Title: The Blameless Vestal's Lot
Warnings: DH spoilers, epilogue-compliant, graphic adult content, including dirty talk, light fetish, and suggested foursome.
Summary: Hermione and Ron attend a masked ball at the Malfoy's. Magical mischief turns sinister, and Hermione must race against time to unlock Malfoy Manor's deepest secrets. Written for the Winter 2007 round of the SSHG Exchange on LiveJournal for Sabrebabe.
Disclaimer: © 2008 Mundungus42. All rights reserved. This work may not be archived, reproduced, or distributed in any format without prior written permission from the author. This is an amateur non-profit work, and is not intended to infringe on copyrights held by J.K.Rowling or any other lawful holder. Permission may be obtained by e-mailing the author at mundungus42 at yahoo dot com
Chapter One: Two of Cups, Reversed
He could feel the storm brewing but knew there was nothing to do, other than prepare himself and wait for it to break. Having grown up with a large family in a small house, Ron Weasley understood what it meant to feel frustrated and crowded, which gave him some insight into how his wife, now forty weeks pregnant, was feeling. This was indeed fortunate, as his moment's hesitation allowed the slipper his wife shied across the room to smack into the doorjamb instead of his head.
He moved his head turtle-like into the open doorway. "All right, Hermione?"
"No, I'm not all right," she said, kicking the other slipper furiously across the room. "I'm hot, I'm exhausted, my back hurts, my feet hurt, and I have to give up the only night I have with my family this week so those slimy verucas can rub their wealth and prestige in my face. Never mind that Voldemort LIVED IN THEIR HOUSE for a year!"
"I meant with the costume," said Ron. "That Expansion Charm you did on the dress worked a treat. You weren't half as big when you tried it on as you are now."
"Thanks so much, Ron." She glared at him and yanked the dress savagely down over her belly. "The problem isn't the bliaud, it's the belt. It fit last week, and now I can't get it to look right."
Ron glanced at the illuminated manuscript from which she'd created the deceptively simple wool overdress. "It's supposed to go below the waist."
She threw up her arms in frustration. "What waist? I haven't got one now!"
"Well, try it like this." Ron wrapped the cord around her lower back and tied it beneath her swollen belly. He stood back to admire his handiwork.
"There, you look…" he trailed off, looking for an appropriate adjective.
"Like a diseased gourd."
"Well, what about if you tie it here, above Hugo?"
"The bliaud's design is all wrong for that," she explained impatiently. "See, it'd look way too modern tied below the bust, plus the front would gap open."
"Then just leave it off. You look fine without it"
Hermione gave her husband a look. "We're going to a masked ball tonight, and thanks to the Malfoys' perfect timing, there's no way in any circle of hell that I can look pretty. I can't look sexy or mysterious- none of the things a girl is supposed to be able to do at a masked ball. And if I can't have any of that, then I'm going to damn well be historically accurate!"
She gazed in the mirror, turning this way and that. "Got it," she said at length. She hiked up the wool overdress and tied the belt around the linen kirtle beneath, yanking at its trumpet sleeves to prevent them from getting tangled in the cord. "This way, you can't see where the belt is tied, but the tassels hang down below the hem. Pass my slippers, would you?"
"Brilliant," said Ron, absently nudging them next to her feet with the toe of his boot. "Are you ready now?"
Hermione examined herself in the mirror again. From her ribcage upward, she looked fine. Between the Sleekeasy's and Muggle hairspray, her hair would stay in its plait, and the veil, held in place with bobby pins and a Cementing Charm, should cover the worst of the escaping wisps.
"I suppose," she said sullenly, smoothing the fabric down over her abdomen- the dress had a tendency to ride up. She conjured a row of heavy trim on the hem, hoping that it would help keep things in place.
Her train of thought was broken by a knock at the front door.
"Is it the carriage, d'you think?"
"It's probably Arabella," said Hermione. "Be sure to tell her that we already gave Rose her sweet after dinner."
Ron's pause was a little too long. "Yeah."
"Ron, you didn't let her have more than one, did you?"
Ears red, he made a beeline for the door. "No."
"Ronald Weasley! She'll never go to sleep now!"
His voice floated up from below. "Arabella, are we glad to see you!"
Hermione thought of a few choice invectives for her husband before deciding against hollering them after him. If Ron had stuffed their daughter full of the Honeyduke's candies that had served to honor the Muggle tradition of trick-or-treating, then it was entirely likely that she had her ear pressed to her bedroom door at this very moment.
