Author's Note: It's been a while since Chapter 16 this chapter covers a lot of ground. To understand the end of this chapter, you should probably re-read Chapter 15, particularly the conversation that Harry has with Dumbledore whilst walking in the woods. Chapter 18 is underway, but the next two chapters will be very long, so it will take a while to produce these under the best of conditions. So, without further delay Dragons made small.
Life at Abelard's was governed by routine. Jasmine's mum left in the afternoon to go home and prepare dinner for her husband. After dinner if there were no clients, Abelard would putter in his study for an hour or so and then retire to his chambers, meditating if he were working a big project, or reading himself to sleep if he didn't feel like working. Rosie would follow Abelard around after dinner until she was convinced that it was finally time for the evening walk, when she presented herself to Jasmine. The witch in question would change into workout clothes and go for a nighttime run with the shaggy dog. After the run the dog would curl up on her pillow by the fireplace, leaving the witch to do her rounds.
The last station on the rounds was checking on Abelard. She entered Abelard's chambers, finding him asleep (as she already knew he was), took off his reading glasses, and covered him up with a quilt. She kissed the top of his head, feeling him relax slightly. She knew that he knew this ritual was part of her nighttime rounds, but they never spoke of it. This assignment was like no other; she was living in the place she thought of as home, guarding the man she thought of when she thought about what a father should be.
She closed the door to his bedroom and opened his study. When she'd entered his service he'd offered to supply her with her own, but the thrifty side of her nature objected to this the only time she could have used a study was when Abelard was asleep or engaged with clients. Clients were always met in the parlour. The notion that Abelard might want his study undisturbed never occurred to her. Unless directed otherwise, when Abelard was awake, she was within easy reach of her principal; to be a bodyguard required being close to the body.
Most evenings, she worked her way through a computer-assisted Czech language course. Abelard's office had a computer and a fibre-optic line that ran to the University ten miles down the road. Several years ago, Abelard had made the donation to connect the University to the outside world. Shortly afterwards, technicians had quietly laid a cable, burying it in a trench beside the road leading to Abelard's villa. His study had a phone, fax, something she didn't quite understand called a data connection, and her beloved computer.
Despite reaching her 20s before touching an electronic device, she'd adopted typically Muggle attitudes to technology, including irritation at the ringing of the phone. If that phone wakes Abelard I'm really going to be steamed. She bolted out of her chair and dove for the phone, which was inconveniently across the study. "Hello," she said breathlessly.
"Miss Kadakia? Remus here."
Jasmine looked at her watch it was almost 1:00 a.m. "What is so important that you are calling at this hour, Mr. Lupin? Wait a minute, how did you get this number?"
"Fr. Martin gave it to me I just rousted him at the Friary. Is Abelard awake?"
"No, he's been asleep for three hours."
"Drat what's on his calendar for tomorrow?"
Jasmine didn't have to look at the calendar; she had his week memorized. "Breakfast, prayer and meditation, a client meeting at 8:00 and tutoring at 9:00."
"Can the client meeting be rescheduled?"
"Afraid not that one's been rescheduled twice already, and Abelard said to not let it slip again or the Ambassador would be calling to complain."
"Nice try, Mr. Security Officer; you attend to the Order's business, and I'll attend to Abelard's, okay?" She regretted the peevish tone, but this phone call was taking her off her stride; she wasn't used to interacting with people at this hour of the night.
"Listen, we need to meet with Abelard this morning. Can we bump the tutoring?"
"Depends. Who is this we' you're talking about?"
"Ginny Weasley, her mum Molly Weasley, and me."
"Ginny Weasley?" There was a long silence as she ran through the portfolio she kept in her mind of all of Abelard's clients. She wasn't a client. Then there was a belated flash. "Oh, you mean Harry's girl?"
Remus chuckled. "I don't think that's quite how Harry would describe the relationship, but yes, Harry's friend and her mum."
Jasmine smiled. She knew how Harry felt about Ginny one of the unintended perks of Legilimency was picking up the stray thoughts of those around her. Whenever Jasmine was particularly close to Harry, he was thinking of Ginny which led her to believe that as much as he enjoyed her company (and he did enjoy her company) he'd prefer being with a different girl, one with tomato-red hair.
She turned her attention to the matter at hand, committing Abelard to a course of action. "Give me the Apparation coordinates where you want the portal to touch down. It'll be 8:05 your time. I'll be travelling hot, so don't be surprised if my wand is out when I pick you up. If we have to scrub, I'll let you know, but otherwise I'll tell Abelard that you're coming in after his client meeting. Do I need to push Harry's tutoring back?"
The phone line was silent for a while. "No, I think he should be there as well." Remus read her the Apparation coordinates, which she carefully wrote down and read back to him.
"Okay, now that we've got the logistics worked out, what am I going to tell Abelard tomorrow as to why he's getting unscheduled guests?
Remus told her. She wrote down notes furiously.
Harry awoke before the alarm sounded. When the first sound came from the dreadful box, he snatched up the alarm and silenced it. The house was now quiet as the proverbial tomb. The gentle sound of falling rain had gone away, replaced by the chorus and counter-chorus of the morning birds. Harry wiped the grit from his eyes and ran his feet back and forth over the rug next to his bed before slipping his glasses onto his face. The knob on the Hogwarts door of the Passbox was lit.
Dear Mr. Potter,
I have procured the texts, although I was surprised that the first title is into its third edition. They have been charged to your account. I knew the author when he was your age and struggling as a student in my N.E.W.T. Transfiguration class the first year I taught it. Kroch's will drop-ship the titles to your address by evening owl. Do let me know if you are going to attempt anything out of either text, as the magic involved is rather fussy for first-time practitioners.
My offer to tutor you still stands.
I regret to inform you that Order business will necessitate my absence at your party, but I do believe that our House will be well represented.
Harry sighed. Uncle Moony was right. Most decent people were more than willing to help out if only given the chance. I've got to work on asking for help when I need it.
The morning unfolded into another Vernon-free morning. Aunt Petunia explained something about a business breakfast, but Harry paid no attention past the point of "Uncle Vernon won't be here this morning...." Harry supposed that Aunt Petunia had intended for him to cook less for breakfast, but he blithely ignored her. He set three plates on the table, but cooked the normal rations of eggs, bacon, toast and tea. Dudley said nothing when extra rashers of bacon appeared on his plate; Harry smugly buttered and ate the extra toast. By the time Aunt Petunia woke up (which usually occurred sometime into her second cup of tea), the evidence of Harry's disobedience had disappeared. Dudley winked at Harry, belched, and excused himself from the table. Aunt Petunia seemed to realise that something was amiss, but apparently couldn't quite put her finger on it. She poured a third cup of tea and pondered. Harry loaded the dishwasher, wiped the table and countertops, and disappeared up the stairs.
He jotted off a quick note of thanks to Professor McGonagall, but he wasn't ready yet to write any reply to Ginny's note. He had an odd feeling in his stomach when he thought about its implications. I just want to get to know her better, we're not planning a handfast; at least I'm not planning anything like that. Why can't I just be normal? Why does everything have to be so bloody complicated? Why am I asking myself pitiful questions on such a beautiful day? He laughed at himself. He straightened his room, quickly visited the loo, and raced out the back door before Aunt Petunia could think up more busywork.
Remus finished his errands at 2:00 a.m., Apparating into the Burrow, specifically into the kitchen. The kitchen was the heavily warded, designated Apparation point. The wards would selectively allow the family and a few other individuals to come and go at will. Remus was proud to have made it onto that list. The house was dark and quiet. He looked up at the famous Weasley family clock, which showed all the Weasleys in residence as "In bed asleep." He stepped out of his shoes, pulled a throw off the living room couch, and stretched out.
Molly found him three hours later when she came downstairs to start the coffee. She checked him for obvious wounds or signs of trauma. Finding none, she adjusted the window shades so that the morning sun would not strike the couch. She knew that he would wake soon; this wasn't the first time that he'd shown up at their house unannounced.
After starting the coffee, she put the teakettle on as well, pulling out the red and yellow medicinal cruets from the pantry. The teakettle beat the coffeepot in the morning race this day. Remus woke to find Molly standing over him, carrying a steaming mug of tea already dosed with the balm he needed this close to the full moon.
"You are an angel of mercy, Molly," he said, carefully sitting up and pulling the mug from her hands.
"How long have you been here, Remus?" Molly asked with a note of concern in her voice.
"I arrived at 2:00 this morning; finding no one awake, I figured that my news would wait until morning," Remus answered, stifling a yawn as he did so.
"I appreciate your devotion to duty, Remus, but couldn't you have left me a note and let me call you by Floo at Grimmauld Place?" Molly asked as she returned to the kitchen to begin her morning's work.
"You presuppose that I could think clearly at 2:00 in the morning, or that I cared where I slept for a few hours," Remus replied while he stretched. "It's not like I have a family waiting for me at the end of the day. "
"No one is sharing breakfast with you at Grimmauld Place these days?" Molly asked with a hint of a smile in her eyes.
