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, the first steps to uni...
The teens enjoyed looking through the photos from 1980 and 1981. Lloyd Trowbridge had labeled and dated all of them to some degree. As Harry and Neville had predicted long before, the girls all cooed over their baby pictures. They had expected it mostly from Ginny, but to their surprise, Luna, Hermione, and even Sabrina all acted pretty much the same. The teens all managed a good laugh of the wizarding photo of Neville spitting up on Toby Jones.
To their surprise, Tudor Myrddin joined them for supper. For two hours after the early dinner, the adults thrilled the teens with tales of the first war against Voldemort (mostly drawn form the months they had been winning), as they toasted walnuts and hickory nuts, and drank locally produced fresh cider and perry.
Finally, a little after 8:00, Luna turned to Myrddin and said, "Isn't there some special reason for your being with us tonight, sir?"
"As a matter of fact, there is, although it won't directly interest any of you at the moment," he admitted, giving Tabitha a glance.
"The Masters finally finished their analysis?" Tabitha asked eagerly.
"Let's see it!" she demanded.
"But. . . ."
"And I assure you," Tabitha declared, "Miss Granger can follow most of it." Hermione of course looked interested.
Tudor shrugged and said, "Alright. Push all the furniture back." As they did so, Tudor said, "If you don't know a lot about arithmancy, this will make no sense what so ever." He sat a crystal down, and suddenly multi-colored interconnecting lines, surrounded by abbreviations and equations, filled a block roughly nine feet by three feet by six feet.
"What do you think of that, Miss Granger?" Tabitha asked.
Hermione stood back up and walked around the block, mumbling to herself, tracing connections with a finger. This was by far the most complicated spell-block she had ever seen. After a mere three minutes of study, she looked up and said, "It must be Harry, or at least his connections with Voldemort."
"Very good, Ms Granger." Tudor was obviously impressed. "What does it say?"
She pointed to each point as she made them. "This set is the protection spell Harry's mother put on him. This connecting set is the spell the group of you put on him. It's really amazing that they meshed so well, reinforcing each other instead of interfering with each other. It was the two spells acting together that kept Harry alive that Halloween, although it was Mrs. Potter's spell that kept Harry hidden at the Dursleys."
Hermione frowned. "But why did they reinforce each other?" She pointed at several connecting points. "What do these mean? These aren't standard symbols recurring at each contact point."
"They are, just ones you haven't learned yet," Tabitha explained. "They are all love symbols. The love of Harry's mother, the love Harry had for his mother, the love we had for Harry when we set up the protections. Because these loves reinforced each other instead of conflicting in Harry's life, their magic reinforced each other as well." She pointed a red symbol. "This, however, is Pettigrew. Without his betrayals, it's possible that the link with Voldemort might not have been forged. Because of Pettigrew's Dark Mark, Voldemort was in a minor sense at the ceremony, and so could slightly affect the links."
"That makes sense," Hermione admitted. She went on, "This represents the Killing Curse that rebounded from Harry back onto Voldemort -- there's the feedback loop that created the scar, the mental link, and the transfer of powers. This group over here, though, is Harry's blood and the ritual that rebuilt Volde. . . . Oh, shit!"
"What?" Harry demanded.
"You can't use the Killing Curse on Voldemort, Harry."
"Uh-uh!" Tabitha corrected, pointing out an equation that was partially hiding behind a line.
"Oh, sorry. You can use the Curse on Voldemort, but if he uses it . . . . oh, Harry, if he uses it, it will kill both of you."
"Well," Harry said after a moment, "I guess that means even though I may not win, I can't lose."
"Perhaps," Tabitha cautioned. "It could disembody either one of you or even the both of you."
"Not if we do more than reflect the curse back. Add the last part," Tom called out. Tudor waved his wand at the crystal again, muttering a word of power.
"What did you add?" Tabitha asked as the space taken up grew slightly, but became much more intertwined, with lines of power feeding into the block.
