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Price of Peace 4 - Uncovering the Truth

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Neville nodded and took the book from Draco, turning to the next chapter.

Chapter Sixteen

Confrontations

James frowned. “Not with us?”

Hermione grimaced, remembering the incident with Ron in the Great Hall. “No. Not with you.”

The woman looked at her calmly, with eyes exactly the same shape and colour as Harry’s. “Why not?”

Jen sighed. “You’re going to take a leaf out of Remus’s book, aren’t you?”

“How do you mean?” Lily asked.

“You’re going to counter every single one of Hermione’s arguments with calm logic until she’s more likely to yell at you than agree with you.” James elaborated for her.

Lily smirked. “Well, let’s find out, shall we?”
“Because Lily Potter is dead.” Hermione stated, well aware that her voice was shaking. “She has been dead for thirteen years. So unless I’ve somehow developed necromancy as well as empathy or this is some kind of sick joke …

“Which did you think it was?” Alice asked.

“Latter.” Hermione answered. “Necromancy is something entirely different. I thought maybe I’d been cursed or something.”

… then you can’t be Lily Potter.”
“But I am.” ‘Lily’ told her.

“But you’re dead!” Hermione argued.

“Prove it.” ‘Lily’ responded serenely.

“Yep, you’re doing a Moony.” James sighed.

Remus cleared his throat. “I am right here, you know.”

“We know, love.” Jen said casually. “I’m sorry, Hermione.”

“Show me the proof that I’m dead and I’ll believe you.”

Lily flinched. “You could have come up with an answer for that.”
“Not really.” Hermione said quietly. “The attack on you was never actually investigated. I looked it up this summer.”

“They never investigated?!” David repeated. “Two people vanished, someone tried to murder their son, and no one investigated?!”

“Dumbledore told me James and Lily had been killed.” Sirius told him.

Harry stiffened. “You don’t think … you don’t think he knows, do you?”

Silence filled the room and Sirius cleared his throat. “If you’d asked me before we started all this, I’d say no, but … I honestly don’t know, Harry.”

Slightly nervously, Neville cleared his throat. “Sh-should I keep reading?”

Alice wiped her anger at the headmaster from her face and gave him an encouraging smile. “Go ahead, sweetheart.”

Hermione opened her mouth, paused, and closed it again, thinking back about everything she’d read about that Halloween night. She knew that Harry had never heard the Killing Curse around the Dementors – although he’d heard everything else – because he hadn’t known about it in DADA when Moody taught them the Unforgivables.

“What curse do you hear, Harry?” Lily asked softly.

Harry closed his eyes and thought back. “I don’t. Hermione?”

Hermione copied his actions and dived into her memories, watching Lily vanish, engulfed in a sickly green light. “That’s because it was wordless.” She said shakily, opening her eyes. “Voldemort never said an incantation. The green light was the same though.”

But then …

“Well, your bodies were never found …” Hermione said slowly. “But everyone knows that you were killed.”
“You mean, like everyone ‘knows’ Sirius killed thirteen people?” ‘Lily’ asked with a smirk.

“Nice.” Jen nodded to Lily. “Good example.”

“I think I pretty much believed her by then.” Hermione admitted.

“Why’s that?” Harry asked.

Hermione grinned. “That was something you’d have said.”

“Come on, Hermione, use your logic. You’re a smart girl. You know you’re not crazy. Think it through.”

It was sound advice, Hermione had to admit, and she began to pace. “Okay, let me talk it out. I’m an empath. As an empath, I can only talk to spirits attached to living people, or living spirits.”
“That’s right.” ‘Lily’ agreed.

“Keep going.” Jen murmured.

“And since I can only talk to living spirits, then you must be a living spirit.” Hermione continued.

“Uh-huh.”

Hermione slowed to a standstill. “And if you’re a living spirit, then you must be alive.” She pinched her arm, wincing at the sharp pain.

Hermione rubbed the spot in question. “That hurt.”

“And I’m not dreaming. And people who imagine things like this when they’re crazy either see people they know very well or people they don’t know at all, and I only know you through Harry. You really are Mrs Potter. And you’re alive.”

The Marauders applauded and Lily blushed slightly.

Lily’s smile widened. “By Jove, I think she’s got it!”

“By what?” James asked.

“Muggle-born!” Hermione and Lily chorused.

“You’re having one of those Muggle-born moments again, aren’t you?” A man’s voice asked, sounding partly amused, partly disgruntled.

He appeared beside Lily and Hermione’s eyes widened involuntarily, her gaze darting to Harry, still sitting on the bank of the lake, gazing in her direction concernedly.

“They just looked so alike.” Hermione whispered. “I mean … I knew that but …”

She gave him a reassuring smile and turned back to the man in front of her. “Mr Potter, I presume?”

“Prongsie!” Sirius and Remus shouted.

“Call me James.” He told her with an easy smile, a smile she’d seen on Harry’s face a thousand times.

Sirius nodded in agreement when Harry looked at him. “Yeah, you definitely have your dad’s smile.”

Hermione leaned against the nearest tree, her head spinning. “Okay … so you two are alive. Where are you then?”

Hermione laughed. “Oh, if only it were that easy!”

“We don’t know.” Lily admitted. “We were both hit with some sort of transportation spell. It gave off the same green light as the Killing Curse, but it was non-verbal. Whatever it was, I’ve never read about it.”

“Probably dark then.” James concluded.

Sirius frowned. “Not necessarily. Lily did quite a lot of research for the Order about dark spells …”

“I know what spell it is.” Draco whispered.

The room went silent and everyone stared at him.

“You know what spell it is?” Sirius repeated. “How?”

“Because my father taught it to me.” Draco answered, staring at the floor. “It’s a Malfoy family spell. He told me never to teach it to someone outside the family, the hypocrite.”

“Is that …?” Addie hesitated. “Is that the spell they used on me?”
“No.” Draco answered. “Definitely not. First, Father may have conceded to teach it to V-V-Voldemort, but he wouldn’t hand it over to anyone else. Secondly, I seem to recallSirius telling us that you didn’t disappear right away.”

“She didn’t.” Sirius confirmed, glancing at her.

“It was pretty slow.” Addie agreed softly. “Thank Merlin.”
“You were grateful for that?” Sirius frowned.

“Well, not exactly.” Addie conceded. “If I’d been alone, I definitely wouldn’t be. But I wasn’t – you were with me. No one wants their last words to be ‘oh, crap’. I’m not counting what the Death Eaters would have heard.” She added before he could say anything.

“And that little moment of melodrama was perfect?” Sirius asked with a grin.

“I was not being melodramatic.” Addie sniffed.

“Yes, you were.” Sirius informed her. “You even admitted it.”
Addie gaped at him. “When?!”

Sirius smirked at her. “And I quote, “With any luck, I’ll wake up in St Mungo’s to you laughing about how melodramatic I’m being.””

“I never said that.” Addie insisted.

“Yeah, but you were thinking it.”

Addie sniggered. “Yeah, I was.”

“Are you two quite finished?” Alice asked wearily.

“We are.” Addie said.

“Carry on, Neville.” Sirius added.

While Neville found his place, Hermione leaned over to them. “That was just to take the attention off of Draco, wasn’t it?”

Addie smirked at her. “Worked, didn’t it?”

Hermione nodded absently. Now I KNOW I’m not making this up. If I’d gone crazy, I’d come up with a better answer than ‘we don’t know’. And that fits with what Harry remembers.

“We’ll explain more when you’ve told Harry.” Lily added.

James raised an eyebrow. “This should be fun.”

“Excuse me?” Hermione asked incredulously. “You want me to go and tell Harry that I can speak to the spirits of his supposedly-dead parents?!”

“When you put it like that, it sounds ridiculous.” Lily said dryly.

Neville stared at the page for a few seconds. Alice peeked over his shoulder and giggled. “Well, that’s new.”
“When you put it like that, it sounds ridiculous.” James said dryly …

Everyone turned to the couple, both of whom turned red.