Remus set his mug down on the kitchen table, apparently deciding between tea and coffee. Coffee won out this morning.
"Winky and Dobby have returned to Hogwarts," he replied obliviously.
Molly snapped at him with her dishtowel. "That's not what I meant and you know it!"
Remus drained half a mug of coffee before answering. "From time to time a certain member of the Order will come by for breakfast after the end of her shift, before she goes home, alone, to her flat. On other occasions, said member of the Order will come by Grimmauld Place and I'll fix dinner or lunch for her before she goes out. Is that sufficient disclosure, Mother?" Remus answered with a defiant glare.
"That will do for now," Molly said, returning to her mixing bowl.
"Actually sleeping arrangements were the first major argument we had as a couple. She wanted for me to either move into her flat, or move herself into Grimmauld Place. That was a most unpleasant conversation. I am, at heart, a very old-fashioned Wizard, Molly."
"It's nothing to apologize for, Remus, I would that more of my children were equally old-fashioned. I worry as we adopt more and more Muggle customs that we'll be falling apart the same way they do," Molly sniffed as she scooped dough for buns into the cooking pan.
"Well, if it's any consolation to you, Molly, I think that Bill is just about ready to settle down," Remus said with a conspiratorial wink.
"What? When? Oh Remus! Enough of this gossip, you're just winding me up again. Why are you here?" Molly asked.
"We're going to meet with Abelard today to take care of Ginny's situation," Remus replied.
"He's agreed to meet us?" Molly asked with wide eyes.
"His assistant has cleared a spot on his morning calendar."
"Is it still that woman, Snik Something-or-other, you know, the War Witch?" Molly asked, pressing her hand to her forehead as she strained to remember.
"Snik Paprikash still works for him as his housekeeper; her daughter Jasmine is Abelard's assistant and bodyguard, and yes, she's a War Witch."
"I didn't know her as Paprikash did she have another name?"
"Right in one she lost her husband and remarried. Her daughter's surname is Kadakia. It took me a while to figure out that Miss Kadakia is the daughter of Mrs. Paprikash. She's a really sweet lass and quite fetching. She gets along very well with Harry."
The colour drained out of Molly's face as she put on her mask of indifference. "She's been working with Harry this summer?"
"The boy's been spending about thirty-six hours a week on his tutoring with Abelard. Jasmine's never far from Abelard's side she's responsible for about half of Harry's tutoring, I'd hazard."
"Oh," Molly replied, blinking rapidly.
"Don't let your buns burn in the oven, Molly. I'm going back to Grimmauld Place for a shower; Jasmine will be by around 8:00 to bring us to Abelard's villa. We will be travelling by Portal." Remus stood, stretched, drained the rest of his coffee, Disapparated with a muted pop, and returned to the kitchen an instant later to fetch his shoes. With a sheepish expression on his face and his shoes firmly in hand, he Disapparated again.
Her morning briefing with Abelard at breakfast had gone fairly well he rarely tolerated disruptions in his schedule, but took this one with an unusually placid calm. "While I'm working with the client, you will need to make sure that the girl has sufficient control of wandless magic that she can capture the Pyr'g. Harry will be there; he can assist. It will be good training for him," Abelard said to her before nodding, wiping his mouth. He walked into the study, only to open the door again, sticking his head out. "You will need to make clear to the girl where you stand with our student. I expect that she will have her own notions which may or may not have a basis in fact," he said.
"Yes, sir," she replied to the now closed door. Oh great, why can't I get simple assignments like detecting arson attempts or deflecting assassins? She composed herself after uttering a choice string of curses that made sense only in Pashtun.
Hours later she Apparated to a spot close to the designated Apparation point, wand out. Her senses strained to take in 360 degrees of terrain as she took a quick survey of the scene. There were people over the rise, two women and a man. She had already identified the man; there weren't too many werewolves operating in polite society, especially this close to the full moon. She walked over the rise and announced herself. "Good morning, all. I'm Jasmine Kadakia and I'm taking you to see Abelard this morning."
Introductions were made and Jasmine called the Portal. The doorframe appeared, then the door proper, and last of all, the doorknob. The Portal gleamed in the morning sun, yellow and gold and brown streaked through the door. She grasped the doorknob, pushing forward until Abelard's garden could be seen beyond the open door. "Welcome to my employer's humble abode, we are at your service this morning," she said with a practiced cadence.
Leading the entourage into the dining room, she introduced her mum as she appeared from the kitchen. She was somewhat surprised when Mum squealed and grabbed Molly, hugging her as she did her own sisters. They began to speak in a rapid-fire conversation. Jasmine turned to Lupin and said, "You can wait here or in the study. Abelard is in the parlour with a client and will not be available for an hour. I need to do some drills with the guest of honour." Lupin nodded and disappeared down the hall to the study. Jasmine turned to Ginny, who looked more than a little cowed. "C'mon with me, I promise I won't bite. Abelard wanted me to make sure that you are sufficiently proficient in wandless magic that we can do some very delicate work later today; we're going to be working out in the meadow. It's already set up."
They walked silently out into the garden and towards the gate leading to the meadow.
Ginny broke the silence first. "I didn't know that our mums knew each other."
"It was a surprise to me, too. Look, Ginny, before we get started today, I want to clear the air. My mum aside, your mum doesn't think much of War Witches, and I suspect that she has certain notions . . . " Jasmine started, at a loss for how to continue.
"What are you going on about?" Ginny asked.
"IwantedtotalktoyouaboutHarry," Jasmine said, speaking faster than normal.
"What about Harry?" Ginny asked with an icy tone.
"We've been working together a lot this summer."
"And?" Ginny asked with a look that would peel paint.
"And we've become good friends. But that's it."
Ginny stood silently. She had the you expect me to believe that?' look on her face. Jasmine didn't need to rely upon her highly trained senses to know that Ginny was about to blow. " Do you know what a Legilimens is?" she asked quietly.
"Yeah, that's someone who can read your mind," Ginny replied.
"Well, I'm a Legilimens. When I'm working my gift is turned on all the time. I can read the hostility you're putting out, and I've been picking up Harry's thoughts as well this summer. I want to assure you that nothing untoward has gone on between us; Harry has been a perfect gentleman."
Jasmine turned on her heel and began walking toward the gate. Ginny followed. They walked together in silence for a moment.
"Harry thinks about you, " Jasmine continued as they walked.
"What?" Ginny blurted.
"Harry thinks about you a lot. When I get close enough to pick up his surface thoughts, I find him thinking about you. He thinks you're very pretty," Jasmine said in an even, friendly tone.
"Oh." Ginny said, her shoulders relaxing and her demeanour brightening.
Well, Jasmine, you certainly read that situation correctly. I think now that the girl is convinced that you're not a rival, maybe we can get some work done rather than just howling and scratching at each other. Although if things were different, I would fight her for him: men of Harry's calibre don't come along too often.
By the time they reached the meadow, Ginny was almost skipping.
There was nothing and no one in the garden when Harry arrived, except a light-coloured shaggy dog seated attentively on the lawn. The dog's mouth was open, its tongue hanging out. Dogs didn't smile, but this one certainly appeared to be smiling as she came along beside Harry. "Hello, Rosie," he said, reaching down to scratch between her ears. Harry began to walk towards the house and Rosie began to bark. He kept walking; Rosie nudged his knee with her head.
"Am I going the wrong way?" he asked.
Rosie wagged her tail, her smile wider than before, and barked once. She sauntered toward the gate that led into the meadow. As she reached the gate, she turned to watch Harry, no doubt checking on his progress. Once through the gate, Harry heard Jasmine speaking. From the tone of her voice, Harry gathered that she was in teaching mode. He followed the sound of her voice, not noticing that Rosie had returned to the garden. There were ten target pillars in the meadow, laid out in a semi-circle. Harry was reminded of his first lesson at Abelard's house. Harry could see that Jasmine's student was a girl, a bit shorter than Jasmine, wearing a mint green sundress with matching kerchief quite the contrast to Jasmine's blue and black uniform of baggy t-shirt and shorts. They were both facing the pillars.
"Target one," Jasmine commanded.
Her student called out the splitting charm. "Fractus." The voice was tantalisingly familiar, but he couldn't place it.
"Target two with a whistle," Jasmine intoned sharply. The student tucked her wand behind her ear.
He heard a whistle, but there was no sound of breaking wood coming from the pillar.
"Oh, damn." Harry knew the student's voice now, and he smiled. It was Ginny. What's she doing here?
"Enough of that," Jasmine countered. "You can do this. Whistle again," Jasmine said, ever the patient teacher.
There was another whistle.
Jasmine wrapped her arms around Ginny from behind. "Again," she commanded. As Ginny complied, Jasmine squeezed. The target downrange shattered. "Target three, spoken charm."
"Fractus," Ginny intoned, producing a sharp crack downrange.
"Good, very good. Target four, whistle charm." Jasmine looked over her shoulder as she released Ginny and flashed Harry a quick smile. Harry placed his fingers to his lips, and crept up quietly behind Ginny. Jasmine shifted to his right as he approached.
