A Sixth year (pre-HBP) story: Harry decides the best way to fight back is to take the DA to the next level. He succeeds better than he thought he would. In this chapter,Christmas is celebrated, an...
Summery of Chapter 22, for those who skipped over the 'R'-rated plot elephant. Only nine students are left to start the Yule holiday at Hogwarts: Harry, Hermione, Luna, Georgia, Gin, Irena, Padma, Parvati, and Sudipta. After a rousing snowball fight, Gin and Georgia convinced everyone to retire to the Room of Requirement to dry out and warm up. The pair hoped to entice the others into playing strip poker and engage in kissing games, so the Room planted the desires to do so in all the students (although it did not affect Harry, he was happy to go along). Much kissing and complete nudity (except for Harry) ensued. Georgia and Padma exit, each thinking the other as a possible partner. Parvati and Gin exit thinking of the other as a possible fling, although Parvati is already committed to Lavender and Seamus as slightly more than casual dates. Sudipta and Irena are too young to be anything other than excited by being allowed to join in the kissing. Harry and Luna exit having had fun, but still committed to each other.
Hermione exited confused, although for now she will bury her feelings and the experiences by blaming it all on Gin, Georgia, and the Room of Requirement. Other than on Christmas and Boxing Day, Hermione mostly will hide from the students involved, except Harry and Luna, embarrassed by her participation and her enjoyment of that participation. She will write Dumbledore a very non-explicit report on why the Room should be made off-limits if possible.
We pick up the story Sunday evening, December 22, after a very quiet dinner.
"What are everyone's plans?" Hermione asked. As one of the only two remaining prefects, she felt compelled to ask. Since there were so few of them, most of the staff except for Dumbledore, Lupin, Zoric (and his wife), Pomfrey, and Sinistra were all gone for the holiday. They also had permission to sleep in which ever of the three Houses they liked, so long as it was in the girls' dorms, and Harry slept in his room. Harry had promised not to sleep in the girls' dorms, and they had all promised not to sleep in the boys'. Dumbledore had seen the evasions, but had decided to say nothing.
Sudipta and Irena saw the serious looks on everyone's faces, and were a bit puzzled by them. Deciding that everyone had gone too far that afternoon, and afraid they might catch part of the blame, they announced they would be in their room, and they hurried away.
Padma held out her hand to Georgia, who took it. "We'll be in Ravenclaw, after we get Georgia's toothbrush and such."
Georgia flushed, put her arm around Padma, and the two moved off. Parvati smiled with joy at her sister's happiness.
"Parvati?" Gin asked.
"Of course," Parvati said. "Let's go get my toothbrush . . . and such."
Hermione gave a mighty sigh as the pair moved off. "I never thought of us . . . as them, well, as being. . . ."
"Bisexual?" Luna asked.
"Yes," Hermione confessed. "I mean, I've shared a room with Parvati and Lavender for over five years, and I never knew. . . ."
"I am under the impression that they only became . . . really intimate this past summer," Luna told her friend.
"Oh . . . that does make me feel a little better," Hermione admitted. She suddenly looked lost. Professor McGonagall would only be present for Christmas. Everyone else was a couple, or at least a couple of friends. What could she do, besides study and translate the manuscripts they had found?
"I think you need to come with us," Luna said firmly.
Hermione, seeing the still-lusty look on Harry's face, declined.
"Harry has had more than enough kissing for one day, and has seen far too much skin other than ours," Luna said even more firmly. "Come along. If you promise not to tell anyone where it is, I'll show you Harry's and my hide-away. Harry, go ask Dobby for a large pot of green tea and then meet us there."
Knowing that Luna in a firm mood was not to be denied, they complied.
As she laid down to sleep that night, Hermione had to admit that it had been an exhausting but enjoyable day. She also had to admit that she had really enjoyed the evening even more. She had read while sitting on a very comfortable sofa, while Luna had done the same sitting next to her for part of the evening. Harry had finished off his Muggle Studies written work, and then, to Hermione's surprise and embarrassed delight, he'd given them both foot massages. While she was missing Ron, she was glad he wasn't there to wonder why the three of them smelled like lavender.
Harry had then snuggled in-between the two most important people in his life, and joined them in reading until after 10:00. It had been an intimate, and innocent, evening. Hermione could not imagine being truly sexually active with any woman, or any man other than Ron, and him only far in the distant future. She had accurately assessed Ron; he was anxious to start a sexual relationship, he saw each step as a quick stop on the path to sex with her, and that as a stop to marriage and a traditional family life, with Hermione as homemaker. Hermione was trying to train Ron to think of her in other terms.
