Chapter 10 ~ A Witch’s Prerogative
Within a matter of days, Professor Dumbledore, Tonks, and Hagrid had returned, and Hogwarts felt like Hogwarts once more. Argus Filch and Mrs. Norris were also back, prowling the corridors at night. Ron muttered something about every silver lining having a dark cloud. But as Harry pointed out, it wasn’t really Hogwarts without them and that the students would have missed the sport of evading them in their after-hours excursions.
Professor Dumbledore invited Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Rick to his study the afternoon following his return. He had laid on a lavish tea, by way of thanks for their achievements during his absence.
Harry had already met with the Headmaster earlier in the day, to recount the details of his encounter with Lucius Malfoy and his subsequent Squibbing by the Ghost of Godric Gryffindor.
“I am very proud of the way you led the students to stand up to Fudge and his tyranny. I believe that in the years to come, this will be remembered as one of the great moments in Hogwart’s history.”
“Just think, Hermione,” said Ron with a sly grin, “your name might end up in your favourite book, ‘Hogwarts, a History’.”
Hermione blushed, but the Headmaster agreed. “I would be most surprised if Miss Granger’s name – and indeed all of your names, do not appear in some future edition of that venerable book. Now, I thought about awarding points to Gryffindor, in recognition of your great achievement. However, that would detract from the fact that students from all four houses – the whole school, almost – rose up so bravely behind you.”
“That’s right,” said Harry. “We succeeded because almost all of the students – and the Professors – were willing to stand up and be counted. It wouldn’t be fair to single out anyone for a special reward, or to award house points only to Gryffindor.”
“Well said, Harry. Well said. The whole school deserves a reward – and they shall have it. On the final day of term there will be a Yule Party for the younger students and a Yule Ball for the older ones.”
Harry and Ron weren’t quite sure if this was any kind of a reward at all. Balls could be very problematic, as they had discovered on previous occasions. They were going to have to invite girls – and ask them to dance. The thought terrified them both. Dealing with Umbridge was one thing – but girls were quite another.
While they were lost in fear and loathing of this new challenge that lay ahead, Hermione spoke up. “Professor Dumbledore, despite all of our efforts and the support of the other students and professors, we would have ultimately failed, had it not been for the Ghost of Godric Gryffindor.”
“Yes, Miss Granger, you are quite correct. It was fortuitous indeed that the spirits of the Hogwarts Founders had determined to intervene. Although it is not, perhaps, entirely surprising. After all, this school was their life’s work. One would hardly expect them to stand by and allow it to all be undone by Lucius Malfoy and Cornelius Fudge.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Hermione. “But have you ever heard of a ghost being able to exert so much power in the realm of the living? It’s unprecedented. Turning wizards and witches into Squibs is unheard of.”
“Yes, indeed, it is most unusual, Miss Granger, and I cannot recall reading of such ghostly powers. However, remember, for every genre of magic, ever manifested, there must always be a first occasion. It seems we are witnessing something new – and I for one am very thankful to the Ghost of Godric Gryffindor.”
As they were leaving his study, the Headmaster caught Rick’s eye in a way that invited him to read his mind. The Headmaster requested that he visit him, alone, later that evening.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
“Allow me to congratulate you,” said the Headmaster when Rick Apparated to his study after dinner that evening. “Your Ghost of Godric Gryffindor is a masterpiece – simply brilliant. Wherever did you get the idea?”
“Well, it was all rather sudden; it sort of happened on the spur of the moment, sir. When Umbridge summoned Harry to meet with her that evening, I read her mind and discovered that it was a trap – and that Lucius Malfoy was going to be there. So I quickly left the Great Hall and Apparated invisibly to the room. After Lucius Malfoy stunned Harry, I had to do something to stop him taking Harry to Voldemort, but I didn’t want to reveal myself. So I decided to pretend to be an invisible ghost.”
“Why the ghost of Godric Gryffindor?” asked the Headmaster, intrigued.
“I don’t know, sir. It just came to me out of the blue. I have his wand, and I probably have as many gifts from him, as I have from any other witch or wizard. It also gave my actions a purpose, because if Gryffindor’s ghost had the power, I think he would have done all the things that I’ve done in his name. It just ... seemed to make sense.”
“Yes, I understand. Gryffindor was a perfect choice. But where on earth did you get the Squibbus Curse from? I’ve never heard of it, nor read about it. Dark wizards have searched hard for just such a curse; but as far as I know, none ever succeeded in finding one. Your magic comes from the great witches and wizards of the Light – to the best of my knowledge none of them ever used such a spell.”
