Faery Heroes

Response to Paladeus's challenge "Champions of Lilith". Harry, Hermione, and Luna get a chance to travel back in time and prevent the hell that England became under Voldemort's rule, and maybe line their pockets while they're at it. Lunar Harmony; plenty of innuendo, dark humor, some bashing included; manipulative!Dumbles; jerk!Snape; bad!Molly, Ron, Ginny

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8233288/1/Faery-Heroes

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46. Vile Valentine's

Harry snorted with restrained laughter as Luna skipped ahead and spun in a picture-perfect pirouette. "You've been waiting all month for this, haven't you?"

"Yep." Lowering her raised foot back to the stone floor, the blonde nodded seriously, the motion completely at odds with the self-satisfied expression on her face. She looked like Crookshanks always did just before they stumbled upon his latest 'present'. "Don't you remember what we agreed on last Valentine's Day? You said we were going to have a baking contest, you and I, and I am beyond sure that I'll win."

"You know, using recipes out of a faery cookbook given to you by Santa Claus himself might be just a little outside the rules."

"Oh, pish posh. You're just upset because you know that you're going to lose," the blonde replied with a tiny chortle.

"Whatever," he muttered, not having a decent retort for the girl's quite accurate assessment. From her giggle, she knew it, too. "Of course, when we agreed to this competition, we didn't exactly plan on having to throw the house-elves out of the kitchens beforehand."

She shrugged. "So we wait till this evening, no big loss." Spinning again, she pointed down the corridor ahead of them. "Onward! Our girlfriend awaits!"

Knowing her, she's probably enjoying some peace and quiet, Harry thought with a mental grin. Rolling his eyes at the blonde's childishness, he barely had enough time to stop before he bowled her over as she suddenly stopped in her tracks. "What now?"

Luna did not seem to hear him, too preoccupied with staring down the intersecting hallway. "What the bloody buggering hell?"

He blinked in surprise and turned his head to look down the corridor as well. What he saw caused his jaw to drop. It was Hermione, giggling and hanging on to another guy. A future him, he would have understood; maybe even Neville, who could be convinced that it was merely a joke at his and Luna's expense.

There was no reason for her to be draped over Ron's arm.

"Mione, what's going on?" he called in a strangled voice, just loud enough to gain the pair's attention.

The brunette cheerfully dragged the boy over. "Oh, Ron and I were just going to grab some breakfast. Do you and Luna want to join us? We could—"

"Hermy, I'm sure they want some alone time," Ron cut in. Then the redhead leaned over and kissed his lover.

Harry felt like his heart had frozen and shattered into a million pieces when rather than push the redhead away, Hermione responded eagerly.

"Mione, what the hell are you doing?!" Luna screeched. "You love us, me and Harry!"

Hermione pulled away from Ron and gave the blonde a disgusted look. "You really are Loony. Isn't it obvious? I love Ron. I always have."

What the hell is going on?! Why is Hermione doing this?

'Just remember, they love you. If they say they don't, it's a lie.' The Winter Lady's words echoed in Harry's ears, and in direct counterpoint to the icy pain still in his chest, his blood immediately began to boil. The rage cut through his shock and gave him the clarity to realize exactly what had happened. Somehow, despite the potion regimen they were all on, Ron had managed to dose her again.

Never had Harry expected to find anyone he could hate as much as he did Bellatrix Lestrange. Now, however?

"Luna, deal with Ron," he ordered in a cold tone, the voice he had only used when they were still in the future and stumbled upon a particularly despicable Death Eater raid. The girl reacted instantly, reflexes still sharp from two wars allowing her to whip out a stunner before the redhead even had a chance to process his words. He, on the other hand, cast a nonverbal body-bind.

Hermione was normally just as quick as they were, but in her potion-addled state, she was too concerned with the fallen traitor to dodge. "What are you doing, Harry?!" she demanded, struggling against the spell. No matter what she tried, however, she could not move more than her head. "Why would you attack my Ron?! He's your best friend!"

"Not just a love potion, it looks like," Luna remarked in a dead tone. Suddenly snarling in rage, she hopped forwards and let her foot fly into Ron's ribs. "She's been Obliviated, too. Harry, she doesn't remember anything about us."

