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, as the plans for the R...
Thursday, December 26, 1996
"Yes, Hermione?" All the group had been working out, but Tom had given up first. He kept an eye on the others as Hermione approached him.
"May I talk to you in private at some point today?"
"Sure. We can go back up to the cabin after breakfast. Is that okay?"
Tom started a fire in the fireplace and sat down in one of the two soft chairs. He had a huge mug of coffee, while Hermione had a similar mug of hot chocolate. "What's on your mind?" Tom asked.
Hermione dove right into what was bothering her. "Does my tattoo protection against possessions and the Imperius Curse also keep Dreamwalkers out of my mind?"
Tom thought about that a few moments. "Yes, I would think it should. I take it Harry or Luna tried?"
"Yes; both actually. They said they could see my dreams, but not enter them."
He frowned. "They shouldn't have even been able to do that . . . unless. . . . Were they in physical contact with you as well as astral?"
Hermione blushed slightly. "Yes, they were. It was purely platonic," she hastened to assured him, lying more than a little.
"All right. Even so, I'm surprised they were able to see into your dreams. Of course, Harry always seems to be able to do things no one should be able to."
"I knew that the first time I saw him fly," Hermione said simply.
Tom was curious, "Any regrets that you chose Ron instead of Harry?"
"No, not really. I love Harry, but I'm not terribly physically attracted to him." She sighed. "Losing Ron like that, without any real notice. . . ."
"You mind the way it was done more than the fact itself?" Tom asked.
Hermione sighed and admitted, "Yes. It's not that I wasn't attracted to Ron. I was. And I admit I was wondering what he might be thinking, considering the lack of letters, but then, that's just Ron." Her mouth went into a slight twisted smile. "I wish Sabrina lots of luck. She'll need it."
"She's slightly more than two years younger than Ron," Tom pointed out. "People mature emotionally at different rates. Ron and Sabrina might be at a more compatible stage right now."
"Maybe. Enough of 'Ronnie', and back to my current problem."
"Are you sure you would want to share dreams with the two of them, then?" Tom asked in a warning tone.
"Yes," Hermione said firmly.
"Difficult," Tom said, frowning in thought.
"There's not some rune, or set of runes, that you could add?" Hermione said hopefully.
"Are you sure you want to share dreams, or do you just want more tattoos?"
"Why would I want more tattoos?" Hermione demanded. She wilted at the look she got for that. "Well, won't I get more if this ceremony comes off? I assume that's what was meant by pain being involved, and I don't need many more than what I have."
"Yes, there will be ritual tattoos and scarring, and some cutting for blood, involved. As for why I asked. . . . No offense, but after a few minutes, you really seemed to enjoy the process. There's no shame in that," he hastened to assure the embarrassed teen.
"I did enjoy it, but I'm not a masochist, or an exhibitionist for that matter."
"Then why did you enjoy it?"
Hermione averted her eyes and admitted, "Because you were the one touching me. You were the one I was exposed to."
"Oh. . . ." Tom said, startled. "That's something I didn't expect."
"I'm sorry. . . ."
"Don't be. I mean that."
Hermione looked into his eyes, hoping.
"No," Tom said firmly, "you know it's impossible now."
Hermione admitted, "You're a teacher. . . ."
"And you're underage -- well, at least under most Muggle laws -- and I'm twenty-one years older than you," he reminded her. "It couldn't work, even if I were in Lloyd's position instead of a teacher at your school."
"At least you're not my teacher."
"A distinction that doesn't matter, as you well know." They sat in silence for almost five minutes.
Finally, Tom stirred. "As far as the first problem goes, I need to do a little research. There might be a solution. As for the second . . . no matter what happens over the next two years, barring a complete disaster, I will be at the Leaky Cauldron on the third Saturday of August in the year 2000. If you're still interested then, meet me there at Four o'clock. We'll see if anything is possible at that point."
"What do you mean, 'why'? You know why we shouldn't meet before then. Even after you leave Hogwarts, you would need some exposure to life before even thinking of getting involved with someone so much older than you."
