Tall dark doors cloaked in shadows loomed over Harry and Draco like giant black guardians, marking the entrance to Tom Riddle's quarters. The doors always made Harry nervous, and now was no exception. One would only need to look at Harry to know he was agitated. Every other second his hands would go up and he'd start pulling at his black hair.
"Calm down, will you," Draco finally hissed and slapped away the hand that had been reaching for hair for the tenth time. "We're not walking in to our deaths."
Harry took a deep breath before nodding. Draco raised his hand to knock.
"Wait." Harry quickly pulled Draco's hand back between them. "Maybe this is a mistake."
"You're having second thoughts?"
"No, that's not it. You know I want this. I do. But… this is Tom. What if by asking this of him, he gets insulted? This could push him away from us. That's the last thing I want. This is so surreal. I mean it's Tom Riddle, after all. I'd hate to find out he only puts up with us because of our power. What if he really doesn't like us, Draco?"
Suddenly the door opened and two very startled Ukatae stared wide-eyed at a scowling Dark Lord. "Harry," he began in a sickeningly sweet tone. "Do you honestly think I'm only around for your power?"
Harry was afraid to move or say anything, and instead strove for the cute and innocent look he could create by staring at Tom with wide sparkling emerald eyes. Tom could see right through his ploy, however, and began to shake his head in disbelief. Really, Harry ought to know better by now. It wasn't the power that kept Tom close; it was the unconditional support and dependence of said support. Maybe it was also because he felt a little bit of the sappy emotions Hupplepuffs are constantly spewing. But Tom would not spew this sentimentality out loud. He had a reputation to uphold after all.
"I assure you, that is not why I tolerate you. Power," he stated softly, "isn't everything. You've taught me that."
Harry blushed and looked adorably sheepish. "How did you know what we were saying? The door was shut."
"I have wards and spells on and around the door. I hear everything that goes on outside of my rooms. It's a little thing I like to call caution."
"You mean paranoia," Draco murmured from the corner of his mouth.
"Oh, ha ha. Very amusing, baby Malfoy. You can call it whatever you want, but at least I'll be prepared for anything." Tom ignored Draco's annoyed growl and focused on Harry. Though wariness was clear in his eyes, Tom allowed his facial expressions to soften. "I'm not sure how much of your conversation I heard and I hope I'm misinterpreting, but if you are here to ask for a threesome then yes I'll be insulted. Severely disturbed as well. And if that's why you two are here then the answer is a resounding no way in hell."
"Oh, eww! Tom!" Draco put the heel of his palms over his closed eyes and began to rub rapidly as if he were seeing disturbing pictures in his mind.
Harry wrinkled his nose. "Okay, I'll admit I've flirted with you a couple of times, but that was just to piss you off. I never thought you would take me seriously. You totally misconstrued what we were talking about."
"Well how was I supposed to know?" Tom defended as he crossed his arms over his chest. "That's what it sounded like."
"It's definitely not that."
"Please enlighten me then, Draco."
Harry went back to looking sheepish and he tried thinking of several things to say that could get them out of this without making Tom think he and Draco were fools. He was sure Tom would not be up for what they were about to ask. Harry quickly thought of a solution, but before he could turn tail and run, Draco grabbed his hand and kept him still.
"May we come in?"
"Of course." Tom stepped aside and allowed them entrance, wondering why Harry was suddenly looking disheartened. "Harry, please calm down. You're starting to look like a little lost puppy. I hate puppies."
Tom said this so matter-of-factly that Harry snorted in amusement. He suddenly had a vision of Tom sitting on a plush rug with a look of absolute loathing on his face while being overrun by cute puppies. With that picture in mind, Harry was able to relax a little as the three of them sat down.
He had planned to make Draco explain why they were there, but in the end decided to do it because it had been his idea in the first place. "Uhm…okay. I'll get right to the point." Harry took a massively deep breath before rushing onwards. "We want to make you our brother. By evoking the Rite of Familial Bonding. If you don't want to and this makes you very uncomfortable, please say so and we'll all forget we ever had this conversation."
It took a moment for the words to sink in. Tom looked less then pleased when he finally understood what they were asking. His eyes narrowed on them. "Is this Hermione's idea? Did she put you up to this? She swore she wouldn't say anything!"
"We haven't talked to Hermione. She doesn't know about this," Harry answered sullenly. "It's how we think of you and we wanted to make it physically real, not just emotionally."
Tom didn't know how to react to this, so he chose what was easy and scowled angrily at them. Harry knew this would be Tom's reaction and he felt immense disappointment well up inside him.
"I'm being attacked by Gryffindor sentimentality!" Tom whispered harshly before looking at Draco with wide eyes. The blond nodded while putting a comforting arm around his mate.
"It's true though. This alliance started out for pure ambition, didn't it? We all wanted to achieve something… And now we've become stronger together, relying on each other. Watching and supporting. It's no longer just an alliance. Harry and I would protect and die for you if necessary-"
Tom sat heavily in his seat. "Draco-"
"We would! And not in the same way the Death Eaters would lay down their lives for you. Even if you sit there and deny it, I suspect you'd do the same for us. Having a real family doesn't change the fact that you are Lord Voldemort. Having brothers and a sister doesn't make you any less of a Dark Lord. Believe me when I say it makes you stronger." Draco looked at Harry. "You have someone you want to protect with your life… It makes you want to be stronger." He turned back to Tom. "You do become stronger. It doesn't make you weak. We aren't the type of people who become weak. Don't deny us because you think it'll make you so."
"I can't believe this," Tom replied in a choked voice. "You're being serious?"
"Yes." Draco answered. Surprisingly, Tom's barriers were crumbling down and they were being assaulted by his turbulent emotions.
"You feel the same way, don't you?" Harry asked in awe and grinned stupidly when Tom looked at him with watery eyes. We're making the Dark Lord teary eyed. Tom spun around and grabbed the nearest breakable thing, which happened to be an empty vase, and threw it across the room shattering it into a hundred pieces. The Ukatae were unconcerned. They knew it was Tom's way of relieving himself of emotions he didn't want to show. When he looked back to them, his eyes were dry once more and a smirk graced his face.
"You mentioned a sister?"
Severus was just putting the finishing touches on a potion when the door to his lab burst open. The interruption caused him to start and he dropped the jar of powdered moonstone where it crashed to the floor. Severus looked towards the door, his mouth opening, intending to blast whoever dared disturb him. It was his last chance at making a potion for pleasure before he needed to return to Hogwarts that night. But when he saw who was there, he shut his mouth and satisfied himself with a scowl. How could he yell at Hermione when she was looking so breathless and radiantly happy?
"Severus! You're never going to believe what those boys have asked."