Ginny whistled, but there was no discernible effect downrange. Harry nodded at Jasmine, and placed his arms around Ginny, smiling as he clasped his hands into position. She's so focused on the exercise she doesn't know I'm here. Jasmine barked, "Again."
Ginny whistled, and Harry gave a gentle squeeze. He felt a flash of energy surge in Ginny as he pressed against her diaphragm. There was another loud crack downrange. In the midst of all of this, Harry noted that her hair still smelled like apples. Keep your mind on the exercise, Potter.
"Target five," Jasmine commanded. Ginny whistled. As he felt her diaphragm contract, he gave her another squeeze. Without waiting for the dust to clear, Jasmine commanded, "Target six." Before Ginny could whistle, Harry released his grip entirely. Although he was no longer touching her, he could still feel the surge of energy pass through her small frame as she whistled. It made the hair on his arms stand on end. "That's it, you lot," Jasmine cracked. "We need to let the dust settle." As the air cleared downrange, Harry noticed that the pillar at position five was missing. Ginny startled as she turned to find Harry behind her. She cleared her throat, and gave Harry a wan smile as a bit of red crept into her cheeks.
Looking to Jasmine she asked, "Am I in trouble? I seem to have broken one of your pillars."
Jasmine looked first to Harry, then Ginny, and back again to Harry. "No, you're not in trouble," she said. "Provided that there are ten pillars at the end of the day." Turning to Harry, she said, "Ten minutes, back in the garden." With that statement she Disapparated with a gentle pop.
"Hey, Ginny," Harry said with a broad smile. "I didn't know you were going to be here today."
"Hiya, Harry, I'm a bit surprised to see you!" Ginny said, looking him in the eye as she returned the smile. "I was told I was coming this morning before breakfast, but they didn't tell me that you'd be here."
"Welcome to my life," Harry said, his smile at odds with his eyes.
"Thanks... I think," Ginny replied.
Harry walked downrange to inspect what was left of target pillar five. Harry pulled his wand out, and imagined the pillar whole again. "Reparo."
"Aren't you worried about the Underage Use of Magic Office?" Ginny asked, placing the tips of her fingers on Harry's shoulder.
Harry turned, giving her a bit of a smirk. "We're in Africa. That's a bit far afield for Madam Hopkirk's sensors and, I believe, outside of her jurisdiction as well." He began to walk back towards the gate to the garden.
"Africa? Huh. Well, I figured we weren't in England any more, but I had no idea we'd gone so far. Is this where you've been coming for tutoring?"
"Pretty much. Three days a week; twelve hours most days. I'm pretty knackered by the end of the day," Harry said, looking past the gate into the garden.
"So...what do you think of Jasmine?" Ginny asked.
"I only have her for the practical stuff the theoretical stuff is with Abelard. She's a good teacher. I didn't take her seriously at first...."
"Because she's so pretty?" Ginny wondered aloud.
"Yeah, she's that and then some," Harry admitted, missing the sour face that Ginny made, "but she knows what she's talking about. She's murder as a sparring partner."
Ginny's eyebrows rose. "What were you doing sparring with a War Witch, Harry?"
"Swords, last time we did it; very good for my humility. Snape would be pleased," he said with a faint smile.
"So, how did you do?" Ginny asked, skipping to get into step with Harry as they walked.
"Well, she killed me in each of the first three rounds, and she broke my nose in the third round as a bonus."
"How could she break your nose if you were using swords?" Ginny asked, wrinkling her forehead in concentration.
"I think it was her elbow things were a bit muddled at the time, so I still haven't worked out how she managed to do that."
"What happened after that?"
"I killed her cleanly in the fourth round. Her mum was a bit bent out of shape about that she's not accustomed to having her daughter lose to school boys."
"Good show," Ginny said, with a contented smile.
"Thanks," Harry said with a grin. He pushed his hair back with his fingers, not because it did anything, but because it gave him something to do with his hands. "So...not that I mind seeing someone my own age, but what brings to you to Abelard's place?"
Ginny laughed. "I think it was a pretty golden door."
Harry gave Ginny's arm a light backhanded thwack. "You know what I mean, why are you here?"
Ginny raised her left arm, twisting her arm to shake the ivory coloured bracelet into position. "I guess is that it's time for my guardian to come inside my head like yours, but that's only a guess on my part. Nobody tells me anything any more."
"I'm sorry, Ginny. I know how that feels."
"I know you do, Harry," she said, reaching up to touch his arm as they passed through the gate. "Thanks." They paused briefly under the gate, green eyes looking into brown. Harry wished that they could be a thousand miles away, without tutors or minders. Ginny's touch and her small smile warmed his heart. This was not the time, however, to explore what was behind that smile.
"They're expecting us," Harry sighed.
Mrs. Paprikash was sitting at the end of the dining room table, sipping tea and munching biscuits with Molly Weasley. Her carrying on with Molly was the most animation that Harry had ever seen with the senior War Witch. From the tone of their chatter, they were either old friends catching up on days past, or they had really hit it off this morning after the Weasleys' arrival. Jasmine and Remus were in the kitchen, getting stuff prepared. Abelard was nowhere to be seen. As they entered the dining room, Harry put his hand on Ginny's shoulder as he moved his mouth close to Ginny's ear whispering, "You're a guest here, have a seat at the table. I'll see if they need any help in the kitchen." Walking into the kitchen he nodded at Remus and Jasmine.
"Anything that I can do to be of help?" Harry asked cheerfully.
Jasmine bustled about, pouring water into the coffee machine, pulling some flat, round loaves of bread from the oven. "Plop some ice into those pitchers, then pull the fruit tray from the refrigerator, okay?"
"Sure," Harry replied. He caught Jasmine's eye as he twisted the ice cube tray. "Where's the boss?"
"He's out doing boss things," Jasmine replied in a non-committal fashion. "Which is a polite way of saying, I don't know, he didn't brief me as my schedule went to shreds this morning.'" Jasmine flashed Harry a smile as she pulled the last loaf from the oven, pushing a tendril of shining black hair back from her forehead with the back of her hand. She tossed the wooden peel on top of the cabinet, took off her apron, nodded at Remus and Disapparated. Harry brought out a tray laden with pitchers of juice and ice water, tumblers and coasters. He began to pour a glass for Ginny as the door leading in from the garden opened.
The room went silent.
"Molly?" Abelard boomed. "Molly Prewett? Do you remember my last words to you?"
Molly stood at end of the table, facing Abelard. She drew herself as straight as possible. "It's Molly Weasley now, Abelard," she said in a voice not much louder than a whisper. "Of course I remember your last words to me: You will come to my house in dark times seeking aid.' You were right, of course."
Abelard scanned the rest of the room. As he did so, Jasmine silently entered the room, standing beside Remus. She had changed into a short-sleeved navy-blue tea-length dress with white piping on the collar and sleeves. The front of the dress was held together with a dragon brooch. Abelard's scan stopped at Ginny. He advanced and placed his hand on the top of her head, tilting it back so he could study her face.
"I've been looking at your face for almost eighteen years now. It's quite gratifying to finally meet the girl that goes with that face. I can see it now, of course. You're Molly's girl." Abelard's voice was stiff with emotion. He was blinking faster than normal. He gave Ginny's head an avuncular pat and moved to Molly's end of the table, taking her hand and briefly kissing the back of it. "You are always welcome here, Molly."
Harry was surprised. Abelard never touched strangers, and here he was pressing the flesh like a cheap politician. There was a story here.
"Wait a minute," Ginny interjected. "I'm fifteen, how could you have been looking at my face for almost eighteen years?"
Abelard looked at Molly, who flushed as she sat down, and then at Jasmine, then Harry, all of whom returned his glare with innocent looks.
"Do you know who I am, child?" Abelard asked in a quiet voice.
Ginny visibly bristled at being called child' but she seemed to set it aside. "You're Harry's tutor and Jasmine's boss," she replied simply.
Abelard chuckled. "I suppose that if that's how I'm remembered, history will have been kind to me indeed. I am a seer and teacher of seers. One of my students had a vision many years ago; you played a significant role in that vision, which was preserved in a Pensieve. I haven't the time to go into the details, as I am severely behind schedule already. Your friend Harry can tell you that story another day."
Harry looked down at the floor, hoping to evade Ginny's gaze.
"Are you teaching Harry how to be a seer?" Ginny asked.
"Lands no, child. I'd love to, but I've been teaching him far more mundane, applied skills. Hasn't anyone told you anything about what's going on this summer?"
"In a word, no. Apparently I'm a mushroom, to be kept in the dark and fed copious amounts of - "
"Ginevra Molly Weasley!" Molly hissed.
" compost," Ginny said with a wicked smile on her face.
Abelard nodded, as he appeared to try to keep from grinning himself. He filled a small plate with fruit and freshly-sliced bread, pouring a strong cup of tea. Arranging this before him, he looked up at Ginny and spoke gravely. "Remus Lupin says that Harry discovered a dark mark on your palm, that you've been pursued recently by Dream Hounds, and in years past you were possessed by a memory of Tom Riddle. Is this all correct?"
