A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, Ginny and Hermione und...
Monday, November 25, 1996
"Percy looks like he had a worse night then we did," Hermione commented the next morning.
"Good," Ginny and Harry said together. They looked at each other. "Maybe he'll finally realize what he needs to do," Harry suggested. "He can't just back an authority figure."
"We'll see," Ginny answered.
"Mail," Neville pointed out, to distract everyone.
"Shit," Ginny muttered.
"Ginny!" Hermione admonished.
"You should know perfectly well what the main story is going to be in The Prophet!"
Hermione sighed. An owl dropped her copy off. "I suppose you're right."
"Well?" Ginny demanded a few minutes later, as Hermione hadn't said anything as she scanned the newspaper, although her expressions were changing a great deal.
Hermione looked up. "It's . . . odd. It's as if there are three different newspapers here. There's a fairly factual account, which is strange in and of itself." The Daily Prophet rarely missed a chance to mix editorial views within its news stories. "About a third of the related articles seemed to be trying to justify Fudge's position, and are trying to both excuse Malfoy and attack the Council. Most of the others are attacking Fudge's position and defending Ron and the Council."
"Look at the by-lines," Luna said, looking up from her own copy. She had decided to sit with Harry and her Gryffindor friends this morning, as the Clique seemed too happy to see Ron gone. "The ones attacking Ronald and the Council are those that have been defending the Malfoys and Fudge all along. The others are all either being more reasonable, or are toadying up to the Council."
"Maybe this means Fudge will be gone soon," Lavender suggested from across the table.
"Maybe, but it won't help much," Harry answered. "I just wonder why Fudge screwed Ron. I mean, I thought he was cooperating."
"Cooperating, but not joining in," Hermione pointed out. "Remember, it appears as if a majority of the population like the Council, but a majority of the Ministry doesn't. If Fudge can drive the Council out, he might be able to stay in as Minister."
"And he must stay on. After all, the goblins will be after him the moment he leaves office."
"Luna, this isn't about those goblin pies again, is it?" Hermione demanded.
"Whether or not you believe that about the Minister or not, I assure you the goblins hate him," Luna said with dignity.
"That I'll believe," Hermione said. She glanced at her watch. "Come on, it's almost time for Charms."
Saturday, November 30, 1996
"So," Bill asked Ron, "how has your first week been?" The three boys were sitting in the small study room between their two bedrooms. Bill was a beater on the Blue dragon Quidditch team and he and Leroy were on the dueling team. Bill and the rest of the Quidditch team had spent the early afternoon putting Ron through his paces (because Ron had done a little boasting about his abilities). While transfers were barred from playing Quidditch their first year, Ron had a good chance of becoming at least the reserve keeper his Seventh year, if he was still at the Ysgol then.
"It's been busy," Ron admitted. Even without the Regulations course, there was a lot of academic adjusting for him to do. Other than flying that afternoon, about the only non-school related thing he had done all week was sending a note to his parents and what was basically a copy to Hermione and Harry, and he wouldn't have found time even for that if the Headmaster himself hadn't reminded him to do so that morning. "I hope next week is easier."
"Well, it's a big adjustment," Bill pointed out.
"And a fast one," Leroy added, and then went on, "Did you finish that letter the Headmaster wanted you to do?"
"Yeah. I had been trying to find the time all week. I did one to my friends, too."
"You haven't talked much about your friends," Bill said.
"They're the best, but they're over there," Ron said, a little sadly. He also didn't want people asking about Harry, for a number of reasons -- from not wanting to talk about the famous side of Harry's life to worrying about saying too much about the parts that should be kept quiet. He decided to divert attention. "Are you related to Lloyd Trowbridge?"
"He's my uncle." Leroy turned to Bill. "I told you about my uncles, right?"
"Yeah, they went off to fight Voldemort in 1980. One was killed and one came back." Ron didn't think he'd ever get used to the casual use these people made of 'Voldemort'.
"Right. Aunt Betsy and my cousins all live in the Capitol, and won't visit when Uncle Lloyd is around. He's not around too much, though." Leroy turned to Ron. "We live in a wizarding town called Carantouan, which is about . . . some 500, 550 miles or so to the southwest of here. We were some of the first Old Colonial families in the area, back in the 1780s. My older brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great great-grandfather are all magical instrument makers. Uncle Lloyd owns a small cabin on a mountain outside of town -- and the mountain, for what little that's worth."