"Have I not asked that you knock, or at the very least enter in a quiet manner?" his silky voice reprimanded her as she came near. He was not so affected that he would let her get away with it. He mournfully gazed at the potion. "It's ruined now."
"I'm sorry, Severus… But just listen!" She didn't sound sorry at all and his scowl deepened. He then sighed and waved his wand; vanishing the ruined potion before turning to give the witch his undivided attention.
"I'm going to have brothers!" She gushed and happily clapped her hands before pressing them against her chest just over her bursting heart.
"Your mother is pregnant? Aren't they a little too old?"
"No!" She looked at him as if he were a silly child. "Harry, Draco, and Tom! They want me as sister. Can you believe it? Do you know how happy this makes me?"
Severus smiled softly. "It's written plain as day on your face, Hermione." He moved forward and enveloped her in a hug. "I'm very pleased for you." And relieved as well. He'd be lying if he said he hadn't been a little worried about Hermione and Tom's budding relationship and where that might go. But now, if they were to become bonded siblings there was no chance of the Dark Lord taking his witch away from him.
That's when a disturbing thought occurred to him.
"Hermione?" The witch pulled back upon hearing the worry in his voice and peered at him curiously. "What exactly are you going to do in order to bond yourself to Harry as his sister?"
"The Familial Bond Ritual." Severus let out a sigh of relief. "Why?" Hermione went on to ask, seeing his unusual reaction.
Severus rolled his eyes. "I'm surprised you haven't thought of this before. I'm Harry's uncle and by bonding yourself in certain ways, because there are several rituals to choose from, you would become my niece."
Hermione gasped and began shaking her head furiously. "Oh no! I never thought about that! I was just so excited! I can't do it now!"
Severus restrained himself from rolling his eyes this time and instead grasped her chin firmly and made her look at him. "You can still do it. The Familial Bond Ritual only bonds you to the persons who are performing the ritual with you. You will end up on the Potter family tree, but not mine. You are only bonding yourself to a Potter, as well as Malfoy and Riddle. There are no worries for us."
"Oh thank Merlin!" Hermione shifted and began to blush. "I want to become their sister, but not if it meant I had to stop seeing you."
"My sentiments exactly," Severus said with a smile, incredibly pleased that she would chose him over Harry, Draco, and Tom I'm-The-Bloody-Dark-Lord Riddle.
"When is the Ritual?" he finally asked as he leaned against a table and pulled her along with him against his chest.
"The day we leave for Hogwarts."
Severus was not pleased with this. "Couldn't you do it sooner? I know what takes place during the should have supervision in case something goes wrong."
Hermione frowned. "We aren't children, Severus. Besides, Amortia will be there in case we need medical treatment. And if we do it on the first, we have time to research the Ritual."
Severus continued to be displeased but there was nothing he could do. They'd already made up their minds and all four of them were very stubborn. They were Gryffindors and Slytherins, after all.
The evening of August thirty-first found five nervous Death Eaters sitting at the end of a long table awaiting their new leaders; the council of seven, minus one. The seventh, Severus Snape, was naturally not present due to his obligation as a Hogwarts professor and therefore could not attend the meeting. The Death Eaters were made to wait and during this time very little was said, and any movements made were nearly imperceptible. Though there was occasional eye contact, questioning looks, and a few wary glances at the door.
Frederick Parkinson visibly jerked in surprise- earning him sneers and looks of scorn from the others- when the heavy oak doors flew open and in strode a scowling Harry Potter. The Death Eaters- Walden McNair, Rabastan and Rodolphus Lestrange, Augustus Rookwood, and Parkinson were shocked when the doors closed leaving the Boy-Who-Lived alone with them. They were aware of the new hierarchy within their organization and Harry Potter's top position within it. But it was still surprising that Potter would come in alone and look completely unconcerned about being alone in a room with people who had previously sought to kill him. In fact as he passed the curious Death Eaters, though his tone was less then welcoming, Harry nodded his head and greeted each one of them by name. Except for Parkinson. That one received the darkest look Harry could manage. It was pretty damn dark considering what kind of being he was now.
Guardedly, the Death Eaters watched as he took a seat at the opposite end of the table, to the right of the high backed chair at the head. A scowl continued to sit on his face as if permanently stuck there and his fingers tapped angrily against the dark wooden table while he stared unwaveringly at each Death Eater in the room. His eyes finally rested for a long time on the Lestrange brothers and his scowl dropped to a smirk.
"It's been what? A year or so since you've been out of Azkaban?" Harry chuckled when they both flinched, their tormented eyes expressing their fear of the Wizarding prison. "How long were you there? Fifteen years?" he looked them both over again and sneered at their ragged appearances. "You look a disgrace. We'll have to do something about that since I want to keep you two around."
"What can you do, boy?" Rodolphus spat, unable to keep it in any longer.
Harry's eyes widened in vicious surprise. Rodolphus could not have imagined how much pain that one word induced and was not prepared when the former Savior of the Wizarding World stood and pointed his wand at him.
"Crucio," he intoned softly and then turned hard eyes to Rabastan, who was succeeding very well at hiding how he felt about his brother writhing in pain beside him. "How long should I keep the curse on him? Do you think he's angry at me because I brought up Azkaban, or do you think he's pissed because I keep his psycho bitch wife locked in the dungeon where I can torture her whenever I please?"
"I know better than to ask you to release the curse on my brother," Rabastan answered, inwardly impressed with the little emotion Potter had used to curse his brother and the fact that Potter could keep up the curse while his attention was somewhere else. Not many people could do that. Most times, to keep the curse going, you had to give the victim your undivided attention.
"Don't you care for your brother?"
"Of course. He's all I have."
That simple statement hit a chord within Harry and he lifted the curse at once. "Answer my other questions."
"Azkaban," Rabastan answered after looking sideways to his panting brother, making sure there were no lasting side effects of the curse. But of course there wasn't. Potter hadn't kept him under for that long. "He doesn't really care about Bellatrix. We do wonder why you keep her locked up instead of turning her over to the Ministry or killing her."
"It's simple," Harry began as he twirled his wand between his fingers. "As I've said, I like playing with her. And I loathe the Ministry. Until it is under our control, the Ministry will not receive any more help from us. Unless it is to our advantage." Harry turned back to Rodolphus. "Never call me boy again. Is this understood? Call me Potter, Mr. Potter… hell, even Harry is okay with me. But the next time I hear anyone call me boy, I will kill before another second has passed. Does everyone understand this?"
"Understood." The Death Eaters replied in astonishment. They'd seen him before this when the Dark Lord announced he was working with six others, but they hadn't realized just how much Potter had changed despite the fact that his appearance screamed Dark elf. It was obvious why the Dark Lord had decided to partner with him. Potter wouldn't bring the Dark Lord- and in association- the rest of them down with him.
