Plot, new characters, new magical terms and abilities etc. are my intellectual property. If you want to borrow then please kindly ask. JK Rowling's characters and Wizarding Universe are all uniquely hers.
Summary: AU: What if everything we ever read in JK Rowling's books was real – including the people characterised? What would you do if you found yourself caught up in that reality knowing what was to come? SSnape, CDiggory, OFC
Authors Note:It has been mentioned in the story but now I am noting it here. I am a fan of Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander'/'Cross Stitch' series and definitely was influenced by that in writing this story – i.e. the Standing Stones and travelling through time. But I also love Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' series and the tv programme 'Sliders' and the alternate universes alongside ours idea comes from there no doubt.
CHAPTER NOTES: None
This story is rated R/M.
Chapter 039: Next Steps
'Where is it… where is it…' Hermione muttered under her breath as she tried her best to look causal walking across the gardens to the side of the Great Hall.
Fortunately there weren't too many others about, but it still didn't hurt to be prudent just the same. She scowled as she looked down at the ground in the near distance. There it was – a shimmering black gooey mass. Hogwarts' resident know-it-all looked up and then around, just in time to spy Viktor coming towards her speedwalking. He might as well be exercising, dressed as he was in his winter workout gear, but she doubted that he really was.
'I thought you would be here,' he said stopping alongside her and stretching casually. 'You think Diggory is under the influence of a potion, don't you…and you want to get a sample of what he threw up last night.'
'You know me too well already,' Hermione said blushing.
'I thought you might want some help. Let's get what we can and then go somewhere to look at it properly, although I don't think the Library is it.'
'Why are you here Viktor? What is it to you if the Hogwarts Champion is potentially impaired by some stupid potion?'
'I care because I want a clean competition. If I win, let it be because I really was the best in every possible way rather than because I had an unfair advantage and kept my mouth shut. Diggory is the only real competition I have and from what I know of him, he has not been himself lately. He could get killed quite easily in this tournament even under the best possible circumstances. Whatever his problem is, it's going to get him killed.'
'Does your Headmaster know about this?'
'No – and he doesn't need to,' Viktor said emphatically as he leaned down during a stretch and scooped all of the black goo into the jar he'd taken off Hermione while they walked. 'I am not Igor Kakaroff, Hermioninny – I am my own person no matter what anyone else here wants to believe! I am more than the school I go to and what I've learned there!'
'Well that's me told…'
'If this is what I think it is, it will kill him long before the competition does,' Viktor observed as he did a fast series of push-ups with claps between each. He swatted the jar to Hermione who was retying the laces on her hiking boots and rolled it into her backpack.
'We need one of the Potions Classrooms,' Hermione said straightening up. 'But there's no way to get access without permission from Professor Snape and he'd have to get involved anyway.'
'He will have to go Headmaster Dumbledore and it will turn into something big…' Viktor sighed as they began to walk. 'We really need to avoid that. Can you imagine if your Ministry finds out? If it becomes a big deal here no way can the school keep it quiet.'
'I agree. Merlin knows we've had enough trouble already; we're lucky the Tournament has even gotten off the ground again.'
Hermione stopped suddenly and grabbed Viktor's arm. 'Jessica – she can help! She is a McKenzie now and the Highlanders don't have to answer to the Ministry!'
'The lady from last night? Do you think she would?'
'There's only one way to find out – come on!'
''So – to what do I owe this honour?' Jessica asked smiling as she opened the door to the shop.
Hermione and Viktor both began shrieking a mile-a-minute and were only stopped by a piercing whistle.
'One at a time – but come on in out of the freezing cold first!' the former Librarian admonished them.
Jessica led them to the flat she was setting up for herself separate from the accommodation Elio and Fergal shared. There might come a time when it would be useful so she may as well take advantage of owning such a large property.
'I…I don't know where to even start…' Hermione sighed frustratedly as Viktor reached into her rucksack and then placed the jar on the kitchen table. 'Thank Merlin you're here!'
'Let's start at the very beginning – a very good place to start...' Jessica sang.
'Wow – you have a really nice voice!' Viktor commented.
'Thank you Viktor. Now, what it is that you two are so desperate to talk to me about eh? Not my singing I'm sure!'
Her visitors could barely contain themselves as they sipped hot chocolate in her kitchen while she prepared a hot lunch for them all. The Durmstrang Champion and the Know-It-All Gryffindor looked at each other and then at Jessica as she put bowls of chicken stew and a plate of buttermilk biscuits on the table.
