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Price of Peace 4 - Uncovering the Truth

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“I will.” Her younger counterpart answered, taking the book.

Chapter Two

The Burrow

Fred, Ginny and Harry cheered.

It didn’t take long before Hermione realised what Sirius had done. Every time her father came within two feet of her, he was overcome by the inescapable need to vomit.

“Oh dear.” Narcissa remarked with a smile. “How very unfortunate.”

Thankfully, he had put this sudden illness down to food poisoning …

“Food poisoning my arse.” Jen muttered, exchanging a high five with her brother.

… although her mother had pulled her aside one morning and asked very seriously if she’d had anything to do with it.

Hermione smiled brightly. “But Mummy … I’m not allowed to use magic outside school.”

Hermione had rolled her eyes and reminded her that she wasn’t allowed to do magic out at school, so her mother had dropped the subject, not really upset about the turn of events.

“I doubt she would be.” Mandy commented.

The lack of Ministry owl had bothered Hermione for a while, but she soon forgot about it; she’d heard whispers of bias in the underage magic law …

Lily snorted. “Biased. Understatement.”

… and she could look it up when she arrived back at Hogwarts.

“Or I would have, if they hadn’t removed the bloody books.” Hermione muttered.

Hermione spent her last three days at home preparing to leave for good. All she could take to The Burrow without arousing suspicion was her school trunk, which was fine for clothes and school books, but that was it.

However, she had picked up another magically expanded satchel in Diagon Alley, which held everything else. She had also bought a book on empathy, hoping for some sort of explanation. The people at Flourish and Blotts had seen her so often that no one batted an eyelid at her purchase.

“Why are empaths considered dark?” Lily asked curiously.

“It says in a minute.” Addie said, scanning the next few lines.

That, or it was because she also bought a set of DADA books at the same time as Harry’s birthday present.

“They were amazing.” Harry grinned.

“Is DADA your favourite lesson then?” Lily asked eagerly.

Harry pulled a face. “It’s my favourite subject. Depends who’s teaching it.” He grinned at Remus. “And unfortunately, we only ever had one good teacher. But I’ve always been fascinated by it – I think it has something to do with who I am.”

“And you always wind up having to defend yourself against the Dark Arts.” Hermione finished.

Unfortunately, and Hermione made sure to read it at least three times before admitting it, the information it offered was quite poor.

Fred gasped loudly. “Say it isn’t so!”

Hermione rolled her eyes again and smacked him on the arm.

In the mid-1800s, the Ministry of Magic had released a report that named empaths as Dark Creatures. Empaths at the time had tried to argue that there was a political agenda – after all, reading emotions also meant detecting lies …

“Of course.” Jen scowled. “Merlin forbid the public get the truth, right?”

but it was to no avail and, with prejudice worse than that against werewolves …

Remus raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

Hermione nodded. “Some werewolves actually did what they were being accused of, whereas the information about empaths was completely false.

… empaths went ‘underground’.

With that in mind, all the book could tell her was that she could sense other people’s emotions – which she already knew – and ‘see and communicate with living spirits’.

“What does that mean?” Neville asked in bewilderment. He had taken her empathy remarkably well for someone who had been raised pureblood with all the prejudices. Then again, he had taken Remus’s lycanthropy remarkably well as well.

The book went on to explain:

Since no empaths have offered their services for study ...

“Hmm, I wonder why.” Hermione mused.

“Couldn’t be because the prejudice against empaths is even worse than the prejudice against werewolves, could it?” Ginny asked innocently.

Hearing the emphasis she put on the word, Jen glanced at Remus and grabbed his hand, finally vocalising the question she had been too afraid to ask. “How bad is it for werewolves?”

“Put it this way, if Sirius hadn’t broken out of Azkaban and Dumbledore didn’t have a lot of swing, there’s no way Remus would have taught in third year.” Hermione answered grimly. “Some of the laws are just …” She shuddered.

“It’s better not to ask.” Sirius advised. “You really don’t want to know.”

… this is merely a theory. Theoretically, every magical human has a body, a soul and a spirit. In life, the soul and body are joined together and can survive without each other, but will no longer be alive. The existence of the spirit, however, is debated for the above reason. If true, the spirit can leave the body and travel elsewhere; this would be extremely rare, since the body and soul exist separately and, while they have an effect on the spirit’s behaviour, it is a one-way relationship.

“Why is there a spirit then?” Neville asked, sounding even more bewildered.

“The spirit is only present in magical beings.” Hermione explained, slipping into lecture-mode. “It’s the part of being that becomes a ghost if one chooses not to ‘go on’.”

