Insert standard legal disclaimer here. Mr. Hollywood, Mr. Writer's Lawyer, I'd rather not lose everything and be kicked to the curb. I don't own these characters nor will I get one red cent from their use.

Currently, Harry Potter is being literarily recompiled. If other series make it in to the background, they will be noted here or in Author's Notes below.

I thank everyone who reviewed the Prologue. I will try to respond to reviews that have unique points which need to be addressed, but responding to 35 reviews for one chapter may take as long as writing the chapter did. There were two negative reviews in the first batch. To them I respond: You underestimate the potential a ghost has in the Harry Potter universe, especially considering the groundwork I laid out in the Prologue.

Quantum mechanics dictates that by observing something, you change it. Therefore, all readers and reviewers are directly responsible for making this story what it is today.

Italic text will be used for flashbacks, to emphasize individual words or to show whole sentences are in another language. That other language will usually be French in this story.

The Little Veela that Could

Chapter One: The Widow and the Mark

Hermione wouldn't cry. She couldn't. Since the end of the Second Task two days ago, Hermione had cried more and harder than at any time in her life. Hermione couldn't speak. Two days of crying, pleading and begging for someone to wake her up, to wake Harry up had cost her the ability to make any noise at all. Madam Pomfrey offered to heal her vocal chords, but the girl who had been closer to Harry… just Harry… than any other living person refused a magical cure.

No cure by magic or muggle means could ever heal her heart.

-o\O/o-

Being a rescued hostage meant that she was perfectly placed on the water's edge to see Headmaster Dumbledore and Headmistress Maxime work frantically on both students dozens of meters off shore. She assumed Harry had recovered quickly when Dumbledore turned from her friend to charm the boat into motion and assist Madam Maxime. So Harry just took a spear in the chest. Muggles survive similar accidents all the time. Harry will spend a week in the infirmary and be done with it. Right?

From that distance, no-one could see Albus Dumbledore lose the twinkle in his eyes, nor could they hear his ragged breathing as the young man who meant so much to him lay still and lifeless.

Short seconds after the boat began to head to shore several people in the crowd applauded when they saw the little French girl sit up between the two school heads. Hermione smiled at the thought of pulling out her secret 'Lives Saved' scoreboard and adding to Harry's tally. He just got one more devoted fan-girl to add to his collection. She pulled a few loose brown strands of hair back behind her ear and re-adjusted her charms text while waiting for the girl to lean over and give Harry a kiss or a hug or something.

Somehow Hermione seemed to ignore the bright red circular stain in the center of the girl's silk dress. Lines of red and pink marred the once pristine white gown where fresh blood was collecting and where the lake had washed earlier blood-loss away.

The festive atmosphere encouraged by beautiful sunny weather and previous successful rescues was shattered by a horrible wail. Fleur's hostage screamed and threw herself at Harry's form before the two adults in the boat could stop her.

Hermione stood frozen. Crowd and judges alike waited in silence as Madam Pomfrey hopped onto a broom and raced out to the boat while it was still halfway out. Everyone watched helplessly as Madam Maxime held the clawing and wailing little girl down so that both the Headmaster and Madam Pomfrey could work on her injuries.

"God in Heaven above, don't let me be right this time." Hermione's whispered prayer went unheard by mortal ears and unanswered by the Divine.

It was simple logic really. They weren't treating him even though everyone knew he was just as badly wounded as the girl, if not more so. Why not treat him first if he's worse off? Why cry over him like he was de.. dea… Hermione couldn't bear to finish that line of thought. Harry couldn't be… that. He's the hero. He's the one who saves little girls from trolls and snakes and dementors and mermen.

He's not moving.

Wake up, Harry! Wake up! Please! Hermione couldn't give up hope. Not now. Not after everything they've been through together.

When the boat was less than ten meters from shore, Headmaster Dumbledore turned and transfigured a large tent to cover the landing. Seconds later, the boat and all occupants were hidden from view. All anyone could hear was the sounds of a hysterical eight year old. A moment before silence fell, likely due to a privacy charm of some sort, Hermione and anyone else who spoke French clearly heard the girl say two things.

"Come back!" The girl's voice was beginning to crack and turn hoarse. "Don't leave me here alone, Harry! Momma, make Harry come back!"

Hermione couldn't take any more of this. She had to see Harry for herself. If she just got into that tent then she would be able to prove that her ears were lying. She would see Harry tickling the girl as the adults all stood back and did their eye twinkle thing to each other. She just had to get through the officials who were beginning to surround the tent.

Luckily, officials and security staff in the Wizarding World were fairly inept compared to their muggle counterparts. Hermione put on a mask of indifference and boldly walked straight up to Percy Weasley, who seemed wavering between wanting to enter the tent and wanting to run away.

"I have an important message for the Headmaster from Deputy Headmistress McGonagall. Let me pass." Look him in the eyes. Don't back down. Harry's inside that tent!

Percy nodded and stepped aside. Hermione slipped through the tent flaps and froze. Madam Maxime and Madam Pomfrey were working feverishly over the silver-blonde eight year old. Hermione didn't notice. Headmaster Dumbledore told her to leave, that she wasn't allowed in the tent. She couldn't care less.