“Who’s rubbing off on who?” Sirius asked.
“Whom.” Remus corrected.

Sirius rolled his eyes. “Thanks.”

… surprising a laugh out of her.

“It is ridiculous!” Hermione protested. “Today, of all days? It’s not like he knows enough to let me prove that it’s you!”

Hermione winced. “That sounded more accusatory than I meant it to.”

Lily smiled at her. “I’m sure I knew what you meant.”
“Hermione, relax.” Lily soothed. “You think too much. We can’t affect our bodies, you know that, so we – the real us, I mean – we don’t know Harry’s alright. We’re just an imprint.” She took a deep breath. “Do you trust me, Hermione?”

“Strange question.” Jen commented.

“Yes.” Hermione answered without hesitation. “Why?”
“Because you’re an empath, I can …” Lily paused, searching for the right word “… temporarily inhabit your body and tell Harry myself.

Neville paused and glanced up, but no one seemed able to speak.

But I can only do it with your permission.”

“You want to possess me?” Hermione asked, her voice higher than normal.

“Temporarily inhabit.” Lily repeated insistently.

“Sounds like possession to me.” David said, finally finding his voice.

“Not really.” Hermione shrugged. “With possession, she’d be in control. I can push her out of my head any time I want.”

“Or don’t want.” Harry added.

Hermione pouted. “Be nice to me.”

“Just to talk to him. Please?”

Hermione was about to refuse, but the pleading note in Lily’s voice made her hesitate. Lily wasn’t just offering so that Hermione had proof to back up her story.

Lily smiled sadly. “I just want to talk to him.”

“Please?” Lily whispered.

Hermione sighed, glancing back at Harry. “Alright.

“Thank you.” Lily whispered.

But let me lay the groundwork first.” At Lily’s nod, she returned to where Harry was sitting. “Sorry about that.”

“Who was it?” Harry asked immediately.

Hermione hesitated, steeling herself, both for what she was about to say and Harry’s possible reaction. “Would you believe your mother?”

“Blunt.” Draco commented.

Hermione shrugged. “What would you have said?”

“Good point.” Draco conceded.

Harry’s expression of concern didn’t change, but he did give her a hard glance. “That’s not funny.”

“I’m not kidding.” Hermione responded flatly. “She … er … She wants to talk to you.”

“I was tempted to run for the hospital wing,” Harry said, “however much I wanted to avoid it.”

At Hermione’s nod, Lily stepped forwards, as though she was planning to walk right through Hermione, but stopped and vanished.

For a moment, Hermione didn’t think anything had happened, but Harry’s jaw dropped. “Hermione, your eyes …” he whispered. “They’re the same colour as mine …”

Before Hermione could ask, her mouth began to move of its own accord, but it was Lily’s voice that escaped her lips, soft and soothing.

“Forget time travel.” Hermione said. “This is the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“Harry, Hermione’s telling the truth … It really is me, sweetheart …”

“Mum …?” Harry shook his head slowly. “You have no idea how weird this is.”

Hermione felt herself smile. “It’s going to be weird, pumpkin; I’m inhabiting your best friend’s body at the moment.”

Jen shook her head in disbelief. “Said so casually.”

Her hand reached out without her volition and touched his face. “We’re so proud of you, Harry. Your dad and I … we love you so much …”

“We do.” Lily murmured into his hair.

A sharp pain stabbed through her head …

Addie pulled a face. “Occlumency?” She asked over the panicked gasps.

Hermione nodded. “Apparently it didn’t take too kindly to the situation.”

… and Hermione grimaced, suddenly regaining control of her body as Lily reappeared beside her.

Harry blinked at the sudden change in her eyes. “What …?”

“Mrs Potter, what just happened?” Hermione asked, slightly shakily.

“Lily, dear.” She corrected, eyeing Hermione speculatively. “You’re a natural Occlumens …

“That’s how you found out.” Lily murmured.

… even though you let me in, your subconscious was pushing me out.”
“Oh, sorry.” Hermione sighed. “Sorry, Harry, apparently, I’m a natural Occlumens and accidentally knocked her out of my head.”

Sirius pulled a face. “This is going to be a long conversation, isn’t it?”

Hermione chuckled. “I only repeat myself a few times. Then I came up with a better idea.”

“It’s okay, Hermione.” Harry said with a smile. “I guessed you didn’t do it on purpose. Er … what’s an Occlumens?”

“Occlumency is the art of magically defending the mind against external penetration, sealing it against magical intrusion and influence.” Lily answered. “It’s the defensive counter to Legilimency, which is the ability to extract emotions, memories and thoughts from another person’s mind. Someone who practices Occlumency is known as an Occlumens and someone who practices Legilimency is known as a Legilimens. They’re very advanced branches of magic, which usually take years to master.”

Addie chuckled. “So that’s where my copy of Improving Mind Magics disappeared to. You ingested it.”

Hermione’s eyebrows rose into her hairline. “Wow …” she murmured.

“What’s an Occlumens?” Harry repeated.

Hermione chuckled. “Sorry, Harry. Basically …” She repeated what Lily had told her, word for word, just to make sure she didn’t miss anything.

Harry smirked. “No one told me I was best friends with my mother.”

“One quote and he already sees how similar you are.” James smirked.

“There are worse people to be like.” Hermione said in a dignified way.

Hermione swatted his arm good-naturedly. “Oh, shut up. So what does it mean that I’m a ‘natural’ Occlumens?”

“It means that you don’t need to learn it.” Lily explained. “Legilimency and Occlumency won’t work against you; it’s a gift that very few people are born with, only those who won’t abuse it, and even then, it’s rare.”

“So, does that mean what we just tried will never work?” Hermione questioned, glancing at Harry.

“I hope not.” Lily whispered.

“It might eventually.” Addie offered. “Just when Hermione has control of it.”

Lily looked thoughtful. “I don’t know. Possibly eventually … you do still need to work to control it. That should give you better access to your long-term memory as well. One of my best friends was a natural Legilimens as well …

Sirius glanced at Addie, realising that she’d be in the conversation that was about to arise.

… try looking for Improving Mind Magics in the library … I don’t think it’s in the restricted section.”

“It’s not.” Addie confirmed.

“I have it now.” Hermione smiled.

Hermione rummaged in her bag for some parchment and a quill. “And that will help?”
“The exercises will.” Lily assured her. “At least they should.”

Hermione jotted down the name of the book, and then paused, gazing at her quill. “You know, this conversation would be easier if Harry could hear you.”

“How are you going to manage that?” Arabella asked, but received no answer.

Lily raised an eyebrow. “But Harry’s not an empath. And we’ve just established that I can’t borrow your voice.”

Hermione just stared at the quill. “Or see you.”

Jen smiled. “Oh, I think I might know.”

“What?” Remus prompted.

Jen shook her head. “No, I might be wrong.”

“Again, Hermione, Harry’s not an empath.” Lily groaned. “Uh oh.”

“What?” James asked with a frown.
Now Hermione looked at her. “What?”

“You’ve got a glint in your eye …” Lily sighed. “And that glint reminds me too much of Padfoot for me to be altogether comfortable with it.”

Hermione smiled. “That makes much more sense now than it did then.”
“Okay …” Hermione decided to just ignore that. “Do you know the Dicta-Charm?”

Jen nodded. “I thought so.”

“Good idea.” David remarked.

“The what?” Harry asked blankly …

Hermione sighed. “Read, Harry.”

… as Lily made a soft noise of understanding.

“And that’s why I was asking your mum.” Hermione teased.

Lily laughed. “Good idea, Hermione. The incantation is Dicteria and the wand movement is a sharp, anti-clockwise, quarter-twist.”

Hermione aimed her wand at the quill and followed Lily’s instructions. “Dicteria.” The quill twitched slightly …

“Impressive.” Regulus commented. “Most people would need to practice it.”

“Hermione’s pretty good at Charms.” Harry told him, when the girl in question just blushed.

… and she loaded it with ink, setting it point down on the parchment. “This is Hermione Granger, on October 31st 1995.”

