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The best laid plans

Chapter Text

The sound of the train on the rails was the only thing disturbing the silence of their compartment. The two students were lost to the world as they rode aboard the Express as it whisked them back to the Muggle world for the next six weeks*. Harry Potter was doing all he could to focus on his bushy-haired girlfriend who was snuggled up next to him, and to not focus on the anxiety he felt over spending so much time in the ‘care’ of his aunt and uncle.

 

In all fairness, Hermione was doing an extremely good job of distracting him from his troubles. She had latched onto his side five minutes before and had refused to let go since, the gift he had given her that had sparked the impromptu cuddle time gripped tightly in her hand. The gift in question was a tartan hairband and a small cloth bag. Not much to look at on their own, but then that was the point. They needed to look normal so that no one would pay attention to them.

 

It had started last Christmas; it had been a rather simple plot to use Polyjuice potion to sneak into the Slytherin common room and find out who was targeting the Muggle-born students, before they killed someone or worse, got Hermione. It just went to show that even simple plans can go very wrong. They were unable to learn who was attacking students, unable to stop the attacks and worst of all, Hermione ended up petrified anyway. Oh, and thanks to a mishap with Hermione's potion his then friend, now girlfriend, was stuck with cat features.

 

It wasn't as bad as it could have been. At first, she had looked a lot more like a cat, but Madam Pomfrey, while being unable to reverse the effect entirely, had managed to restore most of Hermione's original, human features. She now only spotted cat ears and a tail, as well as a patch of fur that ran along her spine from the middle of her back down to her tail. The rest of her was back to normal, on the outside at least.

 

Harry didn't know all the details, but there had been some subtle, and some not-so-subtle, changes in his Hermione. A lot of it was easy to explain and dismiss, such as Hermione's preferred foods having shifted a bit. She doesn't dislike anything more than before but her fondness for fish, chicken and milk had gone up exponentially. Harry had noticed this, as before taking the potion, Hermione tended towards porridge and pumpkin juice for breakfast, but now she was beginning to alternate between that and kippers on toast* with a goblet of milk.

 

She also seemed to understand cats better. She couldn't talk to them like Harry could with snakes, but she seemed to be able to know what they wanted whenever they were around her. As such she had become quite popular with the cats in the Gryffindor tower. Hermione was also more of a hugger now. A lot more. Well, not so much more of a hugger than a longer hugger. At least with Harry. But then he was unsure if that one was a result of some cat instinct to snuggle into anything warm, or just a perk of their upgraded relationship. Either way, he wasn’t complaining.

 

There were also the potions she now had to take regularly that she refused to tell him about, only saying that it was private and wasn't a problem. He had stopped asking after that but couldn't help but worry for her.

 

His worry had been one of the reasons behind the gifts. While they did nothing about whatever problem was leading to Hermione needing to visit the hospital wing every few weeks, it would help with her life outside of school and let Harry feel like he was doing something. The real gift had been the three small cloth bags, two of which were concealed in a tartan hair band. Each of the bags had an undetectable expansion charm on them. This meant that while wearing the hair band Hermione could easily and, most importantly, comfortably hide her cat ears even in the Muggle world. The third bag was loose and was to conceal her tail. With her gift and a few simple fashion choices, Hermione would hopefully be able to pass as normal in the muggle world, and not be stuck in her house for the whole summer hiding from everyone but her parents.

The compartment door opened, revealing the two youngest redheaded Weasleys. Ron and Ginny had barely been seen without each other since Ron and Harry had retrieved her from the Chamber of Secrets. The youngest Weasley had understandably latched on to her brother for support after everything that had happened to her, and after his fear of losing her that day, Ron was more than happy to be there for her.

 

If it hadn't been for Ron's reaction to Hermione's current appearance, the couple would have been happy to see them. As it was though the echoes of Ron's bullying of Hermione's feline attributes had had a huge strain on the friendship of the three. Harry and Ron had both stuck by Hermione in the beginning, but after two days Ron and Hermione's regular bickering had started back up. It wouldn’t have been too bad but Ron had taken it too far, as per usual. He’d started making cat-based insults towards Hermione. This had gotten her so upset that Madam Pomfrey had banned Ron from the hospital wing.

 

That would have been the end of it but when Hermione was released from the hospital wing two weeks later the three were informed by Professor McGonagall that for brewing an illegal potion the three would be spending the next six Saturdays with her in detention. Ron had started complaining loudly to anyone who would listen, claiming that it was Hermione's fault that the three of them had gotten the stack of detentions, and then for Gryffindor losing the Quidditch cup because one of the detentions was the day of the match, leaving Harry unable to play.

 

That had pretty much been the end of the three's friendship. Hermione was sick of Ron insulting her and Harry couldn’t believe he would single out Hermione as being the only one at fault. They had all agreed to the plan from the start; Ron had even known the potion was illegal. That would've probably ended their friendship for good if Harry and Ron hadn't set everything aside to save Ginny.

 

After that their friendship was strained but back, and the three doubted that it would ever again be as strong as it was at the start of the year.

 

It was Ginny show spoke up first, after a moment of awkward silence,  “Hey Harry”, then with a stiff but polite nod to Hermione, “Hermione”, before turning back to Harry, “I just wanted to say thank you again before we get to Kings Cross, for everything. And I...wanted to wish you a good summer.”

 

Harry shifted in his seat, a little uncomfortable with being thanked for what he felt any decent person should have done, “don't worry about it… uh... how are you doing after.. you know...”, even with how nervous he was, he couldn't miss the shadow that fell over her face for a few seconds, leaving the bags under her eyes and the strain on her face even more noticeable.

 

She wasn't sleeping well, that much Harry knew. He knew because most nights, at least for the last couple of weeks, Ginny had come been coming to the second year boys dorm in the middle of the night and climbing in with her brother. Harry had heard her many times; she’d been crying herself to sleep.

 

“I'm... doing better… it's just...” Before she could finish her brother pulled her in close and just held her, comforting her without a single word. He must have been doing something right, Harry thought, because Ginny relaxed a little and was able to collect her thoughts, “Hermione, I also wanted to apologize again…” Tears closely threatened the red-haired witch, “I'm so, so sorry, I should never have opened that bloody diary and because I was so stupid, you and Colin and others were hurt and it's all my fault.” By the time Ginny had finished her run on apology she had lost the battle with her tears and was openly sobbing into Hermione's shoulder, who at this point had crossed the compartment and hugged the first year as much as she could.

 

“It's ok, It's ok. I don't blame you. It wasn't your fault. And I bet the others feel the same as well”, the comforting words seemed to do little good, however, as Ginny sobbed even harder, “They hate me. They all hate me! Even Percy hates me for attacking Penelope, he thinks I attacked her because she is dating him.”

 

Hermione continued to comfort her, letting the witch cry onto her shoulder as Ron stroked her and back, “Gin, Percy doesn't hate you. If he hated you, he wouldn't keep asking me how you are doing. He is worried about you, we all are.”

 

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It took nearly ten minutes for them to help Ginny pick herself up. Ron and Hermione had done most of the heavy lifting as Harry didn't know what to say, but had done ok when he said that he “wished he knew what to say to help her feel better”. Ginny and Ron had left after that to go, calm down and change into their Muggle clothes.

 

Harry and Hermione had changed as well. This was easy enough for Harry as he just pulled off his outer robes, revealing a baggy pair of jeans and a faded t-shirt that looked like Harry could’ve used it as a tent. Hermione however, had kicked him out of the compartment for twenty minutes while she changed. Apparently, Harry's gift had had the unintended consequence of making Hermione replan her whole outfit.

 

When Harry returned to the compartment, the full twenty minutes later, Hermione was wearing a Muggle tartan skirt and white polo shirt, as well as the hairband. Harry assumed that she was also wearing the bag over her tail as he couldn't see her tail anywhere. He inwardly grinned at her appearance; his girlfriend would be beautiful to him, no matter what ‘extra’ features she may have.

 

The two chatted about their plans for the summer, or lack thereof in Harry's case, and all too soon for Harry's liking the Hogwarts Express pulled in to platform 9 ¾. With all the enthusiasm of a condemned man Harry pulled his and Hermione's trunks down, bracing himself for the hell he was going to have to live with for the foreseeable future. Hermione took advantage of her last opportunity to do magic for weeks and cast a charm to lighten the trunks. That the charm was a third-year one didn't seem to matter to her nor did it surprise Harry that she knew it, she always had her nose half-buried inside a book, and he wasn’t surprised she learnt more than him from them.

 

They each carried their trunks off the train to the line of carts that were waiting for the students who should depart the platform the Muggle way. They put their trunks on a cart with Hedwig on top and set off into King’s Cross, the Muggle world and their families.

Chapter Text

Hermione was just finishing unpacking her trunk, and was working through what she needed to do: shelving her books; sorting her clothes, putting the clean ones away and putting the dirty ones, that the magic of Hogwarts haven't cleaned yet, in the hamper; and setting her photos of her parents and other nick nacks in their proper places.

The drive home had been filled with Hermione asking her parents how their year had been. Now that they were home she was expecting to be called downstairs for what she jokingly thought of as her interrogation. It had become a sort of tradition; on her first evening home from Hogwarts, Her parents would pick up a take-away* that broke all their rules about healthy eating and sugary drinks. Then, over the distractingly enticing dinner they would talk about what had happened while she was away at school.

It wasn't long before she heard her mum call for her. Hermione made her way to the dining room to find her parents at the table, ready with pizza and fried chicken, all steaming hot waiting for her. Hermione sat and served herself, savouring the unhealthy food that was a rare treat at home. In fact, now that she thought about it, it had been almost a year since she had last eaten pizza. It wasn't in the Hogwarts meal rotation that tended to favor classic British food, and she hadn't left Hogwarts at all this year.

“So, Kitten”, her father then winced at his phrasing. He had used the old nickname on reflex and immediately regretted it, worried how his daughter would take it. Hermione, however, was laughing at his reaction to his own perceived faux pas*. After getting herself under control she grinned back at him, “it’s ok dad, you can still call me kitten. You have been doing it for as long as I can remember…I’d miss it if you stopped.”

“Ok, then...kitten”, he seemed decidedly uncomfortable with using the nickname now, “in the letters we received from you and McGonagall, who says she’s your Head of House, we were expecting to see cat ears and a tail, but I don't, so did they find a cure...or did your teachers hide them for you?”

Hermione finished chewing her bite of pizza; the toppings were a favorite she shared with her mum, which were ham, mushrooms, pineapple and prawns. “They are hidden, but it was Harry who found a way to hide them. Not one of the teachers. He gave me this hair band today, the spells on it give me somewhere to put the ears. There is also a similar item for my tail.” She hesitated a second, then, checking that the curtains were closed and seeing that it was safe as they were alone, Hermione removed the hair band, revealing the brown and blond tabby cat ears for her parents to see.

Hermione sat there, waiting to hear what her parents would say. They sat in silence for what was probably only about thirty seconds, but they were the longest seconds of her life. Waiting for them to pass judgment on her. Would they think her a freak? Would they disown the monster she had become? Would they insist that she stop coming home from school at Christmas and Easter? Just do their job until they could kick her out once she finished school?

The anxiety-driven thoughts were driven from her head just as quickly when her mum spoke up finally, “Your ears look lovely dear”, with just those five words, Hermione relaxed immensely, feeling a tension she hadn't known she carried slip away, “Is your tail the same colour?”

Hermione's head bounced up and down, “Yes, I would show you, but taking the bag off my tail is difficult in this skirt”, it would also have been embarrassing, the high waist meant that the only way her tail could go was down. This was fine most of the time, but if she got happy or angry her tail tended to shoot up, and that was the last thing she wanted while in a skirt.

“Did you say bag, Honey?” Her mother seemed a bit confused. Hermione slipped into her lecture mode as she explained to her parents about the three bags and how two of them were concealed in the hair band and how each of the bags had an undetectable expansion charm on them, that created extradimensional space inside the bags. Her parents caught on quickly and soon the whole family were having fun making Doctor who references.

“So, Hermione, you mentioned a few other changes in your letters. I think me and your mum need to hear them all”, the joking was over and they were back to the main topic. “Well...you know about the ears and tail. The ears give me better hearing. It's not magic, it's just that the ears are so big compared to normal ears. My taste in food changed a little, I like fish, chicken, milk and cheese more now”, her parents nodded along; the cheese part was new to them but Hermione had already mentioned in her letters about how her taste in food had changed. Mr Granger had already added a few tins* of different types of fish to the shopping when he picked up the groceries a few days ago. “I also understand cats better. I just seem to know what they are trying to tell me”, Hermione hesitated for a second, thinking about something else, before saying, “that's it.”

Her parents looked at each other, silently debating whether to push. One of the letters they had gotten from Hermione's Head of House had mentioned their daughter was now taking a potion once a month to manage some other aspect of her transformation. Her mother, who had a suspicion about it just what was about, suggested waiting when her husband spoke up, “Hermione we know there's more. Your Professor mentioned a potion you now need to take. Now tell us everything”, he usually wasn’t this harsh, but he was concerned for his daughter and to help her, he needed to know what was the problem.

Hermione sat in her seat fidgeting nervously. It wasn't that she was keeping it from her parents, just that she didn't want to talk about such things with her dad. It had been bad enough when Harry had asked about the potion, but she could tell Harry to drop it and he would listen. She knew that he was still worried about her, but he had relaxed a lot when she promised him it was nothing dangerous.

And it really wasn't, but how do you tell your new twelve-year-old boyfriend that the potion you are taking is to stop you from losing control and jumping him every month?

She definitely wasn’t ready to have that conversation with Harry and she didn’t think Harry was ready for it either. And Hermione really wasn’t ready to talk to her dad about it, “Um…dad, it’s...“, Hermione was trying to work out a way to phrase things when her mother came to her rescue, “Hermione honey, is this a mother-daughter discussion?” Hermione blushed, nodded and suddenly found a bit of lint in her lap very interesting, so interesting that she missed that her father was just as suddenly interested in one of the pictures on the wall. Her mother smiled at two of them; they were so alike at times.

The discussion moved on swiftly; the talk about the potion postponed until later, when the two Granger women could talk alone. They asked about Hermione's classes and how she thought she had done on her end of year tests. The two of them had found it odd that the Headmaster had canceled the end of year tests; they knew that some of them were rather important, the magical equivalent of O and A levels, so surely they couldn't just be canceled? Hermione thought that the people sitting their O.W.Ls and their N.E.W.Ts would have to do them over the summer., but agreed it sounded like a lot of hassle.

The dinner continued for a while longer; the three of them just enjoying being back together as a family, if only for the summer holidays.

 

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Hermione had just finished getting ready for bed and was about to go brush her teeth (she may have skipped the odd day here and there while she was at Hogwarts but she knew that she wouldn't get away with that at home) when her mum came in to her room, surprisingly carrying two large bowls of what looked to be chocolate caramel-swirl ice-cream. “Got time for a girly chat?” Hermione eyed the bowls of her own personal ice-cream nirvana suspiciously, her mother didn’t usually indulge in such unhealthy treats, “I think I could maybe find some time”.

The two of them sat cross-legged on Hermione's bed, each holding a bowl but the older of the two still holding on to the spoons, “So...fun questions first. It's boyfriend Harry now, not best friend Harry. what's the story there?” Her mum asked, grinning as she handed over Hermione's spoon. A smile came over Hermione's face as she remembered that happy moment, “it was in the hospital wing after Christmas. Ron and I had had a falling out over his legendary lack of tact. So at that point, it was only Harry coming to see me regularly. Lav and Pav popped in occasionally but Harry was there every day right up until curfew. Classes had started back up and Harry was helping me keep on top of everything, since I was unable to make it to classes.”

Hermione stopped talking for a bit to sample the ice-cream and gave a slight moan of pleasure. “Then Madam Pomfrey asked me to make a decision on something. She asked if I wanted to keep the cat eyes or change them back to normal. I chose to change them back; dad always said my eyes are like grandad's so I wanted to keep them. Anyway, to change them back I needed to take a potion every morning for six days. That was fine as I was already taking a lot of potions, so what was one more? Only...this one had a noticeable side effect.

While my eyes were changing my vision was blurry. I could see well enough to know if someone was there, or to walk to the bathroom and back, but I couldn't read, which you know would’ve been a problem for me. I was a little upset about that particular thing, and then Harry turns up about an hour later. It was a Saturday. And, he was with some of my favorite books. I told him that I couldn't read them because my eyes where being fixed, and that he may as well take them away. He looked at me for a few seconds and I couldn't see the look on his face, but I just know he had that smirk of his on his face, then he just sat down in the chair next to me and pulled out my copy of 'The Hobbit’ and started reading it out loud to me.”

Hermione paused to take another mouthful of ice-cream and her mother jumped in, “So let me get this straight; you were stuck without your books for a week and Harry just started reading them to you”, Hermione nodded slowly, her mouth still full of ice-cream,“Oh god, the poor boy is doomed. Only you would find love through reading, kitten.” Hermione giggled, then continued on after swallowing her bite, “well after about five hours in that chair I realized Harry had to be uncomfortable...so”, she paused for a second wondering how her mother would take it, “I-I moved him up onto the bed with me.” Seeing her mother beginning to smirk, she powered on with her tale;

“Before you say anything , the beds are adult-sized so the two of us fit quite comfortably. He came back every day to keep reading the books to me. Unlike some of the others I showed my muggle books, he was completely fine with them. I guess it was cause he grew up a muggle like me. We were two-thirds of the way through 'Return of the King’ before I was able to see normally again, but Harry hates to leave a job unfinished, and he kept reading to me till he finished.

Over the six days, I wasn't used to things being a bit different from my accident. Apparently, the cat hair I used in the potion came from an adult cat, well, Kneazle. Which is a type of magical cat which is why I couldn't be changed back all the way. The Kneazle magic, portion magic and my magic all got mixed up in a knot and won't come undone”, She took a deep breath, “And I am so glad it was a girl cat, that could have lead to problems I don't even want to think about.” Her mother's face went a little green as she thought of the possibilities. At this point, Hermione began blushing profusely, “But anyway...as the cat was an adult, it...well...I guess you could say I'm more ‘interested’ in boys than I normally should be...” Hermione was burning so hot by now that she was surprised she hadn't melted the ice-cream in her lap.

“So Harry was next to me, and after a few days, it just felt natural to snuggle up next to him. And too easy to dismiss it as a cat thing to cuddle up to something warm. One thing just sort of led to the next, and before I left the hospital wing we were a couple-” Her mother abruptly interrupted Hermione and asked cautiously, “and just what exactly did it lead to?” Her tone was conspiratorial, like two girlfriends gossiping. She didn't want Hermione to close her off, but inside she was of course a worrying mum. Just how far had her thirteen-year-old daughter gone with her boyfriend?

“Well, let’s just say Harry is a good kisser. A really good kisser...” Mrs Granger relaxed immensely; while she still felt her daughter was a bit young, it sounded as though they had kept their clothes on at the very least. But there was more, “But, that kiss is what lead to Madam Pomfrey putting me on the potion dad asked about.” That sparked her mother’s interest, she had been intending to ask about that after hearing about Harry, but it seemed that they had reached the topic naturally.

“She felt that it was out of character for me to be kissing Harry quite so quickly and did some checking she hadn't thought about till then.” Hermione was now in a constant state of embarrassment, her blush reaching shades her mother hadn't seen since she had talked to her about being prepared for her monthly ‘visitor’. “It turns out I now go into heat like a cat and because the cat was an adult I have been thrown in at the deep end. The potion tones down the feelings I would have without it and lets me act more normally.”

Emma didn't know what to say; her daughter was embarrassed and obviously dealing with some real issues. She’d gone from being a budding teen girl less than six months from her first monthly visit to having to deal with a full-blown sex drive practically overnight. She set the two half-finished bowls of ice-cream on Hermione's writing desk and crawled over to her daughter, pulling her into a hug. “It's Ok honey, we can cope with this. It's going to be fine. aAnyway, you love Harry anyway, right?” Hermione nodded numbly in her mother’s arms and started crying, the last of the tension she had been holding for weeks finally finding an outlet.

They stayed like that for a while; the two replaying a scene as old as humanity, a Mother comforting her daughter on the cusp of leaving behind her childhood. After that, the two sat there talking for a good hour and a half, the Mother asking questions and doing the groundwork to help her Daughter cope with the new challenges that were waiting for her.

 

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Author’s notes

take-away* British term for takeout

Faux pas - an embarrassing or tactless act or remark in a social situation.

tins - Brits say tins instead of cans

Chapter Text

Harry lay on his bed atop the threadbare blanket, his head resting on a pillow that had lost all of its bounce as he stared up at the ceiling. He was not having a good day. Hell, he wasn’t having a good summer at all. After his uncle had collected him off the train the ‘summer of hell’ had started almost straight away, with Vernon informing Harry that his sister, the woman Harry had been forced to call aunt Marge, was at the house. Apparently, after something had gone wrong with her plumbing it had revealed that some emergency work was needed on her house, so while the work was being done aunt Marge had invited herself to stay.

This had not left aunt Petunia happy. His aunt had entered Harry's rose bushes in some local garden competition (he refused to call them aunt Petunia's rose's in his head as he was the one who did all the work before he started Hogwarts). Marge had brought her prized bulldog 'Ripper’ with her and Ripper seemed to be deeply offended by the flowers and was doing his best to defile them. Uncle Vernon had then taken great delight in telling Harry of the rules for the summer, as well as how he had told Marge that his “no good, pathetic excuse for a nephew” was so bad he had been sent to 'St Brutus’ school for incurably criminal boys’, and, specifically, that if Harry so much as hinted at anything else his uncle would make him regret it.

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Uncle Vernon pulled the car onto the driveway. The two got out of the car without talking only to find Harry’s ‘Aunt’ Marge standing on the doorstep. She was very like Uncle Vernon; large, beefy and purple-faced, she even had a mustache, though not as bushy as his.’*

She started in on Harry before he even got to the front door, “so your back are you?” Not even waiting for a reply, she continued on, this time to her brother, “why even let the boy out Vernon? Surely that 'school’ is the best place for him?” Her less than subtle emphasis on the word school left no doubt that she was referring to the ridiculous fabrication of his uncle. “Teacher's need time off”, Vernon replied gruffly as he opened the boot for Harry to retrieve his trunk.

“What's in the trunk boy?” Aunt Marge demand, obviously looking for something to criticize, “Oh...Um...just my school things. School uniform, homework, paper, pens...that sort of thing.” Harry replied, automatically concentrating more on getting the heavy trunk out of the car then having a less than pleasant conversation with his aunt. Marge mulled that over for a few moments, looking for something else to scold, but evidently coming home from a boarding school with luggage and homework was expected. So, Aunt Marge fell back on her favourite insult, which was also a favourite of the two Dursley adults. Namely, calling him lazy and questioning his work ethic. “Well, you best take your trunk up to your room! No excuses for not getting your homework done! At least while you are doing that you aren’t off trying to break into cars or whatever it is you do!”

Harry froze and looked at his uncle. He knew Vernon didn't want him to have his school things, he didn't want Harry to do his homework. But, most of all, he didn't want Harry to have access to his wand. Not that Harry's wand was in his trunk. After everything that had happened the last two years, he had owl ordered a wand holster, and as such his wand was stuck to his arm and hidden with a perception filter charm. “Don't go looking to your uncle for help, boy! Get that trunk upstairs now!” His uncle, now standing behind Marge, nodded and mouthed 'for now’. Harry guessed that he couldn't think of an excuse on the spot to lock Harry's trunk away and had decided to pretend it was perfectly normal until he could think up something that wouldn't leave his sister suspicious.

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After that, there had been the start of the whole thing with Hedwig. While Marge had accepted Vernon's excuse that at Brutus’ they required pets to teach the boys responsibility, she still complained that her bulldog Ripper didn't like birds and that he was ‘sensitive’. Sensitive was apparently code for 'evil little shit', at least that was Harry’s opinion. He’d taken Hedwig straight to his room and set up a perch for her by removing the bars from her cage. It was crude but serviceable.  He had just gone downstairs to ask Vernon if there were any old newspapers he could line her cage with, (there were always some as his uncle was an avid reader of the Daily Express. Harry, however, always remembered what he heard a comedian say about it once "well at least they are true to their advertising, the paper is daily and clearly written in a hurry), when there was a huge racket from his bedroom.

Ripper had snuck into Harry's room when Harry left the door open and was trying to jump up on top of the wardrobe where Hedwig had retreated to avoid the snapping jaws of her attacker. Harry grabbed the dog to pull it out of the room and away from his owl. He had been able to pull the dog out but had received a bite on his right arm for his trouble. The door now closed and Hedwig safe, Harry now turned his attention solely to keeping Ripper's teeth from ripping into him again. This was not as quiet he’d hoped, as evidenced by the three sets of feet thundering up the stairs.

Harry felt sick just thinking about their reactions. First up the stars had been his uncle, who just stood there watching. Marge came next and the bitch fucking laughed and encouraged the dog. It wasn't until Aunt Petunia had seen the blood that she said anything. But, not surprisingly, it wasn't to protect Harry, no, she was more concerned about Harry getting blood on the carpet.

God, He hated it here.

Aunt Petunia threw a toilet roll and a Crepe Bandage at him and told him to make sure not to get blood everywhere. Harry retreated to his room and sat on the bed. He made two pads out of the toilet paper, one for each side of his arm, and held them in place with the bandage. His arm seen to, it was time to strengthen out the room. He reset Hedwig's cage, then set about the task of coaxing her down off the wardrobe. Seeing his friend so shaken, Harry held her close, "It’s Ok Hedwig, it's Ok. I promise I won't let him hurt you. Only a few more weeks before we can get out of this shithole."

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The next few weeks had been filled with cooking, cleaning, dodging his cousin (who’d arrived back from smeltings the next day), and trying to do something to help the roses survive Ripper. This was easier than it might have been, as the dog had stopped caring about the roses. Instead, the bulldog was constantly camped outside Harry door trying to get in at Hedwig. Harry had been bitten three times more by the dog so far and he seriously doubted it would be his last this summer.

If that wasn't enough, he was seriously missing Hermione. To be fair, he was missing any friendly contact. His friendship with Ron was strained and almost everyone else cared little for Harry, only for the-boy-who-lived, some mythical hero they’d built up to some impossible standard that no one could ever live up to, let alone a small, underwhelming and bespectacled boy. All this and the fact that Hermione filled both the role of best friend and girlfriend meant that Harry was feeling rather alone.

It hadn't helped that since becoming a couple the two of them had been practically inseparable, never spending more than ten hours away from each other, even if most of that time they were asleep. It wasn't entirely their fault; they eat their food in the same hall, went to the same classes, studied in the same library and relaxed and slept in the same tower. Even when they weren't working together or chatting they tended to be in the same space. The only real time they spent truly apart was when Harry was practising quidditch (Hermione only went to games, not practices) or when Harry was forced to go to classes while Hermione had been stuck in the hospital wing, once from the polyjuice and once from that bloody great big snake.

Even when Hermione had been petrified he had made his way to the hospital wing each day, telling Hermione about the classes he had had that day, then reading more of her books to her on the off chance she could hear him. Staying till Madame Pomfrey kicked him out for the day. He still wasn’t sure if Madam Pomfrey let him stay for Hermione's benefit or his own. He definitely felt, well...not better , but less helpless as he sat there reading the ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’ series to her. Just thinking of Hermione in that state lead his mind to another dark place. He couldn’t believe that Hermione had had the answer in her hand and that he had spent days sitting next to it the whole time. That damned snake, he wanted to bring it back to life just so he could kill it again for what it had done. The thought of that it sent phantom pains through the crux of his right elbow, a remembered pain of the venom burning its way into his flesh.

God, he hated summer.

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July 31st

Harry awoke on his birthday like it was any other day at Privet Drive, with his aunt banging on the door and telling him to go cook breakfast. Harry wasn't surprised if he was lucky no one would say anything about him now being officially a teenager. Then he could pretend they had just forgotten, instead of deliberately doing it to hurt him.

He finished getting dressed; pulling on a lumpy old pair of Dudley's socks that he had grown out of about two years ago, a ratty old pair of trainers that he had grown out of at about the same time. Then he was off to cook enough bacon and fried eggs to feed a small platoon, or just three Dursleys. Aunt Petunia would have just tea and toast with whatever spread she chose that morning, if she stuck to her pattern.

Harry grabbed a package of 24 slices of British back bacon from the fridge, laying out the whole pack on the grilling rack and starting them to cook. He set the largest cast iron skillet on the hob, adding what he considered an obsessive amount of lard to the pan and set it on low heat. He put four slices of bread in the toaster, two cans of beans in a tub in the microwave and filled the kettle to boil the water for tea and coffee. Aunt Petunia as always was the first to come down, and her tea was already in the teapot and her toast cooking when she sat at the table.

“Marmite.” No please, no thanks, just the one word. Not that Harry expected anything else as he grabbed the tar-like paste from the fridge, setting it next to the plate that was waiting for his aunt's toast. Soon everyone was down and the Dursleys were eating. Breakfast done, Harry made his way upstairs, finally able to take care of needing the bathroom and brushing his teeth. As he cleaned his teeth he smiled to himself, thinking of the lecture Hermione had given him on dental hygiene.

It was rather an interesting topic that showed the difference between Muggle and Magical cultures. Muggles couldn't really fix teeth, they could only add a hard substance to fake a tooth being there, such as fillings and false teeth. So muggles focused on prevention, pastes and brushes to stop there being a problem in the future. Magical folk, however, they just used charms to keep their mouths smelling and tasting fine. This did nothing to remove the problem though, but if a witch or wizard had a bad tooth that was easy enough to fix; just vanish the tooth and down a shot of Skele-Gro. 6 hours later and they have a new, perfectly healthy tooth.

Harry made his way back to the kitchen to clean up after breakfast and to see if there were any leftovers so that he could eat this morning. To his surprise, there were two pieces of bacon and a slice of toast. Hardly a feast but plenty for him. He cleaned up the plates and mugs and grabbed the plate with the toast and bacon on it to put it on top of the pile of dishes he was taking back to the kitchen.

“One second, Harry” He froze at Aunt Marge's words, hesitated for a second then turned back to her. She smiled at Harry, then took the bacon and folded the toast around it and fed it to the dog in her lap. She had done this on purpose, she had left the food there till he had seen it, just so she could take it away in front of him. Harry wanted to scream, he wanted to shout, he wanted to take the pile of dishes he was carrying and smash them over her fucking head. But, he knew that was exactly what she wanted. Instead, he did the only thing he could to strike out at her. He denied her the confrontation she wanted by smiling at her, somewhat viciously, “anything else Aunt Marge?”

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Later the same day

Aunt Marge definitely wasn’t happy with how things went at breakfast. She had been pushing all day to get a rise out of Harry, ramping up the pressure each time. Now the Dursleys were sitting down to dinner, again cooked by Harry. Dudley had had the brilliant idea to get at Harry; he’d asked for shepherd’s pie and treacle tart for dinner. This was probably Harry's favourite meal, and despite the fact that both dishes were of the classic British variety; namely heavy, rich, hot and very filling and an absolute godsend when it was cold and wet, they were being consumed in the totally unsuited summer heat. So they sat there eating Harry's favorite meal, while Harry hasn't had a bite of food all-day on this thirteenth birthday.

Then there was the dinner conversation he had to listen to, “You mustn’t blame yourself for the way the boy’s turned out, Vernon”, Marge said between shoveling meat and potatoes into her mouth, “If there’s something rotten on the inside, there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” Harry's hands shook even as his face remained impassive though he longed to burn them with his anger, and magic. She wanted him to fight. He had to keep his cool. Don’t rise to it, “It’s one of the basic rules of breeding,” she continued on, definitely oblivious to Harry’s rising temper, “You see it all the time with dogs. If there’s something wrong with the bitch, there’ll be something wrong with the pup.”

How fucking dare she! She had never even met his mother, the woman who had literally given up everything, including her life, for Harry. Aunt Marge reached for her glass of wine, only to have the glass explode in her hand, the shards of glass cutting into her flesh. Harry watched as blood began to ooze from numerous small cut on the inside of her hand. Luckily, Marge just laughed it off, “Sorry about your glass Petunia. I have a strong grip. Let me just go sort my hand out. BOY! Clean up the glass, if even one shard ends up in my poor Rippy’s paw there will be hell to pay.

Her threat finished, she left for the upstairs bathroom, her hellhound in step behind her. As soon as she was out of sight, Vernon turned on Harry. “You dare use your abnormality to attack my sister!?” He was out of his chair and was pulling off his belt. “I di-didn't”, Harry stuttered, “T-that wasn't me.” The belt was in Vernon’s hands now, “BULLSHIT! I know your freakishness when I see it”, Harry had backed into a corner of the room trying to put as much distance between him and his raging uncle as the room allowed. Searing pain flashed over Harry's back and shoulder as the strip of black leather found its mark. Again and again, the blows fell onto Harry's left side, feeling like it was on fire as uncounted blood vessels where broken under the improvised whip.

Harry cowered in the corner, trying to react as little as possible to the beating, though some tears and pained moans still escaped from him. He had learned over the years that they were longer if he screamed. Then everything changed.

There was a loud screech of pain and everyone stopped. It wasn't Harry's scream. It wasn't even on this floor of the house and, it wasn't human. “HEDWIG!” The blood drained from Harry's face. Now he could see what had happened; Marge had broken the glass on purpose. She had done it so that Harry would be busy cleaning while she went upstairs and let Ripper into his room where Hedwig was sleeping.

Harry got up and tried to rush to the stairs, only to be grabbed by his uncle. His uncle opened his mouth to start yet another of his verbal tirades, though unfortunately for Vernon Harry was now too focused on his owl that he was no longer concerned with holding his power in check. As a result of delaying the desperate boy, Vernon was relocated to the far side of the room, where he suddenly found himself being reintroduced to his wall with a sickening pop and crack from his shoulder and arm.

Harry was up the stairs in a flash. He tried to push open his door, Hedwig's continued screeches calling him to help, but the door wouldn't open. He tried again but the door wouldn't budge. Then he saw it; Aunt Marge had locked one of the seven locks that were on the door, a relic of the last summer Harry had spent in this hellhole. She had also added a padlock. Harry's mind raged and his power responded, rushing out to unblock his path, exploding the door and some of the surrounding masonry that was keeping him from Hedwig.

If Harry had been paying attention, he would have seen Marge standing in the bathroom, the door wide open, watching. The sadistic women wearing the biggest shit-eating grin she had ever worn. As Harry pulled on the door to try and get in finding it locked she mouthed the words “got you”. Her triumph, however, was soon replaced by terror as at a gesture from Harry, the door exploded into shrapnel. The shrapnel that resembled matchsticks more than anything else and was suddenly filling the landing.

The sight that greeted Harry as the door disintegrated chilled him to the bone. Hedwig's pale white feathers were scattered around the room, her blood staining them, the ruby crimson standing out all the more due to the contrast. And there, in the middle of the room, a screeching Hedwig, her wing trapped in the jaws of her attacker.

Harry couldn't have held back if he tried, Hedwig wasn't just his pet and post owl. She was a magical creature and his familiar. And part of that bond was that his magic couldn't stand by and let her be hurt. While a more experienced wizard may have been able to direct the response more, Harry, with only two years of education under his belt, was just along for the ride. Harry felt the power in him flow, reaching out towards the dog, prying its jaws off the injured wing and freeing his friend. The offending mut was then thrown across the room through the door and into the opposite wall with a meaty thunk, where it slumped to the floor, never again to rise.

Seeing her prized bulldog stud die so suddenly cut through Marge's shock, fear and the rational parts of her brain. Marge charged at Harry, intending to hurt him for what he had done to her dog. But Harry still hadn't regained control of his magic yet. In fact, he was so worried about Hedwig he hadn't even tried. Hell, he was so worried about her, he didn't even know that he was being attacked. He would later find out that he had stuck his aunt to the ceiling with some accidental magic variation of a permanent sticking charm.

Harry now cradled his friend in his arms, tears freely flowing at the state of her wing. He stood, keeping Hedwig in his arms and just started walking, down the stairs, out the door, down the street. He had only a vague plan. Find a vet, get Hedwig to Diagon alley, there had to be someone there who could help. The problem was, without Hedwig he couldn't call for help from anyone. He had little Muggle money and he was down to his last 5 gallons till he got to Gringotts. He would use the Muggle money to get as close to London as possible. Then he would try and get the rest of the way as fast as he could, even if he had to walk.

He really needed Hermione right now. Hermione would know what to do. There would be a public floo access she had read about or a post owl office that he could use to call for help. Hermione would also probably know a better place to take Hedwig than a magical pet shop. Right now he just needed help.

It was then that Harry's magic decided to pull one more trick out of its hat tonight. He felt the flow of his power as it surrounded him, then started crushing him into a ball. Not painfully, but definitely not comfortable. Later, when Harry heard about Apparition training and the three D's, he would always add his own fourth; destination, determination, deliberation and lastly, desperation . He would also realize that he was incredibly lucky that all he left behind was his shirt, and not some part of himself.

That was how Harry appeared in the Grangers’ dining Room, covered in belt marks, bruising and dog bites. Nothing to hide it from the three sitting down to dinner, but an owl with a mangled wing and her blood that was covering him. Seeing the one person who he thought could help Harry relaxed, “Hermione.”

“Harry?!” With that one word from Hermione's lips, all the will and adrenaline that was keeping Harry going, allowing him to push forward despite the lack of food and heavy use of magic gave way and Harry's last act of will was to turn as he fell, ensuring that Hedwig would land atop him, not the other way around, as he slipped into unconsciousness.

 

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Chapter Text

1st August

 

Harry woke up feeling warm, uncomfortable and exhausted. He just wanted to go back to sleep but something was wrong, he just didn't know what. He opened his eyes to see if that would give him a clue. Was he in the hospital wing again? He felt bad enough. But the sight that greeted him was definitely not the hospital wing. He was in a bedroom. Not his bedroom or one he recognized.

He looked around the room; there were some clothes that had obviously been set out for him. A pair of workout trousers and a plain t-shirt that, while not sized to fit him, were a lot closer to his physique than the hand-me-downs he got from his cousin. It was then he noticed that his clothes were gone, also that the bites he had from Ripper had been dressed, and then redressed. His heart leapt into his mouth as he also found his wand holster, and wand, were missing.

 

Harry then started recalling the events from the day before, but they were fuzzy. He remembered seeing Hedwig hurt and covered in blood. He looked around for her but couldn't see her. His chest tightened again, painfully; he couldn’t handle this amount of stress. He hoped she was getting help, but this looked like a muggle house.

He dressed in the clothes and went to see if he could find out where he was. He tried the first door he came to; It seemed to be a girls bedroom. Not useful at the moment, so he moved on. The next room was the room of what looked to be a married couple, and it was a lot neater than the previous room. The third room he tried proved to be just as useless to his current predicament, though knowing where the bathroom was wasn’t bad knowledge.

 

All that was left were the stairs, so down Harry went, still searching for any sign of magic in this muggle house. He soon found himself in a kitchen/ dining room. There was a woman who he didn't know, but she did look vaguely familiar to him, a passing face he’d seen before maybe?

“Uh...Hello?” The woman, who sat at the large dining table flipping through numerous pages of printed muggle paperwork. looked up at him, before smiling widely. “Oh. Good morning, Harry”, so this woman knew his name, he tried to rack his brain to work out where he had seen her before but all he was getting for his efforts was a headache.

 

Deciding that 'boldly forward’ was the best way here he just asked, “Sorry, I don't want to be rude, but can you tell me who you are? You look familiar but I don't know from where. And can you please tell me what happened to my owl and my things?” Harry tried to be as polite as he could but thought that he may not have managed that well.

 

The unknown woman did not seem to take offence however, “No problem. I am Dr Emma Granger, and I’m a dental surgeon. You’ve probably seen me somewhere before; I am Hermione's mother.” That was why she was familiar; this was Hermione's mum, Harry had seen her in passing a few times at King’s Cross. Now that she mentioned the relationship with her daughter, he could see her resemblance to Hermione...or was that Hermione's resemblance to her?

Harry didn't want to think about it too much, else the headache would return. Mrs Granger continued, "as for your things, Hermione has your wand and your clothes, what little you had were beyond saving I'm afraid. As for Hedwig, who is lovely by the way, she is always so nice whenever she delivers one of Hermione's letters..." Harry remembered vaguely Hedwig's instance at carrying Hermione's mail as well. "She is on her way to Diagon Alley with Hermione and my husband Dan. She is going to be fine.”

 

Harry sighed in relief, finally managing to relax a little for the first time all summer. Now that he knew she was Hermione's mum and that his familiar was safe, he looked a little more closely at Mrs Granger. Hermione definitely didn't take after her mum, but there was something about the eyes, the set of her jaw and the way she held her shoulders that were definitely present in her daughter. Harry also noticed a similarity about her ears that Hermione had lost to the potions accident.

 

Now that Harry had a better idea of where he was, he wondered how he had gotten there. How did he just... appear in Hampstead in London? He had a vague recollection of trying to get to London, but how did find Hermione's home? He didn't know the address, just the general location. “Do you know how I got here? I don't remember...” Mrs Granger looked at him sympathetically, “We don't know that much Harry. You just appeared with a loud crack just a few feet from where you are standing last night, shirtless, covered in dog bites and blood, with Hedwig in your arms. Then you passed out.”

 

She paused for a second looking like she was contemplating whether to say more, “A wizard from the...Department of Magical Law Enforcement? Yeah, he came. He said something about underage magic and the Statute of Secrecy. But, when he saw your injuries he said something about exceptions and that he needed to do an investigation. He asked us if you could stay here for the night and that he would be back tonight to get a statement from you.”

 

Harry wondered how much trouble he was in. He knew that using magic was Ok in an emergency, but Uncle Vernon was good at blaming Harry, very good. Harry remembered a few teachers who had taken an interest in his clothes over the years and how Uncle Vernon convinced them it was Harry's fault. He had little doubt that by the time the DMLE came back the story would be his Uncle defending his family from ‘mad wizard’ Harry. If the last year had taught him anything it was that people were more than willing to think the worst of him.

 

Mrs Granger interrupted his brooding, “There is some breakfast for you in the microwave. Hermione put together a plate for you before she left.” Harry wasn’t expecting to eat; it was just his mindset by now. “T-thank you.” Harry found the microwave, and inside was a bowl containing some yoghurt, fruit and muesli. Mrs Granger told him where to find the cutlery and he collected some, then gingerly sat at the dining table with her.

 

He started eating, slowly picking his way through the food, each bite eagerly anticipated by his stomach yet difficult to keep down. It was always the same after so long without much of any food. Noticing Harry's slow pace Mrs Granger frowned, in a concerned motherly way, “Is everything Ok? I know a lot of families don't eat as healthy as us. I let Hermione prepare your breakfast because I thought she should know better than me what you like.”

Harry looked up, “It's fine, Perfect in fact. These are the same fruits I put on my breakfast at school. I just didn't think Hermione paid that close of attention to what I eat. I mean, yeah, I know she gives me the ' I'm disappointed in you and you should feel bad ’ look if I put too much sugar in my morning porridge or if I have bacon and eggs more than once a week, but I didn't think she noticed the fruit I put in my porridge.”

 

Mrs Granger smiled at her daughter’s antics, “Hermione bullies you into eating porridge instead of sugary cereals, Harry?” Harry only just managed to avoid embarrassing himself by laughing with his mouth full in front of his girlfriend's mother. He swallowed carefully before speaking again, “I would say it's more the drafty old castle, in Scotland, during the winter, that bullies me into eating porridge”, Harry smiled, "there is a reason the Scots eat a lot of it."

Mrs Granger wondered out loud, “Is the castle really that cold?” Harry thought about it, “The magic in the castle does affect a lot of things, so yes and no. The corridors and entranceways are pretty open so they can be freezing cold. The rest, the classrooms, great hall, common rooms and dorms, however, are nice and warm.”

 

Harry had by now finished his first meal in about two days. And the first one that was a full portion in almost a week...Harry started to feel a little better, if a little queasy. Now that he had a little more energy and sustenance in his body, his head was starting to get going again and Harry had a question. “Mrs Granger, why did Hermione take my wand?”

Apparently, the DMLE wizard had told the Grangers that Harry was suffering from magical exhaustion. He had warned them that if Harry did any magic for the next few days, he risked doing permanent damage to his magical potential. He had also said that as Harry was going to be at the centre of an investigation where he performed underage magic, it would look bad there as well. Hermione, after hearing all that, had simply walked up to Harry’s sleeping form and taken his wand, effectively removing any temptation from him.

 

Harry was mostly aware that this was his first time meeting his girlfriend's mother, and tried to be at his best, ‘tried’ being a good word. He was tired; the bites, scratches and belt-marks were hurting and his stomach was queasy after breaking a long fast. He did his best and Mrs Granger seemed to understand. The two chatted about insignificant things until Harry gave in to his exhaustion, and yawned widely and loudly. Mrs Granger had then firmly sent him back up to the guest room to get some more sleep.

 

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Hermione had returned a few hours later with Hedwig and her father. While the two where relatively quiet, Harry was almost immediately awoken by Hedwig's screech as his owl called out to the house, looking for him. Harry was halfway down the stairs before he even knew he was fully awake and Hedwig was in his arms a few seconds later. Harry checked her over and she was mostly fine. She’d been cleaned up of all the blood and her wing had been healed, but there where a lot of feathers missing.

Important feathers.

His Hedwig couldn't fly. It would take a year for all those feathers to grow back in. Hedwig loved flying, it was a passion they shared. Some of Harry's best memories with her were when just the two of them were flying around Hogwarts at twilight. Harry would often just go for a fly after Quidditch practice and Hedwig would show up and fly with him more often than not. Harry had learned a lot about reading air currents from Hedwig, and while not necessary for broom flight, it did help him keep an edge for quidditch.

 

Now, she couldn't fly, she couldn't hunt, she couldn't be herself. All because he couldn't keep a simple promise; he had let that dog get to her. It was all down to him, she was hurt because of him. It was his job to protect her. It was all his fault. Next thing he knew, Hedwig was clutched to his chest, with his face buried in her feathers as he sobbed quietly, “I'm sorry...I'm so sorry Hedwig. It's all my fault...”

 

Hermione watched this happen, first with a smile as she watched the two reunite, then with a pained sadness as Harry broke down. She moved Harry and Hedwig over to the sofa, the owl still clutched tightly to Harry’s chest. She nodded to her parents to take the other seats in the room. She sat him down, then claimed the space next to him, putting her arm around him and just letting him cry it out. If Harry had been paying attention, he might have noticed that Hermione put her arm around his waist instead of his shoulder, as was her habit as she pulled him close.

 

“It’s Ok Harry. Hedwig is fine. She’s safe now”, the bushy-haired girl soothed, torn between trying to help calm him or letting him get his heartache out. “It’s my fault Hermione. It’s all my fault...” Harry kept repeating this, managing to force the words out between the shaking sobs wracking his body violently.

“What's your fault Harry?” She pressed a little, hoping Harry would open up, but also hoping she was not so forceful to close him off. “I promised her ‘Mione, I promised Hedwig I wouldn’t let it happen”, Hermione felt the words in her chest, as though it were suddenly hollow. Why had Harry needed to make a promise like that?

“Harry it's going to be fine, Hedwig is fine. She is all healed u-”, before Hermione could finish Harry interrupted her, “B-but her feathers. She can't fly without them. She loves flying. She’s going to hate me.”

 

Hermione smiled a little, thankful to have a solution to one of Harry’s worries, “Harry, I have a potion to grow her feathers back in a week. Like I said, she’ll be fine. A little put out, according to the witch at Eeylops, as she most likely won't like the taste. But , she will be flying again before you know it.” With Hermione's reassurances, Harry was able to start putting himself back together. “S-she's going to be ok?” The desperation was evident in his voice, but he was calming slowly. “Yes Harry. Hedwig will be fine. I promise.”

Harry let out a sob; suddenly he was crying harder again, “Y-you shouldn't make promises like that ‘Mione...It hurts you when you can't keep them.” A look of despair crossed Hermione's face for a second as she realised what she had said, “Harry I need you to tell me what happened. Everything . All of it; since I last saw you at King’s Cross.” Without even meaning to, Hermione used the same tone she used whenever she took charge at Hogwarts; library research, potions, spell incantations. Harry had just become accustomed to doing what Hermione said when she spoke like that. It was a good thing too as Harry, purely on reflex, started telling her about the last two weeks.

 

The three Grangers sat and listened as he started explaining his life since leaving Hogwarts for the summer.

Almost robotically, his voice devoid of all emotion, he spoke of his uncle, his aunts’ Petunia and Marge. He spoke of Ripper and his hunting of Hedwig, the bites he had gotten keeping the bulldog away from his familiar. He spoke of the food he cooked for them but wasn't allowed to eat, cooking breakfast before being allowed to use the facilities. He told them about his birthday, how they mocked him with his favourite foods, cooked by him, and having to listen to a slanderous tirade about his parents. Then of the glass, the belt, the attack on Hedwig and, lastly, his loss of control, then just waking up here.

 

As Harry finished his tale, Mr Granger got up and left the room. Hermione was clinging to Harry, her arms avoiding the wounds she had seen the night before, her face wet with the tears she had. Mrs Granger sat still, watching Harry, her expression one he had never seen before; caring, pity and rage all rolled up into one. Her cheeks were also wet with her share of tears. Mr Granger must have gone to a nearby bathroom, as the sounds of retching could be heard; the only thing to break the silence.

 

He returned a few minutes later, taking the seat next to his wife. They all sat in silence for a time, it could have been an hour but was probably closer to two, maybe three, minutes. Then the silence was broken as Mr Granger spoke a single syllable. A simple word which hid its complexity.

"Why?"

 

The three looked at him, then they all looked at Harry. "They don't like magic", he mumbled. A frown appeared on Mr Granger's face. It looked like he thought of something, "Harry, when we were contacted by Hogwarts, we were told that only immediate family who shares a home with Hermione could be told about magic. How does your Aunt Marge know about magic?" Harry thought about all the rules uncle Vernon imposed to keep magic from his sister. "S-she doesn't know about magic, sir", Harry replied, starting to understand what Mr Granger was talking about.

He spoke to Harry again, "Then I must ask my question again. Why? Why does this Marge Dursley hate a child so much?"

 

Harry was now thoughtfully confused. Over the years, Marge had always been the same. When he learned about magic, he had lumped Marge in with the Dursleys; they hated him for his magic. But, if Marge never knew of his heritage, why did she hate him? "I...I don't know."

 

Hemione, who hadn't let go of him throughout his explanation, spoke up, "Harry, you are never going back there. I promise. You won't ever have to go back there." Harry pulled her in tighter, a look of sadness on his face, "’Mione, you can't promise me that. You can’t"

From across the room, both of Hermione’s parents replied as one, "Yes, Harry. She can."

 

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Chapter Text

Later in the evening, 1st August

 

Harry was nervous. He was sitting at the Grangers’ dining room table with both of the adult Grangers. Across from him was someone from the Department of Magical law enforcement.

Only, they hadn't sent a regular enforcement officer, or even an Auror. No, across from Harry sat the head of the DMLE, Director Bones. As for what that meant for this interview, it could either be very good or very bad. With Harry's luck, he wasn't betting on good.

 

Director Bones was a stern-looking middle-aged witch who wore a Monocle. She had arrived at the Grangers about ten minutes ago. They had decided to use the Grangers’ dining room for the interview. Harry had been asked if he wanted Mr and Mrs Granger to remain, as his own guardians could not be present. He had agreed that he wanted them to stay. He wanted Hermione to stay as well, but Bones had said that there were rules against it, as she was not of age.

 

The Director had then read him something off a card asking if Harry understood. He hadn't, but Mr Granger explained it to him, “Harry, it means that you only have to tell her what you want to tell her. You can choose not to speak about something if you want to. She also can't use magic to compel answers from you or to force you to tell the truth. You can, however, volunteer to allow such magic to be used on you, but that you need to be careful as such magic will force the truth to any questions you are asked.” He turned to Director Bones, "Did I miss anything?" The Director shook her head "No, that was a rather good summary."

 

During Mr Granger's explanation, the Director had set a folder on the table in front of her and what looked like a small writing desk to her right. The desk had an ink well, a long roll of parchment and an electric blue quill.

The Director turned back to Harry, and after confirming that he now understood his rights, started with the interview. "This is a DMLE dicta-quill Harry, it will write out what we say during the interview. In a moment I will start it writing, then I will introduce myself to it as your interviewer. You will then introduce yourself as the interviewee. Then Mr Granger, you will need to do the same as Harry's temporary guardian, then Mrs Granger the same. Any questions?" There weren't any. Director Bones tapped the writing desk and just as she said, the quill sprung to life.

 

"I am director Amelia Bones, representing the DMLE in the interview of Harry James Potter." The Director then gestured to Harry, indicating his turn;

 

"I am Harry James Potter, interviewee."

 

"I am Daniel Granger, temporary guardian of Harry James Potter."

 

"I am Emma Jean Granger temporary guardian of Harry James Potter."

 

The director then had them each say a test phase to check the link. Every word was written out by the blue quill, exactly as it had been said. With an indication of who said what. The director then spoke to the dicta-quill for about a minute, adding some data to the parchment. Date, time, case number, the usual for government documents. Then she started the interview.

 

"Ok, Mr Potter, I want you to tell me in your own words what happened on the night of the 31st of August." Harry was just about to start speaking when Mr Granger interrupted, "Harry, I think you should start from being picked up from King’s Cross. Everything you told us earlier. Apologies Director, but I think you need to understand the lead up to that day to fully grasp what happened." The Director frowned slightly at the interruption, but nodded for Harry to go on. The whole point of a guardian for a minor was that they could make decisions like that. Minors just answered the questions asked; adults knew when to add context.

 

As the interview went on the Director's face changed from friendly to stern to blood freezing. She listened as Harry described acts that ranged from petty to outright torture. And, the more he spoke the more Director Bones was aware that the boy in front of her was only talking about the last two weeks. She studied the boy in front of her. He was small, too small. While she hadn't been the best of friends with Lily and James, she had gone to school with them. Neither were as small as Harry, and she thought about his ‘family’ withholding food and got a suspicion of just how long that had been going on.

 

Once Harry finished his recollections, the Director had started asking questions. First about Aunt Marge’s glass; “I need to ask, Mr Potter, did you explode the glass your Aunt was holding?” Harry shook his head, “No, Director, I don't think so. I didn’t feel the release of magic. I think she just gripped the glass too tight. I also think it may have been intentional, so she could get at Hedwig while I cleaned up the broken glass.” All the adults gasped at this. Harry hadn’t included this speculation during his recounting, this was only an opinion. An opinion that fit the facts way too well for everyone in the room to dismiss.

 

The Director asked him about each bit of magic he had admitted to; throwing off his uncle, blasting the door, killing the dog. Harry felt a little bad about that one. Then Director Bones asked about how Harry had got to the Grangers. Harry explained that he didn’t remember, but that Mrs Granger had told him he just appeared out of thin air. The director explained apparation and how dangerous it could be. She put a lot of emphasis on how lucky he was not to get splinched. Harry shuddered at the idea of leaving part of himself behind. Then she asked the question that stumped harry

 

“Ok, Harry, now I want you to explain what happened when you stuck your Aunt to the ceiling,” Harry was baffled at this, “What do you mean Director? Which of my aunts was stuck to the ceiling?” The Director checked the file to make sure that she had the right information. “Miss Marge Dursley was found stuck to the ceiling of the area above the stairs with a permanent sticking charm.” Harry was dumbfounded, “I don’t know what to say Director. I don't remember doing it”, the Director fixed him with a stare, “None of it? You don’t remember pointing your wand at her? You don't remember floating her up to the ceiling or casting the permanent sticking charm? Nothing at all?”

 

“Um...Director, I didn’t use my wand. It hadn’t left my holster since I left the Express, till Hermione uh...confiscated it last night while I was...sleeping.” This shocked the Director; accidental magic was fairly common before a child leaves for Hogwarts and not uncommon for a few years after. But wandless magic like that was terribly inefficient. Most people would get two, maybe three, spells before collapsing. Harry, however, had managed seven . It was astonishing, it was almost unbelievable.

 

“You really didn’t use your wand?” Harry looked her straight in the eye, no glint of uncertainty or lies, “No, I just lost control and my magic acted on its own.” Director Bones corrected him, “No, Harry, not on its own. Remember your first lessons in magic, what did you learn?” Harry’s eyes widened, “Raw magic is tied to desire. It reshapes the world around us based on what we feel. The wand is the tool of will so that we choose the magic we cast”, the Director nodded, “exactly, if you never used your wand, you only felt the need to defend yourself. You never choose to act. It is a fine line, but an important one in the law.”

 

She turned to the Grangers, “would it be possible for one of you to retrieve his wand, please. I can check his wand with a few simple charms to see what spells he used with it recently.” Mr Granger nodded and went to retrieve the wand from his daughter. Once Director Bones had Harry's wand she explained the charms she was about to cast. The first was a simple charm that produced a coloured mist of light to flow from the tip of the wand. The mist was ranged from red to blue. The red-er the mist, the more recently the wand had been used, with the deepest blue being 4 weeks or longer. The second was ‘Priori Incantatem’, which was apparently the reverse spell effect. This charm created a ‘spell ghost’ for a few moments.

 

Director Bones held his wand in her left hand and her own in her right. She pointed her wand at his, giving her wand a weird jerking motion, “Reliqutemoles*.” A solidly purple glowing mist started to flow from the tip of Harry's wand. Bones spoke to the quill, “Let the record show the Reliqutemole charm results are consistent with Mr Potter’s statement of approximately two weeks without using his wand.” The dicta quill scratched her words into the parchment. Resetting the wands the next spell was cast on his wand; “Prior Incantato!”

A grey mist flowed from Harry's wand forming miniature ghost of Harry's school trunk with wings. Harry sighed as he assumed this was the wingardium leviosa charm he remembered casting on his trunk as he boarded the Express at the Hogsmeade train station.

 

The Director recorded the results of that charm as well and began going through her folder in front of her, checking it’s content and comparing it to the statement Harry had given. She closed the folder and looked at Harry. And handed him his wand. Harry couldn’t express the relief he felt when he had his wand back in his hand, his magic reaching out and rejoining with the wand's core. The closest he could come to describing it was that it was similar to not being in pain anymore, an intense feeling of relief as you are finally able to relax.

 

“Ok, Mr Potter.” The Director pulled his attention back to her, “firstly, I have more than enough evidence to drop the charges of underage magic, muggle beating and breaking the international statute of secrecy. Your actions all fall under the Self-defence clause. But I do need to remind you that the statute of secretary is our world’s most important law. While you had good reason this time, don't think you can get away with doing magic outside of school again unless you are in another emergency. As I feel that you returning to the home of your relatives is likely to result in a repeat of these circumstances, I am going to have to do a couple of things.”

 

“First I am putting a temporary relocation order on you. You are not permitted to return to the Dursleys’, at least until I have completed my second task. Harry, I am going to open an investigation on how the Dursleys treated you. If everything goes well you will never have to see them again.” Harry was stunned. He had been afraid that this meeting would go so much worse. He truly expected to be sent back to the Dursleys’ at best, maybe even with his wand snapped. But he was being kept from the Dursleys to preserve the statute of secrecy. He just didn’t know what to do.

 

Mrs Granger, however, seemed to have an idea,“Director, where will Harry stay in the meantime? Harry was with 'them people' because he has no other family, right? Would it help if we volunteered to keep him here?” Director Bones looked relieved. “Honestly it would. If I placed Mr Potter with a magical family there would be a fight over who took him in, and not every member of our society have the best interest of The-Boy-Who-Lived in mind.” Harry winced at the epithet.

 

“The-Boy-Who-Lived? What?” Mr Granger hadn’t heard the nickname for Harry before, as he didn’t know magical gossip. “It’s what they call me. After Voldemort-” Director Bones flinched at the use of his name, “tried to kill me but failed. I hate the epithet but there’s nothing I can do to stop people using it. Every time I hear it all I can think is why didn’t I save my parents.” The Director looked like someone had slapped her, while Mrs Granger seemed like she wanted to hug him. Bones recovered first, “My apologies Mr Potter.” Harry waved his hand dismissively, “I’m used to it.” It didn’t escape anyone’s notice that Harry hadn’t actually accepted the apology. “I never thought about how that title would affect you. I will never use it again. You have my word.”

 

Not wanting to get too far off-topic, Director bones moved them back, “if you are agreeable to hosting Mr Potter it would mean a lot less paperwork, and as Mr Potter came here himself I feel he would be looked after here.” The two Grangers went to the other side of the room for a few minutes to hold a whispered conversation. They came back to the table, and instead of turning to Director Bones as harry expected, they instead spoke to him, “Harry what do you want?” Mr Granger asked him gently. The question caught him off-guard. In Harry’s experience, adults didn’t ask him what he wanted. At least not about anything more important than how many sugars Harry wanted in his tea. Adults told you what they expected you to do.

 

This was new to him. What did he want? He wanted to not go back to Privet Drive, but that looked sorted. He liked the idea of spending the summer with Hermione. Yet Mr and Mrs Granger were so nice, he didn’t want to be a burden on them. But, Director Bones seemed to be pretty good too, stern but nice. Like a younger Professor McGonagall. He didn’t want to cause her any extra work either. “I… I don't want to be a burden on anyone. But I don't know anyone else.” Mrs Granger spoke to harry “Harry, If you want to stay, trust me, you would not be a burden. Honestly. Plus, I think Hermione would be happier if you were to stay where she can see you for a while. It’s your choice, would you like to stay?”

 

The relief was evident to the adults in the room as soon as Harry spoke, “Yes...Thank you!” “We do have some concerns though”, the three of them turned back to Director Bones, “Harry will need his possessions; his school robes, his books, stuff like that. All he has right now is his wand and his owl.” The Director thought about it, “I will need to go back there tomorrow anyway. I need to return Marge Dursley from St Mungo’s and modify her memory. I will collect Mr Potter's belongings myself at the same time.” The grangers shuddered at the mention of memory modification. They had been told about it before when McGonagall had explained the consequence of trying to tell others of magic.

 

“What is St Mungo’s? And what will you replace her memory with?” Harry’s curiosity got the better of him. The Director replied coolly, unfazed by his questions, “St Mungo’s is Britain's only magical hospital. Your Aunt is there regrowing some skin from the removal of the permanent sticking charm. As for her memories, we need to account for her dog and you no longer being there. It's also better to keep the new memory as close to the truth as possible. So she will remember her dog attacking you, which lead to police involvement and her dog being put to sleep. You are recovering with a school friend.”

 

She then looked at her watch, checking the time, “Harry, that just about covers our interview, I just have one more thing to ask of you. Can I please take a few pictures of your injuries?” Harry really did not want to show anyone the injuries and the thought of someone taking pictures was slightly overwhelming, but with advice and encouragement from the Grangers, he allowed the pictures. Because as much as he hated the photos, he would do anything in his power to stop himself going back to the Dursleys’, he wasn't sure he could survive if he was sent back there again.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

The same day, but a few hours later

 

"You know Harry, you shouldn't let my daughter corrupt you too much. While her study habits are excellent, she and her mother have some habits that are just wrong. Almost blasphemous." Mr Granger was trying to sway Harry's opinion.

"Dad, give it a break will you. Harry can make his own choice. It's not like it hurts anyone." Despite the bickering, the two of them looked like they were having fun. Mr Granger pouted like a small child, a grin playing on his face, "But people will be hurt. I will be hurt. It damages my very soul."

Harry thought it was time to find out what he thought about it one way or the other. He bit into the slice of pizza Hermione had recommended, "Wow, fresh pizza is amazing!"

 

It had started about an hour ago; after Director Bones left no-one had felt like cooking, so Mrs Granger had decided to phone in an order to a local pizza place. When Hermione had asked Harry what his favourite toppings were, Harry had admitted, much to the dismay of everyone else, that he had no clue. He had only ever tried cold pizza the day after the Dursleys’ had had it. And only then if there were leftovers.

 

This had turned into an animated debate between Hermione and her dad over the ethics of pineapple on pizza, the two of them each lobbying for their own preference. Hermione favoured a combination of ham, mushrooms, pineapple and prawns, whereas Mr Granger proclaimed the superiority of chicken, green bell-peppers and garlic. This went on for a while as Mrs Granger made the order.

 

Once the pizzas were delivered, Harry was served a slice of each so that he could make up his mind. His first taste of the hot fresh pizza was completely different from the cold pizza he had had a few times in his life, and the toppings were delicious as well, for both pizzas. The two lobbyists watched him try both flavours as they enjoyed their own. Mrs Granger looked like she was trying not to smile too much, else she, god forbid, might encourage her husband and daughter further.

 

"I like both, so I guess I come down as pro pineapple on pizza." Hermione cheered as Mr Granger shook his head, overacting his disappointment, trying to get the two teens to laugh. As the meal progressed Harry finished his two slices of pizza; a rather large portion for him after being starved for so long by the Dursleys. But he found fresh warm pizza to be almost irresistible.

Almost any food was irresistible when you had barely eaten in the last 3 days.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

Chapter Text

"Emma, Come to bed love. You're going to wear a hole in the carpet if you keep pacing." Emma Granger looked at her husband, "Sorry love, It's just-" Daniel interrupted, "You want to strap the Dursleys to your dental chair. Then drill down to all the nerves in their teeth without an anaesthetic?" Emma glanced at her husband as he lay in bed, "that is an oddly specific example. But yes. That and so much more. How could they do that to a child? I just want to...ugh!" She threw a balled-up pair of socks against the wall as hard as she could.

 

Daniel knew he was best letting his wife rage. They had been bottling it up all day since Harry told them of his life outside of school. The reason for holding back was simple. When Harry had told his story Daniel had not hidden his anger at first. He openly showed his feelings, until Harry flinched. Harry was afraid of angry adults. Daniel and Emma understood why and had both started acting calmer and happier for the sake of the poor boy.

 

It was only now, in the privacy of their own room, that they let the mask drop. Emma was still pacing back and forth, being excessively violent to things that could take it. Another ball of socks, a crumpled-up t-shirt, her pillow, all went flying across the room in her attempts to calm down. Daniel, on the other hand, was different, if his wife's anger was a blazing fire, his was cold. Instead of pacing and emoting like Emma, Daniel sat there in bed making plans.

 

"Emma, did Hermione ever say anything about Harry's relatives?" His wife turned to look at him, some of her fury directed at him, "you think I would have let any of that happen to any child, let alone one Hermione cares for, if I had even a hint !?" Daniel realised the mistake in his phrasing "sorry love bad phrasing. I mean anything their jobs, where they live. anything I can use to find out more about them."

 

A look of understanding came over Emma's face. "I don't recall anything. We can ask her what she knows tomorrow. Don't expect much however, I doubt Harry told her much of what happened to him, considering how shocked she was." Dan nodded; it wouldn't surprise him if Harry had planned on never telling anyone.

"How is our girl handling all this? It's a pretty big thing to handle for us, and we’re adults who don't know Harry all that well."

 

Emma looked at the wall in the direction of her daughter's room, "Better than I thought she would. She is hyper-focusing on the things she can do to help. Just like she does with tests.” Her husband nodded, “She is working through it then. Did you notice how he is with her?” She smirked, thinking about the comfortable intimacy that Hermione had with her new boyfriend, “You mean the fact that he stays out of arm's reach of everyone? Even moving off slowly if anyone gets to close. He has a boundary he doesn't like anyone in. But our girl can walk right up and hug him without him flinching?” Emma was focusing on that, and it was helping her to calm down a little. Dan nodded once again, “Yep. He trusts her and she was OK showing off her cat ears to him. She covers them even when it’s just us around, but she trusts him to be OK with them.

 

"As much as I don't want our girl to be involved with the stuff he will be going through...Emma, I think she may be the only one who can truly help him.” Emma flopped on the bed next to her husband, she wouldn't get under the covers tonight, he knew it was too hot for her at this time of the year, “do you really think that she would have it any other way? She likes to charge in and fix things at the best of times. And now her boyfriend needs help. No way she’s leaving this alone.” Dan conceded the point, even if he didn’t like it, “Have I mentioned how much I hate that my little girl even has a boyfriend already?”

 

Emma shifted on the bed, turning to look at her husband, “Darling, she is growing up. She will be fourteen in 7 weeks. It’s normal and from what she’s been saying about Harry all summer, she found a good one. I know you don’t like it, but to be honest, it's not Hermione growing up that's the problem. It’s that it makes you feel old.” Dan grunted in response.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

The sun hit Harry's face, waking him up from slumber. He groaned and rolled over, eyeing the time on the clock. Then it hit him; he had slept late.

He jumped out of bed, looking around for his clothes, he had to get ready before his Aunt sent Vernon to get him. Then he realized he wasn’t at Privet Drive.

He was at Hermione's.

He sat back on the bed, breathing heavily, trying to focus his muddled mind. He was at Hermione's. He was at Hermione's. His uncle wasn't here. It was OK. It took him ten minutes, but he was finally able to get himself under control.

 

He got dressed in the clothes that had been provided, laid out over the back of a chair. He was sure they were Hermione's fathers. Even with the elastic waste of the workout trousers, he had to pull the string so much that he was able to wrap it around his waist a second time. And they were still a better fit than Dudley's hand-me-downs.

 

He said good morning to Hedwig, who was on an improvised perch that Mr Granger had cobbled together months ago, so that Hedwig had somewhere to rest after delivering Hermione's letters. Hermione had relocated it to the corner of the guest room Harry currently occupied. He convinced Hedwig to drink her feather replenishing potion, with the promise that he would get her some water to wash out the taste.

 

He went down the hall to the bathroom with the bowl he had given Hedwig her potion in, took care of his morning business, then rinsed and refilled the bowl with water. Hedwig nipped his finger lightly when he returned the bowl and took a quick drink. Harry sat with her for a little while, but as the morning drew on his familiar grew sleepier and sleepier, eventually dismissing him so she could get some sleep.

 

As Harry made his way downstairs he heard a radio playing in the kitchen;

--------------------------------------------------------

Another great song by Culture Beat. That was, of course, Mr Vain.

This is BBC radio chasing away the Monday blues.

Up next we are breaking through our limits...

It’s no limits by 2unlimatid.

--------------------------------------------------------

A high paced techno beat started playing as Harry made his way towards the music, assuming that if there was music playing then someone would be listening to it. Entering the kitchen, he stood in the doorway and stared at the sight before him. In the kitchen was Hermione, dressed casually with her ears and tail out in the open. Only...Hermione wasn’t listening to the radio as she studied or did a bit of housework.

Hermione was dancing. Hermione was dancing, and Harry couldn’t seem to look away.

--------------------------------------------------------

No no limits, we'll reach for the sky!

No valley too deep, no mountain too high

No no limits, won't give up the fight

We do what we want and we do it with pride

--------------------------------------------------------

Hemione sang along to the chorus as she danced her swaying hips, unknowingly captivating Harry, who just couldn’t tear his eyes away. As the last line of the chorus finished, Hermione turned around and was surprised to see her boyfriend/house guest watching her avidly

“H-Harry how long...how long were you w-watching?” The teen’s face as red as a tomato. Harry’s face just as red, “N-not long...a few seconds that's all, I swear.” The stammering teens each felt rather awkward, “Sorry, I should have said something as soon as I walked in, but you looked like you were having fun...” then mumbling quietly, he added, "....and you looked really cute.” Hermione's blush deepened; thanks to her cat ears she heard the last bit clearly. She threw her arms around Harry.

 

“You know cat ears are better than human ones, right?” Hermione teased him a little. She could feel the heat of his blush as she held onto his stomach. Too embarrassed to say anything, Harry just put his arms around her, holding her closer to him. Hermione smiled at the feeling of his arms encircling her; she had had to be patient with Harry for months before he started hugging her back. She reflected a little on all she had learned the day before about his relatives, then she realised the reason he didn’t like hugging her at first.

 

It took Harry so long to hug her because Harry didn’t know how to respond to a hug. Hell, he didn’t know how to respond to any positive physical contact at all. Hermione could guess that his Uncle gave him a lot of physical contact, just not the good kind. He didn’t know how to respond to a hug because he had never got any growing up. She clung to harry tighter, the two of them standing silent and still for a few minutes, enjoying the presence of each other, their arms wrapped snugly around each other.

The radio started up with another song;

--------------------------------------------------------

Wise men say

Only fools rush in,

But I can't help falling in love with you.

Wise men say

Only fools rush…

--------------------------------------------------------

Hermione had disentangled herself from her boyfriend and turned off the radio, “So...breakfast! Yes! We haven’t eaten yet...” She stammered out as he moved over to the kitchen counters, “Yeah, breakfast sounds good.” Harry went to help her prepare the food. The two teens worked together to create a simple breakfast of poached eggs and toast, both of them avoiding the L-word like the plague. The two sat down at the table eating their breakfast; just relaxing and enjoying their food together wasn’t something they were able to do a lot. At school they had to finish in time to get to lessons, even when there weren’t lessons, there was Quidditch training or they needed to get to the library early. So for Harry and Hermione, the lazy breakfast was a nice change of pace.

 

Author’s notes

note the songs i used were released in 1993 when this part of the story is set and would have been the type of thing playing on the radio that year. I didn’t pay attention to what month they came out because i wanted the whole year to choose from

no limits - 2 unlimited

CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE - UB40 version

I have had a few people mention getting a beta reader and I could use one. if anyone is interested in the job send me a message.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

Monday, 2nd August

 

Director Amelia Bones considered her next destination, by rights her next stop should be the Granger residence, but it was nearing lunch and she thought to herself, ‘Mr Potter doesn't need his trunk immediately.’

And after a morning with the Dursleys, she really could use a drink. So with that thought, the head of the DMLE spun on the spot, disappearing from the secluded alley she occupied and reappearing in the public receiving room at the Leaky Cauldron. She left the room as soon as she appeared, just in case someone apparated in on top of her. She made her way over to the bar and looked up at the food board to check today's menu, then waited until Tom the Barman was free.

 

“Afternoon Director Bones, you here on business or you looking for lunch?” Tom, having finished with his previous customer asked as he strolled over to where she was sitting.

“Afternoon Tom. I’ll take a B.L.T and a pint of hobgoblin.” He nodded and started pouring the drink, “Tuff morning then?” Bones took a drink from her pint, considering what she should say, “Difficult case with a trio of headcases...” Tom listened sympathetically, “Sound’s tough. You back at work after this, or do I have the pleasure of your company for a few drinks today?” Amelia translated in her head; ‘do I need to worry about cutting you off’. “For me it’s back to work. I need to do the paperwork for the Azkaban rotation. Need my head clear for that.” Amelia's B.L.T appeared next to her. She handed the barman some money then took her lunch to one of the booths to eat.

 

As she ate she thought over the morning’s events. The Dursley's where guilty of a lot, there was no question on that. Bones wished nothing more than to drag them in front of the Warlocks of the Wizengamot and have them thrown to the dementors. But as they were muggles she couldn’t do that. And there was no way to take it to a muggle court without risking the Statute of Secrecy. This whole case was one big clusterfuck. Amelia took another drink from her pint. She would need to get creative to solve this one.

She started breaking down the case in her head;

 

Petunia Dursley : Child neglect, child abuse, reckless endangerment of a child.

Motive: hates magic/possibly jealous of her sister?

Not much to go on there...

 

Vernon Dursley : child neglect, child abuse, reckless endangerment of a child, assault and battery of a minor.

Motive: hates magic. No other clear motives.

Guilty as sin but can't touch him for it.

 

Dudley Dursley [minor]: bullying and assault.

Motive: encouraged by parents, taught to isolate and abuse Potter.

Want to add another charge of abuse there; the way he's been raised will make life hard on the boy.

 

Marge Dursley : Assault and battery of a minor, animal abuse.

Motive: Unknown; doesn’t know about magic.

 

Director Bones thought over that last bit, just what was that woman’s motive? Miss Dursley was unaware of the magical world or that Mr Potter had a place in it. Just why did the woman hate the young boy enough to do those things to him? And if she didn’t need a reason, was Potter the only child she had done this to? That needed investigating, maybe if she could build a case around other muggle children, then the muggle authorities could handle the case without Mr Potter being involved.

It would preserve the Statute and protect Mr Potter. It was worth looking at. She may even take a closer look at Mr and Mrs Dursley, if they could get away with treating a child like that because of a technicality, it didn’t mean they could get away with anything else.

Director bones finished her meal and went to leave.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

The same day

 

Harry had grown up in the suburbs and had not spent much time in London. As such, his opinion of the city was one of lifeless, grey buildings. Hermione had decided that the best way to change Harry's view of the city was to show him. Hermione and her parents lived in a part of London called Hampstead, and that was right next to Hampstead Heath, one of the largest parks in London.

 

So that's how Harry and Hermione spent their morning; Hermione showing Harry around the park, the two of them enjoying the fresh air and some time together. "Hermione how hard is it to get to Diagon Alley from your place?" Hermione looked at Harry for a few seconds before answering, "Two buses and about forty-five minutes each way. Why?"

Harry shrugged, "I was thinking of visiting Gringotts. I am out of gold and cash and...well...I want clothes that...fit." Harry looked away, a mix of embarrassment and shame on his face.

 

Hermione, who really didn't care what Harry looked like or how he dressed, thought it was still a good idea for Harry to get some new clothes. Even now, with Harry in her dad's clothes rather than his own, he looked better. And Hermione knew that lots of people judge others by their clothes. She took Harry's hand, leading him to a path that would start them back to her home, "that we can do that easily Harry, Gringotts can exchange gold for pounds and I know where we can do some shopping for you."

