- Character Bashing
- Explicit Sex
~The Crown Council~
Sitting up and twisting pulled the muscles in Hermione’s back and she whimpered as Draco gently undid the laces on the bodice of her court dress. The bodice loosened slightly, but that didn’t really make the pain lessen. Her lungs, ribs, and the muscles in her back were all tender bruised. Draco wore a grim expression as he carefully adjusted her stays so that Fay could help her out of the gown.
“My lady,” Fay protested. “What about his highness? He isn’t going to like this at all.” Fay gestured helplessly at Draco who was examining the skin of her back carefully.
“Draco is my Healer, not my lover,” Hermione rasped. “You can’t do this alone, and Oliver, the noble idiot, would try to do it with his eyes closed.”
“Please don’t speak until you must, Lady Hermione,” Draco sighed. “Here, sip this. It’s just a weak tea with honey. It should help coat your throat.”
Suspiciously, Hermione examined the liquid in the cup. It appeared to be tea with honey. It smelled like tea with honey. She sipped at it cautiously. Swallowing was so painful that Hermione immediately regretted it. She screwed her face up in agony and made a muffled groan.
The swelling of her throat had mostly gone down, but it was still excruciating to speak or swallow. The soreness was not just from the kythyr, but also from choking on her own blood.
“I swear to you that there is no kythyr,” Draco promised her. “I made everything myself from my personal stores. I’m not sure that Harry will ever let you eat or drink anything ever again without testing it first. The apprentice was detained and interrogated by the royal guard to determine if she was deliberately trying to kill you, or if it was just a mistake.”
“Which was it?” Fay demanded.
“The girl had been bribed by Lord Malcolm, but she had no idea what kythyr would do to her ladyship. It’s an obscure allergy and few Healers think to watch out for it,” Draco explained as he helped Hermione to sit up on the edge of the cot.
Fay made a scoffing noise in her throat.
“She knew that it would hurt my lady, even if she didn’t realize how badly,” Fay pointed out. “She is complicit with Death Eaters at the very least.”
“They realize that,” Draco replied. “She’s not going anywhere.”
“Well, my lady, they finally got your new court dress finished,” Fay said as she held up the heavily embroidered gown. She grimaced at the gown and then shrugged. “At least your poor chest won’t be squeezed like a vise anymore.”
With gentle fingers, Draco helped Fay clean the dried blood off of Hermione’s back. Once Hermione was relatively clean, they carefully dressed her, trying not to jostle her torso. Raising her arms made her eyes smart with tears and she whimpered helplessly. Fay and Draco tugged the sleeves up over her shoulders, and then Fay went to tighten her stays.
“Be careful. We can’t lace her in too tightly,” Draco cautioned.
“The stiff brocade will act as a brace for her,” Fay countered. Draco nodded.
“To a point, yes, but we still need to be careful. Lady Hermione, I’m going to need you to squeeze my hand when the lacing becomes uncomfortable. We’re going to try and do this as quickly as we can, but you need to know that it will get progressively worse the longer you have to wear the court dress,” Draco explained. Hermione looked at Fay and gave her a single nod.
“Right,” Fay muttered. She took a deep breath and blew it out as she slowly laced up the back of the gown, pausing to pull on the stays.
The bodice of the gown grew tighter and tighter, and Hermione took shallow breaths as Fay pulled on the stays. Every breath was painful, but eventually the bodice pinched her ribs, and Hermione winced and grabbed Draco’s hand. Fay immediately loosened the stays just a bit and then finished the ties on the bodice of Hermione’s gown.
“Are you ready, Lady Hermione?” Draco asked.
“Hermione,” Hermione whispered, trying not to strain her voice.
“Your ladyship,” Draco protested. “Now is not the time to have this conversation.”
“Then you might as well do as my lady says,” Fay informed him haughtily. She pulled Hermione’s hair back from her face and quickly braided it, twisting it into a low bun. She smiled fondly at Hermione. “My lady usually gets her way.”
“As stubborn as the Spine itself,” Draco grumbled.
Fay snorted. “She’s a McGonagall.” She stepped back and looked Hermione over. “She’s as ready as she can be.”
When Hermione tried to stand, Draco squawked and leapt forward with his hands out.
“No!” He protested. “You can’t walk all the way to the Council chamber. You might as well let Lord Malcolm stab you himself.”
Hermione glared at Draco.