Harry was in front of her. He seemed relaxed… sleeping even. But then his skin color was a bit off and she couldn't see his chest rise or fall. Oh God, his chest. Hermione batted someone's hand off her shoulder as she stared at the blood soaked break in his robes and the cross-cut pattern carved into his skin from the merman's spear. Hermione saw Harry move away – wait, she was being pulled away. No!

Outside the tent, the worried students, guests and officials heard a new voice cry out from the tent. Hermione's screams and wails weren't quite as high pitched as the little veela girl, but they were louder and carried further.

Inside the tent, Hermione broke free of whoever was keeping her from Harry and ran to the side of the table he lay atop. Planting a palm on the table on either side of his head, she briefly wondered just how she was supposed to save him this time. 'There's a prince in front of me. He must be in an enchanted sleep or something. Kiss him!'

Hermione dipped in for her rescue kiss. Half way down to her goal, a red jet of light caught the panicking Gryffindor between her shoulder blades. As darkness claimed the poor girl, she raged against the fact that she was only now going to sleep instead of waking up.

Hermione collapsed like a rag doll, their lips joining for the briefest of moments in what may go down in history as Harry Potter's first and only kiss on the lips.

-o\O/o-

Le Mystique

25 february 1995

TRIWIZARD TRAGEDY

Harry James Potter is dead. The young boy famous for defeating Dark Lord Voldemort in England on Halloween Night,1981 lost his life in the Second Task of the Triwizard Tournament which is being hosted by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in Scotland. Witnesses claim that the four Champions in this scandal ridden Tournament were tasked to retrieve hostages from the depths of Black Lake on Hogwarts Grounds.

Monsieur Alain Algernon Delacour, father of Beauxbatons Champion Fleur Delacour (17) and her sister/hostage Gabrielle (8), is officially protesting the Second Task and English Headmaster Dumbledore for failing to ensure the safety of students from all three schools during the Tournament. The Delacour girls are of Veela decent, something Headmaster Dumbledore ignored when designing a task which would involve Mermen, beasts who are well known to have a violent history with many European Veela tribes.

While many have protested Mister Potter's (14) position as Fourth Champion since Halloween, his personal actions are beyond reproach. When the four Champions went underwater yesterday to retrieve 'something they would sorely miss' Miss Delacour was singled out by underwater denizens of Black Lake who were unwilling to release Gabrielle. While experts debate Headmaster Dumbledore's relationship with the Merpeople, none can deny that the creatures were angered to violence when Mister Potter chose to rescue not only his own hostage, Ronald Weasley (14), but Gabrielle as well.

Mister Potter sought to shield the smaller girl from attack by shielding her with his own body. With the entire Championship crowd watching from shore, a merman impaled both children on one spear. It is unclear if Dumbledore would have intervened at all were it not for Headmistress Maxime's personal actions to rescue the mortally wounded children. Witnesses at first began to applaud Mister Potter's health when both school figureheads ignored him to heal Gabrielle. It is now clear that Mister Potter was already dead.

This year's Triwizard Tournament was promoted as being a way to unite the three oldest schools of magic in the Wizarding World in a Celebration of skill, natural ability and courage. It was promoted as being different from tournaments in the past where contestants routinely died during the competition. Many began to question the tournament organizers and officials as soon as Harry Potter's name left the Goblet of Fire. Protests lessened when Mister Potter flew his way past a Hungarian Horntail to prove that he did in fact have natural ability and courage enough to complete the First Task with strong marks. Perhaps with his death, Harry Potter can prove to everyone that life is too precious to waste in such competitions.

Do not doubt that this year's tournament will continue, though some believe it shouldn't. In the days and weeks to come, we will do our best to cover international reactions to this tragedy. Readers, The Mystic urges you to write in to our Paris Office and give us your views on the Triwizard Championship and whether or not it should be continued in future years.

-o\O/o-

Hermione Jane Granger stood over Harry Potter's open grave overlooking the shores of Black Lake with Hogwarts Castle visible on the far bank. Her black dress robes and black veil made Hermione into the perfect image of a young widow. Never mind that she had never given Harry more than a light peck on the cheek. No girl in Hogwarts was closer to Harry than she was.

Albus Dumbledore had insisted quite vigorously that Hermione be given the honor of tossing the first handful of dirt onto Harry's casket. He had to as a certain Slytherin rival of Harry's had been lobbying for the honor. Minister Fudge was suitably bribed by the boy's influential father and the fresh dragon dung was ready to be delivered. Dumbledore politely refused Minister Fudge's request at least three times before young Draco removed himself from contention.

Draco was sent to Saint Mungo's Thursday afternoon after a series of rather inappropriate comments made in the middle of a somber lunch was met with a hail of spellfire from three separate student tables. Other members of Slytherin House remained quiet. For the first time in ten years the other three Houses were willing to defy Severus Snape and get revenge for any cut or slight that the 'dark' House attempted.

One handful of dirt had never felt so heavy to Hermione. In a cracked and broken voice, Hermione risked her strained vocal chords so that Harry would know that she was there.

"Who's going to flick bogeys into Ron's food when he's not paying attention if you don't, Harry?" She tried to smile at her own joke, but it came out as more of a facial tick that quickly faded. With a final push, she whispered, "We c-could have had something wonderful Harry. I l-love you."

