When would be the best point in time for an over-powered Harry to return to his past? Right before the First Task! In this chapter, Yule.
Harry hosted a buffet dinner in an unused classroom Christmas Eve. Everyone who had come to the dance practices had been invited, and Dobby and Winky had had a grand time cleaning the classroom, preparing and serving the food, and even cleaning up afterwards.
The party broke up around 10:00 (for there had been dancing for several hours after most of the food had disappeared), and everyone went to bed, thinking good thoughts for the holidays.
Luna woke up early, wondering what the day would bring, wondering if her feet would stop hurting before the Ball (she had danced every dance the night before, nearly all with Justin, and her shoes had been a bit tight), and wondering how Christmas at Hogwarts might differ from Christmas at home. She hoped her father would not be sad.
"What's the matter, Lovegood?" one of her dorm mates whispered. Only three of the six Third year Ravenclaws had stayed.
Luna considered. Shirley had always treated Luna with strict neutrality, unwilling to help her but she had never participated in the hazing. "I was just hoping Daddy isn't too lonely without me," she said, as usual opting for honest openness.
"Where's your mother?"
"Oh, she died years ago," Luna said.
"Sorry, I didn't know," Shirley replied, a bit ashamed that she hadn't known after sharing a room with the girl for two and a half years.
"Thank you." Luna looked at the small pile of presents at the bottom of her bed. "Do we open these now, or wait for everyone to be awake?"
"Since it isn't even Seven, we should visit the bog and then you should let me wake Marlo up," Shirley said, getting out of bed. "The other years can decide for themselves."
"I'm up, I'm up," Marlo said, still not moving.
"Are you coming to the Ball tonight?" Luna asked.
"No," Shirley answered. "I'm here because my parents are in Nepal and Tibet, helping with the winter yeti observations. I am helping Creevey, though."
"I'm going," Marlo said.
"Well, you two can talk," Shirley said, "I'm peeing and then opening presents."
"Happy Christmas, Mister Harry," Dobby said to his employer, who was in the lotus position, floating three inches above his mattress.
"Good morning, Dobby," Harry said very softly, floating down to the bed. "There are presents for you and Winky, and remember, under the contracts, we can give you clothing."
"Dobby knows, but Winky might not like it," Dobby hesitatingly pointed out.
"I know. We're giving her some material, so she can make whatever kind of covering she likes."
"That is being a good idea, Mister Harry. Dobby took the liberty of making you something."
"Thank you Dobby. Shall I open it now, or with my other presents?"
"What're you whispering about?" Ron asked.
"It's just Dobby. Go back to sleep."
"Naw," Ron said. "Presents."
"Wha?" Seamus half asked.
"I said 'presents!'" Ron called out.
Dean made a noise, while Neville mumbled.
"Dobby will get back to work. Happy Christmas!"
"Happy Christmas," Harry agreed, and the little elf disappeared.
In less than ten minutes, the boys were in their dressing gowns and ready to open their presents. "Why do we have wear these?" Seamus asked.
"Did you give Lavender a present?"
"Did we all give our dates presents?" Harry asked.
They all had.
"We can't visit the girls. Can they visit us?" The boys hadn't thought of that. And with that, they shrugged and dove into their presents.
Harry was very happy with his presents this year, although the Dursleys, unaffected by the changing time stream, had sent the tissue again. He had received all the same presents as before, plus a few more, and this time Remus had signed the card on the knife that had just had Sirius' name on it before -- Harry knew that the two had chosen it together, even if Sirius had paid for it. Luna had sent him a dream catcher. It had been made with her own hair, plus some from Ginny and Hermione, as the strings.
Harry immediately hung it up, knowing that Luna actually made excellent dream catchers. While he did not sleep as much as he had the first time through Hogwarts, he still suffered from bad dreams.
Colin had sent him a gift certificate for free photos. Harry had convinced Dumbledore to allow the little photography club to set up a booth to take photos of couples during the dance, and this was Colin's way of thanking Harry (since Colin was the president). Ron had happily donated his old dress robes to Colin, and Dobby had tailored them to actually look good on the smaller boy. Cho and Cedric had sent Harry cards. And in addition to the book she had sent him before, Hermione had given him a green cashmere scarf.
Marlo had already gone off to breakfast, so Shirley asked, "Why are you tearing up over those earrings? They certainly are your style, but they aren't that special."
