Chapter 24: Breeding

Tuesday, February 6, 1996

Care of Magical Creatures was a class that had dire need for a classroom. At least in the cold highland winters. Today, they were gathered in a stable that gave shelter to the thestral herd – great winged, somewhat reptilian horses that could not be seen unless the viewer has previously seen Death. Hagrid was lecturing on what that really meant: "… if yah'd seen someone die, then yah'll can see the thestrals. But even if'd yah can't see'm, yah can still feel'm. C'mon up 'ere ..."

Draco Malfoy just had to provide an elitist commentary. "As if that great oaf, mucking about with dumb creatures, could do anything useful!" His scorn was palpable, and Harry found that just the opportune moment to jump in.

"Why, Mr. Malfoy, isn't all your power based in biology?"

Malfoy whirled around to face Potter, his expression already set in an aristocratic sneer – or what he thought passed for one, at least. "My power, Potty, comes from being a pure-blood wizard. I know the right people, and can buy all the rest." His lackeys contributed the expected appreciative crowd noises. The rest of the class were starting to pay attention to the Malfoy-Potter clash, eager to not miss any spell work. (There was a rumor of actual fisticuffs a few years ago, but no eye witnesses came forward, much to everyone's dismay.)

"That's just it, Mr. Malfoy. Your power comes from your position, and your position is that of heir to your father, right?"

"So?" That was said with just the right amount of condescension – Malfoy wasn't butchering his lines much anymore. Not that he knows what they are; I'm just lucky he's so predictable.

"It's the biology that you should be aware of, Mr. Malfoy." Oddly, whenever Harry said his opponent's last name, it was done with … respect. Onlookers found it very odd, but they couldn't put their finger on just why that was. "You might want to consider just how your father would react if your fertility became an issue."

"What?"

"If you were no longer able, by whatever means, to sire the next generation of Malfoys." There was a sudden hush in the on looking crowd. "In my cursory research, I have found at least three spells and four potions designed to end a male's fertility – sometimes permanently. The booklet on maintaining family lines from the Ministry was incredibly helpful, as it highlighted several charms to beware of. Of course, your father would have to make his revenge public, obvious, and overwhelming; partly so any thoughts of further interference would be discouraged."

The male Slytherins hearing this sported a mix of frightened and speculative expressions. Harry continued, "That only means, however, that anyone desiring to end your influence will do so by attacking anonymously; or, perhaps, sacrificing their own life to take out an entire family. But in any case, your influence only lasts for as long as you can support your father's plans for a family legacy. And from what I've observed, you are not taking any precautions against this interference in Malfoy family business." Now their expressions edged more toward fearful; the female Slytherins were taking up the slack in the speculative emotions.

"You, Mr. Malfoy, have used your power and influence without regard to enemies you might have made. And any one of them could hit you with a spell, or dose you with a potion, that would end your power … forever. Your family influence, your financial power, your social position … gone in an instant. And even if you survived your father's wrath, he might limit your support by also divorcing your mother …"

The pure-blooded students were able to fill in the blanks for themselves (Harry had this explained to him by Sirius and then again by Neville). Given the emphasis on breeding, a child that persistently failed could – even would – be blamed on their parent. A failed child could not be replaced by a child that had the same parents, because that would be inviting the same poor breeding to fail in the same way; at least one of the replacement child's parents would have to be changed to insure a different outcome for the child of that Family. If Draco was disinherited, he would probably be joined by his mother as soon as he was cast out of the Malfoy family.

As Harry extracted himself from the crowd and made his way over to the thestrals, he noticed that most of the young men were pale, with a few of them actively looking around and appraising their dorm mates. For the female Slytherins, the proportion was reversed; most were appraising their male housemates and finding them wanting, with a few pale and edging away from their classmates in fear. Pansy Parkinson was in the latter group; Harry wasn't sure if Draco belonged in the majority of males or the minority of females. Either way, Draco was now absolutely scared, trying not to show it, and aware that he wasn't very convincing.

Nice is different than good. Harry smiled, petting the thestrals warm skin. Revenge may be best cold, but it was pretty darned satisfying when the bastards do it to themselves. And even good guys can get righteous revenge. Still, was Harry out of line in opening this can of worms? He didn't know.

