Author's Notes: Thanks go to my beta and to all those who sent feedback about the original draft of the fic at schnoogle or on my LJ. Your help is greatly appreciated.
Gold Tinted Spectacles
Chapter 19 - Lessons
"Welcome," Hilde greeted brightly as Harry and Draco entered her room for what was supposed to be their first in-depth training session. "Please have a seat. I thought we might spend the first part of the evening getting to know each other properly."
Draco was not sure he liked that idea, but he kept his expression calmly neutral and took the offered seat after Harry sat down. The energetic woman would be useful and she was pleasant in a Hufflepuff type of way, but she was definitely not in the 'trust with our innermost secrets' category.
"I may have had my head in a library for the past couple of years," Hilde continued speaking cheerfully, "but I am aware that your relations with the Ministry have not always been, shall we say, friendly, Harry. Hence I suspect I am not as welcome as I could have been."
The way the woman seemed to pick up on Draco's objections to her presence before he voiced them was beginning to unnerve the Slytherin. For his part, Harry was looking at her intently. Draco felt his soul mate adjusting his barriers and realised that Harry was not about to take any chances and had decided to use his gifts.
"I hope you don't mind," Harry said politely, "but I'm reading you."
"Not at all," Hilde replied with a smile, "I was about to suggest it actually."
If it had been up to him Draco would not have told her that Harry had her under surveillance, as it were, but it was too late now. He did like Hilde, she had a pleasant personality, but paranoia was a way of life for Draco and he wanted to be sure that she would not betray them to the Ministry, either deliberately or accidentally. They were living in dangerous times.
"Would you care for some refreshment?" the woman asked cheerfully. "I hesitate to offer tea but it seems to be a tradition around here. I have butterbeer if you would prefer."
Both young men nodded their assent at the same time; Draco for one was incredibly pleased not to have to worry about politely sipping tea yet again. There was something to be said for having a device to hide behind and a missile to throw, but at that moment those were the only good things he could think of to do with tea. The great British drink had its place, but the entire staff of Hogwarts seemed to survive on the stuff. Maybe the house elves put something in it.
"Why did you decide to study Hecatemae?" Harry asked the question with his usual innocent tone as Hilde produced three butterbeers.
The woman frowned for a moment in thought as she passed out the drinks and Draco watched her carefully. So far Hilde was giving no signs of subterfuge.
"We had a guest DADA teacher, Professor Laramie, for a few months when I was in my sixth year," the ex-Hufflepuff began eventually, sitting back in her chair, "and she gave some fascinating lectures. There were a few of us who were rather taken with her stories."
To Draco's amusement Hilde blushed as she admitted that.
"Well you know Hufflepuffs," the woman continued, "in for a knut, in for a galleon. We convinced her to set up a club where she could teach us about more than just dark creatures. One evening she told us all about her great, great, great grandmother: Eliza Puddleton and her bond mate Michael Charmers. Well it was the most romantic thing I had ever heard. I knew a little about Hecatemae, but after that I searched everywhere for information. I even did my final year History of Magic essay on the influence of a Hecatema on the Goblin Wars."
Hilde paused thoughtfully, taking a sip of her butterbeer.
"Once I get an idea in my head it's almost impossible to shift it," the witch explained honestly. "Probably another reason I was a Hufflepuff. I admit that I may have been a little obsessed."
Draco couldn't help but smile at that; the woman was so likeable and Harry appeared to believe her completely.
"There was only one place I wanted to work and I don't think Dr Anquiro, my superior, quite knew what hit him when I applied," Hilde told them with a smile. "Possibly the two hundred and fifty page thesis I handed to him the moment I walked in the door was a bit much."
That made Harry laugh and Draco could feel his lover's amusement through their bond. He could also tell that Harry was relaxing, although his soul mate had not fully restored his shields yet.
"How long have you been working there?" Draco asked conversationally.
"Nearly fifteen years," Hilde replied openly. "Until the news about Harry reached us I was working on one of the ancient manuscripts. It was found just after the last fall of Whatsit when the property of one of his Death Eaters was confiscated. We've been..."
She stopped talking as she realised both Draco and Harry were staring at her. The woman looked confused.
"Was it something I said?" she asked, appearing genuinely worried.