Rick told the Headmaster what Hermione had told him about Germaine Pankhurst’s book about Circe. “Pankhurst claimed that that Circe once cast a spell on an evil sorcerer, destroying his power. Circe later turned to the Light, and she was great witch, so I figured that I might have received gifts from her – including that spell. It’s strange, but generally I’m not aware of all the spells and powers that I’ve been gifted with. I only seem to become aware of them when I need them. It’s almost as if the spirit of the one from whom the power comes, actually links with me when I need to use it.”
“I’ve been spending quite a bit of time experimenting with my powers, professor. However, I have discovered a serious limitation. I don’t think that it’s possible for me to kill another person – not even Voldemort. It’s hard to explain. It ... it’s something very deep within me which seems to be connected to all of life. It makes me feel connected to everyone and everything, even villains, like Lucius Malfoy. Killing another person, even a deadly enemy, would be somehow, like killing a part of my self,” said Rick, struggling to explain this perplexing feeling.
“So you searched for a non-lethal way of neutralizing your enemies?” asked Dumbledore.
“Yes,” replied Rick, “exactly. I didn’t know for sure if the Squibbus Curse would work, until I tried it on Lucius Malfoy. My backup plan was to Apparate him to some remote part of Africa, without his wand, but that would only have been a temporary solution.”
“It’s brilliant,” said Dumbledore, impressed. “Now you have the ultimate weapon to use against the forces of the Dark and the perfect vehicle in the Ghost of Godric Gryffindor to wield it – or simply threaten to use it, as you did so effectively with Fudge. You handled him very well. He’s never likely to be much help to us, but at least he will no longer be aiding and abetting the Death Eaters. By the way, please be sure not to Squib Percy Weasley.”
“It’s OK, Professor, I checked him out the first time he came to Hogwarts. I knew he was working for you.”
“I do hope that you haven’t told anyone. Only his parents are aware that he is my top informant at the Ministry – not even his brothers and sister know.”
“I guessed as much, sir. I haven’t told a soul. I had thought about Squibbing Fudge, so that Percy, as his deputy, could take over, but I didn’t know if you would want me to.”
“That would not be a good idea at the moment, Rick. While Voldemort and his Death Eaters are so strong, it is not possible for the Ministry to recover its rightful role. If Percy took over and attempted to rebuild it, he would certainly be killed. If the Ministry began to pose a threat to Voldemort, it would be destroyed. It’s too visible, and too vulnerable a target. No, I’d rather leave Fudge in charge for now. He’s such an incompetent fool that Voldemort will probably leave the Ministry alone and it won’t hinder us either.
“Fudge is adept at ‘rolling with the punches’. He’ll maintain a neutral position now. But behind the scenes, Percy will be able to pull some strings and also keep me informed of any important news. With the ‘State of Emergency’ and the rest of Fudge’s authoritarian measures lifted, the Ministry may begin to provide at least some measure of order in the wizarding world once more.”
Dumbledore proceeded to question Rick at length on the development and use of his powers and his efforts at concealing them. Rick told him of Hermione’s abduction by Pansy Parkinson and her subsequent rescue from Draco Malfoy’s clutches.
“It was fortuitous indeed, that Miss Granger’s pleas alerted you to her plight. If I am not mistaken, some kind of special link has developed between the two of you. Most curious, most curious – it may be worthwhile investigating it further. I couldn’t help but notice you exhibiting a certain affection towards Miss Granger, when you were all in my office earlier today,” he added, his eyes twinkling mischievously.
Rick blushed. “Err, are my powers of Occlumency that bad?” he stuttered, desperately hoping that all his thoughts and feelings about Hermione were not an open book to the Headmaster.
“Why no, Rick, you are an outstanding Occlumens. Your mind is totally impenetrable. However, you are not very gifted in hiding your emotions from your face and body language. Professor Snape is adept in these matters – I wonder if I could ask him to give you a little coaching, perhaps, without arousing his suspicions.”
“Err, no thanks, sir,” Rick blurted out quickly, keen to scotch that idea. “I’m sure I can find a good book to read on the subject.”
“As you wish,” said Dumbledore, with amusement. “I think that you are likely to have great difficulties in concealing your secrets from Miss Granger. She has a brilliant and penetrating mind and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. You must represent quite a mystery to her – and she is not the witch to leave any mystery unsolved.”
