Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Harry James Potter was slowly polishing a table in the Hogwarts kitchen, watching as the newest Menial sat in the corner and cried quietly to herself.
They all did, the new recruits.
The girl was fingering the iron collar around her neck and Harry winced remembering his own early days wearing the symbol of a Menial. He had been four years old and had howled for days until his surrogate mother Molly Weasley had managed to find some soothing cream.
His best friend Ronald Weasley had been collared on the same day, as had the other long-time Menial, Neville Longbottom. The three of them had been born into their station in life, or at least Ron had.
Neville and Harry were both war-orphans with parents whom had been on the wrong side of the battle. When the Dark Lord had won his duel against Albus Dumbledore, the members of the Order of the Phoenix had been hunted down and killed. Some were shown mercy, whilst others like Harry and Neville's parents, fought back and rebelled. They had been killed and their infant children had been given over to the new regime.
Ron's parents, Molly and Arthur Weasley, had also been a part of the Order, but they had surrendered earlier on because they had seven children, two of them babies. Both were collared as Menials and each of their children after them were also given the same treatment.
The Menials were part of the servile caste, the lowest caste in society. They served the upper three castes and performed servant duties like cooking, cleaning, babysitting and gardening.
When Menials turned thirteen they were inspected by officials and regulated their final class. Some remained in the Menial caste, as Ron's older brothers had. Some females were chosen to be Birthers, to bear a child for whomever buys their contract. It was all part of the scheme to inflate the Wizarding population. Birthers were the highest position a female servile could hope for, because they were treated fairly and were even payed for their work. But only the strongest magically were picked for this prime position in servile society.
There was one more class in the servile caste, besides Birthers and Menials. The Courtesans. Boys and girls who were attractive enough were chosen to learn how to pleasure their contractor. Whilst not as well-paid as the Birthers, the Courtesans still had a greater income than the Menials, who were paid a pittance.
The Courtesans were much sought-after and treated fairly enough in society, even though they were essentially selling their bodies.
The new girl in the corner sniffled and rubbed her eyes, tears rolling down her cheeks. She was the picture of misery.
Finishing his polishing, Harry tucked the cloth in the belt of his grey tunic, adorned with the Hogwarts crest, and padded over to the girl.
Seeing her close up, Harry decided she was quite pretty with her huge brown eyes and her tumble of hazelnut coloured hair. Probing her magic he deduced that she would be quite powerful in a couple of years.
Harry had been able to sense other witches and wizards magical cores for as long as he could remember. It was a skill Mrs Weasley had told him to keep hidden, worried something would happen to him if the authorities found out a Menial was performing magic, regardless if it was with a wand or not.
Serviles were not permitted to own or use a wand, but Harry had been able to perform wandless magic since he was a young child. He could also see magic, an incredibly rare trait, not to mention handy when wanting a private conversation without listening charms detecting his words.
The girl stiffened when she realised someone was standing right in front of her and slowly lifted her tear-stained face to see who had approached her. She saw a small boy who looked about her age, ten, with tousled silky black hair and high cheekbones. His mouth had a hidden sensuality in it that was tempered by his gorgeous emerald eyes that glittered with childish innocence. His inky black lashes framed the head-turning eyes and his grey tunic showed off his lithe body.
The boy was stunning.
'Hello I'm Harry Potter,' the beautiful boy said softly, holding out his hand.
'Hermione Granger,' the girl replied quietly, taking the proffered hand and shaking it lightly.
Harry took a seat next to Hermione, and thought carefully about what to say. 'I take you are a new Menial and not a transfer from another household?'
Hermione took a deep breath and murmured, 'Yes I'm a new…Menial.' She hesitated before saying the word, as though unwilling to even voice it.
Looking the girl over and seeing her staring wide-eyed at the floating candles in the Hogwarts kitchen, Harry deduced she was a Muggleborn.
Respecting her privacy, Harry let their conversation drop and waited for the girl to pick it up again. He didn't have to wait long.
'How long have you been a Menial?' she asked.
'Since I was one year old. My parents were rebels during the early years of the Dark Lord's reign and when they were killed in a raid I was handed off to Mrs Weasley, whom you will meet soon,' Harry said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Hermione took a shaky breath and whispered, 'L-last week some men came to my house. They did something to my parents…I don't know what…and they took me away. This collar was put on me and I was told I was a witch, that I had magic…but I was to be a Menial because I had impure blood.'
Harry felt pity for the poor confused girl, remembering the other two Menials he, Neville and Ron's age, Dean Thomas and Lavender Brown, both Muggleborns. Dean had come three years ago and Lavender last year.
