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, 'Why Witches Wait', and Ro...
That night, Hermione took Luna off to the side and explained the events of the afternoon. Luna really hadn't helped translate that particular manuscript, but Harry and Hermione had both decided on the spot to include her in the information loop. They both knew they would need to talk about it with her, if they had any chance of living with the knowledge.
Luna was, of course, aghast. "You mean, not just kill and eat them, but roast them ALIVE?" Luna looked ill at the very concepts.
Hermione could only nod.
"I don't see how anyone could be that cruel," Luna said, her eyes starting to glisten from just the thought of such evil. "I mean, I don't doubt they're planning on doing this; I just have a difficult time believing how cruel people can be. It seems so . . . inhuman."
"I know," Hermione said.
"It makes you wonder if the species deserves anything more than a short, unhappy life."
That surprised Hermione; it seemed out of character for Luna.
"Sorry," Luna said, picking up on Hermione's concern immediately. "Until last year, I of course knew there was evil in this world, but about the worst I had ever actually seen were things like people hiding my possessions and Professor Snape yelling at us." She placed her hands on her face, her chin resting on the heels of her hands, remembering. "Umbridge, the Inquisitorial Squad, all the terrible things at the Ministry . . . we almost lost Ginny and Ronald. We almost lost you, Harry, and Neville. We did lose Sirius Black. Harry hearing that awful prophecy, and losing much of his faith for a time. Our cottage burning down. All the murders, especially you losing practically your entire family. That awful Saturday in Hogsmeade." She started crying gently. "This life really doesn't make sense any more."
Hermione sat next to Luna, and hugged her. "It's not all bad, is it?" she asked softly.
"No," Luna admitted, "of course not."
"Tell me the good things that happened to you in the last fifteen months," Hermione requested.
"Well, Ginny and I became close again, even more than we were as children. I made friends with all of you. . . ."
"And Harry," Hermione reminded her.
"And Harry," Luna admitted, a small smile crossing her still-teary face.
"What else is bothering you?"
"I've been reading ahead in Muggle Studies and History of Magic," Luna admitted. "Twentieth century genocides." She looked up. "We're really no better than the Muggles, are we?"
"We're all human," Hermione answered simply. "We're capable of good and evil. There seems to be a balance between them in this life, although stupidity certainly makes evil look worse than it actually is." She looked at Luna. "Did you really think we were better?"
"I didn't really know until last year how evil any of us were," Luna said. "And now. . . ."
Hermione cut to the heart of the problem. "You're worried about Harry, aren't you?"
"He's trying so hard, and he is so amazingly powerful, but he doesn't have to just defeat Voldemort. I know he can defeat Voldemort. He has to kill Voldemort." She sighed. "I don't know if he can kill anyone on purpose. And if he does, I really think something inside him will die. Harry will either die, or what makes Harry so wonderful will either die, or be terribly scarred."
"I have a difficult time believing Harry can kill anyone either," Hermione admitted.
"That's just what I said," Luna said. "He probably can't. Then he'll be dead. And if he does . . . kill, then he may be partially dead inside." She started crying again. "How can we even pretend there is any justice in this world, when Harry has to plan on killing someone, even someone as evil as Voldemort?"
"I don't know," Hermione admitted. "It all comes down to faith. If we have it, we can make it through this life, and hopefully into the next. Without it, we either turn to selfishness or evil, or run around in a circle of existential angst until we drive ourselves into depression or insanity."
The two sat in close, if depressed, silence for several minutes.
"We should think about something else," Hermione finally said, turning to Luna and drying her tears with her handkerchief.
"Like what?" Luna asked, sniffled, allowing Hermione to clean her up.
Hermione pulled out the now-somewhat worn pamphlet Why it's Important for Witches to Wait. "Were you taught all this stuff? And is it real, or just the usual nonsense adults try on teens? I can't be certain," she asked, handing it to Luna.
Luna blew her nose and read through the little booklet quickly, a smile slowly starting to come to her face. "You didn't read this before last summer?" Luna asked.
"Why would I have?"
"All girls are given this at the end of the Second year . . . oh, of course! You were petrified."