"Actually, yes," Draco said honestly.
That of course didn't clear up the situation, but then he had never been known for his straightforward manner.
"I've never heard Voldemort referred to as 'Whatsit', before," Harry said, his smile reappearing. "Sorry, you were saying?"
"Oh," Hilde said with a nod and a grin and then she launched into a detailed account of how her department went about preserving and restoring old documents to further their research.
Draco was not sure the woman wasn't a Ravenclaw rather than a Hufflepuff as she waxed lyrical. If it hadn't been for the fact that she kept dropping in little anecdotes all the time, he would have sworn she was one of the book worms. It was only as the Slytherin found himself grinning at yet another story of how the woman had caused complete chaos in her department that Draco realised he had been letting his guard down. He was impressed; Hilde, it appeared, knew how to manipulate a situation.
In this case Draco did not want Hilde to think she had them right where she wanted them and he let his smile fade and his features harden slightly. He did not want to give her the impression that she was completely unwelcome, but he could not give her his trust yet either. At his reaction Hilde looked between Draco and Harry and for a moment an understanding, almost sympathetic expression crossed her face. It rather contrasted with what she had just been saying and Harry paused in the reply he was giving. Draco found himself the subject of attention of two pairs of eyes.
"Is there anything I can do to make you trust me?" Hilde asked without the slightest trace of recrimination in her voice as she looked directly into his face.
"I don't know," Draco replied honestly.
Trust was not something he ever gave away easily and there were far too many factors counting against Hilde for him to allow her the status of confidant so soon. Surprisingly the woman seemed to realise this and did not resent it. For his part, Harry watched the exchange without commenting and from the feelings of curiosity and calmness coming from him, he appeared to be perfectly willing to accept Draco's stance on the matter.
"Ah well," Hilde said with a resigned smile; not quite the reaction the Slytherin was expecting, "it was worth a try."
"You did not invite us here expecting me to trust you, did you?" Draco voiced the conclusion the woman's words created in his mind.
He was beginning to believe that Hilde was more devious than he had originally given her credit for. This woman may have been a Hufflepuff, but she appeared to have traits from all of the other houses as well. Hilde's smile faded and she looked from Harry to Draco and back again calmly.
"The position of instructor is an honoured one," she said completely seriously with all trace of humour gone from her tone, "and one which must have complete trust. Normally this trust would be built up over years as a child grew and was trained, but due to our stupidity and lack of foresight, Harry, this stage is lost to us."
The woman's gaze fixed on Draco for a moment.
"Draco," Hilde said firmly, "I do not blame you for distrusting me, in fact I approve of it. There are those out there who would use you and Harry if they could. I do not believe there is any danger of that with the pair of you working together."
[She isn't lying,] Harry told his lover silently and Draco found his head filled with an image of Hilde as the Hecatemus was seeing her with his barriers partially down.
"From the way you are talking," Draco replied evenly, "you don't sound as if you think I will ever trust you."
"I doubt that you would under normal circumstances," Hilde replied openly.
That caused him to raise an eyebrow.
"But?" he asked at the unvoiced continuation.
The woman gave them both a slightly embarrassed but very determined smile.
"Now you find out why the hat put me in Hufflepuff," Draco heard her mutter to herself.
He was not sure what was coming but he knew it was big in the general scheme of things.
"These days the procedure for choosing an instructor for a Hecatemae child is a matter of bureaucracy," Hilde appeared to be choosing her words carefully. "The head of the department chooses the best qualified from those who wish to be considered, baring any major objections from the family, that's it. Other members of the department support the trainer, but mostly the responsibility lies with the one chosen. It didn't always used to be like that. Before the Ministry, it was more of a family business: children apprenticed to their parents or their uncles to become familiar with the techniques for training a gifted child and when one was found a contest would be held to, I suppose, find the child's champion. There were no rules about who could enter the contest, and the trials were designed to find the best suited for the role. This could have meant that technically the final choice could be a complete stranger to everyone."
It had not occurred to Draco how Hecatemae were trained before the advent of the Ministry; he had been more interested in recent history, but it made sense.
"Hecatemae are far too valuable to risk," Hilde continued calmly, "and our ancestors were as aware of this as the Ministry is today. Hence there was a spell designed, an oath spell. The spell guarantees that the one swearing the oath cannot act, or in not acting, cause harm or endanger their charge."