Harry wondered if he should tell Hermione that her parents had been Obliviated, that is, they had had their memories of her erased. Deciding against it, he settled for placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.
'Would you like some cream for your chafing?' he asked kindly.
Surprised that he had realised her collar was paining her, then remembering he bore an identical one, she hesitated before nodding quickly. Gently taking her hand in his, Harry pulled her up and guided her out of the kitchen and down a corridor.
The Menials occupied the lower tunnels of Hogwarts, below even the potions classroom and the old Slytherin dormitories. After Hogwarts became an exclusive school, only open to purebloods and the strongest half bloods, the Houses had been abolished. Students had dorms in their year level and took classes with them too. There was still four Quidditch teams but they were now named after constellations; Scorpius, Hydra, Aquila and Fornax.
Harry often sat on top of the astronomy tower with a borrowed set of binoculars, watching the games of Quidditch. He wished he could ride a broom one day but he knew he was destined either for the life of a Courtesan or a Menial.
He pushed open a door in the corridor and revealed a small room with four beds sitting in a neat row, the covers smoothed out. None of the boys wanted to face the wrath of Molly Weasley, unofficial ruler of their small family of Menials working at Hogwarts.
Dean and Neville were outside with Ron's oldest brother, Bill, chopping wood. Ron was with his mother and little sister, Ginny, reordering the food in the pantry.
Leaving Hermione hovering by the door, Harry walked over to the bed farthest from the door, which was his own, and rummaged around in the rickety bedside table. Finding the jar of cream he walked back over to Hermione and gently pushed her down onto Dean's bed, sitting beside her and unscrewing the lid.
He dipped his fingers into the cream and rubbed it in small circles under the collar, feeling the rough skin. Hermione was stiff at first but soon relaxed as cream did its work, numbing the chafing and soothing it at the same time.
'There, all done,' Harry proclaimed, screwing the lid shut.
Wiping his fingers on the cloth still tucked in his belt; Harry gave Hermione the jar of cream. 'Take it, you're going to need to reapply it every six hours for the next few days.'
She carefully took it from him and smiled faintly for the first time, gratitude clearly defined on her face. 'Thank you, Harry. You've been kind to me.'
Giving her a small smile of his own in return, Harry stood up. 'Come on, I'll show you to your room. You'll be sharing with Lavender-she's our age- and Ginny who's a year younger.'
Hermione trailed after him as he left the bedroom and entered the one next door, which was much smaller. A third bed had already been squeezed in, Hogwarts sensing another person present.
Lavender was lounging on her bed, idly drawing on a piece of spare parchment. Her long honey-blonde hair was tucked behind her ears and her hazel eyes were focused intently on whatever she was sketching.
She glanced up when Hermione and Harry entered, sitting up and crossing her legs on the bed. 'Hello Harry, who's this?' she asked curiously, looking Hermione up and down.
'This is Hermione. She's the new Muggleborn Menial,' Harry explained.
'I was wondering when the new girl would come. That bed's been sitting there for almost two days now,' Lavender mused. Then she turned to Hermione and smiled slightly. 'I'm Lavender Brown.'
'Hello,' Hermione murmured back, a little shyly. There was something so open about Harry that inspired her to like him, but she was unsure about Lavender.
'I would offer to give you a tour, Hermione, but this is my only break today and I wanted to catch up on my sketching,' Lavender explained apologetically, fingers itching to get back to her drawing.
'That's fine Lav,' Harry said quickly, 'I was going to offer to show Hermione around the school.' He liked Hermione, she seemed nice, and Harry was a sucker for nice people.
'Have fun,' Lavender replied absently, picking up her pencil and returning to work.
Once Harry and Hermione had left her to her free time, Harry began showing Hermione around. He started in the Menial floors, showing her the various rooms and supply closets.
Taking her to the massive pantry he popped his head in and quickly introduced Hermione to Mrs Weasley, Ron and Ginny who were busy labelling food products. Mrs Weasley had made sure all the Menial children she unofficially adopted received an education and knew their letters and numbers.
Hermione found herself being swept up in a warm embrace as the kindly woman welcomed her and assured her if their was anything she needed, even if it was just someone to talk to, she was to seek her out.
Blinking back tears at the comforting hug and words, Hermione shook hands with Ron and Ginny, the two redheads looking at her with interest. Ginny's ears turned as red as her hair when Harry smiled at her, Hermione noting the younger girl seemed to have a crush on him.
It took most of the day to show Hermione around the castle, practically empty as it was the summer holidays and the Hogwarts students were absent from the halls.