Rose was in a terribly embarrassing stage where she repeated everything she heard. It was one thing when she and Ron were talking innocuous subjects, but another thing entirely when they were talking about work. Luna Lovegood had taken it all in stride, but Ernie Macmillan, who had joined them for Rose's third birthday party, was less than pleased when she asked his help extinguishing her cake's candles, since Daddy said he was a real blowhard.
Conceding temporary defeat, Hermione felt around for her slippers with her toes and slid her feet into them. She seized her beaded bag from the dresser and made her way down the stairs to the entryway, where Arabella was regaling Ron with stories about her latest litter of kittens.
"Gracious, my dear, you look ready to drop a litter yourself!"
"Just one, thank goodness," said Hermione, laying a hand on her stomach. "This is Hugo. He'll be joining us in a week or two."
"Yes, have your fun while you can," said Arabella with a cackle. "There'll be no fancy dress parties for you two for a while once the new babe arrives. Now, where's my little Rosebud?"
As if on cue, Rose's door opened and she came running down the stairs.
"No, no, no!" she cried, wrapping her chubby little arms around her father's leg. "You can't go tonight! I won't let you!"
"Cheer up, Rosie," said Ron. "We'll be back before you know it! And we promise to bring you something nice from the party."
"We do?" asked Hermione in Ron's ear.
Rose tugged on her father's costume. "What will you bring me?"
"If we told you, it wouldn't be a surprise," said Hermione. "Now you be good for Mrs. Figg. If we hear that you've been naughty, there will be no present. Do you understand, Rose?"
"No present if I'm naughty," she repeated sullenly.
"That's a good girl," said Arabella, looking approvingly from mother to daughter. "You'll keep her head on straight, even if her father tries to spoil her rotten."
"Hey!" protested Ron. "I don't need to threaten my daughter to get her to behave."
"No, you just fill her up with sweets after dinner," retorted Hermione, patience wearing thin.
"Is Daddy in trouble?"
"Daddies don't get in trouble," said Ron, shooting Hermione a quelling look.
"Is Daddy going to be spanked?"
"Daddy won't be spanked, silly," said Ron.
"Daddy won't be getting much of anything tonight," said Hermione with a scowl.
"I'll be good," said Rose, clearly in awe of her mother.
"That's my sweet little Rose," said Hermione, squatting awkwardly to hug and kiss her daughter. "I love you."
"I love you too, Mummy."
Ron held out his arms to his daughter. "Got one more for your old dad?"
While Ron kissed Rose and gave her a Hungarian Belly Rub that made her shriek with laughter, Hermione showed Mrs. Figg the locations of their medical potions, first aid kits, and food supplies, and emergency contact information, both Magical and Muggle.
"I'm afraid Ron filled her up with sugar tonight, so it's probably a good idea to have her brush her teeth again before you put her to bed. Watch her when she brushes to make sure she uses the timer-"
"They're only baby teeth," commented Ron, carrying his still giggling daughter into the kitchen. "They'll only fall out in a few years, anyway."
"Good brushing habits last a lifetime, Ron. If you'd had a tooth brushing timer when you were a child, maybe you'd have fewer fillings yourself. And don't even get me started on your flossing."
"You don't have to worry," cut in Arabella. "I've done this before, you know. And as clever as your little Rose is, she hasn't the talent for trouble that Harry had. Or that little hellion of his, for that matter. Thank goodness Charlie's visiting, otherwise I don't think the Potters could have found anyone qualified to watch him."
Hermione glanced around the kitchen. "Is there anything else you need to know?"
"I'm sure Arabella has everything under control," said Ron, setting Rose down and wrapping his arms around Hermione, fingertips gently rubbing her belly. "C'mon, Hermione, we'll take a walk in the garden until the carriage arrives."
Hermione disentangled herself from her husband and turned to Arabella. "We should be back no later than eight o'clock tomorrow morning- much earlier if we can get away with it," said Hermione, following Ron and Arabella toward the back door.
"So early? I hear the Malfoys have ordered enough food to feed all of Hogwarts for a month."
"The invitation says that the ball will end at noon the following day, but we're only there to lend an air of legitimacy to the whole proceedings."
"Draco talked her into it," said Ron, grabbing Hermione's wrap and leading her to the door. "Whinged her into it is more like."
"Then I wonder that you're even going at all," said Arabella, with a significant glance at Hermione's stomach.
"There's no danger to us," said Hermione. "Lucius and Narcissa won't dare try anything at the risk of spoiling what little reputation they have."
