This took far too long to get out, and for that you have my sincerest apologies. I've been focused on a number of assignments and on another story. I felt it was unfair to leave the readers of this story in the lurch, as it were, and am truly apologetic for that.
I have not abandoned this, or any other, story.
Secret Loves Year 2 Chapter 23 – Gone With The Wand
Harry awoke and was immediately concerned. His human blanket was missing but there was a slight weight on his stomach. Where is Hermione?! He opened his eyes to see the dawn's light shining in through the infirmary windows. He looked down at his stomach and was surprised. Mrs. Norris' bed was still on his stomach, but Hedwig was now perched on the rigid edge of the cat bed and had her wings protectively encircling the petrified cat. Her own head was tucked under her wings in sleep. He slowly tried to sit up so as not to disturb Hedwig and only then remembered he was strapped down to the bed. He looked over and, with a sigh of relief, saw Hermione spooned between Luna and Hannah. Through the bond, he could feel Luna and Hermione were both still asleep. He gently reached over, placed his hand on the back of Luna's head and, with his finger weaving into her hair, gently caressed her scalp.
Madam Pomfrey walked out of her office and smiled when she saw Harry was awake. "Good morning, Harry. I trust you slept well," she said softly as she stopped at the bed and waved a wand over his arm.
He smiled at her. "I did sleep soundly, amazingly enough," he said. The smile from his face faded as she frowned at the results of her scan.
She cast the diagnostic spell again and then a third time, muttering, "This can't be right," under her breath.
"What can't be right, Madam Pomfrey?" Harry asked quietly.
She answered him by undoing the strap on his chest and gripped his arm, squeezing and pulling on it. "Does this hurt at all?" she asked, pulling gently on each of his fingers.
A smile slowly crept onto his face, "No. It doesn't!" he quietly exclaimed.
Madam Pomfrey looked at him quizzically. "Move your arm slowly around, at the elbow and at the shoulder," she directed. Harry complied, moving his arm all about. "Take my finger and squeeze as hard as you can," she instructed, holding her index finger out. He squeezed it with all of his might. "That's enough," she said. "Any pain or discomfort at all?" she asked.
"No!" he exclaimed somewhat in surprise, "It feels as good as new!" he exclaimed.
"Huh? What? I don't want to get up yet, Susie," Hannah said groggily.
Madam Pomfrey looked over at Hannah, then whispered to Harry, "You're free to go when you want to, Harry, but I can have one of the elves bring you and Miss Abbot breakfast, and you can wait here until I have given your Ladies a clean bill of health."
"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey. I am somewhat hungry," Harry said quietly, then looked over at Hannah. "Breakfast for two to start?" he asked. He looked up and saw Hedwig was still sleeping. "And a small plate of sausages and bacon?"
She nodded and went back to her office.
Harry lay back down. He did not know how long he had stared at the ceiling, but a pained groaning brought his attention back to the room and he looked to his right. On the next bed lay the petrified body of Colin Creevey. On the bed past that, the sheets were ballooned up and Harry could see Millicent Bulstrode's head upon the pillow. It was from the muscular Slytherin girl, the sounds emanated. As if on cue, Madam Pomfrey came out of her office with a potion in her hand and walked to Millicent's bed. Harry tried to ignore the conversation going on a bed away, but it was difficult.
"How are you feeling this morning, Miss Bulstrode?" Madam Pomfrey asked.
Harry could hear the tenseness in Millicent's voice as she replied,"I am doing," she paused for a moment and spoke again, her voice sounding as if she were speaking through gritted teeth,"better this morning," she said. Harry could hear her breathing heavily.
"This is simply something for the pain. It will take only a moment for it to begin to work and then, after breakfast, we'll put some more burn salve on your legs," Madam Pomfrey said.
There was silence for a minute. Millicent spoke again, "Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," she said in a normal tone of voice, "that helps the pain significantly."
"Good. I will have your breakfast brought to you," Madam Pomfrey said. From the tone of her voice, Harry could tell she was smiling.
"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," Millicent said.
Madam Pomfrey walked back to her office, smiling at Harry's attempt to give Millicent some privacy.
Harry turned back over to look at Millicent. She was looking up at the ceiling. "Good morning, Miss Bulstrode," Harry said neutrally.