The smile disappeared from Ginny's face. "Yes, sir," she said in a small, little girl voice.
"Have you had any problems with the Dream Hounds since Harry placed the stone dragon on your wrist?" Abelard asked, in a quiet, even tone.
"None, sir," Ginny answered, squirming slightly in her chair.
"Not at all surprising. The Dream Hounds are mortally terrified of Snow Dragons, even in that form. If Riddle is trying to get back into your mind, you'll need protection of the stoutest nature. I intend to replicate with you what we've done with Harry. Remus, have you discussed the particulars of this with Ginevra and her mother?" Abelard was looking out the window with unfocused eyes. His body was here, but his mind was obviously elsewhere.
"Call me Ginny, please," Ginny said with a flash of irritation.
"No, I haven't," Remus replied. "I don't understand the mechanism enough to explain it cogently."
"Let's take advantage of these refreshments, and I'll tell some stories, old and new, then we'll need to get on with the day's work."
Abelard was energised and launched into several stories that dovetailed into one another, explaining the history of the Snow Dragons, how he'd spent time studying advanced topics of Divination with them, a very summary explanation of his involvement with the First War, and how he'd become Harry's tutor. He then concluded by explaining what a Pyr'g was, how the Snow Dragons used them, and how he was using it to protect Harry's mind from Voldemort's invasions.
"Ginny's situation is not all that different from Harry's. She is a target for take-over. Mere Occlumency would not be sufficient to protect her, and without protection she presents a security risk to the Order, to her family, and to everyone at Hogwarts. With protection, she would be effectively immune to hostile mental invasion, she would gain potentially useful skills and abilities, and all around her would be more secure. Are there any questions?" Abelard asked.
Ginny shook her head slowly from side to side. Molly finished chewing a biscuit, sipped some tea, and then, looking at Harry, asked, "What are the side effects?"
Harry laughed. "I have dreams about dragons. The other guardians are pretty much invisible, but the dragon Pyr'g is somewhat intrusive and very intelligent. I can talk to her, mine's a lady dragon named Mm'lau. She reminds me a bit of you, Mrs. Weasley, she's a mum herself. The Snow Dragons are very adept at a number of different forms of magic. Mm'lau shows me how to perform magic that I'm almost ready for; she's really a good teacher," Harry paused. "The other three don't speak to me."
"Who's in control?" Molly asked.
"I am. Mm'lau does what I tell her to do, although she's certainly vocal about her opinions," Harry explained with a smile. "That's about it for the side effects." He paused. "Then there's the bit about mating, but perhaps Abelard should explain that," he added, his neck beginning to flush with colour.
Abelard cleared his throat, reached for his teacup and drained it. "Snow Dragons mate for life, and their relationships are far more durable than Wizardkind on that front. The only occasion for taking a new mate is the death of their first mate, and even that is rare. I have reason to believe that this trait transfers with the Pyr'g." Abelard looked from Molly to Ginny and then poured another cup of tea, draining it in two long draws. "So Mrs. and Miss Weasley, are there any objections to installing the guardians?"
Ginny sat silently for a long while. "I - don't ever - want to be controlled by Tom again," she said in a matter-of-fact tone. "I'd rather die first."
Abelard turned to Molly. "Your thoughts, Molly?"
"I have discussed it with Arthur. We are reluctant, but I think it's for the best," she said, wiping her forehead with her napkin.
"Jasmine, could you fetch my spare Pensieve from the study?"
Jasmine stood, shaking her head briefly to get her braid situated, and then Disapparated.
"I don't think it's a good idea," Harry said, his voice cracking slightly.
"Why is that, Harry?" Abelard asked, using his academic tone. Lupin stared at Harry.
"A Pyr'g needs to be made from the magic of the host, otherwise there are problems. My Pyr'g is made from my magic," Harry said flatly.
"What sort of problems, Harry?" Molly asked nervously.
"Best case would be that there would be a clash between the magic of the Pyr'g and the person, the host. The Pyr'g would attempt to dominate the host," Harry explained.
"And the worst case?" Molly asked.
"If the magic is incompatible, it could be fatal," Harry said. And I couldn't live with that on my conscience.
"How do you know, Harry?" Molly asked.
"Mm'lau," he answered.
The adults at the table were silent. Ginny put her hands on her forehead and closed her eyes.
Jasmine returned, carrying a grey stoneware bowl.
"Where did you get this Pyr'g, Harry?" Remus asked.
"I told you before. When I was visiting the Snow Dragons, Mm'lau, the real one, not the one that lives in my head, made it, or summoned it, I'm not quite certain. She said it was for a friend, and that I'd know when I'd need it," Harry said, glancing at Jasmine.
Jasmine raised one eyebrow lightly, but was otherwise silent and inexpressive.
Remus turned to Jasmine. "Have you any bright white parchment to spare? I'll need two sheets."
"Are you thinking of casting the signatures, Remus?" Jasmine asked.
"Yes, actually. It's been ages since I've done it," Remus replied, but Jasmine was no longer there she'd Disapparated. "Ginny, can you take the bracelet off?"
"I can, but I'd rather not," she replied peevishly.
"You're not at risk, not right now," Harry said, fiddling with his cup of tea.
"Why not?" Ginny asked, locking onto his eyes with her own.
"First, you're awake. The Dream Hounds would have a difficult time finding you, and second because they wouldn't dare come into this house, much less this room," Harry replied.
"Why is that?"
"Because I'm here. To a Dream Hound I smell like a dragon," Harry said, his lips breaking into a gentle smile.
"Well, this will be the first time that I'm glad that boys smell," Ginny replied with an impish grin.
"Hey, some of us work hard to smell this good," Harry rejoined, glad that the tension had abated a bit.
Ginny wiggled the ivory bracelet off of her wrist. It was a snug fit, but at last it came off. She handed the carved stone to Harry, who marvelled that it was cool to the touch. He expected it to carry Ginny's warmth, but then again, dragon magic was rarely predictable. Harry handed the carving to Remus.
Jasmine was back in the room, slipping some brilliant white parchment onto the table next to Remus whether she walked in or Apparated, Harry couldn't recollect. Remus took a sheet of paper and began to draw on it with the tip of his wand. The pattern didn't resemble any letters that Harry was familiar with; instead, it appeared as if he was drawing brush strokes or writing Chinese pictograms. The fact that he was drawing without ink or paint, merely tracing the forms on the brilliant white parchment, made it all the more difficult to follow.
Finally after tracing several more characters, Remus was finished. He took a sip from his tumbler and then picked up the carved ivory ring, smacking it down, hard, upon the parchment. Light flashed. Remus gave a crooked smile. "I'm sorry, I should have warned you to look away."
Harry blinked. There were still spots of light clouding his vision.
The parchment had a ring shaped dent in the middle of the sheet, surrounded by a pattern of coloured lines that radiated out from the ring. Tracing his finger across the lines, Remus started at one particular scarlet line, tracing with his finger to another, brilliant blue line. "That's the signature, there, it repeats itself thereafter."
Remus took another sheet of parchment and traced patterns upon it with the tip of his wand. After repeated strokes, he stopped, looking up at Ginny. "Do you have your wand?"
Ginny moved to her sleeve, brandishing her wand with a flourish. "I never leave home without it. What am I doing to this paper, Remus?"
"Cast the revealing charm on it."
"Will there be a flash?"
"Only after the charm has done its job."
Ginny flicked her wand at the parchment, intoning "Aparecium."
The characters that Remus had traced upon the paper began to appear and then fade away in the sequence in which they had been traced. As the last character faded, the sheet of parchment glowed briefly and then flicked out with a brilliant flash. Harry had the presence of mind to look away this time. When he opened his eyes he saw a similar circular pattern of coloured lines, this time arrayed from a single point in the centre of the parchment. Remus placed the two parchments side by side, tracing the line sequences with the index fingers of either hand. He took a deep breath and then covered his eyes with his hands. "Hellfire and damnation . . . ." he muttered. He placed his hands flat on the table, looking round to the adults and then to Ginny and Harry. "They don't match."
There was a long stretch of silence. Abelard refilled his cup again. "Harry, think back to our first lesson here. What has your uncle done wrong?"
Harry's mind blurred as he searched his memories. He smiled he had the answer. The magic is in the witch, not the wand. He reached past Remus to pick up the remaining sheet of parchment, tracing the figures he'd seen just moments before with the edge of his thumb, pausing momentarily for the last two characters. As he finished, he noticed Remus letting out his breath. He held the parchment between finger and thumb, walking to the end of the table, furthest away from Ginny. "Ginny, wandlessly summon the parchment, if you please."
Ginny closed her eyes and opened them slowly. She faced Harry and the parchment, held out her hand and said, with a smirk on her lips, "Accio parchment." The parchment zipped the length of the table and landed in her grasp. There was a brief flash of light and the parchment fell to the tabletop, now imprinted with the outline of Ginny's hand surrounded by a corona of coloured lines.
