Thank you for all of the kind reviews. This chapter is particularly late and for that I apologise. I had wanted to get Secret Loves Year 1 Chapter 1 written and into the minds of readers as I had made a promise to several people about the timing for the publishing of the rewrite.
I would like to specifically call out one person who sent me a PM regarding an issue of morality in Chapter 18. Thank you, txreader, for finding this issue and calling my attention to it.
Thanks, as always, to my beloved betas. I am truly blessed to have them. Special thanks, once more, to texan-muggle, for doing the pre-publishing read-through and finding the holes and bumps in the chapters.
The others were all shocked. Although Frank and Alice were in a vegetative state, there was no reason they should have been in any danger of dying. "How is this possible, Minerva?" Severus asked in genuine concern.
"The DMLE is being tight-lipped about it at the moment, but it appears to be poisoning of some sort. They were both normal last evening, but this morning Alice's complexion turned greyish-yellow. At eleven this morning, she began convulsing and frothing at the mouth and died within an hour. Frank's complexion has also turned greyish-yellow. None of the healers have seen anything like it before," Minerva said, then turned to Albus. "What happened to Miss Granger? You said it was urgent."
Albus looked at her, "Severus and Rubeus apparently broke into a classroom just as she was about to be sexually assaulted. She was unharmed, but she is hysterical at the moment, as you can see. I thought that perhaps the presence of her most-respected professor would help calm her," Albus said.
Minerva didn't respond. She simply walked over to the side of the bed and placed her hand on Hermione's back and the other on Luna's back. "Miss Granger, you are safe now. No one here will allow any harm to come to you," Minerva said gently.
Harry opened his eyes when he felt a foreign magic come in proximity to them and saw it was Professor McGonagall. He felt her concern and her righteous anger.
Hermione's sobbing quieted to the point a few of her words became intelligible. "So... scared... he... unforgivables... touched... me... so... afraid..." could be understood before she buried her face once more into Harry's chest but her sobbing had subsided and she was now only crying.
Minerva stood there, continuing to rub gentle circles in Hermione's back. Luna released her hold on Harry's legs and slowly sat up, her tears having subsided. "Hermione Love, you're safe now. I am sorry I couldn't run faster. I'm sorry I didn't think to get Professor Snape earlier. Please forgive me," Luna pleaded with the older girl.
Hermione sat up quickly, nearly smacking her head into Luna's and pulled Luna into a hug. "You saved me, Luna! There is nothing to forgive, My Little Moon! My Love!" Hermione exclaimed, holding onto the younger girl fiercely.
Minerva removed her hand from Hermione's back so that Luna could return the hug. She was somewhat shocked by Hermione's declaration about Luna being her love, and further shocked by Harry smiling at the two girls hugging one another. Minerva became even more stunned when Hermione pushed back from the hug and gave Luna a not-at-all-chaste kiss.
Harry, who was unable to sit up, looked at the expression of incredulity on Professor McGonagall's face then looked over at Neville, Susan and Hannah. "Professor McGonagall, can you tell me why Neville appears to be so distraught?" Harry asked quietly.
Minerva explained the situation to Harry. Harry's expression turned solemn. Any anger he had in his mind directed at Neville for him not being there to keep his promise to protect Hermione evaporated. Neville is likely upset about that as well, or would be if he knows, Harry thought.
Neville, accompanied by Susan and Hannah, walked over to Harry's bed. Neville was shuffling his feet, his eyes downcast. His entire demeanour was that of someone completely demoralised. It was painfully obvious to Harry that Neville knew about Hermione's experience.
Hermione pulled out of her kiss with Luna and realised she had quite an audience. She blushed bright red at the looks she received from Professors McGonagall, Snape, Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey.
Minerva found her voice. "Miss Granger, I am so happy to see no permanent harm came to you and that Professor Snape and Hagrid found you in time," she said. As Minerva said his name, Severus, followed by Albus and Poppy, walked over to the enlarged bed.
"Yes, Miss Granger, I, too, am very pleased to see you unharmed," Severus said wryly, trying to hide the smile that threatened to appear on his face.
Luna jumped off the bed and threw her arms around the now-stunned Potions Master, "Oh! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! You saved My Hermione!" Luna said enthusiastically.
Severus looked down at Luna, putting his hands on her wrists and gently, but firmly, removing her from around him. He spoke to Luna, though his words were more for show than a true admonishment, "While I can understand your relief and exuberance, Miss Lovegood, I prefer to not be hugged in public or by students. You are, however, most welcome. I thank you for finding Professor Hagrid and me as quickly as you did so that the situation could be ameliorated."
"Miss Granger, I would like to check you over, if you don't mind. I believe Professor Snape had something he wished to discuss with you, as well," Madam Pomfrey said to the utterly embarrassed girl.
Hermione nodded and held Harry's left hand. Madam Pomfrey shook her head, "Miss Granger, why don't we retire to my office so you may have some privacy while I examine you," she said and swept her gaze at the remaining people standing in the room, "and the rest of you may visit with Mister Potter until curfew, if you like, but you must all leave at that time." She reached out for Hermione to take hold of her hand. Hermione looked down at Harry and gave him a quick peck on the lips before taking Madam Pomfrey's hand and disappearing into her office for a few minutes.
Harry watched Hermione enter Madam Pomfrey's office. The door closed and he looked over at Neville, who had begun crying once more.
"Neville, come here, Brother," Harry said, the loss of his own parents freshly remembered.
Luna looked up sharply at Neville. She reached out with her magic, as Harry had taught her, and could feel his pain. Her pain for the loss of her father, although absolved by her parents, was still held deeply. Susan, whose parents and infant little brother had been murdered at the hands of Death Eaters when she was seven, had clearly been crying for Neville's loss. Hannah felt like she was the only one who had not suffered catastrophically from the machinations of the Death Eaters, and as such was the one source of stability in the room.
Neville walked around the bed as Harry reached out to him with his good arm. He sat heavily on the bed, crossed his hands in his lap and looked down at them. He was shaking slightly. He looked at Harry momentarily then back at his hands. Harry saw Neville's eyes. They looked haunted, fearful.
"I am so sorry I didn't keep my promise Harry," Neville whispered, his entire body trembled in expectation of the expected backlash from Harry. It never materialised.