He reached over and pulled his first girlfriend to his side, a silencing charm quieting the ranting brunette. Tears burned in his eyes. "No, she doesn't."

"What are we going to do?"

Luna's heartbroken voice was too much to bear in addition to this new state of affairs, and he bent his head down to mutter into her hair, "I don't know." From the corner of his eye he noticed Hermione still struggling against his jinx as she tried to crawl to Ron's side. "But the least we can do is make sure that even… even if our Mione is gone, this one isn't trapped by that bastard."

"You're right," she agreed sadly. "Dobby."

For a second, Harry thought the elf had not heard them, but then Dobby appeared with a sharp crack, a second house-elf held in a tight grip. "Missy Lunie, Dobby be finding Prinny peeking on Missies and Master Harry. What should Dobby be doing with him?"

"Prinny, was it?" he asked, to which the strange elf nodded fearfully. In a distant corner of his mind, Harry wondered how much of his fury was etched onto his face. "Why were you watching us?"

"Prinny can't be saying! Master Headmaster says not to!"

"Stupefy. Obliviate." He scrubbed his face with his left hand. "Of course this is Dumbledore's doing. Damn him! Dobby!" His elf dropped Prinny's unconscious body and stood at attention. "Keep any elf other than yourself from coming here, dump him somewhere else for now, then go to the manor and bring me a vial of neutralizing potion."

"One of Missy Hermy's potions, Master Harry?" Dobby asked in confusion.

"Yes, one of those. Someone," Harry shot a glare at the boy he had once considered a friend, "gave her a love potion and wiped her memory."

"Missy Hermy? Poisoned?" The house-elf's face revealed his horrified shock, and following Harry's gaze, the expression quickly morphed into something ugly, something the wizard had never seen before. "Yes, Dobby be getting Missy Hermy's potion. Does Master want Dobby to take care of bad, bad Wheezy?"

He hit Ron with a bright blue irreversible memory charm, permanently destroying all the redhead's memory of the day since waking up, and nodded. "Get him out of my sight before I kill him."

Luna pouted when elf and boy disappeared, though the familiar visage held not a hint of her normal good humor. "I wasn't done kicking him yet. He hadn't… paid…" Twin rivers of tears poured down her cheeks, and she immediately sank back into his offered embrace. "I can't do this, Harry. It's… It's Mione, and she's… just gone."

"I know, love. I know."

Dobby popped back into the hallway, a vial of vibrant pink potion in his hand. "If Master be allowing, how will Missy Hermy be taking her potion?"

He closed his eyes with a sigh. Because today wasn't already difficult enough. Hermione is the one who had Healing training; I don't know how to give this to her when she's fighting me, at least not without… "I'm going to take it from your question that you don't know the spell to vanish potions into somebody?" Hearing the flapping of the elf's giant ears, he looked hopefully at Luna. "Please tell me she taught you to do it."

"She didn't," the blonde answered quietly.

"Fine. I guess it's up to me." After pulling away from Luna and taking the potion, he approached Hermione's still-struggling form and just looked into her eyes for a moment. The sheer depth of anger reflected back at him from those cinnamon orbs was indescribably painful. "Hermione, I have no right to ask for forgiveness for what I'm going to do, but I hope that, one day, you can find it in your heart to at least understand why I did it.

"Finite incantatem. Imperio."

Her eyes became cloudy as the Unforgivable Curse, fueled by the hatred he felt for Ron and Dumbledore as well as his bone-deep need to bend the girl before him to his wishes just this once, overwhelmed her free will and left her little more than his puppet. So great was his desire that he did not even have to give a verbal order; as soon as he placed the vial in her palm, she uncorked it and downed the contents.

The next instant, he had to step back as she rolled over and threw up everything in her stomach.

"Oh, that is just awful," she complained when she was finally done. Sitting up to look at the pair of time-travelers, she shot them a weak grin. "Still, I guess it's a good thing they worked like they were supposed to. I was afraid I hadn't managed to add the purgative properties properly."

Luna, disbelief obvious in her posture, gingerly stepped closer. "Mione?"

"No, I'm the other girl willing to put up with you two every day. The one who complains when she wakes up and finds that you ate pudding in the bed when you wanted a midnight snack."