"Good." Harry returned to his seat and began to tap his fingers on the table impatiently once again. "Where the hell are they?" he growled.
Rabastan watched intently as Potter turned his head to the side as if listening for something, and stranger still, Potter twisted in his chair to look at the wall behind him before nodding firmly. Rabastan didn't want to be caught staring so he quickly averted his eyes when Potter turned back around. He wondered what that had been about. Was it true? Was Harry Potter really going insane?
Another five minutes passed before the doors opened once again. What the hell took you so long? Harry snapped at his mate. Draco's reaction was only to raise an eyebrow as he walked in alongside his father. Tom and Hermione walked in front of the Malfoys, heads bent together, talking quietly. Hermione looked up and pinned Parkinson and McNair with a hard glare as she passed them.
"Well McNair, I hope your disposition is in better form this evening," she said sweetly as she sat down in the chair Tom pulled out for her. She gave Harry a smile after sitting down next to him. "I would hate to have to shed more of your blood and on such a lovely expensive rug."
"I've learned my lesson, Miss Granger," McNair replied, though it was obvious to everyone how hard it was for him to do it. Tom pinned him with a cold stare as he sat down at the head of the table. Draco sat down on his left across from Harry and Lucius sat next to his son.
Amortia ran in a moment later. "I was with Mr. Lovegood," was her only explanation, and knew there was no need for an apology for that. She shook her head as she sat next to Hermione when the other five looked at her questioningly. Mr. Lovegood was getting worse.
"So can we start?" Harry stood up and pointed his wand at Parkinson.
"Wait!" Draco jumped to his feet and also pointed his wand at Parkinson, whose eyes were horribly wide in fear by this time. "We discussed this. I was going to do it. Harry, you promised he was mine."
Harry sneered at Parkinson's fear encrusted face. "Yeah, well… that was before I stepped in here and saw his bloody face. Now I want the pleasure."
The other Death Eaters had no idea what was going on, but it was clear that Parkinson was in enormous trouble. They watched Parkinson with eager expressions. No one really liked him that much. If Parkinson were smart, he would have gotten a clue and tried to run, but as it was he sat there and watched the two Ukatae bickering about who got to do whatever they planned to do to him.
Hermione surprised everyone when she slowly stood. In a flash she had her wand out and pointed at Parkinson, and with a face and voice void of any emotion, she uttered the cursed words, "Avada Kedavra." She watched intently as the green light left her wand and hit Parkinson square in the chest. He slumped in his chair and landed with a dead thud against the table, his unseeing eyes staring blankly at the wall.
"Hermione!" Harry yelled and turned to glare at the woman next to him.
"What the fuck?" Draco snapped at the same time.
"I didn't want to waste time listening to you two fighting about it. This meeting needs to get underway and we couldn't do that until Parkinson was taken care of. And Draco, if you killed him, what do you think Pansy's reaction would be, hmm?"
"Yeah, but now she's going to hate you," Draco sulked and slumped back down into the chair.
"Maybe, maybe not. She's your best friend though and I'd rather take the fall instead of you. Regardless, Parkinson needed to be out of the way. He was untrustworthy." She pinned cold eyes on the only person who seemed to react negatively to Parkinson's death. "Isn't that right, McNair?"
Walden McNair visibly gulped and could only nod. Augustus Rookwood was watching Hermione in speechless shock, while the Lestranges' were openly grinning at the witch.
A pouting Harry returned to his seat, staring mournfully at Parkinson's body for a moment before he turned to Tom. He couldn't stop a snicker from escaping his mouth at seeing the shock in his eyes. Harry was sure Tom had never had a shock such as that before, and he had to kick Tom from under the table before the Dark Lord snapped out of it. Harry could feel how pleased Tom was. That pleasure was probably from the fact that he was about to gain a sister who could kill without a moment's thought. Lucius of course, looked pleased as well but Amortia was silent and giving Hermione a very level look. Harry wondered what the Healer was thinking.
Finally the meeting could begin and Tom nodded to Hermione, who cleared her throat and looked down at the parchments she'd brought along with her. "We have decided to have this meeting now due to the fact that for the next couple of weeks we will be very busy and lengthy correspondences will be low while we get back into the swing of things at school. We're here now because we need to get started on our plans right away."
Hermione looked around at the Death Eaters and then she focused on the Lestranges. "You two will get your act together," she ordered just as Harry had done. "You're not in Azkaban anymore, your skills are needed, and we need you both in top form." Rabastan and Rodolphus nodded without hesitation, any doubts they had of the muggle born had burned to ash the moment she killed Parkinson. They had no problem taking orders from her now that they saw how serious she was about the organization. Clearly she wasn't going to be a weak link.
"For the project we're giving you, you'll both be working with Sirius Black and we'll need you out and around. I realize you can't go out in public as you are still very much wanted right now, but that shall be rectified very soon."
"How will you do that?" Rodolphus asked. Because he asked with sincere curiosity, Hermione didn't react negatively to being interrupted. She smiled mysteriously at him.
"That's our little secret," Lucius replied.
"And what will we be doing?" Rabastan inquired, eager to get back in action. He and his brother had been forced to sequester themselves away for too long.
Tom answered. "You two along with Black will be the Heads for the Department of Magical Environmental Management."
Rabastan frowned. "Sorry, my lord, but I've never heard of that department."
"You wouldn't. It's new. We are tired of having miniscule amounts of land for ourselves- witches and wizards. Your jobs would include searching and mapping out large areas in Britain that are not used or sparsely populated, and creating barriers around these areas to keep muggles out. I want these areas to disappear off the face of the earth. The muggles will start to realize that lands on their maps no longer exist, but that can be the problem of the current Ministry. This should have been done centuries ago. I find it highly offensive that the Ministry of Magic is in the middle of London and has to be hidden underground. It's undignified to have muggles walking all over us- literally and figuratively. Don't you agree?"
"Yes, my lord," the Death Eaters answered.
"It will not be easy and will take some time, but it's perfectly within our grasps," Lucius intoned.
"Hold on," Draco said, looking at the brothers curiously. "I hate to interrupt and this is sort of random, but weren't they put away for torturing the Longbottoms? And didn't we find out the Longbottoms were disposed of by Dumbledore. Do you remember torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom?" he asked the two.
"Yes. We were there." Upon such an answer, the Lestrange brothers found themselves faced with two glares from Harry and Hermione that could easily have burned them alive had the glare had any actual power.
"The Longbottoms were missing for a week before they were found. The Lestranges' only went looking for them two days before they were found by the Order, and I only sent them to the Longbottoms for information and to see if maybe they had changed their minds about joining me," Tom explained.
