How Corrupt?

Title: How Corrupt? Fandom(s): Harry Potter & Sentinel/Guide Trope Summary: How utterly corrupt does a society need to be for Sentinels and Guides to abandon it? (Supposedly 5 times Harry met the Tannerson-Hale Sentinel/Guide pair, and 5 times it changed his perspective on the Wizarding World). 

For disclaimer information for both writing and cover art see Disclaimer.


Late Night in the Infirmary

The Sixth year Quidditch Captain had kept Harry on the field until well past the setting of the Sun. He was tired and achy from riding a broom and chasing after a tiny golden ball all afternoon. All Harry wanted to do was stuff his face full of food and fall asleep, but he still had an essay in charms to write. Which he heartily regretted putting off until now.

The Great Hall was loud and noisy, after the quiet of the Quidditch pitch and the echoing silence of the empty halls, entering the dinning hall was almost like getting smacked in the face. Just like any physical attack, Harry was more than tempted to retreat, but it was just noise. Unlike the Sentinels that served the public in the Muggle World, Harry didn’t have hyperactive senses he could blame for being antisocial.

“You sure, you’ve never been on a broom before today, Harry?” Ron asked, “Because that was some excellent flying, mate.”

“Yeah, idiot. Excellent flying that got him in trouble!” Seamus said, nearly elbowing the oblivious by off the bench.

“Not to mention it sent one of our friends to the Infirmary!” Hermione said. She froze Harry to his seat with a chocolate brown gaze, “Did you get in very much trouble, Harry? Maybe we could appeal the decision to the Headmaster; Hogwarts, A History says there is a precedent for rules broken in defense of another student! In 1785, A Wallace Klemins appealed the suspension of-”

“Nobody cares, Hermione!” Ron sneered, but his vitriol couldn’t really make it through the masticated mess in his mouth to offend Hermione’s feelings. Instead he offended everyone else.

“But really, Harry, are you in a lot of trouble?” Lavender asked from Harry’s other side, sliding forward because Neville wasn’t in his normal seat.

“No,” Harry said with a small grin. “I wasn’t in any trouble. McGonagall had a few things to say about the evils of violence and rivalries that span entire Hogwarts careers, but I didn’t get detention. Though,” Harry shrugged weighing the options, “she might’ve chosen the worse option because Oliver Wood has to be a demon, and my bum really hurts.”

The entire group of first year Gryffindors leaned back as Ron opened his mouth. All in fear of what might come out. Only for a napkin to fill the not-so-empty space between his teeth.

“Really Ronnikins,”

“Learn some table manners.”

The Weasley twins to the rescue.

“We just came over,”

“To congratulate,”

“Gryffindor House’s new Seeker.”

Harry really didn’t understand the twins, but that was ok. They weren’t hurting any of the first years except their own brother, and odds were Ron had been at the brunt of their pranks for a long time. “Thank you.”

“Sure, sure.” They said in tandem as they left, amusement gathering in their eyes, seeking their next victim as they stalked out of the hall.

“You realize what this means, Harry?” All she needed was a higher register and a wordless noise and Hermione, who was already being hailed as the brightest witch of the age and quite beyond frivolities, would match the rest of the girls in their year when they cooed over the pictures and articles in Witches’ Weekly. It probably wasn’t a flattering impression.

“No, Hermione. What’s it mean?” Harry asked distractedly as he scooped and ladled his dinner. Pot roast with potatoes and an assortment of roasted vegetables with dinner rolls waiting just out of his reach. Not the only choice on the table, but certainly the one he wanted and better than anything Aunt Petunia had ever allowed him to eat. Between his long awaited dinner and the fact that Neville was still in the infirmary and Hermione really was coming in last for his attention.

“Harry! You’ll be the youngest seeker in a hundred years!” Her voice just about matched the chaotic brown curls that stuck out every which way. Harry shrugged.

“What’s it matter if I’m the youngest seeker in a hundred years? I mean, it’s just a house team right?”

“What’s it matter?! Just a house team?!” Ron spewed from his right, napkin, and the lesson served with it, long gone from sight, food escaping his moving trap in an appalling lack of table manners. “Mate, please tell me those words did not just come out of your mouth!”

The Boy-Who-Lived stared at his redheaded friend, startled and shocked at the physical grab the other first year boy had made, though his lips ticked up in amusement. “Yes, Ron, I said it. Would you care for me to say them again?”