With the very last remaining courage the once proud Gryffindor could muster, Hermoine released the dirt over Harry's coffin. In a daze, the very closest friend of the Boy-Who-Died was gently guided away by her mother so that the Delacour girls could pay their respects. Behind her, Hermione heard the now common cries of Gabrielle Delacour as she and her sister released the second and third handfuls of dirt that would later that day support a smooth black stone memorial. She wondered why Harry wasn't being interred with his own family. Surely the Potter's have a family cemetery or a family plot at some church or other.

Hermione looked around at the chosen burial site. As she glanced around, several similarities between his life and his afterlife came to mind. He was being isolated again. Harry was not with his mother and father. He was trapped. Hermione knew that Harry looked at his Uncle's house as though it were a prison even if he never admitted it openly. She was beginning to see that Hogwarts may have been another prison for her close friend. He had to sneak out when others could easily provide a signed permission slip for Hogsmeade Weekends or other private family functions. In death, Harry would forever be within the Headmaster's reach. Any student would be able to honor his grave… or desecrate it. Never again would non-magical Britain feel his presence.

Hermione's thoughts were interrupted by a boy who hardly meant anything to her anymore.

"You beat a bloody dragon! Get up you prat!" Ron was grabbed roughly and hauled off by Fred and George. Ron wasn't the same either. His jealousy had been drowned in a sea of guilt for not swimming to shore faster. Still, he had nothing on the 'bushy-haired know-it-all'.

If only she had taught him more about water related charms. If only she had given him lessons on the Veela – Merman conflicts which pepper magical history just like the Goblin Wars do. If only she'd kissed him before he died.

Were it not for her parents, Hermione may have already done something rash to make sure Harry had company. They wouldn't bury her next to him though, would they?

At least her dreams were pleasant now. In the Land of Nod, Harry was there to give her a hand up or go for walks along the Thames or to take trips to the Library. In her dreams, he always smiled. There was another common theme in her dreams she couldn't properly explain. Gabrielle Delacour was always there. The little Veela would be a few paces behind or a few bookracks over, but she was always in sight. At least the girl is always happy. She really should wipe her forehead though. She's got some strawberry preserves or something up there.

-o\O/o-

"What about her?"

Your friend doesn't want to go at first, but he's quickly convinced and the two of you sneak by students and professors alike looking for her.

You don't like the looks of that one Professor and you wonder why he's on the wrong floor. Enough of that, she's in danger.

Your first sign of danger was a horrible smell. That's one load of wash you don't want any part of. The sound comes next, a low grunt and a shuffle.

You and your friend enter the shadows to get some manner of cover from the massive thing which seems to just barely fit in the school halls. It had a club. You really don't want to have to dodge that as the club's easily bigger than you are.

Locking it into the first room it enters sounds like a good idea. Ha! Gotcha! Victory was almost in your grasp when you hear the high pitched scream of a terrified little girl.

"Hermione!" Both of you yell out at the same time.

As hard as it is to unlock that door and run into a room with a troll in it, you can't leave her in there with that. Save her!

The poor girl was pulling herself into a terrified ball as the troll closed in on her, knocking sinks off of the wall just because it could.

Your redheaded friend gets the troll's attention as you run around to the girl and try to get her moving again. Time runs out as the troll starts to go after the other boy. With a silent prayer you do the first thing that comes to mind – jump on it's back and ram your wand up it's nose.

The redhead remembers that he has a wand too. Better yet, he uses it to cast a spell. Lucky shot, mate!

You didn't even consider using that giant club against it's wielder.

She speaks up, "Is it – dead?"

"I don't think so," you reply, "I think it's just been knocked out."

You dig your wand back out of the troll's nose. Disgusting!

"Urgh – troll boogers." You try to get them off of your wand by rubbing it on the troll's trousers, but it's slow going.

"Mommy!" Gabrielle sat up in bed. Her eyes were still closed.

Apolline Delacour pulled herself up next to her daughter. Gabrielle wouldn't sleep alone now, not after the Second Task. "What is it, Angel? Mother is here for you."

Without turning or opening her eyes, Gabrielle held out an invisible wand.

"My wand is covered in troll boogers, Momma. Please clean them off."

Apolline took the imaginary wand from her daughter's hand and slowly pulled the girl back down into bed.

"It's okay, Angel. Momma will have it all clean by morning. Go back to sleep, Gabrielle." Her mother kissed Gabrielle's forehead right over her new blemish. It was an odd little mark that almost looked like a kiss slightly off center to the right. The family healer hasn't been able to do anything to the mark yet. Perhaps time will wash it away.

Apolline returned to sleep with a girl who was never really awake to begin with.

-o\O/o-

Hermione opened her eyes. Odd. Why would she dream about the troll now? It's been years since she had that dream.

-o\O/o-

Morning came. March 1st would be the first day of classes since the tragic Second Task and Hermione tried to pull herself together before heading down to breakfast. The other girls in her dormitory waited in the wings, Hermione was sure to need a shoulder to cry on. Right? Without comment, she moved into the bathroom to prepare for the day.

