The Sweat of a Gladiator

A/N: This story is a revised and edited M-rated version of an NC-17 rated fic that I originally posted on portkey. Anyone impatient to know what happens next (or wants to see the smuttier version that can't be posted here on ff dot net) can read the entire story over there. I'm posting this version for those who don't care for (or aren't old enough to be reading) explicit fanfiction.

Note that while this story has been completed, the edited and revised version has not. I'm posting this in my spare time whilst trying to keep two other stories active, so updates will occur on an irregular basis.

Disclaimer: Not my characters, no money being made, etc., etc.

..oo00OO00oo..

Chapter One

The resolute look on Madame Pomfrey's face as she rushed past Harry and Hermione was the first bit of encouragement they'd received all day.

Ron might be dying, but at least someone might now have an idea why.

They looked back towards the open infirmary doors and seized the opportunity to rejoin their fallen friend. He was in a bed at the far end of the room, his unconscious body racked by convulsions no less severe than when they'd brought him to Hogwarts a half-hour previous. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were alongside the bed with Horace Slughorn, while Luna Lovegood was busy consoling Ginny as both sat on the facing bed. Harry had been a bit put off when Hermione and he had been ordered to stay outside of the infirmary, but understood Poppy's desire to limit visitors to family and significant others. Besides, it had given him a few minutes time to decide just what to say when he faced Ron's parents.

"Professor Slughorn," Hermione immediately asked, "did you identify the poison?"

The Potions Master looked up at them and nodded gravely. "Based on his symptoms and the little that you've told me on the way up here, I'm afraid that I have."

"So now that we know the poison we can give him the antidote, right?" Harry asked, as Hermione and he approached the other side of Ron's bed.

"We could, if we had it on hand," he replied. "but if I'm right, the antidote is even rarer than the toxin itself."

At that declaration, Molly let out an anguished cry. As Arthur tried to console his wife he looked up at Harry and Hermione and said, "Madame Pomfrey thought she might know someone who might possibly have access to the antidote, so she went to the Headmistress's to use the secure floo."

Hermione looked down at Ron's gaunt pale face as his body twisted back and forth. "How soon would the antidote have to be administered?" she asked.

"Within a few hours," Slughorn replied, "or else…"

The "or else" assessment brought out another maternal lament.

Mr. Weasley caught Harry's attention. "I know that you three have been off on some secret mission," he said, "but it would mean a lot to us if you could tell us how this happened."

Harry nodded.

"Last year," he began, "Professor Dumbledore revealed to me that Voldemort had created powerfully Dark objects that needed to be found and destroyed in order to keep the bastard dead the next time I kill him."

"What kind of Dark objects?" Arthur asked.

Harry gaze shot over towards Professor Slughorn, who looked like he'd rather be anywhere else at that very moment. He then replied, "When the Headmaster asked me to continue on the search for these objects, should he not be able to, he made me promise not to reveal the secret to anyone but Hermione and Ron."

"And so the three of you were looking for these objects?"

Harry nodded. "They have been difficult to find and even harder to retrieve once we've found them. But we located one of them this morning in a heavily warded house…thought we'd disarmed all of the magical traps, but when Ron reached for the cup the flooring disappeared and he fell into a pool of greenish liquid. We think he must have swallowed some of it."

"Where were the two of you?" Molly asked.

"We were right next to Ron," Hermione said. "When the floor gave way and we all started to fall Harry and I thought to apparate away from the house and the danger, but Ron…"

"Ron still hasn't passed his apparition test," Arthur said as he nodded his head in understanding. "So it didn't occur to him."

The conversation was interrupted by the soft "pop" of a House Elf's arrival.

"Mister Harry Potter, sir," Dobby said excitedly, after he caught Harry's eye, "Headmistress needs you and the three little witches in her office straight away."

"Whom does she need to see?" asked Molly.

Dobby tried again. "Headmistress told Dobby to tell Harry Potter, sir, to bring Miss 'Moine, Miss Luna and Miss Ginny to her office using this parchment."

Harry grabbed Hermione's hand and led her towards Dobby. Grabbing the document, he said "Ginny, Luna, let's go….imagine that the parchment's a portkey that will get us there quickest."

Ten seconds later, Harry and "the three little witches" were plopped in front of a worried looking Headmistress, who was seated behind her desk with Madame Pomfrey standing to her side. Harry was about to ask what news they had when his thoughts were interrupted by a cackling voice. As he turned towards the source, Harry cringed at the sight of a repulsive-looking hag standing by the open window. She looked like someone who had just been swept up off the fetid cobblestones of Knockturn Alley.

"There's a nice Poppy," the hag said with a toothless grin, "I knew you'd come through with the boy. He'll be very tasty, indeed."

"Now see here," said a tight-lipped McGonagall, "No decision has been made, and none will be made until Mr. Potter decides for himself."

Harry was gobsmacked speechless, so it was up to Hermione to ask the obvious.

"Headmistress?"

