Draco and Pansy start to learn from their mistakes.
Harry had been half asleep, laying on his back in a small private room off the infirmary, Hermione cuddled against him, asleep.
He was fully awake now. "Yes?"
"Am I dreaming?"
"No, you're not dreaming."
"Am I . . . am I dead?"
"No," Harry said, hugging Hermione to him, "you're not dead."
"Then why are we in bed together, naked?" She reconsidered. "Or rather, why am I naked while you seem to have your pants on?"
"That's a long story," Harry said, and he proceeded to tell her.
Twenty minutes later, Hermione was sobbing on Harry's chest. When Hermione's tears slowed, Harry helped her clean up and prepared to do one of the hardest things a man can do -- listen.
"I don't know which is worse," Hermione said, her voice quivering, "knowing I'll likely be dead in six years or knowing I'll never have children." She crawled back into Harry's arms and said, "Did I ever mention my sister?"
"No," Harry said, surprised.
"It was the summer before I turned eleven," Hermione said. "Rose was born when I was three. We were at a beach in southern France, and I was making this huge, amazing sand castle. I know now that I must have been using accidental magic to keep it together. My Dad was taking all these photos, and Mum was so happy. She was between seven and eight months pregnant. Anyway, Rosie was jealous that I was getting more attention than her. Ever since she had been born, I was withdrawing more and more into books, because she was cuter than me, and a lot more out-going, but this time, I had Mum and Dad's attention, not her."
Harry hugged her more tightly.
"So, Rose was trying to show off by swimming further and further out, and no one noticed she'd gone too far until she was in real trouble. Well, to cut the story short, she drowned. Mum gave premature birth to my brother, Hugo. He died three weeks later."
Hermione sniffled again but shrugged. "I'd always hoped I'd have at least two children. Now, I'll never have them, even if somehow . . . well, no matter what, I won't live to forty-five, will I?"
"No, but maybe," Harry said.
"You should know what I asked Osiris, in private," Harry said.
"You would want me to make a Horcrux?" Hermione asked. She was not certain that such a spell was as gray has Harry portrayed it. It seemed to her that killing someone, even someone who deserved to die and was going to die, to further one's own life was at least a little Dark.
"I asked," Harry admitted. "Osiris said that, for some reason no one has ever figured out, no woman has ever successfully made one. He said it made no obvious sense why the ritual seemed gender specific, but that it seemed to be in practice."
"Then why bring it up now?" Hermione demanded.
"I didn't; you did," Harry retorted. "Some of the Brothers, having failed to secure their loves'longevity via a Horcrux, came up with a solution mid-way between their existence and the semi-sentient existence of their mummified servants."
Hermione frowned for a moment, and then whispered, "The vampires?"
"Harry, it's illegal to be made a vampire in Britain, and illegal to make a magical vampire throughout Europe," Hermione responded, pointing out the first problem that occurred to her.
"Well, technically, it's illegal for a vampire to do those things here," Harry retorted. "There are other places on earth where it would be legal, and there is also the ritual that created the first vampires."
"That was lost a long. . . . Oh!"
"Exactly. Not lost, just not shared by the Brotherhood. Hermione, I don't want to lose you!"
"Would you become a vampire as well?" Hermione asked.
"Osiris polled the Brotherhood, or at least a section of it, last summer. I could be made a Brother any time after I turn twenty-four, although they weren't going to tell me until I left Hogwarts. That's part of their guidelines. Or, if you prefer, you could make me a vampire as well."
"Well, under the circumstances, there's not a whole lot of choices, are there?" Hermione said bleakly."We both know that the British Ministry will never allow a pure-blood to die to give a Mudblood an extra twenty to twenty-five years of life."
"Probably not," Harry agreed. "However, the Parkinsons might. Her parents are well-off, but both sets of grandparents are very wealthy, and both have other grandchildren. Her maternal great-grandfather is also still alive, and is supposedly the most infamous miser in western Europe. They might just be greedy enough to sacrifice Pansy for a large portion of their fortune."
"How horrible!" Hermione said. "I mean, I loath Pansy for what she's done to me, but I don't know how comfortable I would be in having her killed to extend my life."