Harry walked to be apart from the other students, and sank to sit on the ground with legs crossed. He placed his hands on his knees and exhaled slowly. In the back of his mind, he reached for the sliver of Presence that continually dwelt there, and he did his best to let it fill him.

Birds from the Forbidden Forest landed on his arms and shoulders. Fairies emerged from the long grasses, dancing above his head. And thestrals, the object of the day's lesson, invisibly emerged from the shadows around Harry, bumping students aside, to sniffle at his legs and hands. In the crowded conditions, Nott's and Parkinson's feet were stepped on, and Hagrid had to step in and forcibly move the steeds away from Harry. The class let out early, with male Slytherins leading the way back to the castle … clustered in a group that was clearly defensive.

-o-

Tuesdays were busy for Magic House, but … this really couldn't wait. Harry spoke to some second and third years in all the other Houses – he had to approach several from Slytherin House to find a cooperative one, but by 7 that evening, all the Houses has a notice posted in their common room:

A Notice From Magic House

There are several charms and potions that can protect male students from being the end of their lines. If you are interested in this knowledge, please contact Miss Granger of Magic House to receive copies of these protective magics, and tutoring if necessary. No money or other obligation need be exchanged for this knowledge. Simply ask and ye shall receive.

Not all students will have the education to use this knowledge. If you are willing to cast protective spells or brew protective potions for others, please sign below.

Hermione had insisted on adding the last paragraph, as the potions were beyond 3rd year skills. "What good does the recipe give them if they can't actually use it?" Harry had immediately agreed.

Hermione reported in the Lair just after curfew, "There was a long line waiting for me in the library where I usually study. It's a good thing we prepared ahead for this giveaway, 'cause I only have two copies left."

Luna asked, "Did wrackspurts overcome any Houses?"

Hermione had developed the ability to translate Luna-ese without becoming visibly annoyed. "Hufflepuff was first in line, and was originally very upset that we had this information under Fidelius. I explained that it was a pre-emptive measure so that everyone could access the protection, and they cleared that right up. I thought they were going to take all the booklets we had made, but when I explained what we were doing, they took only one book, and just had me whisper the Secret to everyone. They took care of copying the information around to their students."

Neville asked, "What about the other Houses?"

"Gryffindor only had a few representatives," Hermione stated, correctly guessing where Neville's interest lay. "All male, none from Fifth Year or below. Slytherin seems to be hanging back, in the upper years, with only lower years asking for books – I sent them to other Houses for help in casting and brewing. Ravenclaw was the House that took the majority of the books; all years were coming up to me like a bad spy movie, 'Hey chickie, ya got th' goods?'" Hermione spoke her impression out of the side of her mouth in a bad nasal whine. She shook her head. "I don't think that any of them were interested in helping other students, either."

Luna sadly agreed, "The nargles have infected them all, it seems."

Harry reached over and mussed her hair. "Good thing we rescued you before they got to you, too."

Luna smiled, but spoke on a different subject. "Hermione, maybe you should talk to Madame Pomfrey first thing tomorrow morning. She would be a good, neutral resource for those that can't cast or brew on their own."

Hermione nodded. "Good thought. I'll do that right before breakfast."

Harry was also in favor – it reduced his discomfort at the way this was all playing out.

-o-

Wednesday, February 7, 1996

There was an announcement before breakfast; all students had apparently been herded into the Great Hall as soon as breakfast began, leading to an unusual amount of noise. They were all hushed by Prof. McGonagall's presence at the podium.

"There was an unusual amount of magical horseplay last evening. The spells used are highly offensive and quite dangerous. This is what you will experience the next time you attempt to threaten your classmate: your wand will be confiscated. You will be confined to a three foot square cell until the Aurors are available to receive you. No food, water, or sanitary facilities will be made available during the time you still remain at Hogwarts; you will remain in that cell with no exceptions. And the Aurors … will be legally prosecuting all students turned over to them."

The students were dead silent.

"The use of magic against other students is forbidden, and I will be handling all disciplinary cases that arise, from now on. The kindness of the Headmaster will no longer save you from the consequences of your actions." A glance behind Prof. McGonagall revealed the sorrowful face of the Headmaster. Harry privately bet himself that his sorrow was more because he wasn't able to pardon offenders (and imply that they are indebted to him) rather than for the offenses that were going on.