Twenty minutes later, the mirror challenged Hermione in an effort to finish their private argument.

"If you're going to act like a grieving widow today, dress like one!" In any other situation, the muggleborn witch would have felt humiliated at losing an argument with a mirror of all things. Instead she pulled out her wand and got to work.

The other students would go silent as Hermione passed. She was wearing her school uniform as usual but for one change. She had charmed everything black. Black shirt, tie, skirt … everything was black. Even her earrings were matte black rather than the polished gold they normally were. Poor girl, everyone knew she was close to Potter, but Hermione is acting like they were married or something.

Returning to the Great Hall allowed her to feel hidden in the crowd for a little while. True, her black outfit today was different, but she didn't have the pull Harry had to get attention. Nobody did. Hermione resolved to eat what she could and be as invisible as possible today.

This was not to be.

As she contemplated the raspberry jam on her toast, a single snowy white owl beat the usual morning rush and flew gracefully down the length of Gryffindor's table. Getting mail early wasn't that unusual, but getting Harry Potter's owl to deliver it was.

Hermione hadn't noticed noise levels dropping around her until a lone bark got her attention. Hedwig had landed directly in front of her and was holding out an official looking letter which bore the seal of Gringotts.

"You should open that." These were the first words Ron Weasley had spoken to her since Harry… it's been a few days.

Looking up, she noticed that a quarter of those in the Great Hall were watching her and Hedwig. Hermione didn't like feeling the weight of so many stares.

Neville Longbottom saw the seal on Hedwig's delivery and paled. "You.. you might want to open that now. They can be time sensitive sometimes, bank notices I mean."

Lacking any reason to sneak away, she cracked the wax seal and opened the letter. Hermione carefully read and then re-read the sharp angled letters. 'Immediately', it said. Why not? She slowly pushed her entire plate in front of the snowy white owl and got up.

"So what was it?" Ginny asked her brother moments after Hermione got up and started walking towards the head table. He was very obviously reading over Hermione's shoulder before.

Ron watched for a moment as Hermione walked straight up to the center of the staff table and handed Headmaster Dumbledore the letter. "She's been summoned to Gringotts. Harry's will is being read today and she's mentioned in it."

Ginny looked around the room. "Just her?"

"Yeah. Hedwig's not got another letter and I don't see any other owls, so I guess it's just her." Ginny knew she wasn't really close to the Boy-Who-Li… Harry, but she kinda expected her brother to be called when Hermione was. Weren't they best mates and everything?

Quiet as they had been, their voices still carried enough for other Gryffindors and a Ravenclaw or two to overhear Ron's answer and push the gossip along.

After himself reading the missive twice, Headmaster Dumbledore looked down to Hermione. "I don't recall Harry ever taking the time to write a will. Do you, Miss Granger?"

"No Sir. He never mentioned anything of the sort. That's a Goblin seal though and I don't believe Hedwig would take part in any sort of prank."

"I don't believe she would either." The Headmaster looked somberly down at the letter. "As it so happens, I need to restock my supply of lemon drops. I would be honored if you would permit me to escort you to and from the alley. As Mister Potter's Guardian in the Magical World, they may call upon me in an official capacity."

When the Gryffindor Forth Year student and the School Headmaster left the Great Hall together, noise returned to pre-Second Task levels for the first time. Maybe the student population can begin its journey back to normalcy while the Girl-Who-Grieved was away for an hour or two.

Fleur Delacour gazed through the doors of the Great Hall for a minute or two after losing sight of the Granger girl. She didn't even realize that one of her classmates had asked her a question until a soft tap on the shoulder registered.

"Yes?"

"She must have loved him dearly, yes? Too dress all in black?" Fleur wasn't the only one watching Miss Granger, then. She nodded quickly. "Maybe they were just too naïve to notice. I never saw the two kissing, but Potter did seem to spend a lot of time with Granger."

"And if the rumors are true? A will reading that she alone in this room received a summons to? Perhaps you are right." Fleur thought about it for a moment before pulling her wand out at the table. As her few close friends watched, the Veela Triwizard Champion began to charm and transfigure all of her jewelry matte black. Fleur wouldn't dare copy the Hermione's transition completely, but she did add some black lacework trim to her uniform fringe.

Fleur looked up to see about half of the Beauxbatons students and a Hogwarts girl or two watching in mild confusion. Well, she supposed her friends did deserve to hear her reasoning.

"Harry Potter was the little boy I took him to be in size only. A 'little boy' would never have come between my sister and a two meter spear. My family owes him much so I will honor him in this way. I can do no less." After a moment of silence, several more Beauxbatons students followed her lead in adjusting their uniforms to honor Harry Potter.

By the end of the day, one third of the student population would be wearing some small black decoration or other that paid respect to the dead Champion.

-o\O/o-

Diagon Alley was quiet. Hermione supposed that she and the Headmaster must be coming through when magicals with regular jobs were on the clock. This isn't to say that the alley was empty. On their block, a half dozen or so witches and wizards were going about their business without fuss.

Hermione fought back the desire to study her environment. One day she would return and learn all there was to learn about the world she had unwittingly stepped into on her eleventh birthday. Today, however, there was business to be done.