'It's about this,' Hermione said, pushing the jar forward as Jessica sat down. 'We think someone is slipping this into Cedric Diggory's drinks.'
Jessica paused for a moment and then found her voice. 'Are you sure?? How do you know – and where did this come from??'
'He threw this up outside during the Ball,' said Viktor. 'He was acting strange and so a couple of my friends helped me get him outside. At first we thought he was drunk from too much Butterbeer…'
'…but then once we were outside it seemed like he was almost losing his mind. He just wasn't the same person. One minute he couldn't stand the sight of Cho Chang and didn't want her anywhere near him and then he completely changed and couldn't keep his hands off her!' Hermione spat.
'That's not proof of anything in and of itself,' Jessica replied carefully, frowning as she looked at the jar. 'Where does that come into it?'
'Marietta – she said something that made me think: she said, "'Poor little Cho – how much did you spend on that lot?" Hermione answered. 'Cedric insisted that he'd only had one glass of Butterbeer before throwing up all of that!'
'And that's not pure Butterbeer, that's for sure,' said Vikor. 'I think it's why he's been acting so strangely.'
Jessica sat back in her chair and made a face. A multitude of conflicting emotions and thoughts threatened to overwhelm her as she rendered her verdict.
'So Cho Chang used a dodgy Love Potion to get her man,' she said with faint malice. 'Except it seems as though Mr. Diggory was never really that interested so it really didn't work. She would have had to feed it to him over quite a long period of time for it to have any sort of effect – and she definitely did for him to throw up this mess.'
The former Librarian picked up the jar and brought it up close at eye level. 'And that she did do – which is why he threw this up… and it's also why his behaviour and mental stability have been questionable.'
'And Marietta knew all along, hence her comment. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if she put Cho up to it. Cho's fairly tame by herself. She wouldn't have had the brass bollocks to walk into a shop and get it on her own,' Hermione said.
'If she really loved him, she wouldn't have done this!' Jessica hissed. 'Real love doesn't involve forcing someone to go against their will to pay attention to you!'
'People think I use them,' Hermione sniffed. 'They think I use them on Harry on Viktor thanks to Pansy Parkinson talking nonsense to Witch Weekly!'
'Nobody who has ever seen you together with either of them would believe that!' Jessica cried as she reached over gave Hermione's hands a squeeze. 'And anyone who believes any of Rita Skeeter's shyte is a moron!'
Hermione blinked back tears and nodded as Viktor put an arm around her. 'I know you Hermioninny – I know that you would never, ever do such a thing. You don't need to,' he said firmly.
'So what do we do now?' he asked Jessica.
'There's only one person I trust enough with this – the Laird McKenzie. He's best placed to give us advice. It might take a bit to reach him though; he's very busy at the moment.'
'We understand,' Viktor said. 'Besides, we'd better head back to the school.'
'And we won't say a word to anyone…'
'I'll send an owl once I've gotten a hold of him,' Jessica promised. 'Just sit tight, ok?'
Given what they didn't know, she was going to have to speak to Liam on her own first.
'It's mighty good to have ye back, Sister,' Liam said gruffly as he nearly smothered Jessica with a hearty bear hug. 'It just wasna the same without ye. This is truly where ye belong.'
'Even if I'm with Severus?'
'Better him than some others I can think of…'
'Gee, thanks for the glowing endorsement!'
'So what brings ye here on so foul an evening? I would have thought ye'd be resting after all that to-do last night…'
'You are alone, right? No one else is here – especially Minerva?'
'Yes, that bad.'
'She's up at the school,' Liam said as he ushered Jessica into their workroom. 'Now, what's going on?'
Jessica said nothing as she placed the jar on the wide Birch table in front of her. As she withdrew her hand she flexed her fingers into a fist and failed to hide her disgust.
'What's this?' Liam asked, bending over to get a closer look.
Jessica took a deep breath and flopped down in the nearest armchair.
'Cedric threw that up…' she began slowly.
Liam turned around and stared at her in disbelief as Jessica revealed all that she knew. His adopted sister's face was a mask of conflicting emotions as she spat out the details.
'I can see why ye saw fit to me to me about this,' he said angrily as he emptied some of the melted goo in a small cauldron. 'All this time… no wonder; the lad's been dafter than hippogriff in heat! And it wasna anything to do with him. Nowt to do do with him at all!'
The Laird McKenzie then placed a pewter bowl filled with water on top of it. He passed a hand over it three times and then gazed for a few moments. His hands gripped the table hard as he stared with his mouth set in a hard, thin line.
