delacour family, not to mention a Veela who was just starting to come into her power, most people wouldn’t have a fraction of the wealth or fame she’d come to take for granted. Even realizing that though, she couldn’t understand how anyone would be willing to gamble with their life by entering such a tournament.
That hadn’t really changed when she’d heard the tournament was being revived and would be held at Hogwarts, She’d still thought the Tournament was insane. Only, her inner Veela disagreed. It had started practically screaming at her to join the moment she’d heard about it and she hadn’t been able to understand why. She had gone to see her mother and grandmother the first chance she had, hoping desperately they could help her understand why her Veela would want to enter such a thing. After spending more than an hour describing exactly what she felt, a single conclusion had been reached. Her Veela didn’t care about the tournament itself, it was where and when that mattered, it’s Veela magic telling her she needed to enter because that was where she’d find her destined mate.
As Hogwart's headmaster finished his speech and they sat at the Ravenclaw table, she allowed her eyes to begin glancing over the students at her table, focusing on how her Veela reacted. As she looked them over, she felt nothing out of the ordinary, about half generated the mild disdain and desire to dominate that always came from those who would be attracted to her, while almost all the rest produced mild aggression, knowing they were potential rivals. Unsurprisingly, there were also a couple who gave her the slight headache that came with the simultaneous identification of prey and rival that she got whenever looking at anyone who was truly bi. She got the same result as she scanned the Hufflepuff table, and thankfully, the high table where the professors sat. she’d worried briefly about how awkward thing could have become if her mate had been one of the professors.
Refocusing on the present, she scanned the Slytherins and students of Durmstrang where they sat at their table. As she moved on to the final table and scanned it, she felt her stomach drop. Nothing, there was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about any-
Her head snapped back around to a brunette just looked at. She wasn’t her mate, but she certainly wasn’t ordinary either, her vela felt absolutely nothing when looking at her and her, and that only happened when she was looking at someone or something with a destined mate of their own.
Her feeling of disappointment at not finding her mate started to fade and she felt a smile take its place. There had been a student Wizard at Beauxbatons who’d had a soulmate. He’d graduated three years ago, but it had been wonderful to have someone to talk to without having to constantly suppress her instincts, and just as nice had been never having to worry about romantic interest or jealousy when she’d been with him. Smiling, she relaxed, even if her mate wasn’t here yet, she trusted they would show up sometime before the tournament ended, and in the meantime, she would see if she could make friends with a British witch.
Hermione Relaxed as she set down the stack of books she was carrying, and settled down into her own little reading nook in the library. The other two schools had arrived the night before without incident and, if things continued as they were, this was going to be a very good weekend. With the goblet of fire set up and Dumbledore’s age line in place, most of the student body was busy either trying to figure out how to get around the line, or watching as the younger students made their attempts. A small grin played at the corners of her lips, even though she normally disapproved of the gambling the Twins facilitated, she hadn’t been able to resist making a small bet that every Gryffindor other than Harry, Neville and herself above second year would try at least once to enter. She knew her over courageous housemates, and thought she had a pretty good chance of winning the bet. Better than that though, with the goblet being the spectacle it was, she had the library almost to herself. As though to contradict her, she saw an older girl in a Beauxbatons uniform walk towards her then pause. Glad that this distraction had come before she’d had the chance to start reading, she smiled and stood up.
“Hello, do you need finding something.”
She assumed that the students who had come had at least a basic understanding of English, but it was a safe bet they’d still be more comfortable with French. The way the older witch’s face light up was quickly confirmed her guess.
“You speak French, that’s wonderful. While I have no problem understanding English, and can even make myself understood, I still have a lot of trouble with my accent. As for helping me find something, I believe I have just found it.”
Hermione felt her eyes widen as the other girl smiled at her and sat down at her little table.
“Tell me, do you know what I am?”
Hermione looked across the table at her new companion, Taking in the flawless skin, flowing silver hair and unearthly beauty. She’d assumed the other witch simply used cosmetic charms to enhance her natural beauty, but after that question-.
“Given the question, I’d guess you were at least part Veela.”
