- Discussion-Child Abuse
- Explicit Sex
- Canon Divergent
- Established Relationship
- Fix It
- Time Travel
The main ritual room in the bank was oddly warm despite the depth of the chamber. They were on the opposite side of the underground structure from the vault system. The area was so heavily warded that no one could enter unless they were specifically added to the ward stone. Harry had spent several hours a week in the space since he’d started taking instruction with the Horde. Various members of the Glain Neidr had been involved in those lessons but he was about to meet the high warlock.
Armand Deering lived in Paris but Harry knew he’d been in and out of the British branch of Gringotts for weeks. He hadn’t asked why he hadn’t gotten an introduction. The chieftain was particular about his interactions with the humans that worked for the bank and Harry hadn’t pressed that issue. There were six wizards, besides Harry, in the room. He’d only met two of them.
“Worried?” Razel questioned
Harry pressed his lips together to keep from immediately saying yes. “I’ve never once, in my memory, had a good Halloween.” He glanced up and found that everyone in the room was staring at him. He flushed and focused on Ragnok who’d been speaking to Quintin Deadmarsh. “It’ll be fine though.”
“Certainly,” Ragnok agreed. “We’ve left nothing to chance and Omis is standing by in the next room if we require her assistance.”
Harry nodded as his fingers curled into the finely woven material of the ritual robe that had been made for him. It was the only thing he’d been allowed to wear into the space for the ritual and that had totally thrown him off his stride. He really didn’t know why he couldn’t have pants at least. Questioning this has gotten him a lot of amused looks.
The door opened and an older man entered dressed in a black robe. There were flashes of gold in the material as he moved. Runes, Harry thought. He really didn’t know much about the construction of robes but the runes were stitched into his with silver thread.
“Ah, Armand. I hope the portkey wasn’t too taxing.”
The man made a face. “It was tolerable but I have no intention of going to Australia again for a least a year.” He turned and focused on Harry.
Harry refrained from flinching but did stand from the bench he’d been directed to when he’d entered the room.
“Harry this is Armand Deering, the high warlock of the Glain Neidr. He’s chosen the following wizards to help you this evening from left to right: Quintin Deadmarsh, Thaddeus Banner, Castius Arnou, Carter Myers, Marcus Daniels, and Jacob Dyson.”
Armand Deering stepped forward and Harry met the older man’s gaze. “My apprentice is outside. Under normal circumstances, he would be witness to this without discussion but he pointed out you might be uncomfortable with his presence because of his family’s association with Albus Dumbledore.”
“The chieftain told me that Bill Weasley is your apprentice. I have no personal issue with him and that will continue as long as he adheres to the contract he signed with the bank. There will come a time, in the near future, where such circumstances will be my business on several levels.”
Deering stared for a moment then nodded. “I see.”
“Do you?” Harry questioned.
“Ragnok, this boy needs none of your coddling,” Deering said and stepped closer. “I need to take a very close look at your scar. I’m gifted with mage sight.”
“I was warned that you would get in my personal space,” Harry said with some amusement. “Are you going to bring Bill into watch as you stare creepily at my face?”
Razel laughed then shrugged at the look he earned from his father. “Shall I retrieve him?”
“He’s just outside,” Deering murmured.
Harry stayed utterly still as Razel left them and Deering cupped his face with cool hands. The older wizard tilted his head just so and focused on the scar.
“Does it hurt?”
“It did in my first year whenever I was around the professor Voldemort was possessing,” Harry said. “The specter of Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets didn’t make it hurt and neither did interacting with the diary earlier in the year. Later, in the cemetery during his resurrection—everything hurt because the portkey was so rough but after he left the cauldron and before he crucio’d me, the scar stung. His voice was like tiny little needles being pushed into my skin.”
Deering nodded. “Nightmares?”
“Yes, of course. Sometimes I’m pretty sure I’m dreaming about his actual experiences. I don’t know if he’s sending them or if the horcrux I’m carrying has given me a window into his unconscious mind. Either way, he’s deeply disturbed mentally in a way I didn’t expect.”
“You don’t think dark equals crazy?” Deering murmured as he shifted Harry’s head just a little.