"Well, then she shouldn't have attacked you with a Dark object that's so illegal it carries such a heavy penalty," Harry retorted.
Hermione was not satisfied, but moved on for the moment. "And what about us?"
"I had to claim you," Harry said. "The charm, in a sense, made me choose between you and Pansy's opinion of you. The potion only stopped the effects of the Curse because I claimed you, disavowing Pansy's interpretation. Hera was a goddess of married couples, after all, so the worst effects of the Curse are gone."
"How . . . how. . . ."
If it gets that far, well, your heart simply stops. Fortunately, it turns out Pansy really did not understand the use of the Daggers. She was envious of your status and what you've done, but there really needed to be an element of jealousy. If she was jealous of us, then you would have been hurt even more than you were."
Hermione took stock, and realized that except for some minor pain around her new scar, she really seemed physically fine. "And so what does all this mean to us?"
"Pansy means nothing. As for us, well, I wasn't about to take you as a slave, and even though I'm really fourteen, we weren't allowed to get married as I am not sixteen."
"Technically, you're my concubine, meaning you're married to me, but in theory I could take a wife once I'm a bit older. I can't marry you, and change your status to my first wife, until I'm twenty-one."
"When I'll likely either be dead or, well, undead."
"True." Harry sighed and said, "This isn't the right time to say this, but I don't know when it would be. You can't be Lady Potter unless we're magically married. You can stay Miss Granger or be Mrs. Potter, whichever you prefer."
Hermione's mouth quirked. "How about Mrs. Granger-Potter?"
"If you want."
Hermione closed her eyes, determined not to cry again. "My parents are going to have fits when I tell them all of this."
"Jason and Osiris are talking to them." Harry almost smirked. "I'm sure they'll make certain that all the blame goes where it belongs -- Parkinson, Malfoy, and British magical culture."
"Malfoy? Where does he come in to this?" Hermione demanded.
"Osiris plucked the fact out of Parkinson's mind that she got the Dagger from Malfoy. He didn't really know what it was, so she took it from him. She tried to get some others to use it on you, but when she couldn't she used it herself We'll decide -- you, me, Osiris, and the other Brothers, what to do with that information later."
"Typical of Malfoy."
Harry hugged Hermione tightly. "You need your rest, Hermione."
Tired from the healing magic and her emotions, Hermione hugged Harry to her chest, and fell back asleep.
To say that the Grangers were appalled, dismayed, and irrate over what had happened to their daughter would be a vast understatement. They knew little of Horcruxes or even vampires, other than the misinformation many Muggles had for those creatures of the night. That their daughter would never grow to full adulthood, would either lead a very short life or a very unnatural existence, was very difficult to absorb.
The fact that Harry had offered to split the blood money, if offered, any way they and Hermione wanted was of course of little comfort to the parents were already grieving for their future loss. In the end, Harry and the Grangers would decide to assign any money to Hermione to do with as she willed.
The next morning, Snape had just come into the great hall when he realized what was about to happen. Potter had come into the hall, and a smirking Draco Malfoy was making a bee-line towards the Boy. Worse, Potter had a fierce grin on his face that Snape recognized all too well, even if he had never seen it on this Potter -- James Potter had often worn it just before some major prank had been pulled.
Snape hurried towards their direction. Although still out of ear-shot, Snape was surprised to hear every word. He realized with a bit of shock that this had to be Potter's doing.
"Ah, Malfoy! Just the person I wanted to see."
Draco stopped in his tracks, confused. "Huh?"
"You must know all about what happened yesterday afternoon by now. So, tell me something, since you claim to understand custom and the pureblood families so well. You know, under the law, I can claim at least a third of the extended Parkinson family fortune, although we're trying for half. I'm told that's at least sixty-three million Galleons. Would you agree, or is the other estimate I heard, somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and five million closer?"
"What?" To say Draco was confused was an understatement.
"Well, let's say seventy-five million. A third of that would be twenty-five million galleons." Harry scowled at Draco. "Can you imagine, I mean really understand, twenty-five million Galleons, Malfoy?" Harry knew he was having a difficult time doing so.