Hermione turned her laughing snort into a cough half way through. Lightly thumping her chest with a fist as a blush covered her cheeks, amusement still dancing in her eyes. “Forgive me.”

He quirked a gentle brow in her direction, “Go down the wrong pipe Hermione?”

“’Fraid so.” The young witch hummed, carefully cutting her parmesan chicken into smaller sizes and refusing to look at all in the direction of the redhead across from her.

“Forget her!” Ron spazzed, his hands waving around in the air. Seamus deftly plucked the potatoes and gravy from the casualty zone, saving everyone from eating food touched by Ron’s tattered, grimy, sleeves. The two dormmates shared an amused grimace at the red head’s complete lack of spatial awareness and the pretty witch’s wrinkled nose. Not that Harry or Seamus would tell Hermione that; they were boys, they’d deny to their last day that anything, let alone a member of the opposite sex, was pretty. Well, maybe, Hermione was a fairly formidable Witch, neither boy wanted on her bad side.

“She’s sitting right next to me, Ron. That’s a little hard.”

“House Quidditch teams are the forerunners to professional recruitment! All the local recruiters and a lot of the foreign recruiters come to school games. I mean most of them have family on the teams or in the houses, like spies!” The red head’s wide eyes were bloodshot for a moment with how wide he was stretching his lids. As though the eleven-year-old thought one of these spies, for the relatively non-violent magical sport, was just going to appear from nowhere and scream “Gotcha!”. Harry thought it all a little ridiculous.

“All this for a game?”

“Watch it Potter!” the Weasley growled, in a sad attempt at intimidation, “This is not just a game, this is quidditch!”

With a skeptical eye on his roommate, Harry turned to the muggleborn beside him, her nose already pressed against what might as well have been the inside binding of Magical Theory and Matter. “Do you ever feel that for all that you love this world, the people here are absolutely bonkers?”

Hermione burst out laughing, tears dripping from the corners of her eyes within seconds, hiccuping and out of breath. “All the time Harry, all the time.”

“Just making sure it wasn’t just me.” Harry twirled the fork in his hands as scheduling ran through his head. “Do you have plans tonight, Hermione?”

Several pairs of wide eyes stared in silence at the Youngest Seeker, Harry could have heard a nail drop it was so quiet.

“For what, Harry?” The curly haired bookworm asked.

“We were going to play chess, Harry!” His friend nearly shrieked, turning red from his angry flush.

“Nice move, Potter, not even going to Hogsmeade yet, and you’re already lining up a date.” Seamus smirked.

“What?!”

“Sorry, man,” Dean said with a laugh, “but it did sound a little like you were asking Hermione on a date.”

“Psh!” Ron snorted, the gravy nearly going up his nose. “Harry could have anyone, why should he settle for a bossy know-it-all.”

Out of the peripheral of his vision, the boy could see his housemate duck her head and prepare to do a runner. Harry didn’t even blame her, Ron was embarrassing just to watch, let alone associate with or be embarrassed by. But Harry knew that feeling, like a pit had sunk to your stomach and something in your chest got tight. Every blurred and pressure made your head hurt. No, Harry had spent years feeling that and feeling worse, little and worthless in his relatives’ house; but he wasn’t worthless, not here.

Harry grabbed Hermione’s hand as she braced herself to run out of the hall and turned to his classmate.

“I don’t know you very well, Hermione Granger, and I can’t tell you what to do; but I think it would be a horrible thing to get your feelings hurt by Ron.” Harry quirked a smirk, jerking a thumb in the steaming redhead’s direction. “He can’t even manage table manners.”

Hermione choked on a laugh for the second time that meal as she settled back onto the bench. “I wouldn’t be setting the bar very high, would I?”

Harry gently placed a clean napkin in her hands to clear her face as he nodded in agreement, “No it wouldn’t.”

Hermione blew her nose, wiped at her eyes, and straightened her shoulders. “Was there something I could help you with this evening?”

Harry shook his head hard, “The Charm’s comparison essay. I, huh,” he ran a hand through his hair. “I didn’t manage my time well this week. I’d planned to start the essay before dinner, but then the flying lesson happened-”

Hermione nodded, “and you ended up learning quidditch.”

“I’d really appreciate any help you could give me.”