"Mione!"

The blonde crashed into Hermione, neither girl caring how close they came to splashing around in the brunette's expelled fluids as they laughed in unrestrained joy. Harry shook his head in wonder and joy before dropping next to them. "Merlin, don't scare us like that ever again. We thought you were… well…"

"I noticed," the oldest of the trio replied with a dry voice. More thoughtfully, she continued, "I have no idea what potion Dumbledore managed to cook up, but it was nothing I've ever heard off. It's fuzzy, dreamlike, but I know that I while I was under its effects, I couldn't remember anything after the end of our fourth year. I can now, obviously, and I don't know if it was an intended effect of the potion," she shuddered, "or if I was just too concerned with Weasley to care."

"Damned alchemists making potion equivalents to spells," Luna muttered harshly.

Harry shook his head. "It doesn't matter now. You're back." He leaned over to kiss her, but she pushed him away. Carefully, he tried to hide his hurt; after placing her under the Imperius Curse, he should not have expected anything different.

"My mouth tastes like vomit," she reminded him, causing his heart to float back up from where it had settled at his feet. "And while I prefer that to what came immediately before it, it's still not pleasant."

"What I want to know is how Dumbledore managed to dose you. I doubt Ronald would have the ability to set all this up," commented the blonde at his questioning glance.

"He tampered with my neutralizing potions, probably through Prinny or one of the other elves last night. That's the only thing that makes sense." Hermione shook her head. "The one I took this morning was much too thin. I noticed it but didn't pay it any attention. Also, there was a plate of biscuits on my table when I got out of the shower, and I remember thinking it strange but still eating them anyway. It's like I couldn't stop to consider what was actually going on."

"Compulsion charms," he growled. "How else was he going to make sure you followed the script?"

"We can't let him get away with this."

"And we won't, Luna." Gritting his teeth, he continued, "Looking back, I think I was subconsciously hoping Dumbledore wasn't as twisted in this timestream as he was in our own, like how Slughorn was different, but this? This crosses a line that he should have stayed far, far away from. He's a dead man."

Hermione prodded them, drawing their attention away from the plans of lethal revenge being drafted in their minds. "Much as I want the bastard to pay, too, we can't afford to kill him yet."

"Mione, what are you saying?!"

"I'm saying that he's too valuable. Think about it, Harry; if he dies today, who's going to take control over Hogwarts? Umbridge. Surely you remember how bad things got after Dumbledore was chased out of the castle last time: the Inquisitorial Squad strutting around, Muggleborns tortured with her blood quills at her whim, rumors of the Slytherin boys forcing themselves any girl they wanted." Harry grimaced at that reminder; he had only heard about that last point years after the fact, but both of his girls had been acutely aware of those particular allegations. "Now consider how much worse she'd be this time because you've kept her from abusing her power as she expected to be able to do. And that's if the Ministry didn't decide to completely and blatantly take over or Voldemort didn't attack the minute he heard that his chief adversary was dead—"

"All right, I get it. As much as he deserves to be broken for this, he's too useful as a deterrent for our other enemies," he sighed.

"Too useful for now," the former apprentice Healer corrected. "Once Voldemort's out of the way and the Death Eaters are no longer in power, we can burn him alive and piss on his ashes without a care. We just have to do this in the right order."

Luna interjected, "And the first item of this 'right order' is going home. Everything else can be dealt with later."

"While I hate dealing with the logic of time travel, I have to admit that the Time Turners themselves do come in handy," Harry commented to his girls as they walked down the corridors to the Great Hall. The three of them were much more relaxed than one might have expected considering the tragedy they had just barely escaped that very morning, but six hours spent cuddling together at their home had given them the necessary time to settle their worries, at least enough that they could use the aforementioned hourglasses to return to the time at which they had left the school, partake of a second breakfast, and then attend classes as if nothing were out of the ordinary.

Also comforting was their resolution that, from now on, one of their elves would come to them each morning with the day's dose of neutralizing potion. Today's close call was quite enough.