"No, why would you want to meet me?"
Tom looked her in the eye. "Because you're everything I ever dreamed of in a woman, except that you're too young. You're intelligent, inquisitive, caring, and beautiful. If you were a nineteen-year old volunteer for the cause, I'd take you to bed this instant, despite the age difference, because I find you very attractive and yes, I really like you. That would probably be a mistake on both our parts, by the way, since we don't know each other very well."
"Oh. . . ." Hermione said in a small voice.
"So, if you're still interested in just over three and a half years, I can wait. If it works out, we could still have over a hundred years together."
"Why not a Saturday in July, then?"
"All right, second Saturday in July then."
"Until then, everything is up to you," Hermione said.
Tom stood and held out his hand. Hermione took it and stood.
"Until July, 2000," Tom murmured. He squeezed Hermione's hand and lightly kissed her.
"Until then," Hermione agreed, smiling broadly, dropping her hand. The two went back into the mountain.
Early that afternoon, a larger group assembled in the parlor. Tudor was back and Percy Weasley was present, as was a very wild-looking warlock.
"This is Cadfael ap Tudur ap Mawrth ap Rhys, a chief druid, speaker for the Danadl clan, and a leader of the Hidden, holders of the Heart of True Belief," Henry said, introducing the warlock.
"It is good to see you again, Tabitha," Cadfael said. He spoke with a standard Canadian accent, but it was obvious that he hadn't spoken English recently.
"And you. Thank you for helping us." She turned to the British teens. "The Hidden rarely concern themselves with what happens in the wider world."
"True," Cadfael agreed. "However, the dementors should have been destroyed long ago. Their alliance with this so-called Dark Wizard gives us a chance to deplete an old enemy, and me a chance to help some old friends. And of course I wanted to meet Mister Potter, here."
He turned his attention to Harry. Luna and Ron shuddered. There was something very remote about this druid. He was not evil, or even amoral. Still, they could feel he stood apart from the rest of humanity, or at least the vast majority of humanity. Had they known the Muggle comparison, they would have said he observed them as a scientist watched rats in a maze. Luna, who could See deeper than Ron, Saw a being with nearly as much knowledge as Tabitha Spellman, with nearly as much raw power as Harry, and a raw intelligence which could easily match if not surpass anyone else in the room. She could also See that he had perhaps as much Sight as she did.
Cadfael could feel Luna reading him. He glanced at her, which made her recoil a little, and then turned back to Harry, who stood and returned the powerful stare as an equal, blocking the line of sight to Luna. "Mister Potter. You have chosen to become a spiritual warrior. I shall help you gain the power to defeat the dementors and to destroy this Voldemort. If you agree, however, that does imply you will be willing to dedicate your life to fighting such evil."
"So to win, I have to give up my life?" Harry asked.
"No, no you do not have to become some sort of fighting hermit. Think, Mister Potter. . . ."
"Thank you. You may all just call be Cadfael. Harry, even if you had destroyed Voldemort last June, could you have just retired from your world?"
"I could hope I could at least lead my own life, couldn't I?" Harry said in a mournful voice.
"You could hope, but you know in your heart that is all it would ever be. You're a very active, caring person -- that is one of your strengths as a person."
Cadfael studied Harry a little more, then added, "All people have a fate, Harry. For most, it is to live in relative obscurity, find a little love and satisfaction if they are lucky, and then die. Some people struggle against their fate, as you are now. Some embrace their fates and even push it to extremes, as Tom Riddle did. We believe your fate to be a hard but satisfying one, Harry. Drive some of the evils from your world. Make life a little safer for those people, Muggle and magical, who are the little people who have no dreams other than to get through life with as little pain as possible. Help us destroy, or at least deplete, the dementors, and we will help you destroy this Voldemort."
"How would I hurt the dementors?"
"The ritual Lawrence told you of will give you the power to command the dementors. Your command will send them into one of these." Cadfael held out a hand-carved stone bottle. "When that happens, any souls they have captured will be released. The dementors will then be transported to a holding place we have set up, connected to the capture bottles. Then, we shall destroy any sent to us." As an afterthought, he added, "It will only work on dementors, ghosts, and similar entities."