"And I've threatened George with telling mum if he puts anything in the punch bowl," added Ron.
Arabella shook her head. "How on earth did that hoodlum manage to get invited?"
"He's the latest notch on Gwenog Jones's bat," said Hermione, fishing their masks out of her beaded bag.
Arabella blinked. "What does your mother have to say about that?"
Ron grinned. "She doesn't know. That's what I've threatened him with." He straightened his mask and turned to his wife. "Will I shame us tonight, d'you think?"
Though Hermione could fault her husband on a great many things, his appearance was not one of them. His fine wool tunic was trimmed with rich gold embroidery at the hem and sleeves and, at Hermione's urging, he'd hung a quill at his waist in lieu of wearing a sword.
To disguise his identity, he had darkened his bright ginger hair to a dark auburn. He'd also imbibed a 24-hour Beard Beverage, which he'd also darkened and trimmed neatly. While Hermione was not keen to kiss a bearded face every day, she had to admit that the beard made Ron look distinguished, and the golden mask he wore added to the air of pomp and authority.
She figured that alone would confuse anyone.
"You look a far sight more handsome than Peter Abelard ever did."
Ron grinned. "Yeah? Bet I smell better, too."
The sound of shattering crockery came from the kitchen, quickly followed by what sounded like a drawer full of silverware clattering to the ground.
Hermione sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "You didn't leave the sweet jar out on the counter again, did you?"
Arabella turned to Ron and Hermione. "Off you get. Leave this to Auntie Arabella. ROSE! You naughty thing, what have you done?"
Arabella hustled into the kitchen after Rose. Ron held the door open, and Hermione stalked out into the garden. Suddenly, Ron was behind her, his hands rubbing her belly and his hardening arousal pressed into her buttocks.
"I love you like this," he whispered. "Round, soft, and ripe, like a peach."
She pulled away from him. "What do you think you're doing?"
"The carriage won't be here for at least fifteen minutes," he said fumbling with his costume. "There's plenty of time."
"No. I'm angry with you."
"Then we'll have make-up sex." Ron spread his fur-lined cape on the grass.
"For the last time, no! You're not going to sweet talk your way out of what you did with Rose tonight."
"Hermione, why are you making a big deal out of this? A few extra Every-Flavor Beans never hurt a kid. Well, except for the kid that got a Broken Glass flavored bean, but George probably started that rumor to boost sales of his Thousand-Taste Tarts."
"It just feels like every time I make a rule I have to keep an eye on both of you to make sure it's followed."
"Well, then maybe you're making too many rules. Me and Harry never followed the timetables you made for us, and we turned out alright."
"That's different. Rose is only three. All she understands is that mummy is mean and daddy is nice, and I'm sick of being the mean one. Being a parent means making rules and sticking to them, not just playing around with her and giving her to me when she's hungry, tired, or needs to be punished."
Ron's face had assumed the long-suffering expression that made Hermione want to throw another shoe at him. "I don't want to fight about this, Hermione. You bring it up every time we argue about Rose."
"Then perhaps you should do something about it other than roll your eyes when I bring it up. I'm trying to have a rational discussion about discipline."
"Why do you want to discuss it now? I just wanted to go out tonight and have a good time. I thought that's what you wanted, too."
With a Herculean effort, Hermione wrestled her irritation into submission and spoke calmly. "This isn't just about Rose, Ron. You may have the luxury of forgetting that we're going to have another baby very soon, but I don't. Rose has already learned to go to daddy if she wants something she knows mummy won't let her have. All I ask is that you try to act like a parent with Rose, even on Halloween."
"Samhain," corrected Ron.
"Samhain. Only Muggles call it Halloween."
"They called it Halloween at Hogwarts."
"That's because Dumbledore was in charge. We're going to a pureblood gathering tonight, so you should call it Samhain."
"You expect me to change my vocabulary so a bunch of toffee-nosed purebloods won't cluck their tongues? I'm Muggle-born. They'll cluck their tongues anyway."
"I'm just saying it's manners is all! You don't go to someone's house for a ball and behave like some sort of -"
Ron threw his hands in the air. "I can't say anything tonight, can I?"
"Apparently not. Look, I'm in a horrid mood and I have to be sociable for hours with people I can't stand. Let's just don't talk for a while, okay?"
"Fine," said Ron, practically stomping across the garden. To Hermione's irritation, he'd sat on the stone bench, which was the only proper seat in the garden.