“You’re considered dark by many,” Harry pointed out. “And don’t appear to be all that crazy. Unless the no pants rule was yours then I’m a bit worried about your facilities.”
Deering laughed briefly and released him. “Ah, lad, you’d not imagine how many times over the years I’ve considered getting shorts made out of ritual robe material.”
“It says a lot about you that you never did it,” Harry admitted and glanced toward Bill Weasley who’d entered the room. “Hello, Bill.”
“Hey kid,” Bill murmured. “How are you?”
“Could be better but at least I’m not in a school watching everyone celebrate the anniversary of my parent’s murders and acting like I’m crazy for not being excited about the whole thing,” Harry said and exhaled. “Sorry. I’m not even sure where that came from.”
“Years of resentment, I’m sure,” Deering said. “Most focus on your survival only and that’s a genuine shame.” He turned and focused on Ragnok. “The horcrux is entrenched, sir. The ritual will be strenuous and painful. We can expect broken bones, muscle strain, and perhaps some severe magical backlash.”
“We’ve set up a syphon to pull any magic he throws off,” Ragnok said. “Omis is prepared to deal with those injuries.” He focused on Harry. “Any other concerns?”
“I’d like…” Harry wet his lips. “I want to go home if it’s at all possible afterward. Hermione’s upset that I asked her to stay in Agharti while we do this.”
Ragnok nodded. “The best I can promise is that we’ll take you into the mountain where she can see you. Omis will decide if you can rest in your own bed or if you should stay in her private healing hall.”
“Okay,” Harry agreed and focused on the altar. “Is Sirius coming?”
Ragnok shook his head. “No, lad, he doesn’t trust himself or his magic not to interfere when things start to hurt you. He’s adjusting, even now, under the parental vow he took for you earlier in the summer. He is waiting with Omis.”
“Okay,” Harry nodded. “That’s…I understand.” He stepped up onto the platform then scooted up on the platform. “I really hope I pass out for most of this but I’ve got a pretty high pain tolerance.”
“I took note of that when you didn’t pass out while basilisk venom was eroding your blood,” Deering said. “Your memory of that event remains the only time I’ve ever seen a basilisk that large or old.”
Harry considered that. “Part of me recognizes that Riddle destroyed her before I was ever born but I wish I hadn’t been the one to kill her,” he admitted.
“She was a beautiful beast,” Deering murmured. “Go ahead and get as comfortable as you can. Ragnok has already told you that Quintin will be leading this ritual. Do you have any questions or concerns for him?”
“Questions, no,” Harry said but he focused on Deadmarsh. “Have you ever met Tom Riddle?”
“No, but he once basically courted my father to join his Death Eaters. My father laughed in his face. Not a single member of my family would stoop so low as to be marked as a slave by anyone much less a wizard of such low caliber,” Deadmarsh said.
Harry laughed a little but then cleared his throat. “The horcrux in me is probably the first one he made—it’s half of his soul and the sixteen year old version of Tom Riddle is, for the lack of a better word, compelling. He has a lot of charisma and I don’t know what Lucius Malfoy told the horcrux through the diary but he was fascinated with me. I think it extended far beyond what you saw in the memory of the Chamber of Secrets.
“Moreover, the diary ended up in the hands of a little girl who is obsessed with the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing and the horcrux fed on her for a year. I think it was very happy to latch onto my scar when I destroyed the diary. I don’t know what it will do when you try to pull it out but I suspect Riddle will attempt to bargain with you.
“He’s smart and cruel. He enjoys the suffering of others in a deeply emotional way and if he can’t seduce you—he’ll try to destroy you. Riddle loves nothing and values nothing but his own obscene desire to live forever, and there is no telling what the horcrux has learned from me while it’s been in my scar.”
Deadmarsh nodded. “I understand.”
Harry laid down. “I hope so because he’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen—and I’m including the basilisk and a furious dragon in that.”
“We’re going to cast several spells on you so you can’t leave the altar,” Deering murmured. “It will prevent you from rolling off which could be an issue once we start prying the horcrux from your core. I could stun you but you’ll wake up when start because of the magical intrusion. Trust that none of us are pleased with the fact that you couldn’t take a pain potion before this.”