Millicent turned her head, "Good morning, Lord Potter. Is Granger going to be okay?" she asked.
Harry was surprised Millicent would care about Hermione's well-being, but deserved an honest answer. "I hope so, Miss Bulstrode," he said cautiously, "she wasn't physically harmed, and I don't see her attacker getting a second chance at her," he said evenly. In his mind he was rapidly thinking of ways to kill Lockhart without having to flee Britain. "How are you doing, Miss Bulstrode?" Harry asked, then in a gentler tone asked, "And do you mind if I call you Millicent?"
She smiled at this, "I rather prefer it. May I call you Harry?" she asked, her tone, too, becoming more congenial.
Harry smiled, "I would like that," he said, causing Millicent to smile as well.
"As to how I am doing, Harry, Madam Pomfrey says that if it hadn't been for Granger..." Harry raised an eyebrow at her, "um...Hermione and Daphne, I would be dead right now due to the shock. I can't help but think Crabbe overheated the cauldron intentionally. Although he seemed distracted by something, he is usually very determined to keep me from hurting him for making inept mistakes," Millicent said only loudly enough for Harry to hear.
"You know when you got hurt that someone had thrown fire salamander tongue into both Hermione's and my potion and Neville's and Dean's potion," Harry said then, seeing the expression of horror on Millicent's face, explained further, "it was the reason Professor Snape asked us to stay after class."
Millicent's spoke with a tone of shock, "How is it you lived? How is it any of us lived? We should all be dead!"
Harry swallowed and explained, "It was Hermione. She had us brew in corn starch at step two. She said it was inexpensive insurance."
Millicent laughed a wicked little laugh, "I suppose I owe her two life debts then. One for my legs, the other for the cornstarch."
Harry turned his head to look at the large Slytherin girl, "Millicent," he said and she turned her head to look at him, "she would likely want your friendship more than any debt," he said matter-of-factly.
Millicent gave Harry one of her rare smiles, "We'll have to see what we can do about that then, Harry." Millicent looked up at the ceiling. "I suspected it was Malfoy. Here is the proof. Crabbe never acts on his own. This has Malfoy written all over it. It's just a matter of finding out who the remainder of his accomplices were and, when I find them, they'll receive a most deserved gift," Millicent thought with a small smile.
Hannah stirred with a barely-audible moan. Harry slowly sat up, gently scooting the cat bed and sleeping owl down to his upper legs, and moved so he was sitting against his pillow as a cushion for the bars of the headboard.
He looked over at Hannah who, although he could see her eyes moving rapidly beneath their lids, they were not yet open, was clearly having a happy dream. She nuzzled further into Hermione's hair and was cooing at her softly.
"Hannah," Harry softly called out to her. Hannah nuzzled Hermione's neck, reached up and pulled the brunette witch's hair aside and kissed her neck. "Han. Nah!" Harry called out louder.
Hannah had been having a wonderful, though odd, dream. She and Susan were kissing one another yet Neville was kissing Susan's neck and someone was kissing her neck. Her dream vision stepped back and Susan was kissing Hannah's neck, too. The dream vision pulled back further and Hermione was kissing Susan's neck, Luna was kissing Hermione's neck and Harry was kissing Luna's neck. Suddenly, and without apparent motion, the order changed. What never changed was that she and Susan were kissing one another. It was clear the Susan she was kissing was really enjoying the kissing. She took a deep breath and was inhaling the scents of lavender, lilacs, parchment, holly and a hint of something. Whatever the something was felt intoxicating, exotic, exhilarating, haunting, and just a bit naughty. It excited her. She pulled her lips away from Susan's and, with a slow, but determined motion, turned Susan around and began nibbling her neck. She realised her desire was overwhelming her.
Susan called her name quietly, but it wasn't Susan's voice. She thought Susan must be enjoying this to call out her name, so Hannah pulled Susan's hair out of the way and ran her tongue slowly and wetly over her neck.
Her name was called out again, in a drawn out fashion, but in the same voice although it appeared to be coming from Neville now. "Han. Nah!" She closed her eyes and wrapped her arm around Susan and began pulling her blouse out of the waistband of her skirt. Hannah wanted to touch Susan's bare tummy. She wanted to feel Susan's bare skin. She wanted to hear Susan's breath catch when her hand slid over bare tummy. She loved how Susan's eyelashes would flutter and close with a deep sigh when she did this. Although she hadn't done anything more than touch Susan's tummy, Susan always blushed a deep red, her eyes closed and she tensed slightly, expecting Hannah to do more.