 

"Thanks Hermione. I would be totally lost if it weren't for you." The smile Hermione had been wearing most of the morning brightened. She didn't think Harry had meant it like that, but it was nice to hear nevertheless, "It's no problem Harry, plus, while we are at Diagon alley we can look in Flourish and Blotts. Maybe buy a few new books." Harry's smile became a little forced; he liked books and he liked Hermione, but Hermione in a bookshop meant at least the very least, one new book and then carrying them all around the rest of the day. The two of them started meandering through the park, slowly heading in the direction of Hermione's home.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Later that day

 

Harry and Hermione haven't been back at the house long and were just contemplating lunch when there was a knock at the door. Hermione answered it and found Director Bones waiting. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, she invited the ministry official in. After they were seated and Hermione had offered the Director a cup of tea, that she declined, Bones explained why she was there first and what was expected. She pulled Harry's trunk and Hedwig's bird cave out of her handbag then returned them to normal with a wave of her wand.

 

"Also Mr Potter, I wanted to ask you a question, If that's ok with you?" Harry was a little surprised, but he guessed during investigations new questions come up all the time, "Ask way."

Amelia sat in silent thought for a few seconds, before speaking again, "OK. Remember, you don't have to answer if you don't want to. Do you know why Marge Dursley dislikes you so much?"

Harry answered straight away, "None of the Dursley's like magic." The director shook her head, "No Harry, I confirmed it myself; until the aftermath of her setting her dog on your owl she knew nothing of magic."

 

Harry was stunned. He started remembering every time Aunt Marge was notable to him. And how he felt like some kind of worthless freak. Then he discovered his magic and his place in the magical world. He was a wizard. It was wrong for the Dursley's to treat him the way they did, but it made sense; they hated magic and that's what Harry was to them. But if Aunt Marge never knew about magic, why had she done all that?

 

"But if it wasn't because of my magic, t-then why?" The distress Harry’s voice was in was evident, and on his face as well. Hermione moved to sit next to him and pulled him against her. Director Bones replied, "I'm sorry Mr Potter, I don't know. That's why I wanted to ask you. It looks like it will be one of the next parts of my investigations."

 

After that, there were a few bits of procedure and Director Bones left some paperwork for the Mr and Mrs Granger to sign. Then the director pleaded work and left.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Immediately afterwards

 

Amelia Bones felt like shit as she left the Grangers. She hated that she had to ask Mr Potter that question. She suspected that Harry had no clue why his second aunt had behaved the way she had, but Director Bones couldn't justify the man-hours for the investigation without exacting the simple option first.

 

The Director made her way to one of the overgrown side alleys that were all over London, looking for a spot to disapparate. She needed to get back to the Ministry. She had put off the Azkaban report as long as she could, any longer and she risked a hiccup in the operations there. She was just about to apparate to work when a voice sounded behind her, "Amelia! What a pleasant surprise to see you here."

 

The Director spun around, looking for who had called her name. She saw who it was, smiled, and relaxed, "Well well, it's been a while, how have you been?" The newcomer smiled, "Oh, you know how it is; overworked, underpaid and not getting any younger." Amelia started walking into the narrow walkway that allowed access to the backs of the houses, "I have been meaning to..."

 

"Obliviate!" The newcomer walked into the alley a little ways and disapparated, leaving a dazed and confused Amelia Bones in his wake.

 

Bones’ mind was muddled for a few moments as she fruitlessly tried to remember what she was doing, then a wave of fatigue jogged her memory. She had been up to her eyes in paperwork all day and she was off home for a well deserved early night. She apparated home, said goodnight to her niece and her friend Hannah, then got herself some well-deserved sleep.

Chapter Text

Ok some authors note to begin this chapter first i will now be working with a beta reader. Mattyscic has done a fantastic job and deserves a lot of props.

This fic will now update on Sundays and Wednesdays. Hope you all enjoy this is my longest chapter yet.

4th August

Hermione sat next to Harry on the muggle bus; the two of them were on their way to the centre of London, first to Diagon alley to convert some wizarding money into Muggle, then to get Harry some much-needed clothes.

Hermione didn't really care too much about how Harry dressed, to her he was the guy who killed trolls and Basilisks who tried to hurt her, he was the guy who read her books to her when she couldn't read them herself, he was the guy who, despite hating being the centre of attention, would stand up for her in front of the whole school when Malfoy started on his blood purity bullshit.

As far as Hermione was concerned his clothing meant nothing compared to any of that.

Yet now that she paid attention she could see that Harry must've hated those clothes. Not only must it have been uncomfortable to wear clothes so many sizes too big, but it also called attention to harry. Anybody would stand out in the rags he was forced to wear.

He stood out so much that many of the muggles that they were travelling with shot them looks of pity and disgust, turning their noses up at his attire. Hermione's ears were inside her hairband so she couldn't make out what they were saying, but she could take an educated guess. But the truth was it didn't matter what they said. What mattered was the fact that they were getting looks at all. Hermione didn't particularly like being the centre of attention and she knew how much Harry hated it.

Yes, some normal clothes would be good for him.

The bus pulled up to a stop near King's Cross and it was only a short walk to the Leaky Cauldron from here, so the two of them set off on foot.

Hermione's mum had been in two minds about letting the teens go alone but with having to run their dental practice and Harry desperately needing clothes that fit she had eventually relented, allowing them to travel alone, only after extracting a promise from each of them that they would stay together.

They slipped into the magical old pub. Hermione loved the Leaky Cauldron; despite being in the centre of London it had the feel of a real British country pub and reminded her of weekend trips with her parents. The two teens made their way through the pub weaving in and out of the patrons who were doing more than just passing through. Hermione opened the brick arch after stopping Harry from doing so,

"Harry you're still recovering from magical exhaustion. You would probably be fine but I'm not letting you take the chance if I am here to do it.", Harry grumbled but stepped back to let her do it.

Diagon alley appeared before them as behind the old pub the even older brick wall sifted and twisted into an elegant archway. The long narrow cobbled street was packed with brightly coloured shop fronts, each displaying eye-catching advertisements;

Cauldrons – All Sizes – Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver – Self-Stirring

Eeylops Owl Emporium – Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown and Snowy.

Firebolt – the new broom for the quality Quidditch player

Bagdull's trunks & bags - custom expand luggage to order

.

The shops were selling everything from potion ingredients to telescopes. At the far end of the street stood the large imposing wizarding bank; Gringotts, their destination. The intimidating nature of the building was further enhanced by the three armoured goblins standing to attention on either side of the door. The six guards each had a hand resting on the hilt of their own blade, ready and willing to leap into action to protect their beloved bank if they felt the need for it.

Hermione and Harry walked up the marble steps in front of Gringotts, past the silent guards and though the heavy doors into the bank.

Being early on a weekday there wasn't much of a queue and Harry and Hermione soon found themselves face to face with one of the bank tellers.

"Good morning. What can Gringotts help you with today?", the goblin sneered down at them.

"I need to make a withdrawal from my vault, number 687, and I need to change some of that gold to Muggle currency."

The goblin examined Harry intensely, "Do you have your key Sir?".

As simple as the question was Hermione could tell that the banker would love to refuse Harry entry and was looking for an excuse.

"I do.", Harry stated, bringing out the small golden key that Hagrid had given him years ago. Hermione snorted internally as the goblin's face screwed up into yet another sneer. As though harry would come to Gringotts without it.

"Very well...do you wish the young Madam to accompany you?"

"Obviously I want Hermione there.", Hermione was a little taken aback by that. This was Harry's inheritance, his own personal vault. She didn't want to pry into Harry's affairs. It was not her business to see inside his vault.

"Harry there is no need for me to come down with you."

"I promised your mum we should stick together today.", Harry replied, "If I go down and leave you, I break that promise. If I don't go down then this trip is pointless. And don't tell me you don't want to see a Gringotts vault."

There was no denying that Hermione desperately wanted to see a Gringotts vault. A lot of muggleborns didn't get to see a Gringotts vault all that often, if at all, unless they got a high paying job or married a witch or wizard who had one. Hermione had wanted to see one since her first time visiting Gringotts

"Right this way then", the goblin started leading them deeper into the bank.

"Anyway.", Harry continued, "I need your help telling me how much to withdraw. I have no clue how much our trip today will cost.".

Hermione shook her head at Harry but followed. The goblin lead them to a train tracks underneath the Entrance Hall and another goblin. The goblins exchanged a few words in their native language. Then the goblin who lead them down left.

"Good morning Sir and Madam, my name's Bognok and I will be bringing you to your vault." At his words a dangerously old mine cart came zipping up the track, before stopping dead right in front of them. "All aboard for vault 6-8-4."

Hermione looked at the cart rather apprehensively. It had come out of the tunnel really fast and didn't seem to have any safety features like a seatbelt or even anything you could hold on to.

Harry, however, didn't hesitate at all.

"I love these things.", he muttered as he walked up and stood next to the cart, waiting to help Hermione into it. It was only when he looked back he saw the look of worry and hesitation on Hermione's face.

"It's OK, Hermione, it's just like a rollercoaster. At least I think it is...I've never ridden a rollercoaster, but this is really fun, you'll see." Hermione felt a little better at that. But she still wasn't entirely sure.

"B-but there aren't even any seatbelts."Harry grinned slyly back at her. "Magic, Hermione, magic." That helped Hermione relax. How silly was she to think that there would be no magic to keep them safe?

She climbed into the cart, quickly followed by Harry and Bognok. The second they were all settled, the cart shot off down the tunnel, Bognok leaning up against the front, directing their descent into the vaults.

Harry wore a mad grin, clearly thoroughly enjoying the ride. Hermione, however, had never been a big fan of rollercoasters and held on to harry for dear life, burying her face in his chest until the cart came to a stuttering stop.

Hermione apprehensively took her face out of his shoulder and unwrapped herself from her boyfriend.

She proceeded to climb unsteadily out of the cart.

"'Mione, are you OK? You look a little green.", Harry barely bit back a laugh at the sight of his girlfriend looking like she was petrified.

"I'm fine. Just not a big fan of rollercoasters."

Harry chuckled as he handed his key over to Bognok, who in turn used it to open the door leading to Harry's vault.

There was more gold in there than Hermione had ever seen. Inside were mountains of coins.

Columns of silver. Heaps of little bronze Knuts. Stacks of Galleons balanced precariously. It looked like an absolute fortune.

That was until Hermione did some quick adding up in her head.

With Harry's school expenses for another 5 years to be taken out, that used up a good chunk of the money here. He would be fine for a few years after school but it wasn't as if he wouldn't need to work after Hogwarts.

Hermione grinned up at Harry.

A small part of her was worried that Harry had brought her here to show off his vast wealth, but it looked like Harry really did just want help with knowing how much to withdraw.

"You know, Harry, that you're still going to have to work once you leave school?", he stared at her incredulously.

"Your kidding, right? 'Mione, do you see how much money is in here!?"

Hermione laughed at his face of mock horror.

"Well, if you take how much it is to get your new supplies every year-"

Harry pulled her into a hug, resting his chin on the top of her head, "Don't bore me with the math, 'Mione, let's just get what we need and get out."

She huffed indignantly and stepped on his foot, hard. Harry yelped in pain, before laughing with her.

"So...how much do you think i'll need?"

"You'll probably need about 50 galleons to convert to pounds, and that should give you almost £250.", Hermione supplied to the lost face from Harry.

" 50 galleons will be exactly £248 and 99 pence.", Bognok said, "Plus whatever you want to keep as galleons."

---ϟϟϟ---

Harry and Hermione were sat in a nice pub/restaurant waiting on their food. She had dragged him to a department store that specializes in clothes. What followed were three extremely boring hours of trying out more clothes than he ever had in his life.

Harry ended up buying an assortment of clothing, including; two pairs of jeans, three regular pairs of trousers that would be acceptable with his school

robes, four jumpers, obviously in Gryffindor red, ten t-shirts split between regular and polo shirts in assorted colours, 6 regular shirts (3 white, 1 black and two that were different shades of blue), a blazer not unlike the one Dudley wore to Smeltings, a practical coat with lots of pockets, a pair of trainers that

weren't torn (unlike his other ones), a pair of leather shoes that squeaked incessantly when you walked in them, and enough underwear to last a few weeks

After all that Harry was exhausted and hungry. Hermione had convinced him to "dispose" of the clothes he had come out in (a particularly old set of Dudley's cast offs) and wear some of his new things out of the store.

With much nicer apparel than Harry had left the house in, he suggested grabbing a bit to eat. At his mention of food, Hermione hadn't hesitated to suggest one of her favourite places to eat.

"Why don't we go to The Skinners Arms.", she said as she tugged his arm hard, giving him little choice but to follow, "it's close by and the food is amazing. Dad and I often eat there after a day in the British Library", and so that is where they had ended up.

The table they had chosen was out of the way in the corner, affording them an excellent view of the rest of the restaurant, while giving them a relative amount of peace and quiet. The waiter brought their starters to the table. Harry wasn't comfortable with spending a large amount of money so they had opted for a meal deal that came with two starters and mains for a set price.

"Here you go Hermione; one calamari for you, and for your young gentlemen here one bowl of tomato soup." Harry was a little startled that the waiter knew his girlfriend's name but Hermione just smiled at the waiter, "Thanks Michael. This is Harry, my boyfriend. Harry, this is Michael, his family owns the pub."

The two shook hands and exchanged the obligatory "nice to meet you"s and conducted in small talk.

"So Hermione", Michael inquired, "this is the first time you brought a boy here that isn't your da.? Do I need to give Dan a call and tell him about Mr Harry here."

Hermione smirked knowingly at him, "and what makes you think dad doesn't already know all about harry?"

"Really? He knows about Harry and he let the two of you go off together, alone. You must be one of the good ones Harry, for Daniel to approve of you and trust you with his daughter."

Hermione glared at him, "I can take care of myself, thank you very much!"

He laughed heartily as Harry rubbed the back of his neck nervously, "Yeah Mr Granger is alright. I think both of Hermione's parents are pretty great."

Michael nodded at that, before looking around at the pub, "Well I've got to serve other customers, but it was great seeing you Hermione. I'll let you two lovebirds get to your food."

With that Michael left, leaving the two teens to their meal in private. Hermione wasn't wrong about the food, Harry thought, as he eagerly ate his soup. Tomato soup may be simple but Harry could tell that rather than using a canned or powdered soup they made their own from scratch, and it was by far the best tomato soup he had ever tasted. The only one he had tried that even came close was the tomato soup at Hogwarts. Hermione seemed to have the same opinion of her calamari, at least that's what Harry thought, given the sounds of approval she made while eating.

"You were right Hermione the food here is great", Hermione nodded, her mouth currently full making her unable to respond. Harry noticed that she was a bit more of a slob when she wasn't near her parents. Still nothing on Ron's level though. "How did you and your dad find this place?", she swallowed her bite of food, "Dad was in school with Michael's older brother, Steven. Steven used to work here in the kitchen but he moved to France to learn french cooking. He then fell in love with Nice, the region of France he was in, and a woman he met there. The two of them got married and made their lives in France, but before Steven left dad used to come here a lot."

Harry digested that information, as well as some more of his soup, before responding. "It sounds like he and your dad used to be close.", Hermione nodded, "We often go to France on holiday, my dad and Steve will meet and go for a catch-up."

Hermione suddenly looked a little sad. " We didn't get to go this year. My parents were worried about my cat problem, they didn't know if it would be a problem at the airport." Harry felt a little guilty at that; if he had given her her present a little sooner then maybe her parents would have been able to go ahead with their plans.

When he tried to apologise to Hermione for just that she was having none of it.

"Don't you dare Harry James Potter!", while Hermione didn't shout there was all the force even without the volume, "I will not have you feeling guilty! That was a really kind and thoughtful thing you did. No one else thought of a way to help me move through the muggle world, so none of that 'if only you had done it sooner' stuff. I love my gifts and I…", Hermione suddenly blushed a deep red, " I really appreciate that you got them for me."

They finished their meal in an awkward silence, the two of them, for the second time that week, carefully avoiding a topic neither of them felt ready to address yet.

---ϟϟϟ---

Harry and Hermione practically collapsed on the sofa* the second they walked through the door. Mrs Granger watched with a look of approval at the clothes harry had come back in. the two they looked like they had run a marathon, panting heavily for breath. Judging by the number of bags they had with them maybe they had.

She sat in one of the chairs next to the sofa,

"So...how did everything go?"

Harry grunted in response, "remind me never to go clothes shopping again."

Hermione giggled on the couch next to him, slapping him playfully on the shoulder, "Oh, come on, Harry, it wasn't that bad…"

"You had me try on hundreds of clothes, Hermione, hundreds!"

"But you enjoyed spending time with me, didn't you?", she teased.

Harry threw a pillow at Hermione, before turning to Mrs Granger to tell her about the rest of their day.

She listened as the two teens described the visit to Gringotts, the clothes shopping and then the dinner at the Skinners' Arms. It seemed that the two of them had done fine on their own, even choosing an appropriate and healthy place for dinner rather than fast food or sweets.

Mrs Granger looked over Harry's purchases to check that they were decent enough. It was one thing to let the two of them go shopping by themselves, but she at least wanted to make sure that Harry had enough appropriate clothing to take with him back to school. She was pleasantly surprised that the two had been sensible and done quite well. Harry would need a few more items, but nothing drastic. Just a belt, a pair of gloves and a warm hat. The gloves and hat were easy to overlook in the summer heat, but would be sorely missed in the Scottish weather, especially in winter.

"Well...I'm impressed. The two of you did well. You forgot a belt, hat and gloves but you can pick those up in Diagon alley when you pick up your school books for the year. Speaking of your school books, these arrived while you were out", Hermione beamed under the praise, but seemed to be used to it.

Mrs Granger produced the two large parchment envelopes from a side table, each embost with the Hogwarts "H" surrounded by the four house crests. Each had one of their names and address on it.

Harry looked down at his letter;

Harry James Potter

Guest bedroom

15 Kemplay Rd

Hampstead

London

Harry found it largely amusing that the letter they needed to tell them which school books to get from Diagon alley arrived while they were at Diagon alley. Hermione was more than a little put out thinking they could have done it all in one trip, but Harry stopped that quickly, "Mione there is absolutely no way we could have done it all in one trip. Magic books aren't paperbacks, they are bloody heavy. There is no way our arms would have survived carrying those books around London all day, especially with all the extra books you apparently need to have."

Hermione glared at him but conceded the point and opened her letter. Harry followed suit with his.

Dear Mr Potter,

Congratulations on reaching your third year of magical education.

Enclosed is a list of your predicted results for the cancelled end of year examinations and a list of books for your upcoming year. Third-year students are permitted to visit the nearby village of Hogsmeade on selected weekends, but require permission from your parent/guardian. Please ask your parent/guardian to complete the enclosed permission slip if you wish to attend.

Yours sincerely

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Harry checked his results first;

Predicted Grades:

Passing grades: O (Outstanding), (Exceeds Expectations), (Acceptable)

Fail grades: P (Poor), D(Dreadful), T (Troll)

Arithmetic: E

Astronomy: A

Charms: E

Defence against the Dark Arts: UNCLASSIFIED

English: A

Herbology: A

History of Magic: P

Latin: P

(Introduction to) Magical theory: E

Potions: P

Transfiguration: E

Wix world geography: E

Harry didn't think that he had done too bad. He was terrible at Latin and History of Magic, and he barely tried in those lessons, hence the failing grade. Since these were predicted grades he wasn't surprised Snape had given him a failing grade. Harry suspected that he would do a lot better with a fairer teacher. But 5 E's and 8 passes, possibly nine if they had a decent DADA Professor.

Secretly Harry thought that slaying a Basilisk and saving the school was worth extra credit for a DADA mark but professor McGonagall mustn't have thought so. He looked at the next part of his letter;

Required Books your Third-Year:

The Standard Book of Spells Grade III, by Miranda Goshawk

A Journeyman's Guide to Transfiguration, by Emeric Switch

The Monster Book of Monsters, by Willie Bovin

Spellman's Syllabary, by Rosalia Craft

The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts, by Arsenius Jigger

1993-1994 academic Magical Almanac, by Raven Magnolis

Enchanting elixirs, by Odell Fiddlewood

Harry looked over his new books-list, including the books for his two new subjects; The Monster Book of Monsters for Care of Magical Creatures and Spellman's Syllabary for Ancient Runes. Harry had given some thought to attending divination with Ron but had decided against it. The idea of an easy grade did appeal to him but Hermione's argument that the subject just was not worth it if you didn't have the site pushed him into choosing a more practical class.

There were a lot of uses for Runes and Harry thought they seemed interesting enough. The clincher had been that when harry had gone to professor McGonagall about his idea for Hermione's hairband, she had sent him to professor Babbling. It had been the Runes professor that had talked harry through the creation of the hairband. After that how could he not take the class?

Hermione while talking harry out of divination had talked herself out of it at the same time. Hermione had tried to sign up for everything else though. Professor McGonagall had put a stop to that, saying "There just wasn't enough time to take that many classes!" In the end Hermione had been persuaded to drop Muggle Studies as Harry had pointed out the class was the one where she wouldn't actually learn anything, considering she lived with her parents during the holidays, who were muggles themselves.

"How did you do Harry?", Hermione was eager to see Harry's results so he swapped his results with her.

Hermione's predicted grades were a lot better than his, as he expected;

Arithmetic: O

Astronomy: E

Charms: O

Defence against the Dark Arts: UNCLASSIFIED

English: O

Herbology: O

History of Magic: O

Latin: E

(Introduction to) Magical theory: O

Potions: A

Transfiguration: O

Wix world geography: E

Well, if Harry ever needed proof that Snape didn't mark fairly it was Hermione's mark. Hermione's potions were always the exact shade described in the book and Harry knew for sure that a fair teacher would give hermione an O, anything less than an E was just Snape marking down Gryffindors like he always does.

"Well Harry, these aren't too bad, though you need to brush up on your languages and find a way to stay awake in professor Binns' classes. But considering you were focusing on all the stuff with the chamber and Snape marked you down like he always does, these are really good. If you focus a bit more there's no reason you won't do better next year."

Mrs granger took both of the reports and looked at them, "You did really well Hermione, like always. Harry, dear, you did fine and I don't have any of your previous school reports to compare it to so I will ask you. Do you think you did your best or do you think you could have done better?"

Harry turned pale. He had never had anyone care about his grades like this before. Whenever he'd brought a school report home to the Dursley's when he was younger, no matter how well he did his uncle would always find a reason to hit him, telling him he was a disgrace and an uneducated brat. They'd stopped after he'd gone to Hogwarts, as they didn't want to know what "dark rituals" he'd get up to at "that place".

"I… I could probably do better." Harry couldn't bring himself to look Mrs Granger in the face instead he looked at the new shoes he was wearing, bracing himself for the whip of a belt across his back or the blinding pain of a fist hitting his stomach.

"Harry, you aren't in trouble.", Mrs granger's voice was soft and soothing and while it prevented the panic that was starting to build in his chest it did nothing to relieve the guilt he was feeling.

"But i want you to think about something. You pay a lot of money to attend that school and to learn magic. The skills you learn there will determine how far you can go once you leave. Do you think that when you look back on your time at school you will be happy or do you think you will wish you had done more? It's your life to live Harry. The choices are yours but so are the consequences." Harry couldn't help it, he felt really bad about the effort he put in at school, especially in some classes. A trickle of tears leaked from his eyes as he considered the words spoken to him by someone he had only known a few days, but respected more than he ever had the Dursley's. "Now. I want you to go and get cleaned up for dinner and have a think on what we discussed."

Harry did just that and after a good long think, and more than a few tears, he promised himself that he would do better next time. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint the Grangers.

---ϟϟϟ---

AUTHOR'S NOTE'S

Ok, a few things to unpack here first the end of year results.

I know in cannon the students only got them after their OWL's and would probably have had them after the NEWT's if they had sat them. This makes little to no sense, however. Without knowing the results of the end of year tests how are students meant to know what to work on and parents to know how their kids are doing. So in my version, they get end of year results.

The new subject's one of the things you are told in cannon is that students don't get free time until NEWT years there have to be extra classes that are dropped at OWL level for this to be true so:

Arithmetic - normal math

English - so they can write their essays

Latin - because there had to a language and they use Latin for spells

(Introduction to) Magical theory - a catch-all

Wix world geography - because wizards and witches don't care what muggle says the country's borders are

Hope you all like the chapter now I'm working with Mattyscic as my bata.

Your comments are my motivation. I love Praze and could use some constructive criticism.

sofa* The term couch is predominantly used in Ireland, North America, South Africa and Australia, whereas the terms sofa and settee (U and non-U) are generally used in the United Kingdom. The word couch originated in Middle English from the Old French noun couche, which derived from the verb meaning "to lie down".- Wikipedia

Chapter Text

Wednesday 11th august

Harry and Hermione had their summer homework spread out over the floor in the Grangers’ living room. After Harry’s discussion with Mrs Granger the week before,  Harry had decided he needed to re-do all his summer homework from scratch, something Hermione was way to ecstatic about. While he felt that his professors would have accepted the work he had produced so far, Harry felt that he could no longer really accept it himself, not after what Mrs Granger had pointed out to him.

 

Right now they were working on his potions essay for Snape. Even though they knew he would not mark it fairly Harry could no longer use that as an excuse to slapdash it. Even if Snape was going to mark him down Harry was going to make it so that the greasy git had to really look for things to drop him marks on.

Hermione was all too willing to help, she held a grudge against Snape ever since the start of school. She’d constantly get grades of “E” or “A”, even when her potion was identical to Malfoy’s, who always achieved an “O”.

Harry was just finishing a paragraph on the use of diluted boobo tuber puss in healing potions, when a news report on the television caught his attention.

 

Maximum security prisoner escapes.

A prisoner from one of Britain’s maximum-security prisons is tonight on the loose.

Bellatrix LeStrange formally Black was convicted in November of 81’ on

multiple counts of murder and the torture of a police officer and his wife.

It is unknown where Lestrange is headed but she grew up in the central London area and settled in Yorkshire with her husband,

who was convicted with her. LeStrange is to be considered armed and dangerous.

If you see her do not attempt to approach her.

Please call the number on screen if you have any information as to her whereabouts.

 

Harry was a little taken aback by the news, not by what it said but by the video clip of LeStrange.

“Hey ‘Mione? That news article just now. Did you see it?”, Hermione frowned at him, “What about it Harry?”,

“Is it me or did LeStrange look a lot like Malfoy's mother?”, Hermione considered this, ”I don't know Harry I haven’t really looked at her before,  I’ve only seen her once in passing dropping Draco off for the express. But if she is related to his mother wouldn’t that make her magical? Why would she be on the muggle news?” Harry thought about it. It really didn’t make sense. He raised another point, “consider the date of her conviction though. November of 1981, that was just after...“, he hesitated for a second, “...after my parents died. What if she was one of his followers?”

 

Hermione frowned again. The dates did matchup, but it did harry no good to dwell on his parent's demise, it always twisted him in knots the last thing he needed was to think that one of the people that followed the murderer of his parents was free.

“Harry it’s probably got nothing to do with, He-Whose-Name-Must-Be-Hyphenated”, that got a dry chuckle out of Harry, and Hermione counted it as a win. “Chances are she is just some crazy muggle who needs to spend a lot of time behind bars. Maybe with a therapist or three. Besides, if one of his followers had escaped prison Dumbledore would have sent you a letter or something, telling you to stay safe.”

That got Harry to calm down. Yes, if there was an escaped Death Eater running loose Dumbledore would have warned him with a letter.

“Harry, you may want to check this paragraph on diluted boobo tuber puss I don't think it is used in draughts for upset stomachs.” harry pulled his essay back to him. If Hermione was right (and she almost always was) then he would have to rewrite that section. And without magic to vanish the ink off the page,  that would mean rewriting the whole essay. He pulled his copy of 1001 magical herbs and fungi towards him and started leafing through, looking for the entry on boobo tubers, praying that for once Hermione was wrong. He didn’t think his wrist could take another round like that today.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Saturday 14th august

Harry sat in his room at the Grangers, spending some quality time with Hedwig. Her feathers were back now and she was flying again. It was taking time for her to rebuild her wing muscles, after being unable to fly for a week, but her love of flying was pushing her and it wouldn't be long before his girl was back to full strength.

Harry was just considering changing the paper underneath her perch when a rather large barn owl came swooping in Harry’s open window. The owl landed on Harry’s bed and waited for him to untie its burden. With the owl freed it flew over to Hedwig and joined her on her perch. Hedwig shifted to the one side to make room for the owl. While Harry didn’t recognise the owl he had a feeling that Hedwig did. So when Hedwig decided not to make a fuss over sharing her water bowl with the owl-like she usually did, Harry left them to it. Instead turning his attention to the package in his arms.

The delivery consisted of a letter and parcel. The parcel was shaking slightly and seemed to be trying to move. Harry decided against opening it for now, and opted to open the safe option of the letter first;

 

Dear Harry,

sorry, its late but Happy Birthday! Think you might find this useful for next year.

Won’t say no more here. Tell you when I see you.

Had to wait for your present to be delivered before I could send it on to you.

I heard that you run from the muggles you were living with.

Well, they weren’t very nice. I can see why you don’t want to be around them much.

I hope you're fine and that the Grangers are good to you.

All the best, Hagrid

 

Harry picked up the parcel that was wrapped in brown paper. Written directly on the paper in Hagrid’s untidy scrawl were the words “happy birthday Harry”. Harry started to unwrap the present from his first and oldest friend. As he removed the multiple layers of paper he could feel the package start to vibrate a little more as he started removing the last layer of paper, he saw what looked like green leather. However, before he could finish unwrapping it the package tried to bite him.

Harry wouldn’t call himself a coward. Oh the contrary, he had a tendency to walk into dangerous situations full and well knowing that they could get him killed. Trolls, a three-headed dog named Fluffy, a dark wizard, giant spiders, Basilisks, another dark wizard. He had had many a dangerous venture in his first two years at Hogwarts. The key word was knowing . When harry knew something dangerous was coming, he was fine. But if harry wasn’t getting ready for a fight, and he was, say, opening a birthday present from one of his oldest and most trusted friends, and when that same present tried to bite him, Harry screamed.  Harry screamed in such a way that a few more years and puberty would probably render him incapable of doing.

 

Harry threw the package across the room, where it landed next to the wardrobe with a growl. Free of Harry the package shook off the last of the brown paper, revealing it as a book. Harry was just able to make out the title; “The Monster Book of Monsters”, before the book started doing an impression of a crab and trying to make its way under the wardrobe, wreaking havoc on Harry’s unguarded essay on the floor.

 

Harry jumped across the room trying to grab the book before he had to resort to moving the Grangers furniture, to retrieve it. Of course, that’s when Hermione opened the door to his room. Drawn by Harry’s less than manly shriek of terror, his girlfriend, who happened to have a lot of experience with Harry in dangerous situations burst into the room to find harry rolling on the floor wrestling with a book.

 

A little embarrassed by the situation, Harry tried for nonchalant “Hey Hermione. Nice weather we are having at the moment...” Hermione was baffled by the sight on the ground in front of her. Here she was, watching her boyfriend have a fight with a book while he tried to talk to her about the weather. Oh, and it looked like the book was winning. “Harry...do you need any help with that?”, Harry continued his struggle with the book, before finally managing to fight it closed and wrap his arms around it to keep it that way. “If..”, Harry muttered, he was seriously out of breath, “If you could get me the old belt… from my trunk, it would be… a big help.”

Hermione pulled open Harry’s trunk and found the dusty belt that was way to long for harry. She then wrapped the belt a few times around the book and fastened the belt closed.

“Harry, why do you have a biting book?”, Harry turned the cover of the book so she could read the title. Her eyes danced over the title and one of Hermione's more curious expressions crossed her face. she understood something but was now confused about something else. Guessing that she wondered where he got the book from he handed her Hagrid’s letter. Hermione took the letter and began reading, as Hermione's eyes danced over the text she grew incredibly pale. She dropped the letter and ran out of the room. Harry, worried about Hermione, threw the book onto the bed, where it landed with a growl and followed her “Hermione? What's wrong? Are you Ok?”.

He found her in her room, she was reaching under her bed looking for something. Honestly, if Harry hadn't been so worried about her reaction to the letter he might have found the sight rather appealing. For now, though, his thoughts were focused on making sure Hermione was alright.

 

Hermione pulled a small polished mahogany chest, about the size of a biscuit tin, from under her bed. She stood up and looked at harry on the verge of tears.

“Harry I'm so sorry. I completely forgot. Well not completely but then i did and now its been so long I'm so, so sorry Harry.”, he put his hands on her shoulders to stop her babbling, “Hermione it’s ok. Whatever it is, it’s ok.”

She held out the chest to Harry, “I got you this for your birthday. Only i couldn’t get to the post office in Diagon alley to send it to you. I planned to go the day after your birthday. But then you were here and you and Hedwig were hurt and Director Bones was here, then i was taking Hedwig to Diagon and you were telling us about your relatives then there was shopping and and our results, I'm really sorry Harry i just completely forgot to give it to you, And i tried so hard to find a gift that you would like but that would come from me.”

 

Harry set the box down on the bed next to them and pulled Hermione into a hug, her run-on sentence was one of the things she did when she was genuinely upset over something. “I love it.”, Hermione snorted against his chest, “You haven’t even opened it yet. You don’t even know what it is.”

Harry nodded, “That’s right. It’s from you. It doesn't matter if it's the perfect gift or a signed photo of the Dursleys. It's from you so I love it.”, Hermione took a minute to put together what he meant, before gasping and trying to pull away. Harry held her in the hug, loving the feeling of them touching, before pulling away himself.

Harry picked up the box and examined it. The mahogany was polished smooth, almost to a mirror shine, but that was it. There were no hints at what might be inside the chest. He flipped open the brass clasp and pulled up the lid off the chest.

At first, Harry wasn't entirely sure what it was. There were random assortments of items; well, random items presented in a really nice case. He pulled out the book that was on top of the pile in there and read the title.

 

Broomstick Servicing Kit

Self-servicing guide

The guide to keeping your broom sharp and clean,

complete with diagrams, handy tips and information from professional Quidditch players!

By Evangeline Swift

 

Harry then realised the purpose of the items within the chest; it was a complete broomstick servicing kit. As he looked through the pots, jars and tubes he noticed items that he’d seen his Gryffindor teammates using on their own brooms. There was a tub of high-grade, non-slip wood polish, a set of clippers to trim damaged tail twigs, there was even a compass for long flights so that you didn't get lost, along with around twelve other items that all had a part to play in maintaining a broom.

 

Harry set the kit back on the bed. While he had been examining his present he hadn't noticed that Hermione was standing still, watching him nervously. Harry absolutely loved his present and he had to show her how much he appreciated it. He considered what he should say but all the words rang hollow in his head, so instead he just wrapped his arms around her and leaned in to kiss her. Hermione also leaned in and responded happily to his affection.

 

While this wasn't their first kiss, there was something special about this one, more so than the one that had happened in the hospital wing not long before Hermione had returned to classes with cat ears. It was the first time Harry had instigated such a kiss. Sure he had given Hermione a few pecks on the cheek and even one or two on the lips, but real kisses like this, up until now they had always been started by Hermione. Harry wanted, no needed, in that moment to show her how much he loved his gift,  his gratitude that the Grangers’ let him stay, how much he appreciated everything she had done for him this summer and just how much he felt for her even if he couldn't say it yet. He wanted to show her most of all, how much love he held for her, his girlfriend.

 

Authors note---------------------

No reel note’s this week once again thank you to  Mattyscic who has done an excellent job as my bata.

Once again your comments mean a lot to me.

the next chapter will be Wednesday.

Till then I will see you in the comet section

Chapter Text

Daniel Granger was going over some office work in the spare time between clients. Owning a business has a lot of perks, but he and Emma had found a number of downsides, and one of these was the paperwork. There seemed to be paperwork for everything; it was like he couldn't even buy a box of tea bags without filling out three different types of paperwork.

 

Right now he was going over the papers to replace some of their older equipment. Their dental drills, in particular, were in dire need of replacement, having been in use for almost ten years. He flipped through a few quotes given to him and one caught his eye; it was a local company that made a pitch to the network of dentists in London that helped cover each other if they had an overflow or it was specialized work a client needed. The quote was fairly good. They were offering a discount if the whole network upgraded with them at once. He was just about to sign off on the deal when something else snatched his attention.

 

He picked up the paper and went to see his wife, only to find she was with a patient. He waited outside her office for a few minutes while she finished up a routine filling replacement for the patient that liked toffee more than they should. Once the patient had left he joined her in her treatment room before she could call her next patient. “Hey, honey take a look at this for me will you. Tell me if you see what I see”, he held out the paperwork to her, then watched as she began to read it. He knew the exact moment that she saw it; her eyes went wide and her grip on the paper turned her knuckles white, she was gripping it so hard.

 

Grunnings - specialized drills

C.E.O - Vernon Dursley

 

“I knew I’d heard that name somewhere. The fucking git is trying to sell us drills.” It was only the fact that Daniel didn’t want to scare off the clients in the waiting room that kept him from raising his voice. “I'm going to ruin him...by the time I’m finished he won’t sell a single dental drill in London ever again. There is no way I am letting our friends and colleagues give money to that piece of human filth.” He continued on his rant for a few minutes before his wife finally interrupted.

“Dan, you need to ask Harry first before you do anything,'' that brought a look of confusion to his face, “What? Why? They are our friends.” Emma gave her husband one of the more dangerous looks of hers that he had learned over the years. This one was ‘You can be such an idiot sometimes’, “Because, honey, it’s up to Harry if he wants to tell people or even let us tell people. He is the one who has to live with them knowing what happened to him.” Dan didn’t like it but his wife was right. He still knew that he could at least stop this deal from happening, though it required the unanimous decision of everyone in the network. This deal was definitely not going to get the approval of Granger & Granger dental surgery.

 

He went back to the office area and went to put the deal in the shredder when a thought struck him. Maybe he would let the deal play out a little more before pulling out. It wasn’t uncommon to have a company like Grunnings try and butter up people who were looking to place large orders, maybe he could see how much of Vernon Dursley’s money he could waste before ruining the deal. And maybe if he could get the go ahead from Harry ruin a bit more than the deal.

Daniel sat back in his old comfortable office chair and began to plot. If he was going to do this he was going to do it right.

 

---ϟϟϟ---

 

Harry, Hermione and both Mr and Mrs Granger were at Diagon Alley. It was time for the annual back to school shopping trip that was equally exciting and sad. For Harry and Hermione, it was a sign that they would be going back to Hogwarts, a place they loved, which just showed how good it could be there, considering some of their experiences. It was also sad because it meant leaving; the teenagers would be parted from Mr and Mrs granger until Christmas. Harry had already been informed he was coming back for the holiday. Harry was a little shocked to realise just how much he would miss the two dentists who had lovingly taken him in.

He had expected the gratitude he felt weighing down on him, they had done so much for him. He’d even expected that he would like the two of them. But the sense of losing something, losing someone, when going to Hogwarts was completely alien to him. He wondered if that’s what the other students felt when they left behind their families for the year. And even what that said about how Harry viewed the Grangers.

 

They had already visited Gringotts, Harry popping down to his vault to gather his gold while the Grangers had exchanged their muggle pounds into wizarding currency. Hermione was pushing to go to Flourish and Blotts first but everyone was putting their foot down on that. “Honey those books are quite heavy, if we buy them first we’ll have to carry them around the entire time. If we buy them last our arms just might survive the day.” Mrs Granger reasoned.

Harry had a suggestion, “Why don’t we have a look in Bagdull’s trunks & bags, my school trunk is too small to fit all my books in now and I’m guessing that ‘Mione might need an upgrade as well.” Hermione admitted that she didn’t think she was going to fit all her books in her trunk this year and was planning to leave some of them at home. Once she’d explained the undetectable extension charm to her parents again reminding them about her hairband, Mrs Granger thought that the expanded trunk was a good idea. Mr Granger was to busy making ‘Dr Who’ references again, to voice an opinion on the matter.

 

So the four of them made their way to Bagdull’s, the outside of the shop must have been the smallest in Diagon, barely more than a door with a sign hanging over it, proclaiming Bagdull’s trunks & bags - custom expand luggage to order. They filled into the shop expecting stairs that lead to another floor, but were surprised to find an extremely spacious area just inside the door. This prompted another bout of ‘Dr Who’ quotes from Mr Granger. This sparked a chuckle from behind the display of trunks, it came from the man who’d just walked out from behind them, smiling broadly.

“Good afternoon, I’m Tobias Bagdull, welcome to my shop. It’s easy to spot those raised by muggles when they come in, a lot of them make references to that show. So much that I had to get my wife to explain it to me. Well...what can I do for you today? By the looks of it you are here to look at a trunk for Hogwarts?” He waited for them to confirm his suspicions. It wasn't much of a leap, two teens this close to the start of term.

 

“Well it that’s the case, this is the catalogue you’ll want”, he handed them two identical booklets, and two sheets of parchment. “Just write out a list of the features you want from the catalogue and I’ll whip up your trunks within the hour.” Harry and Hermione both started looking at the catalogues to see what could be done, which turned out to be quite a lot. The trunks could have up to seven compartments, each opened when a different key was used in the single lock. The range of ways each compartment could be customised was staggering, from the basic same size as a standard trunk right up to ten foot by ten foot rooms (although the ten foot by ten foot rooms were 80 gallons each, before you added any furniture. more than a little out of their price range.)

After a lot of back and forth between the four of them, both Harry and Hermione decided to each get the same 3 compartments, each was to be 4 ft wide, 2 ft deep and 6ft tall and a cupboard that popped up when the lid was opened. One of the compartments was to be a wardrobe; another a bookshelf, and the last one for storage of general items, such as cauldrons, broomsticks and potion kits. The trunks came out at ten galleons each, or almost £50 in muggle money, but when you looked at it as buying three trunks the price was a lot more reasonable.

 

Hermione almost caused an argument when Harry insisted on buying her trunk for her. “Harry James Potter you do not need to go wasting your money on me like that.”, he cut her off before she could build up a full head of steam. “Hermione. This is the last chance I have to do any shopping before we are back at school and it’s your birthday in a few weeks. This is my present to you.” that took the wind out of Hermione’s anger before it was able to get going. “You are impossible sometimes Harry.” but her words lacked any heat. “Thank you. I love it.” she pulled him into a light hug knowing that both of them would be uncomfortable with more affection around strangers.

 

After leaving Bagdull’s they headed for Madam Malkin's robes store; both Harry and Hermione needed new robes for the upcoming year. Malkin's had a bit of a queue, mostly of other Hogwarts students waiting to purchase their own robes. In the shop, there was a Gryffindor sixth year and a Hufflepuff fourth year that they knew well enough to say hi to but nothing more than that. They browsed the selection of accessories while Mr and Mrs Granger held their place in line. Harry picked out a set of dragonhide gloves with a matching belt that he took a liking to, as well as a hat and scarf set after remembering Mrs Granger’s words about what they’d forgotten from their last trip to Diagon Alley. Hermione picked out a three-piece set of knitwear that was periwinkle blue, and consisted of a pair of gloves, a hat and a scarf. They rejoined the queue with the older Grangers and soon after, each of them was in possession of three new sets of school robes.

 

After that it was a quick trip to Scribbulus next door to buy a couple of new quills, and some ink and parchment. Harry bought himself a rather nice glass quill with an unbreakable charm on it. While technically it was against the school rules, that rule was relaxed after the first year. They wanted students to break their quills and spill ink in their first year. It got them used to using the reparo and tergio spells and helped reinforce the message that they could do magic as well as providing good focusing practice.

 

It was then onto Slug & Jiggers; Hermione only had to refill about half of her ingredients, having done a better job than Harry of keeping her’s topped up for the year. Although harry still had some ingredients, it turned out that it was cheaper for him to buy a complete kit of basic potion ingredients, the same as he had done the first year, when he was here with Hagrid on his first-ever trip to Diagon Alley.

 

It turned out that he wasn't the only one who had the idea to get Hermione a birthday present at Diagon Alley. Hermione’s parents had decided that they would finally allow Hermione to have a pet. When he’d asked about it, Mr Granger told him that Hermione had been relentlessly asking her parents for a pet since before her first year, as well as in her second year, but for reasons that were not elaborated on, they had refused. This year however, they felt things were different and they granted Hermione her wish, though they warned her that she’d have to take responsibility for whatever familiar she picked. She’d agreed quickly, nodding her head enthusiastically, and with that, they were off to Magical Menagerie to pick out a pet.

 

The four of them could barely squeeze into the shop. The walls themselves were hidden because each and every square inch was hidden behind a cage of all sorts. The smell and noise of the shop was an assault on the senses as each of the cage’s occupants tried to make itself known. A pair of enormous purple toads sat gulping wetly and feasting on the dead blowflies that buzzed around them. A gigantic tortoise with a jewel-encrusted shell was glittering near the window. Poisonous orange snails were oozing slowly up the side of their glass tank; there were cats of every colour, a noisy cage of ravens, a basket of funny custard-coloured furballs that were humming loudly, and on the counter, a vast cage of sleek black rats which were playing some sort of skipping game using their long skinless tails. The witch behind the counter was already talking to one Hogwarts student about an ill toad that he possessed.

 

Neville Longbottom was looking for advice on how to treat his sick toad Trevor, “He got sick over the summer. It wasn’t too bad at first, but now he’s not eating and I’m getting a little worried...”

The witch behind the counter took a pair of glasses out of one of her pockets, “Well pop him on the counter and let's have a look at him”, Neville gingerly took the sick toad out of his front breast pocket and placed him gently on the counter in front of the witch. While she was examining Trevor, Harry and Hermione took the opportunity to greet Neville, who was looking sick himself, only with worry.

 

“Hey Nev, how's your summer been?” He turned around and saw them standing behind him, “Harry! Hermione! It’s so good to see you”, Neville grinned widely as he embraced Hermione in a little hug, obviously happy to see them. He looked at them both in turn, his eyes settling on Hermione’s seeming lack of cat ears, though he knew better; “Hermione you look… um... Normal again. Did they finally figure out how to undo the effects?” Neville’s phrasing was a little bad but she knew that he meant it in a nice way, “unfortunately, no. Harry got me this headband to help me in the muggle world. It’s easier to just leave it on in Diagon as well as we came and are leaving through Muggle London.”

 

“So, Harry’s staying with you?”, he turned to harry, “There was a rumour going around that you ran away from your muggle relatives after a fight. Are you OK?” Harry scoffed at that, “I’m doing better now that I don't have to live with them anymore, but I don’t really want to talk about it right now”, Neville gave him a confused but also pitied look, then just nodded. “Ok I won’t ask, but if you ever need to talk, I’m here for you”, Harry appreciated that; he knew he and Neville had never been too close. It was Hermione, Ron and him at first and after everything that happened with Hermione and the chamber, and then the way Ron reacted, Harry had been focusing solely on her. But here Neville was, offering help and comfort without any hesitation. Neville was a good guy.

 

“Neville! Are you done?” a formidable-looking witch came over, wearing long green dress robes and an unusual hat that had a stuffed vulture atop it. She stopped next to them, smiling at Neville, “Oh, are these friends of yours Neville? Why don't you introduce us Dear.”

Neville coughed awkwardly, before making the standard introductions, “Gran this is Hermione Granger and Harry Potter. Hermione is a fellow Gryffindor and the top student of our year, and of course, Harry needs little introduction. Harry, Hermione, this is my grandmother, Madam Augusta Longbottom.”

 

Harry stepped forward, taking the lady’s outstretched hand, “it’s a pleasure to meet you Ma’am”, the grip Madam Longbottom had in her handshake was strong, strong enough that Harry winced slightly. He would not have thought her capable of it at first, “And you Mr Potter. I guess you get tired of hearing this but you are the spitting image of your father when he was your age, except...he was a little taller”, Harry frowned at this; people compared him to his father a lot, almost every time, but Madam Longbottom was the first to point out that he was shorter than his father. Harry wondered if this was because of his mother or the way the Dursleys had treated him. With his aunt being on the tall side for women he suspected he knew the answer.

 

While he pondered this Hermione had greeted Madam Longbottom in the same manner, and introduced her own parents to the Longbottoms, “we were just asking Neville how his summer was”, Hermione effortlessly kept the conversation flowing while Harry was distracted, “Well it was going splendidly until that vile LeStrange woman broke out of Azkaban. Now we have to think of that Death Eater running around freely while she should be locked away from good upstanding people”, that snapped Harry out of his ruminations.

“Wait...Bellatrix LeStrange is a witch? I thought so when i saw her face on the muggle news”, Hermione shifted uncomfortably. She had talked him out of believing that the escaped convict was a witch, but it seemed Harry's speculation had been right after all. Neville, however, went still, as though if he moved a muscle he’d lose his composure.

“Yes Mr Potter. She is a witch, though I must confess my surprise that you were not already aware of this, all things considered,” Madam Longbottom stated bluntly, implying that if not Harry himself, someone had been extraordinarily thick. “No one has ever spoken to me about her. Though I thought she looked a lot like Draco Malfoy’s mother, and I know that his father was a follower of Voldemort’s”, the two purebloods visibly jumped at the name and Hermione flinched. But harry continued regardless, “So given the date of her conviction that was on the muggle news, I guess LeStrange was one of Voldemort’s followers as well?”

The Longbottoms jumped a second time but this time Hermione didn’t. She knew that sometimes Harry liked to keep using the name, trying to get people over their fear of it. Considering some of what the Longbottoms were saying though, she wondered if it was a bad idea in this case.

 

The witch, who had been examining Trevor, got Neville’s attention, “It looks like your toad has a bit of an infection. This potion here should help him be right as rain in a few days, shall I ring it up for you?” Neville looked relieved at the news. He complained about trevor every now and then, but given how much effort he put into finding him again when he got lost, it was easy to see he cared about his familiar a lot. Neville bought the potion and was about to say his goodbyes when his grandmother spoke up, “Harry there are a few things you should have been told about that witch as soon as she escaped. I don’t have time right now but could you join me and Neville for lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, in about an hour? The Grangers are of course welcome as well”, Harry quickly conferred with the Grangers and it was soon agreed that they would meet up.

 

Afterwards Neville and his grandmother took their leave and Harry, Hermione and her parents resumed their search for a Hermione’s familiar. Hermione made her way around the cages, inspecting the animals; the black rats began working together as a team performing tricks as she inspected them, the toads began croaking out tunes, the ravens tried to look dignified as they said pre-learned phrases like “On the road to wisdom, behave like a raven and observe everything carefully!” and “a circle has no beginning!”, even the jewel-encrusted tortoise from the window lit up his jewels in a rainbow of colours.

None of this seemed to hold Hermione’s attention, however, it was around the cats where things got interesting. Every single cat in the shop sat up and paid eerily close attention to Hermione as she approached their cages. All except one, there was a ginger tom who, unlike the other cats, wasn’t in a cage. Or more accurately, his/her cage had no front to keep the cat in. This particular cat watched Hermione as well but with one eye closed, feigning disinterest in a way that seemed to come naturally to cats. Hermione looked at the cat interestedly, but moved on after reading the sign over the cat’s perch.

 

Crookshanks - Half-Kneazle Tom

Temperament: unpersonable

 

As Hermione moved to look at the next cage, Crookshanks’ paw flashed out faster than the eye could see, swiping at Hermione's hair-band. The hairband in question was easily dislodged and flew across the room into Harry’s face. This had two effects; firstly, Hermione’s cat ears where now on full display. Not so much a problem here, in an environment where everyone at least knows about magic. Secondly Harry, while rubbing the area around his eye where the tartan hair-band had struck, missed the next few seconds of the interaction between Hermione and the apparently grumpy cat. The grumpiness was only apparent because the cat was now in Hermione’s arms, rubbing his face into her’s, purring like an idling motorbike.

 

It was hard to tell what shocked the shopkeeper more. The fact that Hermione suddenly had cat ears or that his moody Crookshanks actually seemed to like someone. It mattered little in the end, as soon the cat-eared girl was leaving the shop with her new Half-Kneazle in her arms and her mysterious hair-band back where it belonged, much to the annoyance of the ginger cat in her arms. “No Crookshanks, I need to wear it till I get home, then you can see my ears, I promise,'' Hermione placated the cat, then it was a trip back to Bagdull’s for their previously purchased trunks.

 

Hermione's new trunk was the same shade of blue as her winter knitwear she’d bought earlier. It had an iridescent purple sheen, with a mirror-smooth finish and pale copper metal adornings; she loved it. Harry's was made of walnut that had been buffed and polished into a honey-like, golden-yellow brown. His trunk had black-coated iron metalwork that Harry personally thought looked amazing, though Hermione said it seemed quite gloomy. They each moved their day’s purchases into their trunks, freeing up their hands from all the bags they were carrying. The trunks’ had inbuilt wheels, which were only on the one side, making them easier to handle than the bags.

 

The last stop for the day was long-awaited, on Hermione’s part. Flourish and Blotts bookstore. Hermione was almost shaking with anticipation, reciting the books from her school book list under her breath. “For charms, The Standard Book of Spells Grade III, A Journeyman's Guide to Transfiguration for McGonagall, for Care of Magical Creatures The Monster Book of Monsters. I don't know what Professor Kettleburn was thinking setting that book. Numerology and Gramatica for Professor Vector’s class. The Spellman's Syllabary for Ancient Runes. The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts, I wonder who the new DADA professor is... The book sounds promising. 1993-1994 academic Magical Almanac for Astronomy and snape set Enchanting elixirs.”

 

She kept this up the entire way to the shop. As They entered Flourish and Blotts, the Manager came hurrying towards them, “Hogwarts?” she asked abruptly, “Come to get your new books for the term?”

“Yes, in fact, we need –”  Hermione began up her mental catalogue once again. “I know what you need,” the Manager quickly interrupted, before she could get too excited. She grimaced as she drew on a pair of very thick gloves and picked up a large, knobbly walking stick. She then proceeded towards a cage near the corner of the room, far out of the way of the other shelves and books. It was labelled; “The Monster Book of Monsters.”

 

Harry spoke up, “we only need one of those. I already have one.” The manager looked a little relieved at that. Harry, who’d already predicted the next problem from his own experience with the book, pulled a length of nylon cord from his pocket that he’d found in one of the kitchen drawers at the Grangers. He had specifically brought it to deal with Hermione’s monster book. He was about to go help the Manager when Hermione, having had a similar idea, pulled a roll of regular muggle tape from her bag. The two teens looked at each other, smiling that they had the same plan. “The cord will be better for the book”, Mrs Granger supplied, giving Harry the push he needed.

 

Two minutes and three minor bites later, Harry victoriously handed Hermione the tied up monster book. The Manager glanced at the book that was now safe to handle, then a thought struck her and she had an idea, disappearing down a hallway further into the shop. Harry and Hermione started going through the display of educational books that Flourish and Blotts put out every summer, picking up the ones they definitely needed and taking a quick peek at others that seemed interesting. Soon they each had their stack of required books, eight for Hermione and six for Harry, who had one book already and was taking one less subject.

 

The manager came back holding a book open. She checked the book a few times, then with a slight blush and flourish of her wand she said, “Shibarius*”. Ropes shot from her wand and tied up each of the monster books in a way that looked almost artistic. Hermione, after seeing the results of the spell, asked the manager about the book but was told that the book was restricted to people of age.

 

Harry asked the manager about how they were meant to read the book, but she didn’t have a clue. “They sent a stack of leaflets with the bloody things, you know with instructions about opening the book, but the dam things shredded the leaflets. I swear if the boss stocks these things again I'm storing them in his office, and locking him in there with them.”

 

After that Hermione and harry went searching again for any other books that took their fancy, now that they’d made their required purchases. Hermione found two more books to add to her already enormous and ever-growing book collection; ‘A compendium of household charms - 157 spells to make a witch or wizard’s life easier’, and a ’Rune Dictionary’. Harry, on the other hand, had found something more his style, ‘Basic Hexes for the Busy and Vexed’, it didn’t contain anything too dangerous, but some that might have their uses after he next fell victim to another one of the Twins’ pranks.

 

When the grout left the bookstore, their coin purses were considerably lighter, even if their trunks weren't. They were a bit early for lunch with the Longbottoms and after a day of shopping in the blazing August sun, the four of them took a much needed break at Florean Fortescue’s, each with an ice-cold glass of lemonade, taking the opportunity to relax.

 

---ϟϟϟ---

Author's notes

 

*Shibarius - from the Japanese “Shibari”; a type of artistic, and often sexual, rope bondage.

 

Ok, so Vernon's drill company. In cannon, we are told they make drills., not power tools. Just drills so in my version they make a variety of specialist drills for different specific jobs. It just seemed like a good idea that they would also make dental drills.

 

Thank you to everyone who has reviewed this so far i love your feedback and encouragement

Special thanks once again to mattyscic. Dude you rock

Chapter Text

Harry and the Grangers had arrived at the Leaky Cauldron about 5 minutes before they were due to meet the Longbottoms, but Neville was already waiting for them His gran had arranged to use one of the private dining rooms for the lunch. Neville lead them to the room, looking rather dejected as he did so. It was this mood of Neville’s that put Harry on edge, just how bad was the information he was about to be told?

 

The dining room was nice enough; it had one large table that was big enough for them all to sit around, with even a couple of spaces to spare. They exchanged pleasantries and made small talk while they waited for their food to arrive. When Harry was just about to tuck into his lunch; a bacon, spinach and cheese Quiche served with a sundried tomato salad, the first of the bombshells hit.

“Harry...Bellatrix LeStrange is going to try and kill you”, as bombshells went this one was a little underwhelming, at least for Harry. He nodded, “I suspected as much when you confirmed she was one of…his followers”, he had almost used Voldemort's name but they were just starting on their food and Harry felt he should be nice. He tried a bit of his Quiche, it needed a bit more salt which he added.

 

“Honestly I don't know how to feel about this one. She isn’t the only one out to kill me.” Madam Longbottom gave Harry an odd look, “Harry. Bellatrix is not like the other Death Eaters-” Harry interrupted, “Death Eaters?” Madam Longbottom frowned at the interruption, “It was the name of You-Know-Who’s followers. As I was saying Bellatrix is not like the other Death Eaters. Normally they wore heavy robes and masks, and used magic to disguise who they were. That was part of why everyone was so afraid; you didn’t know who was with him. It was possible for your own brother to turn on you. Bellatrix, however, was one of his most fanatical, she rarely, if ever, bothered to hide who she was. She stood openly by You-Know-Who’s side whenever he took the field. And despite everyone knowing who she was working for, she was never captured or taken in while you know who was alive. And believe me, they tried. Bellatrix LeStrange was personally responsible for the death of over fifteen fully trained Aurors during the blood war.”

That was a resume that Harry sat up and listened to. Yes, he had fought for his life before, but never against someone like that at full power. Every time he had fought Voldemort he had been diminished, and was, in some way, a shade of his former self. Harry almost lost control at his terrible pun but was able to keep a straight face, “If she was so dangerous how did they catch her in the end?”

 

It was an innocent question that came up naturally in the conversation, but the sudden shift in the Longbottoms was horrible. Harry felt as guilty as if he had plunged a knife into their hearts. And it looked like his question had hurt them that much. “It was my son and his wife, Neville's parents. Bellatrix came after them after You-Know-Who died. Before Bellatrix and a group of Death Eaters were able to break in Frank was able to send a message to the ministry asking for help.” Madam Longbottom’s voice got weaker and weaker, as each word looked to be ripping open her heart a little more. Neville took over, “The Ministry aurors showed up in time to catch those who did it...but not in time to save my parents.”

 

The room fell silent as the words hit the Grangers and Harry. And Harry felt them, hard.

If anyone could sympathise with someone who had had their parents murdered by a psychotic maniac, it was The-Boy-Who-lived. Harry realised that LeStrange was like the Longbottom’s personal Voldemort. And now Neville had to deal with having the person who killed his parents being on the loose.

 

“Nev...I don't know what to say, man...I know how much it sucks to grow up without your parents”, the words that Harry had meant to be comforting hit Neville like a physical blow, making him flinch back; he looked like he was about to be sick. Mr Granger spoke up quickly, upon seeing Neville’s shaky physical state, “this topic is clearly causing more than a little distress,” he looked at Harry and the Longbottoms, both looked devastated. Not that his wife and daughter looked particularly happy.

“Maybe it’s best if we put this off to another time?” Madam Longbottom steeled herself and then shook her head, “No, Harry needs to know this. His magical guardian should have told him this stuff bit by bit as he grew up, now, however, we have got to the point where we need to ‘rip off the aid-band’, I believe this is a muggle term?”

 

“Rip off the band-aid” corrected Mrs Granger. Madam Longbottom nodded her thanks in return. “What’s a magical guardian and who is mine?” asked Harry. He was still woefully oblivious to some things in the Wizarding world. Hermione spoke up first, “A magical guardian is a witch or wizard who takes responsibility for muggle raised children when it is impossible for their muggle relatives to do so. This can be a witch or wizard that the parents know if they happen to know any. But if none is chosen, then once a child attends Hogwarts, their Head of House has that responsibility. So mine and yours is Professor McGonagall.”

 

Madam Longbottom took a good look at Hermione and nodded in approval, “A good summary that is mostly right. And the part you got wrong is a good lead into what Harry needs to know. Harry...Professor McGonagall is not your magical guardian. You see, while you grew up in the muggle world, you were not born there. Your parents had another option open to them. You have Godparents.” Harry was a little taken aback by this, if he had Godparents, why on Earth was he raised by the Dursleys? “In fact my daughter-in-law Alice is your godmother. She and your mother where at school together and both found themselves pregnant with you and Neville at the same time. You probably know that your Birthdays’ are only a day apart.” Harry hadn’t known their Birthdays’ were so close but he had known Neville had his Birthday in the summer holidays as well.

 

“Well this lead to the two becoming very close and they each named each other the Godmother to their son almost as soon as you were born.” Harry stared at Neville incredulously. If their mothers had lived, the two of them would have known each other their entire life. “After you stopped you-know-who, you were hidden from the magical world to keep you safe. Bellatrix LeStrange thought that if she killed you she could take control of his followers and lead them herself. Somehow LeStrange found out about our Alice, LeStrange assumed that your godmother knew where you were. Sh… she. She tortured my son and his wife looking to kill you, Harry. She tortured them until their minds’ broke. They are at St Mungo’s now, still alive...but their minds are gone.”

The Grangers were stunned. None of them knew what to say. In truth, there was nothing to say. The words to bring comfort to people who reveal a story like that just didn’t exist. For a few minutes, the only sound was the drip of freely flowing tears that each of the Hogwarts students were shedding. The adult Granger looked like theirs could start at any moment. Madam Longbottom, however, looked the worst for wear, as though she’d already shed all of her tears long ago and didn’t have any more left.

 

“Before Alice was hospitalized she was trying to find you. She fully intended to raise you with Neville as she had promised your mother. But she couldn’t find you. After Bellatrix, it took me some time to pull myself together. When i did i tried to get custody of you. I wanted to honour what Alice and my frank tried to do. But when I petitioned the wizengamot i was informed that you were already assigned a magical guardian and that the matter was closed. I never found out who it was but Minerva McGonagall. Is an old friend of mine i would know if it was her.”

 

That was a lot for harry to take in. on top of everything else that he had learned. There was some unknown person who he didn’t know about who could decide things in his life. It was creepy to think some unknown person was watching him and worse to know that whoever it was they never stopped the Dursleys.

 

“Harry”, he focused on Madam Longbottom, “I want you to make me a promise. I want you to promise me and Neville that you will stay away from LeStrange. After what my son and Neville’s mother gave up to keep her from you. Promise us you’ll stay safe. Please.” It was a blatant manipulation and everyone in the room knew it, even Harry. That didn’t make the words any less true however. And everyone knew it was to keep Harry safe. “I… I promise. I will try to stay away from Bellatrix LeStrange as much as I can”, by this point Harry was openly weeping.

No one had eaten much of their food. Everyone lost their appetite quite early on in the conversation. Now all there was an uncomfortable silence. Harry, looking at his lap, finally broke the oppressive quiet after a few minutes, that felt like a few weeks. “Neville?” The Longbottom teen looked up, “do you hate me?” then the silence was back. “Sometimes”, Neville looked down at his plate. “Sometimes.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

The next few days passed in a fog for Harry. It was one thing to know his own parents had given their lives for him, but to learn that Neville was without parents as well, because of him, that was something else. No wonder Neville hated him. He should. It seemed that he was a curse on families. His family, Neville’s family, maybe the Dursleys would have been good people if it weren’t for him. He wondered how long it would be until the Grangers’ were hit by the curse of Harry.

 

One of the downsides of having a girlfriend with cat ears is that if you are talking to your owl about stuff like that, and said girlfriend is in the next room, that conversation you thought was private is, in fact, not. The upside to it all turned out to be good. As Harry wondered if it would be better to leave Hermione and let her have a normal life, said girlfriend decided to slap some sense into him, literally. As he exited his room after his ‘private’ conversation with Hedwig, Hermione came and started walloping his arm, ranting at him;

“Harry James Potter, If you think that I am going to let you run off and leave because of a stupid idea like that one, you have got another thing coming!”

 

That had been two days ago now, the lecture from Hermione that had followed was only topped by the one he had gotten from Mrs Granger after she’d overheard Hermione sternly ‘talking’ to Harry. Mrs Granger thought that Harry was suffering from something called ‘survivor’s guilt’, she had gone out of her way to tell Harry that such a thing was normal, that just because he felt that he was to blame didn’t make it so. She had gotten him a book on overcoming such guilt, telling him that if he had any questions or just needed to talk then she was available any time.

 

Harry was now packing his new trunk with his school things and his books proved to be no problem. His summer Homework slipped in the covers of each subject’s book. His clothes had presented the first problem. His new trunk wardrobe was split into drawers and hanging space that perfectly suited his needs. Except for one little problem; Harry didn’t have any hangers. He felt like an idiot but he had to ask Hermione where he could get some. That had lead to a trip to a local pound shop with her, as she also needed some hair ties and clips as well as a few things for Crookshanks.

 

Now armed with hangers, Harry put all his new clothes in the trunk; the wardrobe only contained his quidditch robes and two Weasley jumpers from his old clothes. The rest of the old clothes were disposed of. He then had to go through the rest of the stuff in his old trunk, a lot of which was junk.  A collection of mostly empty ink bottles were combined, giving Harry one and a half-full ones. Random quills were inspected to see if they were worth keeping, he saved the luxury eagle-feather quill that Hermione had given him for Christmas, just hours before the Polyjuice Potion incident. Stuff like that. He spent an hour going over his old classwork and homework assignments, deciding what he would keep as revision notes and what would be burned (The Statute of Secrecy making it illegal to just bin magical notes in the muggle world).

 

Then onto the items Harry really cared about; the handsome, leather-covered photo album filled with the only images he had of his parents, he got lost looking at one of his favourites for 20 minutes. It was one where he was being held by his mum, they were both smiling at each other. The album was a present from Hagrid that he’d given him at the end of his first year; the flute that Hagrid had given him that same year; his Nimbus 2000 that his Head of House Professor McGonagall had gotten him after she had pushed him onto the Gryffindor quidditch team; the Servicing kit that Hermione had given him for his birthday; and lastly, his invisibility cloak. The cloak was probably the most important to him. It was the only thing he had, apart from the contents of his Gringotts vault, that had actually belonged to one of his parents. And the only thing he owned that was truly irreplaceable.

 

He was just about to close up his trunk ready for the express tomorrow when his eyes landed on the stack of newspapers. They weren’t regular newspapers, for one the events depicted in their stories would have seemed fanciful and impossible to most people. Then there was the fact that unlike muggle newspapers the black and white photos in this paper moved.

 

After Harry and the Grangers had found out about LeStrange from the Longbottoms, Harry had been in too much of a state to think of anything. Hermione, however, had rushed back into Diagon Alley almost as soon as the lunch was finished. Harry hadn't found out until the next day when the stack of papers had been delivered by a trio of particularly grumpy screech owls, that she had made the trip to the Daily Prophet main office in Diagon Alley. She had ordered copies of backdated papers that had articles with anything to do with the breakout.

 

The newspapers had painted a grim picture. They described LeStrange and her crimes. They recounted all the crimes she had been sentenced for, ranging from muggle baiting (pranking/harassing muggles with magic) to mass murder and the torture of numerous people, both magic and muggle. They didn’t particularly portray a picture of a sane or stable person. No, it was clear that the people writing the articles thought that LeStrange was a bloody lunatic, with an extra emphasis on bloody.

 

The story of her escape was also mentioned. It seems that LeStrange took advantage of a hole in the security that was created for specifically her. Someone, who was currently unknown but was suspected of being a Death Eater that was never caught, had Obliviated Director Amelia Bones before she could submit some required paperwork to rotate the guards at the wizard prison. Harry had been rather upset after hearing about Director Bones; he’d feared that she had ended up like Lockhart, only far less deserving.

 

As it turned out, Director Bones had only lost about a day of memories. After the escape of LeStrange the problem had been traced back to Bones’ office and within a few days, the Director had been put straight onto ‘administrative leave’, which from what Harry could tell was a fancy way of saying suspended.

The most recent papers had talked about the discovery that Director Bones was the victim of Obliviation and that only a free Death Eater would have the motive to attack the Head of the DMLE to leave a hole in the security of Azkaban, just for Bellatrix LeStrange as well.

He decided that he was best taking the newspapers with him. He doubted that this would be the last he heard of Bellatrix LeStrange...

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

1st September

Hermione and Harry were relaxing. It was their last night in the muggle world and the two of them were spending this final night with Hermione’s parents. It was surprisingly new for him to spend an evening relaxing, even with the Grangers’. Normally the two would find their evening full either going over homework, discussing LeStrange, the Dursleys or just going for a walk in the park, which Hermione had shown Harry a few days after he had awoken here, telling him that she liked to walk there often to clear her head and get some fresh air.

However, with the prospect of not seeing her parents again for almost four months, Hermione had gotten a little desperate to spend as much time with them as she possibly could. Harry, who would have given almost anything he had for just one night like that with his parents, understood and tried to leave the Grangers’ to it, to let them have the night as a family. Hermione had a different idea as she had dragged him into the family room with her and her parents.

So the two of them were cuddled up on the Granger’s sofa, Hermione had pulled Harry’s arm around herself and wrapped her tail around him. Even Crookshanks had joined them, curling up on Hermione’s lap as he again did his impersonation of an idling motorbike; Harry just sat there enjoying having Hermione so close, listening to the Granger’s chat about anything and everything.

 

As the night went on things settled into a comfortable quiet as the four of them watched a bit of muggle TV. Harry began to realize he didn’t feel out of place or unwanted, something that he could only remember feeling before at Hogwarts. It was why he always felt more at home at Hogwarts than anywhere else. As he sat there contemplating just how amazing it was to feel as though the people around him truly wanted him there, he was struck by a thought ‘is this what it feels like to have a real family?’

Unwilling to pursue that line of thought further he pulled Hermione in a little closer and lost himself in the feeling of her cuddling into him as they let the rest of the night drift by.

Chapter Text

2nd September

The morning of September 1st at the Grangers was much calmer after the one Harry had experienced the year before at the Weasley family home. Harry pinned this down to three factors. First was the fact that Hampstead in London was a lot closer to Kings Cross in London than Ottery St Catchpole in Devon. The second was that they only needed to organize and feed four people instead of eight. But third and most importantly Mr Granger had had them set their packed trunks by the door the night before. This meant that all Harry had to do to be ready to leave the next day was to put his toothbrush (a nice one that had been a gift from Mrs Granger after she saw the old cheap one he used) and his pyjamas into his trunk. Hermione, who had enough nightwear that she didn't need to take every set she owned, only had to pack her tooth and hairbrushes. Mrs Granger had gotten harry a hairbrush as well, but that was already packed as Mrs Granger had joined the club of people who had failed to tame his hair.

The train from Kings Cross was due to leave at eleven o'clock. They had left the house at ten to give them plenty of time to get to the station that was about four miles away. While it was only four miles, it was still in London traffic in the middle of the week, so no one expected the trip to be quick. However, Mrs Granger had gotten stuck behind a car accident. No one was hurt but the road they were on was completely blocked by the two cars, and their drivers, who instead of moving their cars to let others drive through, decided two have a shouting match in the middle of the street. And with the traffic behind them, there was no way to turn the car and take another route. This met that the trip that should have taken them about 20 minutes, leaving Harry and Hermione plenty of time to say goodbye to Mr and Mrs Granger and find a compartment, but now took 45 and left the teens rushed to catch the train on time.

Harry and Hermione practically jumped out of the car as Mrs Granger pulled up next to the station. Illegally using a bus stop just long enough for the teens to grab their trunks and pets from the back of the car and shout their goodbyes,

"Have a good term kitten. We'll see the two of you at Christmas." Mr Granger called as Mrs Granger pulled off before she could get a ticket. The two teens rushed through the station, both of them relieved that their new trunks had wheels so they didn't need to take the time to look for a trolley. Even if Hedwig and Crookshanks weren't too pleased with all the extra jostling by being carried led to, it was 10:50 by the time they reached the bearer to platform 9¾. The two of them stopped for a second, catching their breath as they appeared to lean on the barrier between platforms nine and ten. The next moment, they had fallen sideways through the solid brick column onto the platform for the Hogwarts Express, platform 9¾.

The bright scarlet steam engine was puffing smoke as it started to build the steam pressure it needed to start its journey north; most of the other students were already on the train as their parents said their farewells to the few students left on the platform. The couple, not having anyone on the platform to say goodbye to, quickly boarded the Express. The two set off down the train looking for an empty compartment but considering how late they were getting to the train they weren't all too hopeful.

The best they could find was a compartment with a single occupant. The two did a bit of a double-take at seeing this occupant. Every time they had ridden the Express ( although admittedly this would only be Harry's fourth trip compared to Hermione's seventh), the only adult they had ever seen was the witch who pushed the lunch trolley, and yet the occupant of this compartment was a middle-aged wizard who seemed to have, not long ago, started to go a little grey around the temples. He was sitting fast asleep next to the window. It was obvious that he was a wizard by the wizard robes he was wearing. But there was something about the man that bugged Harry and he didn't know why. He didn't feel worried about the man but something was niggling at the back of his mind.

"Who do you think this guy is?" Harry asked as Hermione lifted her blue trunk up into the luggage rack. Harry idly wondered just how the trunks were so light. Even if they weren't light there was no way they weighed as much as 3 wooden cupboards and all the stuff in them. Watching Hermione lift it by herself what really should have been too heavy for both of them combined. "Professor R.J Lupin, our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher", she responded easily enough. Harry stood there surprised for a few moments before asking, "How do you know that?" Hermione was a little irritated by his tone. She knew that Harry was just surprised but it grated on her nerves a little nonetheless, "The Hogwarts Express only takes people to Hogwarts, and the only job vacancy is the DADA Professor position available so he must be the new professor."

Hermione responded, the slight edge to her voice telling Harry he had gotten something wrong. No really, knowing what he had done he quickly stowed his trunk in the rack and pulled Hermione towards himself as he hugged her from behind. "Ok, what did I do?" Hermione resisted a little, "It's nothing Harry. Don't worry about it", she leant back into him. It really was something tiny, but she enjoyed hugs a lot. She heard Harry huff behind her, "'Mione, it bothered you, whatever it was. If I don't know what it is, how can I keep from doing it again? Please tell me." Hermione sighed, he was right. But it just seemed silly, she knew he was being pedantic, "It really is silly Harry…", seeing the look from Harry, she reluctantly continued, "because I know you didn't mean it like this but, you didn't ask how I knew about Lupin. You demanded to know. You sounded like Ron when he was being a prat about homework." Hermione fell quiet, waiting for him to respond.

Harry thought over what she had said, "You're right, 'Mione, well...your always right aren't you?", he grinned down at her as he felt the heat of her blush radiating off of her in waves, "I didn't mean to, but I was surprised and sounded like a complete prat. I'm sorry." Hermione turned in his arms so that she was facing him. "Thanks Harry, as I said it was a silly little thing." She wrapped her arms around him returning the hug. "With you, 'Mione, nothing is really silly, though I really would like to know how you knew his name." Hermione smirked at his ignorance and just pointed at the man's luggage. Harry glanced over at it. There, in one of the corners, were peeling gold letters, but he couldn't make out the words they represented. "I guess his name is on his briefcase?" He asked as he and Hermione sat on the bench opposite the man. Harry still felt strange around the man, and it made him uneasy. He hadn't even seen the man before in his life!

Hermione looked at him, confused, "You can't read it?" Harry shrugged, "Nope, not from here." She frowned in thought for a few seconds. "If you can't read that from here, how on Earth are you such a good seeker. You really do well in Gryffindor's matches. It's bad luck you haven't won the cup yet, you only know McGonagall is getting frustrated." They both laughed at their Head of House's obsession with Quidditch. Harry's pride increase as Hermione Granger, the bookworm who is known to despise all things to do with Quidditch, praised his skills. He knew she only cared about the game when he played and she wasn't the type to blow smoke. "In a weird way, I think it helps. I think most people who are seekers spend their time looking for the snitch. I can't do that. I look for a glint of gold. I can see colours fine, it's only finer details I don't see very much, like that briefcase of the professor's, I can't make out the words but I can see the gold, that I guessed the letters are made up from."