The girl chuckled softly. “Very good, and mostly right. The only thing you're mistaken about is the existence of part Veela, a Veela’s daughters are Veela, her sons, fully human wizards. So-“
The other girl’s eyes suddenly widened and a slight flush colored her cheeks as she extended her hand. “I beg your pardon; I haven’t introduced myself. I’m Fleur Delacour, seventh year at Beauxbatons.”
Hermione smiled and took the extended hand, somehow feeling a bit more at ease as she saw the other girl's embarrassment. “It’s nice to meet you Miss Delacour. I’m Hermione Granger and I’m in my fourth year.”
“Fleur, please. The whole reason I’m here today is to meet you after all.”
Hermione was suddenly giving Fleur her full attention. She might just be paranoid after the last few years, but.
“And why would you want to meet me?”
Fleur’s smile only widened slightly at the clear suspicion in the other girl’s tone. “That is a more complicated question then you might think. Do you know why so many quidditch teams have Veela mascots?”
Blinking at the apparent non sequitur, Hermione shook her head. “No. Well,” she looked down as she felt her cheeks flush. “I can see why they might want Veela mascots, but again, with the question I’m assuming there’s more to it than that.”
“Indeed. Every Veela has a destined mate, someone who complements them perfectly, they may take lovers, but they will never have anything more meaningful than that until they find their mate. The reason, at least for the Veela, that so many teams have groups of Veela is because they hope to see their mate in the crowd that comes to watch the game. One thing you may not know is that every team with Veela mascots is required by their contract with the Veela to play several games each year with free admission. Veela always have a feeling about what they have to do to find their mate, it is why I decided to come to Hogwarts and enter this mad tournament.”
Hermione felt her eyes start to widen as she stared at the other girl, this couldn’t be going where she was starting to think it was. Fleur seemed to read her mind as she let out a soft giggle.
“No, you’re not my mate, quite the opposite in fact. Veela have an instinctive reaction to everyone they see, whether it’s the recognition of their mate, a desire to subjugate prey, or to chase off possible competitors. Learning how to manage these instincts is one of the most important things a young Veela has to do. And this brings us to you. I feel nothing when I look at you.”
“I’m sorry, What?”
“I feel nothing, no rivalry, no superiority, no connection, nothing. This only happens when the person I’m looking at also has a destined mate, or in the case of a witch or wizard, a soulmate.”
She simply stared at Fleur for a moment, before she covered her face with her hands and let her head drop onto the table. A soulmate, she couldn’t even pretend she didn’t know who it was. Memories of the witch standing in front of the class, Neville on his knees with tears running down his cheeks as Lupin tried to fight his own fear. The horrible cold, hopeless emptiness that came to her every night. The second, oh so comforting, presence that had shattered Professor Moody’s imperious. She softly banged her head against the table, she had Soulmate, and from everything she’d found out that soulmate was a terrifying criminal who was locked away in Azkaban, and, as much as she hated to admit it, even to herself, was probably a Death Eater.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?”
she could hear the concern in the other witch’s voice, but what could she say. Heck, what could she do, about any of this.
“I’m sorry, Fleur. Thank you for telling me that, it explains something I’ve been trying to figure out for quite some time, it’s just, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can talk about it.”
Fleur stared at her for a moment, confusion clear on her face. “Why, Hermione Veela are taught about these kinds of bonds even before we can walk. If there’s something wrong I may well be able to help.” A look of understanding suddenly passed over the French girl’s face. “You think there is something wrong with having this bond, or perhaps it is just you think others will think so. Hermione, there is almost nothing more sacred to a Veela than the bond between a person and their destined, no Veela would ever get it the way of one, in fact-“
with a sudden motion, Fleur reached into her robe’s pocket and pulled out her wand. “I Fleur Delacour swear I will do nothing to interfere with relationship between Hermione Granger and her soulmate. I will share no information about her relationship or soulmate without her permission, and I will do all that is within my power to help her understand the bond they share, if she will allow me. This I swear on my magic, so mote it be.”
Hermione stared in shock at the older with. “Fleur, why would you?” her words trailed off and Fleur smiled gently.