Her stomach was beginning to stir up trouble as the imposing facade of Gringotts revealed itself in the distance. Hermione looked to the Headmaster for some reassurance that this would all turn out well, only to find that he was not there. Her stomach troubles spiked and she twirled around to look for the one crutch she had left.

Thank God. He was merely walking slower than Hermione was. Perhaps she should allow the Headmaster to lead the way?

Was Albus Dumbledore really so important to her?

Outside of Hogwarts Castle, away from the constant reminders of the boy who had meant so much to her, Hermione began to review her life in a way she really hadn't attempted to since that first Owl Post shattered her worldview.

Albus Dumbledore was the Headmaster of her school, a British magical living legend as well as a very important figure in Wizarding politics. But what was he to her? He was order. He was a role model… except that now maybe he wasn't one as much as he used to be.

Albus, as Headmaster of Hogwarts, host of the Triwizard Championship, was responsible for the safety of his students and guests of the school. A short mental review of her last four years of life gave Hermione a very negative opinion of just how well he would score on a mug- er, non-magical annual review in that category. Was that normal here in the Wizarding World? How many Hogwarts student's find themselves near death during a typical Hogwarts term? How often is half of the third floor forbidden on pain of death?

She had known the definition of disillusionment for quite some time. Today, Hermione Granger truly understood what the word meant.

-o\O/o-

The Goblins were as gruff as ever. Powerful as Albus Dumbledore was, Hermione could tell that the polite wording the teller and then floor manager used was forced. Of course, considering her own treatment by those well entrenched in magical society, she should have seen the closed-mindedness and prejudice of Magical Britain long before today.

Draco Malfoy was a racial supremacist if ever there was one. Ron Weasely wasn't as bad, but he wasn't good either. To this day, Ron still treats Hermione and the other muggleborns as if their upbringing is an oddity. His favorite comics focus on the idiocy of a 'mad muggle'. Without Harry Potter to tie Hermione and Ron together, they have no common ground apart from being Gryffindors. Honestly, Hermione would have never been in danger of being flattened by a troll if it weren't for that damn ginger.

Hermione mentally berated herself for using a slur in her own internal rantings. Irony, much?

Was the rest of the Wizarding World just as bad as the closed off society of Wizarding Britain?

Maybe not.

Look at Beauxbatons. The Headmistress is a half-Giantess. Their star pupil has Veela ancestry. Hermione had some studying to do.

Her internal monologue was abruptly cut off when a Goblin waiting in front of some rather nice carved doors chose to interrupt.

"Miss Granger. We did not say that you could bring any guests with you." She blushed. What was she going to say: It wasn't my fault? I can't tell Albus Dumbledore where to go and when to stay away?

"As the Magical Guardian to all orphans and muggleborn students at Hogwarts, I am attending in an official capacity. Please let us through." The Headmaster maintained his 'kind grandfather' look while staring down the Goblin before him.

Hermione's eyes were wide in shock. Really though, she shouldn't have been surprised. Upon review… yes, she did remember seeing that detail in Hogwarts: A History. But to realize that the man had legal authority over her which could probably negate her own parent's wishes in the Magical World... Hermione was suddenly very thankful that the Goblins ran the bank independent from Wizarding oversight.

"You were not mentioned in the will. You will not enter." The Goblin turned to the lone child in the hall. "Miss Granger, enter the room."

Not one to question orders, Hermione began to move. A hand came down on her shoulder.

"As the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, I declare this Will sealed." Hermione's heart was racing. Any minute now, she expected to see wand and steel drawn and she would get to see Harry again.

"You are too late, Wizard." Hermione had never heard the word 'wizard' used as an insult before. "This Will was acted upon the moment Harry Potter's heart stopped. You never did 'find' his parents' wills for us, did you? Wait for her outside, Mister Dumbledore."

For a moment, his hand stayed where it was. What did he hope to gain? Not enough, apparently. The Headmaster took a deep breath and lifted his hand off of Hermione's shoulder. She looked up into his eyes.

"I hope you can forgive an old man his transgressions, Miss Granger. We have both lost much, and I am caught trying to save what little I can." Headmaster Dumbledore looked ahead as if he could see through those heavy decorative doors to the Will inside. "It's nineteen eighty-one all over again. Perhaps I should tread more carefully this time."

As the Headmaster turned to leave, Hermione called out, "Will you be waiting outside, Headmaster Dumbledore?"

He looked to her once more. "Perhaps we can meet at Florean Fortescue's for some ice cream, my dear. I daresay we will both need a bit of fresh air and some sugary treats after this morning's business is complete. After I acquire some more lemon drops of course… can't forget about those."

She almost smiled. Harry would have smiled.

"It's about bloody time." The Goblin must have been on his last frayed nerve. He opened doors before her and showed Hermione swiftly to a single seat on one side of a heavy oak table. Two Goblins were already sitting opposite her with scrolls and ledgers open.

"Right. You are Miss Hermione Granger, are you not?" The more smartly dressed of the two Goblins began without even looking at her. Why would he need to though, she was the only one invited.

"I am, Sir." The second sitting Goblin seemed to nod and grunt towards his parchments.

"The wards agree. Very well." He looked up for the first time. Hermione was struck with the idea that this Goblin more closely resembled Professor Flitwick than the others she'd passed today. Perhaps they were related.