Hermione relaxed as the express pulled out of the station and began snaking its way north. She pulled off her hairband, and after making harry turn around for a few moments freed her tail and gave it a stretch. "That's better", he looked at her, "are they uncomfortable? Now we are going back to school I can adjust them if you need." Hermione, who hadn't given it a second thought, looked up at him from the book she'd pulled from somewhere. Her heart clenched at the sheer concern and care in his eyes. He knew how tender a subject her feline features were. "They are fine Harry. They aren't uncomfortable, it's just...I'm very aware that I'm wearing them. It's like wearing a sock on your ear. It doesn't hurt or feel uncomfortable, but it feels weird all the same." She re-opened her book to her bookmark then froze as a thought hit her. She looked back at Harry again, "Harry, if you can't read that name, how do you manage in class?" Harry looked down at his lap, "I sit in the front of the class and hope I don't miss too much. Most of the stuff written on the blackboard is also in the textbooks and you help a little as well when you lend me notes to copy, so I usually get by."

Hermione thought about his response for a few moments, a few ideas buzzing around her head. She would need to do some research before getting any final ideas, but she'd help him with his learning if it's the last thing she'd do, she promised herself. Hermione returned to her book and started reading as Harry collapsed onto the seat beside her, putting a comforting arm around her shoulders, and reading her book over her. Harry reflected on the fact that this was his first trip to Hogwarts where he felt like he was leaving something behind. He had felt this way on the Express before, but it was always when he was leaving Hogwarts and returning to the Dursleys. He wondered if this was how most Hogwarts students felt, but then again, most of them were leaving parents that they had been with for years. Harry was leaving behind a couple of great people who had helped him a lot over the last few weeks, but it was still only a few weeks. He thought how it must feel for Hermione to leave behind such great parents, pulled her in even tighter.

- ϟϟϟ -

Over the next hour, they passed the time, not doing much. They chatted a little about what they would do back at school, read a little, then chatted some more. They were just thinking of stretching their legs a little when their compartment door slid open. In the doorway stood the three people that neither Harry nor Hermione wanted anything to do with.

"Well if it isn't the precious Potter and his clever cat", in the usual lazy drawl that the pale, blond and smug Draco Malfoy normally used. The two gorillas either side of the teen laughed as if they found Draco's opening line incredibly funny. Although, given that this was Crabbe and Goyle, it was entirely possible that any joke more complicated than a knock-knock joke would fly right over their head.

"Hey Hermione, look! It's the Slytherins own malicious malcontent, here to moan and mouth off", Hermione couldn't help it. She tried not to, but she giggled, loudly. Not at Harry's words, but at the look on the unwelcome guests' face. Crabbe and Goyle just looked confused at the words he'd used, while Draco was furious, his face red with anger and embarrassment. Harry was feeling just a little smug, he knew Malfoy liked to use alliteration in his name calling; he'd done it since Harry's first year. Looking up a bunch of M words to throw back at him was laughably easy.

"Just you wait, Potter. We all know Bellatrix LeStrange is coming for you." Harry had already had his freak out over that little bit of news and was able to keep a straight face. "How is your auntie Bella, Draco? God the DMLE must have loved having an excuse to search your home again. Just how much did they watch you this summer? Did you and daddy not get to play your Death Eater games this summer?" Harry made the last sentence as mocking as he could. He was goading Malfoy. Draco was always trying to get Harry in trouble but if he started now with a teacher so close it would almost be worth it. He almost grinned as Draco drew his wand and pointed at Harry.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you", Hermione spoke up. Harry had a sinking feeling in his stomach, he just knew he was due a lecture about not getting himself killed, and as he thought about it, he also knew she would be right.

"Don't tell me what to do, Mogblood*." It took all of Harry's self control not to stand-up and break Malfoy's nose for that last comment.

"Ok...If you want to start a fight in front of a teacher go right ahead,'' she smirked back at Malfoy.

"Who's that?" Malfoy then noticed the other person in the compartment with them, taking an automatic step backwards as he spotted Lupin.

"The new DADA teacher, obviously," said Harry,

"Let's get out of here, if these brave Gryffindors want to hide behind a Professor's robes let's leave them to it." With that, the three Slytherins left. Harry got up and slid the door closed. Before he could take his seat again Hermione started up at him.

"What was that, Harry!? Why would you provoke him like that, there was no need of it." He guessed Hermione wasn't very happy with his little stunt.

"I'm sorry 'Mione. It seemed like a good idea at the time; Malfoy hexing me in front of a teacher and then he gets a week of detention and maybe expelled, which would keep him away from us for a while", Harry tried to explain what he was thinking to her, but she was having none of it;

"So let me see...if I understand your plan, instead of putting up with his comments for a week, you thought it was a good idea to get yourself hurt and then have to listen to him during classes bragging about hexing you? Sounds like a great plan Harry", even though she wasn't shouting he could see she was more than a little mad. Harry didn't know if Hermione noticed, but her ears and tail responded to her emotions the same as they would on a cat. Right now her tail was very straight, its hair standing on end, whereas her ears were turned back and were lying almost flat against her head.

"But, he would have been focused on me, not you. I can't stand the way he talks to you. It's really hard not to go and wipe that smug smirk off his face." Hermione softened slightly at hearing his reasoning, but nowhere near enough.

"That's not a good enough reason to let yourself get hurt Harry. For one you don't know what he would have hit you with, it could have had real long term damage. Second, think about how you felt when I was hurt by the Basilisk", she waited a few moments for Harry's mind to fill in her question. It felt like someone had stuck a fork in his insides and twirled them around. Just as the pain of that showed on his face Hermione continued, "because that's how I feel when I see you get hurt. Every time I see you get hurt. I can deal with Malfoy's mouth a lot better than seeing you hurt. So don't try something like that again. Ever."

Harry had to admit Hermione had a point. In the moment he hadn't considered it from her perspective and he owed it to her more than anyone to do better. His musings were interrupted by the arrival of the lunch trolley,

"Anything from the trolly dears?" the old, frail witch asked them.

"Um...Professor, do you want to get anything from the lunch trolley?" Hermione asked the sleeping man, who, along with somewhat shabby robes, looked like he could use a few good meals.

Her question woke the Professor and he groggily opened his eyes. As he got his bearings, Harry selected a few things from the trolley for himself and Hermione. If he asked her he knew that she would refuse, just like her parents would want, but he knew that she secretly loved sugar quills so he got her a few. He picked himself some chocolate frogs, grabbed a couple of bottles of pumpkin juice and then a pack of pumpkin pasties that would make a good dessert to go with the lemon chicken salads that Mr Granger had given them for their lunch.

By this time the Professor was awake and eyeing the trolley, "Good afternoon Marine. Got any pumpkin pasties left?" he conversed with the Trolley Witch. Harry and Hermione both felt a little guilty that they never bothered to ask or learn the name of the witch. "Sorry Remus, but this is the last compartment today and I just sold my last pack." Harry looked down at the pack of six sweet pastries in his hand and quickly came to a decision, "there's too much here for just me and Hermione. We have a packed lunch to eat as well so we don't mind sharing professor."

The still sleepy professor looked at him for a few moments before nodding and smiling warmly at him, "Thank you Harry", before turning back to the Trolley witch, asking, "Can I just get a large tea then please?" The witch pulled a steaming mug of tea from one of the hidden shelves and handed it to Professor Lupin, in exchange for a couple of sickles.

Harry was a bit put out by how friendly this stranger was. It was more than a little forward for him to call him Harry before they'd even introduced themselves. Even if most people in the wizarding world knew him by sight. He had a lot of people recognise him over the years, some before he knew he was a wizard himself, one had gone to such lengths as to bow to him in a supermarket. But they had all called him by his full name or Mr Potter until he gave them 'permission' to call him Harry. And there was still something about the man that bugged him and he couldn't figure out why.

Harry pulled out his and Hermione's lunches from his trunk before he sat back down. He had placed his trunk in the well of the compartment so that the three of them could use it as a table. Before Harry could put anything on it, the professor flicked his wand and conjured a table cloth to drape over it, "No point staining the trunk if you can help it", he supplied at the questioning look from Hermione.

"So thanks for waking me up, I missed breakfast this morning. I am Professor Lupin. I will be your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. It's a pleasure to meet you." Harry nodded to the professor, his hands still full of his lunch. "Harry Potter, nice to meet you."

Hermione, whose hands were empty, shook Lupin's hand. "Hermione Granger, also nice to meet you. Sorry, we took over your compartment while you were asleep, we were a bit late this morning and everywhere else was full."

"Don't worry about it", he pulled a small package wrapped in brown paper out of his pocket and set it down next to the tea. Lupin unwrapped his package revealing a few ham and cheese sandwiches. Harry shared out the stuff for him and Hermione as well, and soon the three of them were eating. Well, four if you count the few bits of chicken Crookshanks had persuaded Hermione to part with.

- ϟϟϟ -

The sky was getting dark as the train made its way closer to Hogsmeade. Harry and Hermione were already changed into their school robes after Hermione had kicked him and the professor out of the compartment for a few minutes while she changed, then returning the favour for Harry. Lupin, who didn't need to change, waited outside patiently first with Harry, then Hermione. Now they were just waiting to get up to the castle.

Harry was a little impatient as he was thirsty. He had a cup of tea that morning and a bottle of pumpkin juice with lunch, but now he was regretting not having packed a few bottles of water. With the light inside of the train and the dark outside creating a mirror effect on the window, no one noticed that the train had driven right into a bank of fog. Harry was focused on asking Hermione to remind him to pack a few water bottles next time he took the Express, and he didn't notice the sudden chill that seeped into the cabin as the train continued through the fog.

Suddenly the lights on the train all went out and the brakes started screeching as the metal plates rubbed together, slowing the train right down. "It's too early to be at Hogsmeade yet, right?" Hermione asked as she checked her watch. "And why did all the lights go out? Did we break down?" The chill in the air then turned cold and oppressive, depressing even, and screams could be heard from further down within other carriages. Harry pulled out his wand and was half out of the door before Professor Lupin grabbed the back of his robes, pulling him back into the compartment.

"No! You two will stay here. Don't leave this compartment! I will go and see what's going on", with that the professor left, leaving the two teenagers by themselves in the carriages. Harry and Hermione were a little surprised by this. First, it seemed that they might possibly have a good DADA professor this year. Or at least one who put the students' safety first. Second, it just felt weird that there was a crisis of some type and Harry wasn't the one fixing it.

Harry got back to his feet from the bench the professor had pushed him onto and straightened his robes; he was about to go and follow when Hermione blocked the door, "Harry, no. I know normally it's left to you to fix things, but it's the professor's responsibility now, not yours. If we have a good teacher for a change we should let him deal with it." He hesitated, he knew she was right but every instinct he had was telling him to act.

Before he could make up his mind the door to the compartment slid open and Harry saw the dim outline of two people as they stumbled in, shutting the door behind them. Harry pointed his wand at the two and demanded, "Who's there!?" The voice that came back was comfortingly familiar, "Relax Harry, it's just me and Ginny" It was Neville's voice and Harry instantly felt guilty over pointing his wand at them, "Sorry guys, i was just on edge with all the screams and everything. Come on and sit down." He helped direct them to a clear spot on the bench which was not occupied by Crookshanks or leftover sweets from lunch.

"Do either of you know what's going on? Why were you out there?" Hermione questioned them curiously as she retook her seat. She grabbed one of the pumpkin juice bottles from lunch and cast her blue bottled flames spell in it. The flames weren't very bright but they did fill the cabin with a cold glow that was enough to let them see a little. Harry then floated the bottle in the centre of the compartment in a pale imitation of the floating candles of the Hogwarts great hall.

"Not a clue as to what is happening,'' Ginny answered, "We just bumped into each other coming out of the loo's", Neville nodded at Ginny's explanation and then continued where she left off, "it was already dark when we bumped into each other. This is the first compartment we came to. We were hoping you knew what's up."

While this conversation was happening the temperature dropped even more, despite the heat being given off by the bottle of fire. The breath of the occupants started to mist as it left their mouths. And the condensation on the windows started to freeze. There were sounds of movement outside the compartment. Harry could hear more screaming.

-Depression trigger warning-

The door rattled a little before it slid open, revealing the wall of ice-cold fog that had gathered outside, along with a tall shadow. It was all they could see of whatever it was hiding in the mist. There was a sound as if whatever it was, drew a long, slow, rattling breath, as though it was trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings. Then the cold seemed to be within them, chilling them right down to their magical cores.

It felt like there was no hope.

His chest felt empty, like someone had come along and dug out the space where his heart was, like some paradoy of a demented surgeon with nothing but a blunt spoon, and took out everything except the part of him that knew he was worthless and a danger to everyone around him. The part that knows Hermione is going to get hurt when LeStrange or Voldemort or one of his other followers finally caught up to him. And there was the screaming. He really should try and help the woman who was screaming, but what could he do?

In the end, he was just a worthless freak. a burden to people. nothing he could do would help anyone.

The figure glided out of the freezing fog. It was tall, over seven feet tall. It wore thick black robes that concealed everything about its nature. It drew in another breath and Harry was instantly reminded of the worst nights he sat alone in his cupboard. He had often felt the same then, this hollow, raw feeling telling him that it just didn't matter if he tried or not, that it wasn't going to work anyway. The screaming had gotten worse, louder and she just screamed the words over and over; "No! Please, no!", over and over again. Harry just knew something terrible was about to happen to her. Not that he could do anything to help. Maybe he would join her soon enough.

-trigger warning end-

Suddenly there was a light. It was blindingly bright in the dark train compartment, yet Harry couldn't look away from it. The light filled the space, it even seemed to fill the void in his chest. The light focused on the figure, burning it and hurting. It quickly fled the compartment and then the train.

As Harry's eyes started to adjust, he saw the light and turned his head away. The light was still too bright for him to see what he was looking at, but he could now make out the definite shape of the thing, the man that held up the light. There, stood with his wand held high, was Professor Lupin. The strange light that had driven away the robed figure now showed Lupin's face in high contrast, every line on his face shown as clear as day, making him easy to read. Professor Lupin was angry. Not the, 'you just bumped into me' annoyed, not even 'you just insulted my mother' angry, no, Lupin looked as feral as a wild beast protecting its young. He was most definitely angry, and Harry only hoped his anger was not directed at them, for some reason. An animalistic fury that said he would do anything to protect his students if he thought it necessary, and may Merlin help anything that got in his way.

For the first time that day Harry didn't care that there was something about the man that bugged him. He was just glad the man was there.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 13 

Thursday, 2nd September

After all the excitement, the crowd of students that got off the Express was rather more subdued than normal. The prefects were helping the unsorted first years, even if most of the prefects looked like they wanted help themselves. The normal jovial mood just wasn't there.

"First years! First years over here!" the voice of Hagrid called over the platform, making Harry feel marginally better; if Hagrid was here for the first years just like always, things could start getting back to normal. He called out to the large man and waved "All righ', 'arry, 'ermione. 'Ow was yeh trip?" The two made their way over to Hagrid. Even now after two years, Harry only came up to just under Hagrid's chest. He saw a few of the first years eyeing the groundskeeper, terrified to get closer, so he bit down his reaction to people getting too close and gave Hagrid a side hug. This being out of character from him prompted Hagrid to ask.

"Yeh ok 'arry?" Harry hesitated before answering. Lupin had explained that the creature that had entered the compartment was a dementor, one of the guards of Azkaban. Hagrid had been sent to Azkaban for a few months last year and didn't like to talk about it. But Hagrid would hear about what happened on the train soon anyway, he also needed to watch the first years who were still on edge. But the clincher was he knew Hagrid would rather hear it from him. So he told him of the events that transpired on the train.

A dark look passed over his friend's face. "Dementors on the train, god 'arry! So how about you harry?" He asked, a little loudly so that the first years who were close, but still keeping their distance, could hear, "I needed a hug but I'll be fine." Hagrid, who had now seen the first years watching nodded. "Well I'll see you two up a' the school after I show the first years the way."

Hermione added "I still remember my first time seeing Hogwarts when you took me. It was breathtaking, and the moon was full yesterday, it's a perfect night for it. See you later Hagrid." With that the two joined onto the group of students who were queuing up for one of the horseless carriages to take them up to the school.

Talking with hagrid had put the two at the back of the queue and Harry and Hermione ended up sharing the last coach with an older Slytherin that they had seen around the castle but had never learnt the name of. He was also one of the only Slytherins that gave Harry grief on the run-up to the Gryffindor vs Slytherin quidditch match, which Harry had to admit was part of the game.

Tonight it seemed all three of them were in agreement, they all just wanted to get up to the castle, and after a few unavailable pleasants they all sat in silence on the way up to. Hermione was leaning against Harry, as they were each trying to use the other to ward off the dementors' lingering chill.

The carriage pulled up outside the main entrance about ten minutes later. The older Slytherin got out first. Harry next, he tried to offer Hermione a hand but she ignored it and just jumped down. The two of them tagged onto the stragglers who were still milling up the front steps and through the oversized oak doors.

Harry sighed as he stepped into the entrance hall, its flaming torches, grand marble staircase and glittering crystal hourglasses filled with rubies, sapphires, yellow diamonds and emeralds. Despite how he had come to love the Grangers, this was Harry's first home and Hermione's second. They were back, Harry and Hermione spent a few seconds basking in the feeling of being back when they were interrupted.

"Mr Potter! Miss Granger! I need to speak to you both!" Harry and Hermione turned around, surprised. Professor McGonagall, Transfiguration teacher, Head of Gryffindor house and deputy Headmistress, was standing at the bottom of the grand staircase with Ginny and Neville, calling over the heads of the crowd. She was a stern-looking witch who wore her hair in a tight bun. Harry fought his way through the groups of people cluttering around, slowly making his way, with Hermione just behind him, over to his professor with a feeling of foreboding; Professor McGonagall had a way of making him feel he must have done something wrong. Even if the presence of the four of them made it clear what this was about; "There's no need to look so worried. I just want a word in my office," she told them as she set off up the stairs.

They soon found themselves outside her office as the witch opened it and ushered the four of them in. Professor McGonagall's office was surprisingly small; most teachers' offices at Hogwarts were a little bigger. What it lacked in size however, it more than made up for in comfort and Scottish pride. The room's furniture was comfortable and inviting, almost all of it draped in tartan blankets. The professor had them all sit on the sofa near the warm inviting fire that lit up the room. Once they'd all settled, she began; "Mr...sorry, Professor Lupin sent word that you had an encounter with a particularly zealous dementor on the train. I would like to hear what happened." Her face showed what she thought of dementors attacking her Gryffindor lions, and she didn't like it one bit.

They all took turns explaining what they knew, a bit at a time; how the train had stopped and the lights had flickered out and ceased to work. How they were all in Harry and Hermione's compartment when the door had opened. How the dementor had sucked the hope from the room, how it had then come in with it's rasping breaths and chilling presence, pulling them all more and more into despair. Hermione explained how she found herself reliving the first hour after her potions accident when she was alone, thinking she was going to be expelled and cut off from her friends and family. Neville said he was stuck listening to someone insulting him on repeat. Harry revealed about the woman screaming "No, Please no!", but said he didn't know where it came from. Ginny suffered the worst of it, she said that her mind had taken her back to the Chamber again.

The red-haired girl soon found herself crying into Hermione's shoulder as Hermione wrapped her in one of her amazing hugs. Before they seperated there was a knock at the door, and without waiting for an invitation, Madam Pomfrey bustled in.

"What happened Minerva!?" she asked, seeing the four Gryffindor's on the professor's couch, all looking pale and sick. Hell, one was even crying her eyes out!

"It was a Dementor, Poppy." The medi-witch tuted at this, then started fussing over the students, feeling foreheads and casting diagnostic spells, all while muttering about the 'stupidity of setting Dementors around the school', and how she would bet her wand 'students will be collapsing soon enough'.

Minerva McGonagall sat there, watching with concern as the nurse checked them over once again. It was nasty business dealing with Dementors, and one had to be thoroughly checked if they came into contact with one. "Are they going to be ok, Poppy?"

Madam Pomfrey sat back, relieved that no permanent damage had been dealt to the poor children. She could only guess as to how horrifying it must be to face a Dementor. "They'll need chocolate but they will be fine."

"Madam Pomfrey? We already had some chocolate", Neville broke into the conversation.

"Yeah, Professor Lupin had us eat some on the train", Harry added. He had been quite shaken after the dementor had left, and Professor Lupin had grabbed the chocolate frogs Harry had bought from the lunch trolley and started telling everyone to eat one. At first, he thought that Lupin was just trying to calm them down, but Harry soon felt guilty about wanting to keep his sweets after the older wizard went on to explain that chocolate was one of the best remedies to Dementor exposure.

"Well, it looks like we finally have a Defence Professor who knows his remedies. Will wonders never cease? Normally I would keep you lot from the feast but I sent word to the kitchens and as long as the Dementors are around they will be serving a lot of chocolate desserts. You four are to have a double helping of chocolate something or another."

On hearing this, Ginny grinned and blurted out, "The best medicine ever!" Getting a stifled laugh from the teens ad even a ghost of a smile from Professor McGonagall.

"In that case, we better get down to the feast."

- ϟϟϟ -

"Oh! We missed the sorting." Hermione was disappointed as the six people entered the hall just as Professor Flitwick was levitating away the Sorting Hat and stool. Harry shrugged, "I haven't seen one since we were sorted." The four of them found space at the Gryffindor table near each other. Harry and Hermione were able to find a couple of spots next to each other between Lavender Brown and Dean Thomas. Ron and the twins were opposite them. Meanwhile, Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey made their way up to the staff table.

"Hey Harry, Hermione, how was your summer?" Lavender turned to chat more, but before either of them could answer the Headmaster stood up, and a hush fell over the hall.

Professor Dumbledore seemed to vibrate with barely contained energy, an energy that seemed at odds with his advanced years, his eyes twinkling as he looked over the students. Harry felt a calm wash over him as he watched the Headmaster. He hadn't really felt calm since the Dementors had entered the train compartment. Dumbledore always had that air about him that made you feel as though everything was fine if he was there. He was reportedly the greatest wizard alive, there was no way the Dementors would dare enter the castle while he was watching over it.

"To our new students, I bid you welcome, and to our old hands welcome back." Dumbledore said, his voice easily carrying through the entire hall. "Welcome to another year of learning and magic here at Hogwarts. I have a few announcements to make after our feast, but as one of my announcements is vitally important I wish to address it before we get distracted by the delectable feast the kitchens have prepared for us today." He cleared his throat before continuing;

"As you will all be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently being guarded by a number of the Dementors from the prison Azkaban, they are here on the order of the Ministry of Magic." He paused; Dumbledore did not look happy about the Dementors guarding the school.

"They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds, and while they are there, I must make it plain that nobody and no one is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises – or even Invisibility Cloaks," he added blandly, "It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand such concepts as pleading, excuses or even mercy. I therefore beg each and every one of you to please give them no reason to take note of you. I look to the Prefects, and our new Head Boy and Girl, to make sure that no student runs afoul of the Dementors."

Percy, who was sitting a few seats along from his brothers, puffed out his chest with pride. Harry could see a shiny silver badge with the letter P on it. It looked like Percy had gotten the new Gryffindor prefect position this year.

"Now that that is done, all that's left to say for now is to tuck in."

With that the table all suddenly filled with food. There were roast meats and vegetables, platers of sausages, pork and lamb chops, steak, potatoes cooked as mash, roasted, boiled, baked and even chipped; there were mounds of yorkshire puddings and more. And to Harry's absolute relief, refilling jugs of pumpkin juice. He grabbed one of the jugs and filled his goblet, then emptied his goblet almost as quickly. The sweet juice soothed his dry throat and his thirst at the same time.

After refilling his goblet and returning the jug Harry looked over the food on offer to see what he fancied. He selected some roast beef for himself as he passed Hermione a quarter of roast chicken at her request. He then added chips, garlic mushrooms and onion rings to his plate. Hermione paired her chicken with some roast potatoes and other roast vegetables.

Lavender smiled over at them, "As I was saying beforehand, how has your guys' summer been?"

Harry had just taken a bite to eat, so Hermione answered first, "It was pretty good, Harry spent most of it visiting my place", that left Harry able to choose how much or how little he wanted to tell people.

"And your parents were ok with you having not only a boy, but your boyfriend, over most of the summer? God, mine would flip if I asked to do that." This was from a different person; Lilly Moon, another third year Gryffindor that shared with Hermione and Lavender in the dorms, and who was sitting across from Lavender.

This time Harry felded the response letting Hermione take a bite, "Yeah Hermione's parents are pretty amazing. They put up with me for a month, they have the patience of saints", Harry joked, then asked, "What about you guys?"

Lavender had gotten a new pet; a "beautiful baby bun-bun", who she christened 'binky'. Parvati, who was sitting on the other side of Lavender, had gone to Índia with her family to visit some distant relatives. The Weasleys had spent the summer goofing off, playing quidditch as normal, and miss Moon had spent the summer watching her little brother while her parents worked, as well as studying; her parents weren't happy with her grades.

Harry sympathised with her, recounting how Mrs Granger had made him feel bad about the effort he put in, so he had done all his summer homework twice. To Harry, it all sounded blissfully mundane in a way his life never was.

Soon all the food was replaced by dessert. True to Madam Pomfrey's word, there were a lot of chocolate options available. There was the usual chocolate gateau and chocolate éclairs, but there was also chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream, chocolate coated fruits, even some of the doughnuts where chocolate filled. Those were alongside the regular desserts Hogwarts normally offered at the feasts.

Harry helped himself to a selection of chocolate-covered fruits before offering the bowl to Hermione, who eagerly added some to her plate. She also added some chocolate ice cream which she poured some warm caramel sauce over, while Harry opted for a chocolate-filled doughnut.

After everyone was stuffed and watered, the last morsel of food dissolved off the plates,.,,,,,,,,

leaving them sparkling clean. Dumbledore got to his feet again, "Now that we are no longer distracted by thoughts of food i have a few more announcements to make."

"First, after many years of teaching our care of Magical Creatures professor. Professor Kettleburn has decided that retirement sounds like a good idea and has left to enjoy it with his remaining limbs. So please welcome to the post our very own Rubeus Hagrid. Professor Hagrid has agreed to take on this job as well as his duties as keeper of the keys.

There was a polite applause from most of the students, but there were only a number from every house that were applauding enthusiastically. Ron muttered, "Should have known...who else would set that monster book?" He clapped as enthusiastically as Harry and Hermione. Soon the applause died off and Professor Dumbledore continued.

"We also once again find ourselves in the need of a new Defence Against the Dark Arts instructor, and Professor Remus Lupin has joined us." The enthusiastic applause was a smaller for Lupin, only the four from the dementor encounter were truly enthusiastic. "I also need to remind everyone that the forest at the edge of the grounds is strictly off limits to students, and that there is to be no magic in the corridors. Some of our older students would be advised to remember these rules. Now, you all have classes in the morning so off to bed with you all. First years, your house prefects will show you to your common rooms and dorms. Good night."

Everyone began making their way to the common rooms, Percy calling all the Gryffindors to him. However, Harry, Hermione and Ron headed to the staff table to speak to Hagrid."Congratulations Hagrid!" Hermione squealed with excitement as she threw her arms around him. Well, around a small part of him anyway. "Why didn't you tell us on the platform!?" Harry and Ron both echoed Hermione's congratulations but left off the hugging.

"Thanks, but I'm the who should be thankin' ya. If it weren't for you three clearing me name, I never would be allowed te teach." The large man started to tear up, "Can't believe it...great man, Dumbledore...came straight down to me hut after Professor Kettleburn said he'd had enough...it's what I always wanted..." Hagrid became overcome with happiness and started to use the table cloth as a handkerchief to dry his eyes. The noise Hagrid was making attracted the eye of Professor McGonagall, who sent the three off to bed. As they were going up to bed, Harry looked back, to see McGonagall sitting with Hagrid, her arm halfway around his shoulders and talking to him quietly.

Harry smiled, Hagrid deserved happiness like anyone else.

The three made their way up to the common room. That familiar ease that was once between them was gone, but Ron was being friendly enough that it gave Harry hope that he may just be able to earn his way back with Hermione. And it would be up to her; Ron had really hurt her last year.

Thanks to how well they knew the castle, despite leaving the hall after Percy and the first-years, the three ended up at the fat lady first. It was then that they realised that none of them had the new password. Ron tried last years' but it was in vain. They ended up only having to wait a few minutes before the prefect Weasley showed up with the newly sorted Gryffindors, and a few older students who had just stuck with the group going the same way.

"Yo bro, Wasa password?" Ron called to Percy, purposely at odds with his older brother's more dignified speech pattern.

Percy sighed, too tired to give his brother the lecture he obviously felt Ron deserved. "The password, my dear brother Ronald, is 'Fortuna Major!'" He said the password loud enough to open the portrait. The canvas swung back, revealing the entryway.

They all climbed through the entrance and made their way to the dormitories. Harry and Hermione said their goodnights, then, as the female prefects seemed to have forgotten, she showed the new first-year girls where they would be sleeping, before heading up to her own dorm.

Chapter Text

 

Friday, 3rd September

 

The next morning Hermione woke early as she was too excited to try and go back to sleep. It was weird to have the first day of term on a Friday, but she was hoping to have one of her new classes today. Being awake before the other girls had an advantage; she was able to jump in the shower before the other girls started climbing over each other. She moved Crookshanks, who had settled between her legs in the night trapping her until he was shifted. Then grabbed her wash bag.

“Hey Crooks...” Hermione sounded conspiratorial as she spoke to her cat, “Why don’t you go jump on Harry and wake him up while I take a shower?” He flicked his ear, which she took as an agreement and went to take care of her morning needs.

Twenty minutes later, she was back in her dorm room with her towels wrapped around her, keeping the dripping to a minimum. Lavender and Lily were just waking up Parvati, having joined Hermione in the showers halfway through. Hermione fumbled through her things for her trunk keys, and opened up her mini library. She pulled out one of her new books, ‘A compendium of household charms’; there were a number of drying charms in the book and she was hoping to speed up her morning routine. The fur on her back and tail retained a lot of water and it could be a pain to dry.

 

She found the spell she was looking for and gave it a try. Nothing. But it was normal not to get a spell first time you try it, so she double checked the instructions and tried again. Her left leg was now perfectly dry. Not perfect, but better. The third time was the charm, [the author would like to apologize for this terrible pun] all the water still clinging to her from her shower vanished.

 

The results were mixed, she was dry now, but her hair and fur were frizzy. Well, frizzier than normal. She would have to look into that. She was halfway through getting dressed for the day when crookshanks came storming back into the dorm. He jumped up on his bed because as far as he was concerned it was his, he just let Hermione borrow it. He then curled up in a huff, ignoring everyone. Hermione thought something must have happened, Crooks seemed fine, she just needed to ask Harry what happened. Tights* and shoes on, and she was finished dressing, pocketing her wand.

 

Hermione would have to come back for her books after she got her timetable. She gave Crookshanks a quick scratch behind the ears and made her way down to the common room. Harry was waiting for her, his hair still a little damp from his own shower. The look on his face said that something had happened and that he wasn’t looking forward to telling her. She guessed it had something to do with Crookshanks sulking, but she couldn’t fathom what could have happened. Crookshanks had made a game of waking Harry over the last week once he’d settled into his new family.

 

Harry walked up to her, wrapping his arms around her smaller form and giving her a quick peck, as had become his habit after a week at her place. If Hermione was honest she expected him to stop with other Gryffindors watching. She hugged him back, happy he had gone with Gryffindor’s ‘boldly forward’ mentality.

“Mione, it might be best if we start down to breakfast quickly.” Hermione broke the hug, looking confused into his face, “What’s wrong Harry?”

“I’ll tell you on the way but please, come on.” He started gently guiding her to the portrait. She could have stopped if she wanted, but she decided to trust Harry. They were soon out of the tower and walking along the sixth floor to the grand staircase before Harry stopped and started explaining.

 

“It’s probably best if you keep Crooks out of the boy’s dorm. He woke me up in his way,” Hermione giggled; Crookshanks’ way of waking Harry was to annoy him till he couldn’t sleep any more. Funnily enough, it was his way of waking her up as well.

“This morning he was batting my nose with his tail”, Harry added to his recounting, getting Hermione to smile more, “After he got me up he was waiting for me after my shower, demanding his reward for disturbing my rest. But then Scabbers saw him and bolted. Crookshanks did what any cat who sees a running rat does. He ran after scabbers.”

 

Harry hesitated a few moments before continuing, “‘Mione, before I say more, I want you to think; what you would do if a dog was chasing Crooks?” Hermione thought about it for a few seconds and then realised what Harry was implying. Even though she knew Crookshanks was fine she worried about what Ron had done. She was about to turn and go check on her cat when Harry continued; 

“All Ron did was shoot some sparks at Crookshanks, nothing extreme. He gave Crooks a fright so I took him down to the common room after I finished dressing and calmed him down. Problem is, before I left Ron worked himself up. I’m hoping that if we are in the Great Hall for breakfast in front of the Professors, when he sees you he won’t make a scene.”

 

Hemione thought about it. As much as she wanted to curse Ron for casting on her familiar, she had to admit that Harry was right to ask what she would do to something attacking Crookshanks. With that perspective sparks were reasonable, even if she didn’t feel that way. They continued on their journey down to the Great Hall, and Harry directed them to sit closer to the staff table, obviously hoping to prevent a confrontation between her and Ron.

Harry picked up her plate and began adding one of her favourite breakfasts since her potions mishap. Whole wheat toast, two poached eggs, and a kipper. “Need a good breakfast on the first day back,” he smiled at her as he got himself an identical plate, before sitting next to her. They began eating and chatting about what lessons they may have that day.

“So...think we will have a new class today?” asked Harry. Hermione considered it for a second, “Probably. We will have more than one lesson for each subject so we should have some every day.” Harry nodded his agreement. He was just about to continue when Ron entered the hall.

 

Ron was glaring directly at her. She suspected Harry’s plan to avoid a fight till Ron had a chance to cool down was about to fall apart. Ron came storming over to the two of them, choose a spot on the opposite side of the table, placing his hands on the table to support himself. He then began aggressively leaning over the Gryffindor table, all the time glaring at Hermione, “You need to get rid of that monster of yours! It tried to eat Scabbers.”

Hermione wasn’t sure how to answer. She wasn’t getting rid of her baby but she knew Ron was upset, “Ron, please calm down. I’m sorry. I’ll keep Crookshanks out of the boys’ dorms.” She answered back politely and kindly. She even promised to keep her cat from going into his bedroom. Surely that was enough?

 

It wasn’t enough; “Not good enough at all. Get. it. Out. Out of the castle! Or I swear I will.”

That was too much for Hermione. Yes, she understood Ron was upset, but that was no excuse for threatening her familiar, “You bloody dare Ronald, and I will curse you into next year!” She was standing now as well. She wasn’t going to let him threaten her Crookshanks like that.

“What’s going on here!” It seemed that Harry’s plan had been half successful. While sitting there hadn’t stopped Ron from starting a full-blown argument over the table, it had lead to Professor McGonagall quickly coming to see what was happening.

 

“The damn monster tried to eat my pet rat!” A group of Slytherins, that included Malfoy, had walked in just in time to hear Ron's announcement. They all started laughing hysterically. Hermione went a little red but focused on what was important, stopping Ron from hurting Crookshanks. 

“My cat is not a monster,” Professor McGonagall relaxed a little; she seemed to have taken Ron’s sentence the wrong way as well, she just had a better poker face, “I already apologized and said I would keep him out of the boys’ dorm. There was no need for you to threaten him!”

“That cat is a menace. You need to send it home. Scabbers was at Hogwarts first.”

 

“OK, THAT’S ENOUGH! Mr Weasley, let me remind you that cats are on the approved pet list at Hogwarts. Rats are not. Because, cats and owls both hunt rats. Bringing a rat to Hogwarts is the height of folly. Now enough of this nonsense, Miss Granger has given her word, she will do what she can. Now make yourself useful and hand these out.” She handed Ron a stack of timetables and returned to the staff table.

Ron grumbled but started handing out the timetables. He handed over Harry’s and Hermione’s then walked away, still grumbling. Hermione looked at her timetable, “Not a great morning; double Potions first thing and History of Magic. But, Ancient Runes, double Transfiguration and double Charms after that”, she then returned to her breakfast.

 

“Same for today”, Harry said as he arranged the food on his plate to his liking, “But I seem to have two free periods; one first thing Tuesday morning and one thursday morning? I also have a note to see Professor McGonagall. Why didn’t she talk to me just now?”

Hermione took an educated guess at the reason, “You only took two extra subjects. The free period is probably where the third would go. Professor McGonagall probably wants to talk to you about using your extra free time.”

Harry nodded along with her explanation, “That makes sense... I wonder what my options are?”

“I’m not sure, but I would guess you could pick up another class or maybe study to retake your Latin exam. You really did terribly in it.”

“Gah! No please, anything but more Latin. I like professor Babbling and I’m looking forward to Runes.” He glanced at the staff table then went quiet, “you know, Latin was the only subject with a good teacher I failed. Binns just drones on and on, and Snape is...well, Snape. I bet if someone else did the marking I would have passed Potions.”

Professor Binns and Professor Snape, Harry.”

They finished up their breakfast. “Come on we need to get our books.”

“Yay, five floors up to the common room, then two more to the dorms, just to come all the way back down.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry and Hermione arrived outside the potion dungeon with five minutes to spare. This left them alone with about half of the slytherins who had much less distances to travel to retrieve their books.

“Hey, Mogblood! What's this about you trying to eat rats now?” Malfoy sneered in his regular mocking drawl. Normally, Hermione would have ignored it but this was an opportunity to set the record straight.

“My half-Kneazle tried to eat Ron's rat, not me.”

“Yep, your Kneazle-half tried to eat a rat. Does a scabby rat make your mog mouth water?” The blond Slytherin burst out laughing, as did his contingent of supporters. Harry wasn’t going to let him keep talking to his girlfriend like this.

 

“Hey, Malfoy, why don’t you shut your gob before I stuff a rat in it and shut you up”, suddenly the laughter on Draco’s face was gone. And it was replaced by a look of pure fury.

“Think you're the big man, do you Potter? Sticking up for your pet?” 

Hermione whispered in his ear, “Harry just leave it. He’s not worth it.”

Harry looked at her, “No he’s not, but you are.” Hermione leaned against him, her arms too full of her bag and potion ingredients to give him her normal hug. The other Gryffindors and Slytherins started to show up.

 

Draco scoffed at them, “you think that half-breed Mudblood is better than me?”

Harry pretended to think about it for a few seconds, “Let’s see...on one hand we have a big mouth who runs to daddy everytime something doesn't go his way...” even a few of the Slytherins behind Draco smiled at that, “then on the other hand, I have an amazing witch who is smart, strong and also really cute. And you ask if I value her more than you. I value Ron’s rat more than you.” A few of the Gryffindors laughed until Snape opened the door to the classroom, killing all the laughter with his mere presence.

 

“Get in before I need to dock house points.” All the students began filing into the room. Hermione pulled him to the middle station in the front row. Where he would be right under Snape's nose.

“Let’s not sit right up front ‘Mione”, he tried to get her to move but Hermione refused to budge, “No Harry. With your eyes you need to be close to the board.” he sighed; he knew she was right but that didn’t mean he had to like it.

 

Snape stood at the front of the class. His voice barely above a whisper, carrying through the silent classroom easily, “Before we begin, pass your summer homework to the front. Any student who hasn’t done it will be spending the weekend here mincing fresh flubber worms.” There was a shuffle of papers as people passed their work forward. Tracey Davis passed Harry the papers from the stations behind him. He added his and Hermione’s homework and took the stack to Snape's desk.

 

Snape waved his wand and a piece of chalk jumped to life and wrote a recipe on the blackboard. “We will be seeing if the summer destroyed what little brains you lot have. You’ll be attempting to brew a shrinking solution.” It was a nasty potion for their first lesson after the holidays, but that was just the type of thing Snape did.

Harry checked the ingredients; daisy roots, caterpillars, leech juice and Wormwood were in their potion kits, but they would need rat spleen, Shrivelfig and cowbane. These would be in the store cupboard. Harry set up his tools first and set his cauldron of water over a low heat before he went to get the extra ingredients from the student stores. 

 

Thirty minutes later Harry was adding his sliced caterpillars infused with leech juice to his unfinished potion, when Snape called out, “Potter, Detention.” It took Harry a few seconds for His brain to catch up to what Snape had said. Then he protested.

“What!? Why!? I am standing here doing my work. What could I possibly have done?”

Snape sneered at him, “If you recall, I said at the start of the lesson that anyone who didn’t do their summer homework would be spending the weekend working for me. Surely your memory isn’t that short Potter?”

 

“But I did do the homework. And I handed it in. I can see it on your desk, you just read it.”

“I said you need to do your homework, I don't know who did it for you, though I have my suspicions.” He glared at Hermione, “But, you didn’t do this work, so detention.”

“But I did it.”

Hermione tried to help, “He really did profes-” Snape cut her off, “I do not recall asking you to speak Miss Granger”, he sneered at her, before turning his unruly attention back to Harry, “So...Mr Potter, you will be spending the weekend milking flobberworms. Without your protective gloves.”

 

“But I did the work.”

“Ten points from Gryffindor for lying to a teacher.”

“I’m not l-” there was a sound behind Harry, who turned back around to see that his cauldron was boiling over and flinging hot blobs of potion around. He was about to kill the flame when he heard Snape behind him; “Evanesco”, and his potion was gone. 

“Looks like a T for today's lesson as well. Most disappointing, I expect more from my owl students.”

 

Harry was angry. He hadn’t felt like this since his birthday and Aunt Marge. Harry wanted to throw his Cauldron at Snape; that potion was perfectly salvageable. A little lrish spring water and mint would have undone the effect of overheating and Snape knew that. But there was nothing Harry could do, so he just sat back at his station and cleared up his potion kit.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry and Hermione were just leaving Runes. Their first Runes lesson had been really interesting professor Babbling, had given them a lecture on the uses of Runes in the magical world. It was absolutely fascinating; Harry hadn't realised just how much Runes could be used for. They were now on their way to Transfiguration, which luckily was only one floor down. They were soon in the Transfiguration classroom waiting for other students who hasn't arrived yet, if Harry recalled correctly, Ron and some of the others had Divination up in one of the two towers, and it would take them a few more minutes to arrive.

 

Hermione once again sat Harry at the front of the class where his poor vision would be less of a problem. The rest of the students began to filter in; Ron, Neville, Lavender and Parvati had all opted for Divination. There was also the odd Ravenclaw were in divination with them class with them, although there had been more of the claws in runes with him and Hermione.

 

All the divination students were staring at Neville and Harry as they walked in. Neville kept his face down, looking dejected. Harry wondered what in the world happened in Divination. The students took their seats waiting for Professor McGonagall to begin her lesson. Her lecture on animagi was interesting enough to put Harry's concerns right out of his head, at least until Professor McGonagall demonstrated her own animagus transformation. Right before Harry’s eyes, she transformed herself into a grey tabby cat with spectacle markings reminiscent of her glasses. While the students who had been in Runes all clapped at this, the students who had been in Divination did not. Professor McGonagall found this quite unusual.

 

“Ok, what's up with this class today? Not that it matters, but that is the first time my cat transfiguration has failed to get an applause from a whole class.” It was Lavender who replied, “Professor, we just had our first Divination lesson and…”

“Ah...I understand. So which of my students is dying this year?” The whole class looked at her in surprise. Eventually Neville raised his hand and said, “M-me, Professor...well, both Harry and I.” Harry Potter’s blood turned cold. The Divination teacher had predicted his death, his and Neville's death. When Harry had been looking into what subjects to take this year, he had been considering Divination and had looked up the professor. She was apparently descended from a celebrated  seer. While the subject as a whole might be useless to anyone without the sight, if anyone had the sight it was probably a descendant of Cassandra Trelawney. To hear that such a person had predicted his death made Harry felt as if his insides had suddenly taking a trip somewhere else.

 

Professor McGonagall started muttering quietly to herself, too quiet for any of the students to hear, and then said out loud, “ Mr Potter, Mr Longbottom, I should inform you that Sybil Trelawney has predicted the death of one student every year since her first class here, over 10 years ago. Every single one of those students is still very much alive”, she gave each Harry and Neville a look before continuing, “Divination is probably the most imprecise branch of magic that currently exists. While true prophecies do exist, they are rare. And, I am unaware of any that Professor Trelawney has made”, Her voice took on a slightly stressed tone at the word ‘Professor’.

 

“Mr Longbottom and Mr Potter, you both look perfectly healthy, so no getting out of your homework, and Mr Potter, no getting out of Quidditch practice either. I would really like to win the Quidditch cup this year.” That relaxed Harry; if Professor McGonagall was joking about Quidditch, there was no way anything serious was going to happen. The rest of the class laughed, Professor McGonagall’s love of quidditch was rather legendary and the only time she ever showed any favoritism to Gryffindor.

 

 The lesson continued on as a lecture on human transfiguration, a devilishly difficult aspect of transfiguration that they were only studying the theory of this year. They were just packing up, getting ready to go to lunch, when Professor McGonagall spoke up, ”Mr Potter, I would like to see you for a few minutes after the lesson please.”

“Yes Professor.” Harry assumed this was about the note that he had that morning on his timetable. The rest of the class packed up and made their way to lunch though Hermione was dawdling, intending to wait for Harry. Once everyone but Hermione had left, Professor McGonagall began to speak, “Mr Potter, I have two things to talk to you about. Firstly, I've had a number of complaints during morning break this morning about what happened in Professor Snape's class. Can you please tell me what happened in your own words?”

 

Harry hesitated for a few moments, before recounting his side of what happened, “I had no idea what was going on. I handed in my summer homework, just like I did in your lesson, but for some reason Professor Snape refused to believe that I had done my own work and gave me detention all weekend. And when I tried to say that it was my work he just started taking points from Gryffindor. Then while I tried to convince him it was my work my potion bubbled over, and even though it was saveable, Snape just vanished it and gave me a T.”

“Its professor Snape, Mr Potter.”

“Sorry professor.”

“Do you have any idea why Professor Snape thought someone else did your homework?”

“Not a clue professor. And I worked really hard on it this year.”

“You worked harder this summer?”

Hermione broke into the conversion, “Professor if I may?” At a nod from her Head of House she continued, “Professor, Harry spent this summer at my house. After his grades came my mother gave him a ‘pep talk’. He was then motivated to redo all of his summer homework. He put a lot of effort into it.” 

 

Professor McGonagall considered that, then went to her desk and flipped through the stack of homework that had been handed in that lesson and extracted one of them, presumably Harry’s. She began reading his homework and soon her eyes were growing wide, “This is a lot better than your normal work, Mr Potter. You barely scraped an ‘Exceeds Expectations’ in last years end of year exams. This here might just be worth an Outstanding. Harry, can you name me three of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration?”

Harry shrugged and answered easily enough, “food, transition metals and plants with magical properties.”

 

Professor McGonagall nodded, “Excellent, Harry! I will have a word with Professor Snape and see if I can get him to rescind the detention and the points as you were obviously not lying.”

Harry sighed a breath of relief; he really wasn't looking forward to spending two days milking flobberworms. The dried flobberworm mucus was extremely difficult to get out of your fingernails and clothes. “Thank you Professor.”

“I also wanted to talk to you about the free time in your timetable. How do you intend to use it?”

“Honestly Professor, I don’t know. What are my options? None of the other classes interest me that much. My math skills are OK, but not really good enough for Arithmancy. I don’t have the sight, so Divination wouldn’t do me any good. And I was raised in the muggle world; I know how to do all the muggle stuff. I kinda wish there was a wizards studies class.”

 

“You're not the first student to ask for such a class, many of the muggleborn students throughout the years have felt such a class would be useful, unfortunately Professor Dumbledore is, for some reason, set against the idea. Your other options are to study to retake one exam of one of your dropped subjects, your Latin was particularly bad, or for you to submit to me an idea for a personal project.”

Harry had never heard of this before, “A personal project? What sort of project would be allowed?”

“There is wide scope on such projects, one student who was attending Hogwarts used her project to invent the sneakoscope, for example. You have until the 1st of october to decide how you will use your time. That's exactly 4 weeks. Don't forget that I need to approve your project. Now off to lunch both of you, I need to talk to Severus.”

The two began making their way to lunch, a comfortable silence between them. Hermione wondered just who had complained about Snape, while Harry was wondering what he could do as a personal study project. He really didn’t want to be stuck retaking Latin. Snape's detention milking flobberworms seemed more appealing...or would, if he didn’t have to deal with Snape during a detention like that.

 

--- ϟϟϟ---

 

Saturday, 4th September

 

Harry was walking around the school looking for ideas; he had two projects in mind. Hermione was doing Arithmancy homework, which gave Harry a bit of time to think on his projects. The first one was for the free time in his schedule. The second one, the reason he took advantage of his alone time from Hermione's homework, was for her birthday. It was in fifteen days and was the first birthday she would have since they become a couple. He knew he didn’t have to worry about a present as he had gotten her trunk for her, but he felt he should still get her something small to give her on the day.

 

That was easy enough; a few sugar quills, just to have something to give her. Any more than that and he was sure ‘Mione would get angry at him ‘wasting’ his gold. The problem was he wanted to do something, but the only thing that came to mind was a party, which didn’t feel right. Hermione wasn’t the type to enjoy big parties. Harry was just taking a walk around the castle when he saw a red haired plait that was commonly worn by one of his classmates. He had been meaning to talk to her and jogged after her.

 

“Hey Susan! Wait up a sec!”

The redhead stopped and looked around, seeing Harry jogging up to her. He saw her hesitate for a second before stealing her nerves. Noticing she was a little nervous, Harry stopped about ten feet from her before he started talking;

“Hey Susan, you got a minute?” Harry tried to look as least intimidating as possible.

  Susan still looked skittish, but she nodded, “Your finally gonna have a go at me for saying you attacked Justin last year?”

 

Harry then realised why Susan was nervous. Luckily, her fears were in vain, “Nope.” She looked surprised, so Harry elaborated, “I mean, yeah, i’m still a little pissed that everyone thought I had problems with muggleborns, even after I started dating Hermione.” Harry took a calming breath; if he kept talking about that, this would turn in to the conversation Susan was worried about and Harry wouldn't get the information he wanted, “Sorry. No, I wanted to talk about someone I think may be family of yours; Amelia Bones, director of DMLE?”

Susan’s demeanor changed instantly. “Why won’t you people leave her alone!? My aunt is not the latest bit of gossip for your entertainment!” Susan turned and started to storm off angrily.

“Susan, wait!” Harry went after her.

“Piss off Harry!”

 

He was a little angry now. All he wanted was to ask after Director Bones; she had helped him a lot over the summer and Harry was worried about her, and here Susan was, accusing him of gossiping about people. Something she had spent most of last year doing about him , “Yeah, do me a favour and remember that next time I’m the center of those rumours!” He called after her, causing her to flinch and stop walking away. But he wasn’t done, “Oh, and I met your aunt over the summer. She is helping me with something. I only found out she was attacked a few days ago and wanted to know if she was Ok.” Harry then turned and started walking away himself.

 

“Harry, wait!” Susan called Harry considered just continuing to walk off for a second but stopped. 

“I'm sorry...your right. That is how I treated you last year. Did you really meet aunty over the summer?” Harry turned back to her and nodded, “I...I did some accidental magic over the summer. It...revealed a few things. Director Bones was helping to sort stuff out. She was really good about everything. I hope she is going to be OK. The idea that someone could just attack your memories like that...” Harry shuddered at the thought.

 

Susan shuddered as well before replying, “Yeah, I'm not sure what I would do if I found someone had altered my memories. Aunty is a little shaken by everything but she is tough. She won't let this stop her. They don’t think too much of her memory was altered, so that's a relief. They are planning to have her back at her job by Halloween.” 

 

The two chatted for a little longer as they walked down the corridor they were in, before going their separate ways.

 

Author’s Notes:

 

Tights*- in the UK tights are what Americans refer to as “pantyhose”. What Americans call “tights” Brits call “leggings”.

 

Chapter Text

 

Sunday 12th September

Hedwig was really enjoying finally getting to stretch her wings on a good long flight. Last weekend, being so close to the start of term, Hermione hadn't needed to send a letter home, but this week there was one. Hedwig liked taking mail to the Grangers, they were always so happy to receive the mail and it was always very easy to charm a little bit of Bacon off Mrs Granger, if there was any for breakfast. And there normally was on a Sunday.

She was flying over Hampstead Heath, coming from the north. it wasn't the shortest route but she was sure the air currents made it faster this time. She could see the Grangers' household now. There was a kitchen window open waiting for her. She had grown accustomed to the Grangers' home over the summer, so she was able to fly straight in.

She found her perch waiting for her and the smell of Mrs Granger cooking bacon. She gave of a polite little hoot to tell Mrs Granger she was here.

"Good morning Hedwig, you brought Hermione's weekly letter?" Hedwig hooted while nodding her head.

"Thank you. I won't ask if you want some bacon, because I already know the answer." She added two more pieces of bacon to her pan as she spoke, then filled a bowl with water and set it where Hedwig could easily reach.

Hedwig nipped Mrs Granger's finger affectionately and held out Hermione's letter. Mrs Granger untied the letter. Hedwig always insisted on finishing her job before having food or water. She still had a job to do. Freed of her burden, Hedwig took a long drink. Mrs Granger set a bowl of cut bits of bacon next to the bowl of water, and soon the owl was feasting on her favourite 'invention' of humans.

Mrs Granger sat down at the dining room table with Hermione's unopened envelope in hand. Unfortunately, Dan wasn't home as he was due to work early, meaning she would be left to read it alone. Usually, they both sat together on the sofa, reading the magical antics their daughter got up to, and having a laugh or two at her expense. While they didn't necessarily understand the wizarding world, they could grasp what Hermione usually meant.

She looked at the immaculate writing littering the front of the yellow envelope. It was very different from Harry's. His was more of a...scrawl. She smiled as she remembered the note she'd gotten from Harry only yesterday…

--- ϟϟϟ ---

It was early in the morning, and Emma Granger was cleaning while Dan Granger sat at the table, eating breakfast. They were going to go to work soon, and since they decided to wake a little later than usual, they were a little rushed.

As her husband spilt yet another round of crumbs onto the table, Emma flicked some cold water at his exposed neck and back;

"I'd thank you for not ruining my clean kitchen, which if I remember, we're both meant to be cleaning?" Dan looked up at her a little sheepishly, "Sorry love, I'm just a little tired." She scoffed at him, "what, with an extra 45 minutes of sleep and two cups of coffee!? You go upstairs right now and get ready mister, or there will be hell to pay!"

He grumbled as he meandered his way up to their room, grumbling about overbearing wives. "I heard that!" Emma yelled after him. His speed increased exponentially as the thought of making his wife angry fueled him with new-found wakefulness.

Emma turned back to the last of the dishes, grumbling herself about 'lazy ass' husbands, when there was a sharp tap at the window. She looked up, and was confused to see Harry's owl bearing a letter on her leg. She opened the window for Hedwig, allowing the owl to settle a little before approaching it.

Hermione never sent letters on a Saturday. What if something had happened?

She began panicking a little, but managed to calm herself enough to take the letter from Hedwig's leg, giving the owl some water from the bowl she kept for her. Hedwig looked at her expectantly, awaiting her bacon. "Sorry, Hedwig, but I've just finished breakfast, so there's nothing to give you." Hedwig hooted, before settling on the back of a chair. Her perch was still up in the guest room.

Emma sat down at the table, a sickening anticipation filling her stomach. She was nervous to read the letter, but was also immensely curious. She steeled herself as she ripped open the top of the envelope, taking out the single sheet of parchment. She then laughed in relief at the contents of the letter;

Dear Mr & Mrs Granger,

With Hermione's birthday coming up I was hoping I could ask you for a little help.

I was wondering if you had any ideas how to celebrate her birthday in a way she would enjoy. The only thing I can think of is a party in the common room but I know Hermione isn't a big fan of them.

I also wondered if you wanted Hedwig to stop by on the 18th so you could send Hermione a card or something?

Hope your well,

Harry

- ϟϟϟ -

Today's letter from Hermione was a lot longer;

Dear mum and dad;

How was your week? Anything interesting happen? Sorry I didn't write last weekend but we were still home most of the week so there wasn't much to write about. Unlike now. 

My week has been a bit of a roller coaster. It started on the train to Hogwarts; as you know, we were running a little late. This meant only one cabin was free, which also happened to have our new defence against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin, who is such an amazing teacher, more on that later. It was a fairly eventful trip, at first it was only Malfoy poking his head in our compartment to insult me and Harry, like he does every trip. He even came up with a new insult for me: " mogblood",  someone really needs to teach the ferret some manners.

However, the most fascinating part of the trip was when the guards of Azkaban (you know the wizard prison?) turned up to search the train for Bellatrix LeStrange. They're called Dementors, and my god they are creepy. Remind me never to break wizarding law; I definitely don't want to go to prison, especially if they're the prison guards. Not that I want to break the law to begin with.

The Hogwarts feast was amazing this year, one of the desserts they had was some really nice chocolate ice cream and there was some warm caramel sauce and you know how much I like chocolate and caramel swirl ice cream. And Dad stop the grumbling I know you're doing, we won't have desserts that sugary again until Halloween.

The first day of classes were also rather eventful. Our first lesson was potions with Professor Snape. He refused to believe Harry had actually done his homework when he handed it in. He accused me of doing it for him; as if I would ever! So Professor Snape took points from Harry and gave him a weekend detention and Harry was angry about that. You saw how much work he put into that essay.

We also had our first Runes class that day. Professor Babbling gave us a great lecture on how Runes are used to anchor spells and magic to an object or location. It's what happened in Transfiguration that was interesting, apparently, someone had told Professor McGonagall about Harry's detention and after class, she asked Harry what happened.

McGonagall, after checking Harry's transfiguration homework and seeing that he'd put more effort into it this time, reversed Professor Snape's detention and the points loss. Harry was quite happy about that, though it wasn't surprising; Snape's detention would have been milking Flobberworms. Flobberworm mucus is useful in potions, but milking the giant slug-like creatures is not pleasant.

Professor McGonagall also informed Harry that as he has a free spot in his timetable he has to find something to fill it. I tried to push for him to retake his Latin exam but neither me nor professor McGonagall could convince him to do that, I guess Harry really doesn't like Latin. He has till the 1st of October to decide what he's going to do. I think he might be looking into doing some type of Runes project.

Apparently, the headband he made me, Professor Babbling helped him do the Runes needed for it. I think Harry is interested in some type of applied Runes project in his free time, he keeps going for walks to think about it.

Our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Lupin, seems to be a really good teacher. In Our first lesson he taught us how to deal with a creature called a Boggart, which is a shape-changing creature that feeds on fear, or more precisely, the psychic energy produced by humans when they are afraid. A Boggart changes its form into whatever it thinks would scare you the most. The charm to fight them uses their own shape-shifting against them, it tricks them into a shape we find funny.

It was a great lesson. Professor Lupin had Neville help him demonstrate. The Boggart turned into Professor Snape, but the charm changed the Boggart into Snape wearing Madam Longbottom's clothes, even her hat! You remember the one she was wearing in Diagon Alley when we went to get mine and Harry's school supplies? I'm not sure what to make of Neville's biggest fear being one of his teachers. Shouldn't your teacher be the people you feel you can ask for help if you need to?

I'm glad Professor Lupin didn't let Harry tackle the boggart. The Professor thought for Harry it would turn into Voldemort, you remember the man who killed Harry's parents? But I think it would most likely turn into his uncle, and I'm not sure Harry would cope too well with the whole school knowing about that.

I'm loving Arithmancy. We are breaking down the mathematics of the magic behind spells and it's super interesting. But it's hard to describe...like trying to explain red to a blind person. If you can't feel magic it's not something I can explain.

Care of Magical Creatures was an event. The old Professor retired and Hagrid is now teaching the class. He is a really good teacher, I was surprised how good he was at teaching us. His first lesson was on a creature called a Hippogriff, it's these half-horse, half-eagle things that look really amazing. Harry even got to fly on one. Hagrid was doing a really amazing job teaching, he really knows his Magical Creatures. He was telling us about how hippogriffs are extremely proud animals and how the one thing you should never do is insult one. Then Malfoy walks right up to the one Harry flew on and called it an "ugly brute"...well he ended up in the hospital wing with a gash in his arm. It would be a serious injury without magic. Of course Madam Pomfrey fixed him right up in minutes. But he is faking that it still hurts for sympathy. I know he is faking it, because if it still hurt the amount he said it did, Madam Pomfrey would be giving him potions for the pain.

Harry thinks Malfoy is up to something. But then again, Harry always thinks Malfoy is up to something. Though, Harry has been right about that a few times, so I'm not sure what to think.

I'm glad Harry and I didn't take Divination. Apparently the Professor is not very good. According to Professor McGonagall, she predicts the death of a student at the start of each year, and so far every single one is still alive. To make it worse, this year she picked two. Harry and Neville. With Bellatrix Lestrange running free, that's a horrible thing to do. Harry doesn't have to deal with it too much, but Neville took Divination and has to listen to the Professor say that stuff three days a week. I can see that it's upsetting him. I tried reminding him that Professor McGonagall said that not one person Trelawney predicted would die ever has, but I think he was already worried about LeStrange attacking him and this is just making things worse.

Harry and I are doing great. I know it sounds weird given everything going on but it's great being back at Hogwarts. Harry always said arriving at Hogwarts is like "coming home" and it's not quite but I know what he means. Now I think about it he hasn't said it this year. I wonder why?

Hope everything is good at home.

With Love,

Hermione

Mrs Granger set the letter down after reading it twice. She considered Hermione's last question first and smiled; her daughter was brilliant but she could sometimes miss the obvious.

- ϟϟϟ -

Mr Granger was currently in a little bakery, he had skipped breakfast this morning to have enough time to drive to Surrey for a meeting. When he arrived at the nine-story building s solid 35 minutes early, he was relieved to see this nice little bakery directly across the road. He ordered a corned beef pasty* and struck up a conversation with the baker;

"So, you know anything about the business across the road?"

"Oh, you mean Grunnings?" Mr Granger nodded as he fished around in his pocket for change, "A lot of them come in for lunch most days. Generally good people."

He handed the baker a stack of silver coins that covered the bill, "what about their CEO Mr Dursley? I have a meeting with him soon."

"You mean Vernon? He's in here most days too, one of my biggest customers. You'll understand that when you meet him. He's always bragging about the boarding school his kid goes to."

Mr Granger considered that for a moment he was talking about Harry, but soon realised that was foolish. Did Harry's cousin also go to boarding school? "He sends his boy to a boarding school?"

The baker handed him his breakfast, "Yep. Smeltings...if I remember the name right. He was complaining just last week about them putting up the tuition fee again." Mr Granger thanked the baker and began making his way over to the Grunnings facility, eating his pasty as he went and being careful to avoid getting the flaky pastry all over himself. He needed to put his best foot forward for now.

He checked his appearance, then walked through the door. The reception desk was staffed by a young woman who looked fresh out of school. "Good morning sir, how can I help you today?"

"Good morning miss..." he checked her nametag, "Davies...I have a 10 o'clock appointment with Mr Dursley."

Suddenly the receptionist's smile became rather forced, "yes sir, I will just call him up and tell him you have arrived. Can I please have your name?"

"Doctor Daniel Granger." If he wasn't looking for things to use against Dursley, he was doubtful he would have seen the slight hesitation in the receptionist's hands before she picked up the phone. Miss Davies was perfectly happy until she heard she had to phone her boss, Dursley. Mr Granger could hear him on the phone, degrading the poor girl for interrupting him. It was going to be hard keeping his temper today.

- ϟϟϟ -

Mr Granger climbed back into his car and drove away from the industrial estate in the south side of Surrey. He drove for ten minutes before pulling over. There, he finally dropped his poker face. For a few minutes, he was nothing but rage, anger and tears. He seen it in every member of staff who he was introduced to; they were all wary of Dursley. It was clear by the end of their meeting that Dursley was the type of boss who ruled with fear, constantly yelling at people who get even the slightest thing wrong. The type that was hell to work for.

In contrast to that was how he treated Mr Granger when he met him. The man definitely knew how to be nice. All the fake niceties had made Dr Granger sick with anger, especially considering he knew what the man had done to Harry; it was obvious how the man treated anyone he saw as beneath him.

But the trip had some worth to it. The business was secure, but Dursley's position wasn't. There were small clues all over, if you knew where to look. Dursley didn't own the company like he claimed, though he owned a lot of the stock. But, the other shareholders were not happy with him. It was the only thing that fit everything he'd seen. He wished he could see more of their records, but all he saw were the few papers left on Dursley's desk while said person had popped to the loo.

Dr Granger restarted his car after he had regained his composure, starting on the journey home. He really wanted some time with his wife right now. He had just reached the outskirts of London when he started chuckling to himself. The baker was right; Dursley was definitely his biggest customer.

 

Chapter Text

 




Chapter 16 - Happy Birthday Hermione 

16th September

 

Harry had just left the common room when he saw him.

“Hey Wood! Wait up!” Harry caught up to his Quidditch captain. Wood had sent word with the twins about the first Quidditch practice of the year and Harry needed to talk to him about it.

“Hey, Potter, what's up? Did the twins get to you about our practice this Sunday?”

“Yeah, that's what I need to talk to you about. I'm afraid I won't be able to make it Sunday. I already have plans.” Harry hoped Wood would be OK with this, but he doubted it. He knew his captain could be a little obsessive about Quidditch.

 

“Or you could just change them, Potter. I want us ready this year.”

“Can't reschedule this one, sorry.” He really couldn’t. Birthdays came on specific dates. 

“You're normally better than this Harry...what is important enough to miss our first practice of the year? You know this is my last year my last chance to win the Cup. This is my last year at Hogwarts.”

“Sorry Oliver, but it's Hermione's birthday. I want to win the cup as well, but Hermione deserves this from me.” 

Oliver smiled at Harry, nodding understandingly, “You better be at the next scheduled practice with bells on, we can only practice once without our seeker.” 

Harry relaxed, smiling widely back at him, “ Thanks Wood.”

 

Harry had been getting everything ready for Hermione for days. It wasn’t easy; he had to keep ditching his girlfriend to do something for his her. He told her he was still pondering his personal project. He was doing that as well, just not as much as sorting out Hermione’s big day.

There were a few elements he needed to bring together before Sunday.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Sunday 19th September - Hermione's birthday

 

Harry woke up early due to the vibrating pillow under his head. If you did the spell right it happened at about six in the morning. He had to get up quickly if he wanted to make sure everything was ready for Hermione. He threw on some of his nicer clothes that they had picked up in London in the holidays. He looked through his trunk and found Hermione’s present. It was already wrapped and ready to go. He also grabbed today's entertainment and made his way down to the common room.

 

Angelina and Alicia were already in the common room waiting in their quidditch robes with brooms swung over their shoulders. Angelina spotted Harry first as he entered the room, “Hey, Harry's up. Wait...what are you wearing? You look good, but you can't practice Quidditch dressed like that.”

Great , Harry thought, Wood hadn’t told them.

“Sorry guys I'm not flying today”, both of them looked surprised; missing one of Wood’s practice sessions was pretty much non-optional, “I already had plans before Wood called the practice,” Harry explained, trying not to go into too much detail. He was sure his teammates would tease him if they knew and he didn’t have time if he wanted everything to be set up before Hermione came down from the dorms.

 

It was then that Alicia spotted the wrapped present and bag Harry was carrying. She grinned evilly as she nudged Angelina, “Angelina, look at what Harry is carrying. I think our little seeker is going on a date ”, she put extra emphasis on the word date. 

Angelina quickly caught on and started overreacting in a teasing manner, “oh woe is us. Our chances at the Cup dashed. All so our seeker can snog his girlfriend.”

Harry blushed deeply, “Oh, leave off, will you!? It’s only once. It’s Hermione's birthday and I need to set everything up and be back here before she comes down to the common room.”

With that he made his retreat out of the portrait of the fat lady, leaving behind two gossiping and giggly girls.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione awoke late. There was something special about today, but her sleep-fogged brain couldn’t remember what. After feeling her wake up, Crookshanks came and started rubbing his face into hers. Hermione idly scratched the cat’s ears, mentally thanking her parents for the early birthday gift. Then she remembered; it was the 19th of September.

Her 14th birthday.

 

She cuddled Crookshanks for half an hour before her stomach told her that breakfast was a good plan. It was Sunday and Hermione had no plans, so she grabbed some comfortable clothes for the day.

As she got dressed, she wondered if she would see Harry for lunch; she knew he had quidditch practice today, she had heard Katy and the Weasley twins talking about it last night in the common room. She dressed, and with a quick pass of a brush through her hair, she began making her way down the spiral steps that connected the girl’s dormitories together. 

Hermione was surprised to see Harry watching the entrance to the dorms as she walked into the comen room. He got up out of his chair and came over to her. She noticed he was wearing some of his best clothes. The green t-shirt really set off his eyes, whereas the blazer that he wore over it made him look older. He looked good. She just wanted to curl up and cuddle into him. Maybe even a little more…

 

Before that thought could go anywhere Harry reached her;

“Good morning Hermione. Happy birthday.” He kissed her on the cheek.

“Morning, Harry, thank you. I thought you had Quidditch practice this morning?” She was curious about that,

“Told Wood I had other plans. He understood.”

Hermione doubted that Wood would be so understanding. “Really?”

“Well, no. He went on about how this was his last chance at the cup, but he gave in this once. Now enough about Wood, would you please go get Crooks, then allow me to escort the two of you to breakfast?”

“You want Crookshanks to...come with us?” That got her logical side thinking, why would Harry want to take Crookshanks down to the great hall? The only pets that went there regularly where owls and Ron’s rat, as far as she knew. “Ok, wait here.”

 

She quickly rushed back upstairs and found Crookshanks spread out right in the middle of her bed. “Hey, Crooks. Harry seems to have something planned for us.” She picked the cat up and cradled him in her arms. “Come on, let's go see what surprises he has waiting for us.”

When she arrived back at the common room, Hermione giggled at Harry’s antics. He tried to be gentlemanly and offered her his arm, but they were full of cat so she couldn’t take it. “Just lead on Harry. You seem to be the one with a plan.”

 

Harry regained his composure and nodded. He gestured to the portrait hole and said “Right this way.” They walked out of the common room towards the grand staircase, but instead of leading her down, they went up. She followed him to the seventh floor. They were walking around the corridor with a strange tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, who tried to train trolls to dance in the ballet, only there was a door there that she had never seen before. Harry quickly opened it and gestured for her to go in first.

 

The room was amazing. It was decorated similar to the Gryffindor common room, only instead of red and gold with dark woods, it was periwinkle blue lilac accents and lighter woods. A large lit fireplace dominated one wall, perfect to ward off the chill of the Scottish September air. In front of the fire was a very comfortable looking sofa. Between Hermione and the back of the sofa was a table set up with what was probably breakfast.

Harry followed her in and shut the door behind himself. “Happy birthday Hermione”, he smiled at her, awaiting her reaction.

 

Hermione put Crookshanks down. He promptly went and stretched out in front of the fire on a cushion that had appeared there suddenly. She then threw her arms around Harry and pulled him into a tight hug. She felt his arms wrap around her waist, the first time he’d ever done it without any hesitation. That made her smile as much as the feeling of his arms around her.

“So...what do you want to do first, have breakfast or open your presents?”

 

Hermione tensed up a little but still sighed. Of course, he had bought her more presents, even when she’d explicitly told him not to. He really needed to be more responsible with his gold. “Harry, you can't go around wasting your gold like that, you already bought me my trunk.” 

But he just stood there with his arms around her, his face adorning that smirk he had whenever he thought he was being clever, “You may want to see what I actually got you before you tell me off. Mine is the smaller one.”

 

With that she grew curious, disentangling herself from Harry to go open his present to her. She ripped off the pale blue paper and looked at what he had gotten her. When Hermione saw what he’d gotten her, she smiled brightly at him. 

“It just felt weird to not give you something today, and I know they are your favourite.” Hermione could understand that as she looked over the box of deluxe sugar quills. Even a top of the line box like this wouldn’t even come to one galleon, and she relaxed.

 

The other present was from her parents. It was along the same lines as Harry’s, but where Harry got her a few things to cheat on her parents’ sugar ban, they had sent a large selection of sugar-free sweets. There was also a letter from them, but the smell of food was quickly reminding her that she had gotten up in search of breakfast. After a little prompting to Harry, he lifted the big silver lid that Hermione was ninety percent sure was called a cloche, revealing what looked to be an amazing breakfast.

 

There were a lot of Hermione’s favourites; kippers, poached eggs, a platter of her favourite fruits, but there were also items she had never seen at Hogwarts before, like croissants, pain du Chocolat, and orange juice. God, she missed orange juice when she was at Hogwarts. She’d never understood why witches and wizards preferred pumpkin juice. But how had Harry gotten fresh French pastries and orange juice?

 

The two of them had a pleasant breakfast discussing their school year so far, at least, the little there was of it. Harry shared that he was a little nervous about his upcoming Runes project. Professor Babbling had assigned Harry and herself to work with two Slytherins; Daphne Greengrass and Tracy Davis. Harry was worried as Slytherins had never caused him anything but trouble. Hermione was more circumspect about the whole thing. While it was true Harry and her had never heard a single nice word from any of the Slytherins, it was also true that most never said anything at all. That left people like Malfoy to represent the whole house.

 

After breakfast, Harry moved them over to the sofa in front of the fire. For a few moments, Hermione thought Harry’s intention was to get somewhat... physical . What surprised her was just how little the idea bothered her. Harry’s plan, however, was better, at least to her. The two of them cuddled up on the sofa and Harry pulled out a book he must have hidden by the sofa before he met her that morning.

 

Harry remembered how lucky he was to find out about this room;

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry went after the twins, pleading with them. He had been badgering them about this for days, “Look, guys, I know you know where the kitchens are. You get all the stuff for the Gryffindor’s parties, and I need to find it.”

Upon hearing this, Fred and George stopped in their tracks, looking at each other. They seemed to be having a silent conversation, one Harry wasn’t privy to. After a short while, they both simultaneously turned back to Harry, their trademark mischievous grins on both their faces.

“Yeh we know-”  Fred began, only for George to continue,

“where they are.”

Then it was back to Fred, “But why do you-” 

“want to know where they are.”

“Are you plotting a deed?” 

“Maybe one of great mischief?”

 

The twin’s ‘twin speak’ was easy to follow after two years, but Harry still felt like he was watching a tennis match from centre court. He wondered what he had to tell them in order to get them to give up the information. Unfortunately, the only thing he could come up with was the truth, and knowing Fred and George, there was no way they wouldn’t give Harry a hard time. He resigned himself to their comments and gave them the answer they were looking for, “I’m looking to make a few arrangements for Hermione’s birthday.”

 

The twin’ grins only grew bigger, “Big party in the common room?”

“That’s our speciality.”

“Let us take care of-”

Harry cut them off quickly, before they got any ideas, “No! No, this is for Hermione, not an excuse for all of Gryffindor to party. Hermione is not a fan of big parties. She deserves something nice for her, not to be an excuse for everyone else to have fun.”

 

The twins looked slightly guilty for a second, but then it was gone. They began speaking to each other again, “My dear brother, I do believe that Harry has just told us not to throw a party for his girlfriend.”

“You know brother, you seem to be right. This is not how this conversation normally goes.”

“True, but consider the lovely lady in question.”

“You seem to be having a thought. Do continue.”

“Well...the beautiful witch in question can be rather...fierce, when angered.”

“It seems that young Harry here likes the feisty type. But what is your point, brother of mine?”

“Well, brother dearest, it is most simple. If we throw a party that Harry’s fierce temptress doesn’t want, we get the privilege of being on the receiving end of her fury.”

“I think I understand your thinking. And if Harry is wrong, he simply needs to apologize.”

“Exactly. So, do we just give young Harry here the information he needs? Without demanding payment?”

“Well, he did save gin-gin last year. I would say we owe him a few for that one.” The other twin nodded to that. At this point, Harry had given up trying to tell which one was Fred and which was George.

 

The twins proceeded to tell him where the kitchens were. Apparently, they were directly underneath the Great Hall, you had to go down the Hufflepuff corrido until you found a painting of a bowl of fruit, where you just had to pick up the pay for it to open. He thanked them and went to have a look. Unfortunately, he was in the common room when he’d finally mangled the knowledge out of the twins. That meant it was a lot of stairs between him and the kitchens.

 

But he soon found himself in the Hufflepuff corridor, and there was indeed a picture of a bowl of fruit. He had a quick look around to see if anyone was watching him; he didn't put it past the twins for this to be a prank. He wouldn't be surprised if what happened when someone tickled the pear was that the offender got pelted with rotten fruit. It was after all the sort of prank the twins would play.

 

With immense relief, Harry saw that the painting swung open as soon as he tickled the particular piece of fruit. The centre of the kitchens was almost an exact replica of the Great Hall above; the four long House tables running the length of the room, with the staff table dominating the far side. Harry suspected that each of the tables were positioned directly beneath their counterparts above, so that the prepared food was ready to be transported at the start of each meal.

 

What was different from the Great Hall was the outside of the room. The outer walls were filled with fireplaces, stoves, ovens and work counters. Manning all these workspaces were a rather large number of house-elves; washing dishes, stirring stews, baking bread, and the hundreds of other jobs it took to prepare the feast. Harry was looking around, just wondering who to talk to about arranging things for Hermione's birthday, when he suddenly felt collision around his middle.

 

“Harry Potter has come to see Dobby! Dobby has been hoping to see Harry Potter and Harry Potter has come to him! How can we help the great Harry Potter sir?” Harry looked down and saw what appeared to be a stack of tea cosies pressed up against his chest. It took a moment for him to realise that the cosies were, in fact, being worn as hats and that the one wearing the hats was Dobby, the House Elf he had met last year.

 

“Dobby!? What are you doing here?”

“Dobby was needing work and Hoggywarts is always having work for us House Elves mister Harry Potter sir. Dobby likes working here.”