During their 'break', they had come to a disturbing conclusion. Over the preceding months, everything had gone their way. Dumbledore was more concerned with his ineffectual war strategy than prodding Harry, probably because the younger wizard was not blatantly acting against the old goat as much now as he had earlier in the year; Voldemort was holed up in Malfoy Manor; and Umbridge, seeing that Harry was not the up-and-coming rebellion leader she had expected and that he had been the first time around, was seemingly biding her time and waiting for something to happen. As a result of all that, they had become complacent, unconcerned. Sloppy.

Just because they were keeping their heads down in a certain respect did not mean they were totally safe, and it definitely did not mean they could let down their guard. Ron's attack on them, in hindsight, had been a wake-up call they desperately needed.

Harry frowned as he spotted the crowd gathered in front of the Great Hall. The congregated students were mostly silent, the loudest anyone was talking only a dull murmur as they stared into the room. He said quietly, "I wonder what's going on in there."

"I don't know," Hermione answered.

The brunette's voice was enough to draw the attention of the people on the outskirts of the crowd, and several teenagers drew away to make a path for the trio. That did little to assuage his concerns, merely causing him to enter the crushing mob first and finger the wand in his pocket. When he finally made it to the doorway, he gaped in astonishment and barely heard Hermione's whispered, "Dear Merlin."

So that's where Ron disappeared to this morning, was his first, irreverent thought. The second was not much better. Note to self: do not make Dobby mad at me.

Ron hung from the rafters, a rope tied to one sturdy beam and then wrapped around his wrists keeping him aloft. Above his unconscious body drifted the reason no one had yet tried to help him, six letters written in yellow smoke spelling out a damning accusation: RAPIST. The front of Ron's robes were soaked through just below his waist, and at first Harry thought the redhead had wet himself in fear.

Then he watched a drop fall from the sodden robe and splash into the dark red puddle directly below the dangling boy.

"What is going on here?" bellowed McGonagall as she pushed her way through the crowd. The Scotswoman's hand flew to her mouth when she finally laid eyes on the grisly scene. Her wand flashed out, severing the rope and gently floating Ron to the floor. "Does anyone know anything about this?" she demanded, her gaze shooting from one person to another. Her eyes alighted on Harry, and she asked, "Mr. Potter, do you know when this could have happened?"

The students' mutterings grew louder now that they had a potential scapegoat, and Harry was hard-pressed not to snarl as he answered. The last thing he needed was for anyone to connect this to him and his lovers. "I don't," he said in a deliberately distant voice. McGonagall's harsh gaze softened, and he continued, "He wasn't here for breakfast, and he missed all his classes. I just thought he was having a lie-in."

"Very well." Quickly vanishing the pooled blood, she levitated Ron's body and turned to the rest of the assembled witnesses. "I promise you all, we will get to the bottom of this. For now, however, classes for the rest of the day are canceled. Please return to your common rooms; food will be provided for you there. Mr. Potter, Miss Granger, do you wish to accompany me to the hospital wing?" she asked in a quieter voice.

Hermione shook her head and buried her face between his shoulder blades, and it was only fourteen years of familiarity that let him know her body was not shaking because she was crying. She was hiding the fact that she was snickering.

I can't exactly blame her for that; after all, being enslaved by someone slipping her a love potion is her worst fear. After Ron did it to her – again – her being a little more vindictive than usual about his fate is only to be expected.

"No, professor, but thank you. I need to get Hermione back to the tower, and Luna will be staying with us if that's all right." The professor nodded, having bigger things on her mind than a lone Ravenclaw slumming it with the Lions. Bundling the brunette in his arms so as to continue the charade, he guided both girls down the hallway after the rest of the departing students.

After looking around to make sure no one was listening in on them, and even going so far as to use the magesight charm to check for hidden spies, Luna whispered incredulously, "And you thought house-elves needed help? It looks like they can take care of themselves just fine all on their own."

"In hindsight, all I really needed to do was get them angry enough and then point them at their masters," Hermione said as he she pulled away from him. She bared her teeth in a vicious mockery of a grin. "Dobby really went above and beyond the call of duty this time, though. Remind me to give him something nice."

Harry shook his head at his elder partner's attitude, recalling the discussion he had had the previous month with Astoria about how a Patronus represented both the good and bad of a person. Though commonly considered sweet and playful animals, otters could be extremely aggressive if they felt they were threatened. Hermione leading Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest and fully expecting the centaurs to kill her for her insults was when he realized that his beloved bookworm was far more dangerous than she first appeared.

