Wizards In Winter
A/N: Title is taken from the music by the Trans Siberian Orchestra.
This is a Harry/Hermione story taking place in sixth year.
JKRowling owns the characters and settings. I only play in her sandbox and make no money from this.
Chapter1: The Lost Christmas Eve
Twas the night before Christmas 1996 and Harry Potter was disconsolately wishing that at least this Christmas he could spend it with his girlfriend.
Hermione Granger had tearfully kissed him goodbye and wished him a Happy Christmas as she left Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry for her home in Broom. Her parents, Monica and Wendell Granger had requested she come home this year for an important event. They hadn't explained and Hermione was hesitant to ask if Harry could accompany her, especially since they had stressed it was extremely important that she return home as soon as possible. She'd promised to write as soon as she got home.
That was four days ago and he hadn't heard from her as promised. Yesterday he had sent Hedwig with a note to her but his familiar had yet to return. Harry had wandered the empty corridors of the castle, only briefly interacting with the few students that had remained behind for the holidays. Homework done, he'd finally settled in bed for the night, sighing. He'd had a recurring dream that was bothering him that he couldn't quite remember during the day, but seemed very real when he was asleep.
(Flashback one month)
Harry had ben dreading the coming Christmas break as he'd realised that both his best friends would be going home for the holidays. Ron was returning to the Burrow and Hermione had told him that her parents wanted her home as soon as possible. He'd questioned her, but she had no idea why her mum and dad had insisted that she return.
They'd only become a couple a few weeks ago after admitting that they'd loved each other since third year. Each had been afraid to ruin their friendship by declaring that their best friend was indeed the one they wanted to be more than a best friend. Harry was terrified when Hermione, taking the bull by the horns had insisted that they had to talk about their relationship. He figured that she was going to tell him that she and Ron were together finally. So, it was with a head hung low that he followed her to the Room of Requirement and she had caught him completely wrong-footed when she announced that she wanted to take their relationship to the next level.
"W-what? Hermione? I-I thought you were going to tell me that you and Ron were…"
"Ron? Why ever would I want to be with Ron? He's a friend, and not a very good one, Harry. D-don't you want to see if we…?"
Harry broke into a wide grin and pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly. She felt so good as she snuggled into his shoulder, her bushy hair tickling his face. "Hermione, I'd love to have you as my girlfriend in every way possible. I-I've loved you for years."
"Oh, Harry," she whispered softly, "I've loved you for years too. Why were we so dense not to see what we meant to each other?"
They'd shared a tentative kiss and it felt wonderful, so they continued to kiss until breathing became a problem. Breaking apart with silly grins on their faces, whey held hands and walked back to the common room.
Ron, of course was not happy when they walked in, hand in hand. The look on their faces told him all he'd suspected for years. "You betrayed me, you bastard!" He yelled at Harry. "You knew I fancied her and yet you moved in on my territory, she was supposed to be mine!"
The happy grin on Harry's face fell in an instant. "How do you figure that, Ron? You have no stated claim on Hermione. All you ever do is fight and argue with her. Get used to it Ron, I love Hermione and she loves me."
"But, but, it's not like that. Sure I tease her a bit, and sure, we argued, but that was just us working off sexual tension my mum figures. I thought you understood that.
Hermione heated up in an instant. "Sexual tension? More like harassment, Ron! You don't own me! I could never love you as I do Harry. Your friendship is the only thing we wanted from you, I love Harry and have for years; we both realised it this afternoon." Her voice took on an icy tone as she said, "You've always used me, Ron, that's hardly the basis for love. If you can't accept that we're a couple, then I guess we'll have to rethink our friendship."
Ron paled at that. Would Harry decide that he didn't need him anymore? That was unthinkable. He hung his head and quietly apologised. "Sorry," he whispered. "I-I don't want to lose you guys as friends. It'll take some time to get used to it but as long as I don't see you guys snogging, I guess I'll try to move on. It hurts, you know. I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt you. You helped Harry too, you know."
Hermione relented, "I guess I'll accept your apology, but you need to understand Ron, you'll have to accept that Harry and I will be spending more time with each other now. We won't leave you out, but you'll have to work harder and not depend so much on me for your school homework. Harry has never tried to get me to do his homework; all he does is ask me to scan his work for anything he's missed and correct errors he might have made. He actually works hard to get his homework done in time. He may not put as much effort in as I do, but he's certainly not lazy."