"How'd you meet him?" Bill asked. Ron was suddenly embarrassed. He wasn't sure how to explain the set-up in Hogsmeade.
"Uncle Lloyd works for that governing Council the International set up." Leroy looked at Ron. "He's at some place called Hogsmeade, right?"
"Right, that's the village less than a mile from Hogwarts. He works with the sersiants the International have stationed there. He was at our Halloween Feast."
"Maybe he'll be home for Christmas," Leroy said.
"Maybe he'll visit here," Ron said a bit wistfully. He knew it was unlikely he would be going home for the holidays.
"Maybe Rina will take you home with her," Bill said with a smirk.
"Rina? The red-headed chaser? The one with the large . . . well. . . ."
"Yeah, she's pretty stacked for a thin Fourth year," Bill agreed. "She's so thin she looks even more stacked than she is."
"If she heard either of you, she'd hex you."
"Well, she is top-heavy, and she was making eyes at Ron," Bill teased.
"She's nice," Ron allowed.
"She'll probably be staying over," Leroy said.
"Really?" That peaked Ron's interest. "Why?"
"Yeah, why? She's never stayed over before," Bill commented.
"Both her parents are in Britain, too," Leroy said simply.
"Who are they? Maybe I met one of them."
"Her mom is Tabitha Spellman. Isn't she teaching at Hogwarts? And her dad is. . . ."
"Henry Dorff?" Ron said. He wasn't so sure if it was a good idea to return the flirtatious Rina's attentions now or not.
"Why doesn't she use her father's name?" Bill demanded, smelling scandal.
"Her dad was a hit-wizard."
"Oh." Bill turned to Ron. "Is her mother as good looking as she is?"
"Oh, yeah, although she's taller and, well, thinner, but she's a good dueler, too. She gave a demonstration with of Defense teacher -- he's another Confederation hit wizard -- and I don't think I've ever seen the like before."
"Well, I've never seen Sabrina interested in anyone before," Leroy said. "Better watch yourself. I bet she's a real tiger once she gets started. Let her make the first moves -- she's a great dueler for a Fourth year."
"I guess I better." Ron wondered who would do the most damage to him if he glanced at Rina the wrong way -- Spellman, Dorff, or Hermione, or perhaps Rina her self.
Back in Britain, the battle between the supporters of the Council and Fudge continued to rage on in The Daily Prophet past the week after the trial. It was soon clear that the only real support Fudge had was from some of the families compromised by Death Eater connections or Malfoy money, and some of the more conservative elements inside the Ministry itself. The media, what passed for public opinion within the magical community, and the major institutions (including Gringotts) were now all opposing Fudge.
Then, on December 2, The Daily Prophet had a detailed account on how Malfoy money had bought the first lenient decision for Draco, and how many members of the Ministry had been using Malfoy money to fund the projects they had built their careers on. That would force almost half of the Wizengamot to resign that afternoon, as they were all implicated. Since these people were, for the most part, also middle to upper-level members of the Ministry, that meant the core of Fudge's supporters were gone by the end of the week. The newspaper's headlines on December 9 trumpeted Fudge's resignation as well.
Perhaps partially as an exercise in redeeming his image, Percy explained exactly how the in-fighting was being conducted in a series of impromptu afternoon discussion sessions, as well as in his two classes. Hermione made Harry read a copy of Machiavelli to help him understand some of the principles.
Through it all, Hermione had written to Ron every day, telling him what was going on. She had only received two short notes back, basically saying that he was fitting in at the Ysgol so well he hardly missed Hogwarts, although he of course missed her and his other friends and hoped to see them over the summer, since he'd already been told he would be staying in North America during the winter break.
That came as news to the entire group. Meanwhile, Neville's grandmother gave her permission for Neville to spend the entire Christmas break with Harry. Luna's father and the Weasleys gave their daughters permission to spend the entire break with Harry, after the first few days. Hermione's parents were the only one's wavering, so Professors Spellman and Lawrence had spent all December 7 talking with the Grangers. They had come back with the same deal for Hermione as the other two girls.