So, Hermione supposed, if her spirit went to Australia, she still wouldn’t know what was going on there. She couldn’t really see how this would affect her, so she put it out of her mind for the moment.

By Wednesday, her room was barren, but for her bed, wardrobe and desk. All that was left to empty was one of the desk drawers, which contained memorabilia from her childhood – certificates, old letters, Muggle school records.

“I’ve got one of those.” Lily commented.

Right at the back, however, Hermione found a badge that looked like a police shield, but the emblem was two crossed wands shooting sparks.

David frowned. “That’s an auror shield.”

“I know.” Hermione said with a smile.

“Why do you have an auror badge?” Regulus asked.

Hermione shrugged. “No idea.”

She sat on her bed and stared at it, trying to understand what it was and where it had come from. The shield was attached to a leather wallet and she flipped it open to find an ID card.

Ministry of Magic Auror Division

Sirius Orion Black

July 1979 –

“Mine?” Sirius asked in bewilderment, running a hand through his hand. “Why on earth do you have that?”

“I don’t know.” Hermione shrugged. “Slipped my mind earlier – I was hoping you would.”

“Maybe you gave it to her.” Addie suggested. “You don’t remember taking her home, right? Maybe you gave her your badge as a promise you’d come back. It sounds like something you’d do.”

“Maybe.” Sirius agreed pensively. “But I still don’t understand why I don’t remember Hermione being there.”

Hermione’s eyebrows rose into her hairline. She had known Sirius was an auror … but what was she doing with his badge?

“Keeping it safe.” Harry answered matter-of-factly.

“Obviously.” Hermione added.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the doorbell ringing loud and shrill downstairs.

“I’m surprised Dad knew how to use one.” Ginny commented.

“What’s a doorbell?” Draco asked.

“You press a button outside the house and it rings a bell inside to let the inhabitants know there’s someone outside.” Hermione explained. “Like knocking, but louder.”

Hermione didn’t hurry, knowing that Arthur Weasley would relish the chance to play with the doorbell for a while …

“He loved you for that.” Fred said fervently.

… and slipped the badge into the satchel with everything else. Then she slipped the satchel into her trunk on top of her school robes and closed the lid, before scooping Crookshanks up as he threatened to slip out the door.

“Oh no you don’t, darling,” she cooed to the fluffy orange part-Kneazle. “I need you to come with me.”

“He’s much calmer now.” Hermione commented. Now there’s not a mass-murderer hiding in the boys’ dorms.

Depositing Crookshanks into his carrier, she dragged her trunk out on to the hallway, left the note to her mother on her pillow …

“Good.” Alice murmured. “She needs to know you’re not coming home.”

… and shut the door firmly.

Hermione hurried down the stairs, placing the pet-carrier on the side table where the telephone resided, before opening the door.

Mr Weasley rang the doorbell once more, beaming at the now-louder sound. “Remarkable!” He said cheerfully.

Ginny chuckled fondly. “Dad …”

“It’s good to see you again, Hermione.”

“Hello, Mr Weasley. Thank you for letting me stay for the rest of the summer.”

“Oh, not at all!” Mr Weasley assured her. “Think nothing of it! Now by some amazing miracle, we’ve managed to get a car for today. I don’t know how we’ll get Harry though; we’ll never get a car that close to the match.

“I’m glad they didn’t.” Harry snickered.
Lily groaned. “Oh, what happened?”

“Nothing bad.” Harry assured her.

“I know it’s nothing bad, Harry.” Lily sighed. “But that’s the same look your father gets when he’s planning something.”

“And it wasn’t my fault.” Harry added.

Are your parents here?”

“They’re at work.” Hermione said calmly, despite the pang of sadness in her chest.

“You could have told them.” Arabella said.

“We said our goodbyes this morning. I’ll just go and get my trunk.”

“Don’t worry.” Another voice said from behind Mr Weasley. “We’ll get it. Good to finally meet you, Hermione.”

Hermione didn’t need an introduction to know that this was one of Ron’s eldest brothers.

“Didn’t need to be told which one either.” Hermione commented.

“Don’t tell me.” Fred closed his eyes, pressing his fingers to his forehead. “He had dragon-burns on his hands.”

“Yes.” Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Since when do you know anything about sci-fi?”

“What?” Fred asked blankly.

“Never mind.” Hermione said quickly. She really didn’t feel like explaining it right now.

He was closer to the twins build, still tall, but stocky with it. His face was even more freckled than Ron’s and, when she shook his hand, she could feel numerous callouses. “You as well, Charlie, right?”