Harry blushed a bit at Hermione's praise and accepted Ron's apology as well but warned. "Next time, Ron, I won't be looking at you as a friend, so be careful what you say."
As Harry slept on, unaware of events beyond his control that would change his very life, Hermione had met her parents at King's Cross station and were currently on their way to France. The note of urgency that her parents had sent a month ago had to do with her maternal grandmother. Elise Paquette was dying and wanted to see her granddaughter one more time, and time was short. Hermione loved her Grandma Elise and visited whenever the family visited France. Elise lived in Sanary-Sur-Mer, a small city in Provence on the Mediterranean. Her home was an elegant villa perched overlooking the port. Fishing boats dotted the port and sunlit beaches drew the inhabitants year round. When the Grangers arrived, Elise was bed-ridden but a man-servant greeted them and showed them to her bedside.
Monica Granger greeted her mother with smiles and a hug. Elise was propped up in bed and looked frail but smiled in warm appreciation at seeing her daughter and family.
"Monica, Wendell and Hermione," she greeted them. "I'm so happy you could come." A slight wheeze was noticeable in her heavily accented speech as she spoke. "Ah, Hermione, you've grown so much mon cher. Unfortunately this will probably be my last chance to see you. My time is short, the doctors tell me. Listen well, mon cher, You are the last of the clan Paquette and as such, the lifeblood of our ancient magie. There is a family history that you should read that will explain your powers. You have a special gift mon enfant that few are blessed with. The power of instant recall of anything you've ever read. You are probably aware by now of how fast you learn things, but that is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Paquettes have always produced powerful witches and it is with great regret that your mother, my daughter, was only able to pass the gift along to you. Monica is what you would term a squib. Wendell, you were able to awaken Hermione's power, although I suspect you also are a squib, but never fear, Hermione has all the latent power of the Paquettes. Hermione, dearest granddaughter, you must ensure your gift is passed on. You have a boyfriend, no?"
Hermione blushed and nodded. "Oui Grandmère, but only recently," she replied as she noticed the startled looks from her parents.
"Ah, good. He is worthy, yes?"
Hermione glanced at her mum before replying, unsure how much to reveal. "Oui, he is a very powerful boy in my class at school."
"Yes, I can see it in your eyes that he has your heart. If he is as powerful as you believe, never let him go, for you will produce powerful babies together."
Hermione's face turned a deep shade of red and she had to turn away to hide her embarrassment. "Grandmère!"
Monica turned to stare at her daughter, now aware that Hermione had not told her anything about a boyfriend. She hoped it was not the Ron person that she had mentioned that continually teased and harassed her. Better that it was Harry, she hoped. Both boys figured prominently in her letters home and Harry Potter seemed the better of the two, although what little she learned of him was quite disturbing. Seemingly poor and poorly dressed; she guessed he was most likely abused at home. The two times she'd met him, he seemed a decent enough boy, if very shy.
Elise was smiling happily at her granddaughter's seeming discomfiture. It looked like she was deeply in love with the boy and had not told her parents. She decided to push a bit more. "Hermione, tell me about the boy. If he is worthy, you should not be embarrassed to speak of him."
"Well," she said hesitantly, "He's been a good friend since I started school and we've just recently decided to become a couple. His name is Harry Potter and he's almost a year younger than me, but he's probably the most powerful wizard in school. He's very modest and shy and it took us forever to, um, declare our feelings to each other."
Elise gasped. "Monsieur Potter! You have indeed chosen well. I knew his grandfather and met his father once. The Potters come from a very long line of powerful and influential wizards. Of course I've heard of the famous Boy-Who-Lived. Be careful mon cher, he will attract trouble by the mere fact of being alive."
"I know, Grandmère, I've already had a taste of that. I've been drawn to him since I first met him."
"Hermione?" Wendell asked, surprised that his daughter had not mentioned this significant fact. "Why didn't you tell us?"
Hermione's head dropped, as she turned away. "I-I… Well, you see, I was afraid you wouldn't approve," she mumbled quietly.
