Training and Confrontations


Story Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities grow, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, R/T, and a paternal Ron.

Chapter 12

Chapter Summary:
A sprawling tale set in many places and dimensions, as Harry finds himself, finds his abilities grow, and trains for that final confrontation with Voldemort. A H/L/Hr tale, with N/G, Remus/T, and a paternal Ron. Part II continues on a different world.
Author's Note:
Ron and his appetites ii; the Dumbledores again evaluate the sextet; Luna and Hermione. Warning, Sexual Innuendo at the end of the chapter.

Chapter XII
May 1, Day 1

Hermione, who had a general idea of the differences, was somewhat pleased that dinner was more medieval than Roman, that is sitting up rather than lying down to eat.

The dining room was large. While not on the scale of the great hall of Hogwarts, it was serving forty that night and could easily seat a hundred and twenty. There were twenty at the head table, while the octet occupied a separate table set at a right angle to the head table. Twelve lesser guests occupied a similar table. Astor had mentioned that most were leaving after that evening, and that the total number would be well under twenty the next day and around a dozen after that.

The serving maids learned quickly. After serving each of the guests at their table, they clustered the platters near Ron, who went through at least two servings of everything he particularly liked.

Although Remus disapproved, Tonks encouraged everyone to follow Ron's example. "After all," she concluded, "we're going to be training hard."

"I don't even know what all this is," Harry commented.

"Well," Ron joked, "I know most of it's good."

"They keep what in our world was a Roman custom," Remus commented. "Each dinner starts off with eggs. . . ."

"Do you know what are in these?" Ron asked, reaching for another.

"Only you would still eat an appetizer when the rest of us are on our fourth course," Hermione scolded.

"It's alright," Remus said. "The fact that the rest of us are eating properly, especially Ginny, means that either Ron is unnaturally hungry or a boor, not that we're barbarians."

Ron scowled, but didn't reach for any of the three remaining eggs again.

"Anyway, they took large boiled, hollowed goose eggs; minced chives, mustard, hot sausage, a bit of sweet pickle, and the yolk together; stuffed the mix back in along with a boiled quail egg for the center; and replaced the ends. They were quite good, but Ron! Five?"

"They are good!" Ron protested.

"You could have had more salad," Hermione pointed out. "After all, the maids probably only get left-overs."

"The salad is too bitter, there're no tomatoes, and there's just oil and vinegar to dress it," he complained as he picked through his second helping of the fourth course, a small six vegetable pie with some pork in it.

"They don't have potatoes, tomatoes, or maize, at least in this part of the world," Remus pointed out.

"Except for pickles, Ron mostly just eats things which are overly sweet, salty, or just plain hot," Ginny teased.

"Well, the bread is great, even if there isn't any butter, and the soup wasn't bad," Ron said.

"Again, dip the bread in a little oil if you think it needs it. The soup was quite good, chicken and a little skimmed goose stock, and plain noodles," Remus agreed.

"I didn't know you were such a gourmet," Tonks teased. "You never took me anyplace other than pubs or fish-and-chips!"

"I took you to the best pub in London for shepherd's pie," Remus stated. "I tried to warn you off the steak-and-kidney." He turned to Harry. "I was poor most of the time after I left school, but not totally broke. Your father had arranged for me to have a place rent free, at least until you're seventeen. I had a nice herb garden, and learned to make things taste good, even if there wasn't much of it."

Remus next looked down towards Neville, reminding him, "Remember, this is just an ordinary red wine. The custom here is to water it three parts water to one wine."

"Right," Neville agreed.

"Ah," Ron said with a real smile. Four roasted lambs and two roasted sheep were being carried in, along with platters of roasted parsnips, carrots, and turnips. Ron grabbed another small loaf of bread and waited for the meat.

"The last course is of course the sweet," Remus reminded them, "and apples are always one choice. When that comes in, don't take any other food, just finish what you have."

"Alright," Ron complained. He smiled as he was served the foreleg of one of the lambs.

Rora flirted with Ron as the group went to their bedchambers. Ron was caught by both Harry's and Hermione's eye, blushed, and went to bed alone.