As she spoke, the quill skated across the parchment, transcribing her words.

“That’s all very well,” Draco frowned, “but would it still work on spirits?”

“Since Hermione was the one who cast the charm, it should do.” Narcissa told him.

“Excellent.” Hermione tore away the top of the parchment and repositioned the quill. “Will it work on you, Lily?”

“You cast the spell so I don’t see why not.” Lily answered. “My name is Lily Potter …

Lily smiled.

… Harry, you’ll have to give it your name as well.”

Harry’s eyes widened as he glanced at the parchment, where the words Lily Potter: You cast the spell so I don’t see why not. My name is Lily Potter – Harry, you’ll have to give it your name as well.

“Was it my handwriting?” Lily asked curiously. “I’ve never seen a Dicta-Quill work before.”

“No, it tends to write in the hand of whoever charmed it.” Sirius told her.

“My name is Harry Potter, and this may be the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.”

Hermione smiled as the quill danced across the parchment, noting down Harry’s name and words as well. “Very good. Now first question, Lily, where are you?”

“It was the only question, really.” Harry pointed out. “It just turned into a conversation after that.”
“We’re not sure of the exact location.” Lily began heavily. “We know that it’s an island, but it’s small – very small. Big enough to house a tower and a house, as well as a crowd of Death Eaters, but not much else.”

There was a sharp intake of breath, but no one said anything.”

Harry stiffened as the words appeared. “Mum, are you …?”

“I’m fine, dear.” Lily assured him. “We both are. We haven’t seen the Death Eaters ourselves, but Addie and Leona say they were there just before we arrived.

Addie closed her eyes and automatically sought Sirius’s hand. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him as he, and the others, looked to Addie for clarification.

“I told you,” she said softly, “it was never that bad. There was the odd curse Reggie couldn’t stop, but …”

“But you were there for several months after I died and these two turned up.” Regulus finished. “What about then?”

Addie flinched. “Yeah, that wasn’t fun.” She gave them a weak smile. “But I’m here, aren’t I?”

They haven’t been back since that Halloween.”

“Addie and Leona?” Hermione repeated. The second name was unfamiliar, but she could have sworn she’d heard the first name before, even though she didn’t know anyone by that name.

“I’d read about it.” Hermione said.

“No, it might have been the Memory Charm again.” Sirius told her. “I used to talk to you about her … or talk to her around you.”

“Talking to yourself is the first sign of madness, Padfoot.” Addie teased, without any real heat.

“Didn’t you declare me mad years ago?” Sirius reminded her.

“Oh yeah.” Addie remembered. “Never mind.”

“They were two of our year-mates.” Lily explained. “Addison and Leona McKinnon – they’re twins, as different in personality as they are alike in appearance. We thought that they’d both been killed in March 1979.”
“The McKinnon Massacre.” Hermione murmured.

Addie flinched against Sirius and he rubbed her back.

“Was it really that bad?” Alice asked softly.

Addie sighed. “Six generations, three countries, two hours. Leona and I were the only survivors. Yes, it was really that bad.”

That would explain where she’d heard the name before.

“The what?” Harry asked.

Hermione smiled sadly. “I read about it in The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts. The McKinnons were a big pureblood family – it was the first attack on purebloods.”

“He hadn’t killed purebloods before?” Harry frowned.

“Not directly.” David answered with a frown.

“Oh, he had.” James said darkly.

“James, the quill.” Lily reminded him in a soft voice.

“Right. My name is James Potter.” James directed at the quill. “Hi, Harry. Yes, Voldemort had killed purebloods before, but only when they were in the way or collateral damage. The McKinnons were the first real attack. They were wiped out in under a day.”

“I still don’t know why.” Harry frowned. “I mean, what made him pick them?”

Sirius closed his eyes. “Oh, Merlin … it wasn’t …”

Addie rolled her eyes. “Padfoot, as much as your family hate you, the whole world does not revolve around that. Mum and Dad were members of the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort decided to start taking them out.”

“One by one.” Sirius muttered darkly.
Harry muttered a curse under his breath and Hermione nudged him. “Language, Harry.” She frowned. “Wait a second … I thought that one of the girls was seen in an Inferi army later on.”

Addie glanced at Sirius’s pale face and leaned against him, squeezing his hand, her weight anchoring him to reality.

“Addie was.” Lily nodded, with a heavy sigh.

“What’s an Inferi?” Harry asked quietly.

Hermione swallowed, feeling slightly sick. “An Inferius, Harry, is a dead body enchanted to do a Dark Wizard’s bidding.”

“How did you even know that?” David asked.

Hermione grimaced. “Curse of being a bookworm.”

Harry shuddered. “Oh Merlin …”

“I don’t think there’s any other reaction.” Regulus muttered.

“Exactly.” Lily closed her eyes and James put an arm around her shoulders. “Voldemort created a pseudo-Killing Curse, so called because the incantation is the same, but it separates the spirit from the body and soul and solidifies it. That doesn’t cause any harm to the person as a whole and they’re sent to the island that we’re on, but there’s what appears to be a body.”

“That’s what you were telling us about earlier.” Mandy commented.

“It was usually used when Voldemort wanted information from someone.” James added. “After all, the Ministry isn’t going to search for someone who’s dead.”

“Apparently, they were being paranoid.” Sirius said with a scowl. “Since you two were never found and no one’s searching for you.”

“Apparently it wasn’t needed.” Hermione scowled. “I notice that no one’s searching for you two.”

There were a few chuckles at yet another coincidence.

“That’s because no one bothered investigating.” Lily sighed. “They all ‘knew’ we were dead.”

Hermione huffed. “Honestly!”

Harry was reading the parchment over again. “Wait a second … Addie wouldn’t be Shadow, would she?”

“How did you know I wasn’t Shadow?” Jen asked.

“We hadn’t been told about you yet.” Harry answered. “Like Hermione said, it didn’t seem to fit Mandy or Arabella, and Addie was the only other name we had.”

Lily chuckled. “Yes, Harry, we called her Shadow.”

“Did Arabella and Mandy have Marauder names?” Hermione asked.

“Arabella was Bastet, Mandy was Talon.” James answered.

“Where’d the names come from?” Harry questioned eagerly. “Mum’s, I get. It was because of your eyes, right?”

Lily laughed. “Exactly. Our names came from the same place the boys’ did. We were all Animagi.”
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Well, they certainly kept that quiet last June. Were you there?”

“Please say no.” James murmured. “I really don’t want to watch that.”

“We were.” James confirmed. “You need more ink, Hermione.”

“And you’re avoiding the subject.” Lily added.

“Can you blame me?” James retorted.

Hermione glanced at the page and reloaded the quill. “Thank you. I bet that was difficult. Last June, I mean.”

James closed his eyes, but not before she saw the pain that shot across his face. “We already knew, Hermione. Well, we knew that Peter had betrayed us, but …”

“We thought that Sirius had killed him.” Lily finished.

“Thanks.” Sirius rolled his eyes.

“They followed Harry.” Hermione explained. “So they never saw what happened, just that you’d been arrested. They thought what Arabella did – that you killed Peter and overcharged the spell.”

“At least until Harry got to Hogwarts and met Ron and we saw Scabbers and … that was the hardest part. Knowing that our son was in the same room as that … that …”

“Scumbag?” Hermione supplied.

Lily smiled wryly. “I was thinking something worse …

“We’ve corrupted her!” Sirius cheered.

Jen corrupted me.” Lily corrected.

… but that’ll do.”

“Did you hear the prophecy?” Harry whispered.

“We heard it.” Lily answered. “And we heard your little guilt-trip in Moony’s office as well.”

“Whatever happens next, Harry, it is not your fault.” James said forcefully. “Whatever happens next, I am so incredibly proud of you for how you acted in the Shack.”

James nodded in agreement, squeezing Harry’s shoulder.

Somehow the quill managed to portray at least some of the emotion in James’s voice and Hermione looked out across the lake to give Harry time to gather his composure.