Charlie raised an eyebrow. “How’d you guess?”
“Probably the burns.” Yet another unfamiliar voice teased. “You know Ron tells all and sundry what you do for a living.”

This had to be the eldest Weasley brother, Bill. But Hermione had to admit that he wasn’t a bit like she’d pictured him. Knowing that Bill had been Head Boy at Hogwarts, she had assumed that he was like Percy, but Bill was tall, like Ron, with long hair pulled back in a ponytail and an earring with what looked like a dragon fang dangling from it.

“Cool.” Sirius remarked.

“I was expecting someone more boring.” Hermione commented.

“I was Head Boy!” James protested. “Or will be, I should say.”

“But so was Percy.” Harry pointed out. “And unfortunately, we know him better.”

“Good point.” James conceded.

Then again, she realised as he shook her hand with a friendly greeting, she probably should have known better than to assume head students had to be as stuffy and overbearing as Percy was.

“Thank you.” James nodded.

After all, James Potter had been Head Boy and he had been a Marauder.

“First and foremost.” James grinned.

“Don’t we know it.” Lily muttered.

“Oh, like you’re any better.” James said, nudging her.

And Lily Potter …

Lily smiled to herself.

… had been Head Girl, and she hadn’t exactly been an angel …

Lily raised an eyebrow. “Where did that come from?”

Hermione shrugged. “I think it was around about then the memory charm started to lift. It wasn’t so much remembering as it was already knowing.”

“It may well have been the badge.” David told her. “If it acted as a key to unlock the memory charm, then the memories wouldn’t return all at once.”

Wait – where did that come from? I don’t think I really know anything about Mrs Potter …

“About as much as I did.” Harry said softly.

… she was Head Girl … probably a prefect. Red hair, green eyes …

“Beautiful eyes.” James whispered, making her blush.

… Gryffindor, Muggle-born … Good at Charms, I remember Harry saying … Very intelligent according to Sirius … But that’s all.

Lily sighed, sad that her son knew so little about her. “I used to paint when I was younger.”

James gave her an odd look. “That’s … nice?”

But Lily was looking at Harry. “If I hadn’t been a witch, I would have gone to an art school, even though my parents wanted me to do something academic, because I had the brains for it. When I got my Hogwarts letter, my dad fainted and my mum burst into tears. I got my prefects’ badge in my room just before I went to bed and spilt hot chocolate all over the floor because the owl made me jump. Until third year, I needed the girls’ help to get my robes on straight.”

“She had a pet cat for the first four years of Hogwarts, even though she really wanted an owl.” Jen chimed in, realising what Lily was doing. “Her Animagus form’s a doe and we call her Jade, because the only distinguishing marks she has are her eyes.”

“She can’t stand rats.” Addie continued with a smile. “So even though they were the cutest of the things the boys let loose in our dorm last Halloween, she refused to leave her bed until they’d all gone and made James carry her out even then.”

“In fourth year, the boys got detention for a prank, even though they’d signed it ‘Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs’ and no one knew they were the same people.” Mandy remembered. “While they were in detention, Lily pulled another prank and signed it with the same names to give them an alibi.”

“That wasn’t just me.” Lily pointed out with an easy smile. “That was Addie as well.”

Sirius gave the blonde beside him a reverent look. “That was you?”

Addie smirked at him. “You’re not the only prankster in the room, Padfoot. Didn’t we establish that last February?”

“Yeah, but … wow …” Sirius looked slightly dazed.

Addie was watching the two of them in amusement, but was quickly distracted by Sirius leaning in to whisper, “I knew there was a reason I was crazy about you.”

“That was you?” Sirius asked, unable to find anything else to say.

Addie nodded. “Yes.”

Sirius stared at her for a few more minutes. “… That was you?”

Jen sniggered. “Addie, I think you broke him.”

Addie rolled her eyes and smacked him upside the head. “Snap out of it!” She picked up the book and found her place again.

Where did I get the idea that she caused trouble at school?
“Us probably.” Sirius smirked. “We never did let Lily keep up her image.”

“Hermione?” Bill prompted. “Where’s your trunk?”

“Hmm?” Hermione shook herself from her thoughts. “Oh, sorry. It’s at the top of the stairs. I was just mentally running through everything I’d packed to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.”

“Organised.” Bill commented. “Ron must drive you crazy.”

Hermione snorted. “There’s an understatement.”
“Why do you put up with him then?” Fred asked blankly.

Hermione sighed. “Because, much like you and George, I love him too much to give up on him. And Harry’s my best friend and I love him too much to let Ron being a prat push me away.”

“Not really.” Hermione shrugged.