Luna was looking at the twenty-three pair of odd little plastic earrings and one pair of dress earrings -- large rock crystals with diamond chip accents. "Harry sent them." Luna sniffled. "They're the first Christmas gifts anyone has ever given me, other than my parents."
"Well, since my last grandparent died nine years ago," Luna allowed. She held up three cards. "And Justin, Hermione, and Cedric sent me cards."
Shirley smiled. "Well, put in two of the earrings, and let's get breakfast." She decided that it was time to stop being neutral, and make another friend.
"Alright," Luna said happily. She hung a small plastic candy cane from one ear and a plastic holly leaf from the other. She skipped out of the room and skipped back.
Laughing, Shirley and Luna skipped all the way down to the common room on their way to breakfast. When asked why they were skipping by the girls there, Luna merely asked in return, "Aren't you happy it's Yule? We are." In the end, a daisy chain of eight laughing Ravenclaw and three Beauxbaton girls (including Cho) skipped and danced into the great hall. Cedric, Justin, and several of the other Hufflepuffs, plus a few of the present Gryffindors and Ravenclaws, stood and applauded them.
The girls all bowed back, and took their places.
"That was fun," Luna said brightly.
"You know," Cho said thoughtfully to Shirley, "it actually was."
Shirley looked at the beaming Luna. "I think we've been missing out on a good thing."
Hermione, Lavender, Parvati (she and Dean were going to the Ball together this time around), and Ginny visited the boys just before 8:00, and they all went to breakfast together. Hermione pulled on Harry's arm and whispered, "I can't believe you bought me those earrings!"
"Just be glad I didn't buy the necklace and bracelet," Harry teased.
"I'm glad you didn't," Hermione said.
"Do you know why I didn't?"
"Because you didn't want to spend all the money in your current account vault?" Hermione asked.
"No. I didn't because I know there are about twelve trunks, some with extra magical compartments, stuffed with jewelry in the regular vaults," Harry said. He smiled at the stunned look on Hermione's face. "If Gerrymander still has the jewelry and you like it, we'll trade for it after I turn seventeen. I know a great grandmother of mine liked blue topaz and diamond jewelry, so I might already have something you like as much." Harry had seen her portraits.
Harry enjoyed Hermione's speechless state the rest of the way to breakfast.
A little after 2:00, Harry and Hermione disappeared from the common room. No one bothered commented on it, figuring when they didn't return that the champions and consorts were dressing elsewhere. No one had noticed the goblin who delivered some jewelry had given the largest package to Hermione.
Instead, the pair of course went to the Room of Requirement.
After a vigorous snogging session, Harry gave Hermione both a bath and several orgasms. Hermione then joined Harry in the shower and brought him off as well. After Harry had magically dried them off, Winky appeared and gave Hermione a manicure and pedicure. By the end of all that, Hermione was ready for a nap.
Since she had Winky's assistance for her hair, Hermione did not need nearly as long to prepare this time. When she woke up, she and Harry went back to heavy snogging until Hermione had her fifth orgasm of the afternoon. It was a very relaxed and smiling Hermione who then ate a light snack and sent for Winky at 6:30.
The pair was ready before 7:30, and so they left early. Harry was not totally amused to see that Viktor was escorting Mandy Brocklehurst from Ravenclaw, showing that he liked brainy, pretty fourteen and fifteen year old girls with lots of light brown hair.
Nearly half an hour later, as the champions and escorts lined up, Hermione whispered to Harry, "What's wrong?"
"I was wrong to lease those extra jewels," Harry almost growled.
"I thought they would add to your beauty. Last time, everyone was stunned by seeing for the first time that you are one of the most beautiful women on Earth," Harry answered in her ear. "Now they're partially distracted by the diamonds."
"Good," Hermione answered. "If I'm really that beautiful, I only want you knowing it. I'm going to drape myself in those family diamonds you talked about, so only you see just the real me."
That left Harry speechless as they lined up for the march in. Fleur and Roger Davies again were closest to the door, followed by Cho and Cedric, Mandy and Viktor, and Hermione and Harry. As all the students walked past, Hermione noted that Harry had been correct about the few who had seen her before. They were dazzled by the jewels, as every movement in the flickering touch light (which Harry had dimmed slightly to increase the effect, much to Professor Mcgonagall's confusion, as she couldn't tell who had over-powered her own magic) made them sparkle. Anyone who knew anything about jewelry (not that there were many in this group) understood that these were real diamonds.