Madame Pomfrey had arrived during the last part of the Deputy Headmistress' announcement, and she approached the podium herself. "If any student feels at risk from the magical attacks that began last night, please come to the Hospital Wing for some preventative charms."

In a whisper that entirely failed to be confidential, Prof. McGonagall asked, "What about … fertility assessments?"

The return whisper from Madame Pomfrey was similarly public. "Merlin, no! If those boys want to submit samples, they can do it at St. Mungo's! Not to me!"

The massive snort from the student population alerted the teachers that they were a bit less circumspect than they thought, and the morning announcements were over. The laughter remained, however. Owls were immediately sighted as the incoming morning mail was delivered, and a large number of letters were dropped off at the Slytherin table.

That evening, Harry sent a letter to Sirius, asking about some of the lesser aspects of the Fidelious charm. Hedwig was glad for the assignment, and Harry felt a little more comfortable with additional information coming his way. He wasn't quite sure why; he just felt that there was something important he wasn't paying attention to. But the letter would take care of that nagging feeling for the moment.

Sirius was probably going to be more interested in the war Harry had 'innocently' started; the conflict was (almost) exclusively between Pure-Bloods, as they worked to exterminate the future of enemy families. Not all enemies were political opponents, either; the rumors had it that Slytherin House was wildly dangerous for males, even though they almost all agreed on following the lead of Tom Riddle's ideology.

One enterprising Ravenclaw (7th year) took the sterility charms apart, and announced that one of the temporary sterility charms would protect against the effects of the permanent sterility charm: he was unable to find anyone that would cooperate for human trials, although he claimed it was "perfectly safe". When asked if he used this method for his own protection, he reddened and walked away – that was the end of that. The Hufflepuffs had put a House procedure in place by Tuesday afternoon, so that all males were given the protection charms as they left the Common Room. Gryffindors were following the lead of the other three houses, in that everyone was on their own to arrange protection, if they even worried about it.

Harry had a few stray thoughts about protection for himself and Neville, but it didn't concern him overmuch. With their Doors and other security, he figured he didn't have much to worry about.

-o-

Sirius' return letter came in the afternoon, delivered by a very fat and happy Hedwig.

Harry,

Seriously? I know you expect the name-pun all the time, but really … seriously? In all the confusion and jockeying for position that accompanies the rise of another (or even a recycled) Dark Lord, you drop into the mix the generational assassination of Houses? And try to claim, "It's not my fault?"

Brilliant!

You will probably see a solid twenty present of Moldy-shorts' supporters drop away from him over this – even more if any one of them has the backbone to claim a 'principled stance' against these tactics and isn't punished for it. I haven't found any records indicating that this tactic was ever used in any political conflict in Britain, so it will probably be a while before a coherent stance emerges against this.

Your best protection is one you already took; make sure that the opposition cannot lock protection information away from you. So – the Fidelious. I can't find any information on how magical power requirements change as the number of Secret-holders increases, and since I DO have information on other spells like that, you can assume that it doesn't matter. Also, there is nothing to indicate a 'shelf-life' for the written Secret, so don't worry about that, either.

While not suggesting that I am in any way involved, I have to report that on Tuesday, I witnessed Lucious Malfoy become unable to sire children. (That's the brownish-purple one, right?) Draco might find himself in a permanent body-bind and wrapped in cotton come the weekend.

I just can't get over it! You simply warn them of a weakness, and they immediately tear themselves apart exploiting that against each other! Again – brilliant!

Your very proud Godfather,

Sirius

Harry was glad to have the info about the Fidelious charm. Actually having Sirius be proud of him was truly a little irritating, as he was fairly sure that his new moral compass was almost opposite of his Godfather's inclinations. Harry frowned. Perhaps he should pay a little more attention to that … irritating feeling?

"Dobby?"

Pop. "Yes, Great Master Harry Potter, Sir?"

"I think that I need a box of salt."

Dobby's eyes went wide. Pop-pop. Salt was in his hand.

"Thank you, Dobby. I would appreciate it if you and Winky could clean the ritual room so that I could use it immediately after dinner."

Dobby was evidently ecstatic to be asked to clean, and began visibly bouncing – vibrating might have been a better word – before he popped away.