Hermione's frown lessened into a thoughtful look. "What happened when you were finally apprehended by the Ministry? Was Dumbledore there when you were arrested?"
"I can't remember," Rabastan said.
"My memory of that time is fuzzy," Rodolphus answered.
"Then it's clear," Hermione piped up cheerfully. "Dumbledore was there and he did the same to you as he did to Lord Voldemort. He fixed your memories. You didn't torture the Longbottoms at all. Tom, Draco, Harry? Can any of you look into their minds and remove the fabricated memories?"
"I can do it," The Dark Lord assured her with a small smile.
"I hate to be the pessimistic one here," Lucius drawled and ignored Amortia's unladylike snort, "But I fear I must negate your theory, Hermione. Rabastan and Rodolphus were sent after the Longbottoms and they were found near where the Longbottoms were being kept. Dumbledore was never anywhere near me at that time, nor any other Death Eaters. He could not have made fabricated memories for all of us."
"He didn't need to. The Lestranges' confessed under Veritaserum. Why would anyone, including the Death Eaters, believe something else had happened? Especially since going after the Longbottoms was what they were after. You didn't know exactly what Lord Voldemort had sent them off to do to the Longbottoms, did you?" Hermione asked and smirked cheekily at Lucius.
The six at the head of the table began to discuss it, ignoring the Death Eaters completely for half an hour until finally Tom pushed his chair back from the table and ordered the Lestrange brothers to kneel in front of him. They did so without hesitation, but sent each other a short glance when the Dark Lord pulled his wand out. Tom pointed it at Rabastan first and ordered him to look him in the eyes.
While Tom took his time searching through Rabastan's head, Harry began to think of other things, though it was all about what they had been talking about. Draco? Do you think with our powers, we could heal Neville's parents?
Draco moved his silver eyes off the Lestrange brothers and gazed across the table at his mate's earnest face. I'm not sure we can cure humans, lover. I didn't have any effect on Mr. Lovegood at all. And I'm not sure Ukatae are allowed to use their powers to cure humans either.
Never hurts to try, Harry thought with a frown. Falde and Talyn didn't stop you from trying to cure Luna's father.
That's true. And I suppose the Longbottoms could be different… It's their minds, not their bodies. I just don't want you to get your hopes up and then nothing happens. Harry's slow sappy smile had Draco smiling in return despite the fact that he was still a little annoyed at Harry for being so irritable the last couple of days.
Harry was about to pop off to St. Mungo's right then but Draco reminded him the Longbottoms could wait as they still had issues to discuss right now and they needed to keep their use of magic down to a minimum until after they'd completed the Familial Bond Ritual. But he did promise they would go to St. Mungo's soon after arriving at Hogwarts.
And unlike some people, I will keep my promise. Draco glared at his mate, still pissed that Harry had retracted his promise of letting him take care of Parkinson.
I'm sorry, but he annoys me.
Yes, well… Draco looked at Hermione who was discussing their new Environmental Management department with his father. We should have a talk with Hermione.
I was thinking the same thing, Harry responded, watching Hermione carefully from the corner of his eye. She didn't seem any different and was speaking to Lucius in a businesslike manner that Harry knew the older Malfoy appreciated and respected. There was nothing about Hermione that said she was bothered by what she had just done.
Great minds think alike, Draco replied with a smirk. Harry laughed and nodded his head in agreement.
"I've found the memories," Tom said, bringing them out of their thoughts. "But it's going to take some time and great effort to undo what Dumbledore has done. I don't want to be too quick; otherwise I might damage their minds." Tom looked down at the heads bowed to him and placed a hand on each of their heads. "We don't want to lose such valuable resources, now do we?" he smiled when the men in shivered from his touch.
"Then do it another time. If Draco and I can Apparate out of Hogwarts, we can all come and go as we please. Having those memories for a little bit longer will not hurt them."
"What's next on the agenda, Hermione?" Tom asked after he'd sent the Lestranges' back to their seats.
The witch consulted her parchment and produced a quill to make a check mark next to the items they'd already discussed. She glared at Harry when he rolled his eyes, making the Ukatae wonder how she knew he'd rolled his eyes when she'd been looking down at the parchment.
"Muggleborns," she stated and then looked at McNair when he made a small disdainful cough. Hermione threw the quill down and stood. "I've had quite enough from you, McNair. Do you want to duel me?"
"No, Tom!" she threw her finger up at him; a sign that she didn't want anyone to interfere. "If this bastard still thinks I shouldn't be here and hasn't learned his lesson, I'm happy to prove my point and teach him another."
"We'll be happy to take care of him for you, Miss. Granger," Rabastan said with a smirk sent McNair's way. He spoke in such a respecting tone that Hermione couldn't hide the surprise from her face. Tom chuckled inwardly. Seems Hermione had two more supporters from Rabastan and Rodolphus now.
"I do not have a problem with you, Granger. But I don't like muggleborns and unless you plan on killing them I don't want anything to do with them."
Tom certainly didn't like the way McNair was talking so informally to Hermione, and he would have retaliated in a violent way had Hermione not started talking immediately. She spoke as if talking to a brainless, annoying twit.
"We are not planning on killing them," she said in clipped tones. " We plan on taking them early on, educating them, placing them in loving magical homes where they can learn our ways without being infected by muggle ways of life and muggle abuse. Without worrying about being different. Just because they are muggle born doesn't mean they are useless. I plan to see that all magical children, regardless of blood, have the chance to prove themselves. Yes, I agree muggleborns usually come to this world tainted; not knowing the ways, not caring about tradition… But how do you expect them to act when they are simply thrown into the Magical world without instruction? They don't know any better and no one has taken the time to teach them differently. This will change."
"Well when you put it like that…" McNair grudgingly admitted.
"Glad you think so because you are in charge of acquiring the listing from the Ministry," Harry announced with a happy smile. Everyone was amused by McNair's gob smacked expression.
"You will have three months to acquire the list and anything else the Ministry might have on all muggleborns and deliver the information to us. And I want that list spelled to be always current. We want to know when and where a new muggleborn baby is born," Draco said.
"I will do as you ask."
"We didn't ask," Harry growled. "You'll do well to remember that. You still have the Dark Mark on your arm, after all."
"Now, Mr. Rookwood," Hermione went on. "I've been told you have shares in all Wizarding media, including The Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly, Challenges in Charming, The Practical Potioneer, Transfiguration Today, and a couple of other magazines. You are also the financial backing for several publishing firms and the Wizarding Wireless Network. Is this correct?"
"Yes," Rookwood replied, while wondering what they had planned for him. He hoped he wouldn't have to lose any money, whatever it was.
