September flowed in October, and October transformed into November, and Pansy Parkinson was getting impatient. Her target was remarkably difficult to pin down, at least with enough of a time span to strike and provide herself an alibi.
Granger was never really alone in the corridors of Hogwarts. Most often, there was a crowd around her; if not Potter was with her. Even in the library, when Potter was out practicing Quidditch, the Lovegood girl or others would be gathered around the annoying Mudblood. Even on the one Hogsmeade weekend so far, Granger had not ventured to the ladies' loo by herself.
Worse, Potter and Granger had become the center of a multi-house, even multi-year crowd. Not only were Hufflepuffs and even Ravenclaws paying court (in Pansy's eyes), so were a number of Slytherins! Unlike the year before, when the pro-Death Eater faction had held the edge in the Slytherin boys' dorms and the neutrals had just held the edge in the girls', power had shifted in both, to the neutrals in the boys' and what Pansy thought of as the blood-traitors in the girls' (they called themselves 'progressives, however), although the balance of power in both sets of dorms were very tenuous. Davis and Greengrass were dominating the younger students, male and female.
Pansy was uncertain about what to think about the Dark Lord. None in her family had ever been Marked, but her impression was that they had supported the aims if not the level of violence the Dark Lord and his Death Eaters had proclaimed. Now the pure-blood agenda was eroding away before her very eyes, and there was nothing directly she could do about it. She hoped, when she struck down Granger, it would send a stronger chill through the blood-traitors than the previous year's events had done. Vincent somehow ending up petrified had caused nearly as much confusion as real terror.
The Slytherin-Gryffindor game arrived, and Pansy knew she had no chance of approaching Granger in the stands. Pansy sat near one of the exits, ignoring the game. This was easy to do, even if Draco had managed to earn his position back as Seeker. Potter was not humiliating him as badly this year as the year before, but all of the Slytherin team was clearly out-classed. In the end, despite ever more aggressive tactics (ie cheating), the Gryffindors would win, 420-30.
Pansy shadowed Hermione back to the castle, but could do nothing.
Pansy then realized that the next week she might have a chance. Potter would be at the Ravenclaw-Hufflepuff game, along with the Gryffindor Quidditch team and most of his friends. Even Granger's shadow, the Lovegirl girl, would likely be at the match with the ridiculous lion's hat she was wearing today or something similar, as she adored Quidditch. Granger would likely hold up in either her common room or the library.
It could be her chance.
All she needed was patience, and luck.
Voldemort made himself stop shivering as he heard his loyal Death Eater return. Soon, he would be fed venom and the fire would be built up. That could wait; now was the time for news. "Well?"
"The plans for the Triwizard continue, my lord," Barty reported."The family elf gave me complete copies of all the plans for the Tournament and for the World Cup in August."
"Good. I have need of another. I cannot send you off to Hogwarts next year and stay here, any more than I can go there in this condition. You have the list?"
"Yes, my lord. Karkaroff may be willing to aid us at Hogwarts."
"He was the least trustworthy of those I Marked. Still, yes, Imust keep him in mind. Read me the list. I need to know who is free."
Hermione tidied away the books she had been reading, even if the library was nearly empty. She paid no attention to the two first year Slytherins, even as one slipped away. Hermione had heard the roar of the crowd even in the library, and knew the match was over. Harry would soon be coming in, and he'd be chilly. She'd stop by the kitchens for some hot chocolate for all the Gryffindors, even if she would hand Harry his mug herself.
Exiting the library, her head filled with dreams, Hermione was unprepared for the attack. She was flung into a wall, and then she felt her lower abdomen burn.
Hermione's eyes focused in on the sneering face of Pansy Parkinson, who snarled. "I curse you, Hermione Granger, for striving to be above your station, for claiming more than the protection of afamous House, and for trying to lead our year."
Hermione merely gasped as the pain in her bowels and belly intensified. Her hands went to the pain, and she realized they were gripping a knife handle. As she started to pass out, Hermione had only one thought.
She was fortunate to be wearing the charms Harry had given her which the Brotherhood had charmed.
Harry had strolled over to speak with Osiris, who had attended the match with Jason and Cobra and had been sitting with Dumbledore and Minister Bones during the actual match. Suddenly, he sank to his knees in pain.
The three ancients rushed to Harry's side, with Remus Lupin coming up from one side while they were followed by Dumbledore and Bones.
"Hermione's hurt. Bad," Harry said, looking up into Osiris' eyes with anguish. "Help me!"