"I have here the Will of Harry Potter, written and sent to us on the twenty-third day of November, 1994. As you are the only one mentioned in the will, we will dispense with the pageantry of a public reading. Mr. Potter wrote the entire document as if it was a letter to you, Miss Granger, therefore you have the option to read it yourself or have me read it to you." Her eyes were getting moist the moment he said 'Harry'. Her first tear hit the table surface as soon as she heard how Harry wrote it.

She held out a shaking hand and nodded, not trusting herself to speak. In her own head, Harry could read it to her himself.

November 23rd, 1994

This is the Last Will and Testament of Harry Potter.

Hermione,

If you are reading this parchment, then I must be dead. Considering what I must do tomorrow, I am probably a pile of dragon shite at whatever time you end up reading this.

If I am a pile of dragon shite, then I beg you to get that pile to the twins so that they can find a way to get all of Hogwarts to eat me during breakfast.

Please, please, please laugh at my joke, Hermione.

Now for the real will.

I find myself writing this and wondering why God hates me. I only know of one person who is willing to support me. One person smart enough to see that I couldn't have put my name in that damn goblet and that same person is the only one who has always been there for me.

You.

You never lost faith in me, Hermione. You kept me alive when we were Ickle Firsties. You figured out the Basilisk for me in second year. You traveled through time to help me save my Godfather and stop a noble creature from being butchered. You reported the Firebolt for me, I understand that now. You alone helped me train for this championship.

I'll not suffer fair weather friends in death and I ask that you reject them in life.

Now that I find myself with what may be less than twenty-four hours to live, I see what you mean to me. Hermione, you are the only living person in my heart. There's Mum and Dad and you and that's it. I'm not saying that we would've, like, gotten married or anything, but maybe. I don't know. Big sister would have worked too.

So, as you are either the sister I never had or the wife I never married, I hereby give you all that I own, whatever that happens to be. If I can give it to you, then it's yours.

Well, there's only one thing left to say that I've never said before in my life. I really hope that I can get the chance to do so face to face before some damn dragon snaps my spine like a sugar quill.

If I don't ever see you again,

I Love You

Harry Potter

Hermione couldn't laugh. She couldn't cry. She couldn't breathe. Luckily, Goblins were used to this kind of reaction and had spells ready to catch her as Hermione's vision faded.

-o\O/o-

Twenty minutes later, Hermione came to in a small sitting room of some sort. I the back of her mind, she realized that she had just properly used the one piece of furniture that was completely obsolete in non-magical England; a fainting chair. While she tried to sit up and take stock of herself, she heard something hit the floor by her feet.

Glancing down, there was a small ledger book with a key tied to the face and a certified copy of the Will. She picked up the parchment and the ledger and looked around. As her feet hit the floor for the first time, a door off to her right opened slightly allowing her to hear some random discussions in voices too low to make the details out. Magic, no doubt.

This must be how the Goblins ask grieving widows and other family to leave without being there in person. On reflection, Hermione approved. A sour Goblin frown was not very supportive to the bereaved. She stopped by a small mirror and make-up stand by the door and cleaned herself up a bit.

-o\0/o-

"Oh, you poor dear. You look miserable." Hermione looked up from her ice cream to see who had addressed her.

-click-

"Miss Skeeter. I wish I could say that I am pleased to meet you, but now is not a good time." The Headmaster sighed and looked as though he were disappointed at his former pupil.

"Our beloved Headmaster and a young witch sharing ice cream together when they both ought to be in school? How scandalous!" Rita, opportunist that she was, pulled up a chair and sat down uninvited at their table. As soon as she sat down, she placed a clean sheet of parchment on the table and held a quill above it. When she let go of the quill, it began scratching furiously on the parchment below without her hand so much as getting in the way.

"We are here on business, Miss Skeeter. My student was summoned from school to attend to private matters and I saw fit to escort her." If Dumbledore were vague enough, perhaps the drivel Rita Skeeter came up with would be ignored. Her stories always need a fact or two in them to keep the rest of the manure believable.

"But she looks so sad, Headmaster." Rita looked into Hermione's eyes with as soft and inviting a face as she could muster on short notice. "Perhaps a little witch talk would do you some good. Whatever it is, dear, I've been there already. What do you say?"

Rita moved her hand to cover Hermione's causing the bushy haired witch to shrink back into her chair. Rita's hand briefly paused over the folded parchment sitting atop Hermione's new ledger, but she pulled back when then Headmaster sat up a little straighter.

"We really must be getting back to Hogwarts. Come along Miss Granger, I believe that Miss Skeeter has what she came for." The old Headmaster rose from the table and helped Hermione from her chair. He briefly sighed in disappointment when looking over to Rita's clasped hands and her still active quill.

-o\0/o-

The next morning, Hermione walked into the Great Hall to the excited whispers of the entire student body. While confused, she tried to ignore them all. Harry was a good role model in that respect.

Her ability to block it all out was shattered when Neville, who she sat down next to, slowly pushed a copy of the morning paper in front of her. Right on the front cover was a picture of herself and the Headmaster. The picture showed Hermione acting the part of a grieving widow from her sad broken face to the all black clothing. But that wasn't enough apparently.