"But not The Quibbler. Why is that?"
"That magazine is rubbish," Augustus replied with a disdainful lift of his nose. "I did not want to invest in something that gains no prophet."
"Have you never looked up The Quibbler's numbers?" Harry asked. "That paper makes more money than you think. And from tomorrow on you will be an investor in that paper and any proceeds you make from that will go to the organization's fund and half of what you profit from your other businesses will come to us as well."
"If that is your wish."
"It is," Draco answered. "We also want messages thrown out in every type of media our world has."
"What kind of messages?"
"Subliminal messaging. Some subtle. Others we want blatantly obvious," Hermione answered this time. "The general public is very susceptible to what the media produces."
"Bunch of mindless sheep you humans are," Harry grumbled, remembering all the bad things said about him in the Prophet and how half of Britain believed every lie. Tom shot him a little glare for that. The Death Eaters didn't dare look insulted. Draco smirked at his mate and so did Brumek and Talyn where they were standing guard invisible against the wall.
"Here is a list of things we want put in the media repeatedly, starting next week." Tom nodded for Hermione to pass down the list to Rookwood. "I want to open the Prophet at breakfast and see no less than three articles pertaining to the topics on that list every other day. Is this clear?" Tom asked.
"Yes, my lord."
"Very good. If there are no questions, this meeting is finished."
Draco was the first to wake September first, which wasn't unusual since Harry never woke before him. Harry was lying on his stomach; his wings were semi stretched out with one covering Draco's chest like a blanket. Lovingly, Draco caressed the feathers, delighting in the tremors produced from his mate even in sleep. He then slipped out from under the wing and sat up. Lovely, who had taken to sleeping at the top of Harry's pillow, raised her head as Draco left the bed and hissed lazily at him. Draco didn't need to be a Parselmouth to know she was pissed for being disturbed.
"Give me a break. Not you as well." Lovely hissed back. "I'm going to ignore whatever insult you think you're throwing my way."
Draco turned away from the bed, prepared to delay the inevitable moody storm his mate would cast when he had to finally be woken up. He went into the wardrobe to retrieve the ritual robes he'd had commissioned a few days ago on the trip to Paris he and his father had taken. Harry had managed to get out of that trip by pure manipulation, a little bit of begging, and straight out threatening. Lucius had a hard time keeping his laughter to himself when Draco finally gave in with a fearful look on his face. He really had no choice but to listen to Harry. The brunet had been in a foul mood ever since the day they found out Dumbledore was talking with a mystery Ukatae.
The morning after Neville gave his report, Draco and Harry sought out Falde and demanded an explanation about the ominous ring and Harry's markings. Instead of answering, Falde demanded to see the markings on their arms. Harry and Draco learned there were two ways to make those markings glow. The first way happened when a Ukatae uses magic that takes an enormous amount of power, and the second was by concentrating very hard on the marks, which was the easiest way. Harry and Draco tried for twenty minutes to work up the proper concentration before their marks began to glow. Upon seeing the marks, both Falde and Ozemir looked startled.
"They both have the marks," the Scholar whispered. Ozemir's reaction wasn't nearly as dramatic as the night before, but disbelief and panic flashed alternatively across his face for a few seconds before he locked those feelings away for another time.
"Do you mind explaining why you're making such a big deal about these marks?" Draco finally snapped. He was ignored, and so was Harry when he began demanding explanations. The two Ukatae who recognized the marks and could explain what was going on instantly left to the Ukatae capital city, leaving Brumek and Talyn to guard the incensed young ones. And since they didn't know what was going on they weren't able to shed some light on the subject.
Thus Harry's mood had been less than stellar ever since then. He hated when people kept information from him, especially when it pertained specifically to him. After Falde and Ozemir made their hasty retreat, Harry grabbed Tom and they disappeared down into the dungeons where they worked out some of Harry's frustrations with the Order members locked away down there. They were in the dungeon for quite a long time.
Now it was the first day of September, the first day of school, and the day he and Harry would gain a brother and sister. Draco pulled out the pure white silk robes and hung them up on a stand near the bathroom before rounding the bed to stand next to Harry's sleeping form. Now, everyone knows Draco is a Malfoy, which means he is calm, cool, and collected and is expected to act as such at all times. Draco was still a Malfoy, but lately he'd been losing that Malfoy edge and it was all due to the sleeping prat he was now looking at. He really, really, really did not want to wake Harry up right now.
"Oi, snake! You wake him." Lovely's long forked tongue poked out at him from between her fangs. "Please," he asked a little nicer. Lovely made a hissing noise that sounded suspiciously like laughter before burying her head beneath the black strands spread across the pillow.
Draco wasn't going to get help in that direction. He sighed and crawled over Harry until he was straddling him and began to lightly brush his fingertips across the black wings in appreciation. Maybe if Harry woke up fully aroused then the Gryffindor wouldn't be so moody and they could both enjoy a shower together. He was just leaning over prepared to kiss Harry's neck when he was suddenly thrown off his lover's back by the irritated flick of a wing.
"Ge'roff, Draco. I'm bloody awake!" Harry hissed into the pillow.
"Get up then!" Draco snapped as he gracefully pulled himself off the floor. "We need to get ready. We have a lot to do before we go to King's Cross Station. And try not to bite my head off today."
Harry lifted his head to glare balefully at his mate before dropping it back down against the pillow. The Gryffindor flinched when Draco entered the bathroom and slammed the door shut with such force that it was sure to have left the wood cracked in some places. He pulled himself out of bed just as Draco was finished showering and they passed without a word, though Harry looked slightly guilty when their eyes met. Draco said nothing, thinking Harry deserved to stew in his guilt if it was about his snappish behavior toward him.
When Harry returned from showering, Draco already had his robes on and was in front of the mirror, making sure his hair was in perfect order. Harry took a moment to study his mate's profile, a soft smile playing around his mouth when he heard Draco grumbling about how the white of the robes contrasted dreadfully with his hair. They decided not to wear glamours until they had to stand on Platform Nine and Three Quarters, so now Draco was trying to fix his hair around the pointy ears, but either the ears weren't cooperating or the hair wasn't. Harry sighed before walking to Draco and turned his mate to face him. He reached up, pushed the blond strands behind Draco's ears before nodding.
"It looks fantastic like this." Harry turned to his own robes before Draco could make the expected comment about how anything and everything looked fantastic on him. That thought made him smile also, as well as the fact that when Draco had ordered these robes, he specifically had Harry's made with tailored slits in the back so that his wings could slip through and would not be covered by cloth. Of course, when he went to Hogwarts, he'd have to make sure his wings were covered most of the time, unless he was in a secure area with those who already knew he had them. But it wouldn't be too hard to conceal his wings, as Draco knew a strong concealment spell he planned to use so that no one would see an outline under Harry's clothes.