Instead, Harry reached out with his hand and tried to take Neville's hand in his own but Neville was sitting too far away. Luna took Neville's hand. He looked up at her sharply. She looked into his eyes then jerked her eyes down to Harry's awaiting hand. Neville looked down then reached out tentatively and put his hand in Harry's. Neville braced himself, tightening the muscles of his back, shoulders, hips, arms, legs. Even his toes were clenched. But his hand was no more tense than he would use for a handshake. The look on his face changed dramatically as Harry spoke. Neville's look had been stilled to careful neutrality. When Harry's words met his ears, his eyes widened, his jaw slackened and he looked down at Harry as if he expected to see a three-headed dog singing "God Save The Queen" growing from the sheets.
Harry looked up at Neville and squeezed his hand, "Neville, I am sorry to hear about your Mum. To have brought into the world and raised, even for too short a time, such a kind, brave person. I wish I had met her face-to-face. I hope Gran will be willing to introduce me to her by telling us about her. If there is anything we can do to save your Father, it will be done. I swear it!" Harry said, as if he had not heard Neville apologising.
"Is she unharmed?" Neville asked Harry, still not believing his ears.
Harry shrugged, "She wasn't physically harmed," he said, a grim expression on his face, but seeing how Neville's face fell at this news, he continued, "but I do not hold you at fault or accountable, Neville." He squeezed Neville's hand again, "This was not your doing, Nev," Harry said, looking piercingly at Neville.
Neville nodded. There were no smiles in the group.
Albus looked on at the two young lords. He owed these two so much more than he could repay them in this life and spoke with Harry. "My Lords, while it is outside my responsibility as Headmaster of Hogwarts, I am an accomplished alchemist. There may be something my long years can contribute to saving Lord Longbottom's father's life. With your permission, I shall go immediately to St. Mungo's with that in mind," Albus said earnestly.
Harry looked at Neville who looked back at Harry with pleading eyes.
Harry looked up at Albus, "Headmaster Dumbledore, you have my permission to do what you can. Cost is no object. Should you need to hire others, do so. As I understand the situation, time is of the essence. Please go now."
Albus nodded at the two young men, strode to the fireplace, threw in some floo powder, clearly enunciated, "St. Mungo's," and walked into the fire.
"Thank you, Harry," Neville said softly, closing his eyes in an effort to stem the tears. Susan pulled Neville's head to her chest. Hannah put one hand on Neville's shoulder and the other hand on Harry's knee. Neville relinquished his hold on Harry's hand and wrapped his arms around Susan, desperately trying to prevent the unshed tears from falling.
Poppy finished her examination of Hermione, ensuring she missed nothing. As part of her training as a mediwitch and her self-induced requirement to be the best healer she could be for the children in her care, she took courses from a muggle university in child psychology. She looked with concern at the young girl. She seemed far more nervous than she had been when Poppy had performed a similar examination when Hermione first came to Hogwarts. The nervousness could not simply be explained away as puberty and its emotional and physical manifestations. The girl was shaking as she put her clothing back on. She barely had the manual dexterity required to fasten the buttons of her robes and she frequently looked warily at the closed door.
"Miss Granger," Poppy said softly, causing Hermione to practically leap into the air. Poppy looked at her and had seen that look once before. It had been of a field mouse, frozen in fear at the movements of a cat hunting it. At the last moment, the mouse had tried to escape, but it had leapt neatly into the cat's claws. Hermione had that same horrifically fearful gaze. "You are safe now, Miss Granger. No one here will harm you," Poppy said softly.
Hermione didn't speak, but to Poppy's experience, her body was speaking loudly enough. Two fat tears ran down her cheeks as her eyes moved rapidly between the door and Poppy. Poppy realised one of the likely causes of Hermione's fear was she was standing between the girl and the door. The door being closed likely only helped to intensify her fear. Poppy slowly opened the door and moved so she would be out of reach of the girl if she decided to run. Hermione took a deep breath and her shaking, although lessened, did not completely subside. If only for the fact there was no other sound in the office, Poppy would not have heard Hermione's faint, "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey."
Poppy nodded then explained something else which needed to happen tonight, "Miss Granger, Professor Snape asked if he could speak with you regarding this evening. If you wish, Professor McGonagall, Miss Lovegood, myself or all three of us could be present in the room with Professor Snape while he speaks with you, if you are willing to allow him to do so at all."
Hermione closed her eyes and shook, a wave of fear washing over her, "Yes please," she said.
Poppy, realising she was going to have to interpret that answer, decided to err on the side of caution as she walked past Hermione, to the door, giving the girl a wide pass to prevent her from panicking. Poppy stepped well away from the door before calling out to the assembled group in the infirmary.
"Professor Snape, Miss Granger is willing to speak with you but has requested Professor McGonagall, Miss Lovegood and I be present," Poppy explained.
Severus nodded, "I believe that would be for the best." He then turned to Harry and his words shocked Neville, Susan and Hannah, but also surprised Harry and Luna. "Lord Potter, I am going to ask Miss Granger her permission to allow me to perform Legilimency on her to determine precisely the events of this evening. As her Lord, I will require your permission as well," he explained.
Harry asked, the strain in his voice clearly showing his surprise, "How did you...?" but he was cut off by Severus.
Severus surprised him once more, "My Lord, your house elf's form of address communicated the necessary information to determine the relationship."
Harry nodded mutely then answered the original question, "If the Lady gives you her permission, then you have mine. Be gentle with her, Potions Master."
Severus nodded at Harry and gave him a slight bow. He then turned to Luna and Minerva. "Ladies, shall we attend Miss Granger?" he asked, inviting them to walk ahead of him to Poppy's office.
Minerva put her arm around Luna's shoulders and led the girl to Poppy's office. Severus followed four steps behind.
Hermione looked up as Madam Pomfrey re-entered the office followed by Luna and Professor McGonagall. Luna, nearly overwhelmed with the sense of fear she felt over her bond, ran over to Hermione and wrapped her arms around her. Hermione gently enclosed the younger girl and buried her face into Luna's hair, inhaling deeply. Her senses filled with the scents of lavender, heather and a light, intoxicating scent of honey. The fear gripping her heart nearly evaporated as a sense of safety flooded into her mind. The sight of Professor Snape entering and the look on his face filled her with some trepidation due to the memories of him from last year, but the image of him bursting into the DADA classroom on Hagrid's heels, his wand drawn and murder in his eyes took the remainder of her fear and shredded it, tossing bits of it around the room and back into the dark corners where it belonged.