:Then how the hell am I supposed to get there?:
“Ah… well… I have an idea,” Draco suggested with a strained smile. He moved to the door to the infirmary and opened it. “Mr. Wood? If you could come in here, please?”
“Can I bring everyone else in?” Oliver asked.
“I suppose that…,” Draco paused and looked to Hermione who was already motioning with her hands. “Her ladyship says that’s fine.”
Hermione’s entire honour guard, made up entirely of McGonagalls, filed into the room. 20 people turned to look at her with anxious, worried faces. The urge to stand up, to show no weaknesses in front of her people, was enormous, but she stayed seated.
“I’m fine,” she croaked at them.
Oliver winced at the sound of her voice and turned to Fay who shrugged.
“She’s seen worse,” Fay said. Draco visibly started and turned to stare at Fay in horror.
“When?” He demanded. “When has she seen worse?”
“My lady was stabbed in the gut by a Death Eater in a remote pass in the Spine. We had to ride 2 days to get to the nearest Healer,” Fay explained. She gestured to one of the McGonagalls. “Dougal was with us on that trip.”
“Och, aye,” Dougal agreed with a solemn nod. “That was bad.”
“Salazar save me,” Draco muttered under his breath. He waved at Hermione. “This is pretty damn bad. She was stabbed and had an allergic reaction to kythyr, which caused damage to her lungs and throat. She shouldn’t speak if she can help it, and she shouldn’t move around a lot, or she’ll strain her lungs and ribs.”
“How is she going to get to the Council chamber and testify if she can’t move or speak?” Oliver asked incredulously.
“I said she shouldn’t, not that she can’t,” Draco clarified. “As to the how—I have an idea.”
“What would that be?” Fay demanded with her arms crossed over her chest.
“We could levitate her in a cot,” Draco said with calm assurance. “It would prevent her from being jostled or moved too much.”
The McGonagalls started and turned to stare at Hermione with wide eyes. So far, she hadn’t had a chance to use her Gift in front of her clan. They all knew that she had Manifested and that she was now Gifted, but they hadn’t experienced it previously.
“Lady Hermione,” Draco snapped. “I’m trying to make sure you are safe and that your injuries aren’t made worse.”
:I will be testifying in the Crown Council chamber against Lord Malcolm Urquart. I cannot afford to appear to be at a disadvantage.:
“If one of you were to carry her,” Draco began and then paused to glare at Hermione when she made an angry growling noise. “Don’t strain your throat, your ladyship.”
“I’ll do it,” Oliver said immediately and took a step forward. He unbuckled his battle-ax and turned to hand it off to Fay who accepted it solemnly.
“Very good,” Draco said with a nod.
Between the two of them they carefully arranged Hermione in Oliver’s arms. He stood up, cradling her against his chest. The pain of raising her arm to wrap it around Oliver’s neck was enough to make spots appear in front of her eyes, and she passed to catch her breath. Whimpering, she succeeded in wrapping an arm around Oliver’s neck and took several, ragged breaths, trying to keep her composure.
“Let’s go,” Fay huffed. “We need to get this over with so that we can get Lady Hermione back here where she belongs.”
Slowly, their group trickled out of the infirmary and into the hall. The McGonagalls arranged themselves in a careful formation around Fay, Draco, and Oliver who carried Hermione in his arms. The hallway ahead of them was clear so they easily made their way toward the Council chamber.
“Is this really necessary?” Hermione complained.
Being carried around in Oliver’s arms made her feel like a 5 year-old child. Oliver’s stoic, long-suffering expression while he did so didn’t really help Hermione to feel better. The by coldly furious McGonagalls surrounding them were just waiting for someone to give them an excuse to drag their Heir back to the Spine and never come down to the lowlands ever again. Every one of them had a hand on their dirk and Fay Oliver’s battle-ax in one hand and her own dirk in the other.
“Yes, your ladyship, it is,” Draco replied from Oliver’s other side. “You can’t walk the entire way to the Council chamber; your body can’t take that kind of abuse right now. You didn’t want to be levitated in a cot—this is your compromise.”
“I’ll have to walk into the chamber; you understand that, do you not?” Hermione snapped in irritation.
“I do, your ladyship, and I would like to go on record as being strenuously against it. You were stabbed less than a handful of days ago. Then you were basically poisoned with kythyr. I’m still trying to repair the damage done to your lungs,” Draco retorted.
“We understand, Healer Malfoy, and we are verra grateful for your assiduous care of our lady,” Oliver said in a grave voice. The surrounding McGonagalls murmured their agreement.