"A very old community ritual," Tom answered. "In ancient times, even before writing, there were spirits and demons roaming the Earth. Representatives from a community could designate a warrior. They would partially protect him by linking him to selected members of the community. He could draw power for certain types of spells and rituals, and would in turn be protected from certain types of attacks. See here? This means that not only can Harry destroy Voldemort, he can also destroy the dementors."
"What does this sub-set mean?" Hermione asked.
"It wouldn't protect Harry from all magic, of course, but it does protect him from the full impact of harmful magic. And, as I said, it also allows him to draw some power as well."
"How many people do we need to make it work?" Luna asked.
"Thirteen. The champion, nine points of power, a center, a protector who acts as a mentor, and the caster."
"Harry is the champion, I am the center, you are the caster," Hermione stated. "We just need nine others and the protector."
Harry, Luna, Tudor, and Tabitha all protested that idea.
"Quiet!" Tom demanded. When he didn't get it, he simply raised his voice and talked over everyone. "Hermione would indeed be the best person for the center. Tudor should be the protector. Tabitha, Henry, Lloyd, Ron, Luna, Ginny, Neville. We would need two more points."
"I'll do it!" Sabrina called out. Henry and Tabitha's protests increased.
"Right. Who are we missing?" Ginny demanded.
"Harry, who would you feel close enough to to ask?" Tom asked over the yelling. "It should be someone no one would suspect, who can get away easily for a few days after Christmas. It must also be someone you are close to, or who has a close blood or emotional tie to you or at least one of the other points."
"Professor Lupin or Tonks?"
"I don't think it would work with a werewolf, and Tonks would be missed."
Harry thought, despite the continued arguments that had broken out all over the room.
"Ask Percy Weasley," Luna said.
The room went silent.
Harry nodded. "I agree, if Professor Dumbledore pre-approves the idea. If not, if he doesn't agree, or if we end up two short, ask Fred and George Weasley."
"I'll see to it, Harry," Tudor said. He saw more than half the room take a collective breath to start yelling again and one glare quieted them all. "It's Harry's decision. Think about it. There will be oaths of a power most of you have never sworn before, and the consequences for breaking those oaths will be fearsome."
"The rituals will also involve pain," Tom added. "And Harry, that will just be the first step for you, although the other steps won't be quite to fearsome."
"Are there any better alternatives?" Hermione demanded.
"If there are, no one has found them," Tudor admitted.
"Then we should. . . ."
"Think about these ideas carefully," Tabitha stated, breaking in on Hermione's thoughts. "I think we can all use some rest." She rounded on Sabrina. "I expect you to be alone in your bedroom, and to stay that way all night. No dreamwalking. Understand?"
"The rest of you . . . SCAT!"
The teens promptly scattered.
"What's wrong, Ginny?"
"There's something I've, well, I guess I have to say I've partially kept from you."
"Sit down, Neville." Neville sat on Ginny's bed.
"I told you about Hermione's and my tattoos."
"Yes," Neville said in a puzzled voice.
"Well, they were pretty . . . extensive."
Ginny had just been wearing a thin robe, her dressing gown, and slippers. It only took a moment to remove them.
"Oh, my. . . ."
"I'm ugly, aren't I?" Ginny said, starting to tear up.
Neville sprang up and held Ginny in his arms. "No, you're not ugly. You have to admit, though, it is startling."
"Yes, I guess it is," Ginny admitted.
Neville took Ginny's left wrist in his hand. He raised it to his lips and kissed the small tattoo with great care and passion. "May I kiss your other tattoos?"
"Only if you kiss all of them."
"That I can promise."
"What do you think, Luna?"
Luna looked troubled. "Hermione. . . ."
"Thank you for sharing this with me. I don't know if sharing with Harry would be very good idea at this time."
"I'm not trying to take Harry from you, or even share him."
"I know. I can also see how proud you are of your body and the tattoos, even if you're also worried about how we might regard them. Harry has issues about scars, as you can no doubt understand. He'll either be so overwhelmed by your body that he'll be confused, or he'll think you've had to mutilate your body because of him."