Luna could feel the fear radiating from Hermione while Madam Pomfrey had been examining her. It seemed to intensify just before Madam Pomfrey left her office to come get them. As she walked in and saw her love see her, Luna felt a spike of relief yet it was still tinged by an unspeakable, deep-seated fear. She had run to Hermione and engulfed her in a hug. She felt Hermione bury her face in her hair and nuzzle her neck. And she felt the fear nearly disappear and a spreading calm blanket Hermione's fears, nearly smothering them. Luna then felt a moment of apprehension in her Love before that, too, disappeared completely along with the fear going away. She then heard Professor Snape speak.
"Miss Granger, I surmise you are physically unharmed?" Severus asked. Although Poppy nodded, he waited for Hermione to answer.
"I am fine, Professor Snape," Hermione said quietly over Luna's shoulder, unwilling to release her hold on the younger witch in her arms.
Severus raised an eyebrow, "Miss Granger, while you might feel as if nothing is wrong with you due to tonight's events, please do not lie to yourself or to me about your state of mind. To heal from such an event even though, as it were, nothing physically happened, you were frightened for your own physical and mental well-being and quite possibly the same for others at Hogwarts. Lying to yourself about your fears and insecurities is unwise."
Hermione's hold on Luna unconsciously tightened slightly as she thought of it having been Luna trapped with Lockhart instead of herself. She nodded at Severus.
Severus' look at her softened before he spoke again, "Do you know what Legilimency is, Miss Granger?"
Hermione nodded, "I was reading about it, and its related skill, Occlumency, in the Founders' common room. The more I read, the more I became interested in advancing my skills in both and teaching both Luna and Harry the skills," she said softly. She released Luna from the hug. Luna kissed her on the cheek before releasing Hermione, but held one of Hermione's hands as she turned to look at the three adults.
Severus nodded, "I believe that would be a wise decision. With regard to Legilimency, I would like your permission to see the events which transpired this evening in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, and possibly any other events which may relate to it. I warn you should you provide me with that permission, you will, in essence, re-live each of the events in your own mind. It will not be possible for you to falsify or otherwise alter the memories. Is this acceptable to you?" he asked.
Hermione pulled Luna to her once more. Luna could feel the fear radiating from Hermione, but could feel her resolve as well.
Hermione nodded, "I will allow it," she said, then opened her eyes wide and looked directly at the potions professor.
Severus took a step forward, pulled his wand and, as gently as he could, began probing through her memories. He saw all of the events within the classroom. He watched the interactions as they walked to the Quidditch Stadium. He then reviewed all of her memories from that evening from the Infirmary and from Madam Pomfrey's examination of her. Other than the barely contained rage he felt towards Lockhart, two events stood out in his mind which would require him to speak with Harry again, preferably privately.
Severus blinked, releasing his contact with Hermione. She shuddered and practically smothered Luna in a hug, softly crying into her shoulder. "Miss Granger, my apologies for having to put you through that again. I need to speak with Lord Potter for a moment, but I am going to recommend, Madam Pomfrey, that both Lady Lovegood and Miss Granger sleep in the Infirmary tonight with Lord Potter," he said before turning and leaving.
Poppy was about to argue about how improper that would be until she saw Minerva simply nod at his back. What is going on here? she thought.
Minerva looked at the two young witches embracing. What is going on here? she thought, for similar reasons.
Susan and Hannah looked down at Neville then over at Harry. "How is your arm, Harry?" Susan asked, trying to find a lighter subject to discuss.
Harry let out an explosive laugh, looking up at Susan, who had a hurt look on her face. "Susan, I was not laughing at you," he said, causing Susan's features to soften, "I was just thinking that, with everything else going on, I had completely forgotten about it. It itches like mad, but on the inside. Madam Pomfrey couldn't give me any pain or numbing potions because they apparently interact with the bone-growing potion. Being strapped down to the bed doesn't help either, but I couldn't promise her I wouldn't just move about in my sleep, hence the chest strap to keep my arm from moving."
Hannah looked down at Harry with a smile, "I, for one, Lord Abbot, was most impressed with your catching of the snitch and sending Malfoy to the infirmary as well."
Harry looked around, wondering how he would have missed Draco in the room.
"He's not here now. Madam Pomfrey probably fixed him up and sent him on his way. That bludger going through his broom left a wand-sized piece through his hand," Susan explained.
"Fortunately, only you, Malfoy and Flint were injured. I'm really sorry about your broom, Lord Abbot. And your arm," Hannah said. She then turned to Susan and looked meaningfully at Neville. Susan caught her meaning and pulled Neville to stand from the bed, "Neville, let's go talk in the hall for a moment," she said. Neville looked up at her and let her lead him away.
Hannah turned back to Harry. "Lord Abbot, I..." but she was stopped as the door to Madam Pomfrey's office opened and Professor Snape strode out, focused on the young lord in bed. Severus looked at Harry, then at a blushing Hannah, then at Harry again.
He addressed Harry, "Lord Potter, after reviewing Miss Granger's memories, I would like to review your memories from earlier today," he said in an authoritative voice.
"For what reasons, Potions Master?" Harry asked, concerned Severus may look at other things he would keep secret from him.
Severus turned to Hannah, "Miss Abbot, would you excuse us for a moment?"
Hannah nodded, "Harry, I am going to go check on Hermione and Luna. I will be back," she looked at Severus, "in a few minutes?" she asked of him. Severus nodded. Hannah kissed Harry on the cheek and walked into Poppy's office. Once she entered and closed the door, Severus turned back to Harry.
"Lord Potter, there are issues at play here you may not be aware of and the more information I can gather and assemble regarding this incident and this individual, the better the opportunity to deal with this miscreant more effectively. Legilimency will cause you to re-live any memories I view so you will know what I have seen," Severus explained.
Harry looked at Severus and thought about his interactions with the man since he had lost his dark mark. Not once in his association with Severus had the man ever lied to him. Petty, certainly. Vindictive, definitely. Never a liar. "Yes, Potions Master, you may do so," he said. "What do I need to do?" he asked.
"Open your eyes wide and do not clench your mind or your magic. You will feel me enter your mind and I will be most careful to focus on the memories I am looking for. It would help if you could clear your mind and think about your interactions with Professor Lockhart," Severus said.