Remus brought the parchment alongside the first parchment, inspecting the patterns of coloured lines. He took a deep breath and then smiled. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a match."
Harry brushed his forehead with the palm of his hand. "Oh my," he said, eyes opened wide. He looked for a chair and sat down, letting the significance of the match sink in. Mm'lau had seen Ginny with enough detail to match her wandless magic when she'd created the Pyr'g. Abelard believed that the Snow Dragons were never wrong in their visions of the future. He couldn't deal with that, not today. If Mm'lau were right, it wouldn't be so bad, but enough things in his life were already driven by Prophecy that he wasn't willing to surrender one more piece of his life to a vision, no matter how much he might like the outcome.
The adults and Ginny filed out of the dining room, through the kitchen and out into the garden. Harry stayed put in his chair. "Are you coming, Harry?" Jasmine asked as she entered the room.
Harry looked up.
"You checked out for a few minutes there. We're reconvening in the garden. Abelard wants you to harvest Ginny's memories; he says you need the practice." Jasmine stopped, looking carefully at Harry. "No one else knows, Harry, just you, me and Abelard."
"Knows what?" he asked, still slightly dazed.
"That the Pyr'g was built for your krulach, not for your friend." She crouched down, putting her eyes level with his. "Visions are not Prophecies. You Abelard those dragons you all can only see possible futures in a vision, not certainties. Your life is still your own. You don't have to figure it all out today. Be here and now, Harry. Meet today's challenges; the rest of it will fall in place when it needs to." She patted his hand and stood up, walking back into the kitchen.
"Jasmine?" Harry called.
She looked back over her shoulder. Damn, she's pretty when she does that.
"Thanks, I needed to hear that just now."
Jasmine smiled, winked and walked out into the garden, saying, "That's what friends are for, Harry."
Abelard, Molly and Ginny assembled in the shade in the garden. Remus, Mrs. Paprikash and Jasmine were missing, presumably doing other, more pressing tasks. A ceramic bowl was sitting on the table next to Ginny, a glowing, milky fluid filling it half full.
"Are you up for this, lad?" Abelard asked.
"I reckon so," Harry replied. He turned to Ginny, sitting down on the ground before her, looking up slightly to look into her eyes. "We're going to harvest three memories today and turn them into guardians to join your Pyr'g. When we take these memories, you'll still have them in here," Harry said, touching his temple. "But we'll also have a copy in here," he said, touching the rim of the ceramic Pensieve. You need to bring a specific memory to mind, and while you're holding that, I'll pull the thought and pop it into this bowl. We're going to copy your memory of Fawkes the Phoenix, the orb-weaver spider that lives next to the kitchen door outside the Burrow, and the house bats."
"This will keep me safe?" Ginny asked incredulously.
"You'll be surprised I know I was," he answered wryly.
"Let's do it then," Ginny said, squirming in her chair.
"Relax now, this part doesn't hurt a bit."
Ginny stiffened. "What part hurts then?"
"We're two steps removed from that part," Harry said quietly. "I lived you will too."
"You've such a bedside manner, Healer Potter," Ginny teased.
"I learned from the best," Harry said, pushing his eyebrows together while he hunched his shoulders and put on his best Snape expression.
Ginny pushed him gently. "Stop it, I'm going to embarrass myself if I start laughing again."
Harry gave her a wink. Ginny took a deep breath, smoothing her dress with her palms. "I'm ready now," she said.
"Let's start with Fawkes, always a happy memory for me," he said.
"Really?" Ginny asked with a hint of surprise.
"Really," he answered. He couldn't read her expression, but she sat a little straighter.
"Think of Fawkes, singing and flying. Think of him on burning day; think of when he was running errands for Dumbledore the night your father went to St. Mungo's. Got all that?"
Ginny nodded, biting her lower lip in concentration.
"Good. Fiat Memoriam," he said, tracing the tip of his wand against Ginny's temple. He drew the wand away, and a thread of shimmering pearly goo came with it. He delicately lowered the thread into the Pensieve, which began to swirl slowly with the added memory.
"Next the orb spiders."
"Those are the big brown and tan ones that spin such huge webs?"
"Ron wouldn't like this."
"We don't have to tell him, do we?"
"No. Okay, I've got it."
"FiatMemoriam," Harry intoned, pulling another glistening thread from her head. Ginny licked her lower lip where she'd been biting it. Harry almost dropped the strand, but recovered without looking too much like a hormonally addled prat. He was glad that Uncle Moony, or worse yet, Jasmine wasn't watching. "Now the bats."
"Okay, bats flying at dusk coming right up. I've got it," Ginny said quietly.
"Fiat Memoriam," Harry intoned, pulling a short thread from Ginny's temple. This thread plopped into the Pensieve. He could now see three competing patterns swirling in the bowl; it was almost hypnotic.
Without saying anything, Abelard measured a bit of powder into his hand and leaned over the bowl. He tilted his hand, letting the powder fall in. Harry carefully picked the swirling bowl up and carried it to a pavement block in an open area of the garden. "Look aside, this is going to be bright," he said. "Incendio."
He pointed his wand at the Pensieve, looking away after he had done so. The fireball whooshed straight up, burning brightly for several seconds. Harry tried to remember the spell for fire quenching charms, but drew a blank. A moment later the fireball had consumed itself, the Pensieve and half of the pavement block. Jasmine came in from the kitchen, carrying a slotted spoon and a pitcher of water. Harry squatted down next to the still radiant pile of ashes and began to scoop solids into the pitcher. The pitcher spat and sizzled as the extremely hot clinkers hit the water. Without looking at himself, he knew he was covered in grit. When he was finished with the ashes he looked up at Jasmine. "Could you Scourgify me, please? I've never used it on myself before and don't fancy blasting my clothes off in mixed company."
"Pity that," she replied with a wink. "Scourgify," she intoned as she pointed her delicate wand at his head with a flicking motion.
Harry felt as if he'd been blasted by a tidal wave, but when that feeling passed, he was clean, dry and ready to proceed.
"That's the first time I've seen that charm used on a person," Ginny observed as she slipped out of her sandals and tucked her feet under her, looking particularly feline as she curled up in the garden chair.
"There's a reason it's not often used on people, it's a little . . ." Harry paused.
"Bracing?" Jasmine suggested.
"I was thinking a bit more along the lines of overwhelming, but bracing will do in a pinch," he said, fishing around in the pitcher with his spoon. With some effort he pulled several bits of solid material from the bottom of the murky pitcher, laying them carefully out on the grass.
"You going to need some more water, Harry?" Jasmine asked helpfully.
"Yeah, I will. I m not keen on sticking my hand in this pitcher; it's still quite hot."
"All right then, "she said as she turned and walked back to the villa. Harry tried hard not to watch her backside as she receded into the background. Holding the back of his hand over the solid bits he'd plucked from the pitcher, he searched for the pieces that were not hot. Finding three, he began to wipe the muck from them, revealing the shapes of a bat, a bird and a spider. Jasmine returned quickly, fresh pitcher in tow. Harry nodded to her as he took the pitcher, pouring water into his palm over the jewel carvings. The spider looked as it if has been carved out of tiger-eye, glinting yellow, brown and gold in the morning sun. The bat resembled obsidian, while the phoenix was garnet the colour of fresh blood. Shaking the excess water from them, he handed them one at a time to Ginny.
"Harry," she gasped, "they're gorgeous look at these, Mum, have you ever seen anything as delicate and beautiful as these things? I can see the expression on Fawkes' face!"
Molly left her chair and kneeled beside her daughter, oohing and aahing appropriately. "What are they made of, Abelard?"
"Nothing but your daughter's magic, Molly. They appear to be as delicate as spun glass, but I assure you that they are close to indestructible." Abelard gripped the arms of his chair, looking as if he were about to rise, but turned his gaze on Ginny instead. "How are you feeling, lass?"
"Just corking, sir. The next bit is the part that hurts, isn't it?" Ginny asked, looking from Abelard to Harry. Molly put her hand on Ginny's knee while Ginny crossed her arms, looking defiant. "I won't break, I assure you. If Harry could do it, I'm certain that I can he's only a boy, after all," she said, shooting her mother a proud look.
"Yeah," Harry said, scooting his chair closer to Ginny's chair. "This part hurts, but it's over quickly enough."
"Let's do it then," she said, shifting her feet out from under her, lips pressed together.
"This is where the wandless magic comes in you're going to make a ring. We're going to use that ring to capture the big and little Pyr'gs, and then you're going to pull all of that magic back into you. That's the bit that hurts it generates a tremendous lot of heat too. I'll be guiding you through the process, and Jasmine will be standing by in case things get out of hand."
Ginny screwed up her face. "What's to get out of hand?"
Jasmine kneeled down next to Ginny in the spot recently occupied by Molly. "The heat, Ginny if it gets too high it can pose a risk, but I doubt that I'll need to do a thing. You seem adept at wandless magic, better than Harry more control," Jasmine said, winking at Harry.
