- Character Bashing
- Explicit Sex
Anxiety twisted in Hermione’s stomach as she stared a the remains of Potter’s home. Harry’s hand clenched in hers, and she shifted closer to him though she had long since given up hope him truly accepting comfort from her. The longer the search dragged on, the more he isolated himself. She thought perhaps it was because Ron had abandoned them, but over the last week, Hermione had come to realize that Harry was close to giving up. He was, she thought, preparing to die and the knowledge of that was heartbreaking.
“Let’s go inside,” she suggested.
Harry glanced at her. “It doesn’t look safe.”
“Just a little bit,” Hermione urged. “It’s your home, Harry.”
Harry looked off in the direction that Bathilda Bagshot had gone but then nodded. “It wouldn’t hurt to look around, would it?”
They stepped off the street.
“There are wards,” Harry said. “Feels like…Dumbledore.”
He pushed open the gate. They walked past the memorial sign in silence though Hermione couldn’t help but frown at the graffiti that had been left behind by tourists. She wondered if the magical world would ever truly understand or appreciate the sacrifices Harry had made. Most of the kids they’d gone to school with had never really understood why Harry didn’t celebrate Halloween. Even Ron hadn’t understood which had been a continuing source of frustration for Hermione for years.
“I don’t think it’s safe to go inside,” Harry said softly. “Let’s go look at the backyard. I have pictures…from a party.”
“Your first birthday,” Hermione said. “I’ve seen them.”
The garden was overgrown, but she hadn’t expected anything different. Harry let go of her hand and sat down on a low wall that surrounded the patio.
“All of my life, all I’ve ever wanted was a home—a place where I was wanted and loved.” He looked around the garden. “I should’ve grown up in this place, Hermione.”
She sat down beside him. “I know.”
“I feel like this house—broken and neglected.”
The confession shocked her. She closed her eyes to keep tears from spilling down her cheeks, and she clutched at his hand. “After the war, we’ll come back here and build a new house on this land just for you, Harry. It’ll be beautiful, safe, and warm. You’ll take care of it and fill it with love. One day your children will run around this garden while they pretend that giant tree over there is a monster out to get them.”
Harry smiled. “That sounds lovely.”
“It will be.” She nodded, and with her free hand, she pointed toward the back of the yard. “You can put a pond in over there and perhaps a little vegetable patch in the other side so you’ll have something to attract gnomes. You can’t make your kids de-gnome the garden if there aren’t any gnomes.”
“True,” Harry nodded. “Sounds perfectly reasonable.” He took a deep breath. “And where will you be?”
She shrugged. “Where do you want me to be?”
“It would be selfish to say,” Harry admitted. “I’ve always thought so I’ve never said it and yet we’re sitting here again, without him, because his loyalty is transitory and his jealousy of me seems to have no end. He wants you, and I’ve known that for a while so I tried to…” He took a deep breath. “I tried to want Ginny, but I don’t, Hermione. I don’t want her. Everyone expects it. Hell, I think even you expect it, and it’s not what I want at all. I don’t want to be…I think I would suffocate if I forced myself to live the life they want.”
“One big happy Weasley family,” Hermione murmured.
Harry shuddered beside her. “I’m a Potter. I’m the last of my family, and I don’t want to be…”
“Suffocated under Molly’s overbearing and supposedly well-meaning love,” Hermione supplied when Harry trailed off in obvious frustration. “Do you want me?”
“Oh, love, please don’t make me say it,” Harry said roughly and released her hand. “It’s obvious you’ve made your choice. You made it last year and I’ve learned to live with it, but I can’t have this discussion.”
Hermione huffed a little when he stood and walked around the wall to stand on the patio. “Harry Potter.” She shot up and followed. “Did you ever think for a bloody second that maybe I just gave up on you last year because…because!” She waved her hands. “You never said anything! You didn’t invite me to Hogsmeade. You didn’t ask me to the Yule Ball! I waited for weeks before I accepted Krum’s invitation. You chased Cho Chang around like…like…she was the best thing in bloody Britain!”
“I was trying to be a good friend!” Harry snapped.
“To who?” Hermione demanded. “Me or Ron? Because I’m here, Harry. I’ve always been right beside you! Why do you give Ron all of your loyalty and consideration when he gives you none in return?” She poked him in the chest. “Well?”