When he was finished dressing and Draco was satisfied Harry's hair was as tamed as it would ever be, they both left for the room where they would meet Tom and Hermione. The room was designed specifically for rituals that were conducted with high levels of blood magic. It was circular and completely stone without windows. The only type of furniture within was a round stone alter dead center of the room. This was where the ritual items were kept until needed.
They stepped into the room and immediately cleansed it of any residual magic that may have been left from the last ritual performed. Just as they were finished with that, Hermione and Tom joined the young Ukatae, each of them wearing identical white robes to match. Amortia came with them and wished them luck before she shut the door, which immediately sealed itself and turned back to stone. It would not turn back to a door until the ritual was completed.
Hermione approached the alter and studied the instruments upon it. There were four athames of identical make as well as two silver bowls, all of which were also cleansed of residual magic.
"This will be slightly complicated because Harry and I can't share blood in this way," Draco started off by saying.
Hermione made a face. "That would be vulgar if you happened to bond yourselves as brothers. And doing it this way makes it all right for Severus and I to keep seeing each other."
"Hermione." Draco gave her a level look. "We don't want to hear about you and Severus in any way, shape, or form."
"Exactly. So we'll need to do this carefully." Harry hurried on, seeing Hermione's eyes light up, ready for an argument. "It's why this particular ritual makes me slightly nervous. We all need to cut our wrists. One bowl belongs to Draco and the other belongs to me. You two will need to volunteer enough blood for both bowls. Luckily, we don't have to repeat everything four ways." Harry paused and took a breath, "Tom, are you sure you don't mind doing the asking?"
"Harry, we've been through this before," Hermione said.
"I don't mind at all. If I ask, you'll have no doubts."
"But the ritual can't be completed if any one of us is unsure that we want this. It was a very specific paragraph I made you three look at!"
"We know, Hermione," all three wizards intoned.
"I just wanted to say it. It was only reassurance," Tom finished in exasperation. Really, the witch had made them study on the ritual they would be doing for bloody hours. The ritual only took up three chapters of a book! He, Draco, and Harry had memorized it within the first two hours.
"There, you see. Already acting like siblings," Draco said with a grin. "Let's begin."
Four wands rose in sync to touch the other wand tips directly over the center of the alter, and four voices began an ancient Latin chant that would rise in volume while their magic built up inside them, awakening, preparing to interact with the magic from each of the participants. The chanting became softer as the magic reached its peak and burst forth from their bodies as light of different colors. Hermione's magic was released first. A bold dark-green light shot up from the tip of her wand towards the ceiling and began to circle in a clockwise motion around the room. Tom's magic joined Hermione's as thick bloodied mist. Harry and Draco's magic followed, wrapping Tom and Hermione's magic in sparkling silver waves.
Once the magic was pushed out above them, they were able to drop their wands and put them away. Harry continued the next portion of the ritual by picking up the athames and passing them around. Everyone took a moment to prepare for what they had to do. When ready and then on the count of three they cut their wrists deep enough to pierce the artery. Quickly moving forward, the four held their cuts over the bowls and watched as their life poured in.
"We evoke the Rite of Familial Bond. To bond as siblings. Forever and eternity," Draco began, with the other three repeating the same words in turn. Once the evocation was complete they felt the magic circling above pulsate. It was an indication that their magic and purpose was accepted and they were able to proceed.
"I, Hermione Granger, ask thee Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy, and Tom Riddle to accept me- heart, blood, soul, and mind as your bonded sister forever and eternity."
"I accept thee, Hermione Granger, as my bonded sister, forever and eternity," Harry, Draco, and Tom replied in clear firm voices.
"I, Tom Riddle, ask thee Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, and Harry Potter to accept me- heart, blood, soul, and mind as your bonded brother forever and eternity."
"I accept thee, Tom Riddle, as my bonded brother, forever and eternity."
They were trembling by this time from blood loss and all had grown very pale, but the pain and disorientation they felt was nothing compared to the magic, excitement, and adrenaline flowing through them.
"So shall we be. Bonded, forever and eternity. So shall it be!" they cried collectively.
As soon as the last word was spoken, more light exploded from every pore of their bodies and bathed the room in golden hues. The light quickly diminished and concentrated into two areas, coming together to hover over each silver bowl. The four reached out and grasped hands to physically connect a circle around the stone alter. They concentrated on the magic and watched as it dipped into the bowls of blood and swirled around to mix.
Only seconds passed before the magic infused blood from Harry's bowl rose up, separated into three, and circled him, Tom, and Hermione. Draco's bowl repeated the action, excluding Harry. Then the infused blood shot back like arrows into their bodies through their cut wrists with such a force that they were all pushed backwards a bit. The backlash would have been worse had they not kept their hands clasped together.
When the light disappeared they looked down at their wrists, noticing the pain was gone, and found the wounds had been cleanly healed. A moment later the door reappeared, signaling the Ritual had ended.
"That went perfectly!" Hermione squealed and rushed around to enthusiastically hug her new brothers. "It was amazing. I can't wait to tell Severus."
Tom chuckled around Hermione's hair, "yes it was very well done…" he broke off as Hermione slowly pulled away from him and they both sagged slightly.
"I…Ooh, I feel weird…." Hermione's words came out sluggishly, and she tipped her head back to look at Tom inquiringly, but Tom seemed to have trouble keeping his eyes opened.
"Hey, are you guys okay?" Harry and Draco moved over to them quickly. Harry gasped when they looked at him with glowing eyes, and then watched in shock as they dropped to the ground. Draco rushed over and began to check to make sure they were still breathing, that their hearts were still pumping. Apparently Harry thought freaking out would be helpful in some way.
"Oh Merlin, what have we done? What did we do?" he cried out as he stared at their still forms.
"Calm down, love. Open the door for Amortia."
Draco pushed him towards the door. He threw it open and yelled for Amortia before quickly returning to stand over Tom and Hermione. Amortia came in and immediately began to run tests over their bodies with her wand. She began to mutter darkly as she slapped her wand repeatedly against her palm. "What's wrong with this thing? I'm not getting any readings!"
"We killed them!" Harry's hands flew to his hair in panic.
"Harry, they are still breathing," Draco said in a calm manner he did not feel.
Talyn stepped into the room upon hearing Harry's exclamation. "You performed a wizard ritual, correct?"
She and Brumek were aware the young ones were doing a ritual with their friends, but they had not been told what the ritual was for. Nor were they told if it were a Ukatae ritual or a wizard ritual. Talyn guessed it was wizard because she doubted Harry and Draco knew any Ukatae rituals. Again, she was unaware that it had been a mixture of Ukatae and wizarding magic that had given Tom his body back.