May 2, Day 2

Astor met with the group as they were eating breakfast in the study between Remus and Tonks' rooms. "We do have one minor problem," Astor said after he had greeted the group and had a seat.

"And what's that?" Remus asked.

"Harry's name."

"What's wrong with my name?" Harry asked, puzzled.

"Nothing, in your culture, I'm sure," Astor said in a placating voice. "However, here, as you may not have noticed yet, however they might be spelled all male names end in a consonant sound, all women's end in a vowel. Now, while there is no woman named 'Harry' that I have ever heard of, it still sounds like a girl's name. It may cause some difficulties outside of this villa."

"Great," Harry groused.

"Is it short for anything?"

"'Henry', which doesn't help," Remus said.

"It could also stand for 'Harold'," Tonks suggested.

"I don't think so," Harry replied.

"We could call you Hank," Ginny teased. Harry gave her an evil look.

"Your middle name is James," Hermione suggested tentatively.

"No!" Harry and Remus both answered.

"Horace? Harcourt? Harrison? Harthecnut?" Ron teased.

"I swear, I'll hurt you," Harry retorted. "How about we call you 'Ronnie', so I don't stand out?"

Ron held his hands up in surrender. "No thanks."

"Is the fact that I'm from, well, where I'm from a major secret?" Harry asked.

"No, but your name could cause challenges later on. We'd rather avoid that."

"Challenges?" Neville asked, before anyone else could.

Astor shrugged. "You're going to be here a long time. You are not confined to the villa and the immediate estate. A duel may not be fought for no reason, but not to be willing to stand up to an insult may easily escalate any meeting into a problem. From June through the winter solstice there could be a fair number of males looking for chances of glory."

"Oh . . . great." Harry paused. "Are you sure I can't just be Harry, at least to my friends?"

"A feminine nickname is acceptable, as long as you refuse to answer to it from anyone who is not a close friend."

"Okay," Harry grumbled, "Harold it is."

"Now that that is settled," Astor went on, "here's the program for the next two weeks. Remus said that you had a physical conditioning program?"

"Just walking and light weight training," Harry answered.

"Fine. I run every morning before breakfast. Magical power is one thing, but dueling is also physically exhausting, and fighting even more so. Any of you are welcome to join me. After breakfast until it's time for Luna's potion will be devoted to dueling. Your two tutors, my father, and I will be working with you the next two weeks. By then, Father and Lord Alexander will have a good idea of your strengths and weaknesses, and we'll move on from there."

"From then until after lunch is free time. I know you are still formal students, so you may wish to take that time for your school studies. Our magical schools only have five years as a rule, but everyone will understand the concept of continuing on. A few do here as well, as preliminaries to some magical apprenticeships. After lunch, we may have formal studies arranged for you as well after the two weeks. For now, we will teach you apparation."

The teens looked surprised.

"Apparation is easier here," Remus said. "No Muggles to worry about, if you mess up and apparate next to somebody's cooking stove. Apologize, ask for a location, and try again."

"Then it's to the baths, and a civilized dinner," Astor said with a smile. "So, shall we see where you are in your dueling abilities?"

"Well," Alexander asked Alton and Astor at lunch, "how bad are they?"

"What makes you believe they are poor duelers?" the Sibyl asked.

"They have had no direct instruction in this," Alexander said simply. "They may know some of the spells, but that is different than actual dueling."

"True," Alton agreed. "I was fully prepared to find we had to start from scratch, despite their experiences."

"You won't have to?"

"No, my lord," Alton answered. He considered for a moment, and went on. "It is true, they have little sense of formal dueling, and we will work on that. We will, however, spend as much time in magical combat, which is of course very different than stylized dueling."

"I take it, unlike those who go through our training, they are more prepared for combat than dueling?"

"Exactly, my lord."

"Well, evaluate them primarily as fighters, if you wish."

"All have talent," Alton acknowledged. "Let me work my way up. Neville has a lot of potential, but is currently by far the worst one-on-one fighter and an even worse duelist. Give him the job of protecting someone, however, and he is a terrier going after a rat. He knows how to fight, he just does not quite believe it."