Harry nodded, closed his eyes for a moment, cleared his thoughts and focused on the DADA professor. He then opened his eyes wide and looked directly at Severus' eyes.
Severus raised his wand and began casting. He watched from Harry's perspective as Hermione toppled Lockhart in the book store. He watched as Harry felt the rage rising in him as Lockhart caressed the fourth year girl on the path to the Quidditch Stadium. He felt the rage spike again as Lockhart pulled Hermione to him and he was suddenly looking up at Lockhart as the man vanished the bones in Harry's arms. Severus then had an experience he had never had before. He was looking at Lockhart and was suddenly thrust into Lockhart's fantasy as to what the man wanted to do with Hermione. She had belittled him in the book store so he was going to take her innocence using force, use her repeatedly the entire night, heal her and restore her hymen, then obliviate her and, in the thrall following a strong obliviation, implant an unreasonably strong infatuation with him in her mind. Severus was then tossed back into Harry's memories, where he suddenly caught a flash of what Hermione and Luna meant to Harry. They were surrounded by a golden halo, and on their shoulders, an impossibly large owl was surrounding them with her white, incandescent wings. Severus then found himself thrown out of Harry's mind so violently that his knees buckled.
Harry was infuriated, "SNAPE!" Harry shouted.
Severus held up his hand to the angry, young man. "My apologies, Lord Potter, but I shall not speak of what I saw regarding your Ladies. It was your strength of will which took me to them. I did not head in that direction within your mind," he explained, his eyes still downcast as he rose to one knee.
Harry's anger evaporated as he realised the man was telling the truth. After reliving seeing Lockhart's fantasy, Harry needed to immerse himself again in his mental shrine to Hermione and Luna. "My apologies, Potion Master Snape, for both my anger and my causing you harm. I was in the wrong. You were not," Harry said, realising the man had only been trying to help.
Severus stood and looked, once more, at Harry. "My Lord, I will need to review the Tome of Punishments to determine if anyone else was possibly harmed by Professor Lockhart. I will return shortly," Severus said.
Hannah entered Madam Pomfrey's office and stopped at the sight in front of her. Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall were staring at Hermione and Luna, who were just finishing up a hug. Hermione, facing the door, saw the three of them staring at her and Luna, the two adults somewhat shocked and Hannah somewhat embarrassed. "Professor Snape said I should come in here so as to not disturb his conversation with Harry," Hannah said, surprising the two older witches, who both turned around quickly.
McGonagall raised an eyebrow, "How did you find yourself in the middle of all of this, Miss Abbot?"
Hannah felt as if she was in the Great Hall with all eyes looking at her. "I am Susan Bones' best friend, she is Neville Longbottom's girlfriend, Neville is Harry's best friend, Hermione and Luna are Harry's girlfriends and my good friends."
Minerva's eyebrows shot into her hairline at that explanation and she turned back to Hermione and Luna, "Both of you are Mister Potter's girlfriends?" she asked.
Hermione blushed and was about to explain when Luna spoke up, "Deputy Headmistress McGonagall, Lord Potter's personal life is not subject to questioning; neither is Lord Longbottom's nor my own. As Miss Granger's legal guardian is Lord Potter, her personal life is also not subject to questioning. However, to answer your question, neither Miss Granger nor I are Lord Potter's girlfriends. Miss Abbot is simply mistaken," Luna said with a tone of authority.
Minerva was now speechless. Not only had she been told to leave well enough alone, she was not permitted to ask any clarifying questions regarding their relationship. "My apologies, Lady Lovegood. I intended no offence. I was merely attempting to clarify the situation," Minerva said gently.
Luna switched back to her normal tone of voice, "No need to apologise, Professor McGonagall. While I am certain many girls at Hogwarts would like to be Harry's girlfriend, Hermione and I are not in that category," she said smiling, then turned around to look at a shocked Hermione and gave her a firm kiss on the lips, "Are we, Hermione-Love?"
Hermione could only shake her head. Luna was filling her mind with how much Hermione's love and care meant to her and it was overwhelming the older girl.
"Perhaps I should see if Professor Snape is done speaking with Mister Potter," a thoroughly embarrassed McGonagall said and, walking passed Hannah, left Poppy's office.
"I shall come with you," Poppy said, rushing out of her own office as well.
Hannah slowly walked over to Hermione and Luna. She was looking down and blushing. "I am sorry, you two. I just thought the way you two acted around Harry and with what Susan has been telling me, I just presumed you were his girlfriends," she said softly.
Luna looked at Hermione, and motioned her head towards Hannah. Hermione understood Luna was asking if she could tell Hannah the whole truth. Hermione had a two-word answer for her, "Vassal oath."
Luna nodded happily, "Thank you, Mione-Love," she said and gave Hermione a kiss on the cheek.
Hannah had heard "vassal oath" and, for the first time, felt uncomfortable in the presence of these two girls.
"Miss Abbot, what we are about to tell you falls under the category of personal life of Lord Abbot, and as such you are not permitted to discuss it with anyone who is not so sworn, or who do not already have this knowledge. Do you understand?" Luna asked.
Hannah took a deep breath. Although she had not taken the family oaths yet, she knew her father would be held accountable if she violated the terms of the oath. "I understand," she whispered.
Luna leaned in close to Hannah's ear, "We're not Harry's girlfriends because we're his wives," she whispered so softly she could not hear her own words. Luna then kissed her ear gently.
Hannah pulled her head back and looked at Luna in disbelief. She then noticed, for the first time, the rings which adorned Hermione's and Luna's left ring fingers. She looked up at Hermione, who had a wary look on her face. Then Hannah did the only thing a true friend of Hermione and Luna could do. She squealed in excitement, then held her hands to her chin to keep her jaw from hitting the floor. She gathered Luna and Hermione into a hug. She couldn't even speak. Here was the single most eligible male at Hogwarts. Wealth, political power, sweet, caring, kind, and from what Susan described, a great kisser, and these two had managed to convince him to marry them both. Wow! Just Wow! she thought. Okay, technically Susan said Luna was a great kisser but that Harry had taught her how to kiss and these two were going to check with Harry if it was okay for them to teach Susan how to kiss too. I wonder...she thought then decided to just ask. "I'm really happy for you three! Susan said you two were going to ask Harry if it was fine with him to give Susan kissing lessons. Can I get kissing lessons, too?" she asked, her cheeks turning a deep, rosy hue.