The woman picked up a piece of parchment from the table beside her and passed it to Harry who immediately shared it with Draco.
"If you will allow it I am willing to be bound by this spell," Hilde said evenly.
Draco scanned the details of the oath spell that were in front of him and his eyes were drawn to one particular section.
"This is blood magic," he said pointedly and looked Hilde directly in the eye. "Blood magic is illegal."
"Mostly, yes," the woman replied with an openness about her features that Draco found a little disconcerting. "Spells of this type were often used to illegally bind those who did not wish to be bound, so the Ministry outlawed them; however, this is an exceptional case. This spell was never excluded from use because of its specific nature and possible application."
[Truth,] Harry backed up the conclusion Draco had already come to.
"This would bind you to Harry?" the Slytherin wanted to make sure he had the facts straight.
"And through him, you," Hilde replied calmly.
There was disquiet running through Harry and Draco could not blame his lover, after all it wasn't every day someone came up to you and offered to swear their life to you using an ancient spell.
"This says the oath last until your death," Harry said slowly. "What happens to you if I die first?"
It did not surprise Draco that Harry was more worried about the effects of the spell on Hilde than on himself.
"The oath becomes void," Hilde explained without the slightest hesitation.
Draco read the words and the instructions for the spell another time, leaving Harry to whatever was going through his head. The onus of the spell was completely on the oath taken and was cast by a third party: Draco could find nothing wrong with it at all.
"I don't like it," Harry said, interrupting his soul mate's thoughts. "It seems almost barbaric."
Hilde leant forward in her chair and smiled sympathetically.
"Harry," she said calmly, "to help you I must have your trust. Some of the things I will teach you require you to trust me almost as much as you trust Draco. To tell you the truth, I would prefer to take this oath; that way I cannot be made to betray you no matter what. It will protect me as much as it protects you. If you agree I will register the oath with the Ministry once it is done and no one will attempt to use me against you."
Draco's mind pointed out that if this was the case why hadn't Hilde produced this solution to begin with, but he could see where she was coming from.
"If you are so enthusiastic about this why didn't you tell us straight away?" Harry, it seemed, had come to the same conclusion.
"Well, it's," for the first time she sounded unsure, "oh Merlin, I sometimes faint at the sight of blood."
For just a second Draco processed what she had said and then he couldn't help himself; he laughed. It was absurd.
"Your only objection to the spell is that you might faint?" he found this hilarious, now he knew exactly why Hilde was a Hufflepuff.
Draco sobered quickly and shook his head a little disbelievingly. Harry for his part was a well of uncertainty and trepidation and Draco knew he had to help.
[Hilde wants this,] Draco said evenly, [let her have it.]
[But it's like Imperio,] Harry voiced his objection silently.
[No,] the Slytherin replied firmly, [the spell will not make her do anything. What it will do is prevent her from telling anyone anything that will cause you harm, or from plotting against you.]
[But she said 'or by inaction' as well,] Harry pointed out. [Does that mean if we were together and someone threw a hex at me she'd feel compelled to jump in front of me or something like that?]
Draco had to admit he hadn't considered it from that angle.
"Hilde," he asked calmly, "Harry has a good point. Would the oath encourage you to sacrifice yourself if Harry was in danger?"
"No more than my normal instincts would," the woman replied firmly. "The spell will not change the way I think, it will just make sure that in acting the way I normally do I cannot wilfully break your trust."
Draco looked at Harry and the couple shared a moment of contemplative silence.
[I say yes,] he said eventually. [Hilde could be very helpful to us, and the sooner we can interact with the world normally the better. She can help us do that.]
Harry did not reply in words and he remained still for a few more moments, but eventually he nodded.
"If this is what you want," Harry said a little reluctantly.
"Another reason the Ministry did not ban this spell," Hilde said with a slight smile, "the blood must be willingly given. This cannot work with an unwilling participant."
Draco would have contested that point; there were ways and means to find your way around that particular clause, but he kept that to himself since it would not add anything to the situation.
"How would we do this?" Harry asked after a few more moments thought.
