Word Count: 1,130
Prompt: Day 18 traditional - skating rink in front of Somerset House
Disclaimer: JK Rowling owns them, not me. This is for mischief's sake, not profit.
Author's Notes: This is for slythindor100 's Christmas challenge picture prompts. Sequel of Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five, Part six, Part seven, Part eight, Part nine, Part ten, Part eleven, Part twelve, Part thirteen, Part fourteen, Part fifteen, Part sixteen & Part seventeen
"What do you mean, Ron?" Hermione said, glancing fleetingly at the fire. She was expecting Harry any minute now, and she felt she needed to hear Ron's ideas first.
"We discussed this before." Ron ruffled his fringe with a casual gesture before sitting down on the comfy chair. "Malfoy Manor, remember? Why did You-Know-Who…"
He paused for a moment and said forcefully, "Blimey! Voldemort. Why did Voldemort stayed there?"
At Luna's curious gaze, Ron muttered low under his breath, "We fought for the freedom to say his stupid name!"
"He wanted to punish Lucius, humiliate him," said Hermione thoughtfully. She stood up and went to the shelf, fingering the cover of the books. Somehow, this situation made their printed words, which she had grown to know by heart, seem quite remote. What did she have to learn, for example, from Plutarch's description of ancient Greek leaders in 'Parallel lives'?
"Git could've done that anywhere," growled Ron at last.
"You think Voldemort put a horcrux in one of the Malfoys while he was at the Manor?" said Luna, shuddering at the remembrance of her stay in the dungeons.
"Not really," said Ron, and cradled his face in his hands. "Though Voldemort seemed too obsessed by them to be sure. Anyway, to plant his horcrux he needed to kill, didn't he?"
"Yes," said Hermione.
"Plenty of that during the Final Battle," said Ron in a low voice, remembering those frantic hours. He tilted up his chin to look at Hermione, his blue eyes contrasting sharply with his coppery hair. "Why did Voldemort hug Draco?"
Hermione shuddered and sat down heavily next to Ron. "What do you think he was doing?"
"I've heard reports he was working on something," said Luna distractedly. "Despite his seemingly invincible armies, he was not so sure; he was even afraid he would lose at the end. He was, after all, a Dark wizard with heaps of knowledge of the forbidden Arts."
"Exactly!" said Ron wearily, and heaved a deep sigh. "What if the words Lucius told Harry, sol sibber…?"
"Sol sistere," corrected Hermione automatically.
"Whatever." Ron nodded. "What if those words were an incantation, a special kind of horcrux he developed that activates when certain conditions meet?"
"During the winter solstice." Hermione gazed thoughtfully at the crackling logs in the chimney, feeling for a moment as lost and bereft of hope as during those heinous hours at the Manor where, she remembered, Draco hadn't betrayed them.
"What about the prophecy, though?" said Ron, his eyebrows puzzling in thought. "How does the thing go?"
"At the solstice will come a new age, bereft of impurities, and none will come after," Luna recited the prophecy in a businesslike voice, devoid of her usual dreaminess.
"It could mean Voldemort will return to rid the world of what he considered impurities, and no Dark wizards with that kind of power will come after," said Hermione, her shoulders drooping.
"When Voldemort hugged Draco," said Luna wonderingly. "Having committed plenty of murders, he might have done that to transfer the horcrux."
"Do we tell Harry?" said Hermione, her heart clenching at the idea of taking away any part of the happiness Harry had so painfully earned.
"We have to," muttered Ron through clenched teeth. "He ought to know."
"What if he tells Draco?" said Luna, her gaze lost in the flickering flames.
"That's Harry's decision." Hermione looked at the round object that floated above the table, the runes decorating the frame like the scribbling of spiders. Then she squared her shoulders and said briskly, "Thankfully, we've got the Pensieve; we need to study the moment Voldemort hugged Draco."
Luna took out her wand. "Let me offer my memory, then. I remember the devastation as if it was yesterday."
Harry stumbled out of the chimney at that moment, and his knees would have landed painfully on the floor but for Ron's steadying hand.
"Thanks, mate," said Harry, looking up at his friends who were all staring anxiously at him.
"What's the matter?" he said tentatively.
"We've got news," said Ron. "You aren't going to like it, mate."
Hermione pulled up her woollen scarf; her gloved hands stuck in the pockets of her overcoat as she watched the people making their way around the skating rink. She envied the way they frolicked upon the ice, so joyful and free.
"Managed to convince the policeman not to report the incident," said Luna, brushing aside a curl of her blond hair.
"And I've dealt with the people involved," said Hermione. "Their shoes made them whirl around randomly, quite similar to Tarantallegra." She muttered under her breath, "Some enterprising wizard must have modified the spell."
"You've got to admit, liaising with Muggles is sometimes fun," said Luna.
Hermione glanced up at Somerset House and then turned to Luna. "Dad got a brochure the other day, and there's art I want to see in the Courtauld Collection. Do you mind if…"
"I'll go with you," said Luna. "Muggles have such an interesting way of looking at the world."
Inside the building, Hermione tugged Luna's arm, pointing at a corridor. "There's another painting by Constable I want to see."
"The last one, showing Salisbury cathedral from the meadows, was quite nice," Luna observed as they strolled on the corridor.
"So far we've seen five paintings of Wiltshire, including one which almost shows the Manor," said Hermione.
"That's strange; it seems as if we're pulled towards them."
"Oh, it's a spell I devised," said Hermione matter-of-factly. "It tells me the whereabouts of any painting showing Wiltshire, like this one." She pointed at a painting depicting a landscape in which forbidding clouds hovered over a place where oblivion reigned. Rocks were haphazardly strewn over barren soil; some stood tall and some leaned on their fellows, the whole looking like Grawp had been there just moments before John Constable arrived.
Luna nodded and then turned her face to Hermione. "That's a pretty impressive spell."
"I saw the way you handled the policeman," Hermione said calmly. "He underestimated you, and thus you were able to persuade him easily. With me it's quite the opposite."
"What do you mean?"
"This ability of mine to create spells didn't get me the Unspeakable job I wanted," said Hermione. "I reckon watching Ron and Harry doing their exciting jobs was contagious because I wanted something like that; but that fellow Bledsoe didn't want me." Hermione lowered her gaze.
Luna patted her friend's shoulder. "I would imagine being an Unspeakable is a tedious job, and they need unassuming people. You stand out, Hermione."
"Yes, I know." Hermione bit her lip.
"Don't worry," said Luna briskly, before skipping down the corridor and calling over her shoulder. "I'm sure you will achieve greatness, whether you like it or not."