"Hannah!" a voice called sharply, startling her. She awoke from her dream and realised she was nuzzling into Hermione's neck and that her hand had, in fact, slipped into Hermione's pyjama top and was slowly rubbing circles on Hermione's warm, bare tummy.
"Hannah!" Harry shouted. Hannah's eyes fluttered open. Harry had been concerned she was having a vivid dream and didn't want Hermione awakening to someone taking liberties with her, even if they were relatively innocent and, he suspected, not entirely unwanted liberties.
"Harry?!" Hannah asked in surprise. She pulled her hand away from Hermione and sat up in bed. She was surprised she was sleeping in Harry's bed when the events of the previous evening came flooding back to her. She turned her head and saw Susan curled around Neville.
Millicent had heard, but not seen Harry shout at someone named "Hannah" which she presumed was Hannah Abbot from Hufflepuff, but isn't she with Bones and Longbottom? she thought. She continued "gathering information" as she considered "eavesdropping" to be a crude and inaccurate word.
"Hannah, I think you and I should be awake when the potions wear off and likely shouldn't be..." Harry paused and looked at his own hand running over Luna's scalp before he self-consciously stopped and put his hands in his lap, "um...pawing at them," he finished, a slight blush on his cheeks.
Harry's comments also caused Hannah to blush and feel somewhat hurt by his less-than-accurate assessment. She looked into his eyes, "I was dreaming about Susan, Harry. I also was not 'pawing' Hermione, but was merely caressing her soft, warm, smooth, bare," Hannah started getting a dreamy look on her face but realized Harry was raising an eyebrow at her, "um...er...tummy."
From the next bed over, Neville, and then Susan, began making awakening sounds. Shortly thereafter, Hermione, then Luna, did as well.
Neither Hannah nor Harry wanted Hermione or Neville having post-potion dreams but other than startling them awake, Hannah had no idea what to do. Harry, however, had lots of practice, it seemed, waking up his girls and provided Hannah with some advice.
"Go over and give Susan a kiss," he told her.
"What?" Hannah asked him neutrally, crossing her arms in front of her.
"You and Susan wanted to learn how to kiss. What better way for her to wake up than getting kissed by you? Once she's awake, you both can kiss Neville awake. I'd suggest you steal his lips from Susan, though," he said with a calculating smile.
Harry then proceeded to demonstrate to Hannah using Luna as an example. He put his hand on her hip and gently pulled her so she was laying on her back. He then gently pulled her mouth open and kissed her. As he kissed her, he pulled her pyjama top up to expose her soft, warm tummy and rubbed it in gentle, slow circles with two fingers.
Almost immediately upon his hand's contact with her exposed skin, Luna's eyes flew open wide and then, once she realised this wasn't a dream, she kissed him back for all she was worth. After a minute, they broke the kiss with Luna shuddering slightly. A smile blossomed on her face, she nodded her head and then rolled onto her side again, scooted right up next to Hermione and ever so gently kissed her as she pushed her feelings for Hermione over the bond they shared. Instead of opening her eyes in shock, Hermione wrapped her arms back around the younger witch and returned the kiss immediately.
Hannah watched the beginning of the kiss but was afraid Susan would wake up before she had the opportunity to wake her this way. Hannah hopped out of bed and gently sat down on Susan's and Neville's bed and got in behind Susan.
She gently pulled on Susan's hip, causing Susan to roll on her back. She, too, carefully pulled Susan's mouth open, pulled up Susan's pyjama top and kissed her just before her hand touched Susan's bare skin.
Very much like Luna's and Hermione's kiss, Susan did not open her eyes but wrapped her arms tightly around Hannah. This caused Hannah's eyes to fly open widely in shock. Susan had always been timid before. What changed? Hannah wondered.
"Will you just take the bloody letter already?" Remus said, taking another sip of fire whiskey. Sirius finally reached over towards the Hogwarts school owl who had been patiently waiting for half an hour for Sirius to take the note, and carefully untied the small envelope from the owl's leg. He carefully opened the envelope, removed the parchment from within, unfolded it and began reading until Remus interrupted him, "Read it aloud, Sirius."