"Of course I can," Draco lied scornfully. "The Malfoys are one of the few families richer than the Parkinsons."
"In Europe, at least," Harry agreed. "Now, I wonder how Pansy got a hold of a Dagger of Hera? Her family is pure-blood, but only five hundred years old and not noted for being overly-Dark. I had athought," Harry lied, for this had been partially Jason and Sirius' idea. "If the Parkinsons decide to pay instead of letting Pansy die, I think we'll kick back ten percent of their blood money in return for Pansy providing legal proof of where she got the Dagger."
Harry leaned into Draco's confused face, and asked, "Tell me, Draco, do you think the Parkinsons would turn over anyone NOT in their family for two and half million Galleons?"
Draco's normally pale face went so white that Snape was surprised that the boy didn't pass out. That meant that Draco had been involved in Pansy getting the Dagger of Hera. He might be concerned about someone else, but he would not have had that powerful a reaction otherwise.
Draco fled the hall, and Potter bowed slightly to Professor Snape before going to eat a quick breakfast.
Snape went to the head table, puzzled at why Potter would clue in Draco. Or him.
Then, he realized the answer. The Parkinsons would indeed turn over Draco's name for two and ahalf million Galleons. Snape admitted to himself that he was tempted to see if HE could turn in Draco's name for two and a half million. Draco would then, at a minimum, be expelled, and more likely have his wand snapped and be forbidden future instruction. Pansy would be lucky to get off that easily.
Pansy could still get married and have pure-blood children. Draco would not be able to take his place in wizarding culture without having at least a magical education through his fifth year, plus access to a wand.
Lucius would have to pay at least the two and a half million Galleons or whatever else the blood fine might be for the Parkinsons, and Snape shuddered to think what Lucius would do to Draco, unless Lucius had ordered this in the first place.
Snape did not think that was very likely.
Then Snape realized that, depending on the exact course of events that got the Dagger from Draco to Pansy, the Parkinsons could have good blackmail material. Lucius would no doubt end up having to pay much, perhaps all, of the Parkinsons' fines. Yes, the Malfoys were alleged to be richer than the Parkinsons, but not by that much.
Even if the Parkinsons only got two and a half million in hush money, Potter might consider that money well-used, as it hurt the Malfoys. They would not have that much actually cash available.
As for cluing him in, Snape realized that this was in part a warning to Snape not to get in the way. Snape's dislike for Harry went up a bit, but his respect for Harry increased even more.
Snape sat down to a hearty breakfast. He decided there was no use crying over spilt Malfoys.
Two weekends later, a Malfoy cousin showed up and spoke privately with Draco. The Parkinsons had ended up paying a blood penalty of just under thirty million Galleons. Draco would be marrying Pansy the morning of the following August 31 -- so there would not be much of a honeymoon. Rather than bringing a dowry, the Malfoys would be paying a bride price of ten million Galleons, which was thought to be a modern record.
The cousin was very clear. This was the last time the family would be helping him out of major trouble. If he made one more serious error, he'd be lucky if he ended up in an isolated shack with some surly tutors for the rest of his education.
Meanwhile, the rest of the school was trying to adjust to the new routines. Harry and Hermione(Mrs. Granger-Potter in class) were sharing a small suite of rooms attached to the Gryffindor common room. So far, Luna was the only student allowed into the suite, although Neville would be allowed in by Christmas, and several other students were given access in the spring.
Several students had tried to insult Hermione in those first few weeks. Strange hexes seemed to affect them, without anyone seeming to cast them -- some had their tongues enlarged; some had their fingers and toes fused together; Snape's greasy hair had turned a long, luxuriant, and vibrant red, with two long pig-tails; Marietta Edgecombe and Cho Chang had their eyelashes grow to nine inches long, at which point they had knotted together. Equally oddly, whenever one of these incidents happened, the same hex affected Draco (his eyelashes had bound him to Crabbe, to most people's amusement).
Despite everyone on the staff's best efforts, only Dumbledore was able to cancel these hexes. Most thought that was because of Dumbledore's power and expertise, but Dumbledore knew better. It was too easy for him to change the affected back. The hexes were designed so that he alone would have to take the time to correct them, as he was partially responsible for the chain of events which had led to this situation to begin with.