Harry had already attended Herbology, and decided to skip Care of Magical Creatures (in fifteen minutes) and Astronomy that evening. This was … just too important.

Where could he be alone – where could he be at school, but where the staff couldn't get to him?

The rooms are out, the hallways are out, the grounds are out … where can I go that doesn't involve me leaving the castle, but where the staff cannot go … obvious!

Harry opened a Door to the Chamber of Secrets, and spent the afternoon meditating under the gaze of Salazar's statue, which was fairly uncomfortable, and the constant dripping of condensation made it worse. But … Harry felt calmer, more focused, when he turned up for dinner.

A simple plate of very tasty Spanish dish – roasted potatoes and roasted chicken, over rice with tomatoes – failed to dent Harry's reverie. He completely failed to notice Luna waving off Neville and Hermione's efforts to converse, and left as bemused as he had arrived.

In his room, Harry changed into the white, all natural clothes he had last worn in the wee hours of Christmas morning. One Door trip into the Lair, one into the hall outside of 'his' ritual room. He inspected the floor and walls; no dust or markings. Nothing to keep him from beginning – which vaguely irritated him, as he wasn't sure if he should do this.

Well, he was sure that he should – he just wasn't sure if he would survive again.

Deep breath. "Dobby and Winky?"

Pop-pop. "Greatest Master Harry Potter, Sir needsing help?"

Harry smile involuntarily. "I just needed to say thank you before I begin this. You can rest well tonight, knowing that your help is much appreciated."

Winky teared up before Harry was done with his last sentence. "Winkys not to being thanked for being Good Elf! Why does Greatest Master Harry Potter Sir do this?"

Dobby was looking a bit alarmed, and trying to – vainly – shush his fellow servant. He finally put his hand over Winky's mouth and apologetically told her, "Masters always does what theys wants, even if not good for Elfs." He then popped away, distraught Winky over his shoulder like a bundle of laundry.

Harry was … quite diverted by this event, and it took a while for him to focus on what he was doing. Or what he needed to do and had procrastinated up to this point, in actuality.

He knelt, and began to pour the salt out in the circle for the final step in the ritual purification. As he switched hands to continue the circle on his left side, the room brightened and a tall figure appeared. Harry stopped and looked quizzically at the figure. It said in a strong, very mellifluous voice, "I am glad to see you asking for guidance, young Harry."

Harry studied his hand in the radiant light. The light was sharper than he remembered, the edges of shadows were outlined in a deep purple that was at the edge of his perception, and slightly hurt to study closely. He looked at the figure, outlined by the piercing light, and then …

… turned back to finish the circle of salt. The figure, amused, said, "That is quite unnecessary, little one. I am already here."

Harry took no notice, and put down the empty container as the circle was finished. On his knees, he closed his eyes briefly. May God send a messenger to direct me in correcting my mistakes and save me from the enemies I have found.

When his eyes were again opened, he stood. "You should leave now," he said flatly.

The response was amused, again, with more than a bit of condescension. "You have come to this place, in those robes, to ask for guidance, to know what you should do. I am here, in response to your plea, to tell you precisely what your actions should be so that you may be accepted of me."

Harry regarded the person in front of him. "You arrived before I made my plea – you cannot be here because of it. Your presence is … lesser … than the Messenger I have met with before;" the persona was growing visibly angry now, "you are not sent from the presence of God the Creator. You seem reluctant to identify yourself, you are clearly a fraud, and I am telling you to leave now. You are not wanted."

The anger that became visible as Harry pointed out the failures on his part had grown, and there was full-fledged fury as Harry stopped speaking. "I AM YOUR GOD, AND WILL HAVE YOUR WORSHIP," he cried, and Harry was desperately hoping that his circle, purified and blessed, would stand against this spite.

But it was unnecessary. "You have no dominion here, begone!" came from behind Harry, and Harry felt once again the peace and security that accompanied the Messenger. The harsh light that accompanied the imposter vanished with the end of the odd assault, and Harry turned to see the Messenger he remembered from his first prayer.

"You have moved into dangerous waters, Harry. As you have shown that you will turn to God for assistance and guidance, you are now marked in the sight of His enemies, and you will face them throughout your life. If you wish to turn away from God, be warned; The Lord God does not support those that have broken faith with Him, and you will be left to face the enemies you have made without Him."