“It’s fine,” Harry murmured but closed his eyes. “Pain is what it is.” Magic drifted over him and a warm weight settled over him from the neck down. “Feels like a blanket.”
A cool hand settled briefly on his forehead. “Good, lad, just relax as much as you can.”
Harry figured that was a good idea so he just took a deep breath and focused on Hermione. She liked to read by the fire at night and it was nice to be with her. She didn’t expect conversation but seemed to like that he sat with her. Sometimes he read, too, or he wrote in the journal Thaddeus had given him. But it was just as easy to sit and do little more than think while she read. There was a peace in those moments that he felt like he’d always wanted and hadn’t known.
“I have a corporal patronus,” Harry murmured.
“Do you?” a voice asked.
“It used to be hard to find a happy memory,” he admitted. “Magic is so ugly at times that it’s hard to remember the beautiful parts. It used to be a stag—my father’s animagus form.” He heard Deadmarsh open the ritual and he retreated deeper into his thoughts. “But I think it would be different now.”
“Maybe a lioness.” He exhaled slowly as pain sliced through him like a knife. “Something strong and fierce like Hermione.”
“Think about her then,” the voice suggested. “She’s waiting for you in the mountain.”
“I think she’s mad at me for asking her to stay in Agharti,” Harry admitted. “But I couldn’t let her be near it once it’s out of my body. It would know…how important she is. Riddle wants to take everything away from me. He wants me to have nothing, like him.” He wet his lips and shuddered. “Like Dumbledore.” His body jerked despite his efforts to remain still and he felt something snap around him. The heavy weight of the magic they were using to restrain him lessened. “Like Grindelwald.”
“Easy, lad, stay calm,” the voice urged. “Do you compare yourself to Grindelwald or Dumbledore?”
“Neither, those corrupt motherfuckers should’ve choked to death over bloody greater good.” The pain coiled in him like a snake. “Enough!”
“What did he say?” the voice questioned.
“Just the word ‘enough’. I’m not sure if it was him or the horcrux, Chieftain,” another voice said. “Keep talking to him; Quintin has the horcrux nearly contained.”
“Harry?” A hand brushed over his damp forehead. “Lad, I need you to answer me.”
“Yes,” Ragnok murmured. “I’m here. They’re almost done.”
“It hurts a lot,” Harry said and swallowed hard. “I…I’m trying hard not to cry.” He forced his eyes open briefly but the sweat on his face stung. “Uncle Vernon says I don’t deserve to cry because I’m a freak.”
“You can cry,” Ragnok said.
“I’m supposed to be strong,” Harry whispered hoarsely a deep, hot pain lanced through him and he broke through the magical restraints and surged upward off the altar. Hands grabbed his shoulder and held him fast. “Let me go, goblin!”
“What did he say?” Ragnok questioned as Harry passed out.
“The boy said nothing unless he makes a habit of calling you a goblin,” Deering said. “Don’t let go, Quintin.”
Ragnok shook his head. “No, not since he was told it was an insult.” He shared a look with Razel who was at the opposite end of the altar holding the boy’s feet. “Razel?”
“Hermione must have mentioned it in the letter she wrote him because he did use it once with me when I first appeared in his room but then apologized for his ignorance on the subject.”
“Then the horcrux is definitely awake,” Deering said. “Quin?”
“I’ve got it,” the necromancer said tightly. “This thing is furious. I’ve never seen a horcrux like this—not even the really ancient ones we found in Iraq. There are some old dead Mesopotamians who’d be really fucking impressed.”
“I saw one like this in an tomb in South America,” Carter Myers said. “Whatever text Riddle learned from—it was from that region. He’d have made six so there would be seven parts—it’s part of that mythology. One of them should be a snake, another part of the myth. The process was once a component of coatl worship.”
“I have all but two,” Ragnok reported and the men in the room turned their heads in unison to stare at him. “And I know where the snake is. Can you get me information on the ritual and the mythology surrounding it? I focused mostly on Egyptian, Babylonian, and Norse methodologies in my study of horcruxes.”