Dumbledore therefore took his penance without complaint.
Just as that chain of events had started at Hogwarts, Pansy Parkinson found that her leaving Hogwarts had left her and her family facing a number of unpalatable choices. Her family was split over everything concerning her, united only in regarding her as a liability, a spoiled commodity, well-dumped onto the Malfoy family.
Her mother's family had no further interest in her. Some of her father's family, besides being glad to have traded her to the Malfoys, also agreed to use her as a hostage to fortune.
In mid-December, therefore, she was turned over to her father's cousin Walden Macnair. He took her to a run-down mansion near the little Muggle village of Little Hangleton. From then until mid-August, she would be serving as nurse-made to a monster and his snake, and as play toy for the Death Eater in residence and any others. The day after her wedding the following September, she would be returning to the Riddle House, as Barty Crouch Junior was hoping to be elsewhere.
Macnair left Pansy with her new lord, grateful that he was unlikely to be called upon again until the following August.
For Pansy, the next eight months would be a purgatory which would sink deeper into hell after the mockery of a wedding. Not even the short appearance of one of her Housemates for two days over what she correctly imagined was the Yule holiday gave her anything but more work to do.
In South America, Lucius Malfoy dutifully passed on nearly all the information to his vampire contact, other than Pansy's change of location, and his knowledge that Macnair was indeed in contact with his erstwhile master. Like the Parkinsons, and Macnair to a degree, Malfoy was trying to keep all his options open.
As the holidays approached, Hermione would be going to meet her parents. None of them anticipated exactly how difficult a meeting that would be. Hermione would leave her parents house the morning after Christmas, and while both she and her parents would have been sad to know that the night before would be the last night she would ever spend under their roof, none of them would have been surprised.
Meanwhile, Harry had been arguing with Osiris, Tutmoses, and the First Acolyte.
"Harry," Osiris finally said with a sigh, "your spouse is a very brilliant young woman, but she has very little experience. I assure you, the finest minds of the Brotherhood have looked into this problem. We know the making of Horcruxes inside and out, as you might say. We have no clue as to why making a Horcrux seems to be gender-specific."
"And having the rituals in her mind could be dangerous," Tutmoses added.
"You know perfectly well that Osiris could lock it away in her mind in such a way as to make it perfectly safe," Harry retorted. "If she only works on it in our bedroom, without taking notes other than is a strongly-passworded magical file, it would be perfectly safe."
"Fairly safe," Tutmoses pointed out.
"Fine. Safe enough." Harry turned to Osiris. "What are the common factors of the great minds of the Brotherhood who have studied this?"
"We know magic better than your spouse will for decades, or even hundreds of years, Mister Potter,"the First Acolyte stated. "We know the ritual intimately."
"And what else?"
"I assure you, we have kept looking at the developments of magical theory, all around the world,"Tutmoses said. "Even the Brothers most against our being involved with the general magical world are interested in their ideas."
"I'm not surprised, but that's not it," Harry said.
The three men looked at each other and shrugged. Harry shook his head and looked over at Cobra, who was also present.
"I don't know what you're driving at, either," Cobra admitted.
Harry sighed. "What seems to be the problem? That the ritual shouldn't be gender specific, but appears to be so, right?"
"Correct," the First Acolyte agreed.
"Yet the only brilliant minds looking at the problem have been males," Harry pointed out. "A female mind, even one that's undertrained, might be able to spot something that none of you would, simply because she has a different outlook towards both language and gender in general than you might. If the problem is more fundamental than that, she probably won't find the problem."
The four men grimaced. The First Acolyte sighed, and said, "I shall arrange someone to teach your spouse the languages this spring."
"She can work on the problem this summer," Osiris added. "But why is this so important to you? She can. . . ."
"Become a vampire," Harry agreed. "How cuddly is a vampire?" he demanded.
"Usually not very," Tutmoses agreed.
Harry left things at that.
When Harry gently escorted Hermione into a carriage to carry them back to the castle after the winter holiday, he did not feel the hostile, calculating eyes glaring at them. Lord Voldemort's agent within the student population took the next carriage to the castle.