"It's possible the dementors will leave Voldemort's service once you capture the first few," Tom added.
"I can't destroy them like you did?" Harry asked Tom.
"That would take three months of training, after reaching a level of religious consecration which cannot be hurried," Tom answered.
"Lawrence is the only person I know of outside my fellow druids, some masters in Buddhist and Hindu temples, and a few African tribal wizards who can do what he did at your family's house," Cadfael said.
"And you will destroy the dementors sent to you?" Tudor asked. "And by 'you' in both cases I mean the Hidden druids."
Cadfael smiled. "Myrddins do not trust the Hidden. The Hidden do not trust the Myrddins, and so it has been since the one you call Merlin himself. That is actually a good thing. If ones such as this Myrddin, or those very few such as Dumbledore, Tabitha here, or especially you, Harry, were all of the Hidden, we would be so powerful as to throw the balance of the world out of order."
Cadfael turned to Tudor and spoke so rapidly in Old British that Hermione and Luna could only catch a few phrases. What he said satisfied Tudor, however, who bowed slightly.
Cadfael turned to Harry. "Do you accept Thomas Lawrence as the caster of the power, the consecrator of your community?"
"Do you accept Hermione Granger as your center, your heart, as one you would trust with your very soul?"
"Do you accept Tudor Myrddin as the protector of your community and as you guide?"
"Do you accept Tabitha Spellman, Sabrina Spellman, Henry Dorff, Lloyd Trowbridge, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Percy Weasley, Ronald Weasley, and Ginevra Weasley as your community?"
Cadfael then went and asked each of the others for their pledge of loyalty to Harry. They all gave it.
Cadfael then handed Harry a long piece of parchment. "Tell me, as I name the names again, which term or terms describe each person. As I call your name, please step forward. I shall take a fluid ounce of your blood. When this ceremony is over, next Tuesday, you will be bound together. Harry will draw strength from you. You must be strong for him, so that he may be strong for all of you and your worlds. If any are not certain, speak now. Even death cannot spare you these responsibilities once you have sworn. When you die, your powers will stay accessible to Harry. Only his death can totally release you, and if you are in any way responsible for his death, you will suffer agony for a century. Even if you die, you will suffer as a ghost until your century of agony is over. Does anyone wish to quit?"
Percy felt more than one set of eyes on him, but he merely lifted his chin and shook his head. It was time to reclaim his position as a Weasley, as a Gryffindor, as a person on the right side, by doing what he knew was right, not what the rules said was correct.
Harry conferred with Cadfael for a few minutes about wording his responses, and then they began.
"Thomas Lawrence, caster."
"I claim you as a mentor and friend of my family." They touched the tips of their wands together, and then Harry touched the tip of his wand to Tom's forehead and heart, as Harry would do with each person in turn.
Cadfael drew the blood and put it in a gold cauldron, as he would for the others as well.
"Tudor Myrddin, protector."
"I claim you as a mentor, as a sworn protector of a friend, and friend of my family."
"Hermione Granger, center."
"I claim you as a mentor, as a sister of my heart although not of my blood, as my friend and companion, and as a sister of my beloved although not of her blood."
"I claim you as my beloved and my friend and companion."
"I claim you as my brother, although not of my blood, and as my friend and companion."
"I claim you as my sister, although not of my blood, and as my friend and my companion."
"I claim you as my companion, and as my friend since infancy."
"I claim you as a sworn protector, as a mentor, and friend of my family."
"I claim you as a mentor and friend of my family, and as a sister, although not by blood, to my mother."
"I claim you as a mentor and friend of my family."
"I claim you as blood daughter to one who is a mentor and friend of my family, and who was a sister, although not by blood, to my mother."
"I claim you as blood brother to those who are a brother and sister to me, although not of my blood."
Cadfael drew the last of the blood, and then looked at Harry. Harry held out his wrist. Cadfael cut it as he had the others, and then sealed the cut. He added Harry's blood to the cauldron. "Tabitha, Thomas, please assist me in the potions lab."