"Well there need to be two witnesses," Hilde said slowly, "or you can have as many as you like, and I would suggest Draco be the arbitrator. Knowing how careful," Draco heard paranoid, "you two appear to be, I would also suggest that you research the spell to your own satisfaction. Once you are ready the oath will only take a few minutes."
Harry looked at Draco and then back at Hilde before giving a very firm nod of his head.
"Okay," he agreed which brought a huge smile to Hilde's face.
It took two days and a lot of book work on Draco and Hermione's parts before the Slytherin would give his unconditional consent to the spell. The couple told the headmaster and their house heads, all of whom seemed to think it was a splendid idea and it was agreed that the witnesses would be the three members of staff, Ron and Hermione. After everything was settled it did not take more than a few hours to arrange the whole thing.
Having Snape in the room bothered Harry somewhat as he waited with Draco for everyone to arrive. They were using the transfiguration classroom since it had plenty of protection on it to stop anyone knowing what was going on inside and Professor McGonagall had been there when the soul mates arrived, but unfortunately Snape had been the second member of staff to turn up. The potions professor seemed to carry the cold of the dungeons with him wherever he went and the glare he sent at Harry every now and then did not help matters.
[Ignore him,] Draco said calmly Harry glanced at the head of Slytherin for the tenth time, [he's just annoyed that we chose this classroom and not his. With Snape you just have to know what mood he's in before you talk to him.]
[Well that's easy,] Harry replied and tried to follow the advice, [with me he's always in a bad mood.]
Draco smirked at him for his trouble and stroked the back of his hand fondly.
[Relax,] his soul mate told him confidently, [all you have to do is stand there and give up a little blood, I'm the one who has to get the spell right.]
[You'll be perfect as always,] Harry replied without thinking, for which he was rewarded with a private smile.
Just then the door opened, interrupting their conversation, and Ron and Hermione walked through followed by Dumbledore and Hilde. The two Gryffindors immediately made their way across to Harry and Draco as the headmaster introduced his guest to the other professors in the room.
"All right, Harry, Malfoy," Ron greeted with a grin. "Ready for the show?"
"This has not been arranged for your entertainment, Weasley," Draco replied in a very scathing tone.
The redhead was obviously quite excited by the whole proceedings because he refused to be put off by the comment or rise to the bait; Harry was actually quite impressed. However, there was no chance for Draco to try another tack to start a barrage of insults with Ron because Professor Dumbledore cleared his throat and gained everyone's attention.
"Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen," the headmaster greeted in his usual cheerful manner, "I see that we are all here. As much as I would enjoy a small social gathering I suggest we should proceed. As you all know there is only so long a congregation of this kind may be kept secret in an establishment like Hogwarts, and the sooner we complete our task the less likely we are to be descended upon by curious pupils."
No one chose to disagree with that statement.
"Good luck," Hermione said to both the soul mates and then moved off to take her position in the room with Ron in tow.
Since the head girl had been one of those to work out how to perform the ceremony she knew exactly where she was supposed to be and was going to make sure her boyfriend was in the right place as well.
At a little prod from Draco, Harry moved to his designated spot and stood on the opposite side of the table to where Hilde was already standing and Draco took up his position at the end. There was a small clay bowl in the centre of the table with a combination of dried moss and sage sprinkled over the bottom of it. The ingredients for the spell had been provided by Snape, which seemed to have appeased the man a little about the choice of location, but not by much.
This was an enchantment of very few words and all parties knew their role in the event. When Draco looked at him Harry held out his hand without hesitation and before he could so much as feel nervous about what was to happen, Draco had reached out and stuck his finger with a silver pin. Picking up his wand and whispering a single word Draco caused blood to flow from the tiny wound in far more quantity than normal and it dripped quickly into the bowl.
"Witness the blood of the Liege Lord," the Slytherin said formally.
The words of the spell were archaic and Harry had a problem with being called a 'Liege Lord', but Draco had pointed out that changing the spell could bring about unforeseen consequences and it was best to play it safe. The spell had been written for use with female children and yet it still used the word 'Lord' which seemed to indicate that the creator had had a very good reason for using it.
"We witness," the five spectators spoke clearly with one voice.
