A/N: This is a prequel to my NaNo 2018 project. This world is a non-Magical, Mutant!AU in the style of a sort of Darkover/Tower & Hive/Heralds of Valdemar mishmash. Not really a cultural, or world-building way, but more in how the Gifteds powers are treated in those worlds-as something to be proud of as opposed to being hunted down like in the X-Men. I guess it's a mix of the culture of HP's magical world and the mental powers of those other book series.
In this world, people Manifest mental powers and abilities at around puberty (roughly 11-17). Most aristocratic Houses require their Heir to Manifest. Once a person Manifests powers, they are sent to one of four Towers: Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Gryffindor to learn how to use them properly. This ficlet is about what happens when Hermione McGonagall fails to Manifest. (I love Minerva as Hermione's mom. Don't judge me.)
"You wanted to see me, your majesty?" James bowed and waited for his grandfather to recognize him.
"Prince James," William, the King of Albion acknowledged him, and James rose to stand at attention. The King gestured to a slender young woman dressed as an official courier. "A messenger from the House of Urquart brings information."
At that news, James' heart dropped in his chest. He had a feeling that the House of Urquart had come to the same reluctant decision that the House of Ross had recently made. Sirius had already destroyed their rooms in a fit of pique. Lily tried to be stoic for the both of them, but her red-rimmed eyes betrayed her. James swallowed and squared his shoulders.
"What news is that, your majesty?" James asked, going through the motions for appearances' sake.
The courier pulled out a scroll sealed with red and gold wax, and she handed it to James with a deep bow. After glancing to his grandfather for his nod of approval, James broke the seal and unrolled the scroll. Quickly he scanned the document and his eyes slipped closed as he fought to control his temper.
"Well?" King William demanded.
"After great deliberation, the House of Urquart regrets to inform the House of Gryffindor that Hermione of the cadet House of McGonagall is no longer the Heiress of Urquart," James read aloud in a voice that was suspiciously thick for a minor point of inheritance law.
"The same message that the House of Ross sent to us last week," King William mused aloud. He turned to look at the courier. "Thank you for delivering your message. Please tender our condolences to the House of Urquart. We wish them luck in their search for a new Heir."
After several deep bows and obeisances, the courier scurried out of the audience chamber. James clenched his hands into fists at his sides, and waited for his king to speak.
"You'll inform Harry?" William asked gently.
"He's at the Towers until Solticetide." James' voice cracked as it hadn't done since he was a teenager.
William sighed heavily. "It wouldn't do to interrupt his studies," the king muttered. "Donar Lupin would never let us hear the end of it."
"No, sire," James agreed heavily. He paused and took a deep breath. "Harry will try to fight this, sire."
"What can he fight?" William asked with an air of resignation. "The Lady Hermione hasn't Manifested. Her nineteenth birthday was a month ago."
"Your majesty, he loves her," James reminded his grandfather.
"He also loves Albion," William replied. "He knows his duty to throne and country, even if his heart remains elsewhere. He will need to marry among the Manifested—preferably among one of the politically appropriate Houses."
"Yes, your majesty," James murmured.
"Still, an old man could wish it were different," the king sighed. He gave his grandson a faint, sad smile. "Your parents were so lucky to have found each other, and then you managed to scandalize the court and thrill the gossips with both Sirius Black and Lily Evans. I had hoped that Harry and Hermione would be similarly blessed."
"Me too," James whispered.
The Solstice holiday went about as well as James had expected. When Harry had landed his glider on the East lawn, and had bounded out of it exuberantly, a broad smile on his face only to have that smile fade slightly when he realized someone was missing—James' heart broke all over again for his son.
"Where's Hermione?" Harry demanded with a frown.
A single tear slid down Lily's cheek and all the blood in Harry's face drained. One hand pressed on his chest and he held the other hand out toward James, as though in entreaty.
"What happened?" He demanded. "Is she alright? She's not…"
"No!" James blurted out in rush to soothe his son's obvious distress. "She's fine."
"Physically," Sirius huffed and crossed his arms over his chest.
"What?" Harry turned to Sirius and frowned. His sharp eyes slid to Lily and James and he frowned. "What is that supposed to mean? Dads? Mum?"
"The Houses of Urquart and Ross have officially disinherited Hermione," Lily explained and a few more tears slipped down her cheeks. "Oh, Harry, love. We're so sorry."
"Sorry?" Harry blinked at them. "Why are you sorry?"
"Urquart and Ross used the lack of Manifestation to negate the betrothal contract," Sirius growled.
"They can't do that!" Harry protested. He turned to James. "Dad?"
"It was a clause that all Houses agreed on." James' shoulders slumped and he shook his head. "I'm sorry, son."
"NO!" Harry's hands flung out in front of him, warding them all off.
"The engagement has been called off, officially," Sirius explained with an angry scowl. "There was a pronouncement at court last week."
"THEY CAN'T DO THAT!" Harry bellowed, his temper completely gone. "WE'VE BEEN ENGAGED FOR 10 YEARS! I LOVE HER!"
"STOP!" James bellowed back at his son.
Harry staggered back from them and sank to his knees. Wind whipped around him, making his hair even wilder than normal. Tiny tornadoes swirled out from where he knelt on the lawn, his heels pressed to his eyes as he rocked back and forth.
"No," he whispered. Lily knelt on the lawn next to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "I love her, Mum."
"I know, baby," Lily whispered back and stroked his hair gently.
"How can I do this without her at my side?" He asked in a broken voice.
"I don't know," Lily admitted. Harry buried his face in her neck and clung to her, letting her rock him on the East lawn. She stared up at Sirius and James and continued to stroke Harry's wild hair. "I don't know."