"The warning charms?" Osiris asked.
Harry nodded, unable to say more.
Osiris touched Harry, while the concerned Cobra and Jason grabbed hold of their leader. The quartet disappeared before Dumbledore could come up to them. To the increasing surprise of the students, Dumbledore started to sprint towards the castle, followed by many others, especially Remus and Snape, as well as Minister Bones.
The quartet appeared on an alcove, near the writhing body on the floor. Jason grabbed Harry and threw him into Cobra's waiting arms and knelt briefly by Hermione. His expression was grim as he looked up. "She's been stabbed by a Dagger of Hera. My Lord, you need to get me, Harry, and Hermione to the infirmary quickly. Cobra, you need to find Asclepias, tell him about the Dagger, and then do whatever he says."
"Right," Cobra said simply, handing Harry off to Osiris and then disappearing. Jason gathered Hermione in his arms, and Osiris took them and Harry to the infirmary.
Placing Hermione on a bed, Jason commanded Madam Pomfrey not to touch the nearly-convulsing Hermione, then took Harry aside."Harry, this is very serious," he said. "I am going to tell you to do several very odd things. If you want to have any chance of saving Hermione, you must do as I say."
"All right," Harry said, steeling himself.
Jason conjured a small beaker, and said, "You must go into that toilet, and masturbate into that beaker."
Harry was speechless.
"Just do it. I know you're not in the mood, but the quicker you do it, the more likely Hermione is to survive. Use your Occlumency to block out everything else. I know this will sound heartless, but you must do it."
"I'll . . . well . . . right," Harry said, confused but following orders.
"I take it that blade is cursed?" Madam Pomfrey demanded.
Jason nodded. "Any treatment you tried would not only be ineffective, you then couldn't use it after the blade is removed."
"And that will be when?"
At that point, Asclepias and Scorpion appeared. Asclepias went over to Hermione and waved his wand over her. "Good. Whoever did this hated her, but did not feel the right kind of jealousy for this to be as quick-acting as it could be." He glanced at Jason."Harry?"
"He's working on it," Jason answered.
Asclepias merely nodded. At that point, a very winded Albus Dumbledore came into the infirmary, followed by Snape, with Luna Lovegood quietly coming in and finding herself a quiet corner. Cobra and two Druids also popped into the infirmary.
Asclepias barked out a command in Gaulish, and the two Druids went over and collared Snape. "We need to start what you would call anumber three saline potion base. You will help."
"And if I don't?"
"Then either you will leave or we will kill you."
Snape merely nodded and said, "The infirmary's potion lab is through that door."
Asclepias leaned over to Jason and whispered, "The Lovegood girl is here. Would she be a help to Harry?"
"I rather doubt it," Jason answered.
Remus, who had stopped to floo Sirius, and Madam Bones now entered, with Sirius right behind. "That's it!" Madam Pomfrey snapped. Awave of her wand closed the doors. "You lot! Over against that wall. Stay out of our way unless we ask for you."
The group stayed that way for nearly five minutes, the only sound Hermione's now-whimpers of agony, as she weakened. At that point, a rather red-faced Harry came out of the toilet.
"Success?" Jason asked.
Harry merely nodded. Asclepias grabbed the beaker and peered at it. "Good sample," he said. He started adding some ingredients from his medicine pouch while he chanted in Mycenaean.
"Come over here, Harry," Jason commanded. He set up a cushion on the floor. "Kneel here." Harry did so.
Asclepias handed Jason the beaker, who had Harry hold it in his hands. "Harry Potter, do you claim this woman, Hermione, as yours?"
Puzzled, but trusting Jason, Harry said, "I do."
A wave of Jason's wand put up some privacy screens, and then another left Hermione nude while a third cleaned off the clotted blood.
Harry flushed and averted his eyes.
"You have to look, Harry," Jason said firmly. "You need to pour athird of the solution around the wound and say in the Greek I use,'I claim what is mine from the goddess'."
Harry swallowed nervously, and as Jason removed Hermione's hands from the hilt, Harry did as he was told.
Less than three seconds after Harry was finished, the cursed Dagger lifted itself out of Hermione's lower belly. Asclepias flicked his wand, and the wound closed, although it was red and angry-looking."Place your right hand on the incision," Jason commanded as he took the knife away. "Hold Hermione's right hand with your left. Until I tell you otherwise, do NOT move your hands. Use your meditation exercises to concentrate on your feelings for Hermione."
