HPBFL CH 22

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: BELLE OF THE BALL

Hermione woke up slowly, becoming aware that she was in a comfortable bed. The teen did an inventory of her body, her stomach and ribs hurt like she had been throwing up, but she could not remember. Then Hermione realised she was in a nightdress with only her underwear on underneath. Someone had stripped her and put new clothes on. She opened her eyes to sunlight coming through the window. Hermione found herself in a luxurious green bedroom; one whole side was taken up with books while a desk and wardrobe were situated on another wall. She noticed two doors; one must be a bathroom. Looking out the window, she saw the sun showed her it was probably mid-afternoon. A small pop drew her attention to the side of the bed. An elf of indeterminate sex held a tray with a bowl of soup.

“Mistress must save her strength; she has been sleepy for a while,” the elf spoke happily as he/she handed over the tray.

“Where am I?” she asked.

“Hárasteorra Hall, Mistress,” the elf replied. So, she was in Harry’s home.

“Why do you call me Mistress?”

“You will be the next lady Black,” the elf pointed out like it was perfectly obvious. “Eat all soup, eat slowly,” 

“Thank you……?”

“Noj, I see Mistress does not remember me from last visit,” the elf said, then disappeared with a pop. As she gradually ate the thick warm soup, Hermione tried to remember why she was at Hárasteorra Hall. The last thing the bookworm remembered was being called to the Headmaster’s office. She had flashes of images, but surely, they could not be accurate as she seemed to be getting close to Ron.

“Hey, you,” a voice pulled her out of her thoughts. Harry was leaning on the doorframe, looking at her uncertainly.

“Harry, erm, what am I doing here?” She asked him.

“Draco stunned you,” came the measured response. He seemed wary to come closer to her.

“Were we in a defence lesson?” Hermione asked.

“I thought that might happen,” a deep rumbling voice drew her attention to Remus, who entered past Harry with Andromeda close by. Andromeda looked thin and worn, Hermione thought.

“What has happened?” Hermione looked at the two then realised Harry had come no closer than the doorway.

“What is the last thing you remember?” Andromeda asked gently.

“Erm, I had an appointment with the Headmaster. I remember saying goodbye to Harry then heading to the meeting.” Hermione remembered that Harry had proposed to her two days ago. She smiled shyly at the dark-haired boy, but he looked at her stoically.

“What is today’s date?” Andromeda asked in what Hermione thought was a sad voice.

“The 17th of October 1995,” Hermione replied promptly, looking between the two adults.

“Hermione, today is the 10th of November 1995.”

“That cannot be right; how can I lose three and half weeks of my life?” Hermione denied and asked at the same time.

“Nearly forty-eight hours ago, you were stunned by Draco because you have not been acting yourself. Over the last forty hours, we have been purging you of potions and charms, then we gave you a potion to help restore memories.” Remus told her, “But it seems the potion did not work. We kept you in a magical coma because it is not very nice when you are purging them.”

“What happened?”

“Because of your betrothal to Harry, we think Dumbledore tried to wipe your memories and compelled you to be with Ronald Weasley. You told Harry you did not want to be in his life anymore,” Andromeda explained. Hermione noticed Harry had slipped out of the door.

“If that’s the case, why did you not save me as soon as you noticed?” Hermione asked, her mind analysing everything.

“Harry was drugged himself, so he did not realise. I had noticed and was going to speak to Sirius about it, but other events distracted me,” Andromeda explained gently.

“Neither Sirius, Narcissa, nor I were there, so we knew nothing until Harry was discovered to be potioned. Amelia has an ongoing investigation on Dumbledore and was reluctant to move until we had evidence,” Remus added. Part of Hermione’s mind understood that, but the other half was revolted.

“Did HE do anything to me?” Hermione asked, almost on the verge of a panic attack.

“No, sweetie, we have examined you, and you are healthy apart from the potions and charms. Your innocence is still intact,” Andromeda told the girl taking her hand.

“Erm, Hermione, we have something to tell you.”