"You aren't going to let this be the end of it, though, are you?" he asked knowingly.

She shot him a look. "That bastard dosed me with a love potion and was waxing bloody poetic about all the great things that were going to happen now that I was 'finally where I belonged'. I won't be satisfied until I see him choke on his last breath."

"You know, my granddaddy had a saying," Luna commented in a seemingly idle fashion. "He repeated it every time he saw me fail at some goal I had set myself. 'There's nothing you can't do with enough motivation', he'd tell me.

"I'd say our motivation in this regard is more than sufficient."

Hermione glanced up from her book when McGonagall entered the common room. All conversation staggered to a halt, everyone watching as the professor made her way across the floor to the couch the trio had claimed. "Mr. Potter, could you come with me, please? Professor Dumbledore wishes to speak with you."

"Let me guess," he returned without looking up, seeming to pay more attention to the essay he was nearly finished with. Hermione, however, knew that every iota of his focus was on the situation at hand, and she was starting to worry. While they were fighting in the future, he had proven that he was at his most dangerous when he was in this state. "Our illustrious headmaster is also suffering under the delusion that I had a hand in the attack on Ron?"

Oh, that is perfect, she thought with a hidden grin. By putting McGonagall on the defensive like this, he's denying any rumors an opportunity to form, not to mention that calling such opinions crazy will keep anyone from publicly committing to them, at least for the moment. Without any evidence, all she can say is…

"What?" The older woman glanced about the room at all the ears eagerly listening in. "No, Mr. Potter, not at all. This is something unrelated, as far as I know."

Harry nodded and stood, Hermione and Luna leaping to their feet at the same time. The professor blinked in surprise and hesitantly said, "Miss Granger, Miss Lovegood, the headmaster wanted to see Mr. Potter specifically. You two were not invited."

"But Professor, after that ugliness with Ron, I don't feel safe without Harry next to me," Luna whimpered, putting on her best little girl look as she latched desperately to his arm. "Won't you please let me come along? I'll stay out of the way, I promise. Hermione's scared, too."

You did not just pull me into this, the eldest of the family thought hotly before turning to McGonagall. "I wouldn't say scared, but one of my friends"—she nearly spat the word out of her mouth, but barely managed to withhold her disgust and rage—"was attacked this morning, and no one has any idea who did it. I can't be sure that the same won't happen to Harry, and Luna too if she's with him."

"I… but… Oh, very well." McGonagall ushered them out through the portrait hole and into the hallway. Taking a deep breath, she said, "Mr. Potter, I didn't want to confirm your suspicions inside and risk rumors starting, but the answer to your question is actually 'Possibly'. I know you had nothing to do with this, but Professor Dumbledore did not indicate his own opinions on the matter. That said, I was telling the truth when I said this was about a completely different matter. I'm sure it won't take five minutes of your time."

"I see. Would you be willing to stand with us in case the conversation turns down that road?"

The Scotswoman jerked at his question, or perhaps the way he had phrased it. "I don't know that it would be appropriate—"

"Professor, you are my head of house, not to mention the deputy headmistress. If there is anyone who has the right to sit in on a meeting between a student and the headmaster, it would be you." He paused. "Not to mention, the last two times I met with Dumbledore, I had to declare blood feud and then defend myself when he accused me of killing Snape. I doubt this meeting will be in a different vein, especially in light of your earlier confession."

"He thought you murdered Severus?" she repeated in disbelief. "I wouldn't believe that for a moment. You don't have it in you to kill anyone."

You'd be surprised. All three of the time-travelers had blood on their hands, though Harry and Luna admittedly far more than Hermione. Part of that was that, as their medic, she had spent a greater proportion of the large battles they had fought in a support role, but another part was that she did not possess the same ability to shut her emotions off and act with pure, cold calculation that her lovers did. She expected that Harry spending his early childhood in the care of his abusive 'family' and Luna going through years of torment by practically everyone with nobody to turn to for help were major causes of their shared talent.