Myers inclined his head. “As soon as I recover from this, I’ll retrieve every scrap of information I have on the subject.”
Ragnok focused on Potter who was shivering violently. “How’s his core, Dyson?”
“Stressed,” the wizard reported. “He has some microfractures but nothing that won’t heal on its own.”
“His collar bone is broken,” Dyson reported and Ragnok winced. The boy was still pressing hard against his hands so he had no choice. “I don’t think you did it—but you certainly aren’t helping at this point.”
“Don’t let go,” Deering said.
Ragnok offered him a glare. “I’d remind you, Master Deering, that I was practicing ritual magic when you were in nappies.” Potter screamed but thankfully he didn’t wake. “Now, Deadmarsh, before this thing gets the upper hand.”
Deadmarsh inclined his head and with a slash of his wand, the magic thickened in the room and a dark, smoky stream of magic curled out of Harry’s scar. Streams of magic from six different directions encased the horcrux and forced it into the plain ritual knife Ragnok had chosen to house it. The knife rattled and spun violently under the weight of their magic then stilled. Harry went lax under his hands and Ragnok slowly released him.
“He’s going to wake up in a world of hurt,” Dyson said roughly. “He’s got a skull fracture to go with the broken collar bone and six cracked ribs. Muscle strain is extensive and he’s torn two tendons.”
“His pain tolerance is obscene,” Deering said roughly. “Let’s move him to the Healing Hall.”
“We’re taking him back to Agharti,” Razel said and stared pointedly at his father. “It’s all he asked of you, Adad.”
Ragnok nodded. “Close your circle, Deadmarsh. Omis has two her staff ready to assist her in his transfer to her private hall in the mountain.”
Deering exhaled sharply. “It’s not our practice to bring someone so low in ritual and not oversee their healing, Chieftain.”
“I’d have explained that to him if I’d thought he’d care,” Ragnok said. “He essentially made his witch promise she’d stay in Agharti but he’s going to want her when he wakes up. They share a magical affinity.” He paused. “On par, with couples who’ve been together for more than a decade.”
“Fortunately, they both seem to understand that it’s nothing to be taken lightly,” Banner murmured. He glanced toward Bill Weasley. “That isn’t something they’d want shared with their former friend, Mr. Weasley.”
“I can manage my own apprentice, Banner,” Deering said roughly.
“Potter and Granger are my responsibility,” Thaddeus said simply.
Deering inclined his head but frowned at Banner anyway. “I’d already apprenticed three wizards when you were in nappies, Thaddeus.”
“This whole nappy discussion is seriously putting me off my dinner,” Razel announced and left the circle. “Honestly.”
– – – –
Harry slowly eased down into the chair in the library. Hermione was curled up on the sofa but her posture told him that he definitely wasn’t invited to join her. “Mi.”
She glanced at him with pursed lips. “How do you feel? Mistress Omis said you could have another pain potion when you woke up.”
“I feel better than I have…since second year,” Harry said. “I didn’t know what kind of burden it was or maybe I just thought it was the damage I’d have to learn to deal with because of the basilisk bite.” He rubbed his arm though the scar the creature had left was long gone. Omis had taken care of it during his first healing session. “I’m sorry that all of this was so upsetting for you.”
She frowned at him. “You do realize that the really horrible part is how you’re underreacting to this whole thing, right?”
Harry considered that. “I don’t know how to be anyone else so if you can’t handle this…” He trailed off when she glared at him. “I mean I’m more than willing to go to mind healing but I don’t think I’ll ever respond the way you think I should.”
Hermione’s face softened. “Oh, Harry.” She closed her book. “I don’t want some sort of pretense from you but it’s difficult to come to terms with just how…”
“Damaged I am?” Harry questioned. “Is it too much? Because I wouldn’t hold it against you, if it was.”
She glared. “I’m not some shallow empty-headed fan, Harry!”
“I feel like I can’t win in this conversation,” he admitted and turned his head to stare at the fire.
“I don’t think you’re damaged.”