“Now stop talking,” Draco growled at her. “If you damage yourself any worse, I swear to the First Four that I will tell Harry that it is all your own fault.”
An indignant squeak escaped Hermione.
“My lady, please,” Fay begged. “Rest your throat.”
“She’s a McGonagall to the bone, our wee lady is,” Dougal McGonagall rumbled proudly.
“Aye, she is,” Oliver agreed with a dour look at his lady. Hermione sulked in his arms the rest of the way down the hall that led to the Council Chamber.
Finally, they reached the Crown Council chamber. A group of four McGonagalls broke off and walked into the Crown Council to announce that Hermione was ready to testify. The royal herald, Filius, called out her name, and Oliver cautiously set her on her feet. She swayed for a moment and tried to catch her breath.
Once Hermione was settled, she took a deep breath and lifted her chin. A subtle wave of relaxation went through her people. Tiny lines around Oliver’s eyes relaxed and Fay’s shoulders loosened. She glared at all of them and then turned to march into the Crown Council chamber. They arranged themselves around her and walked with her into the room.
Seated in the royal box was the entire royal family: the king, his consorts, and the Crown Prince, including the royal ward, Lady Luna Lovegood of Rook’s End. Sitting at the council table was the Lady Elinor and the other members—with the glaring absence of Lord Malcolm. There was a witness box that the royal herald was holding open for her. Slowly, Hermione made her way to the witness box and sat down with a wince.
“The Crown recognizes Lady Hermione, the official Heiress of Ross and the Younger McGonagall of Catspaw,” King James called out in ringing tones. He turned to look at her with a pale, set expression. “What occurred in the banquet hall two nights ago?”
“The Ambassador of Ys, Théophile Delacour, was escorting me to the royal dais when Lord Malcolm Urquart grabbed my arm,” Hermione recited in a pained, gravelly voice. Several members of the Crown Council winced at the sound. “As you know, I am newly Gifted and my shields are rudimentary. Lord Malcolm touched my skin with his bare hand. It was at that moment that I realized that he was a Death Eater.”
Excited murmurs broke out throughout the room. The Crown Council moved restlessly and anxiously.
“How can this be?” Elphias Doge demanded querulously. “Lord Malcolm sat on this council for over 30 years!”
“That is my question as well, Lord Elphias,” King James said coldly his gaze raking the entire chamber. “Every member of the Crown Council will undergo a scan by the Towers so that no one can claim a bias.”
“But… that’s never been done before,” another Crown Council member protested.
“Perhaps it should have been,” King James snapped. He waved a hand in Hermione’s direction. “We might have avoided an assassination attempt against the House of Ross if that had been the case.”
“We appreciate your majesty’s concern, but it is just as likely that you were also at risk,” Lady Elinor spoke up. “Our Heiress’ first thought was to secure your majesty. Hermione, did Lord Malcolm threaten his majesty in any way?” She paused and wrinkled her nose. “Aside from being a traitor and a Death Eater?”
“Not exactly. Apparently he had a plan to force the Crown Prince to wed a Gifted woman of the House of Urquart. If King James had threatened that plan… I don’t know what he would have done,” Hermione rasped.
“Our Heiress risked her life to defend the Crown and Albion,” Lady Elinor said stiffly. She glared at the entire room. “The Healers have informed me that she is still healing, and should not even be out of bed. I would like to formally protest her presence here now.”
“We need to make sure that Albion is secured and that there are no more threats to his majesty,” Amos Diggory said. He nodded at Hermione. “We appreciate your Heiress’ sense of duty.”
“Lady Hermione, can you please describe the attack?” King James asked her solemnly. “There was another person who attacked you, correct? I was given to understand that Lord Malcolm did not attack you himself.”
“Yes, your majesty,” Hermione rasped out.
A page carried a small tray with a glass and a pitcher of water and set them both near Hermione. She glanced at Harry and saw that he had his hands fisted on his thighs and Neville had his hand on her prince’s shoulder. Fay stepped forward, poured Hermione a glass of water and took a deep swallow from the glass.
“Is this really necessary?” Elphias Doge protested with an indignant hand wave.
“The Heiress of the House of Ross was nearly assassinated and you wonder if we have a right to be cautious?” Lady Elinor demanded incredulously. She turned to stare at Lord Elphias. “Have you lost what little wit you had left?”