Hermione had never understood what the fuss was about diamonds before. She had never seen them in this quantity or in this lighting. She wondered briefly what the women of the Russian Imperial court had looked under similar lighting.
Hermione saw Draco whisper something in Pansy's ear with a sneer. Pansy shook her head, and Hermione heard her response of, "Those are real, Draco." Draco looked shocked.
Harry whispered to Hermione, "Draco was stunned because he realized that the joint Malfoy-Black family jewels his mother has aren't even half what you're wearing."
"How can that be?" Hermione whispered back.
Harry shrugged. "Lucius' uncle was one of the early followers, and his father was Voldemort's first financial backer. They probably cashed in some of the unproductive wealth."
Harry saw that Percy was again present, which reminded him of the unpleasant future. Harry manoeuvered things so that while he was forced next to Percy, Viktor was seated next to Hermione, while Karkaroff was next to Mandy. Dumbledore was between Percy and Bagman, followed by Cedric, Cho, Roger, Fleur, and Madam Maxime, who completed the circle next to Karkaroff.
"I've been promoted," Percy said proudly as they sat.
"Congratulations," Harry said. "Was Penny unable to join you?"
Percy flushed, since Penny had just broken things off because of Percy's preference to work. "Yes," was all he said, however.
Dumbledore took the silence as a chance to order his pork chops. Harry decided to again change the time line and ordered the Beef Wellington instead of the goulash. Harry also decided to ignore the chatter from Fleur's side of the table, and to taunt Karkaroff a bit instead.
"So, Viktor," Harry said, "did you lot practice sailing on the Gulf of Finland before taking the Dutchman out, or did you sail her cold?"
Karkaroff almost choked on his goulash.
"Ve practiced, but ve are not allowed to say where," Viktor replied, "or to say name of ship."
"Then I suppose you can't tell me if Durmstrang is set above a small, deep bay or a fjord," Harry said mournfully. "I've never been certain of the difference." The look Hermione gave him said that either she was going to tell him the difference later, or that she would research the question and tell him later anyway. "In any case, I've always thought its setting there, seen from the water, was even more spectacular than seeing Hogwarts from the lake."
"Really?" Mandy asked breathlessly.
"Oh, yes," Harry answered. "From the landward sides, though, I think Hogwarts has your castle beat."
"You . . . you have seen the castle?" Karkaroff demanded.
"Of course, many times," Harry answered nonchalantly. He turned to Hermione. "Their great hall isn't as high, as enchanted, or as old, but it certainly has a northern Gothic charm."
Karkaroff was turning interesting shades.
"And 'ave you seen Beauxbatons also, Mister Potter?" Madam Maxime demanded.
"Oh, yes, but of course," Harry answered in French which was grammatically perfect but still mostly had schoolboy English accents. "I do wish you had kept the original buildings. Sometimes it seems as so many of the great chateau were pulled down in the time of Louis the XIV and XV and replaced. Pretty styles, but the original castle was partially Roman and even had some Gallic foundations."
"So I understand," Maxime acknowledged, sticking to English.
"Is it true that there's still an old altar to Wotan set deep in the forest near Durmstrang?" Harry asked Karkaroff, switching back to English.
"I really cannot say," Karkaroff growled.
"Harry!" Percy protested.
"This tournament is to foster international cooperation and all that," Harry said in an injured tone. "I'm just trying to learn about our guests."
"And could you enlighten us as to when you visited out schools?" Karkaroff asked through clenched teeth.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Harry said, and started chewing another chunk of beef.
When the food had disappeared, Dumbledore stood and signalled for everyone else to do the same. The tables moved to the sides and the Weird Sisters came out to perform, looking a bit unhappy to have to do waltzes for the first numbers. They soon forgot their artistic preferences, and simply enjoyed playing two nice pieces, even if they weren't their own.
"Thank you for learning to dance," Hermione said between the two waltzes. "I know you did it for me."
"I wasn't about to disappoint you," Harry said.
"When do you want to sit down?"
"When you're tired of dancing, or the dance is over," Harry answered. They shared a quick kiss before the second waltz started. When that flowed into the first original song, Harry and Hermione simply flowed into the next set.