"You're right," Hermione admitted. "Knowing him, probably both."
"Most likely." Luna thought for a moment and then continued. "We'll bring him around in a day or two, it will just take a little preliminary work. Now, come along."
"Where are we going?"
"To shower and bed."
"But. . . ."
"We all love you, Hermione, if in different ways. Neville almost worships your competence, and is still attracted to you, although that pales to what he feels for Ginny. Harry and I love you in part like a sister and in part with a near-platonic perfection. Sex between either of us and you would be almost redundant. Ginny partially loves you as we all do, and is also a little in lust with you, although she is even more heterosexual than I am."
"Then why. . . ?"
"Because we love you. We won't leave you alone, Hermione. And, if you will allow me, Harry and I will also visit you in our dreams. Now come along."
"But. . . ."
"Besides, Harry needs his sleep. He still has trouble going to sleep most nights, and usually he has to get up too early. I know you want to go to the Yule service, and this way Harry is more likely to sleep in."
"But we should talk about this ceremony. . . ."
Luna gave Hermione a superior look that most people would more associate with the bushy-haired brunette. "Why discuss it? We both know that if it eases Harry's burden, we will do it, no matter what the cost to us. We also know that we all feel the same way. The 'adults' may need to discuss this, but they know what we know. We are Harry's supporters, and we will all do what needs to be done."
Hermione hated it when Luna was right.
Harry did sleep in. Luna had left a note on his door, swearing to hex anyone who woke him up too early (which Ron would have, wanting to get at the presents as usual).
When he did wake up, Harry thought he was having problems breathing. Then he realized Luna was on top of him. When he tried to move, he realized Hermione and Ginny were now on either side of him. All three girls were giggling, which was unusual behavior for all three -- but then they, unlike Harry, had been awake for some time.
After some light Christmas kissing, they let Harry retreat into the bathroom to get dressed, and then they joined the rest of the group in the parlor, where they could all have toasted egg, bacon, and cheese sandwiches; cookies; and hot chocolate while they opened their presents (although Lloyd was missing, since he was spending the morning with some of his relatives in town, while Tudor was in the Capitol).
Harry was very happy with his haul. Mrs. Weasley and Hermione had both knitted him jumpers, Hermione's a heavier, looser one that he could wear in cold weather instead of a jacket. Ginny had knitted him a hat and muffler which matched Hermione's scarlet and gold jumper. The note said that Neville had bought the yarn for Hermione and Ginny's presents. He also received a scarlet and gold afghan with deep green trim from Professor Spellman.
Ron had given all his friends maple sugar candy. ('Oh,' Hermione had said, 'my parents would faint.') The adults had clubbed together to buy Harry the latest Trek and Star Wars novels. Luna had given him a sketchbook filled with Muggle and wizarding (moving) drawings -- self-portraits, his friends and teachers, his fellow security prefects, and many scenes from in and around Hogwarts. She knew Harry had so few happy memories other than at Hogwarts, at the Weasleys, and from that previous summer that she wanted to help him remember those that she could.
Harry was also glad to see that his gifts were appreciated. He had consulted with Remus as well as Professors Spellman and Lawrence on books for Luna and Hermione. In addition, he gave Luna a copy of Lewis Carroll's two Alice stories, various earrings, and a matching set of natural grey pearls (two strings of pearls and a pendant, a ring, and two pairs of earrings). He gave a pair of a new brand of broom servicing kits to Ron and Ginny and a Neville a note saying a sack of expensive dragon dung fertilizer was awaiting him back at Hogwarts, which completed the gifts he had brought with him.
Although a simpler meal than a Christmas feast at Hogwarts, the Christmas dinner was more sophisticated. Each of the teens was allowed half a glass of the claret (Chateau Malartic-LagraviÃ¨re, 1945), the taste of which floored Hermione, who thought she had learned a little bit about wine from the little sips of plonk her parents had given her.