Fred raised an eyebrow in question.

“Ron’s his brother.” Hermione pointed out.

“Ron’s my brother.” Fred responded.

“Yeah, but I know you. Bill and Charlie were unknowns at the time.” Hermione turned back to Addie, clearly putting an end to the conversation.

“I like a challenge.”

“Gryffindor.” The two Weasley boys concluded in unison.

“And this must be Crookshanks.” Charlie added, bending down to see into the basket. “Did he really eat Scabbers?”

James’s jaw clenched, but he said nothing.

Hermione rolled her eyes, somehow hiding the anger she felt towards Wormtail. “Is he still on about that?”

Bill sniggered. “Been moaning about it for the last few weeks.”

Remus raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

Hermione couldn’t help feeling surprised. Ron wasn’t usually one for tact and she knew that he had taken the news about Scabbers very personally. That he had explained away his absence to his brothers without letting that shine through was quite impressive.

“Why didn’t you tell them the truth?” Sirius asked curiously.

“No one believed us.” Harry answered. “Besides, what good would it have done? Mr and Mrs Weasley couldn’t do anything.”

“And Ron didn’t want to get into trouble.” Hermione added. “I think that had something to do with it.”

“Well, I don’t know what happened to Scabbers, but Crookshanks hadn’t left my dorm all day. He was sick, weren’t you, Crookshanks?”

Despite his irritation at being confined, Crookshanks let out a purr, nuzzling his mistress through the bars.

“Smart cat.” Charlie remarked, as Bill levitated the trunk down the stairs. “Might be half-kneazle.”

“He is.” Sirius confirmed.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “We’ve established that by now, I think.”

“I think he is.” Hermione agreed, picking up the basket.

“You’ll have to carry it the rest of the way, boys.” Mr Weasley told them.

Jen chuckled. “I should hope they’ve got the hang of the Statute of Secrecy by now.”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “Muggle neighbourhood. We know, Dad.” He took one end of the trunk, Bill took the other, and they carried it out to the waiting car.

Hermione followed Mr Weasley out the front door, pausing only to lock it, leaving her childhood home for what would – hopefully – be the last time.

“Will be if I have anything to say about it.” Sirius muttered.

“I’m not going back there if I can help it.” Hermione assured him.

Hermione had never been to the Burrow before …

“Oh of course you hadn’t.” Fred murmured. “I’d forgotten about that.”

… electing to meet the Weasleys in Diagon Alley instead, but Harry absolutely loved the place …

“I do.” Harry agreed happily.

… and it turned out to be exactly how she’d imagined it – a house that looked like it had stepped right out of one of her childhood story books, with chickens pecking around the yard and so many pieces jutting out that it appeared to be held up with magic. Hermione couldn’t help but feel, however, that this brand of magic was that of love and family, rather than Charms and Transfiguration.

Ginny smiled. “I much prefer your description than Harry’s.”

“Harry’s wasn’t bad.” Hermione argued.

“No, it wasn’t.” Ginny agreed. “I just prefer yours.”

Ginny met her at the door with a tight hug. “Hermione, it’s so good to see you! Here, let’s get him out.” She undid the latches and gently lifted Crookshanks from the basket Hermione was carrying. Once freed, the grumpy-looking cat …

“Hey!” Hermione protested. “Crookshanks is not grumpy-looking.”

… settled down in Ginny’s arms, purring contentedly.

“Hey Mione!”

Hermione rolled her eyes, but didn’t argue the nickname, as Ron came running into the kitchen, his hair smoking slightly.

“What did you do?” Jen asked Fred.

“What makes you think we did anything?” Fred asked innocently.

“I know these three.” Jen pointed at the Marauders.

Fred shrugged, dropping the pretence. “Don’t remember.”

“Twins.” He explained briefly, gesturing to the singed areas.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Hermione sighed, hugging him in greeting. She had barely let go, when two other set of arms encircled her, almost lifting her off the ground.

“Mya!” Two voices chorused.

“And the damn nickname appears.” Hermione grumbled good-naturedly.

“Why do you call me that?” Hermione asked, unable to hold back a giggle. “And put me down!”

Fred and George set her down and gave her identical grins.

“Well, Hermione …” Fred began.

“… is too long to say …” George continued.

“… so we decided …” Fred explained.

“… to call you Mya.” George finished.

“That’s alright, isn’t it?” They asked in unison.

Addie raised an eyebrow. “Do they always talk like that?”

Hermione nodded with a weary sigh. “It drives me crazy.”

Hermione gave herself a moment to connect the snippets into one sentence and nodded. “If you must. Do you have to talk like that? I feel like I’ve been watching a tennis match.”