No, she was determined NOT to let Ron lead her into a premature sexual relationship, no matter how lonely she felt. But that shared night on the sofa made her feel like part of a true family again, and so it was a lovely Christmas present. She said goodnight to Luna, who was sleeping in Lavender's bed, and fell asleep.
Monday, December 23, 1996
Hermione awoke to the dazzling brightness of a sunny day reflected off of snow. Although it was early, Luna was already gone.
Coming down to the common room fifteen minutes later, Hermione found Luna and Harry sleeping together on the largest sofa, which they had moved near the fire. Luna woke up as Hermione walked into the room, and Harry woke up a few minutes later. They hurriedly dressed, and the trio went down to breakfast.
Tomas and Mona Zoric were the only two people already at breakfast. "Everyone else sleeping in late?" Zoric asked.
"Probably," Harry said.
"Irena and Sudipta were the only other ones sleeping in Gryffindor," Hermione said.
"And what are your plans for the holiday after Boxing Day?" Mona asked Hermione. Since the teen had lost her entire immediate family, Mona was worried about her.
"I have a large number of old manuscripts to go over," Hermione answered. "Not for assignments, but for fun. After Boxing Day, I'll do my school work. Between the Second and the Fifth, I'll work out coaching sessions for the Gryffindor Fifth and Seventh years."
"So you at least scheduled three days off? I suppose that's not too bad, for you," Mona gently teased.
Hermione forced a polite smile at the teasing, ate a small breakfast, and left.
"And what about you two?" Mona asked.
"I'll tutor Luna in Charms and Defense today and tomorrow," Harry said.
"Gin, Georgia, and I will work on Transfiguration tomorrow afternoon as well," Luna added.
"Sounds like a plan," Mona said.
Very little was seen of Padma and Georgia, but what little was seen confirmed they were now a couple. Christmas Eve, all nine slept in Gryffindor. Harry slept in his own room, while Gin slept in the First year's dorm with Sudipta and Irena, her fling with Parvati already over. Luna slept in Lavender's bed, while of course Parvati and Hermione slept in their own. Padma and Georgia, hoping she would forgive them, slept in Ginny Weasley's bed. The group spent the evening decorating a small Christmas tree and singing Christmas carols.
Harry woke up feeling warmer than he usually did in the winter. He realized why when Luna blew gently in his ear.
"Good morning, beloved," she said. Luna kissed him gently. "That was one present; every one else is waiting downstairs for you so we can open more."
Harry had to detour to the lavatory, but was still downstairs in five minutes. The eight girls were sitting near the tree, and a fair number of presents awaited them. After breakfast, they would go to the Zorics' suite of rooms to open more.
"Harry, why don't you be Father Christmas and pass out the gifts?" Luna suggested. He was happy to do so.
Harry received a tin of treacle fudge from Hagrid that actually looked edible (his cooking and baking had improved since his magic had, with help from Madam Maxine); a small foe glass from Lupin, Tonks, and Moody; a box of fireworks from the twins; a Weasley jumper; a Cannons hat from Ron; a small jar of homemade salve (good for minor injuries from Quidditch) from Neville and Ginny; a pair of hand-made mis-matched socks from Dobby (which somehow matched his violet Weasley jumper); a book on Muggle history from Hermione; and a magical journal and a bottle of her favorite massaging oil from Luna. The Patil twins, not knowing what else to buy Harry, had given him a box of chocolate frogs. Gin and Georgia had done the same. He also received a card from Dudley and Aunt Petunia, which is what Harry had sent them, via Professor Zoric's office in Muggle London.
Harry had of course sent Dobby socks. He had given the Patils, Georgia, and Irena silk scarves and sent one to Ginny as well. He had sent Ron a Cannon team jacket and given Gin a hat for her favorite Quidditch team, the Magpies.
Besides the card, Harry had managed to post a Muggle-style letter to the Dursleys. They had sent back (all at Harry's expense, of course) boxes of interesting Muggle items. There was a box of Muggle novelty items, which of course had gone to the twins. Mr. Weasley was sent a set of Muggle DYI books. Luna had helped him pick out a set of spices which were in fairly common use in the Muggle world but were still seen as fairly rare in the magical one, and sent those to Mrs. Weasley.
Hermione was always difficult to buy for. Harry arranged a mail drop for her (as well as one for himself), making it easier for both of them to receive items by mail from the Muggle world without having to bother the people in the detective agency. He also arranged accounts for her at two well-known Muggle bookstores.