The Winter Dance would be December 20, and the students would leave for their Christmas break the next morning. The three girls would go home to their families, while Harry and Neville would spend the Saturday night at the Dursleys. They would leave Sunday afternoon to go to Neville's, and then leave Monday morning for wherever they were going. The girls would spend the weekend with their families and then leave Monday morning as well. They would be returning to Hogwarts on January 4.
Despite all that was going on in the background, the everyday work and normal events continued at the school. Most of the Fifth through Seventh year students worked on their Patronus spells, with widely varied success. Ravenclaw and Slytherin played what most observers thought was the most poorly-played game in recent memory. When Cho finally caught the snitch (on her third try), some five hours into the game, the score was 180 - 30.
As Ginny said on the way back to the dorms, "Any game where Goyle is the most competent overall player says a lot about both teams."
After dinner that evening, Professor Lawrence called Ginny and Hermione to his office to discuss the problems of Imperio and possessions.
"No one is happy with the solution," Lawrence told them. He turned to Hermione, "Especially your parents. However, all have agreed to leave the decisions up to you."
"Tattoos," Ginny stated.
"Ritual tattoos," Lawrence agreed. "It is possible, in theory, to draw some of the runes and symbols on your skin and have them work. To do so means being able to put yourself into a trance, a number of flexibility charms, a perfect knowledge of the spells and signs, the ability to cut yourself when necessary, and above all, you can't make a mistake. So far as I know, Tabitha Spellman is the only living person to accomplish all that."
"How many, and how large?" Hermione asked.
"Twenty-seven in nine different locations. Two are very small -- these go on the top of your forehead and the back of your skull. The other seven positions are on your heels and wrists, the inside of the elbow of your wand arm, over your heart, and in a swath from your navel and inner left thigh. It would work most powerfully if I do the two of you together, and you exchange some of the blood shed during the procedure. It is a long, painful ordeal, and will join the two of you in a bond that will make you as close as twin sisters, should you choose that option. It will expose the pair of you to each other, and to me, in ways you might prefer to keep private."
"I'll do it, even if Hermione prefers not to," Ginny said.
"I don't know," Hermione said.
"Fine," Lawrence said. "Miss Weasley . . . Ginny. Please come to the dungeon where I tested the three of you tomorrow morning at Eight. Don't eat anything between now and then. Don't drink anything after midnight. Bring two towels, several wash cloths, and your wand. Miss Granger, if you decide to come along, you will be welcome. It will make no difference to my preparations."
"What are the down sides to this?" Hermione asked.
"Besides losing any special powers of divination or second sight? Eight hours of pain, several days of discomfort, and the fact that they cannot be removed," he answered. "Professor Spellman is in her office, if you wish to talk with her."
Sunday, December 14, 1996
"Ginny, Hermione, come in."
The two girls walked nervously into the dungeon. The room was decorated with runes and symbols chalked on the walls, ceiling, and floor, nearly half of which Hermione had never seen before. There were also two gurneys, covered with sheets which had painted symbols on them, inside a pentagram which covered most of the floor. A chalk path was marked out of it to the toilet. The only other thing in the room was a small wheeled table, filled with inks, old-fashioned manual tattooing needles, and other things that looked rather like instruments of delicate torture.
"Do not exit the semi-circle," Lawrence said, pointing to one that covered the entrance area. "Close the door together. Now, take off all your clothes and place them on either side of the door, but still inside the semi-circle. Place the towels on top of your clothes." Lawrence turned around to give them some privacy. "Now, one at a time. Touch the door handle with your wand and say 'I, your full name, swear I enter this covenant with free will, and will leave free.'"
Hermione went first. "I, Hermione Jane Granger, swear I enter this covenant with free will, and will leave free."
"I, Ginevra Molly Weasley, swear I enter this covenant with free will, and will leave free."
"Then pick up the towels and cross into the pentagram. I apologize for the pain I am about to cause."
Friday, December 20, 1996
Since the first dance had been canceled right after Halloween, most of the older students were looking forward to the winter dance. Hermione had tried to duck out of the dance, since Ron wasn't there to go with her. Ginny, Parvati, and Lavender managed to talk her into accepting a date with Kevin Entwhistle, a Sixth year Ravenclaw. Kevin had been eager for a date with Hermione for some time. After Harry had had a 'talk' with Kevin that would have done any over-protective big brother proud, Kevin had toned down his enthusiasm a little.