"Hermione Jane Granger!" her mum scolded. "Harry is probably the only boy we would approve for you. We were afraid you might develop feelings for Ron. You usually say much more about him in your letters than Harry. We wouldn't have approved of Ron, but Harry seems like a nice boy. In fact, from your letters home, those two were almost the only boys you even mentioned. One would think that it was an all girls school with only two boys attending. Oh, I forgot, two other boys rated a brief mention, but surely there were more than four boys that drew your attention."
"No Mum, there are almost as many boys as girls at school, but I don't pay any attention to them. I would never entertain romantic thoughts about Ron Weasley. His table manners alone disgust me. Harry is kind, considerate and smart when he's not being dragged down by Ron. Honestly, I don't know why I even associate with Ron. If he wasn't Harry's best mate, I'd probably hex him into the next century." She smiled at the concept and then turned serious. "Harry has a lot of baggage with him. He seems to attract trouble and I'm sure evil people would love to kill him. His relatives are awful people and treat him badly by all indications. He doesn't like to talk about them, but I've heard things and I can see the way he acts when he returns each year. Depressed is putting it mildly. Almost as if he's afraid of anyone touching him."
A hard look came across her parents faces when she said that. As health care providers, they were trained to recognise the signs of abuse. A quick whispered word between them assured that they would look into that.
Elise interrupted to ask Monica to fetch the Paquette Family Grimoire from its hiding place. Monica was the only other person that knew where she'd secreted the dangerous document. A moment later, Monica returned with a heavy thick book that looked ancient.
"Hermione, as my last living witch relative, I must pass this on to you. You and I are the only ones that can open it, as you are of Paquette blood. Be careful with this, mon cher, it contains the entire history and Magie Spéciale de Famille of the Paquettes for the past thousand years. Some of the spells are quite dangerous and I caution you to study them carefully before you attempt to use anything in this book. In the past, it was used to protect us from our enemies as well as ensure the Paquette line was preserved. Do not show this to anyone other than your husband when you marry. Dark forces would kill for the knowledge this grimoire contains."
"I will Grandmère," Hermione promised.
"Now, Herman will show you to your rooms, I am very tired and will talk to you tomorrow. Bonne nuit ma famille."
Settling down for the night, Hermione flipped open the book, curious what it contained. Once open, the book absorbed her interest as she rapidly read, soaking up the obscure spells and magic the grimoire contained. She tried a few spells and noticed that the Grimoire glowed when she repeated the spells.
Far away in Hogwarts, a young boy turned restlessly in his sleep, unaware of the subtle changes that were occurring within his body. When he awoke Christmas morning, he would have no memory of the previous night. In fact, to him, it was lost to him as if it had not occurred.
He settled down in the Great Hall for breakfast, eating disconsolately and wishing Hermione was beside him. He felt a bit strange this morning, to tell the truth, as if something significant had happened.
Hedwig had finally returned and had settled on his shoulder but without a note from Hermione. In fact, his own letter to her was still attached to her leg. Most curious, as Hedwig always delivered his letters. She was always able to find his friends and he couldn't understand why she could not deliver this letter. Surely Hermione could be found. Hedwig was agitated, shifting from foot to foot as she sat on his shoulder and Harry noticed that. "What's happened girl? Is Hermione safe?"
Hedwig gave him a mournful look, but remained upset. Unable to deliver a letter to his friend for the first time, Hedwig couldn't understand the barrier that she'd run into last night. It was as if his friend had protected herself from all intrusions and try as she might, Hedwig could not break through. She knew where his friend was, but something was preventing her from delivering the letter. She's exhausted herself in her efforts to break through and spent the next two days recovering before trying one final time. Giving up, she sorrowfully returned to Hogwarts and her wizard, sure that he would scold her.
"It's okay, Hedwig," he soothed her. If Hermione can't be found, it's not your fault. I just hope she's safe," he worried.
One of his friends entered the Great Hall and noticing Harry came over and sat beside him. "Hello Harry, Happy Christmas." Luna greeted.
Harry looked up and smiled. "Happy Christmas Luna, you're looking well this morning."
Luna looked at him in shock. "Harry? What's happened to you? You look different."
Harry blinked and replied. "Different? What do you mean?"