"Hermione is talented and knowledgeable, but she over-thinks. Even someone as smart as she is needs time to think some things through, which is not good in an all-out fight. She needs to react, not think. I believe she will always be mediocre in one-on-one combat or dueling, but could learn to contribute a lot in a group fight."

"Ron has the potential to be an excellent fighter. He may be the best one-on-one fighter right now, other than Harold. Ron's problem is that he takes too many chances. One-on-one, they may work out, but he is too unpredictable. No one could rely on him for cover in a real fight."

"A natural point man?"

"Exactly, but of course, in real combat. . . ."

"Those often people end up dead. Go on."

"Luna is quite competent. She, and to some degree Neville and Hermione, lack a true competitive nature, especially in this area. I was therefore surprised to see how efficient Luna is during combat. Harold has helped give them some basic training. His assessment is that both Hermione's and Luna's minds work at a faster speed than the vast majority of people. When it comes to practicing for combat, where Hermione spends lots of time considering the theory behind the spell, Luna tends to play with the spells, looking for variations. At first I thought her mediocre, but a whispered suggestion from Harold changed her demeanor and she was quite ruthless. It will never be her nature, but she can get the job done when needs be."

"Ginny has that competitive drive more than any of the others. I would also judge that in actual combat, she would be the most merciless."

"Go on."

"Harold . . . he was amazing to watch."

"That good?"

"That good and that lucky, my lord! He seems to know by instinct where an attack is coming from. He is a natural, with the best reflexes I have ever seen. Dora, who is quite capable, was amazed, as were we. And the boy is powerful! Astor made a mistake with him. . . ."

"I teased him about a hex he tried to use on me," Astor said. "It was a simple sleeping spell that he said Albus had given him just before they left. I pointed out that he could never use it in a duel because it is so easily blocked. In the next round, an open fight, he let go a barrage, stingers and stunners, but also this sleeping hex. They were coming so fast, I could only defend. He must have sent over a hundred and fifty hexes in less than two minutes. He weakened my shields with the barrage of the first two, and then burst my shield with the sleeping hex, which should have been impossible." Astor shook his head. "He needs a lot of work learning a larger range of spells, especially shields. He needs a lot more confidence. And then he could terrorize his enemies."

"I don't think Harry, excuse me, Harold, will ever be the type to go out and terrorize his enemies," the Sibyl said.

"No," Alton agreed. "No, I doubt he would set off to terrorize anyone, unless he was under truly extreme emotional stress. However, when he is finished training here, he will bring terror to those who seek to kill him and to injure his friends."

Hermione made certain that the maids serving Ron at the baths that afternoon supplied him with a fair amount of fruit. That would take the edge of his appetite at dinner (she hoped).

"Are you sure that was a good idea?" Tonks asked as the four young women sat in their hot room.


"Because that maid with the soft eyes and big tits has her eyes on Ron, or don't you understand that aspect of this culture?" Ginny asked.

"What aspect is that?"

Tonks sighed. "She's a slave, or at least unfree. If Ron sleeps with her, she is under his protection while he's here. She moves into his room and just serves him. If he gets her pregnant, and she has a magical child, she's freed, and Ron is stuck with the bill."

"What bill?" Ginny asked.

"The bill for raising and educating the child," Tonks answered. "Remus said it was a minimum of twelve hundred Galleons when he was last here."

"You mean Remus. . . ." Hermione started.

"NO!" Tonks calmed down and said, "No, but James left one child, and Sirius five."

Hermione tried to shrug it off. "Why tell me? We're not dating."

"And?" Luna prodded.

"And if he sleeps with her, we probably never will even date casually," Hermione acknowledged. "Still, that is up to Ron."

"Does Harry know?" Ginny asked. "About his half-sister, I mean."

"It was over two hundred years ago by their time-line," Tonks reminded her.

"He knows," Luna said. "His half-sister died some eighty years ago. All his nieces and nephews are dead as well. None of their descendants live in Ruchak, and neither do any of Sirius'."

"Oh. . . ."

"Alton told Harry that one of their descendants -- some of them have intermarried -- might come help train him, but that it's uncertain."