Harry insisted on escorting Hermione over to Ravenclaw, where Kevin and Luna were waiting for them. Ginny and Neville went with them.
Neville, it turned out, had convinced his grandmother to send him out for some dancing lessons the previous July, although he hadn't taken many before joining Harry's training. Of course, Neville's grandmother's idea of dance lessons had leaned heavily towards the waltz. Still, that had given Neville some sense of rhythm, and if he was far from the most graceful dancer on the floor, he at least didn't stomp on Ginny once the entire evening. Kevin and Hermione were much better, and seemed to enjoy themselves.
Harry steeled himself, and led Luna out on the first slow dance.
"Is everyone watching us?" Luna asked in a small voice. She loved music, but did not care for the idea of dancing very much.
Harry glanced around. "You know, I don't think any one is."
Harry felt Luna relax in his arms, and Harry relaxed as well. Probably someone was watching, because it seemed like someone was always watching him. But if there were, there weren't many.
"Have I told you lately how much you mean to me?" Harry asked.
Luna scrunched up her face in concentration. Since they had started dating, Harry had noticed how some mannerisms looked silly on some people and attractive on others. He had yet to meet one of Luna's that he hadn't found immediately endearing.
"I believe the last time you told me you thought me beautiful was approximately forty-five minutes ago. The last time you told me you loved me was about thirty minutes ago. The last time you relaxed in my arms like this, however, was before Halloween, the afternoon after Councillor Dorff told you the news from Afghanistan."
She thought about that. "I wasn't close to you last year. I know you were more irritable then; were you also this tense?"
"Probably a lot more so. I was under a lot more pressure last year."
"What sort of pressure were you under then that you're not now?"
"Besides O.W.L.s and Umbridge? Last year few people believed me. . . ."
"I know, and I could never thank you enough. It really meant a lot to me that you believed in me."
"What did Hermione say about that?"
"Something rather rude, actually," Harry admitted. "I think that was the first time I ever told her off about being rude to somebody. Usually, that's her line to me or, well, to Ron."
"She seems to be enjoying herself tonight. I hope you didn't scare Kevin too much."
"Hermione is still committed to Ron."
"Perhaps. From Ronald's letters, however, it isn't certain if he is still committed to Hermione. He hasn't sent anything like a love letter, or even an affectionate one, from what Ginny has said."
Harry sighed. "I was afraid of that."
"Because Ron wants to shine. He's a good student, but who looks good next to Hermione? I've always wondered if he liked her as her, or liked her because they were close."
"You mean because Hermione knows him so well, he can just be himself?"
"Exactly. I know Ron likes Hermione, I know he was even in a bit of lust with Hermione. I just don't know how much he loves her."
"I don't know how much she loves him, either," Luna responded, to Harry's surprise. "Hermione also liked Ronald in part because he knows her so well. She feels very out of place here, you know, more than any other Muggle-born I know."
"Still? I thought she'd gotten over that."
"Muggle-borns often feel that way, you know. They see themselves as plain owls in a flock of fwoopers, without realizing that when you want a letter delivered, fwoopers are pretty but not very useful. Hermione needs to excel, and feels she's far behind all the rest of us."
Harry had to think about that, but decided she had a point. The slow dance ended, and neither had any intention of dancing the faster numbers. As they walked off the dance floor, Harry said, "I suppose Hermione feels it even more than most."
"She needs to be at the top. I think that's why she has problems accepting new ideas from me. If I had handed her an old book my father has, which described the Crumpled-horn Snorkack along with other magical creatures she had heard of in classes, she would have believed it. But from a peer?" Luna shook her head sadly.
"Have you ever heard of a Muggle author named Lewis Carroll?" Harry asked.
"A character in one book says something like she tries to believe three impossible things before breakfast. That's you. Hermione tries to prove three things before breakfast. Those are two very different outlooks."
"Very good," Luna said with approval. "You know, I have an idea."
"Are you finished packing?"
"We leave at Nine tomorrow morning," Luna reminded him. "Why don't we leave the dance around Nine tonight. You can finish packing, and we'll go to bed early. Then we can meet in our dreams."