“Hermione?” He asked after a few minutes. “How are we going to tell Sirius? We can’t tell him something like this in a letter.”

“Thank Merlin.” Sirius murmured.

“No, you can’t.” Lily agreed. “Wait until you see him in person. And when you do, Hermione, show him this. He and Addie were dating when she was attacked – if she knew I was doing this, she’d never forgive me if I didn’t find some way of telling him that she still loves him.”

“No, I wouldn’t.” Addie agreed, unruffled by the faces that turned to her. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

“Of course.” Sirius tugged her hair lightly. “I did promise.”

“Promise what?” Alice asked curiously.

Addie smiled slightly. “The last thing I did before I disappeared was get him to promise me that he’d never forget that I love him no matter what.”

The matter-of-fact tone of her voice made several people smile, but Sirius was focussing on something else. “So in Azkaban … was that a good memory or a bad one?”

Sirius chuckled. “Both. The Dementors made me relive it because losing her was … is one of the worst things that’s ever happened to me, But I also heard that over and over again, which was one of the reasons I kept my mind in there.”

“Well, I wasn’t thinking of Dementors when I said it,” Addie remarked, “but at least it had that effect.” Her voice was still casual, but the mention of Dementors had caused her to shift closer to Sirius with a shiver.

“Do you know what’s happening with You-Know-Who?” Hermione asked, feeling a bit guilty for sweeping Sirius aside like that, but needing to ask.

“As much as we’d love to go spy,” James sighed, “he’s an empath too – that’s how he created the pseudo-Killing Curse in the first place. Since we don’t really want to draw attention to our continued existence …”

“For Merlin’s sake, stay where you are.” David said hastily.

“I wouldn’t ask you to.” Hermione said hastily. “Did you … Did you happen to see where Wormtail went last June?”

Lily smiled wryly. “No. We were more worried about you lot, to be honest. Especially with all those Dementors …”

Addie shuddered, burying her face in Sirius’s shoulder.

She shuddered, and Hermione felt a pang of sympathy for couple, for everything they had watched Harry go through, helpless to intervene.

“And there you go, pulling down the mood again.” Ginny announced.

And they still don’t even really know he’s alive.

Hermione cast around for some way to change the subject, desperate for some way to distract Lily from the memory. “What was your Animagus form, Lily?”

“Subtle.” Mandy said sarcastically.

James chuckled weakly. “That was about as subtle as a …”
“Train wreck.” Lily finished, wiping her eyes. “But thank you. I was a doe …” she exchanged a smile with her husband “… reddish-brown in colour, but still with green eyes. That’s why they called me Jade. Arabella was a cat …”

“That doesn’t surprise me.” Hermione smiled, as Harry nodded in agreement. “And you called her Bastet because of the Egyptian goddess, right?”

“Someone knows her mythology.” Arabella said with a smile.

“Right in one.” Lily nodded. “As for Mandy, her form was a falcon, so her nick-name speaks for itself.”
“And Addie?” Harry asked. “What could she turn into?”

“Well, you’ve seen Sirius’s Animagus form, right?” James smirked. “It’s that, but blonde.”

Hermione and Harry exchanged a slightly confused glance. “So … why Shadow?” Hermione queried.

“Because she had the ability to blend into them.” Lily answered. “Alice came up with it. Neville’s mum.” She explained, seeing their questioning expressions. “Now not that we wouldn’t love to stand here and chat all day, don’t you too have work to do?”

“Hey!” Jen protested. “What about me?”

“Weren’t ready to talk about it.” Hermione answered.

Hermione glanced at her watch and jumped. “Harry! It’s nearly lunch-time and we haven’t done our potions homework yet!”

“Because that’s the sort of thing that gets you raring to go.” Fred said, rolling his eyes.

“Mum …?” Harry asked pleadingly.

Lily laughed. “Sorry, sweetheart, you do need to do that homework. I promise I’ll have a word with Snape when we get back though.”

“Damn right I will.” Lily muttered.

Hermione reached for the quill. “Can I stop this now?”
“Not yet.” James told her seriously. “Sirius Black, if you don’t stop blaming yourself for what happened, so help me Merlin, I will find a way to hex you into the next century, even if I have to do it from here.”

James smirked. “I’m holding myself to that.”
“He means that in the nicest way, Padfoot.” Lily said sweetly. “But I’ll be joining him.”

“Thank you.” Addie breathed. “Someone needs to get rid of the guilt-trip.”

The Halloween feast that evening mirrored dinner the night before in that, when the plates cleared, the tension in the Hall could be cut with a knife.

James leaned forwards. “This is the champion selection, right?”

When Dumbledore got to his feet, the sound in the Hall died away and was replaced with a silence that seemed to echo off the walls. “Well, the Goblet is almost ready to make its decision. I estimate that it requires one more minute. Now, when the champions’ names are called, I would ask them please to come up to the top of the Hall, walk along the staff table and go through into the next chamber, where they will be receiving their first instructions.” With a wave of his wand, the Hall was plunged into semi-darkness, the only light the blue-white flames dancing in the Goblet of Fire, almost painful to look at.

“Dramatic.” Mandy whispered, her eyes dancing.

“I think he did that on purpose.” Harry remarked.

“I know he did that on purpose.” Draco retorted.

Hermione closed her eyes and whispered a prayer under breath …

“Still don’t know who to.” Hermione muttered.

… hoping with every fibre of her being that everything would go well.

“Any second.” Lee Jordan whispered from a few seats behind her; Hermione’s eyes snapped open just as the flames inside the Goblet turned red and began emitting sparks. Then the whole room gasped as a tongue of flame shot into the air and discharged a slip of parchment.

“That’s quite cool.” Sirius remarked.

Dumbledore caught it and held it into the light. “The champion for Durmstrang will be Viktor Krum.”

Regulus shrugged. “Eh, we all saw that one coming.”
“No surprise there!” Ron shouted over the applause.

“Bravo, Viktor!” Karkaroff boomed as his student disappeared into the next chamber. “Knew you had it in you!”

Jen rolled her eyes. “Typical.”

The clapping died down seconds before the Goblet turned red again. Another piece of parchment appeared.

“The champion for Beauxbatons,” Dumbledore read, “is Fleur Delacour.”

Lily frowned. “We haven’t heard that name before.”

“It’s her, Ron!” Harry commented over the noise.

Hermione craned her neck and saw that the girl who supposedly resembled a Veela …

“Ah.” Lily nodded.

… was sweeping between the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw tables. “Oh, look, they’re all disappointed.” She observed, watching several of Fleur’s school-mates burst into tears.

Addie rolled her eyes. “Honestly.”

Okay, so maybe disappointed was an understatement.

“Just a bit.” Remus snickered.

This time, the silence was filled with so much excitement that Hermione had to shut her empathy off again.

Hermione grimaced, rubbing her head in remembrance.

Within seconds, Dumbledore was holding the third piece of parchment.

“The champion for Hogwarts is Cedric Diggory.”

“Also not surprising.” Sirius said. “Would have been nice if it was Angelina though.”

“Cedric did a good job.” Harry said, his voice slightly hoarse.

Hermione applauded, barely hearing Ron swear behind her over the noise at the Hufflepuff table. It was about time the badgers got some glory.

Addie closed her eyes. As much as she hated Amos, she’d become quite fond of Cedric over the last month.

It was some time before Dumbledore could make himself heard, but eventually the cheering died down.

“Excellent! Well, we now have our three champions! I am sure I can count upon all of you to give your champions every ounce of support you can muster. By cheering your champions on, you will contribute in a very real …”

“A very real what?” Lily asked, when Neville paused.

Hermione gasped along with the rest of the Hall as the Goblet turned red once more.

“What?” Jen asked in a low voice.

Another long flame shot up, bearing, unbelievably, a fourth piece of parchment.

“That’s not supposed to happen.” David stated, his voice tight with worry.

Dumbledore caught it and stared at it. Everyone in the Hall stared at Dumbledore, except Hermione who glanced across at Ginny, who seemed to be whispering, “No, no, no, no, no …” under her breath.