Luna turned to Hermione, silently asking permission. Hannah watched as Hermione leaned down to Luna's ear and whispered something to the younger girl as she looked at Hannah. Hannah wasn't sure what Hermione had whispered in Luna's ear but it must have been exciting based on the way Luna smiled a little smile, closed her eyes and shuddered before Hermione stood up to smile at her.
Hermione placed her hand on the back of Luna's head and began rubbing her head as she spoke to Hannah. "Hannah, as much as I would like to begin your kissing lessons tonight, we've both been through a lot and I am knackered. Since tomorrow is Sunday, maybe Luna and I can show you and Susan around the Founders' Quarters and we can sneak off to the bath and begin those kissing lessons," she said, then blushed. "I forgot, Hannah. There is one rule we promised Harry we would abide by: Harry gets to watch us give the lessons."
Hannah's eyes opened widely as she gasped in air and her jaw went slack. "What?" she asked incredulously.
"Harry likes to watch," Hermione tried explaining.
"He isn't the only one," Hannah blurted out, blushing madly and putting her hand over her mouth in an effort to prevent herself from saying anything else incriminating.
Gilderoy was sitting in his office. He had heard the first door fail and heard one attempt to break down the door he was behind. He had then heard muffled voices and then silence for the past two hours. He'd been unable to open the door normally or using magic. He had even tried using a reducto to blow the door down. It hadn't even scratched the paint. "What to do... what to do..." he mumbled to himself. He snapped his fingers and called out the name of the Hogwarts house elf he had used to collect knickers from some of the young lovelies with whom he was enamoured. "Prickly!" he called out confidently.
A house elf wearing a Hogwarts tabard with all of the houses on it appeared. "Professor Lockhart be calling Prickly?" the elf asked.
"Yes, Prickly. I seem to be unable to open this door and I need to do so to go to my quarters," Lockhart said with a confident smile.
Prickly looked at the door, waved his hands over it then looked back at Lockhart with a sad expression on his face, "Prickly can't be opening the door. Professor Snapesees locked it and asked Hoggywarts to keep it locked. I's will go ask Professor Snapesees," Prickly said, snapped his fingers and disappeared before Lockhart could stop him.
"Prickly! Prickly! PRICKLY!" Lockhart shouted then looked around. "Bloody elf!" he shouted to the otherwise empty room. He looked around for a moment and noticed, for the first time, a small opening in the wall at floor level. "Well. We may be getting out after all," he said to himself before turning into his animagus form.
Severus was in McGonagall's office looking through the Tome of Punishments. Had anyone else been in the office with him, they would likely have been afraid for their very life if they thought the grim look on the Potions Master's face was a result of something they had done. The number of students whose memories he would need to sort through was growing by the turn of the page. He was fairly certain he could bypass anyone who had been given a detention during lunch, but anyone who had one or more detentions after hours, on a weekend or been given multiple detentions, whether male or female, with Lockhart was going to need to have Legilimency used on them. The list of students who had already had more than one after-hours detention with him was fifty-seven students long. Severus was also concerned with the number of times two or more girls in third and fourth year had detentions with Lockhart where the detentions had been assigned by Lockhart multiple evenings in a row. He started for a moment as the stern deputy headmistress spoke to him from the door of her office.
"Mister Potter told me I would find you looking at the Tome of Punishments, though he would not tell me the reasons. What are you looking for, Severus?" she asked in concern.
Severus pointed out the entries in the book, starting on the third of September, which were of concern to him.
"He isn't supposed to be assigning detentions with himself. Albus specifically informed all of us..." Minerva said as she looked at the entries and after the beginning of the second week of term, she stopped mid-sentence as she spotted a pattern which had her sucking in her breath. "In the name of all that is sacred..." she whispered in shock.
Severus, too, finally noticed the pattern as well. "All of the girls are muggleborn. All of the boys are blonde," he said, then looked at one name that chilled his blood. Draco Malfoy. Filch had reassigned Draco's detention to Lockhart and Lockhart had escorted Draco back to the Slytherin dungeons after curfew for ten nights.
Both professors whipped around, their wands in their hands. Severus had already cast a silent shield spell before fully turning.
"Prickly is sorry for startling Professor Snapesees and Deputy Kitty," the elf said.
Minerva put her wand away and noticed Severus had a smirk. She raised an eyebrow at him.
He answered the unasked question with one of his own, "Deputy Kitty? How appropriate," he said then turned to the elf.
Minerva ignored the question, "What is it, Prickly?" she asked the elf.
"Professor Lockhart needs Professor Snapesees to open the door to the hall so Professor Lockhart can go to his quarters," the elf said, wringing his hands together.
Severus looked from the elf to Minerva, "Minerva, while I am certain Lord Potter would deal with this in a fashion I would find wholly appropriate," Severus said, watching the stern deputy headmistress for any signs of argument, "I think he has enough catastrophe in his life to add this as well. You know that if Albus was in the castle, he would not permit this issue to be dealt with in a permanent fashion. I believe the two of us should deal with the miscreant before Albus returns."
Minerva McGonagall was a witch with strong moral fibre and a will of iron. There was one chink in her armour, if one could truly call it a failing. The safety and happiness of the children in her care was paramount. "Severus, if he has done things to harm the children, he will have no quarter from me. Let us retire to Albus' office, to use his pensieve, so that I may review what you learned from talking with Miss Granger and Mister Potter," she said, a far-off look in her eyes.
Severus nodded and gestured for her to lead the way.
Hermione and Luna each took one of Hannah's arms and walked out of Madam Pomfrey's office. They found Harry and Madam Pomfrey quietly conversing about Harry's parents. Madam Pomfrey was clearly reminiscing about James and Lily and steadfastly ignoring the silent trickle of tears on both Harry's and her cheeks. The three girls approached as quietly as they could so as to not interrupt Madam Pomfrey.
"...and James did this aerial somersault on one of the old Cleansweep Five brooms and managed to crash it into the pitch directly in front of Lily. She rushed over to him, berating him about his flying, his attitude and his general lack of good qualities when he stood up, his left arm broken and handed her the snitch with his right hand. She went quiet, looked at the snitch, looked up at James and that is when he asked her to be his girlfriend. It was clear to all of the faculty that she was sweet on him and the yelling was nothing more than a front. Anyway, she smiled at him and, being careful of his left arm, kissed him soundly and thoroughly. That was fifth year and they were inseparable," Madam Pomfrey said, then looked down at Harry. "Your Miss Granger reminds me very much of Lily, I will have you know. Brilliant, beautiful and a balancing influence for you. She said she wasn't your girlfriend, but I can tell she is sweet on you, Mr. Potter and that you care for her as well. Just don't hurt her feelings or I may reconsider putting you back together after your Quidditch matches."