'Come,' he said through clenched teeth, beckoning for Jessica to stand next to him. 'Now look into the bowl and tell me what ye see.'
But Jessica sat stock-still and said nothing.
'What are ye afraid of Jessica?'
'I'm not afraid of anything!'
'Ye are! And damn it to that fictional Muggle hell lass, tell me what in Merlin's name are ye afraid of!'
'That I… that…'
Jessica swallowed as tears began streaming down her cheeks.
'Ye have to say it, Jessica. Ye have to say and own what you feel.'
'There's a part of me that still cares about him, I admit it. And God help me I could Crucio those bitches!'
'And those feelings ye have, that's how ye know ye did love him truly. Nowt that's real ever really goes away. Caring is not a bad thing…unless it's more than that?'
'I could drive myself crazy wondering about the little bit of time that we would have had left without Cho and Marietta's bullshit love potion.'
'So ye do know then.'
'Yes… I do. I don't need to divination to confirm that. Cedric and I were never meant to work out long-term. Everything has happened exactly as it was meant to.'
Liam glanced at the cauldron again. Yes, it was just as well she didn't see what he saw. But she would come to realise it soon enough; and he would stand by her then just as he was doing now. He had the feeling that Jessica only knew but one part of Cedric's story. But their story was not over. It was just as well that she remained in the dark.
'So what do we do?' Jessica asked, interrupting his thoughts.
'Let the chips fall where they will, and let the truth come out,' Liam answered firmly.
'What about the protection of the Highlanders?'
'What's done is done. He is not one of us. And he left himself open to her charms. Ye cannot be so easily influenced if ye don't leave yourself open to it. And he should know better than any other student at the school – he is the Champion, after all. If he never learned anything else from Severus Snape he should know that…'
'…and you really can't interfere as it might change things in ways that could be much worse for us all in the future.'
'I don't think it wise, Jessica. I do believe we need to let this play itself out. Mr. Diggory will realise soon enough what's been done to him. I wouldn't want to be in either girl's shoes when he does. Viktor Krum was right – this would kill him long before any task in the tournament would.'
Liam paused – and then smiled.
'What are you up to Liam?'
'Young Diggory was already deathly ill once and Madame Pomfrey and Professor Sprout looked after him. It was too easy to think that he might have ingested some joke tonic bought from the Weasley Twins; all things being equal that was the most obvious. Why would anyone have suspected it was a love potion? I think a quiet word about giving our Champions regular fitness checks and guidance on dietary concerns…'
'…along with certain magical evaluations just to ensure everything is always above board…'
'…because we have had more than enough controversy so far and all things considered it's best to take a more pro-active and responsible approach – same as we do during the regular Quidditch season.'
'None of the School Heads can complain, as it's something they should be quite used to anyway…'
'Young Mr. Krum in particular; he should be well used to it as a World Class Professional Quidditch player. I've got to hand it to him, Jessica. That young man is a credit to his people – more so than his school. There are very few who would do what he has to ensure a fair competition.'
'He could be my son-in-law definitely.'
'Well, as Miss Granger seems to look up to you as a mother figure much like Mr. Potter still does, you'll be quite the proud Mother-in-Law!' Liam said chuckling.
'Poor Ron…' Jessica gasped.
'Some things are just not meant to be. And in that case, it's nowhere near being a bad thing!'
'As you love to say, "I'm just telling the truth!" and we both know that Hermione Granger can do better…'
'Same as me, right?'
'No, not like ye at all. It might surprise ye to know that I actually think working things through with Snape is the best thing possible for both of ye.'
'I won't even waste my breath asking why. So – what should I say to Hermione and Viktor?'
'Have both of them come by your place in town in on Boxing Day and we'll all have a word together. I think Viktor would appreciate being able to have a word with me directly rather than you being my messenger.'
'He definitely would,' Jessica said rising. 'I'll fix us a nice lunch. Their time is still their own at the moment so no one will care that they aren't hanging around school. Most of them are making day trips of some sort anyway.
'That will do me just fine. But one more thing; I know ye too well lass. Ye keep that temper in check. Not so much as a hiss in certain people's direction if they cross your path aye?'
'You have my word…'
Liam didn't say much else beyond asking Jessica about the Boxing Day lunch menu as he saw her out. It wasn't in anyone's best interest to know what the future would bring. Micro-managing wouldn't help anyone, least of all Jessica and Cedric.