Ginny blushed slightly. “You heard that?”

Hermione nodded with a smile. “I was thinking it.”

Finally, after what seemed like an age, Dumbledore cleared his throat. “Harry Potter.

Lily closed her eyes, taking deep calm breaths. “Harry did not enter his name in that goblet.”

“No he didn’t.” Hermione agreed.

“And Harry is underage.”

“Yes I am.” Harry nodded.

“So therefore, the organisers pulled Harry from the incredibly dangerous competition and he spent the rest of the year on the side-lines.” Lily finished.

Harry grimaced. “Sorry, Mum. They told me it was a binding contract and that I had to compete.”

Lily groaned and grabbed him in a hug.

For a moment when she woke up on Sunday morning, Hermione couldn’t remember why she felt so sick.

“It was a wonderful moment.” Hermione sighed. “Pity it didn’t last.”

Then the previous night’s events came rushing back to her.

The Goblet … the selections of the champions … Harry’s name …

Lily didn’t release Harry, opting to pull him even closer instead. She knew that he offered her more comfort than she offered him, but she didn’t care.

How could Harry be a champion? He didn’t put his name in that Goblet; he can’t have done … the look on his face …

Hermione groaned into her pillow. Jess’s prophecy was coming true – the Goblet of Fire had been tampered with. It was the only solution that made sense.

“Oh Merlin no …” Jen whispered.

“Hermione!” Lavender called through the curtains. “Are you awake?!”

“Well, if I wasn’t, I am now.” Hermione grumbled, sitting up. “Yeah, I’m awake.”

The curtains were ripped back and Lavender and Parvati, practically shaking with excitement …

“Excitement?” Addie repeated. “Excitement?!”

“Lavender’s always had a … naïve view of the world.” Hermione said carefully.

… appeared, almost bouncing to sit on her bed.

“Well?” Parvati asked impatiently, after they had stared at her for a few minutes.

“Well what?” Hermione asked tiredly, running a hand through her hair and wincing at the tangles she encountered.

Hermione pulled a face.

“Harry!” Lavender squealed. “How did he get his name in the Goblet?”

Arabella scowled and mumbled something unsavoury under her breath.

Hermione rolled her eyes. “He didn’t.”

Parvati sighed. “Hermione, his name came out, didn’t it? That must mean …”

“That an incredibly powerful wizard hoodwinked an incredibly powerful object into thinking there were four schools, not three.” Hermione finished, slightly coldly.

“Of course.” David said softly. “That’s the only way it could happen. How did you come up with that?”
Hermione shrugged. “I didn’t get to sleep for something like an hour the night before – the party from the Common Room was too loud.”

“Party?” Lily repeated dangerously.

“That kept going?” Harry asked. “I managed to escape after five minutes.”

“Party?!”

Fred looked sheepish. “We really wanted a Gryffindor champion – it didn’t occur to us until the next day that something was wrong. We weren’t thinking that far ahead.”

“Why would Harry want to be in the tournament?”

“Same reason as anyone, duh.” Lavender said, rolling her eyes. “A thousand galleons and eternal glory.”

Hermione rolled her eyes again. “Lavender,” she began, in a tone one would usually employ with a five-year-old …

“That’s an insult to five-year-olds.” Hermione muttered.

“Mione, be nice.” Harry smiled. “Don’t enter into a battle of wits with an unarmed person.”

… “the Potter family is one of the wealthiest in the country.

“In the world, actually.” James corrected.

A thousand galleons is pocket money considering what’s he’s set to inherit when he turns seventeen, as you two have mentioned about a million times since first year.

“Really?” Harry asked with a frown.

Hermione nodded. “Your Witch Weekly’s most eligible bachelor, did you know that?”

Harry looked horrified. “But I’m only fifteen!”

“Yeah.” Ginny agreed. “And?”

And he’s already got eternal glory – you name me one former champion.”

Lavender looked set to argue, but Parvati, proving that her sister didn’t get all the brains …

“Sister?” Mandy asked.

“Parvati’s twin sister, Padma, is in Ravenclaw.” Hermione explained.

… nudged her. “She’s right. Besides, you saw the look on his face last night.”

Lavender nodded, looking almost disappointed at the lack of gossip.

“My son is in a highly dangerous competition and she’s upset because there’s nothing to gossip about?!” James asked incredulously.

Hermione sighed, feeling the need to defend her room-mate. “Like I said, Lavender’s quite naïve at times. Her heart’s in the right place; she probably didn’t even realise the danger that Harry was in.”

“So who did put his name in? And why?”

“I dread to think.” Hermione muttered. “The tournament’s dangerous – there’s a reason we weren’t allowed to enter under seventeen. It’s a very good opportunity to make something look like an accident …”

Harry snorted but said nothing.
She trailed off, a cold rush of dread flooding her as she imagined all the awful things that could happen. Images of Harry’s mangled and broken body flashed before her eyes …

Lily whimpered and Hermione winced. “Sorry. Wasn’t expecting my thoughts to be broadcast for all to hear.”

… and, unfortunately, he’d ended up in the hospital wing enough times for her to have a very extensive, very realistic bank of them.

“Sorry.” Harry said sheepishly.

She jumped out of bed, letting her bedclothes flutter to the floor. “Excuse me.” She changed quickly, almost sprinting from Gryffindor tower and down into the Great Hall, skidding to a halt beside the Gryffindor table, her eyes scanning the students present for any sign of messy black hair.

She couldn’t find any, so made her way to the red hair bent over his breakfast.

Sirius frowned. “Surely Ron would be with Harry. I’d have stuck to Prongs like glue.”

Harry didn’t respond, but reached past his mother and grasped Hermione’s hand.

“Morning, Ron. Where’s Harry?”

“How should I know?” Ron snapped.

“Fuck it!” James cursed.

“James!” Lily chided.

“Lily, he doesn’t believe him!” James protested. “I think that actually warrants something worse!”

Hermione took an unconscious step back, taken aback by the venom in his voice. “Who shoved a bug up your arse this morning?”

“Potter.” Ron growled.

“Dammit.” Sirius snarled.

Recognising his need to move, Addie shifted away from him and he rose to his feet, pacing around the room, his body wrought with frustration.

“Why wouldn’t he support him?!” Sirius demanded. “Even if everyone else in Gryffindor believed he entered his name, they’re all on his side. Didn’t you just say they threw him a party?!”
“Jealousy.” Addie said quietly. “It’s jealousy.”

Sirius didn’t respond, but fell silent, still pacing the room as Neville continued.

“Since when is he ‘Potter’?” Hermione frowned. “Wait … you don’t think he entered his name in this tournament, do you?”

Even as she spoke, her own voice echoed in her head. Betrayal …

James shook his head. “I would never have thought …”

“I knew you’d take his side!” Ron hissed.

“Honestly, this isn’t a schoolboy squabble!” Mandy snapped. “Harry could get seriously hurt!”

“Of course I’m taking his side!” Hermione protested. “He hasn’t done anything wrong! You, of all people, know how much Harry hates his fame! You, of all people, know how much that ‘fame’ cost him! You, of all people, know what he hears around the Dementors!”

“No one was paying attention to us.” Hermione said before Harry could protest. “And I, at least, was keeping my voice down.”

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see that Lavender and Parvati had joined the other end of the table and were talking with a group of fifth year girls.

The girls in question looked quite sheepish, and Hermione could only hope that her room-mates were repeating her earlier logic. If they are, and they manage to convince people, I will never complain about their gossiping ever again.

“Were they?” Lily asked hopefully.

Hermione nodded. “Yes, and they managed to convince a few people, but not as many as I would have hoped.”

“Fine!” Ron yelled. “Gang up on me, just like always!”

“Did he live the same three years we read about?!” Sirius demanded, still pacing. “Because I don’t remember that part!”

“Just like always?!” Hermione repeated incredulously, somehow managing to keep her voice quiet. “It’s normally you two ganging up on me – even when Harry knows I’m right.