Hannah cleared her throat meaningfully. Madam Pomfrey turned around, startled at the noise and saw the three girls standing behind her. She couldn't help but notice Hermione was the colour of beets.
Madam Pomfrey wiped her eyes. "Ladies, Mister Potter and I were just talking about his parents," Madam Pomfrey said.
Luna looked at Madam Pomfrey and asked formally, "Madam Pomfrey, is your family still sworn to the House of Gaunt?"
Madam Pomfrey looked at Luna, surprised by the unexpected direction and tone of the question. "The House of Pomfrey is still sworn to the House of Gaunt, Miss Lovegood," Poppy said. "For what reason are you inquiring?" she asked curiously.
Luna interspersed herself between Hannah and a still-blushing Hermione and whispered quietly into Hermione's ear, never taking her eyes from Madam Pomfrey. Hermione looked at Madam Pomfrey as well, then looked at Luna and shrugged, gesturing to Harry. Luna walked around the bed to the far side, climbed up on it and snuggled in close to Harry, still not taking her eyes off Madam Pomfrey, and whispered into his ear. Harry listened for a moment before his eyebrows went into his hairline. After a moment, his face relaxed and a small smile appeared on his lips. He turned to Luna, kissed her full on the mouth, lingering for a moment, then broke the kiss and nodded to her.
Poppy was now completely confused. She knew Hermione had been crushing on Harry since last year, that Harry was now staying with her parents and they were now his legal guardians in the muggle world. Yet, here in front of her, Harry had just kissed Xeno's and Maia's little girl, and not in a chaste way either. She watched as Luna got up from the bed, walked over to her. Then, shockingly, considering the way Luna had not stopped staring at her, even long enough to blink, Luna embraced her in a fierce, affectionate hug. Poppy was at first stunned, then embarrassed. "Miss Lovegood, what did I do to deserve this display of affection?" she asked, putting her hands on Luna's shoulders.
Luna looked up at her and pulled away slightly. "Madam Pomfrey, you care. You would willingly open your home to Harry, you take care of him when he hurts himself and you watch out for him," Luna said, a hint of emotion in her voice.
Before she could say anything, Madam Pomfrey was cut off by Hermione and she turned to face the brunette. "I would have liked to have been Harry's girlfriend, even if just for a day or two," she said, Poppy noticed, with a broad smile.
She then turned back to Luna who spoke with authority, "As Lady Lovegood, I recognise you are bound by your vassal oaths to the ancient and noble House of Gaunt and am entrusting you, and you alone, with information you need, should you choose to hear it. Know, however, your vassal oaths will prevent you from speaking of it with anyone not so sworn. Do you wish me to tell you this information, Healer Pomfrey?"
Poppy was taken aback. Although she, too, had witnessed Rubeus being granted a house and a seat on the Wizengamot, she still thought of Harry and Luna as kind, gentle students and not as a Lord and Lady. "Lady Lovegood, if you feel I should know this information, then by all means, please tell me. While I am aware of my vassal oaths, I am more acutely aware of my oath as a Healer. If any are present who should not know this information, then perhaps we should retire to my office for some privacy," she explained.
Luna was now bouncing up and down as if she had just been given a baby snorkack of her very own. She pulled out her wand and pointed it at herself. "On my magic, I swear to you, Healer Pomfrey, I speak the truth when I say Lord Harry James Potter is married to and bonded with Lady Hermione Jane Potter and Luna Selene Potter, Lady Lovegood. So mote it be," Luna said. She pulsed a pale shade of lavender for a moment. She then pointed her wand at the ceiling and incanted, "Lumos!" Due to her excitement, the light coming from the end of her wand was quite nearly blinding. "Sorry," she said, "nox!" and the light went out.
Once her vision returned to normal, Poppy stared at the excited young girl in front of her. Married? How...? It matters not how, she thought. She turned to Harry, "Congratulations, Mister Potter. Or should I be congratulating My Lord?" she said with a somewhat concerned expression.
Harry smiled at her, "If we're amongst friends, and have no need for formality, would calling me 'Harry' be acceptable?"
Poppy smiled at the boy she had seen far too often needing her in her professional capacity. "Thank you, Harry. Now do try to remain calm for the remainder of the evening. I believe that, with Rubeus guarding the infirmary entrance, I am safe in giving both Ladies dreamless sleep potions. Due to the Skele-Gro potion I cannot give you one. I believe I shall need to be giving Mr Longbottom and Miss Bones some as well," she said, then turned to Hannah. "Miss Abbot, will you be remaining with Mr Longbottom and Miss Bones?" Poppy asked Hannah with a slight, knowing smile.
Hannah nodded, then looked at Harry and swallowed, "I will be staying in the infirmary the night, if Lord Abbot has no objections," she said, blushing slightly and looking at the floor.
Harry reached out his intact arm to Hannah, "Come here, Hannah," he said softly.
Hannah walked slowly over to the bed, sat down on it and took his hand. He gently tugged on her hand and she understood he wanted her to lay next to him while he spoke to her. "Hannah," he whispered, "I meant what I said. You get to make those decisions. I feel incredibly guilty for taking those decisions away from Hermione and Luna. No woman or girl in any family I am the head of will be married off to a man she doesn't want to be with. Ever. Just be careful, please. Neville is my best friend. He has lost his mother and, although Headmaster Dumbledore is a brilliant alchemist, I am worried Neville is going to lose his father as well."
Hannah smiled. "Harry," she whispered back, "you know you are the very best. I already spoke with Susan about this, though. Because your arm won't be healed until the late tomorrow morning, I was going to bunk with you, Luna and Hermione. Hermione needs to be surrounded by warm, caring people tonight, even if she is given a dreamless sleeping potion. She'll still dream once she gets close to wakefulness in the morning and having two girls surrounding her will help dispel the bad dreams that much more quickly." She paused for a moment and looked a little sad, "Besides, I don't think Neville likes me very much. He gets really nervous when I am around."