"Y-you've grown about four inches since yesterday and your hair is much longer. Where're your glasses, Harry?" she replied, obviously puzzled at the drastic changes in her friend.
"Glasses? Err… I thought I had them on. Now that you mention it, I don't seem to need them. That's odd." Harry felt his hair. It was definitely longer; much longer in fact and not as wild. He did remember that his clothes seemed a bit tight and short, but he ascribed it to them shrinking a bit somehow. He thought he's have to get new ones anyway, since he'd been wearing the same ones for years now. 'How Very Odd,' he thought.
"Odd, doesn't seem to fully describe it, Harry," she replied. "Impossible would be closer to the truth."
"Um, I did feel a bit strange this morning, to tell the truth. Nothing seemed to be quite the same. What I'd really like to know however, is why Hedwig seems unable to deliver this letter to Hermione."
"Hedwig couldn't deliver a letter?" she asked in shock. "Now that is strange. Owls, and especially Hedwig aren't stopped by ordinary wards; usually they are redirected. To return to you with the letter I assume you sent her is very strange."
Hedwig hooted mournfully.
"It's fine, Hedwig, nobody is blaming you," Harry replied, petting her affectionately. He reached to remove the letter and got his first shock. The letter itself seemed to be warded. He could touch it, but received a mild shock when he touched it. Hedwig jumped about a foot and looked at him with an annoyed expression. Her feathers fairly crackled with blue sparks and the letter suddenly jumped into his hand.
He was so surprised that he dropped the letter. Luna, who was closest, reached for the letter and was stunned. As she fell, Harry had the presence of mind to grab her and received his second jolt. Luna's hair stood straight out in wild abandon from her head, but he was able to save her from falling and hurting herself. Quickly pulling his wand from his pocket, he cast "Enervate!" at her but she did not rouse.
By this time, teachers at the head table had noticed with Professor McGonagall reacting first. "Mr. Potter! What have you done?"
"Honestly Professor, nothing. She tried to pick up a letter Hedwig had returned to me that I'd dropped and was suddenly somehow stunned."
Professor Dumbledore had made his way to the pair and was examining Luna. He waved his wand over the stunned girl but she wouldn't awake. "She seems alright but won't awaken. Minerva, would you be so kind as to move her to the hospital wing? Poppy will have to look at her."
"Certainly, Headmaster." She levitated the comatose witch ahead of her, hair still flyaway on her head.
"Most strange, Mr. Potter. In fact, are you indeed Harry Potter?" he asked suspiciously. "You look different." He waved his wand over Harry and seemed satisfied at the results, but looked at him curiously. "Most curious, Mr. Potter. Something has changed. I'm not quite sure what, but it's changed your appearance at the very least. Have you done anything that could account for these changes?"
"No sir, I went to bed, um… last night? Err, I don't seem to remember last night, Professor. I felt a little strange this morning but didn't notice anything wrong. When Luna approached me here, she also noticed the changes, that's after Hedwig arrive with the same letter I'd sent Hermione. Apparently she couldn't deliver it. When I touched the letter, I got a shock and the letter flew into my hand. I was so startled that I dropped it. Luna reached for it and was stunned as she touched it. I tried to revive her, but you saw the results. What's going on, Professor?"
"You say the letter to Miss Granger was returned? Has this ever happened before?"
"No sir, Hedwig has always been able to deliver my mail."
"Curious. May I see the letter?"
Harry reached for the letter and handed it to the professor, who quickly withdrew his hand and refused to touch it. "No Mr. Potter, I dare not touch it. It's been enchanted so that only you can handle it. Would you mind opening it?"
Harry wordlessly opened the letter and scanned the writing. It was his own letter to Hermione, but something was different. He could detect a subtle undertone between the lines of his messy script. "Uh, Sir, there seems to be something more to this letter than what I wrote. There is nothing else visible, but I sense magic between the lines."
"There is a spell that you can cast to reveal the true contents of the letter, Mr. Potter. Try casting Specialis Revealo with your wand lightly scanning the page."
Harry did as suggested and tiny neat letters appeared between the lines he'd written. As he read, he tried to speak but was unable. Startled, he read on.