“We can all help, Harry.” Lavender cooed, but Dean and Seamus were nodding too.

“Eh,” Dean said, “we could probably use the help, too.”

Hermione looked around, “Does anyone know if Neville finished the essay?”

“I was planning to see him after dinner,” He shrugged. “We could all go, see if Madam Pomfrey will let us study there.”

“Good plan,” Hermione said as they gathered their stuff together. And almost as one, the Gryffindor first years left for the infirmary.

“What about me? Guys?” Ron shouted after them, hurrying to gather his things together and follow them, even as he continued to shove food in his mouth. “Hey, wait up!”
The group of first years tip-toed into the infirmary with all the grace and silence of something neither graceful nor silent, like a group of first-year Hogwarts students. Dean kept stepping on the back of Pavarti’s shoes, Lavender was trying to whisper, and failing spectacularly, while Seamus nearly walked into a door. All the while Ron’s clomping footsteps echoed down the hall.

“Do we have a plan?” Hermione murmured from Harry’s left as the two deftly kept the Infirmary doors from slamming shut.

“Do we need one?” Harry asked.

“No, mate.” Ron interrupted, physically inserting himself between Harry and Hermione even as Pavarti and Lavender complained about his boney elbows. “We definitely need a plan, the twins say that Madam Pomfrey’s ruthless and diabolical. We definitely need a plan.”

“The twins?” Hermione verified with a smirk, gently letting go of the doors.

“Yeah, the twins.” Ron didn’t even turn to the muggleborn as he responded, but Harry stood from his crouch too.

“I see Hermione’s point.”

“What’s that?” asked Dean, from where he stood with Seamus behind the girls, watching his friend alternate between trying to pull their hair and reciting outrageous pickup lines.

“The twins might not be the most trustworthy of informants.”

“Heh,” Dean chuckled, “I’d second that.”

“So what do we do?” Asked Pavarti, once again slapping away Seamus’s hand.

Hermione raised an amused and impertinent eyebrow, “We act naturally.”

With a jaunty wave, the smartest witch of the age shouldered her bag of textbooks and essay writing supplies and strode, calm as can be across the open aisle to the curtained bed Neville was using. Harry shook his head as he, much more cautiously, led the rest of the group across the empty space toward the occupied curtain after checking for adults. None were in sight.

Hermione yanked the curtain back, startling Neville so much he squeaked. “Good evening, Neville. How are you feeling?”

Seamus laughed lightly and mimicking the larger boys voice, said, “Why good evening, Nurse Granger, I was just having a kip after falling a dozen feet from a broom. What can I do for you?”

“Well,” Lavender said, stepping in to continue the play acting the group of classmates was enjoying. “I’ve come to monitor the execution of the Charms in Comparison essay you were assigned for homework, to ensure timely completion.” A firm nod finished the rather ridiculous portrayal to the giggles and grins of those involved, which didn’t include Ron, who looked like he’d gotten a stick shoved somewhere very uncomfortable, or Hermione, who studiously continued to take out books from her bag. Neville had cracked a timid smile at least.

“Hermione, please tell me you’re actually here to help because I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“That’s okay, Neville, we’ll start with research topics and essay formation; then go from there.”

“Research topics and essay formations of what, Miss Granger?” Madam Pomfrey loomed from behind the first years as though suddenly appearing like a monster from the twilight. “Mr. Longbottom is supposed to be asleep.” The stern and focused witch eyed the large group.

Harry wasn’t sure how to help, floundered under the authority of the healer. Harry twitched under the adult’s gaze, fingers grazing the textbook he’d just pulled from his rucksack like a shield clutched against his chest. Doctors didn’t care what the excuse was when their directions weren’t followed. They might have sympathy on an injury on the first visit but second and third visits drew frowns and chastisement. There was no way it was any different in the magical world, regardless of what instant cures were available.

His gaze darted to Hermione. The young girl stood with her head bowed and continued to pull book after book out of her bag, not even giving Madam Pompfrey a moments notice.

“The essay on Charms’ comparison factors, Madam Pomfrey. The essay’s due tomorrow and Neville was having trouble with the pairing of his evidence and his thesis, easily the hardest part of any essay, and of course, I offered to help when he asked me, but there were others who needed help too.” Hermione said gesturing to the gathered group. “We’d planned on a study session after dinner, so when Neville couldn’t make it Harry suggested we take the study session to him. He was sure that without the requested help Neville would get really anxious about the paper due tomorrow and have trouble sleeping.”