Harry had thought long and hard about Luna's gift. He made certain that it was the last gift they opened before the group went down for breakfast.
After she opened it, all the other seven girls had the same reaction -- a long, wishful, romantic sigh.
It was a combination bracelet and ring. It was in British red gold, and the bracelet connected to the ring via two fine chains. The ring had a small emerald, and the bracelet had three smaller emeralds and two small diamonds.
"It's beautiful," Parvati said.
Gin's comment was "I'm surprised you picked it out . . . ow!" Georgia had slapped her lightly on the back of the head.
"I did pick it out," Harry said with dignity. "Do you like it?" he anxiously asked Luna. Hermione had just finished putting it on for her.
"It's exquisite," Luna said.
Breakfast was better attended than the previous few days, as Snape, McGonagall, and Flitwick had returned, Snape looking like he had spent some time with the Death Eaters (which he had; it was always a psychological strain, especially since he would have to rejoin them on the 28th).
After the late breakfast, Zoric insisted everyone come back to his suite for more presents and Yule cheer until the afternoon feast at 1:30. It took a little persuasion, but even Snape finally agreed.
The DA officers had taken up a small collection, and bought a large amount of wool thread in various colors. Dobby had used half and knitted Dumbledore eighteen individual socks -- all the same size but each one different. (The other half was his payment.) Snape had been shocked to be handed a present as well. The auror potions class had taken up a collection (although most of the money came from Harry, Ernie, and Lisa) and bought Snape a set of small platinum measuring spoons (platinum being even more non-reactive to magic than gold in most cases) and a set of special non-reactive glass measuring beakers. Snape's thanks had been unpracticed, but as sincere as Dumbledore's.
Most of the presents had been from the Zorics to their three 'official' children, and were mostly clothes. The Patils had received some clothes as well, while Hermione was given a book on Native American symbols and Harry another book on Muggle history.
Luna opened her presents from her father with the Zorics. Professor McGonagall had given Hermione a large box, with information of her magical family connections. In all, everyone at Hogwarts had a wonderful Christmas morning, although everyone agreed that Luna's present from Harry was the best. Even Snape admitted it was tasteful.
On the way back to the great hall for the feast, however, Hermione brought a dose of reality in, asking Professor Dumbledore to arrange a meeting on the 27th for himself, Snape, Lupin, Zoric, Harry, and herself. He quietly agreed.
After the feast, Harry was granted permission to set off the Weasley Rockets. Dusk comes early in northern Scotland, and it wasn't long before the twilight and then evening sky was lit up.
The students all retired back to the Gryffindor common room, where they played exploding snap and gob stones, and after a light dinner of soups, they went to bed 'camp out' style, in plush sleeping bags on the common room floor. If Luna and Harry, and Padma and Georgia, shared sleeping bags, no one commented on it.
Thursday, December 26, 1996
The next morning, the Zorics and Patils portkeyed to the Adriatic. Harry harnessed one of the coaches, and he, Luna, Hermione, and McGonagall went into Hogsmeade in the late morning. Hermione and McGonagall flooed to the Burrow, while Mr. Lovegood flooed to the Three Broomsticks. A little after 3:00, they made the return journey.
Hermione spent the rest of the afternoon and evening making preparations for her presentation the following morning. Harry knew what it was about (and Luna had some small idea), and they decided to let Hermione deal with it as she thought fit. They did force her to eat a heartier supper than her stomach was inclined to desire at that point, but they made certain she knew she was not alone. That night, as Harry and Luna fell asleep cuddled on the large sofa, Hermione fell asleep next to them in a very comfy chair, Crookshanks providing a little extra warmth and affection.
Friday, December 27, 1996
The meeting Hermione had asked for, with herself, Harry, Dumbledore, Zoric, Remus, and Snape, occurred after lunch.
"You have the floor, Miss Granger," Dumbledore told her.
"Professor Snape, do you know if Pansy and Draco participated in the Wedding Night Blood Ritual?" Hermione asked.
"Of course they did," Snape said with something of a sneer. "Whatever else the pair might have done, Pansy would have remained a virgin for just that very purpose."
"What exactly does it do?" Harry asked.
"That new requirement from the Ministry is certainly necessary! Blood from the maidenhead and secretions from her vagina, mixed with the semen of the husband, are combined in a potion," Snape explained. "It must be done within thirty-six hours of their bonding vows. Taken approximately one week before ovulation, along with an exchange of blood ritual, the wife will conceive a magical male child. The potion should make between two to four doses, although it only lasts two years."