I know this is an unorthodox way to send you a letter, but it's the only way I can reach you at the moment. I knew Hedwig had brought a letter from you but she was unable to break through a ward I had just learned. I'm fine but I'm unable to tell you where I am at this time. I seem to have accidentally set a ward that I'd been studying that had more consequences than I'd realised. A new spell enabled me to reply without actually receiving your letter and I'm sure poor Hedwig is frustrated at being unable to deliver your letter. When I see you after the holidays, I'll try to explain, but until then, know that I love you and will see you soon.
Harry Looked at the letter and then at Professor Dumbledore. "I'm sorry Sir, but I seem to be unable to repeat what is written, but I am able to read it. She's somehow able to answer me but that's all I can say."
"Quite alright my boy. I understand. Miss Granger is a very clever girl and has discovered something that I've long suspected about her. She's not only a brilliant witch, but also a powerful one. I'd like the both of you to join me in my office when she returns. We have much to discuss."
"Yes Sir." And with that, Albus returned to the head table and resumed his breakfast. Harry pondered what Hermione had said in the letter and what she had not said. Eventually he finished his breakfast and decided to visit Luna in the hospital wing. This day was turning out to be very strange indeed.
Hermione continued to read the Paquette Grimoire and was fascinated by the history and development of the family. The line stretched back into antiquity and indeed had branched many times, always with a powerful Paquette witch at the centre of change in the French magical world. Some of the words Hermione had a bit of trouble translating since it was written in colloquial French of the day. She'd consulted with her Grandmère extensively at first until she became familiar with the odd phrasing and unfamiliar words. She had been able to speak French since she was very young, sitting on her Grandmère's lap. This, however was different. She'd known Elise was a witch as soon as she got her Hogwarts letter. Her Grandmère did things that were mysterious until then. Now it was clear. Her mum knew of course, but said nothing, thinking that her daughter was a squib, the same as she. She didn't want to torment her daughter with the thought that she might not be able to do magic. It had bothered Monica that she was a squib and she didn't want to place that burden on Hermione if she proved not to be magic. Then she received her Hogwarts letter and she was relieved. They had immediately contacted Elise who was overjoyed to learn that her granddaughter was able to carry on the Paquette tradition.
The overriding theme of the Paquette Grimoire was the protection of loved ones, family in fact. Hermione understood this on an instinctual level and had already learned to cast the necessary spells to protect her and Harry, for she was sure that Harry was her destined life mate. Harry should have received her note by now and she was sure he'd read it. It was a shame she could not tell him more until she saw him, but the magic prevented that. Her Grandmère had explained that she could not tell him anything until they bonded. There was no hurry for that, but she must at least initiate the bond. When she asked how, Elise told her a simple prolonged kiss would start the bond. Hermione had smiled at that and confided in her Grandmère that they had indeed initiated the bond.
That's wonderful Hermione," she gushed. That is the first stage. When you marry, that will be when you can tell him what is in the Grimoire. That will be the second stage. The final stage is when you deliver your first child. The power of the bonding should be something to see. I know when I bonded with Jaques, it was quite spectacular and when I delivered Monica, it was something I've never forgotten. It's a shame your mother wasn't magical, but you've more than made up for it. You're really quite powerful mon cher. With you and Harry, you will produce very powerful babies. No, no, don't be embarrassed; it is the way of life."
Hermione had blushed at the thought of Harry impregnating her. It was a happy thought, but caused her blush to deepen when she imagined it. "Harry always said he wanted a family Grandmère. I'd love to give him one."
"That's the spirit, Hermione. Keep him close, You are the key to keeping him safe, for without you, he may fall."
Harry had visited Luna and Madam Pomfrey had restored her. Luna looked at him and giggled. "That letter sure packed a punch, Harry. I'm sure Hermione had something to do with that. I can see that you two are perfect for each other."
"You're okay, Luna?" he enquired. "I'm sorry that had to happen. I had no idea."
"It's okay, Harry, you couldn't have known. I'll be having a word with Hermione though. That spell hurt."
"I don't know what possessed her to add that spell. You could have been seriously hurt if I hadn't caught you."
"It's really alright Harry, it's not her fault I touched a letter not meant for me. Daddy warned me that could happen, but I forgot. You and Hermione are my only friends, after all. What did she say?"