Somehow that bitch Skeeter must have made a copy of the will.

Hermione didn't even bother reading past the headlines when she recognized the handwriting so accurately depicted. She didn't care that there were two articles focusing on her relationship with Harry and two more which speculated wildly on the possible meanings of every word and phrase Harry wrote. An 'expert' even tried to analyze which of the nine visible tear stains were likely Harry's and which were Hermione's.

Hermione could have told them if she had ever bothered to read the paper. The original and certified copies were charmed to repel staining. All tear stains were faked by Skeeter to build up drama.

Ginny took the initiative and pulled Hermione up from the table. Lavender and Parvati quickly stepped in when Ginny almost lost her grip on the older Gryffindor and three witches gently guided her back up to the Gryffindor fourth year girl's dorm where she would spend most of the day.

Back in the Great Hall, a new nickname for Hermione was beginning to make the rounds.

Mrs. Potter.

-o\0/o-

31 march 1995

Dearest Mother,

I am well. The food here continues to insult my palette, but I will not die from it.

How is Gabrielle coping? You write about her dreams, but you give no details. Mother, do not tease. My imagination is full of horrid nightmares where those thrice damned mermen torment my Little Gabby and make her witness Harry's death again. Is she returning to her lessons? And what of her friends? I know what little girls are like and Gabby will be going back to class with that mark on her head.

Life begins to return to Hogwarts Castle, I think. I admit that we and the Durmstrang students were better able to move past Harry Potter's death even honoring him as we do, but I sometimes have to remember how important he was to our hosts. These English wizards show no sense of decency, Mother. At least once a day, a student from Slytherin House or perhaps Ravenclaw insults the deceased. Why the Professors tolerate this behavior, I have no idea. Is it any wonder when revenge is had by Potter's supporters? Yet again the students get away with so much that would have them suspended or even expelled from Beauxbatons.

I feel bad for Miss Granger, Mother. You can comfort Gabrielle and I can write her letters, but Hermione is alone in Hogwarts. I and my friends do not see her talking to other students. It is rumored that Harry was the leader of her clique and that the small group is broken without him. If anything, those articles about Hermione and Harry understate how important Harry was to the girl. I think I will approach Hermione and ask her to write to Gabrielle.

Please bring Gabrielle with you when you visit for the Third Task. I miss you all terribly.

Your Loving Daughter,

Fleur

-o\0/o-

"Excuse me, Fleur?"

"Oui, Cedric?" Fleur looked up from her studies to find the other two Champions standing together behind her. Apparently her classmates had noticed the serious look both boys had adopted and were clearing the table.

"Could Victor and I have a moment of your time?" Cedric took note of the half-dozen girls who were picking up books and parchments, clearly intending to leave the table. "I don't wish to disturb you. If you would rather we talk at a later date…"

"No need to apologize, Mister Diggory. We were just leaving." The curly haired brunet who addressed Cedric looked over to Fleur. "Both of them? Try to leave something for the rest of us, Fleur. We like quidditch players too."

"I don't know what you mean." Fleur held up her nose in mock insult.

"Whore." The brunet was smirking.

"Slut." That's what good friends are for. Fleur was smiling for the first time in days.

As the other Beauxbatons girls left the Library table to take their studies elsewhere, both Cedric and Victor sat across the table from the female Champion. Cedric briefly scanned the room, taking note of several students which seemed to be interested in the unusual meeting of three school champions. Doing this in the middle of the library is sure to start rumors, but these would be much better than the rumors they'd get for sneaking off to meet in an empty classroom.

"Well, Fleur… Victor... thank you both for agreeing to meet with me." Cedric looked at each of the other Champions in turn. "I asked the two of you to meet with me because what happened to Harry is really getting to me recently."

"You suspect ve vill have trouble in Third Task?" Victor continued to look off at some distant point. The boy had yet to meet Cedric's gaze directly. Still, he was paying attention.

"Yes. I know Harry was just fourteen and in his fourth year. He hadn't even taken the O.W.L.'s yet. But he did great in the First Task and in the Second… well… he was doing so well until they followed him up to the surface." The three of them paused in mutual respect for a fallen Champion.

"Is true. I vould not have done better taking two hostages. Spear verk well on visard and shark." Victor looked down at the table.

"That merman would have killed me too. I didn't have any idea that they'd be so violent to you or your sister, Fleur. I'm sorry for not knowing." Cedric felt real guilt. He had asked around and found that no-one he knew in Hogwarts had any idea that there was bad blood between the Veela and the Merpeople. History of Magic and the Care of Magical Creatures classes clearly weren't doing their jobs to miss something like that.

"If 'eadmaster Dumbledore 'ad just told Madam Maxime what was under ze lake, she could 'ave told 'im ze big mistake. Do not blame yourself." Cedric sighed and nodded in thanks. The guilt wouldn't go away so easily though.

"Never the less. Both tasks so far were far deadlier than I had been told to expect. The Daily Prophet ran articles devoted to the safety measures in place to keep us alive. Now I find myself unable to trust the Headmaster to ensure my safety. I need to see to my own well being."