"Yes," Draco answered her. She nodded and stepped further into the room. At once her nostrils flared and she pinned the young ones with a searching stare.
"What exactly went on in here? I can smell your blood and human blood."
"We've bonded ourselves as siblings. Tom and Hermione are now our brother and sister."
Talyn continued to stare for a moment before a slow smile spread across her face. Then she started to laugh and shake her head.
"What the hell is so funny?" Harry demanded. "They've passed out and probably from something we did wrong!"
"You've no idea what you've done, do you?" she asked in a cheery voice that made Harry want to strangle her. "Not to worry, young one. They will wake in an hour or so. Could be sooner depending on the strength of their magic. I assure you, they are perfectly fine." With that said she turned and walked out of the room.
"But what were you laughing at?"
"Oh you'll see," she called back in a laughing voice. "Just move them somewhere more comfortable. I promise they will wake soon."
They did as Talyn suggested but Amortia was going to treat this like an emergency and brought the unconscious seventh years to the makeshift infirmary. Lucius had allowed her to keep it up and running for emergencies such as this. Harry and Draco sat in between the two beds and stared at the floor in guilt for a long time.
"What do you think happened? If we didn't kill them…" Harry finally wondered.
"Their eyes were glowing before they went unconscious. I wonder what that means…"
"Why did nothing happen to us?"
"Do you think they'll wake up before we have to catch the Hogwarts Express?" was Draco's question, not having an answer for Harry.
"Should we even go to school today?"
Draco looked at him like he was crazy. "Hermione would be pissed if we decided not to go today, even if she is unconscious. And she'd definitely give me the scolding of a lifetime. 'Draco, you're Head Boy! There is no excuse to miss the first day of school!' I guarantee that's what she would say."
Harry couldn't help but laugh. "You sounded just like her. Amazing."
"Amazing is my middle name."
"And cocky, along with snobby, git, ponce-"
"You want to duel, Potter?"
Harry grinned and prepared to answer when Lucius and Sirius walked in. Both faces looked grim.
"Care to explain what happened?" Lucius drawled as he and his husband took a moment to study Tom and Hermione. "I allowed this because I was under the impression that you four were perfectly capable of conducting such a ritual without adult supervision. Obviously I was mistaken."
"The ritual went perfectly," Draco defended and stood to look down his nose at his father.
"It worked, if that's what you mean," Lucius replied, not the least bit intimidated by his son. "Tom and Hermione are now on the Malfoy family tapestry and if you check, they'll be on the Potter tapestry as well. But why are they in here? What happened?"
Draco let out a breath and sank back into his chair. "We don't know. They suddenly looked tired, eyes were glowing, and then they collapsed. Talyn said everything's fine and they should wake up soon. An hour or so…"
Sirius cast the tempus charm to check the time. "It's eight-thirty now. If what she said is true, they should be awake in time to make the Hogwarts Express."
"We'll see after they are awake," Amortia said firmly. "They must be in perfect health or I will not allow them to leave." No one had a problem with that.
"Are you all packed then?" Sirius asked.
"Yes. I had the house elves pack everything since Draco went overboard in Paris," Harry said. "I was not about to deal with all that myself."
"You'll be happy to have all that once we're at Hogwarts."
"You two can Apparate from anywhere, correct?" Lucius asked.
"Yes," his son answered.
"We haven't been there to try it. Why?" Harry asked, wondering what Lucius was getting at.
"I want you here every Saturday morning, Harry. We never began your Wizarding World studies. We'll do that starting this first Saturday."
Harry started grumbling, but stopped when Draco gave him a pointed glare. "Make it Sunday mornings. Our Saturdays are going to be busy."
"Sunday afternoons," Lucius bargained. "My Sunday mornings are busy." Sirius' brows burrowed in obvious discontent at this.
"Done," Harry agreed quickly before standing to pull Sirius out into the hall. "You aren't still worked up about the I Never game are you?"
Sirius shrugged. "Wouldn't you be?"
"Maybe at first, but… it wouldn't last this long. So you've been fighting over that since then?"
"Not really. We've been fighting over something else mostly. I've been trying to get him to change his mind about his decision, but he keeps going on about his figure, the responsibilities, about how old we are… just making stupid excuses."
"Err…" Harry didn't know what Sirius was talking about and he didn't know whether he should ask or not.
"Hey, pup. Don't worry about us." Sirius threw an arm around his godson's shoulders as he was always inclined to do and hugged him. "We're fine. But I'm allowed to get mad at him from time to time."
"That's true. It is Lucius Malfoy. Sometimes all I have to do is look at him and I get mad," he joked then he returned the hug with both arms, surprising Sirius, but then the animagus tightened his hold and dropped his chin against Harry's forehead. Harry frowned up feeling the sadness and disappointment emanating from his godfather. He wondered where it was coming from.
Lucius' head appeared from the infirmary, unnoticed. He was about to inform Harry and Sirius that Tom and Hermione were waking, but stopped when he saw them talking.
"Sirius, what's wrong with you?" Harry asked. "You're twisted up inside." Sirius didn't physically react, except for a small flicker of surprise in his eyes.
"You just take care of yourself, hear me?" he whispered. "I'm going to miss you, pup. Snape may be your uncle, but you're mine as well… I hate to see you leave." He spoke so forcefully that Harry knew he would be missed. He also realized he wasn't going to get any more information just yet about what was really bothering his godfather.
"Sirius, if we can Apparate or Circle from Hogwarts, then I'll see you every Sunday. And besides, we're not leaving just yet. You're coming to King's Cross, right?"
Sirius only had time to nod before Lucius finally spoke up. "They are stirring." The blond ignored Harry and only had eyes for his husband. Sensing Lucius' need to talk to Sirius, Harry left to go back into the infirmary, leaving them privacy out in the hall.
Tom woke rather quickly, and bit back the need to groan. Every single blood-channeling vein was screaming at him as if on fire. Well this was unexpected. His eyes remained closed until he was sure he could open them and keep the pain from showing in his brown eyes. He opened his hand and flexed his fingers before curling them back into a fist as the last of the pain slowly left him. It was the thought that Hermione was going through the same pain that had him opening his eyes and sitting up, finding Draco sitting in a chair in between the beds. When Draco turned and saw he was awake, he smirked.
"It wasn't very polite of you to faint dead away like that," Draco drawled. "It doesn't exactly exclaim Dark Lord to anyone."
"I did not faint," Tom ground out, then relaxed when he realized Draco was trying to bait him. Still, he felt the need to defend himself. "My body simply took over and pushed me into unconsciousness," he ended flatly. Draco rolled his eyes as he looked over at Hermione for a moment but she was still asleep.