"I'm really sorry, Luna. I'm unable to speak about it. Something in the letter prevents me. I'm sure she didn't mean to hurt you."
"Madam Pomfrey wants to keep me here until dinner time for observation. You should go, Harry; I'm sure you have more important things to do."
"Hey, I'm your friend, Luna. Friends don't abandon friends. I'll stay and keep you company. Besides, with Hermione and Ron away, I've gotten a bit lonely."
So the two friends spent the day together sharing thoughts and stories, remembering the disastrous last year when they'd fought Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries.
"You know Malfoy is planning something this year, Harry," she stated. "I mean, with his father in Azkaban, he'll want revenge."
"Yeah, but it's something more than that. I overheard him bragging on the train when we returned from summer and he stunned me and broke my nose. If it wasn't for you, I would have missed the opening feast. How did you know where I was?"
"Oh the Nargles were congregating around you," she stated with authority.
"Really? I mean you can see them?"
"Oh yes, not many can, but daddy showed me how to see them. It's really quite simple; you have to believe before they will allow you to see them," she replied, as if that explained everything. "So what do you think he's planning to do?"
"I don't know but at Slughorn's party he tried to crash it, you remember. I followed him and overheard him arguing with Snape. He's been given a task of some kind by Voldemort, but he won't tell Snape what it is and he doesn't want his help. I told Professor Dumbledore but he told me not to worry about it."
"Be careful Harry, Draco's no match for you, but he's treacherous. He'll ambush you when you're not looking and strike at your back. He already tried to hex me when I caught him sneaking into the Room of Requirement."
"Oh? When was this?" Harry wondered.
"Last week before the train left. I managed to escape before he saw who it was. He had a terrible look on his face when he figured someone had found him out. I think he may have tried to kill me if he'd known who saw him." She shivered at the thought.
"Thanks for the warning Luna, you be careful too. He's a nasty piece of work and deserves the same as his father. You and Hermione are the only ones besides me that take the threat seriously.
"By the way, Luna, I don't remember anything about Christmas Eve. Did anything happen?"
Luna looked at him curiously. "You don't remember? How could you not remember? Katie Bell almost died Christmas Eve. It was right in your common room, Harry. Surely you couldn't miss that! Alicia got her to Madam Pomfrey in time"
"Katie? No, I don't remember. What happened?"
"She touched a cursed necklace. How could you not remember? You brought her in!"
"I did? How can I not remember that? This is bizarre."
"Did you touch Katie at the time…? Silly me, of course if you don't remember her being cursed, you wouldn't remember that either. This is crazy. Someone must have obliviated you. But who and more importantly, why?"
"I must have seen something I wasn't supposed to see. This has Malfoy written all over it."
"Be careful Harry. Katie could have been killed."
It was now that Hermione ran into a problem. Her Grandmère was weakening day by day and Hermione still hadn't even read a fifth of the Paquette Grimoire. There was so much she wanted to ask her but her Grandmère was slipping in and out of consciousness. The time was indeed drawing close and Hermione feared she would miss something important. She loved her Grandmère and would dearly miss her, but the Grimoire was too important to ignore while she watched her die. Working feverishly, she found she could read and retain more as she read. It seemed the Grimoire was almost sentient and knew her Grandmère's time was short.
The next day, her fears were realised. Grandmère was dead. She had died during the night without saying another word to her. Hermione and her mum wept for her but being practical women, prepared for the funeral. Her dad was better prepared and the arrangements went ahead and the service was the next day. By the end of December, Hermione and her parents had returned to Broom, Grimoire firmly clutched in her hand. Hermione would spend the rest of the holidays closeted in her room, reading and translating the thick tome. Monica Granger had to threaten her to get her to eat and sleep. By the time Hermione returned to school, she had dark bags under her eyes and had lost a bit of weight.
Harry, of course, was waiting as the Hogwarts Express arrived at Hogsmeade Station. He was shocked when he saw her. This was not the Hermione he remembered that had left a dozen or so days ago. She was haggard and swayed slightly as she detrained. "Hermione!" he called as he caught sight of her.
She stumbled slightly and he caught her, wrapping his arms around her. "Harry," she mumbled. She literally collapsed into his arms, her bushy hair brushing his face.