Harry had been unable to watch any longer once he knew she was awake, heading towards the drawing-room where he found Draco, Neville and Cepheus.

“Have you spoken to Sirius in the last few days?” Draco asked with a look of sympathy on his face.

“No, I have been a bit busy,” Harry returned, scrubbing his face. He had barely slept since Hermione had come home; he had held her as she threw up and helped clean her face, though she would never know. He took a seat next to Cepheus. “How mad is he?”

“Actually, I have seen him angrier,” Draco responded just as they heard a wail echo through the house followed by loud sobbing. Ceph lurched up, but Harry grabbed him, holding the small boy to him. He settled back into his seat with Ceph in his lap.

“Her memories were gone then?” Neville asked.

“Her last memory was of going to meet the old goat fucker,” Harry returned bitterly, then added unnecessarily, “I would guess they have just told Hermione about her parents again.”

“I am going to kill that Weasel,” Draco said fiercely as Harry rocked Ceph back and forth in the chair. They chatted about nothing for about half an hour, just keeping the conversation alive.

“You are going to have to be careful when we return, in case fumbledore tries again,” Neville said derisively. Draco and Harry stared at the boy in shock. They had never heard the boy speak so contemptuously about anyone before.

“We will have to be careful; Dumbledore may try it with you,” Harry told them.

“Which Is why I want you all to learn the spell Remus taught Harry and Ceph,” Sirius answered from the door. He, too, looked tired and weary.

“How are you, dad?” Harry looked up at the man.

“I have been a lot worse, but you need to sleep,” Sirius told the boy.

“I will sleep when I know Hermione is better,” was Harry’s reply.

“I will survive. I might need some help from my friends, though,” Hermione’s voice said from the door. Andromeda’s hand was on her shoulder as Sirius looked her over.

“You will have more than your friends. Harry’s Mind Healer will also be seeing you,” Sirius told the girl as Ceph looked from his place on Harry’s lap. The eleven-year-old was not sure what to say to his adoptive sister after the way she treated him the last three weeks.

“Can you forgive me?” the girl’s gaze never left her adoptive brother as he tiredly nodded and rushed into Hermione’s arms. The other three boys tried to give them space as Sirius and Andromeda came over.

“Where’s Remus?” Harry asked.

“Gone to Gaderscipe Nest to help Narcissa with some stuff,” she replied. The older woman looked at Hermione then back to the boys. “Could you boys take Cepheus over to the stables?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Neville and Draco intoned, both scared of the former Black sisters.

“After you have finished with Hermione, can I see you in my study?” Sirius asked Harry, who nodded. Then Hermione and Harry were standing alone in the room.

“Are you alright? You have had a pretty big shock today,” Harry spoke first, uncertain of what to say. He was not sure if they were still betrothed. He did, however, feel the weight of the Black Ring in his pocket.

“I have been better, Harry. I am not sure what to feel, but I want to punch the Weasel when I see him,” Hermione said fiercely. Unexpectedly Harry burst out laughing.

“You are indeed a Gryffindor,” Harry replied to her questioning look, then added, “Well, you might not be able to do that for a while. I have heard from Remus that Ron was arrested for your attempted rape.”

“Really?” Hermione asked nervously. She did not know what to think.

“I don’t know all the details, but Dumbledore kicked up a stink about it, and Molly Weasley was there too.”

“I am really sorry for what I said and done over the last few weeks. I do not remember a whole lot, but since waking up, I have been getting little flashes,” Hermione fidgeted with the dressing gown she wore over her nightdress.

“Hopefully, Laura will be able to help you. She’s been a big help to me the last several months,” Harry responded. “But, Hermione, while you were potioned, that was not you. That bastard Dumbledore did it to you. We found his signature and the Weasel’s magical signature all over your magic,” Harry explained.

“D-does that mean we’re still betrothed?” Hermione asked, almost too quietly for Harry to hear.

“I love you, Hermione,” Harry began, “But, you have hurt a lot of people, including Cepheus.”