“I just… traitors in the Palace,” Lord Elphias trailed off and looked at everyone with a miserable expression.
“I understand that this is an upsetting topic,” King James agreed. “I am just as appalled as the rest of you. I think our way forward is clear. We must have technicians from the Towers come and test every member of the royal guard and every member of the Crown Council. The citizens of Albion must be able to trust in those that are supposed to keep them safe.”
“All in favour,” Lady Elinor called out before the royal herald even had a chance to speak.
It was a unanimous vote. Everyone turned back to King James who nodded in satisfaction.
“Then that brings us to the matter of Lady Hermione,” King James continued. He looked pointedly at Lady Elinor who huffed at him and gave a reluctant nod. “I have spoken with the Lady of Ross and the McGonagall of Catspaw. Both have spoken with the Lady Hermione and have agreed to reopen a betrothal with the Crown Prince. Members of the Crown Council, what say you?”
“As the Lady of Ross, I support our Heiress’ choice,” Lady Elinor said. She looked around the table haughtily.
“Didn’t you just argue against the Lady Hermione’s betrothal to the Crown Prince?” Amos Diggory protested.
“Of course I did,” Lady Elinor snapped. “No one asked the McGonagall, and no one asked the Lady Hermione. It was an illegal contract, Lord Amos. Surely you can see the difference.”
“Yes, yes,” Lord Amos muttered hurriedly and flushed a dull red.
“Will the members of the Crown Council please give their votes?” The royal herald announced with a sharp look in Lady Elinor’s direction. He cleared his throat. “All those in favour?”
“All those against?” The royal herald continued.
The Crown Council as one leaned away from Lady Elinor who was glaring at all of them. One ancient member leaned forward and glared back at Lady Elinor.
“Nay,” the woman said firmly. “You may be able to bully the rest of these idiots, but you can’t bully me.”
“Oh for the love of—the Earl of Gravemore wouldn’t have given you the time of day, even if I hadn’t danced with him, Lady Bathilda. That was 60 years ago. Get over it,” Lady Elinor snapped. Lady Bathilda sniffed and turned her head.
“The Council ratifies the betrothal between Lady Hermione, the Heiress of Ross and the Younger McGonagall of Catspaw and Prince Harry, Crown Prince of Albion, Heir of Gryffindor, and the Heir of the Houses of Potter and Black,” the royal herald announced to the chamber.
Excited murmurs, even louder than earlier, rippled through the room, but they fell silent when the McGonagalls all shifted anxiously, clutching their weapons. Harry stood in the royal box and moved to the stairs that led down to the chamber floor. He moved swiftly to Hermione’s side, his hand hovering near her cheek briefly. Hermione let her eyelids drift shut as she soaked up his presence. Too soon, he stepped back and she reluctantly opened her eyes.
“Should my lady even be here right now?” Harry demanded, turning to Draco.
“No, your highness,” Draco admitted. “Her health is still too fragile for her to be here. She should be in the infirmary under the eye of a senior Healer.”
“Sire.” Harry turned to stare up at the royal box. “We have what we need to move forward, do we not?”
“Your majesty.” The Ambassador of Ys rose from his place in the gallery.
“The Crown recognizes the Ambassador of Ys,” King James said with a nod. “Do you have something to add, Ambassador Delacour?”
“In Ys, we have special Healers trained to work with pyrokinetics like the Lady Hermione. If the Lady of Ross and the McGonagall are amenable, I will send for a team to come and assist your own Healers,” the Ambassador offered with a grave nod to Healer Malfoy.
“The Healers of Ys are famous,” King James replied. “We are humbled and grateful for the offer.”
In her first display of public affection, Hermione grabbed for Harry’s hand. He looked down at her in surprise and she frowned up at him. She waved a hand at the Ambassador of Ys impatiently and a nervous titter rolled through the gallery.
“Apparently my lady feels we should accept your kind and generous offer,” Harry said slowly. Hermione turned to the Ambassador of Ys, smiled brightly and nodded.
“Of course, Lady Hermione,” Ambassador Delacour said with an answering smile. “I will write to my government straight away.”
“Please warn your government that whomever they send will be scanned by our Tower technicians before they’re allowed to enter the Palace grounds,” King James warned the Ambassador.
“This will not alarm them,” the Ambassador said with a shrug. “We have a similar custom for anyone who comes in contact with our Queen.”