She had told them before that she hated seeing them in that state, but no one – especially not they – knew that it was because they honestly scared her. At those times, Hermione could no longer see his innate goodness and nobility or her whimsy and childlike wonder; all that was left were the cold eyes and hard visages of embittered veterans.

There was nothing she would love more than for the war to end that day so that she would never again have to see her partners pick up their wands with destruction and death as their purpose.

In her introspection, she had been completely oblivious to their continued journey, so she was shocked to find that they had arrived at the stone gargoyle blocking the way to the headmaster's office. The guardian leapt out of their path, though whether it was because they were expected or McGonagall had already given the password, she did not know. The black-haired witch led the charge up the spiral staircase and barged into Dumbledore's room without waiting for an invitation. "Why in heaven's name would you think that Mr. Potter was responsible for Severus's death?!"

"What?" the old man spluttered, unprepared for this line of questioning, and Hermione could not help her smile. Never had she been as fond of McGonagall than at this moment. "Whatever are you talking about, Minerva?"

The Transfiguration professor paused a moment to take a calming breath and explained, "When you asked me to bring Mr. Potter here, you said it had to do with where he would stay for the summer holidays. I should have realized you were lying to me then – you never take care of things like this until the last possible minute – but then he told me that you had accused him of murdering Severus when we both know that is absurd. Now I can't help but wonder if you're going to do the same here with this attack."

"Mr. Potter, there is an implicit understanding that topics spoken of in this room are to be held in confidence," Dumbledore said, turning to the young man in question.

"Really?" Harry asked in sharp tone, one eyebrow raised questioningly. "You're seriously going to sit there and blame me because you didn't tell a member of your staff that you suspected one of her students was guilty of murder?"

"Regardless, this is a private conversation," the old man continued as if Harry had not said a word. "Minerva, would you please escort Miss Lovegood and Miss Granger back to their respective common rooms."

"Not a chance."

McGonagall nodded in agreement at Hermione's instant rejection. "If you think I'm leaving this room after finding out about that, you need to go to Poppy to have your head examined. I don't know what's gotten into you this year, but—"

Dumbledore slammed his hand on his desk and snapped, "Minerva! There is a time and a place for such a conversation, but it is not right now! If you truly think we need to discuss that, we will, but after our current audience is no longer present."

The older witch snorted but relented.

"Thank you." Straightening his obscenely bright orange robes, the headmaster turned his attention to the time-travelers. "Now, Harry. Is there anything you'd like to tell me about how Mr. Weasley found himself hanging from the rafters in the Great Hall earlier this morning?"

"Sure." Everyone stared in shock at his unexpected reply. "First, I dearly hope you are putting your full efforts into finding out who did this and how he did it to make sure it doesn't happen again, and second, it would probably be a good idea to investigate the validity of this unknown assailant's claims. It is well known that Ron fancies Hermione, and if these allegations are true…"

"You think Ronald, your friend, is a rapist?"

"Unlike you, I saw the scene first-hand," Harry replied. "It wasn't the work of someone acting on hearsay. Whoever staged that scene was angry; no, furious. That implies that our mystery attacker has some kind of evidence linking Ron to a rape. I don't want to believe it, but I am justifiably feeling somewhat cautious. Castration isn't something a normal person does with a clear head."

Dumbledore jerked the tiniest amount at the last statement, and Hermione demanded curiously, "He was castrated, right? With the location and amount of blood, I can't think of anything else that could have happened."

"…Not exactly," the old man answered slowly. "He was not castrated, per se. His… manhood was, ah, removed, for lack of a better phrase."

"I'm sorry, but let me get this straight," Luna interrupted. "You're saying that not only was Ronald tied up and hung from the ceiling like a skinned rabbit, he also had his willy whacked off?"

Really, really need to do something nice for Dobby soon.

When Dumbledore nodded hesitantly, she continued, "All right, then. I'm with Harry on this one. Whoever did it was mad, and that means he thinks he was in the right. At the very least, investigating the claim could give you a lead on the culprit if he is indeed guilty or cause the attacker to reveal himself if you find that Ron is innocent."

"And that is exactly what I'm doing." Dumbledore glanced among the three of them. "Harry, where were you this morning before classes? The Fat Lady informed me that you left the Tower earlier than normal."

