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Chapter Six: A Consummation Devoutly to Be Wished

"Alohamora!" Blaise said, pointing his wand at the door to his chamber.

Viktor Krum stepped across the threshold, wand raised, sharp eyes brightening as his gaze swept across the room to the tableau of Blaise Zabini and Ree Potter clasped together on the large, disheveled bed.

There was not much blood.

"Vhat happened here?"

Blaise indicated a smoke-blackened goblet that was on a small table in the middle of the room. The rank stench of polyjuice emanated from it. Krum whispered an incantation and pointed his wand at the cup, and then drew his arm back with a gasp of revulsion.

"Eediot! Vhy vould you--"

"Just tell me, is she going to be all right? Was it poisoned? She hasn't woken up since returning to her own form, and--"

"Shut up, cousin. You distract me," Viktor spat. "Hold up one of her arms."

Blaise did so, and Viktor pinched two fingers together over the inside of the unconscious girl's wrist. A droplet of blood welled up into the air and hung there.

"Lumos Constituere!" the young man hissed.

The droplet shuddered, appeared to spin in place, and then evaporated, leaving a reddish spray that ran back into Viktor's wand as a bloody glow. The glow traveled to his fingertips, and then flashed orange and faded as it flowed up the young man's wand arm.

"Eediot! Vhy vould you allow her to take such a potion? It contains no less than three addictive herbs, and some form of psychotropic mold. Vas this your idea, Little Light?"

"Merlin, no one's called me that since--"

"SILENCE! You vhil say nothing but the responses to vhat I have asked, you fatuous slattern. Tell me who did this to her. Tell me now, vhillingly, or I shall show you another trick."

Blaise shuddered. It dawned on him that contacting Viktor might not have been the best idea, but feeling Ree quiver and sweat as she lay atop him, he knew that it had not been his worst. "She chose to play Draco's game, Viktor. No one forced her."

"But you didn't tell her the rules, not all of them, did you?"


"Come now, cousin, when has a Malfoy ever been totally forthcoming in his amorous dealings? Move," Viktor insisted, gently holding Ree's head as Blaise scooted out from under her, pulling his dark auburn locks free of the girl's clammy flesh as he did so. "And you say you are her friend. You tell me, 'I love her'. You are despicable."

Blaise found his robe, but said nothing. I can't explain this, not even to myself, he thought. A tear threatened to fall from his eye, but before he could wipe it away, Viktor's hand grabbed his wrist.

"If that's remorse, I can use it," he said, pressing a phial to Blaise's face. "Cry it all out, Little Light. Do some good this day."

It was good, wasn't it? He was everything I thought he would be, wasn't she? Certainly, the experience was worthy enough currency to accept in exchange of the life-debt she owed me, wasn't it? Draco asked, himself, pulling at his hair.

"Then why do I feel . . . emptier? lonelier? filthier than I've ever been in my life?" he cried, sliding down the door to his bedroom. "Oh, gods, Harry, oh, gods . . . I'm so sorry, so sorry. I didn't want to hurt you. I didn't mean to make it . . . be like that. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know what I was doing."

He melted as a puddle of shame and dread and woe into the thick silver carpet underneath himself, unable to do anything but hiccough a wracked breath through his sobs when it was most needed.

I can't love her. I can't hate her. What does that leave for me to live on?

Black rage threatened to boil out of Ron's heart and run out of his ears. He wanted to smash something. No, to kill something--someone. I'm coming for you, Malfoy, he promised the absent man.

Hermione came into the common area of Novitiate One, to where Ron had fled after Viktor Krum had brought Ree home. She froze in the doorframe, afraid to disturb her . . . boyfriend. She loved Ronald Weasley with a dedication that nothing could overmaster. But she had not been certain if he felt the same, for he had never told her. And his reaction to Ree when Viktor had brought her home . . . . A tear slid down her cheek. It doesn't matter. He's with me. If Ree wanted him--it doesn't matter!

"Is that you, Mione?" Ron asked hoarsely.


"What is it? Is Harry--"

Hermione quickly wiped the tear away. "Oh, she'll be . . . she's . . . ."

"Why are you crying?" Ron asked, crossing the room and taking Hermione into the shelter of his arms.

"Couldn't I be crying over what happened?" she asked, a little sharpness infecting her tone.

"You're not, though."

"You love her, don't you?"

Ron pulled away from Hermione slightly, astonished. "Of course I love Harry, Hermione!"

The young woman tried to struggle free of Ron's tightening grip. "Fine. I understand. I won't get in--"

"For the smartest witch ever, you really are the silliest widgeon, you know that?"

"How dare you speak--" the medi-witch-in-training began, only to be interrupted by the steadfast press of Ron's mouth against her own.

He broke the kiss first. "I love Harry because she's my best friend, Hermione, but you're the girl whose eyelashes I'm always going to feel tickle my knees when she looks at me. You're my strength. You're the woman I love--you, and no other."

Alastor Moody, passing by in the corridor and unaware, as yet, of the more serious drama involving one of his novices, found himself consciously forgetting his own injunction against fraternization as he happened to glance into the common room at the two young lovers. It's not like the two of them won't marry, after all. By the great fiery handbaskets of the Four Great Hells, I'd marry the boy if I were her after such a speech!

Harry lay, mended and clean and warm, in her cell at the novitiate. The potions in her system made it impossible to weave her thoughts through the loom of reason. The only threads she could grasp concerned Charlie--and a boy who was nothing like him at all.

"How can I act more like a girl should?" she remembered she had once asked Charlie.

"Well, you might begin by catching a boy when he's throwing himself at you."