“Then you really need to have a long conversation with an adult you can trust,” Harry said evenly. “I grew up in a cupboard, Hermione, and my uncle barely allowed me to eat. He hit me often and prefers to call me Freak instead of my name. They hate me for being magical and blame me for every terrible thing that went wrong in their lives. Dumbledore forced them to take me in and never bothered to check on me the whole time I was there. He just tossed me on their front step like a bloody newspaper and walked away.
“I think that Dumbledore saw my Aunt Petunia and her husband as an opportunity to make sure my child was just as unloving and terrible as Riddle’s was in that orphanage. You remember what we read from the journal about our original sixth year.”
“Dumbledore leading you around by the nose giving you as little information as possible and painting a picture of a Tom Riddle that you could identify with,” Hermione said. “I remember. I told Lenore that I wasn’t certain that I wanted to read any more of it. Every time they give us some passage from it, I’m slapped in the face with my own misery from the previous timeline and it’s agonizing.”
She cleared her throat. “My parents didn’t want children and made that clear to me. They love me, I guess, but affection was perfunctory at best. It was like they read a parenting book and followed it like it was an instruction manual. I got exactly thirty minutes of their time every evening after dinner then I was sent to my room. I received educational toys, books, and appropriate clothing. I had a nanny until I started primary. I don’t think either of my parents ever even gave me a bath or dressed me.
“Before they fired the nanny, my mother asked me if I needed help with any personal tasks like bathing or whatever. When I confirmed that I could take care of myself on that front they fired the nanny. I was given a schedule that I had to follow to the letter every single day. They gave me an alarm clock for my room so they didn’t have to wake me up. I had to be awake and dressed to be taken to school. At the end of the day, my mother would pick me up, take me home, and I would follow the schedule until it was time for bed. Their thirty minute of parent/child bonding was clearly marked on the schedule.”
“Wow.” Harry turned his head and looked at her. “That sounds terrible.”
“Well, they fed me at least and I never lacked for material things. There was nothing to complain about really but I was relieved to get my Hogwarts letter. Well, I’d planned to ask for boarding school regardless after primary but Hogwarts was a pleasant surprise.” Hermione pulled her legs up and hugged them to her chest. “I’ve been sending them a progress report of sorts. I get a polite thank you note each time. In the last one, they told me that if my trust wouldn’t cover the costs of being educated in Rome just to let them know and they would transfer the needed funds.” She sighed. “I’d rather get a job than ask them for anything else. It’s hard to be around the Banners and their son sometimes. They’re so invested in his happiness and safety.”
“I get it,” Harry murmured. “I’m okay, you know. Mistress Omis wouldn’t have let me come home to rest after just a few hours of healing if she wasn’t satisfied with the results. I only had to take half a vial of Skele-gro.” She made a face at him but nodded.
The clearing of a throat got his attention. He sat up from his slouch and found Thaddeus Banner standing in the doorway of the library. “Hey.”
“The Chieftain needs you in a meeting, lad. He sends his apologies for the hour but he requires a conversation before Master Deering leaves for Paris.”
Harry glanced toward Hermione who looked frustrated and sad. “Did you want to go?”
“Yes, but I wasn’t invited,” she pointed out tartly and sent Banner a dark look.
“I don’t believe the chieftain would be upset if you showed up,” Thaddeus said with a small smile. “Master Deering expressed interest in meeting you, at any rate.”
She stood. “Can I change my clothes quickly?”
“Yes, of course.”
Harry watched her leave and focused on Thaddeus. “Is there such a thing as too much honesty?”
“Yes,” Banner said roughly. “But the other option is just as egregious in the long run. You’re both young so just give yourself room to make mistakes.”
“That’s all I do lately,” Harry admitted and stood when he heard the click of Hermione’s boots on the wood floor boards of the hall.
Banner offered them both his hands and Harry just glanced briefly at Hermione before accepting one. With a quick, gentle squeeze they were deposited in front of the lift that would take them to the bank. The trip up and the walk to the chieftain’s office was short.
Armand Deering was an imposing presence in the room but Harry had resolved not to let the man intimidate him. It wouldn’t serve him now or in the future, besides he just was another wizard. An old, powerful wizard. He’d met plenty of those.