"And did Pansy take that potion to conceive? The rumor she that is she pregnant is true?" Hermione asked.
"Actually," Snape answered, "she did, probably in late November. Didn't Potter inform you?"
Hermione looked very upset and worried. "Professor Dumbledore, did you know Harry discovered a secret room behind the DA Officers' Room?"
"I did, soon after he discovered it," Dumbledore answered. "I hadn't known it was there. What was inside it?"
"Books, all hand-copied, separated out by a librarian in the late 1500s, as well as some manuscripts."
"Dark magic?" Snape demanded.
"Not as such," Hermione answered. "More like books that describe Dark Arts rituals, their purpose, requirements, and so on, without giving enough of the actual details that would allow them to be performed."
"So, how to recognize them, but not how to do them?" Zoric asked.
"Exactly," Hermione agreed. "And there is one Dark ritual I'm very afraid might be playing out now, called the Sweet Sacrifice, a Phoenician Dark ritual described by a Roman sorcerer of the early Empire, quoting Carthaginian and New Carthaginian sources. The codex we have was copied sometime in the late Thirteen hundreds."
"What does it do, and what are the requirements?" Lupin asked.
"It needs two Pure-bloods, male and a female virgin, of at least five generations."
"Both fit, although just barely, in Pansy's case," Snape remarked.
"They must freely conceive a male child, through the Blood-ritual, and the woman must freely donate a measure of blood, about one and a half pints, I believe, and they must freely donate a full dose of the Marriage Night Potion. The husband must then donate half the amount of blood his wife had."
They all nodded their understanding. "The wizard desiring to do the ritual must create a potion, using an equal measure of his own blood to the woman's, and his own semen equal in volume to the Marriage Night Potion. There is a fairly extensive ingredient list beyond that. . . ."
"And?" Harry prompted, knowing Hermione was having difficulty going on.
"It takes some four full moons to brew, but it will last up to the end of the pregnancy. The wizard then drinks a third of the potion. The rest does NOT have to be voluntary. The woman will then be eviscerated before giving birth. The fetus will also be disemboweled. The placenta, fetus' testicles, and part of the fetus' and mother's livers, adrenal glands, and spleens, and one of the mother's ovaries, are then shredded and added to the potion. The wizard then drinks half. While that is going on, the baby and mother are being roasted alive, and the wizard must live on only their flesh and wine for 10 days. Then the wizard finishes the potion, which has been steeping since the murders."
The group stared at Hermione, appalled. "You mean," Harry, looking very queasy now that he knew the full details, finally said, "they're going to gut and roast Pansy, and her baby, alive?" Harry looked even closer to vomiting.
"And then Voldemort will eat her," Hermione said.
"And the purpose?" Snape asked.
"At least eighty years of total invulnerability to magical attacks," Hermione answered.
"And the older the fetus, the more powerful the potion?"
"Yes, sir," Hermione said. "It's most powerful once the contractions begin."
"Then we know his likely target date," Snape said.
"July Thirty-first," Harry agreed.
"Do you have the list of ingredients?" Snape asked.
Hermione opened her book bag, and then frowned. "I would have sworn I put it in here."
"What did it look like?" Harry asked.
"A Muggle blue cardboard report cover," Hermione answered.
"You left it on the table in the Officer's room," Harry told her.
"Could you go get that list, Miss Granger?" Snape asked.
"Yes, Professor." She left the room.
"You removed it?" Snape asked Harry.
"I knew we'd have to talk about . . . options," Harry answered.
"You understand them?"
"Hermione won't like any of the alternatives to the obvious," Harry said to Snape.
"True, but you know what might have to be done," Snape replied.
"Won't like what?" Lupin asked. "What must be done?"
"It is the last resort, but it must be planned on," Zoric agreed.
"What!" Dumbledore demanded.
"It would be best to get Pansy away," Harry said. "Barring that, we must either abort the fetus or kill Pansy. If we don't achieve one of them, we've lost."
Dumbledore and Remus stared at the other three.
"Do you think young Malfoy knows?" Zoric asked.
"Possibly, but that would be far from certain," Snape mused. "Draco never did much more than tolerate and use her. However, I do not believe, even if he knows, that Draco would look forward to her death, or especially his son's."
"Especially if he has to witness it," Harry sniped.
"What does that mean?" Snape demanded.
"Draco never had a problem hurting people that I ever saw," Harry retorted, "but he always shied away from other people's blood on the Quidditch pitch. If he knows Pansy is going to die, and even if his unborn son is going to die, he might be able to shrug it away. If he can actually conceptualize the ordeal, I think he might be willing to try and save them."