Hermione was completely bedazzled by the castle, coming out of her shell a bit and rattling off questions about the old school. Harry answered as best he could from the lessons Mrs Weasley had given him.
They were walking down the fourth floor corridor when footsteps sounded from the other end. Harry froze and looked over at Hermione quickly.
'Stand to the side and bow your head with your hands clasped in front of you; like this,' he demonstrated, looking the perfect picture of demureness.
Hermione hastened to copy his movements, lowering her head so that a curtain of hazelnut coloured hair obscured her face. She felt the nervous tension in her rise as the footsteps grew closer and closer.
The suddenly it stopped.
Harry's breath hitched slightly and Hermione held her breath too, Harry's anxiety bleeding off into her.
'You there,' a rich voice commanded imperiously.
Hermione lifted her head very slightly and saw a man in his late twenties or early thirties standing before them. His chocolate brown hair crimped slightly, almost brushing his shoulders. It framed a light aristocratic face with cobalt blue eyes. He was quite tall and very toned, adding to his atmosphere of superior handsomeness.
He was staring intently at Harry, who had also raised his head slightly to view the man.
'My Lord, how might I assist you?' he murmured quietly.
Completely ignoring Hermione, who was rather relieved, the man stepped forward to place his fingers under Harry's chin and push his face up fully.
'How old are you, boy?' the man asked.
'I have just turned ten My Lord,' Harry responded politely, keeping his eyes respectfully lowered even as his face was being held up.
'You are gorgeous,' the man said with a slight smirk and Harry stiffened but kept his face neutrally blank.
'Thank you My Lord,' he said tensely.
'I will be keeping my eye on you, little one. I have no doubt you will enter the Courtesan class. I avidly wait for your sixteenth birthday,' he purred silkily and stroked a hand over Harry's cheek.
Harry didn't say anything in response and the man smirked once more, dropping Harry's chin allowing the boy to quickly lower his face.
Then he went on his way.
Harry waited until his footsteps had faded before slumping against the cool stone wall behind him and letting out a lengthy exhale. Hermione waited awkwardly, unsure how to comfort him.
She had already been given an explanation of the classes and she knew that the Courtesan class was a class for those selling their bodies. Courtesans graduated from Aphrodite's House of Pleasure when they turned sixteen and were contracted to a master. If they weren't immediately contracted, which was extremely rare, they stayed on at the school until their contract was bought.
Birthers followed a similar path except they attended their schooling at Damara House and were contracted after their seventeenth birthday.
'Who was he?' Hermione asked.
'Rabastan Lestrange, part time duelling professor here at Hogwarts, Inner Circle Death Eater and one of the Dark Lord's closest confidants,' Harry said tonelessly.
Swallowing heavily, Hermione took Harry's hand in her own. 'Should…should we go back to the Menial quarters?' she proposed unsurely.
'The rest of the tour-'
'Can be done another day,' Hermione interrupted gently.
She had never had a friend before, the students in her Muggle school shunning her because of her insatiable appetite for knowledge. Hermione didn't know at what point she began thinking of the green-eyed boy as a friend but now that he undeniably was, she was determined to be a good friend.
This time it was Hermione who tugged Harry along, who seemed rather shaken by the man, and took him back to the Menial quarters.
She found her way to the kitchen and Molly Weasley fussed over the two of them, sitting them down and preparing two cups of calming chamomile tea for them.
'What happened Harry dear? Did you run into Headmaster Snape again?' Molly asked with concern.
Harry winced at the mention of Headmaster Snape, who seemed to have some sort of vendetta against him. He had to put up with snide comments and slurs against the father he had never even met whenever in the man's presence. The Death Eater never said anything about his mother though strangely enough.
'No it wasn't Snape,' Harry said tiredly.
'Headmaster Snape,' Mrs Weasley admonished.
Harry scowled but said nothing in retaliation.
'Well?' the woman prodded.
Seeing Harry was reluctant to recount what had happened, Hermione did so. After she had finished, Molly sighed and with a pained sort of look in her eyes she gathered Harry up into her arms.
She murmured soothing words under her breath and tried to comfort her surrogate son as best she could.
In three years time Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Dean and Lavender would be allocated their station in life. Mrs Weasley was fairly certain that Ron and Neville would remain Menials, but she felt that Harry and possibly Dean would end up as Courtesans. Lavender and Hermione both seemed like lovely young girls who would perhaps end up as Birthers if they were magically strong enough.
She wanted to protect all those children from their fates in life, she wanted to see them all happy and most importantly of all, free.