“As I said, little is more sacred to a Veela then this bond you have. No one should ever regret having a soulmate, it is one of the most wonderful things imaginable, yet you seem upset. I want to help you, and the oath ensures little more than what I would have done anyway. So tell me, what is wrong.”
Hermione barely paused. She’d held this secret for over a year, and had wanted little more than to have someone she could discuss it with. She’d almost told Harry several times, but the memory of Neville and Lupin’s reaction to the woman had always stopped her. Now, here was someone she could talk to safely, someone who would actually understand what was going on.
“OK, I’ll tell you, but could you ward as against eavesdroppers first?”
The older witch nodded decisively and began to cast. The first spell caused the faint sounds that were drifting in from the rest of the library to be cut off abruptly, the next caused the light in a sphere surrounding them to blur. After that, she cast two more that had no effect Hermione could see, but probably did something helpful. When the French witch at last put her wand down, Hermione began to talk, she told the other witch about Neville’s boggart and how she’d watched it three times, about the dreams she had every night and Azkaban’s dream wards, about the wonderful presence that had shattered Moody’s Imperious curse.
“And even knowing she’s a criminal, knowing she’s probably a Death Eater, I still want to meet her, to get to know her and, well,” Hermione knew her cheeks were going pink and looked down. “Get to know her.”
Taking her deep breath, she forced her embarrassment back and continued. “And I just don’t know what to do. I can’t even bring myself to look through a list of Azkaban prisoners because I want her to have the change to tell me her side of the story. Merlin, I’ve even played with the idea of becoming an Azkaban guard after I graduate just so I can meet her.”
Fleur stared at the young witch who had now put her back in her hands as her voice trailed off. When she’d come looking Hermione, this had not been what she was expecting. Even when she’d sworn her oath, she hadn’t expected something like this. She certainly didn’t regret what she’d done, but by the first sirens, had things ever gotten more dangerous. With Hermione’s description of the woman, combined with it being the Longbottom’s Heir’s boggart, she had a very good idea just what entry Hermione would stop on, if she ever did look at that list of Azkaban prisoners. Still, the reason she knew that was because of the stories heard back on the reservation, and those were something Hermione should hear as well. Once it was safe.
“Ok, I see why you're worried. First, you don’t want anyone to learn about this, correct.”
As Hermione nodded emphatically, she continued. “Then if you’ll meet me back here tomorrow, I’ll bring you a book. It teaches you how to defend your mind from anyone who might want to snoop through your thoughts. I have no real talent for legilimency, but I should be able to confirm your defenses are working properly and give them what would be the equivalent of a light probe from a competent legilimencer. Until your defenses are in place, I’d recommend thinking about this as little as possible.” Pausing for a moment, she weighed the risks, then continued. “A couple other things you might want to think about as little as possible, All the stories you’ve heard about the war come from the side that won. Almost nobody looks at themselves and sees a villain, yet wizards, witches and other creatures flocked to the banner of a man who all those stories paint as a villain. Another thing, a Veela will go to her mate, no matter what side of a war they happen to be on, and they rarely lie to their own kind.”
Hermione’s hands had lowered from her face, and the younger witch was looking at her with something close to desperation. Plastering on her warmest smile, she gave the girl a reassuring nod.
“Enough of that, however. At this point, I know your deepest, darkest secret, while knowing almost nothing else about you, and you know even less about me. As far as I know, even here in England, things are supposed to happen the other way around. So, what do you say to starting to fix that?”
As she watched the Hogwarts champion stride into the room, Fleur tried to decide how she felt. While she was certainly proud that the goblet had decided that she was the most competent witch from Beauxbatons, she really could have done without this second source of danger. If she’d been able to simply split her time between lessons, hunting her mate, and the Hermione problem, she was fairly certain she could have managed, but with this added on, she had to admit she was starting to get nervous.
On the bright side, Hermione apparently had one of the most organized and controlled minds she’d ever heard of, which meant it should only be another few weeks before she could talk to the younger witch more freely. In the meantime, she’d found that she truly enjoyed getting to know the clever witch, well, getting to know her and Harry Potter more accurately. She hadn’t met the boy yet, but her new friend seemed at least as eager to talk about Harry to someone who didn’t have the British preconceptions about him, as she was to talk about herself.