Harry took a step toward her, and she backed up only to hit the stone wall of the house with a little thud. “Scared, Granger?”
“Bite me, Potter.” She poked him again as soon as he got close enough.
Harry planted his hands on the wall on either side of her head. “It’ll change everything.”
“Maybe everything needs to change,” she countered evenly as she curled her hands into his jacket. “Harry.”
He leaned in and brushed his mouth against hers—a fleeting tease of a kiss that left her breathless. Hermione pulled him closer and lifted her chin. Harry kissed her again, his mouth was soft and far too knowing. It was kind of irritating how good of a kisser he was. His hands slid down the wall and settled on her hips as they moved as close as their layers would allow. Hermione shivered against the sweet stroke of his tongue and he withdrew.
“You’re cold,” he whispered against her jaw. He pulled her closer still. “I want you with me, Hermione. It’s what I’ve always wanted.” She closed her eyes as he tucked his face against her neck. “Be with me. Stay with me.”
“Yes.” She wrapped her arms around him, and they stayed there against the wall of his destroyed childhood home for a few moments. “I’m serious about the pond.”
He laughed softly against her neck and lifted his head. “Of course.” He touched her face with cool fingers. “And I’ll build you a library.”
Hermione grinned. “Deal.” She looked down and frowned. The stone floor of the patio was glowing. “Hmmm.”
“What?” He stepped back from her and looked down as well. “Did we activate some kind of security?”
“I think you might have done something when you touched the house,” Hermione admitted. “Not security—or we’d have been prodded away at the least.”
“And dismembered at the worst,” Harry muttered as he looked around then pointed toward a pair of bulkhead doors. “That wasn’t there before.”
“It certainly wasn’t visible before,” Hermione agreed. “We should check it out.”
“Magic revealed this to you,” Hermione pointed out. “It must be responding to your blood relation to the caster of the magic which means one of your parents hid that cellar entrance, Harry. It’s not going to hurt us.”
Harry’s shoulders relaxed. “Let me go first, just in case.” He walked toward the entrance and the doors popped right open. “That’s not as welcoming as it should be.”
Hermione laughed a little under her breath. “The magic is eager.”
“Eager magic has never been a friend to me,” Harry said flatly.
Hermione watched he step down onto the stairs, a nervous excitement stirring her that had little to do with the bit of kissing they’d just indulged in. She’d always suspected that kissing Harry would be lovely and she hadn’t been disappointed. Getting him to admit he had feelings for her was just one step forward, and she didn’t count it as a win entirely. She knew that Harry was far too used to sacrificing for others to his own detriment.
“The steps seem sturdy,” Harry said and glanced toward Hermione. She was standing just a few feet from the entrance, looking curious and as beautiful as ever. He couldn’t help but wonder if she regretted what had just taken place between them. He offered her his hand and as if she thought it was some kind of test she rushed forward to take it. “Careful.”
She huffed a little. “I love secrets.” She peered down into the cellar. “This is a secret about you. About your family. It’s exciting.”
And scary, Harry thought. He’d never really had good experiences with family secrets, but he didn’t want to spoil her excitement, so he started down the stairs and brought her with him. The doors shut gently as soon as they were down far enough. He pulled his wand and it lit in his hand. The lumos charm was the only thing he’d mastered when it came to silent casting, but it still gave him a bit of a thrill to do it.
The moment they stepped properly into the room, lighting charms lit all over the room. He put away his wand with a little hitch of breath. “Is this…”
“A ritual circle,” Hermione supplied as she released his hand. “It’s in stasis, Harry.”
“Stasis?” He shed his coat and put it on an empty table. “What were they doing?”
“It might have something to do with how you survived,” Hermione guessed. “You couldn’t have been the first child to have a parent sacrifice themselves. If sacrificial magic worked like that—the Killing Curse could’ve been neutralized a long time ago. A terminally ill person could’ve stepped in front of the curse to die for everyone that would ever live, and it would’ve rendered the curse impotent.”
“Magical people aren’t very logical, you know,” Harry said.
“Oh, I noticed,” Hermione admitted wryly. “There’s a book here, but the words are gibberish to me. I think it might be your family grimoire.”