He breathed in her delicate scent and guided her to a waiting carriage. She was asleep as soon as she settled. 'What on earth has happened to you?' he thought.
Arriving at the castle, he managed to wake her enough to get her to the Great Hall for dinner. She yawned widely throughout supper and promised him she'd explain tomorrow. Harry was worried. This was not like Hermione, she was clearly exhausted. He'd not seen her like this even when she was feverishly revising for exams. He helped her back to the Gryffindor common room and sent her to bed.
The next morning, she appeared, still looking tired, but much revived. "Good morning Hermione," he greeted. "What in heavens name happened? I thought I'd have to carry you to bed last night."
She giggled at her boyfriend's concern. "Well, I have so much to tell you, but not here. We'll have breakfast and find the Room of Requirement and have a little talk."
After meeting Ron for breakfast, they excused themselves with Hermione telling Ron that she had something private that she and Harry had to discuss. Ron was distinctly put out that he was not included and grumbled, but finally allowed that boyfriend-girlfriend talks were sometimes necessarily private.
Walking in front of the wall on the seventh floor, a door appeared and she guided Harry in to a nice comfy copy of the Gryffindor common room. A nice fire warmed the room and a couch appeared that looked comfortable. As they settled in, she cuddled against him and began her story. "I can't tell you everything, Harry, there are certain things that have to happen first. Harry," she paused uncertainly, "I know we're a couple, but what about later…?"
"What do you mean by later Hermione? We both love each other, later shouldn't even be a question."
"I know how I feel about you, but what if…?"
"Shh Love, we'll always be together. You've been my best friend since first year, I can't conceive of a time we won't be together."
"But Harry, this is really important. I have to know for sure. I love you and I can't make a mistake now. Will we eventually marry? Do you love me enough for that? Ergh, I hate having to be the one to ask, but will you marry me? Do you love me enough?" She blushed a deep scarlet as she asked the question she shouldn't have had to ask. Would he… she wasn't even sure what she expected him to say. It was embarrassing. The girl shouldn't have to be the one to ask, but she had to know. She knew how she felt, but did Harry feel the same?
"Hermione?" he startled. 'What brought this on all of a sudden? Did she just propose marriage to me?' he wondered. He paused while he considered his response. She was serious, he could see it in her eyes. She was actually afraid of what he might say. His heart melted as he looked at her. She was his, she'd literally made up her mind that they would be together forever as man and wife. Emboldened by her declaration, be enfolded her in his arms and stroking her hair softly answered.
"Hermione Love, yes we'll marry. I'm a bit surprised that it was you that asked me and not the other way around. I love you and I think you already knew that. I know it's a bit premature to talk of marriage, but know for certain that I'll marry you when we're ready. What brought this on anyway? This is not the Hermione I left at the station before Christmas holidays."
"Oh Harry, it's complicated, but I had to know. My Grandmère died when we visited her in France and she left me with the Paquette Family Grimoire. My mother's maiden name was Paquette and she came from a very long line of powerful French witches. The Grimoire can only be shared with my husband and the family protections it talks of are very strong. There are spells sprinkled throughout the family history that are very dangerous to one outside the family. I love you enough to want to protect you with some of these spells. The letter that you received was a special spell that was in the book and I'm afraid I got a bit carried away when I cast it. Poor Hedwig, I hope she'll forgive me. I'd erected a very powerful ward that she couldn't penetrate. I knew she was there so I answered your letter with a special spell I learned from the book. Nobody but you could touch the letter. I hope nobody else tried."
Harry snorted at that. "You have no idea. Poor Luna tried to pick up the letter when I got shocked removing it from Hedwig and dropped it. She was instantly stunned and neither I nor Professor Dumbledore could revive her."
Hermione gasped at that and her eyes filled with tears. "Poor Luna, I never imagined she'd try to touch it. She's alright isn't she?"
"Oh, she recovered under Madam Pomfrey's care a day later. She says she'll have a word or two to you about casting hexes on unsuspecting friends." He smiled to let her know that Luna was teasing.