Harry sat down in the chair he was pointed to after introductions were made and relaxed only slightly when Hermione joined him in the second chair
“Was there an issue with containing the horcrux?” Harry asked.
“No, Master Deadmarsh finished that task with no issues and the athame has joined the others in my personal storage,” Ragnok said. “Though you might not believe it, you did very well in the ritual tonight. Your control over your magic until you passed out was quite impressive.”
Harry felt his cheeks flush and exhaled in surprise. Chieftain Ragnok was not generous with praise when it came to him and he understood why. Perhaps Ragnok’s feelings about him would always be tainted by what had transpired in the other timeline. He accepted that and wasn’t offended.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Master Deering reports that your parselmagic is healthy despite your magical circumstances and childhood. It was a concern as parselmagic is fragile when your kind are young. He believes you’d be well served to explore parselcraft.”
“I would be well-served or his conclave would be well-served?” Harry questioned with a brief glance in Deering’s direction. “I’m not saying I’m opposed but I’d like to know all the motivations involved before I agree to taking any sort of tuition regarding parselmagic. Mistress Omis has mentioned to me that parselcraft has a powerful and useful branch of healing magic so that’s interesting to me.
“Most parselmouths hide and I can’t. The whole bloody magical world knows I’m one so how I present myself going forward when it comes to magic, and specifically parselmagic, is important. I know the world-at-large is less discriminatory when it comes to being a parselmouth but I wouldn’t want my role as Patron to the Horde to be undermined by people’s distrust of parselmagic.”
“If you wish to study healing,” Deering said and managed only a mild grimace. “The field within parselcraft is immense. Hiro Ito, the current Supreme Mugwomp, is a well-know healer and parselmouth. He’s revered around the world for his healing abilities. After the International Brouhaha concludes, I could approach him in my role as High Warlock of the Glain Neidr and call in a favor he owes my conclave to see that you receive tuition from him.”
“In exchange for?” Harry asked and glanced only briefly when Hermione inhaled a little sharply.
“You owe me nothing, lad,” Deering said roughly. “But the world owes you and the House of Potter an immense debt that many would be content to overlook forever. You’ve sacrificed repeatedly for our safety and asked for nothing in return. It’s astonishing, frankly, to meet someone like you.”
“Godric’s line was always a breed a part,” Ragnok said roughly.
“You’d want me to practice magic within your conclave though,” Harry said.
“I would be a fool not to offer you a position in my conclave in the future,” Deering said simply. “You’re powerful and your parselcraft is pure which is not a circumstance any of us anticipated due to the entrenchment of a horcrux. The choice will be yours in the years to come. You won’t be pressured into it if that is a concern.”
“I’m rapidly becoming immune to other people’s expectations,” Harry admitted as he focused on Ragnok. “If the horcrux wasn’t the issue…” He trailed off and raised an eyebrow.
“I plan to have all of the horcruxes in hand by the new year,” Ragnok explained. “At that point, we must consider how much time we’d have before Riddle realizes his horcruxes aren’t safe.”
“He’ll act out,” Harry said. “Perhaps even violently—he’ll probably suspect Dumbledore so the school will be at risk.” He wet his lips. “Maybe he’ll suspect me or he’ll try to infiltrate the bank to remove the horcrux Bellatrix hid in her vault. Certainly, his goal will be to secure at least one of them.”
“Would he risk making another?” Hermione questioned.
“Not in his current body,” Ragnok said. “The magical backlash would certainly unmoor him. Thanks to a member of the Glain Neidr, we’ve come upon the ritual circumstances Riddle chose to emulate. The Gaunt family lost parselcraft generations before Riddle was born. They chose to fake it with beast speaking rituals. The family was deeply invested in their pure-blood ancestry, to an unfortunate and disgusting degree.”
“They inbred themselves into extinction,” Hermione said and made a face. “These people need to get out more and date people they aren’t related to.”
“Certainly but certain families in Britain have no use for information regarding genetics and other scientific information that comes from Muggle sources. If you ever want to have a superior afternoon, help a pure-blood figure out where their food is grown and who’s doing the work for it.”