"So you find us to talk togezer without ze 'eadmasters separating us. You wish to train togezer, no?" Fleur had been having similar thoughts recently. Albus Dumbledore has been spending a lot of time outside of the castle defending his actions and defending his long time allies, the merpeople. To date, four merpeople had been found dead near known merman colonies in the UK. All showed signs of meeting violent ends.

"Yes. We need to watch each other's backs. I'm fine sharing the win or giving it up if that's the only way to ensure that we all walk away in the end." The other two Champions nodded.

"I volunteer vatch Veela back. Is better back to vatch." Krum wasn't smiling, but his face had changed to be slightly less harsh. Was he joking?

"I don't blame you." Cedric grinned as Fleur fought back a blush. "Speaking of… Is your allure something you can reduce or turn off for a bit? I'd rather see the deadly beasts approaching than die staring at your arse, Fleur."

"Oui. I can reduce it enough so zat you do not notice. Next, let us talk of a practice schedule and where to practice…"

The three Champions spent over an hour together in the Library. For the first night in weeks, Harry and Hermione were not the biggest rumor topics at dinner in the Great Hall.

-o\0/o-

"Granger."

Hermione froze, a fork covered in pork hovering near her open mouth. Discreetly, several Gryffindors at the table palmed their wands. It had been a long time since Draco had spoken directly to Hermione or Ron, a sure sign that he was about to make up for the lack of harassment by overdoing it.

"I see what hangs about your neck. Dirty as Scarhead was, he was still the heir of an old pureblood family. Had he married well, his children could still have been accepted in proper society." Hermione placed her left hand over her chest, covering the item hidden beneath her cloak. She didn't think anyone would notice that she had tied Harry's wand to a chain and started wearing it as a necklace once or twice a week.

"A mudblood like you has no business inheriting the legacy of a Noble House." Draco frowned. She had not turned around to address him yet. "As I am a relative, however distant, to Potter through the Blacks, I demand that you hand over all Potter assets. We'll start with the wand."

"You forget, Malfoy, that my family is about as close to the Potter line as yours. I also know that we are both far too distant in blood to have any claim on HER THINGS. Potter was clear in his Will. Go. Away." Ron's wand wasn't out, but he was close enough not to need one.

"Potty's gone, Weasel. Though, I should have known you'd still side with Granger. Ah! I understand! All you have to do his get this bitch to spread her legs and the Potter gold is as good as-"

Ron's fist slammed into Draco's chin. As the blonde spun around, Ginny reared back and drove her foot into the Malfoy family jewels with enough force to crack diamonds.

Crabbe and Goyle stepped forward to get some revenge and chaos erupted along the Gryffindor table.

-o\0/o-

"Gigi! Aimee!" Gabreille ran to her classmates. She hadn't attended class since before visiting her sister in Scotland.

"Gabby!" The girls were quite excited to see her. Gabrielle was always a good friend before, but now she was their famous good friend. Still, what good was a famous good friend if she never came to school?

Unlike their British counterparts, the French Ministry of Magic chose to follow many trends established by their non-magical neighbors in the last two hundred years. One result is formal education for magical students as early as age three. Granted, French children do not get their own wands until about the same time as their English counterparts. No-one wants to see a childish tantrum multiplied by spellfire. This is not to say that these young witches and wizards only learn magical material, far from it. Non-magical history, arts, maths and sciences were covered as well. While the French Revolution did not significantly damage rich magical families in France, these lucky pockets of nobility watched their non-magical counterparts learn a terminal lesson. Common men are not helpless.

"What's that on your head?" Seems like an innocent enough question... if you're not a little girl surrounded by status obsessed little girls. Gigi didn't mean anything by it. Not that the secret would have been kept for long but did she have to blurt it out so loud?

Several groups of girls and boys stopped devouring their lunches to watch the Girl-Who-Lived come back to school after her disastrous trip to Hogwarts.

"Wow! You really did steal Harry Potter's scar!" A largish boy near the back yelled out. Gabrielle and her friends turned to the brute.

"Did not! Gabby wouldn't do that, she liked him. She liked him liked him. You don't go stealing scars off people you like like." Gabby was glad to have friends that will always take her side, but that defence was making her blush. Blushing only made the mark stand out more. Well that's new; her mark is tickling some.

"So, Girl-Who-Lived. How DID you get your scar?" A lot of boys and girls were now glaring at the troublemaker. This didn't change the fact that they wanted to know the answer to his question. Professor Royal, at the opposite end of the room, was watching closely for a good excuse to step in.

"He... umn... kindof... kissedmewhenwewereunderwater... thenhedied..." Head down, Gabrielle mumbled out the answer so that only a few near the front of the classroom could hear.

"He kissed you?" Aimee forgot the whole 'thenhedied' bit for a moment. A famous fourteen year old boy kissed Gabby. "Wow- but, kisses don't stain. Do they?"

"Magic kisses do! They save lives too. Those grown-ups didn't save me, Harry did! He saved me RIGHT HERE!" Gabrielle ended her point by poking herself in the forehead. She would never need a mirror to point to her mark. She could feel it. She could always feel it.

It started small but quickly grew. What began as a child's story became rumor and then official research. It would take time to find it's way back to England, but the legend of Potter's Mark was born.

End Chapter