Yeah, tell me about it, thought Rick.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The following evening in the Great Hall, Professor Dumbledore announced his intention to treat the students to a Yule Party and Ball, as a token of his gratitude for their outstanding bravery.
The hall was immediately abuzz with whispers and giggles and it took a few moments for the Headmaster to restore quiet, in order to continue.
“On the final day of term, there will be a Yule Party in the afternoon for students in years one, two, and three. In the evening, Hogwarts will once again host a Yule Ball for fourth year students and up.
“It would be wrong to single out individuals for special praise as the great success of your actions was due to the collective solidarity shown by almost every one of you, and I am very proud of you all. However, it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that both the petition and the strike were the brainchild of Miss Hermione Granger. In recognition, I have decided that the Yule Ball will be a little different from previous Hogwarts balls. It will be a Witches’ Prerogative.”
Again whispers and chatter filled the hall. Everyone was asking what on earth a Witches’ Prerogative could be.
“Ah, I seem to have caused some confusion,” said the Headmaster smiling. “Well usually it’s the prerogative of the wizards to invite the witches to a ball. However, when it’s a Witches’ Prerogative, the tables are turned. It’s the Witches’ Prerogative to invite the wizards.”
The hall was once more filled with excited chatter and giggles.
“And,” added the Headmaster, using a powerful Sonorus Charm, to make himself heard above the din, “it is also the Witches’ Prerogative to ask the wizards to dance, rather than the other way around.”
At this point, the noise became deafening. The Headmaster sat down, with a smile on his face. If he had intended saying anything further, he had obviously given up all hope of being heard.
“Hey,” said Harry, “this Witches’ Prerogative thing could work out quite well for us. For once we don’t have to worry about asking someone to the ball. I really hate that.”
“Yeah, me too,” said Ron. “But, err ... what if no one invites us?” he asked apprehensively.
“Well, then we won’t have to go to the ball at all!” said Harry. “I mean you don’t really want to go to the ball do you? I know I don’t.”
Ron didn’t seem so sure, but he didn’t want to look like he was keen to go – especially since he might not be invited. “Well, there’d be lots of really good food, remember. We could just eat, and look at the girls, all dressed up in their finest robes.”
“Err, Ron,” said Harry. “Didn’t you hear what Dumbledore just said about it being the Witches’ Prerogative to ask wizards to dance? We might have to dance all night. No, I definitely don’t want to go!”
“Right,” said Ron, suddenly thinking how embarrassing it would be if no one asked him to dance. Harry’s right, he thought. It would be better not to go at all.
It was probably the noisiest evening meal that anyone could remember at Hogwarts. All the noise was coming from the girls, as they excitedly discussed who they wanted to invite. Most of the boys were quiet. Many of them, like Ron, felt apprehensive, wondering if anyone would invite them at all. Hermione thought the whole thing was a load of nonsense. She was not particularly pleased to have her name associated with a ball. She pulled a book from her bag, and disappeared behind it.
The most obvious difference in having the witches doing the inviting was that they were all very keen to get the wizard they wanted. Having the power to decide who they would ask was a rare opportunity, and they weren’t going to waste it by waiting to the last minute to make their move, like the wizards usually did. In fact, as the meal came to an end, there was as air of great expectation.... The Great Hogwarts Wizard Hunt had begun.
“I wouldn’t turn around right now if I was you,” Harry advised Rick. “There are about twenty witches hovering about behind you. I think they’re waiting for you to get up from the table so they can invite you to the ball.”
“Oh no,” sighed Rick, wishing he could just Apparate away. Hermione, who was also sitting opposite him, looked up and saw all the witches and when she did, she realised that she really wanted to invite Rick. But she wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it. This really wasn’t in her ‘skill set’. This Witches’ Prerogative was a real bother.
Rick, observing her thoughts, was trying to think of a way to prompt her. He wanted to go with Hermione – and no one else.
“Umm Hermione,” said Rick nervously. “Could you do me a ... a really huge favour?”
“And what would that be?” asked Hermione, suspiciously.
“Well as soon as I get up, a whole bunch of witches are going to pounce on me and ask me to go to the ball with them.”
“And?” asked Hermione, raising her eyebrows. “Exactly what am I supposed to do to rescue you from your hordes of besotted admirers?”