'What's wrong with Harry?' a loud voice inquired from the doorway to the kitchen.
Ronald Weasley stood framed there, blue eyes staring with concern at his best friend who was being rocked in his mother's arms. Mrs Weasley reluctantly let go of Harry who settled back in his chair and took a sip of chamomile tea.
'He just had a bit of a run in with a Death Eater, that's all Ron, dear,' Mrs Weasley said lightly, moving to chop up some vegetables for the Menial's dinner.
'Oh,' the redhead said, casting a sympathetic look Harry's way.
Taking a seat next to the boy he engaged him in a conversation about the centaur he had seen earlier that day, talking excitedly and helping to settle Harry's frazzled nerves.
Lavender wandered in next, sitting down beside Hermione and starting a polite conversation. The two girls were beginning to warm up to each other when three sweaty boys entered.
'That's Neville, Dean and Bill,' Lavender whispered in Hermione's ear, pointing out each individual boy.
Neville was a chubby sort of child with sandy blonde hair and baby blue eyes. He moved clumsily as though he were unused to his own body. Hermione deduced by the bruises on his shins that the boy was a klutz.
Dean had chocolaty brown skin and short black hair that grew close to his scalp. His dark brown eyes were thoughtful as though he was pondering a theory or just daydreaming. Dean was slightly taller than Harry, who was the shortest of the boys, even shorter than Hermione, and had wiry muscles.
Bill looked around nineteen years old, quite handsome with his sparkling blue eyes and mop of red hair he had grown rebelliously long and wild. The shaggy hairstyle drove his mother up the roof.
'Showers first boys, you're filthy!' Mrs Weasley commanded, brandishing a wooden spoon threateningly.
Grinning in return the three boys ambled off in the direction of the bathrooms, or in Neville's case, stumbled, as he bumped into a stool. The moment they left the room Ginny Weasley entered and sat down on Lavender's other side. She kept casting surreptitious glances at Harry who remained oblivious as he chatted with Ron.
A pair of identical twins waltzed in a few minutes later, claiming the seats next to Ron, mischievous grins on their faces. Harry groaned and said, 'Fred, George, what have you done now?'
They both chuckled and answered simultaneously, 'Nothing,' in falsely innocent voices.
'If I find out you've been pranking again, boys, it won't just be Mr Filch giving you a tanning,' she threatened.
Wincing as though remembering past beatings when they were caught in the act of pranking, the twelve year olds rushed to assure their mother they hadn't set any pranks. Yet.
Mrs Weasley was serving up a feast of food when her husband and her two sons Percy and Charlie entered. They had been taking stock of the magical animals Hogwarts had in captivity. Charlie was a natural with creatures of any kind and Percy was an excellent scribe. They made a good team whenever the animals had to be catalogued.
After being introduced to Hermione who was beginning to be overwhelmed by all of these new faces, Neville, Dean and Bill re-entered, freshly washed.
The extended family tucked into the veritable feast Mrs Weasley had prepared, who was smiling fondly at everyone's contented faces as they ate.
'Where are the other Menials?' Hermione asked Lavender quietly as conversation flowed around them.
'They're here and there, possibly in other kitchens. All together there's around thirty Menials contracted for Hogwarts. During school term we are assisted by house elves that prepare the feasts for the school children and tidy their dorms. But it's just us Menials during the summer months. I think the house elves work elsewhere. I'm not sure where,' Lavender explained.
Privately wondering what on earth house elves were, but unwilling to keep Lavender from her meal, Hermione thanked her and returned to eating.
Dessert was chocolate pudding and Hermione managed to squeeze in a few mouthfuls, promising herself to leave more room for dessert next time.
She was full and sleepy after dinner, dozing in her chair as Lavender, Ron and Harry washed the dishes while the others chatted quietly amongst themselves.
Mrs Weasley caught her yawning and insisted she head off to bed, shooing the other children off with her.
Once she was tucked in under the covers and listening to the quiet breathing of Lavender and Ginny, Hermione allowed herself a bit of time to cry silently. She missed her parents, her home, hell she even missed her old school.
'You'll get used to it,' the soft voice of Lavender came to her and Hermione caught her breath. Apparently she hadn't been quiet enough.
'Mum says it's ok to cry sometimes,' Ginny supplied helpfully.
Her heart clenching with emotion, Hermione managed a snuffled, 'Thanks,' to the two girls.
She would adjust. She knew she would.
Meanwhile Harry was curled up in bed, reliving the scene in the fourth floor corridor. He shivered slightly and hoped that his thirteenth birthday took an age to come, just so he could continue living in relative protection if only for three more years.