"He didn't say anything," Hermione said, almost pouting.

"He wasn't really certain what to make of all this, or how to feel," Luna pointed out.

Hermione frowned. "I hope Ron doesn't take that as a license to, well. . . ."

"He idealized Sirius almost as much as Harry," Ginny agreed. She looked at Luna, who was looking pensive. "What?"

"How would Ron pay for the child?" Luna asked in a tentative voice. She knew that money was a sore topic for all the Weasley children.

"He couldn't," Ginny admitted. 1200 Galleons were worth less in their world than this one, but Ron wouldn't have access to that much cash, and neither would the Weasley family, assuming they could be appealed to through the time difference.

"It would be a debt of honor," Tonks said softly. Hermione wasn't totally certain of all the implications of what that meant, but saw the others took the idea very seriously indeed.

"Harry would have to loan him the money," Hermione said. "It would almost kill Ron to have to ask, but that would be the only way."

"Let's hope Ron can keep it in his pants, or at least under his tunic," Ginny stated.

Hermione decided she had to inform Ron, for his own good, what they had discussed.

That night, Hermione knocked softly on Harry's door. When there was no answer, she tried his sitting room, and then Luna's room. Hermione knew that it was not quite time for Luna's potion.

"Come in, Hermione" Luna called after a few seconds.

"I won't ask how you knew it was. . . ."

"Come on in," Luna said.

"And shut the door," Harry added.

Hermione did both, blushing as she did so. Luna was seated on her bed, nude. Harry was at least in his undershorts, and was sitting behind Luna, brushing her hair. Hermione was not sure if she was more embarrassed by their state of undress or her own nightgown, summer dressing gown, and her favorite fuzzy pink slippers -- warm wear for the weather that night.

"Don't be embarrassed, either of you," Luna commanded.

"I'm not," Harry said.

Luna patted the bed next to her. "What's wrong?" she asked. Hermione had obviously been crying.

Hermione sat on the bed. "I was just talking with Ron."

"About Rora?" Harry asked, going back to brush Luna's hair.

Hermione nodded. "He . . . he yelled at me," Hermione said with a sniffle. "He said . . . he said that the only difference between me now and myself when we met was that I have . . . that I have bigger tits and smaller teeth, but that I'm always looking for the dirt on his nose, and not for what he's doing right."

"Ronald wants someone who will admire him," Luna said simply while Harry glowered about the insults. "Rora admires him, and thinks he can give her what she wants."

"Freedom," Hermione said simply.

"Not as such," Luna said. "Freedom is abstract. If she were to be 'set free' tonight, what would she do? She can't get a job, you know. I asked Remus, and he said that even the Squib and Muggle merchants and crafts people prefer owning slaves to hiring those few free people looking for work. No, she wants an easier life, with some security. If she has a magical child, she only works for that child, and if her lover isn't around, she will have an easier time finding another magical lover after having a magical child. That child will have to support her once it reaches seventeen. Remember, even if she doesn't have a child, her duties will be cut while she's serving Ron."

"It's not right," Hermione said, tears in her eyes.

"Perhaps not, but trying to stop Ronald will just injure your friendship with him," Luna pointed out.

"I guess, if he prefers sleeping with her to waiting for us, I can't do anything other than accept it," Hermione said sadly. She sighed. "I knew it was over a week ago, but it's still hard to acknowledge it."

"But he can't sleep with that girl!" Harry protested.

"He shouldn't, but why can't he?" Hermione demanded. "You aren't going to try and stop him, are you?"

"No, but he knows he can't afford to sponsor a child here," Harry pointed out.

"I know," Hermione said. "He pointed that out, with a fair amount of, well, I'd have to call it poison in his voice."

Harry thought hard. Hermione was about to say something, but Luna placed a finger on Hermione's lips and shook her head.

Finally, Harry said, "Here's what I'm going to do."

Fifteen minutes later, there was a sharp knock on Ron's door. For a moment, hope flared in Ron's libido, then he realized that Rora wouldn't knock like that, and Hermione was unlikely to, either. "Come in?" he said warily.