“I’m sorry,” Hermione hung her head down, thinking the man she loved was rejecting her. Then she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. The girl looked up to find Harry kneeling in front of her. He held up a box with a ring in it, engraved with ravens with a black diamond cut to look like an eye set in black Rhodium. “Oh, Harry, it’s beautiful.”

“It’s a family ring, worn by my great grandmother. It will hopefully protect you against some potions and some minor mind magics. We will have to start training you on Occlumency,” Harry said. “I would like you to become the true Lady Black, I am still trying to break the other contract, but your parents signed the betrothal contract before they died.”

“Yes, Harry, I love you,” she took the ring in trembling hands and placed it on her left ring finger where it resized to fit her. She looked at the green-eyed boy as he stared right back into her brown eyes. Time seemed to stop as she moved closer, then her petal-soft lips touched his. Harry threw himself into the kiss, tightening his arms around her.

“It’s about time you put that ring on her,” a voice drawled, breaking their kiss. Harry pulled back slowly, reminded of their first kiss, glaring at the blond. The pointy-faced youth was smiling with his hands on Cepheus’s shoulder. Neville was looking over Draco’s shoulder.

“You’re always spoiling the moment; that’s the second time, Ferret, that you’ve interrupted me. Jealous of Hermione?” Harry asked, joking with his cousin.

“Really? I am jealous of you, actually. Hermione is quite the steal,” Draco winked at Hermione, who grinned at him. “But Laura is here to see Hermione,”

“I have to go see dad. Can you settle Laura in with Hermione?” Harry asked.

“They’ll be like two peas in a pod,” Draco joked. Harry gave the girl he loves a quick kiss then left them to it until he knocked on Sirius’ door.

“Come.” Harry entered the study taking a seat opposite his birthfather, observing the man as he signed several bits of parchment. Then Sirius sat back, taking a deep breath and looked over at Harry.

“Why?” That one word made Harry squirm. This was what it was like to have an adult you cared about disappointed in you.

“I am not sorry I did what I did; Hermione was about to be raped. But I am sorry for disobeying you, so if you want to punish me, then I will take it,” Harry replied defiantly.

“I think you have been punished enough, but I will admit. Perhaps we were wrong to wait; we did not expect young Ronald to rape Hermione. How is she doing?”

“With time, she will be fine,” Harry replied maturely. “Once she had seen a Mind Healer, I think she will be better.”

“Good, now I have some bad news. Last night we heard that Ron has been released,” Sirius braced himself.

“You what?” Harry asked, stunned.

“Someone how some lawyers got involved, I believe they were from Dumbledore, but we do not know for sure. I am not even sure how much Arthur knows at this point, but It is safe to say Molly is working independently of her husband,” Sirius explained.

“Well, that is just a joke,” Harry answered, slumping into the chair.

“Just watch him carefully, but for the moment, we cannot do anything legally to him,” Sirius replied.

“What about Hermione? Where does she fit into this?” Harry asked.

“We were able to get temporary custody of Hermione; she is not to go anywhere with the Headmaster alone. Only in the presence of a teacher,” Sirius explained. “Ronald is not allowed close to her until his court case has been settled. She will have an escort in Gryffindor house but will not be allowed to move into the married quarters until after Christmas, and the custody case has been settled,”

“Good, thank you, Sirius,” Harry showed his appreciation, and the pair settled in for a general chat.

Christmas had truly been a lovely affair. Harry had never felt so loved surround by Hermione, Neville, Draco and the adult Blacks. Now the four boys sat around, waiting for the one young woman and the Healer to finish getting changed while discussing the last month of Hogwarts before the Black Ball.

“What time will your gran be there?” Harry asked his sandy-blond friend.

“I expect it will be soon, but I figure your father is going to have you ‘fashionably’ late,” Neville sniggered.

“I’ve never been to a ball except for the yule ball, and we all know how that one went,” Harry deadpanned. “What are they like?”