Harry shrugged. "I went to Ravenclaw Tower to pick up Luna; several other people were there and can verify. After that, we met with Hermione, snogged a little, worked up an appetite in a manner appropriate for Valentine's Day," here Dumbledore grimaced, "and went down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Then we had classes, and of all our professors can testify we were present."

"I see. Strange that you said did not mention seeing Ronald in all that time considering Miss Granger was observed leaving Gryffindor Tower in his company. That you claim she was a participant in your… indiscretions is likewise unusual; the Fat Lady said they looked quite besotted with each other."

You miserable old bastard, Hermione mentally snarled, glaring at the egotistical manipulator. Was the whole thing with the love potions just a setup to put pressure on us so we'd trip up, or is this you trying to salvage your failed operation? "The Fat Lady obviously needs to stop twisting the facts to make for more titillating stories, then." Dumbledore spun to look at her in surprise. "It is well known all over the school that Harry, Luna, and I are romantically involved. I left the Tower with Ron, yes, and then we went our separate ways, I to meet with them and he presumably to go to breakfast. That was the last time I saw of him until this afternoon."

McGonagall cut in hotly, "I'd say that's it, then, Albus. Unless you have any evidence less circumstantial than the word of that vacuous portrait linking them to the attack on Mr. Weasley?"

"Not at this time, no," the old wizard reluctantly allowed.

"Good. You three, please return to the common room. Should the current lockdown continue to curfew, I will personally escort Miss Lovegood back to her dormitory."

"Thank you, Professor." Ignoring Dumbledore completely, the trio walked down he stairs, Harry at the lead. Once at the bottom, he commented, "That was… odd."

"You mean McGonagall leaping to our defense?" Hermione asked.

"Yes. I've never known her to do that, except…" He whispered, "Except during my career counseling, when Umbridge said I would never be an Auror. Definitely not with Dumbledore," he said at a normal volume.

Luna, rather than lower her voice, cast a silencing charm around them. "Maybe some of his gilding is finally wearing off in her eyes. Much as she didn't like that he questioned you without telling her about it, that alone shouldn't have caused her to explode at him like she did."

"No telling what it was, but I have to say that I'm glad she's on our side more than Dumbledore's," Hermione added. "Just think how that could have gone should she think you were guilty."

Harry nodded. "Regardless, we need to make sure we are very careful from here on out, more careful than we have been." He frowned and continued, "That and not leave Dobby in charge of administering punishments anymore."

After kissing both Luna and Hermione goodnight – despite McGonagall's weighty gaze when the woman came to take the blonde to the Ravenclaw tower – Harry trudged up the stairs to the fifth-year boys' dorm. His good mood plummeted when he spotted an innocent white box sitting on his bed. "Hey, Neville? Any idea who left this here?"

"Not a clue," the boy answered. "You weren't the only one, though; all of us had a box just like it. Cream-filled chocolates, homemade I think. They weren't pretty enough to be Honeyduke's. Good, though."

"I see." That did not fill him with any confidence, and he eyed the box warily as he sat on the mattress and closed the curtains around himself. Opening the package, he waved his wand and intoned, "Fatere celata."

The candies glowed with golden light as Scarpin's Revelaspell went to work, and a second later ghostly writing appeared above them. He grit his teeth as he looked over the ingredients, some of them all too familiar. The last one was the clincher: human hair, added to key the potion's effect to a specific individual.

Who should I pass this on to? Not Dobby, certainly, and Winky has turned her terrifying degree of devotion to the Crouches onto us, so… "Silencio. Floppy!"

His newest elf appeared with a pop on his bed and hastily curtseyed in her dark green toga. "Master Harry calls?"

"Take this back to the Manor, please," he requested, handing her the box. Deciding not to risk another elven vigilante attack, he said, "There's a chance these might have a potion in them, but I want to wait until Mione's had a chance to double-check me before anyone does anything."

"Floppy understands. Does Master Harry want Floppy to give these to Missy Hermy now? She still bes awake."

"No, we've had problems enough today. This can wait until tomorrow." The elf nodded and vanished; alone again, he flopped onto the bed and covered his face with his hand.

Yes, that can wait until tomorrow, all right. And if Mione confirms what I saw… I've had enough of love potions for ten lifetimes.

 
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