Sirius looked up at Remus, then nodded and began reading the letter to Remus.
"Dear Sirius," it began, "I hope you are well. Hermione often writes in a more lengthy fashion, going on about the weather and school work and the like. I am simply pants at that sort of thing and tend to be, as Luna says, blunt and to the point in my writing."
"I need your guidance with a matter of importance, but I want you to read this entire letter before you come running to the rescue or going out on a hunting expedition."
"The boy knows you all too well!" Remus exclaimed, laughing. His laughter very quickly stopped as Sirius continued reading.
"One of the professors at school tried to rape Hermione. Hermione does not know I am telling you this as I am not sure she would agree with some of the things I am thinking of doing and I am sure you are thinking of doing as well. Professor Snape," Sirius stopped reading and exploded, "That greasy, conniving, back-stabbing, paedophile rapist bastard!" Sirius was seething, his face purpling and his fists clenching and unclenching in rage.
It took Remus' slap across the face to get him focused again, "Sirius, before you go off and try to kill a fellow Lord, why don't you see what Harry has to say about Snape?"
Sirius held his cheek with his free hand then huffed and held the letter up again to read, his face still throbbing as a reminder of the impact of Remus' hand. "Professor Snape and Hagrid managed to break into the other professor's office just in time to prevent Hermione any harm. Professor Snape has sworn an oath of fealty to me and, although we have not discussed it, I am certain he knows Hermione and Luna are my wives. He was very protective of Luna and Hermione and is treating everyone much better than he did last year."
"You see," Remus said.
Sirius simply grunted, then nodded and continued reading.
"The professor who attacked Hermione has disappeared from the castle, but the house elves swear he is still around."
"You realise I am going with you, Siri," Remus said quietly.
Sirius looked up at his brother-by-choice, "There's no one I would rather have at my back, Remus. There's more to the letter," he said and continued reading.
"Hermione tells me she is fine, but I know she continues to be afraid. Afraid for herself, afraid for Luna and afraid for the other girls in the school. I'm afraid for them myself, Padfoot. Afraid enough that Neville or his girlfriends never leave Hermione unless she's with me, and two of the girls in Luna's year in Ravenclaw never leave her by herself."
"I plan on asking Neville to write to his grandmother about this to find out what she thinks should be done. I am also going to ask one of Neville's girlfriends, Susan Bones, to write to her Aunt to let her know my concerns about this as well. I am certain, considering your familiarity with her the other day, you are quite aware of who Madam Bones is and her role as the Director of the DMLE."
"With what happened to Luna's father and Neville's parents, I am afraid for Mum and Dad Granger. I know the house is warded, but that doesn't keep them safe when they're not at home."
"I am also sending a letter to Ironclaw and Steelfist to see what help they can provide. I don't want to take undo liberties with people I think of as friends, even though I would insist upon paying for their time and services."
"I miss you, Godfather."
"Your loving Godson, Harry."
"P.S. Neville could use a godfather about now too."
"Do you want a sobering potion as well?" Remus asked, getting out of his chair and walking towards the kitchen.
Sirius looked at the letter in his hands and then looked up at Remus, "Yes. I never plan well when I'm drunk." Remus nodded and left the room. Sirius sat, reading the last part of the letter again.
"Any thoughts on a peace offering for Snape?" Remus asked as he walked back into the room and handed Sirius the potion.
"Short of my head on a platter?" Sirius asked.
"Well, that was a bit more than I was thinking. If I recall correctly, he did have an attraction to your cousin Narcissa," Remus said thoughtfully, "which was mutual."
"We'll need to speak with the Goblins. The last time I discussed this with them, Narcissa wanted to delay the annulment of her marriage as long as possible." Sirius looked at the letter again. He then spoke sharply, "I will not force her to do anything. She is not someone to be bought or sold. I shall ask the Goblins to speak with her about this, however." He put the potion vial to his lips and paused, "I hate the flavour of these things," he said and downed the vial in one swallow.
Remus nodded and drank his potion as well then shuddered. He then looked at Sirius, "Where in the name of Slytherin's shrivelled scrotum did you buy these potions from? They're even more horrific than the ones Lily used to brew for us!"
"Dierdre's Apothecary," Sirius said defensively, "and they're a lot better tasting than the ones I brew. Where do you buy your potions from?"