At another whispered word the wound stopped weeping and Harry withdrew his hand feeling acutely that the level of magic in the room had gone up sharply. Draco's focus on his task was absolute and it felt strange to be excluded from it. Normally when the Slytherin performed magic Harry, although not a force in the charm or jinx, was still privy to the process, but with the oath spell he was a subject of the enchantment and hence not open to the casting.
He watched intently as his lover looked at Hilde and the woman stretched out her hand in an identical gesture to that which Harry had made. Draco stabbed her finger with the same pin and whispered the same charm to increase the flow of blood. It was quite fascinating to watch the red liquid drip onto the moss and sage and be soaked in by the very dry material just as his own blood had been. Dumbledore stepped up behind Hilde and placed his hands on her shoulders as the poor woman swayed, but she needed his support for only a few moments before she blinked back the reaction and the headmaster moved back into his original place.
"Witness the blood of the Vassal," Draco spoke slowly and clearly.
Harry had even more problem with Hilde being called a 'Vassal', but Hermione had agreed with his objection and still pointed out that it was just old wording, not anything to worry about.
"We witness," came the response.
"Blood of the Lord, blood of the Vassal freely given," Draco intoned, his wand raised over the bowl, "bound together now and until death."
Then the Slytherin spoke the Latin words of the spell and flicked his wand sending a shower of sparks towards the bowl. The contents of the vessel burst into a pure blue flame and Harry felt something pull at his magic. For a fraction of a second his awareness expanded and surrounded Hilde, who was looking back at him across the table. For just a moment all he could see was the petite woman and it was as if she could hide nothing from him. Harry's magic flashed around her and through her and left nothing untouched, accepting Hilde and her offer of loyalty.
The awareness of the woman lasted only a moment and then it was gone, but Harry could still feel a very faint connection and he knew without a doubt that the spell had worked. The whole thing left Harry feeling a little dazed and he glanced down at the flaming bowl in a rather absent fascination. Once the fire went out, there was nothing left behind, not even a sooty residue; it was as if the bowl had never contained anything.
"It is done," Draco said calmly and slipped his wand back into his sleeve.
Hilde smiled at Harry brightly; a little too brightly as far as he was concerned. Then the woman opened her mouth to say something, but never managed it as she turned a deathly shade of grey and promptly fainted. If he had been thinking completely clearly Harry might have rushed to help, as if was he just stood there rather stupidly and peered over the table.
"Oops," was the most sensible thing he could think of to say.
It had taken a good half hour for Harry to gather his wits completely after the ceremony, during which time Snape had taken great pleasure in being sarcastic about the whole situation. Hilde had taken only a few minutes to recover from her fainting spell and had been acutely embarrassed by her behaviour; Snape hadn't helped there either. In a bid to escape the potions master's humour, Draco had orchestrated the disbanding of the gathering as fast as possible and had then taken Harry back to their room. Most of the proceedings from the moment the spell had been completed until they were safely in their domain was somewhat vague in Harry's mind as he lay on the bed going over the whole thing.
"So Hilde will be coming to school every Monday evening," Harry needed a few points clarifying, "having a lesson with us and then going back to London on Tuesday morning?"
"That's what we agreed," Draco replied with an indulgent smile.
"And she'll be registering the oath bond with the Ministry tomorrow as soon as she goes back," he continued while re-cataloguing the jumbled thoughts in his head.
"First thing," his lover confirmed before going back to reading his latest retrieval from the library.
Harry stared at the ceiling for a while just letting his mind wander until his thoughts finally fixed on one idea. What was done was done; there was no way to break the oath spell except by the death of one of the participants, but he couldn't help wondering about the consequences.
"I know Hilde can't betray us now," he voiced what he was thinking, "and she can't be used against us for information, but do you think it will really save her if Voldemort notices she exists?"
Draco looked up from the book on the desk and turned in his chair.
"I don't know," his soul mate admitted honestly, "but at least it makes her less useful to him."
"But connects her to me far more directly, making her a target like all my other friends," Harry pointed out.
Draco shrugged and appeared thoughtful.
"Maybe," he replied eventually, "but it was her choice, Love. Always remember that all of us chose to be with you in whatever way we are here. You didn't force any of us; you didn't have to."
Harry didn't know what to say to that and after a few moments Draco went back to his reading. Sometimes The Boy Who Lived wondered what it would be like just to be someone else.
End of Chapter 19
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