“I thought you wanted to be free Dobby?”

“Dobby is as free as a House Elf can be thanks to the great Harry Potter!”

 

Harry's conversation with Dobby proceeded from there; Dobby was ecstatic to help Harry sort out a birthday celebration for Hermione. Harry had asked if Dobby could do any French food as Hermione had missed her trip there this summer. Dobby, it turned out, was very good at French cooking. The Malfoys’, having descended from a family of French wizards, had a lot of French food in their family cookbooks.

The two of them sat there for a good twenty minutes going over the menu for Hermione's birthday. Dobby had suggested that he make Bouillabaisse for dinner. The French fish stew sounded perfect to Harry, exactly the sort of thing that Hermione would like. He wasn’t sure he would like it but he was willing to try for Hermione’s sake.

 

He also told Dobby about the problem he was having finding a suitable location. Harry was hoping for a private day with Hermione, just the two of them. The problem was that most of the Castle were either completely unsuitable for what he had planned, or was being used for some other purpose. There were always the unused classrooms on the sixth floor, but they were highly likely to be disturbed in them, most students use them on and off when they needed one; it wasn't uncommon for those classrooms to be taken over by The Choir, Gobstones Club, or Chess Club, as well as random students just looking for a place to practice their spell work.

 

Harry had expected the small elf to apologise and say that he didn't know anything that could help, instead, Dobby suddenly gained huge grin on his face, ”I was knowing just the place Mr Harry Potter sir. It's a secret of the Castle, I don't think any of the students know about it. But we Elves is knowing. There be’s a special room that only exists when the one seeking it has need of it, and the room is always as the seeker needs. If the Seeker is needing a sleep then the room is a bedroom if the Seeker is needing to warm up then the room is having a big lit fireplace.

 

Dobby took Harry to see the ‘Room of Requirement’ as he called it. That lead to another trek up seven sets of stairs, back up to the Seventh floor. Dobby then gave him the instructions on how to summon a room. According to his elfish friend, all he needed to do was to walk up and down past the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy while thinking of the exact type of room he needed. Harry tried it out;

 

‘I need a place to celebrate Hermione's birthday’

 

‘I need a place for me and Hermione to spend the day’

 

‘I need a place Hermione would like’

 

Mixed in with these clear thoughts were jumbled up images; Hermione's favourite colours, the places she preferred to sit in the Gryffindor common room, everything and anything he could think of about his girlfriend. Then suddenly where they had been only a wall before, there was now a rather plain looking door. Harry hesitated for a few seconds; 2 years in this Castle that taught him to be cautious: trick steps, vanishing cabinet doors that only work if you treated them just right. Dobby, however, didn't seem to worry about such things, he just threw open the door and ran inside.

 

“Harry Potter sir needs to come in here and see this. Dobby is thinking it be perfect.” 

He followed the House Elf into the room and was taken aback by just how well this room fit into his plans. The reason was things he didn't think he would ever have thought of himself, such as a cat bed next to the large roaring fire. The art of the walls was not the standard Hogwarts fair of portraits, what is a collection of landscape’s depicting idyllic countrysides that Harry suspected were of France. It was all perfect The room itself was decorated like a common room but in place of the usual house colours will Hermione's favourite colours periwinkle blue pale lilac. This room would suit his needs perfectly.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry had just finished reading Hermione a collection of wizard fairy tales he’d found in the Hogwarts library. His plan for today seemed to be going well. He was trying to invoke the good side of when they had become a couple. Without all the scary just transformed into a part cat feelings that she had at the time. 

He had chosen the book ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’, because it was a book he doubted Hermione had read yet. The stories themselves had reminded Harry of Aesop's fables, that he’d read in the muggle school library once when he was hiding from Dudley and his gang.

 

The sound of a single chime glass bell filled the room. Hermione looked around for the source but couldn’t find any. She looked questioningly at Harry who smiled and answered with a question, “Would you care for a spot of lunch?”

The growl of Hermione’s stomach answered for her, causing her to blush and him to grin. They moved back over to the table, abandoning the comfortable sofa. A frown appeared on Hermione's face as the food appeared in front of them, just like it did in the great hall.

 

Harry lifted the large cloche with a flourish, “Bon appetight.”

Hermione giggled, “its ‘bon appetit’, not ‘ bon appetight’”, then she saw what was under the cloche. “Oh, Bouillabaisse! How did you know it was one of my favourites Harry?” She asked as she dished herself a large helping from the serving bowl in the centre of the table.

Harry considered pretending he knew for a few seconds but instead told Hermione the truth, “I didn’t know. But you missed going to Nice this year and Bouillabaisse has a lot of things you like in it. I just thought you would like it.” It was Harry’s turn to blush now as he admitted how much attention he paid to what his girlfriend liked to eat.

 

Hermione leaned over and gave Harry a kiss on the cheek, “It’s amazing Harry, thank you.” They ate without speaking for a few minutes. Hermione definitely seemed to enjoy the food, and Harry found the French fish stew to be rather good, even if he didn’t enjoy it as much as Hermione.

“Harry, how is the food getting here? At first, I thought you brought breakfast here this morning and put it under stasis charms till you brought me here, but lunch just appeared here.”

“Yep, same way it does in the great hall.”

 

Hermione thought about that for a few moments, “But...where did it come from? The first of the five Principal Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration is food, so it had to come from somewhere.”

“Yeah, same place as the food in the Great Hall. The Hogwarts kitchens.” 

“How do you know that?”

“Because I had arranged the French food. It's not standard Hogwarts food, after all.” He went on, telling her about finding the kitchens and how he had found Dobby there working with the other elves. Hermione was frowning most of the time;

 

“But isn't that the same as what the Malfoys where doing? Isn't he still a slave?” She looked disgustedly at the food still on the table.

Harry hesitated for almost a minute before replying, “I-i don't know ‘Mione. When he still...last year Dobby, he wasn’t happy until I helped get him away from Mr Malfoy. But he was happy, really happy now.”

“But Harry, if they’ve been slaves for their whole lives then they are conditioned to like act like that.” She pushed her plate away.

“I’m not sure Hermione,” she looked at him in shock, “I was talking with Dobby and apart from appearing happy, he said a few things that made me think there might be more to it. Like, he was ‘ needing work and Hoggywarts is always having work for us House Elves.’. And he said he was as free as a House Elf could be . He made it sound like there was something about them that needed to work.” He tried to explain what it seemed like to him.

 

Hermione stared at him, unconvinced, “Harry, after what your aunt and uncle did to you, how can you be Ok with this!?”

Harry tried to explain once again, “That's just it Hermione, like last year when he was forced to serve the Malfoys. That felt like me and those people. He didn’t feel that way any more. If he had I would already be doing something.” That seemed to make her think. Harry saw that she had left half her food, “‘Mione, is something wrong with your lunch?”

 

She looked at her half-finished bowl of Bouillabaisse and fresh baked and still warm baguette, “It’s perfect, but I can't eat food made by slaves Harry, i just can’t.”

Harry understood, “I wish more people were like you ‘Mione. But this was made by Dobby, apparently, the Hogwarts elves don't know French food. Dobby suggested this lunch and he did it for his friend , not his...owner, if he has one. He was excited to make it. I think he would prefer you to eat it.” 

She thought about it, Harry wouldn’t lie about Dobby’s happiness , “You swear Harry, you think Dobby is OK?”

He nodded, “Yes, and we can talk to him soon; if he needs help, we can help him. Just remember you can’t help them if you are too hungry to move.”

 

The talk about House Elves had put a bit of a damper on Hermione's birthday. The two finished their lunch and returned to cuddling on the sofa, but they had lost the comfortable relaxed feeling of that morning. Whereas earlier that morning they debated the lessons that ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’ taught to magical children, they now discussed elves and how to go about helping them.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Unknown to the two teens, Dobby the House Elf was in the room listening to them. He was quiet and unseeable so as to not disturb his friend and his friend's Grangy. He was not liking what he heard. No, he was not liking it much at all . If Mister Harry Potter and his Grangy was sticking their noses then theys be discovering Dobby's secret and Dobby would get clothes again. Clothes now would be bad. 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 17 -

The week after Hermione's birthday had been rather hectic. It started at the end of the very first lesson on Monday morning.

Professor McGonagall had just wrapped up her lesson for the day when she addressed the Gryffindors in the class, “Before you all leave I need one moment from my Lions please!” she called, as the class got ready to leave. The Gryffindors all waited while the Ravenclaws continued to pack up, “As you’re all in my house, you should hand Hogsmeade permission forms to me before the end of the week. No form, no visiting the village this weekend, so don’t forget! Ravenclaw students, you will need to hand yours into Professor Flitwick, who will no doubt ask for them soon”, she added for the few Ravenclaws who hadn’t left yet.

 

Harry and Hermione both had their slips tucked into their transfiguration books, after Hermione had guessed that they would eventually have to hand the forms over to their Head of House. So the two of them handed over their notes right then.

The Professor looked over the notes and frowned, “Mr Potter and Miss Granger, I will need to talk to you about these after everyone else leaves.” The two of them retook their seats after exchanging confused looks. It took about a minute for all the students to leave, most shooting them curious glances on their way out.

 

Once all the other students had left the Professor approached them holding their permission slips, “Would you care to explain why Miss Granger’s father has signed both of these forms?”

Harry was just wondering how to respond when Hermione spoke up, “Harry was with my parents and I this summer. They are his guardians at the moment. So when the form came they signed it.”

“I'm afraid it's not that simple Miss Granger. While Harry's aunt and uncle may have trusted your parents to act as Harry's guardians while he stayed with you, that doesn't make them his legal guardians”, she stressed the word legal, making her point clear.

 

Hermione looked over at Harry, silently saying it was up to him how much he wanted to reveal. He got up and passed back and forth for a few moments. Professor McGonagall looked like she was about to interrupt but Hermione touched her hand to get her attention and shook her head. Asking the Professor without words to wait. 

Harry sat back down, but instead of sitting in the chair facing his teacher, he sat on the corner of the desk facing away from her and Hermione. “They are my legal guardians.” Harry's voice was barely above a whisper, but still easily heard in the empty classroom, “S-stuff happened over the summer. No...that's not quite right. This stuff has always been happening, but on my last birthday, I-it was too much. My magic ran out of control. By the time it had finished I had apparently apparated to the Grangers’. The DMLE investigated of course, they thought that me going back to my aunt and uncle would be a danger to the Statute of Secrecy, so I'm not allowed back there until they say otherwise. Mr and Mrs Granger sighed a bunch of forms making them my temporary legal guardians. They are good people.”

 

Harry hadn’t moved or varied his tone during his little speech. Hermione had moved next to him and put an arm around him halfway through. 

“Is that enough Professor, or do I need to tell you more?” for the first time since he’d started speaking his voice had a little inflexion.

“No Mr Potter. I will need to write to Mr and Mrs Granger to confirm this but I need no more from you. You two can go get ready for your next lesson.” The two teens picked up their bags and made their way out.

Professor McGonagall called after them as they exited the classroom, “Mr Potter, Miss Granger, if I find you are lying so you can visit the village, you will be in a lot of trouble. Now off you go.” 

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry and Hermione left the Astronomy theory classroom chatting with Lavender and Dean; “I still don’t get why he is doing it. It will be obvious to anyone it was his own fault”, Dean insisted as they walked down the steps to the Astronomy tower.

Lavender giggled, “Sometimes it’s easy to see you grew up in the muggle world Dean. It won't be obvious at all. Not if his father doesn’t want it to be.” 

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked.

Harry answered, “Just look at his father Hermione. Lucius Malfoy is probably friends with the people who will be doing the investigation. If he wants it to go one way he will just ask them to do it.”

“More like bribing them. Fortuna Major,” said Lavender, as they had arrived at the Gryffindor common room.

“But that's not justice! That's just wrong”, Hermione exclaimed, getting passionately worked up.

Lavender shrugged in response, “nothing we can do about it.”

Hermione got a determined look in her eye, one which Harry knew all too well, “We will see about that”, she turned to Harry, “Harry, we are going to Hagrid’s.”

 

Hermione started to pull him back out the still open portrait hole. “Wait up a sec ‘Mione”, she turned to look at him, impatiently tapping her foot on the ground, “Let me drop my books in my trunk and grab my Cloak.” She looked at her bag, then at the rain running down the common room windows before nodding.

They both ran up the stairs to their respective dorms. Harry pulled one of his trunk keys out of a little pocket he had added to his wand holster. Quickly turning the key in the lock, his wardrobe popped out. He exchanged his book bag for his cloak, closed his trunk and return to the common room.

 

Hermione appeared a few seconds later carrying her cloak under one arm. She pulled Harry out the portrait hole and down through the school. They stopped when they reached the entrance hall, taking a moment to don their cloaks before venturing off into the rain.

The rain beat against their cloaks as they traversed the green between the castle and the forbidden forest. Hagrid's hut sat on the edge of the Hogwarts boundary and overlooked many of the paths that lead deeper into the trees. Harry thought of the time he’d had to go into the forest and hoped he wouldn’t ever have to go in there again.

 

Hagrid opened the door after Hermione’s knocking, “‘ello you two. Get in ‘ere out of the rain.” He invited them in out of the rain. The two of them took the seat opposite the one Hagrid had been using. The two of them fit easily on the single seat sized for Hagrid, while said groundskeeper busied himself with an oversized copper kettle and giant mugs, making everyone tea. Fang, Hagrid’s black boarhound, rested his head between Harry and Hermione, trying to get his ears scratched.

 

A few minutes later, tea in hand and tooth snapping rock cakes politely declined, Hagrid started up the conversation, “So wha’ brings the two of you down ‘ere? You two still fighting wi’ Ron?”

Hermione scowled in way of reply, “ He is the one doing the fighting. What more does he want from me!? I said I would keep Crookshanks out of the boy's dorm and I have. It’s like Professor McGonagall said, he is the one who brought a rat to a school full of cats and owls. What, did he think that everyone was gonna send their familiars home?”

She was working herself up into a real state. If she was allowed to continue they would never get to the reason they had come down and Hermione would get mad at herself. Harry quickly began speaking as she paused in her tirade, “Actually, we came down to find out what happened between Draco and Buckbeak. We heard the Ministry is holding a trial?”

 

Hagrid's mood changed instantly, his usually warm demeanour changing to a more closed-off one, “Lucius Malfoy is sayin’ tha’ I didn’ do enough to stop his boy getting hurt. He is tryin’ to sue me for twenty thousand Galleons -” Harry did a rough conversion in his head; that was about ninety-four thousand pounds. It was a lot of money. “- Dumbledore said he was gonna help me with it. He knows how the courts an’ laws work. He’s a good man, Dumbledore.”

He quickly became emotional, as he did whenever he talked about the wizened Headmaster. Harry had learned the year before why Hagrid was so enamoured with the Headmaster; when he’d had been accused of opening the Chamber of Secrets he had lost everything. When Hagrid had nothing; no home, no family and, Harry suspected, no hope, Dumbledore had given him a home, a job and even his respect. Harry looked at Hermione; he could easily see how you could end up devoted to someone after that sort of thing.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Professor Babbling was giving out an assignment in her Ancient Runes class; “OK class, here I have your first group project. The task is to translate the Rune text I will provide in just a second. Each group will have its own text to translate, so you can't get the answer from another group. Once you translate the text you will find that it is a set of instructions on using Runes for a Beginner’s project. You will collect the materials for the project from me, once you finish your translation. Then you will follow the instructions and present the completed project to the class, with a presentation on why those Runes were used for your completed project.

 

You will be working in the pre-assigned groups you were given last week”, she waved her wand at the blackboard and the groups appeared. Harry was working with Hermione, and they were partnered with Daphne Greengrass and Tracy Davis, both of whom were Slytherins. Harry looked over the groups; every group had at least two houses in it.

The class shuffled around to sit in their assigned groups. Daphne and Tracy joined Harry and Hermione at their table at the front of the class. They set their bags down and sat in the recently vacated chairs on Harry’s right, as Sue Li and Padma Patil had gone off to find their own groups.

 

“Hey Granger, Potter”, Daphne greeted quietly after she had sat down next to Harry.

Harry hesitated for a second, “ Greengrass, Davis...uh...hey.” Harry didn’t know what to say to these Slytherins. The Slytherins he always interacted with usually seemed to be trying to get him into trouble.

Daphne stared at him and sighed, “Are we going to have a problem, just because Tracy and I are in Slytherin?”

Harry gaped back at the two of them, taken aback. Just outright asking like that was more of a Gryffindor approach than a Slytherin one, but with the question out there Harry decided to just go with it and get it out of his way, “Depends...Do you plan to work with us, or do you plan to try and get me and Hermione in trouble while insulting my parents and Hermione’s blood status?”

 

Daphne and Tracy were shocked by the amount of venom in his voice. Harry hadn’t raised his volume but his tone was harsh and unforgiving.

“What the fuck Potter!? What has Slytherin, as a whole, ever done to earn that level of hate. Malfoy may be a bloody nightmare but he doesn't speak for us all.”

Harry snorted back, “Yeah, but it's not just Malfoy, is it Greengrass? Crabble, Goyle, Nott, Parkinson and Flint are some of the others, just to name the ones off the top of my head, and let’s not forget the Chief Slytherin, Professor Snape. Who, if you remember, opened his very first class with first years , by berating me for something I couldn't have known-”

Hermione stayed silent, though she had known the answer to the question. It was quite near to the end of the year, however.

“-On the other end of the scale, the nicest thing any Slytherin has ever said to me was just now, when you said ‘Hey Granger, hey Potter’. And that’s in over two whole years here, that's the friendliest you, or any Slytherin, has ever been. Let me ask, would you trust you in my position?”

 

Before Daphne or Tracy could respond, Professor Babbling came over and handed them their project packet, “I think you will do well with this one Mr Potter”, she said before walking over to the next group. 

Once she was gone, Daphne opened her mouth to answer Harry, but Tracy cut in, silencing her friend, “he’s right Daph; we chose not to get involved, we can’t be surprised that Harry won’t trust us just like that.”

“But he never tried to talk with us either, how is it our fault?”

Hermione cut in this time, “Daphne, how can Harry try when your housemates keep treating him the way they do? If you want Harry to see you as better than your housemates, then prove it to us. If you always stay silent, then, of course, we think that you agree with them. Anyway, enough of this, let’s just do our project without the normal petty sniping.”

While the three of them had been arguing Hermione had opened the project pack and looked through it, “This Rune script is pretty long, I suggest we each take a section, that will probably be fastest.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry and Hermione were sharing one of the horseless carriages with the Patil twins as it started away from Hogwarts. The Patils’ had been in the queue of students going to Hogsmeade village, just behind Harry and Hermione, so they ended up sharing a carriage. The twins were discussing their plans for what they were calling a ‘sisters’ day’, while Harry and Hermione said that they just planned to explore.

 

As the carriage sped on towards Hogwart’s front gates, the air suddenly started to grow very cold. This time, knowing what it was, Harry knew he was feeling his happiness being suppressed, and those words, words from long ago, started floating through his head once more...

Freak...

Worthless...

Burden…

and again he heard those echoing cries...

“No! Please, no!”

 

Harry felt Hermione pull herself into Harry's side, seeking comfort and warmth from him. The Patil sisters were doing the same on the other side of the carriage. Soon they had passed through the walls and were moving down the road to the village. Padma pulled a bar of chocolate out of her bag and split it with her sister.

She apologized for not sharing with them, “Sorry guys, I don't have enough to share with you.”

Hermione waved her hand dismissively, “Don't worry about it, we’ll pick some up in the village. We should probably pick up a few bars for the trip back as well.”

 

Soon the carriage pulled into the area next to the train station, and the four of them started travelling the last quarter mile on foot. On the outskirts of the village, the Patil twins went off on their own, saying something about a hair appointment. That left the two remaining Gryffindors to wander through the village as they made their way to the village square, where most of the shops were located.

They walked down a street aligned with three-storey townhouses. Each one was built in its own style; one would be a white-washed daub with black timber frames, the next a red brick, then followed by what could only be described as an impossible log cabin that had to be held up by magic. Each of the homes had a family crest on the front door. One of the houses, an old fashioned whitewashed wattle and daub house, had its crest as stained glass on the top half of the door. It was a cauldron with three potion bottles over it, a field of brown as the background.

 

They reached the village square and looked around. There were shops selling everything, from school & office supplies, to a store that arranged and took care of funerals.

”Where do you want to go first?” Harry asked as he looked around.

Hermione bit her lower lip while she thought about it. Harry didn’t think she knew just how cute she looked when she did that, and he was about to go in for a quick kiss when she then answered, “I think we should go to Honeydukes first”, Harry turned and looked over at the bustling sweetshop, “I know it's a bit crowded...but,” she shivered slightly, “I think we could do with some chocolate.”

It was obvious what she was saying, without saying it. She wanted to cure the lingering effects of the Dementors so that they could enjoy their day out/date.

 

As they joined the crowd in the sweetshop, Harry wasn’t sure if he could call this a date or not. Neither of them had called it a date, but they were in Hogsmeade as a couple, and most of the older Gryffindors he had spoken to had said they used Hogsmeade weekends for dates. Harry decided it didn’t matter much what they called it, he was still going to make sure his girlfriend enjoyed herself.

They looked around the shop at all the sweets available. There were shelves upon shelves of the most succulent-looking treats imaginable. Creamy chunks of nougat; shimmering pink squares of coconut ice; fat, honey-coloured toffees; hundreds of different kinds of chocolate in neat rows; in the corner of the room there was a large barrel of Every Flavour Beans; and another of Fizzing Whizbees; levitating sherbet balls that made you hover a few inches off the ground as you suck them, along yet another wall were ‘Special Effects’ sweets; Drooble’s Best Blowing Gum (which filled a room with bluebell-coloured bubbles that refused to pop for days); the strange, splintery Toothflossing Stringmints; tiny black Pepper Imps (‘ breathe fire for your friends! ’); Ice Mice (‘ hear your teeth chatter and squeak! ’); peppermint creams shaped like toads (‘ hop realistically in the stomach! ’); fragile sugar-spun quills; and exploding bonbons.

 

Hermione picked up a few packs of the Tooth Flossing Stringmints; some for herself, and some to send home for her parents. She looked at the sugar quills but decided she still had plenty from the box Harry had gotten her for her birthday last week. Harry got a pack of Fizzing Whizzbees, he loved flying so the sweet seemed like fun and worth trying. He also grabbed a couple of packs of Pepper Imps. They started looking at the chocolates, seeing that there was a Ministry notice on one of the barrels;



BY ORDER OF THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC  

Customers are reminded that until further notice, 

Dementors will be patrolling the streets of Hogsmeade every night after sundown .

 This measure has been put in place for the safety of Hogsmeade residents and will be lifted upon the recapture of Bellatrix LeStrange.

 It is therefore advisable that you complete your shopping well before nightfall. 

Merry Christmas!

 

The barrel was filled with bags of chocolate quidditch balls. Each bag was priced at 3 sickles and contained 50 small balls, all individually wrapped in different colours of foil, giving them some resemblance to the quidditch balls they were named after. Harry grabbed two of bags of these; one for himself and one for Hermione. They each grabbed a few more things for themselves and went to explore the other shops after paying.

They spent the next few hours exploring Dervish and Banges, Gladrags Wizardwear, J.Pippin's Potions, Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop, Spintwitches Sporting Needs, and lastly, Tomes and Scrolls. They had saved this shop for last, for the same reason they left Flourish and Blotts till last when they went to Diagon Alley to get their school supplies. Tomes are heavy, and Hermione wanted to get multiple tomes.

 

Now the two were heading into the Three Broomsticks, “why don’t you find us somewhere to sit, while I go get us some drinks”, Hermione handed Harry the bags she was carrying, almost dislocating his arm from the heavy tomes. Hermione smiled as he struggled to lift up the extremely heavy bag, “bloody hell Hermione! How on earth did you carry this around!?”

She smirked at him, before whispering a spell under her breath, pointing her wand at the bag. Suddenly, the weight disappeared, and Harry felt his muscles relax. She winked at his baffled expression, before she turned to go buy the drinks. Harry called out at her;

“Uh, shouldn’t I be the one buying the drinks?” he asked, a little confused. 

“A guy doesn't have to pay for everything Harry.” She kissed him on the cheek, “Now go find us a table”, she left and went to the bar.

 

Harry started looking around for somewhere to sit. He didn’t know if it was different because it was the first Hogsmeade trip of the year, but the pub was absolutely full. It seemed that every student, third year and over, was trying to squeeze into here. Harry was finally able to grab a small table when two adult witches got up to leave, complaining about how “there’s never room to wave a wand* when the Hogwarts students are let loose.” Harry claimed the table before anyone else was able to.

 

A young woman, who looked vaguely familiar and seemed young enough to have been a N.E.W.T student this time last year, came around, and with a quick cleaning charm and a wave of her wand, she sent the used glasses still sitting on the table to the kitchen. After she had moved on, Harry looked around for Hermione and saw her carrying a couple of drinks as she looked for him. Harry waved at her so she could see him.

Once she’d taken her seat, Harry noticed the drink Hermione had gotten him and looked at her quizzically. She gestured towards the drink, so he took a tentative sip, then started drinking deeply. It was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside. It was warm and creamy with warm spices. “This. Is. Amazing. Thanks, Mione!” He continued drinking, then after a second, he stopped, “What is it?”

“It's called Butterbeer, all the other students are buying it so I thought it might be worth giving a try.” She took a small sip from her own tankard. Her eyes opened wider and her ears stood up straighter, then, just like Harry, she took a deeper drink of the liquid nirvana they had just discovered. 

“Next rounds on me?” Harry asked, to which Hermione nodded enthusiastically.

 

They sat there drinking their Butterbeer and talking about the things they had bought. Predictably, Hermione hadn’t been able to leave a bookshop without at least three new books. One was on the history of the magical village of Hogsmeade, and one was a first for Hermione ‘The Witch and the Wishing Stone’, it was the first wizard world fiction book she had ever bought. The last one was a book on the history of House Elves.

Hermione had become very interested in House Elves after they had talked with Dobby during the week. Dobby had explained some of the history and culture of his race and a good bit about how their magic worked. House elves, it turned out, were related to Boggarts and Dementors, and only the Boggarts were a naturally occurring species. A long time ago there had been a witch who had done a lot of experimenting on Boggarts. Eventually, in order to try and study their nature, she tried breeding and fusing them with other creatures. Most of the resulting creations had been total failures, but those two creations were not.

 

First were the House Elves who, instead of just being parasites who fed on the magic given off by wizards and witches when they are afraid, fed off all types of magic they gave off. Over time and more experimentation, the House Elves become what they are today. They serve wizards and witches so that they can feed on the magic they give off. They look after the homes so that wizards and witches don't exhaust their magic, as an exhausted mage gives off less magic. And also, according to Dobby, because “happy masters has yummier magics”.

This was also why Hogwarts had the biggest colony of House Elves in Britain. The students gave off a lot of magic collectively, so it was easy for them to live there. 

The Dementors had been created second. After her success with House Elves the witch, whose name had been lost to time, tried to create another magical race by combining Boggarts with Lethifolds. Unfortunately, unlike with House Elves, that suppressed the darker nature of the Boggart, the Dementor race amplified it, creating the soul-sucking demons they are today. Dobby also explained that the creator of his people was the first victim of the Dementor's kiss, “She was not knowing of the kiss. So she was doing nothing to stops them.”

 

It was Harry's turn to grab the drinks; he made his way over to the bar carrying his and Hermione’s empty tankards. The witch behind the bar served a few people who were waiting before him before she got to Harry;

“What will it be love?” She smiled at him,

“Two refills on the Butterbeer please”, he put the tankards on the bar and fished in his pocket for the sickles he needed while the bar women poured the drinks he ordered.

“Your Harry Potter, ain’t you?” She asked just as she finished pouring the first drink. She spoke in a conversational way, without the reverence most people had when they asked that question. 

Harry nodded, “Yeah.”

“I’m Madam Rosmerta. I remember when your parents used to come in here. Your dad used to try sweet talking me into selling him fire whiskey and your mum was always in here with her friends. Your parents even came here on their first date.” Harry blushed and glanced over at Hermione. Madam Rosmerta noticed where he was looking and smirked at him, “Well, you certainly have your father beat there Mr Potter, he didn’t bring a date here till he was a fifth year. You be sure to treat her well, she seemed like such a nice girl when she got your first round. Speaking of which, that will be six sickles.”

 

Harry handed over the stack of silver coins, “Yeah, I definitely will. She is the best, and I really like her.” He took the two drinks and returned to where they were sitting, only to find Daphne and Tracy sitting with her. There was no hostility between the three, which surprised Harry, thinking back to Draco’s specific targeting of Hermione for being a muggle-born. He set Hermione’s drink in front of her and retook his seat, nodding to the two girls, “Daphne, Tracy.”

He looked at his girlfriend, silently asking her why the two Slytherins were sitting with them. She smiled and rolled her eyes at his antics, but provided him with an answer, “I invited them to sit with us. This place is too full for them to find a table of their own.”

 

Harry smiled. He and Hermione had worked with the two of them most days over the last week since they were given their Runes assignment. Daphne and Tracy had been perfectly cordial, teetering on the edge of friendly.

“How has your day been? You two had fun?” Harry asked. Tracy nodded enthusiastically, “we spent some time at the music store, you know, Dominic Maestro's? I got the new Weird Sisters album for my gramophone.”

Harry looked baffled at the mention of the wizarding band, “What type of music do they play?”

Daphne and Tracy looked at him in complete shock, “How do you not know the Weird Sisters!? They are played quite often on the Wizard Wireless Network. They’re pretty much celebrities.”

He shrugged, “never really had access to a wizard radio. Or any opportunity to hear any wizarding world music.”

Daphne looked a little down as she said, “well that must suck.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

They sat there for a while longer, first talking about the difference between Muggle and Magical music, then about whatever topic took their fancy. Eventually they landed on their Runes project. 

“I tell you, I know that Rune array is an anchor for a long term undetectable expansion charm”, Harry adamantly told the two Slytherins.

“It can’t be, that array would be a fourth year one! It must be something else”, Tracy argued back.

“If Harry says it’s an undetectable expansion charm I trust him”, Hermione said.

 

“But how would Harry know?” asked Daphne, “It’s not like he has any more experience than we do.”

Harry looked at Hermione, silently asking for permission to tell the two other girls about the headband and bag he had given her. She nodded easily enough; it wasn’t like she hid her ears and tail in the wizarding world so there wasn’t a big secret to keep. 

 

“At the end of last year, before Hermione and I went back to the muggle world, I realised that Hermione’s ears and tail would keep her shut-in over the summer. Professor Babbling helped me make something to hide her cat features so that she could go out in the muggle world. We used that same array to create extra space to contain the parts that need hiding from Muggles.”

The two Slytherins looked at him, amazed, “you made an enchanted item in Second year!?” Daphne asked, her voice, just like her face, completely shocked.

Harry shrugged back, “Yeah...but not really. I just did what Professor Babbling told me to. Step by step she worked everything out magically.”

“Why expansion charms though, not invisibility?” Tracy asked. 

“Invisibility can still be touched. Last thing I wanted was some muggle freaking out because they sat next to me on a bus and puts their hand on a fluffy tail they can’t see”, Hermione explained while waving her tail around.

They talked for about another 20 minutes or so before Harry and Hermione called it a day and decided to return to the Castle for some dinner. They left Daphne and Tracy at the Three Broomsticks and made their way back over to the carriages. They were soon approaching Hogwart’s gates, the chill of the Dementors telling them really how close they were long before they saw the window-topped pillars marking the entrance to the Castle. The chocolate Quidditch balls seemed to do quite well against the effects of the soul-sucking creatures from such short exposure.

As the carriages made their way across the Hogwarts grounds Hermione leaned into Harry, stealing his lips for a long deep kiss, “Thank you for such a lovely date.”

Harry didn’t notice that the carriage had come to a stop, what with him getting thoroughly snogged by his girlfriend. After a few more seconds, Hermione broke the kiss, gathering up her purchases and climbing out of the carriage with a grin on her face. She waited for almost two minutes before Harry’s brain caught up enough for him to join her.

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 18 Halloween part I

It was the third weekend of October and winter was approaching with a vengeance. The winds had come in, bringing the rain with them. Harry was out on the Quidditch pitch running drills with the rest of the team. Wood had already had them out there for three hours, meaning that the Gryffindor Seeker was soaked to the bone and frozen to his broom. He loved flying but right now he just wanted to go back to the common room and collapse next to the fire. Maybe Hermione would be willing to cuddle up to him to warm him up.

 

But returning to the castle soon would be out of the question, as next weekend was Halloween and the week after that was half term. While in Muggle schools half-term was a week at home, at Hogwarts it was more of an events week; there would be no classes but there would be two Quidditch matches and many of the school's clubs would host an event, such as the Gobstones and Chess clubs both holding a tournament over the break. With Halloween next weekend this was probably the last full day of training before their first game of the year, and Wood was gonna make sure that they used it to the fullest.

 

There was a blast of a whistle, then Harry heard Wood calling out, barely louder than the wind, “Huddle up everyone!” He flew over to hit captain along with the rest of the team, before he continued, “Right, you lot did well on the drills, considering the poor visibility. Harry, you seemed to be having problems though, what's the issue?”

“It's my glasses,” Harry replied, taking off his pair and wiping them with his soaking sleeve, “The rain keeps fogging them up.” 

Wood sighed, “There's a good chance we will be playing Hufflepuff in conditions like this, so see if you can find a solution. Maybe you could ask McGonagall?” Harry nodded, but he’d been thinking of another person. Hermione would probably have a solution for this, she just knew so many spells.

 

The team had been surprised at the start of practice to hear that their match had been changed from Slytherin to Hufflepuff. Not wanting to play in the bad weather, Slytherin had pulled out, using Malfoy's fake injury as an excuse. And as another team needed to pull out for later as well, Ravenclaw had jumped at the opportunity to skip the bad weather. 

 

When Wood had tried to drop out, as they where the team booked to play Slytherin, the Ravenclaw team had argued that their match would be more entertaining if they had more time to train their new Seeker. Madam Hooch had responded that the argument that their match would be more fun to watch with their Seeker trained up more was a fair one, and had sided with the Ravenclaw captain over Gryffindor.

“Ok, we’re gonna run through some three-on-three matches for an hour, before calling it a day. Potter, Weasley and Johnson, you are one team. Bell, the other Weasley and Spinnet are on the other,” Wood called out over the roaring wind.

“Which Weasley?” The twins called out in unison.

Alicia snorted, “Like it matters,” causing a giggle from her fellow chasers;

“Oh, it definitely matters”, Angelina and Katie replied at the same time, trying to imitate Fred and George’s twin speak before they broke into further giggles.

 

An hour later, Harry was sitting in the male half of the Gryffindor changing room, trying to get a bit of warmth into his legs. He had flown into the changing room and had collapsed on one of the benches, along with all of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. While he was waiting for the blood to return to his legs, he silently debated just walking into the shower fully clothed; it wasn’t as if his Quidditch kit could get any wetter. He was just about to drag himself to the hot water when he heard one of the twins shouting, “Alicia, what are you doing in here!? We’re changing!”

Alicia ignored them and walked over to Harry, handing him a vile of potion, “Drink it harry. It’s a Pepper-Up potion,” she said, before raising her voice, making it clear that the next bit was aimed at other people, than just Harry, “Wood needs to remember, your body is smaller, and while that makes you a fantastic seeker, you lose body warmth a lot faster.”

Harry drank the potion, bracing himself for the effects. For two or three seconds it felt like his mouth was on fire. A side effect of the chilli-pepper that gave the potion its name, the heat quickly passed from his mouth and flowed into the rest of his body, returning the feeling to his nerves as it went. Steam started to puff from his ears, but with the numbing cold now gone from his limbs, Harry didn’t seem to care about that other side effect.

“Now, you go grab a shower while I talk to Oliver about keeping our Seeker healthy. He’ll listen if he wants to remain healthy.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Sunday 31st October

 

Harry woke up with Oliver Wood standing over him shaking him awake, “Up, Potter! I was able to book the pitch today, so we are getting extra practice in.” It took Harry a few minutes for his brain to catch up with what was going on as he fought off his sleepiness. As his mind cleared, he realised that his captain was trying to get him to practice Quidditch...on Halloween.

Wood could piss right off. He rolled over and turned his back to Wood, who was not deterred in his attempts;

“No being lazy! Come on Harry, while the other teams slack off for the day, we will train, this year; that cup is ours!” He tried in vain to motivate his Seeker to come and practice, but Harry was having none of it, “No, Oliver, It’s Halloween. Go away!”

 

Wood wasn’t stopped that easily, and started pulling on Harry's blanket, trying to get him up.

“Wood, just fuck off !” Harry just could not be bothered with Quidditch today.

A few seconds later there was more noise as the twins entered the room, hearing Harry’s situation from the other room. Harry, expecting that they were there to help Wood, just groaned loudly, pulling his blanket over his head. However, the two twins went and grabbed Wood, starting to pull him out of the room.

“What are you two doing?” Oliver demanded. They didn’t answer and continued to drag him out. Once the door closed, Harry heard a muffled argument outside of the door that quickly faded as Fred and George pulled their captain back upstairs.

 

Harry tried to go back to sleep but just wasn’t able to; now that he was awake he would have to face the day he’d been hoping to sleep through as much as possible. “I fucking hate Halloween”, he muttered as he dragged himself out of bed and got dressed. He pulled his trunk open to its bookshelf and selected one of the tombs before making his way down to the common room.

Hermione was sat near the fire waiting for him. She walked over and put her arms around him, though this wasn’t one of her normal hugs, it was one of her ‘hold him as close as possible’ hugs. It was more gentle and calm. She looked at the book Harry was carrying and nodded, neither of them needing words.

 

Harry made his way over to the portrait hole with Hermione refusing to remove her one arm from around him, and she just walked alongside him. They reached the grand staircase without speaking, before Harry started to talk, “‘Mione...I don’t feel like breakfast, but you should go. Maybe even go to Hogsmeade; you don’t need to be around me today.” This weekend was the second Hogsmeade weekend of the year. Most students had gone yesterday but Harry and Hermione had stayed in the castle.

 

Hermione gave him an angry glare, “I'm not going anywhere Harry Potter, not when you’re like this. I would be a terrible girlfriend if I did.” Harry thought about arguing with her, she should be able to go have fun, even if he was miserable, but he knew she wouldn’t and he secretly really did want her to stay.

Today would be hard enough without feeling alone.

Harry considered where he wanted to go, or more accurately, where could he go without being bothered by anyone. Then, inspiration struck and he led his girlfriend up to the Seventh floor. A quick back and forth up and down the corridor, and the Room of Requirement popped into existence in front of their very eyes.

 

The room was very much like it was for Hermione's birthday, with a comfortable sofa in front of a fire. Only, there was no dining table this time, and the colours were all much darker and gloomier, casting daunting shadows across the room. Harry collapsed on the sofa clutching the tome to his chest, while Hermione settled next to him.

“I'm sorry Hermione...I know today is also two years since we became friends, but it’s also...” Harry trailed off, not wanting to finish that sentence, not wanting to put those terrible thoughts and memories into words.

 

Hermione continued for him, “...Twelve years since that night. I know Harry, It’s OK.” She put her arm back around him and snuggled into his side, “Do you want to talk about it?” she tentatively offered, only for Harry to shake his head.

They sat there for a while his thoughts alternated between his parents, the Chamber of Secrets, before it finally settled on one of his worst memories; when the Troll had attacked Hermione in their First year;

 

Harry was walking around the halls of Hogwarts. All his classmates were at the Halloween feast eating cauldron cakes and pumpkin pasties. Harry, however, didn’t feel like celebrating. He was never a fan of Halloween. One of the few things the Dursleys had told him that was the truth was the date his parents had died. And that date was the 31st October; Halloween.

 

They had told him that his parents were drunk coming home from a fancy dress party, that they had taken Harry with them knowing that there would be drinking and that his father had driven their car off the road because he was too drunk to see straight.

When Harry had discovered the magical world and learned that his parents had been murdered, he had hoped they had lied about the when as well. Other kids seemed to have so much fun on Halloween; costumes, trick or treating and all the sweets and games, but to him, it just never felt right to do anything fun that day. He had hoped that they lied so that he wouldn’t not like Halloween.

 

He had looked for books about that fateful day in the Hogwarts library, but he didn’t find any. In the end, he had asked that Hermione girl. She had mentioned he was talked about in some books. The girl had lent him her own copies for a few days, where he had read a little about his parents and their murderer from the pages. How Voldemort was so obsessed with blood purity he and his followers had started what was called the ‘blood war’.

His father, who was pureblood, had married a muggle-born, his mother. This marriage had gone against everything Voldemort had stood for, so he had killed Harry's parents as an example. What happened after that was a mystery; all anyone knew was that Voldemort’s body had been found and Harry was alive, with a mysterious lightning-shaped scar as the only noticeable damage to the child.

 

As he wandered around the castle, he started to notice a weird smell. Not a pleasant one either, it was like someone had overcooked brussels sprouts and bad cheese in a toilet that hadn’t been flushed in weeks. He had just decided to turn around and go somewhere that smelled a little nicer when he heard a scream.

This scream wasn't a fun scream or a surprised scream. It was the type of scream Harry used to make before he learnt that his uncle hurt him less if he was silent. He didn’t have a chance to think, he was already rushing to the source of the scream before he could consider doing anything else. His conscience wouldn’t let him turn away, nobody should have to make that kind of scream, whether they be a muggle or a wizard or witch.

 

He sprinted down the corridor, pushing himself as fast as his legs would take him. The screaming had stopped, but there was a number of bangs and crashes that directed him where to go. He rounded a corner and saw it; a hole in the wall of the corridor. Not a small hole either, it must have been ten or twelve feet wide. The banging, crashing and smell all seemed to be coming from the other side of that hole. There was also breathing, heavy laboured breathing, but whatever was doing that breathing was big. Not Uncle Vernon big though. Whatever it was, was so, so much bigger.

 

He was just considering running when he heard another sound. Below the sound of stuff breaking and below the sound of heavy breathing, was an almost silent sobbing.

There was someone in there.

He was at the hole in the wall less than a second later, and on the other side looked to be the remains of a girls’ toilet. Standing in the centre of the destruction was some sort of monster. It was twelve feet tall and shaped like a man with ugly grey skin. The smell didn’t seem to come from the broken toilets, but from the thing, whatever it was.

 

He could also see the source of the scream and sobbing right there, half-buried under the ruins of broken toilet stalls. It was the girl who had lent him her books, Hermione Granger. The hulking monster was looming over her, lifting the section of a tree it was using as a club, obviously intending to smash it into the Hermione girl. On pure instinct, Harry grabbed a piece of the broken stonework, and with all of his strength, threw the piece of masonry directly at the back of the monster's head, all while he shouted as loud as he could, “HEY! GET AWAY FROM HER!”

Harry didn’t know if it was the stone, the words or a combination of the two that made the monster turn its attention to him, but suddenly it turned towards him, intent on squashing him with its club.

 

The club was coming down and Harry was sure that he was about to die. He hoped the girl escaped, then at least it would be worth it. It was hopeless, but he flung himself to the left, trying to not be under the club. He succeeded in dodging the huge club, but now he was lying on the floor looking up at the monster, the club embedded in the ground next to him. For the first time he got a good look at its face. Its head was way too small for its body and was covered in long, brown, stiff hairs that looked more like whiskers than a beard. Its small eyes were fixed on Harry as it started to raise its club again.

 

Harry moved, trying to get up and run, but his right side flared up in pain. While he had avoided the club, it had thrown shrapnel as it broke the stone floor. The shrapnel that Harry hadn’t even tried to dodge. The pain caused him to falter, and it ended up saving his life. The monster’s club came down exactly where Harry would have been if the pain in his side hadn’t caused him to stumble. There was more shrapnel, and this time his face took the worst of it, only his glasses keeping the sharp flecks of stone from his eyes.

 

Harry started to run before the monster raised his club again. He was running down the corridor, hoping to lead the monster from the girl, and maybe even find a teacher who could help. He had run about thirty feet when he realized his mistake; he had run the wrong way down the corridor. He had unknowingly turned around while dodging the wooden club and had run down to a dead end. It really was a ‘dead’ end.

He turned around, hoping to get past the monster, but it wasn’t following him that quickly. It seemed to know that Harry was trapped, so instead of charging him it ambling towards him slowly, making sure Harry couldn’t escape. It made its way down the corridor, each step making Harry's world smaller and smaller. He hoped Hermione had run for help with the monster taking its time, maybe a teacher could arrive before he got squished. Any teacher would do; hell, he’d be happy to see even Professor Snape right about now.

 

Suddenly the back of the monster’s head lit up with magic sparks. “H-hey! Leave h-him alone!” Hermione had gotten out from under the debris and was standing behind the monster. Maybe she didn’t think she had time, or maybe she hadn’t thought of it, but she hadn’t gone for help. So, in the reverse of the positions from a few moments ago, she was now trying to save him. Unfortunately, the magic Hermione had used was about as effective as the rock Harry had used earlier. Utterly useless.

 

The monster looked back and forth between Harry and Hermione for a few seconds, confused. Then it went after Hermione. If she had had a plan, she instantly forgot it when the towering grey mass started lumbering towards her. Instead, she froze to the spot, not even attempting to run.

“RUN!” Harry shouted at her, but she didn’t. It was like she didn’t even hear him.

Suddenly, Harry had a bright idea. He started running at the monster’s back, hoping to be able to climb up to its head. He had to get up to the head if it was going to work. His plan was fairly simple; if he could get his wand in the monster’s face, maybe a strong ‘Lumos’ could blind it long enough for him and Hermione to escape. It was a very risky, and probably very stupid, plan, but it was all he had.

 

He caught up to the monster and jumped. He intended to grab onto the monster’s clothes, which were little more than animal skins that it was wearing as a loincloth or toga, but as he jumped, he felt a rush of magic and found himself gripping the skins that the monster had over one shoulder. He started trying to scramble up the back of the monster, who at this point realised he was on its back and had started trying to shake him off. Harry was able to get his left arm around the monster’s neck. The monster tried to grab at him, forcing Harry to move and retreat to the hard-to-reach spot in the middle of the monster’s back.

 

They both struggled for almost a minute before Harry saw an opening and jumped, flinging both his arms around the monster’s neck. He pointed his wand up, and was just about to try the ‘Lumos’ charm, when the monster started to scream in pain.

Harry's wand was stuck up the monster’s nose.

Harry tried to take the wand out of its nostrils, it wasn’t doing Harry or the monster any good up there, but he had to hold onto both the monster and his wand and the monster’s thrashing and shaking was not making it easy.

 

Harry was starting to feel afraid, his arms were getting tired and he didn’t know how much longer he could hold on for. Soon, his strength would give out and he and the nice girl who had lent him her books would die. Maybe dying won’t be so bad. He could meet his parents. He looked at the girl and shook off that thought, he just needed to get his wand out of the monster's nose, then he and Hermione could run.

He tried to remove his wand again, but he couldn’t; he just didn’t have any strength left, it was only desperation that was letting him hold on at this point. The only thing he could do was hope that the monster moved in just the right way and freed his wand. He started thinking over and over, ‘get off my wand, get off my wand’, if there were any magical gods, wouldn’t they help him? Then, as if he had been answered, he felt the magic flow into his wand.

 

It wasn’t really a spell, nor was it completely accidental magic, it was more like an unusual mix of desperation and determination, causing his magic to try and push the monster off his wand. Then two things happened at once; there was a grunt of pain from the monster, who suddenly stopped struggling, and Harry's wand went shooting down the corridor. Harry thought he was going to die. Here he was, clutching to the neck of a monster that was trying to kill him, and now he didn’t even have his wand to protect himself.

But instead of struggling and fighting him like Harry expected, the monster tipped forward and crashed into the floor. Harry screamed in pain as a crunching sound came from his left arm, as it was smashed between the floor and the monster. Harry rolled off of its back, trying to pull his arm out from under it, but the monster must’ve weighed at least a couple of tonnes.

Hermione had finally gotten over being scared to move and was now merely terrified. At least she was moving now. “Wingardium leviosa”, with a swish and flick of her wand, the monster’s head was lifted enough for Harry to shift his shattered arm. He tried hard not to cry out in pain, biting his lip so hard that it bled as he stifled the tears that were on the edge of his eyes.

 

The last thing he wanted was to wake up the monster, and it didn’t look like it would take much; its foot was already twitching. He peeked at his arm to see how bad it was.

It was bad. Very bad.

Arms are only meant to bend at the joint, but his arm curved and swayed at places it shouldn’t.

Hermione put her head under his good arm and used it to help get him to his feet, “Come on, we need to find a teacher and get you to the Hospital Wing.”

Harry didn’t argue. Right now he was only wishing for two things; that the monster wouldn’t wake up and that his wand was OK. “My wand,” he croaked, his voice sore and weak from the excessive amounts of screaming he had done, as well as the pain of his arm making his head dizzy, “I-I need my wand.”

 

Hermione checked over Harry to make sure he wouldn’t collapse without her supporting him, and then went to grab his wand. She pocketed it along with her own before she went back to helping Harry walk. They turned a corner and saw Professor McGonagall walking up the corridor.

Hermione called to her, “Professor help! Please!” The last word caught in Hermione's throat and came out as much a sob as it was a word.

McGonagall hurried over upon seeing the state of her two Gryffindors, “What happened Miss Granger? Why aren't you two in your dormitories!? Professor Dumbledore clearly told everyone to go back to their common rooms.”

 

Hermione tried to hold herself together as she explained, “P-professor, I was in the b-bathroom and…” at this point tears began trickling down her face, but she ignored them, “...and then there was suddenly a-a troll there. It smashed everything...” Hermione tried again to continue, but Professor McGonagall held up her hand for silence.

McGonagall pointed her wand at her throat and then started speaking, only a lot louder than normal, “The troll has been located: fourth-floor girls’ lavatory,” she then pointed her wand at her throat again, ending whatever spell she had used, before telling Hermione in her regular voice to continue.

Hermione was openly crying now, “It was ab-about t-to...” she then broke down crying and buried her face in Harry's right shoulder as she sobbed. It aggravated the wounds on his side, but not enough for him to react to them.

 

He continued the story where Hermione left off, “When I got there the uh...troll was just about to attack Hermione.” Harry's voice was monotone as he explained his version of what happened.

Professor Snape and Flitwick turned up partway through his explanation and went to deal with the still docile troll. Harry paid them no attention as they entered the destroyed bathroom, “ -and it somehow knocked the troll out. It landed on my arm and then we left before it could wake up.”

Harry jumped as someone started talking from close behind him, “Mr Potter, there is no chance of that troll waking up.” Harry recognised Snape’s voice, “You didn’t knock it out. You killed it.”

Chapter Text

Harry and Hermione were still in the Room of Requirement and they were looking through Harry's photo album. The page was currently on a picture of his parent's wedding, their two smiling faces beaming as they waved to Harry, whose tears were flowing freely.

Hermione had cast an impervious charm on the album a few hours ago, when Harry had started getting emotional at the pictures. As she sat with him, offering what little comfort she could, she wished she knew what to say to take away his pain. She wished she could see that beautiful smile of his, but knew it would be at least a few days before Harry would smile again for real. She couldn't take this pain away, she knew that, so all she could do was offer anything to help him through it. She knew he didn't want her to see him like this, but she couldn't abandon him when he was hurting the most.

He had never abandoned her.

Harry turned the page. It was another wedding photo with what looked like Harry's parents, along with the bridesmaids, one of whom bore a strong resemblance to Neville. The note underneath read: 'The new Mr & Mrs Potter with bridesmaids Alice, Andromeda & flower girl Nymphodora.'

Harry's mother was hugging the woman who looked to be Neville's mother. They looked like they were happy once.

The next page was similar to the last, only instead of bridesmaids, it was groomsmen. There were three men, who, according to the caption, were called SiriusPeter and Remus. Harry and Hermione stared wide-eyed at this specific picture, though not at Harry's parents as they had with the other photos. Instead, they were staring at the man who stood next to Harry's mother, whose name was Remus.

Or as Harry and Hermione knew him, Professor Lupin. Harry suddenly understood why their DADA Professor had been bugging him all this time; he had been seeing the man in all these photos with his parents.

The two of them quickly flipped to the front of the book and started looking for their Professor. While he didn't appear a lot, he was there a couple of times, always with Harry's father. It was obvious that Harry's father and his Professor were friends.

"Why didn't he say anything!?" Harry queried out loud.

He hadn't meant to ask Hermione, who was sitting next to him, but she answered his question anyway, "I don't know Harry," they sat there in silence for a few minutes, each trying to find an answer, until Harry quietly said, "We could ask him."

"Sorry Harry, but we can't, at least not yet. He's off sick again, remember?" Hermione reasoned with him. Harry groaned in frustration; their professor had been mysteriously absent a few times this year already.

The two of them sat around for a while longer, but it was starting to get late. Dinner would be over soon and Harry wanted to be in his dorm before everyone got back, if he arrived when everyone else was in the common room, people would ask questions he didn't feel up to answering. The two left the Room of Requirement and started back to the dorms.

- ϟϟϟ -

Harry and Hermione made their way back to the Gryffindor common room. They had spent the day thinking about Harry's parents, but now they just wanted to get back to the common room. Hermione's stomach growled loud enough for Harry to hear. He debated whether he should say anything; he had tried to get her to go to every meal that day, but she had refused to leave him alone. He decided against it, there was no way to get any food now, it was too close to curfew to take a trip to the kitchens.

They had climbed down the stairs to the Sixth floor, where the portrait door was located and started walking down the corridor. They soon reached the portrait hole, only something was not right.

The portrait of the fat lady was smashed to pieces, leaving the entranceway to the common room open for anyone to just walk in however they choose.

"What the hell happened here!?" Harry wondered, pulling out his wand.

Hermione, seeing that Harry had his wand out, did the same. Harry started towards the portrait hole, intending to see what had happened to the common room. Hermione grabbed him and pulled him back panic in her eyes.

"Harry wait! You can't just go in there," she told him as she pulled on his robes to stop him.

"Why not? It's our common room and I want to see if it's been trashed." Harry said as he fought not to stumble from Hermione's incessant pulling.

"Because, what if whoever did this is still in there Harry?" Hermione sounded a little exasperated, as well as a little afraid.

"Good! then I'll teach the git not to destroy our common room!" Harry was working himself up; he seemed to think it was some prank, but Hermione felt there was something a lot more dangerous there.

"Harry! What if it's LeStrange!?" Hermione furiously whispered to Harry, who had now broken her grip and was starting towards the common room again.

"Come off it Hermione. There is no way LeStrange got into the castle."

As though in response, a voice came from inside the common room. It was faint, but they could both hear the sinister tone behind it, "You should listen to your pretty-kitty more, Mr Boy-Who-Lived." Then from inside the doorway stepped out a woman. She was dressed in an old grey and dirty set of robes, skeletally thin with wild hair and crazed eyes.

Bellatrix LeStrange held a knife in one hand and a wand in the other.

Harry and Hermione were surprised by the sudden appearance of the woman and thrown off by the casual way she spoke to them, like she was having a normal conversation. So when she started firing off spell's, the two of them were caught off guard. Green light burst forth from Bellatrix's wand, quickly crossing the space between them and hitting Hermione in the face.

Hermione stumbled back and groaned in pain, blood gushing from her nose.

"Fucking wand is useless!" Bellatrix complained, shaking her wand disdainfully, before pointing it at Hermione again. Harry grabbed Hermione and pulled her behind a suit of armour just in time to avoid another green bolt of magic.

Harry reached around the suit and fired off a few of his own spells, "Flipendo! Expelliarmus!"

"Protego! Oh, little Potter wants to play!" Bellatrix laughed, her strangely high-pitched voice setting Harry on edge, "Stupefy!" this time the spell was red but it hit the armour they were hiding behind. Hermione started panicking but Harry was too busy throwing spell after spell back at Bellatrix. They weren't getting through to her but they did do some good.

They kept Bellatrix on the defensive, and as long as she was blocking Harry's spells her wand wasn't throwing any dangerous ones at them. Harry was also choosing spells that were loud and flashy. He knew that he wouldn't be to defeat LeStrange himself, but hopefully, he could alert someone else, preferably a Professor, to him. He hoped some help would come soon, he couldn't keep up this rate of spells forever.

"Everte Statum! Slugulus Eructo!" Harry fired off two quick spells, trying to catch the older witch off-guard.

"Haha! You missed, baby Potter," Bellatrix was taunting him, "Soon I will be over there and I will kill your little MogBlood while I make you watch!"

Harry felt his emotions threatening to overwhelm him. He couldn't let Hermione be hurt either. Wild magic against his muggle relatives was one thing but against a fully trained witch, it would be useless. So instead he took hold of his emotions and used them to fuel his magic. His magic flared within him but It was too much and it started to burn him from the inside out.

He had to let it go soon, but what spell to could he use it for?

Bellatrix took advantage of the lull in Harry's spells and moved ever closer. Harry was trying to think of a strong spell to use but the magic burning in his blood was distracting him. Then it hit him;

"Hey Bellatrix, dodge this! Incendio-maxima!"

Hermione was still slightly dazed at being hit in the face with a curse she was positive was meant to kill her. She would have time to freak out about that later, but right now, Harry needed her. She tightened her grip on her wand and turned to reach around the suit of armour they were hiding behind. Just as Harry cast his Incendio-maxima she flicked her wand, "Diffindo!"

The regular Incendio that was taught in the first year was good for lighting candles, or starting a fire from dry wood, and that was about it. Incendio-maxima was different as it was commonly used to keep certain magical creatures and plants in check, and as implied by the name, was a lot more powerful. Harry, however, had overpowered the spell and instead of the usual gout of flame a foot wide, the spell filled the entire hallway with fire. Unable to dodge it, Bellatrix countered it with a flame freezing charm. The two were stuck facing off, Harry's wand spewing flames at an astonishing rate, while Bellatrix charmed the flames just as quickly.

Hermione's severing charm broke the stalemate between the two. The charm hit Bellatrix in the face, tearing open a cut on her left cheek. This lead to a surprised Bellatrix faltering on her flame freezing charm. Suddenly the witch's experience went from a pleasant tingling to searing pain. The flames ate at her robes and assaulted her skin, causing Bellatrix to scream from the pain.

It took a few seconds for the screams to register for Harry, but when they did he hesitated, much to Hermione's shock. But he had heard too many screams like that, most of them from his own lips as he grew up. He couldn't bring himself to harm somebody like that, not when he'd experienced it himself. Harry stopped producing fire, the hall was still on fire but the stone floor and walls didn't provide a lot of fuel so it soon started to go out.

Bellatrix started to rise from the floor where she had curled up in a ball in an attempt to hide from the skin blistering heat.

"Expelliarmus!" Harry tried to disarm the woman as she stood up.

"Protego!" Bellatrix blocked the spell and Harry and Hermione got a good look at what their attacks had done to the convict. Hermione's severing charm had opened a deep gash in her cheek, her face covered in blood that had dried and burned in the heat of the fire. Her hair, while a mess before, was worse now, large parts of it burned away, and what they could see of her skin was covered in bright red, shiny patches, where the fire had reached her and scalded her.

The worst thing about her appearance at that moment was the look on her face. To say she was angry was an understatement; she was absolutely crazed with rage. She ran forward waving her wand, not casting any specific spells, just wanting to cause as much pain and death as possible. Harry and Hermione ducked and weaved around a few spells, but Bellatrix cast much quicker now than during their first fight, and with her being way closer now, it was impossible to hide behind the suit of armour again. Harry was hit first when he jumped in front of a spell that was aimed at his girlfriend. His arms snapped to his sides and his legs clamped together. Harry fell forward and since he was unable to move his arms, he felt as his nose smashed into the floor with a loud crunch, pain flaring across his face.

"Harry!" Hermione, distressed at Harry being hit, was too preoccupied trying to see if he was alive to even attempt to avoid the next spell aimed at her. She also fell under a full body bind, only she fell backwards, seeing spots dance in front of her eyes as her head hit the floor.

Bellatrix looked at the two petrified teens considering what she would do with them. After what they had just done to her they deserved something special. A couple of flicks with her wand sent those that had fallen next to the teens scuttering down the corridor. Another couple swishes and both teens had been bound in tight ropes, before she levitated Hermione and used a sticking charm to attach the ropes to the wall.

It would be more fun if the girl watched.

Hermione struggled to move as she watched on in horror as LeStrange moved Harry right into her line of sight. Whatever the crazy witch planned to do to Harry, she wanted Hermione to watch it. Hermione remembered the story Neville and Madam Longbottom had told them over the summer about what this woman had done to Neville's parents and her blood ran cold. She wanted to scream, she wanted to call for help, she wanted to claw out Bellatrix's eyes to keep her from Harry, but no matter how much she willed herself to move she couldn't even twitch a finger.

"Now where should we begin Mr Boy-Who-Lived?" Bellatrix asked, softly stroking Harry's cheek with the back of her hand; too softly for what she intended to do to him, "Oh, I know! 'Finite incantatem!" she released Harry from the full-body bind but the ropes still held him, and then slapped him across the face, "it wouldn't be any fun if I can't hear your screams." Hermione wished she could do something, anything, but all she could do was watch as Harry steeled his face, that look she knew all too well in his eye. The look he reserved for trolls and retrieving Philosopher's Stones and Basilisks. She knew Harry was about to do something reckless again.

Part of her wanted to beg him to not to anger the crazed women. She knew the woman was already insane, and if he pushed her too far she may just kill him.

Another secret part of her loved when Harry got that look. But all she could do was watch as Harry responded the only way he could, by spitting right in Bellatrix's face. She snarled in fury, slapping him again, harder, causing his cheek to bruise and bleed slightly.

Harry felt the sting of the second slap, but he remained impassive and just glared at Bellatrix unflinching. He had heard what she said about screaming, this woman was like his uncle; she wanted to see him in pain, and he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction.

She pointed her wand at his scar. "Crucio!" suddenly Harry felt pain like nothing he had ever felt before. Everything else fell from his mind, all there was was the pain, it was as if each of his nerve endings was submerged in boiling acid. It could have been seconds later, or even an hour, for all he knew when suddenly the pain was gone, leaving behind nothing but an ache where all his muscles had clenched and spasmed.

Bellatrix looked down at Harry an odd expression on her face. "You didn't scream Potter. Where is the fun if you don't scream?"

Harry did the only thing he could think of. He laughed at her and she hit him with that painful curse again.

Again and again, Bellatrix would curse him, trying to get him to scream, but years in the care of his uncle had flipped Harry's response to pain. Where others would call out for relief, Harry would go silent, impassive, just waiting for it to end. Only for her to end the curse for a time to taunt him.

Harry tried to call on his magic to push Bellatrix away, to cut his bonds, anything that would make the pain stop. However he had used too much; throwing spell after spell at Bellatrix had been draining in itself, but the fire had really taken it out of him.

Then there was noise. While it had been deserted before, this was the corridor right outside the Gryffindor common room, so sooner or later someone was bound to come along. And it seemed someone was right now. Bellatrix had gotten so engrossed in trying to break Harry she had forgotten that time was short. Now the students were coming up from dinner and time had run out. It was also older students who seemed to have arrived at the corridor first, by virtue of longer legs and better knowledge of the school's shortcuts. So it was little surprise that it was the Weasley twins who arrived first.

Where Harry had been silent, he now started shouting, "it's LeStrange! it's LeStrange!" suddenly pain flared across his jaw, but it was nothing compared to the curse so he kept on shouting. Bellatrix seemed to have forgotten that she could use magic, and instead of using a silencing spell, she punched Harry again in his jaw. He was sure it was broken.

The twins, on hearing the shouting, drew their wands and immediately began slinging magic. Seeing the two students and knowing more would be on the way, Bellatrix dove behind the same suit of armour that Harry and Hermione had, to avoid the spells thrown by the twins. She retreated down the corridor, shooting her own spells behind her as she went. The hall was soon filled with sparks of light, like it was only minutes before, only this time Harry and Hermione were in between the two sides. The two of them were forced to watch as coloured bolts of magic zipped back and forth, each skimming past their immobile frames.

Fred and George were far better duellers than Harry and Hermione were. Two more years of magical education and their innate teamwork meant that they had Bellatrix pinned down behind another suit of armour further down the corridor, unable to run under the barrage. Even if most of the spells the duo where firing were prank spells, Bellatrix could hear more students coming up behind the twins, and she knew she would be very outnumbered, very soon. Then a mad grin broke over her face as she shot one more spell from behind her cover;

"Incendio-maxima!"

The corridor was once again filled with flames, only this time the people in the middle couldn't cast any type of defence against it. The twins were forced to hide from the roaring inferno and winced as they listened to the screams that came from the corridor.

Bellatrix had finally gotten what she wanted from Harry the flames doing in seconds what the cruciatus hadn't; "NO! NO! NOT HERMIONE! NOT HERMIONE! HELP! SOMEONE HELP HER! PLEASE! HELP HER PLEASE ANYONE!"

Bellatrix cackled as she used the distraction to slip away.

- ϟϟϟ -

Hermione woke up in pain. It took her only a few seconds to recall the fight outside the common room, then watching as Harry was touched again and again, then losing sight of him in the flames before she had passed out.

She looked around for Harry, only to find she was curtained off in the Hospital Wing. She jumped out of bed, intending to go looking for her boyfriend, only to suddenly find that she was naked.

Well, not entirely naked, her right side was covered in a thick orange paste that was lavished over most of her burns. She started rummaging through the small cupboard next to her hospital bed looking for something to wear. She found the clothes she had been wearing that day with Harry. The tight jeans and pink jumper wouldn't have been the best thing for her to wear over her burns, but that point was mute anyway as her clothes were completely ruined and unwearable.

"Miss Granger! What are you doing out of bed?" Hermione whirled around to find Madam Pomfrey, who had just stepped through the curtain, "Get back in bed right now so I can finish applying the burn paste to your injuries."

Hermione complied with the school nurse, gingerly getting back on the bed as gently as possible to try and avoid irritating the burns. She wasn't completely successful, wincing more than a few times, "Where's Harry? Is he-AH!" Hermione gasped as Madam Pomfrey applied a glob of paste to her shoulder, the cooling effect of it shocking her sensitive skin, "How Is Harry? Is he going to be ok?"

"He hasn't woken yet...Thank Merlin..." that last bit was added under her breath, but Hermione's cat ears heard it anyway, "He has a lot of burns. The longer the burn paste has to work before he wakes up, the less it will hurt."

Hermione nodded, her injuries were painful enough, and Harry had been right in the middle of the fire. She choked back a sob as her mind played back the scene of the fire; Harry screaming in desperation as the fire tried to eat away at him, but he wasn't screaming in pain. No, he was screaming for someone to help her. Not himself, even though the pain he was in must have been maddening, and his injuries must've been worse than Hermione's.

Maddening pain, that phrase struck another memory in her.

Bellatrix and that awful spell. What if Harry was like the Longbottom's? That spell, it was the same one Neville had described, she was sure of it. What if her Harry was gone, driven to madness by that crazy witch?

The idea that Harry could be like Neville's parents, who he had said had lost their minds, was more than enough to bring her to tears.

"She-she k-kept hitting Harry with a c-c-curse..." she tried to keep her voice steady, but the fear of losing Harry overwhelmed her, "Cr-crucio...she kept h-hitting him with it because Harry...he-he wouldn't scream." Hermione was too panicked to be coherent after that, sobbing uncontrollably.

Madam Pomfrey went pale as she listened to the distraught girl, "My God…She used that. On Mr Potter?" She quickly finished applying the burn paste to Hermione's burns and gave her one of the largest hospital gowns, "I know it's big but it will keep it from pressing on the burns too much," Hermione nodded, still unable to talk around her sobbing. Madam Pomfrey gave her an affectionate, but soft, pat on the back, "I will go check on Mr Potter, you get dressed and get some rest."

Hermione watched the nurse leave to go check on Harry through her blurry tears. She slipped on the hospital gown, grimacing in discomfort as the fabric brushed against her burns.

Then she waited. She waited for as long as she could, but the panic was like one of Hagrid's Hippogriffs sitting on her chest.

She had to see Harry. She couldn't just sit there with the thought that he could be dying, or losing his mind. She got up and parted the curtains around her bed. The hospital wing was empty except for the bed next to hers, that also had its curtains closed. Figuring that it had to be Harry, she quietly opened the curtains and stepped in.

She wished she hadn't. She was right that this was Harry's bed, but she never wanted to see him like this, in what surely was an immense amount of pain. He was covered in burns and the same burn paste that Madam Pomfrey had used on her had been used on him, though in larger amounts and more frequently.

It almost looked as though someone had just poured a cauldron of the stuff on Harry. He was also completely naked, even if the thick layering of paste was doing a completely adequate job of preserving his modesty.

She moved the chair next to the bed from Harry's left to his right side, so that she could sit with her unburned side facing Harry, with her back to his lower half. She took his hand, one of the few places without burns, and just held it and waited.

When Madam Pomfrey returned she found Hermione sat with Harry, she tried to send her back to her own bed but Hermione pretended not to hear. She could have forced the issue but doing so wasn't worth it so she conjured a thin sheet for Harry's lower half before continuing to treat him.

"A pain-relieving potion number six. That should allow him to sleep through the worst of it," Madam Pomfrey told Hermione. The girl would be calmer if she was told what was going on. She also placed a different potion in front of Hermione, "Pain reliever four, for when you feel like you can sleep." Madam Pomfrey wasn't sure but thought she saw Hermione nod just a little.

- ϟϟϟ -

Hermione heard voices. It took her a few seconds to recognise them. It was Professors Snape, McGonagall and Dumbledore talking with Madam Pomfrey. It sounded like they were talking just outside the hospital wing. Out of hearing range for most people, but her cat ears made them as clear as if they were on the other side of the curtain.

"How are Harry and Miss Granger?" asked a voice that was undoubtedly Dumbledore.

"Miss Granger is in fairly good shape, considering she has second and third-degree burns on her right side and front. I also found evidence she was hit with an improperly cast killing curse," the Professors all swore and muttered angrily at that, and, unseen by them, Hermione went pale as the thought that she could've died racked her brain, "She is understandably worried about Mr Potter, but as long as he recovers she should be fine in the long term, but will probably have night terrors for a while."

"Mr Potter is in a somewhat worse condition. 3rd degree burns to almost seventy percent of his body. A mild case of magical exhaustion and..." Madam Pomfrey paused for a second, "...he was tortured. With the Cruciatus curse."

All of the Professors gasped, "Oh my God," Professor McGonagall's Scottish accent came through very strong, as it often did if she was emotional.

"All we can do is wait to see how Mr Potter reacts when he wakes up," Madam Pomfrey finished her analysis.

"Never tell them I said this, but the Weasley twins didn't completely balls it up," Professor Snape quickly added, like he was disgusted that he had to praise a Gryffindor, let alone a Weasley, "And they said while in the fire, Potter was screaming about Granger. If he was doing that after being subject to Bella's ministrations, I doubt his mind is broken."

Hermione relaxed after hearing that. That had been what she feared the most; that her Harry would be gone, leaving behind only a shell of himself.

"What did you do with the Gryffindor students? Surely they couldn't stay in their common room?" Madam Pomfrey enquired.

"We moved all students to the Great Hall. Better to keep them all together, so that we can keep an eye on them easier," replied McGonagall.

"Any sign of LeStrange?" Hermione gripped Harry's hand tighter. Surely she couldn't still be in the castle?

"The whole castle has been searched. And while Hogwarts holds many secrets, I think she has escaped," Professor Dumbledore said.

"Escape would be my guess as well Headmaster, she is not one to hide in some hidden room. Especially not after spending the last decade in a cell. But she also isn't one to give up so easily. She will try again almost certainly..." As they talked their voices got quieter as if they were moving away from the Hospital Wing.

"I agree, Severus…" Dumbledore said more but Hermione couldn't hear it well enough to make out.

She looked at Harry, it had been hours since she started sitting with him. She tried to compare how he looked now with her memory of how he looked when she first saw him, after the encounter with Bellatrix. Harry was still in a horrible condition, but she thought his burns looked a bit better. She suddenly felt exhausted; with the worry that Harry would end up losing his mind lessening and seeing that his wounds were healing, she didn't have the will to keep fighting off her fatigue.

Hermione collected the pillow from her bed and considered the blanket too, but her side was still too tender. She set the pillow on the edge of Harry's bed and got herself comfortable in her chair, finally taking her pain reliever that had been set on the table hours before. She put her head on her pillow and retook Harry's hand in hers.

Just before she fell asleep she noticed a slight tingle where her skin touched Harry's. It was kinda nice.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 20 - Aftermath

Monday 1st November

Harry and Hermione were sat in the hospital wing waiting. Just waiting. There had been a little excitement when Harry woke up, even though he had been confused and well, high, when he finally woke up. Hermione had panicked once again, unable to stop thinking that Harry's mind had been damaged permanently by Bellatrix. She had rushed off to get Madam Pomfrey, only for the mediwitch to explain to the frantic girl that being dazed and confused was a side effect of the strong pain relief potion she had given him while he slept.

In his intoxicated state, Harry had found Hermione's fretting funny, but now that his head was clear he understood why she wasn't talking to him. She had been worried sick about him, and he had laughed at her. He knew he was going to apologize to her, even if he didn't think it was his fault.

Even if she was angry with him, Hermione hadn't left the chair next to his bed all morning, save to retreat behind the curtains of her own bed, once to be examined by Madam Pomfrey, and again while Harry was examined. Harry blushed at the memory of his examination; his burns were extensive and left little room for modesty.

"Hermione." He waited for her to look at him, and while it took a few moments, she did eventually lift her gaze to meet his own, "About earlier...the way I was when I woke up..." he took a deep breath, "I'm sorry."

Hermione looked at him with a scrutinizing look, "I-it wasn't your fault Harry, you don't need to apologize."

Harry did secretly agree with that, but knew it wasn't that simple; if Hermione was hurting because of him, he had to apologize, "You're upset 'Mione, it doesn't matter if it's Bellatrix's fault, the potions fault, my fault, or all three. I just want you to feel better. I would hug you, but well...right now it would be a bit of a pain."

Hermione giggled a little, then started crying a little. Harry wished he could hug her, but although the burn paste had done a lot, he was still covered in what Madam Pomfrey had called first and second-degree burns, rather than the third-degree ones he had come in with.

"I was s-so worried. S-she used that spell on you...the one she used on Neville's parents. I was so scared that you would end up like them. T-then when you woke up, y-you...weren't you. A-and you were laughing about it."

Harry grabbed her hand and held it tight, "I'm Ok 'Mione," he saw her looking at his burns through her teary eyes, "well, mostly. But I will be fine". He paused for a few moments, before adding, "Ok, maybe not straight away, but I will be fine. I'm more worried about you."

She looked at him, shocked by his admission, "Why on Earth would you be more worried about me?"

Harry examined the burns on his arm as he answered, "You were hit by that weird green spell, and then I couldn't see you in those flames. I was terrified. I-I thought I would lose the most important person in my life."

Hermione winced slightly when Harry mentioned that green spell, but he didn't seem to notice. She had to fight the urge to throw her arms around him, when he said that she was the most important person in his life. At first, she couldn't understand it; yes, they had been dating for ten months, but they were still in school, surely there had to be someone more important to Harry than her. She tried to think of someone, but it dawned on her that for Harry there was no one competing for that position.

"Oh, Harry. You're fairly important to me as well," she pressed a light kiss on his cheek in one of his few unburned spots.

- ϟϟϟ -

They sat there for hours waiting for the burn paste finish its work healing their skin. They hadn't had any visitors yet, which was as much a blessing as a curse. Without visitors, they hadn't been able to talk to anyone to take their mind off the waiting or even to ask to bring them a book. But then, no one had seen them either. While Hermione was able to wear an overly-large hospital gown, Madam Pomfrey had strongly recommended Harry wait before putting the one she had tried giving him on.

Hermione, upon hearing it was better to wait, had taken the gown off Harry and promptly sat on it.

"And just what am I to wear if you are sitting on my clothes?" asked Harry, as soon as Madam Pomfrey had left.

Hermione looked him up and down, a slightly suggestive look on her face, "How about a smile?"

Harry blushed. He knew Hermione was joking. With burns, burn paste and nothing but a paste-soden sheet that stuck to him like a second skin in some places, he must have looked a right state.

Hermione giggled, "You should see the look on your face Harry. You're as red as a tomato."

Despite his embarrassment, Harry grinned, "That's the burns Hermione, I look like a lobster someone dropped in a barbecue."

Hermione bit her lower lip for a moment; she wanted to keep teasing Harry but she didn't know how far to go. She had never done anything like this before...heck, she'd never been in a relationship before.

Then she smiled; maybe it was time to turn it up a notch, "You still look good enough to eat."

If Hermione thought he was blushing before, that was nothing compared to now. She was just about to call it a win when Harry stuttered, "P-professor McGonagall...I, um...we..." Hermione turned as red as Harry upon hearing those words. She heard the Professor chuckle from behind her;

"Calm down Mr Potter, you and Miss Granger are not the first students I have walked in on while they were flirting, nor will you be the last, I'm sure. You aren't the worst I've seen either..."

Hermione's blush deepened as red as Harry's as she understood the meaning of those words. She got out up from her chair and turned to face her Head of House, "Sorry profess-"

"Like I said, Miss Granger, you aren't the first, nor will you be the last. After yesterday, it's good to see the two of you can smile again already," that last sentence turned the mood slightly sour. McGonagall noticed the change and continued on quickly, "sorry to bring that up, but I just got a floo call from someone at the DMLE, they want to know if you two are ready for an interview. They want the details of what happened last night."