“Do they want us back in there?”
Victor Krum’s rough voice pulled her from her thoughts, and she looked up, only to feel her stomach drop at the sight of the dark-haired boy standing in the doorway. ‘And I thought she was just paranoid.’ She watched as they confirmed that, yes, he had somehow been dragged into the tournament. She watched as everyone started shouting accusations and threats, and she watched as Harry seemed to shrink in on himself even as he denied entering. Taking a deep breath, and making sure every angle of posture and cadence voice broadcast regal authority, she stepped forward.
“Pardon me, but it seems most unlikely that he entered his name himself. Aside from the danger of entering with only three years of schooling, he already has far more fame than this tournament will bring, and from everything I’ve heard, he hates it. As for the prize money, while I’m admittedly more familiar with the noble houses of France, I highly doubt the thousand galleons this tournament offered would be more than a drop in the bucket of house potter’s assets. While I don’t know how or why his name came out of the Goblet, I’d think finding the answer to those questions would be a far better use of everybody’s time then demanding answers from somebody who almost certainly has none.”
She saw Madame Maxime glance between her and Harry with a look of dawning suspicion and quickly shook her head. She’d suspected that the headmistress knew why she’d come, and she truly didn’t need that sort of rumor getting started. She barely kept a smile off her face as she saw her Headmistress nod firmly and turn to the scarred man standing in the corner of the room.
“Mister Moody, I trust you will be investigating this matter?”
She supposed the suspicious look the ex-Auror shot at Karkaroff was inevitable, but it didn’t slow Madame Maxime down in the least. “Good. In that case I’m sure, Both, Headmaster Karkaroff and I will be getting regular updates. If there is nothing else?”
When no one immediately responded, the headmistress turned and began to make her way towards the castle’s gates. As she followed the half giantess back towards the carriage, the sound of running feet made her look back, then pause to wait for the black-haired wizard to catch up.
“Thanks. I just wanted to say thank you for standing up for me in there. I really didn’t enter my name in that cup, but I didn’t actually expect anyone to believe me when I told them that.”
“Your welcome Harry. Hermione’s told me a bit about you, and none if it suggested you’d willingly participate in this sort of thing. I’ve got to go, but I’d be willing to work with you figuring out the best way for us both to survive this.”
If the smile the younger wizard gave her was any indication, he was more than willing as well.
Ginny looked down as she watched Harry slip out of the common room. It was already late enough that she knew he wouldn’t make it back before curfew, not that that concerned her, she new her Harry would never be caught unless he wanted to be. No, what upset her was how everyone was treating him. Admittedly, even she couldn’t decide whether he’d put his name in the goblet or not, but that was no excuse for everyone else to be so horrible to him. On one hand, it would be the perfect opportunity to show everyone how amazing he was, on the other, he’d said he hadn’t entered. Of course, he’d said that to other people and not to her, so he might not be telling the truth. Gritting her teeth, she shook her head. Everything would be so much easier if she could just talk to him. She knew, of course, that he already knew she supported him, they were destined after all and she’d support him no matter what, but it would be so nice to be able to tell him that, and to have those long conversations the way they used to.
Everything had been so much better that first year, they’d spent every evening together, and sometimes even met between classes. She’d told him everything about herself, her hopes and dreams, along with every little secret she’d ever kept, and he’d understood her. But then, when second year started, everything was somehow different, and she couldn’t even form a coherent sentence when he was in the room. She knew it had something to do with He-who-must-not-be-named kidnapping her and taking her to the Chamber of Secrets, but those last few weeks of school were little more than a blur in her memory, a blur that left her with splitting headaches when she tried to think about them. The only clear memory she had was from that time was of waking up in the chamber, with Harry standing over her. Things didn’t really clear up until a few weeks into the summer. She’d spent the who summer in her room, her mother had come to visit occasionally, but most of it she’d spent alone, trying to deal with the headaches that had plagued her well into her second year. Her mother had reassured and comforted her, telling her how it was natural that You-know-who would target her, after all she was destined to marry his greatest enemy, and how she knew Ginny was strong enough to overcome anything he did to her. It was comforting, and thinking about what her future held helped even more, but her greatest comfort had come from the same things that had always helped her when she was sad or scared, her collection of books about all wonderful adventures Harry had been on before attending Hogwarts. As she lay alone in her bed and read about her Harry out-bargaining goblins and outsmarting ancient evils, she focused on how, one day, she’d by laying beside him and listen as he told her all the secrets that hadn’t made it into the books, and how she had to be strong so that day would come.