“The first hour or so is people being introduced; if it is the Black Balls of old, there was a herald that introduced everyone as they entered. After they had entered, the Black’s would come through another door, then there would be dancing and nibbles,” Neville explained.

“Also, lots of deals and alliances get made, then everyone usually leaves by midnight,” Draco added.

“Well, I hope we will have some gracious young men to escort us to the Ball,” Andromeda spoke up from the door. Harry turned to look, his jaw-dropping. Hermione looked phenomenal; she wore a light green dress that seemed to float around her, the black ring glittering on her finger. The bookworm wore the necklace that Harry had got for her, which showed off her creamy neck. Her hair had been done up like the yule ball in their fourth year, but she looked absolutely stunning.

“Wow, everyone is going to be so jealous,” Harry announced with a smug grin.

“Why is that?”

“Because I’m going to be on the arm of the most beautiful witch in the room,” Harry returned, hearing a little harrumph from Andromeda, but when he looked, the older witch was smiling at him.

“Come on then, gentlemen, we must be going,” Andromeda led them to the parlour where she picked up a frisbee. Everyone took hold of the object, waited for what seemed like five minutes, then were jerked almost off their feet as they were transported to an antechamber at Gaderscipe Nest. Sirius was already there with Amelia Bones; Narcissa waited for her son. Ted Tonks smiled at his wife, giving her a little kiss. Neville said a quick goodbye before being escorted by a house-elf to the Hall.

“How are you feeling?” Narcissa asked Hermione. The young woman had been sick, so Harry had missed the Hogwarts yule ball.

“Better, thank you. It must have been a stomach bug or something,” Hermione told her.

“You’re looking lovely,” Amelia commented as Remus stepped into the room. Also wearing formal robes, he had the crest of the Black House on his arm.

“Right, we’re all here,” Sirius spoke. Narcissa lined them up; Sirius was to be the last out. Hermione and Harry before them. Remus and Cepheus, then Andromeda and her husband, with Narcissa and Draco going first. When they were lined up, Narcissa knocked on the door, which promptly opened.

“Announcing the arrival of the Daughter of Black, Narcissa and her son Draco.” Narcissa strode out on Draco’s arm, who was only slightly shorter than his mother now.

“It’s going lowest to highest in the House,” Harry explained, seeing Hermione’s question face.

“Announcing the arrival of the Daughter of Black, Andromeda and her husband, Edward,” was the following announcement. 

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Hermione said nervously, clutching Harry’s army.

“Me neither; I only found out six months ago who my father was,” Harry whispered back.

“Announcing the arrival of Lord Black, Cepheus, and Steward to the House of Black Remus Lupin.”

“We’re up next,” Harry whispered as they took their place at the ornate door. It opened after a few minutes, and Harry was able to look down the stairs they were standing at the top of. The Hall seemed extensive, with hundreds of people all looking at them.

“Introducing the Tenth Marquess of Rendlesham, Harry Black and his betrothed, Miss Hermione Granger.” So, they were announced a little differently, Harry thought, as they descended the steps. He could see men and women all dressed in formal robes, whispering to their neighbours.

“Welcoming back, His Grace, the fifteenth Duke of Anglia, Sirius, and the Regent Bones, Amelia.” The pair looked absolutely stylish as they stepped onto the top of the stairs overlooking the crowd.

“Welcome, my lords and ladies, Sir’s and Dames, Gentleman and their wives to the Black Yule Ball. It has been many years since the last such ball, but I hope it will be the first of many. I wish you all a wonderful yule and peaceful winter solstice,” Sirius looked every bit the pure-blood lord, worlds-away from the escaped prisoner from Azkaban. As Sirius descended the stairs, that was the signal for the party to begin. The noise level grew, and people started mixing. Harry had been trained in these situations for several weeks during his Saturday etiquette lessons with Narcissa. He knew to stay by his father, at least for the time being.  His summer had consisted of him learning to dance, so Harry knew he would have to dance sooner or later.