As Harry did that, Asclepias managed to get Hermione to drink half of the rest of the potion. Jason adjusted the sheet up to Harry's hand and laid a towel over Hermione's breasts, and then removed the screens he had created.
Hermione sighed and relaxed from the effects of the potion.
"Hermione!" Jason commanded. "Tell us who did this!"
"Pansy Parkinson," Hermione murmured, and then drifted off. Asclepias took the remainder of the potion to the Druids, with instructions.
"Cobra! Scorpion! Fetch this Parkinson girl here. Unharmed,"Osiris commanded.
"Now wait a moment. . . ." Dumbledore started to protest, but the two had already disappeared.
"No matter what the Granger girl thinks she saw. . . ." Snape started to say from the doorway to the potions lab attached to the infirmary.
"No," Jason stated. "Hermione was not aware of what she said. The magic inside her, the magic hurting her, revealed the name of the attacker. It would not have mattered if she had not seen the attack or had not known her name."
"What do you need Miss Parkinson here for, then?" Dumbledore demanded.
"We need her blood," Jason answered.
"What!" Dumbledore, Snape, and Minister Bones all shouted.
"Without a quart of the attacker's blood infused into the potion our Druid friends are brewing, Hermione will die in less than thirty-six hours," Jason stated, which made Harry make a noise of anger. "Or do you want Hermione to die and Miss Parkinson executed for murder?"
"I doubt you could even get her convicted of simple assault on your evidence," Snape sneered.
"Considering how corrupt and bigoted magical Britain is, you are likely correct. However, Harry now falls under our laws," Osiris stated. "As Miss Granger is his, we would execute justice."
Before Dumbledore or Snape could say anything more, Minister Bones said, "It's only a quart of blood." She turned to Madam Pomfrey."Would that hurt the Parkinson girl?"
"Could she be given standard blood replenishers?" Poppy asked.
"Of course," Asclepias answered. "Well, after the blood is drawn off."
"Then no, it wouldn't damage her. I get the replenishing potions."
"This girl will soon need them as well," Asclepias said. Pomfrey nodded and the group relaxed slightly.
Asclepias took the movements as cover to quietly ask Jason, "Why is Harry holding the girl like that?" He did not know any reason for it.
Jason murmured back, "So Harry won't kill the Parkinson girl when he finds out how bad Hermione is cursed."
Asclepias nodded his understanding. Harry's skills and power were building, but they could not risk that being widely known. Even if they could easily save him from the Ministry, they would ask awkward questions better left unasked.
At that moment, Cobra and Scorpion returned with the protesting Pansy. "I haven't done anything! I have witnesses! I have an alibi!"
"Silly witch," Scorpion said. "We haven't told you why we were fetching you yet, so how would you know when you needed an alibi?"
Dumbledore winced, and thought yet again that perhaps Hogwarts actually did need to have a course in critical thinking.
"Oh, this isn't necessary," Asclepias said impatiently. Three waves of his wand and Pansy was immobilized, stripped, and spread-eagled six feet in the air. "We need the blood from her femoral artery, as close to her labia as possible."
"Right," Pomfrey said, and in seconds was drawing off the blood into a two-quart glass beaker. It only took a few moments to get the quart needed. Asclepias took the blood to the lab while Madam Pomfrey closed the wound, unfroze but lightly stunned Pansy, and administered the blood replenishing potion.
"The potion will be ready in a few moments," Asclepias said as he returned. "Hermione will need to be dosed five more times, once an hour."
"So she will survive now? Can we all go?" Snape demanded.
"You may go, but no, she will not survive."
"WHAT!" Harry had joined in Remus', Sirius', and Madam Bones'protest.
"Did you think Hera was a goddess easily placated?" Jason answered with contempt. "These weapons were created over thirty-five hundred years ago, and for over eight hundred years there was not even apartial treatment. This basic treatment took over fifteen hundred years to develop. The Daggers were the perfect weapon one woman could use on another. The curse destroyed the woman, decaying her flesh from the womb outwards. It would take a week to actually kill. The flesh would be rotted, but death would be caused when the blood turned to dust."
Jason placed a hand on Harry's shaking shoulder, and realized that it wasn't fear or shock but fury. "Hermione will never have children. If she is not given a second treatment, she will die in five to six years."
"The curse is driven by the emotions of hatred, envy, and jealousy," Asclepias said. "Parkinson seemed driven only by the first two. In addition, Harry has added a bit of his life magic to her healing, and he is very powerful. I would say she has five and half years to seven."