Scowl deepening, Hermione propped her hands on her hips and leaned back to relieve the pressure on her lower back.
She walked over to the gazing orb that Harry had given her as a joke birthday gift. Her upside-down reflection's proportions were even more grotesquely shaped than what she saw in her looking glass, and the cumulous clouds that partially obscured full moon's light were compressed, like a heat-twisted negative of the daytime sky.
The unseasonably hot, humid evening was far too warm for the fur-lined wraps Hermione had made for them. The weather was just one more thing conspiring with the Malfoys to make her miserable. Beneath the wool overdress, her linen shift was already starting to stick to her skin. She fervently wished for a breeze to stir the still air.
But before she could draw her wand to perform a Cooling Charm, there was a breeze lifting the veil on her hair and swirling deliciously up her skirt and between her hot thighs. She inhaled gratefully, noting the air's chilly edge and the unmistakable smell of rain. Fallen leaves followed the wind, clattering down the cobblestone path, where her husband stood, frowning at the air.
"Will it rain, d'you reckon?"
"Probably." The change in subject was as close as Hermione would receive by way of apology, and it was enough to quench the worst of her ire. The wind had picked up, whining softly through the clipped hedges. "The Malfoys ordered it, likely, just to see everyone arrive at their house in wet costumes before offering Drying Charms. I already cast Impervius on our costumes for spills. We ought to be all right unless there's a real downpour."
"Do you want to go back inside?"
Hermione glanced back at the warm yellow light that shone from the windows of their house and shook her head. "This is the first time today I haven't been too hot."
"Well, don't catch a chill. Mum'll have my head if I let you get sick."
The sound of faraway hoof beats distracted her from her lecturing Ron on cold viruses. Frowning, she glanced at the pocket watch that she'd sewn into the lining of her bag. It was still before eight. If that was their carriage to the Malfoy's, she and Ron would be among the earliest arrivals, if not the first.
You have to hand it to the Malfoys, she thought. When they try to make you feel miserable and awkward, they don't do it by halves.
The rolling clouds parted to reveal the full moon, casting the carving on the stone into stark relief. The nearby sea roared a constant exhalation, and two cloaked figures stood silently, waiting.
At length, a third figure appeared with a loud crack. If the others were startled, they did not betray it with so much as a twitch. The newcomer withdrew an ancient, stained piece of cloth from her robe and laid it on the stone.
"Are you prepared?" she asked in a strange, mellifluous tongue.
"We stand ready, " answered the two in unison, taking their positions around the stone.
"Are you determined?"
"Our hands join to form the circle." Inhumanly long and bony fingers protruded from black sleeves, threading together.
"Have you the strength?"
"Our own, and yours, if you wish it."
"I wish it," she responded. She withdrew a silver knife from her robe and made a shallow cut on each of her wrists. She extended her hands and allowed several drops of blood to fall on the stone."With this blood, I seal his sacrifice."
"With this blood, the sacrifice is sealed."
She raised her hands, thin streams of blood black in the moonlight, and laid her hands on the cowled heads of her companions. "With these words, let his bonds be broken. "
"Rend them, tear them, break them."
The three began to sing, their tone rising and falling, sometimes separately, sometimes chorally, sometimes at such discordant intervals that the air seemed to tremble. The chilling wind rose, bringing with it the smell of salt and eroded earth. As their song reached its zenith, the cabal raised their hands to the sky, uttering a harsh, guttural cry. A blinding flash of light followed by a deafening crack of thunder rent the night, throwing them backwards onto the ground.
The third figure's cowl had been blown off, revealing her face, contorted in pain and determination. Her companions had managed to sit up, shaken but unhurt.
"Where is he?" one asked, disappointment evident in his wrinkled brow.
She whipped her hand toward her interlocutor, and his head was jerked back, as if slapped.
"Do not ask stupid questions," she ordered sternly. "Can you not see that the remnants of his bondage are gone? Remain silent during your vigil."
"What if the ritual failed?" he persisted.
"He will come," croaked the other, who was leaning against the stone. "He will rise. He will be truly free."
"We shall have our leader, and we shall have our revenge," she finished. "I must go. There is much to be done to prepare for tonight. Bring him to me at the manor when he rises, and I will tell him of our preparations for tonight. Once our plans have been set in motion, we will reveal him to the others. He will lead us all down the path we have laid for him."
The others nodded, silent. Satisfied, she disappeared with a loud crack.
The first raindrops spattered the drops of blood, and soon all of it had been washed into the red earth below.