Harry and Hermione looked at each other, silently deciding what to do together, "It might be best Professor if they wait till tomorrow," Hermione replied after a moment, "Harry will at least be able to wear some clothes then."

Professor McGonagall nodded her approval, "I think you are right Miss Granger, and I'm sure Poppy, that's Madam Pomfrey to you two, would agree with you. I shall check with her then inform the DMLE. Now that that is taken care of, I would like to see how are the two of you are doing."

"Not too bad considering what happened. The burn paste is working and the pain relief potions help a lot..." Hermione's eyes flicked to Harry as she paused. She said the next sentence noticeably quieter, "...as long as you're not late taking the next one."

Both Harry and Professor McGonagall winced. The Professor had seen it before; a late pain potion leaving some poor sod to feel the full force of their injuries. It was common enough during the blood war when occasionally potions needed rationing, and when demand exceeded supply.

Harry, however, was remembering a few hours earlier, when he had missed the time for his next potion by ten minutes. He'd only been in pain a few minutes and it wasn't as bad as having Bellatrix cursing him, but it wasn't an experience he was looking to repeat.

"There is one thing Professor..." Hermione tried to not sound too desperate, "is there any chance you could get a couple of books from my trunk? It just it's… well, the-"

"What Hermione is trying to say is that she will go into withdrawal soon if she doesn't have something to read," Harry 'finished' Hermione's sentence for her.

Hermione glared at Harry, but he could tell that she didn't really mean it. Professor McGonagall was restraining a laugh, even as she smirked at Harry's comment. After a few moments, Professor McGonagall managed to regain her composure, "And how many books would 'a couple' mean Miss Granger?"

Hermione bent down to search for the right trunk key through her burnt clothes, muttering something unintelligible. McGonagall asked her to repeat, and Hermione straightened up, key in hand, and a fierce blush on her cheeks. "Maybe...uh...f-fifteen books, Professor…"

Harry openly laughed at this, causing Hermione to glare at him once again. Professor McGonagall remained mostly impassive once again, though there was amusement glinting in her eyes, "Very well, Miss Granger. I will bring them up in a moment."

Harry stopped laughing long enough to ask McGonagall, "What about tomorrow's Quidditch game Professor? I doubt I will even be allowed to see the game let alone play in it."

"The game has already been rescheduled for Saturday. If you are not cleared to play by then, then the Ravenclaw team will play Hufflepuff. Madam Hooch already gave an extension to Slytherin for a scratch, she wouldn't treat Gryffindor any different.

After that Professor McGonagall left and the books Hermione requested soon turned up. She took great delight in reading to Harry this time. He had tried to read to her again but as his right hand was burned and covered in burn paste it was making it hard for him to both hold the book and turn the pages, so Hermione had grabbed the book 'Ruby in the Smoke' and started reading.

"The Seven Blessings. ON A COLD, FRETFUL AFTERNOON IN EARLY OCTOBER 1872, a hanson cab drew up outside the offices of Lockhart and Selby, shipping agents," Hermione had already started the book but had gone back to the beginning just for Harry. At first, the book hadn't sounded too interesting to Harry, and he was content to just listen to Hermione, but as the story went on Harry found himself enjoying the tale more and more.

- ϟϟϟ -

Tuesday 2nd November

Hermione woke up that morning lying next to Harry in his bed. Madam Pomfrey's prediction regarding night terrors had unfortunately been accurate. Hermione tried to sleep in her own bed, however, she was plagued by her memories and fears as she fitfully slept. After waking 3 times in under an hour, each time having to check on Harry to calm herself, in the end, Harry had just made room for her in his bed. It wasn't the first time they had slept so close together, but it was the first time it was by choice and not the result of the two of them falling asleep on the sofa together.

Sharing a bed seemed to work well. They hadn't been able to cuddle up because of their burns but just holding onto Harry's unburned arm had been enough to comfort Hermione so that she could get some sleep. She still woke up a few times, but with Harry being right there she was a lot calmer each time.

Harry was still asleep so Hermione took the opportunity to look at their burns. Hers were looking a lot better, in fact, she thought she might be burn free by the end of the day. Harry's burns weren't as healed as hers, but she thought that they were about as good as hers were yesterday. If that were true then they might both be completely healed by tomorrow. At least physically.

She thought about her nightmares from the night before, and she knew she wouldn't be completely Ok for a while. She looked at Harry, who was sleeping peacefully, a bit of drool from the corner of his mouth mixing with the dried out, burn paste on his cheek, and wondered how he managed to sleep so well, so soundly.

She got out of the bed, grimacing from the weird feeling of her skin cracking and peeling as she moved. When she looked most of the burn paste on her body had dried as well and the cracking and peeling was luckily the paste. After checking with Madam Pomfrey, Hermione was sent to grab a cold shower. She chuckled to herself about needing a cold shower after spending the night in her boyfriend's bed, but it having nothing to do with her being hot and bothered.

Well...almost nothing.

Harry woke up while Hermione was in the shower and quickly discovered a few things; dry burn paste flakes in your hospital bed are itchy as hell, Hermione wasn't there with him, and his last batch of pain potion had worn off. It wasn't as anywhere near the level of pain from the day before, it was, however, still bad enough that he would avoid it if he could.

He wanted to go and find Madam Pomfrey but had a problem, he still didn't have anything to wear. Apart from one of his socks and his wand holster, all the clothes he had been wearing had been completely destroyed. He also hadn't been given a hospital gown yet, as up until now it would have been impossible to wear one. Only a thin, light sheet laid over his lower half had preserved a little of his dignity.

Eventually, he called for Madam Pomfrey, who insisted on examining his burns before giving him a pain potion. Harry thought this to be a little harsh but soon understood, even if he wished he hadn't. Madam Pomfrey's 'examination' included her poking at the burns in a few places while asking him how much it hurt.

"Why do you need to do this!?" Harry half-shouted after Madam Pomfrey pressed on a particularly sensitive burn, causing a sharp stinging pain to flare up.

The mediwitch looked at his face for a moment before returning to her examination, just as Harry thought she wasn't going to give him an answer she spoke, "Your burns destroyed a lot of the nerve endings in your skin. Almost all of them, in fact. The burn paste should restore them within your skin, but sometimes it doesn't work as well as it should. I'm checking to see if additional nerve restoration treatment is needed. So, as unpleasant as it is, the pain is a good thing."

Knowing why Madam Pomfrey was poking him didn't make the experience any more pleasant, but it did help Harry deal with it.

"Well Mr Potter, it seems you gotten lucky; your nerves are regenerating nicely," she got up from where she had crouched down next to Harry's bed. "I don't feel so lucky," Harry groaned in response.

"Yes, yes," Madam Pomfrey said, "I will get you a potion in a moment, then you can go and have a shower once Miss Granger is back. Keep the water cool; hot water will irritate your burns." She bustled off and came back with a potion and two oversized gowns. When Harry looked at the two gowns, confused, Madam Pomfrey explained, "one to wear on your way to the shower and one for after, the one you wear before the shower will be full of dried bits of burn paste." Harry nodded.

Madam Pomfrey left him alone, and the first thing he did was take the potion, as it would take a few minutes for it to start working. He then climbed out of bed for the first time since he woke up in the wing yesterday. It felt good to stretch his limbs out, even though it pulled on his burned skin. The dried paste flaked off faster than before, dusting the floor beneath him, leaving an absolute mess of flakes and dead skin.

Harry threw on his gown and started looking through his belongings, where he found his wand. Both Harry and Hermione had been lucky that Bellatrix had sent their wands down the corridor during the duel, it had saved them from the fire. He flicked his wand at the mess so that it would be swept into a pile, but only about a third of mess moved, and what did move only moved about halfway before it stopped. He tried again with similar results, only this time he felt like he had run a mile.

Harry tried not to panic but it was hard. He loved magic and it was hard to not think of nightmare scenarios of having his wand snapped and being kicked out of Hogwarts; there was no place there for someone who couldn't do magic. It was as if an invisible weight was pressing on his chest and throat, like they were swelling, making it hard to breathe, and he had to fight to keep the potion he had just taken in his stomach.

Hermione returned 10 minutes later, feeling infinitely better now that the shower had washed away the dried burn paste, dead skin and two days worth of sweat and dirt. Her mood suddenly shifted when she saw Harry. He was sat on the floor next to his bed, hyperventilating as he tried, again and again, to cast a spell with his wand.

Hermione ran over to Harry, before calling for Madam Pomfrey. At first, she just looked at him in indecision, unsure what to do. She sat down next to him and put her hand over Harry's, gently pushing his wand down. "Harry." He didn't respond to her, so she tried again, "Harry, hey, what happened?" She put her arm around him and pulled him against her side, hiding a wince as he leant against her still tender skin.

"My magic is gone," his voice was almost a whisper, devoid of all happiness, "How can I be a wizard without my magic? I'll lose everything."

Hermione didn't know what she could say to that, "Harry, you'll be Ok. I'm sure of it."

Madam Pomfrey had come over by then and had immediately taken control of the situation, "Mr Potter you are having a panic attack. I need you to drink this," she pressed a vile into Harry's hand. He drank it down and his demeanour changed almost immediately. Whereas he had been in the throes of a panic attack before, he now had a calm, almost dazed, expression. Hermione took the empty vile from Harry and read the label; 'Calming Draught'.

Madam Pomfrey took Harry's hand and pulled him softly to his feet, "Mr Potter, Miss Granger is correct. Your magic will be fine in a few days. You over exerted yourself the other night and strained the connection to your magic, it just needs time to heal. It's a condition called Magical Exhaustion."

Hermione's eyes widened with recognition, "He had a case of Magical Exhaustion over the summer. They said trying to do magic could...um…' damage Harry's magical potential.'"

"Yes Miss Granger, it can."

"Harry was trying to do magic when I found him...i-is he going to be Ok?"

"He should be fine, the chances of permanent damage are very low, but I will need to check nevertheless. On the bed Mr Potter."

Harry, who had barely reacted at all since taking the calming draught, climbed onto the bed and laid down. Madam Pomfrey started casting diagnostic spells over him. Balls of light, all different colours and sizes, began popping in and out of existence above him. Hermione didn't understand it at all, but Madam Pomfrey evidently did, and Hermione trusted her. As she examined more and more of the lights, the mediwitch's expression grew harder and more concerned. Hermione was terrified that it was bad news.

"H-how bad is it?" Hermione's fear was evident in her voice.

Madam Pomfrey cancelled the diagnostic spells, before she just stood there for a few seconds. She then visibly shook herself before speaking to Hermione, "I'm sorry Miss Granger, did you say something?"

"How bad is it? Will Harry be ok?"

"He will be just fine in time. A little damage to his magic, but nothing permanent, he will be about 5% weaker in terms of the power of his spells, but this will only be for three to five weeks. He will make a full recovery, as long as he doesn't do any more magic till Friday. That will stop him doing any more damage."

Hermione breathed a sigh of relief, then took Harry's wand from him.

- ϟϟϟ -

That same day, 5 PM

Harry shivered as a draft of light reminded him that he and Hermione were only wearing hospital gowns and bathrobes. They were sat in Madam Pomfrey's office with Professor McGonagall waiting for the DMLE representative. Harry's head had cleared from the calming draught a few hours ago. The diagnosis of Magical Exhaustion and knowing that his magic would be fine in time had helped him remain calm. He wasn't all too pleased that he would be weaker for around a month, but he would much rather that than becoming a squib and being forced to leave Hogwarts. Hogwarts was his first home, he didn't want to lose it.

The thing that had really scared Harry though was the thought of losing Hermione. Not suddenly, like he feared during the duel with LeStrange, but slowly, as Hermione would spend more and more time among wizards who would understand her better than he would. That had scared Harry far more than he was ready to admit. Harry's musings were interrupted by a knock at the door. The door opened to reveal two women, one had pink hair and looked fairly young, and the other was Director Bones, who he'd already had an interview with over the summer.

"Good afternoon Professor," she nodded to McGonagall before turning to Harry and Hermione, "good afternoon Mr Potter, Miss Granger. I am Director Bones, and my assistant here is trainee Auror, Nymphadora Tonks." Nymphadora winced as if someone had insulted her.

Harry's heart was suddenly in his throat. Director Bones had introduced herself as if she had never met him or Hermione before. Harry was just wondering how to deal with that when Hermione beat him to it;

"It a pleasure to see you again director Bones. How have you been?"

At Hermione's words, the Director looked puzzled, "We have met before? Forgive me, I meet so many people in this job it's hard to keep track." Her words were polite but her eyes flicked to the ears on Hermione's head, the unspoken message was clear: 'I'm sure I would remember meeting someone with ears as distinctive as them.'

Harry jumped in, "We met on the 1st of August, and again on the 2nd. You uh..." Harry's eyes flickered to Nymphadora, "...uh, helped me with a case."

At the mention of the dates both Director Bones and Auror Tonks' eyes went wide, "I will need to speak with you about that after our interview. As was widely reported, I was hit with a memory altering charm on the second and I'm still piecing together the few days before. Now let's get started, shall we? Tonks, please set up the Dictaquill."

The Director took one of the chairs and sat down. She asked if they knew how the Dictaquill worked, and after Hermione said she didn't Bones had Tonks explain it. Once everything was set up Director Bones started;

"I am Director Amelia Bones, representing the DMLE in the interview of witnesses Harry James Potter and Hermione Jean Granger, in the ongoing investigation of the escape of Bellatrix LeStrange."

The Director then gestured to Tonks, "Trainee Auror Nymphadora Tonks, observing."

Then Harry, "Harry James Potter, witness."

"Hermione Jean Granger, witness."

"Minerva McGonagall, deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, acting In loco parentis*."

Director Bones then started speaking again, "Ok let's start with a description of the event from your point of view. What exactly happened on the 31st of October?"

Harry and Hermione looked at each other to see who would start off. Hermione nodded her head, indicating that Harry should, "Well..um…the 31st is Halloween, but as you probably know, it's the anniversary of when…when my parents were... you know... killed. So...I don't really like Halloween. All the fun just feels wrong to me. So Hermione and me just went off to a quiet part of the castle for the day, just to avoid everyone and look at a few photos-"

Harry's eyes went wide as he remembered his beloved photo album, "-Wait, my photos! Professor, did my photos survive the fire!?" Harry was really worried now that he remembered he had been carrying the book with him.

Your photos are fine Mr Potter, but the album is a little Singe, you were lucky that there was an Impervious charm active on the book, else you would have lost it. It's in my office at the moment while I undo the damage caused by the fire."

Harry felt a sudden welling of gratitude for his Professor and his girlfriend, "Thank you, Professor, and thank you, Hermione, for putting the Impervious charm on it. I would be devastated if I lost them," now that he knew his precious photo album was safe, he was able to continue his narrative with clarity, "Anyway, it was getting late so Hermione and I were headed back to the common room. We wanted to get back before everyone returned from the Halloween feast. I didn't want to deal with the crowds, but when we reached the common room the portrait of the fat lady had already been destroyed and the way into the common room was wide open. Then LeStrange stepped out and…"

Harry and Hermione described the fight in as much detail as they could remember, "...then the twins...uh I mean, Fred and George Weasley, turned up and saved us. They got LeStrange cornered, she couldn't run, so she used a fire spell to distract, and most likely, kill us," Harry got a dark look in his eyes and he focused intently on one point, almost blocking everything else out, "She copied me. She copied me to hurt 'Mione. I stopped when she screamed...but she didn't. She just kept hurting us..." he trailed off as Hermione wrapped her arms around him, the two teens silently crying as they remembered the traumatic experience; crying from both the phantom pains that felt far to close to real, and the pain of being unable to save the other from that same suffering.

They were shaken out of their reminiscing by Auror Tonks, who'd they'd forgotten was there, "Director, can I officially request to be on the team that delivers my aunt to the dinner table."

Harry, Hermione and Director Bones all reacted to that question, but for different reasons. Bones spoke first, "enough of that Nymphadora, you will never refer to it as 'the dinner table' again, if you want to make full Auror."

Before Tonks could respond to her boss Harry angrily cut in, "you're related to that monster!?" He was almost shouting, but not quite.

Hermione's objection was along the same lines as Harry's, though it was somewhat more rational, "if you're related, how are you working this case? Isn't that a conflict of interest?"

Tonks held up her hands, "Ok, Ok, give me chance to answer. Me and my big mouth...Ok, easy one first. I'm sorry boss, it won't happen again."

Director Bones stonily replied, "see that it doesn't trainee, that detail is nothing to joke about."

Tonks snapped to attention, "YES MA'AM!" She then turned to Harry and Hermione, "I'm not actually working the case, I'm just shadowing the Director to learn how to do an investigation, only from the best. The only thing I can affect is my mark back at Brixton Auror Academy. And trust me, Bellatrix may be my aunt, but I wouldn't piss on her if she were on fire," Professor McGonagall coughed at Tonks, "Sorry, Professor. Now, for what may be the hardest one. Mr Potter…uh, sorry, Harry…" Harry frowned at her using his first name but let it go,

"You are related to Bellatrix as well."

She waited for Harry to react, but surprisingly he didn't, so she carried on, "My mother, Andromeda, has two sisters; Bellatrix LeStrange and Narcissa Malfoy. Their father, my grandfather, had two siblings, one was a woman called Dora Black. She married Charles Potter, and they were your father's parents."

Harry was stunned; he had family in the wizarding world. He started laughing, it was a light chuckle at first, but it soon grew into something almost manic. Hermione soon grew concerned, "Harry? What is it? What's so funny?"

"Don't you see it 'Mione? Careful what you wish for. I should have known better. After the Dursleys, I should have known better..." Hermione didn't know what Harry was thinking, but if it had anything to do with the Dursleys, it wasn't going to be good, "I always wished for family," Harry continued in his monologue, "someone who wasn't the Dursleys. Well I got my wish, didn't I? And that family, they want me dead," now he started crying into Hermione's shoulder, and he was no longer shaking from laughter, rather from wracking sobs, "Why does everyone related to me want to hurt me!? Am I really that terrible!?"

It took some time for Hermione to help him regain his composure, all while the three adults present looked on in varying states of surprise and disbelief. Once everything had calmed down Bones broke the silence;

"Harry, I have to ask. You said...everyone related to you wanted to hurt you. Have your family hurt you?"

Harry looked at his lap and Hermione was just considering whether she should jump in when he spoke, "Well...you wanted to ask about how we met at the start of August, and this is as good a time to talk about it as any. Perfect, in fact. Yes, my family...no, I won't call them family. The Dursleys hurt me, and on the 31st of July, my Birthday funnily enough, they hurt me so much, my magic snapped."

- ϟϟϟ -

 

Chapter Text

Wednesday 3rd November

Daniel Granger pushed his vacuum cleaner around the carpet in his living room, and he was pushing it in such a manner as though the carpet had done him a personal wrong. He was at home alone today while his wife covered a shift at their dental practice. So he was alone in the house when the doorbell rang; 

 

He was a little surprised to see Director Bones, the very same one who had visited their house in the holidays, on his doorstep.

“Director Bones! This is an unexpected surprise. Please, come in. I doubt anything you are here to talk about is fit for the doorstep. Can I offer you a cup of tea?”

“That would be welcome, thank you,” the Director accepted.

Daniel led the witch to the kitchen, then busied himself making the tea, “So what can I do for you today? Is this about Harry's case?”

 

Daniel almost wished he hadn’t asked that last question. His daughter and his ward were attacked by an escaped convict, the head of the DMLE informed him that they had been so badly burned that even with the miraculous healing abilities the magical world had at their disposal, they were still in the hospital. He was comforted slightly by the fact that Director Bones’ description of how they were during her interview; if they were out of bed and giving witness statements then they were well on the road to recovery.

However, the news of Director Bones’ memory wipe, possibly not long after she had left this very home, had been rather disturbing, more so when he considered that all the paperwork she would have had about her side of the case seemed to have gone missing. And, the only reason that the convict had escaped was because the paper for the shift rotation at the wizard prison had also gone missing.

 

Daniel spent the next hour showing Bones the paperwork she had sent him and Emma and going over what Harry had said in his interview there the day after his birthday.

He thought about discussing his own investigations into the Dursley’s but decided against it. Director Bones may not have much sway outside the Magical world, but she was still a cop. At least after a fashion. She probably wouldn’t approve of his borderline illegal search of the papers on the Dursley’s desk.

 

Now Daniel was on his own, again he had nothing to do but try and put how much he was worried out of his mind. But with his daughter and her boyfriend in hospital, and the fact that he would need to inform Emma when she got home, meant that he wasn’t doing a very good job of putting his mind at ease.

As he put the vacuum cleaner away one thought he had struck him as particularly worrying. Had they taken Harry’s papers while targeting the prison paperwork, or had they taken the prison paperwork while targeting Harry?

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Thursday 4th November

 

Madam Pomfrey had finally let Harry and Hermione out of the hospital wing on Thursday afternoon and they were headed back to the common room, just like they had a few days ago, “God, I don't remember there being this many stars this time last week,” Harry grumbled loudly, as the two battered teens struggled up Hogwarts numerous stairs.

“We spent a week in bed Harry, so of course our muscles atrophied. Trust me, my legs are feeling it as much as yours.” 

He looked at her quizzically, “Atro- what! ?”

“Atro- phied means that your muscles get weaker from lack of use,” Hermione replied.

“Oh...I didn't know there was a word for that.”

 

The pair of them reached the portrait hole to the Gryffindor common room. They went up to the portrait to say the required password, only to find that instead of the fat lady that usually guarded the entranceway, there was a portrait of a knight sat astride a small Pony, “Who goes there! Speak your name and Quest!”

Hermione looked at Harry, puzzled. He just shrugged his shoulders and gestured for her to speak, “Um...Harry and I want to get into the common room.”

“So seek ye entry to the sacred halls I am sworn to protect? Then speak ye the words of peaceful intent or be prepared to duel to the death!”

 

Harry was more than a little confused at the attitude and speech of the portrait but spoke the password so he could get into the common room, putting down the heavy bag of Hermione’s books he was carrying.

“You seek to hoodwink me!? naive well have at ye,” the knight drew his sword and started to swing it about, as if he was trying to hit Harry through his portrait, “Fear not young maiden, I shall save you from this brigand! Umph,” the knight tried to step forward and strike at Harry only to get caught in the pony’s reins, causing him to fall forward, landing flat on his face. He immediately jumped back up and began attempting to attack Harry again, “You think you have bested me?! I fight on!”

 

During all this, Hermione and Harry stood there with a dumbfounded look on their faces, watching the knight until the portrait hole opened and Neville stepped out, “Harry, Hermione!” Neville threw his arms around the two of them, “I was so worried. You faced off against Bellatrix, and then Madam Pomfrey wasn’t letting anyone visit you and I-I thought…” it was at his point Neville realised that he was half-strangling Harry and Hermione in their prolonged hug. He quickly disentangled his limbs from around the two of them, “Uh...sorry, I didn’t mean…uh sorry,” his face was bright red from the show of affection.

 

“It’s Ok Nev, we get it. I was just as worried when Harry first woke up,” Hermione comforted him.

Neville looked at them both. Harry could see he wanted to ask what Hermione meant but was afraid he already knew the answer. Neville was saved from having to decide when Harry and Hermione's return to the common room was spotted by the rest of Gryffindor house.

A cheer rang out from everyone in the common room as Harry and Hermione were pulled into the room and swamped by the rest of their housemates. As visitors had been kept away from them during their stay in the hospital wing there where a lot of rumours around what had happened.

Some said that Harry and Hermione had gone looking for LeStrange and that was why they weren't at dinner. Some had thought that LeStrange had kidnapped them earlier in the day, and that was why they weren't seen all day. Some thought that Harry had killed the crazy Azkaban escapee in one of the most epic duels of the ages. while some were surprised to see Harry and Hermione alive, having heard that they had burned to death.

 

Harry and Hermione were pressed into telling and retelling the story from their point of view over and over again. And while Harry considered his spell work in the duel amateurish and ineffective, but listening to their fellow lion's, you would think it was a contest to rival the legendary duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald.

They finally got a break when the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team walked through the portrait hole, and with them, the two people that Harry and Hermione considered the real heroes: Fred and George Weasley.

 

Hermione did something that she hadn't done for anyone except Harry and Neville for a long while. She ran up to the twins and threw her arms around them, hugging them both even though she was a lot smaller than the two of them, "Thankyouthankyouthankyou! Idon’tknowwhatwould’vehappenedifyouhadn'tcomewhenyoudid," she said this all very quickly and in one breath, her face getting redder and redder as she spoke.

The twins where a little taken aback to suddenly have a lot of bushy brown hair attacking them but they quickly realised who and what was happening.

 

 "You need to calm down Hermione," the twin on Hermione’s left said. She couldn’t tell them apart so she didn’t know who was talking.

"Yeah, my less intelligent brother here can't understand you when you talk so fast," grinned the other twin.

"And my less good looking brother is not used to pretty girls running up and hugging him." Hermione couldn't help but start laughing as the two twins bantered back and forth.

“I just wanted to say thank you. If the two of you hadn't come along when you did, I hate to think of how much worse it could have been," Hermione kept on thanking them.

 

Harry watched as his girlfriend gave the twins one of her bone-crushing hugs. Harry had had lighter hugs from Hagrid than some of the hugs Hermione could give. He didn't know how she pulled them off, she didn't appear like she would be that strong. He had considered asking her once or twice but was afraid to make her self-conscious. He really loved her hugs after all.

"Hermione is right guys, if the two of you had come along and pulled your hero routine, I'm not sure either of us would have survived. Thank you, you really saved our asses."

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione was watching Harry as LeStrange hit him again and again with that curse, that same bolt of light causing her boyfriend immense pain over and over. She heard Bellatrix’s crazed voice, happily cackling as she inflicted this pain onto Harry, "This time, I don't care if you scream Potter. I'm just going to hurt you. Again, and again, and again. Hurt you until your little fragile mind breaks. Until your nothing, nothing but a mindless shell of a person, just like the precious Longbottoms.”

 

“Crucio!” She giggled as she watched Harry’s body writhe in pain. But he was silent.

“Crucio!” She began to laugh as his body spasmed and twitched involuntarily. And still, he did not scream.

“CRUCIO!" She laughed maniacally, wholeheartedly, finding happiness and pleasure through Harry’s pain. But his mouth was tightly shut. He did not scream, or cry, or beg for a release from the pain.

Hermione was trying to get to him, but she couldn't move; she was frozen to the spot, forced to watch the torture of her boyfriend. There was nothing she could do, nothing but watch on in absolute horror as Harry was hit, again and again, taking the brunt of Bellatrix’s rage and anger.

She could feel her blood racing as she tried to move, tried to fight, tried to do anything to stop the crazy witch from hurting her Harry. Then she was suddenly plunged into darkness, a weight pressing down on her. She tried to shift it, she had to get to Harry, she had to save him before LeStrange killed him. Or worse, broke him. There wasn't a lot of time left.

 

"Hermione! Calm down!" she heard a voice speaking, to her, it seemed. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was stopping Bellatrix, saving Harry, protecting him. She didn't have time to be calm, she had to get to her Harry.

"Hermione, you’re having a nightmare. It's Ok, calm down!" Hermione then recognised the voice as Lily Moon, one of her dorm mates. But…Lily wasn’t there when she and Harry were attacked.

 

"Lily? What?" Hermione was confused and frightened, she needed to find Harry, to hold him, to know that he was safe.

"It's just a nightmare, Hermione. Here, let me help you, you got yourself all tangled in your blankets." She suited action to her words and soon Hermione was sat on the side of her bed, not paying attention to her surroundings, her mind still focused on the thought that Harry was in danger. She blinked twice, before looking around, seeing the comforting and familiar environment of her dormitory, her panic fading, but still there. It was now joined by embarrassment as Hermione imagined that she must’ve been quite loud in her nightmare, "I-I'm sorry for waking you Lily, but thanks for waking me up."

 

Lilly shook her head, "You didn't wake me up, too much pumpkin juice before bed woke me. Also, don't be silly, after what happened you are entitled to a few bad dreams. Now, I need to go take care of the pumpkin juice, will you be OK till I get back?"

Hermione nodded, "I'll be fine, I just need to remake my bed." 

With that Lily smiled warmly at Hermione and left to take care of her call of nature. Hermione straightened her sheets and blankets, she had made a right mess of them in her thrashing about just after she had awoken. By the time she was finished, Lily was back from the bathroom.

 

"Will you be OK now?"

Hermione gave the girl a small smile, "Yeah, I think I will be. Thanks again, Lily."

"No problem. You gonna try and get some more sleep?"

Hermione thought for a few seconds, then went and grabbed her bathrobe, "I just need to go check on Harry first. I know it's silly, but in my nightmare…"

Lily stopped her before she could recount what she’d seen, both in real life and in her nightmares, "I get it. Don't worry. Night, Hermione."

"Night, Lily" Lily gave Hermione a wave as she headed back to her own four-poster bed. Hermione slipped out of her dorm, her bare feet barely made any sound at all on the stone steps as she crept down to the common room.

 

The common room was empty as she crossed from the girls’ staircase to the boys’ once. The room was lit only by a few dying embers in the fireplace. At the sight of them, a shiver ran down Hermione's spine and the hairs on her tail stood on end, but she ignored it as she reached the steps that lead to Harry's dorm.

Her way up these stairs was just as quiet as the way down from hers, only this time her feet started to complain about her lack of slippers, the freezing stone slabs making her feet ache and tremble. She found the door to the room Harry shared with some of the third year boys and opened it as quickly as she could. As soon as the door was open Hermione wondered why she had bothered being quiet at all, with how loud the snoring was.

 

'And I thought Fay could snore,' Hermione thought to herself.

She made her way along the beds, most of them having their curtains drawn. Probably a defence against the chainsaw Ronald was running in his nose. Hermione couldn't see Harry amongst the beds with open curtains and wondered how she would find him. She didn't want to open the curtains at random, it would be an invasion of privacy, besides, she didn't know what she would see. She looked around for something of Harry's to indicate which bed was his. Her eyes fell on Harry's trunk at the foot of one of the beds.

 

When Hermione peeked through the curtain she found Harry. Her heart leapt as she saw him, judging by how restless he was, he was obviously having a nightmare of his own. She made up her mind, then she slipped past the curtain and out of her robe, letting it fall on the floor. She then crept into the bed next to him.

"Mione?" Harry hadn't awoken, not fully, so she just whispered to him, "Yes, Harry, it’s me. It's OK, now go back to sleep."

Harry, who had spent the last few nights sharing a hospital bed with Hermione, just accepted it and went back to sleep, unconsciously shifting up to make room for her. She snuggled against Harry and they both slept a lot better for the rest of the night.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Saturday 6th November

 

“And here we have it folks, the opening game of the 1993-94 Hogwarts Inter-house Quidditch Cup.

Opening for the Hufflepuff team we have Smith, Macavoy, and Applebee playing for the Quaffle, Fleet guarding the rings, Rickett and O'Flaherty are holding the bats, and last we have Hufflepuff’s Captain and Seeker, Cedric Diggory.

Will this be the team to take the Cup this year, or could it be the Lions of Gryffindor? We have Spinnet, Johnson and Bell, three of the best chasers Gryffindor has ever seen. We have Weasley and Weasley, the twins are almost like bludgers themselves, the way they shoot around the pitch. Guarding the rings against all comers, the Gryffindor’s have Captain and Keeper Oliver Wood, and lastly, the Seeker who has never yet failed to catch the snitch in a game he’s played in...the one the only Harry Potter!”

 

Harry felt his gut clench as his name was called out, walking down onto the pitch with the rest of the team. He was more nervous about this game than any, since his first-ever Quidditch match. He had spent so much time in the Hospital Wing, and with homework and his magical exhaustion, he hadn’t flown in over a week. He was really worried how the 5% change in his magical ability would affect his flying. On top of that, the conditions for the game were not great. In fact, they sucked for him. While the heavy rain from earlier in the week had disappeared, a heavy mist had settled over the area, and without bright light to glint off the snitch, it would be a lot harder for him to find the snitch.

 

The two teams met at the middle of the pitch, where Madam Hooch was waiting, “OK you lot, I want a clean game, Captains, shake hands.” Wood and Diggory stepped forward. While Diggory shook hands with Wood, his eyes never left Harry, as Diggory sized him up for the match, just as Harry did the exact same with him. Diggory was tall and well built, better suited to be a Beater than a Seeker, in Harry’s opinion. 

“Everyone mount your brooms.” The two teams of seven followed Madam Hooch's orders as she let out the snitch and bludgers. The three balls shot into the air, getting ready for the game to begin.

“Let’s have fun everyone. Three, two, one!” The quaffle was up in the air and the game began. Harry started circling the pitch as he looked for the snitch, hoping for a lucky break so that he could end the game quickly, but he wasn’t that lucky.

 

Bell takes the ball first. Smith tried to steal but Katie manages to keep position, ” Harry could hear Lee Jordan’s commentary of the match, and he listened to it with idle interest as he searched for the snitch,

“Bell makes her way down the pitch for an early shot at goal, but keeper Fleet manages to stop it. He passes the ball to Applebee, but the pass is intercepted by Spinnet. She tries to keep the ball and make her way to the scoring area...ooh! She’s been hit by a bludger from Rickett, that looked like it hurt! Applebee catches up and takes the quaffle, she passes to Mcavoy. Mcavoy starts towards the Gryffindor end of the pitch, but is intercepted by Johnson. Johnson moves back to the Hufflepuff end of the pitch. She dodges a bludger by O’Flaherty, and Smith intercepts as she tries to pass to Spinnet. Smith passes to Mcavoy, who passes to Applebee. who tries to take on Wood. but wood saves. Smith picks up the loose quaffle and tries again for the goal but Wood is on rare form today. Wood passes to Spinnet, but it's intercepted by Mcavoy, who takes another shot at the right hoop,” The Gryffindor stands went wild, “and that is  the reason some say Wood is the best keeper Hogwarts has seen in years, fokes. Johnson accepts the pass from her Captain. Look at that girl fly. she dodges Applebe, Smith and that bludger. She takes a shot at the center hoop, and it’s 10 - 0 to Gryffindor!”

If the Gryffindor stands had been loud at Wood’s save, they were practically deafening now as they chanted a mix of “Johnson”, “Gryffindor” and “first blood.”

 

Mcavoy picks up the quaffle on the restart, but soon loses it to Bell. Bell gets hit with a bludger and fumbles the ball, sorry I didn’t see who hit it. Mcavoy picks up the lost quaffle and passes to Smith. Smith dodges a bludger from Weasley. Impossible to tell which one from here, but it let Spinnet catch up and steal the ball. Spinnet is in the scoring area, she shoots right, but it was a feint, and Fleet fell for it! It leaves the left hoop open, making the score 20 - 0 in favour of the Gryffindor team.”

 The stands went wild again with more students joining in this time as people from other houses got caught up in the game, even though their houses weren’t even represented. It was mostly Ravenclaws, but there were a few Slytherins who were known as Quidditch nuts as well.

 

  “Johnson takes the quaffle on the restart. Passes to Spinnet, who gets hit by a bludger from O’Flaherty. Mcavoy picks up the loose ball and avoids a tackle from Spinnet, who seems to have shaken off the effects of the bludger in record time. Mcavoy passes to Smith, and Smith tries to pass to Applebee, but Spinnet takes the quaffle in mid-flight.”

 

Harry realised he had spent the last few minutes watching the match and not searching for the snitch. He looked around and checked on Diggory. Luckily the Hufflepuff Seeker was still looking for the snitch and hadn't found it while Harry was distracted. Harry sped off and started circling the pitch, hoping against hope to see the small glint of gold that would indicate the snitch. However, the heavy fog kept him from finding his target. There were even some moments where all Harry could see was white, billowing fog and only gravity told him which way was down.

 

He began to lose track of the game, only the occasional snippets of Lee’s commentary reaching him through the thick fog. “50-30 to’ Gryf-” The thick blanket of fog absorbed the rest of Lee’s commentary, but it seemed that Gryffindor was ahead. Suddenly, a bludger came out of nowhere, headed directly for Harry. He dove to avoid the bludger and narrowly avoided hitting one of the Weasley twins, who came out of the fog pursuing the ball.

“Hey Harry,” either Fred or George swung his bat at the bludger, sending it back into the fog, “How you holding up?”

Harry changed course so that he was flying next to twin he thought might be George, “I’m fine, but don't count on me catching the snitch. I can barely see anything in this fog.”

“Diggory is in the same boat. Just hope you get lucky or we could be out here for quite some time,” with that the twin darted off after the bludger.

 

The game was turning into a long slog. From the commentary, Harry knew they were neck and neck, with only 30 points in it. It seemed that this was a game destined to be decided by the snitch. Harry had all but given up on finding the snitch and instead was marking Diggory, hoping that being small and speedy would let him win the chase. Diggory had faked seeing the snitch and gone into a dive twice, only to pull up again when he was close to the ground in an attempt to throw Harry off, but Harry had a sharper turn than Diggory, his smaller mass able to shift direction with less effort.

Diggery was off again and Harry was right on his tail. They went up and up, Diggory pushing his broom to its limit. Harry couldn’t see the snitch and he briefly wondered if Diggory was faking again.

 

Harry heard screaming in the distance. A woman’s voice. Had someone be hit with a bludger? But Harry had seen the snitch and his team was counting on him. He pushed more power into his broom, willing it to go faster. He was soon neck and neck with Diggory and was closing in on the snitch a bit faster than his rival seeker.

There was more screaming, “No! Please, no! I’ll do anything, please!” What was he doing? He should be trying to help the woman who was screaming. But what could he do?

He was just a worthless freak. He couldn’t save her.

There were shape moving in the mist. Lots of them. Too many for both Quidditch teams combined. Before Harry could decide what to do, one of the shapes came flying out of the fog and Harry was confronted with the black, tattered and rotten cloak of a Dementor.

“No! Please, no! I’ll do anything, please! Not Harry! Not my Harry!” was what he heard in his ear.

Then he blacked out.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry was looking up at a red haired witch. He looked around the small sitting room they were in; it was decorated with some cheap muggle Halloween decorations, paper pumpkins and bats cut out with some orange and black streamers. 

“It’s getting late love,” the voice came from somewhere behind the witch in front of Harry.

The witch turned her attention back to him, “Is that so? Is it getting late? Is it time for my little pumpkin to go to bed?” The witch picked him up and started to carry Harry upstairs.


They had gotten about halfway up when Harry heard that same man’s voice again, this time a lot louder and a lot more panicked, “Son of a bitch! He betrayed us! Lily, run! It’s him, I...I’ll hold him off, keep Harry safe.” Tears flooded the eyes of the red-haired witch as she started running up the stairs. They went through one of the three doors at the top of the stairs and found a nursery, the walls were blue with paintings of animals on them. The witch tried turning on the spot, as though that would do something.

 

The witch then pulled open a cupboard and threw the stuff in it all over the floor, “Where is it? Where is it? Yes!” She pulled out an amulet and put it around her neck, then held Harry so that the amulet was sandwiched between them, “Mischief managed,” nothing happened, “Mischief managed! Mischief managed! Son of a bitch,” then the witch grabbed a broom leaning against the wall and tried to open the window, but it wouldn’t budge, “Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!”

She reached into her pocket, looking for something else, “Dammit, i left my wand downstairs. Accio wand! Accio wand!” She waved her hand as though it was a wand. She was trying to summon her wand.

 

There was a sound from downstairs, “AVADA KEDAVRA!”  followed by a crash and a thump, then the sound of feet slowly coming up the stairs.

The witch turned Harry to face her, and despite the tears flowing down her face she tried to remain calm, “Harry, pumpkin, whatever happens, I want you to remember something, OK? Can you be a big boy and do that for mummy? You need to remember, whatever happens, that mummy loves you. I need you to remember that. I need you to remember that I love you more than the whole world. And whatever happens, mummy will always be there for you, OK? I promise mommy will always be with you, no matter what happens. I love you, Harry.”

 

The door to the room burst open and Harry’s mummy dove into the corner of the room with Harry pressed right into the corner as she shielded him from the intruder. Harry tried to see what was happening but his mummy wouldn’t let him.

“Not even a wand...pathetic. Get out of the way girl.”

“No! Please, no! I’ll do anything please! Not Harry! Not my Harry!”

“You’re pathetic! You worthless mudblood, just get out of my way and I'll spare you.”

“No, I'm begging you, please take me, kill me, but please leave Harry alone.”

“Thrice I ask...get out of my way!”

 

Mommy tears were making Harry's pumpkin costume wet. His mummy pulled him close for the tightest hug she had ever given him, “thrice I say and done. No. I'm sorry Harry. Remember, mummy lo-” she never got to finish those last words. The man who had followed Harry and his mummy into Harry’s room shouted “ AVADA KEDAVRA!”  There was a lot of green light and his mummy had fallen down, silent and still.

Harry was scared now, mummy wasn’t moving. Harry gripped her top and started pulling on it, “Mummy. Mummy up. Mummy up.” 

The man looked down at Harry, “I wonder what was so special about you? No matter.” Then he waved his wand and shouted that same spell again, AVADA KEDAVRA!” 

 

The green light hit Harry right above his left eye. It hurt more than anything little Harry had ever experienced, then the green light hit the wall behind the scary man and the wall exploded. There was a lot of noise and there was dust in the air. The scary man was screaming, but Harry was in too much pain to be worried about that.

Harry began pulling on his mummy’s top again. Between his tears, Harry was sounded like any toddler in pain, who just wanted his mother to make the pain go away, “ Owie, mummy owie, mummy up, owie, mummy owie. Mummy up. Harry wants up."

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 22

 

Sunday 7th November

 

Harry woke up, fumbling around to find his glasses until he felt them on a bedside table. He settled them on his nose and looked around in the darkness; he was in the hospital wing again. He recognised the white sheets and curtains surrounding the bed from his previous visits. He tried to remember what had happened.

How had he got here this time? He remembered playing Quidditch...did he get hit by a bludger? He noticed a lump in the chair by his bed, and upon further inspection, he found that it was Hermione, asleep in the chair. Her periwinkle blue knitwear set was draped over the back of her chair, indicating to Harry that she hadn’t been back to the common room.

 

There were a few other students in the other beds and he recognized a few of them, Susan Bones was in the bed next to his, and there was a blond girl that Harry thought was possibly a Ravenclaw. She definitely looked like she was from the year below him, anyway.

Why were they all here? He didn’t think that the others had been hurt while playing, he didn’t recognise any of them as Quidditch players. 

He was so useless. How could he not remember why he was here?

He probably deserved it anyway. A fitting punishment for being a freak.

A part of Harry recognised those thoughts, those thoughts that never came to him normally, only whenever he was exposed to a Dementor. Just the thought of those thoughts was enough to jerk Harry’s memory, and then the images and memories of what had happened came flooding back. 

The game…

The Dementors…

That memory…

mummy loves you...mummy will always be there for you.’ 

 

“Mummy”, it was barely a whisper, but that one word was all it took to shatter Harry.

His mother's last words bounced around in his head ‘ mummy loves you ... mummy will always be there for you’, they were words he had longed to hear all his life. He felt a kind of sad happiness, hearing those words from his mother, words that he had only imagined before now. He knew that his parents had loved him dearly, everyone said so, but to hear it from his mother…his mother that was now dead.

 

Now he remembered another image, the image of his mother, dead on the floor, and little Harry, trying to get her to wake up. He wanted to tell his memory self to just hold her, hold his mother for the last ever time.

The sadness he’d felt at Halloween was nothing compared to the raw grief he felt as those memories flashed through his head. The pain and emptiness was so much more real, and Harry lost the fight to stop it from overwhelming him. His eyes filled with tears as he curled up in a ball and wept.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione awoke to the sound of sobbing. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked around, seeing Harry curled up, trembling and crying. He was in a ball on his hospital bed, more distraught than she had ever seen him. She drew the curtains around his bed so that he wouldn’t attract the attention of the other patients and become a spectacle. The last thing he would want was to become the source of gossip yet again. She knew how much he hated that.

His privacy seen to, she climbed onto the bed next to him, gently pulling him so his head was resting on her shoulder. He didn’t seem to notice or care that she had done that, and only kept weeping.

“It’s Ok Harry, it’s Ok. I'm here now”, Hermione wanted to ask questions, but she knew Harry was in no state to answer them. Instead, she sat with him, comforting him with her presence and words, making the same calming and soothing sounds her mother used to do for her when she was upset.

 

Dawn broke before Harry had calmed enough to notice that he was sobbing into his girlfriend's shoulder. He didn’t remember when she’d come and sat next to him, “‘M-mione?”

“It’s Ok Harry, I'm still here”, she reassured him, but her curiosity still had its say, “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

Harry wrapped his arms around her and held her tightly as he whispered to her, “s-she told me...she loved me.”

 

Hermione stiffened slightly. She knew Harry was very sensitive when it came to love, “Who? Who told you that she loved you, Harry?” She tried not to sound to commanding or pressing, but she couldn’t help him if she didn’t know. 

Harry hadn’t noticed Hermione’s slight change, but answered the question nevertheless, “M-my mum. She said that. ‘ mummy loves you...’ The D-dementors, they made me remember.”

Hermione was confused. That didn’t sound very bad, not something a Dementor would make you remember, “I thought Dementors only made you remember bad stuff?”

 

“It was bad ‘Mione. It was horrible . They made me remember that night. The night that Voldemort came for us. Or, more specifically, me”, Hermione now understood why the Dementors had awakened a memory of his mother telling him that she loved him; it was his mother's last moments. Harry continued before Hermione could say anything, “Mum, she ran with me to my room. She tried to do something, I think it was to escape. I think she tried that apprating thing, but it didn’t work. She tried a broom, but she couldn’t open the window...”

 

Hermione could see where this story was going and she really didn’t want to hear it, but Harry needed to get this out, he needed to share it with somebody, and she was glad that that person was her, “He was coming up the stairs. Then mum said, ‘ Harry, pumpkin, you need to remember, whatever happens, that mummy loves you. I need you to remember that. I need you to remember that.’ But...I didn't. It was all she wanted from me, to remember her love for me, but I couldn’t remember her saying that to me.”

 

 Hermione's heart broke as Harry told her more and more of his memory. By the time Harry finished describing how he tried to wake his mum, she was openly sobbing with him. Every detail, from his mother’s nickname of “pumpkin” for him, to Voldemort's offer of sparing Harry’s mother if she gave him up, they were almost like a physical blow, each and every one. The worst came after, however, “That memory is horrible, ‘ Mione, it hurts me to remember...but a part of me, it just wants to walk up to the Dementors, so I can see it again. Hearing her, my mother, saying she loves me, it’s a dream come true. I’ve wished for it my entire life...and it was the last time anyone said that to me.”

 

Hermione wanted to tell him that she loved him. She wanted him to know, she wanted everyone to know. She would gladly admit her love for Harry to anyone if they asked. Neither of them had said it to the other yet, it was a big thing to say to someone for the first time, even more so if it was your first relationship.

What held her back from saying it was that she didn't want Harry to remember the first time he heard words from her, the first time he had ever heard them from someone apart from his parents, with so much pain.

 

She didn’t want him to think that she’d said them only to comfort him, she wanted him to know that she loved him, and when she said it to him, he would know she meant it. She tried to think of something to say that would help Harry, words that weren’t those three particular words, but she couldn’t think of anything that would truly comfort him. In the end, she threw her arms around him and pulled him tight against her, trying to show him with her actions what they both weren’t ready to say.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Sometime later, Madam Pomfrey stuck her head through the curtains, “Is everything Ok? Why have you closed the curtains?” She eyed the teen couple suspiciously, but her expression shifted to one of concern when she noticed the tear stains on their cheeks and the raw redness around their eyes.

Hermione spoke up, “I’m the one who closed them. The Dementors brought up a hard memory for Harry. We needed a bit of privacy while he worked through it.”

Madam Pomfrey nodded, “Ok, you two get yourselves cleaned up. Breakfast will be round in a few minutes”, she waved her wand and a basin of lightly steaming water and a couple of washcloths and towels appeared floating next to the bed as she left. Harry was shocked for a few seconds as Hermione began pulling off her top, only to relax when all she had underneath was a pale blue vest that was under her jumper*. Harry was relieved, but also a little disappointed at the same time.

 

Unbeknownst to Harry, Hermione was congratulating herself in her head. Madam Pomfrey thinking that the curtains had been closed for another reason had given Hermione an idea. She could get Harry's mind off his memory with a little teasing.

Not telling him that she was wearing a camisole under her jumper before she removed it would probably distract him. After all, she was only doing it in order to wash. Seeing his face as she started pulling the jumper over her head had been highly amusing; he was staring red-faced with shock.

His panic began to subside as he saw the camisole underneath, and it was replaced with clear disappointment.

Boys , Hermione thought as she shook her head , so easy to distract . She gave her face and arms a quick wash with the cloth. It wasn’t anywhere near as good or cleansing as a real shower, but she had skipped her nightly routine last night, too worried about Harry to do much more than sit there holding his hand as he was treated.

 

After so long without cleaning, even a quick wash like this made her feel a lot better.

After about a minute of trying to pretend he wasn't staring at his girlfriend, Harry pulled off his shirt and joined her, though he washed his chest as well as his arms and face.

Hermione watched as the water ran over his skin. It was more than a little bit distracting, though it wasn't just the fact that her boyfriend was shirtless in front of her. She was also intrigued by the numerous scars adorning his body.

 

The scars from the dog bites stood out the most, they were still red and slightly angry, but they weren't the only ones. There was one inside his right elbow that Hermione presumed came from the Basilisk in their second year. There were thin lines and blotches on his hands, marks leftover from doing too many chores, some of which she thought must've been well in advance of his age. Then there were the most numerous long thin lines that crossed his torso, always in two parallel lines.

 

But it was the lean and surprisingly toned muscle that filled out his chest that held her most of her attention, making her slightly hot and bothered.

Damn those cat hormones!

Harry noticed Hermione looking at his scars and instinctively started to cover them as much as he could, "Sorry 'Mione, I know they're disgusting to look at. I'll cover them back up in a sec."

Hermione was quick to reassure him that that wasn't the case, "Harry, no, it’s Ok, I don't mind them."

He didn't seem convinced though, "I-I know you hate them Hermione, It fine...I hate them too."

 

"Oh Harry, I don't hate them. I hate how you got them", she picked up one of the towels and walked around the basin so she was next to him, "They're a part of you, so I could never hate them." She ran her hand over Harry's chest, her fingers lightly tracing his scars. She felt his skin tremble and heard his breathing hitch.

It was an exhilarating feeling, touching his skin, and she enjoyed it very much. Before she could distract herself too much, she brushed the towel over his chest, leaning closer so that she could lean against him without getting her top wet. After a few moments pause, she kissed him as he wrapped his arms around her waist.

 

She broke the kiss a few seconds later, "Now get dry and get your shirt on before Madam Pomfrey opens the curtains. She already thinks we're doing something inappropriate, and I'd rather not give her proof”, she grabbed the other towel and quickly dried off her arms, neck and face, and then pulled her jumper back on. As her head went through the hold, she saw that Harry had done the same.

 

They waited for Madam Pomfrey to turn up with their breakfast, and they weren’t disappointed. Less than 5 minutes after they’d gotten dressed, the nurse opened the curtain to hand them their plates of food. Hermione opened hers to find her usual breakfast of porridge with some sliced fruit, one blueberry muffin and a cup of hot chocolate, all steaming hot, having been preserved with some warming charms. Harry took his plate, which felt significantly heavier than Hermione’s and opened it to reveal a stacked breakfast of chocolate.

 

Everything in sight had some chocolate, either as a sauce, hard chunks or mixed in, there was a lot of chocolate. It made Harry a little queasy, he had never been the biggest fan of chocolate. Sure, he liked having a few bits of it every now and then, but the sheer volume of it in his breakfast made his stomach turn in circles. “You seriously expect me to eat all of this!?” He looked incredulously at his girlfriend, who looked unfazed and slightly amused at his task at hand. When he still hadn’t started eating, she sighed before gesturing to the plate, “Harry, you know that if you're exposed to Dementors, the most common cure for it is eating chocolate.” 

 

Harry scoffed, shaking his head, “It’s a little bit of an overkill, though! There is no way I'm eating all of this. Heck Hermione, you like chocolate more than me!”

“Harry, with the amount of Dementors you were exposed to, you need to consume a lot more chocolate than the regular person. You should be happy, the other ways to cure you are a lot more painful and uncomfortable.”

That made him pause for a second, “Wait...how many Dementors were there?”

“50 Dementors were there at the game. At least, that is what Dumbledore said”, this came from Madam Pomfrey, who they’d both forgotten was still there, watching the two of them with unveiled amusement, “And you should listen to Miss Granger, she is correct. With the amount of Dementors there that day, you should be happy that all you have to do is eat a large meal of chocolate. Though, if you don’t want that, there are other ways…”

 

“No, no, I’ll eat the chocolate”, Harry didn’t want to find out these other ways. He reluctantly began to eat his meal, slowly at first, but soon increased in pace as the effects came over him. Earlier than Hermione had expected, Harry was finished and was lying back in bed, holding an arm over his stomach. “Ugh, I think I ate too much…” he groaned. Hermione and Madam Pomfrey both laughed, while he rolled over and curled up on the other side of the bed.

“Well, I think I'll leave you two to it then. You should be able to be discharged, at the very latest, by this afternoon”, with that, Madam Pomfrey headed out of the hospital wing.

 

After the stomach ache had passed, Harry felt better almost immediately, and it seemed that Susan and the Ravenclaw girl had perked up as well, though Harry didn’t know what they’d eaten for breakfast. Harry asked Hermione why she hadn't had any chocolate herself, apart from the usual amount she ate, and she replied that she had had some the previous evening. The four of them soon started talking. “So, does anyone know what happened with the Quidditch game? I was rather enjoying it, until the dementors turned up. I didn’t care for the memories they showed me…” The blond Ravenclaw girl asked.

 

“That’s a good question”, said Harry. He avoided asking her about what her memories contained, as they were probably painful and personal. He sure knew that he wouldn’t want anyone asking him about his memories, apart from Hermione, “Me and Diggory were neck and neck for the Snitch, last I remember. I was about to grab it, when...I think I blacked out...”

Hermione answered, “You passed out before you could catch it. Since you weren’t conscious, you started falling from your broom. Cedric, I think his name is, he gave up on the Snitch and grabbed you, meaning that no one caught it. Madam Hooch called off the game and was going to call it a draw. Wood, however, wasn’t having it.”

 

Harry and Susan both groaned at the antics of the Quidditch-crazed Gryffindor. His obsession with the game almost rivalled McGonagall’s. “I know it’s Wood’s last chance at the cup, but he really needs to calm down sometimes…” Harry moaned.

“Actually, Wood insisted on a Gryffindor forfeit. He insisted that Cedric deserved better than a draw for giving up on the Snitch and saving you”, Hermione finished.

 

Susan, always a proud Hufflepuff, cheered, “Way to go Cedric!” She then remembered why Hufflepuff had won that match, “Oh...I mean...sorry Harry, I-I'm just happy-”

“That Hufflepuff won”, he finished for her, “It’s fine. I would be happy if it had been a Gryffindor win."

He turned to the Ravenclaw girl, "We haven’t actually introduced ourselves. I'm Harry, nice to meet you."

"It's nice to meet you as well Harry. I am Luna. Luna Lovegood. Most people call me loony, but I don't like that very much", her voice had a faraway, almost dreamy, quality to it.

 

"That's horrible . We won't call you that, will we Harry?" Hermione had never been a fan of bullying, especially after being on the end of Malfoy’s since first-year.

"No, we definitely won’t. I know what it’s like to have a name people use that I hate."

"You don't like it when people call you ‘the boy who lived’", Luna said it as a statement, not a question, "You don't like being reminded what that name cost you."

 

Harry was taken aback by her straight-forward and bold approach, "H-how did you know that?"

"It's quite simple really”, she answered, her soft voice still as calm as if they were discussing the weather, “I don't like being reminded of my mother's death either. It makes me sad. I saw that same sad look in both of your eyes-” she indicated both Harry and Susan, “-before you ate the chocolate. Did the Dementors remind you of the past as well?” She was blunt and calm, but Harry suspected that was just the way Luna was.

 

It was Susan who answered first, “I-I was with my aunty again. It was the day...the day w-we learned that my parents were dead. Murdered by Death-eaters. I remember my aunt breaking down, but I didn't understand what happened, I-I just thought my parents had left me and gone away. I was so angry at them.”

Harry was about to tell Susan and Luna what he had seen, emboldened and saddened by Susan’s story. Luna spoke first though, her voice having emotion and losing it’s dreamy quality for the first time since they’d met, “I was six when I watched my mum die. She was brewing a potion, but something went wrong. The cauldron exploded, and a chunk hit mummy in the back of the head”, her voice suddenly got a lot quieter, “I-I was alone in the room with her for ages before daddy got home.”

 

Hermione got up off Harry’s bed where she had been sitting, walked over and pulled Luna into a hug. The girl went stiff for a few seconds, obviously uncomfortable and unused to the affection, before she relaxed into Hermione.

“What about you Harry? What did you remember?” Susan asked.

“I was back there. That night”, that got Susan and Luna’s attention, “dad tried to buy time for mum and me to escape”, Harry paused for a moment. He sat there in silence for a second, before he started speaking again, “I-it didn’t work. There was no way out. We could hear it as Voldemort killed dad.” The two girls flinched at the name, but Hermione was used to Harry saying it and wasn’t jumpy at the name, “Mum...said her goodbye to me. Then he came in, and I watched as he killed her. Then, Voldemort turned his wand on me.”

 

The two didn’t flinch as much this time, but still flinched nevertheless, “I can't explain what happened after that. It’s all a jumble. All I know is that by the end I was hurting, and scared, and I just wanted my mum.” Harry wondered if he had said too much. Luna and Susan were both looking at him with sadness in their eyes. After a few moments he realized those were the same looks he’d had given them after each had recounted their memories.

Attention turned to Hermione, who blushed, “I didn’t collapse, I'm just here for Harry. I did remember something...but I can't tell you about it. It involves someone else's secrets. I don't have the right to reveal them. All I can say is that I learned how little I had done to help someone when they really needed it.”

Harry froze, was Hermione’s worst memory when he’d appeared at her home on his birthday?

He hoped not.

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Not long after breakfast and their conversation, Madam Pomfrey let the four of them go, “So what do you want to do first Harry?” Hermione asked, putting the decision on him.

“We’ll probably see Cedric at lunch, so there’s little point in spending time looking for him. I also would like to see Professor McGonagall about something else as well as our homework, so, any objections to seeing if we can find her first?” Harry said as they walked along the corridor outside the hospital wing.

“Sounds like a plan, want to try her office first?” she asked as they reached the staircase.

“Sounds like a plan.” They descended the stairs looking for the Transfiguration corridor.

 

Trying her office first had been a good plan as when they knocked on the door, their Transfiguration Professor called out, “Come on in.”

Professor McGonagall was sitting at her desk as she poured over paperwork. She looked up to see who had come through her door, “Miss Granger, Mr Potter, I see Madam Pomfrey has released you from her care. What can I do for you?”

Hermione fidgeted uncomfortably; she had never had to ask a teacher this before, “Professor...we were wondering if we could possibly get an extension”, she said it as though it was a dirty word, for our half term homework?”

 

Professor McGonagall smiled at them and Harry felt himself relax, though Hermione was still tense, “Before I grant it, I need to ask why do you need the extension?”

Harry replied, “The same reason I always have Professor. Too much time in the hospital wing led to not enough time for us to finish our transfiguration homework.”

Professor McGonagall nodded, “You have until Friday’s lesson to hand it in, but if you can get it to me before then, please do. What about your other classes?”

 

Hermione relaxed now that she realised they had the extension granted and weren’t going to be told off, “We have them covered Professor, It’s just your class is first thing tomorrow...sorry.”

“There is no need to apologize, Miss Granger, these things happen. Granted, not nearly as often as they happen for Mr Potter, but it’s nothing to apologize for. Now, while you two are here, there is something I needed to talk to you about anyway”, Harry grew anxious, whenever it concerned him, it was almost never good, “Professor Dumbledore has decided, and I must say I quite agree in this case, that until Bellatrix LaStrange is caught, the two of you, and Mr Longbottom, are no longer allowed to visit the village of Hogsmeade.”

 

“But Profes-” Harry tried to argue but Hermione interrupted him, stopping him with a hand on his shoulder, “No Harry...Professor McGonagall is right. LaStrange is in the area, and visiting Hogsmeade would be stupid, as there are no teachers about to protect you”, Harry thought that was quite rich, considering that the teachers hadn’t even known LaStrange was in the castle, but he offered no further complaints. Hermione was just as disappointed as him, though she didn’t visibly shot it. She and Harry had planned to use those weekends in the village as dates, and now that was off the table.

 

Professor McGonagall tried to offer some comfort and understanding to Harry, “I know it feels like you are being punished when you haven’t done anything wrong, but I assure you, this is only about keeping you safe. I'm sure you understand.”

“Yes Professor”, Harry was dejected but begrudgingly understood the point about his safety.

The Professor breathed out a huge sigh before starting to usher the two of them out, “Now, I don't want to be rude, but I have paperwork I have to get back to, so do you two need anything else?”

 

“Actually, yes. You said you were fixing my photo album Professor, I was just wondering if you were done?”

“Oh yes. I managed to repair any damage done to it. One second”, she got up and went over to a welsh dresser*, pulling out Harry’s photo album and handing it to him, “Here you go. The pictures were completely undamaged due to the protection charms on them, but a few of the pages were burnt partially and needed some restoration. I had to guess how some of them looked beforehand, so a few of the patterns on the pages may be a little off, but that's just cosmetic.”

 

Harry didn’t care about that; as long as the photos were safe, it was all he really cared about. He quickly flicked through the album to reassure himself that his precious photos were fine. After he’d checked, he shut the album, “Thank You Professor. Thank you, these are all the photos I have of them”, he hugged the album to his chest.

Professor McGonagall smiled down at him, “I understand Harry. Now off with the two of you, I need to get some work done before I'm interrupted again.”

 

Harry and Hermione left the Professor to her paperwork and made their way back towards the grand staircase, “Do you want to take your album back to your dorm first Harry?”

Harry looked at the album in his arms, part of him wanted to do just that; to lock away the album somewhere safe. However, he had a idea, “No, I think it may be helpful.”

Hermione nodded, she had explained that Professor Lupin had used the same spell he had in the train to get rid of the Dementors that had attacked the Quidditch pitch. With the Dementors having gone after Harry twice now, Hermione thought it was a good idea to ask the Professor if there was anything they could do to protect themselves if it happened again.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

They found the Professor in his office as well. He welcomed them both warmly as he opened the door, “Harry, Hermione! Come on in. I was just going to put the kettle on, would either of you like a cup?”

They both accepted as they went into the Professor’s office. Harry had seen this same office last year when Lockhart had been using it. Back then it had been filled with self-obsessed pictures of Lockhart himself, beaming and smiling from every surface in the room. Lupin had thankfully took a less egotistical approach to decorating.

 

Under his care, the office had a more comfortable atmosphere, and it seemed that Lupin himself liked to live in a place full of books. Books on shelves, books in open trunks, even books stacked in columns on his coffee table.

Harry had a feeling that his DADA Professor and Hermione would get on very well. On a table against the wall that was shared with the DADA classroom was a glass tank. In that tank was one of the weirdest creatures Harry and Hermione had ever seen.

 

The small one-legged thing seemed to be made up of wisps of smoke. It was carrying a small lantern, that glowed surprisingly bright for its size. It had no visible eyes, but Harry had the distinct impression that it was watching them.

“Oh! It’s a will-o'-the-wisp!” Hermione got excited as her knowledge returned after a moment of staring, “A..um, oh , what was the name wizards use? Hunkypink? No...Hinkypunk, that's it. They live in bogs and lure people off the paths.”

 

“Very good Hermione. Ten points to Gryffindor. I have it ready for our lesson tomorrow”, Lupin praised Hermione as he busied himself making tea, “So I see Madam Pomfrey has let you out of the hospital wing Harry. Are you here to ask for an extension on your Red Cap essay?”

“No, we actually finished it a few days ago. We got as much done before the Quidditch game as possible” Harry answered

“We need a bit more time for transfiguration”, Hermione continued, “Professor McGonagall has already said that was fine. We actually wanted to ask about-”

 

“This”, Harry cut her off and held up his photo album, “Hagrid gave me this at the end of my first year. It’s a photo album. Hermione and I were looking through it on Halloween and...well”, Harry flipped the album open and placed it on the coffee table next to where Professor Lupin had just placed a tray with three cups of tea. While Lupin looked at the photos on the page, Hermione shot Harry an angry look. She hadn’t liked that Harry had talked over her. Harry gave her a quick apologetic look, silently saying that he would explain later.

 

Lupin handed the album back to Harry and started pouring the tea, “I guess you want to know why I never told you I was a friend of your parents?” He handed each of them a mug of tea, “Help yourselves to milk and sugar.”

They busied themselves for a few moments as they each adjusted their drinks to their liking. Hermione didn’t add any sugar to hers even though Harry knew she preferred it sweeter. At home the Granger’s used artificial sweeteners, but obviously those weren’t available in the wizarding world. Harry also left his tea unsweetened.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry and Hermione walked out of Professor Lupin’s office almost two hours later. They had talked a lot about why Lupin hadn’t told Harry about being friends with his parents. It had been a confusing jumble of his role as a teacher, advice from the Headmaster that Harry might not trust the DADA Professor and guilt over something Professor Lupin refused to elaborate on.

After that, the talk had moved to Lupin reminiscing over his time running around Hogwarts with Harry's father. He had told them about pranks they had pulled, such as the time Harry’s father had set up Rune Arrays all around the castle, so that for the next twenty-four hours, everyone in the school, students teachers, even the ghosts, all spoke with a really thick french accent. Lupin swore he heard a cat meow in a french accent, though Hermione doubted that was possible.

 

After a while, Hermione managed to bring the conversation around to the topic of Dementors, and more specifically, how to fight against them. It was quite a feat, considering that Harry and Lupin were in fits of giggles half the time from the stories the Professor was telling. Hermione thought that the pranks were slightly immature, especially since some of them were done in their 6th, and even 7th, years, but she kept quiet.

Professor Lupin had been reluctant at first. The spell to repel Dementors was a post N.E.W.T. spell, but Harry argued that he just needed something that would buy him enough time to land if he was attacked during his next Quidditch game, or when there weren’t any teachers around to protect them. After that, Professor Lupin had agreed that he would give them a lesson to try and learn the Patronus charm.

 

As Professor Lupin was showing them out of his office a thought occurred to Harry, "Professor, you said you saw me a lot when I was young", Professor Lupin nodded, so Harry continued, "Then, I must have known you rather well. Um...what did I used to call you? I doubt I called you Professor Lupin."

Lupin got a far away look in his eye and smiled at Harry. It seemed his question brought back fond memories for the professor, "You used to call me Uncle Moony."

An image of a rather large stuffed animal jumped into Harry's mind when he heard the name 'uncle moony', "Moony? Why Moony? And why am I remembering a giant stuffed dog?"

 

"Well, Moony was the nickname your dad and our friends gave me when we were students here. I was Moony, your father was Prongs. There was also Wormtail and...well, there was another called Padfoot, but he turned out to be not a very good friend. He’s in prison now, after he joined you-know-who. 

As for the giant stuffed dog. It was something I gave you your first birthday, only it was a wolf, not a dog, and it was only this big." He held his hands apart enough to indicate something about the size of an average house cat, "But you where a lot smaller then. I'm surprised you remembered it", He was happy that Harry remembered though, if the look on his face was anything to judge by.

 

"Sorry Professor, but we need to get to lunch. Harry still needs to talk to Cedric about something, and lunch is our best chance to catch him", Hermione hurried Harry along, reminding him that they still needed to speak with the Hufflepuff. He turned and waved to Lupin as they hurried down the corridor to the Great Hall, "See you later Professor...it was nice getting to know my Uncle Moony again."

A big grin spread over Lupin’s face. Though he clearly enjoyed Harry calling him by his nickname, he told him, "Remember, it's just Professor while we are around the school."

 

Harry and Hermione made their way towards the Great Hall. Hermione turned to Harry, her voice a little cold, "Don't think I’ve forgotten about you talking over me in Professor Lupin’s office. I would like an explanation."

It wasn't the first time Harry had done something Hermione didn't like. He had occasionally stuck his foot in his mouth, for as long as they had been friends, and that hadn't changed after they had become a couple.

 

Only, now she made him feel a lot more guilty, "I’m sorry Mione. I just thought that if Professor Lupin was talking about my parents first, he would be more likely to help with the Dementors.”

“Why didn’t you say something before we went to see him instead of talking over me like that?”

“I forgot. I'm sorry.”

Hermione pulled his arm around her and she leaned into his side, “Just try not to do it again”, she lightly scolded him.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

A few moments earlier

 

“Oh brother mine!”

The Weasley twins were waiting, hidden outside Professor Lupin's office to prank the DADA teacher, so that they could attempt to catch the Professor in their latest scheme.

“Yes George?”

“Do we really think this will work?”

“Of course. We have pranked every Professor this school has...”

“All of them except Professor Lupin.”

“Something we are here to remedy, are we not?”

 

“But, it’s just that this prank, it’s so simple, and we haven’t been able to prank him yet.” They had tried a few tricks on the man, but so far he had seen them all and avoided them. He somehow managed to spot every plan and trap the twins had, undoing them with little to no effort.

But , the simplicity is why this will work. He won’t expect anything this simple.”

“Quiet, I think I hear them coming. Remember, wait until Harry and Hermione are clear. The last thing I want is an angry Hermione Granger in the same common room as me.”

 

"Professor, you said you saw me a lot when I was young...Then, I must have known you rather well. Um...what did I used to call you? I doubt I called you Professor Lupin."

"You used to call me Uncle Moony."

"Moony? Why Moony? And why am I remembering a giant stuffed dog?"

 

"Well, Moony was the nickname your dad and our friends gave me when we were students here. I was Moony, your father was Prongs. There was also Wormtail and...well, there was another called Padfoot...

 

The Weasley twins looked at each other, then at the blank piece of parchment that Fred had taken out of his pocket.

“Abort!”

“You’re damn right about that! No wonder we couldn’t prank him...Our Professor Lupin is a living legend.”

“He’s a marauder !”

 

“You know what this means brother?”

“That we need a much better prank if we are going to keep our streak?” 

“That as well, but not what I mean.”

“Then what brother dearest?”

“Harry is the son of a marauder!”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

 


Chapter Text

 

Chapter 23

Tuesday 9th November

Harry and Hermione were sitting down to their regular breakfast. At this time of year, it was porridge, as the simple dish really warded off the chill of Scottish weather rather well. Harry had, much to Hermione's disapproval, drowned his food in an apple and cinnamon preserve which was probably more sugar than fruit.

Hermione, with a casual flick of her wand and a muttered spell, sliced up the apple she has taken from the middle of the table, levitating it over her bowl. She added a small drizzle of honey after she'd tasted the apple and found it to be a little tart.

"So Harry, what are you going to do first period?" Ron asked. He was sitting on the other side of the table and doing his usual impersonation of a black hole, stuffing his face full of bacon, egg and sausage.

"I'm going to work on my Runes Project, you know...like I'm supposed to." Harry, who had grown up with both Dudley and Vernon as eating partners, was unfazed by Ron's eating habits, but Hermione looked like she was going to be sick as she watched a bit of egg that was wobbling, stuck to Ron's chin.

"What a waste. What's the point of a free period if you do school work? You might as well have just retaken Latin."

Retaking Latin was exactly what Ron had done. While he wasn't a complete lost cause at the subject like Harry, he had still come out of the class with a P. Ron had tried to do an independent study like Harry, but his idea to 'do something with Quidditch' had been rejected by Professor McGonagall, and he had ended up taking Latin again.

Hermione decided to intervene at this point. Ron's disregard for education seemed to have set her off, "'It' is not a waste Ron. Harry needs to get his project done, and why not do that work while we are in class. Because, If he doesn't do it then, then he would have to do it when he could be spending time with you or me. Oh, and for goodness sake, clean your face! You've had egg on your chin for the last 5 minutes."

Instead of grabbing a napkin and wiping his chin, Ron opted to use his hand to wipe the grime off of his face. He then tossed the cold, congealed bit of egg into his mouth, unfazed in the slightest by hygiene, "Thanks 'Mione. I guess it would be better that Harry gets the boring stuff done while he can't just hang with us."

Hermione pushed her mostly eaten bowl of porridge away from her, "Ugh, I'm done eating. I'm gonna make my way up to Arithmancy. Catch you two later." Harry, who had also 'finished his breakfast' grabbed his bag, "Hold up, I'll walk with you."

The two of them made their way to the classroom where Professor Vector taught her students. Hermione looked a little unwell, so Harry had asked her if she was feeling OK.

"I'm fine Harry. It's just Ron's eating habits. Usually, I can handle it, but him eating that egg from his face was just too much."

Harry nodded, agreeing with her completely, "I don't get why he's like that. None of the other Weasleys are like that at the table. I remember Mrs Weasley telling the twins off for talking with their mouths full when I spent the summer at the Burrow last year."

They were about ten minutes early for the Arithmancy, so Hermione took her seat at the front of the class and started pulling out her stuff for the class. Harry sat on the edge of her desk as they chatted about nothing in particular. When the other students started arriving, Harry told Hermione that he would see her later and made his way to the Library.

The library was almost empty when he arrived, there were only a few of the more studious N.E.W.T. students there. Most people who had a free period first thing in the morning took the opportunity to have a late breakfast after the masses have cleared from the Great Hall. Harry knew that wouldn't last; within the 30 minutes, more and more N.E.W.T students, and the odd O.W.L student, would arrive and start filling up the library. He took the opportunity of being comparatively early to claim one of the more comfortable corners of the library.

Harry took out his notes for his Runes Project and gave them a once over. His original idea, while decent and probably enough to get him a pass, didn't really have the same impact as his latest one. The original plan had been to see just how far he could push the usefulness of another enchanted hairband, like the one he had made for Hermione. He wanted to use the study to have a free pass with experimenting with different elements, and possibly make multiple hairbands for his girlfriend, all with different uses.

He had had a number of ideas for features to add as well. Illusionary human ears, possibly some runes to keep her ears at a comfy temperature, and make it so that the fabric of the cover didn't affect her hearing. He had even been looking into an array that would change the colour to better suit whatever she was wearing. While he still planned to make this hairband for Hermione, Harry was going to do something different for his assignment.

It had started with his memory, that memory, as Harry had taken to thinking of it. His idea had been based on watching his mum try to do wandless magic, since she was unable to get her wand. It had taken Harry a few hours to find the spell that his mother had tried, but he did find it. It was the spell 'Accio', she had been trying to call her wand to herself using the summoning charm.

Harry had also wondered how that night would've worked out if she had been successful in her attempts to summon her wand. Voldemort would have been facing an armed and powerful witch instead of the defenceless mother that his mum was that night. Maybe nothing would've changed, Voldemort had killed so many after all. But there would have been a chance, a chance for his mother to survive that night, to fight back against the person that had caused her, and people close to her, so much harm.

Harry was going to make sure people had that chance in the future.

He quickly got the books he needed and began researching how to build an array to summon a wand without the risk of it failing.

- ϟϟϟ -

Hermione was a little surprised and a little disappointed that Harry wasn't waiting for her when she left the Arithmancy classroom. Not that he had to be with her all the time, but they had pretty much established a pattern for Tuesday mornings. He would work on his project in the library, and as the library was on the same floor as the Arithmancy classroom Harry, who's time was more flexible, would be waiting for her.

Hermione hoped he'd just lost track of time, but with everything that had happened the previous week, she needed to make sure that he was OK. She made her way to the library as quickly as she dared with the strict Professor Vector in the corridor.

She entered the library not even thirty seconds later and started searching in between the stacks. She relaxed when she found Harry in one of her favourite reading corners. It wasn't the best spot in the library, but it was definitely one of the better ones.

He was so focused on his work that he hadn't even noticed that she was there. He had just gotten lost in his work, not even noticing as Hermione came up behind him and took the opportunity to have a cheeky glance at his notes.

She stared at the terribly untidy notes, confused. Half of the Runes where unfamiliar to her and the scribbled arrays and lines of runes were completely different from the notes she had read from Harry's project before. She picked up one of the pages of notes, but before she could read it she heard Harry cry out, "Hey! What do you thin-" He turned around to see his girlfriend intently reading his pages of notes, "oh, sorry 'Mione. Why aren't you in Arithmancy?"

"It's just gone 9:30 Harry. Arithmancy is finished. Well, for today at least."

"Really!? Sorry, I was going to wait for you outside your class like always, but I kinda got caught up in this."

"I can see that", she gave the page of notes in her hand another look, "These aren't the same arrays you were working on. Why the sudden change?"

"I'm changing the project. Doing something else", Harry half-mumbled at her in response. Now that he knew it was Hermione, he had gone back to scribbling things down for his project.

"Oh...you're changing the project..." The disappointed tone of her voice made him lookup. Hermione had a slightly disappointed look on her face, though she was trying to hide it. Harry then realised why she was disappointed and was quick to reassure her, "I'm still going to do the hairband, I'm just switching what I'm handing in for my grade. My new idea fits the requirements a lot better."

Hermione looked visibly happier after that, though Harry didn't blame her for being slightly disappointed. They'd been talking about his ideas for improving on the hairband for weeks, and he had gotten her hopes up. He would hate to ruin those hopes for her, so he had decided to work on both projects at the same time.

"So what's the new project?" Hermione asked, sitting down in the seat next to him.

"It's pretty much a wandless summoning of wands", Harry answered.