"Ready now?" Harry asked. Ginny nodded in reply. "Let's go. When you were doing the whistle charm, we squeezed your middle to direct your chi for the charm. That's where your magic is, and that's where you need to focus your attention. Now close your eyes calm yourself and think of your middle, where all the magic flows. Think of a ring a simple circle. Got that? Okay, now, push that ring up from your middle, into your chest, out your arm and into your hand push from your diaphragm. Great job, Ginny, now open your eyes," Harry said, a grin fixed on his face.
Ginny's right hand was open, palm to the sky. Floating half an inch above her palm was a delicate platinum circle. Ginny looked at the circle and then up at Harry, a matching grin on her face. Harry restrained her left hand as she moved to touch the ring.
"This is a look-but-don't-touch operation," Harry explained. "Command the ring to become larger."
Ginny raised an eyebrow at Harry and then looked back at the platinum band. "Larger," she barked. The band expanded to the size of a very small saucer. Ginny looked up to Harry, who pantomimed a circle the size of a dinner plate. "Larger," she commanded again. The circle expanded to plate size, all the while floating above her palm.
"Command it to sit up," Harry explained, moving his hand from horizontal to vertical.
Ginny did so, marvelling when the band shifted in space. Abelard held the ivory-coloured Pyr'g out to Harry, who floated it from Abelard's palm into the space within the platinum circle where it hung gently in the air. Harry floated the remaining, smaller Pyr'gs into the circle and then used his wand to start the circle spinning clockwise, faster and faster until it was a shimmering platinum sphere. Leaning closer to Ginny he nodded at Jasmine. "Now, command the sphere to contract, to become smaller."
"Smaller," Ginny intoned, watching with wonder as the spinning sphere shrank to the size of a Snitch. Sweat was beading up on Ginny's brow. Jasmine filled a cup with water and held it to her lips. She gratefully drained the cup while glaring at the sphere.
"Now pull the magic back into your hand, pulling it down into the centre of your magic," Harry directed in a whisper.
Ginny bit her lower lip as she concentrated on the shimmering ball. She winced when it touched her palm, whimpering softly.
"Steady now, you can do this, Ginny," Harry encouraged.
The ball sank into Ginny's palm and when it was halfway into her hand it stopped. "Ach! Harry, it hurts!" Ginny gasped, the fingers of her right hand curling slightly while her left hand made a fist. Harry laid his hand on top of her left hand, recoiling slightly as he felt a wave of pain enter into his arm.
Harry felt Mm'lau's presence before he heard her. "Don't let go now, lower your guard and take her pain. The dark mark is fighting her," his Pyr'g explained, her voice like a soothing cool breeze.
Harry relaxed inside, letting the pain flow into him, at first a trickle, then a stream, and finally torrents of pain. He could feel it swirl within him, but oddly enough each wave of pain faded away until the flow of pain entering ebbed and stopped. A wave of sadness passed. Looking up at Ginny he saw that her eyes were half closed now, leaving a bit of the whites of her eyes showing. Harry felt something lurch within him. She was still biting her lip in concentration. The sphere wobbled briefly and then began to disappear into her palm. Within a moment it disappeared completely.
"Bring it down your arm and into your centre," Harry whispered. Ginny nodded in reply. She stiffened as if she had swallowed a particularly hot bite of food, and then relaxed. She closed her eyes, balling both hands into fists and then relaxing them. Opening her eyes, she fixed her gaze on Harry.
"You took my pain," she said, a statement, not a question.
Harry nodded. "The mark was fighting you."
No one spoke for a moment until Abelard broke the silence. "Jasmine, please cast a revealing charm upon her palm." Jasmine did so. Nothing changed on Ginny's palm. "It seems, Molly, that your daughter has lost her dark mark," he commented, as if noticing that she had changed her earrings or something else of little to no consequence.
Harry cast his own revealing charm on her palm. It flickered briefly with a pale blue light, but likewise showed nothing but the lines that she'd been born with.
Jasmine moved from Ginny to Abelard, helping him rise from his chair. "Let's get back into the house. Watching you two work has made me hungry," he said with a mischievous smile. Abelard extended an arm to Molly, who took it regally as she walked with him back to the villa. Jasmine poured two more tumblers of water and wordlessly handed them to the young witch and wizard. Giving Harry a wink, she turned on her heel and headed after her principal.
"Help me up, Harry?" Ginny asked with a crooked smile.
Harry pushed himself off of his chair and then extended a hand to his friend. She was a bit wobbly as she stood, so he put a hand on either shoulder. Ginny leaned forward into him, resting her cheek on his shoulder, reaching around him to press her palms into the small of his back. Harry stiffened at first and then relaxed, enjoying the warmth, the touch, and the smell of the wonderful small person before him. He moved his hands down her back until they were resting on her waist. "If we had music we could dance," he murmured.
Ginny murmured something unintelligible in reply.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that," he said.
Lifting her head slightly, Ginny said, "I said, shut up, I'm too tired to dance,'" and then returned her cheek to his shoulder. She stood motionless for a moment before she gave him a squeeze. "People are going to talk if we don't come in for lunch."
Harry reluctantly released her, turned and offered her his arm. Ginny gratefully took his offer, as she was a bit wobbly on her feet. They walked a less than direct path to the back door. "A bit faster, please. I'm not an invalid, and I'd like to get there before lunch is over with," Ginny carped.
"Yes, ma'am," Harry replied sassily. "Anything else?"
"This will do for a start," she replied cryptically.
Lunch was the usual sumptuous fare at Abelard's house. Fresh bread, fruit, salad, a cold soup and a meat and noodle dish that smelled of garlic, ginger and cilantro. The adults were carrying on an innocuous conversation on gardening, which Harry mercifully tuned out. He'd pay attention to Herbology in September when it became relevant again. He ate in silence, oddly exhausted from the morning's events. Midway through lunch, Remus joined them, whispering something into Molly's ear before he sat down. Harry caught Ginny's eye, mouthing the word "mushroom." Ginny laughed into her napkin.
Ginny picked at her food at first, but as she ate she discovered her appetite and went for seconds on everything but the soup. Looking up as she finished her last bit of bread and fruit she spoke to Jasmine, "Blimey, you pack in the food faster than my brother does where do you put it all?"
Jasmine smiled, wiped her mouth with her napkin and drained her water glass. "Extremely high metabolism one of the nicer side effects of my state in life," she said wryly.
"What's the down side?" Ginny asked.
"Nothing I'm going to discuss over lunch," Jasmine replied, looking furtively at Abelard, then at Harry. She looked at Ginny for a moment. "Might I have a word with you, privately, before you go?" she whispered.
"Certainly," Ginny replied. "When are we going?"
"After lunch, I believe. I've still got a full syllabus to cover with your chum this afternoon," nodding in Harry's direction. "How about now?"
Ginny nodded and the pair stood. "Excuse us please," Jasmine said to Abelard. "I'll have her back before coffee is done." He nodded and smiled.
Jasmine led Ginny into Abelard's parlour. His family members never spent time there; that was where Abelard did business with clients and would-be clients, people he didn't want to invite into the more intimate living areas of the house. The room was filled with formal furniture; artwork and sculpture adorned the walls. All of the artwork came into the house as gifts or payments from past clients; most of it deserved to be in museums, or had in fact been in museums before coming to Abelard's villa. Jasmine charmed the door and activated a fountain. Sweeping the room with her eyes, she turned to Ginny.
"We can't be overheard here. I don't have much time, so I'll get to the point and ruin mum's image of me as a perfect lady. I know how Harry feels about you. I need to know your intentions towards him," she said, softly in a matter of fact tone.
"Isn't that the question that Dad is supposed to ask Harry?" Ginny replied flippantly.
"Don't toy with me girl; answer my question," Jasmine hissed.
Ginny's bantering demeanour vanished. "My intentions . . . ?"
"Yes, your intentions not what is, but what you wish to be."
"Harry and I are - friends. I'd like us to be much more than that, but he's a hard person to get close to. He's like a dog that lets his family near him and growls at the rest of the world. Ron, my brother, and Hermione are his family and the rest of us are somewhere else," Ginny replied in a weary tone.
"If he lets you in, do you intend to get close to him, emotionally and physically?" she asked, gazing at Ginny without blinking.
"Yes," Ginny whispered in a barely audible tone.
Jasmine reached out towards Ginny, bringing her hand up to Ginny's face, stopping just before she touched her cheek. "I shan't make that mistake again," she said, shaking her head. "I'll take your word for it," she said, turning away.
"What are you going on about? What gives you the right to ask these questions? You said that Harry was simply your friend. Did you tell me the truth?" Ginny spat out questions rapid-fire.
"Harry is - my master's student. If my master dies while I am pledged to him, Harry becomes my new master. Accordingly I have a professional interest in what happens to Harry, quite apart from what I feel about him personally. Personally, I'm jealous of you, of your opportunity to get closer to him. I can't do that, not while I'm pledged. If things were different, I'd want to get close to him as badly as you want to. He's really an exceptional person."
"Why did you try to touch me and then stop?" Ginny asked.