Hermione knew she'd have to apologise to her friend and continued. "Grandmère teased me constantly about us. I don't think I've blushed that much ever. She says that we have started the initial stage of a powerful bond when we kissed and meant it. The next stage is when we marry and the final stage which seals the family protections will be when I'm pregnant and deliver our first child." She managed to control her blush this time, but just barely. Her face heated up dangerously and she could feel the beginning of a blush and that was when Harry took the matter into his own hands and thoroughly kissed her. She melted into his embrace, returning the kiss with everything she had. A moan escaped her lips as they kissed and their tongues danced and intermingled. When the kiss ended, they both were breathless.
"Wow, that was intense," he told her.
"Yeah, we'll have to be careful, I almost lost control. Merlin only knows what might have happened then," she replied shakily.
"We should discuss another serious thing that happened while you were away," he ventured.
"Something happened?" she queried.
"Yes Love, Katie Bell was cursed when she touched a necklace. Luna told me, but that's not all. I apparently brought her to Madam Pomfrey but the strange thing is, I can't remember anything that happened that day. For me it's a lost Christmas Eve."
"It's as if the day didn't exist, at least in my mind."
"That's strange, very strange. I opened the Grimoire for the first time that evening. I wonder. What if the protections started to take effect between us at that time. It would protect you from the effects of the curse if you had touched Katie's skin. How is Katie?"
"She's still in the Hospital wing, but Madam Pomfrey says she'll recover. It was a near thing though."
"Who would do a thing like that? Katie's a good witch, she doesn't have any enemies that I know of."
Luna tells me that the necklace was in a bag and she was supposed to deliver it to somebody, The bag had a hole in it and the necklace touched her skin. Apparently she was screaming and I saw her in Hogsmeade and stunned her. Luna says I carried her back to Hogwarts and to Madam Pomfrey. I don't remember any of that."
"Thank Merlin for small mercies then. You could have fallen to the curse as well."
"It's odd though," he replied. "It should have affected me as soon as I picked her up. I'm sure I must have had some skin contact with her; it would have been unavoidable."
Hermione thought for a moment before replying. "Maybe not. When we initially bonded, there would be some protection, maybe enough to delay the onset of the curse. Then when I started reading the Grimoire, the protection increased. Maybe enough to counter the curse but by then your memory of the event was lost. In fact, you probably forgot everything that happened that day due to the curse. Did you ask Katie what happened?"
"No, although I'm sure Professor Dumbledore and Madam Pomfrey did."
"You should ask. She also probably doesn't remember. Somebody evidently tried to kill someone and was using Katie to deliver the cursed necklace. Who do you suppose it was destined for?"
"My guess would be the Headmaster," he replied.
"Yes, it would make sense, but Professor Dumbledore would be smart enough to avoid it until he checked it thoroughly. Whoever did this was stupid."
"Sounds like Malfoy," he smirked. "That git is up to something, I know it. This is just the sort of thing he's capable of doing and not thinking that the Headmaster was smart enough to figure out it was cursed. Amateurish, he never thought anyone was smarter than him."
"We don't know it was Draco, although, remember we saw him in Borgin and Burkes. He could have picked it up then."
"Remember, I overheard him on the train and at Slughorn's party. Luna reminded me of that. He met with Snape and Draco blew him off when he tried to question him."
"We'll just have to keep a close eye on him. I don't trust him around you, Harry."
"You be careful too, Love. He's a dangerous little git that thinks he can get away with anything."
The next day classes resumed and the discussion was shelved as they delved into their studies once again. The teachers were piling on the homework and both teens were hard pressed to keep up. Hermione was constantly studying her Grimoire and she had scant time to help her boyfriend and Ron.
Ron had finally realised that he had to buckle down if he hoped to pass sixth year. He was barely able to keep up and with Quidditch practice, he was constantly tired. Harry had not resumed playing Quidditch since the Umbridge ban, but he had other things on his mind. Professor Dumbledore had started showing him memories of Tom Riddle. At first it didn't make sense; he wanted to be properly trained if he was to defeat Voldemort. The Headmaster insisted this was important however and revealed another important bit of information, albeit unintentionally. Voldemort had made Horcruxes and Harry was certain that the connection he shared with him might be more than just a cursed scar. He kept that fear to himself, although Hermione eventually worked it out for herself. She was horrified at first and delved deeper into her book. Surely there was an answer in there.