"What, like a disarming charm? A wandless type of expelliarmus with Runes?" She was confused as to why Harry would want to make something like that.

"No, it's actually the opposite. A way to call your wand to you, if it isn't in your hand...so people like my mum can stand a chance in the future", he trailed off at the end, going silent as he continued his work deep in thought.

Hermione wasn't too surprised; of course, Harry was going to change his project to something like this. It was just the sort of person he was, always trying to help others, "Will you be able to finish it in time, switching this late in the year?"

Harry considered it, "I think so. As long as I don't get stuck on the targeting, that is."

"Targeting?"

"Getting the array to only summon the owner's wand. And not end up with every wand in range suddenly flying at you. Or even just the wand nearest you, cause it may be a usable one."

"So you need to work out a way to summon a specific wand."

"Yep."

"Not that I don't think you can, but that sounds pretty difficult. What about your grade if it takes to long to work out?" Hermione tried to not sound like she didn't think Harry could do it. She did think he could pull it off, but she was concerned that he wouldn't be able to do it in time for his project deadline.

"In that case, since I'm still doing the hairband for you, even If I can't do it or don't get it done in time, I'll just hand in a hairband for my grade. I may get a lower grade, but I won't fail the entire thing, even if I fail the summoning project."

"You can do it, Harry, I know you can. However, you can't do it just right now. Pack up, we need to get to Charms before we're late."

- ϟϟϟ -

Friday 12th November

Harry had just gotten out of charms, when Hermione told him to go change his clothes. He was a little surprised at this, but his girlfriend obviously had some sort of plan, so Harry had decided to play along.

He went up to his dorm and switched out his plain white shirt for one of his blue ones, as Hermione had a thing for blue and always liked him in them. He switched his trousers to a pair that matched the blazer he put on, before checking himself in the mirror in the bathroom.

He figured he has dressed a little weird for the standards of the wizarding world, but didn't think he looked bad, from the point of view of someone raised in the muggle world. It wouldn't really matter anyway, considering Hermione was also raised in the Muggle world and often preferred to wear muggle clothing.

Harry was just about to leave the dorm when Seamus walked in. "Yo Harry. What's up with the muggle outfit?"

"Hey, Seamus. Hermione seems to have some type of plan for me tonight, and I figured that these clothes fit pretty well, considering we were both raised in the muggle world."

Seamus took it upon himself to finish the rest of the story, "So...she likes the way you look in muggle clothes, and she's got a 'plan' for you. Well, somehow, I think that this plan is gonna end up with her pulling you into a broom cupboard. Or at least, that's what you're hoping for..." He winked at Harry, who had turned bright red, neither complaining nor agreeing, "Uh...maybe something like that…" Harry muttered, before he quickly exited the room, with Seamus laughing behind him.

When he got to the common room, he found that Hermione wasn't back from her dorm yet, where she had gone to change as well. There were a few muttered comments from the other Gryffindors in the room, but most of them didn't even give him a second look. He didn't have to wait long for Hermione, who came down the staircase wearing a baby blue short sleeve shirt and her tartan skirt, that she had modified to accommodate her tail since he had last seen her wear it.

Hermione smiled as she saw Harry. She walked up to him and linked her arm through his, practically pulling him out the portrait hole and the common room. Harry tried asking where they were going, but Hermione just kept avoiding the question. However, once they went up the stairs from the 6th floor, where the entrance to Gryffindor tower was, it was pretty clear where they were headed to. There were only two places that they used on the seventh floor; the entrance to the owlery and the Room of Requirement.

When they reached the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, the door to the Room of Requirement was already there. Harry figured that Hermione must have planned this in advance. She pulled him to the door and opened it.

The room was a variation on the room they used previously, only this time there were a few things added or changed. The art on the walls was replaced with windows that showed the views around Hogwarts. The sun was already low in the sky, casting the room in an orange-red glow as the light hit the white curtains that framed the windows. The biggest change was that there was a gramophone in the corner playing soft music. The changes made the room feel a lot calmer.

"Thank you Dobby", Hermione said aloud, confusing Harry, as he couldn't see the little elf anywhere. Said elf then suddenly appeared right in front of them, startling both Harry and Hermione, "Dobby is happy to help Harry Potter's grangy", the wide smile on his face showed that he had indeed enjoyed himself, "Dobby be goings now."

"Thanks, dobby", Harry didn't know what he had done, beyond keeping the room open for Hermione, but he had seemingly helped her quite a bit, so that was all Harry needed to know. Dobby's grin grew bigger at Harry's gratitude before the elf popped out of the room.

Hermione finally answered the questions Harry had been dying to know, " I guess you want to know why I dragged you up here? Well, after everything that happened over the last couple of weeks, with what happened during half term and all the work we put in catching up with our homework, I thought we could use a night to just relax. No pressure, no homework, and a bit of dinner later."

Harry smiled, "That sounds perfect", he pulled Hermione into a kiss and the two lost themselves for a time as the rest of the world, and all their pressing concerns fell away.

The two of them spent the evening talking about nothing in particular, eating the shepherd's pie Hermione said Dobby made for them, relaxing in each other's company.

- ϟϟϟ -

Wednesday 17th November

Harry had just finished up a training session with the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Wood was pushing the team harder and harder, hoping to overcome the loss suffered against Hufflepuff. Harry, in particular, was feeling the pressure, considering it had been the first time he'd failed to catch the snitch since he'd began to play the game. According to the rest of the team, Harry was blaming himself too much, but he just couldn't shake the feeling that if he had done better then they would not currently be in last place for the cup.

Harry was just coming out of the changing rooms when Hedwig swooped past him. He grinned at his familiar; she always seemed to know when he needed to take a break. He knew what she was here for, she only came, when he had his broom, for one thing.

To fly.

It didn't matter that he had just had an exhausting training session playing Quidditch, he felt his fatigue drain away as Hedwig swooped into the sky, flying in lazy circles as she waited for him to join her. Harry obliged, jumping back on his Nimbus and following his familiar into the sky.

Hedwig made for the castle. The air currents around the numerous towers and roofs were always a little more chaotic than the rest of the grounds, and Hedwig always seemed to delight in swooping in and out of these air currents. Harry could see why, even if brooms didn't rely on air currents to affect their flight since his familiar was an owl, it would make a significantly larger difference to her. Harry didn't mind that Hedwig liked to go around these towers, and even though it was dangerous, one of the first games they played when they first started flying together was 'follow the leader'. It also helped test Harry's reflexes and skill in the air, but he often could never keep up with his familiar, as she was a lot more skilled and experienced in flying, considering she spent almost all of her time in the air.

Hedwig would lead him through these air currents, following their twists and turns as the air weaved around the school in every which way, sometimes even changing direction sharply as the currents would collide with others going in a different direction. It was like riding the cart at Gringotts, as the two of them weaved and span through the sky. Hedwig absolutely loved it, and if Harry was honest, so did he.

The two dived and swooped together for almost an hour before Hedwig flew over to Harry and landed on the handle of his broom. That was her way of saying that she was tired and wanted him to take her back to the owlery.

After he had dropped off his owl in her home, he slowly made his way down to Gryffindor tower to find Hermione. He was in an excellent mood, and took his time as he strolled through the castle, looking around at the magical scenery all around him.

- ϟϟϟ -

Harry entered the common room, his broom slung over his shoulder. He looked around for his girlfriend, and immediately his good mood evaporated.

Hermione was by one of the windows that looked out over the Hogwarts ground, a piece of parchment in one hand, as the other tried to wipe the tears that were flowing down her face. He rushed over and pulled her into a hug, "'Mione, what's wrong? What happened?"

She didn't answer, and instead buried her head in his shoulder and sobbed. Harry just held her close, desperately trying to figure out what could've made his Hermione that upset.

Over the next few minutes, Hermione's tears slowly subsided. Even after she'd mostly stopped crying, just sniffling a little, Harry still held her close, his arms wrapped protectively around her, not that she was complaining.

The most important person in his life had just been crying and upset, and Harry was going to work out who, or what, had done this to her, if it was the last thing he could do.

Hermione began to push away from him lightly, and he let her, hoping that she could tell him what had her so sad. Silently, she picked up the parchment she had dropped when Harry had smothered her in a hug, and passed it to him. She snuggled into his side as he began to read what was revealed to be a letter to Hermione;

Kitten,

I'm glad to hear that you and Harry are doing well. Your professor told us news of that LeStrange woman who had broken into your school, that she had attacked you and Harry.

It had me and your father worried sick. Sometimes, I wish we could just pull you out of that school and homeschool you. But don't worry, we know just how much you love that school, and we don't have any way to teach you what you need to know as a witch anyhow. It doesn't stop your dad and I still from worrying though.

Please promise me that you and Harry will try and stay safe. We know how much you love him as well, and we know that if he were in danger, you would willingly put yourself in danger to save him. Your dad and I have come to care for him a great deal, and we would hate to see him hurt any more than we already know he has been.

That sounded a little ominous, but it sounded like Hogwarts was the only option for the Grangers. Harry felt conflicted about the fact that they pretty much had no other option. On one hand, he had to admit the promise they had been given, that Hogwarts was the safest magical place in the country, had definitely been proven false.

It clearly wasn't as safe as the Grangers had thought, if an escaped convict was able to break out of prison and attack Hermione and him, right here in school.

On the other hand, the idea of Hermione going somewhere else without him made his chest hurt. He knew it was selfish, but he wanted her to stay, if only so that she could be there with him. He didn't think that was something Hermione would cry about though. Maybe, if her parents had pulled her out, but they were letting her stay;

Everything is fine here at home. The surgery is ticking over. We had our regular Halloween spike of kids with cavities, as well as people who broke a tooth or two while drunk, or from falling over or something.

It's a lot of work, but the money is always welcome. Your dad's been grumbling that his car insurance has gone up again, but honestly, what does he expect, after he bummed old Mrs Harris's car in the snow last winter!?

I told him to just pay the mechanic without going through the insurance company. Old Mrs Harris was fine with that, it was mostly paint damage after all. But you know your father, he went through the insurance and lost his no claims.

There didn't seem anything to make Hermione cry there, mostly just trivial information;

Speaking of your father, we had a talk and there is something we should have done in the summer regarding Harry. We need to find out if he ever went to a dentist, and, if he has, how long it's been and if he is past due for a checkup. Can you get him, to send us the info in his next letter? We can give him a checkup over Christmas if he needs one.

Harry had never had a checkup. Hell, he'd never even been to a hospital; the Dursleys weren't bothered enough to bring him to a hospital, even if it didn't cost anything to do so, as they didn't want people asking questions about Harry's injuries.

"Gah! A dentist appointment!" Harry said in an over-exaggerated way, making Hermione giggle a little, even if she hadn't completely stopped crying;

Good news, your grandmother will be joining us for Christmas. It's been awhile since she's seen you, what with you being away at school for most of the year. She's really excited to meet Harry, or as she's taken to refer to him; 'my baby granddaughter's first boyfriend!'

I haven't told her why Harry is staying with us. You and Harry will have to discuss what you want to say. I know Harry won't want to say much about the Dursleys, but as you know, your Gran is pretty smart, so I would suggest that Harry tells her at least some of the truth.

Well, that was going to be a little awkward;

I do need to ask however that you leave Crookshanks at Hogwarts. As you probably remember, your Gran has that fur allergy. Don't forget to tell Harry about the annual New Year's party that the local affiliated dentists throw every year. Greg is doing the fireworks again, and you remember how impressive they were 2 years ago.

Love you dear,

Mum (and dad).

Harry couldn't see what had gotten Hermione so upset. The only thing he could see her being a little upset about was that Crooks had to stay at Hogwarts this Christmas, but that didn't add up to how upset Hermione had been when he'd walked in.

Hermione shifted a little and her ear brushed Harry's cheek.

Her ear.

Her cat ear.

Which had fur.

Hermione realised that he had finished the letter, "I-I can't go see my gran. She's allergic to fur, so she's allergic to me. I can never see my gran again, and I can't even tell her why", her sobbing intensified once she had said her troubles out loud.

Harry pulled her tighter against himself, literally giving her a shoulder to cry on. Once she had calmed down again he promised, "I'll see what I can do 'Mione. I'll fix this for you, so you can see your gran."

"You are such a boy sometimes", Hermione said, before kissing him on the cheek.

- ϟϟϟ -

It had taken Harry a week, and a bribe of the use of his broomstick service kit to Katie bell, but he finally had a solution to Hermione's cat hair problem. Katie was preparing to sit her OWL's in Ancient Runes, and while she didn't quite have Harry's creativity, she more than made up for it in experience and knowledge.

In the end they had come up with a modified version of Hermione's hairband and tail sock (Katie had refused to call it a bag). The new runes would keep all the cat hair inside the bag, and it would vanish any loose hair.

It wasn't perfect; Hermione would have to keep them on 24 hours a day, until her gran left for her home, or Hermione returned to Hogwarts. It was going to make washing a bit awkward, and Harry hoped her grandmother didn't buy her earrings for Christmas.

Did Hermione have pierced ears before the Polyjuice incident? He hadn't really paid too much attention to Hermione's ears before they started dating. He couldn't remember Hermione wearing any earrings, but that just meant she hadn't worn big noticeable ones.

All he had to do now was get Hermione's hairband and bag/sock, and stitch the new rune array into them.

- ϟϟϟ -

Saturday 27 November

Harry and Hermione sat down across from Ron as he shoved his breakfast down, eating at such a frantic pace, as if he were afraid someone was going to take it from him.

"Morning mate," Harry said brightly. Ron tried to reply, but the food in his mouth made him impossible to understand.

Hermione barked at him in disgust, "Ronald, don't talk with your mouth full!"

Ron swallowed his mouthful, "Sorry 'Mione. Mornin' guys."

Hermione wanted to berate Ron some more for his appalling table manners, but she and Harry actually wanted to ask a favour of him, and she knew that Ron could be rather petty, and the last thing she wanted was for him to refuse to help because she had gotten annoyed at his lack of basic hygiene.

"So, Ron, we were wondering if you could do us a favour", it was the last weekend of November, and as such, it was another Hogsmeade weekend, "you know Harry and I can't go to Hogsmeade, but we still need to do our Christmas shopping. We were wondering; when you go down later today, can you please go to these shops-" she placed a piece of parchment that had a list on it on the table "-and pick up a couple of owl order catalogues from each of them? It would be a huge favour."

Ron had a quick look over the list. Honeydukes, Dervish and Banges, Dominic Maestro's, Gladrags, Scrivenshaft's and Tomes and Scrolls were all. He looked like he was contemplating it, and he was about to speak when Harry added on, "You're probably going to most of the place's anyway, and I know your going to Honeydukes", he held up another list and a string purse with some coins in it, "I chucked an extra galleon in there, incase any of the prices went up. I'm not worried about the change after you've finished."

Upon hearing about the extra galleon and Harry not worrying about the change, Ron suddenly seemed quite eager to help, "Yeah, I'll do it! I mean...I don't mind picking stuff up for you guys. It's hard luck you two can't go yourselves."

Harry tried to hide his grin at Ron jumping in at the mention of the extra money. He knew it was the button to press with Ron, and he also knew it was a little manipulative.

Then again, the sorting hat had said that he would do well in Slytherin, and it wasn't like he was asking his friend to do anything that he wouldn't have done for Ron if their roles were reversed.

Hermione grabbed Harry's plate and started filling it and her own with wholewheat toast, poached kippers, poached eggs, and on a whim, she added a slice of bacon to each plate, crumbled over the top of the poached eggs.

"Thanks 'Mione", Harry said as he tucked in. He had grown rather fond of Hermione's favourite breakfast, though considering that she often put the food on his plate for him, after he had tried doing it for her, he usually ended up eating a Hermione-approved breakfast. Those usually consisted of healthy alternatives for Harry's favourite foods, with a preference towards all things fishy and milky.

"What are the two of you going to do today? Any plans?" Ron asked in between the shovels of food he was unloading into his mouth.

Harry swallowed his own mouthful of food before answering, something both Hermione and Harry wished Ron would do, "Lupin said he would show us the anti-Dementor spell. I want to be ready if they come to the next game."

At the mention of extra work, Ron appeared disinterested, only half listening as he continued to eat his fill. The three chatted a bit more, until Ron left to go to the carriages. Harry and Hermione went back to the common room as they had a few hours until their appointment with Lupin. They decided that they should use the time productively, and Hermione would be using it to work on her Arithmancy homework, while Harry worked on his project.

- ϟϟϟ -

"Ok, the charm to fight against Dementors, the one you two are going to start trying to learn today, is called a Patronus charm."

Harry and Hermione were sat in Professor Lupin's office for their first private lesson. Lupin continued in his talk, "I say try, because the Patronus charm is not normally taught until N.E.W.T level, and then, only if you take the N.E.W.T Defence Against the Dark Arts. As such, a lot of adult witches and wizards cannot cast this spell. Luckily, I happen to be one of the wizards that can.

Now, a Patronus is a strange spell, it affects Dementors, as well as a creature called a Lethifold, but Lethifolds live in tropical jungles, so I doubt you will ever see one. A Patronus is a sort of guardian, that works by flooding an area around its form with positive energy. That energy is anathema to Dementors. It's also a shield against the mind altering effects that Dementors have on their victims. Any questions so far?"

"Actually Professor, I have one. You said that 'A patrones is a sort of guardian that works by flooding an area around its form with positive energy', so what is the form of a Patronus?" asked Hermione.

"'They take on the form of animals. Each one is unique to the witch or wizard who conjures it. Normal animals, such as cats, dogs and owls, are most common, but they can sometimes be magical creatures, such as Kneazles and Krups. Those two are the most common magical animal Patronuses though."

"Is the form of our Patronuses completely random? Or is it something to do with each of us as a person?"

"The form tends to have something to do with the caster, but what that something is can vary a lot. Enough chat though, i'm pretty sure you two didn't come here for a history of the charm. Stand up and wands out", the two teenagers complied. Lupin also stood up and brandished his wand, "the wand movement for this spell is simple enough; a complete circle going Deisul*, starting and finishing at the the 12-o'-clock position on a clock face. Then, bring the tip of your wand straight down through the circle, down to the number position of 6-o'-clock. Practice it now."

The wand movement was simple enough, and Harry and Hermione felt they had it down after only a few minutes. Lupin clapped his hands together and began the next part of the lesson, "Excellent, excellent. Next up is the incantation. The incantation is 'Expecto Patronum'. ex-PEK-toh pa-TRO-num. You need to enunciate the 'pek' in 'Expecto' and the 'tro' in 'Patronum'. Harry, you first."

Lupin had Harry and Hermione say the incantation over and over, not stopping until each of them had said it perfectly 10 times in a row. He then moved onto syncing the incantation with the wand movements. The one-on-one, or in this case, one-on-two, tutorial like this seemed to work really fast, compared to sitting in a class of 25 to 50.

"Now comes one of the more difficult aspects of this spell; to cast this spell, you need to be feeling a certain emotion. Can either of you guess which emotion you would need to be feeling to cast this charm?"

Harry didn't have a clue. The way he had understood magic, was that emotions created more powerful magic, and that, depending on the strength of the emotion, it could also make that magic harder to control. This was the first he'd heard about the type of emotion affecting his magic, and that you would need to channel a specific emotion.

Everything he had learned so far hadn't worried about which emotion you felt when casting; happy, sad, angry, it all only made magic stronger, though more unrestrained. You used that magic to cast spells. However, this seemed harder; focusing on one emotion, for any amount of time, seemed quite hard to Harry, but he could think of a few circumstances where he would easily be able to do that.

Hermione, it seemed, had a lot less trouble wrapping her head around the concept, "Well...if the Patronus is a creation of positive energy, then I would guess emotions that are positive, like joy, hope, gratitude, happiness and love."

"5 points to Gryffindor. While gratitude and hope are often not quite enough to produce a Patronus, happiness, joy and love most definitely are. Now Harry, why don't you see if you can answer this next question before Miss Granger; how do you think we go about choosing an emotion to feel, so that we can cast a spell?"

Harry thought about it for a few seconds, "I would guess, if you're trying to feel a specific emotion, one of your best bets would be to just do something that made you feel that emotion. If you can't do something, then I presume to try to remember when you felt that might work?"

"Another 5 points to Gryffindor. It is very rare to find anyone who tried to do something that would invoke a positive emotion, as usually, you need to cast the Patronus charm right then and there. You don't have the time to arrange to sit down and read your favourite book, or visit a muggle amusement park, so remembering when you did those things is almost always a far better strategy. I want the two of you to try and remember a moment when you were really happy."

Harry tried to think of a happy memory. Everything he could remember from before Hogwarts was out. He then thought about his first trip to Diagon Alley and smiled.

"Ok, do the both of you have a happy memory?" They both nodded, "Ok then, on the count of three, I want you both to try and cast the spell. One... Two...Three!"

"Expecto patronum!" Harry and Hermione both said, waving their wands, saying the incantation and calling upon their magic.

Absolutely nothing happened.

But the two of them had expected that, they were in their third year of magical education at this point, and both knew that they weren't likely to get any sort of result from the spell the very first time they tried it, let alone from a particularly advanced one such as this.

Lupin also seemed to have expected it, "It doesn't matter that nothing happened. Remember, the magic you're doing is years ahead of your age. Let's try again. One...Two...Three!"

"Expecto patronum!" They both did the exact same thing as last time.

And again, nothing happened.

"And again! One...Two...Three!"

"Expecto patronum!" This time, a silvery mist burst forth from the tip of Hermione's wand and wrapped itself around her, "Oh! That's amazing! You can actually feel it."

"Very good Hermione. Harry, may I ask what memory you are trying to call upon? You can, of course, keep it to yourself if you like."

Harry didn't mind sharing the memory with Hermione and Lupin at all, "Uh, my first visit to Diagon Alley", he admitted without hesitation.

"You might want to try thinking of something happier."

Harry tried to find a happier memory. The problem was, he didn't have many. Yes, he had amazing moments with Hermione, but there was always something else with them. When they became a couple, he was angry at Ron. When he had been invited to stay at the Grangers', he had been fleeing the Dursleys. Even when Hermione had given him his birthday gift, he had been worried about her, because she had been upset at herself. Not that being with Hermione wasn't great; each of those times had been infinitely better just because Hermione was there. It was just...Harry couldn't think of a time when he was just happy. It was like there was a limit in his head he just couldn't get past.

Limits? Why did that sound important? He had no limits like that, did he?

No Limits!

Suddenly, Harry's mind was filled with a fast-paced techno beat, accompanied by the vocals of 2unlimatid. In his mind's eye, he remembered Hermione's hips swaying back and forth in time to the music in the kitchen of the Grangers'

"Expecto Patronum!" The same silvery mist formed around the tip of Harry's wand, just like it had with Hermione's. It was thin and wispy, but it was a start.

 

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 24

 

Tonks really didn’t like her assignment. At first, when the boss lady had said that she had a special assignment for her, Tonks had been ecstatic. Ecstatic, until she realised the full details of what that meant; since she was not a fully qualified Auror, she was only a trainee, a ‘special assignment’ meant off the books. That meant no pay, no backup, and most importantly, no acknowledgement, she wouldn't even get any bonus points for her grade at Brixton.  

If it was any other case, she would have considered turning it down, but she was almost uniquely qualified for this job. Firstly, her father was a muggleborn, and as such, she was very familiar with the muggle world and could pass in it rather well. Secondly, she was a metamorphmagus, which made it extremely easy for her to create a throwaway identity, and that was extremely useful for undercover work.

 

 However, the real reason that she had been selected for this position was that she was one of the few people Director Bones could trust absolutely with this irregular assignment. Most of the fully qualified Aurors would file an objection to investigating a muggle committing crimes against other muggles. which was understandable as it was well outside their jurisdiction, and was not in the slightest a magical issue.

 The other point of concern to Director Bones was the wizard this investigation was connected to. As discreet as most usually were, stuff had leaked to the Press in the past. Especially when the victim already had a lot of interest in the media. And while Tonks couldn't guarantee that she would never find a case that she would want to go to the press about, there was no way in hell she was ever going to set those vultures loose on her little cousin. |Well...not this cousin anyway.

 

When she revealed to Harry and his cute little girlfriend that both Harry and herself were related to Bellatrix LeStrange, she had expected Harry to make the connection that they were also related to each other. Instead, Harry had a small breakdown about how every member of his family wanted to kill him. And while that was most definitely not true for her and her mother, the story he then revealed about his aunt and uncle made her realise that the Tonks might be the only blood relation that Harry had that would stand by him.

She hadn't dared to tell Harry that in Madam Pomfrey’s office. Harry had just had an emotional breakdown about members of his family trying to kill him. Telling him that he was shut in an office with a previously unknown member of his family could’ve possibly made things far worse. 

 

So instead, she was going to prove it to him. She was going to make sure that one of the sources of his nightmares was put behind bars for a long time, at the very least. If she had to get down on her belly and crawl through broken glass, she was going to prove to her cousin that there are people out there for whom family matters.

She remembered back to when she was a little girl sitting on the sofa next to her mum and her aunt Lily, baby Harry in her lap while her mother and his mother watched and made sure that she supported his head. Harry giggling and smiling up at her. She wanted to see that same smile on his face again.

That was why Director Bones could trust her with this assignment. Even when fully trained Aurors, who would be far more skilled at the job, were available, they would be unsuitable for this more ‘personal’ assignment. Tonks would give it her all, and she would keep quiet and she would prove herself to her little cousin that there was still a spark of light left in the family.

 

Currently, Tonks didn't look like Tonks. Gone were her feminine and youthful curves, and in their place, a sturdy, middle-aged heavyset and weathered looking bloke. He had a rough accent, an even rougher speech patterns, and answered to the name of Adam. It was one of a number of identities she had created after she had joined the Auror Corps at Brixton. It wasn't a deep cover identity, but it would pass a service background check. 

Right now, ‘he’ was off to see a woman about a dog. Or more precisely, a Dursley about a bulldog.

It turned out that Marjorie Evelyn Dursley bred thoroughbred British bulldogs on a farm just outside Guildford In Surrey, and Adam had always wanted a bulldog. Seemed like a good excuse to do some recon.

 

Tonks drove up the lane that led to the farm. That was one way a lot of Ministry personnel messed up. They would apparate near a place and walk the rest of the way. That was fine in towns and cities as they had public transport. Out here though, it would be weird to turn up without a vehicle. Not that many of them could drive. Her grandfather had taught her.

Her father had offered, as he knew how to drive, but she had gone with her gramp's, as he actually used his car everyday. As a Muggle, it was his best choice for getting around. Her dad on the other hand, got to and from work using the floo, or by apparating, meaning that he could go months sometimes without starting up his car.

 

Tonks pulled the car up the drive to the farm. She considered using magic to open and close the gate, just to be lazy, but got out and did it the Muggle way in case someone was watching, then drove on up to the large farmhouse.

Marge Dursley's residence was nice enough, it was a large white-washed old style farmhouse with a large barn to one side. Tonks got out of the car and immediately tripped over her own feet. That was the drawback to being a metamorph. As your limbs constantly changed length, so your brain didn't form the same patterns for movement as a regular person did. She picked herself up just as a woman stepped out of the house.

 

That woman was Marge Dursley. After Harry had informed Director Bones of the investigation into underage magic, she was able to dig up some DMLE files on the indecent. What the files contained wasn’t worth much; It had basically said Harry lost control of his magic and accidently stuck his aunt to the ceiling, along with a few medical records and a case closed marker.

Honesty, it looked like a bit of a cover up. The question was whether Director Bones had covered up for Harry to give herself time to investigate the Dursley's, or if someone else had done it so that Director Bones wouldn't notice. But the reason that Tonks knew that the woman was Marge was that the joke of a file had also contained a picture of the women.

She was heavyset, had almost no neck, and had a mustache that rivaled Adam’s. It was showtime.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

"The mission was a complete success, ma’am."

Tonks was back to her old self, and was stood in front of the Director’s desk in her office at the Ministry. When she’d walked in, Director Bones had put up more privacy charms than Tonks even knew existed, before inviting her to talk.

"Give me a full report”, a full report wasn't entirely necessary, especially since this was an off-the-books job. You didn't need protocol for these kinds of mission, but it was good practice to keep, particularly for Tonks as she was the trainee.

 

"I posed as a buyer for a puppy to get my first look around the property. I was shown around some of the dog breeding places of the farm, and everything looked above board. I made an ‘excuse’ not to buy a dog then and there before leaving. Now that I was familiar with the property, I apparated back under the cover of darkness at night, using every stealth charm I knew. A search revealed that she’s involved in a local dog fighting circuit, she has a dogfighting ring hidden inside a patch of forest on the grounds. Charms revealed that the blood within the pit is a variation of old and fresh, and by the results, I would suggest that the pit is used regularly. Also...it wasn't all canine fights.

There was more than a little human blood in there.

 

She’s also involved with slavery. I found sixteen young children, between the ages of four and thirteen, locked in an out-building. From her records that I found”, Tonks loved that off-the-books missions were so much easier as you didn't need to wait for a warrant to search through a house, "She holds the kids of Muggles who have been trafficked into Britain illegally, so that whoever has the parents is able to control them.

Not gonna lie, Director, she is one sick bitch. If she were a witch, I would already have Aurors bringing her in front of the Wizengamot for the Dementors."

 

Director Bones had sat silently throughout the report, her expression turning from satisfaction to anger, before finally settling on absolute horror, "You have the needed evidence for the Muggle authorities?”

“Yes ma’am, photos of everything taken on a muggle camera. I also duplicated the records and put low level notice me charms on the hidden buildings. We need to get the muggle authorities in ASAP boss. It broke my heart, leaving those kids there.”

"Do you have evidence for me?"

 

"Yes ma'am", Tonks pulled a bottle of silvery liquid mist from her robes, “My memory of the mission."

She waited as her boss opened a cabinet which revealed a pensive. Pensive memories were not admissible in the Wizengamot, as memory modification was easy to do. It was even taught at a basic level in OWL’s to maintain the ‘Statute of Secrecy’, but it was a useful tool for Aurors, as an examination of the victim's memories could give them a good lead on where to look for evidence they could use.

 

Director Bones spent almost 5 minutes in the pensive, examining Tonks’ memory while said person waited. When she returned from the Pensieve, the two of them jumped straight back into the conversation, "We will have them there tonight if we can. We just need to give the police the right reason."

"How will we do that? Even if I was to take all the photos to the cops, it would take some time to get them to move. They need warrants and stuff, just like we do."

"I have a way, if you don't mind going back tonight?"

"If it gets them kids out of there any sooner, I'll go right back there now."

 

Director Bones smiled at her trainee, "Here's what I want you to do. Break back into the house, then call the police. Claim to be Dursley and report a burglary in progress in the house, beg them to send someone, then hide till they get there. When you know they’ll be able to hear you, scream bloody murder from inside the barn she has the kids in. Don't be seen, and get out before they open the building. They will find the kids and start an investigation."

Tonks thought about if for a few seconds. It would work, "I'll see to it right away, boss. What about the photos?"

 

Director Bones thought for a few seconds, "Duplicate them and send them to the Muggle press anonymously. Add a note about where it was and who was running it. Let the vultures have her. With the kids in the press, there is a good chance their parents will see they are safe and may be able to get free of whoever has them."

"Anything else ma'am?"

"As your boss no. But as an old friend of your parents, Dora, good job."

"Later boss. Seems I got some work left to do", with that, Tonks left the office of her superior and made her way out of the Ministry, one thought going through her head the whole way; one Dursley down.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Most of December was fairly quiet for Harry and Hermione. As the weeks passed they did homework, bought Christmas presents, and spent a few evenings relaxing in the Room of Requirement. Harry was able to finish the modifications to Hermione's accessories so that she could spend time with her gran.

 They had had a few more private lessons with Professor Lupin, practicing the Patronus charm. Hermione was steadily improving with each lesson, but Harry had hit a wall in their second lesson and hadn't gotten any better since then.

He was starting to worry that he just wasn't happy enough to cast the charm.

 

Harry was in his dorm room, packing up his trunk for the journey back to London. It was surprising just how much of his stuff ended up all over the Dormitory, instead of staying in his trunk where it belonged. Stuff like his dressing gown being hung on the back of the door to the bathroom he understood, or even the trainers under his bed.

However, how in the hell his blazer had ended up on top of Ron's four-poster bed, he would never work out; it was just one of those mysteries, like where that goddamn left sock disappeared to!

Ron was grumbling about having to remain at Hogwarts over Christmas. Harry didn't really get it; Christmas was about family, and most of Ron’s family was here at Hogwarts with him. What was there to complain about?

Maybe he just missed his mum's cooking.

 

 Just as Harry was closing up his trunk, Fred and George came into the room, a strange mix of excitement, and a little disappointment, written on their faces. “Harry, we need to talk to you”, one of them called out to him.

“Yes, very important business”, the other added.

Harry hesitated briefly as he eyed the two of them, suspicious at what they were up to. Upon his pause, the twins both grumbled, “We aren’t going to prank you, we just need to show you something-”

“-The secret to our greatest pranks!”

 

“Behold”, one of the twins held up an old battered piece of parchment which he had taken out of his back pocket. Harry scoffed in disbelief, surely this was some sort of trick , “your secret is an old bit of parchment!? If this is one of your pranks, you guys are gonna have to do better.”

“An old bit of parchment!” the twin holding the parchment cried in mock offence.

“The utter outrage !” The other exclaimed.

“The blasphemy !”

“The disgrace !”

 

The two of them continued with their back-and-forth for a couple more moments, each time getting more and more extravagant, and it was starting to give Harry a dizzying headache. It was probably the reason the twins did it, just to annoy him.

After they’d finished in their tyrade, they both turned back to Harry, “ This , my dear boy, is no ordinary bit of old parchment. No, no, no, this is one of the most ingenious bits of spellcraft we have ever laid our eyes on.”

“Yeah, right”, Ron said as he walked over from his bed.

 

“An aid to magical mischief-makers, left to us from a couple of Legends, who have long since departed these hallowed halls of pranking”, they continued, as if Ron hadn’t interrupted.

“This, Harry, is the Marauder’s Map ”, they waited to see if that name meant anything to Harry, but it didn't.

After a short pause, the twins continued, though they seemed disappointed that Harry didn’t recognise the name, “the Marauder’s Map is the most fantastic artefact ever to grace the halls of Hogwarts.”

“It shows not only the corridors and the stairs, helping you to get between classes, -”

“-but also, secret passageways-

-and, the passwords needed to access them!”

 

They paused for a moment to let that information process in Harry’s mind. He didn’t see why they were so worked up about this map, there were plenty of items that could help you navigate Hogwarts.

The twins weren’t finished though, “However, there’s more . It's real value-”

“-It's true, miraculous power-”

“-lies with in one last ability-”

Harry was getting annoyed with their antics by now, “What is it!?” he snapped. He had places to be, and people to see. Namely, a certain bushy-haired girlfriend of his. When the two of them continued to just grin at him, he said, “well, if you aren’t going to tell me, then I'll be leaving!”

 

They both moved out of the way so that he could exit the room, though he made no move to. Though he hated to admit it, he was curious, and he knew that if he left now, the secret to that bit of parchment would nag him for ages. And, he knew the twins wouldn’t tell him if he walked away now. He groaned in frustration, “just tell me what the bloody thing does.”

Their grins only grew wider, “Well, since you seem to be so very curious...It shows the location of everyone in Hogwarts at that precise moment in time.”

At Harry’s look of amazement, they laughed, “You want to know where the kitchens are? The Marauder’s Map can tell you.”

“Trying to avoid Filch, or a greasy head slimeball? The Marauder’s Map will help you.”

“And what if you’re looking for a certain bushy-haired girlfriend of yours? The Marauder’s Map will show you where she is.”

 

Harry’s curiosity was at its peak by now; that map would be very useful, “but why are you showing this to me?“

Right then, the twin holding the parchment held it out to him, “We’re giving it to you.” 

“Hey! I'm your brother, why would you give it to Harry?” Ron yelped.

“Ron, it’s probably a joke anyway”, Harry turned to face Ron, trying to placate him. He knew how jealous he could get at times.

 

But , it's not a joke, and as for why we are giving it to you Harry, observe”, The twins unfolded the parchment and laid it out on top of Harry's trunk. While one of them focused on making sure the parchment stayed down, the remaining twin said to Harry, “Tap the map with your wand and say; ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good. ’ Then, just sit back and watch.”

Fully expecting this to be some sort of strange prank by the twins, and that the parchment was probably going to blow up in his face with coloured smoke that dyed his hair purple for the next three days, Harry went along with it anyway. He touched his wand to the centre of the blank parchment and repeated what he’d been told, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

 

Suddenly, black lines began to spread out from the tip of Harry's wand as they snaked around the parchment, creating longer and longer lines that crisscrossed with each other. Soon, the lines fell into a definite pattern, outlining the familiar features of Hogwarts; long corridors, marked classrooms, dormitories, the Great Hall, the Dungeons, all of the rooms within Hogwarts became visible beneath Harry’s very eyes, small bits of text appearing in each room. There were even some words that were moving around, many of them in fact. Possibly hundreds.

Some lines seemed to indicate that there were secret passages that lead out of Hogwarts, but what really captured Harry's attention was the large script that had appeared at the top of the page;

 

Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs

Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers

are proud to present:

The Marauder’s Map

 

“Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and...” that last name at the top of the page. It was all that Harry looked at. The more he looked at that name, there more it would seem to burn into his soul.

Prongs

Dad.. .”

 

“And that is why we are giving the map to you, Harry.”

“When we learnt recently that Harry is the son of the legendary Marauder Prongs-“

“-We felt that who else would be the rightful owner of such an artefact?”

Harry had completely lost track of the conversation as he stared at the map, the map made by his father and his friends. His dad had once held this exact same bit of parchment as Harry was. It was both a happy and a sad thought.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Unnoticed by anyone in the room, Ron's pet rat Scabbers had run out of the room through the now open door, deciding that now was a brilliant time to spend some time away from Gryffindor Tower. He scampered down the stone staircase, through the busy common room, taking care to avoid his owner’s sister and friends, before exiting the portrait hole. He took a few handy shortcuts through the castle before entering onto the castle grounds, where he ran off in the direction of the Forbidden Forest.

Who knew what Scabbers was up to... 

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry and Hermione were aboard the Hogwarts Express, headed back to London for the Christmas break. Unlike the last time they were going ‘home’ to London, Harry was completely relaxed, and was even looking forward to seeing the people who would be waiting at King’s Cross to greet Hermione and himself.

That’s a first , Harry thought.

The only thing Harry wished he could change was the amount of homework they were doing. Sure, he liked his school work and enjoyed it, but there was a lot less homework and a lot more cuddling last time, and like any teenage boy, he would obviously prefer the cuddling.

 

It had made sense last time they were going home, as they weren’t going to be staying together for the holiday, so Hermione's logical ‘ get the homework out of the way ’ approach had been pushed aside for, ‘this is the last time I will see my boyfriend for over a month, best make the most of it’.

At the Grangers’, Hermione had the chance to spend at least some of it with her gran, so she had wanted to get as much of it done now, so that their homework wouldn’t get in the way of spending time with her gran. This had led to the trip mostly being dedicated to their Christmas homework, but Harry didn’t mind, as long as Hermione would get to see her gran more. After all, he’d spent so long working on her hairband just for that reason, so it would be stupid to let something like homework get in the way now.

 

The two of them were just finishing up a particularly tricky Potions essay that Snape had set, when they heard the compartment door slide open.

“Well, well, well, if it isn't the perfect pair”, of course it was Malfoy, flanked by ‘thing one’ and ‘thing two’, otherwise known as Crabbe and Goyle, “Off back to the Muggles for Christmas this year then? Learnt your lesson about curious Mudbloods playing with magic at Christmas? Tell me, what would you do if I threw that hairband of yours out of the window Granger?”

 

Hermione froze for a second. If Malfoy did that, her Christmas with her gran would be ruined before it started. The problem was, you never show fear to a bully, that only encourages them, and even if Hermione had only reacted for a second, it was still enough for Malfoy to see and to use against her. Malfoy was unfortunately very perceptive. He reached out for Hermione's hairband, but his hand was stopped part way.

“If Hermione’s hairband goes out that window Malfoy, I will throw you out after it”, Harry had gotten to his feet in a flash and had caught Malfoy's wrist in his left hand, his right already holding his wand, pointed straight at the point where Malfoy’s jaw and neck met.

 

Things one and two lumbered forward, trying to intimidate Harry, but he ignored them, knowing they wouldn’t risk anything while he had his wand on Malfoy, “Just walk away Malfoy.”

Nobody moved for a few moments, but in his head, Harry was planning just what spells to use if this did take a bad turn. Malfoy was trying to think of a way out without looking weak to the two of them. Meanwhile, Hermione was silently begging for a prefect to come along, so that they could diffuse the situation. Thing one and two didn’t do much thinking, they were most likely wondering about what was for dinner, if that counted as thinking.

It was Hermione who was the closest when, Penelope Clearwater, the Head Girl and girlfriend of Percy Weasley, came along, doing her prefect rounds, “What's going on here?” she demanded.

 

“Nothing, we were just leaving. Crable, Goyle, come on”, the two Slytherins followed behind him without a word.

Penelope let them pass, but stayed where she was, a questioning stare aimed at the pari, making it obvious that she expected answers. While Hermione felt compelled to supply that answer, she didn’t want to include why the hairband was so important. Harry didn’t seem to have any problem though, as after Hermione had filled in what happened, he strongly added, “I won't let him keep Hermione from her family.”

 

When Penelope looked at Hermione for an explanation, she hesitantly told the prefect about what Harry had done for her with the hairband and how much it meant for her. Penelope then realised why Harry had reacted so strongly. 

Penelope gave them a warning about not rising to provocation in the future, but smiled knowingly at Hermione when Harry said that he didn’t care if that provocation was towards his girlfriend. She then went off to go complete her rounds. Despite the fact that they found it harder to concentrate after the run-in with Malfoy, they spent the rest of the trip working on the transfiguration homework for McGonagall.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

 When they finally reached King’s Cross Station, they were both tired of homework, and eager to return home. Or, in Harry’s case, return to Hermione’s home. While he did really enjoy living with the Granger’s, he had always felt like he was intruding on their family life. Hermione helped him with his trunk, as they only brought the one trunk, which was Harry’s trunk, but held the few things Hermione wanted to bring home with her. Hermione already had a lot of clothes and everything else that she would need at home, and she didn't see the need to bring all her stuff back with her.

Instead, she had just put a few things into Harry's trunk. 10-12 specific outfits she wanted, a few books that she thought would help with her homework, and a couple of nic-nacs she couldn't bear to be apart from, though these were mostly photographs or gifts from Harry that were special to her.

 

The platform was filled with the Wizarding parents of the returning Hogwarts students. Muggle parents were unable to get onto the platform and would be waiting in the muggle part of Kings Cross. Harry and Hermione fought their way through students that were greeting their parents, making their way towards the Archway that signified the border between platforms nine-and-three-quarters, and the rest to King’s Cross Station. 

Hermione’s parents were waiting on the other side, along with a number of other parents and guardians of Muggle Born students. Hermione ran to her parents and threw her arms around them, as they held each other in a tight embrace. After 4 months, the three of them were ecstatic to see each other, but Harry, who was spectating them with a mixture of sadness at missing out and happiness at seeing Hermione so happy, hadn't expected Mrs Granger to walk up and hug him as well.

 

It wasn't one of the bone crushing hugs that he got off Hermione, or that Hermione got of her parents. It was just a quick side-hug but was one that said Harry was missed as well, and while he hesitated for a few seconds, unused to hugging anyone but Hermione, he did return the hug in kind. He had missed Mr and Mrs Granger as well.

After all the greetings were out of the way, Mr Granger steered them all to the car. Once they’d loaded Harry's trunk in the back, they all got in the car, but they didn't pull out as Harry had expected. Hermione was looking just as confused as him, and was about to ask why they were waiting, when Mr and Mrs Granger turned around in their front seats to face the two of them in the back.

“Something has happened in the last few days that I think you need to know about Harry. In fact, you probably deserve to know this more than anyone else, seeing as you have experienced it”, Mr Granger passed a puzzled Harry a copy of the Daily Mirror. Harry checked the date before he unfolded it, noticing that it was from two days ago. When he unfolded the paper, he saw the front page, the part that Mr Granger said he should see;

 

Evilest woman in Britain 

Pleads not guilty

Trial set early January

 

But what captured his attention the most wasn't the headline, it was the picture that went with it. That picture, the one in relation to the title, was of Marge Dursley, walking down the steps of a courthouse;

 

There was more drama this week in the case of 

Marjorie Dursley. After police were called out to her

residence a few weeks ago, they discovered that Ms

Dursley was not the clean, upstanding citizen she

pretended to be. A search of her property found not one

but SIXTEEN minors, all of whom were children of people

who had come to the UK in search of work. However,

instead of finding employment and safety here, the families

were brutally ripped apart, and these children it would seem,

were held to force the compliance of their parents.

This, however, was not the only crime that was found

to be organised on the property, as Ms Dursley also had 

apparently kept a “Pit”, mostly for dogfighting, though details

are sketchy at the moment. One source at the [insert 

forensic lab here] has said that there was fresh blood in those

pits.

Shockingly, despite all the evidence against her,

Dursley has decided to plead ‘not guilty’ to the charges, though

not on the grounds that she didn’t commit those crimes, or that

the evidence found against her was illegal. No, she is pleading

not guilty as apparently the police had entered her property

without a warrant.

Authorities are claiming that they had had a report of

a burglary from inside the house, and once there had been

a reasonable suspicion of a crime in progress on her property,

They were allowed to proceed with an investigation.

Would the trial set for early January see Miss Dursley

Charged as guilty? It won’t be long until we find out. And this

reporter hopes that the police have solid grounding for their

Actions, as the evidence against Miss Dursley is very strong

And I'm sure we all would hate to see Justice missed over

improper procedure.

 

For more on the stories of the children see page 5

 

Harry didn’t know what to say. He handed Hermione the paper so she could read it. “Oh well, this is good, isn’t it?” Everyone in the car looked at Hermione, “for Harry I mean. It will keep her out of his life.”

“Unless they let her go. With my luck, she’ll get off scot-free.”

"That's not likely Harry", said Mrs Granger, "I spoke to a friend from university who was studying law. It doesn't matter at all that she didn't invite them in, if they had a phone call calling them there for an emergency, then they had every right to go to the house, and anything they happened to see while there is legit, as far as the law is concerned*", She looked at her husband, apparently hoping for some support.

 

Harry found out why a few seconds later when Mr Granger spoke up, "The problem is, when we told Jean the light version of why Harry was living with us, we had no reason not to use the name Dursley."

"Jean?" Harry asked.

"My Nan. Mum's mum”, Hermione filed in.

"So...she knows everything?"

"No, but she has guessed that Marge is related to your uncle. We said we don't know. Mum can be like a dog with a bone sometimes. She will probably ask you.”

 

Harry really couldn't find it in himself to be upset. After all, they were letting him live with them, and obviously Hermione’s gran would’ve asked why, and it was better that she knew the truth, rather them a lie, ”that's alright Mrs Granger, I'm such a bad liar, it would have probably come out pretty quickly anyway, Don't worry about it.”

A look came across Mrs Granger’s face as Harry said those words, and to him, it seemed that she was upset that he wasn't angry at her, but that made absolutely no sense. “Harry dear, I think Mrs Granger is a little too formal at this point. Why don't you try calling me Emma.”

He was a little taken aback by the gesture, “um...are you sure? It’s just-”

She cut him off, “yes, I'm sure.”

She then elbowed her husband, “Uh? Oh yeah, and call me Dan.”

 

“Um, but what should I call your...mum?” Harry first looked at Mrs Gr- Emma, then Hermione, who was giggling uncontrollably at the awkwardness of the conversation for Harry, “What is her last name? Hermione just called her Nan when she talked to me”, he asked. 

“Call her Ms Richards. At least, until she tells you otherwise.”

“How much do you think i will have to tell her?”

“That’s up to you Harry. I love Gran, but she doesn't have the right to force you to tell her about them ”, the venom and disdain dripped from Hermione's voice as she referenced them .

 

“Hermione is right Harry, you can just say you aren't comfortable talking about something. And honestly, that’s going to be easier than talking about where your sleeping.”

Harry was confused, “Where am I sleeping?”

Hermione got an embarrassed look on her face, turning bright red, “Um...sorry, I forgot to tell you. Nan needs to use the guest room. She can’t share with me because my hairband might slip. There is the cat hair problem and she can’t know about my magic problem. So...you will be sharing my room, on a fold-out bed. We can change in the bathroom, and it’s not like we haven't slept in the same room, or even the same bed before.”

 

Harry froze, positive that Mr Granger may kill him this holiday. He looked at the man, ready to run. Mr granger looked back at him, and as though he sensed the fear in his eyes, he smiled reassuringly at him, “Calm down Harry. Hermione told us about her nightmares. Just promise me one thing, you two. Don't do anything that you wouldn’t do in front of us”, he indicated Emma and himself. 

Harry was just about to agree, but Hermione jumped in to tease her dad, “Maybe...how about we promise till the end of the day?”

“How about you promise until you are twenty-one?”

“Next hour?”

“Till your 30?

“15 minutes?”

“How about till you go back to school!?” Emma jumped in, as she knew what her daughter and husband could be like when they got going like this. 

“Just no grandkids till you finish university. Or the magical equivalent”, Mr Granger added.

 

Harry sat there uncomfortably, his face as red as a quaffle, He wished the car seat would just swallow him, if only so that he could avoid this conversation.

“Mostly, the Magical world works on an apprentice system. There just isn’t enough people for a university. The only exception is Healers and Aurors. For everyone else, they either go straight into work as a job apprentice, or you find a witch or wizard that will help you get a mastery in a discipline. A mastery is our equivalent to a PhD, most of our teachers have a mastery in the subject they teach.”

Harry sat listening as Hermione described further education in the Magical world, but he wasn’t really paying attention. He was thinking about what Dan had said about grandkids. The idea of getting Hermione pregnant was a...complicated thought, but not a particularly unwelcome one. But they would definitely wait a while longer. However, the idea of kids, It really did appeal to him.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

 

Harry lay in bed listening to Hermione's soft breathing from the other side of the room as she slept. He was thinking about everything that had happened since he’d met Ms Richards yesterday.

They had arrived back at the Grangers’ at about 8 o’clock, with the usual bags of takeaway, as was traditional when Hermione came home from Hogwarts. Normally, it was one of Hermione's favourites, such as pizza or an Indian dish, however, in defence to Ms Richards, who didn’t particularly like those things, they had picked up Chinese instead.

 

Dinner was a little awkward for Harry, as Hermione was understandingly more focused on her nan, telling her all she could about her last few years at school. Some of Hermione's modifications about school where interesting; like Harry saving Hermione from a ‘big stray dog’ instead of a troll, or Hermione being sick in the Hospital Wing when Harry had refused to let her spend Christmas alone, and instead had stayed with her reading.

While she had obviously been talking him up at some points, Hermione wanted her nan to approve of Harry, but every time she pulled him into the conversation, Harry felt that he was cutting into the limited time the two of them had together. As such, he tended to redirect the talk back to Hermione and her Nan, letting them talk while he ate in relative silence. The way Harry saw it, he would have Hermione all to himself again when they got back to Hogwarts.

Now, Harry was wondering about today, as he had to pop to Gringotts to get some Muggle money to buy a few Christmas presents that he couldn't get in the Magical world. He also had to get cover gifts for the Granger's.

He had gotten Hermione and her parents magical presents, but most of them couldn't be unwrapped around Ms Richards. Hermione’s muggle present would be the easiest, considering that he needed to buy her some Muggle accessories to go with her magical present anyway. He also wanted to get something for Daphne and Tracey, who had helped him find out that the Muggle type of item was compatible with the wizarding verity he had gotten Hermione for christmas.

But there was no way Mr or Mrs Granger, or Dan and Emma as he was slowing getting to know them as, would let Harry go alone.

Should he ask Hermione to go with him? On one hand, Hermione was better at this sort of shopping than him and she probably wanted to get a few presents herself. Though, on the other, Hermione may want to spend the day with her family and do her shopping another time.

Hermione shifted in her bed, indicating to Harry that she would be awake soon. When she’d shared his bed for the first week after half term, back when neither of them had been having happy dreams, Harry had learned a little about her sleeping patterns, and Hermione would always start moving before she woke up. Then again, Harry didn't have anyone else to compare her sleeping habits to. He just didn't care enough about his dorm mates to notice how they slept. Well, apart from Ron, who he didn’t need to observe to know he snores really loudly. For all he knew, everyone moved about more in their sleep before they woke up.

 

“Harry?” Hermione had woken up.

“Morning sleepy head”, God, she is cute , Harry thought as her looked at her yawning face. Her normally bushy hair looked like it had been plugged in to an electricity socket, and she still had that dazed, sleepy look to her face. Not the type of sleepy she got when she had been reading for 12 hours and was using wit sharpening potions and coffee to stay awake, like she tended to get around exam time, but the warm, cuddly kind that she got when she was more relaxed. Harry noticed she was usually like when they curled up in front of the fire in the gryffindor common room..

“Not sleepy, it’s just early.”

“Sleep well?”

“Amazing”, she grinned at him, “I always sleep well when you are close.”

 

That in turn made Harry smile widely, “I was thinking, we could get our Christmas shopping mostly done today, if you like, then you can spend the rest of the week catching up with your nan.”

Hermione frowned slightly, “Sounds good, but I'm not going to ditch you for the whole week Harry.”

“It’s Ok ‘Mione. You don’t get to see her often. I get you all to myself while we are at school.”

"Harry, it's Christmas . I want to spend time with all four of you. So no running off and brooding."

 

"I'm a wizard ‘Mione. I need to brood, it’s in the union manual. Do you want to see me pulled in front of the council of crotchety old men because I haven't done enough brooding?"

Hermione tried not to laugh, but Harry's delivery had been perfect; and now in her head were images of Dumbledore, Disney’s Merlin and Gandalf, all sat in a dark room berating poor Harry for not brooding enough. Once the visual manifested inside her head she let out a real laugh.

Not a giggle, but a full-on side-splitter, "O-oh my god Harry!" She managed to get out eventually.

 

Hermione's door opened, and Ms Richards poked her head around the door, "Everything Ok in here? You two behaving yourselves?" The worry was clear on her face as her eyes darted back and forth between the two beds, each containing its own teen.

"Naaan! Harry and I promised we wouldn't do anything...anything that we wouldn't do if mum and dad, or you, were in the room. Harry just said something funny is all."

"Ok Ok…I just worry is all, I remember what it’s like being a teen. I get to worry about my favourite granddaughter sometimes, especially if she happens to be sharing a room with a teen boy.”

"I'm your only granddaughter though."

"Then you know it's true!" Ms Richards stated, with the confidence of someone who had just won an argument, even though she really hadn’t.

 

"Hermione, your parents had to go in to the surgery today, and they’ve already left, so what do you want for breakfast?"

"If you like Ms Richards, you and Hermione could spend a bit of time together while I make breakfast?" Harry offered.

"I don't know...can you cook?”

Hermione giggled, "Nan, over the summer, Harry taught mum a few things when it comes to cooking."

Ms Richards raised an eyebrow at Harry, who further explained, "I’ve been cooking since I was seven. I picked up a few things." Harry tried to keep it light, but he saw Hermione's face darken momentarily at the thought of why he had to cook since he was seven.

"Anyway, you two go have a chat and I will see what I can whip together. Maybe you can convince Hermione to let me teach her next summer", He winked at Hermione, grabbed the clothes he had set out yesterday and disappeared into the bathroom to change, leaving her with her Nan.

 

Harry had tried to get Hermione to learn to cook from him over the summer, but she was convinced that she was a disaster in the kitchen, if it was anything more complicated than pouring milk into cereal. It had taken Harry almost a week to convince her that he didn't think she needed to learn just because she was a girl.

He knew there were people who thought like that, but Harry was of the opinion that it was probably better if everyone could feed themselves, and while most people could probably make simple dishes, it would be better if they could cook something tastier. Hermione had liked that argument a lot better than the idea that girls should cook because it’s women’s work , but it still wasn't enough to get her to try in the kitchen.

Once Harry was dressed, he went to see what the Granger's had available for making breakfast. The answer was not a lot, it seemed that they hadn't had time to pick up groceries yet.

There was, however, the usual that most people always had; flour, milk, sugar and eggs, and they even had a few bananas.

That gave him an idea, and he promptly set to work making American style pancakes* with caramelized bananas.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry and Hermione were approaching the Skinners arms; they had been running around all morning getting what they needed for Christmas. First it had been a visit to Gringotts to get some money from Harry's vault. Then, it was being dragged around London as Hermione tried to get as much done before lunch as possible.

Now they were meeting Ms Richards for lunch. It had been almost impossible to leave the house without her this morning. When Hermione had told her about her and Harry's plan to do a bit of Christmas shopping, Ms Richards had thought it a fantastic idea and wanted to come along. Harry did suspect that she was only coming to make sure the two of them ‘behaved’ though...

 

Either way, her presence would have been fine, if only Harry hadn't needed to visit Gringotts first.

Harry somehow doubted that the ol’ ‘ I need to go to a secret bank that you cannot see, so do you mind waiting for me in this odd part of London while I go do that?’ would have worked well. He just couldn't think of a way to ask the woman not to come, nor could he see a way to get at his gold, meaning all of Harry's gift plans were going up in smoke.

It was Hermione who pulled it out of the fire. She had claimed to need the morning to buy her Nan's Christmas presents. It had been tight, but they had managed to get out of Diagon Alley and find Ms Richards a few presents.

 

The pub was almost exactly as Harry remembered it from the summer, the only difference being that they’d put up a small Christmas tree in one corner of the main bar, and had draped the railings in red and green tinsel.

Hermione’s Nan hadn't arrived yet, so she got a table while Harry grabbed them something to drink. He stopped short just before the bar, trying to remember what Hermione had to drink last time she was here. If they were in the wizarding world, Harry would know exactly what to buy her, but here in the world of fizzy drinks, he wasn't sure at all.

 

He relaxed when he saw the familiar face of Michael behind the bar, "Well, if it isn't Mr Harry. Welcome back. Is Hermione home for Christmas then?"

"Yeah, we just got back to London yesterday. We’ve been doing a bit of Christmas shopping. We arranged to meet Hermione's grandmother here, grab a spot of lunch, then do some more shopping. I'll take a coke, and whatever Hermione normally has."

"One coke and one R White's*. You don't know what Hermione drinks?" He asked as he started filling the glasses up with those drinks.

Harry thought of the excuse that he had planned in his head, hoping it sounded feasible, “The school we go to has a complete ban on fizzy drinks. Ànd, I don't think I’ve ever seen a bottle of pop at the Granger's either. I think the last time I saw Hermione with a fizzy drink was here, actually."

"Fair point. Dan always takes teeth very seriously. Your table ready to order yet?"

 

"Na, we’re still waiting on Ms Richards to get here."

"You paying for the drinks now, or shall I open a tab for your table?"

Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. It was an old, beaten up bit of leather that was held together by tape and hope, but did the job, barely. Harry extracted the needed Muggle money and handed it over to Micheal, "Don't really know what's happening with lunch yet, so best pay for these separately."

 

Harry bid farewell to Micheal and took the drinks over to the four person table that Hermione had chosen, one with a good view of the front door. He set the lemonade drink in front of Hermione and took the seat next to her. She murmured her thanks and the two got to discussing what presents they still needed to buy. Mostly, they were looking for things for Hermione's family, as their magical friends had been bought magical gifts. There were a few mundane gifts Harry and Hermione had still wanted to get a few people.

 

A cool wind blew through the pub as the door was opened for a few seconds. Hermione smiled and started waving to her Nan, who had just entered. Ms Richards went to the bar and got herself a drink, before joining them at the table.

“This is a nice pub Hermione, how do you know about it?”

“Its owned by the family of an old friend of dad’s. So he used to bring me here after we had been to the library.”

Ms Richards gave an appraising nod as she looked around the bar, “It’s nice, how’s the food here?”

“It’s good”, Harry replied, fondly remembering his meal here, though it wasn’t truly the food that he remembered…

 

They ordered lunch and chatted for a bit, when the waitress brought the food; a ham and cheese panini for harry, a club sandwich for Ms Ritcherds and a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel for Hermione. Once she had delivered the food, the waitress started ringing. She had one of those new flip phones that were becoming popular. It was a pity such modern tech had trouble around magic, or Harry would have considered getting Hermione one for christmas. He knew she would love to be able to talk to her mother on the phone while she was away at school.

 

“Harry honey, do you want to tell me why you are staring at the waitress!?” Hermione stressed the words honey and staring , while trying not to sound too annoyed at Harry.

“What? Oh, no , I was looking at her phone...the charm on it”, there was a charm hanging from the waitress’ phone that Harry could see clearly as she talked to whoever had called her.

“Her phone charm?”

Harry glanced at Ms Richards, wondering how he could explain what he was thinking. Now that he was paying attention, he could see what was going through Hermione's head, seeing him staring avidly at another girl. He quickly started explaining, “I was thinking about my project...the one for professor Babbling. If I put the... circuitry in an external bit, like that charm, it would stop it interfering with the main component”, he didn’t use any words that would give away what he was really thinking, not covering a wand with Runes. He hoped that Hermione would understand what he meant, without Ms Richards knowing. 

 

She looked a little confused for a few seconds, then her eyes lit up as she got it, “Harry, that’s brilliant! Sorry...it looked like you where-”

“I'm sorry ‘Mione. I can see now how it must have looked, I promise you, I was looking at the phone charm, you know I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“I should hope not”, Ms Richards added.“

The three of them continued to enjoy their lunch. Hermione seemed to have accepted Harry at his word, as she did seem to have a knack for telling when he was lying, though Ms Richards didn’t seem quite as ready to trust him as Hermione was. Throughout the rest of the meal, Ms Richards gave Harry some not-so-covert glances, obviously watching to see if his eyes strayed back to the waitress, or to any other girl apart from Hermione. 

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry was sat in the waiting room of Granger and Granger dental surgery. Dan was just finishing up with his second-to-last patient for the day. It wouldn’t have bothered Harry in the slightest if that patient was last, as he happened to be in that current position.

Hermione, Emma and Ms Richards had gone out for lunch together, just the three of them, and with Dan covering the last shift in the surgery before it closed for Christmas, it had been decided that Harry would, instead of being left in the house alone, be at the surgery, using Dan and Emma’s office to do his homework. Then, he was to be the last patient of the day.

 

If Harry was honest, it didn't bother him that much that he was alone. He was doing the same thing at the surgery that he would be doing at home without Hermione there; sitting at a table, doing his homework while listening to the radio, though he thought he might have chosen a different station himself. Unfortunately, Dan apparently liked 80s pop, and had chosen a station to suit just that. 

If it was just homework, Harry would be completely fine, but instead his thoughts were being brought back to the fact that in a few minutes, Dan was about to start playing around in his mouth. He wasn’t stupid, he knew that dentists were docters and that they did what they do to help people, but he just couldn’t get the image of someone drilling his teeth out of his head.

 

He also knew that by his age, a lot of people had a filling, it was impossible to date Hermione and not know a bit more about teeth than most people. And those people who had fillings had probably been to the dentist a lot, and had taken better care of their teeth for they whole lives, where as Harry had only really started to take care of his teeth when Hermione had started...well, nagging him about it.

Nagging sounded so harsh in Harry's head, after all he didn’t mind one bit, but it was the only word he could think of to describe how Hermione went on to him about his teeth.

 

“Harry, we’re ready for you”, Abigail, the nurse that worked for the Grangers’, poked her head around the door. 

“Ok, I'm coming”, Harry packed up his homework in an old backpack he had borrowed from Hermione, before following Abigail into the treatment room Dan used. The room was mostly white and chrome, giving it a clean and clinical appearance, there was a workbench along one wall, with some covers above and below. There were all manners of things Harry didn’t even begin to recognise, all laid out across the bench. Some of the tools he could probably guess at a use for, but there were others that he had absolutely no clue about.

 

In the center of the room was a big chair that Harry presumed was were the patient sat while they were being worked on. There was an odd looking lamp on an arm that positioned it directly above the chair.

“Hello Harry, did you make some progress on your homework?” Dan asked as he indicated to Harry to sit in the chair.

“Uh, yeah, though Hermione is probably going to read it and tell me about half of it is wrong”, Harry latched onto the topic of homework as he attempted to delay the moment when his teeth would be inspected for as long as possible.

He wasn’t scared , definitely not, just anxious, was all.

 

“Well, if you don't want Hermione telling you how much you got wrong, you should try getting it right the first time”, Dan teased him, while Abigail was behind Harry, doing something he couldn’t see.

“Right, let’s see if there is anything wrong with your chompers. Head back, and open wide, and no biting”, the next few minutes were filled with Dan’s gloved fingers and dental tools in Harry’s mouth; poking, prodding and examining every single tooth in his mouth. That was then followed by Dan scraping his teeth with another tool and finally giving them a brush. Harry thought that that last part was a bit too far, as he could brush his teeth himself at home. He didn’t argue with Dan, though. He was the dentist after all, so he probably knew best.

 

Once Harry had his mouth rinsed out, Dan sent Abigail to finish up the last of the paperwork for the day, and sat Harry down to talk to him, “All in all, your teeth are good; no cavities or chips, and you won’t need braces or anything like that”, Harry breathed out a sigh of relief, that had been what he was dreading, the idea that he would need work done on his teeth. The idea of that was terrifying to him.

Dan wasn’t done though, “However, it was clear that you had never been to a dentist before; you had a large build up of solid plaque around the base of your teeth. That was why I had to scrape your teeth, so I could remove it. There is one thing. I'm curious about what was under the plaque; your teeth are in far better condition than they should be, do you have any idea as to why?”

 

Harry thought about that. Why were his teeth in such good condition? He knew that he had had a few pains in them in the past, Hermione had even recommended he try a toothpaste for sensitive teeth in their first year. So didn’t that suggest that there had been something wrong with them at one time? 

He wondered if his teeth could’ve been healed once he had started brushing properly, especially after Hermione had started lecturing him about it. But according to Hermione, teeth don't just heal, at least, not without magical intervention. But that couldn’t be the case, as Harry had never gone to Madam Pomfrey about his teeth.

 Hermione had told him once how to fix teeth magically, but he couldn’t remember a time when he had ever used that, not to fix his teeth at least. But...maybe it had fixed his teeth without him noticing?

 

“Um...I think they might have been worse at one point, but there is...” Harry looked around to make sure Abigail was out of earshot, “...there is a potion that is supposed to help fix teeth. It’s called skello-gro, it’s mainly used to help repair broken bones or even regrow them. Last year, one of my professors accidentally vanished all the bones in my arm when he tried to fix a break in one of them. Don’t worry, he was a bloody idiot. I told him I would rather go to the school nurse, I have way more confidence in her abilities, I'm so glad that that professor doesn't teach there anymore. Anyway, to regrow the bones in my arm, the school nurse gave me a dose of skello-gro. So, while it was regrowing all the bones in my arm over the course of one night, not an experience I would recommend by the way, I think it may have fixed my teeth.”

 

Dan sat there, shaking his head in disbelief at what he’d just heard, “I'm glad magic is secret, cause if it wasn't, I would be out of a job. At least it explains why your teeth are as good as they are, given your history, I would have expected a lot worse. Anyway, let's close this place down and get out of here, we can pop to the supermarket and grab some sandwiches for our late lunch and do some grocery shopping.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione was sitting in a nice restaurant with her mum and nan, a tradition that the three of them have had ever since Hermione was old enough to come to a restaurant like this and behave properly. It was nice being out, just the girls. While she loved her father and Harry, they just didn't get some things like her mum and nan did.

Currently, she was listening to her nan as she told them about life outside of the city. Her nan had lived in London her entire life, but a few months before Hermione had gone to Hogwarts, she had taken ill, nothing too worrying, but she had been forced to give up her job. After weighing up her options, she had decided early retirement was the best choice, only, she couldn't afford to live in the city and had sold her London house, which was not far from where the Grangers’ lived, and had moved to the suburbs.

 

Retirement had not suited her nan well at all , and while a job was too much to manage along with her health, she had started volunteering to fill her time. She was just finishing telling them about how she was now the treasurer for her local WI.* 

“So, after they heard that I used to work as an accountant, they practically begged me to take a look at their books. They are nice women, but their books were a complete mess, it took me two weeks of ringing around and badgering everyone, just to get all the receipts and information I needed to find out who had access to the accounts.

Then , another two weeks to make heads or tails out of it. In the end, I decided that I should take over the finances or it will just get out of hand again. But after I found that £300 that they had forgotten about in the old account, they were more than willing to let me handle it from now on.”

 

Hermione’s nan stopped talking for a second to take a bite of her chicken, “I can't blame them too much, none of them are trained in accountancy, nor could they have afforded to hire one at market price. It’s a long way from the 30 or so small businesses I used to do the accounts for, but it's keeping me from going crazy. So, how about you love?” She indicated to Hermione’s mum, “how are things going at your dental surgery?”

Her mum finished her bit of salmon before answering, “Everything’s going well, we have a full client list, and a few people on a waiting list to use our surgery, so work is ticking over. We are looking into replacing some of our equipment, actually; new drills and a few other things. We just need to find a good supplier.”

 

“I thought you already had a supplier lined up before I went to school?” Hermione asked.

“Yes, about that...we found out something about that company, so we won't be using them”, her mum answered cryptically.  

“What did you find out?”

Emma considered for a few moments what she should say; Hermione wasn’t the type who wanted or needed coddling, but still…

In the end she went with honesty, “we found out who the CEO of the company is.”

“Who?” Hermione and her nan asked at the same time.

 

“It’s...Harry’s uncle”, the statement hung in the air as the other two started putting the meaning together in their heads.

“You mean the uncle you told me about, love? The one with the sister in the news?” Hermione’s nan asked; she had only gotten that much from Harry during the shopping trip, that and the fact of Harry not knowing about the children. But, he hadn’t been surprised that Marge Dursley could and would treat children that way. Harry hadn’t said that she had treated him similarly, but that hadn't been enough to prevent her from putting it together herself.

 

“Yes, and as you can imagine, we don't exactly want to put any money in his hands.”

“I should bloody hope not”, Hermione didn’t swear very often, and her nan was a little surprised by her crude language, “that man deserves a lot of things, but money is definitely not one of them.”

“Quite right kitten. Your dad is looking to blacklist the company throughout the network our surgery is in”, her mother felt her daughter’s venomous vendetta for the man.

“He’s not talking about Harry, is he? Harry isn’t a fan of people gossiping about him”, Hermione was more than a little worried that Harry's private life was the topic of gossip once again. It didn’t sound like a lot to have people talking about you, but she had seen what it was like for Harry; everywhere he went, people were always staring and whispering. And that was when he was just Harry, when he was Harry, the heir of Slytherin, it had gotten so bad that Hermione had come up with the polyjuice plan, and look how that ended up. Not that she didn’t have selfish reasons to stop muggleborns being attacked.

 

“No dear, your father is being as vague as he possibly can. He’s telling them he can’t talk because of patient confidentiality. And, with Harry at the surgery today, that is now more true than it ever was.”

“Hermione, dear...” her nan softened her tone, setting Hermione on edge, as she knew her nan was about to ask her a difficult question, “About Harry…Are you sure that it’s a good idea to date him?”

“What do you mean Nan!? Why would it not be a good idea to be with Harry?” Hermione’s tone was ice-cold.

 

“After everything that happened to him...Isn’t he, for lack of a better term, damaged goods ? I don't mean to be harsh, as this will sound, but I’ve heard of people who went through stuff like that before. They don’t learn how to be normal when they are young. They don’t end up normal. Are you sure it won't become a problem in the future? I don’t want you being hurt because of all this.”

Hermione was shocked, angry and more than a little disappointed. Shocked that her Nan would say stuff like about anyone, angry at her for saying something like that about Harry. But it was the disappointment that hit her the hardest, because she didn’t know if she was disappointed in her Nan, or disappointed in herself . Why didn’t her Nan trust her judgment? Hermione had known Harry for over two years now. If anyone knew Harry, it was her, right?

 

“Nan I know Harry.

Is he perfect? No. but, harry’s problems don’t make him dangerous to anyone but himself.” the older women gasped a little at that. “I don’t mean he will hurt himself like that but… if Harry thinks that someone will be hurt by something he will try and keep them from being hurt even if he is hurt instead. He has become so used to pain that he just accepts that he should be the one hurt. So Nan you are right harry didn’t learn to be normal when he was growing up. But he did learn how to be harry and that's pretty amazing if you ask me.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

                                                                       

Chapter Text

Chapter 26 - It's Christmas

Harry slipped out of bed, being careful not to make a sound. The last thing he wanted was to wake anyone right now. He slipped over to his trunk, and, as quietly as he could, popped the lid on one of the compartments and withdraw three packages, each wrapped in brightly coloured paper. The largest he carried across the room and placed on Hermione's bedside cabinet, where there was a good chance it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up.

That was the easy part. Now came the tricky one; he slipped out of the room, carrying two more extensively colourful packages. As he crept down the upstairs hall, he wondered if he was being silly. He had walked this hall a few times in the middle of the night without worrying so much about being quiet. He’d lived here for almost exactly a month before he had gone to Hogwarts. In that time, he had gotten up in the middle of the night a few times, mostly to visit the bathroom, and he had done that without disturbing anyone, yet now, all he could think about was being as quiet as he could while he played Santa.

 

He reached Emma and Dan's door and hesitated. He had never been in there before. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen inside though, hell, one of the first things he had done when he had first awoken here was to try every door as he tried to figure out where he was. And Hermione's parents often left the door wide open when the room was empty or they weren't in need of privacy.

But Harry wasn't going into the room. At least, not entirely. There was a table right next to the door that he could leave the presents on. As quietly as he could, he slipped open the door and went to place the presents on the table, when he saw two more presents already there, both of them bearing the type of wrapping that, like his own, was far more common in the magical world than the Muggle.

 

Hermione had obviously shared the same idea as him. He put his packages down next to the ones that were already there, before slowly closing the door. He wondered how Hermione had managed to slip out of the room before him, he was sure that he had lain awake listening for everyone to be asleep, so how she had managed to deliver her parents their presents first was baffling to him. If it wasn't for the fact that it was illegal for them to cast spells outside of school, he would have suspected a silencing charm.

 

Harry crept back down the hall to the room he was currently sharing with Hermione. That fact frustrated him immensely; being so close to Hermione was getting him a little worked up, and, unfortunately, sharing a room with her had meant that any kind of relief was just not happening.

He slipped into the room and back over to his bed, and promptly froze. Next to his bed, in an almost exact mirror of how he’d placed Hermione's, was a present, waiting for him to open later in the morning. How had he missed that when he had gotten up? He must have been so focused on delivering his own presents that he missed it.

He climbed back into his bed and settled in, taking off his glasses and placing them on his trunk, next to the present Hermione had gotten him, before he rolled over and went to sleep.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Ron woke up when a pillow hit him in the face. The sudden jolt to wakefulness left him more than a little dazed and confused. He thrashed around for a few seconds as he waited for his brain to catch up, then he looked around to see his little sister standing there, laughing at him, “Wake up bro. It's Yule."

"Yule?"

"Yes, you know, Yule . Held at the start of winter. Lots of food and presents... "

"Presents?" Right then, his brain finally clocked on, "Presents!"

 

 He looked to the foot of his head and saw, with wide eyes, the fairly large stack of neatly wrapped parcels that were his gifts. Then, Ginny pulled the case off the pillow she had thrown at him, and proceeded to stuff all Ron's presents into it.

"Hey”, he all but shouted, “Those are mine! What gives!?"

Ginny looked at him, giving him that same look his mum always gave him, “You, me, Fred, George and Percy are going to open our gifts together. As a family .” Ron decided to let her; sometimes it was just easier to give in.

 

"Now get your clothes on", She threw a clean set of his clothes at him, then walked out with his presents.

He quickly got dressed into his clothes; The top was just a thin, worn t-shirt, and he considered going in his trunk for a jumper* but decided against it. His mum always made them each a jumper that they all wore for the day. It was a tradition he had expected to be dropped at Hogwarts, but his brothers were always insistent that the tradition continues.

He climbed down the stairs to the common room, and found that his sister and brothers where all sat on the floor by the fire, each with a red Gryffindor pillow case in front of them, all stuffed with gifts. His own bag was in a space left for him between Ginny and Percy.

He took his place on the floor with his family and began tearing into his presents along with the rest of them.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

An hour later, Ron found himself with a new Weasley jumper in maroon from his parents. Or, from his mum, as he knew she was the one who made them, as his dad couldn’t sew to save his life.

He also got a box of Hagrid's home-made rock cakes, two boxes of chocolate frogs, one each from Bill and Charlie, a new quill from Percy, a selection box of Honeydukes sweets from Fred and George, a hat and gloves from Ginny, who had apparently, and unfortunately, been learning knitting charms from their mum.

Hermione had sent each of them a homework organiser that said motivational phrases every time someone opened it, and Harry had sent them all a selection of Muggle chocolate from a company called Cadburys*.

All in all, he’d gotten a pretty good haul this year. Now, he just had to find Scabbers; that rat loved Hagrid's rock cakes.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Tracy woke up when she felt her mattress suddenly indent, only to find that Daphne had collapsed onto the bed beside her.

"Uh, what's got you all excited this morning?" Tracy asked as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. 

“I get to spend Yule with you, instead of sitting through another lecture from my uptight mother. Now, get up, I’m waiting on you before opening any presents, and it seems we each got an interesting one that is driving me crazy”, she held up two almost identically wrapped squares of green paper, about a foot on each side.