“What’s a tennis match?” James asked curiously.

“It’s a Muggle sport.” Harry answered. “Difficult to explain. Two people have a racquet each and use them to hit a small bouncy ball to each other across a net. The ball can bounce once on the other side of the net, but more than that and the person that missed it loses. It’s more complicated than that, but …”

“The rules are hard to understand unless you play.” Hermione finished.

“It’s a twin thing.” George told her.

“What’s a tennis match?” Fred asked.

Hermione shook her head. “Never mind. It’s too complicated to explain.” She was swiftly pulled away by Mrs Weasley, who hugged her tightly before holding her at arm’s length.

“Hermione, how wonderful to see you again!” Mrs Weasley paused. “You’re very thin, dear.”

“You see, to most women that’s a compliment.” Mandy laughed.

“No, Mum always says that as a bad thing.” Ginny grinned. “It’s just who she is.”

“According to you, Mum …” Fred began.

“… everyone is thin.” George finished.

Hermione bit back a laugh at their antics, knowing there was no point in arguing with the Weasley matriarch, despite the fact that she knew she was a healthy weight for her age. “Well, we sent a lot of food to Harry.”

“Ah, well played.” Fred smirked.

There may well have been a better way of redirecting Molly Weasley’s attention, but it had yet to be found. Sure enough, Mrs Weasley’s demeanour changed immediately.

“Of course it did.” Fred snickered. “No matter how thin Hermione is, she’ll never be in as much need as ickle Harrikins.” He picked Harry’s cheek and the raven-haired boy swatted his hand away.

“Never do that again.” Harry growled.

“Oh the poor boy! I don’t know why Professor Dumbledore insists on sending him to those people!”

Sirius raised an eyebrow. “She’s questioning him? She’s spent the entire summer telling me that Dumbledore’s word is law and we need to wait until he says we can bring Harry to us.”
“She’s mad at Dumbledore for leaving Harry there, yes.” Ginny said flatly. “But she disapproves of you more.”

Hermione was slightly startled at the venom in her voice. She had always assumed that Mrs Weasley believed that everything Dumbledore said was the word of Merlin.

Sirius nodded in agreement.

After all, last year, she had been very much in agreement that Harry shouldn’t be told that Sirius Black was supposedly trying to kill him.

Of course, to be fair, that was more because Mrs Weasley felt that Harry ‘didn’t need to know’ …

Harry rolled his eyes. “At this rate, that’s what’s going to kill me – people withholding information I ‘don’t need to know’.”

… than because Dumbledore told them not to tell him.

Or was that the Ministry’s decision?

“I think it was both.” Harry told her.

At one time, Hermione too would have taken Dumbledore or the Ministry’s word as law, but after the chaos of last year, she wasn’t so sure. Dumbledore knew everything that happened at Hogwarts, or so it seemed, and yet he still didn’t see fit to warn Harry about the ‘mass-murderer’ trying to kill him.
She had seen how reckless Harry had acted …

“Hey!” Harry protested. “I’m not reckless!”

Hermione patted his knee. “Of course you’re not. You’re a Gryffindor.”

“Which is more or less the same thing.” Regulus put in with a smirk.

… last year – and he had known. She dreaded to think how bad he would have been if he hadn’t.

Realising that Mrs Weasley was still talking, she tuned back in hastily.

“You didn’t miss much.” Fred told her. “Just Mum deploring over how Harry’s wasting away.”

“Ginny and I were going to make a couple of birthday cakes for him …

Lily beamed at them. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Ginny and Hermione chorused.

… would you like to help?”

Harry nudged her with a grin. “Good job you started listening again.”

Just in time . “Of course.” Hermione said with a smile. “Wouldn’t miss it.” She glanced around, noticing that there was one face missing. “Where’s Percy?”

“In his room.” Ron told her.

“That’s a bit rude, isn’t it?” James asked with a frown. “He should at least have come downstairs to say hello.”

“That’s Percy.” Fred muttered with a scowl. Ginny elbowed him lightly, seeing Hermione’s glance.

“Speaking of, we’ll show you yours.”

“You’ll have to share with me, I’m afraid.” Ginny added, as they led her up the rickety staircase that zig-zagged through the house. “We haven’t got much room. Bill and Charlie are sharing with the twins …

“Brave of them.” Remus commented, being well-versed in the dangers of living with two pranksters.

“Nah, we got it from somewhere.” Fred grinned. “And not just Uncle Fabian and Uncle Gideon either.”

… and Harry will be sharing with Ron when he gets here. Percy gets to keep his room, because he’s got to work.”