"Gringott's. They brew ingredients into their potions which flavour the potions in such a way to disgust Goblins but those same ingredients make the potions quite palatable to wizards and witches. Their leaders found this out recently and discovered the same is true of the potions we brew for ourselves. To us they taste like sludge and to the Goblins they taste like fruit juice. I am one of their testers for a Goblin-reformulated wolfsbane potion, thanks to Harry. Their hope is that it will be a curative, not merely a...oh what was the term they used...ah yes! A symptomatic suppressor."
Sirius looked at his friend and smiled, then shook his head. He looked back at the letter, then stared off into the distance. He had a professor's death to plan.
Neville woke to a puddle of soft, almost gooey, warmth laying next to him. He opened his eyes sleepily, then opened them wide in shock, blushing nearly to his toes. Susan was in bed with him. So was Hannah. And the two of them were snogging. Although he was embarrassed, he could not tear his eyes away from how beautiful and exciting he considered the scene before him. He then wondered if this had been the reason Susan thought he would be uncomfortable with Hannah around.
As he was musing about the possibilities, Hannah and Susan ended their kiss. Susan was practically purring. Hannah, however, noted they had a coherent, or so she presumed, wizard as an audience and decided there and then that, since Harry was a wizard and knew how boys thought about such things, she would take his advice. She moved so she was straddling Susan. She turned to Neville, pulled his mouth gently open and sealed his mouth with hers. Here goes! I hope he doesn't hate me, she thought.
Neville was gob-smacked!
Neville had been kissing Susan a lot lately. He had even received a kiss or three from Hannah, but those had always been chaste kisses on the cheek; the types of kisses his grandmother gave him. While his conscious mind was trying to determine the reasons she would do this, his subconscious mind was examining her technique. Breathe through your nose. Check. GENTLY run the tip of your tongue around the tip of her tongue. Check. Learn to suck her tongue into your mouth the way she is sucking your tongue into her mouth. Work in progress. Put your hand behind her head to hold her from escaping. Check. Rotate your head so your noses don't bang into one another. Check. Use your other hand to explore how soft her torso is no lower than her pyjama bottoms and no higher than just above her navel. Check.
When the kiss broke, he had been wondering what her reaction would be if he kissed her bare torso, but decided he preferred his head and his own torso to be in relatively close proximity to one another as he was quite fond of using his lips and his hands, if for nothing more than to kiss, at the very least, these two girls.
"Good morning, Neville," Hannah said brightly. Neville was about to reply, but didn't have the opportunity.
Thinking about Susan, or the end of the kiss with Hannah, must have been some secret girl signal as Susan now kissed him in almost exactly the same way Hannah had. She, too, said. "Good morning, Neville," when she finished the kiss.
When he didn't immediately reply, Hannah looked to Susan with a smile. "We win!" she exclaimed, then couldn't help herself and began giggling. Susan tried to feign worry, but she, too, began giggling.
Harry was looking at Neville, hoping this distraction would help Neville cope with the sudden, unexpected loss of his parents. He was lost in his thoughts and was startled when he felt arms slowly encircling him and a sense of fear and something else coming across the bond.
Hermione's warm breath in his ear was exhilarating. He was almost relieved with the source of her fear.
"Harry, would you rather be in Neville's place kissing Hannah and Susan?" Hermione whispered nervously.
Harry turned, wrapped his arm around Hermione and pulled her into his side. She let out a quiet yelp of surprise, causing him to smile. He looked into her chocolate eyes and whispered back to her only loud enough for her to hear, "Although I promised Hannah a real kiss, that is as far as it will go for me, Beautiful. I love you, Mrs. Hermione Jane Potter. I love our Little Miss Luna. Yes, I wish I could spend every waking moment hugging and kissing," he paused and kissed her gently, "the two of you, but I was more worried about Neville and how he is going to cope with the loss of his mum and dad," he paused again to kiss Hermione as Luna cuddled into his side and kissed his cheek, "but I wouldn't ever knowingly do something to hurt the two of you," he whispered.
Luna chimed in, "And we still promised Susan and Hannah kissing lessons today," then picked up Hermione's leg and kissed her foot, causing Hermione to squirm at the slight sensation of being tickled, "and those lessons," Luna continued, "might be fun, Hermione, but my heart belongs to the two of you. Never ever forget that."