“Your Grace, Lord Rendlesham, I would like to introduce my wife to you, Charlotte.” Harry was pulled back to the here and now as Minister Fudge introduced his wife.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Harry kissed the woman’s knuckles.

“Congratulations on your betrothal, my lord. I’ve heard wonderful things about Miss Granger,” Charlotte Fudge told him.

“She’s pretty special. I’m glad that she chose me,” Harry wrapped an arm around his best friend and future wife. They chatted some more before Minister Fudge moved off from his father to talk with someone else. Then Harry felt some tenseness coming from Draco, who was standing next to him. He saw why as Sir Malfoy was approaching. He reluctantly shook hands and thanked him for his words of congratulations.

“Your Grace, thank you for welcoming me to your home,” the man spoke formally.

“Thank you, Sir Malfoy. It’s always a pleasure to have a Malfoy here after all our families have been friends for many years,” Sirius replied.

“Yes, we have. Would you do me the honour of allowing me to visit the Daughter of Black Narcissa and her son?” Malfoy asked.

“I’m sure something can be arranged,” Sirius told the man, “I will send an owl to you with the details of a meeting in a few days.”

“Fleur,” Hermione called out in fondness, distracting Harry, who found himself looking at Bill Weasley on the arm of his fellow champion Fleur Delacour.

“It’s a pleasure to see you, Hermione; it has been too long,” the veela-woman still had a fairly strong French accent.

“Now I know why you wanted to stay in England,” Harry told the redheaded Lord Weasley slyly.

“She enchanted me,” he replied with a loopy smile before becoming serious, “Lord Rendlesham, Miss Granger, please accept the apologies of the House of Weasley in my brothers’ attempts at breaking your betrothal. I had no idea that he was planning this, or he would have been warned.”

“Do not worry, Lord Weasley, the House of Black does not hold you responsible. I take it Master Weasley has been appropriately punished?” Harry danced the dance of formal discussions. He noticed the relief on Bill Weasley’s face; Harry could have easily called a Blood feud on the Weasleys.

“He has my lord; I hope he has learned his lesson in interfering in another Lord’s Business,” Bill had been taught the old formal words. “We are awaiting news on the Trial, to receive what punishment he should receive from The Crown.”

“Good, now there is another problem you may help us with due to your connection with Gringotts and your family. Would you be available for a meeting in two days?” Harry knew Hermione was staring at him now as she had finished talking to Fleur.

“I would be amiable; please send me the details,” Bill nodded and had a quick greeting with Sirius before moving onwards.

“Well done, Harry, you handled that really well,” Sirius laid a hand on his shoulder. Harry felt happiness in the pride his father was showing him.

“What happened?” Hermione whispered, “It seemed to be something to do with Ron.”

“Bill was apologising because Ron’s attempted ‘seduction’ of you is a House sin. We were already betrothed, it had been formally announced, but he still tried to interfere in House relationships,” Harry explained.

“That’s a bit outdated,” Hermione replied.

“Not for pure-blood wizards, you had had those lessons with me until October, so you know I could have asked for a Blood feud as the Weasley price for interference with an Ancient and Noble House. I know it’s old but what he essentially did was attempted line theft,” Harry blushed as Hermione looked at him. “We are already betrothed, so it’s expected we marry, and erm, have children to continue the line,”

“Still old fashioned,” Hermione snorted at Harry’s face.

“Yes, but it’s still expected until the traditions can be changed,” Harry answered shortly. Soon afterwards, Harry and Hermione were free to move around the Grand Hall. They soon found Draco on the arm of Theo, then Neville joined them. The small group watched the adults as they discussed Hogwarts, though they tried to avoid Hermione’s past couple of months.

“Lord Rendlesham, thank you for the invite,” Susan curtseyed as she came over with Hannah and Ernie MacMillan

“Susan, Hannah, Ernie, I’m glad to see you here tonight. How’s your Yule going so far?” Harry’s face lit up on seeing the heirs.

“Brilliant, I got some new books,” Ernie enthusiastically spoke.