Harry looked at her for a moment then spoke his mind, "Hannah, what's not to like? You're smart, pretty and likely Susan's best friend. If he's nervous when you're around, it's probably because he likes you but doesn't want Susan to think he likes you better than her. As to bunking with us tonight, I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
Hannah kissed his cheek and stood. "I should get Susan and Neville from the hallway," she said, then walked towards the door.
As he watched Hannah walk away, Harry thought of something and turned to Poppy. "Madam Pomfrey, is Mrs. Norris here?" he asked.
Poppy was surprised by the change in direction, but answered. "She is in a cat bed in my office, enchanted by Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall," she said.
"When everyone gets settled, could you bring her to me? I don't mean her any harm and just wished to pet her," Harry explained.
Poppy looked at Harry, "I suppose, Harry, but she won't feel you pet her. She has been petrified and will be oblivious to anything happening to her until she is awoken with the mandrake potion."
Harry looked up at the ceiling, "I just...I remember stories of coma patients being spoken to while they lay in bed unresponsive and...well...I guess I just wanted her to know she was not forgotten." Hermione and Luna could feel Harry's sadness like a wave washing over them, so overwhelming in its power that it had the girls near tears. Poppy went into her office. Upon coming out with Mrs. Norris, cat bed and all, she found Hermione snuggled into Harry on his good side and Luna snuggled into Hermione. Poppy set Mrs. Norris' cat bed down on Harry's stomach so he could easily reach her as well as to provide additional incentive to not move during the night. Both Harry and Hermione stroked the petrified cat, while Luna softly cooed to her, telling her what a brave and noble cat she was. At that moment, a miniature silver phoenix popped into the room and headed straight to Madam Pomfrey. It trilled in her ear a moment before disappearing in a puff of silver smoke. A tear escaped from Poppy's eye and she opened a potion cabinet and removed two vials. She looked at Harry, who was looking at her.
Harry asked, "Neville's father?" to which she nodded sadly, another tear leaking down his face.
At that moment, Professor Dumbledore and Susan Bones escorted a clearly distraught Neville into the infirmary. Hannah followed along behind, looking lost and feeling useless. They led him over to the bed next to Harry's and sat him down. Poppy handed a crying, pale Susan one of the potions. She placed it in Neville's hand then helped put it to his lips and tip it back. Neville swallowed it down without thought. Within moments, Neville was asleep and leaning against Susan's shoulder. Dumbledore helped him lie down in bed and expanded the bed large enough for the two of them. Poppy handed Susan the second potion. She looked at Neville, nodded and drank the potion before laying down and cuddling into Neville. She, too, was asleep within moments. Poppy carefully took off her shoes. Albus took off Neville's shoes and transfigured both children's robes into pyjamas and conjured blankets to cover them. He then turned to Harry, Hermione and Luna, the girls having sat up when Susan and Neville came into the room. There was no twinkle in Albus' eyes. In fact, it was the first time the three of them had ever seen him frown. "I am afraid I have terrible news. Neville's parents, along with several other patients in the long-term ward were poisoned. The poison will be difficult to trace, but we now know how they were poisoned. One of the orderlies was under the imperious curse and put it in their potions. We know what the poison is, but even had we known within minutes of their being poisoned, there would have been no saving them," Albus said, his demeanour sinking as each word was spoken; as if even speaking was a torturous effort. He looked up at Harry, "I am truly sorry, My Lord, for not being able to slow or stop the course of the poison. The only thing we could do was administer a Draught of Numbing to ease his passing. I have failed both of you again." Two fat tears ran down Albus' face as he buried his face in his hands.
Harry looked at Albus in shock. He was not the only one, as Poppy, too, had never seen Albus cry before. "Headmaster?" Harry called out. Nothing. No response at all from the old wizard. "Albus!" Harry shouted.
Albus looked up at him in surprise. He wiped his eyes and his cheeks.
"Headmaster, I think the best thing would be to take care of the living and ensure no one else will fall prey to this insidious poisoning plot. I am in no position to handle this problem and would appreciate it if you would provide any and all assistance you can to Director Bones, assuring her that her niece is safe and that neither Neville nor I will allow any harm to come to her," Harry said.
Albus nodded, "Thank you, Harry." He stood and left the infirmary in search of Severus and Minerva.
Poppy walked back over to the potion cabinet and took three more potion vials, one of which was only half the size of the other two. She gave one each of the larger vials to Hermione and Luna and watched as they drank them. Within moments, both girls were asleep, snuggled into one another. Madam Pomfrey levitated Hermione over to sandwich Luna between Harry and Hermione. Harry pulled Luna's sleeping form closer to him. Poppy lowered Hermione right next to Luna and then looked at Hannah. "Miss Abbot, this is a lesser potion of dreamless sleep. It will help you get to sleep and keep you asleep for at least three hours. Do try to get some rest," she said to Hannah with a small, sad smile. Hannah simply nodded at her, taking the vial but not yet drinking it. Poppy then turned to Harry, "Do try to get some sleep, Harry. I do wish I could give you something to sleep as it would help, especially considering all that has happened this evening."
Harry just nodded at her. Poppy went to the potion cabinet one final time and took out a large red-coloured potion and carried it to Hagrid, who thanked her as he drank it down. Steam shot from his ears as the Goblin version of the Pepper-Up potion gave the half-giant enough energy to remain awake and coherent through the night and the next day. She then went into her office and closed the door, needing the privacy so she could cry for the loss of her friends and the pain their son was feeling.
Hannah stood up from the bed and walked around to the other side and knelt down on the bed right next to Harry. She looked into his eyes and sighed. "Lord...Harry, would you do something for me?" she asked, her eyes half-lidded and a rosy hue rising in her cheeks.
Harry swallowed, his eyes wide open looking at the pretty witch hovering above him who was now lowering herself so their faces were a mere hand's breadth away. "What would you like me to do, Hannah?" he asked, swallowing once more, his upper lip quivering.
She lowered her lips to his ear. "Would you kiss me, just once, so I know what it's like to kiss you?" she whispered.
He spoke softly, but the slight tinge of anger and pain could be heard in his flat, monotone, "You want to kiss the boy who lived," he said.
