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, most of the Ritual is ...
Friday, December 27, 1996
"Good morning," Ginny whispered in Hermione's ear.
"Ah, good morning," Hermione replied, stretching as she remembered who was with her.
"It's going to be a hard day today, isn't it?" Ginny asked in a slightly frightened voice.
"No, just tiring," Hermione assured her. "I think the tattooing starts later on."
"Oh. I'm not looking forward to it, no matter when it starts."
"It won't be as bad as the first time."
"But this time, we know what we're getting in to," Ginny stated.
"Good point." Hermione smiled grimly. "It won't be nearly as extensive for you this time, and it won't be in as sensitive an area."
"That's good. Neville wasn't thrilled by what we had done."
"Did it turn him off?"
"A little, I think, but he's used to it now."
From 9:00 in the morning until 6:00 that night, Cadfael and Tom cast spells in ritual magic over the others, with very few breaks allowed. It was tiring to go through, and when they were finished, Cadfael, Tabitha and Tom checked on the potions.
"Enjoy your dinner. Eat nothing afterwards, and drink only water," Cadfael commanded on his way out. "Don't even brush your teeth in the morning. I will see to the administration of the first potions, and then after tomorrow I shall leave you in capable hands of Brother Thomas. I shall return next Tuesday to administer the final bindings and the final potion."
From 7:30 until 10:00 the next morning, the group went through more rituals, and only then drank the potions. Next, Cadfael and Tom arranged couches around the exercise area and then the group disrobed down to 'muscle' t-shirts and either sweat pants or shorts, which would allow Tom enough space to work on their rib cages. Hermione and Harry, however, had to be shirtless, to leave enough skin exposed. The nine points all faced outwards in a circle, while Harry, Tudor, and Hermione formed a triangle inside the circle. Cadfael sat outside the circle.
The tattooing took over four hours in total.
As far as Harry was concerned, the only thing worse than tattooing was the Cruciatus -- each needle-mark wasn't bad in an of itself, but there were so many of them. He heard the sharp intakes of breath, the whimpers, grunts, and small cries, at each stab into the flesh of his friends and supporters. It made Harry more determined not to cry out himself. Tom also had to use a knife to create some small ritual scars, which was much worse.
The nine points suffered the least. They only needed two small runes tattooed into them, plus six small cuts, that first day, while Tudor needed three tattoos and six cuts. Harry and Hermione required one tattoo for each point, one each connecting them to the points and to Tudor, and two complicated ones connecting them to each other, plus nine cuts each.
Finally, after one final ritual and sips of a particularly vile potion, they were done for the day. "Make certain you read the instructions on taking care of your tattoos until they heal," Tom warned. "We can't use much magic on them; that would lessen the effectiveness of the rituals. Just remember, with nothing at all, it would take longer than two days to totally heal. Don't avoid each other. Harry, Hermione, try and have as much time together as you can. Everyone, go wash up. We're all hungry and there's a good meal waiting for all of us."
There was a soft knock on Hermione's door. She opened it, and saw Harry. He was dressed much as she was, in clean sweats and a muscle-shirt. "Hi, Harry." She had been thinking about getting cleaned up a second time and going to sleep early. She was nearly exhausted from the ordeals of the day.
"Are you just going to stand there?"
"Thanks." Harry came in, looking rather uncomfortable.
"What can I do for you, Harry? It's been a very tiring day for everyone, especially the both of us."
"May I stay tonight?"
"What? Harry. . . ."
"I am supposed to have as much contact with you as possible until the ritual is completed," Harry reminded her.
"She's probably asleep by now -- and she did suggest I come over."
"But why didn't. . . ."
"I think because she was so tired. Even though we had the worst of it in one sense, she was so in tune with everyone's emotions, I think it was actually more stressful for her, if less painful. She said we would probably want to sit up a bit and talk, and she wanted to sleep."
"We can talk, Harry, but you should go back there to sleep."
"Not without you." Harry smiled. "I have my orders."
Hermione frowned, but then smiled. "Fair enough."
Harry sat next to his friend. "Was this worse than the first time?"
"Only because I knew what was coming. The first time was more extensive, and on much more sensitive areas." She sighed. "I hope there won't be any more after Tuesday."
"I hope not, either." He frowned. "Other than the actual physical . . . change, have you felt different because the first set of tattoos?"
"Well, Tom . . . Professor Lawrence and Professor Spellman both tried to cast the Imperius Curse on me, and I didn't feel a thing. Master J will try in January."
They sat in silence for a few moments, then Harry asked, "I meant to ask Professor Lawrence, but you probably know. Won't Ron and Sabrina's being so far away make it harder for this to work in the field, so to speak?"
"Yes and no," Hermione replied. "It will put your drawing power from them on a bit of a time drag -- remember most magic doesn't travel very fast, and no-where near the speed of light. And the distance will weaken the amount of power you can draw -- a lot of it will dissipate in getting the power to you. But it will work the other way as well. If you're hit with a major curse, maybe even the Killing Curse, not only will it be split amongst everyone, it will be drawn towards the most distant points, and a lot of its power will go that way."