Harry walked across the room, careful to skirt around the ritual circle to stand with her at the table she’d gravitated toward. An empty cauldron sat on one end and a stack of books on another. Perhaps it had been his mother’s workspace in the ritual room. He touched the book in question and brought it closer to him. “I can read it.” He picked it up and checked the cover. “It just has Potter written on the front.”
Hermione motioned toward him. “Read the page that was open then. That’s where your parents left it.”
Harry put the book back down and focused on the page. “Custos est lux.”
“Guardian of the Light,” Hermione translated. “Is it all in Latin?”
“No, just the title of the page.” Harry cleared his throat and began to read, “Four times in the history of our family, we have called upon the Lord of Magic to bless us with the duty of protecting Magic. Each time that call has been met with the gift of becoming an archmagus. In times of great strife, our family has always stood with Zirnitra, the Black Dragon as he alone is tasked with guarding the balance between the Light and the Dark.
“I caution any of my descendants who are considering this path—the life of the Black Dragon’s Guardian is not for the faint of heart. If your petition is accepted you will be granted amazing gifts—your magical power will be astronomical but you will be burdened with enhanced senses and will need a companion to ensure a proper magical balance is maintained.” He paused because Hermione’s breath hitched. “What?”
“It’s talking about a Sentinel,” Hermione said urgently. “This ritual…one of your parents was going to petition Zir to turn themselves into a Sentinel.”
Harry took a deep breath and lifted his hand from the book. “Sentinels and Guides are extinct, Hermione. I read a book about them when I was younger because Aunt Petunia liked to brag that her great great grandfather was a Sentinel.”
“Yes, they went extinct during World War II. Most theorists believe the horrific loss of life on earth destroyed our connection with the psionic plane which is what gave Sentinels and Guides their gifts.” She bit down on her bottom lip and started to shift parchments around. “Your mother, however, thought that the deaths actually just closed the door between our world and the psionic plane.” She put the parchment down in front of him. “And she was going to use this ritual to open that door and petition Zir to give her and your Dad the gifts they needed to protect you and win the war.”
Harry touched the writing on the parchment and cleared his throat. “I…I don’t know what to do with this information, Hermione.”
She glanced toward the ritual circle. “I think…we should do the ritual in their place.”
The idea of it was thrilling and scary. He’d never lacked magical power and despite being lazy at Hogwarts had never had problems using the magic he was given to make way in the world.
“Tom Riddle sought more power than he was given.”
“Bah, he sought it for all the wrong reasons and he certainly never dared to seek it from the Lord of Magic!” Hermione waved a hand around the room. “Your parents were extraordinary, Harry. Look what they were prepared to do for you. It’s so lovely and amazing.”
Soft gold magic floated in the air in the circle. “I think that’s my father’s magic.”
“I don’t understand,” Hermione admitted.
“He died downstairs—quickly. Too quickly to have fought back.” Harry took a deep breath. “He died over the ritual circle on the floor above us.”
“He used his magic to hide all of this from Riddle,” Hermione surmised. “And she used hers…There must have been another circle of some kind upstairs. Something Dumbledore hid or perhaps it was destroyed when the curse backfired.” She turned back to the table and started to separate the parchments into several different stacks. “I need time to study this and prepare.”
Harry nodded and watched her for a few moments, overwhelmed by her intense dedication. “I love you.”
She turned to stare at him. “Harry.”
“I love you more than anyone else I’ve ever known. There is no sacrifice I would not make to keep you safe and happy, Hermione.”
Her gaze narrowed and she put her hands on her hips. “If this turns into a speech about stepping aside so I can be happy with Ron Bloody Weasley, Harry Potter, I’m going to curse you into next year!”
Harry laughed, walked to her and caught her around the waist. He pulled her close despite her huffiness and kissed her. “No more stepping aside for me, love, I don’t have it in me to resist the pull of you anymore.”
She frowned at him briefly then waved a hand. “Go get the tent. We’ll set it up over there in the corner. We need to fully explore this.”
“What about Bathilda Bagshot?” Harry questioned.
“She’s lived in this village for her entire life—she’s going nowhere, and this is important. Far more important than a creepy old lady who spied on us in the cemetery.”
“You don’t believe she has the sword.”