“Well, I’d have to refuse them, and that would cause a lot of hurt feelings,” explained Rick, with a sigh.
“And why exactly would you have to refuse them?” asked Hermione.
“Because, I’d want to keep myself free – in the desperate hope that the witch who I really want to go with, would invite me – that’s why,” said Rick staring meaningfully into Hermione’s eyes.
Hermione was really in a quandary now. She really did want to invite Rick and he was making it all too obvious that he wanted her to invite him. But it was her prerogative – not his to do the inviting!
“But this is supposed to be a Witches’ Prerogative,” protested Hermione, “and you’re trying to usurp my prerogative by suggesting that I should invite you.”
“No, no, not at all,” said Rick. “I’m ... I’m just trying to point out that I’m currently available, but I won’t be for much longer ... it’s entirely your prerogative. But if you don’t hurry up, I’m likely to be usurped by Lavender Brown,” he added nervously, noticing that Lavender had decided to jump the growing queue of witches behind him and was attempting to squeeze herself down on the bench beside him, to pop the question.
Hermione was definitely not going to let Lavender get away with that. “OK, so ... err, um, d’youwannacometotheball with me?” mumbled Hermione, feeling very self-conscious.
“Why yes,” replied Rick, smiling with relief. “I thought you’d never ask!”
Once word got out that Hermione Granger had snared the most eligible wizard, the bunch of witches behind him quickly broke up ... it was time for plan B ... or C. The hunt was on in earnest now. Witches were roaming the hall purposefully, determined to find a partner. Many of the wizards were feeling a little intimidated – and anxious.
“Err, Harry,” said Rick, “I wouldn’t turn around right now if I was you.”
But Ron turned around and then turned back even faster. “Hey Harry, it look’s like it’s your turn now. Somehow, I don’t think you’re going to get your wish about missing this ball.”
Ron and Rick weren’t the only ones who had noticed the bunch of witches lying in wait for Harry. Ginny Weasley had squeezed herself down on the bench next to Rick and without further ado, spoke to Harry from across the table.
She was blushing so furiously that it was hard to say whether her hair or her face was the redder, but she was determined. “Harry, will you come to the Yule Ball with me?”
“Err, sure,” said Harry. He couldn’t refuse her. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings, and if he was being honest with himself, if he did have to go to this stupid ball, he couldn’t think of anyone he’d rather go with.
Ginny quickly got up to go. As she rose she met a wall of glares from the witches opposite, but they didn’t hang about for long. They still had a mission to complete, they needed to find a partner.
By the time they left the hall that evening, most of the ‘eligible’ wizards (those from fourth year and up) had been snapped up – the competition had been fierce. Ron was stunned by just how assertive the witches were in comparison to his own timidity – talk about taking no hostages! He was also pleasantly surprised that a number of witches had actually invited him. He was particularly pleased that the first one had been Padma Patil.
Like her sister Parvati, she was a dark-haired, dark-skinned beauty. But Padma seemed less frivolous than Parvati. She had intelligence as well as looks and had been one of the leading lights in organising the Ravenclaws with the petition and the strike. Ron was surprised that she seemed to have forgiven him for being such a prat when he’d taken her to the Yule Ball in their fourth year, and then proceeded to ignore her the whole night. He sure wasn’t going to make that mistake again.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
One Saturday afternoon, Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Rick were sitting together in the Gryffindor common room. Hermione was deeply absorbed in a parchment she was writing, with books piled up all around.
“Hey, it’s the weekend Hermione, time to relax,” said Ron. “Anyway, you said last night that you’d just finished your last assignment for the term, so what are you working on now?”
With difficulty, Hermione disengaged herself from her deep train of thought. “Oh, didn’t I tell you? I’m doing a special research paper under Professor McGonagall this year.”
“Whatever for?” asked Ron. “You’re already taking more classes than everyone else; do you really think you need the extra marks?”
“Don’t be silly, Ron. I’m not doing it for marks, although I may earn Gryffindor some house-points. I’m doing it because it’s something that really interests me.”
“What’s the topic?” asked Rick.
“The Special Powers of Witches,” answered Hermione.
“What do you mean?” asked Harry, confused. “I thought witches and wizards could all perform exactly the same kinds of magic. I mean we all learn the same stuff here at Hogwarts, don’t we?”
“Well that’s what most wizards would like to believe,” said Hermione with a superior smirk. “And generally it’s true. However, there seem to be some types of obscure magic which only witches have been known to perform.”