Madame Pomfrey spoke up. "You've had a chance to talk with Professor Slughorn, no doubt." When Harry nodded, she continued. "The antidote to the poison that Mr. Weasley ingested requires the pickled roots of a rare magical plant from China. I've checked and there are no legally-obtained stocks of the root or the antidote in Britain, and St. Mungo's says that given the current shortage of medical supplies that it would take at least three weeks to import what's needed."

"But Professor Slughorn said that Ron needs the antidote within the next few hours," noted Ginny.

Headmistress McGonagall turned towards Ron's sister. "That is correct," she said softly. "Which is why I asked Poppy to pursue all possible…" She looked over at the hag with disgust before continuing, "…all possible alternative sources."

"That would be me, Dearie," the old hag said with a leering grin.

Harry turned to the hunching hag. "You have the antidote, then?" When the hag nodded her head he said, "If the Headmistress arranges transport, I'll take you to Gringott's and you can have what ever you want from my vaults."

"Won't be necessary, dear," the old hag said, "you've got what I want within you right now."

Harry recoiled, his thoughts flashing back to the night that his blood was forcibly taken during the Riddle graveyard ritual. Hermione immediately wrapped a protective arm around Harry in support, then turned back to Madame Pomfrey. "What does she want?" she asked.

"She wants his sweat," Poppy replied simply.

"Double pure sweat," the hag added with a chortle.

"What do you want my sweat for, you old hag?" Harry asked.

Luna, who had been standing quietly back by the door all this time, finally spoke up. "She wants it as the main ingredient in an aphrodisiac potion, I imagine."

Ginny turned towards the hag with a look of disgust. "As ugly as she is, wouldn't a polyjuice potion get her laid easier?"

"Aye, my little witch, you are right about that," the hag replied. "But I am not desperate, I'm just a simple business woman looking for fair exchange and fair profit...my rare antidote for an equally rare liquid."

Harry turned to Madame Pomfrey with a look of concern on his face. "Would my sweat really work as part of an aphrodisiac potion?"

Poppy snorted. "As many times as I've patched you up? I imagine so. The practice of using the sweat of the strongest warriors for female aphrodisiacs goes all the way back to the days of Roman witches and their strongest gladiators."

The hag nodded in agreement. "No wizard warrior today is more powerful than the one who has stood up to the Dark Lord, what is it…five times now?"

"Six actually," Harry muttered absent-mindedly.

"Disgusting, perverted old hag," exclaimed Ginny.

Harry snorted in agreement. "I don't care if she bathes in the stuff, so long as it helps Ron. Why don't I just run a few laps around the castle and wring out my t-shirt?" He turned to see the support in Hermione's eyes only to be rattled by her pallid complexion.

"Harry," she said quietly, "if it was that easy, I'm sure the Headmistress wouldn't have needed to send for all four of us."

The old hag laughed and swung her wand in an imaginary gold swing. "She swings…and it's in the hole!" She then gazed in Hermione's direction. "Or should I say it's to be in your hole?"

Harry pulled his wand on the witch and scowled. "You will treat her with respect or all you'll get from me is the business end of my wand."

"A tempting offer, dearie," the hag retorted, "but I'm afraid I'm a little too, shall we say, experienced…to be of any use right now."

"What are you on about?" Harry demanded.

"Harry," the Headmistress said with more compassion in her voice that Harry had ever heard before, "this is a terrible situation, and a terrible position for all of us to be put in, and I'm sorry that we haven't been able to find a better option." She stood, then walked around the front of her large oak desk and sat back along the front edge (putting her close enough to Harry to reach out and touch his shoulder). "The sweat of a warrior is apparently categorized into different grades, based on the activities engaged in at the time of collection."

"Activities? Just what are we talking about here?"

"Well," said Madame Pomfrey, "there's standard sweat, special sweat, pure sweat and double pure sweat."

"What's the difference, and what are those activities?" Harry asked, earning him another Brothers Grimm-worthy cackle from the hag.

Poppy and McGonagall looked at each other uncomfortably, before the Headmistress turned to address Harry's questions.

"Standard sweat is, well…standard…run-of-the-mill "nervous because you haven't studied for your NEWTs"-type sweat. For purposes of the aphrodisiac potion, "special" sweat is collected off a warrior's body as he's engaged in, erm…how should I say it?"

"Engaged in hot, steamy sex?" asked Luna.

"Erm, yes dear – quite right."

"Oh," was all that Harry could muster past his lips. He looked towards Hermione and let out another, longer, more worrisome version of the declarative. She responded with a grim but sympathetic smile.

"Dare I ask about the other flavors?" he asked.

"Might as well," said the hag, "Because I won't settle for anything less than double pure."

Luna stepped up next to Harry's left side, opposite Hermione, and grabbed his hand in support as well. "Pure sweat is collected whilst the warrior is deflowering a virgin," she said.

Harry choked on a bit of saliva stuck at the back of his throat. After clearing it with a coughing fit he said, "And I suppose double pure means he has to deflower twins?"

"Don't be silly, Harry," Luna replied. "Double pure means that the sweat is collected by a second virgin female while the warrior deflowers the first."

"Oh, well, if that's all…" Harry said sarcastically. He then turned back to McGonagall. "Please tell me that there's another way. I'd walk through fire for Ron, but to have to ask two women to…well…to…."