"The strongest form of my Legilimency requires touch; your dragon would see that as an attack and would defend you. The last time I tried something like that, Harry's pet dragon scorched my hand," Jasmine replied as if explaining a mundane fact.
"Scorched you? Like with flames?" Ginny asked incredulously.
"I had a rather nasty blister within a minute or so it might be all in Harry's head, but it was quite real to me."
"And I can do that too?" Ginny wondered.
"The basic equipment is the same, even if the packaging is a bit different," Jasmine replied with a smile. "You're not ready, " she said, changing the subject. She wasn't smiling any more. "You need to be harder, stronger, faster. Being close to Harry Potter is a very dangerous proposition."
"Harry would never hurt me," Ginny protested.
"I never said that he would, but he draws danger the way spilled treacle draws ants. You've got to be prepared for that. Until your wandless magic is up to snuff, you've got to carry your wand at all times. It's always good practice to have a knife for backup. Your earrings are fetching, but they could be used as weapons against you; I'll give you a few of mine they have breakaway bits built into them. Your knickers are okay, but your brassiere would get you injured in any number of fights. If you're planning on getting close to Harry and staying there, then you've got to be prepared for violence raining down on you without warning." Jasmine stood, staring at Ginny for a moment. I'm going to ask Abelard if I can start training you this summer, and I don't know what I'm going to do if he says no, Jasmine thought to herself.
She nodded, as if concluding some inner discussion. "Come with me. I have things to send home with you." Turning in a sudden flurry of motion, she cancelled the charm on the door and with a backhanded motion as she cleared the door, she turned off the fountain. A moment later, Ginny followed, trying to catch up with her as she strode down the hallway.
"Mrs. Paprikash, could I trouble you for some tea?" Abelard asked pleasantly.
Mrs. Paprikash glared at him briefly, then nodded to Molly as the two witches exited to the kitchen to prepare the requested beverage and continue their conversation, uninterrupted.
"I take it that the Pyr'g quartet was installed without problem?" Remus asked, looking first at Abelard, then Harry."
"They're installed," Harry temporised, "but we had a snag when they were going in. It was a bit painful for Ginny." Harry pulled an unhappy face.
"But you took her pain successfully?" Abelard asked.
Harry startled. "Yeah, how did you know?" he asked.
"It's an old dragon trick. I saw Mm'lau do it twice when I was living among the dragons. They call it fa'czhng, which means eating pain,'" Abelard explained.
"It's a healing technique then?" Remus asked.
"No, it's more or less just a matter of pain relief. Their healing charms are much the same as ours, but this technique is uniquely their own. It was an odd feeling; having Mm'lau make contact with my mind and then feeling the pain drain away. What was it like on the other end of the equation, eh, Harry?" Abelard asked in a chipper fashion.
"Odd," Harry replied. "It's painful, but it's not my pain, so it's not debilitating. I felt sad, sad for Ginny that she was suffering."
"So, how do you feel now?" Abelard inquired.
"I dunno, in what way?" Harry said with a shrug of his shoulders and a spreading motion of his hands.
"Do you feel weak or strong? Tired, fresh? How do you feel, lad?"
Harry thought for a moment. "I feel strong, rested. Probably better than I felt after breakfast, which is when I feel best during the day. Why do you ask?"
"I'd always wanted to do research on this magic, but never had the brass to propose studying it whilst living with the dragons. I suppose there's no time for it this summer either. Pity that, life is short and the art is long," Abelard complained.
The tea arrived.
"Abelard," Molly began in sweet tones normally reserved for family, "have you a notion why the dark mark disappeared on Ginny's palm?"
"I can, at best, offer speculation," Abelard began.
"Many clever men pay thousands of Galleons for your speculating," Molly interrupted.
"Men with too much money to begin with," Abelard replied. "The dark mark was a sign of desecration an artefact of Ginevra's unwilling possession by Tom Riddle. She was not made for dark magic. When something is desecrated, there are two paths that can be pursued: the object can be destroyed, or it can be used for its intended purpose again. Installing the Pyr'g was a powerful act of light magic, especially when performed with the correct motivation. For the precise details, I suggest that you will have to wait until I have the opportunity to ask our Creator that question."
"Hopefully not anytime soon," Molly replied with a smile as she brought her teacup to her lips.
"Not soon enough," Abelard replied.
"Don't be so dour," Molly chided, "if you'd been more chipper I would have said yes' instead of no.'"
"Molly," Abelard rejoined, his voice beginning to flare, "you know full well that my demeanour had nothing to do with that that decision." Abelard glared at Molly, drumming the table lightly with his fingertips.
"As much I would love to stay and watch you two bicker, the Ottery St. Catchpole group needs to be going," Remus said as he stood, looking at a weathered wristwatch. Jasmine opened the door, ushering in a watchful Ginny, laden with a small canvas tote bag
Abelard stood as well, tugging his waistcoat into position. "Molly, my home is a sanctuary. You and yours are welcome here, any time, day or night," he said, looking to Jasmine, who nodded serenely. "Don't wait so long to see me again," he said, looking first at Molly then at Ginny. "Jasmine, please escort our guests to the meadow and call the Portal."
"Yes, sir," she replied, looking as if she had more to say.
Mrs. Paprikash followed the group out the door after Abelard made a point of shaking everyone's hand. Molly shook his hand and then quickly bussed him on the cheek before turning to leave. "Again, thank you, Abelard," she said.
Harry waved to Ginny and nodded at Remus at their departure, standing behind his chair at the dining table. Abelard returned after a while, noting that Harry had not moved.
"You look troubled, lad," he began.
"Confused and bewildered," Harry replied.
"Her mother evoked many of the same feelings in me, lad. Still does," Abelard said with a laugh.
"So it doesn't get any better?" Harry asked.
"Depending upon what it' is, I assure you that it does get better. If you're talking about your friendship with young Ginevra, it will have its ups and downs. But when you are at the end of your life, looking back, you will find that you are far richer for having made the effort to connect with your friends rather than hiding from them."
Jasmine opened the door, looked at the two wizards and then quietly closed the door again, sealing it from the outside.
"So, what is troubling you, young friend?" Abelard asked, pouring another cup of tea.
"It's my birthday tomorrow," Harry answered flatly.
"So it is. I wish you Happy Birthday in advance. Now then, what is truly bothering you? I haven't seen you this distracted since the day Jasmine broke your nose."
"You knew about that?" Harry asked with a smirk.
"I am merely old. I am not blind, lad."
"My friends will be there all of them," Harry began.
"That is the notion one usually tries to reserve a different venue for one's enemies," Abelard quipped drolly.
"I'm thinking of letting them know about the prophecy," he said in a monotone.
"Towards what end?"
"I'm tired of the secrets. If they want to steer clear of me, I want to give them a chance."
"So you're hoping to scare all of your friends away," Abelard asked, looking over the rim of his glasses.
"Yes no I don't know what I want to happen, I just am so tired of the secrets. I want them to know the truth," he said in a bone-weary voice.
"Are you planning on doing this before or after you give your guests their gifts?"
"How did you know about that?"
"I figured there must be a reason for all the shopping you've done in the past few weeks. Jasmine talks to the Aurors and the others from the Order who are doing your security."
"After, I guess."
"You've discussed this with Dumbledore?" Harry nodded in reply. "Do you have all the gifts?"
"All but Mrs. Weasley's I couldn't think of anything that would really express how I feel about her and her family."
Abelard looked down at the table, pulling on his beard for a while. He summoned a box from the kitchen, pulling out a sheet of ivory coloured parchment out, folding it and folding it again. Pulling a fountain pen from his waistcoat pocket, he scrawled something in his unique hand, passing it across the table for Harry's inspection.
"Is this true?" Harry asked.
"I can't think of anything that would make her happier," Harry replied.
"Well, now that we have that preliminary matter dealt with, how about you tell me what's really bothering you, lad."
"I'm thinking about asking Ginny's parents about getting to know her better."
Abelard said nothing for a while, stroking his beard. He fiddled with his now empty teacup, looking up at Harry. "They will perceive that as initiating courtship. Is that what you intend?"
"I - I don't know. Dumbledore said that I should ask you about Potentis Amicae'."
"A truly useful charm however it's not much called for these days."
"What is it? Dumbledore said I should ask you about it, said something to the effect that it could help me out in my situation," Harry said, his eyes beginning to flash.
Abelard smirked, then began to chuckle. He tried to compose himself, but he continued chuckling. "I suppose that I am struck by the irony of the Wizarding world's most eligible bachelor getting lonely heart advice from two men who have never married. Potentis Amicae is a courting charm," he said, reaching for another biscuit.
"It's supposed to make me irresistible or something?" Harry asked in annoyance.