"Can you explain what happened?" he asked.
"I thought I had done all the research needed, but apparently I forgot a few things. It's nothing to worry about, Draco."
Draco wasn't so sure of that and thought he might say so but Amortia caught Tom awake and appeared beside his bed and began to wave her wand up and down the length of his body.
"I'm fine," Tom finally ground out as she began a second scan. Amortia ignored him and continued with her tests. Hermione began to wake then and Draco reached over to take her hand and they both watched as Tom quickly lost his patience. He was sitting straight up, but his head was tilted back in a scowl as she began to do the tests a third time. "Leave me alone, woman! What good do you think you would be doing by blinding me?" he pushed the wand away from his eyes and glared at Amortia. "You've already checked me and I feel perfectly fine. Go and pester Hermione. Don't make me regret burning the Mark off your arm!"
"Right as rain," Amortia replied sarcastically, then moved over to perform tests on Hermione, who'd had a hard time keeping her laughter in check at Tom's irritableness.
Hermione's tests were almost done when Harry walked back in. Since Hermione was indisposed at the moment, he went to talk to Tom.
"Do you really feel fine?" Harry whispered when he moved to stand next to Tom's bed.
"It was the mixed blood and magic catching up to us. That is all. I should have anticipated it."
"You scared the hell out of Harry. He thought we'd killed you."
"Don't act like you weren't scared."
"Of course, but I know how to conceal my emotions," Draco answered before bending over to peer into Tom's eyes.
"Just what do you think you're doing, little brother?" Tom hissed. "Did you not hear me tell Amortia to get the hell away? What makes you think I want you eyeing me like some sort of experiment?"
"I just want to know why your eyes were glowing."
Tom pushed the stupidly grinning Draco aside and stood from the bed. "If you will excuse me, I need to finish packing."
"You mean you're not finished?" Hermione asked with a gasp.
"No, I'm not. There are a few things I realized at the last minute that I will be needing. Don't bother trying to lecture me."
"Oh well, that's okay then. Especially if its books." She gave him a smile and waved him off.
Tom grinned as he took in his new siblings. His grin broadened before he turned and left the infirmary.
"Wow. Did you see his face?" Harry asked a moment later. He sat down on the edge of a bed between Draco's legs where the blond had backed up and made room and smiled when Draco wrapped his arms around his chest possessively. "I don't think Tom Riddle has ever smiled like that before."
Arriving at Kings Cross Station and then onto Platform Nine and Three Quarters had never been so easy and stress free before for Harry. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that they had all been ready to leave hours before they arrived. He and his group wanted to make an entrance, a sort of obvious fantastic point for the students of Hogwarts to obtain from their arrival. They timed it so that they arrived at the Platform with ten minutes to spare, guaranteeing the platform would be crawling with students by then. Everyone always seemed to rush in at the last minute.
The Gryffindors passed through the barrier first with their luggage. This included Harry and Hermione, with Sirius escorting them. It took a while before anyone realized the tall black haired young man in fine wizarding robes was Harry Potter, and the woman in equally fine wizarding robes was Hermione Granger.
"Have we changed so much?" Hermione whispered after they loaded the luggage and stood back to watch people. It wasn't until then they realized they were being stared at because no one recognized them.
Sirius stood back and studied them. "Yes. You've changed, in a lot of ways."
Silence slashed across the platform as recognition began to dawn. Harry smirked as the noise started to escalate and his pupils dilated as the rush of the emotions from everyone around hit him. He opened his mouth a little and breathed the emotions in like air.
"I'll never get tired of this."
The Slytherins arrived soon after in the same manner, and loaded their luggage. Draco, Pansy, and Tom stood at opposite ends of the train from the Gryffindors. "Look at him, soaking the emotions up like a sponge. He has no control, idiot Gryffindor," Draco said when his eyes landed on his mate.
"A controlled Harry isn't any fun, darling. You know you love it when he loses it," Pansy said. Tom and Lucius, who had also come to see them off, smirked. Draco shrugged and went back to watching Harry.
Those who were watching Harry, which was most of the platform, stood and stared in disbelief at their changed Hero as he turned and shot a sultry grin at one of the Slytherins standing at the other end of the train. More whispers erupted as Harry moved, leading Hermione and Sirius Black towards the Slytherins, who were also moving down the train. They met in the middle.
"How do you think they are taking it?" Hermione asked Tom, who was wearing a specialized glamour that showed his true face only to those who were aged seventeen and below. The glamour had been done using Ukatae magic, and therefore would be undetected by Dumbledore and impervious to any revealing spells cast on him. Hermione instantly swept her arm through his and smiled at him.
"They are eating it up," Draco said as he reached out to cup Harry's wrist in what everyone around them thought was a simple friendly gesture. Even though nothing spectacularly significant had happened, the excitement of those watching rose just the same. "I think we should keep them wondering about the extent of our relationship." He lightly caressed the pulse point at Harry's wrist and grinned when he felt the pulse quicken and the heat coming off Harry tripled. "It will keep their attentions on us for more information and it'll be fun for us to mess with their heads." Draco reluctantly dropped his mate's hand, nodded to his father and Sirius before hopping onto the train, closely followed by Pansy.
"We only have a few minutes left," Harry said and began looking around. "Where's Blaise and Ginny?"
"Probably on the train waiting for you," Lucius replied to Harry and then he turned to Tom. "You should not worry. We will have everything under control and well under way by the time you return for Yule holiday."
"I expect that you will, Lucius. And make sure your husband at least tries to help Rabastan and Rodolphus out of the cocoons of decay they picked up from Azkaban." Tom turned to Sirius, "I know you don't like being around Death Eaters, which is beyond hypocritical by the way since you're married to one, but you and the Lestrange brothers are the best suited for the job we need done."
"No problem, Tommy. I love hard work and I get along with everyone." Sirius grinned.
Tom's face flushed from either embarrassment or anger at being called Tommy. He was already moving to react when Hermione and Harry moved as one. Hermione quickly pulled Tom onto the train with her and Harry moved forward to embrace Sirius.
"Thanks for teaching Dudley."
"I'm only doing it because you asked… and partly because I feel slightly guilty about what happened with Petunny and her man years ago."
"Right! We never did talk about that!" Harry pinned him with accusatory glare. Sirius was so glad to hear the train whistle go off just then that he laughed in relief.
"We'll have to talk about it some other time, pup. Up you get!" Sirius practically threw Harry up the steps, and Harry yelled out obscenities to Sirius as the train pulled out of the station, leaving behind a platform full of parents and guardians waving their children away.