Hedwig awoke at the sound of the girls' giggling. She lifted her head from beneath her wings and looked out. Her human was performing one of their long, drawn-out mating rituals. She flared her wings and flew to the perch at the end of the human nest nearest their heads. She sensed amusement and affection from her human. He and his mates were safe and that was all that mattered at the moment.
Whatever had harmed the huntress would, however, need to be consumed. Whatever had harmed her could harm others, possibly end them. Her humans had to be protected.
Millicent had watched as the group of six friends interacted. They had been released by Madam Pomfrey with appropriate warnings about keeping an eye out for any unusual behaviour when Millicent called out to Hermione for a private discussion. Millicent thanked Hermione for saving her life, not once, but twice, explaining what Harry had told her about the sabotaging of the Gryffindors' potions.
Millicent then explained what she knew of life debts and, removing her wand from beneath her pillow, formally recognized the life debt the House of Bulstrode owed to Hermione. Millicent recommended Hermione have the house elves find a particular book, "The Debts of Life" by Nicholas Flamel, discussing the magic and wizarding law regarding life debts, and explained to Hermione that since Millicent recognized owing a life debt to Hermione for her foresight in brewing the potions with cornstarch, all pureblood families that had family members present also owed her a life debt.
The magic of the oath would cause the debts to be recorded at the Ministry, and likely owls would be winging their ways to the heads of the pureblood families in question to notify them of their debt.
Needless to say, breakfast the next morning would be interesting.
Hermione left the Infirmary somewhat stunned. She nearly walked straight into Harry, realising only at the last minute, and wrapped her arms around him for support.
"Whatever is the matter, Mione-Love?" Harry whispered softly into her ear.
"Just something we need to research that Millicent told me about. Nothing to really worry about at the moment, Harry," she said, releasing her hug and taking his hand. "Millicent is very nice, Harry, and I think we should visit her while she is confined to the Infirmary. She told me Madam Pomfrey said she was going to be there for at least two more week."
"Then, of course, we will visit her and bring her assignments to her, Mione-Love," Harry said, kissing her temple. "You're always so thoughtful," he concluded.
The six of them entered the Great Hall, ate an uneventful breakfast then took a calm, quiet, slow walk around the lake, allowing Harry and Neville an opportunity to talk about Neville's parents, and giving Neville an opportunity to mourn their loss in the company of his friends.
Two Gringott's owls and a white-tailed sea eagle landed almost simultaneously in front of Neville and Harry.
"That's a white-tailed sea eagle! They're almost extinct!" Hermione whispered loudly, in reverent tones.
Neville looked at her strangely. "Extinct? It's my Great Uncle Algernon's eagle, Sydney." Neville held out his arm and the eagle hopped from the ground to his arm. With his other hand, he carefully untied the grey envelope from the eagle's leg, put the envelope in the pocket of his robes before scratching beneath the feathers of the eagle's head.
Harry and Susan took the black envelopes from the Gringott's owls, which immediately took off and disappeared. Sydney tracked the two owls until they were out of his sight. He then looked at Neville with his right eye, seemed to wink, loudly cawed, flared his wings and took off from Neville's arm, circling wider and wider circles over the lake, and flew off into the distance.
All but Neville watched the bird until it disappeared. Neville reached into his pocket and removed the envelope. He removed his wand and expanded the envelope. He noted the wax seal was intact and retained its magic, indicating the message within had not been tampered with. He broke the seal and removed the letter from within. He read the short note and sighed.
"What's wrong, Neville?" Susan asked with concern.
Neville looked up at her, a resigned look on his face, "Great Uncle Algernon wrote to tell me Gran is beside herself and is inconsolable and believes Mum and Dad's death is her fault. He has asked me, as Lord Longbottom, to come home and speak with her." Neville looked a bit lost.
"Would you like us to come with you, Neville?" Susan asked, adoration and concern in her voice, and her eyes wide as she took his arm.
"I would really like that," Neville said in relief.
"Lord Longbottom, from one head of a Founding Family to another, I would be honoured to escort you to your ancestral home to provide comfort to your grandmother in her time of grief," Harry said formally, then looked at Luna.
Luna took her cue as well. "Lord Longbottom, House Lovegood stands with you in your time of need, and will, with a heavy heart, escort you to your home and help in any way we can," she said, her voice strong.