Hannah jerked back, shaking her head, "No. I don't ever really think of you in those terms, Harry," she said, tears coming unbidden to her eyes. She continued, "You're not the boy who lived or the heir of Slytherin or the youngest seeker in a century, or even really Lord Abbot. Other than Neville, I think you're the only other honourable, decent, caring boy my age in the entire school." She began to move away, feeling as if she had missed her one and only opportunity to kiss him.
"Hannah. Wait," Harry said. She stopped and looked back at him. "I can't give you a proper kiss. Not now. Not here. Not like this. If you can wait until tomorrow afternoon, when Hermione and Luna are awake to share it with you and I can hold you in my arms, then I will give you a proper kiss," he said earnestly.
She moved closer again and leaned down until her lips were almost touching his, "A sample then, tonight?" she asked. He barely nodded. She closed her eyes and pressed her lips against his gently and gave him a warm, tender, lingering, chaste kiss. She drew back and sighed. She opened her eyes and saw him smile a sweet, little smile at her.
He whispered to her, "That was a nice sample, Hannah. Sleep sweet, Hannah. You need your rest."
She lowered her lips to his once more and briefly kissed him before drawing back and whispering, "With kisses like that, I know I shall have pleasant dreams." She moved to the edge of the bed, climbed down and walked to the other side. "Harry, would you close your eyes for me while I take off my robes?" she asked shyly.
"My eyes are closed," he said quietly, noticing Hagrid had his head deliberately turned to watch the door, and closed his eyes.
Hannah removed her robes, under which was her nightshirt. "Okay, Harry, you can open your eyes again," she said.
He lifted his head off the mattress to look at her. She was wearing a pale pink nightshirt that only went to mid-thigh. She looked at him and smiled as she pulled the blankets back and scooted in right next to Hermione. She tucked her wand beneath the pillow, opened the potion vial and drank the contents, quickly setting the vial on the bedside table. "Good night, Harry. I am so looking forward to tomorrow," she said, her last words slurred from the onset of the potion.
Harry looked up at the ceiling. "Gallmonger," he called. The elf appeared instantly with a soft pop.
"How can Gallmonger be helping Lord Harry?" the elf asked.
"Could you please dim the lights and check on Madam Pomfrey? I am going to try to sleep," Harry said, somewhat sadly.
The lights dimmed and Harry heard two soft pops and Madam Pomfrey's voice quietly talking to the elf. He closed his eyes and began softly humming a tune he had heard somewhere. He fell into a light doze.
Harry awoke suddenly. He felt someone laying against him. The lack of someone asleep on top of him caused him to panic for a moment until he remembered the events of the day. He heard voices and opened his eyes to slits. He looked towards the door to the hall and could hear Hagrid's voice intermingled with Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape.
He strained to hear what they were saying as Professor Snape and Hagrid carried a statue to a bed in the infirmary. He distinctly heard the Headmaster say, "Please go get Poppy, Minerva." He heard her quick steps go past his bed and continue to the door of Poppy's office. There was a soft sound of knocking and a quick, whispered conversation before two sets of footsteps walked to the bed three away from Harry.
"What happened?" Harry heard Poppy ask, fright in her voice.
"Another attack," Professor Snape said. "Minerva and I found him on the steps. There was a collection of foodstuffs around him and a spilled basket. We believe he was trying to visit Lord Potter."
Harry heard a creak. He turned his head slowly and saw, in the moonlight, that Professor Dumbledore had what appeared to be a camera in his hands. Harry looked down at the statue and saw the face. It was Colin Creevey.
"You don't suppose he took a picture of whomever it was that attacked him, do you?" Poppy asked.
Harry watched as Dumbledore opened the back of the camera. A jet of steam and acrid smoke shot out of the camera and the metallic scent of burnt plastic filled the air. Dumbledore looked at the twisted, melted plastic. "Melted. All melted..." he said, his voice tapering off in speculation.
"'At does this mean, Professor?" Hagrid asked quietly, his voice almost a whisper.
Albus met Severus' gaze, then looked at Hagrid. "It means, my gentle friend, that the Chamber of Secrets has been opened again."
Poppy looked at Albus, "But, Albus... who...?" she began to ask, but her voice trailed off as she looked at the frozen rictus of fear on Colin's face.
Albus, too, looked down at Colin, "The question is not who, my dear. The question is how."
From what Harry could see of the adults' faces, none of them seemed to have an answer.
It was quiet once more. The adults had all left except for Madam Pomfrey, who had gone into her office and closed the door, and Hagrid, who was silently sitting next to the door. Harry's eyes were closed but he was unable to sleep. He tensed at the sound of a scratching at the door. He slowly opened his eyes to slits and turned his head towards the infirmary door. Hagrid was slowly and silently pulling back the string of his crossbow by hand, ignoring the windlass crank. He then placed a quarrel into the flight groove and slid it under the retention spring. He then held the crossbow like an enormous pistol in his right hand as he quickly opened the infirmary door. He looked out the door, then looked down. Harry could not see what Hagrid was looking at. Hagrid looked over at Harry's bed and saw that his eyes were open. A huge smile bloomed on Hagrid's face as he looked back at the crossbow, set the safety, removed the quarrel and set the crossbow down on the ground. He reached down with his index finger extended and crouched down. He slowly stood once more, softly cooing to whatever it was he saw. Hagrid then turned and Harry nearly jumped for joy. Hagrid closed the door and carried Hedwig over to Harry's bed and held her out.
He looked down at the smile on Harry's face. "I know you can't pet 'er yet, 'Arry, but she sure seems 'appy to see ya," Hagrid said.
Harry, too, cooed softly to his second-ever friend. "Hello Girl! I missed you!" he said emotionally. Hedwig hopped down from Hagrid's finger onto Harry's chest and looked at him for a moment. She then flared her wings and slowly but gently flapped them into his cheeks. She hooted then jumped into flight and landed on the railing at the head of the bed. She flared her wings once more to full width before tucking her head beneath one of them.
Hagrid looked at the owl with a smile, then looked back down at Harry, "Go back to sleep, 'Arry. I have a feeling she'll be waiting for you when you wake up."
Harry looked up at his first-ever friend, "Thank you, Hagrid," he said, his spirit feeling much higher.
Hagrid reached down and tousled his hair, "Sleep well, Lad. I'll make sure of it. Close your eyes and sleep."
Harry nodded and closed his eyes once more, a smile firmly on his face. He heard Hagrid walk back to his stool and pick up his crossbow once more. Harry slept the rest of the night without interruption.