"But. . . ." Harry whimpered, his fury rushing away, leaving his concern.
"There is that other treatment," Jason said.
"And that is?" Dumbledore demanded.
"One ingredient would be Parkinson's life blood," Asclepias said.
In the stunned silence, Harry asked, "How much is that?"
"All of it," Jason answered. "If Parkinson is drained of blood, her life will give Hermione, well what would you say? Twenty more years is typical."
"Again, it would partially driven by Harry's life force as well as Parkinson's," Asclepias mused. "Parkinson's is of course somewhat inferior, but she is magical. I'd say twenty-five would be a good estimate."
"Out of the question!" Snape protested.
"Why?" Osiris asked.
The question quieted the room.
"I asked a question," Osiris said quietly. "Parkinson tried to end a life, and has dramatically lowered Miss Granger's life expectancy by at least seventy years, perhaps a hundred."
"Expectancy?" Snape spat. "Hanging around Potter, she'd have been lucky to have reached seventeen!" Before Sirius could hex his old enemy, Jason had simply backhanded Snape into a wall, where he collapsed.
No one seemed concerned, except for Dumbledore, who had other worries. "More to the point, Miss Parkinson is only thirteen,"Dumbledore pointed out. "No truly civilized society would execute a child!"
"What does that have to do with magical Britain?" Harry spat. "Why is Parkinson's life worth more than Hermione's?"
"The worth of a life cannot be measured, Harry," Dumbledore said,"especially when neither has truly begun."
"So she gets away with murdering Hermione?" Harry demanded.
"No, certainly not," Minister Bones stated. "However, I must say it is almost impossible she would be executed, or in our system, sentenced to the dementors, at such a young age." She looked at Asclepias. "How long does Miss Granger have until it's too late to administer such a drastic, and at best medium-term, solution?"
"Six months at the outside," Asclepias said. "I would really say it should be done by the New Year."
"And it should be pointed out that the Daggers of Hera are among the most heavily proscribed magical objects there are," Jason pointed out. "Their use does carry an international death penalty, and I don't know of any exception for children."
The shaken Minister ignored that for the moment. "As Miss Granger is Mister Potter's magical dependent. . . ."
"Actually, she is now his," Jason said.
"His what?" Sirius demanded before anyone else could. Remus put awarning hand on Sirius' shoulder.
"That is up to Harry. His slave, his concubine, perhaps even his wife. She is magically bound to him. He must have intimate physical contact with her at least once a week." Seeing Harry turn very red, Jason added, "It need not be that sort of intimate contact, Harry. That would be best for contact of brief duration, but it does need to be at least skin-to-skin contact. We can discuss the details later."
"But what to do about Miss Parkinson?" Osiris asked.
"Harry, as her protector, and even more so as her magical betrothed, let us say, can demand blood payment from the Parkinsons," Remus said coldly, surprising everyone. "What blood price should be paid for the leading student at Hogwarts these last fifty years, even if she's Muggle-born? What price to satisfy the Head of House Potter, the acclaimed Boy-Who-Lived, when pressing full charges will likely lead to the girl's execution, even if she is just thirteen? The Parkinsons must pay, if Pansy doesn't pay with her life."
"A complete freeze on all the Parkinson family assets until they are accounted for," Sirius agreed. "Then Harry can claim a third to as much as half, or Pansy's life blood. Let the Parkinsons decide which they value more -- their fortune or their daughter. If they try and flee the country, they lose it all, plus Pansy's life if they are caught."
"For two men who have always claimed to loath pureblood custom, you two seem to have an excellent grasp of its detail," Dumbledore complained.
"Know your enemy," Sirius growled. "Pure-blood prejudice rules wizarding Britain. One faction wants to kill the Muggle-born and subjugate the Muggles. Another wants to keep us totally separate from the Muggles and demand we keep the Muggle-born -- and the werewolves and goblins and centaurs and whoever else there is -- in'their place'. And most of the rest think of all these non-pure-bloods are just talented and exotic talking apes -- not quite nice, but useful."
"Argue somewhere else," Harry pleaded. "Asclepias, could you fill me in on everything I need to tell Hermione?"
"I should tell her, Harry," Asclepias stated.
Harry shook his head. "If I am responsible for her as my partner, I should." He looked at Asclepias and Jason. "You two are welcome to explain everything to her parents, though."
"Harry?" Osiris got Harry's attention. "Name Sirius Black as your agent in seeking justice from the Parkinsons. I will go with him, and then join these two at Mrs. Potter's family."