“We don’t want that,” Harry mumbled a blush stealing across his cheeks at the sudden attention the mediwitch sent him.

Hands on her hips and lips pressed together, the Mediwitch stood back to send a look at the trembling form of her patient. “No,” she finally said. “I suppose it’d be better for Mr. Longbottom to finish that essay.”

“Oh, yes, ma’am,” Hermione said, warmth and sincerity radiating from her. “We’ll just help Neville with his essay and leave before curfew.”

Madam Pomfrey, for all that Harry could almost see her resistance to the idea crumbling, still pierced each first year like a hawk with a fish. Which was unfortunate, because the others didn’t pull off innocent nearly as well as Hermione. “Mr. Finnigan and Mr. Thomas, Miss Patil and Miss Brown, since you are more concerned with each other than the essays, and have seen that Mr. Longbottom is fine, may return to your common rooms or the Library. You’ll just have to work together to better understand the assignment.” The Mediwitch briefly bared sharp teeth. “Shouldn’t be too hard for the House of Bravery.”

She watched them leave downtrodden and sad, even as Seamus grabs at Parvati’s hair again and Lavender pulls Dean out of the way of the door, his nose already buried in a blank paper sketchbook full of magic all its own. Ron stays, Harry doesn’t know why she lets him or what would entice the other not to leave, but the slob lounges in one of the only visitor seating and completely ignores both Hermione and Neville.

“Heh, what a load of crock, eh Harry?” Ron said. Nudging the newly minted Seeker with his elbow while giving a smarmy smile. “Thinkin’ we’re actually gonna do that stupid essay.”

Harry paused in dodging the redhead’s pointy elbow of a second time. He was stuck on the flush that had risen onto Hermione’s cheeks and the downturn Neville had tilted his head. Sure, Ron wasn’t a very good student. He fell asleep in class, didn’t do his homework, and never really practiced his spell work.

“We are, Ron.”

“Aww, come on!” The young wizard groaned stomping his feet right where he sat in the visitor’s chair. Hair disheveled, face scrunched up- bottom lip curled fat and his brow in wrinkles, and his robes had pooled in an unflattering fashion from his slump. The child savior shared a glance with the bushy haired genius and bit his lip.

Hermione was hiding behind her hair. The wild mane so frequently used to make fun of the muggle born witch, and Hermione was using it to hide from the completely ridiculous pureblood wizard. It didn’t seem very fair to Harry, he didn’t have a certifiable forest of curls to hide behind. In fact, he had nothing to hide behind and he wished he did.

“I mean, you don’t have to, Ron.”

The pouting child slid up so fast in his seat Harry thought he heard a tearing sound. “I don’t?”

“No,” Harry shook his head slowly, “We can always wait until tomorrow morning.”

Harry carefully showed the only girl in the room his back, there was no way that he wanted to see if a female as young as Hermione could still kill with her eyes like his Uncle used to complain about.

“That’s the idea, mate!” Ron cheered, complete with a jump off the chair, that definitely resulted in a torn seam, and a fist-pump to the air. “We can haul off back to the common room and catch Seamus or dean in a game of four-way snap!”

“We could definitely do that.” Not paying his Housemates any attention, Harry made himself a little space to lean and write in the clear room at the bottom of Neville’s hospital bed. “But we wouldn’t have much time to work on it before Charms, no free periods at all. So, we’d have to get up early and go to the Library as soon as it opens. Probably have to skip breakfast.”

There was a small giggle off to the side. A pale and delicate hand reached over and into his stack of books for a dictionary.

“Oh, skip breakfast?” Ron moaned, and Harry was surprised Madam Pomfrey hadn’t come looking at all the noise he had made. “I don’t think I could do that, mate.”

Harry shrugged, “We could always just get it over with now with Hermione’s help. Save us time and effort tomorrow really.”

“I guess that’s not a bad idea.”

“Not a bad idea?” Hermione huffed, in that moment her hair an extension of her anger, frizzy and crazy with curls, Harry half expected it to start sparking. And off the young witch went on homework and grades and the importance of planning for the future while the boys tried desperately hard not to laugh.