Harry snorted but then focused on the situation on hand. “So what do you want me to do?”
“Have you ever heard the term a Petition of Judgment?” Ragnok questioned.
“No.” Harry glanced toward Hermione and found the color had drained from her face. “Mi?”
“I…” She took a deep breath. “Neither of us had any sort of introduction to the spiritual component of ritual magic nor the relationship Zirnitra has with magic.” Hermione clutched her trembling hands together. “Would the Black Dragon even respond to someone who has never offered him a single moment’s thought?”
“Zirnitra nor his wife, Hekate, are like the gods you’ve heard of when you lived in the Muggle world,” Ragnok said roughly. “Zirnitra has been a part of this world since before magic spread. He has been known by many times and has walked amongst in various forms throughout his long-life. All he asks of all magical creatures is that we respect his wife and the gifts her very existence give us. Should we fail in that duty, he stands in judgment over us. One cannot blame him for that, he waited alone for many of thousands of years before Hekate came to stand with him.”
Harry shifted in his chair as he considered that they’d said and not said. “You want me to ask Zirnitra to sit in judgment of Tom Riddle’s crimes and since Master Deering is here—it will be a ritual of some sort.” He wet his lips. “Would the members of the Glain Neidr follow me in ritual? I would have to lead it, right? Is it complicated? Will I have to build the circle because that could take years?”
“I would build the circle,” Deering interjected. “And my inner circle, the men who were with you earlier in the day for the horcrux removal would indeed follow you in ritual. The chieftain was not the only one impressed by your fortitude and strength during that event.”
Harry nodded. “Okay. So I just ask Zirnitra to judge Tom Riddle.”
“You would petition him, yes, but I can’t guarantee he would decide in your favor. Zirnitra is a neutral god and, while Tom Riddle’s actions on this earth have been horrific by our standards, he might not be all that concerned about the whole situation. I doubt he would punish you for seeking his attention even he didn’t decide in your favor.”
Harry nodded. “Then it will hurt nothing to try,” he said and glanced toward Hermione who made a soft sound of distress. “You disagree?”
She shook her head and tears welled in her eyes. “It’s just a lot and I know we shouldn’t wait but it feels like everything happened so fast.”
“It would be nice to get it all handled so we can prepare for OWLs,” Harry decided. “And I have a whole campaign to plan with the kids in the village regarding the garden gnome situation. We’re pretty sure they’re planning something pretty outrageous and there could be a rebellion any minute now.”
Hermione stared at him for a long moment then started to laugh. “Harry.”
“Are you sure you aren’t French?” Harry questioned. “You’re really lacking in the stoic reserve department. I should report you to someone for lower than average level of Britishness. I think you might even prefer coffee to tea which is probably a gross breach of the national trust.”
Her face got complicated then she huffed. “My mother is from France, actually.” She crossed her arms over her chest when he grinned at her.
Crisis slightly averted, Harry focused on Ragnok. “I trust you have something for me to study and read?”
“We’ll retool several of your classes in the weeks going forward to prepare you for the event,” Ragnok said and focused on Deering. “Master Deering, if you would prepare the ritual floor in the Hall of Mages and your inner circle for the ritual I would appreciate it.”
Deering stood. “Of course, I’ll pass Thaddeus any instructions I have regarding preparations for the ritual and I’ll discuss the magical requirements with Mistress Omis as he may need additional potions to shore up his physical and magical strength for the ritual.”
Harry reached out and took Hermione’s hand. “Relax.”
“I…” She exhaled. “I’m trying really hard not to be another source of stress, you know.”
“You’re just used to being in charge of solving the problem,” Harry said. “It isn’t like either one of us have ever had any experience with you know…actual adults doing their job in a way that doesn’t nearly ruin us.”
Hermione clenched her fingers briefly against his and she shook her head. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go home and have some cake. Piper and I made a red velvet cake while we were waiting for word about the ritual.”
“I’d love some cake,” Harry admitted. “And some tea.”
“Milk, it’s late,” she corrected as he stood and tugged her from her chair. “Honestly.”
“Milk,” Harry agreed. “Bossy.”