Ron swallowed nervously when Harry marched into the room. Harry had changed in the time since the school year had ended. Gone was the bitter and angry Harry of their Fifth year. Gone too was the shy, sometimes tentative Harry of their first four years. This Harry was confident. Not arrogant, not superior, but a Harry who had learned much about himself, and his place in the world.

It was slightly intimidating. The Harry who had trained that morning was a Harry who could have protected the group against most of the Death Eaters the previous June. The Harry who was walking into Ron's room might have had a shot at defeating them.

"Harry?" Ron asked, a tiny bit scared.

"You hurt Hermione," Harry said, obviously holding back his anger. "I think I understand at least some of what you're going through, and I know she can be bossy and tries to run our lives, but did you have to deliberately hurt her?"

"I lost my temper," Ron admitted. "You know, as much as I like her, and as attractive as I find her, she just . . . grates at times."

"You like Hermione," Harry said. "The problem is, she was in love with you."

Ron face-faulted.

"And yes, past tense," Harry growled. "She has been dealing with that for a few weeks. Here." He held out a piece of paper.

"What's that?"

"A Gringotts check. I'm giving each of you twelve thousand Galleons. It's all from the money Sirius left me, so don't worry, I'm not being left short. I was going to wait until we got back, but I understand these are negotiable with the goblins here. I'm not going to comment on anything you do, if you decide to do anything, with Rora. But don't throw it in Hermione's face, Ron. I care for you both, but don't hurt her again."

"I'll do my best. Harry, you don't have to. . . ."

"I know I don't, but you're my friend. Just remember, though, if you hurt her badly again, I'll make certain you never have children."

Ron swallowed nervously.

Harry came back into Luna's room, where Luna was laying on the bed, still naked but now giggling.

"She won't stop," Hermione said in a worried tone.

"The potion does that to her when she's really tired. She also tends. . . "

"Harry-berry!" Luna exclaimed. She tried to jump off the bed and fell into his arms instead.

"She tends to be rather affectionate," Harry said as Luna started nuzzling Harry's chest through his dressing-gown.

"I guess I'd better. . . ."

Luna released Harry and embraced Hermione in a bear hug that she couldn't escape, ". . . stay with us tonight!" Luna declared. "You're sad, and you need to be with people who love you." She pulled at Hermione's open dressing gown and nightgown, and then licked Hermione's bare shoulder. "We both love you, you know."

"Luna!" Hermione gasped.

"You taste yummy, Hermie!"

"She'll fall asleep in ten or fifteen minutes or so," Harry said. "Come on."

"You can't mean. . . ."

Harry shrugged. "Unless you'll feel very uncomfortable." He embraced the shocked Hermione and the cooing, giggling Luna, who had a very firm grip around Hermione and was now nibbling on Hermione's shoulder and neck.

Harry waved the lights off. Harry and Hermione steered Luna to the bed, and Harry stripped off his dressing gown and shorts.

"Harry. . . ."

"Hermione," Luna asked, "aren't you hot in all that?"

"Just be comfortable and lie down," Harry said. "We'll keep Luna between us. She'll snuggle and snooze pretty soon. She's really exhausted."

Hermione stripped off everything but her light nightgown and slipped into the huge bed next to Luna. Luna snuggled between them, and they quickly settled down.

Hermione was almost asleep when she heard a slurping sound, and felt Luna's head bobbing.

"Luna!" Hermione hissed slightly, greatly embarrassed.

"Merlin, you're huge tonight!" Luna enthused.

"That's my elbow, sweetheart," Harry said gently. "Go to sleep."

And they all did.

Author notes: According to a very old 'Playboy' interview with Mel Brookes, the elbow line was the only thing censored from the movie 'Blazing Saddles' (Sheriff Bart to Lily, after Lily blows out the lights and then says 'It's True! It's True!' It's another of those lines I always wanted to use).

Yes, in the Classical Mediterranean, you ate dinner laying down and generally watered the wines, at least during the meal. James arranged for Remus to have a place owned by the Potter Trust. Harry could kick Remus out once he takes full possession at 17, but of course he wouldn't. Ron takes the check primarily because he wants the maid Rora.