By the time the summer was over, she’d thought she’d managed to overcome whatever He-who-must-not-be-named had done to her, but then school had started, and she’d discovered the insidious curse he’d placed on her. She knew that Harry would figure out how to lift the cure eventually, that he’d bring her somewhere wonderful, wave his wand, say a few words, and then her words would come again. When that happened things could go back to the way they were their first year and everything would be wonderful, but until then she’d have to settle for letting other people watch out for Harry. The sudden mental image of her brother almost made her bare her teeth, but the sight of the worried look on Hermione’s face as she looked at the common room’s closed door allowed her to keep control. Her brother might be being a prat, but at least the other witch had stayed true to Harry. For a time, she’d worried that the older witch might have feelings for her Harry, but those few glances she’d caught her giving some of the older witches, and the fact that she’d never caught her giving a wizard those kinds of looks had reassured her. Not that it would have truly mattered if the bookworm had been in love with Harry, he’d never really look at anyone besides her, but it would probably have hurt Hermione when she figured out that Harry didn’t love her that way, and it would hurt Harry to hurt one of his best friends. Really, Hermione being a witches witch was for the best. Now that French champion on the other hand, there had been those rumors about the two of them leaving the selection together. It was entirely possible the wench was trying to seduce Harry, but that vile creature would soon learn that no amount of Veela allure would overcome the true love Harry felt for her.
Hermione settled farther into her chair and tried to focus on the book the was reading. The week that had just ended had been a nightmare since the moment Harry’s name out of the goblet. With the way everyone had acted two years ago, she wasn’t truly surprised, but the way the student body had turned on Harry still infuriated her. Ron’s reaction hadn’t come as a surprise either, his envy and insecurities were hardly a secret, but that hadn’t made her any less furious when she’d seen the hurt look on Harry’s face as he told her about it. The badges, well she should have expected something like them, she was sure Malfoy had paid someone to make them, and the number of students, even in Gryffindor, who were wearing them was just one more thing that grated against her already strained nerves.
The only bright spot she’d seen had been Fleur. She’d been immensely grateful for the way the older Witch had helped Harry, and the fact she seemed willing to work with them to prepare for the tasks was a true relief. While she fully intended to comb the library for any spell that might help him, having someone with three more years of classes might well prove to be a literal lifesaver. And then there was Harry.
She looked down the book in her hand again, before putting it down and standing up to hunt for a more useful one. Harry was not taking what happened well. After Fleur’s initial reaction, he’d seemed cautiously optimistic, but then when Ron, and just about the entire student body of Hogwarts had turned on him, that optimism had come crashing down. Just the night before, she’d seen him slip out of the dorms just before curfew, not returning until sometime after she’d gone to bed. And then, this morning, she’d barely caught a glimpse of him as she left the common room as she was coming down from the girl’s dorm. She didn’t know where he was going, but she was afraid it was somewhere quiet where he could sulk in peace. She couldn’t truly blame him if he was, with everything that had happened to him, but at the same time, he needed to be getting ready for the tasks. If he didn’t snap out of it soon, she’d have to-
Her thoughts cut off as she turned a corner and saw Harry, a small smile on his face as he looked from one bookshelf to another. As she took a step closer, he turned to look at her, and his smile widened.
“Great timing Hermione, any chance you could help me find a book on rare animals?”
She stared at him for a moment, as she wondered what on earth had happened.
“Of course Harry, they should be a few this way. You look a lot better, by the way, did you spend the morning with Hagrid.”