"Maybe," Hermione said. "That's the most anyone can say." She took Harry's hand in hers. "What else?"
"I heard Ron complaining he won't be able to sleep on his left side," Harry said with a small smile.
"Do all Weasleys sleep on their left side? I heard Ginny say the same thing. I couldn't sleep on my tummy for three days the first time."
"Neither could Ginny," Harry pointed out.
"Ginny can't sleep on her stomach anyway, so that didn't bother her, at least."
Harry frowned. "Why not?"
"Boys," Hermione said, rolling her eyes. She pointed to her chest and said "Sabrina is rather busty, but Ginny has as much here, if not more, than Luna, myself, and Sabrina put together."
"Oh," Harry said, blushing.
"You poor males," Hermione said in a teasing way.
"Think of where we were all tattooed. None of us will be able to wear bras for the next three days or so. All of us, especially Ginny and Sabrina, will be bouncing all over the place."
"Thanks a lot; now I won't be able to help but notice!"
"Come on," Hermione said, standing. "Let's go sleep over in Luna's room."
Sunday, December 29, 1996
Everyone was moving stiffly the next morning, especially Hermione and Harry. Harry massaged Hermione's back and side (except where the tattoos actually were), while she and Luna did the same for Harry.
The members of the group all ate large breakfasts. They would have six hours of rituals to sit through and six more the next day, although fortunately no one shift was longer than one hour. By the end of the day, Hermione and Harry were feeling the connections forming between themselves and between themselves and the others. While over half of the rituals involved the entire group, a third of that day's primarily involved Tudor or Hermione, and Harry, with the 'points' acting as witnesses.
Hermione remembered her objections the previous autumn about even learning about any ritual magic that involved blood. Those objections seemed far-away and irrelevant now.
That night, the teens all played a rousing game of 'double-snap' -- an American variation on exploding snap.
"Look at them," Henry said quietly to his mentor. "You'd never know what they've gone through just by looking."
"Henry," Tudor said, "sometimes it really shows that you didn't raise Sabrina. Look at how they're sitting. The three couples are in couples. Hermione is between Harry and Ginny. Every time there's a hesitation in her movement, or a twinge of pain, Ginny, Luna and Harry pick up on it, and both Ron and Neville notice some as well. Look at Harry. I have heard he stands aloof at school."
"Well, he does."
"Look at him. He's constantly touching Luna and Hermione, and they him. Not just as lovers, all the couples are doing that, but as companions of the heart. They are all more attuned than any group of teens I have ever seen."
"How many have you seen since you were a teen?"
"I have six children, although the oldest is Sabrina's age, and I have six wards," Tudor reminded his friend. Tudor and Gwen had taken in some of the British children who had been left without families. His only regret was that he hadn't been able to take Harry in as well. "Trust me, I have some idea of how they act."
"Well, this is good, right?"
"Is it?" Tudor teased as the teens relaxed between hands. Henry tensed as Ron kissed his daughter's cheek. "Having daughters is a real bitch, huh?"
"Yes," Henry hissed.
"Yes, it's a lot easier thinking of your son kissing a girl than your innocent daughter getting kissed. I wonder if they're sleeping together yet?"
Henry started to turn interesting shades of red and purple, so Tudor led him away, grinning to himself. While four of his wards had been girls (the youngest of his wards was now in his Seventh year at the Ysgol), all his remaining children were sons. It would be fun to tease Henry, based on his own observations and anxieties.
Two other adults had been observing all this. "Makes me almost glad I never had children," Lloyd said.
"Almost. You never wanted a home that was more than where your books are? Someplace with more than a crup to come home to?"
"I loved that dog," Tom protested quietly.
"I know, but I'm sure it's nowhere near the same. Don't you agree?"
"No. No, it's not."
"So, what are you going to do about the lovely Ms Granger? You know can't do anything for a year and a half at the least."
"Three and a half," Tom said. "That should give her some time to grow up a little, and maybe find someone else."
"Maybe. She seems to be the loyal and determined type, if she's made up her mind."
"Yeah, we both have so much experience with women like that," Tom said softly, if bitterly.
"None, actually, but we've known about every other kind," Lloyd admitted. "Besides, I've met a nice witch in Hogsmeade. If we all survive this, maybe I'll get to know her better."
Tom frowned. "How did you know?"
Lloyd smiled. "I've been almost as close as a twin to you for twenty years. Don't ask stupid questions."
"And what do you think?"
"She's smart, nice, cute, and has a nice butt and nicer legs. If she were nineteen instead of seventeen, I wouldn't have a qualm. Just remember, no touching."
"I will. Don't worry."
"I do have one question, however," Lloyd went on.
"Is that why you agreed she should be the center instead of Lovegood?" The center would, ideally, be protected, helping the champion keep in contact with the points and the protector.
"No, that was merely a side benefit I was happy to see. If Harry and Luna had been dating longer, then she might have been the center, but maybe not even then. The only person better suited to the job would have been Tabitha, and what are the odds of her sitting back in the castle?"
Lloyd merely snorted at the idea.