Harry rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry about that.”
Hermione smiled at him. “It’s fine.”

But go ahead! Turn your back on him and act like a jealous prat instead of being the friend he needs!”

Fred and George were at her side in an instant, before she even registered their arrival, the latter gripping Ron’s right wrist tightly. His hand was still tight around his wand, which was aimed in her direction.

Automatically, Sirius made to stand as well, but Addie didn’t let him, squeezing his hand. “Easy, love,” she murmured, “he’s not here.”

“You were about to curse me.” Hermione whispered, her voice slightly shaky. She stepped back hastily, feeling Fred wrap an arm around her …

Sirius relaxed, giving Fred a grateful nod.

… and guide her back out to the Entrance Hall, sending his brother a scathing look over his shoulder.

“Ignore him, Mya.” He murmured, sitting her down on one of the benches beside the marble staircase.

“He tried to curse me.” She repeated in disbelief.

Addie reached across and took her hand, her fingers contracting comfortingly.

“I know.” Fred said soothingly, rubbing her shoulder. “He’s a prat, Mya. He’s jealous and you know it.” He hesitated for a second, before asking, “What does Harry hear around the Dementors?”

“Bit personal, isn’t it?” Jen asked with a frown.

“We’d already guessed.” Fred confessed. “Just wanted confirmation, really.”

Hermione hesitated. She knew she could trust the twins with that information, but was it really right for her to divulge it?

“It’s fine, Hermione.” Harry said softly. “I trust them.”

“We won’t tell.” George assured her, joining them with a stack of buttered toast. “Marauders’ honour.”

Ginny smiled softly. “I don’t think Hermione needed that.”
Hermione didn’t need the oath …

Ginny nodded.

… she trusted the twins to treat the information confidentially. It was her empathy that convinced her to answer the question – they had already guessed what she would say and were simply seeking confirmation.

Fred chuckled. “Of course you already knew.”

“His parents.” She whispered. “The night they … That night.”
The twins paled, so that every freckle stood out in stark relief against their skin, but the look they exchanged was one of dark significance, as they silently acknowledged the accuracy of their suspicions.

George handed her the toast. “Go and find Harry; take him for a walk or something.

Lily smiled. “Thank you.”

He doesn’t need all that in there.” He jerked his head back to the Great Hall, where people were lingering longer than was usual on a Sunday morning.

“I wonder why.” Draco muttered sarcastically.

“Did you think he’d entered his name?” Narcissa asked curiously.

“No.” Draco answered. “But I was the only Slytherin who didn’t, that I knew of, so I had to act like I did.”

“How come you believed me?” Harry frowned.

Draco smirked. “Do you really think I wouldn’t bug you about your fame for three years and not catch on to the fact that you loathe it with every fibre of your being?”

“Yes?” Harry guessed. “Thanks, anyway.”

Draco shrugged. “No need to thank me – I didn’t exactly make it easy on you either way.”

“Tell him we believe in him – if he says he didn’t do it …”

“… that’s good enough for us.” Fred finished. “And tell him we’re sorry for not really listening last night. The adrenaline got to us.”

“Understandable.” Sirius muttered, still pacing. “Ron’s reaction, however, isn’t.”

“I get it. I’ll tell him.” Hermione said with a smile, and she headed back up the stairs to Gryffindor Tower. She had barely opened her mouth to give the Fat Lady the password, when the portrait swung open to reveal her best friend, hair messier than ever and dark circles beneath his eyes.

“Don’t think I got a second’s sleep that night.” Harry whispered, resting his head on Lily’s shoulder.

Pasting a smile over her concerned expression, Hermione held up the toast. “Fancy a walk?”

Harry’s face lit up with a relieved smile. “Thanks.”

Together, they hurried back downstairs and passed the Great Hall without even glancing through the doors. They slowed down once they were outside and …

“Went straight to the lake?” Fred finished innocently.

… like the day before, rounded the lake …

“Of course.” Hermione smiled.

… almost completely before they settled under a beech tree.

James pulled a face, half a grimace, half a smile. “Ah, the memories.”

Lily gave him a dirty look, but didn’t say anything.

Hermione handed half of the toast to Harry and let him eat in silence, pulling her own apart in her lap. She wasn’t really hungry, but, knowing Harry’s propensity to worry, forced herself to eat a few slices.

Harry smiled slightly. “That’s funny. That’s why I was eating too.”

They had barely been there five minutes, when James and Lily appeared out of thin air, bickering.

“Ah, nothing new there then.” Jen said lightly.

“How was hexing Snape into the ground a good idea?” Lily was asking incredulously.

“Into the air, actually.” James corrected.

James winced. “Too casual, mate; not a good idea.”

“Prongs, you do know you’re talking to a book and yourself, right?” Sirius asked, finally returning to his seat.

James shrugged. “Yeah, and my future self is an idiot, apparently.”

“And Snivellus had it coming, you know he did.” He winced at the look she was giving him. “Still mad at me for that, huh?”

“Just a bit.” Jen answered.

“Yes.” Lily said, slightly icily. “Believe it or not, I am. Maybe, if you’d been a bit nicer to him, he’d be a bit nicer to our son! It’s hardly Harry’s fault your head was …”

“… so big you were surprised my broom could take off?” James finished, with a charming smile.

James winced again. “You’re going to kill me for that, aren’t you?”

Lily just shook her head with a fond smile.

Lily sighed, shaking her head. “James David Potter, you are unbelievable.”

Seeing the smile she was trying to hide …

“You’re safe.” Sirius concluded, dodging a swat from Addie.

… Hermione chuckled, making her best friend jump a little. “You’re both unbelievable.”

“My parents?” Harry guessed through a mouthful of toast.

“Who else?” Hermione responded. She caught sight of Lily’s expression and smirked, beating her to it. “And don’t talk with your mouth full.”

“So it wasn’t my mother!” Harry said.

Hermione blushed. “Please, she was thinking it.”

Harry swallowed his toast and gave her an incredulous look. “Tell me that was my mother speaking.”
“It was.” Hermione assured him. “More or less.

“See?” Hermione asked. “I did say ‘more or less’.”

Harry, about last night …” She held up a hand as Harry began to speak. “Let me finish. I know you didn’t enter your name. Ginny knows you didn’t enter your name. The twins know you didn’t enter your name – you’ve got them to thank for the toast – and they apologise for not really listening to you last night.” She sighed heavily. “The question is: Who tampered with the Goblet?”

“Tampered with?” Harry asked, but there was a glint in his eye that told her he already knew what she meant.

“Was there?” Harry asked.

Hermione shrugged. “If you knew what to look for. I just happen to be able to read you like a book.”

“Had you realised that was the only way as well?” David asked.

Harry blushed slightly. “No, Moody told everyone that it was.”

“Like I told the girls, the Goblet of Fire is bewitched to select one champion from each of the schools.” Hermione said matter-of-factly. “So whoever entered your name must have made it think there were four schools competing instead of just three. But who?”

“That’s the million galleon question.” Mandy said with a frown. “Who do we think?”

“Well, Voldemort is the most obvious candidate.” James said. “But who’s helping him?”

“Karkaroff?” Jen suggested.

“No.” Regulus answered firmly. “I’m almost certain it’s not him.”

David turned to him. “Explain.”
“If we are to assume that this has something to do with Harry’s dream,” Regulus said calmly, “it follows that the person who entered his name was the ‘faithful servant’ the Dark Lord mentioned. Karkaroff must have talked his way out of Azkaban somehow, so he wouldn’t be classed as a faithful servant.”
“Yes, but who would?” Lily asked. “Weren’t you saying earlier that the only way he would consider someone a faithful servant was if they’d been in Azkaban rather than renounce him? There haven’t been any other break-outs, have there?”

“Maybe the faithful servant has nothing to do with this part of the plan.” Remus said. “Maybe it’s the Imperius Curse.”

“Why do you say that?” Jen asked.