“Oh, I wonder what he’s doing.” Lily said, sounding interested.

“Probably something really boring.” James answered.

“James!” Lily scolded.

“No, he’s right.” Fred grimaced. “It was excruciatingly boring.”

Hermione couldn’t help but notice the light blush that spread over Ginny’s face at Harry’s name …

“Thanks, Hermione.” Ginny muttered, turning pink.

Harry nudged her with his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it, Sis.”

… but hoped that she’d get over it soon. Harry saw the Weasleys as siblings and would never see her as anything more than a sister.

“That’s because she is my sister.” Harry stated.

“And he’s my brother.” Ginny added firmly. “And that’s all I want.”

And Hermione was sure – despite having no frame of reference – that your sister having a crush of you tended to put a strain on your relationship.

Sirius snorted. “Just a bit I’m sure.”

“What does Percy do then?” Hermione asked, as they approached the second landing. “I don’t think you mentioned it.”

“He only got the job a few days ago.” Ron explained. “He’s a junior in the Department of International Magical Co-Operation.”

“That’s pretty good.” David commented, impressed. “Especially for someone only just out of Hogwarts.”

“But he’s a tad obsessed.” Ginny warned. “So keep your voice down.”

At that moment, a door just ahead of them opened and a head popped out. “Would you keep your voices…Oh, hello, Hermione.” Percy was always polite to Hermione, probably because she was the only one who pretended to be interested during his lectures.

“Thank Merlin!” Fred sighed. “I thought you actually were interested.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Maybe in first year, but no. I’m just polite.”

“Hello, Percy.” Hermione replied. “Congratulations on your new job.”

“Thank you.” Percy puffed up importantly. “At least someone has their priorities straight.” He shot a nasty look at his younger siblings and disappeared behind his door again.

“Weren’t you supportive?” David asked.

“We were.” Ginny insisted. “We all congratulated him when he got the job. He just didn’t understand that there’s only so much of Crouch-worship that we can take.”

“Barty Crouch?” David asked. “He’s the Head of DIMC? Why didn’t he get the Minister’s job?”

Hermione vaguely remember him asking the same thing two books ago, but no one had answered. “Well … it’s explained in this book.”

“Mental, that one.” Ron muttered under his breath, leading the way up the next flight of stairs to Ginny’s room. “Ladies, your humble abode. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go and play Quidditch with the others.”

Hermione moved aside to let him pass, rolling her eyes in the process, and followed Ginny into her room. “Charming! Do they ever ask you to play?”

“No.” Ginny scowled, crossing her arms.

“Ginny, you can’t fly.” Fred reminded her.

“Oh, yes, I can.” Ginny argued. “I’ve been sneaking out to borrow your brooms since I was six years old.”
Fred just gaped at her and Hermione and Ginny exchanged a high-five over Harry’s head.

“Never.” Ginny sighed, gesturing to one of the beds. “That one’s yours.”

The room was quite small, just big enough to allow the two girls movement around the two beds, but it was comfortably so and still bigger than Hermione had expected, given the size of The Burrow and the placing of the door.

“Magic.” Ginny smirked.

Hermione blushed lightly. “Oh, shut up.”

The walls were painted a pretty pale yellow colour, and the soft green bedclothes gave the room the image of spring-time, which was amplified by the jar of wild flowers on the window sill.

“That sounds pretty.” Lily remarked.

The beds themselves were identical, but one (the one Ginny hadn’t pointed at) had a trunk at the foot and a worn hand-knitted stuffed rabbit sat on the pillow.

Now it was Ginny’s turn to blush. “Mum made it for me.” She muttered.

“I still have a dragon my mother gave me when I was born.” Draco whispered, just loud enough for her to hear.

Ginny was slightly startled, but smiled gratefully all the same.

“What do you think?” Ginny asked, a slight trace of nervousness in her voice.

“I think it’s really pretty.” Hermione answered, almost wistfully. Her bedroom at her parents’ house had always been plain white, with smart mahogany furniture – hardly interesting for a young girl.

“Mine was pink until I was five.” Lily remembered. “Then I asked for mint green instead. Petunia kept hers pink forever though.”

“Hermione’s room at my flat was pink as well.” Sirius added.

“She had her own room?” Addie asked quietly.

“When I realise how much time she was going to spend there – I couldn’t let her sleep on the sofa.” Sirius pointed out, glancing at her. “You look like you want to hug me later.”

Addie leaned over to kiss his cheek. “Not just hug you.” She murmured.

Feeling slightly awkward, Addie cleared her throat loudly and continued.