Ron was sceptical. “Well I’ve never heard that before and I grew up in the wizarding world. I mean if it’s true, why isn’t it a well-known fact? Why isn’t it mentioned in the history books? Why isn’t it taught here at Hogwarts? Why aren’t there special subjects just for witches?”
“Because all the things you just mentioned are controlled by wizards – that’s why,” said Hermione, with growing passion. “How many Ministers of Magic – or even departmental heads – have been witches? How many Hogwarts Headmistresses have there been?”
“Well, there was Umbridge,” said Ron with a smirk.
“Don’t mention that stupid witch,” said Hermione, dismissively. “This is a serious subject. The wizarding world has always been controlled by wizards. I mean there were times, like those of the Founders, when witches rose to prominence and had their rightful influence.
“But wizards have almost always been in control of the political establishment, the educational institutions, the publishing houses, and the media. Even in so-called enlightened times like these, when witches are not being overtly oppressed, wizards still have the levers of power and communication firmly in their hands, and it allows them to largely define the ‘reality’ which everyone in the wizarding world believes in.
“The wizarding world is far behind the Muggle world in according females an equal place in society – and even the Muggle world has a long way to go – just don’t get me started on that! The bottom line is that wizards have been in control and they have never been interested in the special powers of witches, so it has always been overlooked and largely invisible.”
“Err, want a game of wizard chess Harry?” asked Ron, desperate to escape from Hermione’s impassioned lecture. Harry readily agreed, and they were soon absorbed in their game.
“So you’re hoping, through doing this special research paper, and publishing it, to make these special powers of witches more visible?” asked Rick, impressed once again with Hermione’s gumption.
“Yes, that’s right. Professor McGonagall is very interested and supportive. If I can define and document a large enough body of witch magic, she says that we may be able to run special seminars, here at Hogwarts, just for witches. Eventually there may even be an elective course in the subject at senior levels.”
“I’m impressed,” said Rick. “So what kinds of witch magic have you identified so far?”
“Well, there are the obvious ones that derive from the anatomical differences between witches and wizards, of course. There is the whole area of ‘witch midwifery’. Then there is magical birth control,” said Hermione, blushing slightly and averting her gaze from Rick.
“Much of this magic goes back centuries,” she continued, trying to assume a more academic tone. “The spells have been handed down from mother to daughter, but the magic has never been officially recognised or recorded. However, there is another area which is far more interesting. Again, it relates to differences between males and females, but it has more to do with the differences in emotional make-up, than, err ... physical differences.”
“That sounds interesting,” said Rick.
“The origin is probably the nurturing instinct that witches have for their babies. Did you know that witches seem to know, to some extent, how their baby is feeling?” Many witches can feel their baby’s pain if it is sick, for example. It’s very useful before the baby is able to talk and tell its mother what it’s feeling.”
“So is this magic restricted to witches with babies?” asked Rick, becoming increasingly interested.
“No, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that even witches who have never had children can manifest this kind of magic. It’s called Empathetic Magic, and it requires neither a wand nor a spell. Like other forms of magic, there is a variance between individuals in their ability to perform it, but the key factor seems to be affection.”
“You mean the more a witch likes someone, the stronger, it will be?” asked Rick.
“Exactly,” said Hermione. “There is a story about Helga Hufflepuff, in her earlier years at Hogwarts. She had a ..., err, lover. It wasn’t Gryffindor or Slytherin. In fact his name is unknown. He was a wizard who lived in a village on the other side of the Forbidden Forest, and he would sometimes cross it to, err ... visit Helga. There were probably as many dangerous creatures living in the Forbidden Forest at that time as there are now. The story goes that on several occasions, this wizard was badly injured by some dangerous creature he’d encountered. But because of her great gift for Empathetic Magic, Helga would immediately know that he was in danger – and where he was, and would go to rescue him.”
“Just like I knew when you were in danger down in the dungeon,” mused Rick, certain that he had discovered what his link with Hermione was, and from whom the gift had come. He reflected on how fortunate it was that even though he was a wizard, he had been blessed with witch magic.
“Well, I have no idea how you heard me calling you and how you found me that night, but it obviously wasn’t Empathetic Magic – unless of course, you’ve got anatomical secrets that you’re hiding as well,” said Hermione, with a smirk.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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Coming up: Chapter 11 ~ Séances and Interrogations
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