She felt the knot that had been forming in her stomach for the last couple of days loosen as Harry laughed softly. “I feel better too.” He paused and a faint blush colored his cheeks. “But no, it wasn’t Hagrid. Last night I went for a walk around the lake and I met this girl.”
“I take it she wasn’t wearing a badge?”
“Actually, she was. She saw everybody wearing badges and didn’t want to be left out. Hers is a ‘Save the Ice-backed sklivers’ badge.”
She stopped for a moment to look at him. “Ice-backed Sklivers?”
“Apparently their hide is this Ice glass thing that holds certain types of magic very well, and this really secretive branch of the ministry is hunting to the edge of extinction so they can use their it to make magic orbs to house all these prophecies their gathering.”
As she began her hunt for a bestiary Harry might find useful, she thought about what he’d just said. It seemed highly unlikely, but at the same time, she’d seen crazier things, and she certainly didn’t intend to say anything that might sand Harry back into his funk.
“So, we’re looking for a book with information about these Ice-backed Sklivers?”
“Among other things. It’d be nice to find one with information about Nargles and Crumple-horned Snorkacks as well.” Harry paused, and his face soured for a moment. “I’d really like to find one with information about repelling Nargles.”
Hermione barely held in a sigh, she’d never heard of any of those creatures, and she had a feeling this was going to be a long hunt. Still, at least Harry seemed to have found something that would help him deal with everything that was going on, and she got to spend time hunting through the library with her best friend, even if they didn’t end up finding anything, there were far worse ways to spend an afternoon.
Dumbledore sat and stared pensively at one of the little devices on his desk. This one was spinning slowly around its axis, but that was exactly the problem, over the last two days it had started to slow down. He couldn’t understand why the blood wards that protected Harry’s aunt’s and uncle’s house would have started to weaken. He’d checked the device that tracked Harry’s movements every couple of days over the summer. Its tracking spell would have been able to find Harry anywhere in Briton, and the only thing that could have blocked it were the most powerful of wards, such as the ones over the Dursleys. As he stared at the small spinning piece of enchanted silver on his desk, he worried his lower lip. It should have taken over a year for the blood wards to truly start to weaken, but once the process started, it wouldn’t take more than a month for them to fail completely. The obvious solution under normal circumstances would be to let Snape suspend Harry for one reason or another, and have him stay with his relatives until the wards recovered, but that wasn’t possible now. Not only did Harry have to participate in the tournament, number four’s blood wards were one of the only things powerful enough to possibly protect Harry from the effects of trying to back out of it, and the goblet was both sensitive enough to tell that he was going somewhere he might be safe from it, and draconian enough to strip his magic from him for that alone. No, he would have to figure something else out. Yet one more thing to add to an ever-growing list, right behind figuring out who had actually entered Harry’s name into the goblet, and why. His first thought had been that Lucius Malfoy had entered Harry’s name before the goblet even reached Hogwarts, but there were other possibilities, and he’d need to look into all of them.
Sorry about the delay. I actually had almost all of this written less than a week after the prologue was posted, but then my laptop died and I had to wait to get a new one, then I simply procrastinated about getting to the proofreading, I'm aiming to get the next chapter up within the next week or two rather than a month and a half assuming life doesn't throw anything more surprises my way. One benefit the wait did have was that this chapter ended up with an extra scene, I'd still been deciding between two possible directions to take Ginny in when I finished writing most of this, but the wait gave me time to make up my mind. one other note, Fleur's accent is hell to write, so I've decided it won't appear when she's speaking French, or is English and the scene is taking place from her POV as she probably notices her accent far less than a native speaker would. while I'm sure I'll have to write some scenes with her accent, expect a lot of scenes either to have a not that their happening in French or to be from her POV. speaking of Fleur, is it as obvious to everyone else as it is to me who her mate is going to be, or does it just seem obvious because I know where I'm taking the story? Finally, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the chapter, specifically what parts you liked or disliked, It's always nice to know that a specific scene worked the way I wanted, or that something is off about one and that maybe I should rework it, and of course if you point out errors, I'll be happy to fix them.