You catch things with your hands, Harry thought.

She could still feel Charlie's massaging the soreness out of her thigh after a particularly nasty Quidditch accident, except the pleasure of this memory was intermingled with the pain of prying fingers piercing the same flesh--or was it? In her thoughts, the body she remembered possessing was harder than her own, but smaller.

But how is that possible?

She could not remember, but she knew that she had chosen it, maybe even wanted it, until . . . was that Draco's face twisted in rage?

Did I hurt you, Draco? "My fault--thought it would help you--"

"Shh, now. You need to sleep," a low, rumbling voice poured over her inner vision.


"Yes, Ree. I have brought you home."

"No! Severus can't know. He'll kill him."

I wonder if Hermione knows where her friend calls home? Viktor thought. Blaise certainly hasn't realized it. "Ve are at the novitiate, not Hogwarts, Ree."

"Don't speak of it. Don't say--"

"Do not exercise yourself. I have taken care of everything."


"Him, too," the wizard said darkly, thinking with distaste about the object lesson he had given his relative. Perhaps I have cured him of playing games with that Malfoy filth, he thought.

But he did not truly believe it.

Sirius and Remus flanked Ree at the long table of the Order's next meeting, three days after Krum had brought her home from going after Zabini. They were not certain what had happened to the young woman, but when they had seen the hollow look with which she had favored Zabini as he had come in with Longbottom, they had drawn the conclusion that he had been involved in whatever it was. The two men had silently agreed by glance that they would "mingle" after the meeting--take a walk around back of the novitiate, perhaps.

It might do to invite Severus along, thought Remus, gazing at Blaise as if he were prey.

The young Auror sat as far away from Viktor as he could, forcing his hand to avoid touching the long, newly silvered streaks that adorned his hair. He felt his heart push up into his tonsils when Professor Snape took a chair to his right. What shall we discuss at the meeting today? What shall we--

Severus took one look at Ree and stood up again abruptly. "Mr. Zabini, a word with you, please."

"You can have him soon enough, Snape," ground out Alastor Moody storming into the room just ahead of Dumbledore. "My novitiate lost two trainees last night," he announced.

"Silence, please," Albus urged against the resultant confusion. "Ree, please make your report."

All eyes turned to the girl. "I am no longer bound to Draco Malfoy in any way," she said in a quiet, clear voice. "As I violated Master Moody's requirements in freeing myself of the life-debt, I accept his censure."

"That is completely unacceptable!" Neville growled before anyone else could speak.

"How did you--" Sirius began to ask, but Remus covered his partner's hand before the man could finish his question.

Severus' eyes never left Zabini's face.

Albus cleared his throat. "Ree, do you no longer wish to train to be an Auror?"

"That is beside the point," she answered quickly.

"Mr. Zabini?"

"Yes, Sir?"

"Do you no longer wish to be an Auror?"

"I would like to continue to serve the Order and the Ministry however I may, Sir."

"Well, then, Alastor, perhaps--"

"No, Albus. I won't train the irresponsible--or the stupid."

"When we decided to look into a way to take out the Death Eaters, you told us that we were supposed to use our discretion in gathering information that might be of use. You told us to find out as much about the Malfoys as we could. Ree did that. Blaise helped her. Just because you disapprove of their methods--"

"Don't presume to tell me about their methods, boy!"

"I vould say that 'help' is a subjective term in this case, Neville," Viktor interjected.

Albus looked at Snape, who was drilling a hole through Zabini's forehead with his eyes. "That is enough, Severus. This situation does not concern us."

"The health and well being of every member of the Order should be our concern, should it not be?" the Potions master asked pointedly.

He still had not gotten over his irritation at Moody's assertion at an earlier meeting that a binding spell would be an excellent means of ridding the world of anyone bearing the Dark Mark.

"Despite Master Moody's objections to his trainees' behavior, I do not feel that they deserve to be drummed out. Surely, we can reach a compromise that would satisfy everyone--"

"Cozening the brats will get them killed, Albus. I will not allow my apprentices to--"

"Could we move on, please?" asked Remus, who was clasping Sirius' hand so tightly under the table that both men thought bones might be breaking soon.

"I will not move on. We need to deal with this situa--"

"Yes, let's deal with the situation," Harry said, interrupting Master Moody. "I can't speak for Blaise, but I've had enough of pointless meetings and 'training' sessions and arbitrary dicta. I'm done. . . . Have fun fighting evil without me."

Her words were still ringing in everyone's ears as the ozone-laced air that indicated a recent apparation assaulted their nostrils.

When he found her where he knew she would be some hours later, he asked, "What do you see?"

"A pale little girl with wispy black curls and bright green eyes."

"What is she doing?"

"Tickling her father's nose with a spray of flowers."

"Isn't Severus allergic to flowers, Ree?"

"I don't know, Albus. I expect he'd bear a great deal toward the collection of potion ingredients."

The headmaster placed his hands on the young woman's shoulders and squeezed tenderly. "I have failed you, child, and I am most sorry for it."

Harry leaned back into the enfolding paternal warmth of Dumbledore's beard. "I forgive you."

She saw the headmaster's tears slide through the reflection of her displayed desires and felt guilty for having accepted his unnecessary apology. She was no pardoner. But, patience fled and hope forgotten, forgiveness was the only thing she had to give him. And it was what he most needed.

They stood together for awhile, ignoring each other's tears, as Harry joined her husband and daughter in the field of flowers, and Albus eavesdropped on himself as he lost an argument to the woman who held his heart.

Both wistful viewers knew that it was a lying peace shown them by the Mirror of Erised.


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