Harry gravely nodded. As he expected, that first use of this ritual was a step that he could never take back or undo. He was committed, now, and had been since he had luxuriated in the Presence of God's Light.

He hesitantly spoke, "I have … made a right mess of things, and I believe that I cannot right what I have done wrong without guidance and assistance. Please teach me."

A warm feeling flowed over Harry, and the Messenger's formidable expression softened. A long conversation followed, Harry speaking very little and listening very hard.

-o-

After Neville and Hermione returned from Astronomy that evening, Harry spoke with Hermione in the Lair. "Hermione, have you noticed any magical drain as you tell the Secret to people?"

She frowned in concentration. "No, I don't think that there was one. Why?"

"I'm a little concerned that we need to step up distribution of the protective pamphlet. Sirius wrote me and he said that there are sterilizing efforts going on outside of Hogwarts."

Neville broke in, "Anyone we know?"

Harry tried – very hard – to keep a straight face. "Um, Lucious Malfoy, apparently."

Neville didn't try at all. "Yeah!"

"Anyway … I think we need to get the word out better. It's too late for some, but we could save others."

Hermione pulled a sheet of parchment toward her, and dipped her quill. "Well, we might be able to make a deal with Flourish and Blotts to carry it for a small fee, or maybe we could get Gringott's to distribute them, but then how to we get the secret out …"

Luna spoke up, "Put it on the cover."

"What?" Hermione found it difficult to jump trains of thought; Luna had no such impediment.

"Put the Secret on the cover of the pamphlet. The Fidelious is still keeping anyone from controlling the spells for themselves, but the access is free for everyone that reads it." Luna doodled a bit then added, "Or you could put it in a newspaper …"

"Yes!" shouted Harry. He was suddenly trying to do seven things at once. "Luna, would your father be willing to print a run of the Quibbler focusing on this? Maybe a double run? I'll cover the costs so he can give it away for free. Hermione, you may need to typeset the Secret so it can be printed. We need to check. Dobby!"

Dobby popped into view uncomfortably close to Harry. "Dobby, I will need to get a message to Luna's father as soon as we have it ready. Can you do that?"

"Dobby will be doing anything that Master Harry Potter needs him to be doings."

Harry looked askance at the house-elf's blanket declaration, but didn't want to argue. Dobby was quickly finding himself ferrying messages back and forth between Mr. Lovegood and the students. Hermione and Luna created a Door that led to Luna's home, where Hermione was required to both typeset the Secret and continually have a hand on the printing press for it to work. Fortunately, Mr. Lovegood only needed to print off twenty four "good" copies for his magical duplicating system to get to work – and it didn't have a problem with the Secret. (Everyone checked, multiple times. Magic didn't follow any rules that made sense. Luna pointed out, "It's magic, silly." Neville snorted, and Hermione blinked back her tears of frustration.)

-o-

Thursday, February 8, 1996

The Quibbler Emergency Edition was distributed freely at Hogwarts, and, according to Mr. Lovegood, all along Diagon Alley, in St. Mungo's, and at the Ministry. All the students seemed appreciative, and the Daily Prophet had nothing to keep people's attention once they knew that their protection came from another source.

Harry eventually gave up trying to pay for the publication. Mr. Lovegood refused all payments, stating that this was the best publicity that his newspaper could have gotten, and that he was actually a bit ahead, since his regular circulation had increased slightly, and the advertisement rates for the free issue had been fantastic.

Indeed, in the autumn of 1996, the number of Inverted Carrots, Whirling Beets, String Bean Pipe Organs, Multi-Flavored Pickles, and Muggle Turnips that were entered in Wizarding County Fairs hit a record number. (That last variety was quite popular, even though it wasn't magical at all. Magic seemed to adversely affect some people's taste-buds, Harry figured.) The Greengrass Seed Company – a primary advertiser in the Quibbler – did quite well for a number of years after the Emergency Edition, and Miss Greengrass was seen in quite upscale (and thus, expensive) fashions for the rest of her educational years.

Sadly, nobody at Hogwarts had the attention span to connect the two events, and Miss Greengrass was quite closemouthed about, well, everything.