"Harry, I know, I know," the Headmistress said in sympathy. "St. Mungo's is looking for options, but nobody's popped their head through the floo yet with an alternative."

Hermione reached up and gently touched Harry's shoulder. "We haven't much time," she said. "So long as we can verify that the hag has the antidote you should make the deal."

Harry turned and looked at her with tenderness. He started to say something, before thinking better of it. Turning to the Headmistress, he asked, "Could you give us just a few minutes?" He then led Hermione out of the office, with Ginny and Luna tagging along as well.

"Hermione," Harry said once the office door was closed, "I couldn't ask a girl to give something that precious…I mean, this is supposed to be a sacrifice for me? Sounds more like something pulled off a racy internet fiction site."

Ginny snickered. "I don't think you have to worry about the girl thinking it a sacrifice to be bedded by you, Harry…there'd be a line of volunteers from here to Hogsmeade."

Harry looked at Ginny with disbelief. "Oh, you're just putting me on."

Hermione shook her head in disagreement. "Luna," she asked, "how many active members of the Harry Potter Fan Club do you imagine are virgins?"

The Ravenclaw thought for a second. "You mean within the entire membership, or just the witches?"

Harry choked on more saliva, to Hermione's amusement.

"Just the witches."

Luna looked at Ginny as they silently tried to work out an answer. "At least thirty or so," Luna finally said.

"There you have it," Hermione said. "Might be harder to find one willing to have another girl watching, ready to collect your sweat, but still…"

"What about finding a girl willing to collect the sweat?" Harry asked. "Talk about thankless jobs…."

"Oh," said Hermione, with a small bit of surprise, "I guess I had figured that I'd be the one to do that."

"What?" Harry said incredulously. "You mean you…"

"What," Hermione said with frustration, "Don't imagine that I'm qualified for the job?"

"No, of course not," Harry said defensively. "You know I wouldn't even think that…you know how well I know you, right?"

"Then you think that I don't care enough about Ron to follow through on this?"

"Well, no, of course not, it's just that…."

Hermione continued building her full head of steam. "So you don't want me there to help you…is that it? Or is it you'd rather have someone else scraping the sweat off your bum…"

"No, I mean…Merlin, what kind of question is that for me to have to answer?"

"So it is me then," Hermione said with tears in her eyes. "Fine, I'm sure Luna and Ginny could help you out…I'll just go keep Ron company."

She turned to leave, but Harry stopped her with a firm grab of her arm. "Hermione, please. I need your help…I need you, just like I always need you. Won't be able to get through this otherwise."

Hermione looked at him with calculation, then let out a firm sigh. "Fine, then…sign me up…whom do you want, though?" She turned towards Luna and Ginny, expecting them to start contributing to the conversation. They looked at each other for a second before Ginny sighed and faced Harry and Hermione.

She said, "I'm afraid that I can't help you, Harry."

"Why is that?" Harry asked in confusion. "Seemed like you were eager enough to offer me that kind of help last spring."

"Oh, no…it's not you Harry," she replied, her cheeks approaching her hair color in hue. "It's just that, well, you broke up with me, remember? And this Fall, you three didn't come back to Hogwarts, and I did, and Dean Thomas did, and….and we did."

"Did what?"

"Oh don't be daft," Hermione said with a scowl. "She's trying to tell you she and Dean are shagging."

Her assessment was confirmed when Ginny, eyes firmly planted on the stone floor, nodded her head in agreement.

Harry didn't know what to say, so he tried to pretend he was all business and facts and actions. "Oh, well, better to learn that now, I guess."

"I'm qualified, at least in that regard," said Luna calmly. "Ron and I haven't gotten nearly that far, but either way…to save his life…I'd be willing…."

Ginny looked up from the floor and tried to catch Harry's gaze. "Do you want me to go round up the Fan Club, or would a list of names be good enough for you?"

Harry looked at her with disbelief. Gathering his wits before he responded, he said. "No thanks, Ginny. I think, if we're going to do this, that I have all of the help I need right here." He then reached out and grabbed Hermione and Luna's hands searching for confirmation. The head nods and hand squeezes told him all that he needed to know.

"Ginny, why don't you go back to the infirmary and tell your parents that we're working on getting the antidote."

With tears in her eyes Ginny nodded and quietly walked onto the moving stairway that carried her down towards the tower's base.

Luna and Hermione watched Ginny spiral downwards out of sight, then turned to each other and snorted, as if they'd telepathed a private joke. They then looked back at Harry.

"So…" Hermione asked, "which of us does what?"

Harry looked at Hermione as if she were dafter than Ron on most days (which was saying something).

"Hermione," he replied as he squeezed her hand, "as if you needed to ask…" He then opened the door to the Headmistress's office, and, distracted by the thought of shagging his best friend, stepped through without holding the door for the two girls.

Not that the two witches minded Harry's lapse in manners...with his back turned, Harry wasn't in a position to see a smiling Luna as she turned and gave Hermione a "thumbs-up" gesture. And he certainly couldn't see Hermione as she pumped both fists in the air, silently mouthed a triumphant "YES!" and did a quick happy dance.