"Do you know WHY having intercourse is so incredibly painful for Pure-blood witches the first time?" Luna asked. "They seem to have left that out, although we were told in the assembly. Of course, most of us born to the culture already knew that."
"The breaking of the hymen shouldn't be any where near that painful," Hermione protested, "at least not in most cases. This seems greatly exaggerated." She smiled. "Harry almost fainted when he read this last August!"
"It is that painful for most of us, because a spell is put on us when we are born that prevents it from being torn," Luna said simply.
"The blood of the breached maidenhead is very powerful, as you discovered in researching that evil potion ceremony. The mixture from the marriage night is used to help produce not just a male heir, but a magical male heir. Although its effectiveness as a pregnancy inducer falls off after two years, it does boost the chances of a magical child after that. It may also be used in aphrodisiacs for either men or women, not just the pair that produced it."
"But to reenforce the maidenhead to the point where penetration produces so much pain that. . . ."
"As the pamphlet says, the bonding ceremony . . . makes penetration easier, they just should have added that it is because the ceremony breaks the charm," Luna pointed out. "In fact, there is a spell in the bonding ceremony that actually weakens the maidenhead. There are several other spells that do the same thing, although you can't make the Marriage Night Potion if you use them without the bonding. I know three, and there are at least four more. Most of us know at least one."
Hermione looked thoughtful. "Many normal girls have theirs weakened or torn long before regular sex."
"Ronald will understand," Luna said. "You could always talk to Professor McGonagall or Madam Pomfrey."
"No, that's alright. . . ." Hermione sighed. "I swear the magical world is as crazy as the Muggle, just in different ways."
"I won't argue with that." Luna looked at her friend. "You seemed upset with Harry earlier tonight. Why?"
"I think he took my report folder on the potion out of my bag, but I can't think why he would want to send me after it. He doesn't play stupid tricks on people."
"Oh," Luna said, happy this was the only problem, "that's simple. You're the only person I know who is as moralistic than Harry, if in slightly different ways."
"What does that mean?"
Luna's expression turned serious. "What if Draco is unwilling or unable to bring Pansy out of this situation?"
"I don't understand," Hermione stated.
"You do, you just don't want to admit the consequences," Luna replied. She decided to force the issue. "To what extreme will our side have to go to stop this ceremony, if we have to?"
Hermione looked very uncomfortable. "Well, we could abort the pregnancy. Snape could slip something into her food or something."
"Then they get her pregnant again, and Snape is either dead or unable to keep a watch on Voldemort. No, they'll have to kill Pansy." Luna looked upset, but not nearly as much as Hermione did as she thought it through.
"But . . . but. . . ."
"There are no other obvious alternatives," Luna said unhappily. "We need to hope that Draco does the right thing."
"Great," Hermione grumbled. "Reduced to hoping Malfoy does the right thing. We're doomed."
The rest of the weekend went quietly. Hermione was coaching both Harry and Luna on their transfigurations. Luna needed to practice for her O.W.L.s, but the Sixth and Seventh year N.E.W.T. transfigurations were primarily self-and-other human transfigurations; Hermione was the only one in the class who was really able to do them fairly consistently. Luna was no help, as she saw through them too easily, even when Professor McGonagall did most of them (except for the animagus transfiguration).
Remus Lupin was still in the castle. So far, he had not had a really bad or painful transformation that year. While still awful-tasting, Snape had learned how to make minor adjustments in the wolfbane potion so that it matched Remus more efficiently. Any students looking for signs that the werewolf professor was dangerous merely saw him as overly nervous the few days approaching the full moon, and extra tired for the few days after. Professor Zoric had only had to fill in for a few of Lupin's earliest classes.
Remus helped Harry teach the two girls the disillusionment spells (these were Seventh year transfiguration and charms material) over the break. Harry also demonstrated some of the other techniques Zoric was teaching him. His invisibility spell impressed both Lupin and Hermione, although he merely looked a bit faded to Luna. He could also find someone under his invisibility cloak, much as Zoric and Dumbledore could. With practice, he would even be able to detect most people under disillusionment and invisibility spells.