“No, Dumbledore would’ve mentioned her in some way if she were important. Nothing in what he left behind even suggested we visit Godric’s Hollow and that’s telling enough.”
Harry couldn’t disagree with that, so he picked up his coat. “One tent coming up.”
“Don’t dally and disillusion yourself before you apparate,” Hermione lectured.
“It says something terrible about me that I find you more attractive when you’re bossy,” Harry admitted ruefully as he performed the disillusion spell then apparated away as she huffed in shock.
He appeared near the tent and was quite pleased with the very small amount of noise he made.
“I don’t know, mum. I already told you that I can’t find the tent. I’ll just have to keep looking for them when they’re outside of it. I mean it has to be around here somewhere, or the tracker thing you made from Dumbledore’s deluminator wouldn’t have led me here, right?”
Harry stared at Ron in shock. The other wizard was just a few feet away with a communication mirror in his hand.
“You never should’ve left them to begin with,” Molly shouted from her end of the mirrored connection. “What if they’ve been injured or hurt? What if they’re starving?”
Ron scowled at the mirror. “They’re fine, mum. They don’t even need me. I can’t believe you’re making me search for them. Why should I have to help Harry? This war is his fault anyway. He’s the reason that that arsehole got resurrected in the first place. Why should I have to live in a tent for weeks on end and suffer for Harry’s mistakes?”
“You know very well why,” Molly hissed. “Your sister wants to marry Harry Potter, Ronald, and you’re going to make sure that Granger stays out of the way.”
“Hermione is in love with me,” Ron responded and smirked. Harry wanted to punch him in the face. “I’ve got her right where I want her.”
“If you had her where you wanted her, she’d have left with you,” Molly said, and Ron glared at the mirror. “Thank Merlin, she didn’t. Harry would get himself killed without Granger. He’s too reckless.”
“Well, they’re not here so I’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
“Fine, go to your brother’s and I’ll floo you in the morning after breakfast.”
“All right.” Ron put away the mirror.
Harry drew his wand and whispered as softly as he could, “Accio deluminator.” The device popped out of Ron’s pocket just as he apparated and sailed through the air to land in his hand. He shoved it into his pocket with a frown. “Let’s see that tosser search for me without this.”
He made quick work of packing up the tent and apparated back to the patio in Godric’s Hollow. He quickly went down into the cellar and stopped this time to check for a locking system on the doors. There were several, so he engaged them all and finished walking down the steps.
The room was empty but a door was open on the left, so he walked hurriedly toward. “Hermione?”
“Harry.” Hermione appeared in the doorway instantly. “I found…you have to come now.” She beckoned him with one hand and wiggled her fingers.
He laughed and took it. “Did you find more books?”
“I did but something else. I found something amazing.” She pulled him into the room and Harry came face to face with a magical portrait. “It’s Godric Bloody Gryffindor.”
Gryffindor brushed off his tunic. “I’m quite clean, young woman. My wife insisted I wear new clothes for the portrait sitting.”
Harry grinned. “What are you doing here?”
“He’s your ancestor,” Hermione exclaimed then blushed. “Sorry. I’m just really excited. I’m going to go read some more.”
Godric looked at her fondly as she dashed off. “Quite a witch you’ve got there. In my day, intelligence and beauty like that would’ve made her highly sought after.”
“She makes it a hobby to alienate as many wizards as she can at any one time,” Harry said and laughed at the outrage squawk that earned him from the other room. He focused on the portrait. “Do you know why my parents were going to try the ritual they have set up?”
“To keep you safe,” the portrait said gravely. “They were going to do everything they could to interfere with the prophecy, lad. Your father had no intention of ever allowing the conflict with Riddle to go on so long that you’d have to face him. It’s a man’s duty to defend his family and your father was a good man.”
“I’ve heard things that made me doubt that,” Harry admitted. “Things about his behavior at Hogwarts.”
“Schoolboys do stupid things,” Godric said. “Would your children be proud of everything you’ve done at Hogwarts?”
Harry shook his head. “I wasn’t…I’ve done stupid things.”
“Exactly. Be assured that you matter how foolish your father might have been as a student that he grew up to be a good and righteous man. He was faithful to the Light and to the Lord of Magic. If he’d been allowed to make his petition, he would’ve been blessed by the Black Dragon as a Guardian. I do not doubt it.”