“You sound just like Hermione,” Harry laughed, getting laughs from the small group of teens.

“Is that a bad thing?” Hermione slapped him gently on the shoulder.

“No, dear, it’s absolutely wonderful,” Harry replied, appearing apologetic.

“Oh, you are so whipped,” Draco suggested to more laughter.

“I seem to remember someone else running around trying to make themselves perfect for their date. I think you’re whipped,” Harry responded.

“Oh, he is, and maybe soon in chains,” Theo winked at the dark-haired boy who looked mortified.

“Whose is in chains and being whipped?” Harry heard Ceph’s voice. He wiggled past Ernie to lean on his older brother.

“Erm, no one, Theo was making an adult joke,” Harry stuttered, “What are you doing over here anyway?”

“This party is boring; there is no one my age here,” the boy whined.

“You can stay with us for a little while,” Harry answered.

“Where’s your cane? I notice you’re not limping that much,” Hannah asked curiously. Both Ernie and Susan looked him over, then realising he was not using his cane at all.

“Oh, Andromeda used a spell to keep my thigh stiff tonight, but I doubt I’ll be able to dance on it,” Harry answered.

“I was hoping for a dance tonight after all aren’t we the belles of the ball,” Hermione said mischievously.

“Yes, congratulations on becoming betrothed. It has been a while since we last spoke, Harry. You seemed quite distant lately,” Susan commended the couple.

“Yes, sorry, I’ve had a lot on my plate recently. I’m sorry if I ignored you,” Harry answered. Hermione immediately felt guilty as she felt Harry rub his thumb across her hand soothingly.

“So, show us the ring?” Hannah squealed, then the three girls moved away as Hermione showed them the ring.

“I do hope I don’t get like that when I get a ring,” an arrogant voice with a tinge of amusement spoke up.

“Countess Bangor, always a pleasure,” Harry told the other teen.

“Harry, we’re going to be allies; just call me Daphne,” the girl had let her black hair down, so the silky trestles flowed down her back. Next to her was a mini-me, dressed very similar. Tracey Davis, her friend, had also joined them as well as Millicent Bulstrode. Harry noticed that Daphne was directing his attention to where Sirius and Cyrus Greengrass were talking amicably.

“Quite the party you’ve got going on here,” Millicent told Harry while looking around.

“Have you been introduced to my little sister, Astoria?” Daphne asked. The mini-me stepped forward shyly curtsying. Harry kissed her delicate hand, earning a small giggle. Harry noticed his little brother staring at the young dark-haired beauty. She looked to be a similar age to him.

“This is my little brother, Cepheus; I think you two may get along well,” Harry said, propelling the boy forward, who copied his brother and kissed Astoria’s hand. The young pair seemed somewhat distracted as Harry caught Daphne’s questioning look. He winked at her and gave the girl a smile.

“Playing matchmaker?” Hermione whispered in his ear as she slid her arm around him.

“Who’d want a snake as an ally,” Hannah spoke up, distracting Harry from answering to the shock of her best friend.

“Hannah!”

“I resent that; I’m a Slytherin too,” Draco muttered.

“You’re a tame snake; you don’t count,” Harry joked, getting a laugh from everyone. After that, the group fell into easy banter talking about the upcoming year until Ceph began yawning. “Right, I better get this one to bed.”

“Aww, can’t I stay here with you?” Ceph yawned again in his own discussion with Astoria.

“No, come on. Let us get you off to bed.” Harry thanked the small group for coming and led Hermione and his brother over to Sirius.

“Before you go, Harry, I’ve got a late Christmas Present for you,” Amelia told him as Narcissa and Remus were about to take them back to Hárasteorra Hall. She handed him a small amulet, jade in colour; it was circular and looked like an unfurling fern.

“Thank you,” Harry replied as Hermione tied the string around the back of his neck.

 “It is Maori. I picked it up in New Zealand. It is called Koru; it symbolises personal growth, positive change and harmony,” the witch looked at Hermione with a glint in her eye. “It also has charms on it so that you can call my Aurors and me to your location since you seem to have a habit of being attacked.”