****

“Why are you here, Harry? I’m happy for the company, and the help.” Neville nodded and smiled at the brilliant muggleborn witch opposite him. “But I heard about what you did, taking on those Slytherins. And-and I wanted to know why you’d risk it?” Neville asked, his brow wrinkled up over his eyes and his lower lip puffed as though he were pouting. “You didn’t do it for the debt, right?”

It was Harry’s turn to wrinkle a brow, “what debt?”

“When you save somebody and aren’t paid for it,” the ginger at the bottom of the hospital bed twitching his quill out of his mouth at a particularly stubborn word. “Magic lodges a debt between the two people. One more sign that magics better than being any stupid muggle. They’d probably never return a debt.”

“What-”

“Why not?” The boy savior interrupted. Hermione could have killed both him and the oblivious ginger with the glare she gave both boys. Tugging lightly on his ears and shooting a look past the privacy screen and in the faint direction of the office, the youngest seeker watched his tutor slowly breath out. His point had been made. There were more people listening than just the four of them. “Wouldn’t it be worth more, to remember your debts on your own than forced to repay them by magic?”

“Besides,” Hermione said, still scowling, “Magic can’t log all debts, else wise why doesn’t all of Magical Britain have a debt to Harry Potter, or at worst the Potter family? If debts are for saving people, why didn’t ‘the child savior’ hold the debt of a nation?”

“Oh, god,” Harry moaned, groaning, he could just imagine the hassle of it, if he had a debt to everyone in the country. “Please say there’s some type of cut off number.”

“Not that I know of,” said the redheaded boy who was fast getting on even Harry’s last nerve. “I wonder what that means.” He gave a stupid grin, “I bet we could get free Hhoneydukes for life!”

“Yes, yes,” the muggleborn returned sharply, it was clear to see her patience was running thin. “Harry will go right now and get you all the free chocolate you could possibly want.”

Harry watched Hermione’s eyes roll so hard he was surprised they didn’t come out of their sockets.

“I think that’s why the Ministry gives out medals like the Order of Merlin and the Cross of King Arthur.” Nevillecontemplatedd out loud, tapping his quill, a no-bleed type, against the fabric of his hospital bed. “I think that’s why the vote of no confidence has such strange phrasing.”

“Do you know the phrasing Neville?” Hermione asked. Harry watched as the little frustrated flush that had worked its way across her cheeks grew a little deeper as she puffed repeatedly to get her bangs out of her way.

“No, no.” Neville shook his head, nearly his whole body, in reply. “It was just something I heard over the Summer.”

Harry and Neville watched as Hermione pulled out a small notebook not much larger than her hand and a muggle pen. Only taking a moment the girl scratched something out in the little black book before it vanished into her pocket once again. Her big brown eyes were framed by wild, out of control curls and her lips parted on a little breath at the outright staring.

“What?”

“Is that how you do it?” Harry gave a curious tilt and a tiny smile. “Write down all your questions to save for later research.”

“Of course,” the brilliant young witch raised an exasperated eyebrow. “How else am I supposed to figure out what I need to learn, read the encyclopedia? Yes, I write down my questions you nitwits.”

Harry probably wouldn’t admit it, but the little huff she gave as she returned to writing and proofing her essay was really adorable.

———————————————————
“You never answered, Harry.” Neville said later as the three leaving packed up their essay copies and proof reading materials. It had gotten close to curfew, Madam Pompfrey wanted them out and the only one struggling anymore on what they were writing was Ron.

“About what, Neville?”

“Why’d you take on the Slytherins? Why’d you try to help?”

“Is it so wrong, Neville, to try to help a friend?” Harry frowned. So much of what he’d seen in the Wizarding World worked on this status quo of deals and trades that seemed so complicated. Like life debts. Or the hoarding of favors he’d seen passed between to upper years in the library, Harry wondered if anyone just did something because it was nice, or right, or because they could help.

“I-I just don’t understand.” Neville hunched under his blankets. “It’s okay.”

Harry shook his head, “It’s not if your going to get upset over it.” The so called boy-who-lived squared his shoulders and leaned over to hug the other boy. “There are these people in the muggle world called Sentinels and Guides, and they help people, just because somebody has to and they can.” He took a deep breath. “They helped me. Said I was tr- a friend, even though they’d never met me before. I just- I thought that it would be something they would do. Try to get your possessions back because they don’t belong to anyone else. Because you’re my friend Neville, and it was the right thing to do.”

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