Dear readers, I hope you enjoy this chapter. I decided to be industrious and provide you with one more before the weekend ended.
Hope to hear from you. Remember to R&R.
For the Sake of Science
I awoke complete exhausted. My limbs felt like they had been bolted to the bed. I needed to get up. Luna was going to drop by for lunch, and I needed to look presentable.
I sat in front of my mirror and smiled at my puffy-eyed reflection. I was too old to fall asleep crying. I was Hermione Granger, war survivor, only member of the Golden Trio still alive. If there was someone who could take on Voldemort and find a cure, that was me.
I took a shower and did my make up. I had never been a vain girl, but the make up helped me look more presentable. Today I was going to fight fire with fire. If he thought he had the upper hand over me, he was completely mistaken.
I headed downstairs and prepared French toast with a side of cream and berries. Luna needed nutritious food. She trusted me so thoroughly that she had agreed to let me infuse her food with my magic once a week. Depending on the baby's progress, we would up the dose.
My main theory was based around the idea that babies were losing their magic between weeks two and three, after birth, and their bodies tried to supplement the magic in their systems with vital energy. I was giving the baby a steady concentration of my magic that would sustain him after birth. If I was unable to find a cure before he reached the month of age, he would be living on my energy alone. It would keep him alive, but I knew I would not be able to keep this up forever. My magic could not sustain two bodies for long. I was banking on the idea that I would discover the cure before I had to choose between my life and the baby's.
A knock came to my door. I opened the door and there was Luna, in her beautiful platinum hair. She was a thing of beauty. The pregnancy suited her.
She was wearing a long flowing pale blue dress, and her earrings were a colorful explosion of feathers.
"Hermione it is good to see you, but you must really ask the Nargles to move from your front porch. It was almost impossible for me to get past them," she said as way of greeting.
"Sorry Luna, it must have slipped my mind. Would you mind having a chat with them about it when you leave? If you don't I am sure, between all the experiments and research I will forget for the hundredth time."
"Yes, of course. They will be delighted Neville and I have a large garden where they will be quite comfortable. I will do just that."
I couldn't help feeling a tad bad about Neville. In addition, to all of the extravagancies Luna went on about during her pregnancy, he would have to deal with these creatures that no one else could see. I should have said I'd do it, but every time she came over for a check up she nagged me about it incessantly, wasting both of our time.
Poor Neville, but it was a necessary measure for the sake of advancing the investigation, or at least I could tell myself that till I believed it.
"Now Luna, as we discussed, please have your breakfast while I cast a couple of charms to see how the baby is doing."
I cast a couple of spells; one of them let me hear the baby's heartbeat, while the other gave me exact measures of weight and length. I wrote down the data with a quill on the baby's record. He was doing great, my magic was being stored by his tiny body. His development was proof of that. Most babies were born healthy, but under weight. This particular detail went against my hypothesis indicating that the loss of magic started before birth, but on all the cases I had studied so far the magic remained constant throughout the pregnancy. At least the spell I had created showed this.
I needed more information, perhaps if I shared my theories with Voldemort he might have some input, but if I did there was no going back. I would have to work with him till we obtained a cure, and I refused to spend time with him.
"Hermione, you looked troubled, has the Boggart in your closet been bothering you?"
How had she known I had a Boggart in my closet? Sometimes I forgot Luna was a Ravenclaw. She was smart, if odd.
"No Luna, the Boggart has behaved these past few weeks. Your baby is doing amazing. Should we meet next week at the same time?"
"That'd be wonderful. If you want you could come to our place instead, Neville would love to see you. He worries about you, now that you have to work with Voldemort. He told me to tell you that it is not good for anyone to be isolated. Not all of your friends are dead."
I closed my eyes tightly, drew a shaking breath and said, "Thank you Luna, perhaps next time."
After I had seen Luna off, I grabbed all of my notes and apparated just outside of Harry's apartment. The Longbottoms deserved all the help they could get and I was not going to stand in the way of their baby's chances.
I waited for the dizziness to pass. Every time I gave some of my energy to the food Luna was eating I was week for days afterwards. I had blacked out for hours in one or two instances. I steadied myself on the doorframe, took out my flask of gin and took a swig. The alcohol helped somewhat.
I was in no shape to face Voldemort, but it was time we had a breakthrough in the research and he was good at it. Besides Snape should be here with him. Since I had refused to spend as much time as I should, taking care of Voldemort, Snape had had to spend more time there. He had visited me every day reminding me what an irresponsible know it all I was.