“Because the only time someone could have jinxed the Goblet and added Harry’s name was overnight.” Remus reminded her. “Hermione watched the Map all night, remember? Only Barty Crouch went anywhere near it.”

“Surely Crouch can throw off the Imperius.” Lily argued. “He is the Head of Magical Law Enforcement after all.”

“Depends how powerful the wizard is.” David frowned. “But one would hope. Didn’t you say his son’s Junior?”

Alice nodded. “Yes … Wait, could he be under the Imperius?”
“No, they’d have seen it on the …” James trailed off, pulling the Map from his pocket and tapping it. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” His gaze swept over the parchment, finally settling on the Ravenclaw Common Room. “Bartemius Crouch.” He looked up. “No Junior. Or Senior, I’m guessing. We never thought to add that feature to the Map. It could have been him. But why him? What made Voldemort pick him as a subject for the Imperius? Why not Bagman? Sounds like he’d be susceptible.”

David smiled proudly at him. “You will be an outstanding auror one day, son. I’m sure if we keep reading, we’ll find out who did this.”

As James flushed at the praise, Neville cleared his throat, trying not to think of Crouch Jr. too much, and returned to the book.

“Moody thinks someone’s trying to off me.” Harry commented casually, but he was methodically tearing the crusts off his toast as he spoke.

“Hermione,” Lily said quietly, “could you tell Harry that he needs to eat his crusts; they’re good for him.”

Lily’s mouth fell open. “How am I so calm about that?”
Hermione smiled, hearing the feigned casualness in her voice …

“Oh.”

“Trying to keep your sanity.” James concluded with a smile. “Something you need to do, I think.”

… and reached out to still Harry’s hands. “Eat your crusts, Harry, they’re good for you. And Moody’s right – no student …”

“Have you talked to Ron this morning?” Harry interrupted, apparently not listening to her.

“Harry …” Lily trailed off. “Never mind.”

Hermione hesitated, unwilling to open this can of worms just yet. “Er … yes. Yes, he was in the Great Hall at breakfast.” She wasn’t going to elaborate any further unless he made her.

“He made you, didn’t he?” Addie guessed.

Hermione nodded with a grimace.

“Does he still think I entered myself?” Harry asked in a small voice.

Damn, he’s going to make me. Hermione sighed. “Well … I don’t think so … maybe … I don’t … not really.” The obvious answer was ‘yes’ but she was reluctant to give it.

Harry rolled her eyes. “Thanks, Hermione.”

Harry looked up, finally meeting her eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Not really’?”

Hermione sighed. “Look, if he just thought it through, he’d know you didn’t enter your name – Jess saw this coming, for Merlin’s sake, and the look on your face …” She shook her head. “He’s blinded.”

“Jealousy.” Arabella shook her head. “How can some people be so blind to the obvious?”

“Blinded?” Harry repeated. “Blinded by what?”

“It never occurred to me that Ron might be jealous of me.” Harry admitted. “I mean, he’s got everything I could ever dream of having.”

“Oh, Harry, isn’t it obvious?” Hermione asked, feeling slightly exasperated. “It doesn’t take an empath to see that he’s jealous!”

“Jealous?” James repeated incredulously, even as Lily nodded.

“I thought it’d be something like that.” She said sadly.

“Jealous?!” Harry repeated incredulously, and Hermione bit back a smile at the similarity between father and son.

James grinned fondly and ruffled Harry’s hair.

“Jealous?! Of what?! He wants to make a prat of himself in front of the entire school, does he?”

Hermione grinned. “Harry, you didn’t make a fool of yourself. Hell, given the circumstances, you did pretty damn well.”

Harry turned slightly red. “Thanks.”

Lily looked a bit green. “We’re going to read about the tasks, aren’t we? How bad were they?”

“We’re going to need some Calming Potions.” Sirius commented, directing his words towards the ceiling.
“Look,” Hermione said, trying to be patient, which wasn’t easy, because James was loudly agreeing with Harry, and she wasn’t all that inclined to disagree with him herself.

“Ha!” Harry smirked. “I knew you were on my side!”

Hermione sighed. “Harry, I’ve always been on your side.”

“It’s always been you who gets the attention, you know it has.

“But …” Lily began.

“I know!” Hermione interrupted. “It’s not his fault!” She sighed. “I swear, you’re both as bad as each other.”

I know it’s not your fault!” She added hastily, seeing Harry open his mouth to argue.

Lily chuckled, understanding Hermione’s muttered remark.

“And I know you don’t like it. We know you don’t ask for it, but Ron’s got all those brothers and they all have something that makes them stand out and Ginny’s the only girl and he’s got them to compete against at home, and you’re his best friend and you’re really famous – he’s always shunted to one side when people see you and he puts up with it and never mentions it. This is just one time too many.”

Fred sighed. “How did it get so bad?”

“You and George constantly teasing him?” Hermione guessed.

Fred rolled his eyes. “Like we tease Ginny, Percy, Charlie and Bill? We don’t target Ron any more or less.”

“I don’t think your mother helps.” Sirius remarked.

“Bad move, Padfoot.” Addie muttered as the two Weasleys turned to face him.

Sirius sighed at their expressions. “She spends most of her time comparing the three younger boys to the three older boys. And don’t give me that look – I can count at least ten instances in the last week alone. She needs to realise that she has six sons, all of whom are different and all of whom have their own unique personalities, because she’s not doing any of you any favours.”

“Great.” Harry said bitterly. “Really great. Tell him from me I’ll swap any time he wants.

Lily sighed. “Harry, I’m angry at him too. But acting like a child isn’t going to help.”
“I know.” Harry said sheepishly. “Made me feel better though.”

Tell him he’s welcome to it … people gawping at my forehead everywhere I go …”

“I’m not telling him anything.” Hermione told him flatly. “I’m not a bloody owl.

Fred peered at her. “Aren’t you? I was wondering where your feathers were.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Thanks, Fred.”

Tell him yourself; it’s the only way to fix this.”

“I’m not running around trying to make him grow up!” Harry snapped, causing an owl in a nearby tree to take off in alarm.

“Well, neither am I!” Hermione said sharply. “I’ve seen this coming for a while; it had to happen sooner or later.

Hermione pulled a face. “I didn’t mean that to sound so unsympathetic.”

Besides, he nearly cursed me this morning.”

“Bad idea.” Hermione muttered.

Belatedly, as Lily let out a shocked gasp, she realised that she shouldn’t have told him that.

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”

“He did what?” Harry asked in a low whisper. His eyes seemed to glow with fury and she almost flinched at the wave of anger that rolled towards her …

Harry whitened. “Hermione …”

“Keep going, Nev.” Hermione said softly.

… it was only the knowledge that it wasn’t aimed at her that stopped her.

Harry let out a shaky breath. “Thank Merlin … I don’t like the idea of scaring you, Mione.”
Hermione smiled. “You didn’t scare me, Harry. You’re just quite scary when you’re that angry.”
“Get that from your father.” Lily murmured, giving her boyfriend a fond smile. “He doesn’t lose it often, but when he does …”

James reddened. He’d only really lost it like that twice – once earlier that year after the ‘Willow Incident’ and once in fourth year, after overhearing a group of Slytherins planning to attack a Muggle-born. That was always going to piss him off; the fact that the student in question was Lily meant that Sirius and Remus had to physically hold him down.

“I swear …”

“Harry, no!” Hermione grabbed his arm as he threatened to get to his feet. “Come on, you know he never thinks before he acts …

“That’s no excuse, Hermione.” Sirius said darkly. “I never think before I act, but I can’t think of any occasion when I’ve raised my wand against one of the girls.”

“You turned my hair blue in fifth year.” Addie reminded him.

Sirius rolled his eyes. “That’s hardly the same thing, Ads. I’ve never hurt you.”

“No, you haven’t.” Addie agreed softly.

… I can handle this myself!”
Harry narrowed his eyes at her. “On one condition.”
“Anything.” Hermione was quick to agree – Harry was the only person whose emotions she couldn’t read without searching for them. Even when his name came from the Goblet, surprise only flared in the air for a second before it was gone and buried.