“Should I do it?” Harry questioned softly, and his gaze shifted out of the room so he could focus on Hermione who was standing at the work table reading.
“In your place, I would,” Godric said. “You’re in the midst of war, and you have a very loyal companion to stand with you. If Zir says no, you’ve lost nothing.” The portrait shrugged. “What’s a little ritual shagging in the grand scheme of things?”
“Ritual what?” Harry asked and held up a hand when the portrait started to respond. “Hermione, did you know this was as sex ritual?” He walked out of the small library room and found her washing the cauldron.
“Of course, I did,” Hermione said as she directed the cleaning spell with her wand. “Sexual energy is often used as a gift to Zir especially since it’s kind of bad form to sacrifice your enemies these days in his name.” She looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Is that a problem?”
Harry blew air out between his lips and pulled the tent from his pocket. “First, I don’t have a problem with having sex with you, obviously. Second, I also don’t have a problem sacrificing my enemies.” He paused when she laughed. “Third, I’d rather not make love with you for the first time on a cold stone floor. Fourth, and this is going to make you mad, so please put down your wand.”
She frowned but did as instructed.
“When I went to get the tent, I came across Ron nearby in the forest obviously looking for us. He was complaining to his mother via communication mirror because she was forcing him to search for me so that he could make sure I didn’t die or start some kind of relationship with you. He assured her that he had you right where he wanted you and that you were in love with him. She disagreed, and she thinks you’re a threat to the relationship Ginny wants with me in the future and it’s Ron’s job to neutralize that threat. Also, she put a tracking charm on the tent and attached to that deluminator Dumbledore gave Ron.” He pulled that out of his pocket. “That I stole just as he apparated away.”
She pursed her lips. “What else did Ron say?”
“That the war is my fault and he shouldn’t have to suffer on the quest because he shouldn’t have to suffer for the mistake I made by allowing Riddle to resurrect himself.”
“That son of a bitch,” Hermione said hotly. “Do you know where he is?”
“She sent him to his brother’s cottage, so I assume Bill’s since I think Percy lives in a flat and I doubt she’d have seen him all the way to Romania to stay with Charlie.”
Hermione huffed and took the deluminator. “I’ll take all the magic off this stupid thing so Molly can’t try to find it though I doubt she could through these wards. Your dad was a fantastic warder. Apparently runic magic is a familial gift in your line, I wish we’d known that you. You could’ve taken runes with me.”
“I would’ve definitely liked it better than divination,” Harry said and shed his coat. “I’ll put up the tent. Do we need the enchantments, you think?”
“Your dad’s warding is much more robust than the enchantment scheme I figured out. We’re safer here than we’ve been since…well since Riddle was resurrected.” She took a deep breath. “Because you were right, your dad used his magic to fuel these wards to prevent Riddle from finding it. Godric told me about it. It was a contingency plan in case they were discovered. They couldn’t risk Riddle getting a hold of the Gryffindor Circle.”
“This is the Gryffindor Circle?” Harry questioned.
“Yes, this cottage was built here on purpose, to hide it. This is your family legacy, Harry. Dumbledore used your mother’s magic to fuel those blood wards so that’s spent but this magic will remain here for eternity because it’s anchored in the ley line that Godric used to build the circle. Your father’s magic is part of this land now.”
“And my mother used that connection, didn’t she?”
“Yes, she performed a ritual sacrifice and offered herself in eternal service to Zirnitra if he would save you.” Hermione pressed her lips together. “I wanted to go upstairs and look for the evidence, but Godric said the top floor is way too unstable for that.”
“Why would Dumbledore hide that?” Harry questioned. “It must have been obvious what she did.”
“The worship of Zir is considered quite grey,” Hermione said gently. “He is a neutral god and for some magicals that neutrality is an abomination.”
“Because he protects the balance between the light and the dark,” Harry said. “Okay.” He ran his fingers through his hair. ‘Shite.”
He focused on her and inclined his head. “Hermione.”
“Are you willing to petition Zir to become his Guardian on Earth?”
“That depends,” Harry admitted. “Are you willing to open that door with me? Will you stand with me for the rest of my life as my Guide, Hermione?”
Her eyes lit with excitement and her magic flushed over her skin briefly. “Hell yes.”