It took Hermione a few minutes to realise that she had referred to it as ‘her parents’ house’ and not ‘home’.

“That’s because it wasn’t home.” Harry said. “Bit like me and Privet Drive.”

Ginny smiled brightly. “We’ll get your trunk brought up and it’ll fit under your bed.”

“I’m ahead of you, Gin.” Charlie floated the trunk in and landed it in the middle of the room. “Do you two want to play with us?”

“You think Charlie heard you or was he just being polite?” Jen asked curiously.

Ginny shrugged. “Knowing Charlie, it could’ve been either.”

Hermione grimaced slightly. The last time she’d been in the air was on the back of a hippogriff and she wasn’t too excited about getting up there again.

“Normally, I’d say yes.” Ginny answered. “But Hermione’s scared of heights.”

“I am not scared of heights.” Hermione protested.

Harry ‘coughed’ loudly. “Liar.”

“I’m just not particularly fond of them. Besides, you can go, I don’t mind.”

“I know.” Ginny said. “But I need a girl talk.”

Charlie blanched slightly. “Right. I’ll leave you to it then.” He practically fled down the stairs.

The girls sniggered.

“Wait.” James frowned. “Does that mean, when you say that, you don’t always need a girl talk?”

“Uh huh.” Lily smirked. “But do you want to take that risk?”

James greyed slightly. “Er, no. Not really.”

Hermione giggled. “Works every time, that.”

Ginny nodded in agreement. “I don’t often use that excuse, but it’s the only way I can get any privacy with six brothers. Did you bring that book you said I could borrow? The Lion and … something?”

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” Hermione remembered.

“Oh, I love that book!” Lily sighed.

“It’s really good.” Ginny agreed. “It’s the first Muggle book I ever read.”

“What’s it about?” Regulus asked, curious despite himself.

“It’s about four children who are evacuated to a huge manor house during the war.” Hermione explained. “While they’re there, they find a magical land called Narnia, hidden inside an old wardrobe. Narnia is in the grips of an eternal winter, thanks to the ‘White Witch’, but the creatures who live there believe the four children are ones spoken of in an old prophecy who will save Narnia and bring it back to its former glory.”

The book in question appeared on the coffee table in front of them.

“I might take a look at that at lunch time.” Narcissa commented. “It sounds interesting.”

“Yeah, hang on.” She opened her trunk and dug through her books. “Not in here. Hang on.” She opened her satchel and dug around in it. “Well, that’s the weirdest thing I ever saw; I’m sure it’s in here somewhere.” She stuck her head right in …

Lily sniggered. “Mary Poppins.”

Hermione chuckled. “It was a bit like that.”

“Who’s Mary Poppins?” Remus asked in bewilderment.

Lily took this one. “Mary Poppins is another Muggle story about a nanny for two children in 1910 London. She’s not a witch as we’d describe her, but she uses magic to tidy the nursery and takes them into paintings and so on. She has a carpet bag that holds loads of things, just like that.”

… and finally extracted it. “Ah, here it is.”

Ginny stared at her. “What on earth is in that bag?”

“Everything but the kitchen sink.” Hermione replied jokingly, handing her the book.

“Muggle phrase.” Lily said quickly, fielding any questions. “No idea where it comes from.”

“Muggle World War II.” Hermione said automatically. “When the houses were bombed and families used to have to evacuate, they used to pack up everything to take with them, because anything left behind would have been looted. The only things left were the kitchen sinks, because they were bolted to the wall.”

“Thanks. Seriously, what is in that bag?” Ginny repeated. “Are you planning on moving in or something?”

Hermione shrugged. “Not really. I just…can’t go home next summer, that’s all.”

“I’m glad you told me.” Ginny said softly, squeezing her hand.

“Why not?” Ginny pressed gently.

Hermione took a deep breath, closed her eyes and began to talk, slowly admitting everything about her home life and her father. At one point, she started crying and the younger witch moved off her bed to sit beside her, rubbing her back soothingly. When she’d finished, they sat in silence for a few minutes, Hermione assumed while Ginny took in what she’d said.

“I needed to take it in.” Ginny smiled weakly.

Finally, after what seemed like hours, Ginny spoke, her voice low and shaking with anger. “First of all, you’re not going back even if I have to hide you in my trunk and smuggle you back here. Second of all, what were you thinking letting Sirius Black into your house?”

Hermione shook her head. “Note to self: watch what you say.”

Hermione froze. “Pardon?!” Terror and concern was rising around her, tainted with a bit of anger …

“Gotta love empathy.” Hermione commented.