“Very well.” King James got to his feet and looked out at the room. “Lord Malcolm will be examined by the Tower technicians. Every sitting member of the Crown Council and each designated Heir will be examined. Once that has taken place, We will make Our final decision about the fate of Lord Malcolm.”
“What about the Lady Lavender?” Lord Amos asked with a frown. “What will happen to Lord Malcolm’s designated heir?”
“As far as the Crown knows, Lady Lavender is innocent of any plot of Lord Malcolm’s,” King James replied firmly. “She will be examined just as any other member of the Crown Council or their designated Heir. If she passes that examination, We will welcome her with open arms and allow her to take her rightful place on the Crown Council.”
There were nods and noises of agreement from the members of the Crown Council and from the room at large. Hermione was pleased that Lady Lavender wasn’t going to be punished for Lord Malcolm’s actions. Draco was going to have a fit, but Hermione was going to have to do some kind of gesture—to make it obvious that she harboured no ill-will against Lavender.
“I can see you thinking,” Harry muttered under his breath at her. Hermione smirked up at her prince.
“I would appreciate it, your ladyship, if you didn’t try to undo all of my work before the Healers from Ys arrive,” Draco muttered at her. “They will assume that we are ill-trained fools.”
“Your majesty?” Lady Elinor gestured to Hermione. “Can we release the Lady Hermione? The Healers are still concerned about her condition.”
“Of course, Lady Elinor,” King James agreed. “If the clan McGonagall would please escort Lady Hermione back to the infirmary?”
The McGonagalls moved to surround her. Draco hurried to help her to her feet and she sucked in a breath as she struggled to her feet. Harry hovered at her side as they moved slowly out of the Crown Council chamber. Once they were out in the hallway and away from the curious eyes of the gallery, Harry moved to swing Hermione up in his arms. Bracing against the pain, Hermione bit her lip as Harry picked her up. She wasn’t able to completely muffle the whimper of pain that escaped her lips. Harry frowned down at her and then looked at Draco.
“How bad is it?” He asked worriedly as he walked down the hall.
“Apparently, her ladyship has had worse,” Draco informed him.
“Worse?” Harry’s voice rose in shock.
“There was a war, Harry,” Hermione reminded him. Harry glared at her.
“Don’t you dare,” he growled at her.
:Don’t you order me around Harry.:
“I’ll beg if that’s what my lady needs,” Harry argued as he carried her down the hall. “You’ve just been stabbed. Your throat was badly damaged when you were basically poisoned with kythyr. I need to you to take care of yourself, my lady.”
:Draco says that you won’t ever let me eat or drink anything you haven’t tested after the kythyr.:
“Draco’s a very smart man,” Harry muttered.
“I am,” Draco agreed. He glanced curiously at Hermione. “But why am I smart this time?”
“I’m not going to give the bastards a second chance at my lady,” Harry said firmly. “I will taste anything that you want Hermione to eat or drink. I would try her medication as well, but that’s probably not practical. Any medication that she ingests you will prepare personally.”
“I agree,” Draco replied. “I have had the same concerns myself. I have prepared every medication for her from my personal stores. We’ll need additional supplies, but we must make sure that they are untouched.”
“That’s not a practical solution, your highness,” Fay protested as she walked behind them. “We will run out of medication. Draco and your highness will have to sleep eventually. We must send for supplies from Catspaw, and I will fill in for you whenever you are unable to be there your highness. I will not fail my lady again.”
“Fay,” Hermione protested.
“My lady, please,” Fay argued. “It’s my sworn duty to protect you—and I failed.”
“You did not fail,” Hermione croaked.
“Hermione, please,” Harry whispered against her temple.
:You did not fail me, Fay Dunbar. You came to my aid as soon as you could. You took over guarding Lord Malcolm so that I could leave. You fulfilled every duty and obligation.:
“But you were almost killed,” Fay protested.
:I am not afraid to die for Albion.:
“Now you must live for Albion, my lady,” Harry warned her. “Your first duty will be to survive. I need you, Hermione. I can’t do this without you at my side.”
:You are a horrible betrothed.:
Fay giggled at that, and Oliver’s lips twitched.
“My lady is ever plagued with people who won’t bend to her prodigious will,” Harry agreed with a small smile.
:It is a curse, but Mum says it is my duty as a McGonagall to carry on.:
Fay snorted. “That sounds like something Herself would say.”
“Herself has her own prodigious will,” Harry muttered.
“She’s the McGonagall,” Oliver reminded him. He smirked at the Crown Prince. “And you’re marrying her heir.”