 

“I see...so you only want me up, so you can open up your presents?” she grinned at her friend, who she knew all too well.

Of course , why else would I care?” her tone equally frivolous as she draped herself across her friend.

Tracy snatched one of the green presents from Daphne, hoping she had taken hers. Luck was on her side; a tag on one corner of the wrapping holding the  words 'To Tracy, Merry Christmas' . The handwriting was familiar, but she couldn't quite place it. So, instead of pontificating over who could have sent her the gift, something her Slytherin parents always told her to do, as the present could be “dangerous”, she just opened it straight away.

 

Inside was an item and a letter. She recognised the item as a Muggle vinyl record, having seen a couple that the muggleborns of the school kept. Seeing this, she gained a heavy suspicion on who the presents were from. She opened the letter and gave it a read;

 

Hey Tracy,

Thanks again to you and Daphne for helping me just before Christmas. I went ahead and got Hermione the gift I had planned. After all your talk about music, I thought you might like to try listening to some Muggle types. So I got you a record that has as some of the more popular music.

Merry Christmas,

From Harry

 

After a swift examination, the record seemed to be a certain ‘Queen's greatest hits’ .

As Tracy opened her present, Daphne did the same on the other side of Tracy’s bed, and once they had both finished reading their own letters and looked at their own records, they switched gifts to see the other’s.

Daphne's letter was almost identical to hers, and the only real difference in their presents was that Daphne have been given a record by an artist called ‘Madonna’.

 

"Well, that seems friendly enough, don't you think?" Tracy asked Daphne.

"Yeah it's friendly. Doubt the music will be any good though."

"You can be such a magical snob sometimes Daph." 

Daphne recoiled from her friend, "I'm no blood snob; you should know me better than that!" She was glad Parkinson, Bulstrode and the other Slytherin girls in their dorm had gone home for Christmas. If they hadn't, there was no way she could say that so freely.

 

"Calm down, Daph, I didn't say you are a blood purist. I know you better than that”, Daphne relaxed, thankful that she had such a good friend in Tracy.

"But…” said friend continued, “you have to admit that you seem to be of the opinion that something is only worthwhile if a magical person did it."

That comment hit a little close to the mark for Daphne. She did believe that witches and wizards could do things better than Muggles, it made sense, didn’t it?

People who are able to do magic can accomplish things muggles could only dream of, so surely if muggles did something, there is no way it could be as good as if, say, she or Tracy did?

 

Tracy wasn’t done, however, "You know, that may be true for a lot of things, but art is different. Magic can only help us create what is already in our heads. But that... spark , the one that makes a book bring you to tears, or makes a bit of music catchy...that is only magic in a poetic sense. Muggles may have to work longer to bring that spark out to the world, but they love music just as much as any of us magical folk do."

Daphne sat there listening to her friend, who was right of course. It disturbed her, just how easily she had fallen in to thinking like that . The problem was...she wasn't sure she was wrong . At least, not completely. She didn't hate Muggles, but how fulfilled could their lives be, when they were constantly struggling to survive without magic?

"Anyway, let's stop this depressing debate. Let’s go pop these in to your Gramophone. You go get it, and I’ll go get dressed."

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry woke up feeling great. He tried to rub the sleep from his eyes, only to find he couldn’t move his arm. It was this inability to move that woke him up quickly, albeit in a slightly panicked state, drawing his attention to the weight pressing down onto his side, with a lighter weight draped tight across his stomach, pinning his other arm down.

It was a warm, soft weight, that smelled of apple shampoo, with a faint hint of fresh parchment.

Hermione was snuggled up next to him.

 

She must’ve felt Harry try to detach his arm from her vice-like grip, as he felt her shift slightly next to him.

“Merry christmas Harry.”

“Morning ‘Mione. Merry Christmas. Say, by any chance, could you let me have my arm back?” She blushed as she realised how tightly she was holding him, and quickly released her arm from across him, with a quick muttered “Sorry”.

He didn’t let her move too far away, as he shifted his arm from its position on his right side and wrapped it round her, in the same fashion that she had earlier, pulling her closer once again, " Please tell me that we can stay like this all day."

 

She leaned into him and gave him a quick chaste kiss, "Nope. But, mum and dad like to sleep in on Christmas. It started a while ago, when I was younger, cause they used to stay up all night so they could pretend Santa brought the gifts. So, we can stay like this for a good while."

"Speaking of your parents, didn't we promise that we wouldn't do stuff like this?"

"Nope."

"But-"

"We promised not to do anything that we wouldn't do in front of them. We’ve cuddled together on the sofa, and fallen asleep in front of them at least twice. This is no different. Hell, I'm even technically wearing more now than I was then."

 

Harry thought on that for a few seconds, happy to mentally visualize Hermione in her thick winter pajamas, as well as what she’d worn over the summer when combating the heat.

He had to agree, though he hadn’t really wanted to disagree in the first place. What she was wearing right now was far more modest.

"Ok, you win."

"Oh, and what do I win?"

 

Harry was a little stumped  at her forwardness, and was desperately trying to come up with something he could reply with.

In the end he just asked, "What do you want?"

"I think I already have what I want." And then she leaned in and kissed him again, only this one was a lot less restrained than the first, and Harry found himself a more active participant.

 

They laid together on the small fold-out bed for almost an hour, relaxing and doing nothing, before, and then, by some unperceivable motive, Hermione jumped up and exclaimed, “time to open our magical presents! You first!" She passed him the present that he had seen on his trunk the night before.

 Harry sat up in bed and removed the paper from around the present, revealing a wooden box, not unlike the broomstick servicing kit she had gotten him for his birthday. In fact, the box was so similar that for a second, he thought she’d gotten him a second broomstick servicing kit. That was until his brain caught up with what he was seeing.

 

There was no way Hermione would be absent minded enough to give him the same gift twice. At least, not this close together. But then, what could this be?

"You know, you need to open the box to know what it is", Hermione grinned, watching anxiously as Harry just seemed to stare at the box. This sky-rocketed her worry, as she started to think that Harry didn’t like or want his gift.

He did as she said, and found inside the box a tray of quills. Not regular feather quills that they used in class, not even like the nice glass quill he had gotten himself in the summer.

 

Rather, they had wooden handles, with lots of different metal tips.

Confused, he picked up the tray to see what was under it, as the box was clearly deeper than just the top tray. The next tray rose up to underneath the top tray, and was filled with small chisels that looked super sharp.

Another tray down showed him the third tray, which shouldn't have fit in the box. It had a bunch of tools he didn't recognize.

After the fourth and fifth trays, both of which again held tools he was unfamiliar with, there, at the very bottom, was a book;

 

Rune carving guide

Parchment, wood, clay, stone and metal

 

With the title of the book, he was able to put together what his present was; a rune crafting kit.

Harry hadn't considered how Runes were carved out of things like wood. He had assumed that you would just transfigure the Runes into the object, but now that Harry thought about it, the residual magic from the transfiguration could easily interfere with the Rune effects in more complicated or delicate arrays.

"Wow ‘Mione, this is amazing . I love it." With just those few words, all of Hermione’s worries flew away, "Well, you really seemed to like Runes, and I thought it would help you with your project."

 

"You are amazing Hermione. I hadn't even thought about how to carve the Runes yet."

In class, they had only worked on parchment so far, and his project had only worked with cloth, which needed the Runes sewn into it. The wand project though would definitely need carved runes.

"What would I do without you?" He pulled her into a side hug as he repacked the kit carefully. While he would love to play with it now, he would have to wait till he got back to Hogwarts, as there were other things to do, and a girlfriend to spend time with.

 

After unwrapping Harry’s gift, they relocated to Hermione's bed, with Harry watching nervously as she unwrapped hers. Similar to Harry's gift, an unwrapping of the paper revealed a wooden box. However, Hermione’s box containing her present wasn't nearly as plain as the one Harry had received, and instead was adorned in music symbols and notes, and that weird swirly symbol that was always at the beginning of the line on a musical sheet.

Hermione opened the box, gasping as it revealed a gramophone record player, which grew from the box that seemed far too small to hold it.

 

"I noticed that you’d been using to Room of Requirement to listen to music as you read. That reminded me of the summer, when you would put on a CD if you were reading. So...I thought you could use a player, which you could use in the dorms or common room."

"Harry, it’s amazing , I love it! Thank you. But I don't have any magical records to play on it."

"I did some research, and apparently, there is no such thing as a magical record. Not really."

"Of course there are Harry; magical artists like the Weird Sisters and Celestina Walbeck-"

 

"-Are magical artists who make records. The records themselves are no different than Muggle ones, except for two things; the material they make the records from, as it seems as if a large section of wizarding Britain has no clue what plastic is, and that magical records have unbreakable and have copyright charms on them, keeping them from being damaged and stopping people from duplicating a record without paying for it. The upside is that muggle records will play on your magical gramophone just as well."

 

"Oh, then I can swipe some of my favourites from mum and dad's vinyl collection."

"And I'm pretty sure that Hedwig can easily carry a few LP's, if you want to switch them out every week when you send home a letter. If you can get your parents to agree to letting you take them, that is.”

Hermione tackled Harry onto the bed, pinning him down with a surprising amount of strength for her size. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him one of those hugs. That kind of Hermione hug, which always seemed to threaten to crack ribs, squeezing the breath out of whoever she administered them too.

Harry didn’t mind though. In fact, he absolutely loved and cherished them, loving how affectionate and expressive Hermione was, especially around him.

 

After about ten minutes, Hermione released him from captivity. He laid there for a moment, catching his breath, before they started opening the other presents that had somehow, at some point in the night, made it to Hermione's room. They were presents from the Weasleys, Neville and Hagrid.

Harry suspected that one of the Hogwarts elves probably delivered them in the night. He had a sneaking suspicion that it was Dobby who delivered them, as both Harry and Hermione knew how smitten the elf was on Harry.

He smiled at the idea of the house elves playing Santa's elves for the night, wondering if they did it for every student who went home for the holidays.

 

It looked to Harry and Hermione that they would have to get used to receiving joint presents if they were going to remain a couple, as both Hagrid and Neville had both sent the two of them presents, that were meant to be opened together between the two.

Hagrid had sent them some of his homemade treacle fudge, that neither of them were willing to try until it had been softened; they loved Hagrid, but by Merlin, the man just couldn't cook. Harry was fairly certain that, as dentists, Dan and Emma would faint if they saw the half-giant’s rock cakes, cakes that could easily break, and had broken, teeth if you weren’t careful.

Meanwhile, Neville had sent them a plant that held a different fragrance to each individual person who smelt it. Hermione said she could smell something vaguely minty, whereas Harry could smell something floral that he couldn't place.

 

They each had three presents from the Weasleys, or, more accurately, one from the Weasleys as a family, and two more that came from individual Weasleys.

Mrs Weasley, on behalf of the family, had sent Harry another classic Weasley jumper, this time a nice green colour which was almost exactly like his eyes. Hermione, who had only ever met Mrs Weasley in passing, was surprised to receive anything, and smiled as she unwrapped a homemade Christmas cake, along with a nice note wishing her a happy Yuletide.

 

Harry pulled on his jumper. Mrs weasley really was an expert when it came to knitting, and her jumpers where always incredibly comfortable.

Ron's gift to each of them showed much more thought than normal. Instead of getting them sweets that he liked, he seemed to have gone out of his way to find something for each of them. They both unwrapped their gifts from him, revealing books, which was a surprise to the two of them, as they knew first-hand how Ron avoided books, especially study-books, like they were diseased.

They weren't new books, it looked like Ron had picked them up second hand in Hogsmeade, but Harry presumed that Ron didn’t have much money he could really spend on gifts, so he was happy that at least his friend had given them a meaningful gift.

Harry had gotten a copy of Quidditch through the Ages. There was a note with it that said;

 

I know you’ve read this one, but you seemed to like it, so I thought you would like a copy of your own.

 

It wasn’t the most heartfelt of notes, but from Ron, it was a lot.

Hermione's book was equally used, by the looks of its slightly peeling cover and tinted colours. The title was famous Muggle Borns of the 20th century.

Harry idly wondered if his mother was listed, but quickly decided that he didn't want to know.

At least, not today.

The twins had sent Harry a box with six vials of potions. Each one different, the note that came with them explained what each potion did and how it could be used to prank people. According to the twins, the son of Prongs has a ‘duty’ to start pranking to live up to his father's legacy as a Marauder. Harry was so distracted by the idea of living up to his father's legacy that he completely missed what the twins had given Hermione.



--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Christmas at the Grangers’ was different from any other Christmas Harry had ever seen.

At the Dursleys’, Harry was kept in his cupboard until after everyone else had opened their presents. He was then released, only to make breakfast, and once that was done, he helped his aunt in the kitchen making Christmas dinner. Normally, Harry did most of the cooking himself, but at Christmas and with other important meals, his aunt seemed to think he would purposely wreck the dinner just to get back at them.

 

At Hogwarts, the day started off with presents, though after that, apart from the big Christmas feast, the only real difference between Christmas and any other day without class was that the library was closed and there were decorations in the more commonly traveled parts of the castle.

At the Grangers’, breakfast came before presents. Hermione explained that that had started when her nan had still lived in London, they would try and prepare breakfast in time, so that it would be ready when Ms Richards arrived. Then, they would eat breakfast together before getting to the presents.

Even though Ms Richards now was staying in the same house as them over Christmas, they had gotten used to doing Christmas that way, and it had become standard practice in the Granger household.

 

Harry kind of liked it. It really emphasized the message that Christmas was supposed to be about family, rather than presents, which many people he knew focused on. Not just people like his cousin, but even Ron and and the rest of the horde of Weasleys, though he was certain that the twins cared more that they were allowed to get away with their pranks more at Christmas more than any other time.

The next little tradition the Grangers had was that they would draw candy canes (obviously sugar-free ones) to see who got to hand out the presents. Harry had been a little surprised that he was expected to draw one too, but didn’t particularly mind that his candy cane was intact, meaning he didn't need to be the one who handed out the gifts under the tree.

 

They all waited until Dan, who’d gotten the broken candy cane, handed out all the presents, before starting to open them.

Harry was surprised at the size of his pile. He had expected three, possibly four, gifts under the tree, depending on if Dan and Emma bought him separate gifts, or just one joint gift from the both of them.

Instead, there were quite a number of packages addressed to him 'from the Granger's'.

 

There was a nice bottle of cologne from Ms Richards. It was the type of gift you got for someone when you really didn’t know them or know what to get them, but Harry appreciated that Ms Richards had gotten him anything at all.

He had gotten her something similar, a hamper of what Harry thought of as 'girly bath stuff'. Hermione and the shop clerk had agreed on it as a suitable gift, when they had ran around London shopping earlier in the week.

 

Dan had gotten both Harry and Hermione a windup pocket watch each. Harry thought it was brilliant, but he couldn't say much as to why with Ms Richards there. Analog wrist watches were simple enough electronically, meaning that they worked, mostly, at Hogwarts.

The more complicated the technology, the less it would work around magic; so something simple, like a flashlight, worked fine. However, items a little more complicated, like a wrist watch, worked, but you would need to reset the time on it every few days. Anything more complicated than that, like a radio, wouldn’t work at all, and in some cases, there had even been times when muggle electronics had burst into flames from the contact with magic.

 

Hermione got Harry a nice looking leather wallet. Upon opening the wallet, he found two things in it; a fifty pence piece*, and small hand written note. The note said that once they’d gone back to school, Hermione was going to put some rune work on the wallet for him. He smiled at that. 

Hermione gasped as she unwrapped the gift from Harry, revealing what was clearly a box containing jewelry inside. For a mundane gift that could be given to Hermione in front of her Nan, Harry had gotten his girlfriend a gold heart-shaped locket with the letter H engraved on the front.

 

The next thing Harry knew, he had a faceful of bushy hair in his face as Hermione jumped into his lap from where he sat on the floor, her arms around him, "Thank you Harry, I love it."

Harry had originally intended to get Hermione a few records to go with her gramophone, but when it came to the time to buy them, he realised that he had not a single clue about what records the Grangers’ already had.

 

Dan had tried to tease them, asking if the H stood for Harry or Hermione, but Harry had just said that it stood for whatever Hermione wanted it to stand for. And Hermione told her father in a playful tone that if he didn't stop with his teasing it may just stand for a hex.

Ms richards looked at hermione with a confused expression on her face. It was then that everyone realised that hermione had used a magical term in front of someone who wasn’t supposed to know about magic. Emma pulled it back amazingly.

“Oh? And how will you do that? This Is real life not  that fantasy book you have been reading recently.”

Harry jumped on that line of thought. “I think its cute the last few weekes before school let out she kept threatening to put a spell on me when ever i did something she found annoying. But then christmas is a time of magic maybe we shouldn’t tempt fate.” harry put a load of over the top dramatic emphasis on the part about tempting fate, emma, dan and hermione laughed but as ms richards didn’t laugh harry assumed that the laugh was at least a little forced. 

 

The rest of the presents Harry received were clothes; mostly jumpers and shirts, but the one thing that stood out to him was a thick winter coat.

Something Harry had never had before.

The Dursleys had only ever gotten him cheap, thin, waterproof jackets that were on sale, or had just given him Dudley’s old or damaged jackets, which often had gaping holes or were so thoroughly used, that they were little more than scraps of fabric. The only reason they had done that must have been because Dudley was so rough with his jackets that there was no way he was able to wear them.

But, of course, they were perfectly fine for Harry.

 

Once Harry had gone to Hogwarts, he hadn't had much need for a winter coat. He had a thick winter cloak that he wore at school, which he could now lace with warming charms if needed. Harry tended to use warming charms a lot, as being small and skinny meant that he lost body heat quickly.

When Professor Flitwick had taught them the warming charm about a month ago, Harry had wanted to both throttle him for not teaching them this earlier, and hug him for giving Harry a way to keep warm, rather than wearing multiple layers of clothing that could become very uncomfortable sometimes.

The weather at Hogwarts was unforgiving, due to where it was, and even as Harry was glad of the charm, he really wished the professor had covered them sooner; maybe they should be taught in first-year, so that students could keep themselves warm.

 

Both Dan and Emma were a little surprised to have another gift from Harry, after they had received one from him that morning. Luckily, Ms Richards did notice the looks they shot Harry as she opened her own gift from him.

Harry had gotten Dan a selection of Whiskeys, while for Emma he had gotten a bottle of wine that Hermione said her mum drank. Ms Richards had helped him buy the drinks when they had gone shopping, as he was obviously under-age and unable to buy alcohol, and even after they’d gotten the gifts, Ms Richards had insisted that she hold on to them until Christmas Eve, rather than leave the alcohol with two teenagers.

 

The gifts weren't that great, but they were only cover gifts anyway, as the magical gifts that they had opened that morning were the actual presents.

For Emma, Harry had gotten an enchanted bath robe. While it didn't sound like much, the list of charms on it was impressive, even to Harry.

It was charmed to be warming, fast drying, extra absorbing, and probably most importantly, softer and fluffier.

Harry had considered getting Dan a matching robe, but had found a delux wizarding chess set in one of the catalogues Ron had picked up for him in hogsmeade. Dan had been interested when Harry described wizarding chess to him over the summer so Harry got him one of his own.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

After they had finished with their presents and packed them away, Emma and Ms Richards commandeered the kitchen so that they could start dinner. Harry had offered to help, but there wasn't much to do. All the work had been done the day before; vegetables chopped and peeled, the turkey stuffed, prepared and set in the fridge, and even the sausages wrapped in bacon, ready to be put in the oven when it was time.

In fact, the only reason the job took two of them was so that Emma wasn't left in the kitchen on her own.

 

This left Hermione and Harry alone with Dan, who was flicking through a stack of tapes, looking for a good Christmas film to watch, "Harry, do you happen to have a favourite Christmas film?" 

Harry looked over to the stack of tapes Dan had surrounded himself with, before his eye caught onto one that had been put to the side, along with a few others, "I’ve always liked Die Hard."

 

Hermione jumped in, "But that's not a Christmas film."

"It takes place at a Christmas party . So, technically, it is a Christmas film”, Harry defended.

"It's a film about shooting people. Christmas films are supposed to make you feel warm and fuzzy", Hermione protested.

"What about the scene at the end. The guy goes through everything the bad guys threw at him, and in the end he and his wife are back together all happy and relieved. You’re saying that doesn't give you a warm fuzzy feeling?" Dan chipped in.

 

"It's not the same and you know it. Can't we stick to tradition and watch 'the snowman*' first?"

Harry wanted to joke around a little more, but Dan folded and put on the film Hermione requested. Harry hadn't seen the film before and was surprised that it was just music and a cartoon without any dialogue.

He was more surprised by how much he enjoyed it.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry was sat on the bench in the Grangers’ backyard, wanting to just be alone in the early evening. Hermione had fallen asleep on the sofa, giving Harry the chance to get out of the way and clear his head.

Christmas at the Grangers’ had been amazing. Not a fairy tale Christmas, like from a book, but a real Christmas, one that had not just the presents and dinner with over the top music in the background. But also lots of smaller things that must have developed over the Christmasses they had before, like the old crystal decanter that was on the table, full of ice water. It didn't match any of the rest of the plates or serving utensils, but the way Hermione reacted when it had almost been left in the kitchen said that there was a story behind it.

 

Someone came out the back door into the yard. Harry couldn't really see their features, but by the shape of their silhouette, it could only be Ms Richards. She came over and sat on the bench next to him, "It's a cold night", She stated. 

Harry wasn't sure she needed an answer to that, but he gave one anyway, "Yeah, but not as cold as Scotland."

"True. But it's warmer inside."

"I’ll probably head in soon."

"So, you don't plan on staying out here and moping all night then?"

"I prefer to think of it as brooding. Like...a wizard in Lord of the Rings. Just feels better than calling it moping."

 

"Do you want to talk about it?"

Harry shrugged his shoulders in indifference, "Won't really change anything. I just need to learn to live with it."

"Talking can help. And it costs nothing to try. Go on. Give it a shot."

"It'll sound stupid."

"Emotions often do."

 

Harry hesitated a few seconds; Ms Richards was leaving tomorrow and he wouldn't have to put up with that familiar look of pity, one that he knew was coming, for very long,

“This is probably one of the best Christmases I ever had.

No, this is the best Christmas I ever had. It really showed me something about family. Not just being there for each other. That I get. But there is more.

Family, it’s also like, a shared story. Little things that only family would understand, things that are all these little traditions. And every single one has a history, a reason.

 

And, it got me thinking.

What traditions and stories would I have had with my parents if they were still around? Would we have been a presents before or after breakfast family?

What kind of TV would we watch, or what games would we play?

What little trinkets would we have that it didn't feel like Christmas without?

It's just one more thing that I never realized I lost...It seems so insignificant, but..." Harry struggled to find the words to explain what he was feeling at that moment, and what he had felt ever since he learned of how his parents truly died,

“It’s like those insignificant, little things, they are what really makes a family, y’know, a family. It’s not just feeling unconditional love, and trust, and care for each other.

Rather, it’s knowing that you can feel that way, knowing your family, and that feeling where you know your family truly knows you.”

 

Ms Richards looked at him for a few moments before she spoke, "I know what you mean. In some ways, the holidays are always the hardest. They’re the times that always make you think about your family."

Harry waited for her to continue as she took a moment, it seemed, to compose herself, "You may, or may not, have noticed that no-one mentions Emma's father. That's because Emma never knew him.

 

My Russell was a good man. A bit too working class for my parents, but he was a hard worker.

We both worked for the same medical firm. It made some of those items that hospitals need, but only have one usage, such as syringes and specimen cups. I worked in the office mostly, working on billing and the such, but I also helped with payroll.

It was good work for a girl fresh out of college, especially in those days. Russell worked for dispatch; he was a van driver. We were planning on getting married; we had the church booked and everything.

 

But then he was to deliver a shipment to Ireland. There was a lot of tension back then. Not the bombings of the IRA, that would come later, but it wasn't uncommon for a riot and violence to break out.

My Russell, he never made it back. I still wonder how things would have been if he had. He would have absolutely loved Emma and would have doted on Hermione.

And, of course, I wonder what Christmas, Easter or even Halloween would have been like with him there-” Harry winced slightly at the mention of Halloween, “-are you OK?”

"I'm fine, I just don't really like Halloween. I-it's the night my parents died…”

 

Silence hung between them as the minutes slipped by, both trying to picture what might have been. It was Ms Richards who broke the silence, catching a reminiscent Harry off-guard,

"Can I ask what happened to your parents?"

Harry considered what he was able to say. He didn’t answer right away, but continued to stare blindly in front of him, and Ms Richards was just about to give up on him answering when he quietly spoke.

 

"They were murdered”, Ms Richards gasped in shock, but Harry continued on with his fabricated tale, "My dad was working with the police. He was on a team investigating an organisation that was pretty bad.

Then, on Halloween night, in 1981, the guy who ran the group came to our house. He murdered my parents."

Silence once again hung heavy in the air as the two fell into quietness, Ms Richards digesting what Harry had told her. He deliberately left out that he had watched his mother die, and that the “bad guy” had tried to kill him as well.

 

"What happened to the guy? Is he in prison?"

Harry considered how to answer; how would you describe a bodiless wrath to a Muggle who doesn't know about magic?

He had already missed out a few details in his story, but he wanted Ms Richards to feel some semblance of justice done. Unfortunately, he couldn’t tell her that said “bad guy” was currently without a body, "Missing, presumed dead. But, I don't believe he is dead."

That was as true as he could be. Thank goodness for all the cop shows Dudley used to watch, while Harry was in his cupboard with nothing to do but listen.

 

"That's a lot for anyone to deal with", Ms Richards offered understanding instead of sympathy, for which Harry was grateful, "Sometimes", he agreed. 

"I’m going to head back into the warm, are you coming?"

"I will be, I'm just gonna stay out here a bit longer. No need to spoil everyone's good time with my brooding."

Those words from her granddaughter flooded through Ms Richards head; ' if Harry thinks that someone will be hurt by something he will try and keep them from being hurt even if he is hurt instead.'

It may seem insignificant that he would sit out here in the cold, just so their good mood wasn't put on the line, but the gesture of it meant alot, "Don't stay out here too long. I don't think any of us would be happy if you got sick."

 

---ϟϟϟ---

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 27 The New Year

Harry collapsed on the sofa upon entering the Grangers’ living room. It had been a long day. Harry had heard about Boxing day sales from Hermione, but he had never been to one before; his aunt had never gone shopping on Boxing day, so Harry had never been conscripted to act as a bag carrier.

For the Grangers however, it seemed to be not just a tradition, but bordered on being a military operation.

 

Out of bed by 6AM, out of the house by 7; they were waiting outside the first shop waiting for it to open.

What followed was a long day of more shops and clothes than Harry had been able to keep track of. Mostly, it was clothing for the three women, but Harry and Dan had, unfortunately, not been able to escape being dressed up and ogled. Harry was now the owner of a new pair of black leather shoes that were, in his opinion, ridiculously shiny, as well a waistcoat in a colour Hermione called aquamarine, though Harry opted greenish-blue.

 

Hermione had said he would look good in the colour and had rushed off with Emma somewhere, leaving Dan and Harry unable to find them again for forty-five minutes, at which point Hermione was carrying a bag she hadn't been when she’d disappeared.

When he’d asked her what she had gotten, she became oddly evasive, though Harry had soon forgotten about it while he was being dragged around what felt like a thousand other shops.

 

All Harry wanted now was to keep off his feet. Hermione collapsed next to him with an audible groan, leaving a number of bags on the floor in front of her.

"I thought your mother wanted you to put them away, not leave them on the floor," Ms Richards said, as she took the last spot on the sofa on Hermione's other side.

"I don't think my feet can handle the stairs just yet,” Hermione all but whined.

 

It was weird seeing Hermione with her family sometimes. It hadn't happened over the summer as much, but since they had arrived back for Christmas, Hermione seemed to act younger than the Hermione he was used to. Harry didn't understand it but he figured it was one of those family things that he just didn't get.

Hermione curled into her nan. Harry understood why she didn’t hug against him like she usually would; Ms Richards was going home tomorrow morning and Hermione wanted to be close to her while she could.

What Harry didn’t understand though was when Hermione swung her feet up onto his lap, "Haarrrry," Hermione dragged out his name in the way she did when she wanted to ask him for something that she shouldn't, "Can you take off my shoes, pleease?"

 

Harry looked at her blankly for a few seconds before he replied, "if it was anyone else."

He left her to interpret the sentence in her head as he untied the laces on her boots. One part of wizarding fashion that Hermione had latched onto was boots instead of the wildly impractical shoes he had seen a lot of Muggle girls and women in over the years. Luckily, current trends in witches’ boots really didn't look out of place with a pair of jeans.

 

Harry slipped the boots off her feet and sent them on the floor, "Happy now, your highness?" He teased.

Hermione shot back, "You can give my royal feet a massage, if you like," She waved one of her feet at Harry.

"You know ‘Mione, walking around all day with your feet in those boots doesn't leave them smelling like roses," Harry said as he pushed her feet back onto his lap, as Ms Richards laughed at the two of them.

 

Over the next few minutes, Dan and Emma came in from the car, bringing more of their own shopping in. They shot Hermione a look for being on the sofa instead of putting her new clothes away, but didn't say anything.

Harry got the impression that the only reason they let her get away with it was because Ms Richards was leaving tomorrow and this was likely to be the last chance Hermione had to spend any time with her until the summer. Hermione hadn't discussed it with Harry yet but, they tended to stay at Hogwarts over Easter.

For Harry there had never been a choice, but Hermione had always chosen to stay. That Easter was the point at which the professors started pushing that the end of year exams were coming up was probably why; Hermione wouldn’t want to lose access to such an important resource as the Hogwarts library at such an important time.

 

Hermione broke the silence by asking, "Do you really need to leave tomorrow Nan?"

"Sorry love, but you know I do. I have things to do at home,” Ms Richards sounded genuinely sad to be leaving tomorrow.

"But I won't see you again for so long.”

“You could always come visit at easter. I have a guest room, you can come stay; just me and you if you like."

 

Harry saw the look Hermione gave him, but before she could reply Harry jumped in. He wouldn't let himself get in the way of Hermione spending time with anyone and that went double for her family, "Don't worry about me ‘Mione. I can stay at school and you can visit whomever you like. I think I can survive two weeks without you."

Ms Richards flashed him a smile from behind Hermione. Apparently she thought Harry had said the right thing. Hermione however, disagreed, "I have to stay at school over Easter, that's when we need to start preparing for our exams. I can't leave the library for two whole weeks during revision time."

 

Harry sighed, causing Hermione to glare at him, "Don't you sigh at me, Harry James Potter, you know I won't risk my exams like that. And, you will be following the revision timetable I set for you as well. You have done so much better so far this year, and I will make sure that it's reflected in your exams." 

Ms Richards was trying not to laugh as Harry received a scolding from Hermione, as she laid out what was expected of him in regards to studying, "Whatever you say,” he reminded her, “just remember, Wood is going to have a few words about how I spend my free time. He is obsessed with winning the tournament this year."

 

"I will budget time for you to run around and get all sweaty Harry, don't worry. And, if Wood goes overboard, I will remind him that the twins are sitting important exams this year," Hermione obviously seemed to have it all worked out in her head.

"Yes...but I doubt the twins will care about their exams anyway. You know what Fred and George are like."

"Don't they care at all about their exams?" Ms Richards asked.

"Not really," Harry answered, "They aren't stupid or lazy, they just seem more focused on other stuff."

 

"I'll just set Percy on them," Hermione grinned.

For Ms Richard’s sake Harry explained, "Percy is the twin’s older brother, and current head boy. He's a bit of a stick in the mud, but a good sort if you play it straight. He will push his brothers into studying."

The conversation continued for a while until Harry went to get an early night. He made his excuses and left the two women on the sofa, heading to bed while taking his new clothes, and a good portion of Hermione's, up with him.

He was asleep before Hermione got to the room.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Harry was getting ready for the new year's party, which he was attending with the Grangers. He was back in the guest room, but only while Hermione used hers to get ready for the night.

When he had brought up moving back into the guest room the day after Ms Richards had left Hermione had just kicked him in the shin. Her message was clear enough she wanted Harry to stay right where he was. 

Harry checked his reflection in the mirror that was attached to the back of a dressing table. The teen that looked back at him was quite a bit better looking than Harry thought of himself. He was wearing a black shirt and trousers, along with his new aquamarine waistcoat and shiny shoes, that Hermione called patent leather.

 

Dan had come in a few minutes ago and had done something with Harry's hair. While it wasn't anything like neat or tidy now. it did look as though it was meant to look that way, rather than the 'I just got out of bed and found that a bird had made a nest in my hair' look that he normally sported. 

Emma, who was already ready, had stopped by and offered to cover up Harry's scar with make-up, as during conversations they had had over the summer, Harry told her how much people staring at his scar bothered him. His male pride had battled with his desire not to be the centre of attention, but as the party was a Muggle one and in the Muggle world his scar was just an interesting curiosity of his appearance, and not the focal point of the end of the war, his male pride had won out, leaving him with the scar that always stood out, no matter what he was wearing.

 

Harry did one last check of his appearance, making sure that he had everything he was taking with him. He almost forgot the pack of mints that Emma had left him, but she had said that Harry would find a use for them before the end of the night, so Harry, though confused, had made sure to bring them.

Harry made his way downstairs and collapsed on the sofa. Dan was sat in one of the chairs, the two of them just waiting for Hermione and Emma. Emma may have been ready a while ago, but she was helping Hermione get ready.

 

Harry didn't understand why it took women so long to get ready. He understood that they had extra to do with the hair and makeup, but he didn't get how those things seemed to take so long.

Harry didn't have to wonder for too long, as soon he heard footsteps on the stairs, with Emma coming down first, soon followed by...

If it was a cartoon, Harry's mouth would have it the floor.

Hermione was wearing a dress that ended just above her knees, and was a very close match in colour to his waistcoat. She had done something with her hair, aswell. It was just as curly and bushy as ever, but the randomness had been ordered so that it fell with itself instead of against itself. The new style left a lot more of her neck exposed, revealing that she was wearing the locket that Harry had given her for Christmas. Add to that a touch of eye makeup and lip gloss, meaning that she looked absolutely amazing .

 

"Hermione...uh...wow."

"I think that was a compliment,” Hermione smiled at him, waiting for him to find his thoughts again.

"Complement. Yes . You look...just, wow ."

Hermione glowed at Harry. It wasn't often that she felt attractive.

She wasn't insecure about her looks, at least, not anymore. She still had self-esteem issues over her cat ears, and she hadn’t really ever felt attractive. That her boyfriend was stumbling over his words at how she looked was a big boost to her self image.

 

Harry was just about to kiss Hermione when a flash dazed him for half a second.

Dan had taken a picture of the two of them.

In that half a second Hermione had also put her hand out and stopped him, "Not now Harry. I don't want to mess up my makeup just yet." Harry was a little disappointed, but he sort of understood, so instead he took her hand and kissed that instead. 

The camera flashed again.

After that Dan had Hermione and Harry pose for a few shots. He then handed Harry the camera and had him take a few shots of him and Emma. He wanted a few shots of the four of them together, but as his camera didn't have a time function, it would have to wait until there was someone else to take the photo.

 

Once the photos were done with they all climbed into the Grangers’ car and Emma set off to some other part of London. Harry was better at navigating London now than he was when he first 'moved in' with the Grangers, but in a city like London, that just meant that he was only terrible, rather than abismal .

Harry had no clue where they were when they pulled into a car park that was next to a building, which was old enough that style was as much a consideration as function, rather than the square blocks of concrete and glass that were more common now.

 

Inside the building was a large hall that had been decorated for the party; there were balloons and banners with 1994 and ‘Happy New Year’ in big colourful letters.

One side of the hall was dedicated to food and drink. There was even a temporary bar set up. The opposite side was taken up by the DJ, who had lights, speakers and a few other things on a scaffold frame around where he had set up his equipment.

The speakers looked like they weighed more than Harry, they were that big.

 

The rest of the hall was split into two sections. The half of the hall closest to the music was apparently a dance floor, judging by the few who were already using that part. The other half was for the food, and had a number of tables and chairs set out where people could sit.

Hermione looked around to see who was there already.

Since she had met a lot of people before, Harry was relying on her for introductions. He was quickly paraded around the people there as they met doctor after doctor and their wives and husbands. It was one of those polite boring things nobody really wanted to do.

 

Harry thought that most of them were boring adults who wanted to talk about things he had little interest in, and he was sure that their opinion of him was that he was just some childish teen who knows nothing about how the world works.

Soon they were done with the adults. Dan and Emma had been drawn into a conversation with a Doctor Jones and Hermione had taken the opportunity to pull Harry over to a group of teens that had claimed a spot at one side of the hall. They had pushed a few tables together and they were all chatting.

 

One of the girls, a blond about the same age as him and Hermione, saw Hermione coming and waved, "Well, well, well, look who's home from her fancy boarding school.

How are you doing Hermione? Last time we saw you was two years ago at that New Year's party. You were all chatty about some boy you met at that school of yours. Speaking of a boy, who is this friend of yours?"

 

All of that was asked in such quick and rapid speech that Harry thought would just turn into a hum if she had a cup of coffee. Hermione walked over and gave the girl a hug, "Mandy, oh, I missed you. Yeah, I'm back for Christmas this year. I was too busy to leave school last Christmas. I meant to call you over the summer but there just wasn't time."

"Just what could you have have been doing last year that left you too busy to come home for Christmas?" The energetic one asked.

 

"Well...you remember the guy I told you about?"

"You mean your ‘ mister perfect’ that you talked about for an hour non-stop? Nope, don't recall."

"Mr perfect? An hour!?" Harry asked

A pink glow spears on Hermione's cheeks, "Uh...well, meet...Mr perfect," She indicated Harry who's cheeks suddenly matched Hermione's, "Or, as he prefers, Harry. We have been together for a year now."

 

Harry waved at the group, who were all focusing on him now, "Hi...as Hermione said, I'm Harry."

"Hi Harry, I'm Mandy," the energetic blond introduced herself.

"I'm Lewis," the tall guy, who looked a couple of years older than Harry, said.

"I'm Beth," she was a shorter, dark-haired girl whose age seemed to split the difference between Lewis and Hermione.

"And I'm Tina. It's a pleasure to meet you both," A black girl, who looked about 13, introduced herself to both Harry and Hermione.

"It's nice to meet you all," Harry finished off the introductions.

 

Mandy pulled Harry and Hermione into a couple of seats. Harry managed to not flinch at being pulled around by a strange girl. She sat next to him, putting her arm around him in what she evidently thought was a friendly manner, but it just made Harry uncomfortable, "So, Mr perfect ; you and Hermione. What's the story. What's the gossip ?"

Harry didn't know how to respond. Mandy was trying to be friendly, but she seemed to have just run full force into everything that Harry had issues with. He didn't like that she was so close, let alone that she was touching him.

He was doing better with the whole touching people thing. It had surprised him when he had come home from Hogwarts that he accepted a side hug from Emma.

 

The second problem was that Mandy was looking for gossip about him. Harry hated being the topic of gossip, yet, in this case, the gossip wasn't some outrageous rumor or a tale of Harry trying to devise some horror that had been twisted into an unrecognisable epic of adventure and daring.

"Uh Mand, can you undrape yourself from my boyfriend, please?"

"Oh sorry Hermione, I didn't think you'd take it like that," Mandy looked a little upset.

 

"It not that Mandy. I don't really like being touched by people. Hermione is just trying to help." Harry explained, trying not to make it sound like a big deal.

"Don't take this the wrong way," Beth said, quickly continuing on, " But, if you don't like being touched, how are you with hug-Zilla over there?" She indicated Hermione, who stuck her tongue out at her friend.

"Hermione is different. I don't have a problem with her...hugging me," there was a pause after Harry spoke, the first thing coming to Harry's mind wasn't hugs…

 

"So what you are saying..." Lewis, the tall, older guy, joined in, "...Is that the power of boners heals your touch problem?"

Harry and Hermione both spluttered at the bold statement, each turning redder and redder as the group around them laughed. Through the spluttering and blushing, Harry was quick to deny the allegation, "No! It not like that...Hermione was hugging me before we even become a couple. It was, well...it just takes time for me to be comfortable having someone that close.”

 

The conversation continued for a while, with everyone having fun at harry and Hermione's expense. Harry had thought it a little cruel, until they started in on Lewis and Beth, who were also apparently a couple, even if both of them had been brought separately by their own fathers who were the dentists in their families. Once they had finished embarrassing the couples, everyone got their own turn in the ‘spotlight’.

Harry wasn't sure about the other teens.

While they were funny and the ribbing was friendly, Harry didn't think he could ever relax around them. The last thing he wanted was for the topic of the Dursleys or his parents to receive that kind of treatment.

 

Soon the buffet was opened, drinks were served and the music picked up. Lewis, who said he was 18, had brought a small bottle of vodka with him and had offered to spike a drink or two for each of them. Harry was tempted but followed Hermione's lead and turned it down. Emma and Dan had been so good to him he wasn't going to risk that for a drink that he didn't even know if he would like.

Before long the various couples started to the dance floor as the adults used the excuse of the new year to let off a little steam. It wasn't long before Hermione tried to pull Harry to go dance.

 

"Come on Harry! let's dance for a bit," Hermione called over the loud music, tugging on his arm as she attempted to pull him into the mass of dancers.

Harry however, pulled back with a shake of his head, not even trying to be heard over the music. Hermione glared at him and gave his arm a light tug, asking him again but without words.

Harry shook his head a second time and gave Hermione a tug, pointing his head at the door as he tried to indicate going outside to talk.

Judging by Hermione's confused expression, she hadn't a clue what he was trying to say. He tried a few more gestures, but it just made it worse. In the end, Harry had to resort to shouting over the music. 

 

"Let's go outside a minute! To talk where the music is quieter!"

Hermione winced at Harry shouting in her ear, but nodded and led them outside.

The two of them weren't the only ones outside, but it seemed they were the only ones who weren't smoking fags*.

The chill of the December, or very-nearly-January, air was a relief after the stuffy hall. With fifty or so people, most of whom were dancing, combined with a few heaters for some hot menu items at the buffet, and a lack of any fans led to the hall being almost oppressively hot and humid.

 

The teenage couple picked a spot that was a little away from the smokers and the smell of burning tobacco. The odour was a lot better than a lot of what they had to deal with in Potions class, and even a few of the plants they had encountered in Herbology, but there was no need to stay so close to the smell.

"What's wrong Harry? Why don't you want to dance with me?" Hermione asked as soon as they had relative privacy, the hurt audible in her voice.

Harry hesitated, a little embarrassed, "It's not that; I do want to dance with you, I really do. It's just…" Harry's next words were too quiet for Hermione to hear through her hairband.

 

"It's just what Harry?"Hermione pressed.

Harry swallowed his pride and said, "I don't know how to dance."

Understanding flashed over Hermione's face, "Oh."

But she then grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him over to a window that looked back into the hall, "Harry, look at the people on the dance floor and tell me what they are doing," Hermione had switched to her lecture voice and Harry almost instinctively followed her direction.

"Um...dancing?" He didn't understand what she wanted him to notice.

 

"Harry that's not dancing, not really. All they are doing is cuddling while swaying to the music," Hermione declared.

Now that Harry looked again, there was nothing of the complicated movements that he'd seen on the TV shows his aunt had watched on occasion. In fact, cuddling while swaying to the music was a good description of what most of them were doing.

"It's not real dancing, and it's not hard. Here, let me show you," She stepped right in front of him so that she was almost touching him. She took his left hand and placed it on her hip, "that hand goes there, while mine goes here," She put her hand on his shoulder and then took his other hand in hers.

Harry was sure it had just gotten suddenly hotter, as his face reddened and his collar became sweaty.

 

"This is better for the faster dances, where we move a bit more and this…" she took both of his hands and pressed her body against his, placing his hands just above her arse. Harry froze for a second and Hermione took the opportunity to put her arms around the back of his neck, "...Is more appropriate for the slow dances."

Harry's brain was still rebooting from having Hermione pressed right up against him. He leaned forward a little bit, only to hide just how much he liked that Hermione was so close, and he was just glad she hadn't noticed.

 

Hermione arms, which were still around his neck, pulled his head forward and down a little, resulting in Harry looking right at Hermione's eyes. It was weird, but in a good way, normally if they were this close they were curled up together.

Usually, in that circumstance, Hermione was using his chest as a pillow, or they were kissing. Harry was a little surprised to realise that even without the kissing, that feeling of just being close to Hermione was just as strong, but it was more relaxed than the intense fiery need that accompanied the kissing.

"Just add a little swaying and there you go, we're dancing," Hermione added a little movement in time to the music they could hear from inside and Harry's body naturally followed her lead.

 

The two of them 'practised' slow dancing for a few more minutes until the chill of the winter night began to rob them of their body heat. Hermione dragged Harry back into the hall and onto the dance floor, just in time for a slow song.

Hermione grinned as she wrapped her arms back around his neck, with Harry hesitating before putting his hands where Hermione had instructed, as he suddenly became very aware that Hermione's parents were also in the room, even if he didn't know exactly where they were at that moment. But, as Hermione pressed against him, he soon lost focus on everything else.

 

Before Harry knew it, everyone was getting ready for the countdown. Harry was just finishing a drink of lemonade* as he considered how he was going to kiss Hermione at midnight, when he remembered the pack of mints that Emma had made sure he had, as he would 'find a use for them'.

He definitely would be finding a use for them, and he quickly put three in his mouth. He debated offering some to Hermione, wondering if she would think he was insulting her breath, but before he could reach a decision she came up behind him and took the mints out of his hand and, after grabbing a couple, she slipped the pack back into his pocket, then dragged him back onto the dance floor.

They got in one last dance before the DJ quietened down the music as everyone made their way outside.

 

The air bit at Harry's nose and fingers; it had gotten colder since they had come out here earlier. He put an arm around Hermione, who's dress left her shoulders rather exposed, and to some it would look like a sweet gesture to keep her warm, but Harry knew that Hermione would know that he was just as glad at the sharing of their body heat. His skinny frame lost it's own heat rather quickly, probably quicker than Hermione's.

"Ok everyone, one minute!" Someone called out.

The crowd waited in bated silence until the countdown began, and Hermione rested her head on Harry's shoulder as he pulled her in closer.

The same voice called, "Ten!"

"Nine!" this time the voice was joined by about half of the crowd.

"Eight!" most of the crowd said in unison.

"Seven!" all of them were now counting down.

"Six!" Harry turned to Hermione.

"Five!" He pulled her in close.

"Four!" She leaned into him as he wrapped his other arm around her.

 

"Three!" He was suddenly very aware of Hermione's breasts as they pressed against his chest.

"Two!" He realised that he hadn't actually made his decision on how he would kiss her. Should it be short and sweet, or a deeper kiss?

"Harry." Hermione got his attention.

"One!" Harry was waiting on what Hermione wanted to say.

"I love you." All concern for the new year coming disappeared in an instant. His arms tightened around his girlfriend as he pulled her into the deepest kiss he had ever started. His tongue even finding its way into her mouth. She moaned appreciatively as she totally gave herself over to moment, pressing herself impossibly closer to Harry.

They were both so caught up in the moment that neither of them noticed what was going on around them.

Everyone called out "Happy New Year!" A good number of them started to sing 'Auld Lang syne' and Dan who had been watching the two of them, had pulled out a camera and started to take photos of the two of them with a big smile on his face.

 

Harry broke the kiss off. He wasn't sure how long it had lasted but Hermione obviously thought it wasn't long enough as she tried to pull him back into the kiss. Harry resisted, he had something to say first, "I love you too 'Mione."

If Harry thought that she was smiling before, it was nothing to the absolutely radiant one she now had.

But that smile was soon gone as Hermione's mouth was quickly occupied with their previous task.

As the fireworks started going off to celebrate the new year.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 28 - Once more unto the breach

Saturday 1st January 1994

 

Everyone within the Granger household had gotten up late. Not going to bed till three in the morning tends to leave one with a need of extra sleep, meaning no-one had gotten out of bed for longer than a trip to the bathroom until around midday.

Hermione was currently making sure that all the stuff she wanted to take to Hogwarts was packed into Harry's trunk. She was leaving a lot of the clothes she had brought back from Hogwarts at home in favour of taking some of her newer ones to wear at school.

 

Harry, who had no wardrobe space, was already packed by virtue of keeping everything he owned in his trunk, and was laying on the fold-out bed that was in her room, reading his new copy of Quidditch through the Ages .

"’Mione, have you ever heard of a snigit hunt ?"

"It’s an old wizarding 'sport', where the participants would fly on brooms and try and catch a small fast agile bird with their bare hands. The snigit was so small that the person who caught it would almost always crush the poor little thing. The snigit hunt is the origin of the Seeker position in Quidditch."

"I was just thinking it sounds like fun. I wonder if we could arrange a hunt at Hogwarts?"

 

Hermione looked at him, horrified at the idea of killing something just for sport,

"Harry James Potter, snigit hunting is illegal, the snigit was almost hunted into extinction and is considered an endangered species!

Even if it wasn't killing a poor defenceless animal just for sport, it’s barbaric ; if you even think of doing it I won't talk to you for a month! You understand me!?" By the end of her rant Hermione was shouting.

“Woe Hermione," Harry dropped the book and raised his hands in a surrendering gesture, "I wasn't thinking about hunting real snigits. I was thinking we could use snitches. We could set ten snitches loose in the grounds and each house could have a team of, say, three hunters and the team that catches the most wins. I would never think to use live animals, that’s just cruel ."

 

Hermione felt her anger slowly drain away as she realised that Harry didn’t want to use live birds. It didn't sound all that fun to her, but then again, she wasn't really a fan of flying. While it didn't sound like much of a spectator sport, she could see how someone like Harry, who absolutely loves flying, could easily find a hunt like he described fun. And at least he wouldn't have blugers flying at him in a snitch hunt.

"I'm sorry Harry, it's just I thought-"

“-that I meant terrifying a tiny cute fluff ball as we chased it around, then crushed it to death. Hermione, if I had meant that, trust me, I would want you to stop me," Harry cut her off, finishing her sentence for her.

 

Hermione suddenly felt bad about accusing Harry like that. She should have known that he wouldn't have hunted real snigits. It would be to easy for Harry to empathise with the poor creatures; being pursued by a group of Wizards who want nothing more than to kill him wasn’t particularly new to either of them.

Now that she thought about it, Harry wouldn't be able to hunt snigits, it wasn’t the kind of person he was.

Something in her expression must have betrayed her thoughts taking a darker turn, as Harry got off his bed and wrapped his arms around her. She relaxed into him, letting his hug wash away the thoughts.

 

"I love you Hermione," Hermione felt her heart race at those words, words which would never stop getting that reaction from her.

"I love you too," Ever since she had told Harry that last night, it was like a dam had burst, and they couldn't stop saying it, not that they wanted to.

She and Harry had told the other they loved them eighteen times now, which was impressive, given that they had only been awake for about seven hours since then.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

There was a knock on the open door to Hermione's room and emma walked in, “Hey, you two, can you put each other down for a minute?”

The two teens broke apart reluctantly and Hermione steeled herself for whatever telling off they were about to receive. She and Harry had been all over each other for the entire day so far.

Had they finally gone so far that her mum was going to tell them to cool it off?

Emma, seeing her daughter and her boyfriend’s slight change in demeanour, started by reassuring them, “calm down you two, this is only a school talk, not a bollocking.”

 

Hermione relaxed, happy that she wasn’t going to be berated for her intimacy with Harry. She had no intention of slowing things with Harry, now that they had finally made some progress, and even so, just because she wouldn't change what she was doing didn’t mean she wanted to get into a fight with her mum over it.

Not that she and Harry were doing anything new, it was just more of what they were already doing. More hugs, more kissing; all that had really changed was the words. Hermione considered for a moment if she was being paranoid in regards to her parents.

Ever since she had come home for the summer they had been so…well, cool about everything.

 

She had returned with a deformity and a tale of being in a coma for a couple of weeks.

And her parents just accepted it.

Sure, they had talked about sending her to a different magical school, such as Beauxbatons in France, but even then they had easily accepted that Hermione wanted to stay at Hogwarts.

 

Then, a few weeks later, Harry had appeared in the dining room and her parents had decided to do exactly what Hermione wanted them to and let him stay. Now that they were back for Christmas, they had even trusted Harry and her to share a room, even though Hermione had explained to her mum about the more adult hormones and going into heat every month.

Hermione didn’t doubt for even a moment that she had the beast parents. 

 

“So, how are your grades so far this year Hermione?” her mom's question brought her out of her musings. 

“Not bad. I'm doing Ok...” Harry snorted in the seat next to her and she shot him a look, to which he replied, “If by Ok, you mean the top student in our year over all and the top student in about half of the individual subjects.”

“Only half?” Emma teased, ”what about you Harry? Are you doing any better this year?”

 

Harry gulped next Hermione, who was sure he was remembering how guilty her mum had made him feel about his grades over the summer, “I think I’m doing Ok.” Harry tentatively said. Hermione didn’t know why he was so worried; he was doing way better than last year. “l mean...my grades are up a bit.”

“Same question I asked over the summer Harry; Do you think you can better?”

Harry consider his answer for a few moments before he replied, uncertain, ”Maybe? I don't know.”

 

“Harry, you are doing great! You are in the top twenty in our year. And you even get the best in year sometimes in DADA and Runes assignments. You have gone from regularly placing fiftieth to sixtieth place to being in the top few in our year. You have done amazingly well, and in only four months!” Hermione considered telling Harry that the only thing keeping him from being in the top ten was his Potions grade. She was sure it was the grade and not the work.

She had read every one of his essays before he handed it in, and she was certain that Harry was averaging an ‘Exceeds Expectations’, with the odd ‘Outstanding’. Professor Snape, however, never marked him higher than an acceptable.

 

The problem was, she worried that if she told Harry he good he really was doing, then he might stop trying. Why put in the effort if it did him no good? But if he did that, it could affect his OWL’s, which were graded by others from outside Hogwarts.

Hermione watched as her mum digested the change in Harry's academic ability, which of course, Hermione was carefully keeping track of. When she thought about it, it really was quite a feat. If she hadn't seen the flashes of just how brilliant he could be when he was focused on something over the years, then she wouldn’t have thought it possible.

It was a pity that until this year, all Harry had been able to focus on was whatever was trying to kill him. Well... her and whatever was trying to kill him. But she wasn't going to say anything negative about him focusing on her.

 

"Harry, that jump is absolutely brilliant. Rising that much academically is way more than doing Ok or your grades being up a bit. You should be really proud of yourself. It may seem a little weird coming from me, but I'm extremely proud of you for this."

Hermione turned to look at Harry as concern filled her at how he was feeling. Just like “ I love you” , ”I'm proud of you” was another phrase Harry wouldn't have heard of growing up.

But Harry was fine, and his face beamed with a grin. 

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Sunday 2nd January 1994

 

Hermione hugged her mum as tight as she could before doing the same with her dad. Parting after Christmas was, in some ways, harder than it was in September; in September she at least knew that she would see her parents again in just four months. Even when she had decided to stay at school last Christmas, she hadn't considered that she would in September, when they’d parted.

Hermione was trying not to make a scene in front of the witches and wizards that had all stopped eating their lunch as soon as the boy who lived entered the pub.

Harry and Hermione were not going back to Hogwarts on the express like everyone else. They were instead flooing from the Leaky Cauldron. A few days ago Harry had gotten a letter from the headmaster explaining why;

 

Harry,

Firstly, let me apologize for disturbing you at Christmas. I was pleasantly surprised when Professor McGonagall informed me that you had left the castle to spend Christmas with your guardians; a good Christmas with family is a balm for the soul.

As to why I am disturbing you now: a number of parents were a little alarmed to see you getting off the express a few days ago. They were so concerned that a number of them decided to write to me expressing these concerns. 

As I have gathered, the two main worries are that the express is too ‘exposed’ for you while Bellatrix LeStrange is still loose, and many fear that you could be attacked while traveling to or from the school. The other worry is that parents feel their own children could be hurt if a fight was to break out between you and Bellatrix.

Personally, I do not feel that Bellatrix is likely to attack you on the train; there would be far too many people there for her to guarantee reaching you or her escape. There is, however, an appearance of safety that must be maintained, or parents could decide to seek their children's education else were.

To this end, I have arranged for you to return to the castle by floo. If you go to the Leaky Cauldron between midday and one on the second of January, you will find that the fees have been paid for your use of a public floo access.

Merry Christmas,

Albus Dumbledore,

Hogwarts headmaster

 

With the letter had come a sealed note from Professor McGonagall informing them of the password for the fire in her office, and that she had arranged for Hermione to use the floo as well because it didn't make any sense for them to travel separately.

"Now you two have fun at school, and don't forget, I want a letter every week."

Hermione nodded at her mum. "Every week, mum. I promise," With that she turned and opened the little paper package she had received from Tom, the Bartender, throwing the green glitter-like powder into the large fire that dominated one side of the pub. Instantly the fire turned green.

 

Hermione hesitated a second before she stepped into the emerald inferno. She relaxed; the light tingle was nothing like the conflagration that that woman had hit her and Harry with at Halloween, "The Cat's Cradle."

Hermione found herself surrounded by flames as she was propelled along what seemed to be a literal tunnel of fire. She was bombarded with flash after flash of living rooms and offices, some with people, some without, but they all disappeared as quickly as they came.

None of them lingered long enough for her to get even the barest of impressions about the rooms she was glimpsing.

She tried to pay attention to the flashes though, if only to distract herself from the images her mind was calling up of the last time she had been surrounded by fire.

 

What was probably a few seconds after her journey started, she landed in an office; an office she recognised as being the office of one of her favourite Professors. Professor McGonagall looked up from her paperwork as her fire had flared green, and she came and greeted Hermione, who was brushing the ash and soot from her robes.

"Welcome back Miss Granger. You may want to clear the way for Mr Pot-"

Hermione realised what her head of house meant as soon as she had said 'clear the way'. However, her reactions weren't quite quick enough, resulting in Harry barrelling into her as he came out of the floo at some speed. He probably could have caught himself, if he wasn’t also carrying his trunk, with the extra weight almost causing him to fall flat on his face. Hermione found her arms full as she stopped Harry from toppling over.

 

"Why Harry, it looks like you've fallen for me."

Hermione's face was suddenly red hot as she realised who their company was.

How could she have said that in front of a Professor ?

Worse, it was Professor McGonagall ; only Professor Snape could have been worse. She watched Harry for his reaction. If he got embarrassed, then that could make this so much worse.

 

Harry's face was first filed with confusion as he tried to catch up with what she was saying, and then his face went red and his eyes darted to look back and forth between her and Professor McGonagall.

He took a steadying breath, and although his face was still red, he replaced his expression with that little confident smirk of his that drove Hermione nuts

"A little bit more every day,” he replied.

Hermione relaxed, and while she wanted to kiss him for that, she was now even more aware that they were in Professor McGonagall's office, with said Professor watching everything they did.

 

"Welcome back Mr Potter. I trust you both had a good Yuletide," She flicked her wand at the pair of them, and the thin coating of ash and soot that the floo trip had left on their clothes vanished. It seemed that their Professor had decided to be merciful and pretend that nothing had happened. Though, judging by the twitch in the corner of her mouth that was threatening to turn her expression into a smile, the Head of Gryffindor didn't exactly disapprove .

" Best Christmas I ever had, topped off with a perfect New Years," replied Harry. The grin that was on his face showed just how true that was for him. Hermione felt bittersweet about that; she loved that she had given Harry his best ever Christmas, but felt sad that it had been so easy to do so.

Harry deserved much better memories to compare with this Christmas.

"Yes, New Years was perfect," Hermione echoed, without adding any details.

 

Professor McGonagall looked at the two of them with a slight smile, debating whether she should ask for details. She must have decided that it was better not to ask, "I suspect the two of you will want to go settle back into your dorms. The new password is mistletoe ."

They thanked the Professor for the use of her fire, and after a few pleasantries, the two of them made their way back to the Gryffindor tower. Unfortunately, that meant climbing up three floors with Harry's trunk. While the trunk wasn't heavy, Harry was finding it was awkward to get up the stairs. After the first flight, Hermione took pity on her struggling boyfriend and spelled his trunk to float behind them.

 

"Really Harry, you could have done that yourself."

Harry looked embarrassed and muttered something under his breath.

"I didn't catch that Harry. One sec, I forgot to take off my hair band," She reached up and pulled off her hair band. 

It felt great for Hermione to take off her hairband. Before her nan had left, she had worn it twenty four hours a day, and her ears were feeling a little claustrophobic. It had gotten better since she had gone back to only wearing it during the day.

 

Now that she was back at Hogwarts though, she was looking forward to not needing to hide them, even if some of the other students gave her a hard time.

"I didn't think to use magic. I guess my head is still in the Muggle world," Harry mumbled again. It wasn't as quiet as before, but Hermione would still have had trouble understanding him if her ears were covered.

Hermione considered Harry's words; she understood what he meant, Harry was still thinking like he did back home, to do everything without magic. It would probably take a few days for some people, especially those of them who grew up without magic, to get back into thinking of doing things with it.

 

"You should just cast a bunch of spells now to get your thinking straight."

"No magic in the corridors!" The voice of the school’s caretaker warned them. The two had arrived at the entrance to the Gryffindor common room only to find not just the painting of the knight as Hermione had expected, but alsoMr filch, who renaming the portrait of the fat lady, "If you two are wanting back into your common room, it will be ten minutes or so," he told them with his usual disdain for students evident.

 

With nothing else to do but wait, Hermione sat on the lid of Harry's trunk. Mrs Norris, Mr filch's cat, came over to her for a scratch behind the ears. Hermione presumed she was the only student in the school that the cat could even remotely stand. Mrs Norris was surprising nice, now that she wasn't trying to get Hermione into trouble for every little thing.

While Hermione entertained the cat’s attention, she listened as Harry talked to the fat lady and Mr filch. Harry had complimented the fat lady on her restoration, claiming whoever had done it had done a world class job. What Harry or Hermione hadn't known was that the one who did the restoration work was standing right there, listening to said complement.

 

When Mr filch had revealed that he was the one who restored the painting, Harry had flushed bright-red with embarrassment, obviously not expecting the hated caretaker to be the one he was complimenting.

"That's the job of the Hogwarts caretaker, taking care of all the paintings, antiques and treasures that this old castle holds."

Harry looked at the walls and the hundreds of painting that could be seen just from that one spot, "Must be a big job," He concluded.

"Not particularly. The protection charms on most of the frames protect the paintings. Most of the antiques are behind glass cabinets. That's why I pitch in with cleaning I get bored."

 

Hermione thought about what she was overhearing. It made sense in a way; the school had house elves for cleaning, so there was no need for a caretaker in the traditional sense. However, the paintings would need care often enough that it was worth keeping someone on staff. It would also explain why filch was so against magic in the corridors, and especially magical toys like fanged frisbees. She wondered how many paintings he’d had to fix over the years because of a stray spell or mis-thrown frisbee.

Soon, the fat lady was back in her rightful place and Mr filch was taking away the painting of the crazy knight that had made life difficult for the Gryffindor students for too long.

"Mistletoe."

The fat lady smiled, clearly overjoyed to be back at her job, and swung forward to let them in.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione fumbled with the door to her dorm room, her hands full of her clothes which had been in Harry's trunk. Hermione grinned at the memory of Harry trying to take his trunk up the girls’ staircase, so that Hermione could unpack her stuff easily.

But, as soon as he had put one foot on the bottom step, the stairs had transfigured themselves into a smooth slide, stopping not only Harry, but anyone, from getting up them temporarily.

 

Door open, Hermione dumped her new clothes on her bed while she opened her trunk. She was suddenly hit by a weird feeling that something was missing. She hoped that she hadn't left anything at home. She was halfway through hanging her new stuff in the wardrobe compartment of her trunk when she realised what was missing;

"Where's crookshanks!?"

She had expected her ginger fluff ball to be on her bed, but he evidently wasn't there, and neither was Fay, the girl who Hermione had asked to watch him over Christmas. Hermione finished putting away the bundle of clothes she had just brought up before she went to get more of her stuff from Harry hoping that she would find her pesky familiar somewhere.

 

Hermione found Harry and Ron in their dorm. Harry was collecting the last of her things from his trunk. She barely had a chance to notice what Harry was doing before Ron was in Hermione's face. In an instant he was waving around a sheet like a lunatic, "Scabbers! My poor Scabbers..." Ron ranted as he waved the sheet wildly in Hermione's face.

Surprised by Ron's sudden anger and the aggressive flailing of his arms, Hermione retreated into a corner. She worried that Ron might just lose it over whatever he was so distraught about and attack her.

Luckily, Harry was there. He had gotten himself between Ron and her and was almost physically forcing Ron back, putting a small bit of space between her and Ron.

 

Ron stopped trying to advance towards Hermione and backed up, shaking his head at Harry in disbelief, "I should have known you would take her side. Her damn cat has eaten scabbers and you still take her side. Well, we are done," with that, he threw down the sheet and stormed out of the room.

Hermione found herself wrapped up in Harry's arms as he held her. Now that she was getting over her surprise at Ron suddenly targeting her like that, she was getting angry. How dare he corner her like that? If she were to walk down to the common room and hex him it would serve him right.

 

She was considering doing just that when she remembered that it was Harry who was hugging her.

Well...maybe she could do it later. Hugs from Harry took priority over hexing Ronald bloody Weasley.

By the time Harry broke the hug, Hermione had calmed down and had decided to give Ron a chance. If his pet had just been killed, that was the kind of thing that could lead to such distressed behaviour. It wasn't right, and in no way did she deserve his hatred, but she could understand it.

"Are you alright?" Harry asked as his arms loosened a little.

"Yes...but no," She paused for a moment before continuing, "He makes me so angry; I hate that he cornered me like that. I didn't even know what he was going on about until just before he stormed out. I wanted to chase after him and hex him into next week."

 

Harry just held on to her for a few moments before he let her go and asked, "And what do you want to do now?"

She hesitated for almost a minute, trying to be angry at Ron, but she kept coming back to how she would feel if crooks was killed.

Would she act anymore rational than Ron had?

"I think I should apologize. If crooks has killed scabbers then Ron has a real reason to be upset."

"He still shouldn't have treated you that way. Like McGonagall said, he was the one who brought a rat to a building filled with cats." 

"I know, but I still see why he's upset. Doesn't matter why, losing a pet hurts."

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

A few minutes later, Hermione followed Harry down the boys’ stairs. Each of them were carrying more of Hermione's things that had been in Harry's trunk. This time it was her Christmas presents and photos, stuff that she hadn't been able to carry the first time.

Hermione hastened up to the girls’ dorms and set her bundle, that included her new gramophone, onto her bed, before running back down to Harry to relieve him of his load of her stuff.

Even if she could understand it, the magical protection which kept the boys out of the girls’ dorms was sometimes a total pain.

 

She got to the bottom of the girls’ stairs and found Harry waiting patiently for her, his arms still full of her things. Ron was sat on the other side of the common room glaring at them. She considered going over to talk to him, but decided that it was probably better if they both had a chance to calm down first.

She was just about to release Harry of her things when the portrait hole opened up and Fay walked in. Hermione asked Harry to wait a moment as she wanted to talk with the girl, and started off across the common room.

 

Crookshanks jumped through the portrait hole following Fay. Hermione, happy to see her familiar, started rushing over to him. The problem was, she wasn't the only one who had seen the ginger half-kneazle as he bounded into the common room. 

Ron angry at Crookshanks, had longer legs than Hermione and was sitting closer to the portrait hole, meaning that he got there first. Hermione's heart dropped into her stomach as she watched Ron aim the strongest kick he could at her crooks.

Hermione's head was filled with images of broken bones and damaged organs, but luckily for her, crooks was fast when he wanted to be. Ron's kick missed and Crookshanks was off running beneath chairs and tables and up the girls’ staircase.

 

Hermione was angry.

Scratch that; Hermione was absolutely livid .

In a single moment, all sympathy she may have felt for Ron was replaced with a white-hot anger. Ron, who was still focused on her cat, didn't even see the spell coming. Hermione's spell hit him square in the chest, blasting him through a table and into a wall with a satisfying crash. As Ron fell unconscious, Hermione bolted up the stairs to the girls’ dorms, looking for her familiar.

 

Hermione found him curled up on her bed next to her new gramophone. She walked over and started scratching his ears in the way she knew he liked, "How's my baby? Are you Ok? Did the mean Ronald try to hurt you?" Hermione cooed at her cat in a comforting tone. Crookshanks climbed into her lap and she was soon hugging and fussing over him as though she hadn't seen him in a year, rather than two weeks.

Not long after, Fay walked into the dorm, carrying the last of Hermione's belongings that Harry had been holding. She came over to Hermione's bed and then set down the load with Hermione's other things.

 

She dug in her robes and pulled out a handkerchief that she handed Hermione as she sat down next to her, "So...what was all that about? Harry just asked me to bring up your stuff and said he was taking Ron to the hospital wing."

Hermione hadn't realised she was crying until she was handed the handkerchief. She used it to wipe her eyes, glad that she wasn't wearing any eye makeup, or she would have looked a right state, "Apparently, Crooks ate Ron's rat Scabbers. Ron tried to get revenge, I guess, but I couldn't let him hurt crooks."

 

"No...he didn't."

Hermione looked up at Fay, confused as to what she was saying, "I saw Ron with his rat this morning as I left the common room, and Crookshanks came with me," She contemplated a second before she continued, "When I got up this morning I was feeding Crookshanks like you asked me to. He has been so good while you were away. A bit grumpier than normal, but I think he just missed you." Hermione hugged her cat closer to her; she had missed him just as much as he had missed her.

 

"But, this morning, I noticed that he had a cut and a clump of his fur was missing," She showed Hermione the cut on Crookshanks’ leg. Hermione examined it. It wasn't much, it looked like he had caught himself on something sharp possibly.

"It didn't look like much to me, but I'm not an expert, so I took him down to see Professor Hagrid. You know, just to be safe," She sounded nervous but Hermione assured her that she had done the right thing.

 

"Anyway, as I left, I remember seeing Ron in the common room with that rat of his. I noticed because Ron was making a fuss over having been looking for him for days. So anyway, I took crookshanks down to Professor Hargrid’s house, and the Professor was happy to look at him. He said it was nothing to worry about and that it would heal in a few weeks on its own. He did put a bit of some type of ointment on the cut to prevent infection but that was it. After that, we got talking about magical creatures.

Professor Hagrid was complaining that he couldn't bring a dragon to the school to show in class. He really knows his stuff about dragons, we were talking for a few hours. Oh, I did suggest he look into getting a few fairy dragons, or some pseudo-dragon to show the class. They are only about the size of cats, so they are nowhere near as dangerous as an actual full-sized dragon. So, that could mean a fun, interesting lesson soon.

 

But the point is, crooks and I have been at Professor Hagrid's place all morning. So there is no chance he attacked Ron's rat. Crookshanks was sleeping on that big dog the Professor had. We came back up to the castle just now, because Hagrid was starting to offer me lunch and, as nice as he is, the stew he was cooking didn't look too great, and after trying his rock cakes, I wasn't particularly assured of his ability In the kitchen. And also, I wanted to get him-" she scratched Crooks’ ears, "-back up here in time to meet you when you got back. How are you back so early anyway? The express won't be here for a few hours.”

 

Hermione digested everything that Fay had just told her, and all her regret for hexing Ron instantly disappeared. She didn't know what had happened to Ron's rat, but her familiar was completely innocent, "Oh, Harry and I floo'ed back instead of taking the train. Some people were worried that if Harry, and I assume Neville, were on the train, then LeStrange might attack it to get to them. And as Harry spent Christmas at my place, I took the floo with him."

Fay was a little surprised upon hearing that Harry had spent Christmas at Hermione's home, "Wow...your parents must be super chill. If I asked my mum if I could have a boyfriend spend a few weeks at home with me, my mum would flip."

 

"Yeah, but my parents like Harry and he has nowhere else to go. Honesty, it was my Nan who didn't trust Harry the most. She kept walking in on us, trying to catch us doing something against the rules."

The two of them soon fell into talking about their Christmas. Apparently, Fay had stayed at Hogwarts because her mother was a healer at St Mungo’s and was too busy at this time of the year for a family Christmas, while her father was too concerned with his new family with‘whore of a secretary’ to give two shits about Fay.

 

Fay listened as Hermione described her relatively normal Christmas with Harry, and she fawned a little over Hermione's description of midnight on New Years. Hermione had left out that it was their first time saying that they loved each other, leaving Fay thinking that it was just a sweet moment between her and Harry rather than the milestone it truly was.

After about ten minutes, they were interrupted by Professor McGonagall walking into the dorm, "Miss Granger, may I speak to you in my office please? Now."

The Professor didn't sound at all happy.

 

Hermione guessed that with Harry taking Ron to the hospital wing, Professor McGonagall of course had been notified. Hermione felt her heart clench at the thought that Harry may have gone to the Head of their House himself.

Hermione followed the Lioness of Gryffindor through the common room and out to the sixth floor, but was surprised when, instead of going down the grand stairway as Hermione expected, she was led along the sixth floor corridor to an office she had never seen before.

Seeing the look of confusion on Hermione's face, Professor McGonagall explained, "This is the head of Gryffindor office, I normally use the office for the deputy head, but this is closer and I have another thing to deal with up here after speaking to you, so I don't fancy running up and down the stairs.”

 

The Head of Gryffindor office was slightly smaller than her regular office and was decorated in the same reds, golds and dark woods as the common room. But here and there were the odd touch of tartan that Hermione presumed were the Professor's own personal touch.

"Have a seat Miss Granger," The stern Professor persona was back as she took her seat and directed Hermione to do the same, "I want you to tell me what happened in the incident with Mr Weasley. I asked Mr Potter, but he refused to give me an answer, instead insisting that I talk to you," She was eventually annoyed that Harry had refused to talk, but Hermione's heart lightened; she wouldn't have blamed Harry for talking, but it still would have hurt.

 

Hermione told the story exactly as she remembered it, with her going up to Harry's dorm to get the last of her things from Harry's trunk. Professor McGonagall got a stern look on her face at the mention of Hermione entering the boys’ dorm but said nothing. Then about how Ron had suddenly been right in her face, shouting gibberish while waving a sheet, and how Harry had had to get in between the two of them before Ron completely lost it, and how only then did he reveal that he thought her cat had eaten his rat.

 

She went on to explain that she had tried to give Ron some space to cool off while she went back to putting her things away, but that Ron, still angry, had attacked her cat as soon as he saw him. Then, with her head hanging low, she admitted to hexing Ron for trying to hurt her familiar, and then about finding out that her familiar was with Fay all day at Hagrid’s and hadn't done anything at all to Ron's rat.

Once Hermione finished, the two of them sat there in silence for a while. Hermione's mind was conjuring all sorts of things from detention for the rest of the year to being kicked out of the school and having her wand snapped.

 

"I am inclined to believe you Miss Granger. You didn't try to gloss over your rule breaking, which I find to be honourable. Firstly, you know you shouldn't be in the boys’ dorms without a genuine reason. I know Madam Pomfrey has given you special dispensation to help you deal with your nightmares, but getting your stuff from Harry's trunk is hardly that. In future, get Harry to bring it down to the common room for you.

As for your hexing of Mr Weasley; that he was attacking your familiar does mitigate your actions somewhat, but your choice of hex was more than a little excessive. I can understand protecting your familiar, but Mr Weasley is in the hospital wing with a fairly bad concussion, and one of the tables in the common room will need replacing."

 

"Considering everything, I think that thirty points from Gryffindor and four Friday night detentions with me is an appropriate punishment, and I shall be having words with Mr Weasley as well regarding attacking students’ familiars.”

Hermione hung her head, ashamed of herself and quite upset. She hadn't gotten a detention since her first year, what with the Norbert affair, and that Professor McGonagall had specified Friday nights was a shot to her heart; she and Harry spent a lot of time together doing homework.

Since Harry had Quidditch and she had her study groups, Friday nights were the only time they really had to just relax together, and what she and Harry did together when they were alone was private and between the two of them, not that she minded if anyone found out as they weren't doing anything scandalous, it just wasn't anyone's business. 

However, the fact that the two of them disappeared every Friday was hard to miss for anyone, and Professor McGonagall had purposely chosen her and Harry's kind of date night, rather than doing all the detentions in one week as was more common.

 

Chapter Text

Monday 3rd of January 

 

Hermione had been too nervous yesterday to tell Harry what Professor McGonagall's punishment was. It wasn't that Harry would be mad at her, she just didn't want to see that look of disappointment. Not in her, but in the loss of their date night, especially since they had already lost their Hogsmeade weekends due to LeStrange. The loss of the one night a week they could just relax together would be a blow to both of them.

But, Hermione had gotten off easily in truth; thirty points and four detentions for putting a fellow student in the hospital wing for at least a night was relatively light.

In fact, she may spend less time in detention than Ron was spending in the hospital wing.

 

She had also heard that Ron had gotten the same punishment as her, only his detentions were set for Saturdays, when he liked to join in some of the pickup games of Quidditch. In total, her and Ron's ‘fight’ had cost Gryffindor sixty house points.

Things were also frosty with the rest of the Weasleys. Percy, Fred, George and Ginny were all understandably sticking by their brother, even if they understood Hermione protecting her cat. Percy was the coldest at first, as Scabbers had apparently been his first until he had gotten his owl Hermies.

 

Hermione couldn't understand that. As far as she was concerned, Crookshanks was with her for life. Even if she got a second pet, she would never let anyone else have her baby.