… and she realised too late that her method of coping with her past, of shutting off all conscious thought while she talked, had led to more than she had anticipated being revealed.

Hermione groaned, rubbing her head. “I really need to stop doing that.”

“Ginny will hear you out.” Addie said softly.

Her heart thudding, she grasped Ginny’s arm. “Ginny, I need you to hear me out and not tell anyone, understand?!”
Ginny fought off her arm and closed her bedroom door, fixing Hermione with a stern look she had inherited from her mother. “Explain. Now.”

“I knew you never did anything without good reason.” Ginny said.

“Harry’s going to kill me.” Hermione muttered, before launching into the story of the Marauders, four boys who had become brothers and who were ripped apart by the terror of war.

There was a silence in the room and James, Sirius and Remus looked down.

“Bloody hell, Hermione, you’ve sure got a way of bringing the mood down.” Harry joked weakly.

“Like you don’t.” Hermione shot back. “And Ginny’s no better.”

By the time she’d finished, Ginny was almost in tears herself. “Poor Professor Lupin.”

Ginny flinched. “I’d forgotten about that.”

Hermione had to admit that she hadn’t thought about it from that angle; her thoughts had lain firmly with Sirius – and with Mr and Mrs Potter when the shock had worn off – and she was ashamed to admit she’d never even thought about how the whole debacle had affected the other remaining Marauder.

“It can’t have been easy for him.” Ginny continued softly. “Werewolves have it hard enough without losing his entire family and then to find out that he didn’t have to be alone for the last thirteen years …”

Remus tried to hold back a shudder, feeling Jen curl into him. He couldn’t imagine life without her – without any of them, for that matter.

“He wasn’t alone.” Arabella said quietly. “He had us.”

“At least he had Mandy and Arabella.” Hermione commented softly, falling easily into the way Harry had addressed them outside of class.

The two girls nodded with smiles.

“You won’t tell anyone, will you?”
“Not a soul.” Ginny assured her. “I promise. Are you going to talk to my parents about your parents?”

Hermione sighed. “Only if I need to. I don’t want to put them out or anything; you know, make them feel like they have to have me next summer.”

“They won’t.” Fred said softly. “Yeah, they’ll offer, but that won’t be why.”

“I knew that.” Hermione sighed.

Logically, she knew that wouldn’t be the case, but that was how it would feel, she knew, if Mrs Weasley immediately extended an invitation.

Jen nodded in agreement. “I can understand that.”

“Me too.” Harry added.

Ginny looked like she wanted to argue, but she just smiled comfortingly and jumped to her feet. “Come on; let’s go and help Mum make birthday cakes.”

Hermione smiled as well, relieved that Ginny wasn’t going to push the subject. “Good idea. Baking always makes me feel better; it’s therapeutic. Only if you do it the Muggle way though.”

“Oh, Mum always makes birthday cakes the Muggle way.” Ginny told her. “She says it adds more love to them.”

“It does.” Lily smiled. “What were my cakes like?” She asked Sirius.

Sirius smiled. “Lily, everything you cooked was outstanding. It’s just that your chocolate chip cookies were heaven on a plate.”

“That’s an interesting description.” Addie teased. “You and your food.”

Harry perked up and looked at the ceiling. “Any chance you can send some back?”

A note appeared in his lap and he read it aloud. “We can. However, these were baked by someone else, not Lily, using the same recipe, so you’ll have to judge and tell me – I mean, us – how they are.””

“Your handwriting, Mione.” Harry told her, as a plate of still-warm chocolate chip cookies appeared on the table in front of them.

Everyone took one and Sirius nodded. “Just as good as I remember. I’d be interested to know how they got the recipe though. Lily never wrote it down and the only other person who knew it was Jen.”

Harry perked up. “Does that mean we get Mum and Dad back?”
“How else would we get the recipe?” Ginny asked.

Hermione held up her hand. “Hello?”

Harry deflated somewhat. “Oh yeah.”

“It does.” Hermione agreed absently. “Strawberry or chocolate …”

As the two girls made their way downstairs, Hermione pushed the feeling of unease to the back of her mind …

“Unease?” Lily repeated.

“You know, that gut feeling you get that says something bad’s going to happen.” Hermione grimaced. “Wouldn’t leave me alone.”

… but it wouldn’t disappear, as it very rarely does. What she didn’t know was that, in a few weeks time, Harry, and, by default, Sirius, would be getting that very same feeling …

Addie sighed. “That’s the end of the chapter.”

“Can you not have one quiet year?” Lily asked. “Just one? That’s all I ask.”

Harry chuckled. “Sorry, Mum. I’m a danger-magnet.”