 “Thank you, this will be great; it’s also beautiful,” Harry looked at the green gem.

“Hopefully, Harry will not need it,” Hermione made the group laugh before they said goodbye heading off home. Cepheus was yawning as they reached the bottom of the stairs to the rooms, and Draco could not hide his own yawns. As the two adults ushered Draco and Cepheus away, Harry turned to Hermione.

“I really do love you,” He gave her one last kiss as he escorted her to her room. Harry took his leave, then returned to his own room, getting ready for bed. He slipped between the crisp sheets.

Harry dreamed. At first, he was back in the courtroom, like he was in August, facing Minister Fudge, Madam Umbridge and Professor Dumbledore.

“Hermione Granger is to serve life in Azkaban for being a filthy Mudblood,” Umbridge sentenced his future wife. He turned to look at her, she was wearing a dress of some sort, but it was dirty and stained. Her face had tears streaking down them.

“Harry, do something!” She yelled out, but he was rooted to the spot.

“I object, please; she is my betrothed,” Harry tried to yell out, but nothing seemed to come from his mouth.

“I will take her to Azkaban, my Lord,” Draco’s voice echoed as Harry looked up to find Voldemort stood behind the three officials.

“Do what you will with her. Mudblood’s do not belong in our society,” Voldemort told the teen, sounding bored. “Next!”

“Sirius and Cepheus Black, sir, traitors to the cause,” Theo had his hands on Cepheus, who looked so small in his prison uniform. His face was all bruised, and blood oozed from his nose. Sirius looked worse than he did when he was in Azkaban before.

“What do you have to say for yourself?” Minister Fudge said lazily.

“You serve a monster; our magic should be free to all those that have it,” Sirius shouted as Harry watched Lucius Malfoy pour golden Galleons into the Ministers pocket.

“Professor Snape, you have the right to do what you like with Black and his spawn,” Minister Fudge proclaimed. Severus Snape stepped from the shadow, and with two quick ‘Avada Kedavra’s.’ the pair were dead. Harry fell to his knees, crying for his dead father and his brother.

“Your honour, I would pay for the Granger girl to be my slave,” a voice spoke up.

“Oh no, Ron, please don’t tell me you’re a Death Eater,” Harry said aloud, but the redhead completely ignored him.

“As you are one of my most loyal servants, you may have her,” Voldemort dismissed the boy. Harry was afraid of who would enter next, but his dream seemed to shift until he stood in the atrium of the Ministry of Magic or thought he was standing, but he seemed to be much closer to the ground. He could see the Fountain of Brethren as he slithered? Harry was sure that he was some kind of snake in his dream, but he did not know what. His body felt smooth, powerful, and flexible. He was gliding between shining metal bars, across the dark, cold stone. . .. He was flat against the floor, sliding along on his belly. . .. It was dark, yet he could see objects around him shimmering in strange, vibrant colours. . . He was turning his head. . .. At first glance, the corridor was empty . . . but no . . . a man was sitting on the floor ahead, his chin drooping onto his chest, his outline gleaming in the dark. . .. Harry put out his tongue. . .. He tasted the man’s scent on the air. . .. He was alive but drowsing . . . sitting in front of a door at the end of the corridor.

Harry longed to bite the man . . . but he must master the impulse. . .. He had more important work to do. . ..

But the man was stirring . . . a silvery cloak fell from his legs as he jumped to his feet. Harry saw his vibrant, blurred outline towering above him, saw a wand withdrawn from a belt. . .. He had no choice. . .. He reared high from the floor and struck once, twice, three times, plunging his fangs deeply into the man’s flesh, feeling his ribs splinter beneath his jaws, feeling the warm gush of Blood. . .. The man was yelling in pain . . . then the man fell silent. . .. He slumped back against the wall. . .. Blood was splattering onto the floor. . .. His forehead hurt terribly. . .. It was aching fit to burst. . ..

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