When the various pies had been devoured for dessert, Tabitha called for everyone's attention. "It's now a little before Two o'clock. Tom and Lloyd have social calls to make in town, and Henry and I are not to be disturbed. . . ."
"Does this mean you're finally back together for good?" Sabrina asked.
"We're working on it," Henry answered.
"That means you had all best take care NOT to disturb us," Tabitha warned. "You all know where the kitchen is when you get hungry. You all know what you should and shouldn't do. That includes NOT leaving these corridors. If I have to come out after any of you, it will NOT be pleasant."
The teens all nodded their heads.
"Well? Buzz off!"
The teens left.
"Have fun," Tom teased.
"Yes, do try and keep some attention on the wards, not just on each other," Lloyd added.
"You two were included in the instruction to 'buzz off'," Henry growled.
The two friends gave them a mock salute, and left.
About an hour later, there was a light knock on Hermione's door. "Come in!"
"Hi, Hermione," Harry said, coming cautiously into the room.
"Hi. What's up?"
"Luna sent me over to talk to you."
Harry mumbled something.
"What was that?"
"About your tattoos." Harry frowned. "Why would I find them shocking? Are they that large or that . . . well, inconveniently placed?"
"Harry, it's not your fault, and it wasn't your decision."
"It wasn't my decision," Harry agreed. "If you weren't my friend, would you have needed this extra protection?"
"As much as you need it now?"
"Yes; well, almost. You . . . you have to remember Harry, I'd still be a target even if we weren't close."
"Okay, let's say the Sorting Hat had gone the other way and put me in Ravenclaw. Would my grades have been higher or lower?"
"Could your grades have gotten any higher?"
"Yes, especially in Potions. The point is, however, that I have spent a fair amount of time helping you. How much would the Malfoys have liked me if I had beaten Draco in EVERY subject by an even wider margin than I did? Remember, he was the number two student of our year. I beat him in every subject our first year except for Potions and of course Flying. I beat him in everything our second, third, and fourth years, except for Potions, and I tied him in that our fourth year. Now, would you have had any chance of stopping Voldemort our first year without me?"
"No," Harry admitted.
"So there we are. Voldemort restarting his fight three years earlier. When they went after prominent Muggle-borns, and they would have sooner or later, who would Lucius Malofy have had near the top of his list? Me. They would have killed me or put me under the Imperius. Well, they can come after me now. They may even kill me. But they are NOT going to make me hurt or kill someone I love and then either be punished for it or have to live with the guilt. Don't you think I feel the physical discomfort I underwent and the fact that I can't wear a bikini are small prices to pay for that peace of mind?"
"But. . . ."
"But what? Harry, you're getting better, but sometimes you still have these unreasonable lapses into thinking that everything is your fault and your responsibility."
"Just try not to do it again. And while it was very sweet for Luna and Ginny to sleep with me these last two nights, I'm not going to fall apart just because Ron picked some other girl. So that stops, too!"
"What?" she nearly snapped.
"Tonight was my turn," Harry pouted.
He grinned. "Gotcha!"
"Harry. . . !"
"Seriously, Hermione. We care for you. It's not about sex, at least not for me." He finally sat down next to her, having been standing the entire time. He put his arm around Hermione, to her shock. "You're very important to me. I need you in my life more than anyone, except maybe Luna. Luna's convinced me that I need to love, and after her, I love you more than anyone else I have ever known. You're very important in a similar way to Luna and to Ginny. Take some advice from someone who is learning the lesson himself. Don't push away the people who care about you the most."
"Harry . . . thank you."
"You're welcome. Now, come along."
"Where am I going?"
"Luna and I have already, well, fooled around. . . ."
"Too much information, Harry!"
"And therefore, we just need to be close. With you. That nice elf should have reconfigured the bathtub in Luna's suite by now, so the three of us are going to relax and soak until dinner. You can show me your tattoos, and I'll show you the scar I got from the rusty nail Dudley made me sit on when I was eight."
Hermione smiled and punched Harry lightly on the shoulder. "Git."