I opened the door with a spell, it only worked for Snape or me.
"Oh look, you've decided to join us," Voldemort said from his place on the couch.
"I am here to work. This is not a social visit. I will leave all of my notes and research on the dinning table. I would like to go over your newest experiments and discoveries."
As I started retrieving my notes and books from my purse I chanced a look at him. His face was covered with bandages, I guess he must have removed them to cause an impression on me last night. He was wearing an impeccable three-piece black suit, with a green cravat that enhanced Harry's eyes.
He saw I was looking at him and, leaving his relaxed position on the couch, approached me.
There was something off about him. I just couldn't place it. Was it his gait? No, that had always been characteristically his. What was …
I dropped my purse, lowered my hands to the table to steady myself, and focused on taking one slow breath after another till the darkness at the edge of my vision receded.
"You really are the smartest witch, to have caught up on it so quickly," he drawled and started to clap slowly, mocking me with every clap.
Snape entered the room and I decided to take a seat before I did something stupid like launching myself at him and choking him.
I ignored Voldemort and focused solely on my old professor.
"Professor, would you mind explaining me why you have deemed it appropriate to start the process of transforming Harry's body into this monster's without Ministry approval? What could you possibly have been thinking?"
"Ms. Granger calm yourself. I assure you I have done no such thing…"
I lost it right then and there.
"DO NOT INSULT ME, WHEN I CAN SEE WITH MY OWN TWO EYES THE CHANGE IN HIS BODY!"
"CALM YOURSELF, YOU INSUFFERABLE WOMAN! What I meant is that I did what I did with the Ministry's full authorization."
At his words I went cold and then I felt the blood rush to my head. I took ten slow measured breaths.
"I'll be in the lab," I said and left the room.
The only way Shackelbolt would have agreed to this was if Voldemort had given the Ministry some breakthrough, which I in my reluctance to work with him had failed to know about. I had allowed myself to be out of the loop and it was unacceptable. Never again, this would be my primary lab and I would not leave it save for sleep.
Once in the lab I started pouring over Voldemort's notes and there it was. He had proven the babies stopped generating magic while still inside of their mothers. The mother's own magic was partially transferred to the babies, but it only lasted less than a month.
He had devised a set of runes, which tracked the baby's magic level. The work was a thing of beauty, nothing short of genius.
"This is extraordinary, I never would have thought to use runes. It was a complete oversight on my side, it makes perfect sense."
Voldemort had been sitting by my side the whole time and in my eagerness to understand his work I hadn't noticed.
He was looking at me with his bright green eyes, with his head tilted to the side, as if I was a puzzle to be solved.
"What?" I asked.
"You are fluent in written paraseltongue."
"I thought it might come handy in our quest for the H…" I stopped short, I needed his help and he had made advancements beyond my wildest fears. It was wiser not to remind him of our past.
"What I meant was that…"
"Say it," he repeated in a deadly quiet voice.
"There see, it wasn't so hard after all. I do wonder which of them was your favorite?"
My eye twitched, he was genuinely curious and I needed to play this hand smart.
"From and academic perspective…"
He waved a hand, as if dismissing my words.
"I am quite aware which of them implied the highest academic challenge. I am interested in your opinion."
My mouth formed a silent 'Oh'. The question was a tricky one, for there was no good answer I could give without giving away who I was and what I valued the most.
"I guess I can truly say I didn't have a favorite…"
His eyes flashed red… wrong answer.
"Well, I guess if I had to choose, Rowena's Diadem was the prettiest."
He slapped the table gently.
"Don't play the mindless twit with me, Hermione. It is too late for me to buy that act, try again and make it count. From what I hear, you have skin in the game, this cure is important to you on a personal level.
My eyes narrowed. I was going to kill Snape, how dare he bring Luna into this. He had no right to share this information.
I looked down at the table and thought long and hard about my answer.
Then, once I was sure of my answer I looked him in the eye and said, "Even though the most stunning feat of magic was used to create the Horocrux on the Resurrection Stone, I guess the diary was the Horocrux that intrigued me the most. You literally left a piece of your soul in a book. It horrified me that a trusted ally, like a book, could hold an enemy, but at the same time I recognize there was some poetry to it."
He remained silent.
"Shall we begin working where you left off?"