About a third of the way through the Ball, Harry said, "I almost forgot, we need to take a walk."
"If you say so," Hermione said. "Do we have time to stop at the toilets?"
Coming out of the toilets, Hermione smiled to see Harry wearing his cashmere scarf and holding out a white stole. "Fur?" she asked.
"I asked the goblins permission for Dobby to search the vaults," Harry said. "I would never buy you a new fur."
Hermione thought about it. "Then thank you."
The pair witnessed Karkaroff leaving Snape, and Snape chasing a few couples back into the castle. "And what are you two up to?" Snape demanded, almost politely for him.
"Just getting some air, sir," Harry said. "I promise, nothing more."
"Very well. Do not stray from the path."
"No sir, not in any sense."
Snape made a face and moved off.
Harry took Hermione to near where Hagrid and Maxime were talking, and just before Hagrid made the confession about his ancestry, Harry had pulled out a small jar, muttered an invisible spell, and then closed the jar back up when a small dark object flew into it. Harry then moved back towards the dance.
"Harry, what was that?" Hermione asked.
"I see you're a young man of your word," Snape said when they approached. "Perhaps you are slightly less like your father than I thought."
"I would hope I'm very different than he was when he was my age," Harry said. "He was an arrogant, egotistical, almost Malfoy-like prat his first five years. He did grow into something better, I believe."
"Perhaps," Snape said, allowing himself to be slightly impressed.
"Sir, did you know that Rita Skeeter was forbidden the grounds, except during the actual tasks?"
"I did," Snape agreed.
"Did you know that she is also not only an Animagus, but an illegal one as well?"
"No," Snape said, now interested, "that I did not know."
"She's a rather unattractive if gaudy beetle," he said, holding out the jar where the bug was buzzing angrily. "The paths really aren't warm enough to bring a stray tropical beetle out of hibernation or whatever, are they?"
"No, it isn't." Snape took the jar. "You are serious?"
"I am," Harry said. "I can't explain it, but the Headmaster would understand. I promise you, this isn't a trick."
"I see." Snape held up the jar. "And?"
"If you prefer, I can give her to the Headmaster. However, I believe there are two aurors on duty, since they always have at least two at any Weird Sisters concert."
"I understand the reward for turning in an illegal animagus is nine hundred Galleons." Snape looked torn. "If I'm wrong, I'll pay you double it," Harry said. "I'm not so rich that I would pay eighteen hundred Galleons to make you look mistaken."
"Why?" Snape asked.
"You've heard of the carrot and the stick?" Harry asked. Snape nodded. Harry pointed at the very angry beetle. "Behold, a carrot."
"And you want no credit?"
"No credit, just any blame," Harry said.
"Very well." Snape took the jar and strode off.
"Why?" Hermione asked.
"So she couldn't hurt Hagrid, who was about to admit to having a giant for a mum. So she would stop hurting people, at least so easily. So we wouldn't have to kill her later. And as for Snape, so he might choose to let me modify his Dark Mark. The Headmaster believes in him. In the other time stream, he still chose wrong. On the off-chance he hasn't made that choice, that he really is torn, this is a chance for him to trust me. And if he betrays that trust, I'll have to kill him anyway."
Harry and Hermione had their picture taken by the photo club, and decided to leave a bit early. As they left the great hall, they ran into Snape. "It was Skeeter," he said. "You do realize what the penalty is?"
"She's fined three thousand Galleons and should be sentenced to living for six months without using magic?"
"She will loathe you," Snape warned.
"I know," Harry agreed. "Still, it was either give her to the aurors or feed her to Neville's toad. Since it was a preventative strike, I thought this best. For now."
Snape almost smiled, almost bowed, and moved on.
At that point, Cedric came over. "Harry. . . ."
"Have you figured out the egg, too?" Harry asked as they moved away from their dates to talk privately.
"But what are they going to take?" Cedric asked.
"My guess is Hermione, Cho, and Mandy," Harry said. "I don't think Fleur cares enough about Davies, but I don't see how she could rescue herself."
Cedric snorted, but quickly sobered. "I'm worried about that, Harry."
"I don't think they'd be in any actual danger, but I don't think we should mention it to them." Harry scowled. "I will talk with the Headmaster about their safety."
"You know him better than I do," Cedric admitted. "Thanks."
The two shook hands.