"May I come, too, Neville?" Hannah asked, taking Neville's other arm.
"I would like that, too," Neville said with a smile, pulling the two girls into a hug.
"But how are we going to get permission to leave the school?" Hermione asked in concern.
Harry looked at her with a smile, "That's the easy part, Mione-Love Luna, Neville and I are heads of houses, so we are adults as far as the school is concerned. I am your magical guardian and can provide you with permission."
Harry then turned to Hannah. "Miss Abbot, as head of your house, I am instructing you to escort Lord Longbottom to his ancestral home as a representative of House Abbot and to extend our condolences to House Longbottom. You are to represent House Abbot with the grace, beauty, compassion, and intellect I have come to expect from you."
He then turned back to Hermione. "That takes care of Hannah," he said with a smile.
"But what about me?" Susan asked timidly.
Harry thought for a moment and then smiled. "Beltchirp?" he called.
The elf appeared before him and knelt. "How may Beltchirp serve his Lord and Ladies?" he asked.
"Beltchirp, please don't kneel when you come. You are not subservient to me in my eyes," Harry gently chastised.
Beltchirp stood. He was still not entirely used to his new family. He looked at Harry and smiled.
Harry returned the smile and addressed the unusual elf, "Could you go to Madam Amelia Bones and ask her, as the representative of House Potter, for written permission for Susan to leave Hogwarts to travel to Longbottom Manor to attend Madam Augusta Longbottom in her grief and hour of need? Let her know I am the one asking."
Beltchirp nodded, snapped his fingers and popped out.
The six of them began walking back to the castle. Halfway there, Beltchirp, along with Madam Bones, Senior Auror Shacklebolt and another auror appeared in front of them.
"Lord Harry, Lady Bones wishes to speak to you, your friends, and her niece and ward," Beltchirp said.
"Thank you for bringing her, Beltchirp," Harry said. Beltchirp popped out with the snap of his fingers.
Harry and Neville both bowed, while Luna curtseyed. "Madam Bones, I appreciate you coming on such short notice," Harry said.
Amelia nodded to all of them and then looked with a raised eyebrow at Susan, with her arm around Neville's waist and his arm around her shoulders.
"Auntie!" Susan said excitedly, extricating herself from Neville and wrapping her arms around her Aunt.
Amelia wrapped her arms around her niece and kissed the top of her head. "She's growing up so fast," Amelia thought. "Hello to you, too, Susan. What is this I hear about you wanting to go to Longbottom Manor?" she asked.
Susan looked up into her aunt's eyes. "Neville's grandmother is distraught and I thought I should go with him and my friends to help comfort her," she explained.
Amelia had to smile. "And you are good friends with Neville?" she asked, suspecting the answer.
"We're almost boyfriend and girlfriend, Auntie," Susan replied somewhat guiltily. Shacklebolt was not entirely successful in stifling his laughter.
"Really?" she looked down at Susan seriously. "And who is your chaperone for this meeting at Longbottom Manor?" Amelia asked.
Harry was about to wade into the conversation when Mippy, the first house elf Luna had bonded with, popped in with a well-dressed, angry Sirius Black and a well-dressed but somewhat surprised Remus Lupin.
"...am not going anywhere with you!" Sirius was leaned over and shouting at Mippy, then looked up to see he was on the grounds of Hogwarts.
"Yous is going to help your Lord Harry's friends and that will be that!" the little elf shouted at Sirius.
Sirius stood to his full height. "Madam Bones, Senior Auror Shacklebolt, Auror Collins," he said, looking at the head of the DMLE hugging a young girl.
"Lord Black," Amelia said with a smile. She then looked at Susan, "Allow me to introduce my niece, Susan Ophelia Bones, my late brother Eric's daughter," Amelia said, releasing Susan from her embrace.
Susan turned and curtseyed, "Lord Black," she said demurely.
"Miss Bones," Sirius said, taking the girl's hand and helping her to rise, "you are as charming and as beautiful as your aunt," he continued, causing a blush to come to Susan's cheeks.
"Sirius, please don't flirt with my best friend's girlfriend." Harry said.