Percy had warmed back up to her considerably once Fay had told him that Crooks had been with her and Hagrid when whatever had happened to Ron's rat occured. Percy had always been one for justice, and he could see that Hermione and Crookshanks clearly couldn’t be blamed for what happened to Scabbers.

The twins were the warmest over all. As far as they were concerned, Hermione may have gone overboard in the moment, but it was all Ron's fault for not keeping a better eye on scabbers, even after he had lost him over Christmas.

Ginny was giving Hermione the silent treatment; the way she saw it, her brother was hurt and Hermione had done it. Nothing else mattered.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione was currently walking to breakfast with Harry as he was explaining his latest brainwave for his Runes project, "So then, after seeing the charm on the waitress’ phone over Christmas, I was thinking; what if I hung a charm off the handle of the wand? The runes would be etched into the charm and you would actually be summoning the charm, but as it is connected to the wand, the wand would come to. What do you think?"

"I think it's brilliant. I hate the idea of carving runes into my wand, even if the runes wouldn't damage it. What if you made a mistake in the carving? It's not like it could just be undone. You would need to buy a new wand, and people love their wands. I think some would give up a limb before they voluntarily gave up their wands."

 

Hermione watched Harry for his reaction. He thought about it, before nodding, “I wouldn't have understood it before my first year, but my wand is practically like a limb. It's almost a part of me." A look crossed Harry's face, the same one he got whenever he was hiding something from her. She considered asking but instead thought that coming clean herself might prompt him to tell her himself, 

"Harry, about what happened yesterday-" 

“-Ron was being a total dick, don't worry about it. You were a lot more in control than I was with Aunt Marge."

 

That Harry saw what Hermione had done as the same as standing up to his abusive aunt gave Hermione a minor internal conflict. On one hand, she could see how Harry would relate the two incidents; they were both defending their familiars from a potentially lethal attack, but comparing Ron's lack of tact when talking with Hermione to the years of abuse Harry had suffered just felt so wrong.

"That's not what I mean Harry. Professor McGonagall, she..." Hermione trailed off, trying to think of the right words.

 

"Let me guess," Harry picked up in the silence, "I know she docked points from you. I guess she also gave you detention?" Hermione nodded, and Harry shrugged, "Detention isn't that bad Hermione. I know we had a bad experience with your first detention, but you'll probably just need to write lines or something menial, like polishing the trophies," Harry tried to comfort her.

"It's not so much the what that's gotten me down. It's the when ."

"Oh?"

"Four nights."

"That's not too bad. You'll breeze through them."

"Four Friday nights ," Hermione finished. She waited to see what his reaction would be.

"Well, that sucks. Still, it's only four, and it's not like we aren't together the rest of the time anyway."

 

The two of them sat down at the Gryffindor table and helped themselves to the day’s breakfast offering. Given that they had just spent two weeks with her parents and their healthier breakfast options, Hermione had wasn't surprised when Harry started to add stuff like bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, eggs and toast to his plate. Harry didn't indulge in unhealthy breakfasts very often, so Hermione let him get away with it.

He offered to fix her a plate but she refused. While she was getting herself a bowl of porridge, Harry poured each of them a cup of tea.

 

Hermione took a sip of her tea and was surprised that it was sweet, "Harry you know I don't put sugar in my tea."

"But...you do like your tea sweet."

"Yes, but you know I avoid sugar."

"Good thing I didn't add any sugar then."

Harry was grinning at her. She got a suspicion and tried her tea again. Now that she was looking for it, she could taste the difference, noticing the slightly metallic and dry aftertaste of artificial sweeteners.

 

Harry, still grinning, held up a small plastic box with a red button on top. It was the same brand of sweetener she used at home, only in little pills instead of a powder.

Harry handed her the dispenser, "I didn't think it was fair that Hogwarts only had sugar and honey, so when I saw this over Christmas, I thought I would grab a few for you."

Hermione was surprised by how touched she was by the small gift. It was only a pack of sweeteners, but it showed how Harry paid enough attention to her to know it was something that she could use, and that he was still thinking about her, even when doing something as mundane as shopping for groceries. She was also a little annoyed at herself for not thinking of a pack of sweeteners, it was obvious in hindsight.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Tuesday 4th January

 

Hermione was making her way to the library for one of her study groups. This was one of her newer ones, having only started this year when she had taken Arithmancy. Harry, meanwhile, was off getting sweaty with the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

"Here kitty kitty, come to mummy. Oh wait, that's not my kneazle, just the mudblood pretending," Hermione looked to see who was talking and saw a group of Slytherin and Ravenclaw girls from her year jeering at her. At the front of the group stood Millicent Bulstrode.

 

Bulstrode had been giving Hermione a hard time ever since their first year, but after the polyjuice indecent it had gotten worse. Hermione's tail and ears were a larger copy of the half-kneazle that the hair had come from.

As the cat was hers, Bulstrode had recognized the tail and ears, figuring out that Hermione had planned and attempted to impersonate her. Ever since then, she was intolerable whenever she caught Hermione alone. She had tried once in front of Harry, but Harry's explosive reaction convinced her not to do so again.

 

Harry's reaction had also convinced Hermione never to tell him about Bulstrode’s attitude. It was Harry threatening Bulstrode last year that showed the school that Harry wouldn't tolerate people bullying Hermione anymore. And it was Harry's week of detention that convinced Hermione not to tell him about her bullies unless it became a real problem. Fortunately for both Hermione and Bulstrode, the Slytherin only kept her vindictive behaviour towards Hermione at words, so it was nothing for Hermione, or Harry, to get worked up over.

 

"You really need some new material Bulstrode; the ‘kitty-kitty’ stuff is getting boring. Maybe try asking a five-year-old; I'm sure they could come up with something better," Hermione started back on her way to the library when she was stopped by another voice, "You know mogblood, you should try grovelling. In fact, you should probably start practising every chance you get, before I have it made law that you houseless have to bow before any decent witch or wizard you come across," She turned back towards a smug-looking boy with blond hair; of course, it was Draco Malfoy.

 

"Houseless? You remember I'm in Gryffindor, right? Or, do we need to get you to Madam Pomfrey? Perhaps have you looked at for head wounds."

"Not school houses you ignorant mudblood. Noble houses, like Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle and Black. The true power of wizarding Britain," Malfoy looked even more smug now than before, if possible, "Once I am seventeen I will be able to claim the vacant seat as the warlock of the house of Black and then the power in the Wizengamot will finally shift to putting you mudbloods and houseless in your proper place. On your knees. Begging for table scraps. Like some type of animal...a cat even," All the Slytherin and Ravenclaw girls had a laugh at the idea of Hermione begging like a cat.

 

Hermione was not one to be cowed quite that easily and smoothly replied, "If I ever bow to you Malfoy, don't expect to survive it," she turned and walked on to the library, not caring about how they reacted.

She knew she should feel bad about threatening Malfoy, but, thanks to Harry, she knew that Voldemort was alive and was trying to restore himself.

It was a matter of when , not if , there would be another war. 

And, as a Muggleborn, she wouldn't have the option to not get involved and it was obvious what side Malfoy was going to choose. There was a good chance that in the end, it would come to wands between the two of them.

 

Hermione found half of her study group already setting up at one of the library's larger tables.

Leanne and Fay Dunbar, Terry Boot, Susan Bones were grabbing potentially useful books from the shelves, or snagging a few spare rolls of parchment as they got everything ready for their study session.

Hermione watched Leanne and Fay working together with a new wonder. Before Christmas, Hermione had assumed that Leanne and Fay were cousins that had known each other for years, before Fay had talked about her 'poor excuse of a father' and the 'worthless whore' he had started a new family with.

 

It turned out, Leanne was not a Dunbar by birth, but had taken the name after her mother had married Fay’s father.

Hermione had expected the two to be at each other's throats, but they seemed to get on well.

Hermione set her things down and joined in setting everything up. She pulled out her homework assignment and had a look at it; anything to concentrate on that would take her mind off the encounter with the bigots. She looked over the number of calculations that had been assigned, wishing that she could bring a calculator to Hogwarts.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione walked down to Hagrid’s hut, as she had planned to meet Harry there once she was finished with her study group and Harry had finished playing on his broomstick. Hermione needed to thank Hagrid; firstly for the fudge that he had sent them for Christmas.

While it needed softening over a radiator before they could eat it, and Hermione's parents had been horrified at a present with so much sugar in it, Hagrid’s treacle fudge was the one thing Hagrid could cook that Hermione would not only eat, but would gladly go back to have seconds.

 

More importantly though, she had to thank Hagrid for looking at Crookshanks. Yes, he was fine, but Hermione was immensely grateful that Hagrid had taken the time to check, as well as inadvertently providing her ginger half-kneazle with an alibi for the disappearance of Scabbers.

Hermione knocked on the door and after almost a minute Harry opened it and let her in. Hermione wasn't surprised that Harry had gotten there first; Hagrid's hut was definitely closer to the Quidditch pitch than it was the school.

 

What did surprise Hermione was that Hagrid wasn't his normal happy self. In fact, he looked like someone had just killed his dog. It wasn't hard for Hermione to put it together; Hagrid loved all animals and Malfoy happened to be at the front of her mind after their encounter earlier.

The Ministry had made its decision, and it didn't look good for Buckbeak.

"Oh Hagrid ! Have the Ministry made their decision on Buckbeak's case?" Hermione asked.

 

Hagrid nodded, too upset to use words, passing her a piece of parchment with the official seal of the Ministry of magic, both at the head of the page and also embossed into the parchment itself. Hermione read through the letter three times to make sure she understood it all.

Hagrid had apparently been cleared of the charges of ‘negligence’, though Hermione was a little upset that Hagrid hadn't even told them that he was facing such a charge.

Buckbeak, however, was considered a ‘dangerous’ creature and was to be destroyed . There was a mandatory appeal for Buckbeak if Hagrid wanted it though. But, until then, Buckbeak needed to be isolated away from people.

 

"There is an appeal, so Beaky still has hope. And this time, Harry and I will help. The library has plenty of books on wizarding law," Harry glared at her for volunteering his time, but it lacked any force.

"Hermione is right; this time we'll help you prepare for the trial."

The next hour was filled with her and Harry cheering up Hagrid enough so that Hermione could get the information she needed from her giant-like friend. Information such as the exact charges and how they were worded, so that she could look up the correct laws and help formulate relevant counter-arguments.

Hagrid wasn't as helpful as Hermione had hoped; a combination of being upset at the discussion and just not knowing the laws meant that getting information from him was, ironically, like trying to pull teeth from a Hippogriff. 

A lot of hard work, only to find out that they don't have any teeth.

 

After that they moved the conversation around to Crookshanks and Christmas presents, "Well that's enough of that. I think I have all the information I need to start the research. Anyway, what we came down here for originally was to thank you for taking a look at Crookshanks."

Harry jumped on the change of topic, "Yeah, and to thank you for the fudge you sent us for Yule. It was totally moreish. Hermione had to hide the box from her parents cause they kept thieving pieces from."

 

Hermione had to stifle a giggle at the memory.

Her parents had seen the tin of fudge and had started talking about ‘ how too much sugar can rot teeth ’, but both had a piece once Hermione had softened the rock-hard fudge, only ‘just to try ’, and after that had they kept going back for more. They even went as far as to say they are doing it to protect Hermione and Harry's teeth.

Hagrid brightened up as Harry and Hermione recounted what had happened over Christmas, even getting a laugh out of him when they told him of trying to get away from Hermione's Nan for a morning to go to Diagon Alley.

When the two left, Hagrid was in much higher spirits than they had found him.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Thursday 6th January

 

Harry and Hermione were sat waiting for their next lesson in the Runes classroom. They’d had herbology just before lunch, with the cleaning charms Hermione had picked up from her copy of ' a compendium of household charms' helping the two to clean up quicker, meaning that they had gotten to lunch rather quickly, instead of having to detour to clean the dirt off their hands in a bathroom. Because of this, they managed to finish their meal just as the main crowd of students was arriving.

Rather than waiting around and being jostled in the crowd, the two of them had decided that they would go wait outside their next class, where they could talk in relative peace and quiet.

Earlier in the year, they would have gone outside for some fresh air, but the January weather wasn't something that Hermione felt like braving just for fun. Before Christmas, the snow was at least a pretty scene to view, but now it was mostly very cold and very wet mush. When they arrived, they found the room empty, and since Professor Babbling's class was mostly focused on quills, ink and parchment, containing little of value or danger, the Professor rarely bothered to lock the room.

 

The two of them had gladly taken the opportunity to sit in relatively comfortable chairs instead of standing in the unheated corridors. Harry was a little disappointed that Hermione wanted to go over their Christmas homework again before class, instead of taking advantage of the empty class, with no one around, but had quickly seen the wisdom when she reminded him that someone could walk in at any moment after guessing at what he was thinking about.

They are halfway through their work when they were in fact interrupted.

Two students came crashing through the door.

 

At first, Hermione thought they were fighting, but she was quick to blush as she realised that the two of them weren't fighting at all , but were kissing. More surprising was who the two students were.

Daphne Greengrass and Tracy Davies had been so caught up in each other that they hadn't even noticed Hermione and Harry. The two Slytherins continued to kiss for a moment, before turning round to see the two Gryffindor students staring at them in disbelief, and then the two of them froze like rabbits caught in the headlights of a car.

 

Harry was the first to find his voice after a moment of silence between the two pairs, "Well...that was a surprise. Did the two of you have a good Christmas?"

The three girls just stared at him for almost a minute, before Tracy spoke up, a little meekly, "It was...good. We’ve been meaning to catch you both since you got back, to thank you for the Christmas presents."

 

After Christmas, when Harry no longer had to worry about his girlfriend finding out her present, he had told her about the records he had sent to both Daphne and Tracy.

" I should be the one thanking you ," Hermione replied, "If you hadn't helped Harry, I never would’ve gotten such an amazing gift from him," Hermione was starting to put her thoughts back together after what she had seen. It wasn’t that she disapproved, it was just unexpected and had sent her mind reeling.

 

"So...are we just going to ignore what happened?" Daphne, who normally looked impervious to everything that happened around her, looked shockingly nervous.

"Do you want to talk about it? Harry doesn't seem to mind, and I know I don't," Hermione tried to be as sympathetic as she could. Seeing the cool and in control Daphne so nervous was a red flag, as it showed that Daphne was definitely worried about something.

"Can the two of you please keep mine and Tracy's relationship to your selves, please? It's just..."

"...The details aren’t really important, but her mother wouldn't approve, so can you two please keep it quiet?" Tracy finished for her.

 

Neither Harry nor Hermione hesitated to give their word of secrecy. Hermione's parents had always thought her to be accepting of people and their life choices*. Harry hadn't been told such things with the Dursleys. In fact, his aunt and uncle had called such people immoral freaks. This, however had the opposite effect on Harry than they wanted; if the Dursleys didn't like such people, then fine, but Harry was determined not to be like them, and as such, didn’t take their stance on the matter.

 

Daphne looked a little surprised that they had given their word so quickly and easily, but recovered her ice-queen like persona, "Thank you," she said as she and Tracy took their normal seats at the same table as Harry and Hermione. Tracy took the opportunity to sit as close as physically possible to Daphne, no longer uncomfortable with affectionate displays in front of them.

Harry tried to break the tension that threatened to build, "At least you have someone who you can talk to about everything now."

Tracy nodded, "That's true. It's a little stressful not being able to tell anyone."

"That raises a question. If you need to be so careful and everything, how did you not check the room before you uh..." Hermione trailed off, trying to figure out a mature way to say what she wanted to say.

Harry picked up the sentence, however, before she could think of something, "...before you burst in, trying to eat each others faces?"

 

Hermione slapped Harry in the arm for his crude phrasing, "Like your technique is any better!" Tracy just giggled at The two of them.

Harry just smiled back at her, unfazed, and asked, "Do you think I need more practice?"

Hermione was surprised that Harry had flirted with her, only because Daphne and Tracy were there, and up until now he had always been more weary around the two Slytherins. Harry's flirting was something he had been getting more confident with for a while.

 

Hermione went along with it, leaning closer to him, as if she was going to kiss him, "Lots more practice,” she said in a slightly sultry tone, and just as Harry leaned in to accept her kiss, she moved her head back to avoid his searching lips, " However ...we first need to go over our Christmas homework!" She smiled wickedly.

Tracy laughed at the two of them, and even Daphne's icy mask cracked a little smile, while Harry cried foul, literally, "Foul! That is so not fair."

Hermione only continued to smile at him, "Dear, all is fair in love and war."

 

Daphne chipped in, "There's a difference?"

Tracy groaned, "That explains you so much Daph."

This time it was Harry and Hermione who laughed, "But anyway, Harry's idiocracy aside, how come you didn't check the room?" Hermione nudged the conversation back on track.

 

"Well, this room is always empty Thursday lunchtime, and I did look, but maybe we became a little complacent as I couldn't have looked properly,” Daphne answered, "Honesty, we are lucky it is you two. Someone else might not be so accommodating to keeping our secret."

Tracy nodded, "I know for a fact that at least half of the Slytherins in our year would try and blackmail us."

Hermione was a little surprised that Tracy assumed that so many of her close companions would try to hold and use something like that against them, "I thought that wizarding Britain was a lot more relaxed about homosexually than the Muggle world. Because you didn't have the Christian religion and its hatred of such people, I heard the wizarding world was fairly accepting of them."

 

Tracy explained, "On the whole, you are right. But, individuals can still have their own opinions."

"I get that, but I'm surprised that so many in Slytherin would be against it."

"Oh no, they aren't, but Slytherin house is a place for the cunning. Everyone is always looking for a weakness to exploit, to give them an edge."

"Well, we won't tell anyone, will we Hermione?"

"No, definitely not."

Before the conversation could go any further, their classmates started to arrive as lunch had ended. With the promise to keep Daphne and Tracy's relationship to themselves, the conversation moved to polite chit chat.

Hermione let Harry recount their Christmas as she pulled her homework and pretend to finish reading it, though she was only pretending as she was taking the time to puzzle out something else. It was something that she hadn't ever thought about until their conversation with Daphne and Tracy. Something she found confusing, and maybe a little interesting.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Friday 7th January

 

Hermione knocked on the door to Professor McGonagall's office at precisely seven o'clock. There was no answer, so after a few moments she tried again with the same result. Hermione, now fairly frustrated and unable to just leave, had to wait there.

After five or six minutes, she was considering just leaving a note and going to the library to do some more research for Buckbeak's case, but before she could pull out a bit of parchment, Professor McGonagall came striding down the corridor.

 

"I apologize for being late Miss Granger; a few of the N.E.W.T students stopped me after dinner to ask about their homework, and I lost track of time a little," She opened the door to her office and motioned for Hermione to go in first. She pointed to the one side of her desk where there was a chair and a stack of parchment waiting.

"You'll be helping me with my marking. These-" she indicated the stack of parchment, "-Are the Yule homework assignments for my first and second years. You will underline everything they got wrong, and on a separate piece of parchment, you will write out a correction for the parts that are wrong. Then, stick your corrections to the assignment. You know how I mark by now. Afterwards, stack them for me to check and grade. That will free up enough of my time to focus on the homework from the O.W.L students. I trust that you remember the work from your first two years here."

 

Hermione was a little stunned that she would be correcting homework for her detention. She had expected lines or something like that, but then she remembered Hagrid’s words from her first detention, "You'll do something useful. That's ‘ow it's done at Hogwarts."

Hermione sat down in the chair and picked up the first assignment; it was from a first-year Hufflepuff. Once she had read through it, she reckoned about a third of it was wrong. As instructed, she underlined the parts that were wrong and wrote up a page of corrections. She put the assignment and the corrections together with a weak variant of a sticking charm, then set them aside and moved on to the next.

 

Hermione soon found her rhythm and lost herself in the work. She found herself writing out the same corrections a lot, as a number of students seemed to have the same misunderstandings. It was boring, but it was also a good review of the topics covered.

It was half-past eight when Hermione had finished correcting the last assignment and Professor McGonagall let her go.

Hermione left the Professor's office and began meandering her way back to the common room.

She thought that the detention itself wasn't too bad at all.

The bigger punishment was missing out on her night with Harry.

 

She was just wondering if she could salvage an hour in the common room with him. Technically, it would put them past the third years nine o'clock curfew, but it wasn't unusual for students to stay in the common room past curfew, as long as they didn't disturb a prefect by being too loud, or if their head of house didn't come by. Not that Professor McGonagall came by Gryffindor tower all that often.

Hermione was startled out of her thoughts when something grabbed a hold of her and pulled her into an alcove. Hermione was just about to take a swing at whomever or whatever it was, but two things stopped her. Firstly, she couldn't see them, and secondly, whatever it was spoke, "It's me."

 

" Harry James Potter, what on Earth do you think you are doing!?" Hermione was quite a bit mad that Harry had just grabbed her like that.

Hermione saw a silvery ripple in the air, and the next thing she knew, she was under Harry's invisibility cloak with him, "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Can you just trust me for a bit and come with me?"

Hermione decided that she would see what Harry was up to before she decided if she was truly mad at him or not, “Fine. Lead the way, but curfew is in about twenty minutes."

 

Harry flashed her his biggest grin and simply said, "Let me worry about that."

The two of them still fit under the cloak well enough, but Hermione was glad it was Harry she was under it with. It would have been awkward to be pressed so close to almost anyone else.

Harry lead her to the Room of Requirement before she decided to question him, "Harry, what are you planning?"

"Go in and have a look," He was still wearing that annoying but stupidly handsome grin of his.

 

Hermione checked that the corridor was clear before she slipped from under the cloak and into the room.

The room was similar to how they normally set it up, but it was the changes that stood out. Most noticeably, at first, the room was lit with about fifty candles; some over the fireplace, some in sconces on the walls and some just floating in the air. There were bunches of blue and white flowers on every crevice, giving the room a splash of colour and a sweet floral scent.

The gramophone was the same one the room always conjured, but the record that was playing was one of the relaxing ones she had brought to school this term. She had no clue how Harry had gotten it from her dorm room.

 

The biggest change was that the sofa was gone from in front of the fire. Instead, there was a giant sheepskin rug on the floor that was way too big to have ever come from a single sheep. A number of giant cushions were next to the rug and there was a low table that was laid out with a full cheeseboard, with crackers, fruits and chutneys, along with a few bottles of what, at first glance, looked to be white wine, but on closer inspection was just grape juice in a fancy bottle.

Hermione heard Harry step in behind her. He put his arms around her and pulled her close against him, "Happy anniversary love."

 

Hermione melted against him.

Their anniversary was a contentious issue between them, because they didn't agree on when it was; Hermione considered it to be when Harry had told Ron that ‘he was going to stand by Hermione no matter what’ . That was between Christmas and New Year.

Harry considered it to be the day he had manned up and asked her to be his girlfriend, which had been on the ninth. As Hermione had already considered them boyfriend and girlfriend at that point, she had been a little confused, but had said yes immediately.

 

The seventh was actually the anniversary of something they did agree on.

Their first kiss. 

Hermione smiled as she remembered it; she and Harry had been relaxing on her bed in the hospital wing as he read to her, when she had basically jumped him. Her body chemistry was out of whack from the transformation, and that had made her much bolder than her natural temperament. She had clambered on top of him and Harry, frozen in surprise, hadn't tried to stop her at all. It had taken Harry almost a minute of her lips pressed against his for him to start kissing her back.

 

Of course that was when Madam Pomfrey just had to come in, see them and break them up. As well as doing a whole host of diagnostic charms on Hermione.

After that, Madam Pomfrey had put Hermione on a suppression potion, and things with Harry had calmed down immediately, but neither of them had even considered wanting to return to being just friends.

 

"I thought we were going to do something tomorrow? We don't really have time before curfew," Hermione was concerned about being late back to the common room right after detention. Breaking curfew the same day as being punished seemed to be tempting fate.

Harry was still grinning at her. "Well...we could leave right now and go straight to bed and we should just about make it. Or..." he drew out that one word for a short while, "...we could stay here all night. As long as we stay in here and don't go wandering the corridors, no one will know."

 

"Our dorm mates will kn-"

Harry cut her off, "It's taken care of. It's up to you; we can stay and have our night, or we can go back to the common room."

Hermione hesitated.

She wanted to stay. It was their first year anniversary, but did she dare risk it?

"Are you sure you covered everything ?"

"Yes. I snuck out after going up to the dorm and closed my curtains and put a silencing charm on them. I had Dobby do the same to yours, so anyone who looks will just assume that you’re sleeping. McGonagall never checks the dorms anyway, and the perfects and teachers patrol the corridors, not the rooms. And even if they patrolled the corridors, I doubt they know about this place," Harry explained.

 

Hermione felt her resolve crumble, "Oh, screw it. Let’s stay; but if we end up in the forest again, I'm totally blaming you," She kicked off her boots and took off her robe, revealing more comfortable clothing underneath. She had changed out of her school uniform after class and had decided against putting it back on for detention, just covering her casual apparel with her school robes. She sat down on the soft rug and used a few of the cushions to make herself comfortable.

Harry soon joined her his own boots and robe discarded. Harry had also changed out of his uniform, only he had dressed in the blue shirt she liked on him. He had dressed to look good instead of for comfort.

 

They talked for over an hour while nibbling at the food. Neither of them were overly hungry, but it made a good snack. Harry was surprised to learn that Professor McGonagall had Hermione correcting the homework from the first and second years. She also told him how her Arithmancy class was going.

He told her about how Wood was getting more and more obsessed with winning the Quidditch Cup and about how his Runes project was coming. He was apparently looking for some fake wands that he could use for testing.

 

Before long, the two of them were done with talking and Hermione decided that she would mark the day by recreating their first kiss. They hadn't kissed with quite that intensity since their first-ever time. Yes, they had gotten close a few times recently, but never quite there .

Hermione quickly swung herself so that she was sitting on top of her boyfriend as he laid there, propped up by a few cushions. At first he was surprised, but the look on his face quickly changed to that goofy grin of his that drove her nuts.

Hermione thought that Harry had been hoping that she would do this.

 

Under the effect of her suppression potion, she lacked the wild abandon that she had had that first time, but as she took his lips this time, she was no less enthusiastic.

This was her boyfriend; they had been together for a year now. There was no need for hesitation or second thoughts. Harry enthusiastically joined her as his lips met hers.

As her tongue invaded his mouth, she felt Harry respond underneath her.

Her own body responded as well.

 

They weren't ready for that step yet, but there was a big part of her that wished they were.

She felt Harry's hand slide over her ass then jerk away as he realised exactly where it was.

Hermione quickly considered how she would deal with it. Then, without breaking their kiss, she grabbed his hand and put it back on her posterior.

It was a really good end to a less than great week



 

Chapter Text



Chapter 30 - House pride

 

Saturday 8th January

 

Harry and Hermione were eating breakfast in the great hall. They had awoken in the Room of Requirement that morning and had gotten back to the common room about an hour after curfew was lifted. They claimed that they had gotten up early to go for a walk when they ran into Percy, who was the only Weasley Harry knew, apart from their mother, who was an early riser. A quick shower and a change of clothes later, and the two of them had headed down to breakfast.

 

Harry was just finishing up his tea and toast when the mail came in. When Harry had first arrived at Hogwarts, the sight of hundreds of owls swooping into the hall had looked spectacular; now that he was in third year, it was just the mail. He looked up to see if he could see his Hedwig.

Harry didn't see his familiar when he had looked, and so was startled when she swooped in from behind him and landed on the table. Harry untied the bundle from her leg and grabbed a bit of bacon, ripping it into bits that Hedwig could easily eat.

Once he had finished spoiling his owl, he inspected the bundle she had brought. There was a letter each for him and Hermione; there was also a tube wrapped up in brown paper.

 

He handed Hermione her letter and opened his note. It was from Dan and Emma. Harry was glad he opened the note first, as it explained that the package was a copy of the Muggle newspaper ‘The Mirror’, that had updates on a certain Marge Dursley's trial.

Harry quickly shoved the package into his robes; the last thing he wanted was people asking questions about why he wanted Muggle news all of a sudden. 

Hermione, who seen him stow the wrapped paper, looked at him questioningly, so he handed her the note. She quickly read it and handed it back.

The look on her face told Harry that she wanted to say something. However, she held back, probably waiting until there was no one around to eavesdrop.

 

Hermione showed Harry what her parents had sent her. Her letter was mostly from her mum, telling Hermione that she understood why her daughter had lashed out at Ron while defending Crookshanks, but that just because her actions were understandable, that wasn't going to stop the consequences of her actions.

She advised Hermione to keep her head high, and to remember that four nights of detention was a good price for protecting her pet. The letter went on to talk about a few topics that didn't hold Harry's interest.

 

What interested Harry was the second envelope inside Hermione's letter. It was torn open from where Hermione had already looked at its contents. Upon inspection, the envelope contained a number of photos, which Harry pulled out to give them a better look.

The photos were all of Harry and Hermione, and all from that New Years eve. There were one or two that had either Harry or Hermione alone individually, though most of them had the two of them together.

 

There were ones Harry knew about, like when they had posed for Dan to snap a photo of them together before they went out.

However, the envelope also contained a number of surprise photos, like the one of the two of them dancing, or when the two of them sat at one of the tables, with Harry having a large grin on his face and Hermione looking as though she had been caught in the middle of a laugh; moments where they either didn’t know or didn’t care that there were other people there.

 

Harry tried to remember what it was he had said to get her to laugh like that, but drew a blank.

There was one more picture, of the two of them standing in a crowd of people outside, everyone around them ignoring them as they were too busy cheering in the New Year.

Harry and Hermione, however, were too absorbed by the kiss they were sharing to give the New Year even a moment of their time. Harry realised that this photo must have been taken mere seconds after Hermione had told him that she loved him.

 

Harry slipped the photo back into the envelope and handed them back to Hermione, who had been anxiously waiting for his reactions to the photos, “Do you like them?” She asked. She hoped that she hadn’t embarrassed him by capturing some of their intimate moments on camera.

“I love them,” he replied with a smile; he hadn’t thought of taking photos, and was glad that they had something to remember those moments by.

"Do you want copies of any of them?"

Harry thought about it for a few moments. He really wanted a copy of the midnight one, but did he want a copy of any of the others?

"Well, I definitely want a copy of the one from midnight." 

Hermione smiled. "I like that one as well."

 

"I think I also want the one of the two of us, where you’re laughing, and also the one of just you, from before we left the house," he finished.

Hermione nodded as she pulled out a Muggle pen and wrote Harry's choices on the envelope, "I also want that one."

She put a ‘x2’ mark next to the note for the midnight photo, "I also want two of the one with all four of us, and a copy of just you," She added her own wants to the list.

 

"Why two copies of the group shot?" Harry asked, confused.

"Oh, I'm going to cut one of them up, to put in my locket." She indicated the present Harry had gotten her that was hanging around her neck. Hermione, who Harry had never known to wear much jewelry, had barely taken off the locket since Harry had given it to her.

Harry finished his last couple of bites of his toast and got up, "I'm gonna go up to the room and take a look at what I was sent."

Hermione nodded, "I'll come find you in a while, I got a few things to take care of first. Then we can go to our lesson with Professor Lupin together."

 

Harry told her that he would see her later and began the long climb to the seventh floor. He was glad Hermione had reminded him about their patronus lesson with Professor Lupin; after all that had happened during Christmas break, he had completely forgotten about it.

He arrived at the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and the dancing trolls, and after a quick check that the corridor was clear, he started walking back and forth to summon the room. The door popped into existence and Harry went in.

 

Instead of what Harry had come to think of as the date room, this time the room had remade itself into a study. The room was smaller and had a large writing desk against one wall, with a window that filled the room with a warm sunlight, which had to have been fake, as the weather around the castle was cloudy, cold and gloomy.

Harry unwrapped the copy of the daily mirror that Dan and Emma had sent him and set it on the desk before he sat down to read it. The headline was about a small plane crash in Ohio, America. It didn't take long for Harry to find what he was looking for;

 

JUDGE IN DURSLEY CASE RULES IN FAVOUR OF THE POLICE.

 

Yesterday, in Guildford Crown Court, the judge the right honorable John Deed*, who is praising over the case of Marjorie Eileen Dursley, opened the case against the women, that the media has dubbed the evilest women in Britain, by ruling against her motion that the evidence against her was collected illegally when the police entered her property in response to a call to the emergency services.

Mrs Dursley claims that no such call was made and that it was a fabrication of the authorities to cover their illegal presence on her property.

Evidence supplied by the production though included a tape of the 999* call and a record from Mrs Dursley’s telephone provider showing that a call was placed to emergency services from her place of reference at the same time the emergency services have for the records call.

When he gave the ruling, judge Deed said, "in this matter, it is not for me to determine whether Mrs Dursley made such a call, but whether the police had reasonable grounds to believe that a call was made when they entered the property. Given the evidence provided by the prosecution, I find that there was indeed reason to believe that such a call was placed from Mrs Dursley’s residence on the night in question. With that in mind, I have to rule that entry to the property by the officers was in line with police policy and British law. As such, all evidence that was collected that night is deemed admissible in this trial."

Mrs Dursley’s defence immediately tried to get the trial dismissed on the grounds that with the media coverage surrounding the case, there was no way that she could receive a fair trial. The same defence that was infamously tried by O.J simson in America after he was accused of murder. The judge, however, dismissed the motion almost immediately.

As the defence has rejected the plea deal that the prosecution offered, the trial will begin on Monday the 10th, when the prosecution will give its opening arguments.

 

Harry leaned back in his chair and relaxed. Until this moment, he hadn't realised just how much stress the thought of her getting away with what she had done to those other kids was putting on him. He knew that she wouldn't be punished for what she had let her dog do to him, but the idea of her being sent to prison where she deserved to be was enough. 

On the contrary, the possibility that she could be caught red-handed, then get away with it all on a technicality, had stressed him out so much that he could literally feel the tension leaving his body after reading the article.

 

Harry didn't know how long he sat there, just enjoying the feeling of being relaxed, but soon he was interrupted when Hermione came in.

"It's so different from how we normally have it," Hermione commented on the study setup, and a second chair appeared next to the desk and Hermione sat down. She reached for the paper, "May I?"

"Go ahead."

She quickly scanned the article, then read it in full. She had a quick look through to see if any of the other articles caught her eye. She read a few before she handed him back the paper, "Well...that's almost unbearable."

Harry looked at her, confused.

 

"Mr blobby* is still in the top five of the charts."

Harry suddenly remembered the ridiculous bit of music that had been on the radio when they had gone home for Christmas. He just didn't get how that song had made it into the charts, let alone to number one.

Harry couldn't help it; the sudden jump from the serious topic he was expecting to the ridiculous bit of music was too much, and he couldn't stop from laughing.

 

When he finally got himself under control, he found Hermione just sitting there, grinning like the description of the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. "That's better. You were far too serious and brooding for such a good bit of news," she said. 

"I was relaxing , not brooding ," Harry insisted.

The two of them spent the morning going over their homework, hoping that if they could get enough done, then they would be able to spend Sunday in the library doing research for Buckbeak's case.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Dan and Emma opened up their dental surgery. They were the first in, like every morning. Dan went to switch on the heating and put on the kettle to make himself and his wife a nice hot mug of tea to ward off the January weather.

Emma picked up the business mail and began sorting through it.

There was today's paper. She gave it a quick glance to see if there was anything on the Dursley case, but it was void of any new details, so she put it and the few magazines that had been delivered on the small table in the waiting room, so that their clients would have something to read while they waited, then continued going through the mail.

Bill, bill, junk, invoice of a paid bill and an invitation;

 

Dr E Granger & Dr D Granger

 

I am writing to invite the two of you to dinner with my wife and myself. It is my hope that with some good food and pleasant surroundings, we can finalize the contract for the drills for your network of dental surgeries.

If you are agreeable, please contact my office so that we can arrange a time and date.

Hope you had a lovely Christmas,

Vernon Dursley

CEO Grunnings specialty drills

 

"Fucking asshole." Emma swore, after reading through it.

Dan poked his head out of the office, "What did I do now?" He held up a steaming mug of tea in her work mug "tea?"

Emma swapped the invitation in her hand for the tea in Dan's. She sipped on her tea while waiting for Dan to read the letter.

Unlike her daughter, who had been raised on artificial sweeteners, Emma couldn't stand them, so she was enjoying the one cup of sweet tea made with real sugar she allowed herself a day. When she looked back at her husband, she was surprised to see an almost predatory grin on his face.

 

"What's got you smiling? It's an invitation to spend an evening with human trash," Without Harry or Hermione around, Emma didn't bother to hide the venom in her voice.

"Dursley has moved to the hard sell. He is growing impatient, and that's just what I want," Dan explained.

" Oh yes , this mysterious plan of yours…”

Dan had had an idea when he’d discovered that the company that was trying to sell them new dental drills was partly owned by Harry's uncle, but, much to Emma's frustration, Dan had not shared his plan with her. All she knew was that it involved them not buying their new drills from Grunnings.

Emma thought about trying to piece it together again, but gave it up as a waste of time. Dan wouldn't reveal anything till he was ready and she did trust him. Instead she just went back to her cup of tea. 

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

After a few hours of occupying the office that had been created by the Room of Requirement, trying to get as much of their homework done as possible, Harry and Hermione now were knocking on the office door of their Defence against the Dark Arts Professor.

The door opened and the Professor's scarred face broke into a smile at the sight of his two students, "Miss granger, Mr Potter, right on time. Come in; I'll just put the kettle on," As the professor fixed tea, Harry and Hermione cleared a place for them to sit.

All the chairs, except for the one Professor Lupin had obviously been sat in, were covered in books and student assignments.

 

Hermione cleared the assignments while Harry moved books. She was careful to keep the loose bits of parchment that students had handed in organised by year and house so that the Professor wouldn't lose track of his marking.

Just as they were sitting down Professor Lupin brought over the tea, "So, I heard that the two of you had a good Christmas," he said as he put the tea tray on the coffee table next to the neatly stacked assignments that Hermione had just placed there.

"Um...yes, it was a nice break, but how did you hear about it, sir?" Harry asked.

 

"Professor McGonagall mentioned to me that she had gone from talking to you about a nice Yule break to giving Hermione detention within a couple of hours. She was a little surprised at how quickly things had changed in Gryffindor tower," Lupin explained as he poured tea into three mugs, handing them out but leaving Harry and Hermione to help themselves to milk and sugar. 

They talked about the incident of Hermione’s detention, and how it came to be, for a while. Harry blamed the altercation, and resulting punishment that Hermione received, on Ron, who went off on one the moment he’d seen Hermione, going on about how Ron blamed Hermione's cat for the loss of his pet rat, even though said cat wasn't even in the tower at the time.

 

They went on to talk about more trivial things, such as the Grindylow that the Professor was keeping in the tank in his office. After they had finished their tea however, the topic moved on to why they were there.

"Hopefully, since the two of you seemed to have such a good Christmas, maybe you’ll have made some good memories that you can use when trying to produce your patroni," the Professor suggested as they stood there, waiting to try casting the charm again, "Now, it's been a few weeks, so I'll show you the wand movements again, and remember; the incantation is expecto patronum," he demonstrated the wand movements once again.

 

The two students considered the advice of Professor Lupin, and both separately drew upon the same memory.

New Years , when they had finally stopped dancing around the topic, like they had been for almost a year, saying what they had both been feeling for a while.

As they each thought about the memory, a memory much more recent and vivid than any they had tried so far, they remembered how they’d felt; that amazing feeling they’d had when they heard those words, and said them to each other for the first time.

"I love you".

 

"Expecto patronum," Hermione had gone first, and a silvery mist shot from her wand, like it did for her every time now. Only this time, the mist was a lot thicker than she’d ever managed before, and instead of wrapping itself around her, it formed a kind-of cloud in front of her.

The cloud was thick and had a definite shape to it. It was some kind of four-legged animal, and a big one at that. It wasn't as big as a horse, but it was definitely bigger than even a large dog, such as an Alsatian.

Unfortunately, that was all Hermione could tell, as despite the cloud shifting in shape, it didn't seem to be able to coalesce into what the Lupin had referred to as a corporal form.

 

Spurred on by Hermione's leap forward, Harry tried his next, "Expecto patronum," just like Hermione, Harry had made a leap forward, and like Hermione’s, his Patronus was also trying to take its form.

His patronus was similar to Hermione’s, in that it was a four-legged animal. However, his seemed taller but less stocky, possibly an animal that was built for speed, where as Hermione's appeared to be built for power.

 

Hermione's patronus looked as though it was looking at Harry's, before floating over to the other mass of luminous silver mist. When the two of them touched, there was a small crackle of magic, along with a burst of light.

Suddenly, Harry and Hermione were experiencing the emotions of that night once again, as though they were living it once again, only a second time.

But...the emotions, they weren't quite right; Harry was feeling a mix of nervousness and determination, then followed by elation, all while a strong mix of desire, affection and love fought to overwhelm him.

Hermione felt a little off as well, not remembering feeling curious, before suddenly feeling like she had won the lottery. The strong feelings of love, admiration and desire felt close, but still not quite right.

 

After a few moments, the feelings vanished as quickly as they came.

"Well, you don't get to see that every day," Professor Lupin quipped, as he took a seat in one of the chairs, looking at the two puzzled students.

"What..." Harry started, but didn't finish.

"What...just happened?" Hermione finished for him, "It was like I was feeling my memory again , only the emotions were...a little wrong."

Professor Lupin sighed, "It's a rare phenomenon that happens sometimes, when two people use the same memory to cast a patronus. No one completely understands it, but it seems to require two people using the same memory, and for them to be feeling similar emotions within that memory.

The reason your emotions felt a little off was because you weren't feeling your emotions, rather, you were feeling how the other person felt in the memory."

 

Hermione gasped were as Harry seemed frozen in thought, or in shock.

"The phenomenon is mostly seen when a married couple use their memories of their wedding to call a patronus at the same time. But even then, it happens less than once in a thousand times."

Neither teen appeared to be listening to Professor Lupin at this point, as he carried on explaining. They were each too preoccupied with being awed by the emotions and the experience they had just felt. It was one thing to know that your partner loves you, but it was something else entirely to actually feel it.

To feel the love they felt for you...it was huge, absolutely overwhelming in such a way that neither of them could fully comprehend just yet.

 

The two of them were pulled partially back into reality by Professor Lupin, "Harry, Hermione, are you two listening?" 

"Sorry Uncle Moony. My head was elsewhere," Professor Lupin's use of Harry's first name had him reflexively switch to calling Lupin by his nickname Uncle Moony.

"I understand. It must be profound to feel someone else's emotions, even if for only a few seconds.”

"I'm sorry we got distracted Professor. What were you trying to say to us?" Hermione said

"I was saying good work . The two of you have made massive progress since our last lesson," Harry and Hermione smiled at the praise, but Lupin wasn’t finished, "Unfortunately, it's only going to get harder from here. While your patroni are not fully corporal yet, they are viable, so now we must shift to being able to cast the spell when it's difficult to be happy. It's relatively easy to cast a patronus when we are in a nice, warm office, after drinking a good cup of tea. But, Dementors need their victims to be unhappy, so they pull your worst memories to the surface so that it’s harder for you to defend yourselves against their Kisses. Being able to cast a patronus when you need to is what we will be working on from now on."

 

"How are we going to do that?" Harry asked nervously.

"I am not sure yet. It's not like we can go for a walk and practice around the Dementors. Not only is that extremely dangerous, but Dementors aren’t controlled creatures in the slightest, and won’t hesitate to Kiss you soul, even if they are under strict rules not to."

Harry sighed in relief, "Thank goodness. Those things are terrifying." 

"I suppose after an attack like you experienced at the Quidditch match, they would be even more unnerving," The Professor sympathised with Harry's opinion, “However, we are going to need to be able to experience that effect that Dementors can have, in some way or another.”

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Sunday 9th January

 

Harry was passing up and down in one of the Castle’s many corridors. He had spent most of the day in the library with Hermione, as the two of them looked through book after book, researching British magical creature laws. In order for them to work out exactly how to defend Buckbeak, they first needed to understand the exact charges against him.

They had made some progress, but there were still a number of busy library sections in their future. They didn’t mind though; they would do all that was in their power to help Hagrid and save Buckbeak.

 

What Harry was pondering now was how to deal with the twins. He had gone to Fred and George after he heard they were making fake wands. He wanted some wands that he could use to practice on for his Rune's project, but he didn't want to risk a real wand until he was a lot more sure about his plans.

The last thing he wanted was for a real wand to get smashed into a wall because there was too much power, or for it burst into flames because he had carved a Rune backwards. 

 

The twins were able to make him a few blank wands, but they had wanted something in return. Harry had offered gold, but the puckish twins wanted something far more nefarious. They demanded that, if Harry wanted blank wands, then they wanted him to live up to his father's Marauder legacy, insisting that Harry pull a prank.

Harry was of two minds on this. On one hand, Hermione probably wouldn't approve, especially not if it disrupted lessons. On the other hand, however, was Harry's father.

James Potter, also known as Prongs, was a Marauder . The legends of the Marauders were still told in the castle even now.

It was possible, maybe even probable, that if Harry had grown up with his parents, his dad might have encouraged Harry to commit pranks while he was at school.

 

Maybe he should do it.

Just this once. 

One time to get the blank wands and to prove to himself that he had what it takes to be like his dad.

That Harry could be a Marauder, if he wanted to be.

But that only led to another question. What prank should he pull? Part of him just wanted to put a whoopee cushion on a chair and be done with it, and walk away with the wands claiming that a deal is a deal. Yet, he was the son of the legendary Prongs; Prongs, the Marauder who, according to Moony, had pranked the whole school by giving them all a French accent.

That was the legacy he had to live up to if he was going to do this.



--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Monday 10th January

 

"Harry, what's up with you? Are you ok?" Hermione asked.

Harry and Hermione were sitting down for breakfast, only Harry wasn't enjoying it as much as he normally was. He was fidgeting and kept looking at Hermione.

He was nervous. So nervous, that if it wasn't way too late, he would consider calling the whole thing off.

"It's nothing Hermione. Don't worry about it," Harry wanted to believe that himself as much as he wanted Hermione to believe it.

"Here, drink this," She handed him a goblet of chilled pumpkin juice, "I don't know what has gotten you so worked up, but it can't be that bad," Harry stared at the pumpkin juice he had just been given like it was going to jump up and bite him.

 

While Harry was busy staring at his drink, Hermione poured one for herself.

She drank it down quickly. Hermione really wasn't a big fan of pumpkin juice, she preferred orange or apple like she had growing up. But, she was thirsty and didn't want to slowly sip at hot tea right now.

If Harry had been paying attention, he might have stopped Hermione from drinking the pumpkin juice. Instead, he only noticed when he heard her set her goblet back on the table. 

 

Harry was then hit with a flash of clarity.

Oh no.

He had let Hermione drink that. How could he be so stupid?

After what happened to her last year, she was going to freak out and dump him when she realised it was him. He looked at his own goblet. Drinking it didn’t seem at all that bad next to the idea of losing Hermione, and wasn't anywhere near as scary as it had been only moments ago.

 

He downed his goblet of juice. All that was left now was to hope that Hermione would forgive him.

"Ok Harry...what's in my pumpkin juice?" Harry was so preoccupied with the fact that Hermione had drank the juice, that he hadn't noticed that she was still watching him.

"Uh...what do you mean?"

"Harry, I can see how you’re reacting to me drinking, so I will only ask you once more; what is wrong with my pumpkin juice? " Hermione's stern voice got sterner with each word and the look on her face demanded an answer.

 

Harry was extremely anxious, but he knew he couldn't keep it from Hermione, "Firstly, it’s not just your pumpkin juice, more so it's all of the pumpkin juice in the hall. It's a potion Dobby helped me put in them," Hermione's eyes went wide at the mention of a potion. More specifically, a potion which she had been spiked with without her knowledge, "I promise it won't hurt anyone. The twins had some stuff I wanted from them for my Runes project.

But...they would only give them to me if I pulled a prank. I got so caught up in planning it that I forgot that you might have a problem with being slipped a potion, even if it is relatively harmless..." Harry's confession trailed off into silence as he watched Hermione for her reaction.

 

Hermione wasn't reacting at all.

Instead, she was almost like a statue, as close to perfectly still as a living human could get. Harry was sure she was about to dump him, and he definitely deserved it.

"You said it was all of the drinks. Why?"

Harry was surprised that she asked that, but sat there fidgeting with nerves as he explained, "There were two reasons; firstly, I thought if I singled people out to be pranked it would be bullying, turning a few people into a spectacle. But, if I got everyone, then no one is targeted, and everyone knows that they weren't singled out." Hermione only nodded towards his reasoning. 

 

"The second reason is, I...I wanted to do a prank that my father would be proud of. I remembered that story that uncle Moony told us, about how my dad made the whole school talk with a French accent. I wanted to prove that I was good enough.

Good enough to do what my father did. Good enough to be his son.

I'm sorry 'Mione. I understand if you don't want to talk to me ever again."

 

"Harry James Potter, you understand this right now, because I am only going to say this once. I am upset that, after what happened to me last year, you would slip me a potion. It doesn't matter that you didn't target me; you are my boyfriend and should have considered me in your plans. I am angry at you.

You have a lot of apologizing to do. But , I am not going to break up with you, and I'm not going to stop being your friend. And yes, I still love you, even if I want to hex you to the moon and back right now.

Now tell me, what will this potion do?"

 

During Hermione's little speech, Harry felt the tension build with every word. She was right; he should have remembered about last year. As her boyfriend, he should have considered Hermione first. He was convinced that she was building up to breaking up with him right there and then, until she said she wasn't. Yes, she was angry at him, and yes, he needed to come up with an amazing apology, but he could deal with that.

"About what it does...I think you should just wait and see," Hermione shot him a look that could freeze a cauldron full of bubbling hot potion, "I-I just meant that it would take longer to explain than waiting to see for yourself. It should start any moment now," Hermione nodded once again, accepting his explanation.

 

Hermione noticed the first one about thirty seconds later; it was at Hufflepuff first, then at Gryffindor a few seconds later, followed almost instantly by Slytherin. Soon, each table was filled with students wondering what was happening as one by one, all their friend’s hair changed colour to match their house banners.

Every single Gryffindor male was suddenly looking for any reflective surface so that they could see the scarlet hair they suddenly had. The girls were doing something similar, all of them trying to quickly examine their newly golden hair.

 

The same scene was playing out on each of the house tables, the only difference was the colour of their hair.

The Ravenclaw boys had bright blue hair, while their counterparts of the fairer sex had a coppery bronze. Slytherin had a pick of green and silver, with the gents sporting green to the ladies’ silver. At Hufflepuff, all the males had suddenly developed a lot of yellow hair, with black the colour for their female housemates.

Harry looked at Hermione to see how she looked.

He hoped she looked Ok. Hermione wasn't a vain girl, but Harry was sure that if she looked good, he would have a much easier time apologizing. Harry was surprised and not disappointed.

 

Surprised, because the fur on Hermione's tail and ears had also changed to gold to match her hair. And while he prefered Hermione's normal hair, she hadn't lost any ground in the looks department. Hermione was currently borrowing a make-up mirror from Lavender to look at her change in appearance.

"How long?" Hermione asked in a quiet voice, so that no one else would hear.

"Eleven to thirteen hours, depending on how much someone drank and how big they are," There were some equations in potions for working everything out really accurately, but you had to do the calculations for each person you wanted to know the answer for, and Harry hadn't bothered to do all that. Instead, he had just used the provided info from the potion he had modified to do the prank, one of the vials of potions he had gotten from the twins at Christmas.

 

Hermione looked like she was about to say something, but she was interrupted by a series of loud bangs in quick succession. Harry, Hermione and every other student in the hall turned to look at what had caused the noise, only to find the Headmaster standing with his wand raised.

He had obviously made the explosions to get the attention of all the students, "Well, it seems that either we are witnessing an unprecedented showing of house pride, or this is a school wide prank, the scale of which hasn't been seen at Hogwarts for a number of years," The headmaster was actually smiling, “As the extent of this seems to be limited to hair colour, lessons will continue as normal. Now, off you go, it's time for your first lessons.”

 

All the students got up and started making their way to their respective classrooms. Harry had just gotten up and offered Hermione his hand to help her stand, but she instead put her bag in Harry's hand and stood up on her own. She began walking to Transfiguration, leaving Harry to follow her while carrying her books. 

"Right, she's definitely mad at me," Harry mumbled under his breath. He silently followed Hermione to transfiguration while he tried to figure out a way to apologize

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 31 - bumpy road

It had been almost a week since the prank and things between Harry and Hermione were still not back to normal. They were better yes but still not great. While she was talking with Harry now she still had refrained from kissing him or even giving him a hug.

Harry was at a loss about what to do. He had told her every day that he was sorry, he had sworn to her he would do better, he was doing everything he could for her from carting her book bag to class to running every conceivable errand for her he could think of, he had even owl order a large bouquet of flowers from a florist in Hogsmeade and had Dobby deliver them to her dorm. But it hadn't worked. And now he was completely out of ideas. 

the only good thing to have come out of it was that Fred and George been impressed with his prank. While changing the colour of people's hair wasn't that big a deal that Harry's prank had managed to hit the entire school at the same time was something even they hadn't been able to do. At least not yet, they seemed to be taking Harry's performance as a challenge. The twins did come through on their bargain admirably, they had given him ten blanks for the fake wands. More than enough for him to start testing his first version of the summoning array.

The first test he'd been a disaster. He had written the two arrays he needed on separate bits of parchment attaching the first one to a wand blank and sticking the other to his hand. That was one summoning array and one targeting array. he fed the rune's on his hand a little of his magic. Instead of the wand flying to Harry's hand from the table ten feet away, the parchment stuck on his hand had burst into flames. Harry had panicked a little at being on fire. memories from Halloween making far more terrifying than the small bit of fire needed to be.

 He was lucky the Hermione had insisted on being there. Even if she was barely talking to him at that point. She had kept her cool and with a quick charm had water coming from her wand quenching the flames and cooling Harry's hand. Thanks to Hermione's quick response Harry had bearly suffered any burns at all. That he had also ended up completely smoking wet as Hermione had decided that a harry apparently deserved a stream of water to the face at the same time was less fun. But as it brought the first smile he had seen on Hermione's face since the potions incident he didn't mind that much.

He had examined the rune's after to find what had gone wrong and found that he had created a power flow imbalance there was too much magic building up in one part of the array and not being used. So it was back to the drawing board for the runes.

But before he could focus on that he had to come up with a way to apologise to Hermione. Well, an apology she would accept. He already said he was sorry a number of times. He had made a point of telling her at least once a day. The problem was she just didn't know how to go about it. and the person who would normally go to for advice like that was the one who was trying to apologise to.

He really had to figure out things soon it was valentine's Day in less than a month and after he had forgotten it last year he really needed to do something special this year which would be incredibly hard if Hermione was still mad at him at that point.

Harry was wandering the halls of the castle pondering what to when he came across Tracy Davis. She was tugging on the larger paintings and looking behind the wall tapestries as she passed them. This may have looked weird to some but it wasn't uncommon for students to see if they could find secret passageways and hidden rooms. The castle was full of them and finding them could be a lot of fun.

Last year Harry wouldn't have thought twice, he would have turned around and continued his walk somewhere else. It would be easier than listening to the insults the Slytherin was bound to throw at him. This year however was different why wouldn't exactly call Tracey a friend she was definitely more than a mere acquaintance. So instead he went to say hello. 

"Hey, Tracey how are things?"

The dirty blonde haired witch turned around to see Harry. "Hey Harry, not bad. how are you? You and Hermione still fighting?" Tracey asked. She and Daphne had noticed the shift in how Hermione and he were acting during the rune's classes they had shared that week.

"Sort of. she is talking to me again instead of at me. but things are still not right."

"What did you do anyway?" They were now walking down the corridor while Tracy continued to check the paintings and wall hangings.

Harry considered what he could tell his Slytherin year mate but she had trusted Harry and Hermione with a pretty big secret, it was up to him to show some trust now. "I slipped her a potion without thinking. After Christmas last year she is understandably sensitive about potions." Harry looked to his left to see how Tracy was reacting only to find the space empty.  He looked behind himself and took a few more steps down the corridor in surprise.

Tracy was standing a few feet from him. Her face was almost unrecognisable with anger and she had her wand pointed at him. "How could you? The girl is already in love with you! What got tired of waiting? Give me a good reason not to curse you, Potter, before I lose my patience."

Harry was confused and more than a little afraid by the sudden change in Tracy. "What? Why would you curse me?"

"Why! You slip your girlfriend a love potion and ask why I would curse you."

In an instant, he understood what Tracy thought he had done. Even the idea was revolting and made him feel sick. "Whow whow whow. You got the wrong idea. I didn't slip her a love potion. Or any potion that would control her. I did the hair prank last week. That is the potion I slipped her. And everyone else" the last bit he mumbled incredibly quietly. "All I did was affect her hair colour. That's it."

Tracy lowered her wand a bit. "That's it? Just the hair prank? You swear it?"

Harry held up his hands "I swear it." 

Tracy lowered her wand. "God potter be more clear from the beginning in the future, when a girl hears about being slipped a potion it's not normally so... innocent."

Harry was horrified by even the idea that he could do something like that. "I would never."

"Lots of guys say that, but it still happens way too much." Tracy deadpanned.

"But Hermione knows I wouldn't do that right?" Harry pulled the conversation back to his problem. He was worried now.

"I don't know Hermione and I aren't very close. It could be something that she is worried about or I could be wrong. Like I said we aren't close." Tracy went back to checking behind the portraits and tapestries.

"I just wish I knew how to apologise to her." 

Harrys Marose tone softened the still hard look on the girls face. "This may sound crazy Harry but have you tried just telling her?"

Harry rolled his eyes. "I tried that. I'm, not quite that dense. I tell her every day. I promised not to do it again and that I would do better from now on. I even had flowers delivered to her dorm. I just wish I knew what to do to make us good again." 

"Well, what did Hermione actually say about apologizing?"

"Only that I had a lot of it to do and that she wasn't going brake up with me."

"Then have you considered that your already doing everything right? That you just need to it for longer than a week? Also can't you do better than flowers?"

Harry felt better at the idea he was doing the right thing but disappeared that there was probably no quick fix. "What's wrong with flowers? Isn't that what you are supposed to do?"

Tracy snorted. "Harry flowers are nice but it's what you get when you have no other ideas. You could do so much better. Get her something she would like. For example, if I want to cheer up Daphy I get her a charm for a charm bracelet I got her. You just need to think about what Hermione likes."

"You have a point I never see Hermione paying much attention to plants and flowers outside of herbology. maybe I should come up with something better." Harry tried to think of a gift that would be better for Hermione. The problem was if he spent too much on it Hermione would get mad at him for that. She wanted him to be careful with his gold.

"So why are you looking for a secret passageway or a secret room? Just exploring or are you looking for something specific?" If she was looking for something specific Harry would check the marauder's map for her to see if he could find it for her as a thank you for her advice.

Tracy looked around nervously checking that they were alone. "I'm looking for somewhere private to take Daphne on valentines. If we go to Hogsmeade together on valentine's then people will wonder about us being together. We can't let that happen but we still want to do something nice together you know."

"I get it. Even if it's for a different reason. Hermione and I prefer privacy as well." Harry had a thought. "Actually come with me. I have an idea."

Harry lead a confused Tracy though the school up to the room of requirement. "Mione and I wanted a spot we could be alone and I found an amazing place. I'm planning to use it valentine's as well but I don't see why we can't both use it."

Tracy was half jogging to keep up with an excited Harry. "Um, Harry I think Daph and I might want a bit more privacy."

Harry turns and grinned back at her. "I don't think it will be a problem. Trust me."

They were at the tapestry of the dancing trolls that marked the location of the room of requirement. Harry started packing back and for thinking of his and Hermione's date room. But he changed it a bit to accommodate a second couple.

Tracy was watching Harry while she leans against the wall. If she hadn't seen just how strange things could get at Hogwarts she would have worried that Harry was losing his mind. Instead, she just mused on just how much crazy a person can accept given enough time. Then there was suddenly something was poking her in the back. 

She turned around to see what it was. It was the door handle to a door that had definitely not been there when she had stated leaning against the wall.

Harry opened the door and motioned for her to go in. once she stepped in Harry followed her closing the door behind them. "Welcome to the room of requirement."

They both looked around at the room. Instead of the normal date room, Harry and Hermione used, there was now only a nice little dining area that was brilliant for a group of four. There were also three doors leading off the room. One behind them that they had just come through and one on the left wall mirroring one on the right. The wall opposite was dominated by large windows showing the regular beautiful sunset the room used even when like now the sun had already set for the day.

Tracy looked into one of the side doors and found a small room with a comfortable sofa facing a fire. "Cozy. I see what you mean about privacy with the two side rooms."

"Oh, this is just an idea. The room changes into whatever we want. Bigger, smaller, more rooms, fewer rooms, colours, furniture, equipment. It's all changeable."

Tracy was staring at harry stunned. The complexity of the magic needed for something like that was staggering. That was before you looked into how much power would be needed. Yet the ideas that were racing through her mind at just how good a valentine's she could make it for Daphne.

"Do you know if there are any limitations?"

"Yeah it can't make food and the stuff made by the room stops existing outside of the room. Oh, and the room resets as soon as there is no-one inside."

"No food is a pain but we could bring a picnic or something."

"I have a friend who can deliver food here. We just need to agree what we want. It unfair to ask him to make two different sets of meals. So why don't we sit down and plan out exactly what we want to do?" 

Harry and Tracy sat at the relatively small dining table and Harry pulled a spear bit of parchment and a Muggle pen from his pocket. Carrying a Muggle pen was a habit he had picked up from Hermione. Muggle pens were just more convenient than trying to carry a quill and ink bottle in his pocket. The two sat there for over an hour working on what the planned to make Valentine's as special as they could for the ladies in their lives.

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

Hermione had a lot on her mind. The past week had been eventful for her. first Harry had betrayed her trust in him by slipping her a potion. Yes, it was harmless, Hermione even thought she looked good with gold hair. Her bushy hair along with her cat ears had given her a bit of a lion look. Just Pity it was more lion than a lioness. The problem was that Harry should have known better. 

He knew what messing with potion's had done to her. She knew that Harry hadn't meant to hurt her. He had gotten so caught up in trying to prove he was his father's son he had gotten tunnel vision. She knew he was sorry he had even ordered her flowers which she thought was sweet even if it was a bit stereotypical.

She wanted to forgive him but everything in her life was just getting in the way this week. The day after Harry had dosed her, her cat side had come calling, like madam Pomfrey said she would, she had gone into heat. That was panic-inducing enough the suppression potions she took every month were supposed to stop her from feeling that… needy.

It had been incredibly difficult to focus on her classes that day. Even though she was mad at harry she kept getting distracted by him. She had not taken as many notes as she normally did in charms and in history of magic she hadn't taken any at all. Finding professor bins droning monotone lecture to boring to hold even her attention that day.

She hadn't said a word to harry that day, in part because she was mad at him but also because she wasn't sure she could keep being mad at him while image after image of harry without a shirt was racing through her mind. And not positive she could avoid dragging him to the room of requirement to help release her tension. She couldn't let that happen despite not being ready and being mad at harry there was no way she was going to let her first time be because she was in heat. Her first time with Harry was going to be special.

As soon as classes were over she had retreated to her dorm to try and relax a bit. She had known disappearing like that would hurt Harry and make him think she was more upset than she was but at the time it was all she could think of.

One she was alone she had tried to review the chapter for history of magic only she still couldn't concentrate. She eventually decided that if she was going to relax at all she would need to take care of her tension herself.

That had been the start of the next problem. She was no stranger to herself. She had gotten worked up more than once by Harry. During her alone times previously her mental images of harry had greatly helped things along. Only this time she was upset with him so her mind had wandered. first picking out generic males conjured from dreams. Then a few of the better-looking guys from around the school. Then something that had shocked her. Images of some of the prettier girls floated through her head.

The idea that she could be into girls had surprised and scared Hermione. It had taken her a few days to even wrap her head around the concept. It hadn't helped that she had gone into heat when she ovulated meaning that she also had to deal with the end of her cycle at the same time as being angry at harry and Trying to work out what this meant for her.

 At one point she had almost convinced herself that if she liked girls then she would need to give up Harry. But quickly realised that she definitely liked harry. He had managed to get her worked up more than once and there were the crushes she had before getting together with harry, 

Ron and Lockhart, what had she been thinking? She'd had a thing for Ronald at first, that was why his words that first Halloween had heart her enough to send her into tears in the bathroom, his opinion had mattered to her because she liked him. Of course even after they became friends the more Ron spoke the less attracted to him she was. As for Lockhart well, her crush on him was like a lot of girls crushes on Harry. It had nothing to do with the real person and was focused on a fiction that was based on what people believed about them.

The big question was should she tell Harry? On one hand she didn't like keeping it from him. On the other did it even matter? She was with Harry she loved him and she definitely found harry sexually attractive. Telling him could make him think that he wasn't or ever could be enough for her.

There was no rush she concluded. Maybe she would wait till the summer and talk with her mum first. Her mum was always good with stuff like this.

she had just gotten back from her second detention with her head of year. Professor McGonagall had had her do the same job as last time giving Hermione the homework assignments of the first and second years. The job had gone a lot quicker this week for two reasons first was that homework over the Christmas holidays was longer than regular homework. You had two weeks to do the homework in so the length professor McGonagall required reflected that. This time Hermione also knew what she was doing a lot better than last time. As Hermione was finished with the lower years and had organised the rest of the assignments by house and year professor McGonagall had no more work to assign and in a rear move had let Hermione go early.

Hermione half run back up to the common room. It was only just gone eight if she got to the common room quickly enough she could have a couple of hours curled up with harry. Maybe she would make him read one of her textbooks to her while she curled up next to him. It was a poor substrate for a real date night but she and Harry had agreed to put off any more date nights until she was done with her detentions. Breaking curfew for their anniversary was one thing but breaking curfew because it was their regular date night would just be going too far. And making Harry read to her the latest chapter from history of magic would be a good way for her to unwind and start getting back to normal with harry without just letting him off the hook.

Once Hermione got to the common room she looked around for harry but she couldn't find him so she asked Dean if Harry was up in the boy's dorm.

"Sorry Hermione but he's not there. I was up there about five minutes ago dropping my potions essay in my trunk. Last I saw him was about forty - forty-five minutes ago I seen him going up to the seventh floor with some girl."

Hermione was disappointed Harry must have thought she would be in detention longer after last week. "Who was he with?"

"Not sure only seen her from behind all I can say is she's a dark blonde and not someone I recognized so probably not a Gryffindor."

Hermione was more than a little put out. Harry had been trying to make up with her all week and now that she was ready to start fixing things Harry had run off to do something else.

She began wondering what Harry was doing up on the seventh floor. There were only really two destinations first was the owlery maybe Harry or the girl were sending a letter? Maybe the girl was sending a letter and wanted to borrow Hedwig? No that couldn't be it the girl could use a school owl and she and Harry were sending their weekly letters to her parents tomorrow. Harry wouldn't risk Hedwig being unable for that unless it was incredibly important.

The other place was the room of requirement. Her Hart skipped a beat at the idea that Harry was taking another girl to their date spot. In her head, she knew that whatever was going on was fine. She and Harry were solid. But the part of her that never had a lot of friends, the part that sees a mutant when she sees her ears in the mirror was whispering in the back of her mind, telling her she hadn't been much of a girlfriend this week and Harry could be really popular if he wanted to be.

The rest of her brain was reminding her of things that told her that everything was fine. The room of requirement can be lots of things it didn't need to be the date room it could be a study, a duelling area or even a bedroom, no not a bedroom, Harry wouldn't do that.

Hermione's thoughts were driving her nuts she knew that Harry was probably just killing time because he thought she was in detention. But after her week she didn't have her highest self-esteem and because of that, she was having stupid thoughts.  She just needed to talk to harry.

Hermione had to wait over half an hour before Harry climbed through the portrait hole into the common room. Hermione almost went over to pull him into a much-needed hug but held herself back she was still a little mad at him after all. instead, she walked over to speak to him.

"Hey harry."  Hermione was still feeling a little anxious and that kept her voice from being as light and friendly as she wanted.

"Hey mione. You got out of detention early. I was going to meet you but when I checked the map you were already here."

"I finished the work early so professor McGonagall let me go. Where were you? I asked Dean if you were up in the dorms but he said he saw you going up to the seventh floor with a girl." Hermione tried to keep any tones of worry and accusation from her voice, she didn't think she did very well but either Harry didn't notice or he was ignoring it.

"Yeah. I was uh… brainstorming with Tracy." Hermione frowned a little at the pause in Harry's sentence, but relaxed when he said he was with Tracy. Tracy may not be a girl she trusted with much, at least not yet she definitely had the feeling that could change in time, she could trust Tracy and Harry to be alone together no matter how bad an argument got between her and Harry got. Tracy just wasn't into guys at all.

"Brainstorming? For what?" Hermione was curious now.

Harry hesitated. "Um all I will say is valentines. The rest is a surprise. Oh and" he looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. "Daphne and Tracy will be using the room with us that day." A frown crossed Hermione's face. "Not together with us we just tested the room and it can make us separate rooms so we will have our Side and Daphne and Tracey the other. Like two separate private rooms at the same restaurant." Harry clarified

Hermione liked the sound of that. She was looking forward to a full day with just the two of them. Especially with everything that was getting in the way of that at the moment. "That sounds lovely harry." Hermione thought for a second and came to a desition. "Let's go sit down Harry." She gave Harry's arm a little tug pulling him not towards the more uncomfortable tables that were mostly for homework but to one of the comfy sofas that she and Harry mostly used for cuddling up in the evening and she had avoided with harry for the last week.

Harry hadn't needed telling twice and followed her. Hermione let him sit first so that she could curl up against him. "I'm still a little upset at what happened but I missed this." Hermione said as she cuddled into Harry's chest

Harry put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. I missed this too. I'm sorry I was so stupid."

"Yes you were so now you are going to help me."

"Ok. How?"

Hermione reached into her book bag and pulled out her history of magic textbook. You can read chapter twenty-seven to me while I use you as a pillow." She settled her head in Harry's lap and relaxed while Harry read the chapter to her. 

Harry was far easier to listen to than bins

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

The next four weeks passed with nearly without an incident. Harry made a few more attempts with his summoning project. The wands were now coming on command but they were currently trying to impale the person who summons them. But Harry mostly focused on improving Hermione's hairband.

He was quite proud of the progress he made on the hairband. After he had decided to focus on Hermione for a bit He had a few brain waves. he added a bundle of small runes on the inside of each end of the hairband. Now If someone pressed their thumbs into each bundle of rune's and then at the same time touched the outside of hairband to something live say a bit of clothing, the fabric on the outside of the hairband would change its colour and pattern to match. This meant Hermione could now match her hairband to whatever outfit she was wearing when she went out in the Muggle world. He still had more improvements planned but this as a good start.

Hermione had been ecstatic with the improvement and it had earned Harry is first bone-crushing Hermione hug since the pitons incident.

Hermione finished her detentions with professor McGonagall who was a little disappointed to lose her marking assistant. Hermione, however, was thrilled to have her night with Harry back. Things were back to normal between them by that point.

Ron had apparently earned himself two more detentions for constantly complaining to their head of year that he was the victim and he shouldn't have detention at all. Completely glossing over that there would have been no fight with Hermione if he hadn't coldly accused her and tried to attack her familiar. It looked like their friendship with Ron was well and truly over.

On the 25th dinner in the great hall was a little weird along with the regular fair of Hogwarts food, this evening a thick beef stew and mashed potatoes and mixed root vegetable mash. There were a number of plates with oddly shaped short but fat dark sausages that looked like they were boiled instead of fried.

"What are those things?" Neville who was sitting opposite Harry and Hermione asked.

Harry had no clue never having seen them before but Hermione apparently had. "It's haggis*. Oh right it's Burns night."

Harry was more curious about burns night than the haggis. From what he had heard of it, it didn't sound particularly appetizing. "What's burns night?"

"It's a celebration of a Scottish poet Robert Burns. It's sort of a Scottish pride day. Professor McGonagall must have arranged it." Hermione slipped into her lecture mode.

"Is haggis any good?" Neville asked

"Don't know never tried it. I just saw a photo in a book about British traditions."

The three of them and a few more of the Gryffindors tried the Scottish delicately with mixed results. Harry and Hermione didn't care much for it, but Neville and a couple of others seemed to like it.

 

On the 27th one of professor lupin disappeared from the school again because he was ill. The professor got ill quite often. Harry wondered if his honesty uncle had some kind of health condition that made I'm more susceptible to getting sick.

Professor Snape covered his class this time and was a bigger git than normal assigning them homework on werewolves a topic they hadn't covered yet.

When professor lupin returned he had cancelled the homework much to Hermione's disappointment and Harry's frustration. Hermione had pushed Harry to do the homework as soon as it was assigned so they could be sure that they had time on the weekend to do more research for Buckbeak's case.

The werewolf assignment was bugging Harry for some reason but he couldn't figure out why. It probably had something to do with the smirk on Snape's face as he gave out the work though, so Harry did his best to put it out of his mind.

 

Instead Harry occupied his mind by spending time with Tracy as they planned their Valentine's Day date's. Tracy, it turns out was an untapped goldmine of ideas some witch Harry thought Hermione would love.

 

Hermione who seemed to have lost her boyfriend to his scheming had taken to the library to pass her time. She was soon joined by Daphne who found herself Simerly lacking the company of her own schemer. Daphne asked Hermione if she knew anything about where Tracy planned for the two of them to go considering she and Tracy were keeping their relationship a secret. Hermione however had just said that privacy wasn't going to be a problem but she didn't want to spoil any surprises Tracy might have planned

The two witches quickly started coming up with this own valentine's ideas. Holding that they wouldn't get in the way of Harry's and Tracy's plans

 

--- ϟϟϟ ---

 

In the second week of February Hermione found herself going into heat again. More prepared for it this time she was able to really take stock of what she was feeling. She noted that while she definitely wanted to drag Harry off somewhere private it was only as intense as it was when she first went on to the potion before she had a chance to go into heat.

When she told Harry that she was going to see Madam Pomfrey it took a lot of persuading to get him not to come with her.

"You're going to the hospital wing? What's wrong? Let's go. do you need to lean on me?" Harry was standing and getting ready to leave right then.

"Harry. I'm going to the hospital wing. You are going to class." Hermione told him. But he was being stubborn and amazing at the same time.

"Mione I don't care about class if you're sick you come first." Harry was going to make sure she was taken care of if he needed to carry her to the hospital wing himself. With or without magic.

"Harry calm down I am fine." He looked at her disbelievingly. Hermione sighed she hadn't wanted to tell Harry to much so she leaned in and whispered. "Honestly Harry it's just girly stuff nothing to worry about. I'm more worried about missing class. Can you please go to class and take notes for me. Please."

" You sure you are ok? I don't mind blowing off defence against the dark art's and I'm sure uncle Mooney would forgive me." 

Normally she would let harry come and fuss over her but his presence would be both distracting and embarrassing. "Go to class Harry." She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "I love that you want to watch out for me but something's I need to do alone now go and take notes for me."

Harry had agreed finally and left her to go to see the school nurse alone and went off to their defence against the dark art's class.

 

Her conversion with madam Pomfrey was embarrassing to say the least. But at least she was spears the indigency that would come from speaking to a Muggle doctor about such things. She was so glad those types of exams were done by diagnostic charms in the magical world.

"We'll miss granger this is a good news, bad news situation. The good news is physically you are almost completely healthy. You still have a few lingering problems from being petrified but that is to be expected and I think you will be fine by the end of the school year." Hermione was happy to hear about that. She regularly got stiff joint while she sleeps. It was more of an annoyance now but she was glad it was going away.

"The bad news is you are building up a tolerance for your suppression potion. I extent by this time next year the potion will not help you." Madam Pomfrey paused waiting for that information to sink in. "I can increase the strength of your next potion if you like, but be careful the sooner I up the strength the faster you'll build up your tolerance. If you can hold off for a month or two more it would help."

"What about the contraceptive part of the potion? Am I building a tolerance to that as well?"

"The contraceptive draught is one you won't have a problem taking for however long you want. It's a separate potion that I added to the suppression potion to cover you if the suppression potion failed. So even after you are no longer on the suppression potion you can continue with the contraceptive as I doubt someone as studious as you would want to give up your schooling early to be a mum."

"Uh no. one day yes, but not for a few years. I was thinking of getting a mastery first." 

Madam Pomfrey nodded. "A sensible plan. Too many witches get pregnant not long after leaving school and don't get their mastery."

"What about if I stopped the suppression potions early would that pause my building a tolerance or better maybe reverse it?" Hermione asked.

"If you stopped taking it. It's possible over time it would get more effective but you wouldn't be able to use it a lot. Why are you asking?"

"I don't want to be distracted during my exams and from what I hear about N.E.W.Ts it wouldn't be great if I was distracted," Hermione explains her thoughts.

Madam Pomfrey gave Hermione's idea some thought before she answered. "If you stopped taking the potion after your end of year exams and only took one dose for your fourth year and one for your O.W.Ls exams there is a good chance your residence to the suppression potion will reduce enough to allow you to take it again through a lot of your N.E.W.T years. But there is a good chance that you may not need it by then. You may have gotten so used to it that you don't feel the need to suppress it. If that's what you want to try then that's what we will try but think about it, for now, you have a few months to mull it over. Also, you might want to consider speaking with Mr potter. when you stop the suppression potion there's a chance you will lose yourself a bit when you ovulate. It would be better if he understood what decisions you have made about what you want before then."

Hermione blushed as she realised that the medi witch was basically telling Hermione to plan with harry if they should have sex when she went into heat. But that was definitely better than leaving it to chance.