"Actually, just the opposite, lad," Abelard said, gripping the table with one hand while he slapped his thigh with the other. His chuckling gave way to another round of laughter. Taking a deep breath, he finally composed himself. "In a much earlier time, courtship was expected to be a rather quick affair. A gentle wizard would let his intentions be made known, much as you are planning on doing, and a lady witch would either accept or reject his attention. This worked rather well when the witch and wizard knew each other well, say if they'd grown up in a small village together, but not so well when they were comparative strangers, which was often the case with arranged courtship. If the courtship dragged on too long, certain assumptions were made about the behaviour of the couple, and the witch was regarded as damaged goods, which certainly would put a damper on subsequent suitors if the courtship didn't work out." Abelard swirled his teacup, draining it with a sigh. "A most unfortunate time to be a witch, but even now our society has a double standard in place. Potentis Amicae is, or was, a solution to this perceived problem. It is a charm placed upon the wizard. Simply put, he is unable to initiate certain behaviours until such time as he could make clear to the witch his true feelings for her. The charm was placed either by the witch's parents, usually the father, or by the wizard's mother, although a father or guardian would do when circumstances would warrant. It would take a certain pressure off of the wizard, and guard the reputation of the witch. It was, for a time, a very fashionable part of Wizarding courtship. I remember the courting cloaks from my childhood. A witch who were being courted by a wizard under the Potentis Amicae charm would customarily receive a lovely black wool cloak, which she would wear as a badge of honour, indicating that she was courting, and the honourable circumstances of that courtship."
"I'm sorry Abelard, you lost me," Harry said with annoyance barely under control. "What behaviours are we talking about?"
"You could be kissed, but you could not initiate a kiss - at least with your intended until such time as you make plain your feelings."
Harry opened his mouth only to shut it again as he searched for words. "But I'm rubbish at talking about feelings half the time I don't even know what I'm feeling," he complained.
"You are not like other young men, Harry. You will mate for life, whether you like it or not. You must be very cautious about getting emotionally involved with any woman. You will only bond once. You must be cautious," Abelard warned.
"What do you mean? I thought that meant that if I got married, I'd stay married," Harry sputtered.
"That is a true statement as far as it goes, but dragons don't marry as we do. In the early stages of their courtship, they will flirt amongst themselves, but after a time of that the male will sort things out and mark a particular female. The marking is their betrothal, recognised by all. The mating as we think of it comes later."
"So how does that affect me?"
"I don't know. We're not sure, Harry. Dumbledore and I have had extensive correspondence on this point. No one has ever done this mixture of interspecies magic before. We knew that the Pyr'g would keep you safe from Voldemort. I had assumed, apparently incorrectly, that you were a few years away from needing to worry about the effects of a dragon Pyr'g on courtship, although I did point out the issue, to him and to you. It's singularly odd that the young lady you are interested in is similarly situated, eh what?"
"So this bonding thing how will I know what will trigger it? Holding hands? Kissing? Proposing? Something more?" Harry asked with a bit of a growl.
"Simply put - we're not sure, Harry. Holding hands, probably not. Dragons mark by biting; so kissing, given the oral nature of marking, maybe, maybe not. Sometimes I don't know' means just that. I'm sorry. I think you'll agree that the benefits outweigh the damage here. You have to be alive to court." Abelard gestured at the door, causing it to unseal and open in a slow swing. "So, having dropped more on your shoulders than you were ever meant to bear in one day, would you rather work on sparring or on advanced Apparation this afternoon?"
"I don't think I'd be very fair to Jasmine sparring with her in my present frame of mind," Harry said quietly.
"As you wish," Abelard said, rising from the table. He called for Jasmine.
Harry's guards were up higher than Jasmine had ever felt them before. He must be upset about something. She could tell that he was distracted by his own thoughts, but she couldn't sense anything other than the Occlumency shield that covered his mind. They performed timed drills, Apparating and Disapparating according to pre-determined co-ordinates. Next they did similar drills, with Harry attempting to carry larger and larger weights with him as he Disapparated. He got as high at 1,000 pounds of additional weight, but couldn't do that consistently. Half that amount he could consistently carry with him without regard to distance or refresh times between Disapparations.
"Harry, take five. You're doing brilliantly on this exercise, by the way," Jasmine said, moving into the shade.
Harry panted for a while, nodding when Jasmine handed him a tumbler of iced water. "Thanks."
"Harry, look at me. Lower your Occlumency shields, tell your dragon to stand down and then tell me what the hell you are so angry about," Jasmine commanded in her best take-charge voice.
Harry stared at her in silence for a while. Part of him wanted to tell her to bugger off, but one did not say such things lightly to this particular witch. "I'm mad at Abelard, I'm mad at Dumbledore," he said counting off fingers on one hand. "I'm probably equally mad at myself because I can't figure out what's going on."
"So what did the old men do to make you so mad?" Jasmine asked quietly.
"Giving me advice on my so-called love life," Harry said with exasperation, running his fingers through his sweat soaked hair. "Dumbledore wants me to take you uh as a mistress. Abelard wants me to become a eunuch if I start seeing more of Ginny," Harry looked down at the ground, red flushing up the back of his neck. "It's not fair Dumbledore thinks that you're some sort of disposable tart and Abelard thinks that Ginny's reputation will be perpetually soiled if I kiss her," Harry growled.
"So, I'm not suitable mistress material? Pity, all that time wasted in passing my class in Courtesan Studies. Don't you find me attractive, Harry?" Jasmine purred in a husky tone
"Don't look at me like that I can't think straight when you do that!" Harry shouted.
"Give me the look the one that makes water boil. Merlin, Jasmine! You are the hottest woman I know and the scariest. You're also my friend. I like you I like you a lot, but but for yes to mean yes, you have to be able to say no." Harry paused to swallow. "And if I were your boss, you couldn't say no I mean."
"And that's a problem for taking me as a mistress?" she said quietly.
"It's a problem for me. Look, I'm rubbish at talking about feelings and I botched up my first boy-girl relationship, but even I know that it's wrong to use people, and that's what Dumbledore was getting at."
"Was he? Maybe he was testing you," Jasmine suggested.
"Maybe so, but it still rubs me the wrong way I mean, you're a nice girl."
"Thank you, Harry," Jasmine said sweetly. "You don't find nice girls attractive? Is Ginny a nice girl?" Jasmine asked in a voice that sounded like perfume on a moonlit night.
"Stop it! You're doing it again. And yes, Ginny's a very nice girl," Harry said, crossing his arms across his chest, looking away from Jasmine.
Jasmine walked up to Harry, stood on tiptoe and pecked his cheek. Stepping back, she looked around and then back at her friend. "Harry, you are the sweetest wizard I know, which is something considering how powerful you are already and how powerful you will become. You're also a lot of fun to wind up did you know that? Now, listen carefully, Harry. Part of being an adult, and you're almost there, is learning how to see things from someone else's point of view. You don't have to agree with them, but it helps if you can see things from their perspective. Dumbledore was testing you, I'm sure of it. You passed, by the way. I'm jealous of Ginny; I told her that today in fact."
"You don't strike me as the jealous type," Harry said with a small smile.
"You weren't around me when I was growing up with my sister," she replied, rolling her eyes. "Just what was Abelard suggesting with you and Ginny?"
Jasmine snorted, "Oh, that old thing. It had its place, I guess, but on the whole I'm glad it's gone."
"Then why is Abelard pushing this?"
"Knowing Abelard, I think he's not pushing it at all. He's probably trying to tell you to be careful with your heart and not go too fast the same things he's been telling me since I turned twelve."
"Now that you mention it, Abelard was just answering my question it was Dumbledore that set me up to ask about Potentis Amicae," Harry said, pulling on his chin.
"Another thing, Harry: Potentis Amicae doesn't make you a eunuch."
"I know that, I was just carping that Abelard thought I was untrustworthy or something."
"Believe me, Harry. You are very trustworthy," she said, laying her fingertips on his arm for emphasis. "Let's do one more drill and then break for the day and make dinner."
"Sounds like a plan."
After concluding the drill, they repaired to the kitchen where they prepared the evening meal together in relative silence. Jasmine observed that his mood had lightened considerably. Once he was no longer furious, his performance on the Apparation drill had improved as well. Dinner went about as normally as possible at Abelard's table. The food was good; the conversation was eclectic, ranging from philosophy to magic to music. After dessert there was a satisfied pause in the conversation. Abelard broke the silence.
"Harry, tomorrow is your birthday. The day after that is a regularly scheduled day for tutoring, but you have been making terrific progress. Take the day off be sixteen, play Quidditch, enjoy your friends. We'll set a new schedule for the week following. Enjoy your birthday."
"Thanks, Abelard. I'll try to enjoy it, cautiously," Harry said, smiling freely for the first time in hours.
"You do that," Abelard said, rising from the table and dismissing himself from their company, "you do that." As he passed into the hallway he said, more to himself than to Harry, "Good luck, lad."
Author's Notes: As always, thanks to the pre-betas on my list for their helpful and somewhat pointed comments on where I'm taking this story. Special thanks go to Full Pensieve, who, as always, pokes me when I'm most complacent. Yes, gentle reader; Abelard and Molly have a past. Molly Prewett interviewed with Abelard and spent time at his residence (back when it was in England), where she first met Mrs. Paprikash. She ultimately declined to apprentice with Abelard, having a different relationship in mind with young Arthur Weasley.