Harry had also managed to master a very tricky 'overlook' spell -- it simply made people ignore your presence. Not only did Luna have a difficult time looking straight at Harry, it even worked on Lupin's more sensitive sense of smell.
Harry had tracked down Dobby, and given him a small job, which the elf was happy to perform for his beloved Harry Potter. With Dumbledore's permission, Harry, Luna, and Hermione did not go to dinner New Years Eve, but rather down to the landing. The bored house elves had gone all out, and set up a small dining table, replete with a number of small dishes with little delicacies that Luna and Hermione enjoyed but which were rarely if ever served at Hogwarts. Harry had consulted with Master Tomas before Christmas, and therefore had two splits of sparkling moscato available (sweet, for the tastes of teens, and with less than 1/2 the alcohol of champagne).
Hermione graciously excused herself from dessert, leaving the second bottle for her good friends to toast in the new year by themselves.
Saturday, January 4, 1997
Neville and the Weasleys returned Saturday morning. Ginny and Neville disappeared quickly, while Ron sought out Hermione. An agitated Ron approached Harry that evening, and asked if they could talk in private. Harry agreed, and they went to their dorm room.
"What's wrong, Ron?" Ron had been edgy and unhappy all afternoon and evening.
"Are Padma and Georgia . . . a couple?"
"They seemed to be," Harry agreed. "Does it bother you?"
"No," Ron said, a bit doubtfully.
"Alright," Harry pressed, "if that's not what's bothering you, what is? You didn't even sit next to Hermione at dinner."
Ron looked very uncomfortable, but after a few moments of silence, asked, "Is Hermione fooling around with someone?"
Harry was stunned. "What?"
Ron's ears went red, but he pressed on. "Is Hermione fooling around with someone else?"
"Like who?" Harry asked, incredulous.
Ron's jaw set. "Like you, or even you and Luna."
"YOU are a nutter," Harry stated firmly. "Yes, we care about Hermione. Yes, we worked on a DA project over the holidays; yes, we're all three worried about it and can't talk to you or anyone else about, on orders from Dumbledore and Zoric. I'm sorry if that means you feel cut off, but to accuse Hermione, Hermione of all people! of cheating on you, is ridiculous and you should know it! In fact, if it were anyone but you. . . ."
"You would WHAT?" Ron sneered, now really angry at his friend as well as life in general. "I could break you in half." He took a menacing step forward, looming nearly six inches taller than Harry. Harry looked Ron in the eye, and Ron was flung back onto his bed. Within the castle, Harry was learning to control his magic without a wand, something Ron knew, even if he didn't know the reasons for it.
"We've both been training, Ron Weasley," Harry said coldly. "I know I could never beat you physically, but don't think I couldn't defend myself. And you are becoming a skilled wizard, but never think you can take me magically. Now, do we fight, or sulk, or do we talk this out?"
"I thought we are supposed to be friends, mates even," Harry went on when Ron said nothing. "I am certainly not going to choose between you and Hermione, because I care for you both, but I won't betray anything you want to talk about. So, for once, talk about what matters."
Ron sat up on his bed. A look of tremendous anger washed over his face, but then it drained away, replaced by shame. "I'm sorry, Harry," Ron said. "I don't know what's wrong with me, or what's wrong between me and Hermione. We were close last year, and then after we were both almost . . . killed, we just came together."
Ron stood and took off his shirt. Three of the scars from the brains were still visible on his upper arm and shoulder, and he rubbed an ointment on them. "Hermione's ribs are still tender from that hex. I still have nightmares from what the brains showed me, but I still don't understand them any better. I still have flashbacks to that night, just like you do, and I imagine the others do as well." Ron looked incredibly sad. "Hermione and I talked, really talked, when we were in the infirmary last June. We haven't been that close since."
He sat back on the bed, while Harry sat on his own bed, across from his friend. "I really care for her, Harry," Ron went on, "and I know she cares for me. But we really haven't become . . . closer once we got back to school. Except for that one night. . . ." He looked up at Harry. "Can we really talk about this?"
"I won't tell Hermione," Harry assured his friend.
"Okay, then . . . except for that one night she slept here, I've never seen Hermione without her top, let alone with less. That was the only night I could really touch her, really hold her. It's like we hit a nice, basic level, and we haven't moved on since then. Hermione likes to snog, and she's really good at it, but she's not even interested in doing that too often!"