“If he ever, and I mean ever, does or says anything to hurt you in any way, shape or form ever again, you’ll tell me immediately and let me handle it.” Harry stated.

“Think you covered all the exits there, Harry?” Fred joked weakly.

“Think so.” Harry responded casually. “I mean it, Hermione.”

Hermione was taken aback by the coldness in his voice. Concerned, she tested the air, but found nothing – now the shock had worn off, his previous anger was buried once again, with his other emotions, deep below the surface.

Thank Merlin he’s easy to read.

Harry sighed. “Is it really that easy?”

“Like opening a book.” Hermione repeated.

“Okay, Harry, I promise.”

Harry sighed and his whole body seemed to relax at once. “Thanks, Hermione. You’re my best friend; I can’t just stand back and let him …” He sighed again. “And yes, I know you can take care of yourself …”

Hermione bit back her protest. Since when can he read minds?

Harry chuckled. “It’s a two-way street, you know, Hermione. I can read you like a book too.”

Maybe we’ve just known each other too long.

“… but humour me, okay?” Harry stared out at the lake for a few minutes. “Maybe he’ll believe I’m not enjoying myself when I’ve got my neck broken or …”

Lily closed her eyes. “Harry, please, please don’t joke about that.”

Lily moaned quietly and hid her face in James’s chest. Hermione didn’t blame her – she had the sudden urge to reach out and do the same thing.

“I’m not solid, Hermione.” James reminded her lightly.

Hermione smiled weakly. “I meant to Harry.”

Squeezing Lily’s hand, Harry left her to James and pulled Hermione into his arms, tucking her under his chin. “Better?”

Hermione nodded into his chest. “Much.”

“That’s not funny.” She said quietly, her voice shaking. “That’s not funny at all.” She looked back at James and Lily, wishing that she could sort out whatever was happening in her head so that they could comfort Harry themselves …

“I’m still there!” Sirius said, waving his arms. “Write to me!”
Addie caught his arm and pulled it down again. “You’re an idiot sometimes.” She murmured affectionately.

… but there was always … “You know what you need to do, don’t you? The moment we get up to the castle?”

“Yes.” Harry answered grimly. “Give Ron a good kick up the …”

“Write to Sirius!”

James, Sirius and Remus sniggered, and Addie tried to keep a straight face. “At least one of you has your priorities sorted.”

“You’re welcome.” Hermione smiled.

“I was talking about Harry.” She told her, smirking at the suddenly indignant expression on Sirius’s face.

Hermione cut him off hastily. “You’ve got to tell him what happened. He asked you to keep him posted on everything that happened at Hogwarts, remember? It’s almost like he expected something like this to happen.

“Did you?” David asked.

Sirius sighed. “Did I expect Harry to be entered as a fourth champion in the Tournament? No. Did I expect something to go wrong? Yes.”

I’ve got my bag with me; there’s parchment and a quill in there …”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Hermione, he came back into the country because I told him my scar hurt; if I tell him I’ve somehow been entered into the Triwizard Tournament, he’s going to come bursting into the bloody castle!”

“Harry James, stop being so damn noble and write to him!” Lily snapped.

“Harry James Sirius Potter, write to your godfather!” Lily chided sharply.

There were a few snorts of laughter at how little Lily had changed.

James winced. “I’d pass that message on as soon as possible, Hermione. When she uses both middle names, she means business.”

“Until then, I didn’t know Harry had two middle names.” Hermione remarked.

“I didn’t know you had two middle names.” Hermione commented, half to Harry, half to Lily.

“Hermione, stop repeating yourself!” Fred smirked.

“I do?” Harry asked, sounding surprised.

Lily let out a growl that sounded like it should have come from Padfoot. “My damn sister …”

Lily’s face darkened at the reminder.

“She’ll get hers, Lily.” Hermione said darkly.

“So my middle name isn’t James?” Harry asked.

“One of them is.” Hermione assured him. “The other one’s Sirius, apparently.”
Harry’s face lit up in a smile. “Really?”

“Well, it wasn’t.” Lily admitted. “It was just Harry James, but someone managed to slip it on to the birth certificate without asking me.”

Lily turned to James who smiled weakly. “Hasn’t happened yet, Lils.”

James shrugged, looking thoroughly unrepentant. “I did promise.”

“When was that?” James asked.

“Death Eater raid.” Sirius answered. “Not long after you and Lily married. We’d both lost our wands and you went over this balcony. Took the Death Eater with you, of course. The others were in another part of the house and, without a wand, all I could do was hang on to you until help arrived; couldn’t pull you up by myself.”

“How long?” James asked hoarsely.

Sirius pulled a face. “Can’t remember. I just remember us talking about all the things we’d do when we both got out of there. And then you said …”

“Padfoot, I’m not getting out of here.”

“What are you talking about Prongs? Moody’ll be along in a minute. Course he’ll probably kill us for losing our wands, so maybe we won’t get out of here.”

“Pads … you need to let go.”

“James, I’m not letting go. If I let go …”

“If you don’t, then the next Death Eater that comes through that door is going to murder both of us.”

“Don’t be an idiot, Prongs. You really think I’m going to just let you die to save myself? Besides, Lily would murder me if I came home without you.”

“True. True … Hey Padfoot?”

“Yeah Prongs?”

“Just for this, I’m naming my firstborn child after you.”

“I was hoping for something more along the lines of selling me your soul, but that’ll do. Wait a second, what if it’s a girl?”

“What about if it’s a girl?”

“You can’t call a girl Sirius – it’s a boy’s name.”
“Worked on you, didn’t it?”

As he finished the story, several people sniggered. Addie shook her head. “Honestly. His life’s in your hands and he’s still making fun of you!”

“That’s what I said!” Sirius agreed. “Either way, another auror arrived minutes later and we pulled him to safety. Moody yelled at us for hours on end for losing our wands. And Lily never found out what happened. Or if she did, I didn’t tell her.”

“Go on, Neville.” James said quietly, his voice slightly choked. He knew that Sirius would never just leave him to die, and he’d have done the same thing in a heartbeat. But hearing about it …
Hermione chuckled and turned back to Harry. “I’ll explain later, Harry. Now write to your godfather – your mother used both middle names. Besides, he’s going to find out anyway.”

Distracted from the name issue, Harry frowned. “How?”

Fred groaned, Ginny shook her head and Draco just laughed. “You are really naïve sometimes.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Give me a break, it was early.”
Hermione groaned and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Think, Harry!” She held up her left hand. “First Triwizard Tournament in over a century.” She held up her right hand. “Boy-Who-Lived somehow participating.” She brought her hands together. “Front page of the Daily Prophet.

Harry groaned. “Don’t remind me.”

It’ll be all over the Wizarding World in days, if it isn’t already.” Dropping her hands to her sides, she met his eyes openly. “He’d rather hear it from you, Harry.”

“I would.” Sirius said, smiling at Harry, who was still holding Hermione.

Harry sighed. “Why is it that you always know just what to say to convince me to do something?”

“She’s your best friend?” Arabella answered, giving her dorm-mates a fond smile.

Hermione smirked. “I’m your best friend, Harry. I can read you like a book – and that’s without my empathy.”

Harry stood up and threw the last slice of toast to the Giant Squid. “Okay, I’ll write.”

Lily nodded with a smile. “Good boy.”

Grinning, he extended an arm to her. “May I escort you to the library, my lady?”

Hermione fought back a laugh and took on a haughty air. “You may, good sir.” As they both fell into giggles …

“I wasn’t giggling.” Harry insisted. “I was chuckling – there’s a difference.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, pulling away from him. “Sure there is.”

… she looped her arm through his and they set off back into the castle. And, for the first time in a long time, Hermione felt that they could survive whatever was coming.

“I can’t work out if that’s optimistic or not.” Lily sighed.

“She said survive, didn’t she?” James pointed out. “They’ll be fine.”

“Is that the end of the chapter, Neville?” Arabella asked.