The trio started to exit. Cadfael stopped by the door. "Drink nothing with distilled alcohol in it. Try and take at least five minutes today to think about each person -- that's five minutes or so per person. If you do not know someone, introduce yourself. You shall be as close as a family should be for the rest of your lives now."
Percy winced at that. When they were gone, he took a deep breath and went over to Ron and Sabrina. "Hello, I'm Percy Weasley. I understand you're a good friend of my brother's."
Hermione knocked lightly on the ajar door. "Come in, Hermione."
"Harry said you wanted to see me?" Hermione said hopefully.
"Yes. I need to outline the twelve runes we'll be needed for the ceremony. Harry will need the same number as well, and I just finished him," Tom told her.
"Where will they go?"
"Normally, they'd go over the heart. However, since you and Ginny already have tattoos there, they'll go over the ribs under your left arm for all of you."
Hermione pulled off her jumper and started to unbutton her blouse. "Are you sure you're not just doing this to see all of us topless?"
"I've dreamt about Tabby topless since we were twelve, but it's merely a bonus. An especially welcome one in your case, if you don't mind my saying so."
Hermione took off her bra. "I should be embarrassed, but I'm not with you."
"Thank you. Lift your arm." He started to draw with a set of Muggle markers.
"Do you do this other than for ritual purposes?"
"I have," Tom admitted. "I even worked in a Muggle tattoo shop just outside of New Orleans for six months, and actually took a year to bum around the Muggle world, doing tattoos and piercings."
"I'll be certain to use you for all my piercing needs."
"I wish I never had to mar your perfect skin, but if you really want me to, I will."
Hermione blushed slightly. "Really? You'd prefer me unmarked?" She had thought perhaps tattoos and piercings appealed to him.
"I would prefer you only marked by necessity," he told her. "I can add the tattoo for the dreamwalking. I was afraid it might interfere with the ceremony, but Cadfael assures me it won't. The one I'd like to add will allow entrance at first only to those dreaming in physical contact with you. Only when that connection is made can they then make regular contact. We should wait, however. It's possible that the connections Luna and especially Harry will have with you after the rituals are complete might be enough to allow dream contact in any event."
"All right. I'll do my best to leave the rest of my skin unmarked for you." She smiled. "You could pierce my ears, though."
"I will before we leave. There, I'm done. Lie on the sofa with your arm over your head until it drys."
"All right. Do you know this Cadfael very well?"
"Not very well, but well enough. He was in the same druidic training cohort as Henry and Tabitha, a year ahead of me. He was sort of interested in Tabby, but as strong as her pull was, she wasn't interested in him other than as a friend. He buried himself into the mysteries the Hidden druids love to study. He has risen very high, very fast. I studied with the Hidden twice, and both times he was always around. Like Tudor, I generally don't trust the Hidden, but he comes closest to being trustworthy."
"Could that be because you actually know him as a person?" Hermione suggested.
"No, I know about a dozen others more or less as well. I don't trust their agendas. He's the only one of them that I know who sees the rest of the world as something worthwhile, inferior to his own, but worthwhile on its own terms."
"They're not known as cultural relativists, I take it?"
"Not at all."
"Are you sure you're ready to wait another 1290 days?"
"I'm sure we should wait. Just imagine how thrilled your parents are going to be should you bring home someone just a few years younger than they are."
"I think by that point they'll be happy to see nearly anyone, and while you might be thirty-eight, you look well under thirty, so it won't be quite as shocking as it could be."
"You may be correct. In any event, put your blouse and jumper back on and get out of here before we start flirting. I'll see you at dinner."
Hermione made a show of doing just that, and then moved towards the door. "See you in 1290 days."
"I'll see you many times before then, and it's now 1289 days, twenty-three hours and forty-eight minutes. Do try and be prompt."
"I shall, Professor, I assure you," Hermione said in her poshest accent and with a wonderful smile.
Once she left, Lawrence leaned his head against the wall and said to himself, "Tom, if you get caught with these thoughts, you are sooooo screwed."