"You know you can loiter back in the castle, too," Lloyd pointed out.
"Are you daft, or merely being insulting?"
"From the look you're giving me, I'd best say 'daft' and leave things at that."
"Is . . . is Rina sleeping with Ron Weasley?"
"I'LL CASTRATE HIM AND THEN KILL HIM!"
"No, dear," Tabitha said, blocking his exit to her room.
"What do you mean, 'no, dear'!"
"First of all, Sabrina knows all the reasons why she should not engage in sexual intercourse. Secondly, she also knows that breaking the Maiden's Charm would be incredibly dangerous during these rituals, even if she were ready for that, which she's not, and she knows she is not. Third, she and Ron are so shy they haven't even gotten to heavy petting or partial nudity, let alone something like showering together or real sexual contact. I'm not saying their sleeping together is as innocent as what we did in our first two years of druid training, but it's similar."
"We were a lot younger, a lot shyer, and had druids looking after us."
"True," Tabitha admitted. "Now the others are a lot less innocent."
"Really. Ginny and Neville do just about everything a boy and girl can do without extra equipment or breaking the Maiden Charm -- and I bet her virginity will be gone within a month of her graduating Hogwarts, marriage or not. Harry and Luna are less innovative, but more sensual. Ginny and Hermione act much like Harry and Luna in bed." Henry looked very confused now. "Luna and Hermione are almost chaste. Luna, Harry, and Hermione are technically chaste, but there is an awful lot of non-sexual stroking and kissing."
Henry was so shocked he really couldn't speak.
"Come now, Henry, admit that had you had your way, we would have been much the same in school. And remember, I was that way in school, even if not with boys."
Henry was still trying to form words.
"We do not have to worry much about this group. The girls, and I do mean ALL the girls, know where to draw the lines, and none of these boys are going to cross those lines. There are plenty of teens who are not so responsible, but this group is."
Henry finally managed to form a word. "But. . . ."
"No, dear, no buts. I know most fathers, maybe all fathers, hate the idea of their little girls growing up and doing things with and to boys that they dreamed of having girls do with them when they were teens, but it's a fact of life."
He frowned. "But how. . . ."
"The girls talk to me a little, and I keep an eye on them. I am also a much better dreamwalker and dream-sifter than Harry or Luna, although I suspect Harry has more power in that as well."
"Seeing their memories, rather than their fantasies." She grinned. "Shall I tell you what our daughter dreamed about doing with the Blue and Green Quidditch team in the showers?"
"I came across that one last summer by accident, when I was giving her some instructions. I have to admit, I rather wish I hadn't."
"You are a voyeur."
"A little," she admitted, "and most of us with this gift are, from what I hear. And this vacation it's rather necessary. I'm sure I can trust them, but hormones are very powerful."
"So the reasons I don't have to worry are that the teens are totally trustworthy, and you're spying on them?"
Tabitha shrugged. "I'm a mother. It's part of the job description. Your mother gave me some very subtle hints about pleasing you, you know, and told me where she wouldn't interrupt us -- places where we could do all that we did but not really go further."
"She knew. . . ?"
"That, or she was an amazingly good guesser."
Monday went much like Sunday, although all the teens noticed that Henry was giving them strange looks whenever he thought they weren't looking. Even Ron and Neville noticed. It only made Ron nervous, however.
The group had more important things to think about than Henry Dorff's odd looks. Each 'point' now undertook their series of oaths. When the rituals were over, Tom, Hermione, and Henry were totally exhausted.
"Get in there and take a shower," Tabitha commanded.
"Why is everyone yelling at me this evening?" Tom complained.
"Probably because you've been bossing us around the last few days, not to mention all that torture you put us through."
Tom looked around to make certain no one was listening. "Don't tell the others," he said softly. "The tattoos don't mean anything, I just figured it was the only way I'd ever get to see all your tits."
"Ha bloody ha, very funny," Tabitha said drily. "I think Hermione's already too mature for you."
"Dammit, does everyone know my business?"
"No, in this case probably just Lloyd, myself, and maybe Luna, besides Hermione herself," Tabitha said. "I don't have to tell you what I will have to do to you if you touch her before she leave school?"
"No," Tom replied in an exasperated tone.
"Good. It's bad enough to have to worry about the three teen couples without having to worry about you, too."
Tom just snarled a little.
"Go on and rest," Tabitha again commanded. "You've done this brilliantly so far, you don't want to mess things up at this point."
"I'll show you my tattoo is you'll show me yours."
"Ronnie, they're the same tattoo."
"But. . . ."
"Ronnie, do you want to sleep alone?"
"Then my ground rules."
"All right. . . ."
"Of course, if you want to show me yours you may, but that doesn't mean I have to show you mine."
Ron smiled. Rina was at least a little more interested in him physically than Hermione had been, and being younger, she at least had some excuse, in his mind, for not going faster. They'd get there, sooner or later (hopefully sooner), of that he was certain.
Sabrina wasn't. She was waiting to hear if she would be allowed to join Ron in Harry's summer training. She (rightly) suspected her mother wouldn't let on until after the Yule holidays.