Sirius' smile froze on his face. He turned around to see Luna, Hermione, Hannah, Neville and Harry looking at him. He could see the mirth in Harry's, Luna's and Hermione's eyes. If looks could kill, however, Neville's and Hannah's gazes would have, but as it was, they were only slightly less amused, hoping Sirius wasn't really poaching Neville's girlfriend.
"Um...Hello Harry. Hello Neville," Sirius said with some chagrin. He then bowed without embarrassment, "Ladies," he said with a flourish.
Remus couldn't hold his laughter in any longer. "Smooth, Sirius," he guffawed.
"Lord Black, the six of us were going to go to Longbottom Manor to console Madam Longbottom. Madam Bones would appreciate us being accompanied by an adult. As such, we appreciate you bringing Master Lupin with you to act as such," Neville said with amusement.
"Hey now!" Sirius exclaimed, crossing his arms in front of him. Then he sighed. "Fine. Remus and I would be happy to attend with all of you," Sirius said.
"Thank you, Lord Black," Amelia said, then turned to Remus, "and thank you, Master Lupin." She then turned to Susan. "Please be back before this evening's dinner," Amelia said.
Susan once more embraced her aunt. "Thank you, Auntie!" she exclaimed.
"Madam Bones, are you also here to investigate the attack on the student last night?" Harry asked.
Since there were screens in place around Colin's bed this morning, none of the other children knew what Harry was on about so looked at him in surprise. Hermione gripped his arm hard. Sirius and Remus also looked at Harry with mock surprise.
The three aurors, if anything, seemed to be angry. "What student attack, Lord Potter?" Shacklebolt asked.
Harry looked at the senior auror. "A student was petrified last night. I was certain the DMLE would have been notified about the attacks," Harry explained.
Amelia looked at her two aurors. "No, Lord Potter, we were unaware of this incident. I promise you I will know everything about it before we leave Hogwarts, however," Amelia said with determination.
Harry called Beltchirp and asked him to take Madam Bones and the two aurors directly to Dumbledore's office.
"Harry?" Hermione asked timidly.
"Yes, Mione-Love?" he responded, looking at her and seeing her acting physically timid as well.
"Why didn't you tell Madam Bones about Lockhart?" she asked, looking up from her shoes at Harry. The expression she saw there frightened her.
"Because Auntie would be required to arrest him, isn't that right, Harry?" Susan asked knowingly.
Harry hesitated a moment, then nodded, a grim expression on his face.
"Pup? What happened?" Sirius asked, remembering that Harry had indicated in his letter he had not told Hermione about writing to him, and so he played dumb.
Harry looked up at him, not certain whether to answer or not in front of everyone.
"Come on, Cub. Tell us. You know we will find out regardless," Remus explained, also nicely playing being dumb about the situation.
Harry thought about this a few moments, then nodded. "Our DADA professor..." he began.
"That blonde fop who uses more male beauty products than Malfoy Senior?" Sirius asked.
"Yes, Professor Gilderoy Geoffrey Lockhart," Harry said venomously, then looked over at Hermione, who was being comforted by Luna, Hannah, and Susan, as she was crying.
"What did he do?" Sirius asked in a dangerous tone of voice, watching Hermione crumbling.
"He attempted to take liberties with Hermione last night under the auspices of a detention," Harry said, clenching and unclenching his fists.
Remus knelt down in front of Hermione, so he was eye to eye with her. "Look at me, Hermione. With your permission, I would like to see what you saw," Remus explained, his voice quiet and gentle.
Hermione looked up at him, relaxed her mind, and opened her eyes widely.
Remus was somewhat taken aback that she knew how to prepare herself for a voluntary Legilimancy scan. He entered her mind as gently as he could.
He watched as she destroyed the bludger, then heard the declaration regarding her detention. "Even his speech is slimy!" he thought to himself, but continued reviewing her memories.
Remus finished his Legilimancy scan of Hermione. When he pulled his awareness back to the present, he noted Hermione looked drained. He was somewhat surprised when she collapsed onto him and began sobbing. He wrapped his arms gently around her and provided a rather large, water-absorbing shoulder for her to cry on.
He was also somewhat surprised when, instead of becoming jealous, Harry and Luna approached Hermione on either side and wrapped her and Remus in hugs and held them there until Hermione's shoulders stopped quaking.
She lifted her head from his shoulder and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, Uncle Remus," she whispered to him before pulling out of his embrace.