"Oh? And how do I manage to accomplish that!"
"Take a look at the way Voldemort's court is run," Zoric suggested. "I'm guessing they eat a lot of meat, and drink a lot."
"They do," Snape admitted, his lip curling a bit at their foolishness. "They're getting fat and lazy. Even the Dark Lord."
"Considering the sadism level of some of His followers, a few probably enjoying butchering the animals. As far that goes, someone might even be practicing on sheep or pigs," Zoric pointed out.
"A squealing, bleeding pig or piglet might give Draco a good jolt in the arse," Remus agreed.
"Miss Granger is returning," Dumbledore warned.
Hermione handed Snape the list, giving Harry a dirty look as she did so.
"I have not been asked for the rarer ingredients, but several of others could be getting them," Snape mused. "None are that terribly difficult to get, considering the people He has at his disposal. They are more a matter of expense. None are highly restricted, as you probably saw for yourself. I did see a gold cauldron this size right after the marriage, and wondered why it had been brought."
"So you believe it is likely Voldemort is brewing this abomination?" Dumbledore asked.
"It clarifies a number of questions I had," Snape admitted. "I shall have to be very careful, but I need to talk with Draco.
"What can we even offer him?" Hermione asked.
"What do you mean, Miss Granger?" Dumbledore asked.
"He and Pansy murdered two people. We can't simply let them go unpunished," she reminded the men. "On the other hand, we can't threaten them with any sort of capital punishment, or even as severe a punishment as they would deserve by any standard, because I don't think Draco would help save Pansy under those circumstances."
"You might be correct," Snape admitted.
"We can't hide them here, away from the Ministry," Zoric said, "at least not for very long."
"I shall be meeting with the Minister privately Friday," Dumbledore told the group. "I shall breach the subject then. I must state firmly that no one else should know about this." He looked at Harry. "DOES anyone else know?"
"Luna does," Harry told the Headmaster. Harry turned to Hermione. "Did Padma help translate this?"
Hermione merely shook her head. "Just Luna."
"Then we leave it at this, unless Professor Snape has a chance to broach the subject with Mister Malfoy before I can with the Minister."
"I agree," Snape said. "I won't have many chances."
"There is just one more thing," Hermione broke in before anyone could think of leaving.
"And what is that, Miss Granger?" Dumbledore inquired.
"Some potential good news. This particular manuscript is a collection of twenty-seven blood and/or flesh potion ceremonies, all of them vile, although this is by far the worst so far as . . . the ingredients go. Eighteen are noted to be moderately to very successful, including, I might add, the one that Vol, err, Riddle used to restore a body for himself. Three are noted as weaker than promised, while three are nearly worthless."
"And the other three? Of which I gather the ceremony in question is one?" Snape demanded.
"They are three of the nine that require full human sacrifice. All of these three have the notation, that there is no evidence they have been tried. There are other notes, in Celtiberian I might add, which seem to have been in the original source, and which the copyist did not seem to understand. The only notation for this ceremony was 'handed down from the Old Times, certainly not tried since the fall of the African Baal.'"
"Which would mean what, the fall of Carthage in One forty-six BC?" Zoric asked.
"Probably," Hermione said. "There is no way to know if this would actually work or not."
"How thick was the dust in that room?" Dumbledore asked.
Hermione looked puzzled. "Would you have thought it laid undisturbed for four hundred years or more? Or more like . . . fifty?" Dumbledore pressed.
Hermione closed her eyes. "The dust was laying very uneven on the different parts of the room. It was as if some areas were disturbed, and instead of a real cleaning, the dust was just shifted."
"As if by someone who had a very imperfect knowledge of cleaning spells," Snape said. "Such as a Muggle-raised boy who took the N.E.W.T. Charms class, rather than Household Charms."
"Would Riddle have had access?" Harry asked.
"The room used to be the Prefect's sitting room, but it was so rarely used, Dippet closed it in the late Forties," Dumbledore said. "Tom might have had access to the room. But he would not have tried to replicate the potion just from that list of ingredients." The list of the final potion ingredients were given, but not most of the quantities.
Snape looked at the list again. "Nonsense, Headmaster. There are some forty-two ingredients where the quantity is not specified. I can tell you approximately what thirty of them should be. He does not have to have the complete potion list; although he would need more than just this."
"If there's a fuller set of instructions, he might have found them in the twenty years he was turning himself from Riddle into the Dark Lord," Harry said. "He came back physically changed, having gone through rituals and worse. Those people might have known this as well."
"True," Dumbledore agreed.