Harry silently agreed with the assessment of Hermione's kissing skills. He thought that Hermione had been by far the best kisser of the eight girls he had played strip poker with, although kissing her deeply hadn't given him quite the spark that even his most casual kiss with Luna always did. Harry also knew he shouldn't mention that episode to Ron. He had seen a lot more of Hermione, more often, than Ron apparently had. Instead, he asked, "How far did you think you'd be by now?"
Ron shrugged. "I don't know. A lot further than we ARE by now, that's for sure."
"Ron, please don't be offended, but one reason you're dating Hermione isn't because, since she's Muggle-born, she was never put under the Maiden's Charm, is it?" Luna had explained it to Harry fully the day before.
Ron flushed. "No, but I thought it might be a plus in the long term. And I figured she'd be at least interested in . . . the physical side as most of us." He looked Harry in the eye again. "How far have you and Luna gone?"
"Not much further than you and Hermione," Harry answered, flushing himself. Still, he couldn't leave it at that if he wanted Ron to open up. "We have done a few full-body massages," Harry offered, not about to reveal how 'complete' some of those massages had been.
"Ah," Ron said, "the reason why you smell like lavender so often."
"Exactly," Harry said. "We slept together. . . ."
"SLEPT! Ron, as in sleep, like you and Hermione did."
"So, we slept together a few times, clothed, over break." Harry gave Ron a dirty look. "If all you want from a girl is 'the old slap and tickle,' you probably don't want to be dating Hermione."
Ron again looked a bit shamed, but pressed on. "Is it too much to ask for a little real physical affection, Harry?"
"No," Harry agreed, "no, it's not. If this is really a problem, and it seems to be, you need to talk it over with Hermione. See how she feels; don't pressure her. In her own way, she's even more shy than the rest of us."
Ron looked offended. "I haven't pressed her once in all the months we've been seriously dating!"
"I know," Harry placated.
Ron gave a deep sigh and stood, putting his shirt back on. "I guess I need to find Hermione."
Harry sought Hermione's presence in the castle. "She should be in the Officers' room."
Ron nodded, grimly and picked up his old blazer.
"Good luck," Harry said. Ron turned to look at Harry, puzzled. "I want you both to be happy," Harry explained. "It would be nicest if you were happy together."
Ron managed a wan smile and left.
"This isn't likely to be good," Harry muttered to himself. Harry and Luna had seen that the snogging game had, if anything, made Hermione decide that the physical side of life was so seducing that she was likely to want to put it off until after Hogwarts, perhaps until she got her career started. Harry rushed off to the library, where Ginny and Luna were working with Gin and Georgia on a history project together. He briefed the pair as much as he could without betraying his conversation with Ron, and was back in the dorm room, reading a Charms assignment, long before a dejected Ron made it back into the room.
"What happened?" Harry asked sympathetically.
"We . . . Hermione said she wasn't ready to go further, and that if I was, we should. . . ." Ron plopped on the bed.
Harry walked over and stood next to Ron. "I'm really sorry, Ron," Harry said sincerely.
Ron gave Harry a very weak smile. "Thanks, I guess." He shrugged. "What can I say? Do you mind if I'm alone for a while?"
Harry gave his friend a twisted smiled. "How could I, of all people, object? I will bug you in the morning if you're even half as mopey as I get."
Harry turned to leave. He heard Ron sobbing quietly before he shut the door.
The next morning, Ron and Hermione merely nodded at each other, rather than kiss each other lightly on the cheek, as they had since they had faced the boggart together. All Sunday morning, there was a distance between then that had not existed since their Fourth year, but there didn't seem to be much tension between them, let alone any anger. It seemed both were more sad over the break-up than in any way upset.
The rest of the group took note, and by the end of breakfast, the other girls understood what had happened. None commented. Word was spread as the students trickled in from the winter holiday (not all the students came on the Hogwarts Express). By the March Monday morning, everyone seemed to reach an understanding of the situation, and Ron and Hermione led the Gryffindors into the great hall as they usually did.